I was going through some old junk the other day when I came upon an old notebook from my school days. Inside was a selection of short stories I had written waaaaaaay back in the day when I was probably just 13 or 14.

Of course, they’re absolutely terrible.

More for my own sake than anything else, I thought I’d post one of them here just as a little time capsule. This abomination was called Changing Times and is a steampunk story that was probably heavily influenced by The Chaos Engine that was one of my favourite computer games at the time.


Changing Times


 (Extracts taken from the diary of Sir Philip Redgrave)

August 3rd 1897

Wallace the younger announced during our daily whist session that he is to leave for the United States on the eleventh to “seek new opportunities” as he put it.

The damned fool has resigned from his prominent position at the East India Company that his dear late father left him after so much hard work. We tried to dissuade him since the club would not be as lively as it is when Wallace is intoxicated and entertains us with his medley of college songs.

Alas he has set his mind on emigrating, claiming that our Great Britain was “behind the times”! Indeed! I always knew his interest in Marx would fill his mind with queer ideas.

On my return home I was about to see Charles when Mrs. Jones stopped me saying that he desired not to be disturbed. Must see him after breakfast.


August 4th 1897

Charles must be working on something special; he was up to ungodly hours tinkering on his latest contraption. As usual he thanked me for the loan of my basement and for taking an interest but said he was too busy for visitors. He promised to show me his work tomorrow. I do hope the poor chap doesn’t overwork himself like Hartford did at Oxford.

The rest of the day was quiet except that one of my students, Brown, expressed a desire to study the Rights of the Zulu Nation. He seemed rather fervent about it but I convinced him to continue his classical studies.


August 5th 1897

Charles has created a quite phenomenal machine! Straight after breakfast I went down to the basement where Charles showed me his latest device.

It’s a small brassy hued box about a foot wide and a foot high. It’s connected to a large pipe that moves around as if it is a snake. This pipe is connected to a large steam generator that resembles a combustion engine out of those infernal new automobiles.

At the front of the brass box is a sheet of this glass with lights behind it. Underneath are a series of protruding knobs labeled 0 to 9. Pressing these buttons cause that number to appear on the glass. By typing in numbers you can write calculations which the box will supply the answer to.

Charles calls it a “computer” and predicts that it will become a boon to accounts departments across the globe. I have advised him to apply for a patent.


August 6th 1897

The Lord Runcie has invited me to his estate… in India! The proposal was given to me over dinner at the club this evening. I’m delighted to view the far reaches of our empire since the university is getting rather tiresome lately.

It’s a large manor which he bought with the proceeds of the spice deal he made last year.

When I returned home Mrs. Jones seemed most distressed. Questioning her revealed nothing except that she heard “strange noises” along the walls during the day. It’s probably rats.

It will be good for her to have a rest while I am abroad, like Charles I fear she works too hard.


August 7th 1897

Left the house in the capable hands of Mrs. Jones and Charles who continues to add small improvements to his machine. Said my goodbyes to Wallace who will have left for the Americas before I am back. The young fool will be sorely missed by all.


(From the notebook of Police Constable Kerr)

August 31st 1897

A number of people have reported to me strange emissions of steam from the Mayfair residence of Sir Philip Redgrave.

His housekeeper, a Mrs. Phyllis Jones, says Redgrave is currently vacationing in India.

Will investigate for myself tomorrow.


September 27th 1897

Finally returned from India and have vowed never to return to that wretched country ever again.

What little I saw of it due to a high fever (mercifully gone) was full of dirt, disease, beggars and mosquitos.

The crisp September air is a refreshing change to the humid Indian climate which caused havoc to my sleep pattern.

Must go to sleep as soon as possible.


September 29th 1897

I awoke from my slumber to find such chaos around me.

The murdered body of a police officer was found behind my residence in early September. Another Ripper of 1888 in Mayfair? The body seems to have been mutilated in the most grotesque way according to the police. The sight caused the finder, Mrs. Jones, considerable distress and caused her mind to be lost because of the trauma.

Dear, sweet, gentle Mrs. Jones. I cannot write about the amount of pity, sorrow and concern I feel for her.

Charles bothers me continually. He seems little concerned about these events and concentrates all his energies into his machine which is virtually unrecognizable to its first state.

Pipes, cogs, wheels, dials and pumps completely cover the basement forming one giant monster of metal and steam. And right in the middle of the beast still lies the shiny brass box, a beating heart supplying constant power to the computer.

As well as calculations, the machine can now perform many other feats, the most amazing is its ability to simulate any environment in the little brass box behind the glass screen. Charles calls it a “virtual reality”.

Charles too has changed. Gone are his debonair looks which charmed the ladies at St. Hilda’s. He seems much more paler and thinner. When he rarely speaks it is in a much lower voice, almost sinister.

My conscience tells me to worry about Mrs. Jones, but there is something about that machine, and Charles, that intrigues me.


September 30th 1897

Forced myself to visit the Joneses even though I knew the sights would cause distress.

Journeying to their East-end terrace was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Rarely have I wondered from the comforts of the upper class society and the images that greeted me filled one with guilt.

The squalor that these people live in is mild compared to India, yet it is still rife with disease and vermin. The bad conditions must surely bring out the worse in people because the folk are repulsive, ignorant, arrogant swine. Mrs. Jones has a small but spotlessly clean terraced house; it is like a shining beacon of light amid the dirty East-end. She is in a most terrible condition, spending her day staring into blankness, never opening her mouth except to eat. Quiet Mr. Jones tends to her night and day. Thank heavens they are childless, otherwise it would be a nightmarish situation.

