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Eden Foods: Us.-china Trade Connection

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Wlicn the Communist took power in 1949, China closed its doors to the western world to put its house in order. Sime the hamhoo curtain reopened to wondering eyes a scant two years ago, China has reappcared as a marvel of economie and social planning to a world plagued by hanger, vióleme and skyrocketing injlation. No strenger to jaininc and social in jus tice, the Chinese people have emerged front jeudalism us ihe world 's most self-sufficient nation and in reeent years the only nation to sec its cost of living actually go down. When China resttmed trude relations with the United States títere was mach specidation as to her motivarion. Radicáis ca lied it a sellouf. American business licked its chops in anticipation of new markets u Nixon and Chou h.'n downed Chinese licnor. Michuel folter, a 25 year old Ann Arborite who helped develop luien Foods, tells a different story. As onc of only 70 Americans inviled to China 's 36th International Trade Fair, he explains the Chinese point of view on the question of trade with the U.S. and offers his perceptions on the Chinese polilical system and lijestyle. People in Ann Arbor fatOW luien as a natural Joods retail OUtlel and restaurant over on Mavnard Street. Hut Jrom its warehouse on l'latt Rood, it ships grains, beans, nuts. teas, lainari, miso and other producís lo si.x or teven siates. Part of an association of 14 natural joods distribuían, Eden is developing grass-roots connections with farmers who are growlng chemical-jree jood. llow did Michael gel invited to the fair7 "I have contacts in California, "he said. "I hink the red star on their letterhead and the name of the company, 'Third World Imports, 'gol them the invitations. " Af ter a month of mingling with representativas of 215 countries. comparing notes with Arabs, Japanesc and South Americans, Michael is conjident he has set up enduring trade relations with the Chinese. He expects to altend many more trade fairs and looks jorward to a long and f nút ful relationship with the People 's Republic of China. Sun: You've recently returned from the Chinese International Trade Fair. Where was it held and what was it's purpose? Michael: The línglish named the city "Cantón", but it's been known as Kwang Chow for about five sand years. Located on the Pearl Kiver and the site ol a lot of industry and crafts, It's real close to Hong Kong. The I air is held twice a year, in the spring and in the feil, but entrance is by invitation only and Americans were first invited only about a year aeo. . Sun: What hap- pened at Jr the fairV Michael: It was located in a huge building across the street from our hotel, about 500 yards wide and a quarter mile long. Inside it is filled with all these little cubicles and in each one they sell a certain product. The cubicles are grouped according to China's ten different corporations, which are all owned by the state. When a commune produces goods, it sells them to the state. We all have connotations we attach to the word "state", but over títere it has a different meaning than in America. The Chinese truly believe their government is of, by, and for the people-something that few people in the U.S. believe. I got to know maybe five or six Chinese young people well out of the about 75 I talked to, and I think they were sincere in their beliefs. Sun: What are the ten different Chinese corporations? Michael: Cereals, Oil and Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal Byproducts. Import & Export, Light Industry and Arts & Crafts are a few. Samples of all available producís are on display. You can imagine, there's beans, oils, grains, vegetable oils and any kind of foodstuffs, beverages oj canned producís.' Sun: What was the purpose of your trip? Michael: My main forte is food, so I did most of my business with the Chinese Native Produce and Animal Byproducts Corporation. Native produce is their herbs, medicines, beans arrowroot, starch, dates, nuts, tea, etc. Sun: What procedure did you folio w to buy goods? Michael: You make an appointment and then go through. the formal niceties. They serve you tea and offer you cigarettes. At first it was "The Chinese never looked at me or any other Americans as they look at the U.S. government. They know this country isn't run by it's people, but by an elite ruling class." foreign to me, but it was really nice and I got to dig it. You could count on exchanging business cards and talking about what you're doing and what you're interested in. You don't go over to the Chinese Native Produce and Animal Byproducts Corp. and say, "Give me a price list." You talk to them for two days and then they say, " Well, what do you want to buy?" Two days later they teil you what price is, after they've feit you out, so they know where you're at. And the price will vary according to how your trip fits into their trip. Sun: What are they looking for? Michael: They're looking for support, just like anybody else. For ex ampie, these businessmen go over there and buy 6 million dollars wórth of arrowroot, and I buy only 6 thousand dollars worth and I get a price 1 5% cheaper. Then ['m told that if I can make a substantial purchase, they '11 give me another ten percent off. Sun: Why was that? Michael: They would like to see some social changes in the U.S. and I think Pm the first person or businessman to go over there who was definitely into the same thing. Their business supports the government and their government supports business. Now it's the same in the United States, but here there is a front that pretends that government and business are separate entities. It's clearly a "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" in the U.S. but over there they're mature enough to recognize that fact and to deal with it in a fairly sane way. Socially, they're much more evolved than people in the U.S. They've neen living together for thousands and thousands of years. I'd go teil them what I thought of the social system in the U.S. and k they'd perk up and want to hear more. I'd hit one place and hen l'd hit another down at the other end of the building and they'd already heard about me. l Sun: What did you end up buying? Michael: Arrowroot