Sneaking into China on a Chinese Junk

In 1970 when the United States government was trying to protect both Taiwan, where General Chan Kai Shek and his army fled to the South from the Communists uprising, and South Korea since the invasion from China and North Korea in 1950, and in order to show solidarity, it didn’t allow American Citizens to travel into China. So, the Hong Kong Trading companies  in order to be able to sell products from Hong Kong, needed to manufacture most of it in China, then smuggle the products into Hong Kong, add labels that said “Made in Hong Kong”. Another problem that existed for these same Trading companies was that most factories in China were government owned and managed by Retired Chinese Generals as a reward for their armed service by forcing out Chan Kai Sheik and his followers. So, the problem for Hong Kong was that the production from China was non-existent, or at best, very, very, poor in quality. But Taiwan now had all the manufacturing companies that were in China and they were good at what they produced making a terrific competition for them. What was shipped from Hong Kong at that time was mainly produced in Hong Kong, but the quantities were very small, and mainly plastic products and the start of a new industry. Thankfully, I was then able to design and produce my plastic Artificial flowers there. I also was producing them in Taiwan using a Quasi-Trading Co.’s office which was started and run by my ex-World’s Fair partner, Gene Schaffer, a man I learned to love as a brother. In the office I had previously started in Hong Kong, run by Jacquard Yeung, my one and only employee, I had Hong Kong manufacturers producing plastic flowers for F. W. Woolworth Co., starting with my famous Boston Fern (I still have an existing label below) so when I saw a chance to visit China I jumped on it.

Florever by Sal Bianco

However, how to do it, without my passport being stamped there? Well, Mr. Wong, a friend and business associate, then producing my 8’beaded Christmas garland, owned Onward Trading Co.,had the answer. It was a secret way that was quite clever and used many times. What he did was to plan a large mahjongg card party on the Portuguese island of Macau, which is just off the coast of Hong Kong and China. It was to be held a restaurant of the many gambling casino’s located there. The party consisted of 20 mahjongg players, which always was in groups of ten at a table, would begin playing immediately after a banquet of the best Chinese food I had ever tasted in all my life. I being the guest of honor, and actually the excuse for them being there, was supposed to play mahjongg with the other players. So, after our meal was finished, 4 waiters removed all the dinnerware and cleaned the tables. We diners were told in Chinese to slide our chairs back and when we did, they picked up the table top and flipped it over with a flair that was done to excite all, and especially me. Then, low and behold, a Mah Jongg table now existed. I was told that they did this for one thousand tables on 4 levels, daily. When the games were to begin, our players purposely became very noisy with who was playing where, and used as a distraction that was perfectly timed as I was pulled away by Mr. Yeung and directed out through a special door, as this technique was used all the time since the American embargo. He took me down a set of stairs and out behind the Casino to where there was a beautiful original Old Style Chinese Junk floating alongside of the dock, with its wild orange sails noisily flapping in the wind. The one pictured below is a much larger version of the one we jumped into.

Chinese Junk

Once on the junk, we were whisked away towards China which was only about one half mile away and when we arrived, a brand-new Mercedes was waiting. Yeung and I got in and it took off onto a dirt road that was rocky with holes everywhere. As we went, we had to go around loads people who were either walking or riding their bikes. It seems in China, at that time, walking and cycling had the right of way, as actually there were no cars to speak of, and they just wouldn’t move no matter how loud the horn blared. So, I got out and joined the walkers, who turned and looked at me, giggling like I was freak as at the time, a westerner was never seen by small local towns people. Many were pointing to their eyes and saying what was wrong with my eyes, my skin? Actually, at that time, all westerners were known as “Round Eye”. It really was fun, as all the kids would come over to me, like I was some freak, pulling my sleeves and giggling as they did it. Mr. Yeung came walking along side me and kept scolding them in Chinese, telling and motioning them to stay away. I turned to Yeung and told him to stop as it was great fun to walk this way. However, Yeung said to me that we had a very little time before we had to get back so we wouldn’t be noticed as being missing. So, I got back into the car and it pulled off the road and worked its way around the walkers, till eventually we got to a small manufacturer. It was making the individual ferns stems that were eventually sent to Hong Kong where 30 of assorted sizes were implanted into a plastic handle for customers to be able to push into Styrofoam for arranging. As I walked through the small factory I saw that a lot needed to be done to make the factory more productive, and with much better quality. So I asked Yeung to get the manager down so I could talk to him. Yeung said laughingly that the manager couldn’t help as he was just a man who sat in his office but didn’t have anything to do with operating the plant. I said “What”?  He explained that the manager was an ex-soldier and got the job as a reward for his service, It seems that every factory was controlled by ex-Generals where I think the term “General Manager” was created. Wow! But it turned out this manager was waiting for us, as he pompously came down to meet me. He told Yeung that we were going to have a big celebration to welcome the American, as it was our American soldiers that helped push out the Japanese from China. It was a perfect excuse to have an American arriving and made for a banquet that I had to attend, as an honored guest. I’m sure glad we did as the food was again unbelievable, that is, except for the special dish in my honor of barbecued “dog”. Once the meal started, no-one really cared or noticed when we left as the excuse was in play. When we did leave, we now had to work our way back to the casino with all the same problems as in coming. A note here: I have a true story about people on the new highways of China, look for it!. Eventually, we arrived at the junk that whisked us back to Macau and the highly contested Mah Jongg game. It was in full swing and, guess what? I was never missed, so now I sat down in the chair saved for me, and it became very, boring as I had to wait till the games ended, which seemed like forever, but it was fun watching the screaming yelling, and laughing . I can’t believe that back home, ladies would play this game for hours.

Once we had a formula that worked with “no passport stamping”, I traveled the same route to that factory, and others, each time I came to Hong Kong, and slowly making the quality from our factories to be a top grade, along with my eating like a Chinese King.