Latest news from the continent tells of increasing tensions between France and Prussia.


October 1st 1897

Spent the day browsing through the club’s library before my return to the university tomorrow. From what I read of Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days I can confirm that the parts based on our very Reform Club are well researched. When he visited the club a few years ago I was promised a part in it, so I may find myself reading about myself in a later chapter.

Sent out advertisements for a new housekeeper and got a note from Charles asking me to get some papers from his dormitory.


October 2nd 1897

Being back at the university was much more enjoyable than I had thought it would have been. The students and teachers seemed so eager to hear wonderful tales of India that it was hilarious to see their disappointment when I explained how little I saw of it.

Remembering my promise I went to Charles’ dormitory and saw that it hadn’t been used for a long while.

The papers seem to be a speech written by Charles about his computer for when he presents it to the university. It is interesting yet disturbing. I took the time to copy it out:


The Information Revolution by Charles Babbage.


“As we speak, the world around us changes as the Industrial Revolution improves living standards, communication, and mass production. Some people say that the future is now, but I disagree.

“To progress man has to find a way to change his environment to suit his needs, any good historian will tell you this. Mankind needs to overcome the obstacle of bad communication, transport and cultural differences if it is to achieve a one global Utopia.

“In the beginning I designed the computer as a machine that could store information and calculate any problem in seconds. Now I realize that it has the potential to achieve much more. Imagine a world where all countries are united as one and the jobs of production, cultivation and building are taken care of by a giant computer, leaving man free to enjoy life, study, and to expand the Utopia.

“To achieve this we have to be able to bend the environment to our will. This is where the technology of the computer comes in… (The next part is all about the technical details of the machine so I have omitted it).

“…with this power it is possible to “warp” space, time and matter.

“Objects could be generated out of thin air, terrain could be changed to a more suitable land, people could be teleported across the globe and time travel would become a reality. The possibilities are endless.

“With my computer, the Information and Industrial Revolutions would grow side by side, allowing man to step out into a brave new world!”

– Charles Babbage.


It seems that Charles envisions a new society. I fear that Marxism has deluded him with its promises.

The basement door was shut tight when I delivered the papers. Charles would not answer me despite my protests.

The machine now emits a monotonous banging that continues as I write this.


October 3rd 1897

That infernal racket never stopped during the night and Charles still won’t open the door.

Weariness prevented me from going to the university and I eventually resorted to staying at the club all day just for some peace and quiet.


October 4th 1897

The noise continued unabated until last night when it suddenly stopped.

Jardine inquired about my absence yesterday and refused to believe my story. The cur even threatened mw with dismissal if “I continue with nonsensical excuses”. Nonsense indeed! It was Jardine in ’78 that tried to convince us all in his sightings of spirits and poltergeists. Later that evening when I returned home the architecture of the room seemed strange and warped. Maybe I should lay off the sherry.


October 5th 1897

Something eerie is afoot and I’m sure that machine is the root of it.

I awoke to find my surroundings nearly unrecognizable. All the furniture and walls seem to be distorted and twisted to quite grotesque standards. From the outside the house is normal, but the interior resembles a macabre freak show.

What is happening to me? The bizarre happenings that have occurred recently are scarcely believable to myself. I must admit that I am now afraid of my own house yet I daren’t leave it for fear of what will await me when I return. The computer’s ability to “warp matter” is surely the reason for this devilry and Charles persists in ignoring my pleas to allow me into the basement. Perhaps he is dead and the machine is out of control, that would explain why a cloud of chaos has descended on Mayfair.

Tomorrow I must force the basement door open to try and stop that engine of destruction.

May God help me.


(The handwriting now is less cursive and is gradually reduced to a childish scrawl)

October 6th 1897

This will be my last entry, dear diary. Charles is dead. He had good intentions for that beast but it was not to be.

I managed to burst into the basement early this morning and was astounded at what I saw. How the machine grew to that size is beyond me. It was like a factory below my house. Rivets turned, pumps pounded away endlessly, cogs clicked into place and the steam… oh the steam! It was beautiful yet menacing, a huge monster never ceasing it’s work, forever growing, towering ominously. And right in the centre, supplying the amazing power, was the shiny brass box pumping energy into the creature’s veins.

As I stood in awe, Charles approached me not shocked in the slightest at my presence. Only his closest friends would have recognized him. His entire body was pure white and it radiated a soft luminance. I only dared to look into his eyes once and the sight still makes me shudder. Wild flames basked in a brilliant white glow danced in his white pupils like wicked devils.

He talked like a mad man, eyes darting in all directions, speaking of a new order where man and the machine lived together in harmony building a new Utopia.

It sounded so wonderful! The computer would spread British influence through Europe, the colonies, then the world! As the talk became more frenzied, the machine seemed to grow angrier. Every part of It’s body moved faster and faster until Charles reached the highpoint of his speech when suddenly It let out a huge piercing jet of steam from It’s furnace.

When the steam cleared Charles lay dead on the floor scorched to a cinder. The machine had turned on its creator.

I write this locked in my dining room in a state of abject fear. I have decided I cannot live in a world run by a machine with a mind of it’s own.

The last thing I saw before I fled from the basement was the little brass box. On It’s screen It showed something growing and growing until It filled the entire globe. Humans will not be needed in this world as the Beast can create further machines from within It’s bowels.

God created Man and Man nearly destroyed the Earth. So what of Man’s new child?

– Sir Philip Redgrave


So ends the diary found near the body of Sir Redgrave. The body of Charles Babbage was found in the basement scorched beyond recognition.

