How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

Travelling the Silicon RoadSHENYANG, China — OK, time for a food update. As reported earlier, my digestive track finally decided to rebel against all of the strange and exotic cuisine it has seen the past week. As these things go, it is a relatively mild bout; it hasn’t kept this intrepid traveler from chalking off a few items on his exotic foods list.

As I’ve explained before, while normally a vegetarian, experiencing local cuisine in strange, foreign places trumps my normal dining habits, despite the dent I’m sure it places in my karma.

So I’ve been gobbling all sorts of Chinese food left and right; and unlike Chinese restaurants in the United States, which tend to have a limited menu of American-safe dishes, or specialize in one regional cuisine, here in the actual country of China the cuisine is as varied and exotic — to Westerners — as one could hope. One of the oddest things I’ve had to date — again, odd to Westerners — would be donkey. Fortunately, I don’t believe it was soaked in tiger urine (you’ll have to scan the comments section of an earlier post for an explanation).

Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty — I’ve never ridden a donkey, but still. But that didn’t stop me from my quest to sample strange food. Here in Shenyang has been the only moment so far in this trip when I’ve encountered a dining option that gave me pause. This northeast region of China is influenced by both Japan and South Korea, and my gracious hosts here in Shenyang treated me to dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant the other night.

They were sensitive to my Western predilections — ironically, they said they were going to order lots of meat dishes, since us Westerners eat a lot of meat — and they asked me if I had any restrictions or anything I didn’t want to try. I, of course, said no. Then I was asked about dog, and then I had to pause.

And let me pause now, for the benefit of my Asian readers, who might not be that familiar with the United States and the West in general. Dogs as pets are common in the United States, and for many of us, our dogs are as dear to us as other family members — sometimes more so. I’m sure it seems odd to Asian readers (dog is not an uncommon choice in restaurants in many parts of Asia, including parts of China), but many Americans, myself included, would no sooner eat a dog than eat a family member.

But, faced with this choice, as I paused my own words rang inside my head, words you may have already read in this blog: When in Rome, emulate the Romans. Life is short, experience everything you can. If you are going to understand a culture, you have to live like them.

Man oh man; if there is one thing worse than being called out on a bluff, it’s calling out yourself. So damn the torpedoes, full speed of head. Leap, then look. Shoot first, ask questions later. So I said: “Sure, why not?”

I could only bring myself to eat one little slice of dog meat; I thought of all the dogs that I had known and loved over the years — Tasha and Sandy, I don’t know if dogs do actually have an afterlife, but wherever you are now, I hope you can forgive me. Fortunately the rest of the meal was absolutely fantastic, and my hosts most gracious, and that is not an exaggeration. If there is one thing the Chinese know how to do, it’s how to have a meal, and how to treat a guest.

Turning the Tables: Eating Strange, Exotic … Pizza?

Perhaps it was the squid on a stick that we had for lunch while wandering the streets of Shenyang on Saturday afternoon (an entire little barbequed squid on a wooden skewer; it was pretty good, actually), but I decided it was time for Tony, my Chinese interpreter, to experience a little bit of my culture.

Plus I had wanted a pint of Guinness ever since I noticed that there was an Irish pub — really! — next door to my hotel here in Shenyang. And I was curious as to just how Irish it was. You can pretty much plan on finding in any medium or large city in continental Europe a pub run by an Irish expat, and odds are the staff will be Irish expatriates too. But in Northeast China? What are the odds of that?

Surely this pub in Shenyang wasn’t run by an Irish immigrant. Well, I didn’t find any Irish people about the place, so I can’t say for sure, but it sure looked the part at first glance, polished wood everywhere, a foosball table and football (soccer to us Yanks) on the telly.

But there was insipid European pop music on in the background (something you’d never hear in any real self-respecting Irish pub, not even on the Continent), and the table we sat down at had a table menu featuring “Gratinated Harsh Brown Potato.” I shortly discovered they had Guinness in a bottle, but not on tap. OK, so maybe it wasn’t all that authentic, but they did have Beamish on tap, so what the hell.

Thus I introduced Tony to his first pint of stout. The pronouncement: “very bitter.” But he actually finished his pint before I did, so there you go.

