When he gets a chance to escape his grim budget briefings these days, Gov. Harry Hughes is brushing up on the subtleties of statesmanship.
Some examples of his lessons in protocol:
Jokes about the Gang of Four are in.
Dirty jokes are out.
Green tea, lots of it, is a must.
Political labels, like "Red," are bad for.
The list of diplomatic do's and don'ts is part of Hughes' preparation for an unusual mission -- hosting a delegation of Chinese visiting Maryland.
Twelve officials of Anhui Province will arrive in this quaint Maryland capital Sept. 10 for what boastfully is being billed by Hughes' staff as "the first state-to-state exchange" between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
A special "host committee" appointed by the governor has planned a dizzying schedule for the 12-day visit: a peek at redevelopment in Baltimore, a tour of Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, a crab feast and visit to poultry farms on the Eastern Shore and a look at the monuments of Washington.
Every effort is being made to translate the experience into terms the guests can understand.
"Some numbers are useful," Chuang Sheng Liu, a members of the host committee, explained at a briefing of state officials yesterday. "The fact that Maryland produces 250 million chickens a year.
"That means every four Chinese can have one."
At least as much preparation has gone into the diplomatic niceties of such a journey, attention to the small courtesies that, in the words of one Hughes staffer "can make or break the whole mood."
"Despite all the differences, we're basically the same people as far as sensitivities and needs," said Joseph Coale, the governor's aide in charge of preparations. "I hope they perceive us as being as polite as they are."
Another State House official used blunter terms. "We don't want to come across as capitalist pigs only interested in the commercial side of it," he said.
Few details have escaped the vigilant hosts in trying to avoid that impression. For the last three months, Coale and his committee have counseled with State Department experts and the Chinese Embassy to assure a comfortable and diplomatically "proper" visit.
Since the delegation will be headed by the Anhui Province chairman, not a chief of state, the group will be welcomed by a 17-gun salute (the traditional 21-gun salute is reserved for heads of state.)
"Then, after you settle that," said Coale, "you've got to determine how many ruffles and flourishes he gets."
Then, there is diet.
"Tea," the staffer emphasized. "Everywhere we go we've scheduled tea. The bus has it in a supply cabinet. It's not just the refreshing thing. It's to show we're deeply concerned with their comfort."
Green tea, the kind used in China, has been specially ordered from New York, along with Chinese newspapers. The state also plans to supply its guests with their favorite orange drink and a selection of American cigarettes.
Selection of gifts was especially sensitive, said Coale, stressing that "you don't want to give them anything pretentious." It finally was decided to present each visitor with a Maryland flag that flies over the State House during the visit.
Should the governor learn a few words of Chinese to welcome his guests?
From the advice we get," said Coale, "if you don't know how to speak Chinese, don't do it. It doesn't mean too much to stumble through a few phrases."
The hosts also have reviewed the subjects that are considered "appropriate" for conversation.
"You don't want to talk about the Nationalists," said Coale. "You don't refer to the Chinese as Red or Communist. The Gang of Four (four discredited party officials), I understand, you can use if you want. ItS a joke over there. You want to stay away from the cultural revolution. That's not thought of as funny."
During the stay, the Chinese will bunk down at the historic Paca House in Annapolis. A gourmet Chinese cook has been hired to prepare their breakfasts.
The trip was arranged last spring while Hughes was making plans to visit China himself. The governor will lead a delegation of Maryland businessmen on a two-or three-week tour in October.
The Anhui delegation was chosen for the American trip by chance. The initial contact was made through a mutual friend of University of Maryland President John S. Toll and Wan Li, chairman of Anhui's Provincial Revolutionary Committee.
The delegation will visit Houston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia after completing its Maryland journey.