The best part of forty years ago, denouncing the Gang of Four as a fervent young Maoist, I could never have imagined that I would ever spend the day in Jian Qing's (Madame Mao's) then home. It's a beautiful place. I slipped away to take a business conference call on my mobile from a pavilion on the lake and smiled as I worked to the sound of fountains and rustling willow trees. Sometimes, I feel like a very lucky man. I will post a photo of the pavilion later [now added]. The free wi-fi here lacks the bandwidth to upload it, but I want the honour of being (probably) the first person to blog from here.
The "economic forum" I am attending was supposed to be graced by the presence of the Russian and Chinese Prime Ministers. I was particularly keen to see Mr Putin, having missed out on seeing him in person on a previous occasion. I agreed to speak at a seminar in Moscow a few years ago when he was President, because he was due to speak before me, but he sent his deputy instead. That gentlemen gave a fascinating speech but was not - with all due respect - such a significant historical figure. Sadly "VVP" eluded me again today. He and his counterpart were in the building, but did their signing ceremony away from the rest of us. I was not prepared to lower myself to dashing around the back to watch him drive away so I have still not seen him gig live, as it were.
All in all, a fascinating day though. Watching Russians and Chinese do business at the State level is very interesting. Sadly, their speeches are uniformly worthy and dull. There was not a spark of humour all day and I now understand the disapproving glances I have received over the last six years when joking my way through speeches in Russia. They are as serious, when the occasion demands, as they are fun when it doesn't. Nonetheless, had I either language to a useful standard, I would have been tempted to have a go myself.