Item from the official Chinese government news agency:
BEIJING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) — China’s top graft buster has urged the implementation of two new Communist Party of China regulations aimed at tightening discipline among the organization’s members … Extravagant eating and drinking and playing golf are now explicitly listed as violations of Party codes of conduct.
Wang Wei, minister of finance for Shanghai municipality and a member of the National People’s Congress, is beginning a long-planned vacation in California.
“Business or pleasure?” asks the U.S. Customs’ inspector at San Francisco International Airport.
“Business, of course,” says Mr. Wang, his words noticeably slurred.
There is some discussion of the nature of his business, which is quickly and efficiently handled by his traveling companion, Susannah Song, a Chinese-American junior executive at a global financial firm in Shanghai.
A chauffeur greets the pair and escorts them to a gleaming black Mercedes limousine.
It is a sparkling Friday morning in early autumn, often the best season in northern California.
Mr. Wang, who was knocking back scotches on the 10-hour flight, folds into his seat and immediately falls asleep.
Susannah kicks off her heels and checks her phone again. There is a text from her boyfriend, Scott, a diplomat/spy at the U.S. embassy in Beijing: “No matter what they told you at the bank, sleeping with the old pervert is not in your job description.”
She laughs, tucks her legs beneath her, leans into the plush leather, inserts earplugs and listens to Norah Jones sing Good Morning.
Susannah fights to stay awake until they pass the Palo Alto exits on the freeway. She’s only a few years out of Stanford, where she earned an MBA and played on the golf team with Michelle Wie.
Is that why they chose me for this wretched assignment? It’s her last thought before she too falls asleep.
Susannah awakens as soon as the limo stops in front of The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Mr. Wang is still snoring a few decibels beyond decorum.
She gets the bellman started with the luggage, including Mr. Wang’s prized golf clubs, tips the limo driver handsomely and negotiates the check-in procedures.
When they arrive at their ocean-view suite, Mr. Wang disappears into one of the two bedrooms without a word.
As ordered by Susannah, there is a welcome basket for Mr. Wang: a Pebble Beach golf cap, a sleeve of Titleist balls stamped with the Pebble Beach logo, a Pebble Beach bag towel, a Pebble Beach golf glove and a Pebble Beach ball marker.
Her bank is picking up the entire tab for Mr. Wang: first-class flights, three nights at the lodge, golf, meals, drinks, whatever he wants.
Satisfied with the accommodations, Susannah pads off to the other bedroom, determined not to be among Mr. Wang’s wants.
A salty mist drifts in from the Pacific. It’s dark outside. There was a message from Mr. Wang to meet him in the Tap Room at 8 o’clock.
It’s just a few minutes past the hour when she spots him sitting at the bar, alongside a man she met briefly during her initial round of interviews at the home office in London.
“Nice to see you again, Ms. Song,” says Sir Anthony Summers.
There was supposed to be an American representative of her bank waiting to join them, not one of the directors of the bank, certainly not the legendary Sir Tony.
“A little bird told me there was a spot in a foursome at Pebble Beach this weekend,” he says. “I couldn’t resist.”
“Who’s the fourth?” Susannah asks.
On cue, a lovely young Asian woman slinks into a stool beside Sir Tony.
“Ms. Song,” he says, “may I present Miss Jennifer Li. She is serving an internship with us before she goes back to Cambridge for an advanced diploma in economics.”
“Jennifer is also a former Miss Hong Kong,” Mr. Wang adds with a smirk.
“And an accomplished golfer, like yourself,” Sir Tony adds in Susannah’s direction.
She surveys the scene.
The short, puffy-faced, middle-aged Mr. Wang, an ocean away from the People’s Republic and his wife, is well on his way to his second bout of drunkenness in the past 24 hours.
He also looks ridiculous in a double-breasted blue blazer with shiny buttons, over a pink golf shirt.
Sir Tony, tall, slender and pushing 70, is wearing a back suit, with a paisley ascot tucked into a white dress shirt.
Jennifer Li, barely out of puberty, yet self-assured, sleek and sexy.
What’s the plan here? Susannah wonders.
