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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Consul general Hu Shan may not have caught the trope that bolted, like a startled horse, from Joe Tripodi’s mouth as he fronted the mic at the Cabramatta function centre.

At a dinner in honour of Mr Shan’s assuming the role.

NSW wants to “ride off the back of the prosperity of China,” said Tripodi, so that everyone could hear. No simultaneous translation. There frequently is at these things, but tonight there was no reaction. He was playing to the crowd. They were being made to feel important.

The message is clear but the method of delivery is probably a bit sharper than the - mostly - Chinese guests are used to. Maybe Mr Hu is used to this kind of appeal to sovereign pride.

(China news is known for its long and sinuous sentences that seem to say everything but often say little.)

There were very few ethnic Caucasians present. I cannot imagine Tripodi using these words in front of a hungry pack of Oz journos.

Not in this lifetime, Joe.

For the majority of us, food was less forthcoming than Tripodi‘s unlucky metaphors. Lucky for those of us at the media table most of our tablemates left early, before the fish, and so we were able to eat a sufficiency of fried rice and noodles undisturbed by competition from alien chopsticks.

Photos were arranged at a speed only equalled by the busy waiters and the lion dancers, members of the Indo-Australian Sport Association.

The lucky white lion got the cabbage that had been tied to a nail in the ceiling.

Politicians trundled up the parquet ahead of the ballroom dancers and Canton opera singers. They mounted the dias to deliver anodyne addresses to an audience made up of members of the 36 Chinese associations who paid for the bash.

“We have much to learn from one another.” Chinese investment in NSW amounts to $16.4 billion. Three quarters of all Chinese tourists come to Sydney - of all tourists who visit Australia? And 50% of Chinese students study in Sydney.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the sister state relationship between NSW and Guangdong. NSW was the first state to have a sister-state relationship with a Chinese province.

Gough Whitlam, Premier Nathan Rees told us, established diplomatic relations with China in 1973. Tripodi obediently echoed his leader, though with an energetic flourish. Whitlam “ignited and reestablished diplomatic relations with the Peoples Republic of China,” he thundered.

As the music sped up and the crowds filed downstairs to John Street I yawned. It had been a night and the drive was in the future - 10 kilometres up the Hume Highway to a place with a comfortable couch, a balcony washed by breezes, and a two-litrre flask of juice.

To serve with ice. Not only on account of the afternoon’s sudden and soon-ended rain. But to get rid of a mortal rictus due to cramped seating, slow food, and a very young bottle of cab sav.

Not everything was slow. Memories came fast and thick as I had taken toward Liverpool, just prior to the Cabramatta turn off. The trees and the concrete carriageway had reminded me of my days with a book company.

The hotels past Bass Hill and the flatlands leading up to our destination had attracted images and feelings. Not quite deja vue. Fondness.

Back home, with the clothes removed and the body showered, I turned off the computer and thanked log I did not have to go to such a function every day. Before the clock struck one, I was sound asleep, dreaming of scallops and other shellfish.

Or was the that the servo at Lansvale coming back to haunt me?

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