Year of the Dragon
My sister. My younger sister who followed in my footsteps. she disappeared on the night of June 3rd. We never saw her again. Never. And so I decided, after that, for her sake -- Xiaoying, Little Hero -- I'd tell this story.
Do you read English writers?
Yes. I read The Heart of Darkness. But nothing else.
Read him. Read more. Read Youth. There is a quotation he placed at the start of Youth. I've thought about it a lot. I thought about it with regard to my sister and my career. It's actually from a children's tale. If you understand it, then you'll know why I helped you.
What is it? I asked.
It's very simple. I know it by heart: "But the dwarf replied, 'No, something human is dearer to me than the wealth of the world.'"
The phrase will always move me. My sister owned a copy of Youth in Chinese. She read it in the university. And she'd circled that quotation. I still have her book with me. I think I know why she circled it. I think I know now why she went to Tiananmen, why she marched. And maybe when you understand it, you'll know why I told you these stories.
A delegation from the French arms manufacturing company Aerospatiale arrived in Beijing in mid-May, 1989 to complete talks on the sale of helicopters to China. Negotiations between Aerospatiale and Poly Technologies began in earnest on Friday morning, the 24th, for the purchase of four specially-equipped Dolphin helicopters for use by the PLA Navy.
"We had recently purchased several 24 Gazelle and seven Super-Frelon helicopters from Aerospatiale for the Army Aviation Corps and augmented this purchase with the acquisition of several Sikorski Blackhawks from the United States," Yvonne recalls. "So, in one sense, this was simply ongoing business. But in another sense, the timing could not have been worse.
"When we received the fax at Poly on the last day of April informing us of the imminent arrival of the French delegation we were not at all sure that they were serious. Were they merely going through the motions or in the midst of this crises were they actually going on to negotiate a deal?
"When I read the fax, I really couldn't believe my eyes. I remember saying, 'What? This isn't true! Is this a joke? Can you be sure that the delegation is coming and that final-stage preparations can take place in this pressure-cooker atmosphere?. This is impossible! This is incredible!' Very simply, it was unbelievable."
But the Chinese Navy had decided in the spring that it needed the the four Dolphins because of the problems and dangers involved in occupying and holding some of the the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea. The Spratleys were often on the minds of the naval planners because the international problems there were potentially explosive since several countries including the PRC, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia claimed the islands. The Navy, as a result, was concerned about building up its ship-borne helicopter forces to support and defend Chinese claims in the Spratleys.
By the time the French delegation arrived in Beijing, the streets of the city were in near chaos. Since the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15th the city had been locked in turmoil. Three days later, 6,000 students from Beijing University marched to Tiananmen Square and sat down in protest in front of the Great Hall of the People. The Democracy Spring had begun. The eyes of the world were suddenly fixed on China and the activities of the students. Martial law was declared at 10:00 am on May 20th and one hour later satellite transmissions from China to other countries was stopped. On May 23rd, one day before negotiations with Aerospatiale began, more than one million people took to the streets in Beijing to protest the martial law declaration.
There are 72 critical intersections leading from the outskirts of Beijing to Tiananmen Square. Block those intersections and you stop all traffic in the city. Block the intersections and no army can get to the Square. By the end of May, that had happened. But it wasn't students who blocked the intersections. It was the workers of Beijing -- the common people.
"I saw the crisis intensify," Yvonne recalled. "The workers who blocked the intersections knew exactly what they were doing and their efforts were loosely coordinated. I believe that is what frightened the government most. They could deal with the students and the foreign press corps. But not the common people, they could not face down all those people. And there must have been, I would estimate, at least 100,000 people taking part in those effort to bring traffic to a standstill."
Each night the working people of the city drove buses, taxis and cars into the middle of the 72 intersections. They pulled concrete dividers from the middle of the streets across the traffic lanes and kept them there throughout the night. There were 300,000 troops around the city on May 19th. But they had trouble moving into the city. Truckloads of troops that tried to come into the city during the day found themselves stranded in the streets at night. The People's Liberation Army was trapped by the People and they sat parked, helpless, and frustrated along side streets.
"The people were heroes from that point on. This is the great untold story -- the story of the people, the common people, not just the students."
But how long could this continue? "By the time the Aerospatiale delegation arrived, I felt something very serious was going to happen in the streets at any moment," Yvonne said. "You could sense it, you could almost feel it in the air. Troops ringed the city and were concentrated at several points near Tiananmen Square. But there was no way for them to get to the students in the square except by crashing through those 72 barricaded intersections."
The people carefully watched the troops. The troops and the government carefully watched the people. The troops didn't move during the day when the students and workers and newsmen could clearly see what they were doing. They dare not. And at night after 7 pm, they couldn't move either.
The people at the barricades stayed up all night talking and arguing about the future of the country. They talked, they complained, they laughed. This is the first time since 1949, some of them said, that they were really free, that they could do or say whatever they wanted. "They could criticize the government for the first time. And they were not afraid any more. Each night I rode my bicycle from our offices in the Citic building to my apartment. We were working late on the French contract and so I seldom left the office before dark. I stopped at these intersections and listened to the speeches and the conversations and I saw the glow and the confidence on the faces of these common people. I felt a thrill and a pride in being Chinese that I had never before felt. I fell in love with these nameless heroes. And I felt ashamed of what I was doing every day at Poly Technologies."
"In this atmosphere, we negotiated with the French for the purchase the Dolphin helicopters that the Navy so desperately needed.
"Later when we told our American and British friends what had happened and explained the timing of the deal to them, they just laughed. And they said, 'Oh, sure, that's the French!" "That's the French,' they insisted. 'They're just money oriented. Politics and ideals count for nothing with them.' They were never surprised at what the French did.
The French have been the biggest contractor for the Chinese military in the past several years. One of the things that makes negotiating with them relatively easy is that the they know how to do business in China. They know where the power really resides in China. They know which buttons to push and when, which officials are approachable behind the scenes and which are not. They are the experts in this field. There was never any problem in that area. And they had few problems clearing transactions with their own governments. Under their defense ministry, the French had established a Defense Supervision Council called the DAI(Direction des Affaires Internationales), a very influential group. The DAI supervises all of the country's defense-oriented research and production for either domestic applications or for export purposes. It's a very powerful organization and many of the famous generals and admirals serve in DCN following their retirement from the military.
The DAI maintains an office in Beijing and has representatives present in the city at all times. And Aerospatiale also has a permanent office in Beijing.
The Aerospatiale delegation of about fifteen people was led by a Mr. Samuel, the director of the overseas marketing division of the company. The other members of the group were experts either on technical specifications or on price quotations or on commercial aspects.
"We Chinese who took part in the negotiations were worried, but we didn't talk openly about it. Who was not worried at that time? I watched the drama in the streets unfolding daily. I was for the students, but I couldn't leave work. I couldn't go to the Square to encourage them and talk with them. I had to prepare the contracts for the signings. I had to work very hard in those last days of May and the first days of June -- often putting in eighteen hour days at the office.
The French delegations customarily stayed at the Great Wall Hotel, which has a French restaurant. The drive from there to Poly's offices at the Citic building normally takes only 20 to 40 minutes by limousine and taxi. But in late May many of the taxi drivers of the city were on strike and the streets were often blocked and impassable. Having been warned of this, the French delegation registered in the Beijing Hotel on Chang'an Boulevard adjacent to Tiananmen Square and also at the Jing Lun Hotel(Beijing Toronto -- a Chinese-Canadian joint venture) within walking distance of the Citic building should the streets be blocked.
