Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

I’m alive and well and in New York City, still recovering from acute jet lag and the nastiest bronchitis I’ve ever had. I won’t be posting regulalrly until next week, when I’ll be back home in Arizona; I promise, I will not simply disappear.

Meanwhile, I can’t can’t yet say how big a picture Asia will continue to play on this site. It all seems like a very distant blur at the moment, but the jet lag and the cough medicine may be partly responsible for that. What I can say is that the site design and name will stay the same for now; no big changes until I find a new job and can afford a redesign.

Sorry to keep everyone in limbo (and sorry to see my site traffic go down the drain, as well). But it really is temporary. I can’t wait to get back into action, and when I do come back it’ll be with a vengeance.


Leaving Asia with a whimper

Too bad, that my last few days in Asia were spent bedridden with a high fever and bronchitis. I was enjoying a beautiful trip to Hangzhou this past weekend, walking around the enchanting West Lake and the Ling Yin Temple when I started coughing. When i woke up the next morning I knew I was really sick.

There are so many stories I’d like to comment on, so many observations I want to share about Beijing and Shanghai, but I’ll have to wait, probably several days. Maybe tonight if I feel better (but I truly doubt it).


In the company of bloggers

Two of my most enjoyable encounters in Beijing over the past few days were with fellow bloggers. I was lucky enough to have dinner with one of them last night and enjoy a spirited discussion about US politics, the Chinese media and the changing mindset of Chinese university students. We don’t agree on everything, but we come pretty close. The Chinese blogging community includes some of the greatest gentlemen/women I’ve ever known. It’s been a real privilege knowing and meeting them.

I’m in Shanghai now, where I spent a few hours today visiting the local office of the company I worked for in Beijing. Tomorrow I say goodbyes to a few other friends, then head for Hangzhou for a few days and finish the trip back in Beijing.

It’s been a great journey, with some of the usual jarring experiences I came to expect here. Half the time, China’s Internet wouldn’t let me on to post or comment, but half the time I got lucky and there was no problem. I had a hilarious episode at a state-owned hotel in Beijing this morning that brought home a barrage of memories that every expat has about how customer service in China is not always what it is elsewhere. But then, that’s part of the inherent uniqueness that makes the place so endearing. There were some other examples of those aggravations that at first raise your blood pressure to near-bursting but that, after time, you learn to just smile at.

Still can’t devote time to politics or news here; I just want to take in the scenery before I say goodbye.


Posting problems

China’s idiosyncratic Internet is causing me a bit of grief today, with posts getting lost and access being denied and a lot of time being wasted. So strange, how one minute it’s not working, the next it’s fine. Totally unpredictable. I’ll be here another five days, and my time on the Net will be very limited. Sporadic posting at best.

A troll has been dropping incredibly obscene comments all over my site, and I apologize for any offense taken. I’m trying to delete them as they come, but don’t have the time to police the site adequately. Thanks for your patience.


Reappraising Tiananmen Square

When I met with a former co-worker today for lunch in Beijing, the first thing he asked was whether I heard the latest big news from Beijing: Dr. Jiang Yanyong, the whistleblower who tipped off the Western media to the SARS cover-up last year, had demanded the CCP turn the spotlight on the Tiananmen Square massacre and reappraise what occurred.

The story has already been covered nicely by Water, Joseph and Andrea.

My friend seems to think the doctor’s fame and reputation will help win support for his request, and that it has the potential to further push China along the road to greater transparency and accountability. It could also be a good test of who’s really pulling the strings in Beijing, the reformers or the hard-liners. This is one to watch carefully.

More posts about Tiananmen Square:
Tiananmen Square revisited
Tiananmen Square re-revisited
The story behind the Tiananmen Square “tank man” photo


Back later

Beijing ‘s weather is spectacular today and the city looks nicer than ever. I’ve been meeting old friends and still have two more meetings this afternoon. One of them told me some political news that I’ll have to blog about when I get a minute to myself, which might not be anytime soon.

More job opportunities for me in China, now that I’ve decided to go home to the US. Still, it’s good to know there are options, and that I can come back anytime. Now, if only I could make a final decision about what I want to do with the rest of my life….


No bad news allowed during China’s NPC

Just a year ago, as we all know, the CCP covered up the spread of SARS in Beijing because it would’ve spoiled the good cheer of its rubberstamp National People’s Congress. I’ve been assured time and again that this can’t happen anymore because China learned its lesson. Never again will bad news be kept from the public just to make the Party look good — especially if supressing the bad news could endanger human life.

And then I stumbled on this post with the telling subject heading, “Major pollution incident in Sichuan; don’t tell people.”

A chemical leak into the Tuo River in Sichuan on Tuesday left up to one million people without water, according to international reports of a story in the Shanghai Morning Post.

