Xian, July 11
Xian is a tidy little hamlet of a mere 9 million. Flew here from Beijing, China Air. Was supposed to be an hour and a half, but we sat on the tarmac for an extra hour, just so I could fully appreciate the sniffling, sneezing, nose-blowing fellow next to me, and try not to calculate the odds of airborne exotic disease particles finding their way to my lungs in a confined tube, given that they start their journey about a foot and a half to my right.
My briefing book warned about the traffic in major cities. China has the highest accident death rate in the world. There are apparently no rules, and every imaginable type of vehicle swarms in all directions, most handily equipped with horns but no signals. Speed limits, lane delineations, and even one-way signs are considered helpful suggestions, not so much hard-and-fast rules.
I’ve been in it plenty of times in my life, but I’m always convinced my driver is about to kill an elderly pedestrian, or maybe an entire family of four on a bicycle, thus inconveniencing me, since I’m pretty sure it’s customary to attend the funerals., and bring gifts, such as tea servings and decorative fans.
I spoke last night to some Chinese cartoonists, and some of the staff of China’s largest business publication, Chinese Business View. Counting the dinner, the set-up, the presentation, the questions, the gift-giving, and the tour, it worked out to nearly six hours.
My speeches are aided immensely by the need to pause every 10 seconds for translation, although I now know Chinese for such crucial phrases as “Superpac donor,” “friend of coal” and “Jesse Jackson threatened to cut Obama’s nuts off.”