Novel #2

Novel 2

The new new is now now.

Shanghai Eye

A year in the life of a foreign correspondent in Shanghai (with illustrations)

Introduction

Autumn

Shanghai’s Bund

SHANGHAI EYE is here, sipping Bollinger, at 3am in the Pudong New Area, surrounded by screaming coke happy models and various celebs nobody has heard of outside of Asia.

This has got to be a better picture of the new China.

Club V (the V pronounced ‘Veii’) is the latest ‘super club’ in Shanghai, hidden away in the middle of nowhere. The Pudong New Area is a vast space of manicured lawns and shrubbery, the tallest office towers in Asia, but is unfortunately uninhabited. After office hours the only people on the streets are tramps looking for somewhere to doss down, and occasional late shoppers heading for the tube after a sortie to ‘Super Brand Mall.’

There’s got to be something perverse about locating a club here, or more likely, a more collusive local government willing to let the club’s late night shenanigans get out of hand. Those who do live in Pudong are in bed by 10 pm.

The stage show involved semi-naked models alternatively dancing artistically, or jumping up and down screaming, depending on the script. Free scotch and shots at the bar until 12 am. Half the crowd doesn’t have a drink in hand – must be the coke then, the bathrooms are spotless, and free packets of cigarettes are laid on for visitors, there are even nicely folded RMB 100 bills. I think that was a suggestion to leave a tip.

The bar staff all wear USD 300 T-Shirts, designed by John-Paul Gaultier, with lots of nice artistic little holes.

The music, alternating between happy French house and the new trendy ‘chill out’ sounds, has the crowd dancing, but I have a feeling this lot would dance to anything.

The Moet was given the brush off in favour of the Bolly – glasses all round and another bottle appears. The waiter has a clever way of pouring it into the chilled glasses and a bald bloke slopes of with some of the models. The night goes on –and this lot won’t be in bed before sunrise. And that Bolly is RMB 600 a bottle.

Shanghai’s house prices have gone up 30-40% over the last 12 months, the Internet is again in boom mode, the economy grew despite SARS, and those at the vanguard of the economic reforms are doing well. At this point, I should point out that there were some beggars hanging around outside, who weren’t doing so well, three or four descended on anyone who couldn’t immediately find a taxi. Only 70 years ago their predecessors chased people getting into rickshaws.  But at least in Shanghai the beggars are usually not deformed, unlike in Beijing.  A friend suggested shooting the lot of them, which seems extreme. I suggested a Big-Issue type endeavor could get them into meaningful employment. Another friend suggested employing retired people to supervise them, as they do to stop people jaywalking, a sensible suggestion?

Back to Puxi (the older half of Shanghai on the northern banks of the Huangpu), across a 5 km long bridge, and it’s the “Tourist Festival Carnival.” The two main streets Huai Hai Road and Nanjing Road were blocked to traffic,  and various bands, including the formerly banned Cui Jian, rocked the Bund. The tourist festival starts in September, as the weather cools off a bit – this year has already seen a cumulative three months of temperatures of 36c and higher.

A Turkish Kebab and a taxi home, that’s the new China for you.

Chairman Mao’s stature shrinks

CHINA has published various nutty theories over the years, but the continuing nonsense of the “Three Represents” is really annoying. With new President Hu it was hoped he would come up with something a bit more interesting, or at least comprehensible ideology. And he may yet.

But anyhow, so what does it mean the “Three Represents”?.

“Represent the cadres banquets, corruption and themselves,” one taxi driver noted amusingly. Taxi drivers can enliven tedious journeys by such talk, at no extra charge.

In reality the theory it is supposed to represent promotion of, um, something else, such as economic reform and other such matters. But again, if you ask an official or just about anyone in China in an un-official way what they think of the “Three Represents” they laugh, smile, joke or frown. Certainly no-one takes this dogma seriously, which actually is a good thing, but perhaps not so good for the boys who have to make long-winded speeches about it. And pity the poor old hacks who have to try and write about it – People’s Daily has a long running series “study the Three Represents.” Never has so much tosh and drivel been written, published, painstakingly translated, and ignored.

So, answers on a postcard please: What are the Three Represents? The winner gets a piss up at the CCPs expense, or a detention without trial.

ABOUT a year ago an established western artist with a wealthy Hong Kong backer wanted to take over a chunk of the Shanghai art scene. Wandering the alleys off Suzhou Creek he excitedly looked at the possibilities: “Great, open up a gallery in one of these alleys, get in rich old ladies from New York to buy the work, they’ll love it,” he said. His dreams of paintings walking off the alley walls has yet to come to fruition, but this little story does point to one thing – the current Chinese art scene relies heavily on the impoverished bohemian lifestyles of artists, and there are a lot of people waiting in the wings to take a slice of the cake. You see, once art moves out of the hands of artists it moves into the hands of the art world, which is a different thing entirely.

“There are a lot of artists and few buyers here,” a former government cultural employee put it succinctly. “In places like Italy and Spain, if you visit an art show or fair, people really will buy works, but in China people often go instead for an educational experience. In China buyers usually go straight to the artists, which adds to the limitations on market development,” she said. This has meant very few Chinese dealers have arisen, and western dealers dominate sales – essentially because most buyers are also westerners, and the artists don’t usually speak English.

Often foreign gallery reps. arrive off a plane with a week or two to curate a show, or buy a few pieces of Chinese modern art for their collection. With very little knowledge of the local scene, how can they tell a dud from a masterpiece, and track down the latest happenings in Chinese art? They can either hang around bars and ask people if they know any artists, or call up the local galleries and dealers listed in free magazines.

In Beijing they’d probably seek out Brian Wallace, who was the original western gallery owner. He established his Red Gate Gallery in a Beijing hotel in the early nineties, branched out into an old watchtower, and has played a major role as a dealer in the development of Chinese contemporary art since its early, formative years. Apart from his good guanxi (connections) in arts, he’s never too shy to open a bottle of Australian chardonnay at his openings, which encourages the trade.

The most influential critics include Zhou Qi, Wang Lin and the original godfather of critics, Wu Liang, who has now retired to run the gallery cum bar room with a view. “There aren’t any critics in Shanghai right now,” an artist pointed out. The main reason for their being so few respected critics is that a majority of them rely on graft to ply their trade. “Many artists paint ‘gift paintings’ to give to critics to generate good articles,” one insider revealed.

As the line begins to blur between critics, curators and dealers Wu Liang is leading the way in establishing a wider profile. Recently Wu’s house featured in the magazine Anjia, a decoration magazine that features the homes of the rich and famous. His Shanghai gallery is focusing mostly on new unknown artists. Beijing based Zhou, famous for his wide sweeping articles, and Nanjing based Wang, who provides more intimate insights, still concentrate on more academic pursuits, sometimes still appearing in translation on Chinese-art.com.

Though critics provide the intellectual qualifications, western dealers and galleries can claim to have recruited the best and most famous Chinese talent, mostly through browsing obscure exhibitions and Art school degree shows, or a bit of guanxi. “Only western dealers know the tastes of foreign buyers, there are more Chinese buyers now, and young people learning how to be dealers, but it will still take several years,” said the former government employee.

While China herself is meeting the world with double happiness, following WTO entry, the local art scene is also becoming more international. Once certain trade and cultural barriers come down over the next few years there may be the long awaited arrival of the old ladies from New York.

There is one guy though, who is already a favourite with those old ladies from New York.  Arguably the most successful of Chinese artists, Chen Yi Fei, now over sees a business empire that includes nationwide clothes and ceramics retail, a modeling agency and a publishing group. On a day to day basis his son runs his business empire, while dad appears in ads for mobile phones, but Chen has also taken up a position as a patron of the arts, supporting the careers of young artists. “ If the business goes badly I’ll sell another painting,” Chen was quoted as saying in the Chinese press. 

A popular urban Chinese art myth is that in 1993 in Yuanmingyuan artists village, what was then the center of what was then  Beijing’s fledgling art scene, one of the artists was killed, chopped up and left in battered suitcases in a paddy field nearby, which caused the village to be closed down. Wife-swapping and baijiu (a Chinese alcohol) dominated that scene, until several of the artists ‘made it’ following a successful show in Germany. The Yuanmingyuan scene was basically the father of all future Chinese ‘art villages’ which are a common phenomenon to this day.

So what is the process that turns art, or fine art as it is sometimes referred to, into a sellable commodity, akin to high class leather shoes or Louis Vitton bags? The complex functions of the art machine are not specifically local,  China produced art works have  captured a corner of the global art market – people who buy art work are buying a global article of trade, that has a re-sale value in Paris, New York or Milan.  The complex process from idea to art form – to critical acclaim and media exposure (or more specifically art press) and patronage (by wealthy individuals, galleries or institutions) – to sales – followed by further sales – is more complicated and Byzantine than say the value chain used by Unilever to create Omo washing powder around the world. But as with all capitalist sub-systems there are rules, to be followed, made and broken. The whole point of art is that it produces an important idea – which somehow propagates itself through exposure – and that idea eventually expresses itself in some kind of monetary form (though that was not necessarily the point).  You might despair that a work that comprised a  light turning on and off was recently awarded a GBP 60,000 prize at the Turner prize, the latest achievement of The New Cleverness in the art world, or that two Chinese artists were arrested for jumping and having a pillow fight on Tracy Emin’s (or was it Sarah Lucas’?) work entitled ‘bed,’ which consisted of a bed.. But that’s the way it works, you can’t really buck a good trend, ask the folks at Unilever or J Walter Thomson advertising.  Art trickles down into the mainstream, in some form or another – art influences fashion, music, advertising, TV, radio, film, etc, so ‘light turning on and off’ will present itself to you in ways that you may not even notice, but those clever advertising people will be happy with the creative sub-text of an ad for mobile phones that you yourself may find induces you to buy following a pervasive campaign of blip-verts.

Art follows trends – currently its moving somewhere out of the Not Reactionary and Emptiness phases, into more narrative realism, still keeping to Cultural Left Critical Orthodoxy, having passed through   Post Modernism, Ironic and Non-Ironic, etc, essentially trying to not confirm to being a commodity, institution led semiotic-versus-imminence existence – and yet, at the end of the day its still pretty confusing, and somehow that’s the whole point.

What it means is that artists in China follow world trends, and are part of the vast world-wide art machine, like it or not, and the masses don’t care either way. Some artists obviously haven’t got a clue (or don’t care?) about the international art machine – a trip down ‘Shanghai’s Art Street’ Taikang Road will show you that, – but others are well tuned in, showing abroad regularly – the problem is that the average art-punter is well removed from it all, so you buy what you like, ‘cos it looks cool, and hey, he’s famous abroad,’   or you can rub your chin and wonder at the narrative qualities, or the  vague infinity presented to you.  After a recent Shanghart show the preponderance of world art ideas on Chinese art culture was all too apparent when the artist whose works had just been on show commented that the Sarah Lucases and Damien Hirsts of the art world are ‘the masters of modern art,’ setting Shanghai’s small art scene within its a global context.