There is no sign of “warped furniture” or a giant machine; the basement is completely empty. The writings are probably the work of a deranged mind due to the fever Sir Redgrave contracted in India. The official verdict is that Sir Redgrave murdered Charles Babbage then took his own life.

The rest of the day was quiet except for some of the East-end populace making reports about “a huge mechanical flying bird” heading towards Westminster. Such reports have been dismissed as nonsense.

– Detective Inspector William Bull

Why Anyone Can Be Daniel A. Bell

My Profile Photo
This is my story.

Who is Daniel A. Bell? The answer may seem simple at first: Daniel A. Bell is Daniel A. Bell.

But you would be wrong. Imagine a young man born and brought up in the UK, a man who later moved to China and who also happens to have many of Daniel A. Bell’s physical and emotional traits: a skinny build, a fondness for black rimmed glasses, and lurid fantasies that somehow involve the Chinese Communist Party being a meritocracy worth emulating. My real name might not be Daniel A. Bell, but I sure as hell like to tell people it is. I even wear traditional Chinese clothes when I’m with Chinese people dressed in suits.

Why can’t I be Daniel A. Bell?

Let’s reconsider my case. Like Daniel A. Bell I have Caucasian physical features, I have lived and worked in China for more than two decades, I speak the Chinese language, I identify with Chinese culture and I also have written complete and utter nonsense online. But almost no one considers me to be the real Daniel A. Bell. When I tried to enter Daniel A. Bell’s office in Tsinghua University I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.

Instances like these point to the difficulty with a view that is deeply ingrained in media outlets like The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and at least implicitly endorsed elsewhere: That only Daniel A. Bell can be Daniel A. Bell.

I have tried to feel welcomed and loved since I based my whole identity around Daniel A. Bell fifteen years ago. His wife is Chinese, and I’ve done my best to stalk her since the Bells arrived in China in 2004. One night, when Daniel A. Bell was out on the international lecture circuit talking about “Chinese Exceptionalism”, I broke into their house, put on Daniel A. Bell’s pyjamas, and crawled into bed next to Mrs. Bell. But before I could even warm her up by stroking her hair and telling her about the limits of democracy, she had called the police and once again I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.

Some people try to help. My British friends sometimes tell me that I am being a “Bell-end”. It’s meant as a compliment, but the implication is that I’m only a “bell-end”. I don’t want to be a bell-end. I want to be Daniel A. Bell.

My sexy glasses
Me. Yesterday.

The obstacles are not insurmountable. I moved to Montreal so that I could claim the same Canadian citizenship as Daniel A. Bell then later devoted my life to writing fawning articles about the Chinese Communist Party. It has been said that Daniel A. Bell brown-noses the Party leadership so much that “When Xi Jinping farts, Daniel A. Bell sneezes.” I am determined to do the same – and more. When Xi Jinping farts, I want to be covered in shit.

My failure so far to be recognised as the real Daniel A. Bell certainly isn’t due to any lack of commitment on my part to imitate Daniel A. Bell. I’ve been working on slagging off freedom and democracy for many years, and it inspires the way I lead my life. Every time my wife asks if she can leave the house I slap her round the face and tell her that freedom of movement is unnecessary within my meritocratic household. I’m told over and over that my commitment to being Daniel A. Bell is more “Bellish” than Daniel A. Bell himself. At conferences in China, I often find myself the only person who is willing to share a stage with Eric X. Li.

I understand Daniel A. Bell’s fear of other people claiming to be Daniel A. Bell. During my research on Daniel A. Bell I discovered that he was relentlessly bullied at school by bigger kids who would steal his glasses, put them on, and chant “I’m Daniel A. Bell! I’m Daniel A. Bell! I like Confucianism and I smell like hell!” Such bullying must have left deep mental scars for life.

But I also learnt that there have been times when Daniel A. Bell was more welcoming to others claiming his name. A close relative of his – who I now have tied up in my basement – related to me the tale of when one of Daniel A. Bell’s cousins bought him a beautiful golden bell for Christmas. Daniel A. Bell christened the bell “Daniel”, and when I once parked my car outside Daniel A. Bell’s house at three o’clock in the morning I saw through his window that he still possesses his treasured bell and has engraved upon its surface – “Daniel: A Bell.”

Despite these ups and downs, Daniel A. Bell has come through it all and stands today as the respected author of such great political books like the catchily-titled Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times. It is time he put the past behind him and accepted that other people also wish to be Daniel A. Bell… like me. Slicing off his skin and wearing it as a macabre “skin-suit” should not be punishable by the law, as I explained to the Shandong police just last week. It is unacceptable that in 2017 when so many victories have been won for people of colour, our LGBTQ allies and those that identify as gender-fluid, that nobody will recognise me as “Trans-Bell”.

Daniel A. Bell describes his view of the perfect government to be “meritocratic”. Perhaps it is time for Daniel A. Bell to heed his own advice. If other people are better at being Daniel A. Bell than Daniel A. Bell, then why shouldn’t they be Daniel A. Bell? That is my modest dream: to be viewed as Daniel A. Bell not just in my own mind but by the people responsible for payroll and salaries at the Wall Street Journal.

— Dr. Daniel A. Bell is dean of the school of political science and public administration at Shandong University and a professor at Tsinghua University. His most recent book is Party Members.

This ABOMINATION was once published in a certain blog post called “Panda Hugger Top Trumps”. Disgusting.

Note: If you are confused as to what the hell this post may be talking about, perhaps this might help.

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.

