Love and the Law: A Propaganda Tale of Woe

Every generation a story emerges which perfectly encapsulates the mood of the times. Euripides perfectly summarised the Ancient Greek love of murdering all of your immediate family members in Medea. The Canterbury Tales provides a fascinating insight into medieval life. Capturing life in Regency Period Britain for the upper middle-classes was Jane Austen’s speciality. And, of course, Keeping Up With The Kardashians perfectly displays our modern degeneracy and descent into a society of soulless harridans with plastic injected into our grotesquely oversized buttocks.

Yet what magnum opus has China pumped out to capture a window on its society as it entered the new Millennium? Some might say Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui. To those people I spit in their faces and later throw their children down disused mine shafts. Nay, the greatest work of literature produced in China around the year 2000 was the epic The Contest of Love and the Law produced by the Beijing Police and stuck on billboards across the city. Thought lost to the world for the last 15 years, luckily a copy has finally re-emerged. Originally stolen by a drunk British student on his way home from The Den in 2002, this blog is proud to present a translated performance of…

The Contest of Love and the Law


Don’t Marry That Man From Jinan Who Didn’t Go To University


The Contest of Love and the Law.


This is how the masterpiece looks in its glorious entirety.


Edited by notable and acclaimed turn of the century police poet: Liu Renqing. We salute you.

Notice how Xiao Qing’s hand is just millimetres away from Cheng Ming’s cock. The dirty little minx deserves everything that is coming for her. Notice the rocking red turtle neck on Cheng Ming: years before Steve Jobs started wearing them.

In 1980, 18 year old Cheng Ming graduated from a certain Beijing upper secondary school. He didn’t get into university, but managed to find himself a girlfriend. Xiao Qing was a much-liked girl. As soon as Cheng Ming knew her, he became deeply attracted to her. He appeared to be a real manly man, occasionally acting as her guardian angel. He was considerate towards her and even spent money on anything for her. Xiao Qing was conquered by Cheng Ming’s love, so the couple started seeing one another.

You will know this is China in the winter as everybody is wearing their coats inside: just outside the picture you would have seen the window wide open in order to allow the minus twenty fresh winter air in. Readers of Party Members will be interested to note that the mother is drinking a refreshing glass of F-Max: the lightly sparkling fish-flavoured drink made from workers’ piss.
However, after meeting Cheng Ming, Xiao Qing’s parents really didn’t like him. Every time Cheng Ming would visit the house, the parents were indifferent to him. Cheng Ming would always buy them presents on his visits in order to impress his future father and mother in law. Yet no matter how hard Cheng Ming tried, Xiao Qing’s parents still wouldn’t agree for them to be together. Since Cheng Ming was kind to her, Xiao Qing decided not to let her parents’ disapproval stop her. They still remained a couple. After several years, Cheng Ming couldn’t leave Xiao Qing’s side.

In the world of “Love and the Law” everybody likes to wear plain unbranded coloured shirts. I’m sure there is some symbolism going on here: the strong woman wearing revolutionary red, the evil man wearing capitalist blue.
However, without the approval of her parents, Xiao Qing wasn’t prepared to marry Cheng Ming. Cheng Ming harboured a deep grudge towards Xiao Qing’s parents because of this. Following this understanding, the relationship between Xiao Qing and Cheng Ming entered into a crisis. Xiao Qing realised that Cheng Ming wasn’t the man she thought he was, and that they had very different personalities. They began to argue frequently over small things. After several arguments, Xiao Qing decided that things were too hard, and was increasingly disappointed in Cheng Ming. Thus she decided to break up with him.

If this was the present day they’d both be staring at their phones right now.
One day in 1985 Xiao Qing passed Cheng Ming a break-up letter, saying that her parents didn’t agree with them being together and that she must listen to her parents.

Cheng Ming was very angry and thought that Xiao Qing had led him on; concluding that this was all due to her parents’ meddling. At the same time, he also felt that he had spent a lot of money on Xiao Qing and her family. He thought: “Although you lot have not been benevolent, I have not been righteous! I want all my money back. I’m not losing both my girlfriend AND my money.”

Lovely thermos of HOT WATER behind the father there. Obviously a man who cares about his healthy. Little does he know that his hot water won’t protect him from Cheng Ming’s hammer of justice in the next panel.
On November 16th 1985, Cheng Ming brought a dagger and entered the house of Xiao Qing’s parents in Beijing’s Fengtai District. At the time her parents were not home, so Cheng Ming used a key he had previously copied to open the door and enter the house. Then Xiao Qing’s father returned home, and upon seeing Cheng Ming in the house asked him what he was doing. Cheng Ming said: “I have come to get my money back.” Xiao Qing’s father said: “We don’t owe you any money, get out.” Cheng Ming said: “I bought many things for Xiao Qing and you two. Now she won’t stay with me. I have come back to settle the score.” Xiao Qing’s father said: “You’re talking nonsense. Your relationship with Xiao Qing is your own doing, we don’t owe you anything.”

Cheng Ming finally takes his Thor cosplay too far.
The two of them argued back and forth. Cheng Ming thought back to all the attitude that Xiao Qing’s parents had given him in the past, all of their absolute opposition to him being with Xiao Qing, and he couldn’t help but to be full of hate towards Xiao Qing’s father. In his eyes, Xiao Qing was the enemy standing in his way of happiness, and he became filled with murderous rage. He turned around and pulled out a hammer that he kept on his person, and violently hit Xiao Qing’s father three times on the head. Xiao Qing’s father collapsed onto the floor. Fearing that he wasn’t dead, Cheng Ming pulled out a knife and slashed him several times across the neck, also stabbing him several times in the chest with his dagger, until Xiao Qing’s father was dead.

(Can I just say how completely implausible it is that Cheng Ming would have not one, but THREE murder weapons about his person. A glass of cold water would probably have been sufficient.)

As a foreigner who first visited China in the 1990s, I can attest that the bed covers are an authentic depiction of pre-2000 bed covers. I also had blood on my bedroom floor too.
Cheng Ming dragged the body into the bedroom and placed it next to the bed, then covered the body with a blanket. After killing Xiao Qing’s father, Cheng Ming still felt it wasn’t enough. So he hid in Xiao Qing’s house waiting for her mother to return. After some time, Xiao Qing’s mother came home. Before she could even speak, Cheng Ming leapt over and viciously stabbed her in the chest and neck with his dagger. Xiao Qing’s mother fell into a pool of blood. Cheng Ming dragged Xiao Qing’s mother’s body into the bedroom, covered it with a towel, then sat in the outer room waiting for Xiao Qing to come home.

For a woman who has just seen her parents stabbed to death and has a bloody knife being pointed towards her face, Xiao Qing looks remarkably nonplussed. Her face is only emitting the type of mild disgust shown upon, say, finding that the person before you in the toilet didn’t flush.
That evening after six o’clock, Xiao Qing finished work and came home. When she opened the door she saw Cheng Ming approaching her from the north room with a dagger in his hand – she couldn’t help but be shocked. Cheng Ming said to her: “Don’t move, come with me into the room.” Xiao Qing was terrified as she followed him in. After entering the room she said: “What the hell has happened here?” Cheng Ming said to her angrily: “I will tell you straight, I have killed your parents. Listen to me, I cannot let you go.”

It must be difficult for Xiao Qing and the police to continue their conversation with the police vans outside still continuing to keep their sirens and lights on. Still, it is probably quieter than living next door to a Chinese apartment that is being redecorated, so perhaps they are used to it. Also, where in the Beijing-Jinan vicinity is there a nice uncluttered police station that has a wide boulevard outside it with room to park two large police vehicles? So many questions…
To stop Xiao Qing from running away, Cheng Ming used a rope to tie one of her hands to the bed. He tied the other hand to himself. The next afternoon Cheng Ming decided that he could stay in the house no longer, and told Xiao Qing that she was to go with him back to his hometown. Xiao Qing was afraid that he would kill her, so she could only say yes. After arriving at Beijing train station, Cheng Ming bought two train tickets to Jinan. After boarding the train, Cheng Ming felt that Xiao Qing couldn’t possibly run away, so he leant over the table and went to sleep. As soon as the train arrived at a station, Xiao Qing seized her chance and ran off the train and straight to a police station to make a report.

“YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE LONG ARM OF THE GIANT SQUARE-JAWED CHINESE POLICE AND THEIR HANDCUFFS OF JUSTICE! NOBODY CAN!” Cheng Ming also looks like he is sporting a massive erection in this panel. Well done, lad.
After waking up, Cheng Ming realised that Xiao Qing had run away. He knew she would go report to the police. Therefore he decided to change trains and fled to Longhua town in the Jing County of Hebei Province. Changing his name to Cheng Chen he hid for awhile. At the beginning, Cheng Ming was nervous all day and night. He realised that he had committed a fatal crime, if he was caught there was no doubt that he’d be executed. Hence he started to have nightmares every day. In his dreams the police would suddenly appear in front of him before locking him in handcuffs and dragging him off to a police car. Occasionally when walking down the street, if he spotted a uniformed police officer, even if it was just a security guard, he would think that they had come to arrest him.

Women hold up half the sky. Boxes too in this story.
In his extreme fear, the days slowly passed. Cheng Ming realised that nobody knew he was a murderer on the run – the police hadn’t taken any action against him. Hence he gradually recovered his courage. No longer did he spend the whole day hiding in a small rented room; he began to go out everywhere. Not long after he found himself a job and built up the appearance of being a very honest person. In his job he was more hard-working than others. Whenever his neighbours needed help he would always gladly assist. Normally he was a quiet person, somebody who didn’t want to cause any trouble. Everybody considered him to be a practical, capable and honest person: somebody who could be a friend and help out in time of need.

“I love you darling, which is why I have brought you to the muddy banks of this traffic overpass. The diesel fumes are beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.”
Before he knew it, several years passed by, and Cheng Ming had settled down in Jing County. In his heart he thought: “Several years have gone by, the police have probably forgotten about me. I hope that Heaven can protect me and let me continue my life this way.” Now that his work and life were in place, the almost 30 year old Cheng Ming decided to seek out marriage. Before long a woman called Feng Jie was introduced to him. As soon as they met they had a good impression of one another. Feng Jie really liked his Beijing accent and thought he was cultured, polite, honest and capable. Cheng Ming also wasn’t too picky about Feng Jie, as long as a woman liked him and was willing to spend her life with him he thought it was enough. Cheng Ming kept his past a secret and after one year they were married.

(There seems to be some inconsistency here in Cheng Ming’s back story. Here it says he has a Beijing accent, but earlier it says his hometown is Jinan. Also, why did he choose Hebei as his place to hide out? Come on Beijing Police, get your facts straight!)

If that is a speaker system next to the stereo in the top right corner then – despite his many crimes – Cheng Ming was the most badass muthafucka in 1990s Beijing… even when wearing a v-neck sweater.
After getting married, Cheng Ming was thoughtful towards Feng Jie in all ways, and after the birth of their son, he was a shining beacon to Feng Jie and his son and carried out the role of a good husband and father well. In order to give his wife and son a better life he thought of many ways to earn some extra money. Afterwards, they purchased a house in his work unit and also a tractor. The money in their pocket was growing bigger all the time. They bought several appliances for the house. Feng Jie also started to spend lots of money and would often buy fashionable clothes; because of this their neighbours started to envy them.

The artist just gave up on the policewoman’s face, didn’t he?
Cheng Ming was secretly proud of the fact that he had evaded the law and was living a happy life, however in 1999 the whole country carried out the task of looking for him. One day in September the Fengtai District police received news from the Jing County police that the missing murderer Cheng Ming had appeared in Jing County. On hearing this the officers quickly arrived in Jing County and prepared to catch Cheng Ming. However, it was as if the crafty Cheng Ming had smelled them coming, and he had already hidden elsewhere. The officers found nothing at Cheng Ming’s house. When they asked Feng Jie she said she wasn’t clear where her husband was, and the officers could only leave empty-handed.

“Darling, do you ever feel that we could be fictional cartoon characters in a government propaganda campaign? I don’t know any other 1990s working class families in Beijing with their own corner office, especially families led by men from Jinan who didn’t go to university. Something just doesn’t feel right. I’m scared.”
After hiding out, Cheng Ming realised that there were no further movements so decided to return home. Feng Jie asked him: “Why do the police want you? What have you done wrong?” Cheng Ming replied with an understatement: “I had a fight with somebody and beat them into a vegetable state.” Feng Jie said: “Is it really because of this? Are you lying to me?” Cheng Ming said: “How could I lie to you?” However, don’t tell anybody else about this. If I’m really arrested, what would happen to you and our son? What would happen to our family? I can’t bear to be without you and our son. Right now only you can help me. As long as you don’t tell the police they won’t be able to find me.”

In this panel, Cheng Ming decides to flee to Puyang in Henan Province rather than go to jail. Personally, I would have chosen jail.
When she heard that her husband had really committed a crime, Feng Jie felt extremely nervous. She considered urging her husband to surrender himself so that he would receive a lenient punishment. However, after thinking it over, she felt her husband was speaking the truth. He was the foundation of this family, the whole family depended on him. If he was really arrested, what would happen to her and her son? Furthermore, if other people knew her husband was a criminal, where would she be able to show her face? When she thought of that she decided to keep her silence and not go to the police. Although Feng Jie had said she wouldn’t go to the police, Cheng Ming thought that there were too many eyes nearby watching him, so he decided to go and hide out temporarily in the city of Puyang in Henan Province.

I’m not sure that adding the lipstick to the blue-tinged background really helps. Feng Jie looks like a necrophiliac’s dream come true. Either that or this is a David Lynch movie.
In Puyang, Cheng Ming pondered that he could no longer stay in Jing County. Since the police had already been to his house to look for him, there were definitely people who knew he was a criminal on the run. If he appeared at home again, he couldn’t be certain that nobody would report him. After much consideration, he decided to let Feng Jie sell of all the household items and come with him to Puyang. He gave Feng Jie a phone call: “I am now in Henan. Sell the house and the tractor and bring yourself and our son to Henan.” Feng Jie asked: “It sounds like you’ve committed a serious crime. Why won’t you dare to come home?” Cheng Ming said: “Look how we’ve bought a house and a vehicle, other people misbelieve that we have a lot of money. Some people can get very jealous and you can’t be sure they won’t try to blackmail us. It’s better that we change location and save ourselves the trouble.”

The women in Cheng Ming’s life only appear to own red or yellow clothes. Xiao Qing did have a green jacket in panel 2, but that was only in exchange for the green hat she gave Cheng Ming after 5 years of illicit pre-marital sex.
Feng Jie asked: “Is it really because of this?” Seeing that Feng Jie didn’t quite believe him, Cheng Ming simply and openly said to her: “I have committed a serious crime, but I have already reformed into a better person. I really can’t bear to lose you and our son, I don’t won’t you both to become a widow and orphan. I love you too much. In this world I only have one person close to me. Only you can help me. We are husband and wife, bring our son and come to Henan.” Cheng Ming’s words moved Feng Jie so she agreed to Cheng Ming’s request. She quickly sold the house for 35,000 yuan and also sold the tractor plus all the other household belongings that were worth money. Then she brought their son and went to Puyang together to be reunited with Cheng Ming.

I have NEVER seen this many police in Beijing take a matter so seriously unless it was a drunk foreigner giving out free cigarettes on Sanlitun.
After Cheng Ming’s family disappeared from Jing County, the police did not rest in tracking him down. After much investigation, they finally found out Cheng Ming’s new address. On the night of April 24th 2001, the police in Henan’s Puyang City arrested Cheng Ming and Feng Jie and returned them to Beijing. On August 30th 2001 the No.2 Beijing People’s Procuratorate charged Cheng Ming with the crime of murder and Feng Jie with the crime of harbouring him, and sent them to the No. 2 Beijing People’s Middle Court for trial. The Court thought that Cheng Ming had disregarded the state law, and had carried out cruel means to deliberately take the lives of others resulting in two people dead. This behaviour already amounted to the charge of murder, but his criminal nature was especially evil, deceitful, and ended in serious results. He represented a serious danger to society and should be punished in full accordance of the law.

Cheng Ming and Feng Jie were sentenced to be handcuffed to dummies of police officers in a Beijing Police Waxworks Museum for eternity. Let that be a lesson to all.
Feng Jie knew clearly that Cheng Ming had committed a crime. When the police sought to arrest him, she aided Cheng Ming in evading the sanctions of the law. These actions were enough to amount to the crime of harbouring and should be punished in full accordance of the law. On 17th September 2001 the No. 2 Beijing People’s Middle Court sentenced Cheng Ming to death according to the law and to be deprived of all of his political rights to the end of his life. Feng Jie was sentenced to two years detention, with a suspension of two years. The master criminal Cheng Ming finally received the full punishment of the law a whole 15 years after his crime. As for Feng Jie who should have had enough of an average citizen’s consciousness of the law to report Cheng Ming to the police, her regard for the law was weak so she helped her husband to escape. Thus she also received due punishment. This should give cause for everybody to consider: between love and the law, which one should you choose?

“Today’s episode of government propaganda has been brought to you by the letters B, J and the number 8.”
The Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Section 232: The crime of murder is punishable by death, life imprisonment or a minimum of ten years imprisonment. If the motives are lighter, it carries a sentence of between 3 to 10 years imprisonment.

Section 310: The crime of knowingly harbouring a criminal from justice, either financially or through other means, carries a sentence of 3 years or less imprisonment. If the crime is more serious, it can receive a sentence of 3 to 10 years imprisonment. For repeat offences, cases will be considered individually.





If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

You’ve been Chinar-ed!(POTUS edition)

It can happen to the best of us…

“Of course we will stop working with North Korea. We are friends – pengyou – that means you can trust us. Relax. No problem. Have a beer – it is called Tsingtao, verr delicious. Go well with your American hamburg. Don’t worry about Pyongyang. You are verr handsome, do you know it? How much you pay for Mar-a-Lago?”

The Beer Festival That Wasn’t. 

Images may appear much more fun than real life

History would be a lot different if everybody got their dates wrong. Imagine if Lenin and his Bolsheviks had decided to stage their revolution in July and not October. All the Communists would have found when they prematurely stormed the Winter Palace would have been a couple of idle serfs draining the Tsar’s pool. What if Lee Harvey Oswald had got stuck in traffic on his way to Dallas, and missed JFK’s visit? Marilyn Monroe would be raising an illegitimate Presidential baby, and Oliver Stone would never have made a career out of movies. And consider a world where a foolish Arthur C Clarke decided to set his Space Odyssey in 1452 instead of 2001. Arthur would have been laughed out of the Science Fiction Guild before he could say “Han Solo”. So it is no wonder that I have so far failed to become a noted historical figure. My ability to confuse dates is outstanding; if ever I succeed one day in conning some unfortunate woman into bearing my child, I’m sure I’ll be dismantling my Corby trouser press while my other half shits a placenta into a net.

It’s this complete inability to grasp the simple concept of time that foreshadowed my first ever trip to Qingdao.

August. Hangzhou. 2005. A city so hot, even Ethiopians would be shaking their heads in pity if they had seen scenes of it on TV. The air was drier than Oscar Wilde’s wit. My friend and I sat sweating together like two Prisoners of War building a railroad, whilst we racked our sizzling brains for a solution to our heat problems. As we sat discussing the logistics of dragging a glacier all the way to China, my gaze fell on the Tsingtao I held in my hand. The nice, ice-cold, refreshing bottle of Tsingtao goodness…

“That’s it!” I shouted (actually, I didn’t really shout that, this is something we writers call a “literary effect”), “We can go to Qingdao for the Beer Festival!”

It was a perfect plan. Head north for a week to a refreshing coastal city with a nice sea breeze, and drown our sorrows away with bottle after bottle of cool Tsingtao alcohol. I was about to get fired from my job anyway, so giving myself a week’s holiday was going to be no problem.

A quick Google search provided the date of the hallowed Festival of Beer. I felt like Augustus Gloop preparing to enter the gates of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; only better because instead of fudge it would be beer. Plus, there would be no danger of getting sucked up a chocolate pipe by Oompa Loompas.

We packed everything we would need for our formaldehyde filled frolics: swimming trunks, beach towels, alka-seltzer. In short, everything but the kitchen sink which we would inevitably need to vomit in when the hangover kicked in. Once the packing was done, it took us nearly a day by rail to get from Hangzhou to Qingdao. We prepared ourselves on the train by playing a few rounds of Extreme Scrabble (you know, the version where you have to down a pint if you use a vowel), and wondering where it all went wrong. Everything was all set for us to have the best time since sliced bread.
Except it didn’t happen. When we arrived at the beach, we saw the work monkeys dismantling the few remaining Tsingtao stands. We saw the empty beer tents that had once contained the kegs of wife-beater fuel. We saw the litter strewn everywhere by people who had obviously had a fantastic, and environmentally unfriendly, time. And, if you had looked at me, you would have seen a broken man.

I had gotten the date wrong. My friend checked the website I had looked at, and pointed out that I had taken the date for LAST year’s Beer Festival. I had never felt so stupid since the time I told my mum that my new study desk was made from monogamy.

We tried to do it ourselves, but it wasn’t the same. We had the beer, but no festival. It was like meeting Laurel without Hardy. No matter how many beers we drank, or how many times we were violently sick, nothing could replace that festival feeling. We went back to Hangzhou like the sad losers we were.

Thus, that was the Beer Festival that wasn’t. I’m positive, deep down, that the only reason why I later moved to Qingdao was to make certain I didn’t miss the Festival each year. My therapist says that writing about it will help me to get over it, and then the healing can begin.

Oh well, at least I’ll never forget that Christmas is on December 27th…


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Banker’s Inferno: A Diabolical Tale About The Bank Of China


(An old post from the archives after a memorably traumatic experience at the Bank of China. If you’ve got any Bank of China horror stories (and if you have ever used them then I am sure you have), please share in the comments section.)

Freezing winds blasted down the alleyways of Pandemonium’s Ninth Circle, shattering icicles and throwing them down onto the frost-covered stones. Somewhere, beneath the tall gateway where the words “Abandon hope all ye who enter” lay hidden beneath an inch of thick ice, two lower-level demons huddled together beneath a thick blanket.

“I, I… I’ve never been so cold in my entire afterlife…” stuttered the first demon, a minor diabolical deity who was now rubbing his claws together for any warmth he could muster. “When will His Dark Highness do something about this?”

The second demon, a low ranking Demon of the Eighth Level who had once taunted Christians in the desert two millennia ago, pulled his scarf tighter around his neck and let out a loud sigh.

“The last I heard His Satanic Majesty was trapped in the Palace of Eternal Fire behind a snowdrift. It could be days before they fix the boilers.”

As the demon’s teeth snapped off his final word, the wind blasted again, and brought with it a scrap of paper that smacked right into the first demon’s horned face. The creature pulled the paper off with chapped claws and read it aloud.

“A short lecture on new 21st century ways to increase misery and despair amongst the souls of mortal men by the CEO of the Bank of China…” The demon’s claws shook as he read.

“Nah, not interested,” said the Eighth Level Demon, “We kicked those Financial Demons out of Hell years ago when they started boring the damned instead of torturing them. Most of them work for Goldman Sachs now. They’re as dull as the Grim Reaper’s party tricks.”

“…Hot drinks and refreshments provided,” the first demon continued.

The wind howled again and the screams of the shivering damned rose up from frozen lakes of sulphur.

“Right, let’s go”


The Great Hall of Evil was packed as demon after demon filled into the Hall to escape the bitter winds outside. On stage, a representative from the Bank of China stood awkwardly and fiddled with his tie.

“Friends, devils, fellow minions of evil; it gives me great pleasure to address you all today on the great benefits the Bank of China can bring to the unholy cause of human misery…”

“GET ON WITH IT!” shouted Beelzebub’s second cousin from the back of the room as he pushed lesser demons out of the way from the tea urn.

“Ahem…” coughed the Bank of China representative, “The Bank of China has devised and implemented a number of initiatives that optimizes feelings of hatred and emptiness within the hearts of customers, thus providing a firm supply base for Hell’s future damned souls.”

The rep continued. “Our policy of not linking individual bank branches is proving to be a continuing success. Though all our branches carry the name “Bank of China”, we have seen to it that it is virtually impossible to do business outside of one’s hometown. Clients cannot receive bank transfers on business trips, and we even charge customers a hefty surcharge to deposit money into their accounts when away from home. So far, this has resulted in at least 7400 cases of unfortunate souls being without money when they needed it most, and so they turned to a life of organised crime in order to get by.

