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Job Posting: Cover the EXPO 2010

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

China Files is looking for an English native speaker based in Shanghai for a part time job during the EXPO shanghai 2010.

  • Preferably with journalism or media related experience.
  • Experience in video and photography will be an advantage.

We’re looking for someone clever, active and with excellent communication skills. This person will be in charge of the press coverage of one of the most interesting pavilions in the Expo: writing press releases, covering their activities and interviewing the biggest personalities they will invite.

Interested please send your resume to natalia.tobontobon@china-files.com

CNY NOTE: This is posted as a favour for the the multi-lingual blog China-Files.  I am not paid for this ad, I agreed to publish it because it might be useful for some reader. The position is paid and I think there are perks like a press card to access the  Expo, but please contact Natalia directly for the details. Good luck.

Low on the EQ side: the New Philosophy of China

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

51aVuMO1vSL._AA200_ There are some beliefs that, although not originally from China, were embraced so thoroughly by the Chinese that they became part of the local culture. One example is Buddhism, imported from India in ancient times. Another one, I have found out, is the teaching of the modern management gurus, imported from the USA.

It is interesting how analysts of China continue to explain all the  social phenomena with the Confucian tradition, when it seems to me that the Johnsonian and Golemanian thought must be at least as influential nowadays. Walk into any Chinese bookshop or check out the local pirate’s tricycle to see that self-improvement and cheese management titles rule supreme. The glossiest and most liquid books on the front table are the likes of: “Train yourself to start the next Google”, “How I changed myself from a complete idiot to a Fortune 500 CEO”, or “How I built a company that acquired the  company of the idiot in the previous book”.

Now, I have to warn you at this point: the titles mentioned may not be 100% exact, I am illiterate in the field of self-improvement. As a conceited, self-styled free-thinker I cannot help an almost classist repulsion towards those works, and I frown even on the  tricycle that sells them. During my years in the old Europe I happily managed to stay away from the rites of personal productiveness.  But ever since I moved to China, the new philosophy is lurking at every turn of phrase, and all resistance is in vain.

One of the concepts that appears most often in conversation is that of EQ, or emotional intelligence, coined by D.Goleman in his 1995 best-seller. After dozens of Chinese  spin-offs over the years, it has become an everyday expression here. It is not surprising that an idea like EQ should be so popular in the highly competitive Chinese system, where it provides some much needed comfort: don’t worry if you didn’t make it into a top Uni - the books say - because it’s not IQ but EQ that will determine your future. The pair IQ/EQ is also known in Chinese as 智商/情商,(zhishang/qingshang), although I find that the English abbreviation is more commonly used.

Whenever EQ comes up in conversation I like to point out that the concept is unscientific, especially in the loose form in which it is used here. But my wikipedic erudition always fails to impress the locals, and I have seen my EQ summarily analyzed in multiple occasions. The first time this happened to me was during a lunch with my colleague Jia, an otherwise bright engineer, in the first year of my stay in China. I can remember it almost vividly:

- Uln, your Chinese is getting pretty good.
- Thanks -  I ignored it. The comment is standard icebreaker in mandarin.
- You have a very good IQ -  he continued.
- Hm, thanks, you are also not bad.
- Yes, but.
- But? –

He looked me intently in the eye. It must have been the expression called “frank positive emphatic” in page 362 of the emotional book. When the look had been established, he proceeded:

- IQ is not good enough.
- No?
- No, you should watch your EQ.
- You mean, Ah Q, by Luxun?
- No, I mean E-Q.
- So who wrote that one?
- Nobody did.
- It’s  not a book?
- It is many books.
- Is it any good?
- Listen here. EQ is what explains why some people with lower IQ get further in life than others with higher IQ!
- You mean, like guanxi.
- No, like emotional intelligence.
- Ah, I thought…
- Guanxi is just a part of it. EQ is  about your skills to get on in life!
- I see.

