The Flip Side of China's Economic Miracle

The Mouazzens spend one day after the next in Shanghai, in much the same way, achieving nothing. Instead, they discover that the crane they had already paid for is apparently being offered for sale on the Internet again.

Every day they spend in Shanghai costs them a lot of money. Their Chinese attorney alone charges €250 an hour. And with each passing day in China, Mouazzen loses potential contracts that his company urgently needs.

In their desperation, the Mouazzens begin conducting their own investigations. They discover, for example, that the address of their Chinese "partners" listed in the contract is incorrect. Suddenly no one is answering any of the mobile phone numbers the Mouazzens were given, and the interpreter, who attended every meeting, is supposedly in the hospital. The shipping agent who transported the crane to the port starts shouting at the Mouazzens when he sees them approaching from a distance. He claims that neither the truck nor its driver belonged to his company.

Finally, on the fifth day of their stay, the Mouazzens are sitting across the table from a representative of China Heavy. The meeting, held in their lawyer's office, is a perfect example of the Chinese art of wearing down negotiating partners. The head of China Heavy has sent an assistant, the same person who had signed the contracts. But the attorney for the Chinese company controls much of the conversation. His name is Tony Hang, he is wearing black glasses, and he behaves as boldly as if he were the prosecutor in this case.

'Do Not Call Us Cheaters!'

When the Mouazzens present their photos, Hang pushes them aside, saying that they are not evidence. Nevertheless, he says he would like photocopies, a request the Mouazzens deny. Then Hang launches into a debate over the model name of one of the cranes, which is different in China than it is in Japan. Finally, he pulls out the "letter of urgency" and says that his client had demanded that Mouazzen appear in Shanghai within eight hours. "But you didn't show up!" he shouts.

The air becomes more and more stifling in the conference room, and Mouazzen begins breathing heavily. When his son berates the opposing party as "cheaters," Hang shouts: "You do not call us cheaters! You are cheaters!" The representative of China Heavy looks on silently.

Mouazzen silences his son with a wave of his hand. There are beads of sweat on his forehead, his eyes are moist, and he still hopes that he can appeal to the Chinese on a human level. "Why did you do this to me, after I had brought so much money to China?" he asks quietly. "And why do you defend such people?" he asks the attorney. "You only harm your country by doing so."

The parties eventually go their separate ways. The Mouazzens' attorney, a young man who said very little during the meeting, smiles encouragingly at his clients and tells that the opposing party will undoubtedly get back to him soon. Mouazzen has already heard many variations on the same theme in Shanghai.

When the police fail to pursue his case, Mouazzen takes matters into his own hands and searches for his building crane in Shanghai, which, as he has already discovered, is being offered for sale on the Internet. He watches as the crane is loaded onto a truck. Then he instructs his attorney to ask the police to intervene. But the police refuse, claiming that the officer assigned to the case is now on vacation and that nothing can be done about the matter at the moment.

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