“Our refusal to convert Chinese currency back into foreign currency has led to over 300,000 foreigners going crazy and being committed to government sponsored mental institutions. However, mere refusal alone is not enough to condemn a man’s soul for a hellish eternity. We have left open avenues to convert renminbi into dollars, but the bureaucracy and paperwork involved is so long and torturous that it will surely lead to the ultimate triumph of evil over good. Victory will be ours!

“Oh! I haven’t mentioned the diabolical queuing system that we have installed in our banks! We have filled our offices with the most incompetent staff this side of Armageddon, and crippled them with regulations so that they can only utter “meiyou” to all but the simplest of requests. Not only that, but we have given each teller demon a two hour lunch break! Imagine the cursed wretch who attempts to withdraw some money during his lunch break: wait and wait he will, but he will never reach the front of the queue for a million years! Oh, the puny mortal may actually think he can reach the teller’s desk in time, but we have hidden so many line-pushing farmers into every bank that his hopes will all shrivel and die!

“And our Financial Reich of Despair will reign for eternity in China, as we have seen to it that the foreign banks will be unable to provide competition. Oh, they can come to China and open offices, but the regulations we have enforced will ensure that the only thing the people in those HSBCs and Citibanks will be able to offer is a cup of tea and a boiled sweetie. As long as His Satanic Majesty is the major shareholder in the Bank of China, our government friends will guarantee that no foreign bank in China will ever be able to issue a bankcard, nor will they ever be able to open an account that can hold less than 2000 dollars. Just think of the sweet misery that will bubble up in the heart of Johnny Foreigner as he walks into the HSBC thinking he can escape the awe inspiring dread of the Bank of China! He will have no choice but to crawl back to us for his banking needs, and we will stand there waiting for him, waiting to twist his heart into a blackened shell. Evil will reign supreme – the mortal man is cursed, CURSED! All rise and hail the dark power of the Bank of Satan’s China! HAIL IT! EVIL, EVIL, EVIIIIIL!

“Any questions?”

The Bank of China representative looked up and saw that the entire room was empty apart from a janitor demon sweeping the floor. The janitor looked up and answered the man.

“The boilers are back on, I guess everybody went home.”

“Oh,” said the Bank of China representative, slightly disappointed. “I’ll let myself out then.”


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

How to write a China article

(I first wrote this in 2007 for Arguably, it was my most successful ever article. It was reposted in quite a few places, was translated into German, got featured in some mag, and even got linked to on Shanghaiist. Most of that seems to have completely disappeared now. There was even one person at the time who claimed I copied this off a Kaiser Kuo article. Pfffft, as if. There are better places to plagiarise from than that. The article still seems to hold as true today as it did back then. If you want to use this template for Japan just replace any instance of “Dragon” with “Samurai”. I’ve updated a few dated references too.)

“My name is Shaun Rein and I fully endorse this guide on how to write a China article.”

You’ve just arrived in your 5-Star room at the Shanghai Hilton and unpacked your fancy new Apple laptop.  As you pull the top off the mini bottle of Hennessey XO, you finally turn to your instructions from the editor back home.  2000 words by Monday about the important issues facing China today.  Easy.

But two days have passed and you are still staring at a blank screen.  You’re experiencing a stretch of writer’s block as long as the Great Wall of China and the deadline is hanging over your head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.  It seems that more research than flicking through a copy of Wild Swans in the airport is needed after all.

Sound familiar?  Then you, my journalist friend, need the Meursault’s fully patented guide on how to write that Pulitzer Prize winning China article.  Simply follow the steps below, and you’ll have your name splashed across the front page of every newspaper in Britain faster than a convicted child molester.


Each and every good China article begins with a carefully considered and well thought-out title.  “Cor, what a scorcher” may be good enough for a tabloid article about heatwaves in April, but if you’re going to impress your fellow tofu-eating, goatee bearded colleagues at the Grauniad office (not to mention that hot feminist who writes angry columns about women’s issues), then you’re going to need to think up a snappy headline.  Thankfully, titles for China articles follow a strict guideline, and a catchy media soundbite can be created in seconds thanks to Meursault’s (TM) China-headline-o’matic.  Just choose one of the words from column A, and match it with a random word from column B.

The Dragon
The East
1.3 Billion People
Red Star

Does Dallas

The only exception to this rule is when writing an article about the clash of western commercialism against old-style Communist practices, in which case the title “Mickey Maos” must be used.

Interview a taxi driver

You may well be isolated from the unwashed masses of China in your luxury Shanghai hotel room, but for God’s sake, you don’t want the brainless idiots who read your newspaper to know that.  A good journalist never loses his common touch: after all, the whole point of your article is to pretend that you care about “the Chinese people themselves” and how unfairly the system treats them.  Bob Geldof has made a career about appearing to care for African people, and hopefully you can do the same for Chinese people, earn loads of money, and buy a big fuck-off house in the south of France.  There’s no way you actually want to meet any of the Chinese people though.  It’s OK to let some of them clean your hotel room, but any more contact than that and you risk catching tuberculosis.  So you might as well make use of the only Chinese person you ever come into contact with – the taxi driver – and pass off his opinions as your own.

