By Jim Mann
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They were brought to the end of the assembly line. Clare realized he was standing in a place that looked familiar. Years ago, at a time when ordinary Americans could not travel to China and when the plant making jeeps for the Chinese People's Liberation Army was considered top secret, some visitor had managed to snap a picture of the end of the Chinese jeep assembly line. It was a famous photo in the auto industry, one that had appeared in car publications in the United States and elsewhere around the world; Making the Deal 45 it was the only picture the AMC executives had ever seen of the inside of any Chinese factory.
Why couldn't China do the same? Under Deng's leadership, the Chinese Communist Party began emphasizing to its forty million members the importance of obtaining science and technology from the West, and especially from the Americans. Gradually the Party began dismantling the severe ideological restrictions that had been imposed by Mao on business dealings with the Americans. In September 1980, the same month the Bloomingdale's exhibit opened in the United States, the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published a commentary informing loyal cadres that "the proletariat have more to learn from the bourgeoisie than from the feudal class, because the bourgeois class built up the economy of mass production....
We expect China to be a very important future supplier for Bloomingdale's," said Bloomingdale's chairman Marvin S. Traub. In newspaper interviews, Traub's aides praised Chinese-made goods. "l In the first blush after restoration of diplomatic relations between China and the United States, many Americans were finding China to be both fashionable and accessible. It was a rush, a kind of craze. Nowhere was its impact felt more than in the American 50 Beijing Jeep business community. China became the favorite new destination on the map.