Friday, April 18, 2008

Pedestrians Beware! On Driving In China

Pedestrians Beware! Should be a sign posted every ten meters in China. From the hamlets to the major metropolis, a person on foot is about as safe as a quail during hunting season.

China has many advantages over other countries when it comes to transportation. A train ride taking over fifty-hours from one part of the country to another costs about $50. A ten-hour bus ride between cities might cost $5. The local citizens benefit from these subsidized forms of travel. Tourists pay a higher rate.

Streets and roads in the cities are wide, well paved, and well-thought out. Intersections have traffic lights. During rush-hour traffic cops in white helmets stand around directing traffic. What is unusual in Chinese cities is traffic lanes for bicycles and slower-moving motorbikes. These lanes are usually separated from the main traffic flow by a low cement barrier. Crosswalks are clearly marked with white stripes.

That’s the infrastructure. Throw into the mix the jillions of vehicles and pedestrians, mix them up together, and you get a jumble of cars, trucks, bikes, and people all competing for the same space. An intersection becomes an exercise in grim, teeth-clenched determination. Once the light turns green, or even before it does, traffic hits the center of the intersection from every direction like a fullback hitting the line. Then it is usually the biggest that wins. A Mack Truck wins over a bus, a bus over a pick-up truck, a van over a car, a motorbike wins over a bicycle, and pedestrians are simply a nuisance that better be light on their feet or have good health insurance.

Crossing the street on foot in any Chinese city one has to look all ways simultaneously, because traffic obeys no laws once the light turns green. Any path which leads across the intersection is fair, even if it means crossing over into the on-coming traffic, going into the bike lane, or sometimes even on the sidewalks. Driving in China makes the car chases in Hollywood movies look tame.

A passenger car sees a hole in the traffic and swerves left into the intersection like a halfback carrying the ball on Monday Night Football. From the other direction a young woman on a bicycle may be pedaling across the street on the wide white pedestrian crossing lines. The car races towards her, nearly clipping her wheel. The woman would have been under the car had she not stopped, putting down her foot on the pavement, grimacing in resignation that she’d lost the contest.

But she doesn’t yell. One doesn’t see angry fist shaking wild eyed angry drivers or pedestrians yelling. But one does hear a lot of horns. Chinese drivers love their horns, or bells, in the case of bicycles, or buzzers, in the case of motor scooters. Although some motor scooters have replaced with buzzers with car horns, one suspects in order to be taken more seriously.

The Chinese blow their horns as they drive, sometimes when no one is within hundreds of yards of them.. One observer said they use the horns to save wear and tear on their brakes, but that couldn’t be true, because Chinese drivers play chicken every second they’re behind the wheel.
A good driver in China is one who can bull through a traffic jam, ignoring any on-coming traffic, bicycles, or pedestrians, who better move aside or get hit. And sometimes they do get hit. Once in a while one sees two cars blocking traffic, the drivers examining the damage. If an ambulance wanted to wend its way through the traffic, the sick person would die before reaching the hospital, even if it was only a block away.

Some of the intra-city roads were fantastic, six-lane super-highways and toll roads that stretched flat and endlessly into the horizon. Others were trips into Dante’s inferno. The “National Highway” between Quilin and Yangshu was a disaster waiting to happen. Although it was a toll-road, it was only two-lanes, one in either direction, not that that mattered because drivers used either side depending on circumstances. Both lanes thought were with potholes or had sections missing asphalt. To make matters worse the road wended itself through towns and villages busy with markets, causing the traffic to slow to a crawl in front of a vegetable stand because a clot of shoppers had spilled over onto the road.

The distance between Quilin and Yangshu was only about 80 kilometers, but took over two-hours of bone jarring nerve-rattling travel. As on all roads in China, from city streets to super-highways, chicken is the name of the game, and manual dexterity a necessity. If possible, that means if no cement barrier exists, the driver feels free to cross a solid white line as if it wasn’t there, or swerve onto the shoulder, even if it is on the on-coming traffic side of the road And the two-lane country roads were the rule in China not the exception. And all were clogged with everything from foot traffic, bikes, buffalo, to slow-moving trucks.

