With the recent US Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, holding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, the writing is pretty much on the wall that gay marriage will be legal in all or most of the United States within five to ten years. But what about China? How does China view gays and gay marriage?  Is gay marriage in its future?

For answers to these questions, I turned to my friend and fellow blogger Richard Burger. Richard is the force behind the Peking Duck blog, which blog has produced around 5,000 posts since 2002!  I turned to Richard because he authored the critically acclaimed book “Behind the Red Door: Sex in China,” examining China’s sexual history and its sexual present. Here is Richard’s post on homosexuality in China:

It was only in 1997 that homosexuality was decriminalized in China and a little more than a decade ago since it was removed from the list of mental illnesses. The dark years of complete stigmatization of homosexuality under Mao, the practice of which was punishable by prison time, had finally lifted, and China’s cosmopolitan cities like Beijing and Shanghai now boast robust LGBT communities, complete with support groups, bars and an array of gay meeting places. In 2009 a male couple held a symbolic wedding in public not far from Tiananmen Square, and China Daily splashed the photo of the two men in a passionate embrace across its pages. Other symbolic gay and lesbian weddings have been held across the country and have been covered positively by the Chinese media. Spectators have gathered to watch the “weddings,” applauding and wishing the couples well. It makes one wonder, is China ready for gay marriage? Could it possibly approve of gay marriage across the country before the US does?

The short answer is no. For all the new freedoms and tolerance, homosexuality remains stigmatized throughout most of the country, partly because, as Fei Wang points out, it clashes with the long-held belief in China that children must marry and continue the family line by bearing offspring.  Very few Chinese gays come out to their families, who cannot imagine their children not marrying. Many Chinese may now feel comfortable with gay marriage — but only as long as it’s not their own family member getting married. Outspoken sexologist Li Yinhe says an estimated 80 percent of gay men and women will engage in heterosexual marriage, a national tragedy that speaks to just how far China has to go before its gay population feels independent of a stigma that goes back several generations. It means that 80 percent of China’s approximately 40 million gays will have to live a lie. This is just as tragic for the heterosexual spouse as for their gay partner. Women known as “homowives” (tongqi) wonder why they can’t arouse their husbands, making them feel there is something wrong with them. (There are now support groups for “homowives,” encouraging them to maintain their dignity, and often to get a divorce.) Lesbians, too, must feign sexual pleasure, always denying who they really are.

Thousands of Chinese gays have come up with a creative solution to meet their parents’ demands that they marry, while holding on to their gay lifestyle: it is becoming increasingly popular for gay men to marry lesbian women. This allows both spouses to satisfy their families’ annoying questions as to when they’re getting married. Then, they live separate lives, melting into the anonymity of the city with their parents and siblings never knowing the truth. There is actually a yoga studio in Shanghai that holds a party every month where gay men and women can “shop” for a spouse. It’s an imperfect solution and it’s sad they have to go to such lengths, but it’s far better than marrying and having to pretend you care about a spouse who doesn’t interest you.

China’s attitudes toward gays is generally one of live and let live. As a country that is largely atheist, there is no religious notion of homosexuality being a sin or immoral. There is no “gay bashing” and nothing like the Westboro Baptist Church crashing funerals and declaring
that “God hates fags.” Most gays in China’s cosmopolitan cities live anonymous lives; they blend into society and don’t broadcast their sexuality. Gay men rarely hold hands in public, but if they did most people probably wouldn’t notice. (Until relatively recently it was not uncommon to see straight male friends walking down the street holding hands.) Heterosexual girls in China hold hands all the time, so lesbians don’t have anything to fear if they do the same. Straight men often walk with their arm around their male friends’ shoulder, so gays do the same with no one lifting an eye. Because most gays in China keep their sexuality to themselves, and perhaps to their circle of close friends, there’s little prejudice against them in the workplace where they are for the most part invisible. Most younger, well-educated Chinese understand that gay people are simply born that way, and that they have no choice in the matter. If an employer or colleagues found their coworker was gay, the attitude would most likely be one of indifference, especially in the larger cities.

