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Ralph visits China – in 1972

30th October 2022 @ 6:06am – by Chairman Ralph
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editor's note:- an earlier and far-flung diary story from Ralph! Clearly other poltical views are available

Ralph visits China – in 1972

As reported around the world, , the Peoples Conference in Beijing was held with the Politburo in full strength.

The sight of Hu Yintao being quite forcibly removed from the seat next to Xi Jin Ping, brought back memories of the rule of Mao Tse Tung . Xi Jin Ping has now cemented himself as total boss for a future term, doing just what Mao did -- in ensuring very little opposition to any plan he has. Reflecting the moves that Putin has taken in not letting any other take the reins .

All this brought back a memory of my first entry in China way back in 1972.

As part of my career, we had embarked on forays into the Far East and began trading in 1965 -- in Hong Kong . My very first flight there was on board a BOAC Britannia prop aircraft that took many hours and stops to reach HK. Squashed in three seats , it was not a pleasant flight and we came in over the high rise blocks of flats in a big rainstorm. I had my hand tight on the arm rests for sure .

But safe. Travelling from then on in the Boeing 747 with PanAm etc .

After a few years it became apparent that mainland China would be a hunting ground for profitable business deals in clothing, as huge volumes of fabric were being produced there.

Accordingly, I proposed to my board in Liverpool that I should attend the Canton Fair in October of '72. At this world fair, manufactures and agents present a wide array of products. Furniture. Textiles. Machinery. Car accessories etc .

To do this meant applying to the Foreign Office in London for a second passport, as the one I had held custom stamps for entry into Taiwan, a country not recognised by China. -- this proved quite a rigmarole as much care was taken over holding two passports. At the time my sons thought I must be a spy!

This was granted -- and in October, a business colleague named Denis Marks of Yangste Kiang of Hong Kong and I boarded the train in Kowloon , to take us to the boarder . At Lo Wu , the boarder village , we had to get off the train and to walk over the connecting bridge . Hakka women , the countryside women who worked the fields , stood there and offered for sale soap and toilet rolls !! Red Guards stood on entry into China , wearing black pumps and cradling an automatic gun. Big red star on their khaki uniform. We were marched into a huge room ,with tables set out for a lunch, with all the food gone cold . A massive portrait of Mao -- some 30 feet tall and in full colour , dominated the place. All our passports were taken from us -- felt quite nervous at this point -- and I could now see how many we were . About 250 or so , from all corners of the world.

After a couple of hours, an official came to the door and shouted out names for us to collect our passports . "Warburton " was not shouted out too well, but I was very happy to have it back.

We then boarded a fresh train. Seats all had white antimacassar cloths . A waitress came round offering green tea from a type of samovar .

Arriving at Canton, we disembarked . A group of officials there on the platform told us that we would be allocated to our hotel . Denis and I waited . He went to one ! and I to another!

The "Peoples Hotel" on the banks of the Yellow River . On arrival there I was given a room, sharing with a Sikh in full turban.

Getting to the room . Beds very basic with metal base. And then I realised why the Hakka women were selling soap and toilets rolls. What we had in the room was old fashioned carbolic looking soap and rough toilet sheets . Like Izal paper.

Each floor of the hotel was managed by a fellow . He had a glass display case, with objects left behind by previous guests. From combs to pocket penknives . Awaiting collection !

To this man we paid all our dues .

Out to the city and to the hall of many suppliers of all sorts of trade. Always escorted .

We toured the stands over a few days , but realised we not yet ready for direct trading. To do so would have meant setting up an agency to verify quantity and quality , and as a company we were not ready for such matters.

Other days, we were taken, by huge Black Russian looking cars called Hongqi , to a restaurant for dinner. Only delegates like us there. No chinese. Bunch of Australians on next table challenged us to drinks of Mao Tai , a strong spirit made from fermented sorghum . Served in white bottles ~ looking all the world like bleach. Suffice to say we drank the Aussies under the table over a long night. True !

Another night, we were taken to the Friendship Stores where sales were all in US dollars . Long queue , but our minders took us to the front of the queue ! At all times, we had minders with us -- in plain clothes .

Streets full of "sit up and beg " bicycles . Hundreds of them -- black , and each with a number plate . Very few cars .

A memorable experience with the little red book of sayings by Chairman Mao everywhere .

Train back to the border and cross back into the New territories of Hong Kong . a

A truly amazing experience in a country that was then so strange , with the one child policy in force. Red Guards destroying temples and museums of such precious objects . A precursor of what the Taliban have done. And often girl babies left in the hills as the family tried for sons !

President Nixon made the first high level visit by a westerner in the same year .

Back to the station by the Star Ferry and to my hotel

A lovely welcome as I rebooked into the Peninsular Hotel for 6 star luxury . Famed throughout out the world . Soft toilet paper ! A massive contrast .

But.

Now, the world dances to the tune of China ,as it becomes the strongest in many ways.

After years of the West trading to such a degree that the latest events of container ships held up , does so truly hurt economies . "Made in China" everywhere you look .

I can only see them becoming ever more dominant in todays world . Having the greatest supply of rare earth metals. Having the biggest armed force strength by far. Intent on grabbing areas of the South China `sea. Threatening moves on Taiwan. Chucking money into Africa etc.

But a footnote . The Politburo have not one woman in their ranks. In spite of some 700 million females in the country. I wonder if that will change.

Will be of much interest over the next 10 years or so. Bit scary in truth .

For our grand children and for their children.

Ralph Warburton

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