Long Island Jew Boy Tries Tai Chi in Taoist Temple on Snowy
Saturday Morning in China'
(aka Shi Zhi Mou)
also my Budget
Travel story on Beijing and the transcript of
live Q-and-A with readers in May 2004>
Herein are brief excerpts of lengthy dispatches written to family
and friends since my arrival in Beijing on Jan. 1, 2001. If
you have an interest in being placed on my e-mail list, send
me a note to tell me who you are and why you're interested.
Enjoy. And e-mail
On the time difference:
am presently 13 hours ahead of New York, 14 ahead of Chicago,
15 ahead of Sedona, Ariz., and 16 ahead of Las Vegas. So if
anyone wants the winning numbers for the lottery, I might be
able to help.
in a strange land:
let out a few fearful tears when I got into the place and it
was cold and lonely, but then I remembered how I went to Las
Vegas alone at first with so much fear and found such wonderful
people who changed my life. It'll happen again here, I suspect.
God knows if I'll ever have any idea what they're saying to
must reflect my Western bias. It was silly. I've always been
one of those very practical (ugly?) Americans who doesn't get
into letting your mind feel the energy in your little right
toe travel through your veins to the hairs on your ear as you
swing your arms about. My pal Lizi didn't get it either, although
I think she might've been more willing if she could feel her
frozen fingers, toes and nose. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the concept:
"Gay Long Island Jew Boy Tries Tai Chi in Taoist Temple
on Snowy Saturday Morning in China." Bends the mind, no?
enjoy wandering around here feeling like I'm a part of something.
You don't get that feeling in the USA anymore. Granted, it's
"something" that has caused the murder of thousands
and crushed the hopes and dreams of millions, but still...it's
human spirit being what it is, they become extraordinarily earnest
when they sense there is a valid purpose to some task that comes
along. Take, for instance, the replacement of my toilet. This
was a huge event to the building staff! At least six people
crowded into my tiny bathroom or overflowed into the hall outside
as the cracked commode came out and a new one came in. Each
of them carried a screwdriver at the ready, apparently the universal
tool of choice here. A smaller gang, just four screwdrivered
folks, returned to ponder my heating problem, which really was
only a matter of me not being able to understand the Chinese
on the machine. Illiteracy can literally make your home a cold,
I can only imagine the hullabaloo
that will ensue when I figure out how to tell them that my washing
machine takes more than three hours to do a load of wash. Next
door, the same model takes 45 minutes. But this concept seems
more difficult to explain. With the heat, I did a shiver and
put my hand to the vent, which blasted chilly air. With the
toilet, I showed them the river of putrid liquid trickling out
of the side. Much easier to follow.
- Lunch at
the canteen: 45-80 cents.
- Fancy 20-person
goodbye dinner for another polisher, featuring 16 different
- Hour massage:
$10. With additional half-hour footrub: $13.75.
- Subway: 24
- Bus: 8 cents.
- Hour of Internet,
peak time: 32 cents. Off-peak: 16 cents.
- Jar of peanut
- Cost of a
standard letter from the USA: 60 cents.
- A Singapore
Sling (cherry coke and whiskey) at the gay bar Drag-On: $4.50.
phone call with my husband if I call: $10. If he calls: 31
cents a minute.
- An e-mail
from you: Priceless.
my first tutor:
made acquaintance with Zhangzhi (pronunciation: Dgang-dguh)
who has decided to be my tutor. When I say he decided, I really
mean it. I was in the canteen shoveling some lunch slop into
my mouth one day by myself, a bit in a world of my own because
of how close I have to put my face to my dish to get anything
off those infernal chopsticks, when I looked up to see Zhangzhi
sitting across from me.
"You speak English?"
said this Chinese man. This startled me quite a bit, for I'd
become so accustomed to most Chinese people speaking in their
own tongue that when one spoke to me in mine I just stared in
the same sort of shock I might have had if the table itself
has tried to engage me in idle chit-chat.
I recovered to say yes, and he
said, "You want to learn Chinese?" Again, I haplessly
assented. "I want to learn better English. You will teach
me English, I will teach you Chinese. I will come to your home
tomorrow at 2 p.m." And he did.
pal Jeff has lived abroad for many years now and isn't as enamored
as I am by the challenge of immersing oneself in the culture.