The French, no doubt, saw the turmoil in the city as they made their way to the Beijing Hotel. They knew what was going on outside, but it appeared they were completely unmoved by it. They just didn't seem to care. There was business to be done.
"On May 25th, the second day of the negotiations, PLA helicopters starting flying over Tiananmen Square to observe and photograph the students and to drop pamphlets. We could see them from our office windows like giant wasps circling and hovering ominously in the distance. It was just incredible -- they were the same Gazelles sold to us earlier by Aerospatiale!
"We had imported 24 of them early in 1988. They had been purchased especially for China's newly formed Army Aviation Corps, stationed at a specially designated airfield in Tong Xian County, a remote suburb of Beijing. It was from that airfield that the Gazelles took off and flew over Tiananmen Square. Several of the pilots on those Gazelle's owed their expertise at handling the craft to the fact that they had been well trained in France. The French also sent pilots and technicians to China to train crews for flying and maintaining the Gazelles.
"One of the selling points of the Gazelle is its simplicity. It is very easy to handle and is quite small with only enough space for a pilot and co-pilot. Yet it can be equipped with anti-tank guns, rockets or even missiles if they is required for the mission. Poly Technologies purchased them for the PLA theoretically for tank killing purposes. But on the 27th of May they, quite obviously, were assigned another task.
"I can tell you that more than once I looked out the window and saw those helicopters make a wide turn and pass over our building before racing back toward the Square and I wondered, 'My God, what have we done? And what are we doing here now?'
And so from our windows, we watched the Gazelles hovering over the square. It was very clear, like watching a horrible movie. My God, they flew so low, you know, and sometimes made their passes around the Citic building and they came so close we could see the air force insignia on the side -- August 1st, 1921, the day the army was formed in Jing Gang Mountain in 1921. On one memorable occasion I could even glimpse the faces of the pilot and co-pilot.
But the French were not to be distracted during the negotations. They knew on the 27th that the helicopters flying over Tiananmen Square were French Gazelles and far from being embarrassed by that fact, they seemed pleased by it.
The PLA Navy also sent their representatives to the meetings -- in civilian clothes, of course. In China, when foreigners are present at an event, military personnel must wear civilian attire. The government does not like foreigners to feel that the military chooses to deal with foreigners directly, even when they do. But the military quite clearly was represented directly.
The head of the Chinese military delegation was Mr. Xie Tie-Niu(his name means "Iron Ox"). He is a navy captain, which is equivalent to an army colonel. He is the Director of the Naval Technical International Procurement Division and his presence was essential at the negotiating table. He was accompanied by two other officers from from his division. Captain Xie was newly promoted, and fairly young for his rank -- in his mid 30s. He had become very influential within the military. He is a striking figure -- unusually handsome and quite dashing in his confident gestures and appearance. His tailored suits(and uniforms), manicured nails, soft, clear skin, rosy cheeks and thick, black, perfect patent-leather hair -- indicate that he was from a wealthy as well as powerful family.
Unlike most of his fellow officers, Tie-Niu doesn't smoke, but he is devoted to social drinking and womanizing -- yet not yet to the extent that either of these diversions cause him personal or professional problems for him. He is an excellent dancer, and unabashedly romantic. Women adore him and he adores them. He is the envy of many of his young fellow officers since he has several mistresses -- all of them are strikingly beautiful. These women are, moreover, each independent individuals -- some of them even married -- and Tie-Niu is proud of the fact that he never has to concern himself with supporting them. He enjoys life and life has been good to him. He has a deep, resonant, commanding voice and is seldom not the center of attention either on the dance floor, at a cocktail party or at the negotiating table.
Another of our negotiators at those meetings was another naval captain, Xiao Bo Ying, who is the son of the late and very influential marshal and founder of the PLA Navy, Xiao Jingguang, the first naval admiral and the first commander in chief of the PLA Navy. Admiral Xiao, who had actually joined the Communist Party earlier than Mao Zedong, had handpicked by Mao to head the Navy. He is very old and still very highly respected in military circles. His son, Bo Ying, who basks in the glow and the influence of his father's career and power, is with the Technology and Equipment Division of the Navy and is in charge of aviation aspects of the Navy. He was present at the negotiations because he works in the helicopter sector of his division. On the civilian side, I was present at all of the negotiations, representing Poly Technologies. Also present was the general manager of the company, He Ping, son in law of Deng Xiao Ping. The vice president of the company, He Datong, was also involved in the negotiations.
But the individual actually in charge of the project for Poly and the one I spent the most time with during the negotiations was Mr. Chun Kungmin, an unusually hard working and intense man who came from Guangdong Province. Mr. Chun also an eccentric. He was in his early 40s and of medium height. His wire-rimmed glasses along with his constant pensive demeanor gave him the appearance of an intellectual. Originally from Guangdong Province, his absolute devotion to business was never quite concealed by the flash of an official smile. Twenty years as an Air Force officer had somehow taught him to look serious even when he laughed. He wasn't devoid of a sense of humor-- he just looked that way. He was the perfect arms negotiator. His real internal thoughts were utterly indecipherable from his expressions. He drank only on ceremonial occasions and then only as much as was absolutely required. He did not enjoy music and the marchers in the street were merely an obstruction to him, a natural phenomenon that increased the time necessary for him to get to work. He had no vices I could recognize. He didn't smoke cigarettes and he didn't seem to be interested in women either. He was married, but he never spoke of his wife. I don't even know if he had children. He never mentioned them. Sometimes during the negotiations he stayed in the office overnight typing up paragraphs of a letters or documents without appearing tired in the morning. Not surprisingly, he was a devotee of physical fitness. He kept his business attire in a locker in the office, and at the end of his day, he'd slip into shorts, sneakers and a tee-shirt and then run several miles down Chang'an Avenue -- often int he dark -- before picking up his bicycle or catching a bus home.home, often in the dark. Then he'd run back to work the next morning, shower at work and crawl back into a suit. He was known to workers throughout the building for this this unusual routine. In the winter he not only ran outdoors, but he swam in unheated outdoor pools. The weather didn't phase him. He ran back and forth to work in the coldest winter snowstorm or on the hottest summer days.
He told me once that he got into that habit of running great distances when he was serving in the Air Force, where he had been the chief French interpreter for ten years. He never broke the habit. And so, although he still lived in the Air Force Compound in a Western Suburb of Beijing there was never a problem of Kunming not showing up for work because of a breakdown in the public transportation system or the taxi service. Should the bus system fail, he would bicycle and run to work and show up as eager to work as those who walked or bicycled only a few blocks. Unfailing, he was the first employee in the Chocolate Building each morning.
So altogether about six people from the navy were present, in civilian clothes, along with five people from Poly Technologies. The French had about 15 representatives present, for a total of 26 negotiators -- a relatively large group.
On the first day or talks we simply compared notes and exchanged our views on preparation of the final documents which would lead then to a formal contract. The discussions took place in two groups, one was for technical discussions and the other for commercial discussions.
