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New World Man

A mass of contradictions wrapped in an enigma, businessman/impresario/bon vivante David Tang seems singularly poised to deal with whatever Hong Kong's future brings.
Orville Schell
From the Print Edition:
Claudia Schiffer, Jul/Aug 97

(continued from page 9)

Does he mean a return to the old concubine system of his grandfather's era?

"I know that all the traditions about polygamy in China ended much later than in Western society. But, no. I mean a Eurasian woman."

If David Tang is a monumental contradiction who wants to have everything both ways, he is also a telling emblem of the dilemma that Chinese of his generation now confront as Hong Kong merges with China and as China tries to merge with the world--how to combine the East and tradition with the West and modernity. While his answers may not always be refined, by and large they are honest. But by now he is wealthy, powerful and famous enough not to worry how others view the inconsistencies in his sometimes clumsy attempts to synthesize.

"Loudmouth, self-publicist, socialite, name-dropper, show-off--perhaps I am these things," he reflects deferentially. "But, you know, I've really gotten to the stage where I don't care what people think of me. It doesn't matter if some people want to ostracize me, as long as I can be with my friends, have some fun and laugh. Laughter diffuses anger and creates optimism. If you're a pessimist, it become self-fulfilling. I think it's a lesson that's as true for us humans as it will be for Hong Kong." He gives a mirthful chuckle and flicks a long ash from the end of his Cohiba into an awaiting ashtray.

Orville Schell is a longtime observer of China and dean of the graduate school of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

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