Brave Dragons: About Chinese Basketball, But Maybe Also About Your Job in China

I just finished reading Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2012) by Jim Yardley, an entertaining Pulitzer Prize winner. While the topic might seem very narrow to some readers, it may be one of the best books on the market to prepare for life and work in China, if that’s of interest to you. Even if you aren’t coming to China, it can help you understand some of the cultural barriers between China and the U.S. in spite of its very specific focus. It’s about one Chinese basketball team and an American coach’s experience in coming from the NBA in the U.S. to a lesser known Chinese city, Taiyuan. But so much of what he experiences and the setbacks and surprises he faces remind me of what many foreigners face when they come here to work or live. Definitely a good read and an entertaining one.

NBA coach Bob Weiss does a remarkable job of adapting to changes that would make many people give up in exasperation. For example, he was hired to be the coach of the Taiyuan team, but that changed when the owner suddenly made a Chinese man the acting coach to ensure that the team would run through constant fruitless drills to work the team to death rather than working on the skills and play development they really needed. He rolled with the punches and didn’t let pride get in the way. It helped that he really loved China and wanted to stay here, as it has helped for many foreigners here in related circumstances.

People coming to China for jobs often find out that the glorious position they were offered wasn’t quite as described, or that the benefits promised were withdrawn without notice, or that the work environment is almost the opposite of what they expected. In some cases, even the very job they accepted isn’t actually there. You need to come here expecting disappointment and setbacks, but determined to find a path through the craziness to make something precious and fulfilling out of your experience. Contracts here don’t carry the same meaning as they do in some parts of the world. There is much more emphasis on flexibility and renegotiating things when they prove to be difficult for one side (i.e., the other side). Important issues that you negotiated during your interviews might be eventually forgotten. Understand that and always ask yourself what you will do if an understanding doesn’t turn out the way you thought it was supposed to. Over-communicate,get anything important in writing or be prepared to abandon it, and be prepared to abandon it in any case.

While management in China can be quite good, in many businesses there are some huge differences in style that will surprise Westerners. The unfortunate management style of Boss Wang, the team owner, is  important to observe, but will probably  never encounter the extremes portrayed in the book. He tended to yell at his players for everything, sometimes an hour or more of yelling at them, constantly demeaning and harassing them for mistakes, and emphasizing excessive work rather than smart preparation. But the sudden last minute changes in plans and strategy that he would call from the top can be something you’ll see more often here than you might have seen before. Sometimes it works, but see for yourself in the book.

I recommend reading this book and contemplating how you might deal with related situations in your own journey in Asia or anywhere with new culture and rapidly changing rules.

For sensitive ears, there is some profanity as some of the players are quoted.

By |April 4th, 2014|Categories: Books, Business, China|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Great Chinglish in a Dramatic Video from a Machinery Company That Teaches Much About Chinese Culture

Great Chinglish in an impressive video from Peixin Machinery Corporation in China

Great Chinglish in an impressive video from Peixin Machinery Corporation in China

“It inherits the wisdom of Minnan Merchants. It assembles numerous elites.” Spoken in perfect English with a dramatic deep voice, these words begin an impressive and instructive video prepared as an advertisement for Peixin Machinery Company and their advanced systems for the paper industry. There is so much that may be puzzling to native English speakers when they watch this video, and so much that teaches unintended lessons about Chinese business culture. I feel that the video and its Chinese equivalent could be a valuable addition to any course studying Chinese and especially business Chinese or business culture in China.

Some of the scenes selected for the video also teach a lot about culture in China. You can see the intense deference to authority in several sections, for example. Quite interesting. But it’s the English that I enjoy most.

“Big waves wash the sand, but we still go ahead bravely with the pulse of the times.” That’s one of many intriguing statements that are important in Chinese speeches and ads, but seem really strange to Western ears. The Chinese version of the video has been translated well, I think, as far as direct translations go, but it’s the whole mindset and nature of the content that needs to be retranslated and reworked for this to be an effective video for native English speakers. For example, starting off with a boastful link to Minnan merchants is just crazy–even Americans who have been living in China for years are not likely to appreciate the old lore of Fujian Province merchants known as the Minnan merchants. One of many moments that makes this fun video a great example of the very large cultural gaps that sometimes look like language gaps between the East and the West.

No offense intended to Peixin. Their video is better than most and has been done much better than most. The equipment also looks pretty good, but I don’t know one way or the other.

