The Guelin Shanghai Assembly Plan was by no means a small operation. Built on the banks of the great murky yellow waters of the Yangtze. The extreme end of Chongming island just a narrow brushstroke in the hazy near-distance. The Shanghai automotive plant was a fortress to industry built on the scale expected of automotive production in America. In fact, overseen by American engineers. Built to the scale of the Ford River Rouge plant. While the hand of Albert Khan did not lay directly on the plant, his ghost as inspiration did haunt the many complexities of the tightly integrated manufactory. Its own river port piers, rail connections, and many of the components of automobile manufacture built directly into the sprawling and churning factory. Piercing the gray skies with its dozens of nimble, scratching and reaching smoke stacks, towers, and beacons. It gave off a permanent stench of smog and fire as the furnaces roared day and night. The whistles of its shift changed screaming through dusk and dawn as great waves of workers filed in and out to take their bicycles home or pile into the street cars that had been extended out to meet the factory and integrate it into the urban maze of Shanghai proper. It was a sight to behold, a project undertaken under the auspicious watch of TV Soong and his president Li Su. Among the conservative circles, it was the most controversial of the otherwise hands-off president, who had ensured substantial funding for the factory from public coffers.
The project though was paying back in dividends. Not to full operation, it was producing cars and trucks at a substantial clip. There was not a moment that the factory's lot was ever empty. As a reward for the positive reports, today was special. As a fine drizzle fell over Shanghai, darkening the sky and polishing the concrete as state cars stood at wait outside the plant, a number of radio and television vans were huddled among them. An air of formality and cleanliness had been brought to decorate the entire plant to observe this special occasion.
“We're at maybe 1,000 trucks a day.” the plant manager proudly boasted as he took his State guests along the loud and clattering assembly lines. For the near length of a quarter mile hanging from chain-driven belts the frames were the stocky and rotund bodies of the Zhou Type-B model of light truck. A steel frame and body built and molded to fit and operate in China's growing cities. To move light construction goods and other such commodities in the ancient streets. Developed with a mind to maintain a market hold against cheaper Polish automobiles trickling into the country. “We'll push those gweilo contraptions to the country!” was the derisive comments cheered among Guelin engineers. Besides the bodies were the other components, creating a dazzling race of moving parts throughout.
“We move at a constant pace, there are no breaks. One shift only ends when the next is lined up right behind them to take over.” the manager continued to explain as he gently held the shoulder of a way-ward line worker as he nearly backed into the oncoming procession. He looked up with a startled expression and bounded back into the assembly line to quickly fasten a part of the body onto the frame. The security to the president were not so personal with the men, and made sure to fix whoever may with a look to tell them to keep their distance.
For president Li Su, he acted his part. Detached but casually interested in the whole scheme. To tell the truth, the constant humming and clattering of the plant floor pounded at his head and he found it difficult to pay attention “Now, here at this station is where we begin the process of affixing the chassis to the frame by bolting on the inner walls to the bed.” the plant manager explained proudly, combing his thick heavy hand through his slick oiled back hair as he gestured with his other, “Over these three sub-stations men at either side rivet stamped sheets in three locations, twice each; we have pairs for each part. After it moves towards the installation of the steering and under-side drive components as we'll see later.” his eyes shone with jade luster. He was king in his own court. This was his own kingdom. He conducted the president's and his premier's, TV Soong's attention to the men working quickly at the assembly line like a conductor at orchestra.
Li Su tucked an old and gnarled hand into a pocket on his old military coat as he walked. His heavy mustache and beard hiding a dour frown, leaving only a fat lower lip to show beneath the hair. To the wayward worker who stole the second to look up at him the only inflection of expression they saw was in the heavy commanding weight of his eyes in his wide walrus face. They looked away. The old president was balding, and on the hot shop floor the sweat was beginning to drip and he wiped at his pale face with a handkerchief as they went.