The People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper

Recently I was searching through my old drawers in the hope of finding a piece of retro-treasure that I could sell to fund this month’s booze requirements. Perhaps a Millennium Falcon or even a homemade Tracy Island play set. Alas, no. However, I did stumble upon some of my old Chinese propaganda collection.

Back in the day I used to collect quite a large amount of Cultural Revolution bric-a-brac. Today, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you some selected passages from the May 1976 edition of the People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper – just four short months before the Great Helmsman was due to pop his clogs and enter the big Communist Party in the sky.


A solid choice for the front page of the PLA Pictorial. The classic Chairman Mao in full colour waving at the masses. I don’t think there was ever an edition of the PLA Pictorial that didn’t have Mao as the front page celebrity – a bit like how Philip Schofield is ALWAYS on British TV no matter what you are watching.

The main story of the month was the monuments meeting between Chairman Mao meeting some representatives from the Laotian Communist Party. Remember, this was just four months before Mao shuffled off this mortal coil and he is looking decidedly decrepit in this photo. Lie him down, stick him in a glass coffin, and he doesn’t look much different now.

Inside front cover: lovely red-tinged (literally AND politically) poster wishing victory to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Only the front and back pages, plus a central section, are in colour. The rest of the magazine sees a huge decrease in quality and even the paper is a little rougher. The same can’t be said for the content though! Here we have a fascinating pictorial on how the Party’s decisions are benefiting the masses all over China and being welcomed by everybody. Surely true Communism was only mere months from being achieved if it hadn’t been for that meddling Deng Xiaoping and his dastardly reforms.

Images from Xi’an, Lanzhou, Kunming and Guiyang in uniform dull black and white. The signs all basically say the same thing: uphold the Central Party’s wise two resolutions. What those two resolutions are I have no idea. Interestingly, the lower sign in the bottom left picture (Kunming) exhorts people not to follow the incorrect capitalist path of reformer Deng Xiaoping. Note how the two characters for Xiaoping have been deliberately slanted to an angle.

The glossy centrefold section. No nudes or Playboy bunnies here though, just morally upright images of everyday life in the worker’s paradise.

This is a performance in Guizhou of the revolutionary opera Sha Jia Bin which you can watch here if you are interested. It’s basically just about fighting the Japanese.

See how the women of China were set free from their chains and given the liberty to spend their lives working in factories. Women hold up half the sky! This liberated young lady is inspecting a high-pressure insect killing light.

Look at these wonderful products. It’s astonishing how the West didn’t just collapse overnight in the face of this astonishing industry. Above picture is a tractor, below are some generators.

This is how the full page looks. The bottom right picture shows the peasants warmly welcoming their new agricultural equipment.

I love this photo. It’s amazing how people’s faces actually looked different back then, as if they were infused with the holy revolutionary spirit itself. This is a branch of the Wuhan Party Support Team who have “organised some revolutionary cultural activities for the cause of class struggle”. These activities mainly consist of singing in large groups and writing slogans on walls. Not my words, the words of the People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper.

The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of a factory. The headline says that previously they had “never touched the oily parts of a machine, but now have become technical masters!”

The rest of the magazine is more or less the same: photos of people holding up banners, photos of machinery and photos of Mao. The editorial team certainly didn’t have to worry about clicks so you won’t see eye-grabbing headlines like “This one weird trick to denounce your neighbours!” or “Capitalists hate him! Find out how Wang Yang increased his class solidarity overnight!”

While looking through these magazines, I also found some of my large collection of Cultural Revolution era pin badges that I have amassed.


The last one is my personal favourite. It shows an Asian, European and African hand rising up in solidarity to hold aloft a portrait of Chairman Mao. How quaint.

The badges above are fairly generic pin badges that people would wear on their lapels. Below are some special collector’s sets that were never meant to be worn but were meant to be showcased in one’s home and treasured as great revolutionary tat.


Inside are badges of “New China’s Ten Greatest Marshals” and “New China’s Ten Greatest Generals”.


The Marshals.


The Generals.


Close up of the Marshals. Here you can see (from top to bottom) Zhu De, Peng Dehuai and Lin Biao. The write-up for Lin Biao denounces him as a counter-revolutionary and mentions his death in a plane crash over Mongolia.


Not as rare or as exciting as the Marshals and Generals badges, here are some generic Mao badges that anybody can buy in Tiananmen Square or in Mao’s hometown. The slogan on the left refers to Mao as “The Red Sun in the Hearts of the People.”


Quite who would wear all of these badges in this day and age is beyond me, though I would dearly love to see somebody rocking all twenty badges of China’s greatest Marshals and Generals. Maybe somebody can open up a restaurant that is a cross between TGI Fridays and a 1960’s commune kitchen so that the staff can strut their flair.



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?”

China Crayon Colours

Well, well, well… look what I found.

It’s the famous China Crayon Colours from our old Sinocidal blog!

Fairly self-explanatory and mostly still relevant. The only ones that haven’t aged well (don’t worry Zhang Ziyi, I’m not looking at you – in fact, nobody is since 2010) are the ones relating to now dead blogs.  The green was a reference to John Pasden’s background colour on Sinosplice that appears to still have a few breaths of life in it and is now mercifully free of the counter in the top-right corner that informed the world how long John had been in China. Chinabounder was the erudite sex blogger who was big news back in 2007 but has since disappeared like an out-of-favour former ally of Mao Zedong. Peking Duck still survives online but now posts so rarely that he’s more of a Mauritian Dodo than the eponymous tasty Beijing bird.


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.

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.

The Genius That Was Gou-Rou.com

Officer Balloon

It’s sad when great pieces of art don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Nope, I’m not talking about sales figures for Party Members, but in fact one of the funniest, wittiest and most original China satire sites of all time.