China is creeping toward greater tolerance, but it will take several generations before gay marriage is approved by the state (if it ever is). Li Yinhe has been an outspoken advocate for the cause for years, and has urged her colleagues at the China Academy of Social Sciences to press for such legislation. The result, she wrote in a blog post a few years ago, was that higher-ups in the government told her to “shut up”: the topic was completely off the table. But look at how far China has come in just 15 years in accepting gays as fellow human beings. As younger generations replace the old, and as Confucian notions of family and filial piety grow more distant, China may well at some point accept gay marriage. It just won’t be any time soon.

Looking back at China’s history, one sees a great irony in Chinese perceptions of same-sex love. As Steven Jiang points out, homosexuality was once not only tolerated in China but celebrated. In the Han dynasty scribes kept a record of the emperor’s male lovers and even as late as the Qing dynasty the literati (and more than one Qing emperor) carried on affairs with young men, especially at the time when Beijing Opera came to Beijing and a flood of young actors, all male, came to perform. For the literati who enjoyed having sex with men these were the golden years, and male brothels in Beijing engaged in serious competition with their female counterparts. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that nearly all of the men seeking the favors of young men were married and had children. Homosexuality was not an identity: it was something that was done for amusement, and as long as the patrons met their familial obligations it was seen as acceptable. China’s shift from one of the most open societies for gays (or at least for gay men) to one of the most restrictive in so little time is an astonishing story. Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction. China may not be headed back to the days of the Han dynasty, but it is well on the path to offering its millions of gays the possibility of greater tolerance and freedom of expression.

Every few months I read a post that beautifully encapsulates and sums up a festering hot button China issue.  I read such a post today on the Richard Burger’s Peking Duck blog.  Burger himself describes his post (on Facebook) as “A bit of a hodgepodge of a post, but the topic of Westerners’ losing their attraction to China is a fascinating one.”  I agree.

The post is entitled, Leaving China, Westernizing, Playing Victim, etc., and to grossly summarize it, many prominent Westerners who have spent many years in China and know China well have become fed up with it and are leaving in very vocal ways.

I honestly do not know if this disquiet is a growing trend or if this is just a one time blip of articulate people leaving and writing about it, but either way, the post and the links within it are well worth a read.

What are you seeing out there?  And whose fault is it anyway?  Expats who were too idealistic? Expats who are too inflexible? Expats who misunderstood China or where it was going? China itself? Has China changed or is it a lack of change?  Or is this really just a small meaningless blip?

I just finished reading Troy Parfitt’s book, Why China Will Never Rule the World, and as I always do when I finish a China book, I read other reviews before writing my own  And as Peking Duck has done previously, he has convinced me not to really bother.

Here’s the problem. I realize that no matter what I do, Peking Duck’s review will be better than mine. More importantly, his review will better express my own feelings on the book than my own. So instead of a full-on review, I will just summarize my impressions and implore you to go to Peking Duck for more depth.

I wanted to like Why China Will Never Rule the World because I am sick of reading things that just assume China’s world domination, but my biggest issue with this book is its supreme confidence that China will not succeed and its view that there is nothing in China worthy of admiration: 

The problem is that Parfitt can find practically nothing in China that he admires. In most cities he sees squalor, drudgery, poverty and backwardness. Now, those things certainly exist in many Chinese cities, but there is much more to China than that. Parfitt seems to seek out and dwell on the negative. He has some nice things to say about Nanjing (it’s “pleasant” and “attractive”) as well as Xiamen, where he enjoys visiting the island, but the praise is lukewarm at best and is totally drowned out by his hostility toward the PRC. He finds nothing to admire in Qingdao (quite the contrary), and says of Hangzhou that “it wasn’t beautiful at all when I went there.”

