There is a coastal beach resort in China called Beidaihe. It’s a summer retreat for top Communist officials. While vacationing, they seek alliances and plan political strategy for their big fall conference.
The resort was featured in a New York Times story today. It brought back memories because I once was there.
Years ago, before China got rich, I was living and working in Beijing. I traveled extensively in China and Beidaihe was the first town I visited that made me feel as if I were no longer in China.
Beidaihe may have been somewhat seedy. but it was also bright, colorful and cheerful. I liked it very much. In a way, it reminded me of the Jersey Shore.
At that time, few Chinese went on vacations. Evidence of this was the little stands in Beidaihe where visitors could rent bathing suits for the day. The women’s suits, if I recall, were very modest and dowdy.
The Times story points out that Beidaihe is known for political intrigue. The town is connected to the tale of Lin Baio, a top leader that some expected to replace Mao Zedong. Indeed, Mao is said to have sanctioned the succession by publicly telling Lin, “With you in charge, I’m at ease.”
But it was determined later that Lin may have been planning a coup. He tried to escape to Russia in a plane from Beidaihe. The plane crashed and all were killed. To this day, many consider the crash suspicious.
So, while in China, it was a common joke among the foreign workers to voice support for each other with the ironic, “With you in charge, I’m at ease.”
It always got a laugh.
I wish I could use it in the states, but it just won’t work.
Anyway, that’s my little story about Beidaihe.