So he gave his chef the night off, brought in Popeye's Chicken
(for me) and Kenny Rogers Roasters (for him) and watched some
neat cable station he gets that offers reruns of "Friends,"
"Ally McBeal" and "The Practice." As the
old NBC summer ad slogan goes, "If you haven't seen it,
it's new to you!"
Yes, I felt somewhat filthy about
my indulgence in this American Night In, as though I had somehow
betrayed my purpose in being here, whatever that was. (Does
anyone remember, by the way?) But my desire for salty french
fries was sated and seeing the look on America's Favorite Fattie's
face on "The Practice" when she found a head in her
weird ex-boyfriend's medical bag was more than worth it.
Bush Inauguration in China:
precisely 1 a.m. Beijing time, (Saturday noon, EST) as that
Texas moron was being inaugurated as leader of the free world,
I convinced the DJ to play the song, "It's the End of the
World As We Know It" and I ordered a round of scotch shots
for my crowd.
Then, with my new Chinese friends
watching in awe, as I raised my glass to toast our new leader,
President Idiot, may he not accidentally run our country into
the ocean. (Idiot was the only English word for "stooge"
the Chinese seemed to know.)
You may not agree with me and
you may believe I gave comfort to those who oppose the USA by
insulting our odious "leader" on foreign soil. But
I believe I acted as a true patriot, a true ambassador for political
freedom, because I demonstrated something utterly unfathomable
to the Chinese: I can express my distaste for my president and
pay no consequence for doing so.
In fact, I told my friends, President
Idiot would probably defend my right to do it if he weren't
so busy, like the rest of us, wondering how he came to control
our nuclear arsenal.
I've read over my prior dispatches, I fear I've given the impression
through my cheeky socio-political analysis that I've got some
sort of handle on what's going on around me. Fact is, it's taken
me four weeks to hazard the bus and subway by myself, and I
only did it because I lost my map and couldn't tell a cabbie
where I live. And I resorted to eating an "American-style
Mankattan" [sic] hotdog-in-a-bag (Wrapper: "USA style
hot dog has Chicken sausage flavour with Chilli sauce")
bought at the store today because the canteen wasn't open, nobody
was around to lunch with and I'm still not clear how many dishes
I'm expected to order in a restaurant if I go by myself. As
I mentioned moments ago, I only know one by name.
facilities on a trip:
daybreak, I stumbled out of our cabin to locate the toilet but
couldn't remember where it was, so I invoked my male privilege
and picked a discreet bush to do my business. As I'm standing
there contentedly watching the sky lighten, I suddenly spot
what appears to be a big, furry dead animal bobbing up and down
from the other side of the same bush. I peek over and realize
that's no animal, at least not anymore: It's the innkeeper's
hat! But just as I'm about to blush in embarrassment and apologize
for my choice of facilities, I notice he's smiling impassively
as he, too, uses the bush for the same purpose! He nods, we
exchange "ni hao"s and I move on to wonder if I can
ever tell anyone about this.
found a thumping, pulsating arena -- site of 2008 Olympic badmitton,
perhaps? -- where we were lucky to get seats together and many
fans happily stood in the aisles and along the railings to cheer
as the team played beneath a massive Chinese flag. Scalpers
lurked outside, a guy in a duck suit roamed the room as Beijing's
mascot and the loudspeakers blared Ricky Martin and the Backstreet
Boys as a dozen cheerleaders in black tights and shimmering
butterfly vests danced about the court during time-outs. I noted
there seemed to be few families in the audience, but then realized
that under China's One Child policy, there aren't as many children
so you're not going to bump into a the irksome broods that make
outings at professional sports in America so much fun.
asked all too often how we can survive like this, 16 time zones
apart. People either marvel at our apparent superhuman maturity
or question whether we're really all that close to begin with.
And even I had wondered why I'd blitzed through my first month
here without thinking too much about my partner, without feeling
a trace of homesickness. Did it mean I didn't care? That I am
cold-hearted or selfish? That my life was changing in ways that
somehow wouldn't include him?
My sudden torrent of tears that
night answered these questions and more. I picked up my cell
phone and dialed Jim's number. I expected his voicemail, but
I'd forgotten it was Sunday morning there, so he startled me
by answering. He must've been terrified to hear my sobbing,
wondering as I fell inarticulate what horrible trouble I was
in over there in that strange behemoth of China. "No, no,
nothing is wrong," I managed to blubber eventually. "I
just wanted to tell you that I love you and miss you and I wish
I could hug you right now and this phone call is too expensive
so we can't stay on for much longer."
