Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mums looking for Mr. Right

Beijing searches for love among the park benches - with a little help from mum

Worried parents seek Mr or Ms Right for busy grown-up children

Jonathan Watts in Beijing
Tuesday May 31, 2005
The Guardian

At 1pm every Sunday, Mrs Shen goes hunting for a husband. Equipped with photos, a resume and oodles of charm and enthusiasm, the 50-something spends the entire afternoon looking for Mr Right among the cypress and ginkgo trees of Sun Yat-sen Park in Beijing.


Here is my blog entry about this from April! I beat the Guardian on this story by 2 months.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Future at Ericsson Beijing?

Ericsson China has its largest research center in Beijing. I contacted them about writing my Master's thesis and I have received a very good response. The General Manager there sent out an email to all departments and some other centers in China asking them for suitable projects. I believe that I would be the first foreigner to write my thesis on an engineering subject in Ericsson China.

The approval from the GM seem to have opened up a lot of doors, possible more than was intended. On my first visit I was invited to attend internal meetings and could freely discuss with the project managers. I should perhaps consider a career as an industrial spy instead, that would put my Chinese and engineering skills to good use. Any offers out there? I could offer you what Ericsson thinks about the prospect of CDMA2K for a start...

The Product Provisioning Manager suggested that I would spend a day in each department to see if I could find something suitable, and he could right away prepare a desk for me if I wanted. The Hardware Design Manager, which turned out to be a very friendly woman(!), had already prepared a specific project. She told me that she was trying to introduce a western business culture, but she said since the percentage of foreigners was decreasing, she was party failing with that. A part of the enthusiasm of giving me this project would be to counter this.

From the start there had been 9 Swedish expats, now they were down to 6. This at the same time as Ericsson has expanded research personnel from 300 to 600 and has plans to expand by 50% per year coming years (this according to various people there that I chatted with). My biggest concern is how I fit into this.

An expat is incredible expensive, particularly if their kids and families are here. A Chinese engineer would get around 5-7k RMB as a starting salary. For me to make it worth while I would need something in between. Not a 'local hire' salary and an expat package would be impossible. Problem is that this doesn't exist. My requested salary would possible have to be 25-30k RMB. That would still be a bargain compared to a expat package, but still be like one of the top Chinese managers in the whole organization. As a single guy I would have an easy life here with that, but for the future that would still mean difficulties.

First of all, subtract that I would have to have insurance, pay of my study debts, and put away money for flights home. I would have to put away significant amount of money to save for my retirement. Imagine if I would like to have kids in five years. I would possible not be able to afford to put them in one of the expensive private schools here, so I might have to put them in a Chinese. If they went to a Chinese school (which I really would like to spare them from) I wouldn't be able to take them home after, since the Swedish system would not accept their credits. So I would have to choose between not having children or repatriate and restart my career.

My biggest concern right now though is that I don't think telecom is particularly interesting. Antennas in particular.

Democracy lecture

Lecture about the prospects of democracy in China. A lot of interesting details about democracy initiatives at village levels in rural China. As usual a polite listening crowd with a lot of rather naive questions. Including myself.
Sveriges Ambassad i Peking inbjuder till en föreläsning med Göran Leijonhufvud på temat "Utsikterna för demokrati i Kina".
Torsdagen den 26 maj kl. 18.00
Göran Leijonhufvud är forskare och journalist, och var tidigare DNs korrespondent i Kina. Göran Leijonhufvud är den femte föreläsaren i ambassadens föreläsningsserie "Kina genom svenska ögon".
Don't ask me why the image turned blue! Have no idea.


A DVD for the usual 7-10 RMB (about a dollar). This copy was in the Friendship store at Sanlitun. Episode III could be bought three days after the premiere. MengYuan had downloaded it on her computer so I watched it with her gratis.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Football tournament

This last Sunday I participated in the 2005 MasterCard Beijing Community Cup. A great day with lots of sunshine, football, and beer.

Team BBBC. Great team (...but pretty boring name)

Our team was representing 北京建工国金, the construction company in which Wen's mother works. They provided us with a complete kit of clothes, shoes, and beer. The shoes was of size 45 so I had to use my 38 kuai shoes that I use when I kick on the dirt ground at Beida.

The whole competing bunch at the Workers' stadium.

Playing ball

Afterwards we had a great feast in a nearby restaurant. Snails is not one of my favorites though.

Sam, the no-longer 二锅头-virgin, getting ready for further adventures this wet and wild evening. 二锅头 is the (very cheap) Beijing 白酒 (40% Alc).

