Made it to Pingyao

Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been traveling and dealing with VPN issues all along the way. Even using Witopia, Twitter and Facebook have been mainly inaccessible no matter where I go, using Chrome or Firefox. Sometimes Facebook will partly open, leaving me with an odd page that’s more like a list, with no graphics, and then I can’t navigate anywhere. So I have several Scrabble games in limbo and lots of unanswered messages and requests. You just deal with it. (And yes, I made the DNS fixes, to no avail. Maybe an issue with my MacBook?)


Pingyao is gorgeous and has all sorts of treasures that gave me deeper insight into life in ancient China. The Ming architecture is breathtaking. On the other hand, the city has been so touristified that a lot of the charm is diminished. So many hawkers and cheap shops selling cheap lacquer boxes and the same tired scrolls and Mao statues. My friend Ben, who went with me and who took the photo, said it just right: “When you’re in Dali, you want to stay. You feel like you can stay a long time. In Pingyao, you want to see the buildings and then you just want to leave.” I couldn’t have said it better. I can’t pinpoint exactly why Dali is such an inviting and charming experience while Pingyao is more of a lets-see-the-sights-and-get-out-of-here kind of place.

I most enjoyed what I would have thought would be relatively dull, namely the government administration buildings and the banks. And the wall, of course. You have to marvel as you step through this time warp and see how China administered far-away cities so many centuries ago. It’s most magical when you can get away from the tourist coaches and vendors. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the administrative buildings and the banks, where I felt immersed in what life was actually like in China in centuries past. [Corrected my historical error - thank Billy.]


You know you’re back in China

This is cross-posted at my other site:

I’m having serious Internet issues, and to those of you who’ve been sending me messages on both Twitter and Facebook I need to apologize for the silence (and I hope you’re reading this): despite my using industrial-strength VPN Witopia I cannot get onto either FB or Twitter. I can get on all the other blocked sites I tried, including my personal blog, with no problem. Friends tell me they’re not having the same problem with Witopia so I’m guessing it’s an issue with my hotel, if that’s possible.

Whenever I visit China after a few months in the States the pattern is the same: Things here are so shiny and new and up-to-the-minute, I forget state control permeates much (or at least some) of what you can and cannot do, like freely surf the Internet. So minutes after I arrived last night I set up my computer, jumped to Facebook, and zam, the great Net Nanny reminded me I’m not in Arizona anymore.

So to repeat, if you tried to contact me by Twitter or FB messages, please understand I can’t access either right now. Please try email. Thanks.

Aside from this nuisance it is absolutely wonderful to be back in Beijing at the most beautiful time of the year. Maybe this year God will let the Autumn last a little longer than the usual five weeks…?


Heading to China in a few hours

It’s time for my periodic return to the Motherland. Please be patient if your comment doesn’t show up right away or if this site goes into coma mode for a few days.

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Welcome to China Media Strategies


After I returned home from nearly 8 years in Asia last year I was lucky to keep getting freelance work for China-based clients, including a wonderful PR gig that sent me to China multiple times.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my work was holding media trainings for companies in the US that wanted to increase their brand recognition in China. This let me harness everything I’d learned in Greater China over eight years, especially my two years working on the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, to create a training focusing to a large degree on China and its unique challenges. At the end of one training a participant asked me why I wasn’t actively marketing myself as a China-focused media trainer. That got me thinking.

This was the conversation that led to today, the launch day for my new business, China Media Strategies. The best way to see for yourself what China Media Strategies does is to check out the videos that are up over here. (For those of you who’ve wondered what Richard looks and sounds like, here’s your chance to find out.) If you want to hear what my clients and colleagues have to say, check out the testimonials. (No, none of them owed me favors.)

I’ve also started a new blog for China Media Strategies that you can find here (much of this post is cross–posted over there). There will be more to come. The new blog is about my thoughts on current events from the perspective of a media trainer and China watcher. It won’t be about politics or the controversial issues I prattle on about over here, and comments moderation will be a bit tighter. One blogger, two personas, so to speak.