The navy appeared to believe right from the start that they were in a favorable bargaining position with the French company, and they really pressed the French, saying that they really intended to move ahead with the purchase, they needed the Dolphins, and the only thing holding back an agreement was the price quoted by the French. So they urgently requested further concessions on prices. But the French held firm day after day. They insisted absolutely that there could be no further reductions in their quotations. My suspicions about this position proved, in time, to be correct. I had dealt with the French previously, and I believed that informal talks had taken place elsewhere prior to these formal negotiations. And I learned in time that indeed, through their special intermediaries, the French had contacted not only the top officials at Poly but also the top naval admirals, who were not present at these meetings. The admirals always played their games in this way, making promises and deals in other rooms that we never knew about. They were a shadow power, always felt but seldom seen. And because of this the French, knowing what the final deal would be, invariably, could stand firm on this or that position. The French intelligence system was excellent. They had learned before negotiations that we had $US45 million in our pocket and that we had to spend it. They knew also that no matter how hard we pressed them they did not have to give in because they also knew that we absolutely had to buy the helicopters and to spend the money before the end of the year. If we didn't, we were obligated to return what was left of the financial allocation back to our superiors, the General Staff, and then there would be no profit at all for Poly. The General Staff didn't really care how much we spent -- and the French knew it, but we didn't know that they knew this. We at Poly always told the General Staff how we needed and they allotted us the money at the start of the year. And so the French knew everything.
The navy officers at the negotiations believed, apparently, that if they pressed the French and at the same time showed determination that, as in the past, the seller would make some concessions just to ease the deal through. This is a common practice. And the guys from the Navy knew that. But what they didn't know was that the French knew what their position was and knew there need be no concessions. I knew what was going on from the opening negotiating session. I had been through this with the French before, several times. By the way they stuck adamantly and confidently to their original bargaining position, I could tell that the fix was in -- an agreement had already been arrived at behind the scenes. We were just going through the motions while the real substance of the agreement had been worked out elsewhere. There were leaks, important ones, at the very highest level of the navy. And, as always, the French knew everything. And so on the one hand we were saying to them, "If you don't make further concessions there will be no deal." And they knew this was just bullshit. There would be a deal, whether they made concessions or not. So there would be no concessions
The top navy brass had been in touch with the French, through their intermediary, and made their own negotiations. And, as always, they had been given special consideration -- had been bribed -- I had seen this before, too. But their subordinates were clean, the ones at the negotiating so seriously at the table each morning.
Even without their behind-the-scenes maneuvering, I felt uneasy negotiating with Aerospatiale in the first place, I can tell you. I mean that we knew full well that products manufactured by the French are cheap, undependable and poorly manufactured. The quality is simply inferior. And yet we have signed so many contracts with the French. Why? The answer is easy: their contacts and the special consideration given the top brass. It's that simple. The French were the number one Western arms merchants in China not because they had a good product but because they had learned how to do business with the Chinese much better than their competitors, the Americans and the British. The Americans simply are not good businessmen in China and the British, well, they are even worse than the Americans.
What is the problem, as I see it, with the Americans and the British? Well, they are just too honest, too sincere, too naive when it comes to China. Maybe their China watchers and academic writers have misprepared them. The French never had that problem, never fell into that category. And so before they headed to the negotiation table they knew exactly what our position and our arguments would be.
So in the Citic building the final negotation phase was not every meaningful except in technical terms. Aerospatiale still had to explain to the customer how to interface their product with other products, system coordination and system integration and so on, because we would be putting on board the Dolphins some materials made in China. Part of the avionics are from China, for example. So the French did spend a lot of time explaining things like that to us, but that is hardly negotiating.
"Sometimes during the talks I looked up at the face of my section director or the deputy manager or even at the general manager of the company. Most of the time they were stone faced. When they altered their expression and smiled, they smiled like robot might smile. They'd lost the color in their faces and it seemed they lacked any genuine emotion -- they had neither enthusiasm or sincerity. They smiled when they needed to smile. They laughed when they were supposed to laugh. They exchanged greetings when it was absolutely required. They controlled themselves and the meetings, I thought, beautifully, considering what was going on outside in the street and in the square.
Inside our comfortable air-conditioned offices on the fifth floor of the Citic building -- which is commonly referred to in Beijing as the "Chocolate Building" because of its rich brown color -- it might appear that nothing of consequence was going on outside. It was incredible. Everyone on the Poly Technologies side was nervous and we couldn't help but glance out the windows at quiet moments. Incredible. None of us were in the mood to do business. I was heart sick and I was nervous. I didn't know what was going to happen. I certainly thought this was the worst time imaginable to be doing arms dealing for the PLA. Like most other employees of Poly and as well as the employees of other companies in the Citic building, I wanted to be in the Square or in one of those massive parades that passed by on Jianguomen Avenue. But I was needed to examine and translate technical specifications from French into Chinese and English. So every day I did my job. I sat through the droning negotiations and the discussions of so many American dollars -- dollars are the currency used in the international arms trade -- for this and so many technicians to be trained here or there at this time or that. And whenever there was a lapse in the conversation I just gazed down at the table, thinking about what was happening outside, forgetting for the moment what was happening -- tuning out the voices in the room. My mind as well as my heart wandered again and again to the students and the workers the streets and the square.
"I kept thinking, wondering what the solution to this crisis -- this uprising -- might be and what it might mean for the Communist party. I imagined on some days that it might be the end of the Communist party in China. Deng and the party might be actually be finished! And so I had almost convinced myself at the end of May that the Communist party of China was about to make its last gasp -- it had outlived its usefulness. I suppose the mood of those crowds at night in the intersections and the songs and cheers of the students in the street had affected me and I was thinking, like so many other Chinese at the time, with my heart rather than with my mind. I should have known better. I should have known better!
Since the intersections were blocked at night, it was difficult for me to get home after work. I had to ride my bicycle slowly around the city and walk part of the way. Some evenings I chose to stay in the office rather than go home, and on those nights I slept on a standby bed. The French also found it difficult to get back to the Beijing Hotel and they were forced to walk back since even taxis could not navigate that short distance at night.
During the morning of Monday, May 29th, when we were in the final negotiation stage, we heard some unusually loud noise from just outside in the hallway. When we stepped outside to see what was happening, we found a group of employees from other companies who were very sympathetic to the students. They had learned that the helicopters, circling over Tianamnen Square and then flying over our building were actually purchased and imported through Poly, they leaked this story out to the students, and a lot of employees then mixed with the students and stormed our offices. They came right into the offices and the hallways on the fifth floor and belligerently questioned and accused anyone they could find. The guards in the lobby had lost control and didn't stop anyone from coming into the building at that time. The receptionists told us that several times groups of people rushed up to the reception desks and swore at them and threatened them. When they found us, the first thing one student shouted at me was, "WHAT KIND OF FUCKING COMPANY ARE YOU, ANYWAY?" I said nothing but simply stared back at him. He was shaking with anger. Others came out of the offices to see what was going on. And the demonstrators and protesters continued to shout at us. They denounced anyone they could find. When someone tried to walk away they would actually grab them and ask, "What kind of company are you? Do you know what you are doing? You are spending China's treasure, her hard earned foreign currency to buy shit like this, like these helicopters." Many of us were embarrassed and we really didn't know what to say. We just didn't know what to say. We weren't afraid at those moment, but we were profoundly moved, and we felt shame for what we were doing. We knew that the French had sold us the helicopters and that those same machines were indeed now flying over the students and that at that very moment we were doing business with Aerospatiale again China's hard-earned foreign currency for more weapons. What could I tell them? That we never thought the helicopters would be used against students? Would that answer have satisfied them?
