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Chinese Embassy Complex Razed to Prepare for New Building to Come

An Era Erased, But Still Remembered by Many

By Nicholas Ludlow*

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

The noisy demise of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Kalorama Road, completed just before the New Year, has left a tidy meadow of stones and dirt, an airy space freeing up more sky and welcomed by neighbors.

Nothing remains of the Embassy (previously the Windsor Park Hotel) that was first established in 1979, three years after Mao Zedong died, except scaffolding erected to preserve the two outer brick walls of the oldest part of the Embassy complex. This modern metal sculpture acts as a temporary, towering sentinel guarding the bridge across Rock Creek Park until the replacement building for the Embassy is under construction and these preserved walls are incorporated into the façade.

With this event, the “old days” are finally gone, razed, you could say.

Now what remains is an invisible monument to the early days of our two countries’ relationship that developed with warmth and curiosity on both sides, at breakneck speed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It was the site of countless close personal relationships with charming, courteous Chinese officials who spoke impeccable English, the venue of prime-source Chinese meals and toasts with maotais, Chinese wine and beer and laced with humor. It was an unforgettable gathering place for conversations about the future of China and Sino-American relations and where lifelong friendships between friends and professional colleagues were forged.

Many of us involved in the three organizations developing those early ties with China over 40 years ago were often at the Embassy and its demolition has affected us deeply. For those of us so fortunate to be at the cutting edge of developing U.S. relations with pre- and post-Mao China, the memories of what the building represented will always remain.

*Nicholas Ludlow, a long-time Kalorama resident, was at the China Business Council for nine years from its inception in 1973. Most recently, he has just had his novel “Alouette” and the “King of Kalorama” published on Kindle

Copyright (c) 2013 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Nicholas Ludlow. All rights reserved.

 

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