At No. 2 Fucheng Road in Beijing's Haidian District, an antique building is bathed in brilliant sunshine. Two gilded copper lions guard the front gate and three red lanterns are hanging along the entranceway. This is the famous No. 18 villa of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, once deemed "very sensitive" and described as the "presidential villa". Now, if no head of foreign state resides there, it's possible to take photos near the building if one is invited into the State Guesthouse.
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse has received 1,200 foreign heads of states and governments. In September 1959, when the Diaoyutai first opened, initial guests were all socialist heads of state. Presently, a myriad of guests from all nations are welcome to Diaoyutai.
Diaoyutai has witnessed many historical events and heard countless anecdotes.
When the thirty-seventh US President Richard Nixon visited China in February 1972, he stayed at the No. 18 villa. At an official banquet there Nixon also displayed his "chopsticks techniques" which he had practiced for nearly six months.
In September 1982, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came to visit China and she lived at the No. 12 villa. In the 1980s, the Sino-UK and Sino-Portugal negotiations concerning the future of Hong Kong and Macao were also held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
In December 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin for the last time at Diaoyutai.
Since August 2003, six party talks on Korean nuclear issue have been held at Diaoyutai. Through many twists and turns, a breakthrough was finally made at the fifth round of the talks this year. Delegates signed a joint document on February 13, 2007. Finally, on the evening of October 3 the second session of the sixth round of the talks ended with the release of a joint document on the second-phase actions toward the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, once a place with strong political color, has also begun to engage in economic activities.
The Diaoyutai State Guesthouse is located at the ancient Diaoyutai scenic spot in western suburbs of Beijing. It was once the vacation home of the emperors and even dubbed as the "Emperors' Diaoyutai".
After the 1960s, leaders of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou En-lai and others all came here for meetings or to live or work on a temporary basis.
During the tumultuous "Cultural Revolution", the "Cultural Revolution Group" worked at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. Some members of the group, for example, Jiang Qing, lived here. During that period of time, Diaoyutai was very "political" and was perceived as a political symbol by Beijing residents.
China's leaders ceased to live at the Guesthouse after 1978. But various important foreign affairs activities, such as meetings, talks and banquets are still held here. As the guesthouse has evolved and opened up to the outside world, the residence now is a celebrated five-star hotel and has gained some business color. For instance, the lobby of its No. 6 villa displays exquisite selections for the Guesthouse, including cigarettes, wine and antique porcelain. Nothing is cheap: each carton of "Diaoyutai cigarettes" costs 600 yuan.
Various kinds of official and business activities have now enabled more and more businessmen and the public to come into the strictly guarded hotel.
A person in charge of the administration office of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse told China News Service that Diaoyutai has been extending the scope of its reception gradually over the past three decades. It now receives not only heads of foreign states and dignitaries but also business guests. Each year many enterprises, including the World Top 500, organize all sorts of large business activities here.
It was reported that the No. 18 villa had already received delegations at their own expense several times. But the expenses are exorbitant. One day costs US$50,000. But money does not buy privilege: access to Diaoyutai's No. 18 and No. 12 villas is strict and guests must satisfy a number of requirements.
An outside view of the No. 18 villa or the "Presidential villa", Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
State Guesthouse data shows that more than 70,000 guests are received for dinner each year. A large group of chefs stand in attendance, comprising more than 10 executive chefs, nearly 100 sous chefs and over 200 master chefs. They are capable of providing hundreds of specialty dishes.
A gingko wood lies outside the east wall of Diaoyutai. When the leaves turn yellow in deep autumn, falling on the ground, the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.
"In November of the year before last, I took a set of photos for my girlfriend there. They are very beautiful shots. I hope the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse opens wider to ordinary people, enabling us with not so much money to come in to have a look around," a certain Mr. Wang told the China News Service reporter.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Ming'ai, October 14, 2007)