Can't sleep all the way back to LA from Beijing, although I would have liked to. I started to review the past 45 days and what had been accomplished. Then I remembered that the last three years or so meant only that in 75 or 100 years from now there would still be a lot more left to do.
The PRC had decided to change, adapt and move on; based on the transition of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories as a starting point for some areas of China. Shanghai was one example where I was asked to recommend some changes. Keep in mind China was never going to accept the British Hong Kong model; nor was it going to try to emulate Singapore that for most years had proven corrupt and self-serving rather than keeping pace with future needs, it was just an idea you know.
My first two years in representing the PRC were as frustrating as could be. I had agreed to a six month contract of salary, expenses and bonus rewards. Every time the agreement was up, my terms never changed but I informed my employers they were wasting their money on me. Everything I recommended never saw the light of day, let alone was read by anyone. I tried summarizing the report in three categories, one, things worth doing, two, things that should not be done and third, things which needed further study. The report was in English, but the summary was in English and Mandarin.
If I remember correctly, it was during my third six month contract, the fourteenth month actually, they had me scheduled for reading and reviewing the things they had already done in Hong Kong. It started with me just sitting in some huge lessons-learned review, then spending the rest of my time reviewing video tapes of the seven hour session. The sum total accomplished in those first two years was Zero. I went back home never expecting to be invited back again.
For those of you who never worked in Hong Kong, Kowloon, The New Territories and Shanghai; each is different. It took me a while to reach the decision that each area would, by definition, need to be treated special. Not the typical Western way of doing things, think of unique rules for many States within a Province and many Provinces within a country.
When I got back home, Pacific Palisades, was home to me; I toyed with the idea of taking a holiday. How foolish of me to think I would have much free time to myself. I was carefree just about for 49 hours when the phone rang asking me to meet with the Law Firm of 'Jenkins, Waugh and French' to discuss a new contract for S E Asia. The meeting was to be at Ten o'clock the next day.
I should have been more aggressive with my demands in that meeting. My salary of $80,000 a month plus expenses and a bonus was subjugated by a flat $120,000 a month plus expenses. I had second thoughts for about five or six seconds before I signed on the dotted line. Oh, did I say that the deal was for five years, with five one year extensions at the same rate. There was one thing they said that sealed the deal, besides the money and that was the project was to plan for the re-patronization of Taiwan and the surrounding islands in a way blending what was important to each side. This would be much more sensitive than Hong Kong was. I jumped at the chance to be involved in something like that; it would be history in the making.
I had no doubts though that the main reason why I was coming on board was so that there would be someone to blame if things went 'South'. This was the main reason we consultants made the 'Big Bucks'.
I had been involved in several endeavors in Taiwan, mostly in Taipei. Never thought it was going to be as difficult and convoluted as it was. After meeting with the Provincial head for a week he finally agreed to the new approaches. I should mention that 'meeting' there consisted of tea at 7:00 am and eating, drinking and carousing with a bevy of beauties until 3:00 - 4:00 am. Yes, that oval revolving table and twenty bottles or so of Johnny Walker 'Blue Label' Scotch Whiskey sure helped people say what they really meant. If you ever 'lived' on three hours of sleep a night for a week or so you'll understand the intensity of surviving that ordeal. I think the kicker why I left Taiwan before was that I needed to get nineteen other Provincial rulers to agree to the same thing and none had been prepared by my employer. Japan has an appropriate saying for a time like that. SAYONARA M F. Now not only would all twenty provinces need to agree but that little added dimension of the PRC would now need control. Ha!
Once everything was signed, I got my first glimpse of what my Chinese employers were 'testing' me on. They wanted to find people that they could trust; people that would not take their money and tell them things they thought were the 'party line'. They made it seem that they were truly interested in 'other' ideas; why not, it was not like they had to follow them and if they did, there was enough room to 'make the ideas their own'. I sure was not going to tell anyone anything different.
I flew to Beijing the next day. What was markedly different now was how I was received. It had been reasonably friendly before, now it was, was ... I can't explain it. It was like I belonged there, that I was now a part of them and they wanted me to see and feel that difference.
Being met at the gate, escorted through customs and then being handed a packet of documents naming me a 'diplomatic representative of The People's Republic of China' had an affect far greater on me than any amount of money would have. If someone was trying to insure my loyalty to the cause they sure hit the mark with that. I determined that nothing they did after that would top this. I was wrong, big time wrong.
A short meeting with about fifteen of the second tier hierarchy ended my briefing. They sent me on my way. I assumed that I would fly to a neutral country then begin the 'survival' tests twenty times, first over in Taipei. At least I knew what would be expected. As I was leaving, one of the administrators stopped me and suggested I meet my assistant, then we could continue the trip.