By |April 3rd, 2014|Categories: Business, China, Chinglish, Industry, Paper, Products|Tags: |Comments Off

Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) Thai Restaurant Opens at Hongyi Plaza Above East Nanjing Subway Station

Today I had lunch at the new Thai restaurant, Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) above the East Nanjing subway station on the 6th floor of the Hongyi Plaza, directly above Exit 3 of the station. Wonderful place with good prices and service, plus delicious food. I ordered a shrimp curry set meal for just 32 RMB. A large serving of a delicious mild yellow curry dish with large shrimps and a good mix of veggies with a little pineapple, too. One of the best curries I’ve had in China, for my tastes. There was also some pretty good fried fish, a lilttle bowl of some limp greens, and a little serving of fruit. The bowl of rice that came with it looked more like Basmati rice or a real Thai rice and was quite good. A pleasant surprise overall.

The only disappointment was an herbal tea I ordered for 18 RMB. They served it in a regular glass and it was much too hot to handle. Needed a handle on a cup to drink this. Also didn’t have much flavor. This was a Chinese data and rose mix that didn’t have enough of the dates to contribute noticeably to the flavor. But it was certainly pretty.

Will definitely go back for dinner sometime, and certainly for lunch.

By |March 31st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Another Scam in China: Worthless Foreign Currency (and One More Sip of the Popular Tea Scam)

Thailand-currencyAn American friend of mine visiting Shanghai was shopping at Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens) and bought something from a pushy salesman on the street. He paid with a 100 RMB bill and was given several bills as change. What he didn’t notice was that the  bills he received was worthless currency from some foreign nation (he thought it looked like Arabic but I’m guessing it was from Thailand). So instead of paying 20 RMB, he paid 100. Rip off.

Make sure you know what real Chinese currency looks like so people won’t had you bogus currency for change. Look, verify, and count. Don’t be so trusting and gullible, like many of us Americans are.

Other Basic Scams at Tourist Attractions 

The day before my friend went to Yu Yuan, I warned him about some of the scams he might encountered. I told him that anytime someone approaches you there or at other major tourist sites and speaks English to you, no matter how friendly and attractive they may be, they are probably sales people whose job is to separate you from your money. I warned him that there are people who try to engage foreign visitors by asking them to take their photos, and then some sort of scam is likely to follow. Just say no politely and walk away, I said. I also warned him of the ever-popular and often successful tea ceremony scam, where gullible foreigners are lured by attractive English speaking girls to join them at a traditional tea ceremony for a cup of tea. In this scam, after a few minutes of tea, a gargantuan bill is presented, accompanied with solid Chinese muscle to enforce payment for what was allegedly a rare and exotic high-priced tea. One cup might cost you hundreds of dollars. Never fall for that, I warned. Stay away. Beware. Don’t go inside.

The next day at Yu Yuan, my friend ran into a couple of cute girls who spoke English and asked if he could take their picture. Being friendly and always wanting to help, this young man took the photos and chatted with them. “We are tourists from Beijing,” they said, “and have been to all these major Shanghai attractions on our tourist map except for one, a traditional tea ceremony right around the corner. It’s a great way to experience Chinese culture. Would you like to join us for some tea?”

“Well, I guess I can just take a look,” he said, and followed them into a tea house. But eventually, he later told me, my warnings began to enter his thinking–finally–and he realized he had better check a menu and see what the prices were before he did anything. He asked for a menu and saw that there was a 30 RMB service fee posted in addition to some high prices for the tea. But now he felt pressure to not just walk away, though he explained he didn’t drink tea and needed to leave, so how much did he need to pay for just taking a look as he had done? The waitress was puzzled and went to check with the owner, and came back saying that he needed to pay 200 RMB. That’s for absolutely nothing–what crooks. He said no way and gave them 30 RMB as I recall and left, but they were angry. I think he was lucky the muscle hadn’t shown up yet.  The result could have been much worse.

When you see young people at Yu Yuan waiting with cameras at busy corners or on busy streets, and out of all the thousands of passers-by, they choose you, the stand-out foreigner, to get someone to take their picture, know that the last thing they want is your photographic assistance. It’s a scam. Feel free to take their photo on your camera so you can let others know who these scammers are, but don’t let them lure you anywhere. They don’t want photos, just your cash. Lots of it. And they will use deception and force if you give them the opportunity.

