十一小时的车程(下) / The Eleven-Hour Drive–Part Two



中堂镇的自由市场 / Free market forces emerge in Zhongtang

十一小时的车程(下)

待车队驶出广州市区,我们很快就进入了广东的农村地区。铺设的公路逐渐被石子路所取代,路的两侧是一片片的稻田,鱼塘里养着成群的鸭子,水牛在灌溉渠里快活地打着滚,人民公社的墙上刷着“农业学大寨”的标语,偶尔还可以看见几处轻工业的厂房。

我们的第一站是东城,它是东莞县政府的所在地——当时东莞已经成为对外贸易的一支新兴力量。

为跨越珠江支流,我们两次搭乘汽车轮渡过江。第一次渡江时,变幻莫测的命运就对我们面包车的油路下了手。在临时修理之后,我们过了江。往前又走了几英里,来到一个叫做中堂的江边小镇,车子又再次抛锚。

幸运的是,那天是星期六的早晨,我们在中堂镇赶上了听说但没见过的新生事物:自由市场。在那里,农民可以直接向消费者出售自己种植的作物或是制作的物品。在过去,这和做广告一样是长期遭禁的行为。自由市场的出现,代表了中国农村农业领域发生重大变革的先机,最先是在广东试点,最终推广到全国并产生了深远的影响。

自由市场上来了一群呆头呆脑的外国人,给中堂镇的居民带来了相当大的娱乐价值和很多鲜活的笑料。

不久,我们的面包车便被宣告“死亡”。我们步行搭乘第二段汽车轮渡,对岸有几辆雪佛兰贝尔维迪旅行车正在恭候我们。于是有些人发表了一通亲美的言论,结果后来证明这些话说得太早了。

在莞城午餐并听取介绍之后,我们再次上路。在太平镇,我们参观了工厂和鸦片战争中的销烟遗址(很幸运,在这儿我们美国人和英国人相比还算得上是好人。)

接下来的环节是到一家荔枝酒厂参观和品尝。虽然那酒甜得令人要吐,但我们仍有义务在下午的酷热中频频举杯并一饮而尽。

离开太平镇的路仿佛是伐木用的小道,但我们的司机却丝毫没有被吓倒。为了追回耽搁的三个小时,他们开起车来就好像是要参加一级方程式赛车。

结果,慢速离合器和不断颠簸之间的“闪婚”导致了第二次严重的故障。雪佛兰贝尔维迪抛了锚,把我们丢在一小片蚊虫横行的丛林中。

The Eleven-Hour Drive– Part Two

As our caravan exited the suburbs of Guangzhou we soon entered rural Guangdong. Paved roads gradually gave way to gravel ones, bisecting paddy fields, fish ponds with flocks of ducks, irrigation ditches with wallowing water buffalos, People’s Communes with “In Agriculture, Learn from Dazhai” painted on their walls, and the occasional light industrial factory.

Our first stop was Dongcheng, the county seat of Dongguan –already an emerging force in export trade.

At the first of two car ferry crossings across tributaries of the great Pearl River, the fickle hand of fate inserted itself into the fuel line of our minibus. A temporary repair job got us across the river and a few miles further, to a small river town called Zhongtang, where we got stuck again.

Luckily for us, it was Saturday morning in Zhongtang, and we came upon a brand new phenomenon which we had heard about but never seen: a free market, where farmers would sell their produce or wares directly to consumers. Like advertising, this had previously been taboo. It represented the first shoots of major reforms to China’s rural agricultural sector, which began experimentally in Guangdong and eventually became a nationwide phenomenon with far-reaching impact.

The arrival in the free market of a lumbering group of gawking foreigners provided considerable entertainment value for the Zhongtangers, and lots of lively, animated banter.

Before long, our minibus was pronounced dead. We walked onto the second car ferry, and were met on the other side by several Chevrolet Belvedere station wagons. Several pro-American comments were heard; prematurely, as it turned out.

After a lunch stop and briefing in Guancheng, we hit the road again. In Taiping, we visited factories and the site where foreign Opium was burned during the Opium war (fortunately the Brits were more the bad guys here than us Yanks).

Next was a tour and tasting session at a winery making sickeningly sweet lychee wine., which we were obliged to toast and consume liberally in the sweltering mid-afternoon heat.

As we left Taiping, the roads resembled logging trails. Our drivers, undeterred, were trying to make up for the fact that we were 3 hours behind schedule, so they drove in Formula One style.

As a result, serious breakdown number two took place, resulting from the high-speed marriage of a low-flying clutch with a high-flying bump in the road. Down went the Chevy Belvidere, which left us stranded in a small, mosquito-infested jungle.

 

在中堂镇的河边洗菜 / Washing veggies in the river, Zhongtang

雪上加霜的是,我们尊敬的会长在亚热带茂密的枝叶中响应自然的召唤时,竟不小心弄湿了他的猎装。这对我们其他人来说简直太搞笑了,但我们无所畏惧的领导却乐不起来。

在离开第二次故障现场前,我们留意到当地革委会张贴的一条宣传标语,上面劝说农民要积极配合兴建厂房,把他们的祖坟从厂房征地上迁走。

终于,增援的汽车赶到了现场,我们一行人也最终在晚上7:30艰难地抵达了宝安:大家都酷热难耐,汗流浃背,筋疲力尽。

我们被带往一家五层高的宾馆,楼里只有水泥楼梯。我的房间在顶层,于是我只好拖着行李箱步行丈量了楼高。不幸的是,我们抵达时供水供电还没开始,最迫切需要的洗涮就只能作罢推迟了。

房间里欢迎我的是一只膘肥体壮的老鼠,它看到我进门似乎有点儿吃惊。从外形上看,它更像是一只轻松自在的棕色乡下老鼠,而不是你常见的那种眼睛贼亮、偷吃奶酪的灰色城里耗子。但是,我没有时间和老鼠先生寒暄,因为介绍会马上就要开始了。

李同志介绍的宝安外贸基地未来远大发展计划十分精彩,但很快就被外国佬肚子里发出的越来越响的咕噜声所淹没。在这紧要关头,我们通情达理的主人明智地提出先喂饱我们,然后再接着介绍情况。

晚餐伴着大量清凉的青岛啤酒下肚之后,我们了解到宝安县共有30万人口,但县城居民仅有3.3万人,其中85%是农民。(我猜想剩下的15%至少不是酒店服务员,我想知道:他们是靠什么为生呢?)

