A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
During my frequent trips to Tokyo to promote stock index futures, my Drexel colleague who headed our Japanese operations inquired if I had interest in traveling to China with a Japanese client. I jumped on the idea. It was a chance to both maintain relationships with an existing client and see China for the first time. One of my favorite movies is Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, the sweeping historical drama that chronicled the story of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. It was a timely coincidence that I saw it in 1988, shortly before my first trip to Beijing.
After two days of meetings in Tokyo, I prepared for Beijing. My hosts in Japan had the art of travel down to a science. Tokyo's airport was a two-hour drive from the city, and the company arranged for me to stay at a small hotel close to the airport the day before I traveled. The room was tiny and uncomfortable, making me wonder what this augured for the journey. My concerns, however, vanished entirely after my first meeting in China.
My Japanese hosts in China were terrific, their attention to detail unrivaled. Our first meeting was with the U.S. equivalent of an undersecretary of agriculture, who had accompanied Chairman Mao on the Long March. The meeting took place in a stark government building. The minister, a stout man with a round face who spoke with an air of composure, reminded ...