Friday, 18 April 2014

They are smart these Chinese. They hide things well but they couldn’t mislead an old fox like him...new excerpt of Game Over

Even Wang wouldn’t say anything about it. They are smart these Chinese. They hide things well but they couldn’t mislead an old fox like him.  Nevertheless, there is another problem with Cao Yu!
"Mr. Rochester! I think our meeting was very beneficial. We are all very excited here about this collaboration. The exploratory visit two months ago enabled us to move forward a lot. We have prepared a Memorandum which includes most of our discussions and the points on which we agree. It will be in Chinese, English but also in French. Cao Yu and Weina will type it and they will give it to you tonight at your hotel! We have the honor to invite you to a banquet tonight at 8 pm. The Governor of Gansu Province will honor us with his presence. We will pick you up from your hotel at half past seven!"

Hell!, thinks Frederic, only one VIP in the meeting. It pays to be discreet about production conditions, but as that old chap Vespasian said, money has no honor. Well, it’s not as if I’m buying toilets!"
Frederic Rochester thanks the Director. Liu Hong leaves the room with the two young women.
 …
10 pm

Rochester and Michael get back to their hotel. A tip for the driver. The door slams. The car from the Lanzhou Clothing Factory leaves. Rochester is pensive and watches it go.
"Let’s walk Michael. I need to."
They cross the hotel gate. The sentry looks at them oddly: as if to say, what a strange idea to go out while he'd like to be inside. Two other soldiers are pacing up and down outside the gate, their rifles and fixed bayonets reflecting the light of street lamps and military overcoats and fur hats on their heads. Hell! It's winter!
One of the soldiers says something to Michael. He nods.
"He says not to go too far away, to stay on the avenue. The neighborhood is not safe! Personally, I do not know!”
"Ok" says Rochester!"What have you learned? "
Michael smiles again:
"Not much more than what I heard the last time!"
"Yes, but?"
He feels that Michael is teasing him!
"There are rumors! Things will change here. The Director General of the factory is a VIP. He was trained by Kang Sheng to whom he was an assistant. But he wants to change things. He says with a laugh: from the past you can create the future. He is very interested in this contract because he wants this business to grow.  But the person that matters is the Production Manager! Actually, he is a Security Officer!"
"His name?" 
"Wang Gang! Yes! He wants to modernize everything! But there is the past! What you heard is true, but that will change radically. Capital from Hong Kong will be injected and a new plant will be created!"
The message cannot be clearer. The opportunity is there. Trust them and do not meet the moral requirement of his Canadian clients, but be there tomorrow when everything will have changed. Or stop and not be there tomorrow.
"Ok Michael! We continue! I'll arrange things with public opinion in Canada!"
Not that easy, thinks Rochester.
"And for the rest?"
"There is the apparent truth ... and the rest! This girl Cao Yu actually comes from Chongqing, but ..."
He will not say more. Rochester does not need to ask for more.
"Okay, let's go! They will probably arrive soon and have a drink at the bar to allow me to digest all that superabundant food. I will soon be over 110 kg if this continues!"
Michael laughs suddenly:
"I suggest you do sport with me in the morning!"
"That's you making fun of me. We'll see when you're my age!"
They enter the hotel. A doorman opens the door. Cao Yu and Weina are inside. They are waiting.
"We saw you outside but we did not want to disturb you! Here are the contracts!"
Cao Yu hands him a folder that includes French copies of the contracts.
"We did not put in the English and Chinese versions. But tomorrow we will sign everything. Someone will pick you up at 9:00. Have a good night."
Rochester does not have time to react, they have already left. He notices a shadow at the back of the lobby.
"Come to the bar, we'll look at all this. Too bad we didn’t get the Chinese version. I hope there’s no difference."