And you’ve probably never heard of it.

I know very little about the people behind Gou-Rou. The main writer was a “Tom” who used to comment frequently on the dead and sadly missed TalkTalkChina. Little is known about the mysterious Tom other than the fact he was based in Hong Kong. Many is the time I have pondered whether some famous China journalist like Tom Philips of the Morning Star Grauniad or Tom Hancock of the Soros-owned Zionist Conspiracy Mouthpiece Financial Times could in fact be the mysterious Tom, but neither seem to possess the necessary devilish wit and biting sarcasm,

Gou-Rou was a website that existed during the Golden Age of China Blogs – before the internet destroyed everybody’s attention span and nobody could concentrate on anything more complex than a Spongebob Squarepants meme. Obviously heavily influenced by British comedy legends Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris – with a ton of shout-outs to their masterpieces TV Go Home, Nathan Barley and Brass Eye – Gou-Rou had the type of dry and acerbic humour that can only be seen today in the occasional China Daily Show post (also well worth checking out).

Like Brass Eye and TV Go Home, Gou-Rou was a fake news website that also contained satirical spoofs of Chinese TV shows and pastiches of awful CCP propaganda and even more awful expat-magazine listings. Sadly, once the unspoofable Goebbels Times came along there was no need for Gou-Rou anymore, but the site remains online in a “that which is dead can never truly die” state like some nightmarish Lovecraftian god. I highly recommend checking out the still-alive Gou-Rou archives for the gems contained within before Mark Zuckerberg becomes the 46th President of the United States and the entire internet is replaced by a looped image of Mark’s head spinning around 360 degrees surrounded by the word “OBEY.”

Hypno Zuck

Here are a few of the choicest slices of Gou-Rou to whet your appetite…

CCTV Shows during the 2008 Olympics

Hello, readers. Here in China, there’s an awful lot of Olympic-themed TV on now and probably for the next few years. In this, our Olympic special TV rundown, we give you a taster of some of the highlights of what’s on during the Games themselves!

Olympic Breakfast with Wang and Zhou
Each morning during the Olympics, Consterna Wang and Gilette Zhou bring you a light hearted (and at times hilarious) look at the Olympics and the previous days events. Video montages of foreign athletes making mistakes will provide humourous asides from the main content – interviewing Chinese medal winners + members of the public inside a gigantic swing shaped like the Olympic Rings. (BTV6, 4:30am – 6:00am every morning)

Bending Balloons
Just because children might not be naturally excited by the Olympics doesn’t mean they can’t also be manipulated into thinking about it all the time! Starting in July, “Uncle” Feng will demonstrate how to make olympic shapes out of balloons to an in-studio audience of 3-6 year olds. Highlights will include “Uncle” Feng’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, “Uncle” Feng’s Inflatable Javelin, and in the final week, a step by step guide to building a life-size working replica of Liu Xiang, no longer the World Record Holder for the Men’s 110m Hurdles. (3pm – 3:30pm CCTV Kids. Also Available on CCTV 9 – with voice dubbing provided by 2004 US presidential hopeful John Kerry as “Uncle Feng”)

Isn’t Beijing Great?
Foreigners attending the Olympics will be interviewed to ascertain their positive impressions of Beijing. In Episode 1, a group of Dutch visitors explain how the “Great Wall is really long, the Forbidden City is amazing, and the Chinese people are so friendly and welcoming and rich”. Several visitors will be filmed as they apply for Chinese citizenship. (CCTV1 – Midday till late.)

Welcome to Chinafood
Introductory show, aimed at the tens of foreigners permitted into China for the Games, highlighting the wide variety of traditional Chinese food. Each episode goes to a new region of China, where three dishes are prepared, one consisting of stewing some meat and then chopping it up, the other two of chopping up all the ingredients into small pieces and then frying them.(CCTV-9, 2.30, 5.20, 11.12 pm daily)

Zhongguo Aoyun Lishi
History series drawing tenuous links between famous Olympic success stories and China. Episode 1: Chionis of Sparta and Leonidas of Rhodes were two of the most famous runners in the ancient Olympics. Two Harbin Technical College students, who have chosen Chionis and Leonidas as their English names, are interviewed about how excited they are for the 2008 Beijing games.(HLJTV, 7.20-7.53 pm every Wednesday)

Caring Han Athletes
Heartwarming programme showing that members of China’s all-conquering, non-drug-taking Olympic team have not forgotten their roots. Each week, we follow a different athlete as they visit hospitals, schools and local government buildings in bottom-rung single-industry cities around China to hand out trinkets to children and old ladies, accompanied by a relaxing piano moods soundtrack. Episodes end with most presentable children available waving Olympic and Chinese flags and shouting “中国加油!” while performing the state-mandated arm movements.(HBTV-2, 5.35 – 6.45 pm Mondays)

Officer Balloon
Enthusiastic police officer Xie Fei attaches helium balloons to his body and becomes Beijing’s leading expert in high-rise crime and prevailing wind directions. When it Rains, It Pours! – special Olympic themed six-parter. Floating gently in a south-westerly direction over Xizhimen bus terminus on the lookout for dissidents pretending to be beggars in order to discredit China’s economic miracle, Officer Balloon stumbles upon a needlessly complex plot to undermine the Olympics. However, before he can report back to his superiors he is caught in a sudden downpour caused by government weather management techniques and gradually forced to land — will he be mangled by the terrorist types? And how is former Tottenham and Olympique Marseille winger Chris Waddle connected to the whole thing?(BTV-2, 7.15-7.43pm Fridays)

How to market Chinese books in the UK

From China to Britain, a Book Odyssey

by Freddie Toastfork

With the unveiling of the five hideous mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there has never been a better time to raise the profile of Chinese literature in Britain, particularly for a number of companies specialising in publishing translated Chinese literature in Britain. So that’s why I’m here, to provide my integrated consultancy services and encourage those companies to get their books into the shops and flying off the shelves, as part of the British Council’s current Do China Favours With No Apparent Reciprocity campaign.

