Forty Years of “A Fistful of Yuan”

My trip report to the rest of Vulcan after I got back from this epic started with the following, forty years ago today:

Out of the shadows came Jesse Perry (seated) and Lloyd Berwald. Jesse was Vulcan’s most experienced field service person, who also had good customer relations skills along with an extensive knowledge of the product. Lloyd was Jesse’s counterpart at Johnston Boiler. His role was important, because it was obvious that the boiler was a big deal with the Chinese.


Arrived in Beijing after two-day journey from the U.S., Jess Perry came from Florida and met me in Atlanta and Lloyd Berwald of Johnston Boiler came from Michigan and met us in San Francisco. We were met by Ian Stones from Amtech and He Zheng and Chen Gui De from the Oil & Gas Commission in Beijing. We were taken to the Beijing hotel where we were shown our accommodations. There were no additional discussions that day.

Thus began one of the great stories from the years I was in Vulcan: the sale of two Vulcan 560 hammers, boiler and parts to what is now the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. The entire account can be found here; it was the first major new piece after became an independent site in 2007.

The whole adventure look very different now than it did in the early 1980’s or even when the story was first posted. That’s because China’s position in the world is vastly different now than then or even fourteen years ago. The U.S. faces a significant rivalry and that is recognized across the political spectrum, no mean feat considered how divided the U.S. is these days. So how do we meet the challenge?

The “opinion leaders” in the U.S. have consistently misguessed the Chinese in what they should and would do, especially with regards to the delusion that the Chinese would transition to “democratic” ways. They have not; if anyone has transitioned in this regard, it is us, and it is away from real democracy and towards a corporatistic model.

Myself, at the Summer Palace in Beijing. At the time I was President and Chief Engineer of Vulcan. The main burden of the commercial side fell on me, along with some of the technical side.

The U.S. has always succeeded using a model based on freedom, especially economic freedom. Without such Vulcan would never have been able to do what it did in China or anywhere else. Vulcan’s people were not particularly sophisticated and certainly not well credentialed to undertake the effort we did, not by contemporary standards and not really in the eyes of some at the time. But we experienced and accomplished what we did.

The U.S. will continue to succeed if it is able to play from its strengths and not continually insist on meeting the expectations of those whose educational and credential pedigree outruns their real understanding of the world around them, denying opportunities to others who just might do a better job.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.