We are constantly barraged with emails from book publishers asking that we review their books on China. These emails usually ask whether they should send us the book and my usual response is usually, “sure, but we make no promises that we will ever read it or review it.”

Many months ago we received such an email regarding the book Unsavory Elements, a collection of expat accounts of living and playing in China. Amazon quite accurately describes this book as follows:

Westerners are flocking to China in increasing numbers to chase their dreams even as Chinese emigrants seek their own dreams abroad. Life as an outsider in China has many sides to it – weird, fascinating and appalling, or sometimes all together. We asked foreigners who live or have lived in China for a significant period to tell us a story of their experiences and these 28 contributions resulted. It’s all about living, learning and loving in a land unlike any other in the world.

Anyway, to make a long story about a book of short stories short, I read about half of the book and really liked it, but was having trouble finding time to read the rest of it and to review it.

Enter Christopher Cottrell. Chris has been living in China since 2003 and he has written on China for the Associated Press, Boston Globe, CNN, Fodor’s, Los Angeles Times, and South China Morning Post. He also launched That’s PRD in 2006 and edited the book Macau 2002-2012: 10-years of Gaming Success. Most importantly, Christopher has written the book review I had been meaning to write and his review follows.


Pouring over Unsavory Elements, an anthology of true stories about foreigners “on the loose” in China, readers of China Law Blog might be impressed not just by the high name recognition of its best-selling cast of contributors, but with the sheer levels of illegality and ethics it probes.

The authors and journalists who participated in this book of expat essays did not set out to write about impropriety in Chinese law. They simply wanted to tell their tales of some of the more colorful or trying moments that they experienced while living in China over the past decade.

Ranging from transactions and deeds that would raise the eyebrows of those enforcing America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to stints in prison for drug dealing to flagrant violations of prostitution laws, what results is 300 pages of business and law school case studies written not in legalese but in literary prose, and what a read it is.

“What do we take away from this theme of foreigners who go to China only to become corrupted in a short time span?” Tom Carter, the editor of Unsavory Elements, discussed all this in a recent interview:

While it may appear to anyone perusing the pages of this book that these are simply chronicles of corruptible Caucasians in China, I’d hope that readers would glean a deeper cultural subtext, whereby we the writers are struggling to adapt in a pseudo-socialist society where laws are notoriously fluid; where invariably the only way to survive is to set aside our own Western black-and-white concepts of morality and ethics and learn to navigate the vague China Gray.

Indeed, one might take special note of the chapter “Playing in the Gray” by Graham Earnshaw, of the eponymous Earnshaw Books, publisher of Unsavory Elements and of the Shanghai Buzz weekly, the first foreign owned and operated publication in China since the founding of the PRC.

As Earnshaw explains:

For venues and marketing companies, Buzz represented an entirely new channel for contacting the market, and it worked well. So well, in fact, that one state publication in Shanghai, the Shanghai Star, started to feel threatened. They presumably tapped into their guanxi with the Shanghai government’s news and publications department, but, for a time, nothing happened. This was partly due to the puzzlement on the part of the communist officials, and partly due to a contretemps in progress at the time between the Shanghai propaganda authorities and Beijing-controlled China Daily, both eager to control the only official English newspaper in the city. Due in large part to the non-confrontational way in which (we) dealt with the Publication Bureau, and the way in which the Buzz content never overstepped any sensitive lines, we were never fined for having published an illegal publication in China, although we had of course broken every relevant law.

Earnshaw soon found a competitor, “In Shanghai,” founded by fellow British expatriate Mark Kitto (who also contributed to Unsavory Elements) and restaurateur Kathleen Lau. In Shanghai later became That’s Shanghai magazine, which went on to garner notoriety after it was wrested away from Kitto by State-owned media agencies. Kitto’s experiences have been chronicled on China Law Blog and elsewhere, but Earnshaw’s chapter in Unsavory Elements is seminal to understanding how foreign media began flourishing in China.

And if Earnshaw’s publishing experiences define China’s 5,000 shades of gray, editor Tom Carter profoundly illustrates Chinese culture’s darkest shades of pink. Mr. Carter is best known for his critically acclaimed book of photography CHINA: Portrait of a People, [Editor’s Note: an absolutely gorgeous book] but his controversial essay in Unsavory Elements pertains largely to the seamy underbelly of prostitution.