But I didn’t see. That human relations and non-technical skills are essential in one’s career was one obvious thing, that I should check my parameters like a cranky old motor was quite a different one.

- Your IQ is Okay - he insisted -  but you should watch your EQ.
- Like what?
- Like there are open positions in HQ, that would be a good move for your career.
- What?
- A corporate level position is the way to leverage your expat experience .
- But I don’t want to live in Paris!
- You see, that is EQ.

I was beginning to feel a bit annoyed by the philosophy. I weathered another “empathic positive penetrative” while I plotted my counterattack.

- So, why don’t you apply to go to Paris yourself? – I said finally.
- What, me?
- Yes, of course, you have much more experience!
- But I am not an expat!
- So what, it’s not required.
- You know, Uln – he paused slightly - I have my children to take care of.
- There are family packages.
- She would never let me, my in-laws would kill me!
- Hah! –I said victorious - You should watch your EQ!
- But I already do!!

And this time he quickly looked away, forgetting the EQ looks, as if to hide some shameful thought. But too late, I had caught him already. It was my turn to pull the thread.

- Jia?
- Yes?
- You are pretty serious about this EQ, right?
- Er, I … do what I can.
- Building  good connections in the company is a good strategy, right?
- Er..  you might say that.
- Like having a friend in the HQ,  for example, right?
- Huh? No, no, of course I didn’t say that..I wouldn’t…
- Jia?
- Well?
- You have an excellent EQ, Jia, you know that?
- Oh, haha, no, no, thanks, you have an excellent IQ…

Typical Shanghai Car (Expat humour)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

IMG_1518

A middle aged man in a dark suit left this car. He didn’t look in the least embarrassed. Was he a pedophile? A cadre under the influence, bringing it home to sweetie? Or just the resigned father of a normal Shanghai girl?

I didn’t stop to ask. But I appreciated the customized kitty steering wheel, rear-view mirror and head-rest. And the heap of slain and skinned pink cats stuffed inside the back window for further upholstery use.

Penance for a lazy Laowai

Monday, September 14th, 2009

It has been a while since I last wrote, and now I feel the typical blogger’s guilt, the same that drives some weaker souls to start all their blog posts with unasked apologies. But worry not, we are not that kind of blog. We don’t ask for forgiveness here, and that is because we already punish ourselves even before facing the public. What better penance than playing the role of a lab rat for a sociological experiment? Using our own body to test in the open some potentially lethal phenomena?

What follows contains shocking images made public here for the first time. Sensitive readers are advised to close this website now before reading on.

The laowai phenomenon

Everyone familiar with China has heard of this phenomenon. When a person with non-Asian features wanders in the country he gets hundreds of local fingers pointed at him, as he is promptly and thoroughly informed that he is a foreigner (“laowai !”). Even in the 21st century, after 30 years of reform and opening, this behavior is prevalent in most areas out of the foreign-populated centres of Shanghai and Beijing.

Although some foreigners still take offense, it is by now widely acknowledged that the “laowai call” is just  a neutral form of expressing curiosity in a country that is almost entirely uni-racial. It has also been explained as part of a socializing device that consists of stating the obvious to each other, like “Hey, you are back from work!” or “hey, you are a laowai”.

IMG_1116 (1280x960)22Fig1: Standard testing equipment: “laowai has come!” - “laowai has left!”

But enough theory now. This Summer we took a completely different approach and decided to test the Chinese people’s humour by entering some of the most dangerous bumpkin infested areas of the country wearing the garment in Fig 1. The sampling areas selected were: the tourist village of Zhujiajiao and a fake market in Shanghai.

The challenge was phenomenal, and the reaction of the public was correspondingly massive and spectacular, with whole streets turning their heads or popping out of windows to share in the excitement. It was a great performance of what I believe is called “Kazakh humour”, its main characteristic being that nobody is sure who is laughing at who.

