Thursday, March 20, 2008


>In my posting about the New Year's Ball thrown for foreigners by the CQ government, someone was wondering the name of the new mayor. Here are further details, as told to me by Mr. Felt in a recent email:

" The City leadership has several facets. The mayor, who is much of a ceremonial post. The vice mayor or mayors, who runs the business. The heads of the various commissions as the Investment and Foreign Relations Commission. Then we have the CPC (communist party) office. There is also an independent anti corruption office.

The final power lies with the CPC. The guy who was sent from Beijing and who we know stands very near Wen Jiabao [Wen is China's Premier, sortof like a VP] is Bo Xilai. He has a reputation to be hands on and no nonsense. He is a former minister of commerce and a popular politician. "

So it seems I had the details wrong. The CCP (communist party) would naturally be more powerful than the general mayor. This is China, after all.

>I've been helping some of my students with their applications to study abroad in the US. I forgot to mention this before, but one of those students, a bright young fellow by the name of Wang Lifeng, was accepted to attend the University of Michigan. I'm quite proud! In any case, some of these students are currently working on a project (self-initiated) to study the reasons for failure in foreign-owned businesses in Chongqing. I thought that the same Mr. Felt mentioned above--and in a previous post--would have some interesting analysis to start them on their project. His response:

" Problem one. English teachers. Very summarily, Chongqing is perceived, with certain right, as a very hostile city to foreigners. No services, unpleasant officials, common visa difficulties, expensive to live (relative income) and low standards with little choice. CQ does not attract teachers. Some of Chongqing's bad reputation is unfair and wrong.

There are about 2,000 "English schools", and many examples of schemes by Chinese, most of them not from Chongqing, who have stolen money from students. They take the fees, give one lesson, then disappear with the money leaving the students and teachers behind with nothing.

The rules surrounding the establishment and operation of schools discourage overseas qualified people to come here and starting and investing in education in general and in English schools in particular.

Another reason is the business side.

In Chongqing I often see a real estate developer put up some money for flash premises, a few foreign faces, and a franchising name, and think that will create quick profit. Then pay minimum possible, and treat especially the foreigners in a degrading way. (I have some material I can give out). Unfortunately, the substance is missing. Much more is needed. "

I guess that gels well with my impressions, thus far. Aston hasn't treated me badly, of course, but neither have they offered a highly professional environment in which to work. I'm sure it would be worse with most of the Chinese companies (perhaps barring New Oriental or Owen) present here. And Aston, large company that it is, has still had a very difficult time entering this particular market. A local English training school down the street is partially owned by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) which could account for the hostility of the police who have also come by numerous times--asking for bribes when we put up our billboard advertising, or threatening to cause problems for our accreditation when we changed addresses. I think the main problem, though, is that Chongqing is a very parochial city (despite its massive population) that nonetheless supports sky-high expectations. Thus we have a perfect environment for fly-by-night entrepreneurs and decadent local government.

>That segues perfectly into the next bit, wherein my girlfriend Cherry has been attempting to get her passport. She and her father went down to the bureau responsible for that matter last Friday, and were told that the police usually take Friday afternoon off. What exactly is their excuse for that, I wonder? Are the government employees secretly Hasidic jews or Seventh Day Adventists who need to stock up on basic supplies before sundown and the Sabbath? Or are they avid trophy fishermen preparing for weekend trips to the unpolluted streams of the high mountains?

So she and her father returned yesterday to get the job done. It seems that the 200 rmb process, however, doesn't give them the right to ask questions about the details of the passport. Cherry couldn't even find out the duration of the passport. Whenever her father or her tried to ask questions, the government workers studiously ignored them. Apparently their attitude was that their lofty position makes them a class above the toiling plebs, and so needn't be polite to those less fortunate than themselves. I guess I could have told her that its par for course, but I guess such things are better found out for oneself. So much for Hu Jintao's vaunted 'Harmonious China'.

>It continues to be, that none of my mainland Chinese friends have heard anything about the current situation in Tibet. Both students and friends just meet me with blank stares when I mention it, then assume that I'm referring to the situation there 'in general' and the usual foreign stance on it, rather than a specific situation that is continuing to unfold at this very moment. I guess it doesn't surprise me any longer that an annual 70,000 (at least) riots go unreported in this country. Neither does it surprise me that as a result of the news blackout, most Chinese think that their country is far safer than, say, the US with all its reported shootings. I guess the unfortunate, opportunistic Hui shopkeepers of Lhasa would beg to differ, now.

No comments: