I was taken to a villa to meet Sabri al-Banna, known as 'Abu Nidal' ('father of struggle'), who was at the time emerging as one of Yasser Arafat's main enemies. The meeting began inauspiciously when Abu Nidal asked me if I would like to be trained in one of his camps. No thanks, I explained. From this awkward beginning there was a further decline. I was then asked if I knew Said Hammami, the envoy of the PLO in London. I did in fact know him. He was a brave and decent man, who in a series of articles in the London had floated the first-ever trial balloon for a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. 'Well tell him he is a traitor,' barked my host. 'And tell him we have only one way with those who betray us.' The rest of the interview passed as so many Middle Eastern interviews do: too many small cups of coffee served with too much fuss; too many unemployed heavies standing about with nothing to do and nobody to do it with; too much ugly furniture, too many too-bright electric lights; and much too much . The only political fact I could winnow, from Abu Nidal's vainglorious claims to control X number of 'fighters' in Y number of countries, was that he admired the People's Republic of China for not recognizing the State of Israel. I forget how I got out of his office.
Workers were required to stay six months, and even then permission to quit was not always granted. The factory held the first two months of every worker's pay; leaving without approval meant losing that money and starting over somewhere else. That was a fact of factory life you couldn't know from the outside: Getting into a factory was easy. The hard part was getting out.
In these remote corners, I have discovered a center point, where East met West, and although there has been a collision of cultures, there is now a new Christian identity that is distinctly Chinese. The circuitous mountain path in Yunnan province is red because over many years it has been soaked with blood.