The Russians and the Chinese: Shotgun marriage.

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I had been asked to join staff of a hospital in Chongqing, for a meeting with some visiting Russian doctors.
This hospital houses the old Russian embassy, a reminder of the once close ties between these nations. The meeting is a formal occasion, to cement a deal. It is one outcome of renewed political cooperation between estranged comrades. As I had been told: "China needs expertise, Russia needs money".
I was there to show the international face of the hospital to the Russians. That is all. It had nothing to do with medicine or psychology. I was the token western professional adding Chinese 'face' to the hospital's reputation.
The setting: a conference room in the old embassy. On one side of the long table, the Chinese representatives which included Chongqing's vice-mayor, the hospital president, and an assortment of medicos in decending order of importance.
An interpreter and me seated at the far end of the table, much like distant relatives are seated at a wedding reception back home in Oz: safely away from the inner sanctum, out there on the perimeter with the young, the drunks, and the loose cannons. Unimportant people.
The Russians were late. So I sat there thinking about the history of this room. Some intriguing stories are probably still hanging around here: embedded in the walls or floating around the ceiling. Much like the lonely spirits of dead relatives, trapped in an ethereal netherworld of irrelevance as the living go about today's business.
Then they arrived. Oh my God! Who let them out of their cage?
They were big men compared to the Chinese (and me). Hairy, boofey blokes with pot-bellies and granite faces. Political cartoonists could not have done a better job of creating the typical Russian stereotype. And here they are sitting across the table from me. Scarey.
Their interpreter has finer features though, as does the medical representative. The only ones wearing a tie. But the rest of them? A tie would never fit around their necks. I couldn't see any necks anyway. The leader's head is shaped like a figure of eight: giant skull at the top, huge jaw at the bottom, and a small moustache in the middle. A neck would be incapable of carrying the weight anyway.
It was obvious: these comrades have never held a scalpel, a thermometer, or a life in their hands. The neanderthal sitting opposite me is as bald as Lennin, and has a chin that juts half-way across the table (well almost). Talk about intimidating.
The meeting was fascinating. I couldn't understand a word, so my own personal interpreter, Dr Ivey, gave me a running commentary on the proceedings:
The Chinese interpreter's Russian is poor. The Chinese are boring everyone to sleep with their stats and graphs (usual behaviour for important meetings): so many square metres in this department, so many square metres devoted to that Service, and so on. X number of this, and X number of that. The Russians all looking like they need a drink.
So they are human after all?
Then the Russians responding. Number 8 talks first. He is the head of the delegation. Dr Ivey whispers that she can't understand a word, because the Russian interpreter's Chinese is poor.
Then the doctor talks. A grandfatherly fellow, with a smile and a generous nature. The only Ruskie with a bedside manner.
His colleagues stare impassively at the wall. Yep, they definately need a drink.
OK, I believe this Ivan is the genuine article, a doctor. But what about the beast across the table from me…and rest of the missing links?
Then it hit me.
This is a junket. A freeby. These fellers are Party men, and they are along for the ride. A perk is a perk anywhere. It doesn't matter which country or political system you come from, there is always a trough for a government snout. Or perhaps Boris across the table from me is some doctor's bodyguard…a smart doctor who hates long meetings and Chinese statistics.
The Russians and the Chinese. A shotgun marriage. Both sets of relatives uncomfortable with each other.
And after the obligatory photo-session, Boris and comrades bolting back to the Chongqing Hilton.
To get a drink, of course.I had been asked to join staff of a hospital in Chongqing, for a meeting with some visiting Russian doctors.
This hospital houses the old Russian embassy, a reminder of the once close ties between these nations. The meeting is a formal occasion, to cement a deal. It is one outcome of renewed political cooperation between estranged comrades. As I had been told: "China needs expertise, Russia needs money".
I was there to show the international face of the hospital to the Russians. That is all. It had nothing to do with medicine or psychology. I was the token western professional adding Chinese 'face' to the hospital's reputation.
The setting: a conference room in the old embassy. On one side of the long table, the Chinese representatives which included Chongqing's vice-mayor, the hospital president, and an assortment of medicos in decending order of importance.
An interpreter and me seated at the far end of the table, much like distant relatives are seated at a wedding reception back home in Oz: safely away from the inner sanctum, out there on the perimeter with the young, the drunks, and the loose cannons. Unimportant people.
The Russians were late. So I sat there thinking about the history of this room. Some intriguing stories are probably still hanging around here: embedded in the walls or floating around the ceiling. Much like the lonely spirits of dead relatives, trapped in an ethereal netherworld of irrelevance as the living go about today's business.
Then they arrived. Oh my God! Who let them out of their cage?
They were big men compared to the Chinese (and me). Hairy, boofey blokes with pot-bellies and granite faces. Political cartoonists could not have done a better job of creating the typical Russian stereotype. And here they are sitting across the table from me. Scarey.
Their interpreter has finer features though, as does the medical representative. The only ones wearing a tie. But the rest of them? A tie would never fit around their necks. I couldn't see any necks anyway. The leader's head is shaped like a figure of eight: giant skull at the top, huge jaw at the bottom, and a small moustache in the middle. A neck would be incapable of carrying the weight anyway.
It was obvious: these comrades have never held a scalpel, a thermometer, or a life in their hands. The neanderthal sitting opposite me is as bald as Lennin, and has a chin that juts half-way across the table (well almost). Talk about intimidating.
The meeting was fascinating. I couldn't understand a word, so my own personal interpreter, Dr Ivey, gave me a running commentary on the proceedings:
The Chinese interpreter's Russian is poor. The Chinese are boring everyone to sleep with their stats and graphs (usual behaviour for important meetings): so many square metres in this department, so many square metres devoted to that Service, and so on. X number of this, and X number of that. The Russians all looking like they need a drink.
So they are human after all?
Then the Russians responding. Number 8 talks first. He is the head of the delegation. Dr Ivey whispers that she can't understand a word, because the Russian interpreter's Chinese is poor.
Then the doctor talks. A grandfatherly fellow, with a smile and a generous nature. The only Ruskie with a bedside manner.
His colleagues stare impassively at the wall. Yep, they definately need a drink.
OK, I believe this Ivan is the genuine article, a doctor. But what about the beast across the table from me…and rest of the missing links?
Then it hit me.
This is a junket. A freeby. These fellers are Party men, and they are along for the ride. A perk is a perk anywhere. It doesn't matter which country or political system you come from, there is always a trough for a government snout. Or perhaps Boris across the table from me is some doctor's bodyguard…a smart doctor who hates long meetings and Chinese statistics.
The Russians and the Chinese. A shotgun marriage. Both sets of relatives uncomfortable with each other.
And after the obligatory photo-session, Boris and comrades bolting back to the Chongqing Hilton.
To get a drink, of course.