By |March 26th, 2014|Categories: China, Scams, Shanghai, Shopping|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off

Qibao, a Not-Too-Ancient Water Town in Shanghai

Qibao: A Shanghai Attraction You Must Not Miss

A fun attraction in Shanghai that many foreigners overlook is the ancient water town of Qibao, a 5-minute stroll from the Qibao subway station on Line 9. It’s over 30 minutes away from downtown Shanghai, but is definitely worth the trip. As a water town, it’s views aren’t nearly as scenic as those in the famous water towns like Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang, and lacks the many attractions of Suzhou, but it has plenty of excitement for a half-day visit and can be a fun place to shop and try unusual foods. There are some good photo ops there, but what I like best are the many vendors on the pedestrian street. There are also 8 museums you can visit with one 30 RMB ticket, but they are small and not all that interesting for the most part, though it’s cool to say you’ve been to the Cricket Museum (featuring some calligraphy about cricket fights and a table display with real crickets in real formaldehyde), and there are some interesting items in the memorial hall for Qibao’s famous sculptor, Zhang Chongren and some fascinating  miniatures in the Miniatures Museum.

Here are some photos from recent visits to Qibao:

When you visit Qibao, go to Exit 2 of the Qibao Station on Line 9, then go left to the corner and turn left again. No need to cross any streets. You go may 200 meters and then you will see a big gate for the Qibao area. Go down that street another 200 meters roughly and on your right you will see a big fountain area made from rocks and a small pagoda. Turn right there and follow the stream of people down toward the narrow street close to the rocky fountain that is the beginning of Qibao’s interesting pedestrian street. Follow it to a bridge over the canal. This is a good place for photos. You can wander over to the right to get a good photo of this main bridge, then do on the bridge and take photos, then cross and go over to the left for another good spot for photography. Then continue down the pedestrian street to see the throng of vendors and other attractions.

At any of the little museums that are easy to miss, you can buy tickets for all 8 attractions or just pay the 5 or 10 RMB for individual museums you want to see. Or skip them and focus on food and photography.

One food tip: At #21 on the main pedestrian street, there is quite good gelato or ice cream for just 10 RMB a scoop. I tried the chocolate and found it as good as any chocolate gelato I’ve had in Shanghai, and less than half the typical price. Not bad!

Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

Backside of the Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

By |March 15th, 2014|Categories: China, Photography, Shanghai|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off

The Most Bizarre Chinglish I’ve Seen: Lazy Typing for an Expensive Supermarket Sign

On a recent trip to the gargantuan Suzhou Industrial Park, a beautiful region designed with Singapore as inspiration, I went into a popular supermarket, Hao You Duo (好又多), where I saw the strangest Chinglish I’ve seen so far. The store have numerous large posters hanging over the escalator ramps and other regions to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Horse. The Chinese just says “wish you a great new year” and “lucky year of the horse.” Whoever entered the English translation was the laziest typist of all time. Looks like he or she set one hand down on the keyboard and just wiggled their fingers a few times on the same keys, over and over. Finished.

What amazes me is that this large supermarket chain spent a lot of money to produce these beautiful posters and then print, distribute, and hang hundreds of them (I presume these are all over their stores across China)–all without bothering to ask anyone with any English skills at all if the English was OK. In fact, every educated person in China at least understands the alphabet in order to use pinyin for typing email, and anyone who understands the alphabet ought to know that words generally need some kind of vowel, don’t they? No one noticed. No one cared. That is the secret to China’s most entertaining Chinglish.

Chinglish at Hao You Duo (好又多), Suzhou

Chinglish at Hao You Duo (好又多), Suzhou

Lazy Typist Creates Great Chinglish for a Major Chinese Supermarket, Hao You Duo (好又多). Photo from Suzhou Industrial Park, March 4, 2014

Lazy Typist Creates Great Chinglish for a Major Chinese Supermarket, Hao You Duo (好又多). Photo from Suzhou Industrial Park, March 4, 2014

By |March 8th, 2014|Categories: China, Chinglish, Humor|Tags: , , , |Comments Off

Beyond the Clouds: Exposing One of Shanghai’s Fine Culinary Secrets

Beyond the Clouds

One of Shanghai’s hidden culinary gems is overlooked by thousands of tourists everyday in one of Shanghai’s most popular spots, the beginning of the East Nanjing pedestrian street close to the Bund where East Nanjing intersects Henan Road. There, hidden away on the 5th floor of the building that houses the bustling Forever 21 store, is a delightful Yunnan restaurant that most people don’t even know is there. And that’s a good thing, because lines would be way too long if they knew about Beyond the Clouds.  I’ve been there twice and didn’t have to wait to be seated, which is how I like it. Beyond the Clouds has pleasant, somewhat mysterious decor with excellent food at surprisingly low prices. Definitely worth a visit for some of the most interesting flavors in China.

