当初、香港貿易局が世界中小企業展（World SME EXPO)に
About a week later, I had reservations to leave
China for Taipei, with an intermediate stop
in Hong Kong.
At the Hongjiao airport, my two toy guns were
returned to me as promised.
I didn’t pay much attention to the procedure
and just stuffed the toys into my carry-on bag.
Then I realized that there was another security
check point for passengers and their carry-on
I could predict what would happen at this check
In order to pre-empt what I was afraid might
happen, I announced to the handbag checking point
person that I had just received two toy guns
from the last security check point.
I asked them to not be alarmed when they saw the
silhouettes of two toy guns.
The officers nodded and said not to worry.
I passed through this second security check point
I had thirty minutes to kill before I boarded,
so I wandered in the tax-free shop aimlessly.
There was a tap on my shoulder, I tensed.
“Are you the passenger with two guns?” an
officer asked me.
“Come to the office with me.”
There were four officers in the office.
They all seemed to be fascinated by my criminal
evidence, Exhibit A, two toy guns.
They all agreed that the toy guns certainly
looked like real guns.
They explained to me that they were in charge of
airplane safety, not to be confused with the
security people whom I had met on arrival.
That first group was in charge of national security.
The leader of this group wanted to know how much
I paid for the cowboy outfit.
I showed them the box, with a price tag of $9.99.
“Oh! This is a typical capitalist trick.
By setting a price at 9.99, it gives people a
good feeling that they are paying less than ten
dollars. Actually, after adding sales taxes,
the total will be more than ten dollars.
This trick is to deceive ordinary citizens.
Shame to the capitalists!”
My interrogators all seemed pleased at my reply.
I was sure that many of them knew I was saying
the condemnation against capitalists just to
Again, I told them that I was willing to throw
these two toy guns away.
The answer was "no", with the same explanation
that these guns were my personal property.
Then they wanted to chat with me about my life
I looked at my watch and told them that I had
only five minutes to catch my flight.
They assured me that the plane would wait until
they cleared me.
Since the toy guns looked too real, regulations
would not allow me to carry them aboard lest
I could use them to hijack the plane.
They said they would give them to the captain of
When I arrived in Hong Kong, I could retrieve
them from the captain.
The toy guns were returned to me on arrival at
Hong Kong, as promised.
En route on the airplane, chatting with my seatmate,
he warned me that the security in Taiwan was much
tighter than that of China.
On the way to my connecting flight in the Hong Kong
airport, at the first trash can I saw, I threw away
the two toy guns with a great sigh of relief.
“What do you mean by ‘might have’?
You don’t remember you packed the guns?
Either you've packed or not,” the officer fumed.
“My wife packed all the gifts in my suitcase.
I didn’t look after she finished packing;
therefore, I truly do not know what is in my
The crowd around us now grew bigger.
I could overhear someone pointing me to his
friend and using the word "counter-revolutionist".
“Never mind the excuses. Open the luggage
and show me the guns.”
I was nervous and shaking.
Already I could see that I would be put in jail
and no one would ever know what had happened to me.
The guarantee of personal rights in a communist
Chinese government is seldom recognized.
I fumbled as I unzipped the luggage.
On my first search I failed to find the cowboy
My wife must have packed the suitcase well.
I asked for more counter space so that I could
dump all the contents of my suitcase out.
Aha! there it was.
A package consisting of a cowboy outfit, with
two holsters of metallized plastic guns on a
The label showed a K-mart price tag of $9.99.
I surrendered the cowboy toy guns to the leader
and explained, “Comrade, you can surely see
that these are toys and not real guns.
There are no bullets.
This is a very popular toy set in America.”
“You may be right that they are not real guns,
but they certainly look like real guns.
Follow me to the office.
The rest of your luggage will be here upon your
The leader and two aides sat down behind a large
desk in the office.
I was left standing in front of them like a trial
“Now, let me tell you what is wrong with America,”
the leader began.
“You begin to train boys with guns when they are
It is a very bad way of educating young people.