Conditions at the China Daily Canteen:
to my elbow fell a large, half-chewed bit of beef and bone ejected
by the mouth of the Chinese dude sitting next to me. A moment
later, the gal across from him would spit up some fishbones,
dripping them right there onto the table surface next to some
discarded bits of rice and chicken left behind by her seat's
It is something of a Chinese custom
to discard food refuse on the table, although in local restaurants
it is done with a bit more discretion and is always removed
before the next group inherits the table. This is, in fact,
why the canteen food is repetitive to me despite the dozen or
so dishes offered for any given lunch or dinner: I refuse to
choose food with bones in it. As immersed as I want to be in
the Chinese way of life, spitting all over the place is just
one thing that goes too far.
then, is something of a luxury. A package of a dozen individually
wrapped slices (I'd say "American cheese" but it's
white, from Australia and has a slightly tart taste) cost 22
yuan, or $2.75. That may not sound like much to you but consider
that that's more than almost any cab fare I've paid here. I'm
told there's a cheese shop somewhere around here, although I've
not found it yet and I suspect searching for gorgonzola is a
tried really hard to set aside my Western fears to try a duck's
tongue with new Chinese friends in Shanghai who took me out
because, being the guest of honor, it is customary for me to
eat of newly arrived dishes first before the others may do so.
They went on to munched them down like tortilla chips, but I
quietly set mine aside after biting the fleshy front part and
realizing its texture Ñ complete with stiff nerve lines
within Ñ really felt like what you might expect. Call
me a hypocrite, but my meat can't resemble its original form
or I get the heebie geebies.
influence of American fast-food:
trend is making a huge impact on this culture, most significantly
turning their teenagers into Zit Faces as equally hideous as
their US counterparts. American dermatologists can claim all
they want that intake of greasy french fries and chocolate don't
produce acne, but I've seen the before-and-after here. I've
been to the slums of Beijing where the families cannot afford
Happy Meals and I've been to the posh malls where the upper-class
kids are yapping all weekend long on their own cell phones.
And while I'm not advocating the lifestyle of the slums, the
skin on the visages of those children raised on inexpensive
produce and rice is by and large flawless. Some of the "rich"
kids could break more mirrors than I did once upon a time.
purpose of the Olympic bid:
why bother with the Olympics at all? Efforts to keep a population
of 1.3 billion people in its place are not served, you would
intuitively believe, by the sort of attention garnered when
the world's biggest sporting event arrives in your backyard
and brings with it flag-waving patriots from nations with political
systems that contradict your own. Perhaps Nazi Germany could
fool the world in 1936 by staging a Summer Games that papered
over the ruthless regime in its midst, but we're more sophisticated
Oh, but so are they. In fact,
it is time to stop thinking of China so much as a country than
as a gigantic corporation Ñ I call it PRC, Inc. Ñ
and the Communist Party leadership not so much as a political
structure than as its Board of Directors. This is the world's
largest company town, with billions and billions to serve, and
trillions and trillions of dollars to be earned. Everything
PRC, Inc., does Ñ from its efforts to entice foreign
business investment to its hopes of landing the 2008 Summer
Games Ñ is aimed first and foremost at improving the
bottom line, bringing in the booty.
this is still China, and it's not necessarily a picnic to be
an average Chinese person here. But nor was it a picnic in the
United States 50 years ago to work in, say, a West Virginia
coal-mining town where some major corporation provided housing,
owned the local market and provided the income to spend at that
market. That wasn't viewed as Socialism in America, it was viewed
as unrestrained and out-of-control capitalism.
So, too, this is what we have
in China today. PRC, Inc., owns 75 percent of all enterprises
in some form or fashion. The Board of Directors look westward
and see seemingly limitless natural resources, so they plunder
the earth and waters, extract those resources and ship them
east to the factories near the ports that provide access to
Lost in that equation are the
people who live west, who work for beans so those folks in the
factories of the eastern cities see their incomes and lifestyles
improve. If the western folks don't like it, they move east
and work in the factories, just as Americans did during our
Dissent is not welcome from the
peons, to be sure. But tell me, would a non-unionized Ford Motor
Co., put up with employees spouting off in public against the
company? If it weren't for Big Labor in the US, dissenters inside
the company would be summarily dismissed, wouldn't they? Who
needs someone on their payroll causing public relations problems?
