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Zhang Ham Zhi, Interpreter, Chinese Foreign Ministry, on:
the last banquet

Zhang Ham Zh When we got to Shanghai, it was like a festival atmosphere. Originally they were only supposed to stop over in Shanghai for half-an-hour and then they would just go onboard their own plane and fly back to DC. And all of a sudden we enter the hall, all the lights were lit and there was a wonderful dinner served; it was a banquet. And all the Shanghai leaders turned up. You can imagine the whole American group was totally at a loss. They didn't really know what was happening. And they didn't know what was the trick of the Chinese, to be so cold for one day and then to be so warm the next day. So we sat down to dinner and finally General Haig asked me. He said, "Could you please tell me what really happened?" And I said, "Yeah, I shall be frank with you." I said, "All the things started from the day that you didn't return the toast." And of course General Haig thought, oh my god. He said, "I wanted to return the toast but I didn't know what was the habit in China, whether I should say something, or whether it was the Chinese dinner that I shouldn't say anything. I really didn't know you know." And I really felt sorry because I was actually thinking whether or not I should remind him. So then General Haig said, "Okay, today I'm going to return the toast, but tell me when the suitable time is." I said, "Yeah, I guess you'd better do that."

So then they started drinking Mao Tai. In those days the Chinese entertained guests with the strongest liquor, Mao Tai. And I don't know how, but General Haig was good at this Mao Tai; he drank a lot. I felt he didn't really want to spoil this and he kept on asking me, "Is it time for me to return the toast?" And I said, "No, no, no hold on." And at the proper time I said, "Maybe you can do that return toast now." And he gave a very good toast and everything was happy, and the funniest part, of course, was by the end of the dinner: all these candies were produced. They must have had all the workers in the middle of the night make those boxes. You could imagine all the American delegates going up to their plane holding a big pink box, you know, full of Chinese candies. But after all that was a happy ending and everybody was happy about it.

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