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Friday, 4 April 2014

How she looks at Cao Yu, as she was her lover... another excerpt of Game Over

Another man approaches. He is introduced as the production manager. Other people come to greet him. And then they all enter the building. Someone explains that this is a showroom, they will show him the best of their production, they hope to develop mutually beneficial cooperation and this will only strengthen the friendship between the peoples.
They have hardly entered the building when they are lead to a small reception. There are several young women inside. They are dressed in silk robes. One of them immediately attracts Rochester’s attention.
Could it be the person who Michael spoke to him about? He feels his hand on his shoulder and their exchange of looks is extremely clear. Yes, that's it. The young woman is extremely beautiful. But there’s something sad about her, something lost. Who is she? The CEO speaks to them:
"These young people are the hostesses here to welcome such honorable guests to our showroom. They are part of our company sales staff. One of them speaks French. Miss Cao Yu!"
The young woman comes over and leans forward to greet Rochester:
"Mr. Rochester, welcome to our company. I will do my best to facilitate your stay." She keeps her eyes fixed on the ground.   
Her accent is flawless, but Rochester refrains himself from asking her where she learned.
Zhou Xiaowen continues to make presentations in broken English:
"Miss Wang Weina, meanwhile, speaks English and I understand that in your country both languages are officially used. Both young women are from Chongqing, in Sichuan. We have recruited them to work in the sales department."
Rochester nods to all these words of welcome, but what can he say and how should he behave. Everyone lies here. The visit takes place normally. And then the negotiations start. The previous visit had established a preliminary agreement. Rochester is here to finalize things. How can he ensure that production doesn’t include forced labor? At noon, the meeting stops and they start lunch. They are accompanied by the two young women. Rochester chats with them. He learns that they previously worked in a hotel in Chongqing. Which hotel? The Hotel Yudu answers Weina. How strange, it is precisely the same hotel where he stayed the last time he went to Chongqing. Weina says they worked in administrative and commercial relations with companies to develop business tourism. The Yudu Hotel "loaned" them to the Lanzhou Clothing Factory. No, they do not know the details of the "agreement".
Then one thing leads to another, he learns that they both live in Ciqikou, a really nice neighborhood. He does not go further in his enquiry. He knows enough about that now. Michael always smiles. He wonders if this boy ever stops smiling.
After lunch, they go to the City Council. Again, exchange of favors, hugs, tea, and welcome. The Mayor makes a speech. Cao Yu gives Michael a hand for the translation. Rochester looks on. She seems tired and sad. The other hostess is always close to her as if she was protecting her. So what is the story of this girl and why so many lies about her? He looks on again. The production manager has approached the group. He is close to Wang Weina. Rochester is a wily old fox! He has been about a bit. He sees how the director is playing with Wang Weina, their occasional glances. As clear as spring water.
Casting couch behind it for sure. The Mayor ends his speech. It is Rochester’s turn to say a few words. He is used to this and does it promptly. Then, exchange of gifts. Journalists arrive. Flashes crackle. Serious things can start now. Fifteen minutes later a few of them find themselves in a small lounge. That is to say, Rochester and his faithful interpreter, the director Zhou, the director of production, Cao Yu and Wang Weina, some others, obviously business executives and another person who has just arrived.
Cao Yu accompanies this person, introducing her to Rochester. She is a lady of about fifty, still good looking, but seems tired by life.
Immediately the singing crystal-clear voice of Cao Yu:
"Mr. Rochester, may I introduce you to Ms. Liu Hong. She is assistant Director of the "Lanzhou Clothing Factory." She will attend the meeting. She knows some French. She is originally from Shanghai, which is an important city for the production of textiles in China."
Rochester carefully observes the lady. She seems overwhelmed by her function. The director invites everyone to sit.
The negotiation that ensues is not easy. Discussions are tough on prices, quantities, delivery times and business conditions. Rochester would like to know more about the conditions of production. He poses an indirect question. Everyone understands what he asks. Nobody is fooled but no one answers. He won’t insist and will think of an explanation for his clients.
In the end, isn’t the main thing to do business? Michael will probably tell him more later! The meeting ends around 6 pm. The director gets up. He speaks in Chinese. Cao Yu translates. She seems tired. Weina beckons her to sit down and asks Michael to translate. The Director approves. Rochester catches Liu Hong’s expression. How she looks at Cao Yu, as she was her lover. Yes, that’s it, of course!