白酒 [báijiǔ] n. white liquor

干杯[gānbēi]! Cheers! Bottoms up! (means lit. "dry cup")

Celebrating that we came 17th place at the 'ClubFootball Center' in Sanlitun. We were happy losers. I think we won 5 games, tied one, and lost one. Somehow I can't remember clearly, and somehow it doesn't matter. It was a great day!! Thank you Wen for letting me play, and a great thank you to her mum who sponsored the whole thing.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Letter from Uma

Uma is a Chinese girl that I have known for almost 1,5 years now. She studies at Peking University and did an internship in Stockholm a couple of months this winter.

I just read your blog and saw the football post.

Hehe.. I think I mostly agree with you on it, but at the same time, i think
the people here dont really have hostility to you. For eg, you remember that
time we went to school for the immigrant worker's kids? Those guys went
together with us didnt talk to you when they first met you. you seemed quite
annoyed when we were on the bus, so i asked them why they dont talk to you
and why they dont introduce themselves. they were quite surprised. they said
if they try to talk to you it will seem to be very bad, like they are EAGER
to talk to foreigners, and you can see that, they were actually quite
friendly to you after i told them that it may made you feel bad if they
never talked to you, and i told them that it was not very friendly to do
that. I think they just dont have the sense to shake hands with people or
say "hey" or talk to a stranger voluntarily. it is not the custom. but i do
think most of people would like to be friendly to you, they just dont know
how to do it. you cant really blame them that they dont shake hands and say
"hi", that's atually considered very western in a way, we dont have it in
our long history, for eg, shaking hands, is not that nature for a chinese to
do when they first meet someone.

You know, in a way, I dont like to be here either, even want to escape, or
maybe if once i do so, i ll never be back.. but I do think i love the
country, I can understand it deeply in my mind. My heart hurts when people
criticize it and especially when i know what they say is actually right. I
dont like most of the people here and I admit that because of the lack of
education or the way the communists educate people, there is lots of
blindness in this country, but it is not their fault, they dont really have
a choice. You know that when we were in the west of China, there were lots
of people who are genuinely friendly and helped us a lot, they are not well
educated, but if you just follow their customs, they treat you like real
friend. Do you believe that, if you once meet any difficulty there or maybe
even in beijing, im sure there always people would like to help you.
Generally i think, people here are actually friendly to you, they just dont
know how to express it, and most of them are not conscious about what may
hurt your feelings, like the people who shout after you, you know, we two
girls met this too on the train back to beijing, we felt annoyed, but we
know that it is not hostility. you are rare, so got more attentions, that's

When i was in Sweden, i think people will shake hands with me, that is the
custom i think, they used to do that to strangers, but they dont really talk
to me if i dont talk to them first, especially girls, sometimes even i try
hard to talk to them but got few replies... i once asked Daniel, he said he
just think they are too shy to speak english.

Well. seems i said too much;) actually i agree with you on most of it. but
still, i think that is just the way they act seems not that friendly, after
all the culture is that different, not really mean inside, they are not
friendly to you.



I was standing in the rain trying to get a taxi. No taxi was stopping and time was running out. I was stressed because I needed to pick up Wen at the embassy and then go to the French Culture Center to catch a movie. Time was running out and I was getting really soaked.

Suddenly an empty cab comes by. I rush out in the rain and wave at him. He comes over and stops next to me. I go around the car, pull off my back-pack and am ready to get in when a fat, middle-aged, Chinese man (FMCM) comes rushing and opens the door right in front of me. I start shouting that this was my taxi. The guy completely ignores me and off he goes.

I think of all things i don't like in Beijing, I think rude, middle-aged, chain-smoking, arrogant, fat Chinese men take the prize. The even worse kind has his own black fat car to match.

We missed the first movie. When I finally managed to get a taxi, the traffic was completely stuck. Me and Wen went for dinner in hope that the traffic grid-lock would be over by 7pm.

When we got out the traffic was still basically standing still. For the first time in Beijing we took one of these 3-wheel motorbikes.

The dinner, the ride, and the movie helped me to get over another ugly day in Beijing. Let's hope for some sunshine and friendly encounters tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Beer. 3 kuai (about 2.60 SEK, 0.2 Euro) in a restaurant for 640 ml of fresh lager. Good taste too. In a supermarket it would be 1.70 kuai.

A lot of places have put up tables and chairs outside now during the spring and we sit outside eating peanuts, beans, fruit, bbq:d bugs, and plenty of beer. Pretty nice. Actually we usually we skip the bugs and go for the cray-fish instead.