I also introduced Tony to such exotic fare as a hamburger and French fries – with, gasp! Ketchup — and pepperoni pizza. We also had bruschetta as an appetizer. It all proved a little too heavy and exotic for Tony: he said at one point that if there wasn’t all that stuff on top of the pizza dough, like cheese and sauce and whatnot, it would be O.K. Remember, cheese really is a foreign concept here.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaI couldn’t help but tease him, observing that I had been eating strange, exotic food all week. “Come on, Tony, don’t be a wuss! I ate squid on a stick today!” Not to mention dog the night before. He made it up to me by agreeing to play foosball, which he had never seen before in his life.

The next few weeks may turn out to be as much an odyssey for Tony as for me, I think. In Shanghai I’m guessing I can find a pool table somewhere, and maybe even some Mexican food. If he thought ketchup and pizza was exotic …

Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/17/2005 8:07:32 AM, Jeff in China said:

In Shanghai, for Mexican food, I recommend Taco Bell Grande (no, it has nothing to do with the fast food chain in the US) just off Renmin Guangchuang (People’s Square), near to the Marriot on Nanjing South(?) Road. It’s right across from the Shanghai Art Museum if I remember correctly…

at 10/17/2005 12:39:52 PM, Jo said:

I can only hope that you were sick as a …. DOG!!!

at 10/17/2005 1:41:44 PM, Richard H. McKee said:

Dear Jeff, I have quietly followed your postings until now, but with all this food commentary, I feel compelled to remind you that you are in the “LAND OF DUCK”. Before you leave, you must seek out the many various dishes that involve one or more parts of a duck! Cold, marinated duck feet as an appetizer should be tried, among others. And of course, traditional roast duck comes in what seems to be as many variations on the theme as there are restaurants. One of my all-time favorites is SMOKED Duck, where fine tea leaves are used on the coals for a one-of-a-kind smoke flavor! And yes, if you look hard enough you can find good local beer options to Tsing Tao, such as “Nanjing” in Beijing. Cheers! -Richard

at 10/17/2005 11:37:33 PM, dick@ntcom.co.uk said:

there are companies in Ireland, including, I think, Guiness themselves, that export entire “Oirish” pubs with fixtures, fittings and even authentic dust for the top shelves Don’t forget fish and chips as an exotic meal

at 10/17/2005 11:52:50 PM, Jonathan, Bath UK said:

Ketchup:- The word is chinese for tomato sauce!

at 10/18/2005 12:53:15 PM, Michael said: Jeff: Try the duck tongue! Yes, I said duck tongue. As one can well imagine, there’s not much meat.

at 10/19/2005 7:07:57 PM, Vern, Cincinnati, OH said:

Have you found any of those green tea cakes yet? If you can’t find that elusive expresso machine in the morning, chow down on a couple of these puppies…um, sorry…delights. The words will start to flow like donkey blood…um, sorry…water!

Of Bicycles, Beijing Duck and Pedicab Social Philosophy

Travelling the Silicon Road
BEIJING — As I write this it is the evening of Sunday, Oct. 9th; today was my first full day in China. I’m still pretty jet-lagged, so this is going to be a pretty short entry.

Briefly, my first impressions: the Chinese, at least here in Beijing, are a warm and friendly people, on the whole. Unlike some other countries in Asia, they don’t hesitate to smile at and talk with a foreigner, even if they realize he has no clue what they are saying. Perhaps it is because for so long it was closed off culturally from the rest of the world, but they are a curious people when it comes to foreigners – laowai. But it is a friendly, genuine curiosity.

And Beijing is an amazing, sprawling city. While there seems to be construction everywhere, and all the requisite problems that come with a large city anywhere in the world, East or West — smog, traffic jams, old tenement buildings and so forth — it is a very vibrant, bustling city with the East’s fascinating blend of old and new. It’s not uncommon to see trendily dressed teenagers walking around with cell phones glued to their ears, or professionally dressed men and women with briefcases in one hand sending text messages on their phones.

But in this country with a newly-rising middle class, “rising” is the key word. There are still many people of very modest means here, even in bustling Beijing. After my meeting with a start-up company this afternoon, my interpreter and I hired a pedicab driver who wheeled us around the outskirts of the Forbidden City and the surrounding hutong: narrow, charming neighborhood alleyways that are traditional residential architecture in this ancient city — neighborhoods that unfortunately are being swept aside in the name of modern progress.

Our driver was quite the chatterbox, pointing out historical buildings both ancient and relatively modern, such as the residence of the imperial court’s eunuchs of centuries past, as well as that of Deng Xiaoping and modern day Communist Party officials. He wryly noted that a large, sprawling house on the edge of a hutong that had barbed wire along its walls could only be the house of a party official, not a common Beijing resident, like most of those found in the interior of the crowded hutong.

