Beijing is in the process of shutting down for the holiday. The restaurants were all half-empty at lunch-time today and the streets seem semi-deserted. Of course, the fact that it’s totally freezing outside with slicing winds knocking down bicycles and forcing pedestrians to walk with their backs to the wind could be a factor as well. Right in front of my apartment a gigantic, bright red fireworks shop suddenly appeared out of nowhere this morning. I think the only reason it’s so quiet out there is that no one wants to step away from their central heating.
I thought about leaving for the week, maybe going to Kunming or Guangzhou just for a change of scenery and a little more warmth. Then I decided I’d be better off saving the money and traveling when I have friends in town to go with me (which will happen next month). Still not sure how long I’ll be in China after the holiday; it all depends on the job market. I think within few weeks after the holiday I should have a pretty good idea of what my new opportunities here are. I’m still working part-time and going to class, but I can’t work part-time forever. Bills are due and all that. But I have to say, working part-time and studying is not a bad way to live.
Lots happened since my last post. America has a new president. China has announced plans to launch universal health care for all, while doling out stiff penalties to those behind the melamine-laced milk that not only killed and poisoned lots of kids but also made nearly all Chinese-made food products radioactive in the minds of consumers. Reports about which way China’s economy is going are still all over the map, and you can find ample evidence for any theory you can come up with. I have no doubt this’ll be the hot topic here for some months to come.
There’s always a dramatic lull in business before CNY, and this year, based on my talks with friends and colleagues, this year it was deeper and longer than usual. (No surprise there.) Everyone’s wondering to what extent business will bounce back after the holiday ends. I am, too, and the answer could determine how long I stay here. Let’s hope for the best, for America and China, and despite the cliché, a happy Year of the Ox to everyone.
Update: Forgot to mention, this is an open thread, if anyone is around during the holiday to comment.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.