But if you buy art -and very few do – you are buying the high-end product of our post -everything neo-imperialist multinational iconoclastic world society, as uber art critic and media darling Mathew Collins might say. But on the other hand, as you’re not in Munich, New York or London, buying art in China is a little like living in the last days of the Roman Empire, when senators snacked on swallows’ larynxs and quail eggs as the Gothic hordes poured out of the Black Forest.  Art buyers in China are buying whimsical ideas about the cultural revolution, or the concept of beauty and buddhism as the all pervasive barbarity of consumerist world culture sweeps into town- a decadent gesture in one sense, but a gesture all the same. 

Eventually art will hit the mainstream in China, but there’s a while yet. The younger generation has already created its own art forms, found mostly on the Internet, a mixture of Japanese and American youth culture, with a bit of Canto pop and Beijing punk thrown in, a typical site is http://www.huoshen.com.cn’s online galleries. The older cultural elites of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are split into two camps – the modernists with an intellectual international outlook -and the old fart brigade who marvel at ancient Chinese ink wash paintings, re-interpreted sometimes with a socialist or modern culturally relevant dialogue intertwined.  Both monopolize the institutions, art press, art schools, and galleries.  There is also a large émigré community of Chinese artists living mostly in New York and Europe, who are a bit more integrated with the international art scene critically and socially.

Dealers come in many shapes and sizes, the majority are westerners, but there are a growing numbers of Chinese dealers latching on to the international trade as with everything else. And why not? But the main players are certainly western (as far as Chinese contemporary or avant guarde art is concerned). In fact, the London gallery Chinese Contemporary comments on its website: ‘Chinese Contemporary gallery opened in 1996 and is dedicated to showing the work of the Chinese avant garde from 1989. It shows a comprehensive range of artists and represents some of the best up and coming young talents as well as the most famous.’ See, they get the best and most famous, try setting up a gallery in Beijing showing ‘the best and most famous’ British art.

The critics are more heavily Beijing biased, both western and Chinese, though Shanghai’s artists are making a much greater impression over the last few years, Guangzhou still seems lost in the wilderness.  

A young Shanghainese lady recently posed the question: ‘why would anyone buy art if it wasn’t as an investment?’ And if you agree with her, well then you’d better start analysing the trends and performance of the artists readily available, and pay as much attention to their value, as you would in the stock of an up and coming technology firm.  Buy an Artist X painting today -market value USD 10,000 – analyse his ‘Trend factor’ (pretty high – he has strong ideas on his conception of modern art), his ‘Ambition factor’ (medium, his bad temper often leads to arguments), followed by his strong market support (he shows abroad very often, and regularly features in the critical press in China and abroad) and chances are you could calculate he’s a triple A investment (unfortunately Standard and Poors haven’t taken to assessing artists, so you have to do this yourself). Alternatively this is where the lucrative (well, they say they’re broke..) art dealerships and consultancies come in. So, if you’ve just arrived off a plane to curate a show, or buy a few pieces of Chinese modern art, how to tell a dud from a masterpiece? There’s a certain element of naïve trust, especially in dealers, and a need to believe in the hype. If certain critics identify a work as the next best thing, well then you’ll just have to believe them, because they said so. Critics essentially set the agenda – the dealers follow, and after them the institutions with their big public budgets -whereas the artists, whose work inspires the critic’s appraisal fall somewhere in-between.  The critics appraisal can never be taken to lightly – The British double agent Anthony Blunt, who spent  time in a senior position within the British art establishment was blamed for single-handedly orchestrating the demise of post-war British art and the domination of French impressionism and US pop art, all for Blunt’s own Marxist inspired objectives.

But today’s art world has left behind the old cold war days, into a multi-pluralist universe  with perhaps only North Korea and Cuba adhering to the old agendas of art for the masses (ie: illiterate third world peasantry). China has come a long way in re-defining its arts in alignment with world trends, and the world arts market, a propagandist coup by the government, an influx of spiritual pollution, or a tribute to the human chutzpah, you decide.  As the novelty of Chinese pop art wears off – the shocking  fact that Chinese people could paint, were clever and make caustic comments, has worn out a little – but Chinese art as whole is moving in a complex way, made up of numerous and diverse working parts, into being a more established and mainstream section of the art market.  Hopefully soon Chinese artists will stop getting confused for Japanese at the Venice Biennale.

And what about the local market – or will Shanghai become the new cultural capital?

Once home to China’s intellectual avant guarde Shanghai is re-gaining lost ground in the eternal struggle with Beijing’s cultural elite. Up north has held sway since at least the late seventies, and its gritty official and unofficial stamp of approval has carried more status than the more effete and materialistic South.  But southern cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, in the grips of an economic upheaval that is throwing up new money left, right and center,  not surprisingly are attracting various artists away from boring old Beijing and supporting them through sales of new work.  Economic booms and rising art movements generally go hand in hand. When there’s lots of money about creativity tends to thrive, and Shanghai and Guangzhou are awash with investment and investors. Art has yet to take on the status of real estate or automobiles, but the signs are that Chinese art in these cities is heading towards a convergence with the domestic market.  Partly a question of taste, and validity, local artists have yet to fully engage their local audience.  In Shanghai a famous foreign artist would find a better market for his work among Chinese buyers than a successful Chinese artist. Foreign buyers, galleries and ideas tend to dominate Chinese artists outlook – they tend to create works for foreign rather than local consumption – so viva Beijing with its large expat population. Only returning from a successful foreign tour, with much fanfare, will Chinese artists receive much attention locally, as foreign approval tends to validate their work. 

But then, only if done in the right way – Chen Yi Fei has pulled it off well, as has Mi Qiu and a few others to some extent, but only through a lot of hard work. Only after endless interviews, TV shows, art shows, installations and other forms of promotion, can an artist begin to scratch the consciousness of the local population, but then no-one said it would be easy.

So the select few have done well, in a sort of home town boy done good kind of way, but it’s a long way from the local art market supporting a local arts scene as in say New York. Galleries are popping up here and there in growing numbers,  but the majority of people who wander in, then wander out with a painting are not from Shanghai, even if they’re from somewhere else in Asia. There’s no real conception of buying art – in the sense that informed purchases will provide a family heirloom, or place the buyer within a dialogue of contemporary culture. One Chinese part time dealer commented that Chinese works by famous artists sold well in New York, where he did most of his business, but complained that several students whose work he invested in had lost rather than appreciated in value.  ‘They’re so lazy,’ he said, complaining at their lack of self-promotion.  When asked about local Shanghainese art buying habits he just threw his arms up in despair. Common complaints from potential local buyers tend to be along the  lines of they don’t understand the work, they don’t respect it, they don’t like it, and especially its too expensive.  Art dealers are faced with puzzled expressions from people who won’t buy into what they are selling. Don’t like the colours, their Chinese characters are all wrong, too political, ugly, too easy, its not art, it’s a joke, ad infinitum.

The romantic ideas of the left, snapped up by the art buyers (usually from the opposite end of the economic equation) has led to the irony, perhaps, in that the socialist masses aren’t buying, even though they’ve got the cash nowadays.

Note Bene: A word of caution: in an article by Zhu Qi entitled “Do Westerners Really Understand Chinese Avant-Garde Art?” it was stated some Westerners simply want to create the buzz in the West that once surrounded Soviet Art. Others are working in the service of foundations that have to answer for their politics. Still others are scholars and critics lacking credentials. Let it be known that the only credentials the author of this article owns is a passport to leisure from Calderdale county council, and Chinese and Russian journalist cards.

THE OTHER day a young Scottish lady told Shanghai Eye that some  long-term foreign residents are not actually expats, but in fact half-pats. The phrase kind of appeals in a Graham Greene or Conradian sort of way, not quite included, the outsider, living closer to the ‘real’ society in a country of choice. Perhaps.

Having come to China on a wing and a prayer, not an expat relocation package, some manage to grub their way up via a succession of variously dodgy and straight jobs, all of which bizarrely well or poorly paid depending. From pondscum, to half-pat, still, not quite an expat. Oh well, better than the dole.

A glimpse of the half life that is being a half-pat, the Shenzhen Daily runs a remarkable series of features, what are referred to by Shanghai Eye  as ‘pointless foreigner stories.’

Just browsing the latest edition of the Shenzhen Daily fulfills  Shanghai Eye ’s twin obsessions, with Pointless foreigner story #3444 and “News breakers in town” – old hacks, no doubt preparing some hot articles they will bash out when back home, in the “gee whiz, China, yeah baby, they got skyscrapers and everything” mode.

But Shenzhen Daily’s greatest accomplishment is its link to the Shenzhen Party website, which reveals probably a little too much about the half-pat lifestyle.

AS BRITISH politics was in turmoil over WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), Shanghai Eye conducted an investigation into what the Shanghainese really think of New Labour, Tony Blair, and all that.

A white collar worker had a very strong message for the Labour Party: “Don’t forget you were slaves before,” she said vehemently, commenting on the intra-party squabbling that could lose the next election. As to when the Labour Party were slaves she could have meant under the Romans, or when the Tories were in power: it wasn’t clear.

She went on to say:  “Chinese people don’t understand Labour or Tory – its all the same to us – China is a one party state.”

A Shanghai Advertising Executive was a little less forthcoming: “Tony Blair? Who is he?” was the comment when asked for an opinion on TB’s latest troubles.

After some explanations: “Ah, yes, sorry – yes he has a new image, he gives a new image to the British people. Before the British people had a more traditional leader – but Tony Blair is more (Piming Hua) common touch.”

When asked how are things generally the ad exec was more forthcoming, “I’ve had a terrible two months. After SARS all our clients just want to do things. And I’m taking too much drugs,” he said.  “I feel tired, its too hard to work. I can only sleep 3-4 hours. I’m taking coke and amphetamines. A lot of Chinese people are also taking K, it’s a kind of Mazui (opiate?),  We go to a Club in (XXX), it has political background, all people who go should book a table for 10 -20 people. All the rich people go there and the girls are sexy. Its not a place foreigners go. Its not expensive – I spend 3-4000 RMB to go to KTV (karaoke), its costs about the same, but more people can go, and we drink sparkling wine, champagne and take coke. It makes my head feel really clear. They have three projectors that show visuals on 10 metre screens.”

Shanghai Eye went on to ask what about WMD?  “Oh, that’s maybe something we talk about at dinner, they haven’t found any yet. Anyway, the war is over.”

 A blue-collar worker was more opinionated on Blair’s dilemma: “He is too much “Ta shi tai neige le,” – “He’s too tired – he is in the middle of Europe and America. It’s bu fangbian-ie- not convenient, perhaps it’s a problem of Britain – and the relation between America and Europe. He is not like Bush – he cannot control internal and external things the same way. I think Britain follows behind the arse (pigu) of America.”