I'm will cry when celebrating mid-summer back home. Because of the prices.

This post was for you Edward. Let's keep the hope for a 'rucklet reunion' some time in the future.


Some 拆-pictures from the Sanlitun area.
拆 [chāi] take apart, dismantle
The character means that the house is about to be torn down. Everybody that has spend a little time here in Beijing knows this. That has happened to a lot of neighborhoods in this city.

The Sanlitun area has a lot of embassies and the oldest bar district in town. Recently basically the whole street where the westerners used to go have been torn down. Now the bars are scattered all over. Weird planning. It seems like the planners in this town has no clue about bars and clubs. The Chinese places are pretty sleazy, even sleazier than many of the places the westerners go.

就不拆 means:"Don't tear it down!" Nice try.

Doesn't this process make a lot of people feel rootless and not at home in this city. If all the places you knew as a child has been torn down, then what feelings would be left? That's at least what Wen tells me. She says she doesn't recognize this city and doesn't like it anymore. There are so many people from other places here and the whole place is turned up-side down.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Midi Jazz Festival 2005

I went to the Midi Jazz festival out in someplace next to nowhere. Why not have the festival in town or at least next to a subway?

The festival seemed to be very well organized and the music and sound was ok. We spend a great day sitting talking and sipping beer in the sun. Inside the area a small glass of beer was 15 kuai. 30 meters away, outside the gate, a large bottle (equivalent of 3 glasses) was 2 kuai. I think it was only the foreigners who had the expensive beer. Some of them. ;) Why I'm saying this is that beer is important to a jazz festival. Jazz has always only been nice background music to me. Nothing that I get too excited about, but nice to sit and drink beer to.

One of the acts was 麦迪, Jessica Meider. She was singing a lot more than jazz, which I think the audience (including me) really appreciated. Jazz can be pretty boring actually. Sort of wish this was the rock and punk festival that are held in October.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Lecture at the embassy

The announcement in Swedish:
Sveriges Ambassad i Peking inbjuder till en föreläsning med professor Torbjörn Lodén på temat "Konfucianism och modernitet".

Torbjörn Lodén är professor i kinesiska vid Stockholms Universitet, och är den fjärde föreläsaren i ambassadens föreläsningsserie "Kina genom svenska ögon".
"Modernitet"? Is that modernism in English? These lectures are really interesting and they kind of make me want to study sinology.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Belgian Embassy bunch

Party with the guys from the Belgian Embassy. All colleagues of ZhangWen. Look at that smile... She's 'happy like a fish in the Belgian fish-tank', 'wild like a dog in the chicken house', or ... nah... I was never good using 成语 [chéngyǔ] (idioms) or 俗语 [súyǔ] (common sayings) in any language. The party was to celebrate her admission to a Belgian university, starting next fall.


Playing tennis at Beijing Normal University. I'm getting ready to kick some ass when I get home. Did you hear that Jakob and Johanna! (Edward?)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Football at Beida

Recently I have spent a lot of time on the Peking University campus hanging out with friends, reading cartoons, and playing football. I know, I'm such a slacker. This piece is about when I go and play football at the awful dirt ground next to Weiminghu.

When I get there I usually approach one of the groups of people that are already playing on the field and pretty much just step in on the field. Usually without saying anything or being told anything I just start playing in one of the teams. Sometimes someone points at one of the goals or maybe there will a short word exchange among the players on which team I should join. That is how it is done. Then we play like we are trying to ignore each other.

If I were in any other country I would never just walk into the field, since that would interrupt and disturb the game. This way would in any other place drive me nuts, since suddenly there would be a bunch of new guys on the field and you would have no idea who is playing with whom. A for me 'normal' approach would possible be to, at an appropriate moment, ask if one could join. I also imagine that in almost any other country your team-mates would say something like "Hi!", or nod at you when you join in. Back home I would even tell the team my name and they would usually say theirs and possible even shake hands. Not here. I am completely ignored, though they are VERY well aware that there is a FOREIGNER playing with them. At most there would be some nervous laughs ("He he! A foreigner!") behind my back. I would even guess that is would be such a big deal that some will talk about it with their friends afterwards.

It is perhaps worth to mention is that we are sometimes 30-40 people on a 7-man field and in my eyes that makes the game quite boring. Where I come from people coming to the game late would probably be asked to wait if there would be more than 20 more people on the field . They would understand and either wait or start up their own game. In my thinking it is better that 20 people play a fun game than 40 play a really boring and pointless pinball version of football. I understand that these guys are probably used to playing like. Perhaps in their viewpoint it would also be unthinkable to deny anyone else from joining, especially if the joining guy would have some friends already playing. So, in my point of view, everybody loose. But that is just how it works. I personally leave when there is too many people.