Under Chinese criminal law, prostitution is technically illegal, though the U.S. State Department estimates upwards of 6 million women across China engage in this occupation.

Mr. Carter elaborates:

Pretty peasants looking to make easy money migrate to China’s major metropolises to work at karaoke parlors or massage parlors. Their plain-of-face counterparts in the countryside, however, are consigned to bottom-tier brothels, such as the ones my friends and I were standing in.

According to his essay, Mr. Carter escorted a companion, from Kenya, to a rural brothel staffed by teenagers. In raw and provocative prose unfit for quoting on China Law Blog, he describes the illicit offerings there.

Statistics show that crackdowns on China’s brothel buffet culture, including the most recent high-profile campaign in Dongguan in February 2014, do little to dissuade single men from patronizing prostitutes, but have they dampened the use of young Chinese women for business purposes?

Not if one reads Susie Gordon’s essay “Empty from the Outside.” This young English journalist arrived in China in 2008 and has been covering China’s business culture for local media. She is one of the newer voices this collection presents, and her expose in Unsavory Elements about the excesses of her wealthy business partner’s second-generation “fu er dai” sons, is a highlight of the book.

After China joined the WTO in 2001 and won its chance to hold the Olympics, the country witnessed a huge influx of foreigners and FDI. Many were businessmen and many were taken by their Chinese hosts to KTV (karaoke) to negotiate lucrative contracts in the persuasive company of prostitutes. Ms. Gordon writes:

He had two of the girls bring in a magnum of champagne, a little silver tray with slim white lines of powder that might have been coke but in all likelihood was ketamine, and pills nestled like candies in a brass bowl. At one point, I remember looking around at the girls, the men, the drugs, and the money, and wondering how long this utopia could last: the Chinese dream, in its second, prodigal generation.”

How long indeed. In the fall of 2013, Xi Jinping unleashed an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign that has resulted in the prosecution of some very high profile individuals and companies.

How, then, does one find transparency in China’s business and legal culture? And more specifically, how do foreigners side-step being brought along to brothels, or just say no to the narcotics in front of them, when doing business with the Chinese without wholly insulting their overly gracious (and easily offended) hosts?

These are looming questions that, unfortunately, the authors of Unsavory Elements do not attempt to answer. They simply present the rough and tumble experiences they have gone through as China has risen economically in the past decade. This book fundamentally underscores the variety of unseen personal risks foreigners in China start facing the moment they enter China.

Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.

  • Lucas Blaustein

    There are a lot of good Westerners in China, but because China operates so far afield of our cultural norms, there is also a very prevalent and almost suffocating underbelly of human scum. These human scum celebrate the vices of China, and lavish in the celebrity of their foreignness. The term white devil exists for a reason.

    I have seen more Canadians, Americans, and Europeans partake in drugs, use prostitutes, and act fouler than they would ever dare in their own nations, where such actions would land them either squarely in prison, or at least face down on the floor, castigated by their fellow citizens.

    What is truly shameful is that the exchange between China and the United States has fluctuated with such vicissitude, so those inclined to immorality and illegality flow far too easily from one side of the pacific to the other, marginalizing and harming the relationships between our two great peoples.

    It is both sad and expected to see a publication dedicated to chronicling this trend.

    • Mr. Melon Collie

      “It is both sad and expected to see a publication dedicated to chronicling this trend.”

      I agree! And since I am one of the many good Westerners currently living, working (but not playing, mind you!) I too am saddened. As Mr. Lucas Blaustein tacitly suggests, but is too good and polite to say, Unsavory Elements represents all that is ungood about those pesky foreigners in China, those foreigners doing ungood things.

      Confusticate them!

      While I have never allowed my own eyes and soul to be sullied by such filth, I can attest to the fact that this book is the spawn of white devilry. These heretics should have been censored at least, and punished (make them teach fuerdai?) at best. We need stability and harmony and tolerance, not foreigners celebrating (Let’s get this party started, ya’ll!) sensitive issues, or fornicating with sizzling, hot topics. That would make me think outside of my own pre-conceived Polly Ann thought bubble, and maybe ask my local representatives to do something about a new reason for being so sad.

  • On the Corner

    As they say “you are what you eat.”

  • Vigarano

    “What do we take away from this theme of foreigners who go to China only to become corrupted in a short time span?”

    I spent 13 years living in Hong Kong and doing business there and on the mainland, and 12 years later, still in Asia, I have continued to make frequent trips to the mainland.

