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11 DECEMBER 1999
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postcard from leon fulcher

From the People's Republic of China

Hello from China again! Do you remember those times when you purchased a postcard and then left that place before managing to get the postcard written and sent? Well that is sort of how it is with this Postcard from the PRC! I was to have returned to Beijing in mid-October after six months in Malaysia, returning to The College of Civil Affairs of the Ministry of Civil Affairs shortly following the celebrations on 1 October commemorating fifty years since founding of the modern state of China. However, somewhere between the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, my visa application to give lectures at the College got lost. While encouraged by some to enter China on a travel visa, advice given on the matter by the PRC Embassy in Wellington was that this was not recommended.

So this postcard was written aboard the Lufthansa flight from Singapore to Frankfurt then Edinburgh, feeling sorry that I missed a return visit to China during the initial three months of my Research and Study Leave. However, a couple of images of China remain with me, and I share these below.

Man and Children on Beijing Street Corner

While American and Chinese negotiators try to reconcile differences that prevent China from gaining full membership in the World Trade Organisation, those in the West easily forget that the population of the Peoples” Republic of China is 1.2 billion people, more than Europe and North America combined!. Bill Gates has worked out the importance of this demographic statistic by establishing a corporate research and development presence in Beijing seeking access to this huge potential market. Citizens of the PRC are now able to travel freely to five countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, including Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. In making decisions about whether the PRC is admitted to the World Trade Organisation, I hope consideration will be given to the needs of a culturally diverse and impoverished population seeking world markets to reward the fruits of their labours. I hope we will all remember the powerful intellectual traditions that have emerged from this part of the world.

Translator Yang Guiping at Great Wall of China, Beidaling Sector

According to the commemorative plaque, Chairman Mao once said “You are not a real man until you've walked on the Great Wall!" I was certainly impressed with the Great Wall of China and walked on it! This engineering feat of world significance was built to keep marauding Mongolian warlords from successfully leading armies against a succession of Emperors in the Forbidden City at Beijing. The Great Wall was built painstakingly over a period of years and by hand, taking maximum advantage of natural fortifications offered by the Beidaling Mountains.

It was a surprise to find ruins of three smaller walls between The Great Wall and Beijing “walls of lesser significance but still important in fortifying the boundaries between peoples of the Chinese Empire and Mongolia. A Great Wall of China Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet with life-size sculpture of Col Sanders greeted all passers by!

There is so much to learn about the walls between peoples!

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