Snapshots From China

It’s been an eventful week, culminating in an extraordinary rally in Washington whose impact (despite the mainstream media’s efforts to play it down) is being deeply felt by our leaders. I’m going to have more to say about that and other news next week. This week, I want to do something a little different.

Chinese girl in the Forbidden City
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Callista and I recently spent 16 days visiting Tokyo, Seoul, and China. I previously reported to you about Japan and South Korea. Today I want to tell you about our trip to four Chinese cities: Beijing, Shenyang, Changchun and Jilin City.

I thought the best way to capture the extraordinary diversity of what is going on would be to give you a series of snapshots.

Chinese lotus at the Summer Palace in Beijing
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

There were thousands of people in the Forbidden City in Beijing on Sunday, August 23rd, with an extraordinary range of clothing, different haircuts, happy, noisy, and energy—a far cry from the Mao pajamas of 40 years ago. As freedom increasingly edges into Chinese life, the challenge to the central dictatorship grows greater and greater.

The Forbidden City
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions


The Forbidden City
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Herding Cats in Beijing


Statue in the Forbidden City
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

In Beijing, it occurred to me that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s famous saying, “I do not care if it is a black cat or a white cat as long as it catches mice” (meaning he did not care if policies were traditional Chinese Communist or market capitalism as long as they produced jobs and prosperity) had a long-term implication no one in the dictatorship understood.

If the thousands of people in the Forbidden City were now productive cats who were creating wealth and competing in a market economy, they were going to be harder and harder to govern.

Callista and Newt with Jia Quinglin (the #4 CCP official in China)
and Wang Jiarui from the International Liaison Department
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions


Newt and Zhang Zhijun from the Foreign Ministry
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

As I said to one leading Minister “You now have 1,300,000,000 cats learning to be more and more independent decision makers in their jobs and their personal lives. The likelihood that you can discipline them like trained dogs is as unthinkable as trying to train over a billion cats. You will eventually have to decentralize decisions and get them away from the government.”

Feeling the Pressure to Create 24 million New Jobs Next Year


A bride and groom celebrate in Shenyang
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Our trip was the first in my experience in which no Chinese official raised a question about Taiwan. Their overriding concern was jobs and the economy. They were very worried about what was happening in the United States.

The economic pressure the Chinese dictatorship feels to continue creating jobs can be captured by the fact that they need 24 million new jobs this next year just to break even.

Their fear is that without jobs unrest will grow and that historically in China unrest can rapidly become very destabilizing. This focuses their energy on jobs and the economy in a way no American politician can fully appreciate.

The Huntsman Family, U.S. Ambassadors to China

We met with the new American Ambassador, former Utah Governor John Huntsman, and his lovely family. Mary Kaye Huntsman is a passionate advocate for youth and has created several programs to help kids cope emotionally with various challenges. The Huntsman’s have seven children. One of their daughters is a concert pianist and is going to be a great cultural ambassador for America. Ambassador Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin and will be a great advocate for our values.

Six Pandas, Six Decades of Communist Party Rule

Panda at the Beijing Zoo
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

There are six young Pandas at the Beijing Zoo, one for each of the six decades of the Communist Party’s rule.

In October China will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. The celebration will be immense, but it is no longer the China of Communist Party revolutionary Mao Zedong. Increasingly it is reformer Deng Xiaoping’s China and becoming its own China.

Just off Tiananmen Square is a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It seems to rival McDonald’s and Starbucks as favorite fast food places.

A Changed China Since 1997

Terra Cotta Warrior from Xian
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Things have changed a great deal in China since my first trip there in 1997.

The traffic in Beijing and Shenyang, for instance, was intense and could be very slow. There were many more people in cars and fewer people on bicycles compared to 12 years ago.

On the brighter side, connectivity in China was amazing. On a bus between Shenyang and Changchun in northeastern China, Callista called her mother in Whitehall, Wisconsin, and got a perfect connection. They had a 20-minute conversation (the bill hasn’t come in yet).

Sculpture in Shenyang
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Even more surreal was finding a Mulligan’s Irish Bar in the Holiday Inn in Shenyang complete with a Thai band with two singers in yellow jumpsuits singing songs by Abba.

The September 18 Museum in Shenyang is a vivid reminder of the atrocities the Japanese committed in their attacks on China. September 18, 1931 was the date of the first Japanese attack into China. This museum is as vivid as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The picture of a row of Chinese heads lying on the ground is a vivid reminder of the bitterness, which still exists among Chinese toward the Japanese.

The September 18 Memorial in Shenyang
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

China also has Wal-Mart. In fact, the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Changchun had a great sale on suitcases (we had acquired too many gifts and souvenirs and needed more space) and we went there for a $13 suitcase. About ten blocks from the Wal-Mart was a classic Buddhist Temple where people were praying and worshipping.

Wal-Mart Supercenter in Changchun
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Hearing “Amazing Grace” Sung In Chinese

While we were in China, we went to Mass, both at Beijing’s South Cathedral and in Jilin City in Northeastern China.

Statue of Father Ricci at the Beijing South Cathedral
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Both Masses were very moving experiences. Hearing “Amazing Grace” sung in Chinese was both unusual and inspiring. The emotional commitment of the people was profound. And the Priests were very welcoming.

The Jilin City Cathedral
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

In Jilin City. the Cathedral was built in the late 1920s by the French. Now it is used as the symbol of the City in their publications. In Beijing an older Nun introduced us to a young Priest who had taught at St. John’s University in Minnesota and was now back home in China.

In the Palace of “The Last Emperor”

In Changchun we visited the palace of Henry Puyi’s, China’s famous “last emperor.” Being there was a reminder of how fast and decisively life can change.

Henry Puyi was the boy emperor at the end of the Manchu (Qing) dynasty. He ascended the throne when he was just two years old but was deposed just a few years later, ending over 2,000 years of imperial rule.

Puyi’s Garden
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

After losing his throne, Puyi lived in the Forbidden City in Beijing while all around him was a new revolutionary and chaotic China. He sought safety with the Japanese and they brought him to Changchun and established him as a puppet emperor while they governed Northeastern China. When Japan collapsed, Puyi became the ward of the Chinese Communists. Instead of executing him as a Japanese collaborator they “reeducated” him and “rehabilitated” him. He ended his life as a Chinese citizen working modestly in Beijing in the new world that had replaced the empire. All of that in one life (you can see it in the fascinating movie “The Last Emperor”).

Some Final Words of Thanks

First, my thanks to Callista, who took these amazing photos of our trip. (Visit to view more of her photography.)

Provincial Chinese officials in NE China and the American Foreign Policy Council delegation
© Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

And second, thanks once again to Herman Pirchner and the American Foreign Policy Council.

Herman and his team do a great job of organizing trips like this. We saw an amazing amount in just a few days and met with a wide range of people.

Your friend,
Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Newt’s Quick Links

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