Among the passers-by we discerned and duly registered in the log book the 3 following attitudes:

  1. Conspirational –  Those who were laughing with us.
  2. Malicious –  Those who were laughing at us.
  3. Annoyed – Those who felt they were being laughed at.

Fortunately, the Chinese passed the humour test remarkably well, falling mostly into category #1, with some children and local lowbrows accounting for the #2s. We didn’t encounter any crazy patriot accusing us of hurting people’s feelings, which confirms my previous notion that those people can only be so silly when under the anonymity of the internet. In any case, this T-shirt is a must if you want to be famous in a mid-size Chinese town in the first 5 minutes of your arrival.

Some more pictures of the experiment:

IMG_1177 (1280x960)In the fake market

IMG_1119 (1280x960)Relaxing facial muscles after hours of being pointed at

The next challenge

If you liked this performance stay tuned for the next experiment. We have obtained the necessary gear to boratize this time an altogether different social group. Equipped with the 7” mangy moustache and the genuine garment in Fig 2, this specimen will make its appearance at the next fashion show in the exclusive M1NT bar. How will the high society in expat Shanghai (more than 50% clad in fake Paul Smith) fare in our test?

DSC_2641 (1280x857)Fig 2. Whiskered specimen used for laboratory testing

Lessons from Xinjiang: Disaster and Response

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

NYT diagram

I was not there and I do not know more than what is in the press. But in the light of the available information, I think it’s worth it to have another look at the events, and see what we make of it. Refer to the NYT diagram linked on the illustration, this paper is hardly suspect of pro-CPC, and the information included (from witness accounts) is about as detailed as has been published concerning the events of 5th May.

It all started with a protest in People’s Square, followed by a concentration along Liberation Road, which was met around 6.30 by the People’s Armed Police. Up to here everything is “normal” in the logic of street rioting: there were clashes and probably some victims from both sides. But Liberation Rd. is very central, many people live there and surely the NYT would have found at least a witness to mention it if hundreds of people had been killed or made prisoner at this point.

But it is afterwards, especially after 8, along the axes of Tuanjie and Dawan Roads, that the events are not normal by any standard of social disorder. Street riots, like other forms of violence, can have collateral damage, but this is not the case. The police was not there, the Han mobs couldn’t have been organized in such a short time, and the only way to explain those deaths is that it was a deliberate large scale massacre of civilian residents and passers by. This is consistent with what was written in other accounts by various newspapers.

The initial count of 123* Han casualties that has been more or less accepted by all sides as minimum is an astonishing figure for actions that happened mostly in the space of 5 hours and in such a reduced area. Looking at other riots in the region, including Xinjiang, Tibet or other Chinese areas, we see this ratio is completely out of range. This was not the heat of the fight in a political riot. It was cold-blooded persecution, the kind of actions that can only be the work of fanatics.

Who was behind the events

In its August 2 issue, the Hong Kong newsweekly Yazhou Zhoukan interviewed Heyrat Niyaz, a Uyghur journalist, blogger, and AIDS activist, the kind of person who is unlikely to be partial to the CPC. Heyrat speaks about the Islamic Liberation Party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir al-Islami, a pan-islamic international political party which is formally peaceful, but which has been accused in the past of inciting violence in Europe. This organization has spread very quickly in Xinjiang in the last decade.

As a witness in Urumqi, Niyaz notes the strong Kashgar accents of many of the protesters and the religious slogans that were heard in the protests. This brings to mind all the times the CPC has spoken of the menace of an Islamist group called ETIM, which might actually exist or not. In any case, some radical groups do exist, as was clearly seen from attacks like this one last year, where 16 policemen were coldly knifed and bombed after being run over.

I will not accuse any group without proof, as I would be guilty myself of the same “solid block” thinking I criticized yesterday. But what we have seen up to now should make any honest observer curious, and it certainly warrants further investigation in the field of radical islamism in Xinjiang. In a region bordered by countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is not at all unthinkable that frustrated youths take example of their counterparts across the border and find an escape in a perverted version of religion.

