Yes, I’m here again for a short visit.

We all know the cliches about how gorgeous Beijing is in September. But we need to remember that the only reason it’s a cliche is because it’s true. Perfect time to be in Beijing. With all the chaos going on in the world, “where ignorant armies clash by night,” Beijing is like a wonderful haven, oblivious of the world falling apart around it. Of course, China is going to have its share of chaos, too; it’s inevitable. But right here and right now it is the place to be, despite the inflation. I don’t know why anyone would live anywhere else.

This is a super-quickie but allow me to make one political observation. I’ve been very surprised to hear reactions from my Chinese friends about the Wenzhou train crash. Apparently the way the government handled it has created a lot of animosity and distrust, and I’ve never seen enthusiasm for the party at such an all-time low. Cover-ups suck. Maybe the masses are catching on that despite all the smiles and cheerful news on CCTV all is not well, and the government they want so much to believe in is not necessarily their friend.

Update: Well, today the smog is so thick I can’t see out my window. And the traffic has become almost comically atrocious. I actually saw people get out of their cars and talk, waiting for things to move. No city is perfect.

The Discussion: 80 Comments

Richard you quickly mentioned inflation. what’s the feel there?

September 6, 2011 @ 9:11 am | Comment

People here, based on my random sampling, are terrified of inflation and see no end in sight. It is a huge drag on the Chinese psyche and the No. 1 issue, hands down. I remain totally pessimistic on this subject and see it gnawing away at China’s great successes.

September 6, 2011 @ 9:44 am | Comment

re: the train crash, a lot of it has to do with the fact that it impacted the middle/upper-middle class (which i assume is where your chinese frds come from.)

a lot of bad shit happened (and happens) to a lot of lower-class people in china, but most of the time their voices aren’t really heard by the party (which is not really the fault of the party–they don’t discriminate against poor people–but rather because poor people are generally less vocal about their issues than middle class people are).

September 6, 2011 @ 9:55 am | Comment

t_co you make some valid points, but I can’t agree that the party doesn’t discriminate against poor people. While they do a lot of good for the poor, there are many examples of exploitation and corruption that is devastating to China’s disenfranchised.

September 6, 2011 @ 9:58 am | Comment

I think t_co (kind of) hit the nail on the head, the train crash affects EVERYBODY, especially the better off who have typically have gone unaffected. So many of the food scandals involve cheaper/smaller brands and don’t really affect those in the big cities. This is the first one in awhile that really affects everybody and what makes it worse is that the new high speed trains were meant to be a thing of pride for China and since it started it’s been nothing but problems. Further, the coverup was horrendous.

September 6, 2011 @ 10:34 am | Comment

There has, at least here in New Zealand, been an awful lot of news about the train crash and it’s aftermath. Also that Dalian affair – by middle class people…. Now, the rioting in Guangdong, the incidents in Xinjiang and the Tibetan areas of….well, the parts not actually in Tibet Autonomous Province, all were mentioned but seemingly en passant. And those were just the unrest by poor people that was mentioned.
One commenter in China talking about the English riots mentioned that the same happen in China every week (I think – need to check that) – I didn’t know about that 🙂

September 6, 2011 @ 10:58 am | Comment

@Mike – I don’t think riots such as those in London happen in China every week, since they were, after the first night, merely an opportunistic outbreak of mass looting. “Mass events” in China rarely happen simply because the police are not there, and are instead directed at some public grievance.

@Richard – Prof. Pettis seems very sure of his prediction, being an amateur I hate to gainsay him, it is just that there have been so many predictions which have failed to come to pass. He says this is because in each instance the Chinese government spent its way out, thus reducing its ability to deal with the succeeding crisis.

And “crisis” is the word for the situation in much of the world at the moment. For myself, today’s new of the Swiss (of all people) pegging their currency to the Euro in an effort to curb the soaring value of their currency is quite shocking. It will be some years before this runs itself out.

On the subject of Beijing, I still don’t have much to say for the place. It reminds me of Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Berlin. Large? Yes. Much in the way of culture? Sure. But dark, difficult, and not all that much to my tastes. My guess would be the nearest American equivalent would be Detroit mixed with Los Angeles, with a bit of Washington D.C. put in to leaven the mix.

September 7, 2011 @ 2:43 am | Comment

FOARP. Detroit. Are you serious? I know half the city has been foreclosed by the banks, but at least it gave the world Motown. What has Beijing offered the world aside from a few 1984 metaphors.

As for Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, they have real world football teams, while the latter has had a major league influence on the world of music.

As for Berlin, it has a vibrant cultural scene which far surpasses a few Beijing museums containing 5,000 years of old cuspidors and a number of lurid dioramas which provide false testimony about Chinese exceptionalism and CCP teleology.

It was a guess and you can do better than that.

If you want to find Beijing equivalents, you would have far more luck looking to the world of cinema. Alphaville? Blade Runner?

And lets not forget your Libyan prediction.

