A year after leaving China and five years after publishing his first book (China Cuckoo: How I Lost a Fortune and Found a Life in China), Mark Kitto has a follow-up, That's China, technically a prequel that traces the beginning of his That's magazine franchise and looks underneath the fingernail of Chinese publishing. Kitto wrote the following column for Prospect, republished here with the author's permission -- with a freshly appended postscript.
Only a week ago we were lamenting the dearth of female presence at a UN Women's event in Beijing; now comes an event that celebrates a plus size of it.
The Miss Plus Size International pageant, to be held this Saturday at a luxury hotel in downtown Beijing, isn’t a contest one would immediately associate with China, but – fuck it, it's happening, and there's nothing we can do about it.
A trio of Chinese men armed with baseball bats and metal pipes has been detained, following a violent assault on students at one of Beijing’s best-known universities. The case bears strong similarities to a series of racially tinged assaults alleged to have recently occurred in several foreign-centric districts, including Sanlitun, Houhai and Wudaokou, in which... Read more »
Happy Halloween, everybody. For those of you wondering, the some-years-strong Beijing tradition of dressing up and riding Subway Line 2 on the weekend before Halloween will come to a close this year. Authorities are worried about the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, so they don't want their public transportation clogged with beer-guzzling foreigners doing weird shit and attracting crowds.
I knelt at the top of the hospital escalator, partly from exhaustion, mostly out of surrender. My moans and cries recalled childhood Halloween nights spent puking up entire plastic jack-o-lanterns of candy. My tears blurred reality. Loud, distracted, exotic shapes and figures brushed past me, unimpressed by my misery, misery unlike any I'd felt before.
This wasn't how I imagined my first week in China would go.
When John Ross,“former director of London’s Economic and Business Policy to ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone and current Senior Fellow with the Chongyang Institute” at Renmin University, was approached by Chinese tabloid Global Times (GT) for a profile about foreign China Watchers, he was, no doubt, expecting a nice soap-job.
Good day, mortals. Enjoy the weekend? Unless you were at the inaugural Expats in Chinese Film and TV Awards, not as much as these players.
Described by one excited attendee as “the stupidest, most Z-list thing ever… a fake award ceremony with fake red carpet,” the “expat Oscars” (as no one is calling it) was hosted by this nubile pair:
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep, with a budget exceeding $100 million, was supposed to be China's Avatar. But as our correspondent, Dale Irons, found out on set, this extravagant 3-D epic was plagued from the beginning by incompetence and misfortune -- to say nothing of dangerous working conditions, a rampaging horse, and the tide. Five years after production began, there's little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release.
This is Part 2 of Dale's two-part diary from the set of what might be China's most expensive -- and worst -- movie ever. --RFH
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep is a much-delayed 3-D epic film that seems destined to disappear forever. Neither the film -- known rather generously as "China’s Avatar," starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) -- nor the full story may ever be officially released. It’s now been five years -- an appropriate anniversary -- so, tired of waiting, we here publish the “production diaries” of a young Australian-British man, Dale Irons, who found himself back in 2009, for various reasons, on the set of allegedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made -- and possibly the worst. Big words? Read for yourself. --RFH
Growing up, Driver Wang’s father thought him a momma’s boy. “Send him to play outside more,” he complained. “The kid needs to get into some scrapes.” Little did Wang Hu know, his son had been through six lifetimes of scrapes. He’d been castrated by a sorceress, strangled by a lover, beaten by roving pirates, and tortured by Red Guards. Yet in his current life as a Beijing taxi driver, Driver Wang is unaware of this -- until a mysterious letter falls from his taxi’s visor one day.
So, before I begin, I guess I should get one thing out of the way: I write that show that all expats seem to hate but Chinese people seem to like – see the sketch I wrote about potatoes.
Yes, of course you could no doubt do it better; and yes, I agree, why do they even bother employing us? We’re not even funny. Now that I’ve saved you the hassle of leaving those sentiments in the comments section, I’ll get to the nitty gritty.
Because it's politically expedient to do so -- proven by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, etc., to work -- Beijing conducted a drug investigation that recently culminated in a bust of street-level slingers in Sanlitun. This news doesn't affect the vast majority of Beijingers, foreign or local, which is to say, there's little reason any of us should cheer. If anything, we should cringe, knowing these "crackdowns" almost always disproportionately affect those on society's fringes who are most powerless to defend themselves.
More than 30 foreigners, most of “black complexion,” have been arrested on drug charges, and more than 790 grams of methamphetamine, ecstasy, and marijuana have been seized, according to an article on Tuesday in Legal China. Expect a few less head nods and “You good?”s around Taikoo Li. Also, you might need to find a new drug dealer.
Attention, writers of Beijing: we're holding a flash fiction reading on Sunday, July 13 at Great Leap Brewing's Original No. 6 location (Doujiao Hutong No. 6). Space is limited, so we're asking those interested to register by emailing us -- spots will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is 50 RMB, which includes a select GLB beer, with all proceeds going to the charity Educating Girls of Rural China. Also, importantly: we're seeking readers!
It really doesn't take much to impress local Chinese if you're white, does it? Spotted in Qingdao and posted to the Sina Weibo account of @天璇妈妈, here's a foreigner picking up trash. "The Weibo post heated up discussions among netizens, racking up hundreds of likes on Weibo," reports Sina. "Some bloggers said we should learn from the foreign man, even foreigners are help protecting our environment."
On April 16, Alec Ash of the Anthill gathered eight writers (technically nine) to read stories at Cu Ju, a rum bar in the hutongs owned by the somewhat legendary Badr Benjelloun, who paired each writer with a rum. The result was glorious. Alec graciously allowed us to record the entirety of that event, which we now present to you as an episode of The Creamcast.