To the credit of TV, he seemed to carry himself in a totally different manner of indifference than President Su. His was professional, business like. He examined the scene like a man inspecting a fat steer before he purchased it. He lightly adjusted his glasses from time to time, looked passed his blunt round nose and passed the men at the line. To the materials they handled and the things they did. Then smiled curtly, revealing nothing, and moved on.
They went along, the plant manager going on explaining in detailed depths the procedures and the technicalities of what was happening. But ever more the din of the assembly floor increased and it irritated Li Su as he was confronted with the ever louder sounds of all manner of tools and equipment. The overlaid rattle of intersecting assembly lines that flowed like the tributaries of the Yangtze into the main flow of the plant at large. Impact wrenches thundered as they bolted tight new components. He suffered the discomfort of goggles far too tight and feared his prized facial hair would catch a light when they entered into the curtained and sheltered area where the frame and other parts were all welded together and filed down. Then a mask to protect himself from the fumes of paint as they passed through there. His legs ached, and his back was sore from holding him up for so long. They had been walking for an hour. He had long believed he had retired from such exertions.
It was an hour and forty-five minutes. Li Su had come to this conclusion by counting and guessing at his steps. He supposed he had made that much time in steps when they came onto the floor. At times the manager stopped the entire thing to introduce him to men the president did not care about, from classes of people he did care for. He had to go through the motions with them. To return their bows, or shake a hand, and pretend to remember names that truthfully he would not ever meet again. He would steal glances back to his premier, and TV would look back with a terrifying flicker in his eyes and know he was as contemptuous as he, after all: both of their fathers had worked hard to put substantial distance between them and the peasant. He began to wonder if there were communist shenanigans at foot, or if the plant manager was somehow a communist. He made a note that he also knew he would probably forget – it was otherwise that unimportant – to have the plant manager investigated for any socialist leanings. At best he'd be a liberal, no doubt. He settled on that.
By the end, the cacophony of the whole affair had gotten to Li Su. And in a move that startled TV he turned on one of the factory workers. “You damn fool!” he said in a loud low dry voice. It even stunned the plant manager, who to this point had carried on the tour as though the president was silently attentive. It did not take TV long to realize what Su was up to, and imagined something had caught his ire. That he had seen something he knew enough about to comment on. Or to pretend.
“You damn fool! I'm talking to you. Where'd you learn to fasten tires? Did you come from the farms, soldier? Lift your shoulder, hold it like this!” he demanded, holding up his hands as if holding an impact wrench before a pair of baffled line workers who were desperately trying to keep up with the flow of the line and pay attention to the president who leaned tall and wide over them with his great general's coat open.
“No no no, you egg headed morons! Are your heads full of water? Like this!” he insisted, shoving his hands forward. His intonation was heavy. He gestured violently, going red in the face.
“You keep doing it wrong, I tell you!” he shouted as another truck rolled off the line. More and more workmen were becoming livened to the spectacle as they came to pick up the trucks and push them in neutral from the line as another jumped in to try and start the car to deliver it to the lot. They looked at Su with wide-eyed awe and then down at their fellow workers with expressions of grief and hilarity. To the men Su were berating, it was only confusion. They continued at what they were trained to do; there was no time to make adjustments. Or when they did it was too small to get the president to notice and he continued.
“By God and Jesus you two still do not get it!” Li Su continued on, passing bit by bit back to a soldier, “I should think I am qualified for this sort of commentary, don't you think?” he continued on, speaking more generally to the men around him, “I did not dig trenches against the bastard Japanese for five years to be out-baffled by two line workers! I managed thousands, tens of thousands of vehicles such as these. Tens of thousands. Tens of thousands! I think this lends me a little authority when I say a tire is not being installed right! What happens when one of those falls apart on the road because of your incompetence?”
The plant manager was struck cold. Frozen. He did not think it would be proper to approach. What was next to show the president was the factory's kock-down procedure. These vehicles would have to be broken down before being put into their kit boxes for shipment. The tires, for what it mattered, did not have to carry anything far. So long as the parts were in place, they did not even need to start; though it was a bonus if they did at all. If they had just that little amount of gas.
