IBJOpinion

ANDREWS: Exploring China ... and my family's roots

Greg Andrews
March 26, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Greg AndrewsMy trip to China this month took me to the Shanghai street where my great uncle worked nearly a century ago, when he was only beginning to quench his appetite for knowledge about this vast and mysterious nation.

Owen Lattimore would go on to win acclaim as a leading expert on China—a career path that ultimately put him in the sights of Joseph McCarthy, the red-baiting Wisconsin senator.

In 1950, McCarthy labeled Lattimore “the top Soviet espionage agent in the United States,” a charge that fanned Americans’ growing anxiety over the spread of communism.

My uncle dismissed the allegation as “pure moonshine.” He is widely credited with coining the term “McCarthyism,” now in wide use to describe the leveling of unsubstantiated charges of disloyalty.

I came to China to explore the growing business ties between the communist country and Indiana. But my first trip to China also was personal, allowing me to delve more deeply into my family’s roots.

In 1901, Owen’s father, David Lattimore, a high school teacher in Washington, D.C., moved his family to Shanghai, where he had accepted a government job teaching English and French. He spent the next two decades teaching in China.

Owen wasn’t the only Lattimore sibling captivated by China. Eleanor Francis Lattimore—his sister and my grandmother—became a children’s book author and illustrator and set many of her stories in China.

Best-loved among her more than 50 books was “Little Pear,” the story of a curious Chinese boy with a knack for finding trouble. He falls into the river, gets burned by a firecracker, and stows away in a wheelbarrow full of vegetables—adventures that invariably end with a warm-hearted scolding from his mother.

Her books—some of which are still published and available on Amazon.com—reflected who she was: someone who loved children and viewed the world with childlike simplicity.

At least that’s how she seemed to my brother and me. Though she helped raise us in Lexington, Ky., we remember her more as a playmate. She’d join us and our neighborhood friends for Old Maid or other games at the kitchen table.

Eleanor was born in Shanghai in 1904. The family initially lived in a part of the city known as The American Compound, but where that was is unclear. Scott Kennedy—a China expert at Indiana University who led our delegation of professors, businesspeople and journalists—mined his contacts in a quest to find the location, to no avail.

But he did come up with the address for Arnhold & Co., an import-export and insurance firm a stone’s throw from the Huangpu River where Owen went to work at age 19. The building-numbering system changed over the past century, but we found the block where he toiled.

Owen assessed insurance risks—a task that frequently took him into the country’s interior, where interpreters were scarce. He found he loved the travel and began to seriously study Chinese.

“Arnhold gradually delegated to him much of the traveling required in matters other than insurance, occasionally sending him to negotiate with corrupt officials demanding outrageous bribes to allow passage of a shipment of wool, peanuts, or some commodity already purchased by Arnhold but held up in the interior,” Robert Newman wrote in his biography “Owen Lattimore and the ‘Loss’ of China.”

“Four years of navigating the countryside for Arnhold and Co. taught Lattimore much about politics, economics, banditry, landlordism, and peasant unrest. At the time he viewed his early years ... as a kind of purgatory. Later he realized that his travels gave him the equivalent of a Ph.D. in economics.”

After quitting in 1925, Lattimore met his wife, Eleanor, and they focused on travel, exploring Mongolia and western China, both writing prolifically about their experiences. Owen was serving as a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him in 1941 as special adviser to Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek.

Lattimore’s China expertise made him an alluring target for McCarthy. The United States was reeling from the Soviet Union’s transformation from ally to enemy and from China’s going communist in 1949. McCarthy accused Lattimore of having deliberately instigated foreign policy failures in the Far East.

Lattimore ended up exonerated, and McCarthy discredited. In fact, Lattimore’s view on the People’s Republic of China proved prescient. He believed pure communism couldn’t compete with capitalism—a point the Chinese government now concedes.

Its embrace of “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” triggered the economic transformation that brought me to China—and helped me gain a greater appreciation for how this remarkable nation shaped my family.•

__________

Gregory Lattimore Andrews is managing editor of IBJ.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • at the global zeitgeist
    Greg post Greg, and kudos to IBJ for creating the space to explore Indiana biz in China. I just returned from Shanghai, my first visti too. and it's impossible to not be amazed by this thriving, throbbing place. It's in China, but feels like some new kind of global nexus.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Apologies for the wall of text. I promise I had this nicely formatted in paragraphs in Notepad before pasting here.

  2. I believe that is incorrect Sir, the people's tax-dollars are NOT paying for the companies investment. Without the tax-break the company would be paying an ADDITIONAL $11.1 million in taxes ON TOP of their $22.5 Million investment (Building + IT), for a total of $33.6M or a 50% tax rate. Also, the article does not specify what the total taxes were BEFORE the break. Usually such a corporate tax-break is a 'discount' not a 100% wavier of tax obligations. For sake of example lets say the original taxes added up to $30M over 10 years. $12.5M, New Building $10.0M, IT infrastructure $30.0M, Total Taxes (Example Number) == $52.5M ININ's Cost - $1.8M /10 years, Tax Break (Building) - $0.75M /10 years, Tax Break (IT Infrastructure) - $8.6M /2 years, Tax Breaks (against Hiring Commitment: 430 new jobs /2 years) == 11.5M Possible tax breaks. ININ TOTAL COST: $41M Even if you assume a 100% break, change the '30.0M' to '11.5M' and you can see the Company will be paying a minimum of $22.5, out-of-pocket for their capital-investment - NOT the tax-payers. Also note, much of this money is being spent locally in Indiana and it is creating 430 jobs in your city. I admit I'm a little unclear which tax-breaks are allocated to exactly which expenses. Clearly this is all oversimplified but I think we have both made our points! :) Sorry for the long post.

  3. Clearly, there is a lack of a basic understanding of economics. It is not up to the company to decide what to pay its workers. If companies were able to decide how much to pay their workers then why wouldn't they pay everyone minimum wage? Why choose to pay $10 or $14 when they could pay $7? The answer is that companies DO NOT decide how much to pay workers. It is the market that dictates what a worker is worth and how much they should get paid. If Lowe's chooses to pay a call center worker $7 an hour it will not be able to hire anyone for the job, because all those people will work for someone else paying the market rate of $10-$14 an hour. This forces Lowes to pay its workers that much. Not because it wants to pay them that much out of the goodness of their heart, but because it has to pay them that much in order to stay competitive and attract good workers.

  4. GOOD DAY to you I am Mr Howell Henry, a Reputable, Legitimate & an accredited money Lender. I loan money out to individuals in need of financial assistance. Do you have a bad credit or are you in need of money to pay bills? i want to use this medium to inform you that i render reliable beneficiary assistance as I'll be glad to offer you a loan at 2% interest rate to reliable individuals. Services Rendered include: *Refinance *Home Improvement *Inventor Loans *Auto Loans *Debt Consolidation *Horse Loans *Line of Credit *Second Mortgage *Business Loans *Personal Loans *International Loans. Please write back if interested. Upon Response, you'll be mailed a Loan application form to fill. (No social security and no credit check, 100% Guaranteed!) I Look forward permitting me to be of service to you. You can contact me via e-mail howellhenryloanfirm@gmail.com Yours Sincerely MR Howell Henry(MD)

  5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.

ADVERTISEMENT