Wu Mei – Chapter 1


The Family

Wu Mei bowed to each member of the extended family as she responded to the announcement. It was time to board her flight to Beijing from which departure point she was to undertake the long flight to Australia. The family had congregated from rural communities around the city to wish her good fortune in her quest for an advanced degree in that country. Uncles shouted good wishes as she picked up her luggage and aunts cried as was customary for the occasion.

Well, that was the stated purpose, but the family were sending her there not so much for the degree but to hone her English skills and expose her to the culture of the big noses. Times had changed, the foreign devils were now useful as business venture targets and it was necessary to understand how they could be used for that purpose. This would be better achieved through association during a few years of observations abroad. There was the Chinese diaspora scattered around the world to nurture and protect as that was accomplished. That diaspora may not cherish the party, but they cherished their Chinese heritage and knew which village in China their ancestors had come from. Cultural pride transcended political theory.

Wu Mei’s father was an important person. He’d been one of the generation who’d watched as their parents and relatives engaged in the cultural revolution as active participants and as he grew he was looked on with favour by the ruling Communist regime. He was a member of the party. It was expected! Then working his way through the evolving educational system he watched and waited his chance to advance through party ranks. He was progressively rewarded with positions of increasing influence.

He watched as China changed and education advanced. He noted an explosion of interest by foreign business corporations as China gradually opened its doors to investment. He sat in as party officials began to plan how this investment could be harnessed to eventually regain for China the position of power in the world it had held in ancient times. For the foreigners it was a business opportunity, for the Chinese, foreigner’s business interest was a means to an end.

Wu noted the interest his superiors took in these business ventures. Their children went to the West to learn and returned to find their way into positions of influence within resident foreign business corporations or government appointments. This was done with the active approval of party officials. Then as years went by what they learned in their studies abroad and working for foreign firms in China eventually evolved into similar industries which they now headed up with the encouragement of parents and party members.

An explosion of Chinese industrial development followed and a generation of entrepreneurs fuelled the advancement of the new China. Restoration of Chinese power and influence was well on the way.

So Wu put his watching into practice and joined the new China outlook. His influence was used to send his sons to learn in the West one by one and establish contacts with the diaspora for future business opportunities. Seeking those of the diaspora who boasted ancestry from the region of his own ancestors Wu managed to arrange marriage matches for two of his sons with wealthy Chinese abroad. It was a good match. For wealthy Western Chinese it meant an opening wedge for business in China. For Wu it meant power and business opportunities in the West with the help of now further extended families. The remaining sons were brought back to China to establish family wealth through business enterprise. Wu pulled strings to see that happened.

Wu Mei was his only daughter. She was brought up in the ancient traditions of the race. Wu had watched in alarm as the new generation had used their recently acquired middle class wealth to engage in practices Wu felt had bought China to its low estate before the Communist takeover. So he personally supervised her education and upbringing to see her peer group didn’t influence her with new ideas so far removed from the revolution. While Wu sought to instil in her mind the value of the revolution and the evils of foreign culture, he didn’t realize Wu Mei as a very intelligent girl also knew how to watch and process what she saw happening around her. She saw her father preaching socialist orthodoxy but practicing what he preached against.

Their home was imposing with its luxurious appointing and the stable of foreign cars discretely housed. It was an undivided family home with his sons and their families occupying portions of the sprawling complex along with their parents, a nod to the past. Each of the sons were rising stars in the industrial world.

These kind of homes were becoming more accepted again though the great majority of city dwellers still struggled with small apartments though increasingly affluent. Rural dwellers were barely able to scrape up enough money to live and luxury didn’t even enter their minds. They largely remained in their ancestral homes, though the haemorrhage of unemployed rural youth to the cities was just beginning. City and country were two different worlds.

Wu Mei observed it all. Outwardly she was the ideal traditional daughter deferring to her parents and elder brothers. Her life was arranged for her and she accepted that. She went to schools appointed, she studied what her father arranged. But underneath that exterior Wu discerned in his daughter a highly intelligent woman with latent strength hiding like a volcano for the opportune time to burst forth. He discerned in a moment of gilt she’d seen through all the pretence. Their socialist claims were at odds with their capitalistic life style. There was no sense in further pretence. He’d harness her into the burgeoning family enterprises. Her obvious potential would be much more valuable when harnessed than marrying her off as a strategy for another allied family’s loyalty.

So it was plans were made for Wu Mei to attend the University of Sydney, Australia. Family interests had already been established in the Americas and Europe. Wu had previously cast his eye over a map of the world and put his finger on all major centres of business and nodded approval as he thought of direct and indirect profitable business connections. His finger hovered over Singapore and Indonesia momentarily then his eye fell on the island continent down under. He looked at it with interest. They spoke English there. Perhaps that would be a good place for Wu Mei to hone her English skills over a period of studies. She could register for a Master in Business Administration. His sons had taken various engineering degrees abroad and they were employing people for the legal and accounting side of their business. However, intricacies of international business required someone from within the family to provide an audit on the professionalism and honesty of their employed business appointees. Wu considered this to be a vulnerability. He was sure Wu Mei had the intelligence to care for that weakness and this surprised him. He’d previously considered educating his daughter was simply an important factor in arranging a suitable marriage.

To be continued.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved

The above image belongs to en.wikipedia.org

13 thoughts on “Wu Mei – Chapter 1

  1. I enjoyed reading this insight into China particularly as it paints another perspective from that depicted by “Wild Swans – Three daughters of China” by Jung Chang. Jung Chang gave an interesting talk about her family at one of her book promotion talks in Wales a few years ago. Their experience wasn’t as pleasant as that of the Wu family, and I’m glad for their story is rife with suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wild Swans is one of the many books I’ve read about China. Those are authentic because they are written by people who actually experienced the culture from birth. My story is the view of a foreigner who has lived among the Chinese diaspora but only visited China. Of course I read widely on that part of the world as I maintain an interest after 30 years living in Asia. I don’t think I’m too far off the mark, though that would naturally be questioned by those who live there and have to maintain face. I really value Eric’s comment as he is closer to the culture than I am.


    1. That’s very generous of you Barb. While we have travelled extensively I have to confess that we only scratched the surface of all the different cultures of the world. I love learning from other cultures.


  2. I’d just completed, minutes ago, the first draft of my latest novel – The White Tuan and the Houseboy – a tale set in post-WW2 Singapore, and decided to take a break when your post notification came through, Ian.
    Of course, I had to read it and what a treat it has been.
    You astutely summarized a typical family in the upper rungs of contemporary China and the belief system and goals driving that dynamic nation. Unfortunately, the current Chinese regime – and by this, I refer to the CCC – is proving belligerent. Even if a semblance of democratic processes ameliorates into the Chinese system of governance, then, there is hope for real world peace. Because the Chinese people, like ordinary folks everywhere, wish only for peace and prosperity.
    By I had digressed.
    I love the premise of your story and chuckled at how you borrowed words and phrases we once employed, even here in Singapore not too long ago – big noses, foreign devils. LOL!
    This has been a good read and I look forward to the next installment.
    All good wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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