我的第一次中国之行(二) / My First Trip to China (Part 2)

我的第一次中国之行(二)

在广州火车站,我见到了迎接我们的接待方代表。当时,有理由并获得批准可以和外国人讲话的人只能介绍自己的姓氏。严格地讲,只能称呼他们为“同志”,比如李同志、王同志等。

中方那时还没有开始使用名片,表面上看是因为他们不愿意暴露过多的敏感信息,比如姓名、地址和电话号码。但对普通中国人来说,被扣上“里通外国”的帽子是一件非常严重的事情,这同时也意味着交流沟通是以单位为主,而非个人。那时中国人在街头巷尾随意和外国人谈话要冒极大的风险。

天气预报同样也要保密,因为它注定就是敏感情报,可能对敌对武装势力十分重要。

My First Trip to China (Part 2)

At the train station in Guangzhou I was met by a representative of my host organization. Chinese people who had reason to talk to foreigners, and approval to do so, introduced themselves by surname only. Strictly speaking, the proper term of address was “Comrade”, as in Comrade Li, Comrade Wang, etc.

Name cards were not yet in use among the Chinese side, ostensibly because they would have divulged an excessive amount of potentially sensitive information, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers. For ordinary Chinese to be accused of having unauthorized contact with foreigners (li tong wai guo 里通外国) was a very serious matter indeed; which meant that the emphasis was on institutional rather than individual communications. Spontaneous street-level conversations with foreigners carried serious risks for local Chinese.

The weather report was classified because it was deemed to be sensitive information of potential value to hostile foreign military forces.

东方宾馆老翼楼的正门 / Main Door of the Old Wing, Dong Fang Hotel

所有外国人都必须在东方宾馆下榻。想要在酒店里找到朋友或者同事,必须到前台查阅软木牌上的告示——所有新来的客人都会把名片钉在那里,并写上房间号。客房里没有电话和空调。最好的房间是在东方宾馆老的翼楼里,那里更宽敞,床上还挂着帐篷似的蚊帐。

那个年代,电话在对华业务中没有用武之地。取而代之的是电传、电报和信函——而且收件人全都不是个人,以避免给中方接收人造成麻烦。私人电话是罕见的高档设备,电话簿也被列为国家机密。

中国当时的外贸总量微乎其微——1973年的进出口总额还不足110亿美元,大抵相当于2010年中国仅奢侈品一项的进口总量——这也反映出近40年来中国进出口质和量上的双重巨变。

1975年,中国所有的外经外贸决策均由北京屈指可数的高层下达,并通过12个国有垄断性进出口公司予以执行。外贸在很大程度上是外交政策的延续,并被视为“必要之恶”。

外国投资还是痴人说梦。“广告”、“营销”、“竞争”之类的词语更是遭人唾弃,只会鼓吹邪恶无比的“利润”。

All foreigners were mandated to stay in the Dong Fang Hotel. To find a friend or colleague in the hotel required checking the cork bulletin boards in the lobby, where new arrivals would post their business card with the room number scrawled on it. There were no telephones or air conditioners in the rooms. The best rooms, in the Old Wing of the Dong Fang, were more spacious and came equipped with a tent-like mosquito net which hung over the bed.

The telephone played virtually no role in doing business in China at the time. Instead, telex, telegrams and letters — all impersonally addressed to avoid getting the Chinese recipient in trouble — were the available communications conduits for the conduct of commerce. A private telephone was such a rarified, elite device that the telephone book was also considered a state secret.

China’s total foreign trade volume was a pittance — her total imports and exports in 1973 were less than US$11 billion. That’s roughly equivalent to the volume of her luxury goods imports alone in 2010 — which represents a staggering degree of qualitative as well as quantitative change in less than 40 years.

In 1975, all foreign trade and economic decisions were concentrated among a handful of high-level bureaucrats in Beijing, and implemented through 12 highly centralized, monopoly state-owned import-export corporations under the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Foreign trade was largely an extension of foreign policy, and viewed as a kind of necessary evil.

Foreign investment was taboo. Words like “advertising”, “marketing”, and “competition” were regarded with obvious disdain, trumped only by the ultra-sinister word “profit.”

广交会展馆 / Canton Trade Fair Complex

广交会期间东方宾馆的客人来自全球各地,肤色各异。这些客商身穿五颜六色的本国服装,叽里呱啦地讲着外语,在宾馆餐厅和西村路广交会展馆之间往来穿梭。参展代表的多元化令人不禁想起《星球大战》中的银河酒吧,只是当年中国还不允许开设酒吧而已。

参会代表要在衣襟上佩戴粉红丝带,以证明获得了进入展馆的许可。这些粉丝带增加了些许节日的滑稽气氛,佩戴者好像刚从农展会上赢得了种南瓜或烤苹果派比赛的冠军。

The Dong Fang Hotel during the trade fair housed a motley collection of people from every corner of the globe. Gaggles of folks wearing colorful native costumes shuttled between meals in the hotel restaurant and the sprawling trade fair complex situated across Xicun Road. The incredible diversity of the delegates was a bit reminiscent of the intergalactic bar scene in “Star Wars”, except that bars were not permitted in China at the time.

Delegates were required to wear pink ribbons on their lapels, demonstrating they were authorized to enter the trade fair complex. The pink lapel ribbons added a festive, slightly comical touch, as if the wearer had won the competition at a county fair for growing the biggest pumpkin or baking the best apple pie.

佩戴着粉红丝带的参会代表 / Trade Fair delegates wearing their pink ribbons

第一天下午抵达东方宾馆以后,我在一间专供外国人填表的房间里又填了一大堆表格,用掉的纸足以再毁掉一小片森林。填完以后都快到晚饭时间了。晚餐是定时供应的,菜单也是套餐。可以喝到清凉爽口的青岛啤酒,但可口可乐或咖啡就没有了。和只能排着队在城里的食品店凭票购买的普通中国人相比,外宾吃的像是皇帝皇后。

接下来就该早早上床休息了。因为晚餐之后,除了和同事坐着聊天、发发电传、打打乒乓球或台球之外,实在没有地方可去。东方宾馆新楼顶层的餐厅被改成了临时酒吧,供应当地饮品。常来的人把这里昵称为“紫鹦鹉”,幻想这里该有比医院式的绿墙壁、白灯光和纯棉台布更具魅惑的气氛。

于是,头天晚上我很早就上床休息,激动地期待着第二天的来临。在学习中文这么多年以后,我终于就要等到在中国的第一个整天了。

(未完,下周待续)

After arriving in the Dong Fang that first afternoon, and filling out another small forest worth of forms, in a room dedicated to form-filling for foreigners, it was almost time for dinner. Meals were served at fixed times, with set menus. Good, cold Qingdao beer was available; Coca Cola and coffee were not. Foreign guests were fed like kings and queens compared to ordinary Chinese people, who could be seen queuing at food shops around the city with ration tickets in hand.

Then it was time for an early evening. There was no place to go after dinner other than sit and talk with colleagues, send telexes, play table tennis or billiards. An upstairs dining room in the new wing of the Dong Fang was converted into an ersatz bar serving local beverages, which regulars affectionately nicknamed “The Purple Cockatoo,” fantasizing about a far more enticing ambience than that which actually awaited them: hospital green walls, bright white lights, and plain cotton tablecloths.

So, that first evening I turned in early, excited about what the next day might bring. Finally, after all these years of study, my first full day in China lay just ahead of me.

(to be continued next week…)


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我的第一次中国之行(二) / My First Trip to China (Part 2)》上有 13 条评论

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