Response

The Chinese government has handled the crisis relatively well, given the circumstances. Actually, the main objection one could make is the opposite of what most Western readers like to imagine: on Sunday 5th more force should have been used to avoid the murders.

If you think of it, you might agree that the CPC leaders are not precisely idealistic dreamers. When they let the foreign reporters into a place it is because they know they have nothing to lose, and this time they must have been pretty confident that they were not to blame. Also we have to admit that, even when in front of journalists, it is unusual in most armies in the World to exhibit so much discipline and restraint as the Chinese did in the aftermath of indiscriminate racist attacks against their own people.

A large part of the Western media were confused by this attitude, which perhaps explains why they left so early. Indeed, it is some food for thought and it can make some weaker spirits shrink, to consider that for the second time in a row (after the Sichuan disaster) China proves that, sometimes, an authoritarian regime can do things better than a democracy. It takes some solid convictions and some understanding of ones own ideals to be able to look at the World without the mould of good and evil.

In any case, there is little doubt – the Western media has given me no reason to think otherwise – that the Chinese double approach of media control and moderate police action has produced the best results during the crisis. It goes without saying that this only works as a short term formula to curb down the violence, and that much more will need to be done from now on to really solve the problems in Xinjiang. More about long term solutions in the next posts.

Rebiya Kadeer

I will not waste time here to discredit Rebiya Kadeer, because from the beginning she discredits herself. She has provided no basis at all for most of the information she gave to the media, and some of her claims are so absurdly wrong that it actually makes me think she has to be innocent: someone who’s made it in business can’t possibly be such a bad liar. The only explanation is that she is totally clueless.

Click on the picture for one example of her latest claims.

broom

More than anything, Kadeer gives the impression that she is desperate for TV time. She knows her time of fame is running to an end, and she is forced to place ever stronger claims, raising the stakes at each go to attract the tired audiences. As blogger twofish reflected, if she really cared about the future of Xinjiang, she might have grabbed this chance to send a message of peace and try to connect with the rest of the Chinese at a time when they were brutally attacked, earning perhaps the respect of the moderates.

But how has someone like Kadeer, a successful businesswoman in her time, imprisoned and then released by the CPC, ended up as de facto representative of the Uyghur people? Kadeer was called to play a role, and she plays it just fine. It is a role that has been written by the CPC, and by the Western media, and by the audiences and by the American NED, who is funding her. The story was written long before she arrived, a well proven plot that works with the public and will make everyone happy. It is all over again the Dalai Lama saga, and thanks to the copy-paste now the scriptwriters can relax and enjoy their Summer holidays.

Except, of course, that Rebiya Kadeer is no Dalai Lama, and neither her deeds nor her standing among the Uyghur justifiy any such comparison.

The Important Question

And now down to what many consider the crucial question: is Kadeer in contact or even financing the extremist groups who arranged the killings, or is she, as I suspect, totally ignorant of the reality on the ground? I don’t think we will ever find out. It is difficult to believe that the NED, funded by the American Congress, would sponsor anyone connected with terrorism; but if by mistake they did, I am sure they will take good care to hide all the proofs.

Note that, either way, the NED doesn’t come out very well from this story. Sponsoring an opportunist who jumps at the chance to get a name for herself while she coldly observes the killings of dozens is hardly in line with the objectives of a National Endowment for Democracy.

But really, is all this so important? I don’t think so. Kadeer will not last, and whether she is guilty or not, the peanuts that the NED pays her do not really change anything. Kadeer with her accommodated expatriate Uyghurs of the WUC cannot possibly control the operations of a terrorist group on the ground. And, as an inspirational role, I doubt it very much that she – a woman, twice married, business and PC background – could ever work for young islamist radicals. She will most certainly not turn into the new bin Laden.