The best deal are their set meals for lunch. Just two choices: Set Meal A feeds two people for 88 RMB, and Set Meal B feeds 4 people for 138 RMB. I took a CEO there recently for lunch and we had Set Meal A, which had more food than we could eat and was quite good. The yellow curry was perfect. The hongshao pork and bean curd skins were excellent. The greens were good and the pickled radishes were very pleasant. Soup was OK. I enjoyed the meal, but was surprised to hear my friend describe it as the best Chinese food he’s had in his time in China (total of a couple of months or so, I think). Well, the food is decent and prices are great.

The set meals are only available during weekdays. I went there today with my wife and we loved the stuffed pineapple rice dish, with a nice mix of sweet black rice and pineapple in a pineapple shell. Digging out the cooked pineapple was fun. We also had an interesting crepe wrapped around mushrooms and other ingredients that was spicy and strongly flavored. I loved it, though the flavors were a bit strong for my wife. Service was good. Definitely a place I’ll be back to for larger meals to further explore the unusual cuisine of Yunnan province.

Many say this is an imitation of Lost Heaven, and that may be fair. But it’s an imitation that may taste better and be more affordable than the original. Keep those improved imitations coming!

You can get to the restaurant by entering Forever 21 and going up the elevators tot he 5th floor. There are also little alleys behind and to the side of that building that take you to a mysterious elevator to ascend to the 5th floor. Give it  try!

By |March 8th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off

Artistic Bags from TheMozaik.com: New Company from a Friend in Shanghai

An example of a bag from TheMozaik.com

Example of a Mozaik bag

One of my friends at work has left the company (APP-China) to become an entrepreneur in Shanghai. Rinnie, a very sharp and artistic girl, has founded TheMozaik.com, a company focused on beautiful, unique bags, purses, and related goods. I ran into her recently and learned a little more about what she is doing. I was impressed with her tastes and want to give others a chance to check out TheMozaik.com.

You can buy TheMozaik products in Shanghai at several locations, including Yaang Life shops at The Cool Docks and K11, or Inshop.

You can also see more products and a photo of Rinnie herself on her Tumblr page at themozaikcollections.tumblr.com.

By |March 8th, 2014|Categories: Products, Shanghai, Shopping|Tags: , , , |Comments Off

A Sign of China’s Growth in Intellectual Property: Chinese Company Relies on IP to Gain Giant Loan

Notice & update: IAM Magazine, one of my favorite sources for information on intellectual property, just issued a blog post on the use of IP in lending in China: “Chinese companies have secured over $10 billion in patent-backed loans since 2008” by Jeff Wild, March 4, 2014. The news I share below (cross-posted at InnovationFatigue.com) definitely supports their article. Great timing! Further, responding to the news that I first broke to English speakers on the Innovation Fatigue Blog, IAM Magazine has written a blog post about this story (kindly citing my announcement), wherein they observe just how big of a deal this is. I agree, though I also think it’s fair to wonder how much of the transaction actually depended on IP and how much was due to guanxi and other factors. I have not yet evaluated the IP and if I do look at it in more detail, do not plan on sharing my analysis publicly, but may still offer further updates on this story here. IAM’s post includes a translation of the Chinese article behind this story. My independent translation (prepared before I saw the IAM translation) is at the end of this post. If there are significant differences in meaning, I’ll defer to them since my Chinese is still rough.

March 6, 2014: I just learned of breaking news from the Province of Shandong in northern China. A Chinese paper company, Quanlin Paper (also called “Tralin Paper”) has successfully used its portfolio of patents and trademarks to secure a huge loan of 7.9 billion RMB (about $1.3 billion). Potentially significant story for those tracking IP and innovation in China. The story was just reported on March 3, 2014 at China Paper (the story is in Mandarin). This is quite a big deal and may be a record for China in terms of how much value IP brought in seeking a corporate loan. To emphasize the significance of this development, the normally dry China Paper publication begins with a somewhat flowery statement based on an interview with the Chairman, who expresses surprise and delight at how much money they were able to obtain with their IP. Here’s my loose translation, followed by the actual Chinese:

“I never thought that intellectual property could have such a big effect in obtaining this loan. IP was a big part of it,” according to Quanlin Paper Company’s Chairman of the Board, President Li Hongfa, speaking today to a reporter about the 7.9 billion yuan from bank lenders that began this week. He said that this money will help them rapidly expand and seize market opportunities. Money has been tight for business, and this new addition is welcomed just as the mist-covered earth rejoices in the spring rains from the night before.