    Absolutely China is a tough place to do business, BUT the only two times I was really screwed, it was by Westerners.

    One, a French-Norwegian who was a real crook (defrauded me, then perjured himself in Hong Kong’s High Court in an effort to bury the knife deeper – luckily for me, his lawyer appeared to realize what was going on, and resigned, and the judge found him incredible and ruled in my favor). The other a Swede (who was not crooked, merely self-interested in the extreme).

    Were these guys “corrupted by China”? Not the way I see it.

    There are plenty of crooks on this planet, from all nations. The only thing that can (in my view) safely be said about China and corruption is that the culture of corruption offers opportunity to businesspeople of all backgrounds …

  • Gary So

    Prostitution is not a crime in China, but may be subject to administrative penalty?

  • Lloyd Lofthouse

    Lucas said, “These human scum celebrate the vices of China,
    and lavish in the celebrity of their foreignness. The term white devil exists
    for a reason.”

    Mr. Mellon said, “While I have never allowed my own eyes and
    soul to be sullied by such filth, I can attest to the fact that this book is
    the spawn of white devilry.”

    On the Corner said: “As they say “you are what you

    Instead of calling these three the ignorant, sanctimonious fools
    that I think they are, I want to point out a few facts about the United States
    and offer a global perspective on this issue.

    The US is the largest producer of pornography in the world, and the Chinese (about $27 billion US annually) are the biggest consumers of
    American pornography. There are more than 244 million pornographic web pages in the United States. Second place is Germany with 10 million. Third place is the UK with 8.5 million. Yet, it is arguable that the United States has the most ultra-conservative, sanctimonious fundamentalist evangelical Christian population
    (about 30% of the adult US population—according to MotherJones.com) on the planet, who spend a lot of their time preaching and judging billions of other people while throwing their (pure) political weight around to influence elections in the US.



    But wait, let’s put these numbers in perspective. The US has about 316 million people and China has almost 1.4 billion and there are about 30 million more men in China than women leading to a shortage of women and for sure, many frustrated men.

    What does that say about America, Germany and the UK and reveal about China?

    Christopher Cottrell writes in his review: “The U.S. State Department estimates that upwards of 6 million women across China engage in this occupation.”

    But no one mentions the number of prostitutes in the United States or the illegal global slave trade in human trafficking (about 21 million and 20% are children).


    For instance, “The National Task Force on Prostitution suggests that over one million people in the United States have worked as prostitutes, or about 1% of American women.” There are 161 million women in the United States. In China there are 470 million women. You do the math?

    Or, as Covering House reports: “Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States and approximately 300,000 children are
    at risk of being prostituted in the United States (U.S. Department of Justice).


    Lest I forget, I want to mention that it is estimated by the FBI that about 17,000 sex-slaves are smuggled into the US through Texas annually and then they are quickly transported across the US to other cities where they are forced, on average, to service about 50 tricks a night. More than 80% are women and many are female and male children. Houston has more illegal whore houses than all of Nevada.

    Then there’s the global sex trade that services the US military around the world. During the Vietnam War, there were more prostitutes in Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan servicing US troops than there were troops fighting in Vietnam. Bangkok alone had an estimated 500,000 and even today, there are 7,000 working in Okinawa servicing US troops stationed there but they are not Okinawans, Japanese or Chinese. The 7.000 prostitutes in Okinawa that service US troops today are imported from the Philippines. And when the US had a naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines, there were an estimated 20,000 prostitutes servicing US military personnel out of more than 2,000 bordellos.

    Recently, a US aircraft carrier and its escort ships stopped
    in Australia after several months at sea supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One aircraft carrier has a crew of almost 5,000. In Australia prostitution is legal and comes with health care in addition to retirement plans. The oldest bordello in the port city where this flotilla of US naval Ships dropped anchor and let their sailors have shore leave had to close its doors for the first time in history and refuse waiting and eager customers because the US sailors wore out the prostitutes working there and the manger was worried for their health and safety.

    Just in case, Lucas, Mr. Melon and On the Corner accuse me of supporting human trafficking and sex slavery, I want to make this clear:
    Prostitution has been part of human civilization for thousands of years. The Babylonians, long before the birth of Christ, even had laws that legalized and monitored prostitution. No matter what these three think, there is no way they will ever get rid of prostitution. Make it ilegal and it will just go underground as it has in the past. And once prostition operates in the dark, an environment for abuse will exist and the women who work this trade will be victimized must worse than just having sex with a paying customer.

