I was just reading a commentary on the new Chinese Franchising Regulation by a foreign law firm. It is a 2 page analysis of some of the key provisions and likely ramifications of the new regulation.
I am not criticizing it as I often write very similar things myself, but it is full of phrases like:
"While it is not explicitely stated in the regulations...."
"However, there are several points which are unclear. These points will hopefully be clarified by the Chinese government..."
"By reading this provision literally, the Chinese government seems to offer..."
"..the wording with regards to the exemption is vague and broad-reaching and it is difficult to predict..."
I am in full agreement with Professor Donald Clarke's assessment of why regulations in China are written in this fashion and that in fact this style is a necessary part of the stability of the system (think i might post a few exerpts from Prof. Clarke soon).
However, it just occured to me how incredibly pointless the whole thing is. Foreign lawyers and consultants spending their lives trying to interpret the vague phraseologies employed by a bunch of Chinese bureaucrats. It is not argumentation on fine points of law as might be seen in the West. It is simply trying to figure out how to interpret a rule that was written with the intent of covering asses. How much actual cost, not to mention opportunity cost, goes into this exercise? The inefficiency of the whole thing is just amazing and really quite ridiculous.
I have already mentioned my walk through 798, the art district in Beijing, a couple weeks ago. I didnt mention just how appalled I was at some of the supposed "art" on display there. Ok, I know that art is in the eye of the beholder and all that crap but I just don't believe it. I saw some really great art when I was there, works of amazing imagination and skill in both traditional and contemporary styples. However, I find much of the contemporary art world to be an incredible scam.
I saw paintings there that in all honesty my 7 year old could (and probably has) painted. They were marked at 25,000 RMB (about $3000; nearly twice the avg. monthly salary of an urban worker in Beijing). I saw a photography book where all the photos were of people who had been half cut out of the photo. Just normal photos of normal people on the street but the photographer had chosen to cut half of them out of the frame. This photographer is famous (i guess, he has a book anyway) in the art world. I think it is just a case of balls. Who has the balls to take a few minutes to produce some piece of crap and then loudly proclaim it is art. It is actually quite courageous. Other artists are part of the same scam and so will agree it is art. The people who buy this crap are a bunch of ignorant shallow posers so they will also agree it is art. Soon it is worth $3000 or much more!
Here is an excerpt from the article that brought on this tirade:
Ten years ago, Xu Zhen was the archetypal garret-dwelling artist, scraping a living in a Shanghai apartment with barely room to swing a cat. To prove the point, he found a cat and swung it. The artist claims that the animal was already dead when he made the 45-minute performance video,which shows feline entrails being spattered across the walls.But the piece established Zhen as the rising star of the new generation of Chinese artists whose work now features in The Real Thing...
....China arguably has the most vital, imaginative and uncontainable art scene in the world today...
The article goes on an on gushing about the Chinese contemporary art scene. There is not a single negative feeling in it.
The man splattered cat guts over his walls!That is what he did. He took a dead cat, cut it open, and swung it around. That is art? That should be celebrated? The man should make money from this? He is somehow in the vanguard, a forward thinker, a man to be admired, a cultural hero?
Guess he should be admired as a businessman anyways.
Kudos to Pete Stark. Wish I could vote for the man.
Though of course the issue isn't quite that simple. More on that in another post someday when I have the motivation for it.
Close with a little quote from Mark Twain's "Letters from the Earth". Highly recommended to anyone who hasn't read it, the following is Lucifer writing to his fellow angels from the Earth:
This is a strange place, and extraordinary place, and interesting. There is nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.
Moreover -- if I may put another strain upon you -- he thinks he is the Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to heaven! "
Went to Shanghai so no posts for a few days. What to say? There is really an inconceivably large body of possible topics but its hard to get the motivation to write about the more difficult ones.
Shanghai was green. It is really nice to see green now and then. You don't really notice its lack in a place like Beijing until you leave.
I went to a poker game while I was in Shanghai. With the exception of 2 others, all of the other players and other people there were probably about 20-24 years old. They were from everywhere; China, Korea, US, Canada, Peru, Costa Rica. Most of them don't speak Chinese. Seems that most of them are teaching English. Most had been in China for only a short time so were still all excited. They seemed to think they would make lots of $ here. They had a hooka they were smoking, smelled like flavored tobacco. They were also smoking pot. I had no interest in partaking which surprised me a bit given my younger over-indulgence in such things. I guess they have a pretty good life, certainly seemed enjoyable.
A friend just sent me a short video that reminded me of something.
Last weekend a friend and I were walking through 798, an art district of Beijing. It was early evening so most of the studios were closed and there were very few people walking around. As we walked, we began to hear the sound of drums in the distance that grew louder and louder as we walked towards it. We followed the noise down an alleyway and through a courtyard until we came to a room with a small stage and room (empty at the time) for an audience of maybe 50 or so people.
On the stage were about 20 people playing drums. Some had large drums, some had small drums, some had snare drums, all different kinds. In front there was a conductor with a bongo leading the music. What struck me was the people. Who are they?
They were all very ordinary people dressed in very ordinary clothes. A perfect cross section of society. Most were fairly young but a few were middle aged. Men and women were about 50/50. Some looked like they might be professionals, others might be factory workers or shop clerks. They were not in uniform, just ordinary street clothes. They all stood there banging their drums to a common beat. That sounds like a Communist metaphor actually!
I just thought to myself, who are these people? What kind of people come to this desolate little dirty building to bang their drums to no audience. I don't think I could do that. It would never occur to me. I think I wish I could.