Interest rate predictions for the coming quarter?  Ask a taxi driver.
Improving Sino-Japanese relations in the post-Koizumi era?  Ask a taxi driver.
Financial aid to developing African economies?  Ask a taxi driver, but leave out his politically incorrect opinions regarding “those dark folk”.  The students in the Harvard reading room don’t like reading about that kind of thing.

If you can’t find a taxi driver whose political views match those of your readers, then just make one up.  Call him Mr. Wang, inform your public that he only earns a hundred dollars a month, and they’ll believe any old crap you write.  “I’ve been following the latest series of Game of Thrones with interest,” says Beijing cab driver Mr. Wang (43), “though Ramsay Bolton’s recent behaviour has been quite reprimandable.  Still, it’s hard to follow all this TV gossip when I only earn five yuan a year.”


Nobody really understands China.  Especially you, because you hadn’t even heard of the country until last week when you failed to be chosen as a New York correspondent.  So get around the whole problem of writing difficult conclusions by just presenting a series of contrasting images.  Here are some easy ones to start you off:

  • A statue of Mao with an advert for Coca-Cola in the background.
  • An elderly Chinese man, with a long wispy beard, sat on a bench next to a fibreglass model of Ronald McDonald.
  • A sign saying “Promote Environmental Awareness” stuck in a field full of nuclear waste and dead babies.
  • A girl with a mobile phone walking past a tramp.
  • A description of a fashionable Shanghai socialite who hangs out at Starbucks and likes KFC, quickly followed in the next paragraph by a description of a former prostitute who works 5 million hours a day in a condom factory for just two grains of rice a year.

A comment on “guanxi”

It is absolutely essential that you insert at least one line about this mysterious Chinese force called “guanxi” – pronounced “GWAAN-SHE” that dominates Asian business. Nobody in the West can even comprehend what “guanxi” is, let alone utilise it, so it is a huge obstacle to foreign businesses. Don’t forget to say that there is no English word equivalent for “guanxi”, except maybe “relationships”. Or “connections”. Or any of the other twenty words that can mean “guanxi”.

Vague Conclusion

When you’ve finished writing your pointless and vague summary of obvious contrasts, follow it up with an equally pointless and vague conclusion.  Write how some things point to x, whilst some other things point to y.  “The future, it seems, is still uncertain for China” is always a good one to sign off with, especially because other countries are all governed by psychic fortune tellers who know everything that will happen for the next 200 years.

If, for whatever reason, you want to try something different (perhaps this is not your first time to write a China article.  It might be your second, say), highlight the enormous population of China, and then focus on a single individual.  That way you’ve covered all the bases and it looks like you care.  You could even try and combine both conclusion styles if you’re feeling cocky.  For example:

“It seems that the future is looking bright for the 1.3 billion people who make up the world’s most populous nation.  But for Li Hui – who is still working at the condom factory for just two grains of rice a year – that future is still unclear.”

Follow the above guidelines and you can’t go wrong.  Before long, you’ll be printing the words “CHINA EXPERT” on your business card and you’ll have your own book about the Chinese political landscape listed under the Lonely Planet Guide to China’s list of recommended reads.

Perhaps you could even call the book “China Awakes”.

“My name is John Naisbitt and I categorically deny ever using a how-to guide on how to write a China article.”

Don’t believe me on the titles? Take a look at these…


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Panda Hugger Top Trumps

Hello! I’m Meursault, and when I’m not busy clicking “LIKE” on Facebook pictures about pugs and the babies of mild acquaintances, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good game to while away the long hours when I should be working for The Man. However, perhaps you are not as fortunate as me. Maybe you don’t work for The Man, but instead for The Han? And as we all know (say that in the voice of an overly zealous student) the Great Firewall means access to some of the better online games are inaccessible.

Not to worry! Your good friend Meursault likes to help his buddies behind the Great Firewall and is determined to bring some fun into the lives of TEFL Teachers and English Polishers everywhere by returning to the “old school” and introducing YOU to the game that is sweeping the Celestial Empire: Panda Hugger Top Trumps.

Yes! Finally somebody has been inspired to combine the old playground card game with everybody’s favourite CCP apologists. Have you ever wondered who would win in a fight between John Naisbitt and Martin Jacques? Have you ever pondered whether Eric X Li could get Daniel Bell in a headlock? Then this game is for you!

The rules are simple: just print out the following cards then gather your fellow English Teachers / Alcoholics / Fugitive Paedophiles for a rollicking good game. Compare your statistics and compete to become Xi Jinping’s Number One Fan. And just for extra fun: all cards have been decorated with beautiful hand-drawn bottles of Moet – because Champagne Socialists wouldn’t be Champagne Socialists without a bottle of bubbles!


Martin Jacques!