Brian Hennessy. China Australia Consult. 2006

I had been asked to join staff of a hospital in Chongqing, for a meeting with some visiting Russian doctors. This hospital houses the old Russian embassy, a reminder of the once close ties between these nations. The meeting is a formal occasion, to cement a deal. It is one outcome of renewed political cooperation between estranged comrades. As I had been told: "China needs expertise, Russia needs money".

 

The Russians and the Chinese

_______________________________________________________________________

I was there to show the international face of the hospital to the Russians. That is all. It had nothing to do with medicine or psychology. I was the token western professional adding Chinese 'face' to the hospital's reputation.

The setting: a conference room in the old embassy. On one side of the long table, the Chinese representatives which included Chongqing's vice-mayor, the hospital president, and an assortment of medicos in descending order of importance. An interpreter and me seated at the far end of the table, much like distant relatives are seated at a wedding reception back home in Oz: safely away from the inner sanctum, out there on the perimeter with the young, the drunks, and the loose cannons.

The Russians were late. So I sat there thinking about the history of this room. Some intriguing stories are probably still hanging around here: embedded in the walls or floating around the ceiling. Much like the lonely spirits of dead relatives, trapped in an ethereal netherworld of irrelevance as the living go about today's business.

Then they arrived. Oh my God! Who let them out of their cage? They were big men compared to the Chinese (and me). Hairy, boofey blokes with pot-bellies and granite faces. Political cartoonists could not have done a better job of creating the typical Russian stereotype. And here they are sitting across the table from me. Scarey.

Their interpreter has finer features though, as does the medical representative. The only ones wearing a tie. But the rest of them? A tie would never fit around their necks. I couldn't see any necks anyway. The leader's head is shaped like a figure of eight: giant skull at the top, huge jaw at the bottom, and a small moustache in the middle. A neck would be incapable of carrying the weight anyway. It was obvious: these comrades have never held a scalpel, a thermometer, or a life in their hands. The neanderthal sitting opposite me is as bald as Lennin, and has a chin that juts half-way across the table (well almost). Talk about intimidating. 

The meeting was fascinating. I couldn't understand a word, so my own personal interpreter, Dr Ivey, gave me a running commentary on the proceedings: The Chinese interpreter's Russian is poor. The Chinese are boring everyone to sleep with their stats and graphs (usual behaviour for important meetings): so many square metres in this department, so many square metres devoted to that Service, and so on. X number of this, and X number of that. The Russians all looking like they need a drink.

So they are human after all?

The Russians respond. Number 8 talks first. He is the head of the delegation. Dr Ivey whispers that she can't understand a word, because the Russian interpreter's Chinese is poor. Then the doctor talks. A grandfatherly fellow, with a smile and a generous nature. The only Ruskie with a bedside manner. Meanwhile, his colleagues stare impassively at the wall. Yep, they definitely need a drink.

OK, I believe this Ivan is the genuine article, a doctor. But what about the beast across the table from me: and rest of the missing links?

Then it hit me.

This is a junket. A freeby. These fellers are Party men, and they are along for the ride. A perk is a perk anywhere. It doesn't matter which country or political system you come from, there is always a trough for a government snout. Or perhaps Boris across the table from me is some doctor's bodyguard: a smart doctor who hates long meetings and Chinese statistics.

The Russians and the Chinese. A shotgun marriage. Both sets of relatives uncomfortable with each other. And after the obligatory photo-session, Boris and comrades bolting back to the Chongqing Hilton.

To get a drink, of course.






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