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A 100% OOC Blast From the Past

Ashoka the Great




We've all seen this picture, I think. It's downright iconic.

Well, seeing it posted in a thread today reminded me of a fun story.

It was 1993 or 1994, I believe. I was working for an economic research institute, and we were expecting a group of economic experts from the PRC, all of whom had the title of 'Vice-Chairman'. (I found that hilarious, for some reason.)

The day before they arrived, a protocol officer from the Canadian government dropped by to make sure we understood who our guests were, topics that were off-limits and so on.

He walked into my office, looked at the wall and saw that it was dominated by a very large print of the above photo.

ProtocolGuy: I would ask you to please take down that picture as it may offend your guests.

Me: Sure, I'll take it down. By the way, what's Mandarin for, "Kiss my $@!, murderer"?

My boss intervened at that point, and we compromised on closed curtains. (My office had two glass walls.)

The next day the meeting came and went. It was notable for two things:

- these Chinese economic 'experts' clearly did not understand how a free market worked

- they were shocked that a research institute that was critical of government policies could be allowed to exist

Several times I watched my boss try --and very nearly succeed -- to conceal the fact that he was laughing at them.

The meeting ended, the board room doors opened and everyone stepped out.

In the meantime, my secretary, who complained whenever I closed my curtains ("It makes it too dark around my desk," she'd say) had opened them to brighten our corner of the office.

Oh, did I mention my office was right outside the board room?

Good times.



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Ha ha, a good story.

While a lot of Chinese research is very advanced and cutting edge, a lot of their academia credentials go unregulated.

I read an interesting article about some researchers going to investigate claims of folk medicine (herbal, magnetic, Qi Gong, ect.) practiced by licensed doctors, and the researchers were shocked at how few understood what a double-blind study was for or the scientific method at all, instead relying on personal testimonials and 'correlation without causation' type understandings.

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We heard from a contact in a nearby engineering firm that the same group visited him during their stay. They had a 'business proposal' to make.

The Proposal: This guy's company would build a road from Hong Kong to some nearby town. The idea was to connect a tire factory in this town with the port. That part, at least, made sense.

How was the engineering firm supposed to make money on this? Well, they would take their profits in tires, of course.

Seriously. Tires.

No cash payout. Not a share in the company. Not even x% of profits for n months or years.


I don't know how the discussion went, but I do know what this guy said to the PRC guys -- in his wonderful South African accent -- right before he showed them the door.

"That's !@#$%^&*."

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I had a job that involved some work on the 2008 Olympics, so the alien nature of the Chinese bureaucracy is nothing new to me. We had a similar situation in the office, revolving around a group of BOCOG officials (Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) and some "FREE TIBET" bumper stickers on cubicle walls.


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My dad's a mechanical engineer (mostly dealign with Phillip Morris plant layouts in the 70s/80s), and he loves to tell the story of how the US gov got all excited about Chinese prospects, brought all these teams over from China, and how the Chinese went all over all these plants and factories etc with their cameras, got back to China, developed their film, and said "no thanks, we've got what we need."

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