“Lift, you must lift. With your shoulders! Put your back into it. Straight on! No, not at an angle, you'll strip the damned threads you empty vesseled peasants. Damn your fathers for breeding you! This is shameful. Can you not work at all? Christ! I haven't seen such indifference by anyone but Koreans! I am done here!”
He stormed off, waving his hands in defeat. He passed the plant manager. Stopped. Turned towards him, “Well, where are we to go now?”
It took the manager a moment to collect. And when he did he flashed back to life as though charged by a sudden current. “Ah, yes. Yes, sir. This way, please. After me.” he talked as quickly as he walked, leading them to large open doors and back out into the Shanghai drizzle.
TV followed for a bit, and stopped to loiter. A security attache stopped with him and stood back watching. TV looked back at the line. The two line workers furtively stealed glances towards where they were going and at each other. They danced away at their job. Moments later a man came up to them coolly, looking over at TV. He was dressed plainly, in the same light-blue jumper as the rest of the workers. He had tied a red handkerchief around his neck. He knelt by the two workers as he looked up at TV and spoke quietly to them about something before stealing off for a door.
“You knew we were being followed, sir?” the attache said in a quiet high voice.
“I thought as much.”
“The same man has been tailing us the whole day. He never got too close, but we all knew he was there. Should we arrest him, sir?”
“That may not be necessary.” TV said plainly, but he was hiding his contempt for the man. He knew who he was, not personally. But conceptually as a collective. It was a presence that kept an eye on him all through Shanghai. Since the old days.
“Right, well: we should catch up.” Soong said, finally cracking a smile and headed out into the rain at a brisk pace. The security man nodded, and followed after him at a brisk pace. The cold afternoon drizzle fell on their faces. It felt like needles on the bare skin. Back out into the open the crowds had assembled again on them and the camera men and the newspaper photographer men and the writing men had all come down on them again. Damn, had they waited? It was too packed for them to really follow through the plant, not for the weights on their shoulder. TV figured that much, but found himself astonished that they had all moved so quickly around.
He saw it though, the bikes they had rode in on. Now they were gathered here under a ceiling of umbrellas and Li Su was under his own black umbrella held by a tall mountain of a man at his side. The plant manager was already explaining something new, pointing to the sea of cars that extended out across a great open concrete plain. Here the rain water was collecting into its shallow pools and the gray light was reflected back at them.
Li Su's temperament had cooled. But he wore a sore spot in his chest as the indignation bloomed inside him at now learning at the tear down process for the kits. The cars never left the plant here fully assembled. They would be disassembled and sent out. He would have figured, but he was not a manufacturing man. All the same, he felt himself justified. Shoddy work had to be called out.
“At their ah- destination the final project is fitted um-, with glass, head-lamps, and some ah other accessories.” the plant manager was explaining nervously as TV caught up. “The tires are really just um, basic. Sometimes supplied as spares, I guess. Any known defects from the floor are, eh, noted. It's not really our responsibility. At all. They might do a finished paint job. White isn't really the final color. More a- er, primer. The batteries we also install are just for um, plant use. To move the product. We try and run the engines dry when we can on the way to or at the break down plant. The building over there.” he pointed to another large warehouse of a building towards the river.
Things went on this way for several minutes. They moved gradually into the shelter of an awning, where the lack of rain made things warmer. The shuffling of reporters following them soon made the space louder. It was harder to talk and to be heard. Eventually over the din, before the theater could be moved again a reporter spoke up: “President Li Su! Do you have any comments would like to make?”
“To who?” Li Su responded back.
“Does it matter?” the same reporter answered, pushing his way to the front. He was a weasel-like figure.
“We are all here.” the reporter said, to the laughter of everyone else there.