When 'SHE' entered the room, time stopped for me. With the greatest of effort I opened my mouth to say something to my host. He just smiled, you know, that smile you get in China, only this time I had a pretty good idea why. 'SHE' was beautiful, tall for a Chinese female, built for endurance not speed and dressed as though a fashion show in Paris or Milan were a waste of her time. My mouth stayed open.
In perfect English, English, she spoke. "I look forward to working 'under' you."
I looked back at my host walking away. 'You SOB' I thought, 'you might as well have me bed, wed her and apply for citizenship as her husband now'.
"Yes, that is exactly what he hoped. I shall try very hard not to disappoint you Master."
Yup, she was an empath, telepath, slave or whatever; I was a lost man.
"What is your name? What do I call you in public and when we are alone?"
"I will answer to any name you wish to call me Master. I should not be 'collard' for in China it will be difficult enough to be included in any serious negotiations. I am yours, my entire purpose is to assist you in anything and everything needed to make this endeavor successful. If you command, anything you say I will do? I speak several languages and many Chinese dialects. I am told men as well as ladies find me attractive. Whatever is needed for you to be successful I will do."
"I shall call you Miss Li in meetings, Mei when we are alone. You are far more than attractive Mei, you are beautiful, unique, that 'Pearl of Great Price' all seek. I will, could, never use you to do anything I would not do myself. I just never expected... ?"
"There will be many things that perhaps you did not expect. Our leaders have spent much to place the two of us together. They also expect much, failure is not an option. Anything and everything you and I will need will be provided. It is expected that all we meet in Taiwan will, as they say in the West, 'Be Blown Away' when we begin to represent the PRC. This is, what do you say, 'Far out in left field' and will place you in a position of strength."
"Tell me everything Mei?"
She did, time, money, power and prestige needed to make a decision had been granted. One could only infer that whatever it took to get their agreement would ultimately be changed and adapted to better fit, over time. If Hong Kong was an example, if it took centuries it would not be an issue for a prize like this. I looked at Mei, I had my own prize already, they had to know by now that I would be theirs to command as long as I had Mei.
"Mei, what happens to you and me when we are done?"
"We will never be done, our children and their children may see the end of this perhaps!"
I guess any question I might have asked further had been answered by that response.
"Mei, are you doing this of your own free will or what?"
"If you wish to know if I would wish to do something else, then I would say Yes, that I would. If you are asking if I am being forced to do this, then my answer would be No, that duty, honour and love of my country means more to me than the things I may want. How is it you would do this?"
"Until a short time ago my response would have been money and the chance to see and make history. Now my answer would be a desire to make this happen and make you proud of me. Actually a bit more regarding you. Did I tell you how beautiful you are? Forget about any 'sharing' you, our leaders had better make provision for a wedding?"
Her tears had to be real. "I think something like that has already been planned, you are ahead of their schedule."
We left that day for Taipei. Another surprise, our transport was a Y-20 (a bit like Boeing's 787) with PRC Diplomat Logo's and bit of show with Russian SU-27's flying overhead, I guess they were our neutral escort. We could get used to this kind of treatment, at least I could. When we were cleared to land, I did the 'man' thing and sent Miss Li out first. I think that had the desired effect on any observers. I left her standing there for a while. If this was Cannes and there was a 'Red Carpet' under her she would be right at home I am certain. When they would see a 'round eyes' representing the PRC, I am also certain that we would be the topic of conversation in many places that night.
From our very first exposure to Taiwan, it would not be anything that had been expected. No one knew how to even respond to what we would be doing. What happened next just re-enforced they should expect only the unexpected.
Miss Li began her prepared speech before the TV cameras and assembled dignitaries, as I walked down the ramp ... No camera opportunity would ever go to waste. Blah, blah, blah, blah. The canned speech even in Chinese sounded just like that, canned.
As I approached the mikes, I started my words, in Chinese no less: "We meet as friends today. I hope what we will accomplish ends the same way. I am a most fortunate man, my partner in work will soon be my partner in life. Miss Li has consented to become my fiancée and as soon as we can we will marry. It is our hope that, in time, you will allow us to remain here in China, raise our family and be good citizens and examples of the new life unity will bring."
Mei was the one 'blown away' maybe that what I said was all in Chinese but maybe it was what I said. I wondered why women always seemed to cry at certain times.
One thing for certain was the gauntlet had been thrown down in front of the camera and the entire country would either hate or love what was said. My hope was for the later feeling. I knew one thing for sure, that the words we would use would be we, us and our. The picture painted would always be bright no matter what the reality of things might be. I was now a believer that anything could be worked out. Many would conspire to prove me wrong though.