Huangbaiyu The Project

The Opening Ceremonies

Off to the side of a very dusty National Road 304 winding its way through the twisted mountain gullies in Eastern Liaoning, giant red lanterns rise high into the sky, trailing banners that ripple in the wind like dragons’ tails dancing through the sky.

In all respects build a socialist new countryside that is harmonious between man and nature!

With the scientific development outlook as leader, quickly build the sustainable development demonstration village!

Warmly welcome every VIP, friends from all walks of life to Huangbaiyu!

For the first time in their lives, residents of various districts of Huangbaiyu who gathered to witness the “opening ceremonies” for this special space saw more than a dozen representatives of leading American businesses with their own eyes.  It is the first time the Mayor of Benxi City has ever visited this village located in his jurisdiction. In the late morning of May 21, 2005, these Very Important Persons—each clearly marked for those who might not properly interpret the historical significance of the day by a synthetic rose pin that states “VIP”—stand on a red carpet facing the crowd that has come to see a spectacle.

“I’ve never seen anything like this!  How lively!” a stout older woman says as she looks up at the first of the three giant red inflatable rainbows that arch more than 30 feet over the dirt ground below, guiding the spectators’ gaze to the red carpet stage.

The first speaker is introduced as Li Bo, the Mayor of Benxi City.  “Look, the Mayor!” a young man in a work smock and close-cropped hair shouts.  “He’s the Wen Jiabo of Benxi! He’s here!” If this man had not been introduced, the villagers would not have known who he was, but with this introduction they knew that they were seeing, and being seen by, the highest ranking government official most of them would ever encounter.

His words, like those of Premier Wen Jiabao, would indicate the policy of the government, and its intentions toward the dirt on which they stand. 

“Dai Xiaolong is the General Manager of Golden Grain Spring Construction Company, and has himself, as an entrepreneur raised 3.5 million Renminbi to build this China-US sustainable development demonstration village in Huangbaiyu, Benxi,” the local Wen Jiabao, Li Bo, said.  “Dai is also the village head, and needs your great support.”

Next, an American man introduced as sustainable development designer 威廉.麦克唐纳 (William McDonough) walks to the microphone and addresses the curious faces trying to decipher what they are to make of all this, and why so many Americans have come to this small place that was previously of so little significance that it was not listed on most provincial maps.

“We see this project as a gift that you share with us, and we share with you,” McDonough said.  “We see this project as a project for the children. . . . Why have we all come to Huangbaiyu? To celebrate a new way of thinking: clean water, energy and air; economy, equity and ecology. And happiness. We hope whatever we do will make you happy. And we hope you will tell us if you are happy or not.”

There was no reaction from the crowd of spectators. Translation was occurring in succession rather than simultaneously.  They waited. When the translator came to McDonough’s final sentence a few minutes after he had first said it, the meaning in Chinese had changed slightly but significantly in the passage between tongues: “We hope that your happiness or unhappiness will be represented [to us].”

Muffled chortles gurgled from a group of three middle-aged men with their arms crossed across their chests. One pulled his cigarette out of his mouth just long enough to ask, “Who is [our] representative?”

Interested in more moments from Huangbaiyu? Read about Chinese-American Sustainable Development Dumplings or The Business of Leaders and Commoners.

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