Mercedes-Benz sent two of its biggest guns to Beijing in November 1994 - passenger-car boss Juergen Hubbert and Dieter Zetsche, the head of marketing.
They took with them a bare-bones version of the future A class called the FCC and proposed it as China's 'family car' of the future.
Chinese officials liked the FCC better than any of the 30 or so models they were shown at a beauty contest known as the Family Car Seminar. Mercedes had the inside track on a major project.
Nine months later, Mercedes was the surprise winner in another competition in China - a potentially lucrative deal to build minivans in Guangdong Province.
In the end, neither project worked out for Mercedes. Both have ended before they began, which is the right time to get out of deals you shouldn't do.
It took Peugeot 10 years to decide that enough was enough. Now it is withdrawing from its joint venture in Guangzhou after making only about 100,000 cars since 1987.
Everyone has had problems in China at one time or another, even Volkswagen. But investing there is still worth the effort. All Chinese deals and partners are not the same. Judging each opportunity on its own merit applies in China, same as everywhere else.
But Mercedes' quick retreat is an example of the new approach in China. If things aren't working out, walk away. Start again later. Never get bogged down.
Chrysler backed off after more than a year as the leading contender for the same south China minivan project. The local partners had insisted on freedom to build Voyagers in export markets.
No one expected negotiations to go easily for Mercedes. They didn't. New customs and tax regulations helped spoil the deal. China no longer allows automakers to import heavy equipment without paying tariffs.
The family car project also went astray. First, Mercedes was asked to share component technology. Then the Chinese asked Mercedes to show them how to design and develop the car. Now the partners want to do it by themselves.
Volkswagen understands China better than any. Former Chairman Carl Hahn has even served as an adviser to the government.
Yet VW is not without problems. VW's Santana plant in Shanghai is the most successful foreign car venture in the country. But the Audi plant in Changchun runs well under capacity. Chinese authorities demanded too big a plant and set prices unrealistically low.
Peugeot's joint venture suffered through 10 years of manufacturing, marketing and distribution troubles. Each side blamed the other. Peak yearly production was 21,000 cars in a plant capable of 100,000. Peugeot was still building the old 505 when production ended last year.
General Motors will replace Peugeot in Guangzhou, though probably with more advantageous terms. GM has learned its own hard lessons. It's Shenyang truck joint venture faltered and GM is now re-negotiating the terms of the project.
Indeed, Carmakers are becoming more savvy in China.
Ford has a new low-profile, low-risk stake in Jiangling Motors, where it will make Transit-based minibuses.
It is easy to generalize about the difficulties in China when things go wrong. Surely, the days of gaining a foothold at any cost are gone. But China still merits everyone's attention, even Mercedes and Peugeot.