据称,1978年宝安的出口额是900万元人民币,数量不多。

他们给我们看了一些表格、图示、方案和规划,还对我们在几小时车程中路过的普通稻田即将发生的巨大变化作了一番近乎幻影似的描述。

轻工业、重工业、研发部门、大学、旅游区、现代交通设施——这一切乃至更多很快就会实现。多种形式的外商投资都会受到欢迎。一切都会是现代化的、第一流的、先进的。

好的,明白了,当然了。

也许是因为疲倦到头昏脑涨的缘故,所以我们对这些宏伟方案和规划特别是如此短暂的时间目标的反应,是表现出相当的平静和怀疑。

第二天早晨,天上下起了雨。我们踩着泥泞参观了第一家港资工厂——妙丽制鞋厂。它是目力所及范围内唯一的厂子,四周环绕着稻田和其他农田,但还有一些工厂正在建设之中。

我们对主办方表示了感谢,与他们话别后就过境返回了香港。

这次旅行之后不久,宝安外贸基地就更名为深圳经济特区。它是中国第一个也是最重要的经济特区,也成了中国改革开放政策的一块奠基石。

今天,这里的人口已经达到700多万,几乎与香港一样多。更让它引以为豪的是,这里拥有多家世界级的高科技公司、生产厂商、中国第二家股票交易所、一流的大学、旅游景点、高尔夫球场、高档的住宅项目、五星级酒店、国际机场,等等,等等。

从这11小时历险性的车程中,我总结出的经验是:当李同志说他会在一夜之间让一座繁荣的城市拔地而起时,你最好多加留意,因为他真有可能给你一个惊喜。

To make matters worse, our esteemed President answered the call of nature amidst the subtropical foliage and inadvertently wet the pants of his safari suit. For the rest of us, this was high entertainment, but our fearless leader was not amused.

Before leaving the scene of the second breakdown we noticed a sign posted by the local revolutionary committee exhorting the peasants to be cooperative in removing the remains of their ancestors from prime land needed for new factory construction.

Finally, automotive reinforcements arrived, and our group eventually limped into Bao An about 7:30 in the evening: hot, sweaty, and exhausted.

We were shown to the hotel, which was a 5-story concrete walk-up. My room was on the top floor, so I scaled the heights carrying my suitcase. Unfortunately neither the water nor electricity were flowing at the time of our arrival, so a much-needed wash-up had to be postponed.

I was greeted in my room by a very well-fed rat who seemed a bit surprised by my arrival. He looked more the relaxed, free-range, brownish rural kind of rat than your typical beady-eyed, steal-your-cheese, gray, downtown type rat. There was no time for me to chit-chat with Mr. Rat, however, because we were due at the briefing.

Comrade Li’s excellent presentation on the ambitious future development plans of the Bao An Foreign Trade Base were soon drowned out by the crescendo of great growling gringo stomachs. At this juncture, our gracious hosts wisely offered to feed us first, and brief us later.

After dinner, washed down with copious amounts of cold Tsingdao beer, we were told that Bao An County had a population of 300,000 people, but the town itself had only 33,000, of whom 85 % were farmers. (I guessed that the other 15% were at least not hotel service staff, and wondered what they did for a living.)

Bao An’s exports in 1978 were said to be RMB 9 million, an insignificant sum.

We were shown charts and diagrams, plans and projections, and given what seemed to be a phantasmagorical description of the dramatic transformation in store for the very ordinary looking rice paddies we had just spent hours driving through.

Light industry, heavy industry, research and development, universities, tourism zones, modern transport infrastructure – all this and more were promised, and in the very near future. Foreign investment of various types would be welcome. Everything modern, first class, cutting edge.

Right. Got it. Sure thing.

Perhaps because we were weary to the point of being shell-shocked, our reaction to the bold plans and projections was quietly very skeptical, especially insofar as the near term was concerned.

The next morning it was raining. We trudged through the mud and visited the first Hong Kong-invested factory in the zone, a Millie’s Shoe plant. It was the only factory in sight, surrounded by rice paddies and other agricultural fields, although others were under construction.

We thanked our hosts, and bid them farewell before crossing back into Hong Kong.

Shortly after our visit, Bao An Foreign Trade Base was renamed Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. It was the first and most important of China’s Special Economic Zones, which have been a cornerstone of China’s Open Door and Reform. Policy.

Today its population, at 7 million-plus, is almost the same as Hong Kong. It boasts a variety of world-class high tech companies, manufacturing plants, China’s second stock exchange, top colleges and universities, tourist spots, golf courses, upmarket residential developments, 5-star hotels, an international airport, etc., etc., etc.

The lesson I learned from the 11-hour driving adventure is this: if Comrade Li says he’s going to build a thriving city overnight in a place where there was none, it’s best to pay attention, because he just might surprise you.


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