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“I Have Studied Chinese” July 5 to August 22, 1975 T his chapter contains the final section of Bush’s China Diary. He journeyed to the United States during the last week of August 1975 for a brief vacation and consultations with the State Department and the White House. He returned to Beijing in September, but, although he stayed until December, he never again dictated for his diary while in China. Indeed, Bush did not pick up the diary habit again until he became vice president. “There was no one keeping my feet to the fire to do it,” he later conceded, with regret for the lost opportunity.1 Bush’s China Diary thus ends four months before his tenure at the United States Liaison Office came to a close. It is easy to speculate that he may have ceased dictating his diary in expectation of beginning his next job. He would be named director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in November, and the organization’s culture of secrecy does not look kindly upon personal memoirs of the most private nature. Yet no evidence exists that Bush was aware of his new posting so far in advance of President Gerald Ford’s official decision; nor, for that matter, is there any evidence that Ford and Bush discussed a new job for Bush during the latter’s visit to Washington in late August. Yet, despite such evidence, Bush’s final diary entries while in China suggest some awareness that his time in the country was growing short. At times he was almost poetic in his desire to capture and preserve the sights and sounds of his ad348  C H A P T E R E I G H T 1This quote is documented in the endnotes. venture. “Sounds that I will not forget,” he wrote in late July. “The early morning singing in the park—loud and usually very good tenor voices. . . . The organized cadence of the kids marching . . . the never-ceasing honking of horns downtown in Peking, the jingle of bicycle bells, the laughter of the children as they play near the park, the blaring of the loudspeakers with the exercises of the propaganda whether it’s on a train, in a park, at a building site, wherever. The July and August sound of the crickets.” It is worth noting that Bush increasingly adopted the past tense during these weeks when describing his time in China. “I have studied Chinese,” he dictated. “It has continually brought home to me how difficult it is to operate fully in a foreign land without the language .” Only weeks before he had said, again as though yet looking back, “I’ve tried to give the right impression of America here. . . . tried to move around in the diplomatic community; tried to increase our contacts with the Chinese; tried to have interesting people from the States here; and tried to learn and make suggestions to Washington.” Although without a definitive plan for his future—save some notion by this point that politics remained in that future—he was during these weeks clearly a man already thinking of his experience in China as nearer its end than its beginning. He had left Washington in the fall of 1974 in the aftermath of Watergate in search of escape and adventure. By the late summer of 1975, his diary entries suggest that he was fully ready to return, and ready for whatever the future held. His growing frustrations with the Chinese leadership surely contributed to this sentiment. Bush’s entries from this period reveal a man resigned to the failure of his ambitious plan to befriend China’s political elite. “The people are so nice here but they can be so obtuse, they can be so removed—so little chance for contacts,” he wrote. “The enormous contrast between life here and Huang Zhen’s life in Washington. He can talk substance with anyone he wants. I can sit formally for one hour with Wang Hairong who says absolutely nothing.” He considered this indicative of “Middle Kingdom syndrome, with an underlying hatred of foreigners. . . . You can get C H A P T E R E I G H T 349 close to these people—the ones that you know—but I keep in mind that if a word comes from some unseen mysterious place, we could be cut off, isolated, and, after reading Grey, vilified.” His mention of the British journalist Anthony Grey, whose memoir of imprisonment captivated Bush...


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