September 7, 2011 @ 5:34 am | Comment

CPP Teleology? I like the term.

What about Gotham City?

Minus Batman… for some reasons he suddenly cannot be located. His misterious last SMS was not very clear. Something about getting into an hospital because of a cold, or invited drinking tea with someone… queer.

Robin says he lost contact with him too…

September 7, 2011 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Or maybe is like that village, described by Kafka, governed by a mysterious bureaucracy that resides in a nearby castle.

September 7, 2011 @ 5:59 am | Comment

@ Eco. Since you are being silly with Gotham City, look for parallels in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. The population has lost faith in superheroes and criminals and Mutants rule the city. Ai Wei Wei stands in for an aged Batman, but citizens are really ambivalent about his place in the harmonious society.

September 7, 2011 @ 6:26 am | Comment

Never thought I would be quoting Ai Wei Wei, but he correctly describes Beijing as a:

“nightmare’…. ‘city of violence’
‘migrant workers are denied basic rights’ and likened to slaves.

“I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope… you don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go,” he writes. “Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.”

“I don’t know why anyone would live anywhere else”.
@Richard. Some variant of Stockholm syndrome???

For the general mass of citizens (and not the wealthy elites), cities really are mental conditions of happiness, participation and spontaneity (sic) or a mix of continuous surveillance, angst, anomie and introverted stress. And it has little do do with standards of living and everything to do with a sense of community and participation in civil society.

On this criteria, Beijing gets a D- while many African cities get an A.

September 7, 2011 @ 7:30 am | Comment

To each his own. Beijing is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Can it be that horrible?

There’s more than one Beijing. Walking down Gongtibeilu to Tuanjiejhu yesterday was gorgeous. Walking through the side streets around Yangguang Dushi was beautiful. And I can go on and on, of course. Other parts of the city are grim and industrial and soulless. But I love this city, and so do all my friends who’ve made it their home. They, my friends, are also the reason I love this city. The coolest people I’ve ever met have chosen to live here and I’m lucky enough to know a lot of them.

On the bus I see a lot of ambition and energy. Sometimes, at rush hour, everyone looks like a zombie, but that’s true in NYC, too. This is hardly Stockholm syndrome. When I first came here in 2002 I felt like the people you describe on the buses. After getting to know the city and its people and teaching myself to speak at least survival Chinese, to the point where I could actually converse, it made all the difference and I discovered the “other side of Beijing.” Despite its winters, which still horrify me, I would choose Beijing over any other city to live, and I’m not at all alone. I’ve lived in Germany and San Salvador and love them, but I’d still take Beijing, mainly for the people and, in fall and spring, the city itself.

My love affair with Beijing may have arisen from a perfect set of circumstances. I was somewhat well known because of this blog and it gave me entry to circles of very cool people, and the last time I worked here I was making enough money that I didn’t have to worry about the daily nagging insanities like bank lines (the ayi at my company would go to the bank, wait the obligatory four hours and then text me when my number was close to being called). But even now, when I have to be more careful with my money, it still feels like home. It took a long time, but once I “got” Beijing back in 2007 the love affair has never abated.

September 7, 2011 @ 8:05 am | Comment

Thanks Richard. Got to admit that I really like Shenzhen and not for its proximity to HK.

September 7, 2011 @ 8:18 am | Comment

And you see, to me Shenzhen was a frightening Bladerunner-type metropolis with zero soul, full of foreigners trying to make a buck and a population that’s there only to make deals. I actually got attacked by an Amway salesman there.

September 7, 2011 @ 8:23 am | Comment


but rather because poor people are generally less vocal about their issues than middle class people are

I think it’s more that middle class people are less cowed by the CCP. Poorer Chinese can be very vocal, but I think they’re more intimidated by the State. Whereas when the middle classes are angry about something they can be pretty fearless.

September 7, 2011 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

When you create a middle class, you create middle class expectations.

Glad you’re having a grand time, Richard, and I wish I could have joined you. I don’t know that I would want to live in Beijing (that level of pollution and I don’t get along) but I do love the place too. There are some incredible people there, and I miss them!

September 7, 2011 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

@Ecodelta – A Gotham city in which Batman is aged and ignored – if this is not a true description of Beijing then at least you will not come to much harm in believing it!

@Richard – For me, sleepy old Nanjing looks better and better, but Shanghai wins by a country mile – different to Beijing in being a city dedicated to less-than-entirely justified optimism and a clunky kind of progress. A Beijinger will sell you a broken-down used car and tell you everying is fine, a Shanghainese will sell you one and tell you that despite appearances all will be fixed by the time you come to pick it up.

Shenzhen? Shenzhen is not a city, at best it is a jumped-up suburb. It is what a city would look like if you cut it in half. Looking across the border from the hills of the New Territories you see a city in cross-section, with the guts of the city displayed through the border fence like the tunnels of an ant colony through the glass walls of its container.