“Very well.” said Li Su, smiling for the first time. He put on a loud theatrical voice that echoed under the metal canopy, “I am pleased to pronounce that Guelin's newest plant here in Shanghai is a booming success. So far what I have seen is, from beginning to end, top to bottom, from each rivet to weld to brick and all the turning and spinning wheels a singing success. With this plant, and all other institutions like it here in China we are smashing our way towards success. We are clearing a road straight ahead into the future. There we will find China's seat once again at the middle of all things. And all we have is to take our collective leadership, and as a people take initiative above all else. A little pluck, ingenuity, and the desire to compete against all peoples. It is not just what we must do to become respected, but to reclaim our respect lost to us over the centuries of degeneration.
“The workers here: I am impressed by their stock. They are ingenious workers. The company will go far with them. I have no doubt with that. The build of this plant: a splendid show. It is all laid out orderly and I dare say so far: I will not be lost finding myself out!” he held up a finger in exclamation. Everyone there took the cue and laughed politely, “There is a fine logic, and it is set up like all things orderly under Heaven. If I am saying if it is lacking in anything, it is that there is still much to do! And it has all the space yet to fill out to meet those demands!
“There is nothing out of our reach here. And be damned if we do not shoot for Heaven! Before long we shall be leaving America and England in the dust and we are streaming ahead. We shall be the ones dismantling their Great Wall and grand temples to rebuild here to preserve them from their culture! We are a united people! United in our values! And God bless us!”
The small crowd applauded and Li Su was pleased with himself. The plant manager himself was pleased. Someone asked TV Soong if he had anything and he only smiled and declined the officer. An over-enthusiastic reporter pressed the plant manager for any comments and all he said was, “Good words.”
The clamor reached a momentary pitch before subsiding. Not before long they were on their way again and the tour headed into several new spaces. But none to much very new. Li Su viewed the docking area to see raw materials brought in from upstream being uploaded onto the plant's local industrial rail to be delivered to earlier viewed furnaces and mill works. They passed briefly through a cafeteria, where a shift of workers were on lunch and to who Li Su was compelled to extol his compliments. They were very pleased.
At long last they reached the end of their tour. They ascended to the manager's office, where in his spacious den the president and TV reclined with glasses of imported whiskey and met with a new guest. A tall man with broad shoulders, who seemed more taller than he was through the stripes of his gray suit. While his hair was receding, though he was not very old it was combed back tight and to the side across his head. He had very sharp features. He identified himself as Gong Li, the chief financial officer of the Guelin company here to pay the company's respect to the president and TV Soong. Together in the plush brown leather armchairs of the manager's office with glasses of ice-cold whiskey for sipping they exchanged some casual remarks and conversation before the topic of business could be broached.
“So my friend, what were you doing in the thirties?” Li Su asked, looking at the CFO as he sat attentive in his chair.
“Me? I was studying in England during the war. Alumni of the University College of London. It was a good time. Business, namely. I thought I would stay in Europe out of the country but my career after brought me back home, wouldn't you know?”
“Oh no really? That was fortunate, if I'd say so myself.” Li Su said with a wide smile, “It is a shame these days about Britain. How low the Empire has fallen. But you've clearly done well for yourself.”
“Like many others, myself and them. But perhaps misfortune will someday lead me back to English shores as it did here. Who is to say?”
“So is it true then, that a country's bad fortunes is business's good?”
Gong Li laughed, leaned forward, “By God, where'd you hear that?”
“A little bird may have said something like that.” he said with a long drawn chuckle, looking to TV Soong who simply reciprocated the gesture with a polite nod.
“Well, it would seem that way. With the Qing gone and the whole of China with its guard down there was a high-stakes rush on the China market. I came back home to help manage in an import-export scheme. Made some proper finance for myself, went to Shanghai. Grew from there.”