Playing with these guys is kind of interesting for me since my other Chinese friends are somewhat interested in languages and other countries. I seems to me that a majority of these guys aren't interested in learning English (they are not preparing for any language exams) and have no interest in (or hope of?) going abroad. My guess is also that they generally don't like or even strongly dislike foreigners. Chinese friends tell me that there are quite a lot of folks like that, but they probably rarely let a foreigner know. I imagine that they are the people that glare angrily at me and the ones that go on with long ramblings on the forums about the bad foreign influence on poor victim, yet in all ways superior, China.

When staying in China for a while one can get the impression that everybody are trying to learn English or are really interested in getting to know foreigners. I don't think that is case. If there is no language exam ahead I think most people couldn't care less. The impression probably comes from the fact that the people that are interested and like foreign things, they are the ones that generally approach you and become your friend.

So I'm playing ball with them. There is very little talk, and almost only between the people that are already friends. The no-talking part actually hurts the game. It is pretty useful to communicate with words or shouts. "Watch your back!", "Pass!", or "Hey!!" can help a great deal. I in fact do my own thing and go on doing that. The quietness is very strange since in almost any other circumstance people here are very loud. I guess some encouragements or small celebrations wouldn't hurt either. The lack of that is perhaps a little more understandable because of the tendency to not want to stand out from the group. So, when someone scores there sometimes is a short "Yeah!", possible a short applause, and then that's over, back to silence. Everybody goes back, looking down to the ground, pretending nothing has happened. Me too. If anyone shouted and made a little run with their arms stretched up, I guess nobody would do him any harm, but it just doesn't happen. If I did it I think it would be pretty awkward and I would be the foreigner showing off.

People ask me if I love China and I usually reply that I don't. Why do I think so and why am I still here then?

It's not the noise, it's not being pushed by people, it's not how people cut the line, it's not the pollution, it's not the greasy food, it's not the grey boring buildings, it's not the traffic, not the spitting, not the dirt and trash. These things can make you rant and whine on a bad day, but I think that would happen to any foreigner in another country. Perhaps just a little more in this particular one.

As a matter of fact, I meet very few people (right now I can't remember anyone) that have stayed here a longer time and say they love this country. I know several people that have stayed in for example India, Nepal, South Africa, Chile etc. and say that they really love these countries. For the good and the bad, they love that country, they love the people there. I understand them. I think I could feel that for these countries too. I've stayed in India for 6 months and although I went through hardships, being stared at, cheated, had sever diarrhea, most people there are very genuinely friendly in their approach. It is annoying sometimes, but usually warm and friendly. (That is if you travel away from major tourist spots like Agra where everything basically sucks.)

Back to China. People that you meet either stare at you or ignore you (but are oh so aware that you are there). People behind you look at you, some turn around and have a quick glance, and some start talking about the "foreigner". They REALLY do a good job to make you feel like an outsider. They folks from the country side stare at you or even shout at your back when you have passed by ("Laowai! Helloor! Hehehee..."). Since I live in a neighborhood in Beijing with a lot of foreigners I fortunately don't get too much of that. Another scenario is that some brave person comes and wants to practice English. That person might be lingering around for a while, hovering near you, while you sit there just waiting for the “Are you from America?” to hit you. That leads to the usual boring questions and the "Your Chinese is very good".

Maybe all this doesn't sound too strange too you and that this is normal when coming to a different culture? I guess my feelings are pretty difficult to express. The experience here is so much different from where I have traveled and lived before. Singapore (1 year+), Malaysia (numerous trips), Thailand (5 trips), Mongolia, India (6 months), Nepal, Morocco, USA (1 year), Russia and all over Europe. You can sense that China has been very isolated country. Isolated not only in number of people going abroad and people coming here, but also how people are educated, and how "foreigners" are portrayed for example on TV. When traveling in Mongolia people treated you like a person, not necessarily friendly, but not like some superstar, enemy, or an ET.

I think my lack of affection for this country comes from this cold approach.

Maybe I should say something about the strenuous hospitality and overly generosity that kicks in when treated as a guest, but I will do that some other time.

Update (May 14th):

Since this is the longest post I probably have ever written, I will add some more things to really make it a great record. Congratulations and to all of you (3?) souls that actually manage to read it all. Pity on you that you have nothing better to do.

