Sunday, October 16, 2005

Just like I'd never been away

MO Lunch
Originally uploaded by jiulong.
It's funny experiencing the transition from being a "foreign expert" in Beijing with all the privileges that entails to being unemployed and broke in Australia. I've spent the last couple of weeks taking it easy and spending time with my kids. Playing cricket in the park [real grass! real fresh air!] and of course been down the beach and doing a bit of bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. I've been living off my last wages from China Daily, which not surprisingly have disappeared at an alarming rapid rate: 6000 kuai doesn't go very far in Beijing, let alone Sydney.
I came across my former editor, Zhu Ling, while surfing the net this week, hosting a forum on Sino_Japanese ties.

Zhu Ling, editor-in-chief of China Daily, said the China-Japan ties now face serious challenges, and media organizations could and should do more in promoting good relations between the two nations.

I think he's being a bit hypocritical to say the least, given that China Daily has been banging on so much these last few months about the dastardly Japanese and how China won the war against them single handedly in 1945. I'm all for making Japan make some sincere and concrete steps towards acknowledging their WWII aggression and atrocities, and facing up to their past. But the way China is now drumming up anti Japanese hatred is scary.
Zhu Ling (朱灵), editor of China Daily

Zhu Ling: "Japan should follow China's example and come clean about the past. What? No I haven't read the Tiananmen Papers or Jung Chang's latest book, why?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Richard of Peking Duck blog visits China Daily

Richard of Peking Duck blog

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

So you want to work for China Daily?

crecon, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Despite, or perhaps because of what I have written here, I have had quite a few emails asking me how to get a job at China Daily. Well, let me try spell out the basics here.

What's the work like?
As someone has already pointed out in the comments, the job of a foreign copy editor is undemanding and low paid. You work a five day week, and some of this may be in shifts, working say 6pm until 1am, or more likely 10am to 7pm. It depends where you work. Generally, the work on the supplements such as Beijing Weekend, 21st Century and the business supplement tends to have more regular hours. The work isn't that busy or difficult, so long as you can correct badly written articles. But it can be frustrating, like when you spend two hours re-writing a feature and then find they put it through without any of your changes.

You can expect to earn 6000-8000 rmb a month, which is a bit less than what you would get as an English teacher. However, you do get a nice new apartment (with dial up internet) and all your bills are paid for you. And three quarters of your pay is in US dollars rather than rmb, so you can save it up and take it home if you wish. Also, the China Daily office don't muck you about or rip you off, and will sort out all your visa stuff for you and even give you a [one way] ticket to China, and a return ticket if you complete your one year contract. Most English polishers are given a one year contract - in rare circumstances this might be renewed, but most have to leave after 12 months.

Most editors have some basic experience or skill in editing/proofreading, but a qualification or experience in journalism doesn't seem to be essential. You have to pass a writing/editing test that China Daily will email to you, to see if you can manage the basic copy editing skills. You won't be working as a journalist but as an English polisher, so don't expect to be writing features or working as a reporter (though there is talk that this may change). Working at China Daily might be a good introduction to the basics of editing, but is no substitute for experience on a western newspaper.

Most polishers are Brits at the moment, but there are some Canadians, Kiwis and Americans. The China Daily style is British, but this doesn't preclude North Americans.

You are entitled to about 20 days holiday a year, I think, but can't take any in the first six months of your contract. You also get the extended holidays like National Day. As you may have read, China Daily does organise some outings to local sightseeing spots and resorts, all of which are on the company tab.

China Daily is stuck up in the wilds of north Beijing, not near anywhere in particular. It is half way between the student ghettos of Wudaokou in the north west and the expat/business/bar districts of Sanlitun/Chaoyang in the east. You can get around by taxi for about 20 kuai a pop, but the traffic is terrible. The China Daily office is midway between the third and fourth ring roads, and about half an hour away from the nearest subway line [number 13 at Shaoyuju]. There's no decent coffee or bars nearby, and Carrefour is about 15 minutes by taxi.

Social life?
There are about a dozen foreign editors working at China Daily, most in their twenties and there's usually something happening at the weekends. As you can read from my posts, there's usually plenty of drinking involved.

Do I have to be a Communist/Pro-China?
Nah. There are some card-carrying foreign Party members on staff but it's not compulsory. Likewise they are not expecting you to be Israel Epstein. but I wouldn't apply if you are a practitioner of Faln G0ng.

Language? Do I need to speak Chinese?
No. All the Chinese staff speak English. So much so that it's not a good place to practice your Chinese, and if you want to learn you will have to enrol in lessons outside working hours.

If you are still interested after all that, you can contact the foreign affairs bureau [Waishiban] at The guy in charge is Pan Zhongming ( They have vacancies from time to time, and do all the application procedures via email.

But don't tell them I recommended you. Good luck.

(And in the meantime here are some pics of the place):

China Daily building

100_0559, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Huixin Dongjie

beijing 012, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Tang Dynasty bar zone

100_0654, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Along the canal, near Huixin Dongjie

"Tang Dynasty bar street"

beijing 013, originally uploaded by jiulong.

The canal near China Daily.

China Daily lobby

100_0918, originally uploaded by jiulong.

China Daily lobby

beijing 042, originally uploaded by jiulong.

China Daily compound

beijing 252, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Taken from the foreign experts' apartments.


beijing 251, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Foreign Expert's card

expert1, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Beidaihe - Pan Zhongming takes us to Vassily's bar

Beidaihe boozers, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Me, Pan Zhongming (acting head of foreign affairs department at China Daily), Ravi Narasimhan (China Daily senior editor and columnist) and Charlie Gidney (foreign copy editor).