The Chinese version of a farm truck only ran at about twenty KPH (about 15 MPH). This was a vehicle whose drive-train was a strong belt running from the motor to a big front wheel; behind it a cart steered with a rod, like a rudder on a sailboat. Sometimes the cart was enclosed. Sometimes a traveler would see the same motor and wheels out in the fields with a plow attached to it. After a while one understood those signs on European and US highways forbidding certain vehicles from the roads, and setting a minimum speed-limit.

The way the drivers overcame these obstacles was to drive around them, preferably at high speed, and with the utmost discomfort to the passenger. If a passenger didn’t have complete faith in the driver then heart attacks and strokes would be commonplace. The drivers all knew the rules of the game. A taxi or limo or van driver spent his waking moments sitting around eating and smoking and waiting in the parking lot for the tourists to see the sights or behind the wheel.. Once on the road these pleasant mild-mannered men and women become road racers zipping around a truck, racing to fill a gap to the next slow-moving vehicle, slamming on the brakes, peeking around to see how close the next car was, and speeding into the next gap. This went on for the entire trip, except for stops at putrid, hold your nose, toilets..

The fact that roads had white lines, solid or broken, didn’t matter a whit. Neither did the shoulders. Where ever the driver could aim his vehicle to keep it moving was open game. Any lesser-included, smaller trucks, bikes, pedestrians, had better scatter. And what was amazing was everyone knew these were the rules, and accepted them.

On the highways the police drive late-model Toyotas, and were occasionally seen giving out traffic tickets. More often they stood around looking at an overloaded truck that overturned when the driver misjudged a pothole. One Chinese observer said that the recent bad winter had created sever problems in China which filtered down to the roads.

Snow had closed roads, and jammed up railroad lines. Coal and other supplies were stuck back in their loading docks. When the snow melted the government gave the nod and trucks were encouraged to overload their cargo beds to take up the slack in supplies needed in the cities.

It was not unusual to see trucks so heavily loaded their springs were useless, and the beds nearly resting on the wheels, the load piled four feet above the bed. These top-heavy vehicles didn’t make turns well, and easily tipped over.

The country roads further exacerbated this phenomenon. Some provinces were wealthy, had industry that paid taxes, and allowed for good roads. Others were poorer, in a money crunch. Those were the provinces that had roads with potholes the size of craters caused by a falling meteor. Those were the provinces where the overloaded trucks could be found on their sides like beached whales.

The road from Lijian back to Changdu (or Chungking, one forgets,) ran through towns and villages, and was wide enough for four lanes, but there wasn’t enough asphalt down on it to paint a white separation line. The top layer of ashpalt had disintegrated, and what was left was mounds of black tar and gravel near deep gouges on the ground. A vehicle literally had to swerve horizontally from one side of the wide road to the other to avoid these craters. Some of the overloaded trucks didn’t make the turns and toppled over. That’s when one saw the police, standing around, staring at the truck.

When the driver of one taxi was asked why on the way to Lijian, a jumping off point for the ride up to Mt Emei 10,000 feet in the air, one was told that the super-highway was longer, and only used one –way; the pot-holed cratered road was used on the way back. And even more astounding was both were toll roads that charged the same fees.

Okay, so you’re going to avoid all of these things, and rent a car, drive sanely, brave the elements, be an adventurer.. Forget it. The signs, when there are signs, are in Chinese. Some are in English, but only near the major cities and major airports. So you may be able to get out of Beijing, but then you could wind up in Tibet before you realized you’d taken a wrong turn. And these days you don’t want to wind up in Tibet.. Asking directions won’t help, either because most Chinese people’s English vocabulary ends with “Hello.”

Of course the signs weren’t always intelligible, either. One sign wired to a railing at the side of a steep cliff said, “No Falling Allowed.”

So, I guess you’ve figured that riding on the roads in China is not for the faint-hearted nervous passenger, or a back seat driver. Those folks best to stick to big busses, trains and planes. Or, take a lot of tranquilizers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No One Ever Heard Of Israel

Traveling in China as an Israeli is a strange experience. Usually when traveling at some tourist location, be it a guest house, a hotel elevator, or walking the Great Wall of China, the question always arises: “Where are you from?.”

Whenever an Israeli answers, “Israel,” there is usually always a reaction. Sometimes the conversation zooms away onto the other travelers trips to Israel, or wish to travel to Israel, the travails of Israel; the dangers or lack of danger; the political situation: but sometimes a pregnant silence is the beginning and end of the subject, which then politely switches to something else. Anything else.