Kneel in terror at his unstoppable narration of the inevitable rise of China!  A man who is such a friend of the CCP that he has even adopted their beliefs. However the former editor of Marxism Today loses points for not knowing a word of Chinese and emulating Chiang Kai-shek in his hairstyle rather than the Great Helmsman.


John Ross!

The King of Outsourcing! Years spent studying Tim Ferris’ “4 Hour Work Week” has transformed John into a formidable one-man CCP propaganda machine: by simply outsourcing his entire Twitter updates to a group of underpaid Chinese students. Few can match the mighty John Ross in wealth following his large payouts from the British taxpayer. However, his wealth is also his weakness. For just as a panda cannot survive in the modern world without massive government assistance, neither can John Ross.


John Naisbitt!

John’s immense power lies in the fact that he is a futurist: meaning that he knows exactly the right things to say to appease the CCP leadership from Xi Jinping in 2016 all the way to Xiii Jinping in 2046. Sadly, despite John’s amazing powers of prediction, he probably didn’t see this blog post coming. 


Doris Naisbitt!

Wife of John Naisbitt, Friend of China. Probably the sexiest of the Panda Huggers Pack, but let’s face it: John Ross isn’t much competition in that area. Like her husband, Doris enjoys free lunches, riding the CCP gravy train, and not producing anything of value since the 1990s. 



Probably the least worst of the Panda Huggers – unlike the others on this list Mark Rowswell AKA Dashan genuinely possesses some talent. Unconquerable in his ability to speak perfect Chinese, Big Mountain makes the list mainly due to his abysmal performance as Edgar Snow (pictured on his card) and forcing every single foreigner in China to be compared to this “so handsome, so charm” Canadian cunning linguist.


Shaun Rein!

It may be “The End of Copycat China”, but it certainly isn’t the end of Shaun Rein’s copycat career as a self-promoting pro-Party bullshitter. Establishing himself on the corporate bullshit circuit as an expert on the economics of China with unrivalled insider knowledge, Shaun represents one of the most powerful Panda Hugger Top Trumps. Some people suggest that Shaun Rein is not human and merely a highly advanced form of artificial unintelligence or a complex pro-Beijing algorithm, but could an algorithm wear such dashing tailor-made suits on profile photos atop Forbes Magazine columns? We don’t think so.


Daniel Bell!

A powerful card to possess. Daniel’s firm belief that the Chinese Communist Party is a true meritocracy that should be emulated by governments all over the world has given him unique grovelling powers unequalled by anyone. Daniel Bell has brown-nosed the Party leadership so much, that it is often said within the halls of Zhongnanhai: “When Xi Jinping farts, Daniel Bell sneezes”. 


Eric X Li!

Look at that face. Beautiful. Those perfect Asian features come not from Photoshop as some cruelly suggest, but from the remarkable DNA he has inherited from the Chinese exceptionalism that he likes to talk about. Eric X Li is an unusual card to possess in your Top Trump pack because it can combine with the Daniel Bell card to become Super Mega Chinese Meritocracy Exceptionalism Panda Hugger – the strongest Panda Hugger on the TED lecture circuit.


Edward Heath!

A special addition from the now discontinued Golden Age Panda Huggers Top Trumps Collection (which featured a gold-lettered and extremely rare Edgar Snow card), the former Prime Minister of the UK was sucking up to the People’s Republic before it was even fashionable. However, being dead for the last eleven years has limited his public profile somewhat. I’m also legally obliged by my lawyers to state that Edward Heath was a wonderful man who did wonders for Sino-British relations and was absolutely NOT a child molester.


Gavin Menzies!

Whereas Shaun Rein and John Ross at least try to anchor their propaganda within the grounds of reality, Gavin Menzies just doesn’t give a fuck. Among his most audacious claims is that China first discovered America, China first discovered Europe, China first discovered Atlantis, and China first discovered the healing properties of the Holy Grail of Christ Himself (who was also probably Chinese).



So there you have it – 10 of the greatest Panda Huggers to ever grace the business class lounge of Pudong International Airport. However, an angry feminist on Twitter just pointed out to me that I have failed to check my privilege and only included one woman in the deck. Hence, here is a special 11th card because DIVERSITY!

Elyse Ribbons!

The woman who would attend the opening of an envelope if it meant she could show off one of her 17,000 traditional Chinese dresses, Elyse is a formidable opponent. Sadly, she hurts the feelings of the Chinese people due to her innate fempat weaknesses towards Western decadent luxuries like Element Fresh and Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks.



Spread the word about Panda Hugger Top Trumps and don’t forget to get in touch on the comments below if there is someone else who you feel should be included. I’ve paid $1.99 for this Make Your Own Top Trumps app so I want to get my money’s worth.

Oh – and look! Even Yang Wei and his son are getting in on the craze that is sweeping the nation!



Google Translate in action…

…either that or an outsourced Chinese translation company that gave zero fucks.

Bali Airport
Bali Airport Duty Free Section, yesterday. At least they didn’t call the cigarette section “Fags” then tried to translate that.
Speaking of which… I took this photo in Blackpool, England. I just can’t understand why so many Brits choose to holiday in Spain.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.