RED CHINA: The Lonely Crowd

  • Share
  • Read Later

In Peking the practice of diplomacy is apt to be anything but diplomatic. In the eagerness of several Western nations to recognize Red China, the men who have had to pay the local price are the diplomats sent to Peking. It is a lonely life at best, but worst of all for The Netherlands chargé d'affaires.

One day last October two Chinese handymen refused to stoke the furnace in the comfortable house of Chargé d'Affaires Berend Jan Slingenberg, unless they got higher wages or another man to help them. Slingenberg told them to fire up the furnace or get fired themselves. When they burst into his office to protest as he was busy with a caller, he angrily ordered them out of the office, and gave one a push. For two weeks nothing happened. Then, one by one, 42 Chinese servants and staffmen began to leave.

Soon there were none. The departures were obviously ordered by the Communists. But when the Dutch took their problem to the Foreign Office, they were firmly told that this was a matter for the state employment office. So sorry, said the state employment office, but this was the responsibility of the Foreign Office.

Grimly the three men in the Dutch compound now stoke their own furnace and chauffeur their limousines. The diplomats' ladies now do their own scrubbing, cooking and marketing. At first the Pakistani embassy gallantly offered to drive the Dutch children to the foreign colony's school, but after taking the youngsters once, retracted the offer lest it lose its own Chinese drivers. At another embassy a Chinese cook refused to bake a supply of cookies after he learned that a Dutchman was coming to dinner. Fearing that they too might get the treatment, foreign diplomats now tend to avoid the Dutch mission, which has become the loneliest diplomatic outpost in the world. Every fortnight or so The Hague gets a frantic cable from Slingenberg, protesting the circumstances. The Dutch, who see no way to help him out of his predicament, intend to leave him to his own devices until his transfer comes through next December.