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8/27/2013 6:00:00 AM
Kingman is one big metaphor for freedom, Chinese visitors learn
Erica Su (right) and Luo Cheng get their photo taken standing by an old Cadillac Friday.
Erica Su (right) and Luo Cheng get their photo taken standing by an old Cadillac Friday.
Rebecca Lee poses on a motorcycle inside the Mother Road Harley-Davidson dealership Friday.
Rebecca Lee poses on a motorcycle inside the Mother Road Harley-Davidson dealership Friday.

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - For all the recent social, economic, educational and technological advances in China, those who know it well understand there's still something missing.

Complete freedom.

While the socialist-communist country is slowly changing, heavy restrictions still exist in many facets of life, including religion, reproductive rights, politics, social organizations, the press and travel. But as the government continues to loosen its tight grip on its 1.35 billion-plus residents, it has led some to look beyond their homeland for models of how to handle the blossoming liberties in the East Asian country.

One such entity is Shanghai General Motors, a jointly owned consortium of the Chinese government and General Motors. Last week, SGM's Cadillac Division flew 42 winners of a recent contest from China to Chicago, then on to Amarillo, Texas, where they picked up Cadillac vehicles loaned by General Motors in the U.S. so they could drive Route 66 to the Santa Monica Pier. The winners are owners of Cadillac SRX vehicles in China.

At their day-long stop in Kingman, the group toured the Powerhouse Visitor Center, ate lunch at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner and visited Mother Road Harley-Davidson, where they took pictures with motorcycles and viewed a 1911 Cadillac owned by Kingmanite Bob Campbell. A total of 18 support staff trailed along with the group, including a crew filming Cadillac commercials for SGM.

Afterwards, they loaded up in their Cadillac caravan to spend the night in Laughlin before heading to California.

The winners came from throughout China, said Erica Su, marketing and promotion manager for SGM, and included lawyers, musicians, business owners and even an actress. Each winner, chosen from a field of about 2,000 participants, had to study books about General Motors, its Cadillac brand and Route 66. Su said the test was rigorous, similar to a college entrance examination.

"We are an American brand, and we want people in China to know about American culture," said Su. "Route 66 is the best road to experience that culture because it helped to develop America. There are so many stories on this road, and when our group sees that, they realize how different it is here from China. We tell them about freedom and the importance of respecting it, and that people can say what they want in America and aren't told what to speak. It really impresses them."

Fang Cai, a Canadian who was born in Beijing and splits his time between Toronto and his hometown, inspected motorcycles as he walked through the dealership. Cai, who was one of the contest winners, is a senior executive with Berg-Chilling, a company that manufactures cooling systems, and Toromont CAT, a Caterpillar heavy equipment dealer. Both are located in Canada and service China.

"I feel that the more I see Route 66, the more I want to know the stories behind it and how it affected America," said Cai, who has traveled parts of Route 66 before. "We need to understand Route 66 and the culture behind it to be able to bring information back to China that will help develop it. Everything is getting better there, but it developed too fast and we created new problems because the people weren't ready for it. What we learn here is valuable to us."

Rick Thomas, owner of Open Road Productions in Detroit, coordinated the winners' trip to the U.S. and traveled with them. Thomas said the group wanted to experience Americana on Route 66, from exploring Angel's, a well-known barbershop in Seligman, to visiting a shooting range in California.

"The winners are infatuated with Route 66, but it isn't just tourism to them, although that part is great," said Thomas. "It's about our ability to explore freely. Their middle class can't do that yet. They've made money but they don't know how to spend it.

"We take it for granted that we can travel here without having papers on us or paying fees. They can't just jump in the car and go without having government approval. And they are fascinated by the fact that we can do that in America. They are here to find out how to make that happen in China."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013
Article comment by: Ian Finnesey

Not .. one of you knows anything at all about China after the death of Mao and that includes Ms. Steele.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: N A

Why do you think China became like it is sixty years ago, That's because the people gave up freedom for security by government. Also letting government to take care of every thing for them. This is why it is not good that our government is getting bigger and bigger having thousands of agencies for regulations.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: pl .....

these Chinese folks didn't stick around long enough to see just how much freedom we have - in Bullhead City, your every move is tracked by facial recognition cameras, if a $2 tail light goes out, you'd better be prepared to explain to a cop why you're not staying at the address on your driver license, and that freedom of speech thing will get you various sorts of unwanted and unacknowledged police and other government attentions.

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: desert dweller

I wouldn't buy a "Government Motors" vehicle for anything! Haven't even looked at them since the clown in the white house sold America out, sold out the stock holders of GM and gave it all to his union buddies....I won't even go into a government motors lot!

Posted: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Article comment by: julies mom julies mom

GM Cadillac, to own one at one time was to be at the top of the heap and Detroit was a thriving industrial center...both have come CRASHING down, one requiring a taxpayer bail-out to survive the other through 50 years of liberal Democrat rule. Some lesson for these Chinese (did anyone notice there wasn't one person in their entourage who wasn't affiliated with a corporation or the government). And yes we are on the way to becoming China!

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Liberal Lion

If we can convince the Chinese that Kingman is the model for US success, then maybe they will go back to China, ruin their country and the US will once again rule.

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Wonder Why

From Chicago to Amarillo. Did they bypass the birthplace of GM Detroit? Ironic that some Chinese are driving Cadillacs as capitalism there increases while once prosperous towns like Detroit have adopted Socialism. There is a lesson to be learned here.

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Just Think about it

Why would or should any of us buy a GM auto that is made in China ?? This is where the bail out money went when GM became government motors folks. And you ask why the jobs just are not here, now you know.

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Article comment by: Capt. Nice

I hope our left wing friends read this and see what their big government thinking will do to this country. Of course a lot of the big government control has already taken place but when we can get the right person in office maybe we can get some of this garbage that has been put on the American people turned around.
It would be nice to be able to send theses left wing, socialist loving people to China or some socialistic country for a couple of years (actually forever would be great) and see for themselves how wonderful their thinking is.
Thank you for the informative article and maybe it will open some eyes......I doubt it but a person can hope!

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