Today is a day of immense satisfaction and pride for the Chinese, and for those of us who aspire for Chinaâ€™s success and progress. The 2008 Beijing Olympics have begun, and quite literally, the eyes of the world are on China. A remarkable four billion people, or nearly 2/3 of the inhabitants of this planet, are expected to watch the Olympics over the next two weeks. The image many will form of China will be of a proud and ancient civilization restored to greatness.Â
I celebrate the day, and its wider significance. It was 37 years ago, in the spring of 1971, Â that I, along with most Americans of my generation and older, Â got their first live televised glimpses of China. Nine American ping-pong players, accompanied by a larger number of American journalists, became the first official delegation to China since the founding of the Peopleâ€™s Republic in 1949.Â
Less than a year later, Richard Nixon paid his historic visit. I was just a boy, but can still remember the excitement and awed wonder on seeing my first live images of the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace. It was also deeply inspiring. I was totally (and as it turns out, permanently) fascinated by China from the earliest age, and these images on the TV gave direction and purpose to my life even then. I had to learn Chinese and get to China!
It took a decade, but in 1981, I arrived in China for the first time, crossing the Lowu bridge on foot, arriving in a Shenzhen that was then a small border village of 30,000. Today, it is a city of over 13 million.Â It was one of the happiest days of my life. Iâ€™d fulfilled that childhood goal of going to China. My goal changed that day, to one Iâ€™m still pursuing â€“ building a deeper personal understanding of China, and a commitment to its future. Â
I went straight to Beijing, and remember instructing the taxi driver at Beijing Station (in my very clumsy Chinese) to drive direct to Tiananmen. I spent the next few days, from my base at the Friendship Hotel out by Beida, riding trams and visiting the same places Iâ€™d seen on American TV 10 years earlier. I later took the train from Beijing to Nanjing, to do postgraduate work at Nanjing University.
It didnâ€™t take long for me to realize that Chinaâ€™s greatest attraction wasnâ€™t its historical sites, but its people.Â
Then, as now, I felt deeply at home in China. The lesson: home is not just the place one is from, but where one feels the strong sense of belonging, comfort and happiness. For me, that makes China home, even when Iâ€™m far away, as now, in California.
Over the next two weeks, hundreds of millions of people will see their first live televised images of China. Some surely will form a goal similar to mine long ago â€“ to study the culture and language of the country, and plan a visit someday.
Iâ€™m American by birth. Yet, my own ambitions, personal and professional with China First Capital, are to contribute to the continued transformation of China into a nation of great progress and prosperity. There is no greater reward than working for something larger than oneself.
For me, 8-8-08 is primarily a day to celebrate Chinaâ€™s achievement. Itâ€™s also a day when I celebrate the opportunity to work alongside smart and talented people committed as well to building and financing Â the next generation of world-class Chinese businesses.Â