China doesn't get a break. These days, we have this odd sect
known as the Falun Gong. Proponents call it a harmless exercise
and meditation group with some spirituality mixed in; PRC, Inc.,
calls it a dangerous cult. They've banned it and hauled off
some followers to re-education camps.
The Chinese ban, of course, creates
an instantaneous backlash from the US, which, you might recall,
reacted a bit excessively not so long ago to a little cult problem
of its own in Waco, Texas. Nonetheless, the US government considers
the crackdown on the Falun Gong to be a cruel human rights abuse.
The truth, as always, must lie
in between. These Falun Gong folks are running all over Beijing
lighting themselves on fire. Sounds cultish, no? And, while
the PRC, Inc., efforts to stomp them out may seem like anti-religious
fervor, our officially atheist state does take a mostly hands-off
approach to dozens of legitimate religions around this country,
from Shamanism to Buddhism to Islam. We even have Arabic writing
on our money here, a bow to the large groups of Muslims who
live in the northwest provinces.
moments in life:
I've got plenty ahead of me here. And I like to remind myself
that, when I look back upon my life, at least three significant
moments will stand out. I met Jim. I joined the National Lesbian
and Gay Journalists Association. And I went to China. I expect
to be with Jim and to be an NLGJA member my whole life; I have
a finite time here. I mustn't waste it pining for a life that
I will return to soon enough.
could feel it. It was another one of those dead-weight stares
you notice out of the corners of your eyes. This happens to
me all the time. Every day for three months. I learn to live
with it, mostly, because it comes along with being a minority
who resides in a homogenous society. These folks, despite their
Big Mac appetites and Chicago Bulls apparel, are still shocked
to see someone white or black wandering their streets.
understandably, it gets to me at times. For almost a full block,
I walked ahead of this man while I could feel his stare pound
on my back like the oppressive Florida sunshine of August. Sometimes
these people are rude, but this was a bit much.
I swiveled around suddenly. My eyes bulged at my observer with
a "now-you-know-how-it-feels" gusto. This stunned
him so much, he stopped walking in the middle of the street.
when the taxi smacked him.
once believed that people overseas viewed Americans in a negative
light because our travelers are obnoxious and ignorant, the
so-called "Ugly American" concept. That only scratches
the surface. Sure, most of us don't bother to learn anything
about the local language or customs and certainly many of us
believe -- rightfully so, in fact -- that the American dollar
will resolve any and every overseas issue that may arise.
But more than this, I see now
that vast differences exist in how our actions themselves --
even the justifiable and well-meaning ones -- are perceived.
To the rest of the world, the South China Sea episode begins
and ends with the fact that we spy. This is just unseemly, rude,
tacky. Few average citizens in the US or elsewhere were quite
so aware of this fact of life before, and it looks bad. And
the fact that this dead Chinese fighter pilot was probably a
kamikazi is irrelevant to the sense that if we weren't there
in the first place, none of this would ever have happened.
Try getting past that point with
people dead-set against seeing the US perspective. You can't.
You can argue that we know the Chinese media spits out the government's
lies -- and my colleagues at the China Daily should know this
better than anyone -- but they'll retort that the US media does,
too. Never mind that the US media is privately owned and famously
assumes an adversarial role with the government, particular
with a Republican administration. They want to say that the
US media is spewing deliberate lies in concert with the authorities,
no matter how illogical this may seem.
moral dilemma of my job:
Sunday night, I had something of a crisis. An alleged letter
to China Daily actually went so far as to say that all American
people are evil and Chinese people should avoid us because we'll
lie and harm them. It concluded by saying the Chinese should
"screw" the Americans. I felt this personally and
had to ask myself why I was doing this work. If I had to edit
something so stridently anti-Jewish or so outrageously anti-gay
at a newspaper in the US, I'd walk out, right? So why do I continue
to do this?
My best answer is that maybe I
*am* a spy, although not for the US government. I sit at the
epicenter of the Chinese propaganda machine and, as abhorrent
as it is, it is fascinating.
