Some time around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, swift and sleek corporate Lear jets and Sabreliners will begin touching down at a suburban airport owned by the mother of a Houston oilman.
Their mission: to deliver some of the state's preemminent oil and industrial leaders to a rodeo and pecansmoked dinner of 500 pounds of beef, 300 pounds of ribs, 125 pounds of sausage, 20 gallons of barbecue sauce and six gallons of jalapeno peppers (on the side) cooked by Dozier's Grocery in Fulshear.
Through it all, they and several hundred others of this city's elite business exstablishment will dream about deals as big as Dallas -- with China in such fashion will the Lone Star and the Red Star come together -- Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-Ping and Texas Instruments Inc., bucking broncs and barbecued ribs (perhaps not too unlike those served in China). Inscrutable East meets cowboy and corporate West to conduct the business of diplomacy.
And the diplomacy o business.
"Carter can lend [Tend] money and give him aid," sayd Oscar S. Wyatt Jr., chairman of the board of Coastal States Gas, "but he's smart enough to spend some time in an area of the country that can help him earn some income."
And there are plenty of businessmen here willing to help Teng earn it, for this is, after all, the world capital of the industry that finds, produces and refines oil, something the Ciniese may have very much of for both their own use and export.
Lettle wonder, then, that China and the United States have agreed to open a Chinese consulate in Houston. Littel wonder, too, that "some people would shoot their grandmothers," as one oil man put it, for tickets to Friday's events with Teng.
But a rodeo?
"It was the only non-negotiable item -- they said, "Oh, that's wonderful,'" said George Bristol, an Austin businessman and associate of special U.S. trade negotiator Robert S. Strauss, who is coordinating Teng's visit here. Teng, it seems, likes western movies.
"I hope I'm invited to it -- I have never seen a rodeo."
That was not the vice premier speaking. Strangely enough, it was a Texas oil industry leader, Theodore C. (Ted) Rogers, the Ohio-born president of the National Supply Co. here, an Armco Steel subsidiary that manufactures oil field equipment.
For in the international and big business world of Texas oil, the vest of the West these days is most likely to be pinstriped. So East meets West, and they both see their first rodeo.
Diplomat-businessman Rogers has been to China once and is going again Sunday. National Supply has sold more than $50 million in drilling equipment to China.
Just today, Wyatt's Coastal Gas finished cunloading 750,000 barrels of Chinese oil from a tanker in San Francisco.
This is the kind of business that leads J. Ray Pace of Baker Trading Co. here to project a possible $1 billion-a-year market in China for Houston's energy-related industry.
And, Friday night, Rogers, Wyatt and Pace will join some 900 other "?Houston-type people," as Bristol puts it, paying $50 a ticket for the barbecue at the Round-Up rodeo arena in neighboring Simonton, population 600. There will also be some 300 media types and an assortment of good ole boys who got free tickets from the rodeo competitors.
Normally, there's semipro rodeo on Saturday night in Simonton, but it is not unusual here to put on a special one for convention groups or a dignitary. Still, the rodeo entrants will pay $25 entry fees for purses of $125 to $150. The rest of the week these saddle tramps are ranch hands, construction workers, telephone linemen.
This week, though, they will have been cleared by the Secret Service. But two men who won't be here for Teng are Texas' senators, Lloyd M. Bentsen (D) and John G. Tower (R). They have pleaded prior commitments, Bentsen to the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, but nonetheless have surprised many in industry who are concerned over the nuances of the diplomacy of business.
So at the request of Washingtn, Gov. Bill Clements will be on hand to greet Teng when he arrives Friday morning, and Texas will likely by the only one of the three states Teng visits where U.S. senators will be absent.
Teng will stay at the Hyatt Regency Hotel here. Hyatt and Intercontinental Hotels have signed an agreement with China to build $1 billion worth of hotels there. Teng also is to visit the manned space flight center here.
On Saturday he is to tour Hughes Tool Co., the world's foremost drilling bit manufacturer, the cornerstone of the late Howard R. Hughes' Mpire. Not a bad sign of change in the world, considering that Hughes once described himself in a letter to President Johnson as "far to the right" politically.
But clearly the rodeo and barbecue are the height of Teng's visit here, the entertainment and the cultural event, if rodeo is culture.
Whether it will all lead to increased business is unknown, for, as Pace notes, many obstacles remain before there is maximum trade between the United States and China.
Rogers adds that just bad weather leading to crop failures could upset China's development plans.
Still, there is the hope of China as a new market, 1 billion customers out there. And there is China's desire to bring itself into the 20th century before the rest of the world is in the 21st.
"Everybody," says Rogers, "wanted Teng to visit their venetian blind factory. They were saying, 'There must be a hell of a dmarket for venetion blinds over there,'"