I too take issue with this perception of China. Just by way of a very small example, I go to Qingdao at least twice a year and I really like the place. Good people. Great food (at great prices). Great views. Clean air. Cool old German buildings. Beaches. Great hotels. Easy to get around.  Surprisingly good cultural scene. And, contrary to Parfitt’s assertions throughout the book, taxi drivers who know where they are going. I go to expecting to like it and I do. If i went there with a view towards deconstructing it, I am quite sure my views on it would be different.

I also take issue with Parfitt’s thesis that not only does today’s China have nothing to offer the world,  yesterday’s China never accomplished anything much either. Again, Peking Duck covers this extremely well

Along with Lu Xun, one of the author’s heroes is Bo Yang, the Nationalist Party member who believed China’s only path to greatness was to embrace Western civilization and who wrote The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture to stake his claim. In one of the most outspoken parts of the book, Parfitt delves into Bo’s worldview.

Chinese history is not glorious at all, he argues, but rather thousands of years of uninterrupted warfare, carnage, violence, oppression, mayhem and misery…. Crucially, he points out that the Chinese notion of a harmonious society revolves around the quote-unquote harmonious relationship between inferiors and superiors. Beyond that, harmony does not exist… Bo Yang goes on to argue that China has contributed virtually nothing to civilization. He characterizes the Cultural Revolution as entirely normal; the Tiananmen Square Incident as “back to normal.”

It’s hardly surprising that Bo Yang is Parfitt’s hero — this is coming from the mouth of a Chinese intellectual, not an obnoxious foreigner, and it’s much harder to dismiss it as “anti-China” propaganda.

All of this makes for compelling and thought-provoking reading, mainly because Parfitt makes his argument so well. For all my irritation with his negative tone and broad generalizations, there were definitely many times when I found myself agreeing with him, especially about education and propaganda and the lack of eagerness to embrace meaningful change.

As I was reading this book, I found myself doing something I pretty much never do; I kept wondering about the motivations of the author and what what in his own life had caused him to see things the way he did. I kept wondering what it was that had caused the Parfitt to see China so unremittingly negatively and what motivated his need to besmirch it so. How much of Parfitt’s views are based on his mind-set going in and how much are based on an objective analysis? I go places expecting and wanting to like them and so I usually do. Parfitt seemed to go to China to prove how horrible it is and his own preconceptions gave him exactly what he sought. 

Though I read this book looking forward to China getting criticized and though I found myself constantly nodding along with the incidents Parfitt describes so well, it ended up frustrating me with its lack of balance and objectivity. I both expected and wanted it to take strong positions, but I also wanted it to at least acknowledge “opposing” facts.

But should you read it? I will again quote Peking Duck:

I suspect you’re wondering why I’d bother to write such a long review of a book like this, and why you should ever bother to read it. The answer is, as I said at the beginning, that Parfitt has done an amazing job in collecting and tying together hundreds of great anecdotes, combined with a good deal of history and political analysis, to create a highly readable and even enjoyable book, despite the parts that caused my blood pressure to rise. I actually think you would find it worth the time (I finished all 400+ pages in two days), and you’d definitely find yourself laughing at his trials and tribulations in China. A most interesting experience. I’m glad I read it.

I agree.

Why China Will Never Rule The World is one of the best and most enthralling books I did not like. It is not coming out until September, but I would really love to hear what you think.

UPDATE: Mark’s China Blog just came out with a superb, though 99.99999% crticial review of the book. To put it bluntly, Mark HATED it:

Saying all of that, Why China Will Never Rule the World is one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read.

Whatever positives can be found in the book are more than offset by the hostility and one-sidedness Paritt shows towards China. Parfitt doesn’t get close to a nuanced view of China even once in his book. Parfitt hates traveling and living in China, shows a sociopathic disdain for Chinese people, and loathes everything about the country’s culture and history. Written without the slightest hint of balance, Parfitt’s book reads like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Jung Chang’s Mao: The Unknown Story, two of the most unenjoyable books I’ve encountered.