Then our driver observed that unlike in China, in the U.S. anyone was free to amass wealth and power and buy a house like that, and that was what made my country great. I had to laugh at that: the Horatio Alger story of American myth is alive and well and living in Beijing.

I tried to point out that it wasn’t quite as simple as that, and it occurred to me that we have the exact opposite system in the West. In China, political power seemingly is what brings you wealth — at least according to our pedicab driver — whereas in the U.S. — according to me — wealth brings you political power. Anyone is free to run for political office, true, but you need money, or access to it, at least, in order to do it.

But, between the language barrier and my tourist rubber-necking, it really wasn’t the time or place for a comparison of the political and social ideologies of East and West.

But in any event, I would recommend that everyone visiting Beijing from abroad hire a pedicab. Be prepared to be cajoled for a little extra beyond the agreed upon price at the end of the trip, but if your driver deposits you at a great local restaurant like ours did, it is well worth it — and still cheap by American standards.

In fact, the bicycle is so ubiquitous here, it seems only natural to see it on the back of my pedicab — and it also illustrates the rising nature of the Chinese middle class in Beijing. As my student interpreter Che Zhike — Tony Che to us Westerners — observed, after asking me what I do in my free time: I ride my bicycles for enjoyment and exercise, whereas he rides a bicycle as his primary means of transportation — as it is for many, if not most residents of Beijing.

Wherever you go here, bicycles are omnipresent. And while I realize that it is an economic necessity for cyclists here, unlike myself and other avid cyclists back home in the States, it nevertheless endeared Beijing to me right away.  Any place with so many people on bikes, and large bike and pedestrian lanes throughout the city, is OK in my book.

I just hope that as China’s economy grows and they deal more and more with problems like pollution and energy availability, that they don’t forsake their bicycles for cars. They would do well not to imitate our history in that regard, and to learn from what I would consider to be one of our mistakes. The U.S. is deeply dependent on the private automobile, and we’re paying for that dependence right now, in more ways than one.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaWell, jet lag is fast catching up with me — so much for the short entry — but one more note on the food. Food and it’s consumption is very important to Chinese culture, as I’ve read, been told, and am now experiencing first hand. One phrase of greeting translates into English literally as “have you eaten?”

I’ve only scratched the surface, but so far the cuisine has been so, so good — after only two meals in China, my mouth waters at the prospect of another month here. Have I eaten, indeed.

Until next time,

Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

The Blogger Responds: Bring on the Strange Food

Travelling the Silicon Road
Well, I literally just finished packing my bags for the first leg of the trip, which involves flying on Tuesday from Charleston, WV — West ByGawd! as many of us here like to call it — into San Francisco to spend a few days at Reed Business Information’s San Jose office. I’ll be wrapping up a few last minute work-related details before jetting off to Beijing on Friday.

Praise the IT gods! Traveling to China for a month warrants the use of a brand new laptop: hallelujah!

Anyway, my first three posts have drawn a number of comments from readers. I’ve responded to some in the comments section of each blog post; rather than do that this time, I’d thought I’d kill several metaphorical birds with one stone, as it were. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are some responses to recent comments that I haven’t already addressed:

Sam: I find the idea of the entire country on the same time zone intriguing. After traveling around China for a month, including a trip inland into the Sichuan province, I’ll let everyone here know what I think, and I’ll be sure and ask the Chinese what they think.

Stuart: Sorry, but I’m leaving the granola bars at home. I realize Chinese food in America and Chinese food in China will surely prove to be two different things. But I really do like trying exotic cuisine, the weirder the better.

My first night ever in France, it was frog legs and escargot (soak anything in butter and garlic long enough, and it’s bound to taste good). My first morning in Ireland, it was blood sausage, or black pudding, or something like that.

I’m not saying I’ll ever eat the exotic dish in question again, and I may chicken out and draw the line at some things. But once one has eaten fish gonads well, let’s just say there are not too many dining frontiers one is not willing to cross in the name of cultural experience and understanding.

Now I know everyone wants to hear that story; to make it short: on my first trip to Japan some new-found friends became determined to find a Japanese dish that this gaijin wouldn’t eat (this was after I refused to eat at McDonalds and Tony Romas — I wasn’t about to eat at a restaurant in Tokyo that I could eat at in Cleveland). My only caveat for this challenge was that I had to know what it was before I tried it.

Finally, after two days of chicken cartilage, cow tongues, fish heads and various odd parts of just about every sea creature imaginable, I was presented with a small bowl full of what looked vaguely like rotini noodles covered in a gray sauce. It kinda tasted gray as well, if you can imagine that.