Passover seder in Beijing:
David, however, hasn't discovered China yet. Too bad for them,
though, because the Chinese would love it. Turns out, there's
something called "Chinese Red Wine" drunk here for
pleasure that has approximately the same taste. Many of the
guests disliked it, but our hard-drinking British crowd eventually
caught on that "boray puhree hagafen" -- for "who
creates the fruit of the vine" -- was Hebrew code for "Bottoms
becoming USA Today's Asia correspondent:
years ago this week today, I tried out for a job at Newsday,
the Long Island newspaper I read as a boy. I was crushed then,
too, when a position was not offered to me. In time, though,
I would see that it was all part of the plan. We would move
to Florida to step in and provide vital support to my grandmother
as she watched my sickly grandfather leave her. We would meet
more of the finest friends we could hope for, people who have
changed our lives and priorities for the better. And I would
come to China, where I would learn to use a 99-cent pack of
playing cards to relate to people whose life and language beared
no resemblance to my own.
my visiting husband:
squeezed into the appropriate car and I directed the driver
in Chinese where to take us. A little while later, when I noticed
we were going the long way, I corrected the driver, again in
Mandarin. This was truly the very least I should know how to
say by now after three months of twice-a-week lessons, but looking
into Jim's stunned face made me feel like I spoke the Chairman's
Chinese. I even started to show off a little, asking the driver
where he was from and telling him that this was my American
friend visiting for one month.
China Daily life:
also quickly came to indulge the bizarre China Daily lifestyle,
which is as low-stress and high-pleasure as any grown-up existence
possibly could be. Our work is a hearty joke among us, an excuse
to mooch off a foreign government and plan our next trips as
soon as payday rolls around. We hop on our bikes for all-Saturday
rides in which we breeze casually through gritty, lively narrow
Chinese alleyways where women are hanging laundry, men are selling
steamed breads and grandparents are bouncing diaperless babies
on their laps. When we're hungry, we pull off for lunch at whatever
Chinese eatery we stumble across, then often we conclude our
afternoon with drinks at dusk at a quaint bar overlooking a
pretty little lake.
disappearance of Jim's bag:
was it stolen or just lost? We say stolen, because somebody
saw the bag, said, "Hmm, this ain't mine," and kept
it anyway. With the passport inside, returning it to an authority
who could locate us would have been relatively simple.
The Chinese visa office, when
we went to replace Jim's documents, didn't make much of a distinction.
They just told Jim to sign under the spot on their form where,
in English, it calls for the "Loser's Signature."
How can we shrug off such a calamity?
Because the US embassy and even the Chinese government made
the recovery process shockingly simple and relatively inexpensive.
A cab ride here, a subway ride there, fill out this form, go
here for a photo, come back in a few days, voila. Replacing
the mobile phone was a more costly and more bureaucratic headache,
and not having the digital camera deprieved all of you of receiving
online photos of our adventures.
But in the end, the lasting outcome
was that my partner signed off on being a 'loser.'
Great Wall touts:
uninvited companion, amazingly, trekked up the rocky cliffs
and steep trails with us without a need to pause for balance,
water or breath. Obviously, what was an intense climb for us
was a daily jaunt for her, a daughter of the surrounding countryside
who attached herself to Western visitors as a way to supplement
the meager existence of her agrarian family. She waited patiently
for us as we consumed our lunch at the top, refusing to take
our food or drink, and even made herself useful by snapping
our pictures and helping me as I lost my balance on the descent.
In the end, we bought in, paying
her for some postcards with frightful mispellings and merely
adequate depictions of the breathtaking vistas. She grumbled
that we owed her more than I gave her for taking us so far,
which shattered any affection I'd developed for her by reminding
me how she imposed herself in the first place.
all begs the question of how visitors should handle China's
poor. I don't have the answer. In some of the more popular expatriate
hang-out areas of Beijing, parents bring their grubby children
and set them loose to stick their hapless hands in front of
comparatively opulently dressed foreigners. The guilt is overwhelming,
but giving to one is a sure prescription to have seven more
blocking your path seconds later.
In the US, we can assuage our
guilt at not giving to panhandlers by donating to charities
for the poor with good reputations. This gives us confidence
that our gifts are part of a more comprehensive effort to attack
poverty and provide nutrition, jobs or shelter. We don't know
this about China, and my distrust of the Chinese government
is so intense at this point for having edited their blatent
lies for these five months. Even if there were a legitimate
charity helping the poor in a sensible way, I'm not sure I'd
be able to recognize it or believe it.
Daily's 20th anniversary celebration:
I've nothing to report. Not because I missed it, because I didn't.
Not because I couldn't hear, because I could. And not because
it wasn't humorous, because any gathering to honor a "newspaper"
with so little to be proud of is, in and of itself, funny.