“Wo xiang Yingguo shi genzhe Meiguo pigu houbian zou,” were the exact words.

Another observant Shanghainese commented that Tony Blair looks to be in trouble over the Carol Caplin affair. “Cherie has a mouth like a tiger.  Tony is a man who would turn to a woman like Carole for comfort. Cherie is too masculine, Tony too feminine, and Carol is their perfect match. Tony is seeking a replacement for the (too) motherly Cherie.”  She predicts a Lewinsky style drama unfolding over at Number 10.

YUP, CHINA, it’s ours. Thanks.

OK, you may not be convinced. Lets start from the beginning. Around the late 1980s John Gittings, that old Guardian journalist, wrote an article about

prostitution in China. According to him, at that time, prostitutes in Hainan island, were trading their services for live chickens, 1 fuck=1 chicken, to put it bluntly. The first manifestation of capitalism among the common

people with the advent of China’s long march to capitalism, perhaps.

At that time John also raised concerns about Aids. In 1992 Shanghai Eye visited the same spot, and true enough tarts abounded, sitting in a restaurant owned by a mixed Japanese and Chinese couple, the guy next door used their place to tout a bevy of women to their clients, not at their behest. Besides bashing out sharks brains, at which he was hopeless, this man accosted people asking if they’d like to sleep with any of the thirteen year old girls he had working for him. When we declined he insisted, telling

us an Italian sailor had taken the girls back not that long ago. Anyway, we still ignored the lecherous git, and walked away, the Japanese host wringing her hands.  At the table next to us a large, fat, old western man in his 60s

was bargaining with a young girl. In Chinese she said she wanted more money to sleep with him, which was laboriously translated, thankfully not via Shanghai Eye.

Nearby supermarkets were selling a kind of tube with some kind of Chinese medicine which women could squirt into themselves after sex, to prevent Aids, then just an emerging disease.

It obviously wouldn’t and didn’t work.  Hainan had, and still has, the busiest sex industry in China.

But here in Shanghai it still goes on. Prostitution exists – in nightclubs, hairdressing salons, saunas, discos, on the street, in hotels, massage parlors, on the Internet, in apartments, wherever. But Aids, herpes,

gonorrhea, crabs, hepatitis and the rest are still here too.

Still, despite these various troubles, Chinese people manage to have sex, straight or not. And our foreign hack friends are still writing the same article John wrote all those years ago, but to a lot less effect. Just Aids

is increasing, I imagine partly because those squeedgy tubes don’t work.

Shanghai Eye on the other hand is holding onto the moral high ground, as was said earlier.

US Correspondent: WOW!

PRC has a man in orbit! Too Cool!

That is just SO awesome! Of course our thoughts are with the brave soul and his family…as space plays NO “favorites” amongst human beings.

There was a small news item about the “traditional Chinese dishes he would enjoy eating while in orbit awhile back. And at 17,500+ miles an hour, that really IS “fast food”!!!!

I don’t know if they will be releasing any “models” of he ship to the public or collectors, but IF they do nd it’s NOT a “state secret”…I’d like to see about getting one???

The other news stories talked about a possible space station and maybe even a LUNAR “flyby/round trip” without landing, in next 5 years or so?? And using basically the same concept/technology as the orbital ship?

 From all I’ve read about the “Shinzou?” in concept, it does sound a lot like the Soyez, in development…but actually, it makes more sense than some US designs.

Having an “orbital module” for experiments and extra room, which can be left in orbit for other “experiments/be controlled from ground”, because it has it’s own solar wings and maneuvering thrusters is definitely a “plus”.

That leaves the capsule itself, just to contain the crew without taking up room for auxiliary stuff.

I know about “governments and politics” etc…can get “sticky”…but this is really another “footstep forward” for humanity as a whole. I hope it inspires more governments and nations to work together for ALL of humanity…in exploring space. We EACH have something to give, contribute and learn from one another…IF we can see past our “noses”.

More nations participating in spaceflight, means more possibilities of helping one another, if a problem arose on a space station or other spacecraft. There are NO “boundries” when someone’s in danger, be it on water or in space.

I know, I’m a bit of a “dreamer”…but what the heck!

Shanghai Eye: The Shenzhou 5 should be landing around now. But they’re very likely to send up another shortly, with the short term plan of getting to the moon (for mining!??) and then on to Mars by the end of the decade…

Based on the Russian stuff with ‘improvements’ the Shenzhou series are all China built.

It’s on TV all the time, and they were all waving models of the Shenzhou around, bound to be loads of commemorative stuff soon, I’ll make sure I get some for you.

Apart from the fast food the spaceman also has a knife and a gun in case he lands somewhere ‘hostile’ ! Bit like planet of the apes that bit,

US correspondent: Actually…considering the “survival gear” and training the US astronauts FIRST went through prior to our spaceflight….

They had to learn how to survive in deserts, jungles, deserted islands,  mountains, etc…and make their parachutes into “desert attire”, hammocks and tents…eat snakemeat/survive off the land, etc….(I’ve still got all the old books on it…) and what some of the FIRST “space food” was like…(YUCK! cubes like croutons and toothpaste tubes of “meat and veggies”…!)

I admit, that if the Chinese space traveler landed in downtown L.A. the gun and knife might fit right in…(as would any man dropping in from space that didn’t speak English…), but unless he landed somewhere in Siberia, or northern Canada, etc…really FAR away from ANYBODY…(nowadays???), he’d probably be given the “royal treatment”…be asked to have dinner with someone…get to watch plasma tv and play Xbox or Gamecube and get to use a satellite cellsystem to “phone home”, (at only 3 cents a minute after 7pm!!!).

Despite differences in some government circles and “politicians”…the “AVERAGE” human being would probably welcome him with open arms and be “envious” of his journey…and happy he came “home” safe!

I think if China goes ahead with more missions, into orbit, translunar, etc…it will “light a fire”…in and UNDER some folks…who’ve gotten too “complacent” or bound by bureaucracy/politics and personal “greed” to realize what opportunities are available to the WHOLE human race…”out there”…

I wish them “Godspeed” in their efforts…as SPACEFLIGHT is a very SERIOUS business.

Both the Russians and Americans have LOST crews in and attempting to “conquer” space.

But then again, how many early explorers…charting the oceans and the “new world” were “lost at sea” or to “hostile natives”, dangerous animals, plants and unfamiliar territory/weather???

That didn’t STOP us…not for long…(as a species)…and what challenges we faced then, were every bit as BIG and BAD, back then…as what we face a few miles ABOVE our planet NOW…

I hope that we as a species…are a little “smarter” about this “brave new frontier” than the last time around…but to NOT attempt to explore it…to “go were NO-ONE has gone before…”, would be UNTHINKABLE…be they Chinese, Russian, American…or whatever…

It’s “hard-wired” into us as beings…to PUSH the “limits”…to see what’s on the “other side of the hill” whether some say it’s for money, resources,

prestige, etc…

“Because it’s THERE”….is the BIGGEST and BEST reason of them all…and it’s just as true now, as it was for Sir Edmund Hillary at Everest, or it will be for our GREAT-great-great-grandchildren…

While the TYPE of “flags” that are planted may matter to some folks…(and always will), the fact that SOMEONE goes to plant them…is the REAL accomplishment! I hope we NEVER stop wanting to do that…

Yes, a “shinzou” /Divine Vessel ship/rocket toy/model would be cool…but it’s what it represents that is truly AWESOME.

The Russians were the first in space…with satellites, people and other things…we went to the moon and got the ISS started, and have/had, the first “space shuttle”…and sent 4 probes out of the solar system…

All of these things are great achievements…whatever the “politics” or motives ORIGINALLY behind them…and the same is true for Shinzou.

The “secret” is in keeping the “momentum” going and NOT “resting on your laurels”…

We didn’t stop flying across the Atlantic and Pacific, “non-stop”, just because it had been “done”…it STARTED something…(just like the first ocean-going ships.

But, compared to our “moon program”…and the “downsized” spacestation/ISS…and other “cancelled projects”, where does that leave us now?

What if NOBODY had ever followed Columbus or Magellan…or Charles Lindberg…or Yuri Gagarin????

I LOVE my country, always have, always will…and I’m sure that many Russians, Chinese, Germans, Japanese…etc…all feel the same about their “native lands”…but how do they feel about their PLANET???

We JUST had a 6-7 meter “mini-asteroid” pass earth at “only” 52,000 miles…(my car has more miles on it than that!!!!) What are we doing to protect our WORLD and reap the benefits of space, unlimited solar energy, the minerals just LAYING on the surface of the moon and small asteroids, etc????

Sorry, didn’t mean to get so “chatty”…but I tip my hat to the Chinese…for not letting the fact that “someone’s already done it”…stop them from “doing their own thing”…

If we as a PLANET…put the resources we currently WASTE on “war” and WMD into a comprehensive PLANETARY space program…IMAGINE what we COULD do!

Look what the US alone did, in just 66 years from the Wright Brothers to man landing on the moon! Now imagine that kind of EFFORT on a WORLD-WIDE scale!

We would already have had orbital colonies, moon-mines and colonies and probably be starting them on MARS by now!

*sigh*

I try to keep up with space news via Space.com and “Encylopedia Astronautica”…among other things…but you never get ALL the “facts”.

Take care and accept the best wishes for safe and speedy return of the “Divine Vessel” and it’s brave

pilot…

Carpe’ Diem, (and Spaceium),

THE THING about SARS is that even though it has gone, it has left a left a bitter taste in Shanghai Eye’s mouth. Not that long ago – was it five or even less months ago? – pundits were predicting that everyone in China, that’s 1.3 billion or so people, were about to be infected, and many were referring to it as a ‘plague’. 

(Of course, shortly afterwards, those same pundits were claiming that they had never panicked at all, and that everyone else was to blame.)

Now the Beijing government, with the worst outbreak globally, had an estimated 3,000 people in the city infected in total. And recently they turned around and said probably 1,000 of those were misdiagnosed, and actually had the common-or-garden variety of flu.

Around 2,000 or so victims is not a small figure, but it needs to be put in perspective – China has managed to control the disease through strict measures – and will bring them out again if the outbreak reappears. If SARS does reappear, the chances are it will be contained quite successfully. Boring – but seemingly true.

So, if SARS reappears, most citizens’ social life will be constrained, mostly on a voluntary basis, and tempers will get frayed again, as cits are cooped up all hours, either in the office or at home.

It will become a nuisance again having your temperature taken at all hours, once the novelty of having a laser thermometer pointed at your forehead has worn off, and it will be annoying that you can’t take a taxi direct to your door.

Masks are bothersome – to wear and to see on another people – and they look silly. And it turns out they are pretty useless unless you wear about five of them. So hopefully that fashion trend won’t return.

China is cooling down as Autumn turns to Winter – and air conditioners are being turned on to heat in most places.  It is in fact perfect SARS weather, according to the experts, which doesn’t contribute to the calm.