starch, dates, ginseng, bamboo, beans, L royal jellies. Royal jelly is great. It makes the queen bee L live about ten times longer than any other bee. It's a concentrated food source that is a milky white substance. Say you've eot an ounce of it with you and you're hikine where and you don't vwant to be loaded down kwith 25 poundsof rice. Take a little royal jelly and piek greens on the way and you're I covered. Sun: What is ginseng? Michael: The Chinese have perpetuated its use for thousands of years as a medicine, a strengthener and a general tonic. It's got this one mineral in it which isn't found in any other plant on earth, germainium, which has this quality of gathering alot of oxygen around it, helping to maintain a good oxygen distribution within your body. Sun: How will you distribute the products you buy from China? Michael: I'm real tight with about thirteen other companies around the country that deal with natural foods. We all carry the same stuff, but we all have our peculiarities because of geographic locations. Edens is brokering white pastry wheat and beans out.of this area. Fruit comes out of California, rye and millet from Seattle and Boston initially set up all the contacts for us with Japan and seaweed. There's Food for Life in Chicago, Series in Colorado, Cliff Rose and Shadowfax in New York and Laurelbrook in Maryland. We have group meetings regularly. They're all very interested in trading with China. So I'm hooked into a distribution siystem that covers 43 out of 48 states. If somebody needs something, I can supply it to them cheaper than anyone else. Li ke navy beans, you used to go into a grocery store and buy a bag of navy beans for S.09 to shoot out of your peashooter. Well, now they cost S.8 a pound. The cheapest I can get them in the U.S. is S.45 and that's riglit from the farm. but I can get them delivered to me from China for S.22. Another thing, right now the Chinese are buying all their U.S. grains from Continental Grain Bungi, which controls the agricultural scène in the U.S. They did the Russian wheat deal. So I said, we've got this cooperative system developing in the U.S. called the National Farmers Organization (NFO) where the farmers have gotten together to sell their food themselves without the middleman raking in the bucks. So I suggested buying grains, etc, from this farmers' organization instead of from the grain monopoly. The Chinese are waiting to see it' I'm for real or not. Sun: Did the Chinese explain to you what their international trade strategy is? Michael: Their basic philosophy is to make sure it's for mutual benefit. First of all making sure it benefits the Chinese people and honestly trying to give something to the country they're trading with. The United States has these real strict tariff laws for goods imported from China and other communist countries. It was an education for me to look through the duty books and see who has their markets protected against importation from cheaper sources. Anything can be imported if you want to pay the U.S. government the pretty penny it costs. If you import bamboo from China you pay any where from 45-65% of the price to the Treasury Department through Customs. Now if you go to the Phillipines, which is controlled by American business, the tariff rate for bamboo products is lA-%. ' Sun: Did you talk to the Chinese much about the Arabs and the oil situation? - , Michael: The Chinese are definitely on the side of the Arabs. Even thoughj I was from the U.S., I fit into a certain scène over there. There's the , straight business scène of the western world and ihen there's the countries ',, the Chinese are irying to help. I was treated as well as any Third World w nation. For example, they're going to air freight things for me and they haven't done that for anybody. Hven the Arabs. Sun: How aware are the Chinese of opposition movements within the U.S.? Michael: They are sympathetic. They never looked at me or any other American as they look at the U.S. government. They know this country isn't run by its people. but by an elite ruling class. "I think propaganda is strictly an English word and the west is projecting all t's hang-ups onto the Chinese. If there is a brainwashed country, It's the U.S." j Sun: Do they have any predictions for the United States? Michael: The Chinese have a target and they're working on it. This is something I envied, since I had never seen such dedication before. They say they don 't see any kind of leadership in American youth. They think we've got all sorts of good intentions, but there 's no leadership. And there isn't. It's so scattered that everybody's stepping on each others' toes. Sun: The leaders who did emerge were killed or jailed. Michad: Because there was no base for them. Just a few people out there with big mouths and after they were gone, silence, for awhile. Tlie Cliinese are aware of the pólice state within the U.S. and the fact that when anything gets organized. the pólice want to disorganize it immediately. They know the U.S. will be the last country to socialize, the last country to do away with a ruling class or elite group. v I was expecting to see a lot of propaganda in iheii papers. But they seem to have an objective view of the U.S. I think propaganda is strictly an English word and the west is projecting all ts hang-ups onto the Chinese. The Chinese are not brainwashed. I decided after being there, that if there is a brainwashed country, it's the U.S. They look. at the United States and Russia as the chauvinistic power-trippers of the world. They're each trying to be the super-power, Number 1 . To the Chinese that's the most foolish thing. They don't like what the Russians are doing - building Pepsi-Cola faetones. They think they've lost what they were doing since their revolution. The Uniled States is making cars over in Russia and would like to do the same in China. Rockefeller is on the U.S. -China Trade Couneil along with the president of J.C. Penny's. .The only motivation they have in tiad-jl ing with China is to dump their shil over there. fhey can 't sell enough JS' over here, and so theyïe looking for new markets. w Sun: The Chinese have a history of being ripped-off by colonialist powers. That's why they closed their doors to the world and attempted to become self-sufficient. Michael: Marco Pojo