After struggling through Parfitt’s 400-page diatribe, I give Why China Will Never Rule the World a resounding two thumbs down and cannot recommend avoiding it highly enough.

Every few weeks some publisher emails me and asks me if I want a book on China to review and every few weeks I say yes, in a vain attempt to trump Milton Friedman. I read maybe half the books I receive (virtually always on an airplane), like probably 75% of them, and tend to review only those I like and believe would be good reads for our own loyal readers. But I never know what to say about them beyond “great book, read it.”
So I love it when someone else reviews the book I have read and does a great job on the review and I can just pretty much crib it (see e.g., my review of China Shakes the World taken from Peking Duck). A few months ago, I reviewed Lawrence Allen’s book, Chocolate Fortunes and I had this to say:

Just finished the book, Chocolate Fortunes, by Lawrence L. Allen. It’s a very good book.
The book is about the competition between Hershey’s, Mars, Ferraro Rocher, Nestle and Cadbury for the Chinese consumer. But it is really more about is what it takes to succeed in the consumer products business in China. And lest anyone ever thought China consumer sales would be easy, Chocolate Fortunes thoroughly dispels that notion while explaining exactly what it does take to succeed or fail in China. Lawrence Allen was himself an executive with both Hershey and Nestle and he clearly knows whereof he speaks in describing who among the Chocolate titans did well and why.
For anyone who is thinking of going into consumer products or food or retail in China (and who out there is willing to ignore 1.3 billion customers?) this book is a must read.
Based on my firm’s experience in handling the legal aspects for all sorts of businesses going into China, I see the legal side of China consumer products/retail as relatively straightforward. But the “making money side of retail in China is no mean feat. For the most part, our manufacturing clients go into China, start making a product and then start making a profit relatively quickly. Our service sector clients go into China, get an office, and then start making money relatively quickly. Now I know it has to be more difficult than that, but from my perspective as a lawyer, it does seem that the call I get from these clients 3-6 months after we have set them all up usually involves them telling me how well things are going and how well they expect things to keep going.
Not so on the consumer products and retail side. Issues like where to sell in China, distribution, and marketing (all of which Chocolate Fortunes extensively discusses) are intensely complicated and can be fraught with peril. And then there is the issue of costs. Getting good retail space (either through renting one’s own store or through distribution through existing stores can be shockingly high in China. We have had a number of very well funded clients decide to test out their retail concept in a second tier city like Qingdao or Suzhou after finding out how much it would cost to do so in Shanghai or Beijing. Indeed, these days, places like Qingdao and Suzhou are not really bargains either. And my 3-6 month calls from our retail/consumer goods clients who are seeking to sell into china usually involve them muttering about how they had no idea “gaining traction” in China would be so difficult.

In other words, I hardly knew what to say about the book itself.
Adam Daniel Mezei does. Adam is what my father calls an Intellectual with a capital “I.” This is a guy who reads books and watches movies the way I eat chocolate bars: at least two a day. And then he churns out excellent reviews of them on his truly superb eponymous blog. Adam just came out with a review of Chocolate Fortunes that I like so much, I have to steal a large chunk of it. His post is entitled, “Would You Declare War Over Chocolate? Hell Yeah, Some Would!” and it gives the following reasons for buying/reading it:

–Chocolate Fortunes is a well-written HBS-caliber cross-cultural case study that costs under $20. Why go to school when I can give myself an MBA-level education for heaps less?
–For those seeking a bit of authentic cross-cultural sensitivity training, Fortunes contains lessons in droves.
— Allen writes convincingly and flawlessly. As business books go, his premise is strongly made, not to mention quickly. The author – highly qualified to tell this story given his own in-China experiences with Nestle, and later, Hershey – gets to the point and holds the line. Fantastic, as business books go, if you ask me. Allen doesn’t soar over your head with useless jargon, new-age phraseology, or insider lingo. He relegates the “$50 words” to their proper place: the ivory tower of (also-ran) academe. Chocolate Fortunes is definitely a pageturner.
— if you’re a lover of chocolate, this book will get you thinking differently about your favorite sweet nosh. In fact, I learned a ton about the chocolate industry, about the various mergers and acquisitions in the industry during the late-’90s, and all about how a new chocolate brand is introduced into a highly-competitive, distribution-compromised, and highly-volatile Chinese consumer market.
–choco-addicts will appreciate the gentle distraction the book provides over the course of several hours from their chronic all-consuming chocolate affliction. They’ll lay off their cocoa addiction for a little while, at least.
–those who toil aimlessly for similarly-large MNCs or other FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) corporations or who are planning their own Chinese punch-up might apply a relevant lesson or two from the Thirty Years Chocolate War.

I agree.

I am often sent books on China by people who want me to review them and I always take the book (there is such a thing as a free lunch?), but explain that I am already a couple of books behind. What I really have always meant by that was that I read the book, China Shakes The World, by James Kynge around 8-10 months ago and before I can review any other book on this blog, I must first review that one. But I just could not do it.

My problem was that all I could ever think to say about the book was that “you must read it, it’s great.” Because it is.

The book is not difficult and it is not complex, but it is dense in the sense that it is packed with so much insight and value. I started out putting post-its on the pages I thought I would want to refer to later, but I had to stop when it became clear I was post-itting (if that is not a word, it certainly should be) just about every other page.

I just could not write the review.

But now, I no longer feel the need to do my own review of the book because Richard, over at the always formidable Peking Duck, has written the review I have been meaning to write. So instead of my needing to write my own, I will, to use legal terminology, fully incorporate his review as though written herein.

In addition to my full incorporation, I note the following highlights from Richard’s review and ask everyone to pretend I wrote them instead of Richard (that’s not a copyright violation, is it?).

Here goes with the quotes straight from the Peking Duck’s brilliant post:

This book is unsurpassed in terms of exploring and analyzing just how enormous an effect China is having on the entire world. And anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that China is shaking the world is either in a state of willful denial or is living in a cave.

What makes this book special is its approach to the subject, focusing on the effect of China’s rise on other countries and other peoples. It’s not just another roundup of stories about the “China miracle” and how much Western CEOs are loving doing business in China.

Looking over the book now, I see that I’ve dog-eared just about every page and written notes in many of the margins. There’s so much, it’s hard to condense it into a single blog post. So allow me simply to give some impressions of various points Kynge makes, in no particular order.

What Kynge manages to do better than any author I’ve read to date is to capture in words just how strange a trading partner China is, and how it resembles no other great power. Examples are plentiful – companies that make semiconductors and tomato catsup; companies that thrive on the theft of intellectual property; companies that produce an insane over-supply of products; companies that operate on an entirely different moral and cultural plane from their global counterparts. Kynge’s vivid anecdotes paint a picture of a country that in many ways is downright freakish and unbelievably unfair and corrupt. A country that is just so different.

And yet…. Kynge is always clear-headed and balanced to a fault. After enumerating the many bizarreries that make China seem so peculiar, he offers some important balance.

You come away from this book enraged at China and in awe of China, hating it and admiring it. Perhaps the most hackneyed phrase about China is that it’s a “land of contradictions,” but such phrases only become hackneyed because they contain a strong element of truth. Kynge brings us all the contradictions and spins them into a narrative that kept me turning from page to page throughout my flight to Munich [okay, so I read most of it on a flight to Seoul]. One story about a girl whose life is for all intents and purposes stolen from her by a corrupt official who stole her identity so his daughter could get into a good university will bring tears to your eyes. And stories of the sheer guile of Chinese workers , like those who dismantled the Dortmund steel mill, will make you smile.