When they are older, they start killing people
with real guns.
That is what happened to Pope John today in Europe.”
“Comrade, I see my mistake clearly now.
I should never have brought the toy guns to this
In my earlier trips to China, I learned the best
way to circumvent a brewing problem was self-
In other words, admit your mistake.
I continued, “Would you allow me to throw away
these toy guns into a trash can, so that these
bad toys will not poison your youth?”
“Sorry. This cannot be done. The People’s
Republic of China would never take away any
property from anyone. The toy guns are yours,
and we have no right to confiscate them.”
“You mean that I cannot throw them away?”
“I already admit that I made a mistake of
bringing these toy guns with me. Now you tell
me that I cannot throw them away. How can I
resolve this situation?”
“Obviously, you can take back these guns and
put them back in your luggage, and you can then
take the first flight out of this country.”
“Comrade, isn’t this too drastic? After all,
these are only toys.”
“I see from your passport stamps that you have
visited this country several times before.
You have also traveled to many other countries.
I want you to know that the People’s Republic
is a great nation. I will make an exception,
by keeping these guns here for you at the airport.
When you are ready to exit China, you can and must
reclaim these guns here.”
I shook his hand.
He was pleased to have resolved a thorny issue.
He made a small notation on my passport and I was
finally on my way to visit my family (albeit,
without my cowboy present).
The writer visited China every year since the
open door policy. In the early days, there were
many funny encounters during his visit.
This is one of them.
Regarding gun control, it will never pass the
congress. Owning guns is the very important
tradition since the founding of this country.
Many lawmakers in Washington own guns.
Quite often we remember precisely where we were
and what we were doing when a major event happens.
I clearly remember that I was on a bus near the
Dog Race Track in Shanghai when vendors of newspaper
extra shouted the great news of the Japanese surrender
of World War II.
And I remember like yesterday the day that I posted
a notice on the paper mill company bulletin board
announcing the closing of the laboratory for the
remaining of the day because President Kennedy was
I looked up the date of the assassination attempt
on Pope John to pin down the date I went to China
for my fourth return trip.
The date was May 13, 1981. This is another day
that I will always remember.
Not that I had anything to do with the assassination.
But when I arrived in China, the security officers
at the Shanghai Hung-jiao Airport were somehow
bothered by the assassination news and searched
every piece of luggage with a fine toothed comb.
They apparently found something dreadful and
repeatedly took my luggage through an X-ray machine.
Then, the security officers huddled together for
a group meeting.
Shortly afterwards, the head officer asked me to
identify myself and come forward.
During the early years of open door policy, the
airport was a primary strategic sensitive site.
The People’s Liberation Army controlled the
security of the airport.
I knew one should never deal with military people
casually so I knew that this was a serious matter.
“Does this piece of luggage belong to you?” the
military leader asked.
“Yes, comrade,” I learned early on to use the
term "comrade", a good way to close the gap
between an adversary and me.
“Take the guns out from your luggage,” he
“Guns? What guns?”
“Are you telling me that you don’t know you are
carrying guns into this country?”
“Comrade, I possess no gun.
I don’t own a gun and I don’t even know how to
use a gun.”
Then it dawned on me that my wife, who packed my
luggage, had mentioned that she had bought a
cowboy outfit as a present for her ten year old
nephew in Shanghai.
I vaguely remembered her saying that she hoped
her nephew would enjoy having this popular toy.
She was sure that her nephew would be the first
boy among his Chinese friends to have such a
“Comrade, I beg your pardon.
I spoke too soon.
I forgot to tell you that I might have a cowboy
My new room had three single beds, each equipped with a smelly and stained mosquito net. The room was hot, so I opened the only window to let in some cool night air. There was an attached bathroom. Stale urine was still in the toilet because there was no water in the tank. The sink had both hot and cold water faucets but neither worked. As I lay down resigned to endure the situation, a squadron of mosquitoes began to buzz. The smell of the stained mosquito net combined with the filth I found on the bed sheets nauseated me. However, I had no choice but to use the mosquito netting to protect me.
