Text by Zhang Lei and Wang xixian
His face may not be recognizable to most, but his family name is as well known as any in American politics. He has engaged in extensive promotion of volunteerism and Sino-American relations in China while conducting business in real estate, energy, mining, and investment consulting. The son of former President George H.W. Bush and a younger brother of former President George W. Bush, his name is Neil Bush.
Why is He Special?
We met Neil Bush in his Houston office. He wore a slightly wrinkled blue shirt and black-framed glasses. A landscape painting hung on the wall, and a toy sailboat rested on a cabinet, a common souvenir from China’s small commodity markets.
The opposite wall seemed to be his photo exhibition area. In the center hung a picture of his extended family, taken during the 12th and last time they spent Christmas at Camp David. The office is connected to a room where Bush displays his collection of Chinese memorabilia, including golden dragons on red plates, vases, and souvenir medals in boxes. His favorite piece in the collection is a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong.
His album included photos he took during the 1970s and 1980s when he and his parents visited Beijing, including shots of pedestrians on street, the Great Wall, and other sights along the bike tour. “Look at those two men,” he smiled, pointing at one of the images. “They stared at me and my brothers and sisters non-stop. People at that time were just too curious about us.”
Bush first visited China in 1975, and those unforgettable memories seemed to be his favorite. Streets were filled with only bicycles and pedestrians. He recalled that only the most basic daily necessities were displayed in shop windows. Everyone wore similar outfits in limited colors. That year, when he and his siblings visited the zoo to see giant pandas, they drew massive attention. Locals showed far more interest in them than the animals.
In his simple Houston office, Bush proudly displayed evidence of his deep connection with China. Since 1975, he has visited nearly 100 times.