In fact, the nose-against-the-glass analogy is perfect for Shenzhen. It is a city of people standing outside a gaudily-decorated restaurant where the food is actually mediocre, waiting for their turn to enter.

I remember once, shortly before I left my job at Foxconn, eating food late at night on a Luohu roof-top with a migrant worker who I had picked up in a bar. Across the border and over the hills of the New Territories, the bright lights of Hong Kong were shining like an obscured Emerald City. For her Hong Kong truly was a never-never land which was just out of reach. I hated to tell her than actually Hong Kong was a rather boring place and instead indulged her fantasies of the shopping trips she would go on when she had the chance. This is Shenzhen.

September 7, 2011 @ 4:40 pm | Comment

Oh, not to get into the whole Beijing/Shanghai thing, but not such a fan of Shanghai. There are parts of it that I like, but there’s so much more stuff going on culturally in Beijing, at least that’s how it seems to me.

Richard and I visited Nanjing earlier this year — I did think it was a nice city, overall.

I’m fond of Qingdao — anyone have any actual experience with living there?

September 8, 2011 @ 11:00 am | Comment

Thanks, Richard. This is first time I read your blog, just found it by accident! You remind me my hometown. Will keep to read more.

September 8, 2011 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

@Other Lisa – I lived in Nanjing for 2 1/2 years, it was a good introduction, I think, to the Mainland, but it is something of a government city. Culturally speaking, well, there is the risk of people fetishizing mediocre work on the mere grounds that it is some how more “genuine”. I’m thinking particularly of the various ‘fun’ events at the Bookworm here – but then to each their own.

As for Qingdao, it’s a place I’ve only ever seen on beer-bottles, but I’ve heard good things about it. The only Sino-blogospherites I know of hailing from there are Steve Dickinson over at CLB, and the long lost, and much lamented, Meursault. Steve’s take on Qingdao is positive, Meursault’s was, well, Meursault’s.

September 8, 2011 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Ahhhh the age old question of the best city in China? I don’t know how many times this debate has reared its head once Richard does an “I love Beijing post”.

The truth is it is less about the actual city and more about what feels like home (i.e Richard’s point about the people he has met in Beijing).

I lived in Shenzhen for 2 years and after a while even THAT monstrous combination of over-development, money grubbing, and horrible summer weather seemed to shine when coming home after a long business trip.

Lived in Qingdao for two years as well, and also felt that it was the “best” when I was there. (Well, until winter comes and you get that below zero wind chill off the ocean). However, the summer months there cannot be beat, cold beer, the BEST kaorou I’ve ever had in China, walking the parks they’ve laid out along the shore, exploring Laoshan…I had a wonderful time when I was there.

Lived in Hangzhou for a year, which can be nice if you ignore the traffic, summer tourist crowds, and terrible air pollution. Similar to Qingdao it was a walkable city in that the parks were well maintained and free (or at least cheap) and it had a cool little bar scene near the university that had not become an overdeveloped and overcrowded bar district like Houhai (at least at the time I was there).

I’ve lived in Wuxi as well. I’ll leave it at that…not much to say.

I have to say that Beijing was fun the first time I went, but it has lost its appeal upon each subsequent visit. I have a number of friends like Richard who are in love with the place, but I have yet to understand their attraction besides the proximity to an established network of friends.

Can’t say the same for Shanghai though, that city has actually progressively IMPROVED for me over my various visits. I get annoyed by the same things that plague Beijing, the overcrowding, the frustrating transportation, and the people (Beijing know-it-alls vs. Shanghai snobs), but I find myself more willing to forgive Shanghai of these annoyances because I truly enjoy hanging out in that city despite its drawbacks.

Anyway, now with family, the access to the best healthcare facilities trumps almost any concerns as to which city I “like” the most. I still prefer second tier over the megacities, but after a few nightmare rounds with the healthcare systems there, Beijing or Shanghai are my targets if we ever end up living in China again.

September 8, 2011 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

Maybe all of the above posters are teflon proof, but to my mind it is all about the quality of food you eat on a routine basis. Have fun when you all undertake a comprehensive medical. Body parts glowing in the dark. And if you have US passports, be prepared to sell the farm to pay for the bad news.

September 9, 2011 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

the last time I worked here I was making enough money that I didn’t have to worry about the daily nagging insanities like bank lines (the ayi at my company would go to the bank, wait the obligatory four hours and then text me when my number was close to being called).


September 9, 2011 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

Speaking of gorgeous, have you been to Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan, Richard?

September 10, 2011 @ 3:08 am | Comment

China’s high-speed rail network is a joke. That thing’s going to sink to a low level in 10 years, and will be a national eye sore for China. There were 168 reported problems in July alone.

