Rocky Barker in China: A quiet night in Beijing for Idahoans in China

rbarker@idahostatesman.comJune 10, 2010 

David Shambaugh and Rocky Barker at Tienanmen Square.

ROCKY BARKER / RBARKER@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM

The Idaho trade mission arrived in Beijing today and people got the evening off to do sightseeing and shopping. Many planned to go to the pearl market and of course, the Great Wall.

I visited Tienanmen Square with my high school buddy, David Shambaugh. David is a senior Fulbright Research Scholar at the China Academy of Social Sciences Institute of World Economics and Politics here. He's on sabbatical from George Washington University and he, his wife, Ingrid, and son, Alex, are living in the city he has known since the 1970s.

We got to the square too late to go inside the Forbidden City, a disappointment. So we walked over to the Beijing Hotel, the classic old and historic hotel where Mao Zedong hosted Nixon and Khrushchev and held party banquets and dances.

We had hoped to have a drink on the roof overlooking the Forbidden City but it has been closed for security since the 2008 Olympics. Instead we spent happy hour in a little nook with a couch depicted in nearby pictures of Zhou Enlai sitting with friends for a drink.

David has written many books about China and is considered an expert on the Chines Communist Party. He wrote a piece this week in the International Herald Tribune that tells how in a time of worsening relations with the U.S. and other western nations China is trying to improve its image abroad.

At a dinner of Peking duck we bumped into a group of foreign journalists David knows and they all knew that Gov. Butch Otter was in town. They joked about potatoes but also were well aware of the JR Simplot french fries factory near Beijing.

WHAT'S HAPPENING FRIDAY

Gov. Butch Otter has his busiest day doing a press interview in the morning, meeting Chinese wheat officials, a lunch put on by Idaho's official host the China Council for Promotion of International Trade, and a host of meetings in the afternoon capped off with a reception with U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman.

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