These reactions are common with Europeans and Americans. The pregnant pause indicates a suspected anti-Israeli bias. But in China, among Chinese, the pregnant pause indicates a complete and utter lack of knowledge of the subject matter. Most Chinese have never heard of Israel, pronounced Isaleah in Chinese.

“Where are you from?” they ask. “Israel,” you answer, and they look at you like dumb cows waiting for the electric shock then the hammer to the brain.

“Israel,” you repeat. Then you get, “Ah, Italia” When you shake your head, they get that glazed looked. Some say, “Middle East,” and nod a few times. If you try to elaborate, saying, “Jewish,” and point to yourself, they stare at you. Should a point of illumination occur, you see a glimmer of recognition, a light in their eyes, and they smile (the Chinese love to smile, and have great smiles) and say, “Ah, Jud High” which means Jewish in Chinese. And then inevitably you get, “Einstein. Very Clever.”

The traveler at that point wants to be polite, and not bring up the fact that the word Jew is about the only thing they have in common with Einstein.

Sometimes the Chinese interviewer then brings up another famous Jew, “Marx.” But only those who have been to university. A few even mention “Mosizes” Moses. And then a discussion starts about which culture is older, the Hebrew or the Chinese. In fact, you explain, believe it or not, the Jewish culture, that means Abraham in about the year 2000, and Moses in about 1400, and the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., actually predate most of China’s golden age.

One learns that the Emperor Chin unified China in the 3rd century B.C. The Great Wall was then just a jumble of protective fences around various warlord’s holdings. He fought them all, defeated them all, killed so many he became a mass murderer by today’s standards, ( he reportedly killed all the thousands of workers who constructed the world-famous Tera Cota soldiers, so he would have company in the after-life) and connected the wall into one 1,000 kilometer structure stretching as far as the eye could see.

One explains that by then the Hebrew tribes had been unified for 800 years and the Temple had been built, destroyed, and rebuilt. Moses was writing in Hebrew long before the Chinese. These facts come out in discussion with the Chinese guides, all of whom studied at some college or another, a few at universities. They are of course duly impressed by the rich Jewish/Hebrew culture. But these educated guides and waiters with college degrees are rare.

One o guide was from a province in the far West of China along the Kazakhstan border. He explained that China had fifty-five ethnic minorities. The explanation came as the travelers under his tutelage toured a Buddhist temple in Kunming, a city of approximately 8,000,000 people. The Buddhists, he explained, were an ethnic minority. He said that only three religions are recognized by the Chinese authorities, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

Jews are not on the list. Neither are Moslems, or Kurds, or Mongols, or Yugurs. The guide said his parents were Moslem, but not fanatic. He said he wasn’t observant, but still only ate Hallal (non-pork dishes) and abstained from alcohol. He mentioned that some of the men in his province had joined up with Al-Qaida. So all wasn’t perfect in China when it came to minorities.

“Anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in China,” said Dvir Ben Gal, an Israeli who has lived in Shanghai for six or seven years, and gives tours of ‘Jewish Shanghai.’ The fact that the Jews aren’t officially recognized in China has created some difficulties. Dvir has made it a pet project of his to salvage all the Jewish headstones he can find in Shanghai. He wants the government to establish a memorial to these Jews, but the government refuses. It’s all part of the Jewish problem China faces: Jews aren’t officially recognized in China. The tombstones are a sore subject. Don’t even think about mentioning the bodies in the lost cemeteries. “We concentrate on the living, now,” Dvir said, quoting a local Rabbi. “It would endanger our relationships with the Chinese to bring up these topics.”

Back in the mid 1850’s, after the Opium Wars, the British and French took over Shanghai. They couldn’t decide which country should issue entry permits, so they decided amongst themselves that no one would, thus Shanghai became an open port. “Back then, no one paid much attention to what the Chinese wanted,” said Dvir.

The fabulous, informative, five-hour tour he lead began at the “Peace” hotel along the river in downtown Shanghai. An impressive art-nuevo building, the Peace hotel was originally called the Cathay, a word for China. The hotel was built by an Iraqi Jewish immigrant to China named Sasson. The 11-story structure is closed for repairs these days, but still that’s where the tour began. And with it an explanation of how the Jewish Iraqi businessmen like Sasson and Kadouri, who came to Shanghai and started their vast fortunes essentially built up Shanghai into a modern commercial center.