“What were you trading in?” TV asked
“Oh, the usual: raw materials, iron and copper. General commodities for the European market. The race wasn't as good as it was during the war but European markets still needed to be provided for. So my firm handled the middle ground between here and Europe. It all came to an end when the Japanese made it truly impossible to ship anything across, and no one was willing to hike it across Russia. And I was trapped, but trapped with money. So I stayed, helped develop a business. Stumbled into industry.
He took a sip from his whiskey and opened up his arms to the space around him. Implying the whole of it. The entire factory: “A good spot of business, isn't it?” Gong Li remarked on he victory. He leaned back in his recliner, crossing his legs and assuming cheery, rosy eyed casualness.
“Yes, very.” Li Su said detached, “I am afraid it may be vulnerable to communists” he snarled.
“That's the threat of any good operation.” Gong Li placed the iced glass of whiskey to his face, “We can fight them when we can. But in the end it will come to a strike. The company is not yet unionized, and the board is aware of the vulnerability of the factory being new. We are working at training new security staff, but it may be some time to patch the holes before the barbarians run in.”
“I think perhaps they may be better entrenched than you'd like.” TV chimed, “They were following us the whole time.”
Gong Li hissed, shifting his position to the side. “Who are they?” the manager asked, “At the least we can put an eye on them.”
“How am I supposed to know?” TV responded acidly, “But I think I might have a lead: they were the men at the end of the line we were on. There was a man following us with a red handkerchief tied around his neck.”
“Yes, that'd b-” the plant manager began.
“Yes I know, it's fairly universal in this city.” TV interrupted swiftly, “I know some people though, if you need some quick security. Already trained for a fight. I can put a word in and they come forward.”
“Oh yes, if you can that'd be splendid!” the plant manager exclaimed, “Who are they?”
“Some war-time associates. They'll require pay, but not as much as any other security. You'll be contracting out to them.”
“How much?” Gong Li asked.
“Oh, I couldn't say right now.” TV said, scratching his chin, “I do know there are plenty in this city trapped, and who are desperate. Those are the bodies they pull from. You need not worry though, they are ruthless fellows. Quiet effective. Many fought in the war against the Japanese. Many served in other ways.”
“In what ways?”
“Yes, I'm curious.” said Gong Li.
“Well let's just say that there are more than a few ways to get through military blockades. These men were professionals in their time, and before. They are handy associates.”
“Oh, wonderful. Thank you. We will have to pay you!” Gong Li exclaimed.
“That won't be necessary.” TV said.
“I insist, the two of you. Sir President, what do you say?”
“It might be improper.” Li Su said dryly.
“No, really I insist. How about stock options? Me and my friend here can work on figuring out how much this may save us in the future, and present it to the board. I'd like to get the two of you in on the board. It would be an honor for you both to join us!”
“No, someone might notice.” Li Su again said, declining politely.
“No, that's not a thing that will do. And besides, who would notice? I'm sure it can be, you know: hidden.”
“I suppose we can pass the shares to my wife. If you have the sum, I will pay her and she you, and she'll be there on my behalf.” TV relented.
“Oh wonderful, and you: Li Su?”
“I am sure my son would feel up to the task of managing some shares. I will speak with him.”
“Oh, excellent! A top shelf endeavor. To the two of you a toast: to happy futures!” Gong Li cheered. He paused a moment and mulled to himself. Speaking as if unsure himself he leaned back towards the national leaders and made another offer, “I do not know if I should break this, but I have an acquaintance who is making new business.”
“Oh, what is this business?” TV Song asked.
“Well,” began Gong Li, “remember when President Li said profits can be acquired from failing nations? I have one such acquaintance who is casting his long gaze over the Russians. It's been several years of private labor at this point, but he's told me he is willing to make a public offering soon to fund it all in earnest. Perhaps then, like myself: you'd be interested?”
“Oh really, do we get a good deal at all?” Li Su asked.
“I'm afraid not on this. The information though comes free, for being such great men of course.”
“He is a daring man.” Soong chimed in, “What for?”