And his description of just how inequitable the competition from China can be will leave you hopelessly frustrated:
The Chinese fixed the value of their currency against the US dollar, keeping it undervalued so as to give their exports greater competitiveness. They provided little or no welfare for their workers, so their costs were artificially low. There were no independent unions in China, so the safety standards…in Chinese factories would have been illegal in America. The state banking system provided cheap credit to state companies that could default without consequence. The central government gave generous value added tax rebates to exporters that were not available to US retailers. Restrictions on emissions were lax, so companies had to pay relatively little to keep the environment clean. Chinese companies routinely stole foreign intellectual property, but it was difficult to prosecute them because the courts were either corrupt or under government control. Finally, the state kept the price of various inputs, such as electricity and water, artificially low, thereby subsidizing industry.

But for all of China’s ruthlessness and seemingly unstoppable growth, crushing anything that gets in its path, Kynge leaves us more with a sense of doubt than of fear (though there’s plenty of fear, too). Doubt, because China’s problems (and here comes another hackneyed cliché) are so immense, so overwhelming that its ascension to the status of a global superpower still remains in question. And if it does join the superpower club, surely it will be the strangest member. There has never been a superpower quite like it.

In terms of balance, perspective and brilliant analysis of what China is today and where it is going tomorrow, this is the best book you can buy.

Yes, yes, yes.

The only thing I add to Richard’s post is that if you think this book is too “big-think” to be relevant to your own business with China or if you think this book has nothing to teach you about doing business with China, you are dead wrong. This book provides the best macroeconomic analysis of China I have yet seen and, by doing so, it provides invaluable knowledge on how to adjust/position your business to compete in China.

Oh yeah, and one more thing: It is a great book and you must read it.

Update: Mark’s China Blog also has a good review of the book.

Just learned David Wolf at Silicon Hutong “tagged” China Law Blog as one of five “Thinking Bloggers.”  In turn, we are supposed to tag five more thinking blogs.  Silicon Hutong begs to be re-tagged so he can name five more.  I have analyzed the rules, checked the precedent, and found countless loopholes, so here goes.

I am going to start off by noting and commenting (in italics) on Silicon Hutong’s picks, thereby further leveraging my own:

  1. China Law Blog and Dan Harris – Dan understands that the law is supposed to serve business, which already makes him a rarity. The fact that he practices from Seattle and exhibits a deep understanding of China defies my normal characterization that a China hand must live in China.  First off, thanks.  Second, if what David says about me is true, I have to give a huge amount of credit to my co-blogger, Steve Dickinson, who lives and works in Shanghai and who has spent 30+ years involved with China.  I am constantly running ideas by Steve before going live with them.  Also, I have been involved with Turkey, Korea and Russia for well on 20 years and I am constantly analyzing China using those countries as reference.  I do not see China or its growth as unique. 
  2. Asia Logistics Wrap [renamed the Cross Border Journal] by Shawn Bielfuss – Shawn is brilliant – should be teaching at Harvard or Wharton – and you benefit from his brilliance without paying the tuition.  I agree.  Shawn’s blog has taught me huge amounts about logistics and I raved about it nearly a year ago, here
  3. Imagethief by Will Moss – Incisive social commentary in China delivered by one of the funniest guys I know.  Again, I agree.  Will is a China blogging icon for good reason.  I am jealous of his writing abilities and his sense of humor and I never miss a post.  Will is moving to Shanghai and I am looking forward to getting his comments on Shanghai. 
  4. Maneuver Marketing Communique by Mike Smock – Mike Smock makes marketing asymmetric: he enables smaller challengers to upend bigger competition. If business is war, Maneuver Marketing is unconventional war.   This blog is too far afield for me to review, but if Wolf swears by it, it must be good. 
  5. DiligenceChina [link no longer exists] by Andrew Hupert – It never ceases to amaze me how many companies leave their common sense and their reasonable care behind when it comes to entering China. Andrew is there to remind us, and he does it brilliantly.  Andrew understands China business as well as anyone and he consistently does an excellent job explaining things. Anyone who does business in China should be reading Andrew’s blog.  Confession:  Usually when I am too busy to search out and compile an original post, I just “steal” one from Andrew.

