Like most Americans, China was never really on my ‘radar’ as a young adult, especially since relations between our countries didn’t ‘open up’ until the 80’s. Once they did open, my husband and I had an experience of the government of China that most people will never have. At the time, my husband worked for a major university in the midwest and the first batch of Chinese students had arrived for studies. He worked as a truck driver/ delivery man for the university. One day his truck, filled completely with heavy steel office desks, was turning a corner. A Chinese student was riding a bicycle as he did back home, passed a bus on the left and hit the side of my husbands truck. You could see, on the side, where the student flew high up on the side and slid down. The student went under the truck wheels and was crushed. The accident was so upsetting that my husband never drove a truck of any kind again.
That wasn’t the end of it, of course. Chinese ambassadors, diplomats and investigators converged on my husband, all took their crack at him with questioning, investigating- it seemed very clear to him that the Chinese government felt that citizens were enemies and not to be trusted. The university and law enforcement officials duly conducted all the investigations requested by the Chinese. Of course it was an accident. There would be no charges brought against my husband. Yet he never felt as though the Chinese were comfortable with that. While the investigation ended, for him the death of the student never left him. He was devastated.
This accident, happening so soon after relations opened up with China, had made the school concerned that further students would be inhibited from coming, but not so. Chinese students came in droves, the school opened up programs to assist them with language, with getting settled, with socializing with each other. The students were quiet and worked extremely hard. They went into every critical field- engineering, medicine, research, computer science. They became a regular part of living in a college town. We all became accustomed to seeing Chinese walking or riding bikes everywhere. They were never in restaurants or coffee houses, though. They were extremely frugal, living on ramen, rice and tea. Their socialization was never outside of the student body or work. They stuck together and said little.
Working in a research lab, with Chinese scientists moving from student to worker, in preparation for returning to their country, I had much more contact with them directly. American credentials were highly prized among these people. They would comment that they appreciated my patience with their language difficulties and pronunciation problems, appreciated the help and assistance I gave them as they needed it to complete their work.
It occasioned that the Chinese government began permitting spousal visits from China to America as the families were separated for longer and longer periods of times. Therefore, I was one of the people they were comfortable with and I also began showing spouses around the area, helping get them settled, showing them parks, rivers, and other sites to see.
They are a peculiar people. They do NOT forgive, even the smallest gaffe. On one occasion I was driving a couple around, taking them to dinner, and they were talking about their daughter. They had wonderful things to say about her, and mentioned her independent nature. I complemented them on raising a strong and independent girl, who would be well prepared to make her way in the world. I was misunderstood. The wife, at least, took it to be a GREAT insult- and the rest of our visit together was unbelievably and inexplicably vicious on her part. It was relentless. It continued visit after visit, it infected the work relationship I had with her husband, no apologies or explanations did anything but make it worse, and it just didn’t end. I actually had to decline to be the ‘tour guide’ for this couple. Other Chinese I worked with and knew told me that I should refuse the invitation to go to the Beijing University, because with this much hostility I would actually be in physical danger if I were to go.
Reagan had declined to open economic relations with China, for the reason that one doesn’t enrich your enemies.
China is a Communist country and no matter what opinion they may hold of America and democracy, or have held in the past, a dictatorship under communism, and the brutality of enforcing that government, has a serious and permanent effect on the citizens of the regime. Reagan was right. A poor dictator is much less dangerous than a wealthy one.
Thanks to the Clintons, that changed dramatically in the 1990’s and has put America in the most dangerous position it has ever been in.
More on that soon.