“Will there be war between China and America?”

We stood on a pier in Chongqin, ancient Chinese capital turned neon Yangtze wonderland located in Sichuan province.  Well, Zen would point out, not exactly Sichuan province.  Chongqin was given special administrative district status in 1997 freeing the city of 18 million from paying tribute to the central government.  The hilly city, where Chiang Kai-shek hid his forces in the Sino-Japanese War (World War II), now sports skyscrapers fitted with dazzling computerized light shows.  Below these towers of Xanadu glitzy showboats ply the clay red waters of the Yangtze in a highly coordinated spectacle.  Vegas on steroids.

Zen shouted “It’s better to go!” Better than talking to the two guys that stopped Jenelle and me on the pier. One wore his shirt hiked high revealing a rounded belly.  This style is common in summertime China and is reserved almost exclusively for out of shape men.  The other man looked weathered from sun and work and wore a couple buttons open on his designer knock-off shirt.  “Meiguoren?” (“Americans?”)  I nodded.

“Will there be war between China and America?”   

The man took a long drag on his cigarette and looked at me from under his straight bangs while Zen translated. “War?” I pondered.  Trying to channel the levity of the LED carnival around us I responded:

“Even if there is war, you and I will still be friends!”

Zen translated and the man looked at me gravely. He was clearly channeling a different type of light show. He shook his head slowly from side to side. “Obama needs to move those ships. Tell him to move those ships.”

Admittedly I had only stayed marginally aware of the South China Seas tension but had seen coverage on various televisions we passed.  This was definitely an item in China.

“There won’t be war,” I assured the man.  “China and America need each other too much.”

As if to underscore my reassurance, the man gathered Jenelle and me next to his friend for a picture.  My suggestion we all bare our bellies was roundly rejected.

But we parted friends.

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