I was a little leery, as my Japanese friends insisted that I try it first before they would tell me what it was. After toughing it out and making my way through half the dish — about two or three bites — and after much embarrassed laughter and wrestling with the language barrier, I finally ascertained that I had just ingested the male reproductive organs of a fish.

I’m not sure if they were technically testicles or not, not being an expert on fish genitalia; until that moment I had never really considered if male fish have testicles or what. Last time I was in a Red Lobster, I didn’t see fish gonads on the menu.

But rest assured, you haven’t fully experienced life until you’ve eaten male fish gonads in front of three giggling, blushing Japanese women.

So one of my goals for China is to top the dining on fish gonads story. Of course, knowing my luck, people I’m going to be meeting in China are reading this, and I’ll be forced to put or shut up.

Hong Wu: Yours is an interesting story. From what I understand, in recent years, your story has played out many times over: while in the past many Chinese students remained abroad after obtaining an education overseas, many now return to help foster the burgeoning electronics industry. I actually hope to talk to students and professionals like you while I’m in China. While I’ve made some plans for this, if you read this — or if anyone else fits the above description — please shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you while I’m there.

Marto Hoary: Some of my colleagues from Electronic Business China will be accompanying me part of the time during my trip to serve as interpreters; the remainder of the time I will have a Chinese student in tow to help with translation/interpretation.

But I’ve been trying to learn a bit of Chinese myself; I’ve found that when traveling abroad, if you show that you’ve at least made some attempt to learn something about the native culture, including its language, it can take you a long way and endear you to the local populace.

Plus the following phrases always prove indispensable when traveling in a foreign country: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, help, beer please, where is the toilet, I don’t speak (insert language of choice here); do you speak English? And of course, help!

And I would think that anyone traveling to China on business would want to learn at least rudimentary Chinese. If not for the purposes of business, then so you can embarrass teenage girls on trains when they start gossiping about you, thinking that you can’t understand them.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaAnd it is my personal goal to make up for all the idiot American tourists abroad — and I’ve seen a few Aussies guilty of this too — that think if they speak English loudly and slowly enough, people from other countries should understand them!

OK, the next missive will be filed from the left-hand coast of America, i.e., California, and then it will be off to China.

Jeff

P.S. Almost forgot: Dan posted a comment about Slate.com and a blog by a former U.S. securities analyst who spent six months in China investigating the “Gold Rush” going on there.

You can find those archives here; I’ve only read a few posts so far, but it is pretty good stuff.

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/4/2005 2:45:38 AM, tony said:

hi Jeff you are really an interesting person. i look forward to your visit.

at 10/4/2005 3:10:56 PM, Ron Bauerle said:

Here are a couple for you to try: http://www.divegallery.com/sea_cucumber_2. and htm http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1107327 (donkey meat soaked in tiger urine)

at 10/6/2005 4:25:41 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey Ron, LOL, I draw the line at endangered species, so I wouldn’t be ordering tiger, anyway. Especially now that I know it might be donkey meat soaked in tiger urine. Yum! As for sea cucumber, I had that in Japan at some point; I don’t remember the dish, but I remember asking someone what “namako” was, and it turned out to be the sea cucumber, aka the sea slug …

at 10/7/2005 1:30:09 AM, Scot Tripp said:

Please don’t ever mention sea cucumber (slug) again! I had it last year in Korea and it was so disgusting I have to head for the mens’ room just thinking about it. I can eat pretty well anything, but that was!!!!!!!!

at 10/7/2005 2:03:28 AM, Hong Wu said:

Hi Jeff, I tried almost the entire “Traveling the Silicon Road” website but still couldn’t find your email address. Anyway, here is mine: <hwu1052c@yahoo.com.cn>. Would like to talk to you in Shanghai, too. BTW, when will you stay in Shanghai?

at 10/7/2005 1:02:36 PM, Dan Tracy said:

I had the fish testicle dish in Japan too. Wasn’t bad, though I would not go out of my way to order it. I have had some great meals in China, at large restaurants and at small local shops. If it something I have never seen before, I usually go ahead and eat without asking…perhaps better not to know.

at 10/8/2005 5:26:04 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey, Hong Wu, sorry about that. I just posted a link to my e-mail address in my most recent post, at the bottom, and here it is again: jchappell@reedbusiness.com. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we can’t insert html-links into this comments section like I can with an actual blog plost, but you can cut and paste, or use the link in the Oct. 8 blog entry. I’ll contact you directly with my Shanghai dates, so we can plan to meet.