Along the way they also built impressive buildings, like a 255 room mansion, nationalized by Chairman Mao and turned into a Children’s Theater smack dab in the middle of the “People’s Park.” Then there was Ohel Rachel, and Ohel Moshe, synagogues put up by the Sassons, Kadouris, or Waldoons, in memory of a father, mother or other relative.

Ohel Moshe became a shelter for the Mir Yeshiva when they fled Europe during World War Two. And Ohel Leah became a storehouse for Chinese debris. Lately Ohel Moshe was turned into a museum, some say because the Chinese were concerned that the spillover from the much-anticipated Beijing Olympics would sour Jewish visitors to Shanghai once they realized the shape of former Jewish landmarks.But it is not a synagogue. No Sefer Torah is allowed in it, nor are prayers. The museum shows a short film on Jewish Shanghai, but mostly it focuses on who the Jews were before they arrived in Shanghai, centering on Krystalnacht and the Nazi period.

Dvir pointed out that no mention is to be made of the fact that the Chinese destroyed Jewish cemeteries first in the white heat of the ‘cultural revolution’ and then in the rush to build skyscrapers, tossing the tombstones into slimy swamps, or using them in one form or another. Once Dvir began to unearth these tombstones he realized that the government was embarrassed by this cavalier treatment of the Jews’ ancestors remains, since the Chinese really do revere their own ancestors. One could see graves, actually small mounds with headstones, out in the fields all through the country. Only in the large cities was cremation enforced.

Dvir said that he wanted Ohel Moshe to be the venue for a memorial to the Jews whose graves were desecrated, but the government said no. There is also a Jewish Ghetto in Shanghai, written about by many people. Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Michael Blumenthal lived there for nearly eight years as a refugee. The Ghetto began with White Russians fleeing the Communists, then filled up with European Jews fleeing the Nazis. During the Japanese occupation of Shanghai more trouble befell the Jews once the Nazis decided the Japanese had to herd all of Shanghai’s Jews into the Ghetto. The ultimate Nazi plan was to exterminate Shanghai’s Jews, but the Americans dropped an atom bomb on Japan and the war ended before the Japanese got around to adhering to Nazi directives.

Today the Jews of Shanghai, who number several hundred, meet five times a year in Ohel Leah, in the People’s Park, to celebrate Purim, Israel’s Independence Day, and other events. The Jewish population is made up of businessmen, hi-tech people serving a few years in China, and ex-patriots teaching English. The main focus is Beit Chabad, which amazingly attracts up to 200 people for a Friday night service, and full meat meal. Most are tourists, or businessmen traveling through, but some Israeli hi-tech people who are residents, while not religious, said they come to keep connected to Judaism and Israel.

When asked why the congregation couldn’t get possession of Ohel Moshe or Ohel Leah the traveler is told, “Jews aren’t recognized. And the government can’t give away land to private people.” About Jewish recognition, one was told, “If they recognize the Jews, then what about the other fifty-odd ethnic minorities. In China everything is connected to something else. Give the Jews a building, what about the Baptists, or the Moslems?” While the Jews have synagogues, like Beit Chabad, and the Moslems Mosques, neither is officially recognized. And when it comes to minorities, the list is long and the Jews are nowhere near the top in importance or numbers.

Beijing even has a Kosher restaurant, a Chabad congregation, and even a liberal one, a mix of Conservative/Reform and Reconstructionist congregants. In total about 4,000 Jews live and work in China. Peretz Rodman is the Rabbi of the Liberal congregation, and visits his ‘kehila’ from his home in Jerusalem several times a year. Lately he has begun conducting Sunday school lessons using long-distance Internet learning.

The Jews in China are comfortable. The old-line families, the Sassons and Kadouris moved their businesses to Hong Kong, or London, after the Communist revolution, but are still doing business n China.. In the long history of China, Jews and Chinese, hardly crosses paths hence there is no animosity. Some scholars postulate that Confucius, who predated Buddha, actually espoused some teachings that had distinct Hebrew tones to them. Confucius was known to be a voracious reader and scholar with far-reaching interests so who knows. Whatever the reasons, Jews are accepted in China without prejudice. To the Chinese, the Jews and Israelis are just another brand of white man. And that, for Jews, and Israelis, is something rare indeed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Face" and the Dali Lama

China is a country of stark contrasts. From peasants hand-farming postage stamp sized vegetable patches to billionaires relaxing in chauffer driven Rolls-Royce sedans. Even villages with putrid communal outhouses have satellite dishes parked in front of the shaky wooden shacks. China is a “capitalist” country, a ‘boom like the 1980’s in the USA,’ one analyst said; but the heavy hand of the party can still be felt manipulating nearly everything, with the passive consent of the citizenry.