Silicon Hutong was nominated by the Weifang Radish blog, with the following comment:

David Wolfe keeps a great China PR, business and tech related blog in Silicon Hutong. I only wish he would post a little more frequently. I just want you to know how much I enjoy your blog, David.

Not wanting to use one of my “five” picks on an already nominated blog, I will simply note my prior comments on the Silicon Hutong blog:

Silicon Hutong.  Not strictly China technology, but all you have to do is read this post on the I-Phone in China to know David Wolf knows exactly whereof he speaks when it comes to China tech.

According to the Silicon Hutong (which, by the way, is an excellent blog on technology and media in China) post, entitled, “Of Berries Black, Berries Red, and the Little Pen That Could,” the media’s coverage of the Blackberry/Redberry issue is just “yet another example of how the media are getting China wrong.”

I have built a number of my posts around Silicon Hutong posts because Wolf has the best understanding of media law and policy of any blog out there.

Okay, now for my “five,” in no particular order:

  1. Jottings from the Granite Studio.  I love this blog.  My lack of knowledge of pre-1910 Chinese history is exceeded only by my fascination with it.  But since I have neither the time nor the attention span to read a books on it, I get a daily does of it from the Granite Studio instead. The Granite Studio is written by Jeremiah, now living in Beijing and working on a Ph.d in Chinese history.  Fortunately, Jeremiah writes like a real human being, not an academic.
  2. The Useless Tree. Take what I said about Jottings from the Granite Studio, change “pre-1920 history” to “Chinese philosophy,” and apply it to The Useless Tree.
  3. Eyes East.  I generally hate observational blogs on China (was I the one who first called them noodle blogs or was it Al Gore?).  I just don’t need to see the inside of one more grungy apartment in China and hear about where someone regularly goes for their noodles.  Eyes East is so much the best of this breed (along with the Humanaught,[now Ryan McLaughlin.com] Weifang Radish, and the quickly rising Shenzhen Undercover), I am not even sure it is of the breed.  It is extremely well written and thoughtful and I just flat out enjoy it.
  4. Ich Bin Ein Beijinger.  Kaiser Kuo’s new blog.  I feel guilty listing such a new blog, but this blog has so quickly filled the hole of China’s art (broadly defined) and culture scene that I cannot resist.  It is thoughtful and original.
  5. Sinocidal. [link no longer exists]  Yes, Sinocidal.  I like this blog because the views of the posters and the commenters are so raw.  Yes, I know they are sometimes too raw and I am certainly not a fan of “woe is me ex-pats” (my view is that if you don’t like it, go home!).  At the same, time, however, this site is meant to be raw and it is meant to shock sometimes and it certainly goes well beyond just complaining.  Is it great literature?  Of course not.  Great philosophy?  No. But what it does is reveal the unadulterated views many ex-pats have about China and I find it thought provoking.
  6. Peking Duck.  Six you say.  No five.  This one does not count because Jeremiah writes for both Peking Duck and his own so together they count only as one.  No way can I leave this one off.  On my blogroll, I describe this as “a classic, for good reason.”  It is.  Richard bears his soul on this blog and he comes across as likable and human.  This is the Steve Largent of blogs.  Before Largent became an Okie politician, he was a Seattle Seahawks wide receiver (US football).  When I first moved to Seattle, everyone raved about Largent and I wasn’t buying it.  No way could a small, not very fast white guy be a great wide receiver.  No way.  On top of that, his yards per catch were too low to make him great.  After a few Seahawks games, I began noticing Largent and after a few games I too became convinced of his greatness.  He just catches passes.  Every time.  Day in day out.  Reliability and consistency become greatness.  Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs is the baseball equivalent and I will leave it to Jeremiah to come up with the basketball one.  After reading it for a few months and stopping to think about it I realized this blog consistently churns out really good, often unique stuff.  It’s not a political blog.  It’s not a rant blog.  It’s not a culture blog. It’s the only really good everything China blog out there and it is a great forum for lively discussion.  Just by way of example, here’s a recent post, entitled, “God-fu*cking dammit:

The motherfu*kers have blocked blogspot sites again. May the censors die a slow and painful death.

All five/six of these blogs (and Asia Logistics Wrap, Imagethief, DiligenceChina and Silicon Hutong all have the following in common:

  • They are all written by people who care about accuracy.
  • They are all written by people who love the topics of which they are writing.
  • They are all written by people who want to share (yes, I meant to use that word) their knowledge.
  • They are all written by people not afraid to express their opinions.
  • They are all written by people who treat other reasonable viewpoints respectfully.

The Thinking Blog rules are silent about plugging other thoughtful blogs in the same post, so here are three more:

Going Global Blog.  Written by Craig Maginness, a lawyer and businessperson out of Denver who definitely understands international business.  His greatest expertise seems to be Latin America, but his China posts are always interesting because he  sees it from a different perspective than those of us who immerse ourselves in it every day.  You want clearly written insight on international business, go here.

Thomas Barnett Blog.  Barnett understands international politics and his views on China usually track mine.  He sees China as a young country (I am not an idiot, I know it is really an old country, but you all know what I mean here), not really very much different in its growth path than the countries that preceded it, like the United States in the 1800s, Japan in the 1950s and Korea in the 1970s.  You want clearly written insight on international politics, go here.

Businomics Blog.  Written by Bill Conerly out of Portland, Oregon, this blog accurately bills itself as “Better Decisions Through A Better Understanding of the Economy.” It takes economic news and relates it to business in a way that makes sense.  You want clearly written insight on how the economy impacts your business?  Go here.

Seth Godin’s Blog.  Godin just gets it.  Years ago, I fell in love with his article, “Small is the New Big,” so I e-mailed him to ask if I could post it on my firm’s website.  His immediate response was yes, and he could not have been more gracious.  Read Godin’s blog for one week and if you can claim you learned nothing from it that can help your business, I will either buy you a drink or call you a liar.

Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World Blog.  Same deal as for Godin’s blog applies here.  You will learn something helpful.  Guaranteed.

I fully recognize I have left out some terrific China blogs and I welcome any comments.

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Excellent post over at the constistenly enlightening Peking Duck blog regarding BBC correspondent, Rupert Wingfield Hayes’ leaving China after eight years.  The post and the article on which it is based both focus on China’s problems typically not visible to those who come to China for business or for tourism.

The post, the article, and the comments are all well worth a read.

I just finished John Pomfret’s recently published book, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of a New China.  Though it is going to sound like a newspaper movie ad, I cannot resist quoting the tag lines from the five people who reviewed this book (so far) for Amazon, all of whom gave it five stars:

  1. “Masterful account of modern China”
  2. “Superb”
  3. “A book you can’t put down”
  4. “An exceptional book, exceptionally written”
  5. “Extraordinary”
  6. “I laughed, I cried”

Okay, so I made up the last one.

The book beautifully (and usually depressingly) describes how China’s past so heavily influences its present.  I felt I knew everyone in the book because they were composites of the real life Chinese with whom I deal in my work.  It was a joy to read and it increased my understanding of China.

For those interested in learning more about Chinese Lessons, I recommend the following:

1.   Karl Taro Greenfeld in the Washington Post

2.   The Peking Duck

3.   Danwei (contains an interesting interview with the author)

5.   Amelia Newcomb in the Christian Science Monitor

6.   Orville Schell in the New York Times

Read it.