Communiqué # 4: Mrs. Wang invited a group of reporters inside her garden courtyard yesterday in the Shichahai Hutong, a traditional low-rise neighborhood set amid the gleaming skyscrapers of modern Beijing.
We weren’t the first Americans to come calling.
There was a photograph of her in the living room with Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, whose historic trip to China in 1972 opened a new era in Sino-American relations.
Her hospitality was charming, if a bit scripted. It helped that we were there with people from the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.
The government helps maintain the walled residential compound she lives in with her architect husband, two sons and daughters-in-law, and a granddaughter.
In return, she accepts foreign visitors who want to see how an average Chinese family lives. In a nation that’s enjoyed double-digit GDP growth in recent years, living standards are catching up with the rest of the world.
But “average” is a moving target in China’s rapidly growing economy. Mrs. Wang’s tranquil lakeside neighborhood, one of our guides told us, is far from average, though hardly luxurious by American standards.
Companies from Minnesota and across America are taking note of this underserved new market, potentially the world’s biggest.
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Still a sliver of possibility, however.