They are drinking beer at a bar in Shanghai.
Feng is a businesswoman, 35, who’s started a clothing import company. Huan is a member of the communist party, 32, who went to her shop to ask her to join the party.
They’re sitting at a table in a corner of the crowded room.
It’s just past 8 pm.
The war in Ukraine continues and recently China has flown jets near Taiwan in a show of force.
Feng – That was impressive… all those fighter planes flying near the island.
Huan – We need to show them that they will have to submit to us. That’s what the Chinese people want.
Feng – I don’t.
Huan (surprised) – Why not?
Feng – Have you been to the island?
Huan – Not yet.
Feng – I feel different when I go there… no cameras following me and I can say what I want.
Huan (smiling) – But the people are not happy.
Feng (shaking her head) – People seemed happy to me, and the few people I talked to were content with their government. They didn’t want to join the mainland.
Huan – It’s the Taiwanese government’s propaganda distorting their views. Look, historically they belong to us. And the People’s Republic of China will take back the island, that’s all there is to it. We just have to wait for the right moment.
Feng – People in the mainland would like the freedoms of the Taiwanese.
Huan (mildly annoyed) – You do not know this. The party has conducted extensive surveys and almost 100% of the people agree with the party’s view.
Feng – Shouldn’t that worry you? Almost 100% agreeing? I would think people are afraid to tell you the truth.
Huan – The surveys have been done many times. We are sure.
Feng – My sense is that Taiwan should be left untouched, precisely because it has freedoms we don’t have here in the mainland, so we can compare and see what system works better.
Huan – We already know that. It is our system that has brought prosperity to the mainland. America is declining fast, and so is the West… and they will fail.
Feng – They have problems, agreed, but if they are declining so much, how come we keep wanting them to come here to start businesses? How come we keep copying their technologies? How come we want to import more and more of their sophisticated expertise? How come we keep cyberattacking them to get even more information?
Look, I’m doing it myself, my business is about importing women’s dresses from France, Italy and Spain so I can resell here, and I’m starting to do very well, which is why you came to visit me.
Huan – We have made a great leap forward, like comrade Mao said, and to do that we’ve had to cut corners, but the world’s businesses wouldn’t be so eager to come here if they didn’t think our work force was excellent.
Feng – I agree with you on that, and we are a creative people, but the West is too, and to think they are in decline is very self serving and deceptive. Instead, I think they’re going through a transition, like they have before, many times, and they will learn from it and emerge better.
The thing that worries me about a system like ours, is that we’re too rigid. We have to wait for the communist party to tell us how to do things. In democracies the discussion is free. Flawed and painful but free. We’re afraid of that here. Which is why we’re afraid of Taiwan and want to take it back so we can squash it, like we did with Hong Kong.
Feng – I think the party is afraid of letting Taiwan grow because people in the mainland would want to become more Taiwanese.
Huan – I don’t think you would be a good party member. Not right now. Maybe with time.
I will have to work on you.
Feng (smiles) – Meanwhile, I hope to grow the business and make more money. You are, of course, always welcome to come by.
Huan – With pleasure. Maybe the party will want me to audit your books.
Feng – You are welcome.
They drink from their beers.
Huan – Are you married?
Feng – No.
Huan – Never been married?
Feng – No.
Huan – I haven’t either… but I’d like to. No children?
Feng – Not yet.
Huan – But you’d like to?
Feng – Yes.
Huan – You are very attractive. I’d like to invite you out.
Feng – To work on me?
Huan – Maybe you can work on me.
They raise and touch their glasses of beer.
Feng – It’s possible.
Huan – We can always talk politics… but we don’t have to.
Feng – Will the party let you?
Huan – Date you? I think so… but I can always say, ‘I’m working on you.’
They smile at each other.
Feng – What do you think about the war in Ukraine?
Huan – Putin made a mistake.
Feng – Are you saying that because you want to go out with me or because you believe it?
Huan – No, I believe it. And he hasn’t been able to acknowledge it… instead keeps killing people.
Feng – That’s not the party line.
Huan – I know. I don’t agree with everything.
Feng – You should know… I have a mind of my own… If you’re willing to accept that, then I’ll go out with you.
Huan – Understood.
Feng – And I can always choose not to.
He nods. They touch again their beer glasses, drink once last time, get up and leave.
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