Meeting Zhang Zemin, the President of China

In the late 1990s and very early 2000’s, I co-owned and operated a business in Beijing, China with a partner in a company called American Western Homes and Building Materials. Because China had recently “opened up,” there was a huge influx of Western companies trying to capitalize on the (potentially) HUGE market in China. Needless to say, I took every opportunity I could to help get our little company get noticed, and trade missions with representatives of the state of Idaho were one way to accomplish this.

In 2001, I traveled throughout China with Idaho Senator Larry Craig, the Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho University Presidents, the Idaho Department of Agriculture and other Idaho businesses. Although some trade mission attendees often find these trips to be unfruitful, I have always garnered extra business from them; maybe not immediately, but within 1 or 2 years as is usually the case in any Asian country.

On this particular trip, an opportunity arose giving me a ‘golden ticket,’ so to speak: I met then-President of China, Zhang Zemin in the Great Hall of the People in Tienanmen Square and snapped a hand shake picture with him. You might conclude from the picture that he was ‘camera ready’ while I was stumbling over some Mandarin Chinese…. this would be a correct conclusion. He really knew how to work the cameras and the room to his advantage. All of the trade mission participants then sat in the Great Hall of the People for about 1 1/2 hours discussing our businesses, doing business in China, etc. And, interestingly, there was NO security when we went into the Great Hall of the People. None. However, I quickly surmised that all of my stuff was probably inspected in my room at the Beijing Grand Hotel while I was attending meetings at the US embassy the night before.

This picture opened many doors for me and my business partner in China over the next few years. Keep in mind I am a free market, independent capitalist, so the best part of this meet with President Zhang was strictly for propaganda purposes to promote my business in China. 10 days later, I met the first democratically elected president of Taiwan and that was even more exciting to me.


By the way, this is what I do now: Impact Imports, USA


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