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Trading Benjamins

Chinese yuan with Chairman Mao
My 14-year-old son is going to China next month, along with a group of classmates and chaperones. Yesterday I went to Wells Fargo to exchange $400USD for Chinese yuan. A small currency exchange, cash for cash, very routine. To accomplish the task, however, I was required to provide two forms of identification. This was not a glance-at-the-information kind of ID check, which would’ve been pointless to begin with. No, the clerk put the information into the bank’s data base before handing me the money.

I asked her, “Why on earth do you need my personal information to exchange currency?” She said, under her breath, “Have you ever heard of the Patriot Act? The government requires us to gather this information so they can identify potential terrorists.” She went on to tell me that Wells Fargo is the only bank in town still willing to deal in foreign currency. The other banks have opted out so they don’t have to jump through government hoops and engage in data mining to benefit our nosy and intrusive administration.

Walking out of the bank with my red notes, Chairman Mao watching me, gave me a creepy sense of foreboding.

2 thoughts on “Trading Benjamins

  1. hello marie,

    this is from a letter written by a yank for the yanks, almost five decades ago……

    “Special to U.S. AMERICANS! If you live blockaded in our good, old U.S.A., you can’t subscribe! Don’t try; it’s against U.S. law to send money to China. Even if we go to some pains to deal through the two firms licensed to import periodicals from China, the money goes into an account blocked by Uncle Sam. What fun is in that?

    Sometime somebody may publish in the U.S.A. charging to cover the costs. Till then, resign yourself to getting it as gift from me, not to you but to educate my country! Calm your conscience, if any, by doing as much for somebody else. You can have what copies you want on following rules. One to five copies go airmail; bigger bundles ordinary mail. Don’t ask me to promote it to long lists of people; send for copies or reprint and promote it yourself.

    Yours–and where do we go from here?”

  2. Quite interesting that you could get RMB at a US bank. It is apparently illegal for China’s currency to leave their country! I’d guess the Bank is more suspect than any terrorist the Patriot Act is trying to thwart. ;o) I really do have to wonder how they got a hold of that money. Could that be some of the loot the Chinese spies received?

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