Chinese officials and schoolchildren here armed with firecrackers, roses, drums and cymbals gave Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes today a kind of reception almost gone out of style in China.
It was the biggest day of Hughes' planned two-week China tour. He held a morning chat with Peking's dominant leader, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, and then enjoyed an ear-splitting welcome to this out-of-the-way agricultural province of Anhui, now Maryland's sister state.
China-based correspondents accustomed to the austere welcomes favored by the post-Mao government in Peking were astonished to find little girls with painted cheeks presenting them with rose bouquets and leading them down gantlets of hundreds of dancers, drumbeaters and firecracker teams.
The local authorities brought out two film crews for the occasion as one Chinese cameraman said: "We don't get too many important visitors here."
Hughes told his host, Anhui Gov. Zhang Jingfu, "I don't think anybody in the Maryland delegation has ever received the kind of reception we received today. I know I never have."
Hughes' unusually warm welcome is the work of former Anhui governor Wan Li, now a vice premier and one of the leading members of Deng's administrastive group in Peking. Wan gave Hughes a huge bear hug on his arrival in Peking five days ago and cleared the way for what Maryland businessmen traveling with Hughes say were useful trade discussions in Peking.
The audience this morning with Deng, just before Hughes took a scheduled Chinese airline flight to this east central province, signaled the satisfaction of the Chinese with the trip.
At a welcoming banquet tonight, the Chinese attempted to eat and drink their Maryland guests into a stupor. Rare dishes included watermelon with intricate figures of horses carved on the rind.