The television might broadcast 11 CCTV channels, but four will be propaganda, usually at least one will be a TV drama with the Chinese fighting the Japanese (whom the Chinese still despise) during WWII, or another aspect of the glorious days of Communist victory over the Nationalists, and one or two featuring a TV series based on a Kung Fu legend. To round out the picture one channel, CCTV 3, features opera and choruses, sometimes Chinese, sometimes Western, but always with Chinese performers.

Chinese news broadcasts cover some selected international events, but focus on the positive, at least to the casual observer who doesn’t speak Chinese. Reports on new irrigation techniques, or some breakthrough in fish breeding in hi-tech ponds; or the opening of a new lock in the impressive Three Gorges Dam project, the third largest dam in the world, and a source of national pride. In fact the dam is an amazing accomplishment..

CCTV channel 9 is in English, with skilled readers in smooth English reporting on who the Premier met with, who the President met with, what new businesses have succeeded, and then how the Western press is biased against China and supporting the Dali Lama.

This line is echoed in the English Language newspapers as well. Both the China Daily and the China News carry reports of Western bias. Specifically how CNN took a photograph of a Chinese policeman beating a Tibetan protester but neglected to include the wider angle of the shot that showed other protesters pelting the police with stones. The press also criticizes the West for siding with the Dali Lama, who if you can believe the descriptions is some place between Jack the Ripper and John Dillinger.

Touring the Lama Temple in Beijing one is told of a historic meeting in the 1950’s between Chairman Mao and the Dali Lama that took place in the Lama Temple, with both men shaking hands and smiling at the camera. According to a tour guide the Dali Lama lived and studied in the Lama Temple until he fled to India in 1954.

On the tour of the Lama Temple one is shown the main prayer hall where the Dali Lama gave his talks from a stately elegantly cushioned wooden chair. To his left was the Buddha shrine, and then another wooden chair for the administrator of the Temple. Around the shrine and the chairs were cushions and desks where the monks prayed and studied when the tourists weren’t around. The Temple had set hours for tourist visits.

But the room with the photograph of Chairman Mao shaking hands with the Dali Lama was “closed for repairs” although no one was working on it and it appeared to be in good shape. In the Temple area a large framed photograph of the Temple administrator rested in his hair, leaning against the tall wooden back. But the photograph of the Dali Lama was missing, according to the guide.

Another guide had questions of the Western visitors. These questions rose after visiting Mt. Emei, and the Buddhist temple 10,000 feet above sea level, and literally above the clouds. Back on the ground, the driver, dodging potholes the size of craters, started in on how the Dali Lama was a criminal out to destroy China. This was the line pitched on TV and in the press. With fifty-five ethnic minorities spread over 26 provinces, the risk of China breaking apart like the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia is very real. Also, Tibet is a huge mineral-rich province important to China's economy. Some say the Beijing-Lhasa train was recently built not for tourists but to extract raw materials from Tibet.

Actually, there may be something to this. A report in the International Herald Tribune specified a concerted public relations campaign begun by a group of American, not Chinese and not Tibetan, “students” (one organizer was named Mendoza) in San Francisco shortly after it was announced that the Chinese had been granted the venue for the Olympics. The protests that have erupted since then were, according to the IHT, not spontaneous, but rather, part of a well orchestrated pr campaign, that included disruptions of the torch ceremony that crossed from country to country.

So, as Henry Kissenger is often quoted as saying, even if he didn’t, ‘just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.’

The Chinese may be right. The Dali Lama denies any part in the demonstrations, and he may well not be involved, but there is a movement based in the USA that is trying to upset the Chinese participation in the Olympics.

These protests and disruptions are a major embarrassment for the Chinese. “Face” is as integral a part of China as rice. A technician for a foreign elevator company working in China said you couldn’t tell the Chinese foreman he’d done something wrong, you had to suggest to him that other ways are available, not as good as his, but other ways. You had to give him a peg to hang his hat on, or the embarrassment would kill him.