And why all this bother, confusion and general annoyance, not to mention the effect on trade or travel? Because, as one theory has it, someone in Guangdong Province will eat a rat, or some other bizarre species, or sleep near one, or something along those lines. This person then will get SARS, pass it on to someone else and the rest will be history.  Next we’ll have a Bruce Willis type wandering around in a plastic space suit gawping at what was once human civilization (circa <i>Twelve Monkeys</i>).

Or will he? Will the chance event occur that will cause worldwide panic, a run on food, blockaded towns and villages, with an eventual decline into anarchy as we wither away with SARS germs? More likely it will be how we, the human race, spread the information – not the disease itself – that will have the most disastrous consequences.

If one article in <i>Businessweek</i> stops one foreign businessman from investing in one factory in Guangdong Province – maybe 500, or a 1,000 people will lose the opportunity of employment.

If one SMS message, passed on 30 trillion times, caused 300,000 people not to go out for dinner that night,  several restaurants will have passed closer to bankruptcy.  20,000 farmers would have lost out on the sales of cabbages to said restaurants – I could go on in this vein but I won’t.

Basically the more bad press China gets on SARS the more jobs will be lost. If it reaches a critical mass – 20% or 30% unemployed – then ‘chaos’ is likely to break out. Conspiracy theorists will have us believe, on this side of the pond, that, well, SARS is a plot, see, to bring down communism, or just China, which is annoying GW. And all those hacks in the pay of some manipulative media mogul will spill out all that SARS paranoia, um, well, or maybe they’ll have a different motive, but the effect will be the same. Anyhow, who knows – it’ll be annoying anyway.

An even more lethal strain of SARS will be an unlikely successor to the Black Death, even with our more sophisticated travel arteries to spread it around the globe.

It’ll maybe be aggravating to have to stay in and watch TV most of the time, but you’ll be unlikely you meet your maker.  But, in a spirit of cordiality, and if you  worry about a sudden reappearance, you can expect to have fun.

Take Shanghai’s “Eight Measures Against SARS,” which was distributed widely, pasted on posters on most street corners, and passed out to residents via local committees.

The measures varied in tone and severity – the first measure, the filling in of health declaration forms when traveling, already seems the norm across Asia, though now it is again widely ignored, of course .

The taking of people’s temperature is seen as the main diagnostic technique for SARS, and according to the 8 measures, anyone entering Shanghai should expect a thermometer in their ear, both at the point of entry and on arrival at their hotel, especially if they are coming from a SARS infected area.  One doctor employed by a hotel said that staff in hotels also need to report suspected symptoms in guests, such as coughing. Hotels are also told to shut down central air-conditioning and windows opened for ventilation.  Visitors from SARS infected regions will be housed in special floors.

Students will have their temperature taken daily, and children with a fever should expect to be banned from attending classes. 

Public areas and transportation will undergo a daily clean-up. Taxis will need to display a sticker on the windshield, colour-coded to indicate the day of week, to show they have been cleaned on a daily basis. 

Staff in medical facilities, those working in the service industry, public transport and at exit-entry stations, must wear masks.  Shanghai’s armed police will wear masks, though normal public security staff won’t.

Staff at pharmacies will “carefully inquire about people purchasing medicine for flu and coughs.”

The most interesting lesson of the SARS period was the evident regional rift between Shanghai and Beijing.  As in most countries, China is rife with divisions. Most noticeable to the casual observer is the competition between the big cities of Guangzhou (Canton), Beijing, Shanghai and to some extent Hong Kong.  Each city has its own heritage, culture and even its own language.  There is competition in official life – usually over trade figures or securing international events like the Olympics and the World Expo – as well as in competition for business, the educational merits of the top universities, the numbers of foreign visitors, fashion, arts and for general street cred and kudos.

Usually a mild undercurrent in day to day life, the SARS epidemic brought this regional hegemonism – as it is sometimes called – to new heights.

Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou suffered badly from the effects of SARS, with physical, psychological and economic damage all taking their toll.  Shanghai though was strangely almost unaffected, at least physically.

While Beijing had a daily toll of around 50 new SARS cases, and Guangzhou saw a long drawn outbreak from November, Shanghai only had a total of 7 cases, with 13 suspected cases, or thereabouts.

Shanghai’s usual daily count of zero new cases stood in stark contrast to the announcements from the northern and southern capitals.  Perched on the east coast, at the mouth of China’s greatest river, the hub of trade, finance as well as fashion, shopping and regional tourism, Shanghai somehow managed to beat SARS, resisting a mass outbreak over 6 long months.

One Shanghainese blamed the outbreak on Beijing residents having “balls too big,” – a phrase that best translates into English as basically being too brave. The Chinese phrase, “Danzi da” – big balls* – is generally applied to those considered brave.  In this case they were too brave – even reckless.  This manifested itself in the official cover up at the start of the outbreak.

Though Shanghai was virtually SARS free there was a generally nervous and cautious atmosphere. Ask most Beijing residents and they’ll comment that Shanghainese suffer from “danzi xiao” – small balls.

During the SARS period all taxi drivers wore masks, temperatures were measured as people entered office buildings, the streets and restaurants were quiet, lifts were cleaned several times a day, and air conditioners were turned off.  Numerous bizarre and arbitrary rules, usually thought up and enforced by local neighbourhood committees, became a talking point. Some building compounds did not allow taxis to drive in, though the passenger could exit and walk to his destination.  Some small districts insisted people from outside the district wear masks when entering.  Dogs were not allowed out.  All were pretty much useless in stopping the spread of a virus, but nonetheless gave people a sense of doing something, or something to focus on, which was probably the point.

But on the other hand, the more robust attitude of Beijing residents visiting Shanghai worried the Shanghainese no end. Perhaps thinking the air here is better, a small flood of Beijing tourists hit Shanghai. The fact that the two most talked about confirmed SARS cases were from ‘the north’ essentially infuriated local opinion. And as the couple in question also took their time in revealing their point of origin, refusing to tell doctors about their movements around the city, and other details, they were condemned from the local government down.  Eventually the couple revealed their movements, and while in Shanghai it seemed they’d hit every top department store and restaurant in town. 

A local media source revealed that they have been instructed not to directly film or publish photos of SARS victims in Shanghai.  Though patients are regularly shown on TV in Beijing, the local government was afraid of what public opinion would do to these people if their identities were released.

Following the ‘northern’ couple’s tour around Shanghai citizens were virtually quarantined within their own city. Anyone who left Shanghai was expected to quarantine themselves for two weeks on return. Though in theory this was only supposed to apply to those having visited SARS affected areas, vigour was applied, and returnees from almost anywhere were regularly visited by local officials to have their temperature taken.

This led to another upset in relations with the north – as one doctor revealed –a large majority of those coming in from Beijing were giving false addresses – so they couldn’t be quarantined.  As one local journalist commented – they’re so self important – their meetings are more important than quarantine – they’re like people who answer their mobile phones in the theatre.  Yes, or maybe it is just a case that their balls are too big. Who would have thought May would have been such a troubled month?

In the spirit of the times – following an art party followed by an airline party, then the next day a leaving do and an art show sponsored by a car firm, and the next night another leaving do, and then Shanghai Eye being invited to the second anniversary of a posh restaurant, and to cap it all getting photoed by Shanghai Tatler… Yes, after all this, Shanghai Eye has been inspired to launch its Shanghai Ligging List.

Hopefully none of the listees will get arrested, but you never know! But then that’s not our problem. Please browse at your leisure, and if you do visit any of the following please don’t mention we mentioned them, thanks!

Autumn season’s highlights

Number 1. (up from 3)        Posh PR Events</b>

In – Villa Rouge, 1 Xintiandi, Bund Centre

Out – Grand Hyatt, M on the bund

Never – Holiday Inn

Number 2 (down from 1)    Corporate Beany Bashes</b>

In – O’Malley’s, Red, Villa Rouge, deserted factories, etc.

Out –  Everywhere else, except that glass building in People’s Park and the roof of the Urban Planning Centre

Number 3 (up from 5)        Government Beanos

In – Out of town venues such as Kunshan Crab Market

Out –  That glass ball thing in Pudong

Number 4 (down from 2) Magazine PR events

In –  Some dive no-one has ever heard of

Out that tent on Xintiandi Lake

Number 5 (up from 53)      Internet biz events</b>

In-  Mysterious clubs, KTV joints, etc.

Out –  Conference Halls, especially that glass ball thing in Pudong

Source: the Yangtze

NOTE Because some in the Shanghai Eye office have failed to take note of the zeitgeist<, we felt compelled to explain that LIGGING is defined by The Daily Mail as “being on the list of every P.R. company, leading to a multitude of party invites. This results in the ligger existing on a diet that consists solely of free canapes and Champagne.” 

AS THEIR fortunes improve Chinese websites are increasingly resembling tabloid newspapers. Plunging deeper down-market popular Chinese website Tom.com is now full of articles such as suggesting that Mars’ recent proximity to earth provoked hot sex, naked pictures of Hong Kong starlet Karen Mok, pictures of naked girl soldiers on a bed, SMS animations of – you guessed it – people having sex, and other tid-bits, such as pictures of guns. There are also pictures of cute dogs, and you can watch the bikini finals for Miss Hong Kong. Tom.com aspirant etang.com has now launched its own condoms too. Where will it all end?

A generation ago China saw its people melting down their kitchen utensils to create steel in an attempt to catch up with the West in Chairman Mao’s ill-advised “Great Leap Forward”.

The economic reforms brought into place since the 1980’s have brought about an equally profound cultural transformation with the boom in technology and the country is leapfrogging ahead of the West in many areas. Though Mao’s campaign to create more steel than the Western world failed in the 1960’s, the current leadership’s awkwardly named ‘informatization’ drive has caught the country’s imagination.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the huge wave of people logging onto the Internet.  And the technology led cultural revolution taking place is especially influencing the Chinese youth.

“The virtual community demonstrates a brand new way of life, almost everything can be done through the Internet in the near future,” one young Shanghainese medical student commented, who refers to herself online as ‘Ageha’.

As of June 2003, 73.4% of China’s 68 million Internet users are aged 30 and under, with 39.1% in the 18-24 year old bracket. The under 30 age group is also China’s ‘one child policy’ generation.

As a demographic group China’s Netizen population are the first real post-Mao generation.

They surf the Internet for entertainment, news, job hunting, send e-mail, chat online, play games, sell second hand items, and send text messages and pictures. The Internet has become an integral part of China’s urban youth culture along with mobile phones, computer games, Taiwanese pop, Korean soap opera stars and Japanese cartoons.

“China’s Young Netizens are the leading group, whose demands will directly influence the climate of China’s Internet,” commented Ageha, a self confessed Internet junkie.