核心提示:“没想到知识产权能在这次贷款中起这么大作用,占这么大比重!”泉林纸业有限责任公司董事长、总经理李洪法今天对记者说,79亿元的银团贷款本周已开始放款,这笔资金对正在快速扩张、抢抓市场机遇但一直资金紧绷的企业来说,就像雾霾重重的大地喜迎昨夜的春雨。

OK, a bit flowery, but again, this is big news for China and things get flowery when the big news is good. This development shows that IP in China can be valuable (though the portfolio includes some international patents, it is mostly Chinese IP). It also shows that Chinese companies, even in seemingly dull industries like the paper industry, can be innovative and create valuable IP. I haven’t reviewed their IP to assess its value, but I understand they have over 100 Chinese patents in areas such as technology for using straw and other renewable or recycled materials for making paper, with alleged benefits of enhanced environmental friendliness and cost effectiveness. Shandong Province’s IP Office has also created some publicity about Quanlin’s IP estate (see the Chinese article here), though this was before the news of the massive loan secured with the help of IP. Expect more publicity from them shortly.

Further background comes from Baidu’s wiki-like entry on Quanlin Paper.

When nations develop strong IP systems, companies can use their IP to protect their innovations. This also motivates them to take the risk and spend the money need to drive further innovation, and gives investors courage to fund growth and innovation. In this case, it helped give a lending partner (a Chinese financial organization) the courage to loan a giant sum of money to help Tralin grow. Tralin has been pursuing IP not just for tax breaks it seems but also for strategic purposes, and information coming out about this story shows that they have been developing expertise in their staff to develop their IP estate. Sure looks like that has paid off for them.

This is one of many signs that China is becoming serious about IP and innovation, and not just low quality IP, but IP that can provide significant value. For IP to apparently be a crucial part of such a large loan in this challenging economic times is a remarkably positive sign for China, in my opinion.

On the other hand, the loan may be due to politics and guanxi with officials, and the IP is just window dressing. That’s possible. But to even choose IP as the window dressing for publicity and hype is a remarkable thing in it’s own right, and still a sign of China’s rapid transformation in valuing and pursuing intellectual property.

Here is my loose translation of the China Paper article:

泉林纸业知识产权质押融资创国内最高

Quanlin Paper Crafts the Nation’s Largest IP-Backed Financing

泉林公司以110件专利、34件注册商标等质押获得的这笔贷款,2月21日在国家知识产权局完成备案。经省知识产权局核实,这是迄今为止国内融资金额最大的一笔知识产权质押贷款。

On Feb. 21, 2014, Quanlin Paper secured a loan using a pledge of intellectual property. The pledge, recorded with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), includes 110 patents and 34 registered trademarks. The Shandong Province Intellectual Property Office has verified that this is the largest amount ever financed in China using intellectual property.

“这笔资金到位,我们的大项目就能加快推进,市场机遇不等人啊!”李洪法说的大项目,是一个年处理150万吨秸秆的制浆造纸综合利用项目。泉林公司总部位于聊城市高唐县,是一家以浆纸业为核心的大型企业,利用秸秆制造“本色”纸品,变废为宝、环保健康,改写了人们对造纸业的既有印象,也在改变着人们的消费习惯。企业提出这个大项目后,很快得到环保部、国家发改委认可、立项,是全国资源综合利用和循环经济示范工程,也是2013年省重点建设项目。目前,项目基本建设已经全面展开,计划年底前建成,投产后,预计年可实现销售收入81.65亿元,销售税金4.89亿元,利润12.4亿元。

“With this funding obtained, we will be able to accelerate our large projects. Market opportunities wait for nobody!” said Chairman Li Hongfa. The primary project Li refers to is a straw-based pulp manufacturing complex for papermaking that will process 1.5 million tons per year of straw. Quanlin company is headquartered in Liaocheng City, Gaotang County (Shandong Province). Quanlin’s core business among their large-scale enterprises is pulp and paper manufacturing using straw to create “natural color” paper. Quanlin turns waste into treasure and promotes a healthy environment, transforming both the impression that people have (of the industry) and their habits of consumption.