“He has his attention set on mining. Oil, actually. According to him the Russian state was exploring for oil before it really fell to ruin. And he happens to know a guy that gave him some details. So he took his money and followed up. And he believes he's found oil. He is looking at initial investments to get his company up and running. As an early investor, I hope to get details soon, and I will send you them when I am through with them. I will even ask if he is up to taking some money from some Very Important People.” he said with a smile.
“Then I will have to explore this option. This is good trade!” Li Su declared.
“This sounds like a major risk to me.” TV said to Gong Li, “I will wait.”
“That is fair, gentlemen.”
Somewhere north of the town of Shijiazhuang a small group of men hiked through the hills of the countryside, surrounded by the bucolic buzz of cicadas and the songs of birds. Long off any useful road, they walked with the weight of instruments and tools hanging from their backs. Large army rucksacks containing the multiple tools of destruction afforded to their art and the amenities to remain in the field for a long time. To a few, these forested hills and stony fields were a familiar scene. They had come here in the War; still a clear vivid memory with the pop and vibrancy of a shell burst. But in the short years the peasants and the peaceful dance of long grasses and the flowing meditations of rural life had returned to fill in the lightest wounds of the old war days. But to those who knew where and how to see the land, the bullets and craters were as open in the fields as the days they were set there.
But the memory of war was not their goal. They weren't here to simply soak in the sights of the countryside, to wash away the memories of war with rustic scenery. They were on the hunt for a river. Even if on this search, the walk itself was not inspiration to recollect and withdraw clear history from the river waters of cold time.
“You remember that day, don't you? The day we came down from over onto the Japanese. What a glorious day! A wonderful show!” a man said all too cheerily.“Oh what a show. I don't think I was here, I think I was somewhere over there.” he gestured lazily off to the north somewhere, “But this is all bringing back memories, yes. Oh the fire sure smelled sweet. It was a amazing rush to break out of those mountains and wash the Imperials back to the sea! Tang, you were here, weren't you?”
“No, I was further south.” answered a tall man, with slicked back black hair. He looked around him to the glades and the fields of wheat and grain, the pastures of cattle. Just years before this landscape was burned barren by the deployment of bombs and artillery. Gently pulling at his sharp spear tipped beard he wondered at how many cattle may have strained onto a bombshell in the time since. “I don't think we were ever this far up.” he added in long distant speech.
“Oh a shame, I would have liked to see them butted against the river when the mortar fire came down.” said the other man, his voice high and breaking in excitement. It was like a religious experience to him. And Tang wondered if this excessive enthusiasm was how he could cope with it. He did not have the same joys for the battlefields of old as he. He felt if anything mute towards them. Appreciative more of how the progress of China in the short decade sense had smoothed over the scars in the countryside, covered up the trenches and filled the craters.
They came to a spot on their walk where the dirt path began to dip down and the land around them opened up down a gentle embankment. Through scattered trees and thin under brush they could see the sparkle of the river they were search for. Its dark waters glistening in the sunlight. The water was running high, though slow. Already a few trees low along the banks were submerged, but among them swam several ducks, large numbers of birds sang in the trees over. The scene was alive, and the group made their approach, setting their packs down as a flattened area of land to the side, as the dirt path wound its way around and over to a small wooden bridge, nearly submerged in the water just downstream.
They set their packs down and looked down at the dark flowing waters of the Hutuo River, fresh from the nearby Taihang range. They chatted lightly as they unpacked for their campsite, inventorying their surveying equipment and preparing a plan to measure and search the river. Reams of paper were produced, and surveying notebooks opened. “What a country this would have been to fight in, the armor riding in straight ahead. And this river: this river is fine.” the man from earlier continued, “I wonder if this area had seen any action. I would have liked to see the Japanese pressed up here. You think if we pressured them hard enough would they have fallen into the river on their own? Would they have swam?”
“That's nice Chao Huang but some of us don't need to think about it.” scolded one. He looked up at Tang, “Is that right, Hou Tang?”