Where Does the Truth of China Lie?

Travelling the Silicon RoadLately I’ve been thinking a lot about China, obviously, and how in the last 15 years or so, it has tried to maintain its totalitarian style of communism while embracing a free market economy. The reasons for this are as complex and varied as China’s long and turbulent history, I’m sure, coupled with recent events like the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economically and politically troubled aftermath.

Remember the U.S. spy-plane incident in China back in 2001? Even as tensions rose between Beijing and Washington, every U.S. chip executive doing business in China said it was business as usual, that they even laughed about the situation with their Chinese counterparts.

I think that perhaps one reason why the Chinese perhaps retain a political and social chill to the West, even as they court Western business and an open market, may be their previous brushes with Western-style economics. In that light, in spite of what one may think about communism and totalitarianism in general and China’s domestic policies and human rights record in particular, who can blame them? After all, Western imperialism exactly hasn’t been China’s friend, historically speaking.

And history, it seems, is wont to repeat itself, at least to a certain degree.

I’ve sat through keynote speeches by semiconductor CEOs, and when they speak of China, they often invoke images of the bold, gleaming modern skyscrapers of Beijing and Shanghai and the sprawling new fabs to be found there, sounding nothing so much as if they were Cortez describing Tenochtitlán, or El Dorado, the fabled Lost City of Gold. But a more apt metaphor would have them sounding like the intrepid Marco Polo, having returned from his journeys with his merchant uncles to the far end of the Silk Road, describing the exotic wonders of the mysterious Cathay in the Far East, and the business opportunities to be had there.

Sometimes, executives and analysts speak in such glowing terms about China and its growing domestic consumption and demand for chips that I can’t help but be reminded of British imperialists and traders of the 1800s. That may seem a bit harsh, but when I think of what spawned Great Britain’s Opium Wars with China — namely a trade imbalance; it seems the West didn’t have that much to interest the average Chinese citizen back then, until British traders started importing opium from India — I can’t help but draw the parallel. Sometimes you can almost literally see the dollar signs in people’s eyes in this industry when talk about China.

But before the angry e-mails come sullying forth, this is not to say that CEOs relocating their manufacturing to China and courting the Chinese domestic market for chips and chip equipment are akin to the British circa the 1840s and 1850s, literally forcing China via the British military and its Western allies to accept the importation of opium. This is not what I’m saying at all.

But the metaphor is nevertheless apt. Today the West is once again looking to make economic inroads to the East, and indeed, many Western politicians look at the trade deficit with China today and consequently worry.

But this time around, it is certainly a different China than that of a century and a half ago, both culturally, economically, ideologically and militarily. In fact, there are those that speak of China not in the warm, glowing terms often used in the chip industry, but in just the opposite. To those people China is something to be feared, either economically, or politically and ideologically, as a rival to the West, particularly the United States, as China emerges as a global superpower.

To these people, Chinese oil company CNOOC Ltd.’s bid to acquire the U.S.-based Unocal was certainly an example of why China should be feared. For myself, I couldn’t help but think it incredibly ironic, given a historical context.

So where does the truth lie? Is China a boon or a bane for the West, and more specifically and germane to us, the chip industry?

I haven’t the foggiest idea. I’ve never been there, and the few Chinese people that I’ve gotten to know well in the course of my life have all been Chinese Americans, having been born and raised here.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaI suspect, being a long-time observer of the world around me — a reporter is nothing, if not an observer — that the truth lies somewhere in between those too extreme visions of warm and fuzzy economics and political/social gloom and doom. The world is often more mundane than we think (although not always, fortunately and unfortunately). And I suppose, ultimately, this is my task, to find out where the truth lies. Rather a tall order, for just a month’s time, but then perhaps that will be enough to at least glean an inkling of truth.

Wish me luck.

Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 9/21/2005 2:06:35 PM, Chipod said: Are you there yet?

at 9/21/2005 4:10:30 PM, Jeff Chappell said: No, actually I’ll be leaving within the next few weeks for China, and then spending a month traveling to the various technological and industrial centers, such as Shanghai and Chengdu.

at 9/26/2005 2:25:19 PM, Dan said:

If you can post links outside of RBI in your “library,” I suggest Henry Blodgett’s series on Slate, the last of which is at http://slate.msn.com/id/2117502/ Most interesting…

at 9/26/2005 10:54:30 PM, Dave Brewer said:

Please don’t follow the interactive map that accompanies these articles; at least not to Shenzhen. I travel there frequently for my employer and with light traffic on the roads, through Immigration and Customs, Shenzhen is merely 30 minutes from Hong Kong (give or take). Many people have begun buying homes in Shenzhen to commute to Hong Kong; not unlike the people commuting from Connecticut to NYC.