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

"Hmm! Mercedes! They like good cars in Lanzhou!" (a new excerpt of Game Over)

They finish their breakfast. Wang is ready. Rochester goes back to his room:
"Wang, 5 minutes! I’ll be back! "
"No problem, Mr. Rochester! I’ll wait for you"
"When are you going to drop the Mr. Rochester and call me Rochester like everyone else, or even Frederic?"
Wang smiles!
9 pm! Rochester is back in the lobby! Wang is at the door. He waves. They go out. A car awaits them.
"Hmm! Mercedes! They like good cars in Lanzhou!"
The hotel porter greets them and opens the vehicle door. Rochester moves his 100kg into the back seat. The porter shuts the door. Wang settles in the front with the driver. They start off. The ride is not very long. It's cold outside but there’s no snow on the road. Five minutes later, they arrive at an official building with inscriptions in large letters on a banner to welcome the honorable foreign guest. The vehicle enters a courtyard. The Mercedes goes around a small roundabout and stops at the foot of a staircase. A welcoming committee is present: officials in suits and ties who are braving the cold. Immediately, someone opens the door.
Welcome wishes are expressed. Rochester climbs out of the vehicle. Someone helps him, which puts him in a bad mood, he is not disabled nor an old man yet, but he knows that it is only kindness. He does not show his irritation. A man comes forward. Though dressed in civilian clothes, Rochester senses he is a soldier, someone with rank. The person approaches and addresses him in broken English:
"Welcome Mr. Rochester. I am Zhou Xiaowen, director general of the Lanzhou Clothing Factory! We are delighted with your visit and hope that our collaboration will be beneficial."

Frederic Rochester shakes hands with Zhou Xiaowen. The man has a grip of steel. His apparent cordiality, however, hides extreme hardness. 

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Rochester hates flying...Continuing the story (New excerpt of Game Over)

Eight-thirty am in the Lanzhou Hotel.

Rochester does not feel well. Bad flight last night. The plane tended to pitch. A scary old plane! Rochester hates flying. It would have been better by train, but two days was a bit long. In addition to the turbulence throughout the trip, there were hostesses who wanted to get him to eat prepared food in trays. Arrival in Lanzhou and transfer around 11 pm. Arrival at hotel! There he was told that there was no more room! There was a problem with the booking. Fortunately Wang was with him. He would probably have got angry.
Wang moved him to the bar, ordered him a whiskey and negotiated for almost an hour with a stubborn receptionist (he wanted some cash probably, some big fresh dollars to supplement his income). Finally, at one o'clock he was in bed. In the morning it was no better. He came down for breakfast. No way to get a damn coffee or some tea. Just Chinese breakfast, the very traditional rice porridge, salted vegetables (he who loves his toast with strawberry jam in the morning) and fermented soya beans (the spicy ones). In short, everything put him in a bad mood. On top of that; a hangover (whiskey the night before probably, because the glass ordered by Wang had turned into a bottle of something strange, even Breton whiskey would have been better). Wang finally arrived and his usual patience procured him a real coffee, toast and jam and even butter and yogurt.
"How do you manage to be so perfect as to solve all these problems which a barbarian such as I can never do."
Wang smiles.
They have lunch together.
"Mr. Rochester, the appointment is at 10 o'clock. There was supposed to be a visit of the factory, but it is not possible because the road is very bad and there was a serious accident last night. We’re going straight to the showroom where you can see their production. They’ve brought an assortment and you can decide what you want in the contract."

And so, it’s starting well! Though he would have liked to have seen the production unit. Every time he comes to these remote provinces it is almost impossible to visit the workshops. Maybe what he heard about the Laogai is true: that most of China’s textile production comes from the camps. However, he has strict instructions in his specifications regarding this, but how can it be checked? Squaring the circle again. We'll see, he thinks!
...to be continued...

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