About my book (no title yet!)

Since about two years at least I have been fascinated by the tremendous changes within the Chinese society. After 28 years of China I suddenly realized how much things had changed and how little I had noticed what was going on.
Most of the foreigners, even living in China since many years, have little insight in the Chinese society, the way people think, love, live and how they look at their future. Actually many Chinese also do not fully grasp the many changes in attitudes as they often live within their “box”. Others are bewildered by the sudden changes and feel uncomfortable with the new generations, called the “balinghou and jiulinghou” – the post 80 and post 90 generations. Among Chinese there is a lot of passionate debate on the generation gaps and the new trends. Chinese don’t share much those issues with foreigners as they feel this is “for Chinese only”. On the other hand they are ready to discuss with us once they feel comfortable about it. As many new trends and personal feelings are kept discreet and hidden, many Chinese and foreigners alike do not always realize what is going on around them.
The book will try to address those issues in part, much as a sociological study. It is not my aim to be complete as China has grown into a very complex society and the country is so vast with many local attitudes. The book will be focused on Beijing that is already a city full of contrasts with all the migrants – millions of them – coming from all over the country to work and live here.

The book is not without controversy as many foreigners and Chinese alike can be shocked and doubt that in China “those things exist and Chinese think and act in that way.”
Interestingly enough, my Chinese friends seem more interested in my book than foreigners – as the Chinese are more aware of the controversies.
I often jokingly say: it will not be like all the “Ying and Yang crap you hear from so-called “China specialists”.
My goal – maybe too optimistic – is to finish the draft by the end of this year. I did not even start looking for a publisher… (all suggestions welcome). First version will be in English.

I have collected a lot of information but I still need to work on it all. Currently I look at the influence of Confucianism on the society of today (many Chinese say: as good as no influence).

Keep posted!

More action on the Gongti Strip

On 28 March 09 China Daily reported the opening of one more disco nightclub on the Gongti Strip, see the full article below, including the pic of what seems to be two “Balinghou”.
I am constantly amazed by the ignorance of some expats and local Chinese on what is really happening in the turbulent Beijing nightlife. I am writing my book on Chinese society and I mention the incredible changes in society with the new “Balinghou and Jiulinghou” generations, I am challenged by those people who often have no clue on how those new generations act and think. Not that all are the same, obviously. But a late night visit to discos in Gongti Xi Lu might be an eye opener. “We Chinese don’t go to bars, we Chinese don’t stay up so late”. Yeah. Just pop up on the Strip at 3 am and you’ll see. As for how they think, well, there are some (other) China Daily articles that might bring a light into your darkness. As I said in one of my recent articles, better to carefully check the younger graduates out before hiring them. Some can be great but some have, as the older (Chinese) generations openly claim “no any responsibility” – including at work.
Going loco @ LA Club: more action on the Gongti Strip
Making a big splash in the Beijing club scene, Banana (as in GT, Coco and most recently, Babyface) has added a new hotspot to its luxury empire.
LA Club claims to be the city’s “hottest VIP hip-hop club” and hip it certainly is. From its gentle opening at the beginning of March to its scandalously sexy fetish party last Friday, the club blasts out hits from the golden era of disco and funk to the freshest hip-hop tracks of today.
The trendy aims to celebrate the full Gucci-Moet-Cartier hip-hop experience and feed selective urbanites with a taste for celebrating the high life.
With a 1971 Cadillac parked outside, and more than 60,000 faux diamonds and a rotating, elevated dance floor at its center, LA Club is sure to dazzle the eyes and ears of even the most experienced clubber. Banana’s sound engineers have a heart-thumping Turbosound system that makes you want to clap your hands and strut your stuff all night – the DJs keep the dance floor grooving ’till 6 in the mornin’.
The club plans to line up an impressive list of international artists over the coming year. It’s quickly becoming the place to grind with the capital’s beautiful people. If you’ve got money to burn, you’ll definitely want to try out one of the revolving, ultra-deluxe VIP booths, where you can sip on gin and juice, indulge in bottles of Mumm Champagne (at 580 yuan a time), or the two-for-one mixed drinks. LA Club signifies a new height of Beijing clubbing. Hip-hop hooray!
West Road of Workers Stadium, next to COCO Banana.
Story by Carissa Welton, photos provided by LA Club

