Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang

Finally read

As reported earlier I found her book back in my library, unread: Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang. The title is clearly sarcastic…

See about the book:

My view

Well I finished it, it took longer than I thought as the book is pretty long (358 pages of small print). Again, very impressed.

I expected something else but found out it is a meticulous narrative of her youth, a personal diary. She tells her story struggling to find her way inside a Nanjing government factory, trying to get a better education, going through love affairs, and trying to get a new life, well away from that dreaded factory work and her rather conservative and very modest family circle.

She shows how China changed from the early eighties to what it became later after the “opening up”. A period familiar to me as I arrived in China myself in late 1880.
So, many of the stories and facts she describes are all too familiar to me and I can say it is all very accurate. The eighties were years of fast changes but it was not everywhere at the same speed. In her surroundings it took longer than it did in the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
She gives as such an interesting insight on how China was a few decades ago. It was at times very difficult. Like when she had to see the “nurses” in her factory to prove she did have her period. Difficult to imagine all that today.

I admire or rather cannot comprehend how she can remember so many small details of her daily life, from decades ago. I feel depressed as I am a total failure in this respect.

A view on some of my paper mountains to clean up

I am now trying to dig up documents in my office trying to remember stuff that happened. Or going back to old pictures, where I often have no idea who is who. Well, not motivating for me… I feel I cannot remember well the details of the stories I want to write about. Giving a seminar about it, public talking is one thing but putting it on paper…

I strongly recommend the book. Well written, many interesting historical facts. I was only disappointed by the ending: I wanted to know what happened later… Because she married, had children and separated from her husband, but I am not clear about all that. Just plain curious.

Chasing the Dragon

Chasing the Dragon – Living on the Edge

A book by Rainer Thomm. I had the pleasure to meet the author on 7 July 2017 who kindly signed his book. Since then Rainer has moved to Shunde in Guangdong Province and we are in contact again.

I could not find a link to buy Chasing the Dragon; nothing on Amazon and nothing either about the Publisher (China Wallaby News). Price as marked on the cover: AUD 60 and CNY 360. Read down below the reason!

Rainer introduces his book:
These are the stories told to me by Lester Gattini, an Australian mate of mine, about his experiences over many years in China. Son of Italian immigrants, Les is a genius at spinning a yarn and he certainly knows how to hold his grog. Over the years Les and I have had more all-night sessions than either of us can remember and downed more booze than might have killed most other men. His story in many ways reads like my own. Like me, Les has both survived the lows and tasted the heights of joy in making his way in the Land of the Dragon.

No, no, not about drugs

According to Wikipedia:

“Chasing the dragon” is a slang phrase of Cantonese origin from Hong Kong referring to inhaling the vapor from a heated solution of morphine, heroin, oxycodone, opium, or ya ba (a pill containing caffeine and methamphetamine). The “chasing” occurs as the user gingerly keeps the liquid moving in order to keep it from overheating and burning up too quickly, on a heat conducting material such as aluminium foil. The moving smoke is chased after with a tube through which the user inhales.

My book report

The protagonist (Les) gives an honest and unpretentious view on his China (mis)adventures, showing aspects of China most books ignore. He talks about his discouraging experience working for a foreign company that ignores the reality of China’s harsh business environment, about how the Chinese side is basically cheating as much as possible, the foreign head office remaining blind till it all goes under. A pretty familiar story to me. So many foreign investors simply lose their pants here and disappear in silence.

After the life of a pampered expat with car and expensive dinners he starts his own business. Then his mode of living and dealing with housing is pretty disastrous, exposing the dark side of reality for foreigners living here on a cheap budget. An example not to follow. He does not explain why he always makes the wrong choice, is it because of his small budget? One really has to be careful dealing with rentals. He always ends up with a unpleasant experience of trying to stay somewhere “local”. His story of going through a complicated surgery is also pretty interesting.

Some pretty colorful anecdotes about his travels around Beijing and in the provinces. He certainly had a lot of courage…
His love life is also pretty messed up and he makes many mistakes. At the end of the book however it seems he found love in a new relationship.

In conclusion an interesting book if one wants to know how life can be for a foreigner far away from the golden expat life and confirming one lesson: beware of all the cheating and harassment by many Chinese while there are also nice and reliable friends to be made.

How to get his books

There is no reference to Chasing the Dragon on the Internet. It was a private publication, and Rainer says he would not write it like that again. He is working on a rewrite called “Dancing with the Dragon”.
He has a stack of copies in storage in Beijing and I will get some copies, those interested can contact me.

More about his other books in a future post. Yeah I discovered I have his other book, “China Mission Impossible”. I have to read it again! My library has several other “forgotten” books I need to read.

