Independent Press-Telegram from Long Beach, California on October 31, 1971 · Page 154
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Independent Press-Telegram from Long Beach, California · Page 154

Long Beach, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 31, 1971
Page 154
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ASSIGNMENT: What life there will be like for the first U.S. resident reporter by David Oancia EDITOR'S NOTE: With the renewed relationship between the U.S. and mainland China, an American newsman ml! once again be reporting /ram Peking. David Oancia, Toronto Globe and Mill correspondent in Peking for three years and now on the staff oj the Montreal Star, tells what life will lie like today /or a U.S. correspondent in China. T he first resident American correspondent in Peking will be roused into a sort of wakefulness at 3:30 a.m. by his bedside telephone. A metallic voice will check his identity and then proceed: "This is the information department of the foreign ministry. I wish to inform you that we are about lo release a piece of news. You may pick it up here." With that call, the U.S. reporter may consider himself initiated into the exclusive group of newsmen and women who have tried, since the Communist take-over 22 years ago, to report on the cataclysmic changes and developments in the country that has a fourth of the world's population. . Along with the honor, challenge and opportunity offered by a Peking news bureau operation goes the onerous burden of coping with the most exacting and gruelling assignment of his career. I lived in Peking during much of the "great proletarian cultural revolution" -- that -unprecedented movement aimed at getting every Chinese to jettison from his mind the traditional customs, beliefs and habits, and to fill the ensuing void with Mao Tsc-tung's thought. That struggle is still continuing, though without the fireworks I witnessed in the first years after it began. The American resident correspondent will thus not only have to report on China's changing relations with other countries. He will also have to decipher what one of my friends has referred to as the theological changes taking place in that great and populous nation. He will have to flesh out with concrete incidents that can be grasped in our part of the world what the Chinese mean when they use the slogan: "Put Mao Tse-tung's thought in command." My interpreter A foreign correspondent first must he issued a resident permit and then a press card,each renewable at six-month intervals. Then he may use the state-run Correspondent David Oancia, during his three-year (our of duty on the mainland, found the city ol Peking beautiful, fascinating--and cheap. Mrs. David Oancia and young David pay a visit lo gardens in the Forbidden City. cable office to send out his news dispatches which are not censored at the source. Accustomed to sending to the home office collect, he'll find that in Peking he must pay in cash. Where does he get his news? For one thing, a Chinese interpreter will be assigned to him to comb the daily batch of government publications in Chinese. Also, the New China News Agency issues daily bulletins in English. My interpreter was a pleasant, 45-year-old mother of three who was a university graduate and had done postgraduate work in economics at a university in Iowa. I trusted her translations. After exchanging my Canadian driver's license for a Chinese one--a simple procedure that also involved a medical exam--I was mobile. Many correspondents prefer to hire a chauffeur, but I did my own driving. Four bedrooms: $150 In looking for accommodations for my wife and our two-year-old child, I went to the government-run service bureau which looks after foreigners' needs. They offered me a flat with four bedrooms at a rent of approximately $150 a month. I asked my wife to meet me in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, where in three days we bought the furniture we needed and had it shipped lo the Chinese capital. Then we asked the service bureau to provide us with servants--a cook and an amah lo do the washing and look after the baby. Both worked eight-hour days, six days a week, but they adjusted their hours to ensure they were on duty from well before breakfast until the dinner was finished and all the dishel" washed and put away. We soon found that there was too much for the amah to do, so we hired another and split the tasks of washing and baby-tending between them. For this work the cook was paid almost $45 a month, and the amahs about $35 a month each. Chen, our cook, had worked for Russians and Netherlander before and wa'J considered a Western chef. His specialties were roasts, chops, omelets and other Western dishes. Only occasionally did he serve Chinese dishes. Chen did the food shopping in a market catering to a community of about 1000 foreigners in a city that has a population approaching 7 million. When he returned, in time to serve ·morning tea in our bedroom, Chen would be laden with perhaps a chicken, a roast or a batch of cutlets and all thai, went with them. Nothing was expensive. Even the most costly meat cuts were never more than 50 cents a pound and a pint of excellent caviar cost as little as half a dollar. Our food bill, which included the cost of considerable entertaining, seldom was more than $80 to $100 a month --and many considered this extravagant. continued is

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