Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Ambassador


Here I am with a special guest at our dinner after the meeting. I don't recall his name, but he was the first Chinese ambassador to the U.S. after the opening to China in the 1970's. He's 90 years old. When we first got the restaurant, he was sitting with his long time aide de camp, a man of 78 years old. The Ambassador spoke no English, but his aide did a bit. I was fascinated with the man and the things he must have seen during his lifetime. No one else wanted to sit with him. I had a fascinating evening. Not surprisingly, he had met Chairman Mao on a number of occassions. He talked about what it was like to enter Beijing after the liberation in 1949. He was responsible for running a particular area of the city and complained about all the paperwork involved.

I asked him what he did during the Cultural Revolution. Apparently, he had trouble getting with the program. He kept having his written "confessions" kicked back by the party bosses because he wasn't remorseful enough. It happened 8 times. They finally gave up on him when the Nixon Administration began secretly reaching out to the Chinese government in 1970 and they needed him to work on that project. He was set to go to Poland for some secret meeting with Kissinger and something intervened. I forget what. I just found it stunning to be sitting across the table from someone who knew Mao.

He was at the dinner because he was the local "partner" for Fleishman Hillard when they opened the Beijing office. He also had a great sense of humor. When asked what the secret to long life was, he said, "Eat whatever you want and never exercize."

Would that I could take his advice.

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