CONSTRUCTING THE FUTURE
“What if you hosted a parade and nobody came to watch?” I considered, nestled snuggly in the back seat of a local government sedan. About half a dozen government officials had earlier in the morning come to greet me when I landed at the new, hi-tech airport at Yantai, which is at the northernmost tip of Shandong Province. On a clear day, beachcombers can see the Korean peninsula to the northeast. That January morning in 2004, though, was not clear. A light mist swirled near the ground and seeped through my heavy coat. I was cold, and simply wanted to fly back to Beijing to the warmth and comfort of my hotel room.
The local government honchos represented local business interests and foreign investment promotion. Any Westerner they could entice into investing in the area would likely mean a promotion to greater political heights; hence, the four-car caravan that awaited me at the exit of the airport. No other cars were in sight. I settled into the back seat of the third black Volkswagen Santana from the front. The moment the doors slammed shut the cars lurched forward, police sirens blaring. The cars sped out of the airport grounds only slowly enough to keep to within the curve of the traffic loop. The escort hit the straightaway and accelerated. The cars’ flashing lights parted the cold mist before us.
We drove along kilometers of ...