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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 26, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta Wednesday, February 26, 1975 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD I 'Circumlocution high art' Evasive Chinese frustrate travellers By JOHN BURNS Special to The Herald You have applied for per- mission to make routine visit to Shanghai. Two weeks have passed since you sent your let- ter to the foreign ministry, so you call the official concerned and explain, politely, that you need an answer right away. I understand, he says. But you see, the people of Shanghai are quite busy right now. At face value, the response is ludicrous: A city of 10 million people, with hundreds of interpreters and guides and several large hotels that stand mostly empty all year round, too busy to receive a lone foreign journalist? Hardly, but tiltr., the official does not expect you to credit his-.sx- indeed, that you will accept it for the eu- phemism that it is. In their, dealings with foreigners, circumlocution', equivocation and evasion has been developed to a high art. It is a habit that Marco Polo observed ih the 13th century, and Lord MacCartney when he travelled to Peking on behalf of George III, but the Send for your FREE 1975 NELSON HOMEBUYERSGUIDE Name Address'.................................. Phone Mail to: Box 3034, St'n. 'B' Calgary, Alberta T2M 4L6 JVISLSOJV 1V court functionaries of those days have nothing on their communist counterparts of today. The simple fact is that the Chinese cannot bring them- selves to say no. Whether it is a request to visit Shanghai or an invitation to dine in a diplo- mat's home, they would rather say "it's or perhaps, "not or, maybe, "not yet quite formulation, however contorted or tran- sparent, sooner than the bluntness of an outright refusal. A little more than a year ago Chairman Mao launched the nation on a campaign to eradicate Confucian ideas, and there is none more Confu- cian than the notion that confrontations should be avoided the ap- pearances of harmony should be maintained, however sharp the antagonisms beneath the surface. The anti-Confucius cam- paign was accompanied by the popularization of a new Mao aphorism enjoining the people to be "open and above-board" in all their dealings, encourag- ing foreigners to hope that bureaucrats might be less inclined than before to beat about the bush when handling difficult requests. In fact, there has been no discernible change, and diplomats and journalists con- tinue to regale each other on the dinner party circuit with tales of the bureaucrats' latest obfusca- that, in this strait-laced town, goes far towards compensating for the frustrations of bureaucratic prevarication. Much of the obfuscation is occasioned by requests for permission to travel. Many the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, for of- ficially closed to foreigners, but 25 or 30 others are nominally open provided prior permission is obtained from the foreign ministry, which requires that all requests be submitted in writing, at least a week in advance. If the decision is negative, as it is more than likely to be even in the best of times, the ministry will usually do acknowledge- ment of the letter, no action of any kind. But the wheels of the Chinese bureaucracy grind exceedingly slow, and the would-be traveller, ever hopeful, usually ends up cabl- ing for a ruling one way or the other. Since the official handling the matter is only rarely available to the telephone in the first instance, the caller usually has to leave a message. This often proves as unproductive as the original letter, so a second call is placed, and sometimes a third, until the man is finally brought to the phone. A Comfortable Blend of Quality and Value On Ladies' Shoes Cushion Heel Like walking on a Cloud. Ladies' service shoes are deep in-softness and big on comfort. Soft Leather uppers; "Flexible" Crepe sole. Give your feet a treat. White only. Sizes 6-9 B-D Pair Casual Comfort... Comfortable Price Attractive Italian made loafer with Moccasin toe-style. Hard-wearing, flexible urethane sole; elastic gore on vamp. W platform sole, 2" heel blends comfort with style. Tan colour only. Sizes even and half. Pair 6.22 Ladies' Wedgies, Lightweight Light on the pocket book Comfortable, everyday Tan and White shoes with soft skinfit lined uppers and Moccasin-style toe. Matching wedge heel; flexible and durable Foam Rubber outer sole. Sizes 5-10 even. 5.22 Pair Practical, Hardwearing Suede Casuals 2-eye-tie oxford has Suede uppers for good looks, flexible Foam Rubber wedge sole and cushion heel for comfort. True Moccasin-styling. Dark Brown and Beige. Sizes 6-9 full. 9.22 Pair__________r________ ___ .SOUVENIR PROGRAMS AND EVENTS SCHEDULE AVAILABLE AT WOOUCO each Si College Shopping Mali 2025 Mayor Magrath Drive Monday, Tuesday A Wednesday a.m. to p.m. Thursday ft Friday a.m. to p.m. Saturday a.m. to p.m. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO LIMIT QUANTITIES co DEPARTMENT STORES I SATISFACTION GUARANTEED KrUCIMTMWItWIKflM j Typically, he will say that the matter is still "under con- sideration." If pressed, then or in a later call, he will resort to one or other, possibly several, of the formulations developed for such occasions. The people in the city concerned are too busy: the weather is too hot, or too cold: there is too little time to make the arrangements, and so on. Getting to the provinces can be only half the battle. Most travellers arrive at their destination with a list of places they want to visit, but it is a common experience, notwithstanding the locals' in- sistence that they want nothing so much as to accom- modate their guests, to find that many of the places are, in effect, off limits. Here again, there will be no outright refusals. A paradigm example of the evasive tactics that can come into play oc- curred a year or so ago when a journalist visiting the north- eastern city of Changchun asked to be taken to the studios which produce some of the country's major feature films, only to run into all manner of flimflam. At first an official explained that nothing could be done as the studios had completed their quota of films for the year, and were closed. The journalist replied that he didn't need to see film being made, just to speak to film makers., but the official, after consultations, said that was out, too, as the entire strength was off in South China on location. Making a mental note of the the year's production was in the can, why would the crews be off on location jour- nalist switched his tactics. His ostensible purpose in Changchun being to cover a touring ice hockey team, he suggested to the coach that the team request a visit to the studios in the down time between games. At breakfast the next day the official announced that the team's activity for the day would be-a visit to the studios. Thinking to pull .the man's leg, the journalist ask- ed if it were really true that the crews were returning from location for the occasion. Yes, said the of- ficial, deadpan, that was ex- actly what they were doing. Once at the studios it was im- mediately apparent that production on two major feature films was in full swing, and had been for months. The quota had not been filled and location shooting had long since been completed. Was any of this an embar- rassment to the official? Not in the least: if anything, he was indignant, not em- barrassed. While foreigners can rail at them for deceit and pre- varication, the Chinese view seems to be that people who press their demands, after a first polite excuse, absolve their hosts from the respon- sibility to be consistent, logical, or even truthful. Ab- surdity on absurdity, and feel not the slightest unease. Example: same journalist, visiting Peking's new subway for. the second time in as many weeks, is surprised to hear an army general doing the briefing say that the system is not open to the public. On his earlier visit he had been told, by another army man, precisely the contrary. He seeks to clear the matter up. Excuse me, Sir, he says, but we have ridden the trains and seen people on them, so in what sense is the system not- open to the public? In the sense, says the general, that an individual, must produce a Peking identity card to buy a ticket. Not everybody has such a card, thus the system is not truly open. But, hold, says the jour- nalist, pressing home, does not everybody who lives in Peking have a card? Is the system not, in every sense that matters, as open as those in London and New York? Well no, it isn't, because some people in Peking don't have cards. Like who? Well, says the general, after a long puff on his cigarette, the people in our prisons, for example. Step by step, the exchange has produced an absurdity: the Peking subway cannot be said to be open because the people in the city's prisons are not allowed-to ride it. MEW-FOAM SHAVE Regular, Menthol or Lemon Linie. 12 oz. size .79 ColgiM or Ulin Brill TOOTHPASTE 50 ml. size Your Choice PMUMETTES Chewablechlldrens vitamins. 100 tablets. Each Antacid and antlflatu- 12 02. i mm ilze. Each 1.59 WoofcoPnirnucr opwitod by Cttrm and Drugi LM. Help your Heart... Help your Heart Fund WlNKJRSSCRtfTIONS 2025 Mayer Magrath Drive Monday, Tuesday Wednesday a.m. to p.m. irsday Friday a.m. to p.m. Saturday a.m. to p.m. WE RESERVE THE RIOHT TO LIMIT QUAN'ITIES' Kimmmtu i SATISFACTION LiBill ;