Writing about international business in China can be a very educational exercise. In fact, it is a lot like junior high school. Everyone wants to be popular, everyone wants to be cool – and everyone wants to move on to the next level.
Who’s who in PRC Jr. High:
• Administration – The Communist party. Knows what’s best for you and for everyone else. You can have your fun but just be sure not to go too far. Don’t think they won’t send you to detention if you get out of hand – or if they don’t like your attitude. Just ask Danwei.
• Jocks and cheerleaders – Western financial media. Lord knows they’re not the brightest stars in the constellation and more often than not they haven’t a clue about China, but they get all the action and attention. Unfortunately for us, they tend to be loudest when they’re having a lousy season. They are pretty loud at the moment.
• Cool kids who smoke and drink a lot, but don’t always do their own homework – Beijing blog community. The tough guys who always hang out together. They always seem to know a guy who knows a guy who told them what’s really going on – and sometimes they actually turn out to be right. Can be bullies at time. You know who you are.
• Popular kids – The big names who always get invited to the right parties and conferences. They win the awards, are featured on every blog-roll and get interviewed on CNN. Some are nice, some are jerks – but all are super-conscious of their status.
• Brainiacs – Big-name management consultants and market-research guys. Sure they’re smart and yeah, they have the right answers a lot of the time. But you can’t help liking it when they are wrong.
• Teacher’s pets – Whether it’s the miracle of moving west or the logic of localization, these guys have never heard a PRC policy they didn’t love. Chinese brands will take over the world and Beijing has mastered the economic cycle, because after all – the Party knows best.
• AV Club – The only ones who know how to run the projector – or can explain how the firewall and new technical standard standards work. They are only really popular when there is a problem that needs fixing. Fortunately for them, in China there is always a tech issue that needs explaining.
• Gossips – The Twitterers and Linked-injas. Always up in your blog-o-business. They have followers and they follow everyone – but don’t have all that much of their own to say.
• French Club – Our European friends who bring an extra-international perspective – and remind Chinese readers that not every single westerner is from New York or California.
• Burnouts and Partiers – Restaurant and club reviewers
• Goth freaks – Local netizens. Scary – and lot of them – but don’t count for much until you piss them off. Then they turn into a spooky stalky mob.
• Older brothers & sisters – Don’t go here anymore, but once did and now seem to know EVERYTHING about everyone. Sometimes they really do have some great insights, but a couple of years can make a big difference.
• Your Dad – The old-style glossy business mags and rags that still seem amazed that Shanghai has skyscrapers or that a market economy can exist in China. Still, if you want to borrow the car and a few bucks, you have to listen to the stories and show respect.
• The rest of us – We just want to do well on the tests and make it through the day without getting wedgied or de-pantsed; blocked or deported. We have our good days and our bad, but the best are when we can make our point, deliver a worthy opinion and score a repost or two.