However, with China in “good news only mode” during the NPC/CPPCC egofest, there is, of course, absolutely nothing – not a single mention – of the disaster at national level. Perhaps ironic that two days after the incident, the official media carried a report Uniform water system stressed.

One would have thought that some lessons in communications had been learnt last year. One could even argue that reporting news of major spills would support the government’s efforts to improve China’s environmental peformance. A quick review of the English language versions of the national media sources over the last few days shows there to be an complete and utter absence of news which might suggest that there is anything other than sweetness and light in the Middle Kingdom. I’m not sure how Chinese media people can hold their heads up when they are overseas. It’s basically corporate communications on a grand scale.

Hey, don’t slander my profession! If anyone in corporate communications committed crimes even close to this, they’d be fired and blacklisted from the field forever. Cardinal rule in crisis comms: acknowledge the crisis publicly, and never, ever lie or cover it up. China learned that lesson so well last year with SARS, remember?

Just because I’m trying to give the CCP the benefit of the doubt in regard to several recent initiatives doesn’t mean I won’t stop calling them on their shit if and when it surfaces. They have a long, long way to go to earning international trust and respect. This really sucks, and the whole world should know.


Frank Rich follows up on The Passion

And he’s pretty direct about it.

Thank God — I think. Mel Gibson has granted me absolution for my sins. As “The Passion of the Christ” approached the $100 million mark, the star appeared on “The Tonight Show,” where Jay Leno asked if he would forgive me. “Absolutely,” he responded, adding that his dispute with me was “not personal.” Then he waxed philosophical: “You try to perform an act of love even for those who persecute you, and I think that’s the message of the film.”

Thus we see the gospel according to Mel. If you criticize his film and the Jew-baiting by which he promoted it, you are persecuting him — all the way to the bank. If he says that he wants you killed, he wants your intestines “on a stick” and he wants to kill your dog — such was his fatwa against me in September — not only is there nothing personal about it but it’s an act of love. And that is indeed the message of his film. “The Passion” is far more in love with putting Jesus’ intestines on a stick than with dramatizing his godly teachings, which are relegated to a few brief, cryptic flashbacks.

With its laborious build-up to its orgasmic spurtings of blood and other bodily fluids, Mr. Gibson’s film is constructed like nothing so much as a porn movie, replete with slo-mo climaxes and pounding music for the money shots. Of all the “Passion” critics, no one has nailed its artistic vision more precisely than Christopher Hitchens, who on “Hardball” called it a homoerotic “exercise in lurid sadomasochism” for those who “like seeing handsome young men stripped and flayed alive over a long period of time.”

And it only gets more intense from there. Highly recommended.


Back to Beijing in 48 hours

It will probably be my last visit to China for a while, and I have the feeling it will be an important one. I’m lined up to see a lot of people in Beijing and Shanghai, to say my final goodbyes, and in some cases to say my introductory hellos (folowed quickly by goodbyes).

I had my last day of work this week. As soon as I get back to the US I’ll have to start looking. I’ve always had pretty good luck finding jobs, but I hear the current job market in the US has rarely been worse.

So I have a lot of complicated thoughts to sort out, and a lot of issues I have to come to terms with. There are some people I will miss so much I can’t imagine being so far away from them. And I know there’s a lot about living in Asia I’ll miss, especially being able to maintain this blog with a live-from-Asia perspective. I don’t know what it’s going to become after I get home.

48 hours until I arrive in Beijing, followed by a trip to Shanghai and then home, first for three days in New York to see friends there, and then, finally, a return to my home and family and loved ones and cats in Arizona. It is so overwhelming and so surreal I can’t describe it. I am bracing myself even now for the culture shock.


Danwei too racy for Living in China?

Second Update: It’s been fixed.

Update: LiC has apparently blamed this on a technical glitch. I don’t know enough about technology to comment; I guess the aggregator can actually “bounce” individual blogs from being picked up. It’s happened before, in the case of Gweilo Diaries and See lai, both of which carry photos of scantily clad ladies. I found it amazing that now, when it happens for the third time, the site in question, danwei, is featuring a post with lots of photos of — you guessed it — scantily clad ladies!

No one has praised Living in China more than I, and I contribute to it whenever I can. But little episodes like this get my conspiracy-theory sensors activated. Looking at the three times this has now happened, I just have to wonder: is it just pure coincidence? Apparently, at least according to those in the know, it is.

As Brian points out, the Living in China aggregator seems to be acting up again, leaving off a bunch of danwei’s most recent posts, which are damned good.

Maybe Jeremy requested they be left off — I don’t know. But if it was a decision by the LiC board of directors, I hope they reconsider. They already have the disclaimer above the aggregated posts, and if they think the Chinese government is going to freak out over stuff that is already being printed in their media anyway — well, it just seems kind of silly.

Whatever you do, don’t miss danwei’s latest.