From Mundaneum to Apple Books

Acceleration of technology

From Mundaneum to Apple Books we see an dazzling evolution in technology in the world of books and publishing. With the progress of e-book readers, even the Kindle reader seems outdated as one can read the e-books on a mobile or iPad. One can wonder what the future holds. But books in print are not gone yet.


A Belgian was way ahead of his time. Few have heard of Paul Otlet, a visionary Belgian who sought to put all human knowledge on 3-by-5-inch library cards in a temple of learning that he called the Mundaneum.
Yet, as a new museum in Mons shows, Otlet’s century-old concept preconfigured the Internet.

Rescued from neglect, the Mundaneum has found a permanent home here in a converted 1930s department store and annexes for research and storage. Boxes crammed with the tons of documents and publications collected by Otlet and his followers fill about 6 kilometers of shelf space, awaiting classification. Vast iconographic resources, including hundreds of thousands of posters, postcards and glass photographs, remain largely unexplored.

“It will take us more than 100 years just to sort out and scan the newspapers into computers,” said Daniel Lefebvre, an archivist.

Read the full story here:
27 June 1998 – World of Learning and a Virtual Library

For those who cannot access the article: 980627 Mundaneum

Apple Books and PC

Previously PC users could not access the Apple Books to upload their manuscripts. That is now changed. See:
Apple Books For Authors – Now With PC Access Publishing Resources
Posted by David Gaughran – May 2020

David wrote:
Apple Books For Authors has launched and the all-new site now provides help with every stage in the publishing process. And here’s the biggest news of all: PC users can now publish direct with Apple Books. That’s right!
Before now, anyone using a PC device could not easily publish direct with Apple Books and many had to use a distributor to reach all of Apple’s customers. Now that has changed, and the new Apple Books publishing portal is accessible by web browser, and on a PC too.

Visit his website for the full story.
The Apple location:

China street libraries and used books

Changing market

Book reading in China is always changing. China street libraries and used books are newcomers.
Near Sanlitun in Beijing I discovered this “street library” where one can get books from a vending machine, called “Chaoyang District Library”, obviously with the usual QR-code approach.

The Sanlitun former “dirty bar street” now counts two new modern book libraries where people can read some books while sipping a drink. The Page One book shop in Taikooli is still in business.

Sadly our beloved The Bookworm is gone and no similar venue exists as for now. As a result the choice of foreign books is dramatically reduced.

Used books

A new trend is the growing interest in used books.
See this interesting article, only available in French:

30 janvier 2019 – “Les livres d’occasion : à échanger sans modération”
Source: La Chine au présent

or see here: 190130livres_occasion

Some highlights, see the full article for details.
There are some major platforms to exchange used books:

  • Yushu set up by Shang Xiaohu on 15 June 2017, platform for the sales of used books.
  • Set up on 17 August 2017, Xiongmaogezi platform for the sale of used books on WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2017, Duozhuayu is another platform using WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2018 in Chengdu: Manyoujing.
  • Others: idleFish (Alibaba Group) et Kongfuzi Jiushuwang.


Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht

Frans Vandenbosch

Frans is another Belgian author, who published his book ” Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht”.
He also published another book, “Statecraft and Society in China – China grassroots politics”. in April 2019, in English.
He kindly gave me a copy of the book on 2 December 2018 in Legend Beer.

Introduction in Dutch

Follows the official introduction of “Zakelijk China, scherp in beeld gebracht” by Frans Vandenbosch (published in 2017).

€ 24,50 Incl. BTW (ebook or print)
China, het echte China van vandaag is ondanks enige belangstelling van de media nog altijd een grote onbekende. Vlaanderen kent China niet of blijft steken in verouderde vooroordelen. Dit boek leidt de lezer door de talrijke zakelijke, politieke, culturele en andere waarden die China te bieden heeft. Het is een praktische gids voor wie China met kennis van zaken wil verkennen en voor wie als ondernemer overweegt om met Chinezen samen te werken.

China is een gastvrij en boeiend land met vele onbekende kanten; een eeuwenoude cultuur met een rijke geschiedenis. Het moderne China bruist van economische activiteit. Het wetenschappelijk onderzoek en de nieuwe technologie ontwikkelen zich in China met een verbijsterende snelheid.
China heeft een steeds grotere invloed op ons dagelijkse leven. Onze kleding, computer, smartmobieltje, huishoudtoestellen en zoveel andere dingen worden vandaag uitsluitend nog in China geproduceerd, straks ook onze elektrische auto en onze voeding. Wil de Vlaamse economie in de wereld een rol van betekenis blijven spelen, dan kan ze zich beter vandaag toeleggen op intensieve samenwerking met China.

Frans Vandenbosch heeft jarenlang in China gewerkt en gewoond. Hij spreekt Chinees en kent China van binnenuit.

My view

No comments from my side. I leave up to the readers of the book.