After the enterprise brought this large project forward, it rapidly gained approval from the Environmental Bureau and the National Development and Reform Commission. The project is an important program for the nationwide comprehensive utilization of resources and a model project for China’s recycling economy. It was also considered a provincial key construction project in 2013. Currently, capital construction is fully underway and should be complete by year-end. Once production begins, the expected annual sales revenue will be 8.165 billion RMB, with anticipated sales taxes of 489 million RMB and annual profit of 1.24 billion RMB.

知识产权获资金市场高度认可,对科技型企业无疑是巨大的利好。尽管泉林公司本身的发展就是受益于在知识产权、核心技术上的不断投入——即使在企业资金最困难的时候,这上面也从来没有“短”过,李洪法这次还是被深深地触动了:在这次贷款中,企业拥有的专利评估价值达到了60亿元,对贷款顺利达成起到了关键作用。这意味着,专利等知识产权不仅能垄断市场、为企业创造长期利润;质押融来真金白银,更是能够解决科技型企业成长中最头疼的资金饥渴,释放发展潜力,及时把握市场机遇,让企业“长大”。

For intellectual property to receive this high level of approval from the market is without doubt a giant benefit for technological enterprises in general. Although Quanlin company’s own development has now benefited from their intellectual property, they continue to invest steadily in their core technology—continuing even during the times when investment is most difficult. This is an area where the company has never gone “short.” The result has made a deep impression on Li Hongfa: in the process of obtaining these loans, the appraised value of Quanlin’s patents reached 6 billion RMB and played a key role in successfully obtaining the financing. This means that patents and other IP rights are not just about obtaining a monopoly in the market, but can be used to creating long-term profit for the enterprise. They can be used as collateral for significant financing to resolve one the biggest headaches for high-tech businesses, the hunger for funds to grow, to capture hidden potential, grasp favorable market opportunities, and to let the company “grow up.”

这一融资方式也让银行对科技型企业增添了兴趣。不仅国家开发银行牵头银团,为泉林公司发放了这笔79亿元的贷款,交通银行甚至还与省科技厅签署专门的战略合作文件,并推出了专门的知识产权融资产品。交行山东省分行零售信贷部总经理姜鲁荣说,知识产权看似无形,却体现了企业价值创造和持续经营的能力,银行业务风险没有增加,却有可能抢占一批优质客户,改善银行客户结构,“就像泉林公司这样”。

This financing will stir the interest of banks other technology enterprises. Not only did the China Development Bank and their affiliates issue Quanlin a loan of 7.9 billion RMB, but the Bank of Communications also signed a strategic cooperation document with the Provincial Science and Technology Department, and launched a specialized intellectual property financing product. Jiang Lurong, General Manager of the Retail Credit Department of Shandong Branch Bank, said that while intellectual property seems invisible, it reflects value creation and the ability to continue operations without increasing banking risk, and can help obtain more high-quality customers, improve the system for customers of the bank such as companies like Quanlin.

Kudos, by the way, to Dr. Ian Feng of Goldeast Paper in Zhenjiang, China for alerting me to the story in China Paper.

By |March 7th, 2014|Categories: Business, China, Patent law|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

Returning Defective Products: My E-Mart Experience

One of the challenges in buying food in China is that many stores don’t pay attention to expiration dates and will have food on the shelves that is way too old. It is best to look carefully before you buy. In addition, even if food is fresh according to the date on the label, it may still have gone through unacceptable handling en route with exposure to high temperatures or other improper conditions, so what you get can be unacceptable or inedible. Most of the time what I buy is fine, but handling the exceptions is something to be ready for.

Last night I returned a container of strawberry ice cream to E-Mart, one of my favorite retailers with generally high-quality food products. Unfortunately, the ice cream was ancient, almost one year past the expiration date. How that is even possible is beyond me–there must be some huge problems in the supply chain from Yi Li, the Chinese dairy company that made this product. The product had been missing from the shelves of E-Mart for a few weeks so I assumed this was a fresh shipment when it came. But nearly one year old? Amazing. When I opened the container, I could see something was wrong immediately. It was dark and oxidized in appearance, and cracked around the edges as if it had been drying. I dug out a spoonful and saw that it was hard and rubbery. Only a fool would taste that, and this particular fool reports that it was unpleasant. Time to help E-Mart recognize they have a problem by returning the product and asking for a refund.

