I was interviewed by a CCTV documentary crew in 2008 on a foreigner’s view of 30 years’s Opening and Reform.
One of the questions they asked was “What’s the most memorable sound you have heard during the years you’ve lived in China.”
Interesting question, and easy for me to think of the answer.
It was the first morning of my first trip to China. This was a long
awaited journey for me, since I had studied Chinese in the U.S. for
almost 8 years.
I was curious, excited, and somewhat apprehensive because the year was
1975 and China was still in the throes of political turmoil.
After the nearly full-day train journey from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, I
settled into my room at the Dong Fang Hotel, right opposite the Canton
Trade Fair complex. After dinner with other trade fair delegates, I
slept fairly early.
At 6 am the next morning a deafeningly loud chorus of “The East is Red”
began blaring from loudspeakers outside my hotel room window.
I leapt out of bed and staggered to the window. This was apparently a free wake-up call provided by the government.
The street below was a slow-flowing river of blue and gray-suited
bicyclists, an occasional truck, and a very occasional automobile.
Apparently, even though it was just 6 a.m., I had overslept. Everyone else was already on a bicycle en route somewhere.
After “The East is Red”, the music part of the program was replaced by
the news part, delivered by a shrill-voiced female announcer who
delivered the prevailing political wisdom and direction for that day.
I listened intently and got the general gist. There seemed to be three
parties on the losing end of the prevailing political line: Confucius,
Lin Biao, and the American Imperialists together with their Running
Hmmm. I didn’t think of myself as particularly imperialistic, but I supposed I might be qualified to be a running dog.
One thing for sure: I knew that I would not need to worry about arranging wake-up calls during the rest of that visit.