At this point you may be thinking. “How do you know what works in the book-selling world? I’ve never heard of you. Who are you?” Of course you’ve never heard of me. I was always in the background, working from the shadows. Pulling strings, toggling switches, slowly rotating dials until they produced an audible electric hum. But the fact is, I’m the expert on book marketing. I practically invented the modern concept of selling novels. If it hadn’t been for me, nobody would have even heard of books, let alone read them.

I came up with all the classic methods to induce book purchasing and the catching of eye to cover. Hideous shiny embossed lettering on the cover? I came up with that. Making the author’s name bigger than the title? That was me. ‘Recommended’ novels stacked in a less formal manner on tables in the middle of the shop to create a friendly, market stall ambience? Me again. Cluttered quotes from critics on the dust jacket? Actually, that was J.G. Ballard’s idea, but I came up with putting quotes and award names on giant round stickers that obscure most of the cover.

Now, the main problem is that while the money-burdened public like serious world literature, that doesn’t mean they’re going to read it. We don’t care if they read it either, as long as they buy it. So, my advice to anyone wanting to sell classics of Chinese literature is this: lie.

Specifically, the blurbs on the back covers should be punchy paragraphs of mendacity. The public want to be really grabbed by the blurb – they don’t want to hear from some crusty academic saying how great the new translation is.

Let’s try some examples.

The Family by Ba Jin
In rural China, respect is everything. In his latest hard-hitting thriller, ex-cop author Ba Jin takes on a brutal journey into the heart of organised crime. Xiao Dong is a young man about to “make his bones” for his crime family, but can he go through with it? His target is a wealthy businessman who will not kowtow to the Family – and the father of Pingping, the girl he loves. “Gripping, taut, a bloodied tour de force,” said the London Review of Books.

Camel Xiangzi by Lao She
Xiangzi is special – there aren’t many camels that live in their own apartment in Hong Kong, and even fewer that can talk! But Xiangzi feels lonely and alienated in the big city, so when a local zither enthusiast offers him a place playing the trombone in a modal jazz ensemble, he jumps at the chance. An international hit with young adults and literate camels alike, Camel Xiangzi is a heartwarming story of life on tour, the struggle for success and staying true to yourself.

Rainbow by Mao Dun
Mao Dun is sometimes hailed as ‘China’s answer to Nick Hornby’. In Rainbow, we can see why. The story follows teenager Nick as he grapples with the troubles of life, love and rock’n’roll in late 70s Iowa. Nick’s family is troubled, his school grades are low, but one passion holds his life together – the newly formed rock group of ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Rainbow. When Nick gets the chance to tag along on Rainbow’s US tour, it seems as though all of his prayers have been answered, and he even falls for the girl of his dreams. But traces of the past, and a bizarre conspiracy surrounding the band’s vocalist, Ronnie James Dio, may yet come to haunt him…

Beijingese-Actual Meaning Phrasebook

Beijingese-Actual Meaning phrasebook

by Rudolph Bracket

What Chinese people say, and what they really mean, presented in pinyin for the ease of our Chinese-deficient readers.

In the shops

Wo bu hui pian ni xiansheng – Wo xiang pian ni xiansheng

Ni hao pengyou! – Ni hao, you qian de ren

Ni hui putonghua ma? – Ni de yisi wo wanquan mingbai, danshi wo bu zhidao zenme huida ni de wenti.

In the Taxi

Women zou er huan ba, bijiao kuai! – Zou er huan wo hui zheng duo yi xie qian!

Ni shi nali lai de ren? – Wo hen congming, zhidao ni bu shi Beijing ren

Oh!! X – Hao! (X=the country you say) – Oh X mei you zhongguo hao!


Ni hao – Ni bu hao

Ni chi fan le ma? – Ni juede wo chuan zhei jian yifu wo pigu zenmeyang?

The Market

Waiguo pengyou – Waiguo ren.

Hello Hello! – Wo xiang he ni de xue!

Look look! – Ni kan zheibian, wo hui sha ni!

Heckling the Communist Party: A How-To Guide

So you’ve decided to heckle a plenum, committee or other meeting of the Chinese Communist Party. Good for you. As a veteran of this pursuit (I once heckled the late, geat Deng Xiaoping, though it was admittedly sort of an accident), I felt qualified and obligated to provide people with the following tips, which will begin…. now.

1) Choose your moment

Don’t be a jerk. This may seem like odd advice considering I’m advising you on how to interrupt a meeting with uncalled-for derogatory remarks, but bear with me. You’re trying to liven up this meeting with witticisms and insults, so make sure it’s actually necessary. If the speaker is witty, erudite and fascinating to listen to, don’t bother – you will only ruin the meeting for everyone. Now, I know people say that Chinese Communist speeches that are actually interesting are as rare as hen’s teeth, but with the increased industrial pollutants in the Yangtse and Yellow Rivers, hens with teeth are more and more common in China these days. So you never know.

2) Politics

The CCP isn’t a monolith, much as it would like to be. It’s also not a monograph – that would be a detailed treatise on a particular, usually quite narrow, subject.

