I have been traveling to China since 1998. I would not consider myself a seasoned traveler to that country—making around twenty-five visits total. When I traveled there, I usually stayed between one and two weeks. Never during any of my visits did I ever see or meet a “Red” Chinese person. I saw no one wearing an “I am a Communist” sweatshirt, ball cap, t-shirt, sunglasses, button or anything else physically labeling them a Communist. I saw no street banners, bumper stickers, storefront displays, mass gatherings or any other public notice that I was among Communists. What I was among were just people—regular people.
All of my visits were for business purposes. I met with business people only and traveled to see their factories or offices. I did not take much time to “sightsee” which was a mistake in retrospect.
With my business, I tended to visit locations where I was the “only” non-Chinese person within miles. I never felt threatened or out of place. No one ever stared at me or pointed—“Look at that non-Communist person.”
I found “most” of the people with whom I came in contact during both business meetings and other activities to be very pleasant, warm, humble, honorable, respectful and charming. I will have to admit that I did have some dealings with business people who were other than honest; however, China does not hold a monopoly on those types of business people. As a rule, I found the Chinese people with whom I had my dealings to be extremely hard working, dedicated and honest.
I had no fear going out on my own in any part of China that I visited day or night. I was never threatened or accosted in any manner.
One day I was walking around a city on a Sunday afternoon—alone. I felt a tug on my shirtsleeve and turned to find two young girls at my side. One asked me if they could speak with me—in good English. I did not suspect their reasons for talking with me to be anything other than honorable, so I said “sure.”
The girls were students at the university and their English professor had given them an assignment to stop, interview and take a photo with any “Westerner”. They said they had been looking for hours and I was the only “Westerner” they had seen. I was happy to answer their questions—one of the girls took my photo with the other girl. They thanked me, and went on their way. These were just two young students with an assignment, and I felt honored that I was able to help them complete it.
Perhaps I am being a bit naive—I was obviously around Communists during my visits to China, but I never felt that I had really “met” one. I had been fortunate enough to meet people from another country and culture, and they had accepted me at face value. I enjoyed each one of my visits to China and care a great deal for China and its people.
I truly believe if people could meet and work with other people around the world that many of the world’s problems would be solved. Perhaps this is a bit Pollyanna of me but this is how I see things from my myopic point of view and experiences, with China and its people, and I will stand by them.
If you would like to read other guest posts by Bob Grant, start with They All Look Alike.