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.


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.

The Discussion: 80 Comments

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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