September 10, 2011 @ 3:21 am | Comment

China city preference is completely subjective but I’ve always preferred Shanghai to anywhere else and by a long shot. We’re all victims of our own personal experiences and for me, Shanghai has been consistently positive. Though I’ve lived in San Diego most of my adult life, I’m originally from northern NJ and it’s the only city in the world that reminds me of NYC. When I first arrived in early ’01, it had an energy and vitality I never felt anywhere else, and I was fortunate to work with a great set of colleagues. Sometimes we just fit a locale and I found I fit Shanghai to a tee. Of course, nothing can compare to San Diego! 😉

The important thing isn’t which city is the best, it’s which city is the best for you. Here’s hoping everyone on the blog was and is lucky enough to find their own best personal fit.

September 11, 2011 @ 1:20 am | Comment

Since no one has mentioned Harbin, I’ll throw in a plug for that city. Harbin is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan. While I don’t miss the winters, there are both Chinese hot pot and Russian restaurants that I very much miss along with the older Russian architecture. Based on my own rather short visits, I personally think I would prefer Shanghai to Beijing, but I really regret not having spent any time in Hong Kong.

While Berlin has its charms, I still prefer “the Paris of Germany,” Munich with the Ludwigsstrasse, the university and Schwabing, the art museums, opera and operetta. I have lived in Cincinnati, Atlanta, NYC, Canada, China, Nicaragua, and Germany, and Munich remains the city of which I have the fondest mememories.

September 11, 2011 @ 10:42 am | Comment

I do want to visit Harbin. I’d love to go the Ice Festival (*shiver*) but maybe it would be better to see it at a slightly more temperate time of year!

September 12, 2011 @ 5:25 am | Comment

Shanghai has a nice zoo. There’s some interesting parts in it but it is, really, just a big city with smog.
Nantong is nice – well, the park is. In laws are there so the food’s great 😉 I saw blue sky there once.
Went to a place called Dongtai – ancestral graves are there, you see. Wife doesn’t like the way it has been developed. Seems the quality has gone down. Oddly, they’ve restored (rebuilt?) a section of the town in the old style (the way my wife remembers it) and that’s a tourist destination.
All the big cities remind me of London – there’s dirt everywhere. The nice places (eg French Concession areas) are pretty, like the similar styled areas of London, but you can’t really afford the stuff in the shops.
Chinese cities also need more foreign food places (real food, not American junk food). Not that Chinese food (whatever region – it’s all a bit same-y to me) is bad, oh no! I love it….but by the end of my month there I was craving a curry. And a roast with trimmings.
My favourite Chinese city is still Auckland. I kow it’s not strictly a Chinese city but, like Vancouver (my other favourite Chinese city), you’d be hard pressed to tell. And the sky here is blue (even when it rains)


September 12, 2011 @ 5:54 am | Comment

Taipei is the place to be! 😉

September 12, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

@J. a T.L. – As much as I enjoyed the many times I visited Taipei, my preference is still for Tainan and Taidong – they still have that mix of sleepiness, vitality, mountains, sea, and hot springs all within easy reach that I find quintessentially Taiwanese.

Kaosiung sucks BTW – polluted, lacking in night-life, and economically depressed. Worst city on the whole beautiful island of Taiwan by a long shot.

September 12, 2011 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

I’m in Weifang. Any tips? lol.

September 12, 2011 @ 6:35 pm | Comment

Taiwan Island was named Formosa by the Portuguese, in their language it means beautiful.

September 13, 2011 @ 3:49 am | Comment

Since we have digressed into loawai lifestyles in China’s first and second-tier cities, there are other things to consider. The negatives. 90% of China’s regional food styles are little better than slop, even if there is a guarantee that the ingredients don’t glow in the dark, and after I exclude decent Hui and Sichuan grub. Being seen in the right chi chi night spots in Beijing, Shanghai etc. Big deal.I’m so cutting edge! China’s parks and popular tourist locations. Cheesy, full of litter, spit and in one a massive kangaroo rendered in Soviet Contructivist style.

Other things make life agreeable even in a crappy and seriously corrupt second tier city such as Fuzhou. For some reason, the underground bootleg DVD factories in Fujian turn out particularly high quality product. I completed my film education there big time, and I am not talking about Hollywood dreck. In a five year period, I assembled a massive noir, Japanese, South American and cult collections, not to mention Europeon stuff going back to the 1920s. No sooner had I researched a film than I found it in one of the many local bootleg shops.Okay, different strokes for different folks, but you couldn’t have done this in the West. (Ever walked thru Western customs with two backpacks full of serious cinema. Lost my pack of cashews however due to an overactive beagle: I trod on the b……..s foot as payback when his handler was distracted.)

Another liveability litmus test is access to decent reading material, and here both Fz and Shenzhen fittted the bill, having access to two truly brilliant libraries top heavy with history and and other serious stuff. In fact, you could have turned out a pretty decent PhD in either.

On a lighter note, China turns out some really excellent beer. The US should practice some reverse engineering here.

Just had to get his out in the open.

September 13, 2011 @ 6:24 am | Comment

“On a lighter note, China turns out some really excellent beer. The US should practice some reverse engineering here.”

Never heard of the 20-year-old US microbrew boom?