Suddenly, the lights turned off. It was 12 p.m. It was pitch black in the room. There were no street lights outside to allow me to see my surroundings. I searched around blindly, and managed to find by touch my raincoat. I placed the coat under me so that I could avoid touching the dirty sheets. I was prepared to sleep upright all night. The last thing I did before settling down was to place my eyeglasses in one of my shoes since there was no chair or night table in the room.
I must have let in a few mosquitos by accident into the tent. But, by then, it was too late to swap those pests. I began to wonder whether this was worth buying 3,000 MT of rosin. Of course, it was impossible to fall asleep. Time passed slowly. Every few minutes, a mosquito would buzz by. The foul odor never went away. The air was unbearably humid and hot.
Around five in the morning, I heard the hotel attendant distributing hot water bottles outside the rooms. Finally, it was morning. My torturous miserable night was over. I got myself out of the mosquito tent and stepped into my shoes.
Crash! I had stepped onto my eyeglasses which I had carefully put in my shoe. My glasses were broken. Without my glasses, being very nearsighted, I could hardly see anything. I found a bandage in my suitcase and used it to tape the broken glasses together. Now I could somehow see my surroundings. I opened the door and got the thermal bottle. The near boiling hot water was the only liquid I could use to brush my teeth.
Even though it was only 5 a.m., there were quite a few people already in the dining room to get the free breakfast. The offering was a very dilute rice porridge with the consistency of water. That was all I got for the free breakfast.
Around 8 a.m., a bus came to take us back to the airport. This time, the plane to Shanghai was waiting for us to board and I arrived on schedule. My brother was at the airport to meet me. I asked to be taken immediately to the nearest optical shop to get a new pair of glasses. In Shanghai, one could get a two-hour express service for a pair of eyeglasses for about $5.
I still have a small poster that I got from that hotel in Fuzhou. In my hotel room, there was a paper on the wall written by the local police. It gave notice to all guests that only guests of the same sex were allowed to stay in the room. If the guests were of different sexes, a marriage certificate must be presented to the hotel register. I thought it was a worthy memorabilia for my worst night in a hotel ever, and I took the notice as a souvenir.
At 8 p.m. on the third day, I was scheduled to leave on CAAC to go to Shanghai. The two ladies were concerned about my plane reservation. One of the ladies jokingly asked whether I knew what CAAC stood for. I replied that I thought it was for Civil Aviation Administration of China. She corrected me saying that, in local circles, it stood for China Airline Always Cancels.
The October weather was quite normal for the semi-tropical region of Fujian. It was a little humid but there were no weather issues to worry about. Just to be prudent my hostess gave me a telephone number in case my flight was cancelled. Since non-passengers were not allowed to enter the airport building, I was taken by their company chauffeur to the airport around 6 p.m., after another delicious banquet. Earlier, one of my hostesses had checked my flight status; CAAC said the flight would be on time.
The airport building was very primitive at that time. There were four flights scheduled to leave that evening, ranging from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. I looked outside and saw not one single airplane near the building. I began to worry.
My flight originated from Hongkong and the plane should have arrived around 5:45 p.m. The information desk gave no information. There were about 400 passengers at the terminal but no one seemed concerned. The Chinese were trained to behave that way, no questions and no protests.
There was one single monitor in the whole terminal exhibiting the arrival and departure information. At 7:45 p.m., the monitor still showed my Shanghai flight was to depart at 8:00 p.m. on time. Still there was not a single plane outside. The other departing flights were all delayed, due to weather conditions elsewhere.
There was no CAAC agent to be found. The information booth personnel only gave status reports to Caucasian looking passengers. Although I had an American passport, I was not dressed in a suit or tie. In appearance, I resembled the other Chinese passengers. I felt this reverse discrimination more than annoying.
