Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PJ in China

Mr. Chen sent us on in his car to Nanjing, where Tom took me to a steel mill he used to run. The company that Tom used to work for bought the mill from the Chinese government for $1 on the understanding that it would be kept in operation. The mill was eventually sold, for considerably more than $1 to Mr. Liu and Mrs. Sung.

The mill’s 150-pound ex-PLA guard dog, Shasha (“Killer”), was extremely glad to see Tom. So were the employees. Although there were some steel mill employees who presumably wouldn’t have been so glad, such as the two or three hundred “ghost workers” who didn’t exist at all and were on the mill’s payroll when Tom took over. Plus the thousands of workers he’d fired because they didn’t do anything. Tom also needed to get rid of the local family that had the “theft rights” to the factory. They once stole an entire railroad train from the mill and would have gotten away with it if the train didn’t have a track that led directly to them.

“Here’s where one guy threw a wrench at me,” Tom said as we climbed the tower to the blast furnace.

“What’d you do?”

“I tossed him down the stairs,” Tom said. “Rule of law is the cornerstone of capitalism.”

Read the rest of P. J. O'Rourke in China.

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