September 13, 2011 @ 7:24 am | Comment

I’ll second slim’s comment regarding US beer. Although the world’s best selling beer is Chinese ( I’m afraid what I got while on hols wasn’t really what I’d call slake-worthy. Thankfully the 2.5-3% strength meant I could drink more with less effect, they weren’t the best of beers, beng mainly US/Mexican influenced….not what I’d call beer as such, more a malty pop.

September 13, 2011 @ 7:41 am | Comment

We are talking about beer readily bought at the local corner store. That is beer produced for the masses, including the loawai masses now working in the PRC. You know, that cold bottle you enjoy before dinner after a hard day teaching split infinitives or managing your widget factory.

One mention of US or Canadian beer for that matter really brings out the defensive cultural cringe. Slim, I jeer at your precious little pub breweries. You can find them in any country the world over including Albania. Here today in an overpriced setting, and gone tomorrow like the eight track car cassette.

September 13, 2011 @ 7:43 am | Comment

Mike, you are muddying the waters and misrepresenting the diversity of quality Chinese beers with that link.

Snow is right down there with Pearl River Lager and Kingwell. Now, if your purpose was to get relatively legless, the PRC does peddle a number of white spirits ……

Seriously, China produces a number of excellent beers that leave some Europeon and all US equivalents for dead.

Lets get back to the iniquity of the CCP where a general concensus prevails.

September 13, 2011 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Muddy waters? Must be a beer I missed 😉
While I have no doubt there are quality beers out there, it was sodding hard for me to find. Bear in mind, I was only there a month, most of that in the in laws place (father in law isn’t too big a beer drinker – he much prefers that throat stripping white spirit or that stuff that’s a dead ringer for sherry). I looked….trust me, I looked. Also asked the wife to ask the family…and that included going to the corner shop. In the end, I had to be content with anything that was above 4%
Mind you, have to say if one is being entertained by the extended family, one doesn’t question what one drinks. Beer was offered and I drank. I much preferred the spirits but wife preferred me to stick with beer. Was also offered wine – was OK… Hardest part for me was getting used to how to drink at a meal.

Getting back on topic, Shanghai was also nice for that German restaurant I went to. Was a treat for my stoically putting up with an exclusively Chinese diet for so long 🙂 Can’t recall what it was called – was down some alleyway with a bunch of other international restaurants. Nice beer there! However, outside of there, from Nantong inland, it seemed as if “western” food was defined almost entirely by McD and KFC.

September 13, 2011 @ 9:26 am | Comment

Jeer and enjoy beer brewed from the limpid waters of the Yangtze all you want. I’m not talking about swill for the masses or “precious” copy-cat brew pubs in the third world, I’m talking about scores of prize-winning micro-breweries. I’m a beer snob and recovering home-brewer partial to British-style ales, CAMRA and all that, but having toured the beer scene in both the UK and the US, I have to say the US has a lot more going on in that department. As for Oz beers, I’ve only tried what they export or serve at embassies, and they are almost as forgettable as Anheuser-Busch products.

The US has absolutely nothing to learn from China in the beer department. (For that matter, how could beer be any less susceptible to China’s toxic environment and scandalous commercial ethics than other food products?)

September 13, 2011 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

@ Slim

“The US has absolutely nothing to learn from China in the beer department. (For that matter, how could beer be any less susceptible to China’s toxic environment and scandalous commercial ethics than other food products?)”

Well, if you want to lower your cost of production in beer, you just add water, so at it isn’t toxic, I guess? j/k

I always really liked Yanjing. Pretty clean finish, especially compared to the heavier Tsingtao, although nothing on either side of the Pacific really beats a pint of Asahi Super Dry and a good karaoke setup.

@ Richard

You have a point, although the twist here is that most poor people in China don’t ascribe their misfortune, or China’s problems in general, to the state, while many more middle class do.

@ AndyR

Definitely agree about Qingdao–plenty of single, friendly girls on the beach, lots of beer and barbecued squid, cheap, and decent environmental attributes.

Would like to add a plug for Beijing while I’m at it–the University district up north is absolutely crawling with awesomeness. Nothing beats the sounds of Chinese techno, a martini in one hand and an overeager Tsinghua girl in the other pestering you for internship opportunities…

September 14, 2011 @ 2:30 am | Comment

As far as lager-type watered down beers, Qingdao definitely stands up nicely to the US domestic behemoths like Bud, Coors, and Miller. Unfortunately, against other “lagers for the masses” like the Japanese beers (Asahi, Kirin) and the almighty Tsingha I think Qingdao falls way behind some of its Asian competitors (and this is coming from someone whose Chinese “grew-up” in Qingdao). It’s still the best beer in China though 🙂 (well, besides Snow…just kidding!)

September 14, 2011 @ 4:27 am | Comment

Blokely battle of the beers generated by a throwaway line. Say no more. I was interested in other criteria by which to judge the liveability of Chinese cities.