    And yet, people like Lucas, Mr. Melon and On the Corner,
    sound as if they would prefer to censor and/or insult authors who honestly
    portray the reality of life—and that they’d rather turn a blind eye on what has
    been going on for thousands of years as if they are superior to the hundreds of
    millions of men and women (yes, women even pay for sex) who have paid for sex
    legally and illegally.

    In conclusion, paying a prostitute to take care of your sexual needs doesn’t mean you are an evil or bad person. It just means you are human. However, some customers are evil and the best way to protect prostitutes is to legalize prostitution and monitor it offering protection and health care. Once prostitution is legal, criminals usually don’t have much of an incentive to kidnap adults and children and force them into sexual slavery.

    • Lucas Blaustein

      I never insulted anyone. I only seek to be a better person than I am, and hope that others do the same.

      I apologize if you somehow took my writing as condemnation of China, because that was not its intention. I love and have great respect for the Chinese people. As an American, I too love my own nation and its rich culture and history.

      I have lived and worked in China. I speak Mandarin and my wife is Chinese. I even have a degree in Chinese studies. I would have done none of these things without great admiration.

      The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan in World War Two was necessary, but no less evil. Call it naïveté, but I strongly believe that there is right and wrong, and that most people elect to do either. I am comfortable with my moral view. So comfortable that I choose not to judge you for yours.

      It would be nice to be treated with the same respect.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse

        “I only seek to be a better person than I am, and hope that others do the same.” What does this mean? How would others have to behave and live their lives for your approval?

        I don’t think you understood the meaning behind all the info I dumped into my comment. In fact, I suspect that the few who condemn the many have no idea they are the minority.

        For instance, abortion. Before Roe vs Wade, women usee coat hangers to get rid of unwanted fetuses. With the rash of states in the U.S. making it impossible or illegal to get abortions, women are turning to those coat hangers again and some are dying just like they were before.

        We each live our lives according to who we are and not according to what someone else thinks we should be.

        • Lucas Blaustein

          I completely agree with you Lloyd. People have every right to live in the way that they find most suitable. Which is why I asked that you respect that I personally disagree with prostitution, drug use, and breaking the law in foreign countries – none of which I would define as normal human behavior.

          And no, I did not understand the greater context of your post. I see no connection between my observation about certain foreigners being attracted to China for their ability to do things that are not normally allowed, or looked fondly upon by most Western governments, and your lengthy post concerning the benefits of legalizing prostitution.

          Prostitution is illegal in China. And in no way was it my intention to suggest that the West does not also have similar problems, the difference is cultural, as in the West the practice is much less accepted in mainstream

          • Lloyd Lofthouse

            Lucas said, “I personally disagree with prostitution, drug
            use, and breaking the law in foreign countries – none of which I would define as normal human behavior.”

            Does that mean it’s okay to break laws if you are a citizen
            of that foreign country? In the United States, it’s obvious that it isn’t okay to break laws if you are a citizen because the US has more of its citizens in prison than any other country on the planet.

            In fact, I think the reason for this is the many religious
            people on the far right (mostly fundamentalist Protestant Evangelicals) in the United States who would agree with you, because they are the primary force behind restrictive laws that limit freedom of choice in the US, making the US the number one country for throwing people in prison—the United States has 737 of every 100,000 citizens in prison (more than 2.1 million). China is in second place with only 118 of every 100,000 citizens (more than 1.5 million but China has more than four times the people).

            As for me, I’m against anyone breaking laws in any foreign country. For instance, the 11.7 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

            And I’m totally against drug use, legal or illegal. When I say drugs, I don’t mean medications prescribed by doctors to deal with illnesses like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. I mean pot, alcohol, heron, meth, cocaine, etc. And in the US, alcohol is legal, but it’s a drug that does terrible things to the body and brain.

            In addition, this legal liquid drug kills and injures many
            annually in the United States. “In the United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 17,941 people died in 2006 in alcohol-related collisions, representing 40% of total traffic deaths in the US. NHTSA states 275,000 were injured in alcohol related accidents in 2003.”

            I’m also sure many die and are injured in China due to drunk driving.