No, the real questions for China and for the World are others:

Who was really behind the killings of 5th July? How will the prisoners be judged? How are the interethnic policies of the CPC failing? How is this failure feeding the bases of some violent groups? What is the connection of these groups with islamist terrorism and what is the probability of Al-Qaeda joining the party? And why is China the only Security Council country that hasn’t received a large-scale attack from islamists, in spite of the years-long Uyghur conflict?

And finally, where are the people that are supposed to be answering all these questions?

*See my comment below for the basis of this number.

Chinese Pirates and Shanghai Stories

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Last night I went to the evening organized by Earnshaw to launch their two latest books: “I sailed with Chinese Pirates” and “Shanghai Story Walks”. I have been a fan of Earnshaw Books since they published the first of their series of reprints, Carl Crow’s “Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom“, my favourite China read of ’08. Since then they have continued to publish new originals and reprints faster than I could read them, so I jumped on this opportunity to try to catch up.

The event was announced - and recommended - on the Shanghaiist calendar, so I thought I’d get there a bit earlier to catch a seat before the masses arrived. Actually, apart from the collection of smiling ladies with cups of tea that populate all these literary events, the attendance was pretty moderate. It came as a shock to me, but I suppose not everyone is interested in fascinating expat stories that happened 100 years ago.

Too bad for them. The evening went really smooth, with a bit of blues by the big man Earnshaw, great atmosphere and free drinks just for showing up. But what I enjoyed most were the two presentation speeches. If you have been to literary festivals you know how boring these things can get: people who can write are not necessarily good speakers, more often than not they are timid individuals who find themselves forced to deliver hour-long speeches, and they take ample revenge by boring the public to the marrow.

This time it was different. The presentations were brief, well prepared and yet spontaneous, and with their repertoire of pirates and big-eared gangsters they managed to catch our ear. Suffice to say that I ended up buying both, in spite of my firm resolution to not bring any more new books to my home on the verge of collapse. But let’s have a look at the babies:

The author of this book, Yvette Ho Madany, is originally from Shanghai, and she draws from her family connections and from her own research to guide us in a series of story-walks around the city. She told us the tragic life of Mrs. Dong and the spicy beginnings of the JinJiang hotel. A must-read and must-walk.

Expat intelligentsia hero Paul French spoke for the original author Mr.Lilius, who was unable to attend, presumably due to his demise in 1977. Mr. French gave us a well-rounded speech with some good pirate jokes and enough teasers to make me run to the stalls and get the product. Then, like usual, he scolded us for being XX century citizens and paying attention to the GDP instead of to Pirate Queens, and if you ask me he was damn right on that one, arr!

The reading List

Now, I know what you are thinking and you are right: I am brazenly posting a Book Review post when I haven’t read a page of the books in question. I sold my soul for a free glass of Chinese red wine and some good vibes, I admit it. But frankly speaking, the efforts of Earnshaw to bring us of those old gems, first on his website and then on fine quality paper editions, deserve already all my praise. And let’s not forget that I owe them the discovery of the inimitable Carl Crow.

As for these 2 new books, I will read them and I will walk them, and I promise I will get back to this post and update it with my frightful reviews.

On a side note: These last 3 months I have dedicated an absurd proportion of my free time to reading in Chinese. I have just finished my third novel, and I am very proud of that, but in the meantime normal reading has been on hold, and the List has got completely out of control. I am afraid I will not catch up with myself before the Summer holidays. More about my experiments on Chinese reading in coming chapters.

Who gets Rich in China? and the Expat Trap

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Last year I wrote a post about foreign entrepreneurs in Shanghai that included a Big Question with a link:  Who gets rich in China? The page attracted a ridiculous amount of search engine hits considering its dumb content, which proves that it was indeed a hot question. Time passed and I never got around to writing more, but my intention was just to echo the phrase I so often hear from disgruntled expats:

“Who gets rich in China? The Chinese!”