So the CCP does have different factions and its politics does change – you can use this! Read up on how the speaker has conducted himself in the past. Or use Maoism as a weapon – although the Leftist faction is regaining influence in Chinese politics, it’s still uncomfortable for many to be seen as too close to Mao-era politics. Try comparing the speaker’s assertions to something from the Yan’an era. That should get ’em riled up.

3) Keep it simple

When you’re heckling, you’re on a limited timescale. Very limited. You’ve got to yell out your piece, get the punchline in and then BAM, out of there. You don’t have time to ramble about the massive number of problems caused by and facing, say, the Three Gorges Dam. Just point out it was a decades-long demonstration of how not to do civil engineering projects and be done with it.

Another facet of “keep it simple”, is don’t be afraid to go back to basics. Yeah, it’s great if you can come out with some epigrammatic number that cuts to the heart of the current debate, belittles the speaker and references a classic Rolling Stones track at the same time, but don’t belabour it. Sometimes it’s enough just to shout “why don’t you give a speech standing up, shortarse?”

4) Do your research

I can’t stress this enough, people. And I’m not even talking about studying CCP agricultural policy in depth or any of that kind of thing, I’m just saying get your facts straight. If all the speaker has to do to respond to your heckle is say “I think you’ll find it was not Jiang Zemin who coined the phrase ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, actually”, you’re history. I’ve seen too many good but overconfident hecklers come a cropper on this one.

Well, that’s it for now. Enjoy yourselves, take care out there and remember – always heckle the Chinese Communist Party responsibly, even if at times it seems trivially easy. Peace out.

Jobs Available

Native Teachers Wanted
A world famous state primary school in near south 5th ring road, seeks two motivated, fun, presentable Native speakers to teach starting from September 1st. Hours will be Mon-Saturday, 10am-8:45pm including free dinner. Salary 4000Rmb / month.

Sales Manager Position available
A joint-venture company is seeking a sales manager for its Beijing Office. You will be well-educated, white, with excellent Chinese and English. Available to live in Beijing for two years.
Desirable traits: At least 14years managing Multi-national Company preferred. + at least 2 years extensive experience in the copper plated gas-pipe seal industry preferred. Age over 35 years Able to invest in company also a benefit.
Salary range : 8000 – 9000Rmb / month depending on previous experience.

English Teachers Urgently Needed
Come live in Beautiful China!!! We have vacancies for the English teacher must urgently need to filled. Salary 5000rmb / month, positions available:
Jilin, Zhengzhou, Chengde, Dalian, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hefei, Taiyuan.

I am lovely tall Chinese lady. I offer full massage for you 24 hour discreet location. 300rmb / hour. Send me mail yes to Qiaojinu@163.com

Foreigners Required
We urgently need foreigners for Modelling and Acting. Please send photo and resume to foreignersactingup@163.com .

Assistant required
World famous exports company requires Assistant for the china manager. Necessary requirements: Female, 20-24, pretty, shapely, able to work late, desirable features, 160-180 cm
Secondary requirements: English speaker, able to use computer / office / word, honest, reliable, hard-worker, relevant experience, education.

Engineer Wanted
Engineer with experience on the Trio-tech production line software system control apparatus (Gamma version upgrade) required for manufacturing firm in Guangdong. Pay negotiable. ( Position to be filled urgently – The manual is in English and we don’t know how to turn it off)

Native American Teachers Wanted
No Cherokee.

If this kind of stuff doesn’t have you snorting milk out of your nostrils or calling up your doctor to report a serious case of split sides then I don’t know what will. Go check out Gou-Rou and laugh: laugh like a drug-addled hyena being forced to watch looped re-runs of Police Academy 4. DO IT.


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.

The Ex-Chairmen

Alan and Tony
Alan: Thanks for inviting me over over to the BBC, Tony. I haven’t been here since Bill Oddie’s leaving party when SpringWatch was cancelled. Messy business.
Tony 2
It’s my pleasure, Alan. Now, I wanted to talk to you about new sitcom ideas for the China market. China represents a lucrative new territory for us and research says they are just crying out for a new sitcom. Any ideas?
Alan 2
Ermmm…. yeah. How about this one? It’ll blow your socks off.


Scene: (Images of Chairman Mao overseeing the masses in Tiananmen Square, Deng Xiaoping visiting the States in a cowboy hat, Hua Guofeng being driven about in an open-top car, and Hu Jintao masturbating into an oven glove. After two clips of each, a bright red “YOU’RE FIRED” mark is stamped over each Chairman. Next clip shows all four ex-Chairmen carting their stuff on a tricycle to some random down-and-out apartment in Beijing)

Caption: The Ex-Chairmen!

(Shot of Mao Zedong trying to unblock a sink, shot of Mao Zedong falling over, shot of Mao Zedong being chased by a goat)

Caption: Starring Adam Sandler as Mao Zedong!

(Shot of Deng Xiaoping with his face glued to a window, shot of Deng Xiaoping kissing a man dressed as a woman, shot of Deng Xiaoping looking shocked)

Caption: Co-starring Ellen DeGenerate as Deng Xiaoping!

(Shot of Hua Guofeng punching a policeman)

Caption: And Charlie Sheen as Hua Guofeng!

(No image is shown of Hu Jintao)

Caption: Episode Five – Revolution is not a dinner party.

(Scene: A dirty, dingy hutong house with unwashed cutlery everywhere. Mao is walking around in his nightgown, Deng is making tea, and Hua is sat with his head in his hands drinking a bottle of whiskey)

Mao: Oh bloody hell, look at the state of this place! I mean just look at that cup, it’s actually got bloody mould growing from it!