            This is what the CIA has to say about the United States: “world’s largest consumer of cocaine (shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean), Colombian heroin, and Mexican heroin and marijuana; major consumer of ecstasy and Mexican methamphetamine; minor consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center”

            Therefore, I disagree that this is not normal human behavior. As the overwhelming evidence suggests, it’s normal for humans to want sex, take drugs, break laws and use alcohol.

            Prostitution, by the way, is also illegal in the United States except for a few licensed locations in Nevada. You are right about one thing “in the West the practice (of prostitution) is much less accepted in mainstream society.” But I wouldn’t go as far as to say “mainstream society” since America is the largest producer of pornography in the world and prostitution, even illegal, is as widespread as it has been for all of US history.

            “In the 19th century, parlor house brothels catered to upper class clientele, while bawdy houses catered to the lower class. At concert saloons, men could eat, listen to music, watch a fight, or pay women for sex. Over 200 brothels existed in lower Manhattan. Prostitution was illegal under the vagrancy laws, but was not well-enforced by police and city officials, who were bribed by brothel owners and madams. Attempts to regulate prostitution were struck down on the grounds that regulation would be counter to the public good. Seventy-five percent of New York men had some type of sexually transmitted disease.”

            If China has an estimated 6 million prostitutes available to service about 674 million men and the US has 1.4 million prostitutes (based on the 1% estimate by the National Task Force on Prostitution) to service 138 million men, China’s ratio is about one prostitute for every 112 men but the US ratio is 1 to 98.

            The fact is that it’s arguable that it is human nature to break restrictive laws that limit an individual’s freedom of choice. The more restrictive America’s so called main-stream society has become, the deeper underground prostitution has gone, but it never goes away.

            You may want to read this: A Brief History of Prostitution in the US by Maggie McNeill


            And you may also want to read this: Children of the Night:
            Child Prostitution is America’s Dirty Little Secret


            “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, child prostitution has become a problem of epidemic proportions, with estimates ranging between 300,000 and 800,000 (five million or more are prostituted globally). Those figures are likely even higher when one considers how many street kids — runaways, thrown-aways and cast-offs from the foster care system — remain unaccounted for in America. Left to fend for themselves, these young girls and boys quickly become prey for small-time pimps and organized sex-trafficking rings.”

          • Lucas Blaustein

            All good points.

        • On the Corner

          “Dumped” is a very accurate word Lloyd…

    • Lucas Blaustein

      I once had a much older and wiser man tell me there are two views of humanity: one, that what makes us human is our desire to be more, to be better – the ideal man; the other view is humanity as a shield.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse

        I’m interested in what this much older and wiser man meant by “Humanity as a shield”.

        Was he referring to sociopaths and psychopaths who take advantage of the human desire to be more as a path to victimize others?

        • Lucas Blaustein

          He was an older Austrian colleague, that had a saying for everything. Whenever anyone at work would say, “I’m only human,” he would always reply, “don’t use your humanity as a shield.” He thought that we should use our humanness as an excuse to do good, not evil.

          But as we’ve spent so much time talking about, and I think correctly identified, good and evil are largely in the eyes of the beholder.

          • Lloyd Lofthouse

            I had to check the exact definition of humanness and Google sent me to Merriam-Webster.com where they said (for one): The quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals.

            No room for evil there. But that begs this question: Is it possible to be kind to a prostitute and still pay her for the service she offers?

            I suspect that answer would be yes but the prostitute would stand a better chance of being treated with kindness where prostitution is legal and the prostitutes are not victims of modern day slavery caused by human traffickers.

            Because prostitution is illegal in so many countries, human trafficking exists.

            Human trafficking is a global problem and that includes the United States where there are laws against prostitution because of pressure from people who think they are acting out of humanness but who are causing more suffering than good.



            What happens when one group uses their combined political clout to get laws passed that go against human nature? The libido is a powerful human drive that can’t be controlled by making prostitution illegal.

            And there is a Website that focuses on this issue. It’s called “Decriminalize Prostitution Now Coalition” and this site provides a list of countries where prostitution is legal and monitored.


            They say, “As long as prostitution is kept illegal, and women are persecuted for acts which harm no one, prostitute women will be subject to brutality at the hands of misogynists and moralists — they are, arguably, the same group. And when prostitutes are treated as second class citizens, and in extreme cases, as less than human, then all women who dare to step out of their social constructs will be labeled as whores and treated accordingly.”