The demonstrators made a lot of noise and threw paper on the floor, but that was all. We were not unsympathetic toward them. During the first three days of June things were getting out of hand in the office. Employees from other companies in the Citic building and other groups of people -- including students and their supporters --just came in off the streets, marched into the offices of Poly and tried to cause trouble. The security guards assigned to the lobby seldom showed up anymore and the whole building was virtually unguarded. Anyone could walk in. And they did. They walked up and down the corridors and if they found you coming out of your office or stepping out an elevator, they shook their fingers in your face and they yelled at you and questioned you as to what you had done. "OK!" they shouted. "Look at what you are doing? Do you realize what you are doing? Do you know where your weapons are going?"
The employees of other companies in the building started to harass us. There were several international companies in the building, including American, Yugoslavian and West German and a couple of Chinese business, also. And now the topic of conversation among those employees was our company. When we were approached on the elevator or in the lobby they would say things such as, "We always wondered what kind of company you were. In the past we didn't know that. But now we know what you guys are doing. And it stinks!" I personally experienced that sort of exchange several times. Whenever the elevator door opened onto the fifth floor those inside glared at us or talked about the company loudly, firing out profane epithets as though we weren't really there. They said the meanest things about us -- things that were true. And they glared at us with accusatory and disapproving looks and tried to stare us down. At other times would be absolutely quiet and refuse to exchange a simple perfunctory greeting or even to acknowledge our presence. We had become pariahs in our own office building.
The company officers immediately reported these incidents to the General Staff of the PLA of course and the General Staff made a decision. Later on that summer, after the massacre, Poly was moved from the fifth floor of the Citic building to the seventeenth.
Despite these interruptions, on June 2nd everything was in place, everything was done. The French had not budged on price, we had conceded everything and we were ready to make the purchase and to sign the contracts. The signing ceremony was arranged for the next day, June 3, a Saturday.
Judging from my talks with one of the French delegation members I learned that they were not unimpressed by what was happening in the streets during the talks. They could see and hear; they were watching, too. But they cherished one thing, above all else. They believed that no matter what seemed to be happening at the moment, in the end the Chinese government was going to control the situation. Nobody is going to change the course of communism in China, they believed. Not the students in the Square and not the workers in the streets. They believed that those in power would remain in power. And, besides, even if they proved to be wrong and Communism collapsed, no matter who stayed in power or came to power was going to need a strong army to control China. And the only way of way of arming the military with modern weapons was through foreign assistance. They were very confident of that. So there would always be a need for Aerospatiale, no matter who ruled China.
So the French were confident of themselves and of the government in Beijing. And when I saw them each morning, after they'd walked or ridden to the Citic building, I noticed that the expressions they had and their attitude was not that of the other foreigners wandering around Beijing at that time. Foreigners on the street, I thought, were sort of nervous and in a state of heightened excitement. They were looking around -- and with good reason -- to see who might be following them. But not the French. No, not the French.
That is why, in the end, the signature itself on the Aerospatiale - Poly Technologies contract was more significant as a matter of timing rather than of actual substance of the agreement. The French wanted to demonstrate that they could do business, make deals and come to agreements and sign contracts, and give out favors, even in the most chaotic of times. That's the French, as I saw them.
I never liked the French much. And I like them even less after June 4th. I dislike them today, intensely.
On June 3rd, a massive crowd of demonstrators marched by by and there was no public transportation and no policemen in the streets. Everything seemed to be spinning out of control -- everything but our negotiations with the Aerospatiale. On the afternoon of the 3rd we signed a contract with the French of $45 million for four Dolphin helicopters. The contract called for two of the helicopters were to be equipped with advanced avionics systems provided by a major subcontractor, Thomson CSF. The hardware and software package was to include S12 dipping sonar systems, acoustic signal processing capabilities, target display, fire control and an advanced C3I system. The helicopters were capable of carrying anti-submarine torpedoes.
We didn't finish work preparing documents for the signing ceremony until 2 o clock in the morning on June 3rd. The ceremony was postponed until 3 that afternoon. On the morning of June 3rd, there was a feeling in the company -- judging from the situation in the street and in the Square -- that time was rapidly running out. The principal officers of the company who were who were well connected militarily, were aware of what the army had been ordered to do later that day. They knew! It was going to be close, they knew. They had to get business done and get out of the building. As a result, they were concerned with wrapping up our business with the French as quickly as possible on Saturday and then getting out of the building and out of the area. At the same time they dare not communicate their dire concern to the French. They were unusually anxious, but at the same time could not tell us exactly why. The atmosphere, consequently, was one of intense yet unspecified foreboding. There was the tangible sense of something ominous in the air. The company executives and the naval officers present wanted to make sure that the contract was signed, that the deal was done before the killing began that night.
The student marchers had came by our building almost daily. And then on June 2 and June 3 it seemed that everyone in the city was in the streets and I saw the biggest crowds I had ever seen before in and around Tiananmen. At least one million people poured out into the streets on those days.
As those crowds gathered outside, I prepared many of the final documents for signing. During the night of June 2nd and the early morning of the 3rd, we printed them out and laid them out for the signing ceremony. All of them had to be translated into English -- English only, which is the lingua franca of the arms trade.
That morning the building looked almost abandoned, like a ghost building. The security guards did not show up for work -- indeed, hadn't been there for several days --and workers in most of the other offices were also not at their desks that Saturday. In fact, not all of our Chinese staff showed up that morning because they simply couldn't make it to the office. Kunming, of course, had run to work, and all of the major officers were present for the signing.
The French arrived at 3 pm -- they had walked to our office because no taxis were available -- and we showed them to a room with a long table which we had draped the national flags of France and China. Our front-desk receptionists, two pretty young girls, were recruited to serve champagne, which was a must for an occasion like this.
He Ping, Mr. Samuel and Xie Tie-Niu stood side by side and smiled and we had photographs taken. Yet this was an unusually solemn ceremony since every one of us -- even the French -- knew what was happening outside. Everyone was somber and unsmiling unless it was absolutely required. When we made a toast and said "Gen Bei" then people would flash a smile for a moment, but it was forced, and it was over in a moment.
At five o clock the signing ceremony was completed. The French expected, however, that as usual, there would be a banquet following the signing. They asked He Ping where the banquet was to be.
The French usually preferred Maxim's, an expensive French restaurant, for their signing banquets. I never liked the place because I never liked French cooking. But this was an unusual night. And when they suggested a banquet, He Ping suggested that we hold it right in the building, on the 28th floor, at the Windows of the World(She Zhr Jichua) a superb restaurant -- many people insist that it is the best Chinese restaurant in Beijing -- that serves a mixture of Chinese styles of cooking. The French insisted that they pay for the banquet on this evening, so He Ping telephoned the manager of the restaurant and reserved tables for 30 people.
There are A and B and C levels of banquets at the restaurant, and since the French were paying and price was therefore not an issue, He Ping ordered the A banquet. Everyone present at the signing ceremony, including the receptionists, was invited to attend. Since this was very short notice, and it was already late -- about 6:30 pm -- the banquet was not as formal as such affairs usually are. There was a brief rest period and then we took the elevators to the top of the building. We even called the girls at the front desk and the drivers, and reserved two tables for the what we refer to as the staff members.
We occupied about 9 or 10 reserved tables and we had asked for candlelight that night. They had complied with our request and the tables and restaurant were illuminated by candles while the overhead lights had been dimmed. I noticed that the there were very few waitresses in the restaurant that night. We were told by the manager of the place that many of his workers were unable to get through the streets to work. The service was consequently agonizingly slow that night. This was a problem as He Ping wished to complete the banquet as quickly as possible and at the same time not seem to be discourteous to the French hosts.
