Domestic servant for the Government of
Jiang Chunrui grew up in one of
In his late teens, he had the good fortune to be recruited into the People’s Liberation Army. After his tour of military service he was assigned to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Service Bureau, which provides staff for foreign diplomatic missions to
I got to know Jiang when I worked as a junior functionary in the Embassy over 2 diplomatic postings in the 1990s. One of Jiang’s tasks was to bring coffee to the Ambassador’s office to serve to visitors in the day. He would regularly call me out of my office for a cup of left over Ambassadorial coffee in the Embassy kitchen on the sly. As a political officer I would quiz him on conditions in the rural areas and he told me of break down in law and order, dropping agricultural commodity prices (China’s entry into the WTO contributing to this), rapacious local officials extracting arbitrary fees from already hard pressed peasants and the hardship brought about by the frequent droughts in recent years due to the plummeting water table in the North China Plain which has led to Shandong’s rivers drying up very early in the planting season. But he had questions for me too. He was a devoted listener of the Radio Canada International Chinese service and was therefore well versed in Canadian politics. He found
His cancer had already spread by the time it was diagnosed in the spring of last year. He suffered badly from the chemotherapy and blamed the pain of it on the American techniques of his doctor recently returned from advanced studies in Oncology at Harvard. He would have preferred a Chinese trained specialist. His voice weak over the long distance telephone, he asked me to come to see him in
Jiang Chunrui was in many ways nobler and more dignified than many of those he served. His parting gift to me was an exquisite set of tiny Chinese calligraphy brushes of rare quality that must have cost him several weeks’ wages.