National Geographic : 1980 Mar
"We were overwhelmed," says the author,when thousands turned out in Zhongwei (above) to greet the first American visitors in at least thirty years.A sign reads "Proletariansof the world unite," but ideology is no longer a barrier to curiosity. A new cordialitytoward Americans was typified when a Chinese came to Jeffery Riegel's aid by blowing an insect out of his eye (right)-"Agenuinely friendly gesture," says Riegel. Such contact was unthinkable duringthe CulturalRevolution, a period of turmoil beginning in 1966 that shattered the nation'ssocial structure in a drive for renewed Maoistpurity. Science and most other avenues of development came to a halt. Now researchis once again encouraged.At the Lanzhou Institute of Desert Research,founded in 1978, scientists use a model tree to study wind protection in a "smoke-wind tunnel" (left), a tool in efforts to tame China'shuge deserts.