They move to a table, where the women order pasta with a side salad and Sir Tony opts for Caesar salad and steak.
Mr. Wang, between gulps of Johnny Walker Blue, orders a platter of shrimp, calamari and chicken wings as a starter, followed by the largest slab of prime rib on the menu – the “eagle” cut – with a side of macaroni and cheese.
“I would hope a lucrative deal or two transpires after entertaining this lout,” Sir Tony whispers to Susannah.
The women have little to say throughout dinner. They covertly exchange eye-rolls more than once.
Mr. Wang keeps drinking and talking, mostly about golf. Sir Tony is unfailingly polite.
When the women return from a bathroom recess – and Mr. Wang leaves to do his business – Sir Tony confides: “It seems our Communist comrade desires a little late night cabaret, with you two having sex while he and I watch.”
Jennifer is horrified. Susannah laughs.
“I’ll keep pouring the scotch while you, Susannah, have the porter bring your things to the room I’ve arranged for you here in the lodge. I’ll put our Mr. Wang to bed and that will be that.”
The foursome is standing on the seventh tee at Pebble. It’s a cloudless morning, warm enough for shirtsleeves, waves smashing the nearby rocky shoreline.
The wind is in their faces, requiring an extra club or two on the pint-sized par-three.
Mr. Wang selects a five-iron for the 100-yard carry, hitting his preferred shot – a laser-like shank tracking toward Taiwan before splashing in the ocean. He tries again with a similar result, walks back to his cart and sits down.
“Do we have enough balls among us to get Mr. Wang through the round?” Sir Tony asks the women, who are beating the pants off the men.
They shrug. “I haven’t heard Wangy brag about his Callaways – ‘A personal gift from Phil Mickelson’ – since the first tee,” says Jennifer.
Susannah has ample time to talk with Sir Tony while Mr. Wang chases errant shots all over the Monterey Peninsula.
On the ninth fairway, with its stunning view of the Pacific, she asks why two young attractive women of Asian origin happen to be along on this outing.
“Despite my desire to be surrounded by beautiful women,” he begins, “you are here because you are laudable ambassadors for the firm, the two best golfers on the payroll, and speak fluent Mandarin in the event our Chinese friend over-imbibes and lapses into incomprehensible English.”
Sir Tony, who plays a respectable game, and the women settle into an enjoyable back nine, leaving Mr. Wang to silently sulk and curse the capitalist gods of golf.
Back in the Tap Room, Sir Tony can’t help but needle Mr. Wang about his poor play – “Lovely day to be exploring the rocks and the beach” – and his government’s new policy prohibiting party members from indulging in golf.
“You must read the fine print of the regulations,” Mr. Wang says, regaining his ministerial smugness. “You may not have a club membership, but I can get a tee time at Sheshan International any time I want.
“In fact, you all must join me for the World Golf Championship at Sheshan. Your bank is a sponsor of the tournament, you know. I’ll be in your skybox. Isn’t that right, Susannah?”
“You’re certainly welcome,” she says.
They get through another dinner, Mr. Wang switching from scotch to the most expensive French wines on the list to complement a 22-ounce porterhouse.
Sir Tony arranges for a discreet $3,000 hooker, from a discreet San Francisco service, to spend the night in Mr. Wang’s suite.
Susannah fills the next morning walking on the beach, getting a massage, catching up on her emails, Skyping with Scott, and estimating the cost of the trip – north of $100,000, she figures.
“It’s the price of doing business in China,” Sir Tony tells her on the practice range before their afternoon round.
Mr. Wang is a bit improved on the course, though he approaches each shot with the sullen demeanor of a civil servant.
After a quick post-round beer and handshakes all around, Sir Tony and Jennifer depart for the airport.
Before he leaves, he retains the hooker’s services for the evening, so Susannah can order room service and catch up on the latest episodes of The Affair on TV.
The next morning, it’s back in the limo, back to SFO, back to the first-class cabin, back home.
Mr. Wang appears to be on the wagon, his diet reduced to bottled water, crackers and carrot sticks.
He says barely a word to Susannah all the way from Pebble Beach to Shanghai.