Another hour passed. At 9:00 the information booth personnel still pacified the Caucasians saying that the flights would soon arrive. Not until 9:30 p.m. did they announce that all flights were cancelled for the day. Passengers were advised to board buses outside for sleeping accommodations in the city.
Immediately there was pandemonium in the crowded building. I thought I was lucky to have the telephone number of the chauffeur who had dropped me off. I decided that I would call him to pick me up and take me back to the hotel that I had stayed in the two previous nights. The hotel had been quite comfortable and carried a 4-star classification.
I soon found that there was only one public phone in the whole airport. There was a long line ahead of me. I patiently waited in line to make that important call. After about 45 minutes, I was able to place the call and luckily the chauffer answered. He said that he would come right away to pick me up. It should only take about 15 minutes.
The 15 minutes actually was 75 minutes before the chauffer showed up. He said that his car was about two miles outside the airport - he had run out of gas. In the whole city of Fuzhou, there was not a single gas station open after 9 p.m. He had walked to the airport to tell me the bad news.
By that time it was 11 PM. The loudspeaker announced that the last bus to the city was about to leave. There was no taxi outside the airport building. The bus was now my only option to get to a place to sleep.
I asked the bus driver whether he could stop at the hotel I had stayed for the two previous nights. He looked at me incredulously saying how could I afford to pay the hotel fee, and also told me, that even if I had the money, the hotel was now full.
All the passengers on the bus were taken to a hotel where rooms were shared by total strangers, about 4 to 6 people to a room. I was assigned to a room with five other passengers who had already checked in. It was the worst place I had ever encountered in my whole life. The room was more like a prison cell than a hotel room. So, I went down to the registration desk to protest. The young cadre in charge of room assignments said that he indeed had made a mistake. In the first place, this place was not open to foreign nationals. More importantly, Chinese citizens were not allowed to be exposed to a foreigner like me. But since there was no other hotel room available in the whole city of Fuzhou, there was no other alternative but to let me stay there for the night. To avoid co-mingling an alien with native citizens, I was assigned a single room on the third floor. Of course, there was no elevator.
During the period from 1993 to 1995,
there was a world shortage of rosin.
This was the major raw material required
to run Plasmine Technology of Pensacola, Florida.
Being an officer and founder of the company,
plus having broad contacts of rosin sales
agents and producers in China, I volunteered
to travel to China - the world’s biggest
producer of gum rosin - for possible purchases.
Usually rosin sales are generally settled
some months ahead for future delivery.
Spot delivery is almost impossible, but I was
determined to try.
Businessmen and sinologists all know that
Guan-xi, or personal relationship, is an
important ingredient in business transactions
I was hoping that perhaps I could buy a few
thousand tons of rosin with my Guan-xi.
The southeastern region is the major source
of gum rosin in China.
My itinerary therefore crisscrossed the
provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian
for about ten days.
I planned to visit five sales agents.
My previous nine trips to China had been
mainly for personal reasons; this one would be
strictly for business.
It was interesting that during this visit,
I ran into my U.S. competitors more frequently
than we ordinarily would see each other
Obviously, other companies had the same idea
of finding rosin sources in China.
I hit a lucky streak at the very beginning of
In Guangdong, I was able to contract about
I knew the people for many years and they sold
me what I needed strictly as a personal favor
because I am a Chinese.
They fondly gave me a nick-name: "the Chinese
who can’t speak Chinese".
Of course, the nick-name was incorrect since
I certainly could speak Chinese.
But I often slipped into English in the middle
of a sentence and they thought this was hilarious.
The last stop on my business trip was Fuzhou,
the capital of Fujian province.
My contacts were two women.
They showed me their books that documented to
show all their plant production for the year
was already sold.
However, they were still gracious and charming
For two days, they kept me fully occupied
with discussions on the business climate and
new export products.
They offered to take me to their producing
plant, a drive about six hours away.
I deferred as I was not interested in such a
long exhausting trip.
They included me in social lunches and dinners
Karaoke was very popular entertainment there,
and I was dragged to join them every evening.