discovered all these treasures in Chinaand the Europeans decided, well, we want all these natural resources and goods i but why should we pay the Chinese gold for them. The Europeans &aw ;1 that opium-using Indonesian tribes were easily controlled by westerners. Within a ten year period they changed the exchange medium for trading with China from gold to opium. You may think opium is a Chinese trip, , but it was laid on them by the English and it 's the same thing that's i pening withheroin in Detroit or New York. Sun: How is the way the Chinese do business different from here in the U.S.? Michael: The Chinese business people didn't walk around in suits and ties. Tliey blended in witli all the other Chinese, wearing eotton jackets tliat look like our levi jackets here. Kind of beat-up, worn and stuff. There isn't a big división between the people who work in Peking as diplomats and someune who works in a small factory. They make about the same amount of money. Just because people have different jobs, doesn't mean that some people are better than others. lt just means there are different jobs to do to run the country and every job is equal because every job is necessary. China is open to criticism from its people and it's open for change. Naturally there is some resistance, but when you ure constantly changing that is natural. In the U.S., it's ;i constant struggle to maintain the status quo, keeping the money llowing in the right direction. Over there people may get a comfortable job for awhile, like maintaining this export commodiiics fair, but they go out in the fiekls and harvest rice, three to four montlis out of the year. Sun: Are the people nto it? Michael: Wcll, there's people over there, my age ;nul youis. responsible tbr running the Tcl-ex machines. Tliey work their butts off and there's nu boss. Tliey float m a few minutes befare work, gei down to ii and work hard until tlicy're done. As ïoon ;is I got back to llong Kong I was back in the scène where people aren'l willingly doing what they're doing. They're just doing it tbr bucks. f Sun: What wuuld you say their standard of living was like? Michael: The people have good food, free medical care. free education, free child care umi rtousmg. Nobody's living out in Btoomfleld Mills, bui nu one'i hungry or mi the streets. hverybody lives in much the same scène. They've taken on such an enormous task that there's no leisure time, just more hard work in front of them for years. They can't work all the time, so they're also into sports. Sun: What was the people's attitude towards their leadership? Michael: Suy yon and I live with XOÜ Indians oui in the woods and we liave a group ness of some surt. We liave chosen someone to bc the cliief. We all respect continued on page 20 The Chinese don't have rape, robberies, street crime or murdérs. I left a ballpoint pen in a room and it took this guy five days to find me, but he returned the pen. You can't even give the Chinese a tip. They'll chase you right to your room and give it back.". Ë 111 ICL contmued from page 15 If you flew to China and stayed one day, the most striking social difference you would see is the role women play, because they're all working." the person ;md any good tliing said aboul the chief s a compliment to the tribe. That's how it is in China. They have more of a social level of judgement. More of - we do this and it affects the city this way, the province this way, the country in a certain way. Contrast this ;iui!ude with the general attitude in the United States, where the main focus of everyone's life is "I." Sun: Did you notice f women played an equal role? Michael: If you flew to China and stayed one day. the most striking social difference you would see is the role women. play, because they're all working. China. Russia and Israel are three countries that all have socialied child care. Also in China there are lots of women in management positions. Sun: What about crime? Michael: There was this judge who had been working for Kuang Tung province fot years and when I was there he was hearing his fifth criminal case, only lus fifth! They don't have rape or robberies, streel crime or murders. I lelt a ballpoint pen in a room and it look this guy five days to find me. but he returned the pen. You can1 even give the Chinese a tip. They won't take it. They 'II chase you right to your room and give it back. At the hotel, people were just leaving money on the tables and splitting. All of a sudden this big sign appears that says, "'People are not waiting for their change." and then a list of table numbers and. "Please come and claim it." Sun: Did China give you more confidence in the future of the world? Michael: The only orientation l've ever had was here in the U.S. and I had become quite bummed at what's happening. I went over there and it gave me a lot of hope, because those people are great. And they started as a feudal country, just poor and illiterate. They've become so much freer, they've come a long way in just 30 years. The Chinese are really into cultural preservation. There are different tribes of Chinese with different nationalities, but they're into having each people maintain their own culture. They don't want everyone to speak one language. or take away their customs. They are proud of all these different heritages and they want them to flower. Like arts and crafts, music and dancing - things that we're all interested in. that we've all noticed a lack of in our country. Sun: What are your future plans for trading with the People's Republic of China? Michael: My main motivation for trading with the Chinese is to open up channels for cultural exchange. This seems to be an age of tast meets West and any business between the two could only lead to a better mutual understanding of the two cultures. I would like to serve as a buyer for any business or group that would like to purchase goods from the Chinese. In my eyes one of the greatest gifts that China has to offer to the western world isits medicine. Based on thousands of years of experience they are the most knowledgable people in the field of herbal medicine and acupuncture. Americans, I feel. also have a lot to give to the Chinese and my desire is to simply act as a medium for this exchange. I am available through Eden Foods if anyone would like to contact me. a