With so many young people online, the entertainment slant on content is taking over. Lawrence S. Tse, a partner with Shanghai based venture capital firm Gobi Partners, said that he expects there will be as many as 140 online game titles operating in China by the end of the year.   Domestically developed titles costs can be between USD 1-2 mln, while off-the-shelf games can cost between USD 1-10 mln dollars.

“Right now there are 60 online games in China,” said Tse, of which he estimates around thirty make profits or have reached a break even 10,000 Average Concurrent Users (ACU). A top game in China can reach as high as 250-300,000 ACU.

Pesky School Kids

The Internet is where the high moral standards of the party clashes with China’s youth. The pressure on young people is high –families with only one child have high expectations, which means the escapism of the web, as well as the loneliness of long hours of study and the strict school system, means many turn to the web to find friends. In China the phenomenon of Internet friends, known as “Wangyou,” is increasingly popular. It’s impossible to calculate how many people have formed relationships on the Internet without having met face-to-face, but online chat is on of the most popular application for China’s Netizens.

The China news service recently reported a new trend – in Wuhan prosecutors have already processed ten cases where Wangyou met in a karaoke room or hotel, and then one party drugged the other and stole all their belongings. The most common crime – when web friends steal another mobile phone on meeting – has become endemic. A Shanghai foreign resident recounted a common tale of a Wangyou meeting not going to plan, in a local bar: “the guy borrowed her mobile phone, and disappeared. She was in tears. He never paid for the drinks either.”

The Wangyou online dating services are one of the biggest money spinners for China’s most popular portal sites, http://www.Netease.com, http://www.Sina.com, http://www.Tom.com and http://www.Sohu.com. Flirting anonymously or in person in chat rooms, via SMS text messages and bulletin boards has proved a big hit with China’s Internet users. But complaints are rising about the numbers of suggestive and crude messages being sent, and a person with a popular profile can get dozens of propositions a day. Other sites, such as http://www.wangyou.com.cn, carry classified ads.

Most urban teenagers have a network of Wangyou across the county built up via http://www.Tencent.com’s QQ chatting service, very similar to MSN’s messenger. But the government and local police have had to warn against fraudsters taking advantage of web-based relationships to commit petty crime and worse. More sophisticated operations run prostitute rings, such as the recently busted ‘Lotus Blossom Net’ in China’s north east, which set up illicit liaisons for a small fee, according to local press articles.

A recent Beijing court case also highlighted the problem when a husband was put under the local community party’s supervision, at the behest of his wife. Originally he’d filed for divorce – but his wife pleaded that he was obsessed with online games and chat, and that if he was banned from such activities their marriage would survive. The court concurred with her request, according to a report in Beijing Daily.

The SARS crisis gave a huge boost to Internet use in China, with an extra 8 million people going online in the first six months of this year. The number is predicted to grow to around 80 million by the end of the year, with millions of new users choosing broadband connections.  If SARS returns this winter those numbers may rise even higher. A broadband user pays less than £10 a month on average.

Most Chinese Internet users can now access foreign news and information almost as readily as Internet users in most other countries around the world. The Chinese government has tried to install a system of monitoring and blocking but given the sheer volume of traffic the officials in China’s Public Security departments looking after ‘information safety’ have little real chance of monitoring even a small percentage of user behaviour.

Certain servers are watched more than others, but as China’s Internet service providers boom, the government is fighting a losing battle against market forces. And has given up blocking many high profile western sites due to the bad publicity.

What tends to happen now is that officials practice what is known as “killing the chicken to show the monkey.” When either through an informer or by chance officials come across seditious content within China they will publicly punish the individual involved, in the hope that the mass users would be frightened into behaving themselves.

Traditional Chinese media both broadcast and print- are controlled via simplistic mechanisms and party discipline, but as the Internet grows like an out of control microbe, the government does not have the resources to cope.

One manager at one of the top three portals joked “I have 40 policemen in my office. They know more about what goes on my web site than I do.” But China has tens of thousands of popular web-sites a police sub-station cannot be installed into every one. The older, less modernising elements of the party are also unaware of the Internet except it provides departments with online name cards, one local press article complained.

A popular rumour among Chinese journalists is that former President Jiang Zemin, on a visit to the People’s Daily offices in Beijing, was directed to view the newspaper’s online edition, and was said to remark “Ah, these computers, now they have Chinese words.” Whatever next?

Though China’s Internet is not as well behaved as the party would like, this is softened by the Internet’s potential for making money.  Various government organisations and individuals have financial stakes in a hazy world of silent partners. The Party is also keen to attract modern entrepreneurs, such as Internet CEOs, into its ranks. It’s a fact of life in China that any successful large business will need ‘guangxi’ – political connections – of some sort.

Many younger users log on in Internet bars, leading Chinese officials to insist that Internet bars install nanny software that blocks content such as pornography sites and other types of ‘unhealthy information.’

This severity is met with the usual head nodding, as such dictates are.  Internet bar owners install the software, then disable it when the fuss dies down: a contact at the local police station will let them know when the next check is coming, and so life goes on.  Suggestions that youngsters logging on in Internet bars should be chaperoned by an adult fell by the wayside.

Soft-sex, titillation, plagiarism, naughtiness and general entertainment-based content rule. Crime reporting gets a free reign, and stories with themes such as ‘my real life as a prostitute’ or ‘sold as a sex slave’ generate as much interest as they would in the Western tabloids.

China’s printed media is strictly controlled but on the Internet millions of Chinese users browse over to sites such as the Singapore based zaobao.com for the latest political news about China’s leaders, and rumours relating to the hand over from old party leader Jiang Zemin to the new Hu Jintao regime.

That’s when they’re not surfing the “yellow web.” In China Yellow has the same connotations as the word Blue in English. Some informal surveys put adult web site use as high as 60% among females and 90% among male users.

Pornographers face very severe punishments, including the death penalty, if caught, in China. But owning pornography for personal use is not technically illegal. This has led broadband Internet service providers such as China Telecom, the local equivalent of BT, to post warnings to its users that hackers often lurk around pornography sites, and not to register any personal or banking details with such sites.

Many Internet bars have ‘private rooms,’ where users (often truant school boys) can browse in private for a few extra pence per hour. The local press regularly runs stories on young boys disappearing for days on end into Internet cafes, which provide boxed lunches, and are open 24 hours.  This means some die-hard users often sleep at terminals, in between bouts of network games. One popular story ran that a man stayed in an internet café in Wuhan for 60 days, non-stop, until the bar kicked him out due to his ‘body odour.’ Other students talk about becoming ‘digital athletes’ for their country, representing China in game competitions.

The Internet bar has become for many Chinese youths what the pub is to British teenagers, a place to hide from their family and hang out until the early hours of the morning, but in China there’s very little drinking, the excitement is generated in the death-match games. There are an estimated 200,000 Internet bars in China.  Approximately sixty thousand venues saw business suspended in a nation wide crackdown last year, and are now in the process of being amalgamated into ten officially appointed ‘Internet bar chains,’ on the McDonald’s business model. This has led to the rise of unlicensed ‘black net bars.’

One such Internet bar recently raided by Chinese police in Beijing’s student district had video cameras installed outside which gave enough warning for everyone inside to make a quick exit, in true Matrix fashion.

CHINA WATCHERS have been predicting, or at least anticipating, China’s eventual throwing off of its Communist shackles.

The government tends to follow the only lesson I learnt in Physics class.

“If there’s one lesson you’ll ever learn in Physics, its this. I like to give my students lots of rope, but then I pull it back smartly. Those who have been playing games end up hanging from the yard arm,” said my old Physics teacher – a weird, eccentric balding professor – on the first day of classes. Two years later, after snoring through his classes I was rewarded with an F.

In a similar fashion the Chinese government sometimes relaxes its grip, but then occasionally yanks back at the rope, choking those who have run a little too loose and fast.

The lesson for citizens is – don’t get carried away, you might be having fun now, but you’ll pay for it later.

And what is nice is that the same rules are applied to officials, but only those we imagine have fallen out of favour in that great Karaoke bar of legislation that is the CCP.

Reports are coming in of isolated semi-riots and protests against government officials, mostly in North China.  As the Internet loosens up, cyber jokers and scribes have been ripping into government policies and ideas. The whole thing about censorship is that when you aren’t allowed to write about something, it becomes the only thing you want to write about, thus creating a sophisticated language of hints and double-talk that confuses the censors.

Then eventually someone catches on in government circles, and a wave of arrests and chicken-killing takes place. Some corrupt officials also get the chop, usually getting their death sentences reprieved if they repent, much like victims of the Inquisition.

This cycle seems pretty continuous – <i>Shanghai Eye</i> imagines we’ll all be able to stomach another “strike hard” campaign, and another round of reporters being called on to study “Three Represents”, Marxist journalistic viewpoint and working ethics.

Just don’t forget to send cheques and sympathy cards to the usual address.

IF YOU’RE on your first voyage to the Orient, or an old hand at the swivel table, there are several no-no’s even the most experienced western trained eater might miss:

1. Seating: the table is round – but that does not mean you can plonk yourself down just anywhere. Seating will be arranged complicatedly by rank – radiating out on either side in order of importance to the host. This approach, when applied to weddings or banquets, can become intensely complicated. If you do find yourself at table 54 at a wedding though – take heart! Unmarried persons take precedent, followed by family members, and lastly married friends. If you fall into the last category expect to sit near the door. Your best bet in a seating dilemma is to hang around in a confused state or look to your host who will indicate your seat by his/her eyes. At State Banquets sit as close to the leaders as possible. If anyone looks pissed off you’re in their seat elbow them in the groin or tits.

2. Excuse me, I want to use the bog: Another tactic is to take off to the toilet until everyone else is seated – but beware! In your absence you could become the topic of conversation, and purged. The rule of thumb is never go to the toilet until everyone has finished eating – no matter how much beer is drunk. Follow the maxim “tie a knot in your dick”. Wash your hands with the damp towellettes provided, and if you’re feeling a bit sticky, wipe your face and neck, but not your armpits.

3. I’ll order – no you order:</b>  generally if you’re paying you get to order – many people pre-order (by arriving early) – but if you’re brave, hand the menu to the guest of honour and cringe as he orders sharks fin soup all round. It is especially unwise to hand the menu to someone with a taste for weird food, innards and the like. If language is an issue, hand it to a trusted sidekick, well used to your penchant for <i>gongbao jiding</i>. If someone passes you the menu to order and you don’t want to, politely hand it back, praising their knowledge of food as you do so. Alternatively, order all the most expensive items off the menu, I mean you’re not paying are you?

4. Utensils: its generally accepted that an inexperienced person would slip up with chopsticks, so dropping things is OK – don’t feel embarrassed to use a spoon for slippery stuff. Dropping chopsticks is OK too, just ask for another pair. You twat.

A big no-no is to deftly fish all the meat or other goodies out of a dish, leaving everyone else to a big bowl of meatless veggies – you know who you are!

