The United States once had a two-China policy and now the District government has a two-China-arch policy.
The city government, bowing to the demands of vocal anticommunists who live and work in the District's deteriorated Chinatown community, has agreed that two arches can be built to span H Street NW, including one that will be privately financed with donations from people who fled China during the communist takeover in 1949 and others who identify with the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan.
The District government, as part of its sister-city relationship with Peking, the capital of the People's Republic of China, announced earlier this year its intention to split the cost with Peking of a $1 million, 47-foot-high arch to be built just east of Seventh Street. But the announcement drew immediate protests from some of Chinatown's residents and business officials, who dubbed the D.C.-Peking span as "the communist arch."
Now, Fred Greene, the city's planning director, said, "Everybody will get an arch. The two archways will definitely add vitality to Chinatown."
He said that Chinatown representatives opposed to the Peking-sponsored arch as an affront to the memories of their homeland have "demonstrated the need to have two arches. In a sense, it was the politics."
Greene said city officials have told the Chinatown representatives, headed by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, a group of 21 civic groups with an interest in Chinatown, that their arch can be built just west of Fifth Street, about two blocks from the D.C.-Peking span.
Bosco Lee, chairman of the association and as such the unofficial mayor of Chinatown, said the group is still trying to convince city officials that their arch should span H Street just east of Ninth Street NW, just across from the D.C. Convention Center.
But Lee said that the Fifth Street site for the arch will be used if the city does not agree to the Ninth Street location, as now appears unlikely.
Greene said Chinatown now extends from Fifth to Eighth streets, along I and H streets. The portion of Chinatown that once existed closest to Ninth Street has been all but demolished for redevelopment.
Greene said the Peking arch, with seven pagoda-style roofs, fierce dragons and Chinese characters, is now being fabricated in China and parts of it are being shipped to Baltimore. He said Chinese artists and engineers will come here in September or October to help construct the arch and that it should be completed by the end of the year.
Lee said the similar, privately financed arch will be 49 feet tall, cost $310,000 and should be completed by late 1985 or early next year.
The ornate gateway planned by the benevolent association will have red-painted columns, golden-colored glazed tile roofs and ornaments, wood and marble carvings and pagoda-style roofs. It mostly will be constructed in Taiwan, Lee said, and then shipped here.
He said $200,000 has been raised for the arch construction and another $275,000 pledged, with about $50,000 of the total coming from the local Chinese community. He said the rest has come from donations from throughout the country, as well as from Chinese communities in such countries as Panama, Peru and Jamaica.
Lee said fund-raising pleas were made in a letter written in Chinese that attacked construction of the arch that is partly financed by the Chinese government.
"We tell them we are all brothers, with ideals all the same," Lee said.