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Klein on China: Then and Now

Veteran newsman Herb Klein has witnessed first-hand the changes in China. He first beheld Hong Kong in 1950 and then went to Shanghai in 1972 with President Nixon.

January 1, 2007



This article originally appeared in Trojan Family Magazine (winter 2006).By Diane Krieger

In a 1996 article for USC Trojan Family Magazine, excerpted from a series he had written for the San Diego Union Tribune, Herb Klein described his first glimpse of the British colony of Hong Kong in 1950.

A dicey landing on a short runway (the remains of a Japanese World War II air-base) guarded by “British troops … poised at the ready” and on a nearby hill, “Chinese communist soldiers … in the same tense pose.”

He described “a ramshackle rail line from Hong Kong to Canton [that] served the then-modest trade between the colony and mainland China.”

Returning to the island nearly 50 years later, with President Sample and 11 fellow USC trustees, the retired editor-in-chief of the Copley Newspaper chain observed: “Everything but the geography here has changed, dramatically.”

On the eve of the British handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic, he wrote, “the rail connection to the mainland is now state-of-the-art modern, carrying thousands of passengers. Speedy hydrofoil boats carry thousands more.” The $20 billion Chek Lap Kok airport, then still under construction, promised to service 35 million passengers a year.

On that same 1996 trip, Klein, who is a past president of the USC Alumni Association, and the USC delegation also visited Shanghai. “This city of 14 million has ambitions to become China’s major international financial center,” he wrote. Fully “one-third of all the world’s major construction cranes were said to be operating in the city’s financial district, Pudong.”

Klein carried memories of another Shanghai – the one he had visited in 1972, traveling with President Nixon’s entourage. Back then, the former White House communications director recalls, “transportation [had] consisted mainly of bicycles with few cars and buses.”





Diane Krieger is senior editor, Trojan Family Magazine. Please send questions or comments to