So, in August 1979, I led a Kansas Trade Delegation to China to take the first step in promoting business opportunities. Some of the time was spent enjoying the things they wanted us to see, like the Great Wall. It too was built to keep invaders out, the difference being Chinese built it, paid for it, and from their perspective had a real purpose in keeping a real enemy out. Because of its massive depth, it not only served as a path to move troops and supplies but is one of the very few world objects that can be seen from the moon.
To describe where China was in 1979, a comparison on infrastructure and technology might best make the point. Here in the United States, we were finishing the Interstate Highway System proposed by President Eisenhower. In China, I was riding on dirt roads from one major city to another. Our space program was well underway while they were still recovering from years of backward Communist Leadership where much of the talent was put into restrictive camps to limit their possibility of leading change.
But there were many positives to see as well. Their wheat varieties were pretty amazing, as timing allowed us to see the crops shortly before harvest. The Chinese were creative to say the least. Gas from human waste was piped back into the living area for cooking purposes. I saw chickens fed and grown out on concrete covered with sawdust, which was along with the chicken feces collected, put in what looked like glass milk bottles, and used to produce a very special mushroom. The spirit of cultural exchange and discovery during those trips fueled an unforgettable engagement that I hope came to benefit all parties involved.
Meanwhile, if we don’t—as a country—learn soon that we cannot borrow our way to prosperity and that we must wisely invest in the research, technology, and infrastructure we need to compete, it will be China who is in the position for the 21st century that the United States held throughout the 20th century. Smart conservatives invest wisely. That is true in Kansas as well, as education and taking care of our infrastructure will dictate our future.