5. Getting waitstaff attention:  they seek them here, they seek them there. Partly out of fear, partly because they can’t be bothered, and partly through stone-cold deafness, waitstaff often fail to hear your plaintive cries, and somehow miss your frantic arm-waving..

The solution is to shout loudly, curtly and with authority: “Xiaojie!” Not too loud, nor too soft, this takes years of practice. Any missing nuances you’ll be ignored and laughed about in the kitchen while they gob in your food. Some restaurants actually have a little tinkly bell on the table. There is no really nice way to deal with this problem – you don’t want to offend anybody, but if you do get up and walk over to them they’ll look bad, so practice, practice, practice. This is the easiest way to lose face publicly in China, so beware. Another no-no in Shanghai is to shout a Beijing style ‘germer!’ or ‘pengyou!’ greeting to waitstaff – they’ll think you’re a gangster.

6. Getting the bill – “wo qing ke”: No I’ll pay, no really.. If you really insist on paying, and don’t wish to humiliate your guests, just go to the main desk and pay without loudly asking for the bill. You can also then argue/bargain as long as you want with the manager without any of your party knowing.

7. When is it time to go? The restaurant doubles as a pub – but don’t inflict endless rounds of beer on your guests unless they’re a. not from Shanghai, b. alcoholic, c. contemptible, d. clients, or e. potential clients. If your guest falls into category d or e towards the end of the meal suggest a karaoke bar you know – you’ll wake up poorer with a smashing hangover, if not a venereal disease, but will likely get the contract. Embed a song or two in your subconscious that will emerge after two bottles of cognac.

IN RECENT times quoting taxi drivers seems to have fallen out of fashion amongst foreign scribes. No longer do we hear of  driver Wang’s cutting analysis of recent issues, or Lao Li’s mutterings on world peace.

But never fear – in fact the reason that hacks can’t even be bothered to quote the oft-misquoted cabbie is that bulletin boards, often referred to as BBS, have become an easier and more accessible quote machine for desperate writers with a byline and a deadline.

Joe Public seems happy enough to voice his opinions in China as elsewhere in the world – though in China a  riskier business for what is a pretty anonymous undertaking for those living outside the “bamboo matrix.”

In the interests of world peace and as a superior guide for reporters in China – well, better than the guide provided by www.ebeijing.gov.cn

Shanghai Eye hopes the following may be of use.

The most immediate conundrum for many a foreign hack is the language barrier – ah, but as English is China’s de facto second language, many boards are actually written in English, and if not by foreigners, by Chinese people wishing to communicate with the outside world. Many Foreign Correspondents commonly quote the Peoples Daily boards, and some have even been known to say that Jiang Zemin himself frequents these outpourings of popular opinion. This misapprehension came about after a photo of Jiang – pointing, amazed, at a computer screen featuring the People’s Daily BBS – was widely published. He was not saying, “Blimey, Xiao Liu from Anhui thinks my ‘Three Represents’ theory is the dog’s bollocks.” What he was saying was “Stone me, these computers have Chinese writing on them! Crikey, who’d have thought it?” Well, according to my mate’s mate he did.

So, for any event of singular importance expect the line in a story saying how “Chinese chat rooms and BBS are seething with rage at incident X.”

In fact, its true: chat rooms and BBS are either full of a. people trying to chat someone up, or b. yes, people mouthing off on a topic of choiceum, pretty much like other parts of the world. Yup, when an embassy gets bombed, or 400 Japanese tourists shag 500 Chinese prostitutes, some people get uptight, or at least feel that’s a topic they’d like to discuss, rather than say the weather, on that particular day.

People’s Daily’s BBS tend to attract certain weird types – most likely the writers and editors of the stories themselves, and their mates, and the odd misguided English Teacher.

So great for a spitting nationalist quote.

Delving deeper there are several sub genres of BBS, in Chinese there are our favourite Pirate DVD BBS, which categorise and rate the quality of merchandise available on most street corners, a veritable goldmine for a “China, its full of pirate DVDs!” stories.

On sex, well, if its time to write a prostitution story there’s some real filth available in the English language, never mind Chinese. The www.wsgforum.com bollocks is a criminals’ den of sex crimes. Of course, little do they know, the PSB have populated the brothels around town with their own people to collect foreigners’ DNA, which will be used to clone said deviants. The clones will then be dispatched to kill the originals, and it’ll all be a bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers really.

A favourite sub species: “ESL Café” is the English teacher in the middle of nowhere with too much time on his hands category. “Don’t come to school X! The administrator is a martian!”

“No he’s not!” “Yes I am.” You get the drift. Entertaining all the same.

The saddest sub-category are the posters who actually get arrested. The famous Stainless Steel Mouse, and several others, have begun long jail terms, or are under ‘secret arrest,’ for posting their views.

Very few of these cases actually come to light – and the reasoning for jailing one out of thousands has been delved into at length elsewhere.

But there’s certainly life in the old BBS trade article yet.

Hu Jintao’s daughter married Daniel Mao, the ex-CEO of Sina.com. Not that you’d know it given the entire dearth of news on the matter.

Shanghai Eye, being of a curious bent, wonders why the nation hasn’t set about celebrating this nuptial fest of capitalism and communism.

In fact Shanghai Eye found itself informing local journalists of this news, “I don’t know what we’d do with that story, is it entertainment, IT or political news?” one commented.

If Hilary Clinton married Bill Gates you’d imagine someone would think to mention it across the pond – so why has the Chinese press completely ignored the issue?

One close observer commented that Mr Mao’s quitting of his post as CEO of Sina.com, China’s most popular portal, was due to his marrying the lady in question. He’ll probably go on to manage one of China’s larger state owned enterprises (SOEs).As to Hu Jintao actually having a daughter – well, that’s been something entirely missed by Shanghai Eye

MARTIN SCORCESEgot it half-right.

Shanghai taxi drivers work 24 hour shifts, 24 hours on, 24 hours off. To stay awake they often engage passengers in conversation. The drivers ear about RMB 1200 a month ($150). They also sometimes see their captive audience as a potential mark for a business deal. Shanghai Eye outlines a typical such situation below (one of many):

As the taxi headed into the nearest traffic jam the driver asked “You American? Your Chinese is really good”

“Uhh, I’m English, my Chinese isn’t that good..”

“No, it’s good really, you been here, what, two years?”

“Yes in Beijing studying..”

“Hmm, you’re young, how old are you?”

“Thirty..”

“Thirty? No..you look younger. How old am I?”

“Uh, forty two?”

“Wah, yes, that’s right, you can really tell Chinese people’s age, Chinese can’t tell how old foreigners are, you all look the same. I had an Italian student in here the other day, he’d been studying Chinese for two years, his Chinese was really good, he told me every street to take, or you know, some drivers, they take the wrong way. You like Chinese girls’ holes if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Uh..”

“You slept with any Chinese girls? You must have, what do you think of them?”

“Uh, well, they look quite tough..”

“Tough?”

“You know, always arguing..”

“I was in Japan you know..”

“Oh?”

“Yes, working in Daoban [Osaka], they have your West European girls there. They have big holes, Chinese girls have small holes, tight, you know?”

“Oh..”

“Osaka though, I worked there for a year, the money was supposed to start a business here in Shanghai, but I went to Aomen [Macau] and lost it all in a casino. Put it all on the table, lost the lot.”

“Oh..”

“Yeah, now I drive a taxi. Gotta eat right? Shanghai, I tell you it’s no good, look all these new buildings, what use are they? People still hungry. Very sad. You foreigners are clever, we’re stupid.”

“Ahh, what did you do in Japan?”

“Working, just working. You, I bet you’re making a lot of money in Shanghai.”

“Uh, no..”

“Foreigners everywhere in Shanghai making lots of money. I used to work in the Garden Hotel, you know it? Japanese hotel. “You speak Japanese?”

“No, not really, Genki Deska..”

“Hey, let me introduce you to my daughter, you should meet a Chinese girl, she’s at university, you come to our house for dinner..’

As the taxi pulled up in front of the service apartment complex the driver thrust a paper at Shanghai Eye, “It’s my phone number, you call me anytime if you need anything, anything at all, right? My name’s X.”

THOUGH THE coalition forces in Iraq have failed to find any weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), they have found a bunch of Chinese-made DVDs on the Kentish High Street. Those self-same DVDs that you can buy on the street in Shanghai are used to finance the activities of the al-Qaeda, according to the Sun.

Another interesting factoid that emerges from this classic piece of hackwork is that Chinese asylum seekers, allegedly, destroy their documents on arrival in Britain. As the article reckons China won’t take anybody back

without documents, these asylum seekers can therefore stay in the UK indefinitely. Gosh, how easy. And then make 2000 quid a day flogging fake DVDs. Genius. Still don’t get why they are paying some of their cash to Bin Laden. And if these DVD sellers are in such close contact with Bin Laden,

Why don’t the police ask them to grass him up?

Now, if pirate DVD sellers (from China) working (illegally) in the UK can find Bin Laden, well, you’d have thought the CIA could have pulled their finger out. We need answers! Hopefully the Sun can work it out, or at least somehow involve totty, at the very least. Oh, I forgot they did – some of the fake DVDs are “hardcore porn”, not that the Sun journalist watched them or anything, they “just looked like porn from the cover.”

Shanghai Eye’s first paying job in China involved teaching English to the children of government officials and senior army officers in Beijing. The class was  called ‘conversation’, ie. make it up as you go along, because the text book is reserved for the more senior, lazy bastards. Grumble.

Anyhow, that gripe aside, Shanghai Eye racked its brains daily to come up with four hours of ‘conversation practice.’

One of the first brainstorms was a debate. Half the class were Taiwanese generals, with the other half Chinese mainland generals.

Only by almost physically forcing a few of the more placid students did <i>Shanghai Eye</i> get a “Taiwanese Generals” squad for the “debate.”

Obviously Shanghai Eye was trying to explain that you can be devil’s advocate and not actually agree with what you’re saying. Nevertheless, the Taiwan Generals quite readily agreed with the Chinese Generals that they should be nuked. That took about two minutes.

Nowadays, well, China seems to be of the mindset to attack sooner rather than later. Better to get it out the way, then we can have the Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo in peace.  A man who called himself Lenin called earlier tonight – he wanted to know what we should do with these Taiwanese.

Well, being English, Shanghai Eye would do what English people always do – bomb the shit out of them. But then Shanghai Eye is not really English, so we’d personally probably leave them alone. What is worrying is that our building was built by a Taiwanese real-estate firm, and it has a huge nuclear bunker built into the basement.

As to that conversation class – well later we made a series of films, as bank robbers, assassins, drug dealers, and then did some Karaoke, mostly renditions of Rod Stewart’s “We are Sailing.”

WELLits that time of year, the time to file the perennial item about blogs – as its probably raining out at this time of year.

This handy checklistwill help:

1.. Make sure you mention sex and porn.

2.. Make sure you mention that “journalists hate blogs because..”