Hou nodded indifferently. He assembled some optical instruments, glancing up ahead searching for a good spot. They were here to identify a proper place to build a dam. They would need a good location. They would need sound soil. One of the lot would probably have to find the nearest town. Much had to be done, and he wasn't paying attention to the chatter. His disassociation registered on Huang, and he abandoned his line of conversation. The rest of them made up a plan, and they dispersed in pairs. Hou would have been alone, but he had company of his own.
He had his equipment gathered, and everything was laid out. The campsite would be throw together proper later, for now preparatory work would be carried out. The weather looked clear, and would be for some time. But with him, stepping out the periphery approached his wife.
Emma Liebermann was clearly not of Chinese extraction. She was a foreigner in a foreign land, but she had come here intended on adopting the land as her own after her former homeland had thrown her out. She stepped up to Hou's side and said with a smile, “You ready?”
Emma's Chinese was by this point almost perfect. She had made a great effort since she had met Hou Tsai Tang to master it. But as much as she tried to mute her old accent, the affect and presence of just a little bit of New York City would rise up the currents of her voice like incense. “If you're ready to get wet.” Hou answered her jokingly, pulling her close by the shoulder and leading her off upriver with, she giggled squealing with surprise.
The two side-by side stood almost the same height, Hou only slightly taller. And by many demographer's standards he was an already fairly tall man for China. His long limbs carrying him with not so much grace but a windy whirling that propelled him forward. His foreign extraction wife was the contrary foil, having learned to walk with earned grace and even a prideful strength; though being pulled along through the tall graces and reeds of the river side she not so much as walked but fell forward after her husband who commanded things in a controlled comedy for the two of them.
Reaching the water's edge to the location of Tang's choosing they went to work. He wading out into the water to make measurements, he called back to Emma who waited on the dry shore writing them down. By and large, the two shared something of the same education, or in as much as one and the other were willing to share and split the difference. Since meeting in San Francisco, on and off the campus of UC Berkeley and in the tumultuous strike and protest events that marked the end of the twenties and into the dawning shadows of the American thirties they had grown close. Marrying before Hou could finish his professional education and carry on to higher things, and before their forced exile and retreat to Asia. Since coming to what was to her the exotic orient, the origin of the simulacrum that was the Chinatowns of America the relationship had become even closer and more co-dependent between the two to the point that they practiced the same things in tandem. Even the course of the war, and Hou Tsai Tang's entrance into it as an officer could not physically separate the two and she joined him in as much a capacity as she could in fighting the good fight against the foreign incursion of the Japanese in the thirties, marking to Emma the opposition of China against the United States, the rising light against her home country's falling darkness.
The only thing that kept them apart in this time was that despite it all, they began a family and she had to invariably separate from the front.
The day grew long the sun set basking the day in an orange burning glow and the surveying team returned to their camp, at various levels of wet and muddy from their trudging in the field. At setting their tents and lighting a fire they gathered to heat rice and compare notes, to begin the work of building a profile of the river and make sketches of maps and details for the project to move forward. It was the beginning of a long process ahead of them.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder, the four surveyors sat side by side with the great folded cart of the river way on their lap. Much of it was old, drawn from a time where there was not nearly as complete a technical survey of the area. Compiled even from old army surveys. And they collaborated onto it their combined studies of the area made that day, making a mere drop in the bucket to produce the finer details of what was a very flat map of the region they planned to work.
“Where the locals put the bridge would be an adequate place.” Chao Huang said, scratching at an itch on the side of his round head. There was a dry roughness to the side of his face. A trophy he had won in the war. A light injury all in all, but something that never truly went away. No one could tell why, though it healed it still burned his face and left it lightly scared. “The distance between the shores is not to wide.”
“Perhaps so, buy the land is over all low.” said another. “We can mark it down as an option. But what were the dimensions?”
“Here, check this.”
“Thank you. Where was it again?”
“This spot here.” Huang pointed to the location on the map.