I am afraid I don’t have a better answer now than I had then, but recently I’ve been talking business with some entrepreneurial friends, and one problem has come up so many times that I think it is worth a post. And I hope this is useful for foreign start-ups in China to avoid making a bad decision from day zero and ending up, a few years down the line, mumbling the bitter phrase. The problem I refer to is the market dilemma, otherwise called the expat trap. Click to continue »

The LaoWai song

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Last Saturday we went down to Anar to watch the Lions of Puxi. This is a reggae band recently formed in Shanghai, with some familiar faces of the expat music scene, including some of the guys we usually see at JZ. 

I am not much of a music critic, but I can say this band sounds good and it makes you dance. They are all great musicians, with a powerful frontman called Gauthier that rocks the place. We met them outside the bar during the break and they are a friendly bunch. 

We especially enjoyed and sang along the Laowai song, which is in the process of becoming the anthem of an expat generation in Shanghai. Now there is also a videoclip, based on the original Sting. Judge by yourselves. (H/t Xiao Lu for sending me the link.)

Click to continue »

China Underground: the Review

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

china-undergroundI first read about  “China Underground” last Friday, during my daily browse of the China blogs. I had never heard the name of Zachary Mexico before, but the review on  China Beat made me feel curious, so after work I stopped by the Garden bookshop and got my copy. Only 24 hours later I had been to a speech by the author, queued at the Shanghai literary festival to get his autograph, and finished reading his complete works. I guess this qualifies me as his fastest fan.

Over the weekend I spoke with a few friends about the book and I could  feel some resistance. Some China hands clearly disapproved of the cover’s pop approach to a grave subject like the Middle Kingdom - a friend of mine from New York even warned me against what looked like “an East Village poser”.  All this probably explains why the few  who had actually read the book were so excited about it:  they weren’t expecting it to be readable in the first place.

Not having any kind of prejudice against pop illustrated covers, I found the price tag fair and the promise of a fresh perspective on China exciting enough to give it a try.  Here’s the results. Click to continue »

Chinglish, Signese, Signology?

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Wow, there’s been some activity around here this week. It is exhausting to be in the limelight, and I long to get back my status of internet chopped liver.

But no worries, I think I know just how to do that:

p050309_181601-1

Make up your mind: N.1 or N.2?

Everybody knows that serious China bloggers don’t do Chinglish. That’s for newbies, and we are past the “mamma, look what I got” stage. But before you leave, take a look at this a pic I took yesterday on my way to Ningbo . It is now part of my new classified collection of Signology. And there’s more here than meets the eye. Click to continue »

Time for Resolutions

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I was wondering lately why do I get so many people coming into my “Learning Chinese” category, which I haven’t updated for ages. It struck me just now: of course, New Years Resolutions!

How many expat readers have made the firm resolution to improve their Chinese this year? I for one. Why do we do the same every year and the progress seems so slow? Is it really possible to learn Chinese while at the same time working full-time and running a blog (or a life)? I don’t know.

To all those that come looking for lessons of Chinese: Be patient, I will be doing more soon. For the moment the carrying thread has been updated with 2 more carrying characters, thanks to VIP contributor XiaoLu. If you are through with the carrying list and you feel you are already well above and beyond those simple concepts, let me give you some serious stuff to chew: There you go, the Periodic Table of Elements.

The majority of these characters have been invented in modern times, and they are among the newest characters to enter the Chinese Dictionary. They were created following the interesting procedure detailed here. Some characters are so new that they are not recognized by computers - you can feel for once that you know more than your electronic dictionary! In fact they are surprisingly easy to learn, supposing you know your chemical elements in English.

But then of course, I never made it all the way to Americium (镅) and Californium (锎) …

What’s up with all the Chinese FACEBOOKS?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Last night I was out for a little dance with one of my Shanghai friends. My performance must have been pretty good, because as we were leaving she invited me to join Kaixinwang, and added that she would buy me straight away if I bought her.