3.. Preferably make good use of the cut and paste function, basing the article on the one you wrote on the same topic last year.

4..  Bore the shit out of the reader so that they’ll never be tempted to ever actually read a blog (see 2).

5.. Make sure you do not include any links in your article  (see 4).

6.. Slappers will sell the article (see 1).

7.. Blogs are written by random nutters (see 2) so don’t forget to give them a good tongue-in-cheek slagging. They’ll most likely moan but no-one reads their shit anyway (again see 4).

Coming next in this exciting series:

How to write articles about the following:

The Beijing mummified woman

    Xinjiang Celtic mummies

    Fortune tellers

    Psychic children

    Haunted alleys

    Chinese temples

    Yetis

    Face reading

    Cyber temples

    Rice fairies

    Alien sex

Ed’s note: Any hacks out there wishing to benefit from Shanghai Eye’s considerable journalistic expertise, please e-mail your enquiries to the usual address. Fees negotiable.

AS IT slowly resumes its 1930s mantle as Asia’s largest entrepot for goods and trade  Shanghai is attracting a growing number of adventurers, mostly young males, looking to make their fortune.  As Hong Kong has seen its economy nosedive, and Japan has dried up as a destination for adventurous young foreigners, China, especially Shanghai, is increasingly becoming a top choice for the entrepreneurial minded from countries in Europe and the United States, as well as from within other parts of China.

In the novel Shanghai ’37by the German author Vicki Baum, one of the characters – a German Jew in exile – says: “Shanghai is not a town at all… Shanghai is a poison. Man eaters live here, naked cannibalism rules here. This town is the world’s refuse heap. Who ever comes here, white or Chinese, has cracked up somewhere before and Shanghai does the rest.”

This is in stark contrast to the current Shanghai government’s favourite slogan: ‘duo meili de Shanghai,’ meaning ‘an increasingly beautiful Shanghai.’  But after more than 50 years of communist rule it seems the more things change the more they stay the same.

The government realizes the city has something of a reputation – and has plans to rectify this image in the run up to the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. It does not really amuse the cadres to still have articles being published regularly in the foreign press that mention Shanghai was known as “the whore of Asia in the 1930s” usually within the first couple of paragraphs.

At a recent promotional event in the city the current mayor made a long speech in which he talked at length on increasingly “refining” the population of Shanghai, saying that Shanghai will have an increasingly beautiful, civilized population. The “beautiful Shanghai” theme is the lodestone that justifies the mass demolition of whole districts and the huge ongoing swathe of city and civil construction.  A large percentage of the inner city population is being moved out to new towns being built in rural greater Shanghai with the same pioneering spirit that created towns such as Milton Keynes in the UK.

What all this chaotic mass upheaval, social, economic and political, means is that Shanghai is again a town where a chancer can make a fast buck – and pretty much anything can and will happen. This atmosphere attracts those with the drive to make it as a yuppie or con man, a white collar worker or a successful international businessman.

The government still has a puritanical streak – and occasionally tries to batten down the huge growth in the sub-strata black economy that has developed on the back of all this change – prostitution, gambling, goods piracy, corruption, fraud, stock market manipulation, bribery, and all the other sins that emerge in a society in flux.

China is a country steeped in thousands of years of history – and what makes Shanghai unique is that it has almost none. A mere 100 years is nothing compared to ancient Beijing and pales into insignificance when compared to old imperial capitals such as Xi’an. Everybody, Chinese and foreign, have very few roots here – no family can claim more than a few generations of residence.

Anyway – to get back to the point –  Shanghai Eye has discovered that expats are flooding to Shanghai in Grifter mode.

Only the other day Shanghai Eye discovered that the HK expat crowd are all looking to Shanghai as “the place to be.”

“Hong Kong has gone as far as its going to go,” one weary soul told Shanghai Eye, fresh in town, with money and ambition under his belt. “When Chris Patten left a lot of people went after him….”

Well Shanghai Eye is ready, and when the “Gweilos” decide to show up we have arranged party snacks and nibbles. Unfortunately, when they decide to have a good moan about democracy and other such foibles, well, that’s your lot guv’nor, party snacks is all we run to in this town.

Still, Shanghai Eye finds the influx of Grifters an amusing trend, and as the flood wave descends upon us we promise to be nice, just play nice boys – otherwise we have friends, and you don’t want to meet them!

AS Shanghai Eyeand friends sat down to a meal of Thai curried crab, spicy kebabs and sweet and sour soup little did we know we had sat down in ringside seats for the biggest punch up of the year.

It went a bit like this. A crowd of about 20 young men left the restaurant – a huge Thai place on the fourth floor of Hong Kong Plaza. As they drifted towards the escalators there seemed to be words said with staff at the door of the disco opposite. A crowd formed.

Dinner conversation waned as we craned our necks to look out the window. “They won’t fight, Shanghainese like to shout, not fight,” commented a local friend. The crowd got bigger- there was pushing and shoving, shouting, people stormed in and out of the disco, being dragged back by friends.

The big group of young men weren’t Shanghainese – and started pulling their jackets off. Most of those out of the disco went back in – except a guard waving his walkie talkie around and a couple of others. Still shouting the group of young men seemed to grab one other guy and try to drag him down the escalators. The guard pulled him back with some more shouting – then seemed to dangle one over the lip of the escalators. More shouting – more people coming in and out of the disco.

“They won’t fight,” my knowledgeable friend muttered, crunching happily on his curried crab, not deigning to look. Staff from the restaurant, all dressed in jaunty colourful Thai outfits crowded the doorway having a look.

Then it kicked of – the group of young guys seemed to  launch into the few remaining guys out side the disco -about 5 to one, punched them to the ground then started kicking them, heel first, the air resounded with a smacking sound, and a 20 foot mall Christmas tree was shaking like it was in a force 10 gale. The screaming and shouting got audibly louder. After several tens of seconds another group stormed out the disco and started laying into the group of young men – the new arrivals were middle aged tough looking guys – there was more resounding thumping noises – shouting and screaming – backwards and forwards for a minute or two.

They seemed to separate into two groups again and there was more screaming and shouting – and the again bam, then they split up again, then bam, for several minutes.

“Where are the police?” another dining companion asked?

“Pass the beer I said.”

The nonchalant one said: “They’re not really fighting, or it would have been over very quickly. The police are waiting for it to finish, then they’ll come.”

More argy bargy followed, and the group of young men seemed to run off, in ones and twos, some through the restaurant, some down the elevators. People shouted after them, shouting the mall guards to stop them. The mall guards were having none of it.

The nonchalant one offered some post-fight commentary: “You see, those young guys with the long hair and speaking Mandarin? They’re not from Shanghai – they thought there were only a few Shanghainese. But then there were a lot more they didn’t know about in the disco – Shanghainese will always win.”

A few minutes later some of Shanghai’s finest arrived – but it was all over. They walked around looking flustered and pointed fingers at a few guys. The Shanghainese were shaking hands and back slapping. A few were nursing nasty looking red marks.

I ordered more beer and got back to the crab. An old lady set to repairing the Christmas tree.

SHANGHAI EYE is not gay. In fact Shanghai Eye has issue – about two foot tall and talks Mandarin, Shanghainese and English. We just thought we’d get that out the way – but we do support a wide range of gay issues, such as um, well, if you can think of any write to us and we’ll back you up.

Anyhow – superstition is a major factor in day to day life. (Before all our gay fans desert us – we are tarts for clicks: if you are really desperate we could probably introduce you to someone – arrggh, that bugger web designer and his purple web scheme..)

Back to the article – China is a country riddled with superstition. Only tonight Shanghai Eye witnessed an  English architect subject himself to being slapped about the face and being generally prodded by a lady who claimed to have come back from the dead and lost all her teeth in the process.

She said he (the architect) was  possessed by a ghost – and had negative energy. He  was complaining of kidney pains –which went away after she slapped him around.

Shanghai Eye though remained the picture of health, and was having none of it.

Shanghai Eye’s better half on the other hand opened an account with the China Merchants Bank using all Shanghai Eye’s money to join the Golden Sunshine club, but then that is another story.

Meanwhile – this lady, back from the dead, with dark circles under her eyes, we discovered has saved a friend’s grandma from death, but only for three years, but the ghosts kicked her about, leaving her covered in bruises.

What do you say to that sort of thing?

Belief is stronger than reason – in this half of the <i>Shanghai Eye</i> anyway. Having grown up with Witch Doctors its easy to agree with Chinese witchdoctory – but you still cannot take then too seriously.

Life goes on – and the kidney sufferer said he felt better – if only he could cast a spell –

But anyway – back to the news that matters – the lady sorceress predicted Shanghai Eye will be rich! So, suan ming de lihai and I gave her RMB 200. Prayers for Shanghai Eye will be said, and pray, please don’t step on any ghosts, especially on Julu Lu.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES are many in this planet, and those between the West and China are  several – and the novel ‘Invasion’ disregards most of them.

The premise of this book is quite timely – North Korea collapses, China invades, then takes over South Korea.  Using oil tanker ship yards in South Korea China builds a fleet of ‘super’ aircraft carriers. China then subsequently invades India, Japan and a few other places. Basically all this activity takes up less space in the book than it does in this review – the novel then swiftly moves on to hot sex between a Chinese spy and a Chinese government protégé, and the Chinese army invades the United States.

The blow by blow struggle – up from Florida towards  Washington is covered in some graphic detail, with the Chinese army (sixty million strong) basically fighting a war of attrition losing soldiers at a ratio of fifty to one

against hard pressed US patriots.

Individual US special forces soldiers kill hundreds of  Chinese soldiers in minutes, and undertake other such super human tasks. As far as the author is concerned Chinese soldiers are identical, killing hundreds with the stroke of a pen, boom, bang. They all then start smoking marijuana, obviously a reaction to the author’s poor regard for them.

The US soldiers on the other hand are generally “fresh out of high school and sent straight to the front lines.” Where they either die quite quickly, or become immune to the various types of missiles and bombs that populate the book.

The main protagonists are a spurious Chinese politician called ‘Han Zemin’ and a US hybrid of Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood called Bill Baker. President Clunt Cunningdom perhaps would have been a better name? Anyhow, these two were college roomies, so meet up through the novel to bamboozle each other as to who will nuke who first.  And Han also shagged Clunt’s ex-wife, and the ex-wife’s sister, not to give too much away.

The most worrying thing about this book is that it was handed to Shanghai Eye by a source who stated “Ooh, its very realistic, it really could happen.”

The books blurb is “In the history of the United States, no communist army has set foot on American soil, UNTIL NOW.”

Basically me thinks this novel was most likely written in Langley by an old Soviet threat novelist, maybe Norman Mailer, who substituted the word ‘Soviet’ for ‘Chinese’ in the book writing program. Expect the film of the book soon.  We would cast Zhang Ziyi as the spy girl.