I played another 3 hour session this Friday. This time the guys were dressed in identical blue clothes. Both teams. When first coming to China it might be difficult to distinguish people from each other. Chinese also have this problem with people of other races. Playing football with people that I don't know, with the same clothes, and having the same color of hair and skin is a challenge. I tried to suggest that one team should take off their shirts (because they were also getting a little confused), but that only happened for 5 minutes. After that there had already come and gone so many people so it was all screwed up. Since I really didn't want to run around and police and manage things, I just played defender. My tactic? Try to take the ball from whoever was trying to come my way. Then pass to whoever was running away from me. Kind of worked.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The only protest in Beijing May 4th 2005?

Dog ownership has become immensely popular i Beijing. I can just mention my neighborhood where it seems to be almost as many dogs on the street as people.

I had made an appointment with two Swedish journalists that contacted me after having read my blog. They were also writing a story for a dog magazine and were heading for a dog festival on the outskirts of Beijing. After seeing Wen Jiabao at Peking University I went with WangJun to Beiyuan and the park next to the subway and met up with them.

Middle class Beijingers protesting the city's regulations for dogs. Some examples are regulations that ban dogs over 35 cm in the city center, prevents a family from having more than one dog, and imposes high fees for dog each dog license. Most public parks don't let the owners bring in their little pets either.

Name collection

Little 欢欢 (huānhuān) wondering why on earth he should be made to jump.

欢欢's special ID card. Check out his cool picture!

Dog fashion in Beijing. I pity these little creatures.

Dog qipao

This little fellow had a hot day in the sun. Is it a dog? Or a little bear?

Wen JiaBao at Beida

Yesterday morning I got a message from a friend at Peking University (Beida) saying that the premier Wen JiaBao was outside her dormitory. I rushed there and got a glimpse of the man just before he entered a mini-bus and went on. He had been addressing the students that had been sitting in the NongYuan canteen. I think they must have been very surprised when he came in. Students around was not aware what was going on and there were only some hundred or so students that waved him goodbye.

Wen Jiabao had already had just waved the students goodbye and entered this mini-bus when I took this picture. I just managed to see him a couple of seconds.

The students I saw was just as surprised as me. As far as I know this was a completely unannounced visit, probably to try to deter students from marching. As far as I know this must be very rare for a top official to make such a visit.

May 4th is a very symbolic date in Chinese history and there has been a lot of rumors about anti-Japanese protests erupting again against the will of the government.

Update (7 May): Scott mailed me the article in People's daily
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid a visit Wednesday to Peking University, one of the most prestigious universities in China, celebrating the Chinese Youth Day with the students.

The premier arrived on the campus at about 10:00 a.m. Wednesday. He visited the university's library and dormitory areas and received the warmest welcome from all the students and staff members.

During his talks with the students, Wen listened carefully to their questions and difficulties and made sincere and humorous replies, which aroused applauds one time after another.

In his talks, the premier asked the students to be conscientious and persevering in their studies so as to make contributions to the building of the country after graduation.

"I feel exciting to have a face-to-face talk with the premier. His concerns and expectations toward us make me feel warm as well as the sense of responsibilities," said a student named Zhang Qiulei.

As expected. Everyone is happy in People's Daily's Chinese wonderland.

By the way, Jiabao is MY name!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Little chicks

In my neighborhood you can by little chicks for a couple of kuai.

They are super cute.

It all seems very nice until the next moment a little girl comes in to the restaurant we were sitting in with one in a plastic bag. Her mother is telling her not to, but she is not stopping the girl from tossing it around and to the ground, probably breaking several bones of the constantly squeaking little animal. These little one's will probably only last a couple of days.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Short Step March

For the opening weekend of the 2005 Dashanzi International Art Festival (DIAF), Kilometer Zero is organizing The Short Step.

400 westerners wearing traditional Chinese-blue factory worker suits walk across the Dashanzi 798 factory district and gather for a photograph. The suits will be all bright and new as we form a long long train along the streets, between the trees, and through the network of Bauhaus stacks. Highly unusual and strongly evocative, and in Beijing’s modern urban environment — magically beautiful …

Ceren, the model worker

Johan, the model worker

Try to spot the real one

The short step

How do individuals relate to cultural identity? Is a culture specific to its individuals? Could one nation’s history ever have happened to another group of people? As a two-way hysteria grows both about the westernisation of China, and the potential for current Chinese economic growth to eclipse the US, it becomes increasingly unclear who is subsuming who. Who is in which country’s trousers?