Fortunately, I still had the receipt. I took the product and the receipt with me and headed out the door, and then had a thought. What is the most bureaucratic response that could be possible? Ah, they could ask not only for the receipt, but the fapiao as well. The fapiao is the official tax record that is optional and requires waiting in a line to obtain after making the purchase. I get one usually when I go to E-Mart because my work asks me to bring some each month. When the fapiao is obtained, they tear off a little piece of paper at the bottom of the receipt, so it is possible to look at a receipt and know that a fapiao was probably issued. Expecting bureaucratic snags, I went back to the apartment and retrieved my fapiao, which I had not yet turned in to my work, fortunately, for yes, I would need the fapiao.

The customer service desk was helpful, but in a crazy time-consuming way. They looked at the expiration date and realized this was too old and agreed to refund my 56 RMB purchase price. They asked for the fapiao in addition to the receipt, and then the woman began entering numbers into an old register of some kind. Entered lots of numbers. I waited and waited, and she was still entering numbers. Then I realized that she was manually entering the lengthy product code printed on my long receipt for all of the purchases I had made in order to recreate a new receipt with everything but the ice cream on it. It was a bizarre experience to watch her doing this. I was supposed to be on my way to an appointment, so I tried to explain that I didn’t really need my fapiao or anything and didn’t want to trouble her with re-entering everything. “Oh, it’s no trouble,” she said and kept going. What I really meant though was that I was about to explode and could she just let me go without waiting all night for all those keystrokes? Fortunately, all the strokes were hers and I survived without one of my own. With a few dozen deep breaths and a gentle fake smile, I got through it and was only a little late.

Lessons: 1) Check expiration dates before you buy products. 2) Test products right away before you lose receipts or turn in a fapiao. 3) Allow plenty of time when getting a refund. But to be fair, I’ve had faster and more reasonable return experiences at other places. Maybe there are better systems out there than E-Mart’s. Also to be fair, China is not the best place be buying ice cream. Another lesson learned.

By |March 3rd, 2014|Categories: China, Products, Shopping|Tags: , , |Comments Off

“No Isomerism or Visitors”

Section of lengthy rules for guests at a guest house near Zhenjiang, China

Section of lengthy rules for guests at a guest house near Zhenjiang, China

Staying at a Chinese hotel? Don’t even think of trying to bring in isomerism. It is probably forbidden, as shown here. Isomerism, wow. Chinese rules can be really tough.

By |February 24th, 2014|Categories: China|Tags: |Comments Off

French Food in Shanghai

One of the best places for French food, in terms of quality and value, is an unusual restaurant that is also a school for French chefs. The Restaurant-Ecole Institute Paul Bocuse is affiliated with the famous French restaurant in France, the Restaurant Paul Bocuse. In France, that is one of the few places to gain 3 stars from Michelin. Paul Bocuse’s school in France takes a team of its students who are ready to graduate and sends them to Shanghai to run this restaurant and to train Chinese students wishing to learn French cuisine.

You can read about the school and the restaurant on the Paul Bocuse site. The website for the restaurant itself provides a menu and a link to make reservations electronically, or just call them. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations are definitely recommended. It’s a loving setting near the foot of the Nanpu Bridge in Puxi, close to the Xizang South Road subway stop on lines 4 and 8. Address is 379 BaoTun Road, very close to Zhongshan South Road, the big road that runs along the Bund.

There are some set meals or plate meals on the back of the menu that are great for lunch, ranging from 110 to 270 RMB, depending on how many items you want. You won’t walk away feeling overloaded with food because portions are not gargantuan, but you are likely to be inspired and delighted with what can be done with food.

Other places we’ve tried include Cuivre across from the Shanghai Library, near the Shanghai Library Station on Line 10. A popular and expensive place. We didn’t try much there, but the crepes were fun, though I felt they were a little “wimpy.” A French place with truly superior crepes, though, is La Creperie in the French Concession area. They are at 1 TaoJiang Lu / YueYang Lu in XuHui District,
+86 21 5465 9055. I felt the prices were quite reasonable, service was good, and food was fun. Quiet, pleasant setting.

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants|Tags: , , |Comments Off