“Would like to add a plug for Beijing while I’m at it–the University district up north is absolutely crawling with awesomeness. Nothing beats the sounds of Chinese techno, a martini in one hand and an overeager Tsinghua girl in the other pestering you for internship opportunities…”

Throw in club lizard photos, some comments by Sino-citizens, and hey we have a balllistic CS thread.

September 14, 2011 @ 5:43 am | Comment


Check out the winners of the 2010 World Beer Cup – US microbrews dominate the contest.

You might be thinking about the major US domestic breweries, such as MillerCoors or Anheuser-Busch, which yes, is horrible pond water I wouldn’t give to a dog.

September 14, 2011 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

I like Yanjing and Qingdao well enough (and there are a couple specialty brews I had in Qingdao that I wish were more widely circulated), but yes, US microbrews are excellent. My hometown San Diego led the renaissance in craft brewing. I drink plenty of Yanjing when I’m in China, but there’s no comparison, unfortunately.

September 14, 2011 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

Whilst I’m wearing my Nanjing gang colours, Imma throw a shout out to Jinling, the beer that got me wasted for cheap through 2.5 years in the big smokey.

Back in the real world, however, British beer kicks arse as far as flavour goes, though I’m open to the idea that America might have more to offer than the piss-weak no-taste dreck it flogs to the rest of the world – at least judging by the Brooklyn lager which there was a fad for a while back. Sorry to say this to our antipodean friends, but I haven’t seen much of Aussie beer except Castlemaine and Fosters. Japanese beer is about as good as flavourless lager gets, and Polish beer is great, but quite strong and always gives me a rotten hangover, watch out for the Czech microbreweries – their stuff is good.

So the UK does beer, and the rest of the world does lager – that seems to be the shape of it.

September 14, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

Don’t even think about most Oz beers. They are very so-so to beyond-appalling (eg Fosters @ xxxx), except for the stuff made in Tasmania.

And I can say that with confidence as I guzzled the directors last bottle of the Graham Green Special brewed by Greene King in Bury St E.

September 14, 2011 @ 5:13 pm | Comment

Damn, you are making me thirsty! Shall get a bottle of Coopers on the way home (the Tassie beer mentioned). Flavoursome and cheap and in a 750ml package.
I’d contribute more to the city topic but my abiding memory is of smog. Air so think it could be cut and packaged. Shopping, walking…in fact anything, in any city an hours bus ride away from Shanghai was also a chore with 2 Eurasian daughters – I mean, Shanghai is only 60 minutes away – don’t people get out and about? I was also comically surprised when repeatedly asked if they were twins…seeing as one daughter is 5 and the other is 2 and both look their age…

September 15, 2011 @ 6:01 am | Comment

Cliches often arise because they are often true. Unfortunate about the smog though. And do you think it is an inevitability that people become disillusioned of cover ups?

September 15, 2011 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

Actually September is not the best time to visit Beijing, and certainly not on the 6th, just after August. I’d recommend instead the October Golden week holiday, when we’ve had a couple of thunderstorms to clear all the crap out of the air, and its cooled down somewhat. Its usually blue skies early October. But even that pales with April, when the Magnolias are out. Beijing only has a 2 week spring and autumn, so you need to be very precise about them. After those windows close its just freezing and dusty or oppressive and smoggy. Which is presumably why the Communist Party is based there. – Chris

September 15, 2011 @ 6:25 pm | Comment

And on beer – the United States makes some fine brews, mostly towards the northern east or west coast, although California has a handful of good ones, Pelican Ale I recall. Canada also makes some good artisan beers.

Tsingtao make a dark beer thats sort of like Guinness with Marmite, I use it sometimes to marinade beef, but most Asian beers are lager type (mainly due to the heat, you need low alcohol, cold, and easy to drink), although Mongolian beer is good, a bunch of Germans up there told them how to do it and now you can’t move in Ulaan Baatar for Wheat homebrews.

Europe has plenty of good beers (no-ones mentioned the Belgians? Come on!) but only the Brits do Pubs. And nowadays good beers can be found all over the UK.

But what do I know? I’ve just invested some money in a cider making venture in Xinjiang. Apples are the future, people. – Chris

September 15, 2011 @ 6:33 pm | Comment

Little known fact: approximately 77% of the global population does not live in China or the United States.

If my choice was between the US or China only, I would probably choose China. But add in the rest of the world, and there are many many other cities I would live in over Beijing (or any mainland city, for that matter).

Other non-American cities have similar economic optimism levels as Beijing but eat it for lunch in terms of culture, environment and general joie de vivre. The most immediate one that comes to mind is Istanbul (probably because I was just there recently).

September 16, 2011 @ 4:54 am | Comment

@PB. Great point. By your criteria, it would be Barecelona, Madrid, Milan etc. All have football teams which the Politburo would sacrifice their collective gonads to own.

Beijing, Shanghai, etc. Potempkin pretenders since they all lack that one serious accoutrement of modern metropolis soft power, a serious football team.

