National Geographic : 1983 Jul
Mr. Chan recalled: "Seven consortia had come before, all were unsuccessful. None knew how to negotiate with the Chinese. You must be humble, patient, quick, toler ant. They want to know things, but it de pends on how you explain to them. Not in a haughty way. "And sometimes you must push. We talked for a long time with officials of the commune that owns the land and with offi cials of the Shenzhen municipality. At last all agreed on the contract, but nobody would sign it. I said to the mayor, 'Sir, some body must sign.' So he signed." The Chinese had gone into the resort busi ness themselves, investing 6.5 million yuan in a large facility at Xili Reservoir. Director Wang Chang-yu told me the resort was de signed to serve middle- and lower-income tourists from Hong Kong. A family weekend may cost as little as $60. On a busy day the resort draws 5,000 visitors. There was another use for Shenzhen's land: growing food for a hungry Hong Kong that could not feed itself. At the Fu Yong Commune I watched young women of the Phoenix production brigade load a Hong Kong truck with flowering cabbages, spring onions, radishes, hairy cucumbers. Hong Kong investors provided the capital for the seeds and fertilizer; the commune provided the land and labor. The Chinese co-manager told me the ven ture had failed at first, but then they had broken the brigade down into 17-person units and assigned each a 43-mu tract (about 7 acres) for which they were responsible. Along with a bonus system, it turned the farm around. The investors were realizing a small prof it. As for the brigade, household income had risen from 1,569 yuan a year to 5,669. The foreign experiment was a happy success. ON DAYS OF TRAVEL through Shenzhen I noticed many new Western-style apartment houses. They had been built in a joint venture with Hong Kong investors, I was told, and units were sold to overseas Chinese who wished on retirement to come back to the mother land, and to Hong Kong people who wished to provide more comfortable quarters for their relatives living in China. But the grandest housing scheme in Shenzhen was one that would turn the zone into a bedroom suburb of Hong Kong. An executive in one of the colony's great Chi nese hongs, Hopewell Holdings Limited, ex plained: "Hong Kong people have beautiful watches, clothes, food, but not beautiful flats. They cannot afford them; land prices are too high. We see these people wanting good homes. In time it will be less than 40 minutes by hydrofoil or fast train to Hong Kong. What's the difference? And we can provide flats at half the price." But the hong had not yet sent its millions across the border. As the Chinese lack expe rience in negotiating contracts, they also lack a solid body of business law. "The legal infrastructure must be in place before we put in the money," the executive said. China was working on the problem, drawing on assistance from a number of distinguished U. S. lawyers.