Deng: Well, if the rest of you did some cleaning, instead of just me all the time, I’m sure it would be a lot tidier.

Mao: Shut up, will you? When I was Chairman, I had an army of Red Guards who I could call on at anytime to clean my cups.

(Hua takes a swig from his whiskey and shoots a passing rat)

Deng: But you’re not Chairman anymore, and the sooner you get used to that the better.

Mao: Oooh, you’re not Chairman anymore, you’re not Chairman anymore. That’s all I hear from you! You’re just jealous because my picture is in Tiananmen Square and yours isn’t.

Deng: They only put that up to keep the cats off the lawn.

Mao: Go fuck yourself, you capitalist running dog. I’m too busy for this – it’s time to feed Jiang Zemin.

(Mao walks over to an empty fish tank which enclosed a huge slimy toad. He sprinkles some flies into the tank which the toad greedily gobbles up)

Mao: There you go, my little baby. Eat them all up. Crush them in your maw.

(A letter pops through the door. Hua stands up, smashes a picture frame over Deng’s head, then falls over)

Deng: That’s the second time he’s done that this week!

Mao: (Looking at letter) Oh God, look at this. It’s a stupid postcard from Xi Jin bloody Ping. “Hi guys, really busy right now publishing my memoirs, hope all’s well with you.” Bastard. Bloody bastard. I hate that wind breaker wearing cunt nearly as much as I hate you Deng.

Deng: Oh, look! My two cats have come back! Hello boys!

(Two cats enter via the window – one black, one white)

Mao: Useless reactionary remnants of the feudal past. Did any of them bother to assist the masses and at least catch a mouse?

Deng: Yeah, one of them did.

Mao: Which one?

Deng: It doesn’t matter.

(Hua Guofeng moves to slam the cats with a giant hammer but is interrupted when Hu Jintao suddenly bursts into the room)

Hu Jintao: I’m pregnant! And the father is one of you!

Mao and Deng: Say whaaaaaaaaat?

Jiang Zemin: Ribbet.

And so on, and so on; for another seven seasons.

Alan 1

Tony 1

Smell my cheese!
Smell my cheese, you mother!



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.

Book Review: Expat Jimmy by Travis Lee



Within certain expat circles, stories about one’s first day in China are almost akin to stories about losing one’s virginity. There is a certain oneupmanship involved in trying to depict the first moments of one’s time within the Middle Kingdom that wouldn’t be out of place within a male locker room. Considering the physical symptoms of jet-lag that normally occur after a long-haul economy-class flight it’s amazing how few people readily admit to just falling straight asleep on their first day in China, but these are probably the same people who claim that the first time they had sex it was with their Double-D endowed babysitter and lasted all night till the bed broke.

(When people ask me about my first day in China I normally regale them with the tale of how I went alone to a hotpot restaurant and ate all of the food when it was still frozen as I didn’t know I was supposed to wait for the waitress to bring along the bowl of hot soup. That actually happened… but it was not until about three weeks after my arrival. If I was to tell them that my first day in China involved nothing more than a three hour wait in the airport for somebody to collect me followed by nothing more exciting than an early night and 45 minutes trying to translate the remote control for the air-conditioner than I imagine that they’d probably wander off bored and look for a Hunter S Thompson novel.)

Travis Lee may be known to long-term China expats as one of the occasional writers for the now defunct Lost Laowai blog. He has previously released a novella entitled The Seven Year Laowai which is a semi-autobiographical story about being an English teacher in the third-tier city of Wuhan and the strange types of fellow educator that is often found in these schools. Now Travis has released Expat Jimmy – another short story (very short, in fact) which acts as a spiritual prequel of sorts to his previous work.


Across its hundred or so ebook pages, Expat Jimmy details the first day in China of the aforementioned “Expat Jimmy”. Like the protagonist in The Seven Year Laowai, Jimmy appears to be a semi-autobiographical stand-in for the author – a fact he clarifies within some of his blog posts. Jimmy arrives in Wuhan and is shown around the city of Wuhan by long-term sexpat expat  and Head Teacher Adam. Throughout the long day they go through an implausible number of activities and places for just one day – let alone the first day in a new country fighting against tiredness and jet-lag. Jimmy visits a few bars, a nightclub, a KTV joint, a restaurant, the house of a Chinese family, the house of another foreign teacher who wishes to buy drugs, and even witnesses an attempted suicide on the streets. Compare this to my own list of activities that I accomplished last Sunday which is composed of nothing more than ordering a pizza and watching five back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad.

The amount of places visited is unrealistic, though I can understand that the author is trying to present an introduction to all the weird and wonderful aspects of life in China within the vehicle of a one-day timeline. It doesn’t quite work and there is almost a little too much happening within the one hundred pages of this story for it to settle in the reader’s head and leave an impression. In addition to the numerous places visited, there is also an underlying story of Adam’s past hinted at, as well as fears within the newly arrived teacher that he is setting out on the same path.

Travis is a good writer and has a knack for describing the feelings of emptiness and vague fear that are experienced by young rootless individuals seeking out meaning in a new set of surroundings. His characters all carry an air of being lost or searching for something that isn’t there to be found. There is an existential dread lurking in the background that I enjoyed. Both Expat Jimmy and The Seven Year Laowai have some great elements but I felt both were not quite the finished product. Now that Travis has some experience in writing I would like to see him perhaps combine his two stories into one whole and create a tale greater than the sum of its parts. I hope he can rise to the challenge.

Travis Lee blogs at http://www.travis-lee.org and Expat Jimmy can be found on Amazon.


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.