The same technician told a story of how, during the inspection of a new high-rise building’s elevators, he saw a man dangling from the roof by one hand, and then let go. The man was a “jumper.” Why had he jumped? In China migrant workers come in from the farms to make some money. They live in simple rooms, are given some food, but not paid a salary until the terms of their employment are over, sometimes a year or more, once the buildings are finished. In this case the contractor who built the building found himself with a white elephant on his hands. The office building market was oversupplied. More skyscrapers had gone up than there was need for offices or apartments; the contractor either didn’t have the money to pay, or didn’t want to. The worker committed suicide rather than return home broke after leaving his family for a year, leaving them to take up the slack of his absence and help supporting them. He couldn’t face the embarrassment. The loss of ‘face.’ Jumpers.

So ‘face’ was involved in the Olympics. The games are a source of national pride, we were told by almost everyone. This would put China on the map. “They’re insecure,” we were told by one businessman. “They feel as if the Olympics with justify their place in the world.” The protests and police action are a major source of trouble. The IHT article even pointed out that the Chinese are not good at PR, and have just started to realize that they have to play catch up with those who began the campaign against them a couple of years ago.

Everywhere you go in China you see a beautification program, as if the people who visit China for the Olympics will find themselves in every tourist spot in the country. One pundit postulated that the government was using the Olympics as a way to initiate changes in the country that otherwise would have been difficult. Spitting, for example. Spitting seems a Chinese tradition. Men cough up phlegm and let goblets fly, turning the sidewalk into a minefield, and turning the stomachs of foreign visitors. In Beijing and Shanghai, however, “no spitting” signs are posted in many locations, and in truth, the spitting is nearly non-existent..

And in China no one, even peasants, drink the water from the tap, unless it’s boiled. The more affluent and the foreigners drink mineral water. However, a new filtration system is reportedly going on-line in the Olympic village which some say is a pilot project that will be implemented in other cities, then the towns, and finally the villages.

And they need it. In the town of Lijian, in the mountains in the south of China, not far from the Tibetan border, nine-foot wide canals run through the quaint town. The water passes under picturesque stone bridges, and flows out of town. Local women do their laundry in the canals. They also use buckets of the water to wash down their stone floors, then they dump the dirty water back in the canal. One woman, who worked in a guest house along a canal, could be seen every morning bringing vegetables out to the river, separating the bad lettuce leaves from the stalk, tossing them in the canal, then rinsing the remaining lettuce off in the same canal she’d dumped her refuse. No wonder even the locals never ate the raw vegetables, but only stir-fried.

Still in this town, as in almost every other town visited, an official Olympic 2008 store existed, selling t-shirts, hats, medallions, sport bags, watches, rings, mugs, and other trinkets. The Olympics was a source of national pride.

But no one knew how much the Olympic games cost to mount? Ask the average Chinese and they shrugged their shoulders. The newspapers didn’t mention it. The TV didn’t report it. In fact, the Chinese populace didn’t even think about it. It just was, like the dirty gray polluted smog hovering over the country.

Climbing the path to the famous rice terraces outside of Da Zhai, with a local ethnic woman in an elaborate colorful costume, making a living carrying the suitcases and backpacks of tourists in a wicker basket held by leather straps on her back (20 yuan or about three dollars was the average for a bag on the two-hour hike up to the village. According to a Reuters news report, the poverty line in China is cut at $156 a year, and 80 million people fall below that!), one realized that these were peasants, people of the earth, simple people, until the stout middle-aged woman in the colorful clothing took out a mobile phone and began chattering away as if she were in a mall in Westchester. Or finally reaching the village, and seeing big silver satellite dishes on nearly every rooftop. No heat, outhouses, but satellite dishes and mobile phones.

For these people, the simple people, who made up eighty per cent of the population, the Olympics was something that only important countries could host, and since China was hosting them, China was important. These people didn’t see the new Buicks, and Toyotas, and Hondas, since the village up in the rice terraces had no roads. They saw donkeys and mules hauling building supplies, not trucks and jeeps. They probably didn’t know that the Chinese were partners with these multi-national car companies, building the cars in Shanghai factories. They didn’t know, unless the TV showed them, that Shanghai had buildings nearly 100 stories high. But they did know about the Olympics. They did know the Olympics were important. And they were proud of it.