    • On the Corner

      hey lloyd…why don’t you find another website to write your diatribe….and I spent 19 years straight in China. as they say in America…you are what you eat… and in China we say “eating bitter” seems you’ve ate plenty Mr. Bitter pants….

  • Isham Cook

    Oh, gosh, another “good” American, Lucas Blaustein, pointing out all the bad foreigner behavior in China for supposedly our benefit and guidance. Spare me the sanctimony, please. Most of the authors and people in “Unsavory Elements” are family-friendly types; the book almost merits a PG-13 rating. There are around 600,000 foreigners currently in China. Take any city in the US with that many people. Would you not be surprised if a handful of them made a few missteps and got out of line? Or a few got sucked into petty criminal activity, of which we see examples all around us on a daily basis among the Chinese? As China opens up further and the number of foreigners living and working here continues to grow, we’re going to see even more of them getting into trouble. And I can’t wait for the books and articles detailing their adventures to come out.

    • Lucas Blaustein

      I am totally confused by your comments.

  • Lucas Blaustein

    Isham Cook and Lloyd Lofthouse have both written books on adultery, drugs, and concubines in China.

    I am sorry if I have offended them, but there expertise both lies in the unsavory elements of foreign relationships in China. It is understandable that both Mr. Cook and Mr. Lofthouse would be defensive to increased scrutiny.

    I think their problem is less with me, and more with society, and a morality that they may not share.

    Prostitution, drug use, all of these things are actually illegal in China. They are not equally enforced, but each is unequivocally against the law.

    Let us not forget our history; Joseph Needham wrote extensively on China being a land of law, where the pen ruled the sword. The Boxer rebellion was largely a reaction to widespread foreign disrespect of local law.

    We need to be very careful how we act when not in our own nations – acting with both respect and courtesy. There is no reason to believe that humanness, or foreignness gives us the right to do things that are unacceptable in our homelands.

  • Ray

    I suppose there are a lot of scummy types who come to China these days to get away with what they couldn’t get away with back home. But, not in spite of that but because of that, IMHO Unsavory Elements is quite worth a read.

    As I’ve read this book, I can attest most of it is not that extreme (it’s quite the broad-ranged anthology) but the China Law blog fairly focused on the subject of the essays related to breaking the law.

    But it’s a creative nonfiction book, not a ‘good behavior’ primer. Frankly, good behavior primers may be necessary to read at times but I can think of nothing duller.

    Actually, the most extreme piece of all in the book is probably Dominic Stevenson’s excellent excerpt from his book… which is about smuggling hash and ending up in Chinese prison. I don’t know about you, but I can simultaneously know better than to do that–and most expats I know may like to fudge the law a bit but certainly don’t go that far–and yet of all the authors I’m most intrigued to later read his book!

    Scum or not, I for one enjoy learning about such suffocating underbellies and vices. At the same time, let’s all do our best to be decent moral people 🙂

    On the subject of pro girls anyway. On the subject of drugs and settling for what’s available here….. Nevermind.

    • Lucas Blaustein

      I second Ray’s opinion! Far better worded than mine. I tend to be too verbose and offensive.

  • saschaCD

    “While I have never sullied my own eyes and soul with such filth, I can attest to the fact that this book is the spawn of white devilry.”

    No need to comment too much on the above statement, I think any thinking person can make his/her own conclusion.

    I have read the book twice, reviewed it on Chengduliving.com and am a friend of Tom. Disclaimers aside, the book is definitely PG-13. Read it, Melon Collie, and you will probably agree.

    It’s hard not to laugh at the good laowai vs. bad laowai discussion that takes place sometimes on the web. It’s full of shit both ways. Chinese do more than enough harm to their own nation to eclipse the tiny amount of whoremongering and KTV-fueled drug use that laowai get into.

    For my own part, I never saw more prostitutes, used more brazenly, than here in China. I never saw more rampant drug use, used more irresponsibly, than here in China. BY CHINESE. Laowai, for better or for worse, will take license.

    But back to the real issue at hand, the quality of this book. I think, and I wrote as much, that this collection is a sincere, wide-ranging look at the foreign experience in China today. There are big names and small names, shocking essays and tame memorials. It’s a great book to have by the toilet. In fact it is beside my toilet. Along with Veeps, an iPad filled with goodies, and some good sci-fi/fantasy.

    Read the book, then start yapping. Buy the book, support a fellow laowai creating and producing in order to enrich our knowledge of this place we live in.