No, I have nothing to report because they extolled the virtues
of this, China's only English-language daily newspaper, in a
rather peculiar, yet somehow fitting, way.
In Chinese. With no translation.
Except for an impassioned, inexplicably chosen rendering of
the Bryan Adams' hit 'Everything I Do, I Do It For You.'
You may chuckle at the notion
of taking domestic Chinese airlines, but aside from the spicy
dried soybeans they served up in lieu of peanuts and the woman
in the row ahead of us who staged a coronary to get moved to
first class, it was alright. (Dr. Jim didn't think she was faking
it, but I could tell she just didn't want to sit next to her
husband, whom I could smell.)
cow, they are as cute as advertised. That's major for China,
where almost nothing is as advertised.
Only about 1,000 giant pandas
exist and, aside from the few at zoos around the world given
to other nations as goodwill gestures, most reside in China's
Sichuan Province. Chengdu is its capital and ground zero of
the most ambitious breeding program, not to mention the most
humane facility for captive pandas on the planet.
Pandas are actually fat and lazy
animals, but they're so adorable that they're forgiven. However,
if you don't wake up early and catch them having breakfast,
your photos will likely be of their backs hunched in a corner
for eternal naps.
did. Accompanied by Joanne, a Mesa, Ariz., teacher we met at
our hostel, we rented bicycles and pedaled a 90-minute trip
that took us out of urban Chengdu and into a rolling countryside.
It's easy to notice the difference, aside from the scenery.
For one thing, we kept passing children in their yards making
mud pies out of animal waste. For another, roosters squawked
outside a restaurant waiting for a customer to issue their execution
orders by asking for, say, gong bao ji ding. (That's also known
at Chinese eateries in the West as Kong Pao chicken.) You can't
get closer to the source than that.
I loved the pandas, as I said.
I am sorry to report that I hate Joanne. Well, not really, although
I wish she had admitted her incompetence with a simple snapshot
camera before we entrusted her to shoot the photo I wanted to
show our grandchildren, that of their two grandpas in our youthful,
rugged primes posing with our two-toned furry friends. The pandas
certainly were cooperative, munching away in gleeful oblivion
while humans watched from behind a walled-off walkway. Weeks
later, however, we would retrieve our pictures of this momentous
occasion to find that Joanne might have suggested I move a little
to the left so my big head didn't conceal the panda. Maybe she
thought we wanted our photo with a shrub.
also is prominent in China for hosting the largest teaching
hospital for Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM. They allow
Western curiosity seekers to wander through the pharmacy and
the patient wards, sit in on lectures and chat with other foreigners
studying TCM at its source in China. So we did all of that,
which is how we came to decide that TCM might be better renamed
TCMWBWDRKSJTIALUK, or This Cure Might Work But We Don't Really
Know So Just Try It And Let Us Know.
in the park:
didn't take long for my wax-digger to strike, uh, gold. When
he pulled forth an ear booger the size of Atlanta, Jim exuded
a perverse form of satisfaction that his heckling about aural
hygiene was justified. For his part, though, Jim seemed to enjoy
this version of auricular therapy until his disappointed digger
emerged with nothing much to show for his effort. I was disappointed,
too; I hoped it was ear-wax and not human will that cause my
partner to seem not to hear much of what I tell him.
we checked into our room -- prepaid to the Chengdu travel agent
"George of the Jungle," who was becoming our one true
enemy -- the reception dude demanded another 300 yuan before
we could have our key. Jim proceeded with a supernatural calm
to try to parse the situation, but I spent the time looking
up in my Chinese-English dictionary, then shouting, words like
"extortionist" and "criminal." Eventually,
the dude got an English-speaking pal on the phone to tell Jim
that the 300 yuan was just a room deposit. Oh.
more significant truth is that our Sinophile friends are trying
their best, through study and practice, to see China through
Eastern eyes. Jim and I have no great, abiding fascination for
China and no misconception that we are capable of seeing what
we see through anything but Western eyes. This is not to say
our friends are being duplicitous; that is absolutely not so.
Rather, I am simply acknowledging here that I have no fantasy
that in the span of one year I will be able to unearth the elusive
truth about why China and its people are as they are. Instead,
I view my function here as interpreting this world honestly
through the lens I see it. There is value in both approaches,
since improving Sino-US relations may well hinge on understanding
what average people perceive about the other nation and why.