And, they are certainly aware of this omission.

September 16, 2011 @ 5:28 am | Comment

@King Tubby – “since they all lack that one serious accoutrement of modern metropolis soft power, a serious football team”.

You mean you haven’t heard of the wonderfully named and indisputably mighty Jiangsu Sainty ?

September 16, 2011 @ 5:17 pm | Comment

Here’s the kind of things Chris writes when he’s not trying to be quite so jovial –

“Dear Mr. Grundy;

Just to remind you that according to Charles, our Private Investigator, you have a 5pm deadline to keep today as regards removal of offensive and defamatory material from your website.

I suggest you do, and if so, we’ll say no more about this issue between you and I. You’ve had your fun, now it’s time for you to move on and stop this constant bothering and sullying of my name.

Yours sincerely;

Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Dezan Shira & Associates
Beijing “

“Mr. Grundy

My name is Charles & I am a private investigator. You know me as
‘anonymous’ on your blog. I act as a go between on behalf on a group of
four individuals. They have engaged me to establish your identity and to make
contact with you. This concerns various comments and statements you have
made on your blog & on those of others. I have now made you aware that I
can track you down & also your colleagues family & friends. I also have records of your addresses in Brighton & Lansing full details of your movements throughout Asia & the people you met with professionally. I can stretch this further & add in contacts within the UK & immigration worldwide for your immigration & passport details. I can now find you & keep track of where you are. The question is what happens next. You are instructed to immediately delete from your website all references to the people you have harrassed online within the next 48 hours. Lets not have you getting
smart asking who or what. Use your sense. I have a list of your comments & I will be watching. Take everything down & delete it. This means a deadline of close of business 5pm GMT on Tuesday 15 March. You are asked to do the same for references of the websites of Wang Jiangshuo & Rhondo Zeb. It is your problem if these sites are not under your control. If you comply with this request & abstain from making any further references to any of the individuals concerned no further action will be taken against you. If not then actions will be taken & this will involve your employers & other means that will not be to your amusement at my disposal. I have contacts in many places & Wroclow is a text away. There are no negotiations. It is better for you that it is not necessary to meet with any of my friends. That would not be a good idea. Do not piss me off or them off & we can bid goodbye & let all your bad behaviour be history.


“It seems you have not reacted to the request to delete the offending items from your blog. I see you have tried to hack into my hotmail account. You’ll be well advised to take my advice below. Otherwise you’ll be receiving a nice surprise when you return to the UK. Be careful when walking to work in Wroclaw we don’t want any accidents do we. I’m watching you. So are my friends.


Chris, I have never emailed you, never called you, and never contacted you, but if you want to apologise for the above groundless threats against myself and my family, now is the time.

September 16, 2011 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

Oh and in case anyone is wondering what exactly is being referred to the so-called “offensive and defamatory” statements on my blog, here they are:

Yes, my “offensive and defamatory” statement, is that Chris Devonshire-Ellis has no legal or accountancy qualifications, yet has claimed to be a law graduate. As you can also see, this post was published nearly three years ago, yet no legal action has ever been taken against me, nor has any evidence dispproving the details of my post ever been brought forward. What I’ve written is therefore not in any sense “defamatory” – as many others have recognised.

It is also surprising to hear Chris talking about his continued business activities in China. This is because he announced his resignation in 2009. Here’s what the Guardian had to say about it:

“A well-known British business consultant in Beijing resigned today after publishing comments that apparently sparked a fall in the renminbi.

The Chinese currency dropped sharply last week after China Briefing quoted senior officials in Beijing saying it could weaken to around 6.9 to 7.0 yuan against the US dollar. But their agencies swiftly insisted that they had not granted interviews to the magazine.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis, publisher of China Briefing and senior partner of professional services firm Dezan Shira and Associates, said he had quit over the row.

“Due to the serious error of judgment I made publishing details of off-the-record meetings with Chinese ministers, I have decided to step down from these roles,” he said in a statement published on China Briefing. “I have enjoyed working with our staff and clients in helping them prosper and succeed in China and I want to thank all those who have helped me over the past 17 years.”

He founded DSA, which publishes China Briefing, 17 years ago.”

You can read the rest here:

September 16, 2011 @ 6:10 pm | Comment

@FOARP. Crikey, I introduced beer, football and I was going for cities of the world and girls/boys, when you ruin the whole gig.

September 16, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

Guys — FOARP and CDE — can we keep to the topic, and keep it civil?

September 16, 2011 @ 10:53 pm | Comment

I think every man who newly joins a discussion has a right to be introduced to the others, and Foarp has only met his obligation by posting that taster (#56) from an old, umm, acquaintance.

September 16, 2011 @ 11:06 pm | Comment

Thanks FOARP. I talk about beer and you…well. Yawn.

September 19, 2011 @ 2:47 pm | Comment


I’m interested, though. Did you or did you not hire a private investigator called “Charles”?