Shark fin soup, the specialty of the restaurant was served as the opening course. And we ordered plenty of the best champagne for toasts. Shark fin soup was the opening course. With the slow service, there was plenty of time to talk. And more time to worry, actually.
From the Windows of the World you could see out over the entire city. There were few other guests in the restaurant that evening, obviously because it was difficult to travel outside and very few of Beijing's businessmen were in a festive mood. The dignitaries from the negotiating sessions -- Kunming, Tie-Nin, He Ping, Bo ling, Samuels and others of high rank sat at a head table. They appeared to be involved in serious conversation during their eating and drinking. There were dozens of toasts and in addition to the champagne we ordered plenty of Mao Tai and Wu Danwei -- very expensive ones.
As the sky darkened outside, some of us looked out the windows toward the illumination in the distance that we knew was Tiananmen Square. We couldn't resist it, of course. Those of us from Poly talked among ourselves about events outside. After all, we could still speak about whatever we liked. The French representatives at my table, who had to communicate with us through a translator, wanted to know what we thought was going to happen in China in the coming weeks and years. But they were polite enough not to ask very pointed questions and not to press for answers. Some of the French dignitaries indicated, during the dinner, that they were more pleased with the negotiating process itself during the negotiations at this critical and pivotal moment in China's history than with the actual specifics of the contract. It indicated, they said, that the Chinese and the French could do business under even the most harrowing of circumstances. I recall, in particular, one individual stating that they had been successful in breaking through the "Chinese ice" in the past several days and sealing an important business deal. The events in the streets, he said, had not intruded into the talk of the negotiating room.
The Chinese around the table shared their worries and concerns, predicting what might happen and what the future might be like. Of course, we were wrong in our predictions.
We didn't say out loud what we all knew -- that the Communist regime was basically against the will of the people. All you had to do was to look at the numbers of people in the streets. People were pouring out of their apartments day and night to march and protest. You saw the banners and the slogans every day. Everything looked white in the streets from the shirts and the banners of the marchers. And along the sides of the streets were small camps for university students from other provinces. They could not get into Tienanmen Square because the Square was restricted to students, primarily, from the Beijing area. And those who couldn't make it in were encamped along the sides of the streets. Sometimes they slept in buses that never left their parking places. Some stood on top of the buses during the demonstrations waving flags. And they stood around the army trucks, and that made it into the city and tried to talk to the soldiers, who were stranded in the middle of this ocean of people and who were in no mood to talk to anybody.
One of the officials of our company, I recall, said, "Why should I be worried. If the party is finished, then half the people will be very happy. And if the party is not finished, another half of the people will be happy." And if China was to be more democratic, another asserted, then there would be perhaps a better life for all. That is what we dwelled on -- the impending death of either the democracy movement or of the Communist party. Everybody could not win. One side or the other would have to triumph. We turned to small talk and asked the French, through our translator, how they enjoyed their stay in China and what monuments and tourist attractions they had visited and enjoyed most. We tried to stay away from politics in talking with them. But, with each other, we shared our concerns, because we all could see what was happening.
He Ping and Mr. Samuel made their final toasts at 10:30. I noticed He Ping looking at his watch with some concern as the night wore on. When he had completed his toast, the banquet was finished and we prepared to leave.
A few minutes later we began to take the elevators down in shifts. The French guests and a few of the Poly Technologies people went down first. We stopped for them to retrieve some of their papers and cases on the fifth floor and then escorted them to the lobby. There were cars from the French Embassy waiting for them in front of the Citic building. I thought this was unusual. They were then driven away in the direction of the French Embassy rather than toward their hotels. I thought later that this perhaps indicated that they had some idea of what was going to happen. As I watched them leave, I thought just for a moment that I detected lightening flashes in the western sky and thought perhaps it was going to rain and that I should hurry home.
As I then walked to retrieve my bicycle, behind the building, I saw Kunming come out into the street in his running shorts and sneakers and race off into the darkness. Other employees of the company scattered in several different directions heading home. There were no taxis or cars moving about and so very little noise in the street at that time.
As I rode my bicycle home, in a general northwest direction, I noticed that the situation on the street was still tense. I passed many military vehicles parked along the side streets, loaded with silent soldiers. Yet nobody seemed too worried about them and nobody I talked to thought they would shoot anybody. When you saw the trucks driving around during the day you weren't afraid because the general feeling was that the PLA might do something dramatic but certainly they would never shoot anybody, not indiscriminately, certainly. I think the general anxiety came from the belief that something had to change, something had to give, and nobody knew what. But I must say now that the silent trucks sitting there in the dark were not a good sign. The soldiers inside were so quiet, they weren't even talking to each other. Some of them were stranded and some of them were lost, we thought. And all of them seemed, when you saw them in the light, unhappy to be in Beijing.
There was a little traffic on the street, but the main intersections remained blocked with buses and taxis and concrete dividers.
I took a roundabout way home. Despite my long day and staying up most of the previous night, I wasn't very tired. I rode around Beihai park.
Crowds of people were gathered throughout the area. They were talking, smoking, laughing. Predicting the future. Sometimes there were only a dozen or so gathered, sometimes more. They would be standing in a circle, arguing or listening to someone speaking. Some insisted that Communism was finished. And nobody believed that army was going to shoot anybody. I even stopped my bicycle and listened for a time to one of the more animated discussions in the street. There was a sizable crowd of people there and an army veteran was addressing them. I remember so clearly hearing him say, "The army may shoot, but they will only shoot in the air if they do. Don't forget, it is the People's liberation army and they will only shoot into the air, they will never shoot the people."
I wanted to believe him. But he was wrong. Within a very short time, of course, the People's Liberation Army moved in and they shot anyone and everyone.
I was getting ready for bed when I heard what sounded like firecrackers going off near Mu Xudi. The noise continued and grew louder. I looked outside into the sky and saw searchlights scanning the darkness. I decided to bicycle toward Mu Xudi to see what was happening. As I approached the intersection it looked like a hug fire was burning in the distance. The sky was glowing red and there were huge flashes of what appeared to be lightening. Then people ran by me in the darkness, some of them cursing, some crying, some just silently running away. I got off my bicycle and wheeled it beside me toward Mu Xudi. And as I got closer and closer I found myself whispering over and over and over again, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no."
I was unable to get to work for a week after that. So the contract signing turned out to be fortuitous for the French, it seemed at first. On June 4th soldiers came by and shot out all the windos on the 27th floor of the Citic building. That floor was occupied by a Yugoslavian industrial engineering firm called SNELT Global Project Management and by AT&T. Some of the office windows faced the west, toward Tiananmen Square and from their windows you could see clearly what was happening in the streets. Some of the soldiers said later they thought they saw snipers in the windows. What really happened, though, was that the public security officers saw some videotapes they thought must have been taken from the 27th floor of the building and they wanted to intimidate people from taking any pictures of what was happening in the street. Later on the soldiers shot out not only the windows of our building but also some of those in the nearby foreign residential area and the diplomatic compounds. The offices of the British and the American army attaches, with the windows facing the west, they were all smashed, and this was done of course to intimidate them. They said later that they thought films were being made from those buildings.
Within a very short time, business was back to normal at Poly and on the surface everything looked as it did a few months before the massacre. But I think that inside, few of us felt the same. We knew what happened and many of us had not supported the action of the army and of the military. Yet nobody dared to speak out about it anymore. Nobody dared to express his own opinion openly any longer. It was dangerous to talk about it any more. So we stuck to business. Poly was still Poly and the arms deals had to be made.