“Think Like Chinese” by Zhang Haihua & Geoff Baker

On 13 Dec I went to a  lecture at Garden Books (Guanghua Lu) where the authors introduced their book to a packed room.
Haihua (Helen) Zhang & Geoff Baker shared the following
• How Chinese view their own history
• Why Chinese are different – 5 core elements of Chinese thinking: Chinese language/philosophy, law of yin & yang, born connectedness, mid-stream living and mianzi (Face)
• “only tell people 1/3 of what’s on your mind” – how Chinese communicate
•  “heroes think alike” – how Chinese live & work
•  What to do
For me it was a “click” in my head – as I expected, because there was a reason for me to go there. They both signed the book I bought (RMB 220).
As so often, the 13th brings me luck.

I was thinking since long: about WHAT could I write. Too many books are published about China.
Through the many seminars I started to formulate some fresh concepts and promptly removed those from my seminar talks. Indeed – my approach in describing Chinese society and its many trends of today proved to be too controversial and complicated. Certainly for an audience that never had contact with this puzzling China. On the other hand, when I tested them with seasoned China experts and local Chinese friends, I got a very positive feedback. (I was pretty nervous during that first talk…)
Listening to Geoff and Helen brought relief: we have certainly a different angle to look at our Chinese friends (and foes). That is what I am looking for: a fresh insight.
So, this very Monday 15 December, I wrote the first draft pages of my first book. No name yet. Just a start of a long voyage.
But starting to write and having some direction is for me great progress. Enough procrastination.

Insider’s Guide to Beijing 2008

Michael Wester, general manager of True Run Media, read “That’s Beijing” kindly invited me for the launch of their new Insider’s Guide to Beijing. Walked away with the Guide, a latest fashion Mao-era bag and a detailed map about the location of the Olympic venues.
The party was in the Bookworm, all the That’s Beijing staff used traditional Chinese outfits and the crowd was diversified (and fun).

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As I regularly tell my colleagues in the Beijing Government, you can’t beat those guys to know what is cooking in Beijing. Day and night. China Daily still has Bus Bar in a construction pit.

A new book about China! – and about Gilbert for once!

For a change, a book is coming out right now in Belgium about China:

cover Made in China.jpg
“Made in China – Meningen van daar”
van Ng Sauw Tjhoi & Marc Vandepitte
[Co-editie met Radio 1]
[Met de steun van het Fonds Pascal Decroos]

And, more curiously, with a whole chapter (no. 42) about myself – result of a couple of interviews by the authors. And, once again sorry guys, it’s all in Dutch.
For a full introduction to the book, click here: Made in China intro.pdf
Some journalists are a pain in the butt, some can be really nice. Ng Sauw Tjhoi, one of the two authors is a charming guy to meet but he has the exceptional touch to send a copy of what he wrote. It’s always interesting to read what people think you told them, or how to find out they have been putting words in your mouth with the most unlikely results. At least I don’t have a boss who could yell at me and ask what the hell went on in my mind to talk all that nonsense to journalists. Lately I have become philosophical about it. As Sun says, never mind, it makes you famous and if nobody complains within a week, just ignore the nonsense they wrote.
So, what I can say about the new book? Well, I am in a soft spot here. Tjhoi has more or less faithfully recorded my ramblings, spiced it up a bit but the end result is kinda interesting. If you wanna know more, learn Dutch and buy the book. Can’t say no more folks. But next time Tjhoi comes over in Beijing, I’ll buy him more than one nice drink.
I think the biggest creativity I ever experienced with journalists was in January of this year. I was interviewed by Chinese journalists when listening to the presentation of Beijing’s Eleventh Five Year Plan (very few foreigners were invited…).

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15 Jan. 06: Sun and Gilbert in the Beijing People’s Congress to listen to Mayor Wang Qishan; the journalists asking questions and hearing different things – I knew there was something spooky with that photographer.

Explaining a bit the work I had just done for the Beijing Government they turned it around and the headlines blasted something like “Gilbert is happy to learn that Beijing has followed his proposals for the new Plan” (Beijing Youth Daily – 16 Jan. 06). Yeah, of course. Good boy, Mayor Wang Qishan, you listened sooo well. Oops. Well, nobody seemed upset and the police did not come knocking on my door so I guess it was all fine after all.
As a result, I am now starting to report and comment on journalists. Turn the tables. So, next time you interview me – you have been warned. As for Tjhoi, he passed the test.