“If we can get some aerial photography that would be for the best, I believe.”
They chatted on like this for some time. They combined their noted together into a single folio, writing on the map. For the next day they elected to take some soil samples, to find where the land was its firmest. “It looks like it's mostly all rock through here but you can't be too sure.” said Hou Tsai Tai. They agreed.
“We should perhaps look upriver. We might have somewhere with more elevation to work with. It's narrow there but the land through here is rather low. We would be picking a site for a wide dam. Too expensive. We should build it narrow, save on time and money.” Huang Chan went on, “Maybe we should figure out how to get back in the touch with the provincial board. They'd want to know. Hell if we get lost they'll know where to look.”
“Good idea, I'll head into the village and ask look for a phone.”
“And leave you to campaign?” one of the companions joked
“Two jobs at once. It's efficient.”
“Then let me go at least. I could use some tea.”
“Never the less, are we going up river? The maps look like it might be better suited. Higher banks.”
“Sure.” Hou said.
“Can I borrow Hou, for a moment?” Emma spoke up from the other side of the fire.
“No, he's warm.” Huang argued.
“Yes, what do you need?” Hou asked.
“Can you come over, I have something I need to ask you about.” she answered back. Hou acknowledged and rose from his seat among the clump of engineers and made his way over. Tucking his hands into a faded and dirty UC Berkeley varsity jacket. No one really understood it here, besides the odd Yank or Anglo.
“Am I missing a paper for your report to the Party's press?” Emma asked, holding out a few loose leaves of paper, scrawled with writing, “You never numbered these, and I can't seem to order them. I think you missed a point.”
“How do you mean?” Hou asked, squatting down next to her and taking them in his hands.
“You talk about the necessity of leveraging the current status of organizing in China to procure greater shares of the profit. But here jump subjects to talk about landlords. The thinking seems to be incomplete.”
Hou considered, reading through the two sheets of papers as his colleagues mulled over the dam procedures for the next day. Furrowing his brow he scanned the other papers. “May have fallen out somewhere.” he said, “But everything flows well, right?”
“For what I can tell. Tell me what you want and I'll write it down. We can work it out later.”
“If I can find a phone I can dictate it to the press office. That's the plan for tomorrow at least.”
“That'll be well. But how did you connect the two?”
“Basic dogma.” he said, “You got anything to write it on?”
Emma nodded, and dug around in the portfolio satchel she had by herself. She produced a pad of paper and a pen. Setting the papers inside carefully she got to work.
“Firstly: the organized unions are doing good work in ensuring the representation of the worker at his or her factory. However: since the end of the revolution their quality of their demands has faltered, where as the quantity of actions has remained the same. However: we are not in any position for Communism yet, as it stands: simply put the masses are yet to feudal and the abundant labor for the labor armies are not ready; the Party press will understand this, they can reprint remarks from a couple years ago. Gou Xhi is a capable editor.
“To this end, what has been holding our efforts is the conservative alliance with the landlords. This is where it connects to the other point. It was really only a page. But:
“Because of the feudal character of the nation's countryside, a large number of labor is stored up in enslavement of the rural worker and tenant farmer. We can only do so much, but since the damnable court ruling of three years ago it has become more difficult. So our option to tipping the scales and to growing the working class and inter-class solidarity with the peasant and the city worker the first goal is the legislate the matter of land rights into something sensible.”
“And what about getting rid of it all together?” Huang Chan shouted, a slight smile on his face.
“Because that might invite reaction and we have been through too much war to turn peaceful governance into revolution.” Hou said back, “But yes, that was the gist of it as I remember.”
“Very well, I think I got it.” Emma said with a sigh, “Anything else?”
“If they need anything I'll tell them to just look at Antithesis of Capital. I think that'll be all.”
“Thank you.” she put the pen down and looked up at him, “Love you.” she added with a smile.
“You too.” he said, bending over and kissing her on the forehead. Turning back to his companions he said: “So where are we at now?”