Party Committee room

100_1773, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Red Flag computer

Red Flag computer, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

The newsroom.

Foreign editor's night out at a North Korean restaurant in Beijing

Pyongyang restaurant, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

Here you can see Charlie, Julia, someone from 21st Century magazine, and Ian Morrisson.

Huixin Dongjie

Huixin Dongjie, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

China Daily is at number 15.

Huixin Dongjie

Huixin Dongjie 2, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

Or is it Yinghua Lu (Cherry Blossom Street)?

View from China Daily foreign experts' apartment block

Overlooking the chemical engineering university high school.

China Daily newsroom

China Daily newsroom, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

The English polishers sit on the left at the far end of the room.

China Daily canteen

China Daily canteen, originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

"The Noodle"

"The Noodle", originally uploaded by Zhuan Jia.

The restaurants opposite the China Daily compound.

Some of the Beijing Weekend staff

Beijing Weekend staff, originally uploaded by jiulong.

Here you can see (L-R): Wu Liping, (designer/sub), Li Shuo (head up), Zhang Tianxing, Xiao Changyan, Tan Rui, unknown, Ye Jun, Clara??, photographer.

Monday, October 03, 2005

From Chai to Bondi

Originally uploaded by jiulong.
I went to see the cardiologist on Friday, here is Sydney. She took one look at my Beijing ecg report and raised her eyebrows. If the machine was correct, I'd had one of the highest rates of cardiac arryhtmia she's ever heard of. But now it's all back to normal. She just couldn't work it out, and wondered whether the machine or technician had recorded things correctly. She also took a look at the pills I'd been prescribed for my heart condition by the internal medicine specialist at the Sino Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing.
"Did you take any of these?" she asked.
No, I replied, somewhat guiltily.
"Just as well, they would have made things a lot worse, not better," and she threw them in the bin.
After a thorough exam, she said I'd had apparently had a temporary but potentially serious episode of atrial arrhythmia [a heart murmer to you]. Her prescription was rest, no coffee or chocolate, some beta-blockers just in case, and a decent diet. She couldn't say what had caused it, but it wasn't stress or psychological, she reckoned.
"It must be something in the water over there," she concluded.
Well I guess that's my Beijing adventures over for a while then.
Looking back on it all, I have realised that I was never going to adapt to working in Beijing. I love the city and Beijingers, but as a place to work the city is, well, not for me. Despite all the hype about Beijing being the wave of the future, and China having a "can-do" culture, I found that it is still the same crusty old northern city underneath. The can-do attitude may apply to business, but in the media it is definitely still "foreigners can not do". Just ask Rupert Murdoch, Mark Kitto [founder of That's Beijing] or Scott Savitt [founder of Beijing Scene, also run out of town]. The lesson is that when it comes to the media in China, unless you are a foreign correspondent working for a western company, you are going to get screwed.
Another thing I realised was that most of the Beijingers I met were working like mad to try and attain the things that I already have at home. A car, a decent house in a nice suburb, interesting places to visit, and a little luxury. They all want the VIP lifestyle, but I already have that here: I can drive down to Bronte beach and let my kids play alongside those of Lachlan Murdoch and supermodel Sarah O Hare any weekend I like.
If I want to read some interesting Chinese literature I can find the latest by Ma Jian at Kinokuniya, but not at Xinhua on Wanfujing.
Of course there are some things I will miss. The ridiculously cheap and excellent food. Overhearing the wry humour and civilised talk of everyday Beijingers. Riding my [now stolen] bike down through the hutongs. Stuff like that. Oh, and the chance to see weird and wonderful things like North Korean and Cuban cabaret.
But I can't say I'll miss the weather, the pollution, the traffic, the spitting or the "Let's All Hate Japan and Blame the Foreigners For Everything" national mentality. I also found that a lot of expat life in Beijing revolves around drinking, which I can do without. And the concrete. It's nice to be able to have a bit of grass that you can sit on that doesn't have a fence around it, or need daily sprinkler treatment to keep it green.
I've also realised that my interest in China is really focused on the south west, and I will revert back to my annual treks down into the unexplored parts of the Yalong canyon and the peaks of Muli (see my other blog, In the Footsteps of Joseph Rock.
In the meantime, I will keep one eye on China Daily, on the off chance that they actually start to report something on what happening about bird flu. The WHO and the UN are now saying that a worldwide pandemic of H5N1 flu is a certainty, and guess where it will orginate from? China - and most likely Guangdong. But while every other country in East and SE Asia is reporting an increasing number of suspected cases and deaths, China still has a news blackout on the whole matter. All they are saying is that they are "prepared", and that some wild ducks in Qinghai have died. China is covering up hundreds and possibly thousands of cases of bird flu, and no doubt many human infections and possibly deaths too. For all its moral posturing about being a country of laws and more openness, it is now endangering the whole world with its secretive attitude towards this potentially global disaster.
Well, I hope we get a bit of warning before it hits Australia's shores. I'm off now to buy some Tamiflu. Because I think that when bird flu strikes. it will make the 2008 Olympics, the Taiwan question and even the occupation of Iraq seem insignificant.

North Bondi
As for the future, I will continue to blog about Sydney. The problem is that a comfortable and pleasant life makes for excrutiatingly boring reading. If you're feeling masochistic, or just want to see some nice photos of beaches and happy families, head to Photos of Sydney. See you there.
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