But what was interesting about that Aerospatiale contract was that later on, because of the Tiananmen incident, the French government joined the American government in posing certain restricted economic and sanctions aginast China and consequently the the contract failed to get approval of the French government. So the system was never delivered and the contract not finalized. French Aerospatiale worked closely with DCN to persuade the French government to rectify ratify the contract. Of course, high technology, military technology was involved, so the French government had no other choice but to not ratify the contract. But finally it was ratified, because, well, you know the French. They, when they have no choice they do something,
Disruption of the Citic Offices. People were not coming back to work. Some never left the building, they had no where to go and all the transportation stopped. And so later on, in the aftermath of the massacre, a lot of the employees of the other offices who were also in the building, some of them talked about what happened, and some of them were really infuriated. They had seen the helicopters and they knew that we had purchased them. And later on they kept talking about the unique position of poly technologies. Not because they just saw the helicopters, once they saw the helicopters, they had something else on their mind. They said, Poly is in this building, and these fucking guys have nothing to do with us, no wonder they are high up there in the building under no one's control. they were always under that impression towards us. In fact, anyone who came into the Citic building, or who was going to business with Poly, they were always stopped by the security guards at the lobby, and they were required to sign their names. A kind of procedure. They couldn't stop anyone, but people coming to Poly, were more required to sign their names, a sort of unfair and hostile treatment toward us, to show their grievances toward our company. You guys are special, right. And so we will give you a hard time. And on a couple of occasions. They sort of came into the office, gathered at the reception area near the front desk, they questioned the girls who didn't know what was going on, spread ink, shouted and they didn't break glass or anything but just shouted insults. And whenever there was an officer coming out of the office they stopped him or pointed their fingers in his face and cursed him, and threw a lot of accusations at them. They questioned the girls who knew nothing of what was going on, spread ink, shouted, and generally were a nuisance and they were embarrassing. They stopped people who came out of the office, or pointed their fingers in his face and cursed him. Incredible, a lot of vague as well as specific accusations. Poly moved soon after that.
The reason Poly moved from the 5th to the 17th floor was a coincidence with Tianament. It was not because of Tiananmen. They had been thinking about getting more office space for a long time. and this provided the pretext for it. They never said openly that the Tiananmen incident and the harassment that we received after that caused us to move. They would never say that. But it is an interesting coincidence, isn't it. What happened in the office areas was one of the things that facilitated the move. That makes more sense. In Chinese politics, anything that happens is never based solely on one thing. there are usually many factors contributing to the final result. That is a more rational way to look at China. But others might say that the storming of Poly after the massacre, was the final push, the final element in the decision to move to the 17th floor.
And when we were finished, when I saw the contract signing, all I could think of at that time was that I really hated the French, from the depth of my soul I hated them. I had nothing but complete contempt for them.' The French, my God. How could anyone respect for them. I'll never have a friendship with them again, never in my life. I'll never speak to them again. They are filthy.'
Other French Deal with the Bribes
The first deal that I was associated with, was the discussion of the Lynx Helicopter, anti-submarine helicopters, ASW, Anti Submarine Warfare. That was the first negotiation I was directly involved in. That was in 1986. This was a legitimate business deal. In the end we didn't purchase the helicopter, although it was a much better system than the one that we were to purchase later on. This was really a stupid deal. Let me describe it to you.
We were shopping around at the time, for this specific sort of ship- born ASW helicopter. And at that time, we had no ship-born capabilities at all. So we actually, this was at the end of 1985. So the British came to Beijing, two groups, the British came and we arranged for them to stay in a hotel, and then the French approached us and we made arrangements for them to stay in another hotel, but the negotiations were carried on at the same time with the two groups. The French were in the Great Wall Hotel. Normally, they paid for their own accommodations. They were in Beijing to introduce their own items.
They were in Beijing purely for business purposes. I dealt with the French at that time. They were private corporations. The British Naval Attache in Beijing was involved at that time, too. His name was commander Farr. There were about a dozen people in each delegation, and this to us was a big delegation. Anything more than ten to us was a big delegation. The group included one for sonar, one for underwater torpedo and so on, one for avionics for helicopters. They would each then make a presentation, they would run through a technical seminar for about one week. Seven business days was taken up by each group to present what they wanted to sell us. Each morning we traveled to the hotel and stayed usually until the evening, and there were banquets involved also. On our side were individuals from the army, the navy and the air force. These were very official and very technical. These were big occasions. There was a lot of talk about us being old friends, and the friendship between the two countries and so on. Nobody ever mentioned price, of course. That comes only at the end of the seminar. But at first you have to tell the Chinese side how advanced your system is. Now the British at this time knew that the French were conducting the same negotiations with us at the same time. They did not like it, but they knew it. And they confided to us privately that they knew this. Sometimes they would run into each other drinking late at night in one of the hotels.
Personally, that was the first time I was involved in a project. And I was familiar with the technological terminology and I understood the system, too. The British company was for assembly, the Lynx helicopter was built by British Aerospace. But the avionics aspects, which is what we were really looking for, we were not looking for the helicopter frame, but we were looking for an airborne torpedo system, the night imaging system, we were looking bor sonar buoys, and for sonar, and this sort of thing, and the MAD system, Magnetic Abnormality Detection. Anything that is not normal. These were not associated with satellites in any way. They were purely shipboard ASW helicopters.
This was just business. China is still socialist, you must remember, so officially no women were provided to the individuals as part of the negotiations. If there were women in the hotels, this is not run by the government or the company, of course. Sometimes it is impossible to control.
They gave us a quotation at the end of the seminar. This was a deal worth over more than $100 million for one. That was a non recurring price. But if we purchased two then the price went down. This was a lot of money to us. Actually, all we ever wanted to do was to just buy one and then duplicate it, reverse manufacture. We sometimes try just to import the technology. The foreign businessmen of course are not that stupid. And so the technology always cost more than the hardware. Sometimes, they wanted us to buy more than one and this would be a requirement. I do know that at diplomatic occasions everything would be tape recorded, openly. Then, after the two offers were made. The top experts and technicians from China were utterly convinced that the Lynx system was the best one for us, and it was the one that we were looking for. So we were all mentally prepared, actually, we hinted to the British, all right, this time you guys have a deal. But, it turned out not that way at all. Because of bribery.
Atg that time, remember the French were attempting to sell us their type of ASW helicopters. But they were, they were called Dolphins, naval version helicopters. These were also called ASW.
The French were more clever than the British in this. The British were businessmen and the French were businessmen in this. But the British were also business gentlemen and the French were not, of course.
The British were just not clever enough. They spoke whatever was appropriate for the occasion. We liked working with them very much, really. But they just didn't know how to make a deal with China. They were, unfortunately, just too honest. Very honest. This is my own personal observation.
The french were more clever. They knew, of course, that their system was not as advanced as the British. But they knew how the Chinese business system works. And they approached our fleet admirals. They approached our three star generals in the army, during the negotiations and after that, they brought from France many very valuable gifts, (I want to be sure that my security is guaranteed when I tell you this story. Don't play this tape for broadcasting or anything.)