September 19, 2011 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

@Chris – If you wish to avoid this kind of argument, it would be better not to send such harrassing emails in future.

@Raj – I checked with all the UK PI’s called Charles (they’re actually on a register and there’s only three of them) none of them have ever worked with Chris. There is no sign of any PI called Charles Pi anywhere else (although it’s obviously a made-up name anyway). For anyone who’s been on the receiving end of Chris’s harrassment, as I have for getting on three years now, the writing style you see in “Charles’s” emails is very familiar.

September 19, 2011 @ 4:18 pm | Comment

Concerning Beijing and beer, I’m not a big beer drinker (I prefer wine) but if I’m with friends who do like a drop, I’ll go to the Hidden Tree in Sanlitun. They have Duval and Chimay there, which I am told is best if you pour one chilled bottle, and one room temparature bottle together in a glass. Then you get the optimum pour and taste. I’m not sure about that, but it sure seems a great ruse to tell the wife and get two bottles into the bargain! The Tree also has a great pizza oven. The Morels bars in Beijing are also good for both food and decent beers. – Chris

September 19, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

FOARP, so basically you’re saying that Chris made up a fake identity to write nasty emails to you?

Chris, do you have any comments on this allegation? Are you going to hire another “PI” to get FOARP to retract them?

September 20, 2011 @ 5:10 am | Comment

Guys, do we have to turn this thread into a discussion of an old feud? Maybe it would be better to move it somewhere else, away from this blog. Thanks.

September 20, 2011 @ 5:19 am | Comment

Aaaah, beer then a spat then PIs. I had a PI once – a Triumph TR6. Of course, PI stood for Petrol Injection. Lovely car – miss it still!


September 20, 2011 @ 5:55 am | Comment

Ditto Mike. TR3A. Webers. Canary yellow. Should have garaged it for 3 decades, then the auction block and I would now be in a position to buy NZ.

September 20, 2011 @ 6:00 am | Comment

Just what is it about Asian folk and watches. The first thing any Morth Korean defector to the South buys is an expensive showy timepiece.

Widow Wang (who sounds like an unpleasant creature if you read the full link below), and who lost her husband in the Wenzhou disaster made two complaints.

“For all her discontent, Wang Hui accepted the compensation offer after she was repeatedly visited by unidentified officials. On Aug. 2, one group came to her hotel in Wenzhou to offer condolences and muttered audibly about potential problems with her husband’s body because it wasn’t refrigerated, she says”.

Blackmail by pong.

When she collected his body, there was one thing missing: Zheng’s silver Audemars Piguet wristwatch. He’d planned to give it to Tangtang when she got older. Only a mark remained on the wrist where it was, Wang says. The police told her it must have been lost in the crash, she says. She thinks it was stolen.

September 20, 2011 @ 6:13 am | Comment

Sorry Richard I’ve just talked about beer, I can’t control what other people write. I agree, it’s stupid and rude to crap on other people’s blogs, and my personal strategy is to ignore it. I don’t know what you want to do about it, but clearly its just harrassment and crap. I’m sorry about that, however I haven’t done anything to kick that off.
But – back on topic – one other thing about beer in China. There is a Hong Kong brewery, the East End Brewery, which does pale ale and other artinisal beers. But I haven’t seen them around for awhile. Does anyone know if they’re still around? It’s good stuff on a hot sweaty Hong Kong day.

September 20, 2011 @ 10:02 am | Comment

CDE: I agree, it’s stupid and rude to crap on other people’s blogs, and my personal strategy is to ignore it. I don’t know what you want to do about it, but clearly its just harrassment and crap.

Sorry, but just by talking like this <1>you’re crapping on my blog. Let’s just end it here.

September 20, 2011 @ 11:34 am | Comment

Ok, but I came in peace and all I did was discuss beer. But if I’m not welcome, so be it.

September 20, 2011 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

Chris, you are welcome, but I don’t want commenters swiping at each other over issues that aren’t relevant to the topics. Please, come and talk about beer or anything else, but don’t engage in back and forth about stuff that’s irrelevant and distasteful. That goes for everyone.

September 21, 2011 @ 12:54 am | Comment

I’m not going to comment further on this, if you read through you’ll see who has said what.

September 21, 2011 @ 11:22 am | Comment

don’t say you’re going to drop it. Just drop it…which can be done without saying it.

September 21, 2011 @ 11:49 am | Comment

Done ! Richard best wishes with your blog. CDE

September 21, 2011 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

I, King Tubby, do solemnly swear never to mention beer, even as a throwaway line, on this blog ever again, so help me (non-deity of choice).

September 22, 2011 @ 3:59 am | Comment

A bit harsh, that treatment.

September 22, 2011 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

September 25, 2011 @ 8:18 am | Comment

I’ve deleted the previous comment and my original response to it. The more I thought about it, the more these comments bothered me.

Let’s use comments to express opinions about the posts, not to take swipes at others, or at me. Thanks.

September 25, 2011 @ 9:46 am | Comment

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