The Chinese Boy and the Bicycle: The Extraordinary Wrapped in the Ordinary

July 5, 2010

(Counterpunch) I graduated with a degree in Chinese Studies in 1976 from Yale. By coincidence a neighbor was a Yankee trader and entrepreneur who secured one of the first visas to China a few years earlier, when President Nixon helped push doors open to a nation that had been as closed as North Korea is today. I was hired at the age of 22 to be his door opener to unknown, future business opportunities and, in the summer of 1976, crossed the border between Hong Kong and the mainland. The rail line was controlled tightly as Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Through a college friend, I met a wealthy Chinese woman who lived in Hong Kong. Half of her family had emigrated to Hong Kong when the Communists consolidated control of China in the 1940’s; half remained in Shanghai where the family fortune had been established over many generations. In the intervening thirty years, the family in Hong Kong had built a new fortune in textiles. The half in Shanghai had been forced into poverty and oppressed as enemies of the state. By her description, they were prisoners in their own tiny apartments.

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Chicken Little and the canary in the coal mine

May 25, 2005

We wish we could fly away from troubles. Wings would help. All our angels have them.

And when we need the gift of spirit, there is always a partridge or two in a pear tree. Or humor, Big Bird. Or entertainment, video games by Tony Hawk. We invest a lot in birds.

We share the same energy and light. Mankind is a remarkable combination of bone and feather, colors glazed on by fashion, the trappings of power or other conceits and inside, these little fluttering hearts.

Then there is Chicken Little, jumping up and down because he can’t fly but thinks he sees what is ahead, and nearby, his sober cousin, the canary in the coal mine swaying on a perch. Read the rest of this entry »

Tyrannosaurus Rex

July 13, 2004

My friend Bob and his family had just returned from two weeks in China and I from a 25th-anniversary trip with my wife to Italy. On a July summer evening, we were sitting in an ice-cream shop on the main street in San Clemente, with a sweet chill in the darkening California air, and talking cars.

Mei Lin, Bob’s beautiful, precocious 7-year-old daughter, fastidiously edged into a cup of Nestle Crunch folded into vanilla, trying not to miss a word.

In China’s cities, Bob tells me, the explosion of car ownership is breathtaking. Thirty years ago, I visited communist China, and an enduring memory is the morning commute of an ocean of humanity moving to work on bicycles, silently. Read the rest of this entry »