Now, I didn’t know what to make of all this. But I was quite curious, as I had read about all these Chinese Facebooks recently on Danwei. So, as soon as I got home I thought I might as well open an account and let myself be bought. A bit of a hassle to deal with all those Chinese characters on a Sunday night, but anyway, it’s not like you can say no to a Shanghai girl.

So I went and googled Kaixinwang and opened an account and tried to find my friend there, only to find out that I was in the WRONG kaixinwang. And I had to start the whole process again. Further googling confirmed that there are 3 different kaixinwangs, apparently unrelated except that they bear the same name: kaixinwang, kaixinwang and kaixinwang. In the same time, I also found out that there are at least 2 other Facebooks: Xiaonei and Zhanzuo

So, what is up with all these Chinese Facebooks?

There seems to be a fierce struggle for power among them. Like the links above show, they are all almost exact copies of the original Facebook, but over time they have been introducing some Chinese characteristics to appeal the local users. Still not the Chinese “Wall of Characters” format, but definitely doing their best to cover up the blank spaces that Chinese users seem to hate so much. See above my (wrong) kaixinwang account.

I remember when I was in Business School, one of my classmates did a Business Plan with the title: “How to beat Ikea in 3 years”. It was a good laugh for the teacher, and my friend got extra points for “audacity”. But it is amazing to think that now for any random Chinese entrepreneur it is possible to do “Beat Facebook in 3 years”, and they don’t even need a BPlan. Is this the land of opportunity or not?

In case you think I am exaggerating, see what I got from Alexa global, with 2 of the kaixinwangs taking a huge leap in less than 6 months:

OK, probably Facebook will stay at the top because of its worldwide support. But in the Chinese market it doesn’t stand a chance. The Kaixinwangs have started and will continue to adapt the concept to Chinese preferences, and Facebook, unlike other global companies, has not moved in this direction. Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg might have had a chance if he thought of selling  “sweet and sour Facebook” before.

To be fair, it is true that the Chinese censors are doing a good job at slowing down Facebook here, while not affording any protection of Intellectual Property. And the same rumours that spread in the West about the Book - giving data to the CIA, etc- are very present among the young and nationalistic Chinese internet users, and surely not discouraged by the local competition.

Now, let’s see the key points for future developments:

  1. The lack of IP protection in China means that all these startups can just copy the essential from Facebook, and concentrate instead on adding some extra games and gadgets that appeal the Chinese. In fact, for this very reason it doesn’t make sense for Kaixinwangs to innovate. Wasting resources in coming up with a new platform is a loser move, when any newcomer can just copy.
  2. This seems to be an unregulated network market, which usually evolves into a Winner-Take-All situation. So it is to be expected that pretty soon one of the Kaixinwangs will take the whole pie.
  3. Only at that point, with the local market secured, the winning Kaixinwang will find a reason to start developing some really new stuff.
  4. This is a phenomenon that applies to many industries in China. They are in a race to capture markets while the economy grows, and can’t afford to stop and rethink right now. This is what I mean when I say the fast pace of Chinese economy for the last 30 years has left many holes behind.

From the selfish point of view of an expat in Shanghai: I can’t wait for all this kaixinwang competition to get  settled and every Chinese to get an account in the Champion of the KaixinWangs. (开心网王)

For many Westerners here Facebook has become part of our social reflexes. When we meet someone new - which happens everyday in Shanghai- it is the easiest way to keep track. With the Chinese, the simple social question: “what is your Facebook?”  results in a complicated discussion, often involving the CIA, James Bond and Her whole Majesty’s Secret Service. In the end, you always end up stuck with another fancy visit card that quickly gets lost in the overflowing 名片drawer.

UPDATE: I found another 2 kaixinwangs just now: kaixinwang and kaixinwang. There must be dozens of them out there if I can find these 5 so easily on the first page of google results. What a mess! It reminds me of the times when WangDonalds flourished right next to the real place. Perhaps the Chinese Net Nanny should spend her time trying to sort this out instead of wasting it with us.