IT HAS come to the attention of Shanghai Eye, via an indiscreet source, that there have been mass editorial firings at the Shanghai Wenyi Publishing group.

Wenyi is one of, if not the largest publishing group in Shanghai. One arm of the group has seen editorial staff go under who were all protégés of one particular publisher. Affected titles include Shanghai’s most popular weekly, the ubiquitous “Shanghai Weekly”.

The issue arose due to “two articles in <i>The Bund</i> newspaper” according to our source. The Bund newspaper was trying to emulate the long suffering 21st Century Economic Herald, from Guangzhou, where senior editorial firings are commonplace.  The senior publisher got the chop after the paper’s indiscretions, and all his hirees have followed.

Apparently some have moved on to “that trashbin”, the Oriental Publishing Group. Others will find a job “easily,” having worked on Shanghai’s most popular titles.

Bing Bing

Round 1

Outnumbering the Laowai the Gweilos gang up and pounce on the individualist Laowais. Ooh, they’re taking a pummeling – ooh, can they take any more? Is this going to be one of those twenty second fights, Geoff?

Bob:well, the Laowai certainly are taking a lot of punishment – and look at those Chinese guys jabbing them in the arse from outside the ring, they are really taking some punishment.

Geoff: Ooh, this is brutal – there are so many Gweilos, all bunched up, those Laowais don’t even talk to each other, they’re going down one by one!

Bob: Oooh, the crowd is going wild, look – that Gweilo drank that Laowai’s blood! The Gweilos numbers and technological, as well as financial clout is really showing….

Geoff:Well, the referee has stepped in

Bob: Ah, the Laowais got up again,

Bing Bing

Ah Bob, well, the Laowais really look to be the lightweights tonight.

Well Geoff we had hoped they’d put up more of a fight. What’s with the crowd? The mainland crowd are dissing their own side!

Bing Bing

Round 2

Well, blood dripping off the canvas. Look at that – wait – the Laowais said something to the crowd.

What did they say? Bob?

I don’t know – the Gweilos look at a loss too.. OH! DID YOU SEE THAT?

OH MY GOD! THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!!

Bing Bing Bing Bing BING

Geoff: Well, in all my years watching these sub-culture conflicts I have never seen anything like it.

Bob: Folks – well, the Chinese audience turned on the Gweilos and tore them limb from limb. Leaving the Laowais as winners by default. Well Geoff – a night to remember?

Geoff: I guess so Bob, gee whiz, never saw that before!

Regular readers will note that the <i>Shanghai Eye</i> scooped the <A HREF=”http://politics.guardian.co.uk/cherie/story/0,12713,1164067,00.html”>British Media</A> in making lurid allegations that Tony Blair has <A HREF=”viewart.php?artid=27″>more than platonic relations</A> with Downing Street lifestyle guru Carol Caplin.

In the Shanghai Eye scoop in September 2003, after the Tony Blair visit, an observant Shanghainese told Shanghai Eye that Tony Blair looks to be in trouble over the Carol Caplin affair. “Cherie has a mouth like a tiger. Tony is a man who would turn to a woman like Carole for comfort. Cherie is too masculine, Tony too feminine, and Carol is their perfect match. Tony is seeking a replacement for the (too) motherly Cherie.”

“She predicts a Lewinsky style drama unfolding over at Number 10”, <i>Shanghai Eye</i> revealed.

The latest news is that Tony plans to resign on September 23, 2004 – almost exactly a year to the day after the Shanghai Eye scoop. Merely a coincidence? More revelations from our crystal ball as they happen!

CHEN SHUI-BIAN, by all accounts, well according to someone we called in Taiwan, has won. Initial reaction gauged in Shanghai by Shanghai Eye was shock, horror, followed by anger, then panic. Apparently the Shanghai Stock Exchange had shot up late Friday as punters assumed erroneously that by “being shot,” Chen was bound to lose.

A nail biting Sunday tomorrow – brokers are primed to sell first thing Monday. Meanwhile the KMT (Guomindang) are calling the election a fraud. China will probably want to sort this all out long before 2008. Smells of Florida, with Phoenix TV (PLA front that they are) citing Guomindang sources as saying that there are as many as 300,000 spoiled ballots and counting…

Acquaintances tell us that there is a secret stock of state-of-the-art advanced weaponry stored on an island off the coast of Fujian Province, waiting to be used. Still, battle plans have already been made, and are – we hope – unlikely ever to be required.

English language magazines That’s Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou now have “kan hao” – magazine publishing numbers. So to do the Japanese mag “Walker” and some Korean mag no-one has ever heard of. The Chinese publishing house will also put out a “That’s China”.

.

This is what is known as the ‘grey publishing model.’ If anyone is interested Shanghai Eye knows a bloke with another seven ‘kan hao’. Contact us via the usual channels.

WAGS AT the Chinese advertising association have today published their assessment of local advertising campaigns.

The use of wooden beauty Jin Xishan to advertise mobile phones, for which she earned RMB 300 million, was the chief gripe, as she plainly does nothing in the ad except hold a cell phone without so much as an expression.

Non-humorous humor, such as a gag for a a recent line of underwear, was said to annoy TV viewers. Hong Kong actor Chou Yunfat, known as “the steamed bun steeped in porridge” (due to his use of rice gruel to moisten his hair), should not be advertising shampoo, apparently. Pepsi Cola’s random use of stars, no matter who they are as long as they’re famous, and including execrable Taiwan boy band F4, was actually congratulated. F4 won’t get out of bed for less than 15 million new Taiwan dollars these days though.

Andy Lau makes a lot of advertisements, but apparently he is still misunderstood, as he sends an SMS in one ad which leads to a break-up with on-screen lover Guan Zhilin. Schwarzeneggar’s foray into mainland advertising was said to “offer strength to China’s advertisements.” His presence offered esteem to any who used him, apparently.

The new queen (king?) of Chinese advertising is Sun Yan Zi, who is seen as the voice of a new generation.  Sun’s ads include jeans, coffee, McDonald’s, cell-phones, cushions, wrist-watches and sportswear, Multifarious indeed. 

The new sensation, singing duo TWINS, are said to be a serious offense to advertising – though a pair of clever little girls who can sing, run and dance, they are hard to like. The fact that both girls are flat-chested, and are advertised bras, seems to have annoyed the advertising association the most.

The future- predictions

1) Famine – Following years of war and pillage, drought and lack of government the peasants haven¡¯t grown any food this year. No food will be supplied for two turns, while you improve the economy.

2) Revolution – Tired of the general misrule a peasant movement arises. All players must take 1/4 of their troops and place them in one of their provinces. These provinces are now rebel provinces. Re-capture them if you can.

3) Pestilence of Curs – a strange sickening disease affects all humans, killing 1 in 10. After they die, these humans are resurrected as undead, and leave to join their master in the West. 1 in ten humans must be given to undead players.

4) The Wisdom of Law – The code of ethics, written by the wise man of the silk mountains is widely spread among the people, bringing peace, harmony and enlightenment. No humans may fight one another for two turns.

5) Bumper harvest – following a prosperous harvest humans production doubles, all human provinces provide twice usual output for three turns.

6) Monks begin a holy Crusade, encouraging the people to join arms to unite the empire. All human troops only need half supply for five turns.

7) The long winter – a winter that lasts three years, all farming stops, halving output for three turns.

8) Earthquake – a series of earthquakes strike most provinces, all players lose 1/3 of their forces.

9) The Son of Heaven -it has been revealed by the wise man of the Eastern hills that the ruler of the celestial empire will be the holder of the spell  Wrath of the Sun. If a player has this card, the people of the empire flock to his war banner, giving him 20% more troops than he has now.

10)The Black Empire  – the Lord of Death paid a visit, and left behind a host of undead to defeat his enemies. Undead player receives +  30% troops.

A STORY that  basically writes itself – a reporter from Shanghai Star has sensationally revealed that those pink-lit barber shops are in fact  offering sexual services. Of course a reporter had to have sampled the services, or how would they know? And of course he made his excuses and left at an opportune moment, keeping those pesky Barber Shop girls in the dark that he was one of Shanghai’s finest (reporters that is).

In related news, those happy go lucky BBS goers at WSGforum are reporting that the Maoming Lu clampdowns are due to three foreigners having died of drug overdoses, or some Germans fighting, or someone else OD’ing on yaotouwan (we won’t call it ‘E’). Further reports indicate that it could have been instead because some officials got pissed at the noise, or was it the neighbours? And CCTV cameras and decibel meters have been installed, as well as numerous undercover ‘honey trap’ cops. Maoming Lu strangely enough is fairly quiet these days.

The following are in no apparent order, and we hope more will follow…

You don’t enjoy ShangHai Eye’s cynical and somewhat elitist commentary? I do, at least in limited doses, mainly because he’s such a good stylist and his knowledge of China is immense. PEKING DUCK

Shanghai Eye, responding to the UK stowaway story, puts together a killer essay …BRAINYSMURF

I’ve finally found a hilariously curt, Chinacentric synopsis of recent world history from British expat ShangHai Eye. …RED IN CHINA

Via Butterlies and Wheels, I came across Shanghai Eye today, a decidedly leftish blog/e-mag … There’s a great essay at Shanghai Eye on the fate of the Mao cult in the flow of change that has been China’s reality …BURCHISMO

Shanghai Eye has some wonderful coverage of the current debate on the state of China’s public toilets …ANON

Hello, hello, can you hear me China? Look what I just discovered! ShangHai Eye. Huh! … SHE. Ahh… ShangHai Eye… Perhaps we might blogroll each other some day. …THE APOLOGIST

Very very good, inspiring even HUNDVIG

Good work! I also enjoyed the B&W photo effect GOLDWRYN

ShangHai Eye (if you like to read about China, just go there …) PEKING DUCK

But this excellent book will leave its readers with a clearer understanding of the problem. (Shanghai Eye). CHINA RADIO INTERNATIONAL

… A 200-meter-tall futuristic-looking Ferris wheel — the “Shanghai Eye” — will provide a modern contrast to historical temples and a preserved prison. …OOPS

Shanghai Eye: An excellent and intelligent news-driven sight, MOEVIUS

Shanghai Eye: Penetrating news analysis, witty diversions, and lucid prose. Suggestions Welcome. USEFUL LINKS

While Sunday blogsurfing thru the old china hands, acerbic expats and fellow Gweilos, Professor Tax observes a new star swing into view: ShangHai Eye. Read his description of coming home to England, and ask yourself — “can this fellow write, or what?” It’s fortunate, or even “fantastic” that no one in California is this literate, so as to spare us the temptation of Envy.

“What poet would not grieve to see,

His brethren write as well as he?

But rather than they should excel,

He’d wish his rivals all in hell.” Jonathan Swift (1739)

TAX PROFESSOR

Maya Lin’s mother, Ming-Hui, known as Julia, is the daughter of a prominent

Shanghai eye specialist who received his medical education at Penn. …

newyorker.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.