What I offer is radically simple: I help clients prepare for media relations in China, and, if they’d like, I help them book time with reporters there as I’ve done for my other clients. Is there a market for this service, and will it work? I honestly don’t know. The one thing I do know is that if I hadn’t gone ahead and tried it out I’d be mad at myself for the rest of my life for not taking the leap.

China hands are sure to take issues with some on the material on my site. Some, for example, may see the ubiquitous red envelopes for domestic media as a flat-out bribe, and others may argue that “guanxi” is so hackneyed and over-used it doesn’t merit yet another post about it, let alone an entire video. But keep in mind, this new site isn’t necessarily for China hands. It’s for people who have limited or zero knowledge of working with the media in China.

I had hoped to open the site a few weeks earlier but technical and travel issues got in the way. So I’m opening it now, the day before I leave on a three-week trip to China. This is the soft launch, an invitation to check out what China Media Strategies is all about. I’ll do a more formal launch when I get back. Please do take a look at the site, the videos and, of course, the blog.


On the road

I’ll be in San Francisco for the holiday weekend, then back for a few days before heading over to Beijing to see old friends and some new places. I’m determined to finally make it over to Pingyao this trip, and maybe even to Xinjiang. If anyone has any off-the-beaten-path suggestions for China travel please let me know. Otherwise, please use this as an open thread.


Retrospective: Half a decade of Math’s trolling

We’re coming up on an important Peking Duck anniversary, namely the first half-decade of comments from the troll esteemed commenter known as Math.

Math is unique among my trolls commenters. Unlike the loquacious Ferin-Merp, the detestable Hong Xing and the neuron-free pugster, he almost never fights back. He has responded to comments about his comments only two or three times over the past five years. He appeared out of the blue a twentieth of a century ago in this thread and has remained a mystery ever since. Note that in that thread, Math actually responds to commenters who criticize his little “essay,” something he almost never did again. His style is a bit different in his first comment as well; he actually seems to be talking to the readers (“Who wants to help me”) as opposed to preaching, as he does in virtually every other post to follow.

Math of course rails against America, its inferior food and women and government, and lavishes praise on everything China, including the Great Leap Forward and, needless to say, the TSM. He rejects the creativity of the West in favor of the “discipline” of the East. He lauds Mao’s genius in adding brilliant new phrases to the English vocabulary (!), and he lambastes the US for its freedom of speech.

Which raises the question, why was his very first diatribe sent to us via the servers of Columbia University in Upper Manhattan, and why have virtually all of his following posts come from a New York City IP address? (His kissing cousins, Merp, pug and Red Star, also comment exclusively from within the confines of the Evil Empire.)

I don’t have the fortitude to chronicle every one of Math’s contributions. There is plenty more from the archives.

Several readers have asked over the years why I don’t ban Math and delete his tomes. The answer is simple: Math is amusing. Math is bizarre. Math may be deranged, but he’s never made personal attacks (he just tosses his grenades and runs away, unlike his more confrontational comrades). And I have to give him credit for his sophisticated taste; in half a decade I don’t believe he’s graced any other blog with his sagely remarks.

The year he first appeared, 2005, was a tumultuous one, for those who’ve been here that long. It was the year of Mark Anthony Jones and the Duck Pond and the first open threads. But if I’m going to get nostalgic about the good old days, Math has to play a leading role among our fond memories. Of course, he’s clinically insane and the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a highly customized spam-bot, and there’s a lot of hatred and aggression in those comments. But let’s put all that aside as we wish Math a happy anniversary.

Now, Math, why don’t you return the favor and tell us: Who the fuck are you?


It’s a sign of the times


“Even the dead are now homeless.” Via JSMineset.

Don’t get me wrong; I love America, just as much as I love China. But things over here seem so FUBAR, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done. These are structural issues that run deep into the heart of how the US is “managed.” It will take generations to undo the damage caused by the bankster elites, who dine on lobster, truffles and caviar as the Americans they’ve screwed eat dirt. In between, we’ll mainly see stagflation and eventual inflation that will erase much of what’s left of the American Dream. It was fun while it lasted. Enjoy life’s simple pleasures while ye may.

Sorry if I’m not beaming with optimism tonight.