At that time the admiral in charge of the Chinese Navy, in charge of this operation, his name was, now he is Lt. Admiral, but before that, he was chief of the Naval Fleet Air Arm, Li Jing. These helicopters, later on, would be used by the Navy, so the Navy had a final say in the negotiations and the purchasing. So they brought precious gifts for us. They would give us a small helicopter, made of copper, but it is not a piece of copper on the table, but the way they made it, it was high tech technology, it was so beautiful. And the other gifts, I don't know, I didn't open them. This was just a model. The admiral himself also received a letter from the French. Only the admiral. All he saw was a letter that said we are looking forward to a successful deal that we have with the Chinese Navy and we hope that this deal will work out between us. Nothing more than that, of course. And attached to that letter, the second page The second page, was a bank draft, a bank certificate. For a lot of money. It was for $300,000 US, but that was not much, really. But that was not the biggest that I'd ever heard of. And the draft was on a bank in Zurich, in a numbered bank account there. This was a certificate stating that the money had been deposited. And it meant that only he could go to the bank and get the money. Only you and nobody else. And nobody is going to question you concerning this. This is safe for a deposit for its security. And the third page oif the leetter was a letter of admission for his son from a French language school. The letter was a scholarship. The letter said that based on our academic evaluations of your son, we are happy to inform you that our school has admitted your son for the fall semester. And of course, he is an undergraduate(if he was a graduate, nobody would be surprised) and this meant he had a full scholarship for the next for years. Now the interesting thing was that they said that based upon the son's performance in the French language, he had been granted the scholarship. But the interesting thing here is that I knew his son, and his son did not speak a single word of French. He had served in the army at the time, and I knew this guy very well. But they granted this Mr. Li a full scholarship covering all of his living expenses. The British of course offered nothing more than dinner. So the British were stupid. The French knew how the system worked. For the French, Aerospeciale, they had actually hired a couple from China, as middle men for them. This couple was from Beijing, from the general staff's communication corps. They had served previously as colonels in the communications corps and later on they retired. But because of their guanxi, because of their personal connections and their influence, their knowledge of the military vips, they were now hired by the French Aerospeical, and they of course successfully got their sons and daughters into universities in Paris,m and they had a very nice life in Paris. I knew this couple personally. Their job, they spent most of the year stationed in Beijing. They lived in a big hotel, part of the year. They had a permanent office, in the Beijing hotel. And they stayed there permanently. their job consisted of nothing more than try to bet more personal information about the generals, the admirals and the high ranking officials in the military. These could, in a sense, grease the weheels of the deals. They would then supply to the French, sometimes to Thomson SCN(Special Commercial Organization.)They would just find out about the personal backgrounds of the individuals who were influential, who was promoted, who wanted to be promoted, who was the boss in a particular deal. They maintained a list of the people who were constatnly on the top, and they were to know the personal habits of individuals. When we were sent off to France, that is another story. Because of their function the French company knew that the Admiral had a son, and on one occasion, he even went so far as to express interest in getting foreign schooling for his son. And the French were so smart as to record this in their memory and to underline that in their conversations. And so God knows how much money the company was going to spend on this kid, actually, to send this kid to school and how much they paid this school. Actually I could recall the name of the school. Now what is so funny is that this letter was translated. Everything was translated.
The decision was made promptly, one month later. In a country like China, one month is prompt. We were involved in the negotiations, and our advice was completely forgotten and the French got the deal.
The British of course questioned us later about this, about not getting the deal. Of course they were concerned. And they cautioned us and said that the French. didn't even use their dolphin helicopters on board their own ships. The French Navy never used these. And China ended up as one of the very few countries in the world that actually used Dolphin helicopters for shipborn helicopter defenses. It is first of all a pretty big helicopter. And for ship borne purposes, there are space limitations, and you have got to have a hangar, and you have got to have a landing pad, on the ship, on the aft of the ship. And once the helicopter is big enough you have not much space left for anything else. Because a ship is only a ship, especially when it is a war ship. And limits are very severe. But the French were smart at the time, they made all quotations in Swiss francs, of the price. And of course not in US dollars and the British quote was in pounds sterling. And later on they said, don't worry, these are only Swiss Francs, and it ends up that their quotation is less than the British, because they give a special conversion rate and they give us a good deal.
The vice admiral was concerned after that as to what had happened. He sent a letter to the Admiral and he approached the generals on the general staff, and the training and the arms purchases, and it is under.
The French couple who helped the Chinese arms deals. They had worked for the French Aerospeciale for about five to six years, starting in late 1982. Man and woman worked in the same unit, and they belonged to the Signal Corps of the PLA, an independent organization, but later on the corps was incorporated into the general staff, and now it is a department of the PLA. The man's name is Mr. Wang and his wife name is Mrs Wang, but her last name is Li. Influential couple, heavily involved in the French deals with the PLA.
The signal corps had some of the first deals with the French. Before he retired, Wang was promoted to the rank of regimental commander. That is the rank of major, two ranks are around the same level. But at that time he wanted to be promoted further, but the chances were not good for him. So, he thought seriously of retiring, but he was not permitted to do so. Later on he became more and more involved in foreign negotiations, not only with the French but with the British also, especially when it came to some of the communication equipment, that was his specialty, so he was constantly involved in technical discussions and evaluations of this sort, including the deal from the air force and the navy. In terms of the communication field, the place that he was working for was high level, technologically speaking. He was very good at communications and signal transmissions. Later on the French, while they were dealing with the Chinese military, the air force or the navy, this guys name came kept coming up. And so they knew he was important and they discovered also that he was a well connected guy in the military, he was from a Chinese senior family but not military family. I am not sure what his family was about, but definitely not military. He refused to talk more about it, and so no one really knew. I don't know for sure how the French recruited him, but all of a sudden he became very interested in the French. He spoke some French, too, and taught himself, and so did his wife. In 1983 the couple decided to really help the French make their deals in Beijing. They were well connected and well informed, and they knew exactly what sort of equipment the military was looking for and what the details of their budget was. Now this was critical information. For foreign businessmen in Beijing. He was able to provide all of this inside information to the French. So the French began to cooperate with him while he was still in the service, initially. He was very intimately involved with the French attempts to make their sales in Beijing. When there was commercial discussion, technical evaluations, discussions based on French firms in the equipment field, this couple constantly showed up. So, that was in 1983, they decided to retire from the military, and then they had to start looking for their own jobs in the civilian field. So the French came forward at that time. The French made a proposal to them. They said, "We want to hire you and to let you stay in Beijing as consultants for us." The guy was reluctant initially, because at that time the reform atgmosphere was not very favorable, especially for people who just retired from the military, and if you worked for foreigners, you were in trouble, at least you are very suspicious. So the guy decided to go to France and to tour the facilities of French Aerospeciale and to gain some first hand experience with the company. The French agreed to this, and the couple obtained their passport and visa, and they flew to Paris, and stayed there for about one year, or a little longer. And during their stay in Paris, their daughter and son were transfered to France and were admitted to French universities. And the children still today are there. So, starting about 1985, when China first held the defense exhibition show, what was we call the Asian Asiandex, and the first was held in the mid 1980s. And that was the time -- but before that show, the couple moved back to Beijing and moved into an apartment. And later on they just stayed. They did not stay in a hotel, they still had their own homes in Beijing, but they were heavily committed now to the French and promoting deals for the French.
