《我的第一次中国之行》 / “My First Trip to China”

《我的第一次中国之行》

最近我在香港主持了一次小组讨论会,新书《我的第一次中国之行》的三位作者,也包括我在内,参加了这次讨论。(该书由Muse出版社出版)

另外两位作者分别是纽约亚洲协会美中关系中心主任夏伟先生和都柏林大学圣三一学院商学院客座教授顾汝德先生。他们两位都是高产作家,而我们三人自上世纪七十年代起就频繁往来于中国。

“My First Trip to China”

I recently moderated a panel discussion in Hong Kong among three authors, myself included, each of whom had written a chapter in a recently published book “My First Trip to China.” (Muse)

The other two were Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Centre on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York, and Leo Goodstadt, Adjunct Professor, School of Business Studies, Trinity College, University of Dublin. Both of them are prolific authors, and all three of us have been travelling to China since the 1970s.

这次对话是在香港美中商会举办的一次早餐会期间进行的。我们美国人好像比其他人都更喜欢开早餐会,但也有些人觉得早餐会不够文明。大多数这种会议是在8点钟开始,但我一直都安排在7点。从交通上说,在香港举办早餐会不成问题,但在北京,因为堵车安排起来就会比较困难。

《我的第一次中国之行》是香港中文作家兼编辑Liu Kin-ming的创意。他邀请30位中国问题学者、外交官、记者、商人撰写回忆录,回忆当年第一次到访中国的情景和印象。其中大多数人首次访华都集中在上世纪七十年代,但也有些时间要或早或晚。

这本书得到了评论界的广泛认可,但也有一位知名女学者指出该书的作者多为男性。她说得很对,我们都同意这一点。

讨论会一开始,我宣布大家将就上世纪七十年代中期以来,我们所见证的在中国发生的巨变展开讨论。我认为最好先从回忆那个年代大陆和香港的趣闻轶事开始,这些事对当年中国的经济都至关重要。

我先请两位嘉宾描述一下他们第一次到中国时最难忘的景象和声音。

夏伟说他1975年到北京,印象最深的是那里的宁静和黑暗。当然,他指的是那些年没有交通噪音、包括路灯在内的电力照明也明显不足的情况。

我曾经在以前的博客里写过让我记忆最深的声音,其实就是1975年下榻广州东方宾馆,早晨6点从窗外大喇叭里传来的震耳欲聋的《东方红》乐曲。这种不请自来的叫醒服务真是太给力了!

1962年搬来香港的顾汝德描述了当年大陆经由香港进行对外贸易的规模和形式,以及早期发展。他着重讲述了与中国银行合作的所谓“姐妹行”的职能,这些银行当年都为中国的对外贸易活动提供金融服务。

七十年代中,外国公司与中国的商业往来开始增多,但很多企业仍需通过香港传统的“洋行”,如怡和、和记黄埔、宝隆等进行交易。1975年所谓的“中国贸易行”还为数不多,但很快就出现了爆炸性增长。

总之,这次讨论趣味横生,现场还有问答环节。在回首过往发生的雷霆巨变时,检视一成不变的事物也是同等重要,有助于未来的规划和决策。

我知道中国还有很多事没有变,您能说出一两个例子吗?

The conversation took place over a breakfast meeting organized by The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. We Americans seem to hold more breakfast meetings than most other people. Some consider breakfast meetings uncivilized. Mostly they start at 8 a.m., although I’ve had them start as early as 7 a.m. Breakfast meetings in Hong Kong are not a problem from a transportation point of view, whereas in Beijing it would be a challenge, due to traffic.

“My First Trip to China” was the brainchild of a very bright Hong Kong Chinese writer and editor named Liu Kin-ming. He invited an assortment of 30 China scholars, diplomats, journalists and business people to write their recollections and impressions from the first time they visited China. Many of these visits took place in the 1970s; some earlier, and some later.

The book has been generally well received by reviewers, although one prominent female scholar correctly observed that it has too many male contributors. Point well taken.

I opened the conversation by saying that we would be discussing the obvious, dramatic changes we’d all witnessed in China since the early to mid-1970s. I thought it best to start with some anecdotes and recollections of that era in China, and also in Hong Kong, which was of critical importance to China’s economy at that time as well.

I began the conversation by asking my fellow panelists to describe some of the most memorable sights and sounds which they recalled from their first visit to China.

Orville Schell said that his most memorable sound after arriving in Beijing in 1975 was silence, and his most memorable sight was darkness. He referred of course to the absence of traffic noise and the paucity of electric lights, including the absence of street lamps, in those days.

My most memorable sound, as I have written in this blog, was the deafening 6 a.m. broadcast of “The East is Red” from loudspeakers outside my Dong Fang Hotel window in Guangzhou in 1975. It was a powerful and effective wake-up call, although not one which I’d requested.

Leo Goodstadt, who first moved to Hong Kong in 1962, described the size and shape of China’s trade with the world through Hong Kong, and how it developed in the early years. He focused in particular on the role of the so-called “sister banks” allied to the Bank of China, which together financed most of China’s foreign trade in those days.

International companies were beginning to do more business with China in the mid-1970s, but many of them worked through the traditional trading “hongs” in Hong Kong, such as Jardines, Hutchison, East Asiatic, etc. The so-called community of “China Traders” was a small one in 1975, but soon to experience explosive growth.

All in all, it was an interesting conversation, with a lively Q & A session. When looking back at an era of rapid, dramatic change, it is also important to reflect on those things which have not changed. That helps inform our planning and decision-making going forward.

I can think of many things in China which have not changed. Can you think of any examples?


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