Mobike Rage

I have a confession to make – I hate Mobike. To be fair, I hate Ofo too, probably even more, because I end up using them more often. This feeling has been building for some time.

It’s not like I hate the idea of bike-sharing. No decent person is against that. Fewer cabs, fewer cars, better for the environment, cheaper – everyone wins. Except for the fact that everyone is actually losing. People use them, that’s for sure. Chinese people use Mobike as if they had never known a world without it. It cuts across demographics – the young, the old  – and across use cases. The original idea may have been to solve the “last mile” problem, but I’ve seen couples on dates and grannies getting groceries. Heck I’ve even seen people in sports gear using them to do laps around Century Park. Nonetheless, I still hate them.

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August 1937 – When All Hell Broke Loose

80 years ago this August the Battle of Shanghai began.

It wasn’t the first time war had come to Shanghai. It wasn’t even the first time that China and Japan exchanged blows in Shanghai. But it was the most devastating urban battle Shanghai – and the world for that matter – had ever seen. It was, as one historian remarked, as if Verdun had taken place in Paris just opposite a neutral Left Bank. It led directly into the Nanjing Massacre and kicked off a chain of events that culminated in World War II and ultimately the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan. It was real bad news.

Why look back? Aside from the fact that the Chinese government is looking back (expect big time propaganda leading up to December 13, the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre), I don’t know, knowledge I guess. Before I read Peter Harmsen’s book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze, I had only the barest outlines of what went down. I was pretty shocked to realise that rivers of blood once flowed under our feet. It seems significant. Here’s what happened.

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Review: Sleep No More in Shanghai

Recently I’ve been thinking about Macbeth. Mainly because back in March I went to see Sleep No More, a new play here in Shanghai, and I read somewhere that it was loosely based on Macbeth. Having seen it I can tell you that I don’t see much connection at all. But at least it got me back to Macbeth, which I consider to be one of Shakespeare’s most important plays and possibly his most puzzling.

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Buy the Book – Subway: A Shanghai Love Story

Here’s my book! Okay it’s really a novella – a love story set against the backdrop of the Shanghai metro. I’ve already moved about 50 copies and the response has been satisfactory so far. It’s illustrated by photos from Tom Carter, photographer behind one of the my favorite China photo books, China: Portrait of a People. You won’t find any foreigners in this book, just Chinese people. And I wager you won’t look at the subway the same way again.

I’m selling copies for RMB100 – which is just enough to cover production costs – plus shipping if you need it shipped. There’s no e-version of this one. Each comes numbered and signed. Support your local arts!

Email me at or you can message me through my Wechat OA – ConfuciusSez.


[Book Review] Crashing the Party: an American Reporter in China

Uncanny silence has surrounded Scott Savitt’s memoir since it was published in November last year. Though National Geographic and Vice both recommended it, there was no New York Times review, no big book tour, no NPR interview, no Literary Festival headlining slot. The local expat rags didn’t even pick it up which is surprising considering Savitt was for many years a well respected foreign correspondent and afterwards basically started what we now know as expat media in China. Why the lack of attention?

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China’s Real Secret Weapon

A few weeks ago, a link went around to a Washington Post story with this alarming headline: “China’s Scary Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works.” When I saw it I worried that someone had beaten me to the punch. I had been thinking of writing something along those lines. But then I read the story and was relieved knowing the Western media had gotten it wrong once again.

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The Legend of Hedy Lee

I haven’t thought of Hedy Lee in years. But in the last month she has made a comeback – among certain circles at least – courtesy of this thread on Reddit. It begins with indignation over a magazine article she wrote in 2009 giving advice for managing ayis before devolving to the question whether or not she was a fiction perpetrated by City Weekend. It’s an absurd question. A simple Google search shows you she is a real. The real question is – what to make of her?

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The End of City Weekend Beijing

Almost exactly one year ago we gathered here for the funeral for SmartBeijing. I certainly didn’t think only a year later it would be City Weekend’s turn. But that’s exactly what’s implied by this post which went around Monday. I started working for City Weekend Beijing in July 2006 and ran the entire editorial operation until October 2014 so this hits close to home. But this isn’t about rehashing the good times – you can go here for a bit of that – rather about trying to figure out what – if any – business model there is for expat media in China.

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