The first time I met him was in 1986. I was introduced to him them. And he was unusually cordial. he was well connected with everyone from Poly and it seemed to me that everyone knew him. So in case there was one new individual that he didn't know, that individual would be introduced. Everyone had to know him. And he was always very busy touring all the stands on the French side, the French and the British were always side by side in these shows. It was held at the China Exhibition Center, newly built.(held at the China exhibition center) and so he was very busy traveling around that day, a very pretty day and a lot of foreign guests and he was busy traveling around introducing vips to the people, so it was he was pretty successful that time. But whenever the generals came from the air force or the admirals from the Navy came, he was constantly present. I don't know for what. But on a couple of occasions when I was with General Lin and the Admiral, and I traveled with them and interpreted for the,too, he was around. He was always willing to pay for dinner and this kind of thing. And he was always asking, "Oh, and where is the general going later." It was already 11 pm, and he kept glancing at his watch, and this sort of thing. And the personal assistant to the admiral, his staff officer, said, "Well, they have no where to go and they don't know where they will eat." So he invited us out for dinner and took us to the Great Wall Hotel, which was close to the exhibition center, several kilometers away, and we had some very nice dinners, sometimes lunch, there, in the great wall hotel, very luxurious dinners. Of course, it was always his treat. He paid. And he smoked, always very nice Chinese cigarettes, his famous brand was Red Pagoda, Hong Tashan, Red Pagoda Mountain, I noticed that because I think he did it for show purposes. He just sat side by side with the admiral and with the genrtal of the airt force, and he seemed to advertise, "You see, I'm still patriotic. I refuse to smoke foreign imported cigarettes, these are the ones I prefer, despite the fact that I stay in France and I work for the French. I still smoke Chinese cigarettes. Only he smoked them. He wore stylish, grey western business suits and silk ties. Beyond that there was nothing unusual about him. And his wife wore god wire-rimmed glasses, she looked like a technician, very severe. And she was, of course. And he just said, they talked about friendship always first. They knew each other well. "How is your son," he asked. "My son is in France, too." And they know each other, and so on, and then they would toast their children, to the general, to the admiral. And finally, just as the dinner was ending, or at least near the end, then he would bring up business. And he would say, all right, this time the French have this or that, and his presentations were wonderful. He would speak about his children and then in the same breath bring up the French had superb, the thermal imaging system, and so on, and he said, I just spoke with them and they will reduce the price for you, they are making a point of it. This is a good deal. the generals of course were not very well educated, and once they heard something like that, then they were interested. So they are, really, is that the case? Make, sure. Don't help the French put an unfavorable price on us. You are the guy who knows the bottom line. So don't deceive us. And he said, You can count on me. No problem. But of course I knew what he was doing, every time he talked he was advocating business for the French. My God, if he wasn't valuable to the French, they wouldn't pay him the way they did. He lived in an apartment in Beijing in the signal building. A compound. The signal corps, they had their own individual assigned apartments. He knew where the weak points of the French were and where the weak points of the Chinese were too and that is why he was successful. I talked to him and we talked about business. He talked of Poly and asked if I was happy with the work and so on. what could I say on an occasion that is official. I found out more about him when I talked to staff officer of the admiral. He was on very good terms with the guy, and I asked about him. And he said, "Oh, Mr. Li. Very helpful. He travels back and forth all the time. Whenever there is an important occasion he goes from Paris to Beijing. He has a citizenship of France. He is a permanent resident of France and now his children are there. I asked what was so special about him. They said, Don't worry. He has money. He pays for nothing out of his own pocket. The French pay for everything. I saw what he was then. The Got between between the sides in the negotiations. If he had a lot of money, and I believe that he did, then he made a point not to show it off. The cigarettes were a case in point. Whenever he smoked, he smoked maybe half an inch from the cigarette, just the end, and then put it out. He was a chain smoker, but only smoked the ends of the cigarettes. He was medium sized, not good looking at all, really, dark skinned, tan, not very masculine.
The admiral would be able to use this, his son and daughter in France can enjoy that. They can go to the Swiss bank and withdraw the cash and the son may buy a home for him there, a resort hideway for him. The father himself, who is a true revolutionary, he personally really could not care less for that sum of money; Like Deng Xiaoping, of course, he personally did not want money. He cannot be bought. But this is for the children and the relatives. Now this is one of the reasons why the old hard liners are reluctant to get away from power, the China they realize , once the power is gone, your whole life is gone. In your system here in America, the president of the Us retires, and he may serve as the head of a private organization or a research institute. But in Chine this sort of thing doesn't happen because once you are on top, it is impossible for you to receded from the top and to settle down to a secondary position happily. It is absolutely impossible and psychologically it is impossible for the people to accept that fact. Once you are ma military commander and now you are in a position of running a factory, people would consider your credibility. People would ask what happened to this individual. They would say that you could not make it, you could not handle responsibility or power and they would then lose respect for you and you would lose face in the country. As long as I have power, I can have anything. Or rather, if I have power I can have access to everything. And sometimes access to things is much more import ant than actually having things.
There was a big celebration after the signing of the contract. The parties waited around Beijing waiting for a decision to be made. Both parties waited, and immediately after the trip, China made a reciprocal trip, with a lot of dignitaries and military personnel from the general staff, including the equipment department, to Aerospecial in France. I did not accompany them on that trip.
They were there to make a survey of the manufacturing facilities and firms of the helicopter. And the systems attached. But this was just a symbolic trip, since they knew already that the deal was made. The officers from the department were convinced by individuals from the top, or bribed in one way or another, and once the top was in the bag, so to speak, then everyone went to France to pretend like they were interested in making the deal. They stayed for three days, and then they said as a matter of course that based upon their survey of the manufacturing firms.They were even more convinced than ever that the French had an advanced ASW system and this was exactly the thing that they were looking for.
This was only one of the deals that we made with a foreign firm. How was I treated when I went to France, might serve as a good example. We flew to France on Air France, but not first class. The head of the delegation flies first class. These were the section chiefs of the equipment department of the general staff, and they were colonels, only, and they went in plain clothes. Nobody would ever see them in uniforms. No one was to know that they were in the military, but the French knew. Now then they resided in luxurious hotels in Paris, and sometimes they were just shown around the city to the night spots, and they were escorted to the southern cities at that time. They were taken to Toulon to see the French Navy and they stayed there for a time. But they were looking then for small helicopters, these were the helicopters that were actually flown around Tiananmen Square. They had private helicopters fly them around then when they were there.
The founding of Poly
Vietnam War and American Cooperation, Project 85
Profits of the Drug Trade
Torpedo Deal with Whitehead
The Shangri La and Doing Business with Americans
Americans by the Torpedoes they Want
A soviet made helicopter flew overhead broadcasting MI-8, with large speakers, a large transport helicopter, broadcasting, "Ju wei sho Jun Wei shou zhang zhi shi: BU DUI BU DE SHOU ZU. SHOU ZU JIAN JUE HUAN JI.(CENTRAL MILITARY COMMISSION, SUPERIORS INSTRUCTIONS THAT TROOPS SHOULD BY NO MEANS BE STOPPED FROM ADVANCING. IF THEY ARE, FIRE!) OPEN FIRE. Over and over again, towing a large aerial speaker behind them, so when the approahces you cannot hear, only when it is over you can you hear it.)
Because, on the fifth floor if you come out of the elevator you make a left and then a right. If you make a right, all of the offices belonged to Poly Technologies. Right in front of the entrance we had several negotiation rooms that we called them. They were large rooms, about twenty by thirty feet with a long table. and in another room would be a group of sofas. I don't think those rooms were bugged. That was never our intention. We don't intend to. Whenever foreigners are in a room our guys are there.