The map location shown of Shenzhen makes it out to be considerably further north; nearly to Shanghai, although the distance inland is about right. In any event, have a great trip; the bit of China I’ve seen so far has left me eager to return whenever the opportunity presents itself. The food is a veritable palette of visual and taste treats, but from a Western perspective – some dis-assembly is required (meats, fish, or foul). When in doubt, just follow your host to see what should be discarded or consumed (and proceed slowly until you teeth are skilled in discerning bone from flesh). The flavor rewards are well worth learning to eat the au naturel preparations. Bon voyage.

at 9/27/2005 4:03:56 PM, Greg Zhou said:

Hi Jeff, It’s interesting to read your article. You will need to understand Chinese history, culture, and mentality a bit more before you can find the answers to the questions you posted in your article. The traditional Chinese way of thinking is rather passive and inward looking. They built the Great Wall over many centuries just to defense themselves from lootings by tribal people in the north. They seek society harmony more than materials wealthy (relatively and statistically speaking).

If you get chance to visit the Forbidden City in Beijing, you will notice that the themes of art collections (mostly brush paintings) for the emperors (and senior officials/scholars alike) range from scenery views (mountains/creeks/lakes), stones with irregular shape, flowers, birds, vegetables, and insects, etc. Those are what they enjoy and admire.

On a contrast, the topics of western palace paintings are usually about wars, conquers, triumphs, and religions. Chinese love money but they also agree with the Confusions teachings, which condemned so-called “rule of jungle” policy because civilized people should behave differently than animals and beasts.

The conclusion is that the Chinese people are passive and peaceful people (relatively and statistically speaking) and the rise of China will not be a threat to western (or any other) countries. For example, they will compete for energy resources through acquisition (a recent attempt failed due to US government interference). However, it’s will be hard to imagine that China will send troops to oil rich countries to protect Chinese interests. Greg Zhou gzhou8@yahoo.com

at 9/28/2005 7:52:52 AM, Jeff Chappell said:

To Dan: It is indeed a very interesting account; it would seem I’m not the only intrepid Western blogger (of course this is hardly surprising). I encourage anyone who is interested to go over to Slate and check it out, just do a search for the author, Henry Blodget (only 1 ‘t’).

To Dave: As for the map, online map technology is still in its infancy, as we’ve come to find in preparing this site. As for exotic cuisine, bring it on! I’m actually a vegetarian, most of the time, except for when I travel, particularly abroad. I love to sample local cuisine, the stranger (to me) the better. When in Rome, emulate the Romans. And I love Chinese food, at least as it exists here in the States, so I look forward to trying the real thing.

To Greg: Thanks for you enlightening comments. Hopefully I will continue to garner more as the journey continues, which will benefit not just me but all of our readers. While China has its own internal violent episodes in its long history, I agree in large part with your assessment of Western vs. Chinese art. A very interesting observation; I would suggest that the same applies to much of the literary differences between the two cultures as well.

at 9/29/2005 12:27:43 PM, dave kees said:

I’ve been living in Guangzhou for the past 6 years. I think there is a lot of truth in the old saying: “Go to China for a week and you can write a book. Go to China for a month and you can write an article. Go to China for a year and you have nothing to write.” Good luck! davekees@davekees.com

at 9/29/2005 1:45:38 PM, Eric Fremd said:

Hi Jeff, I am looking forward to hearing about the progress of your trip…Just this year I went to China for my first time – it far exceeded my expectations and/or preconceived ideas from the U.S. media…I have spent almost 2 months this year in China (Shenzhen, Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai).

My company (Brocade Communications) has an operations office in Shenzhen and our factory is just outside in Longhua…I recommend you go now and spend some time getting acclimated – 1 month is simply too short! Take in some tourist sights- see and experience the local culture. Chinese food is so different from region to region – it is so good! I love it all! Make sure you have the frog hot pot in Chengdu. You will eat and share everything off the plate with everyone around the table- just be aware that not many local places use serving chopsticks…

When in Shanghai make sure you stop by the famous Hooters Restaurant…and say hi to my girlfriend! If you want please put Brocade in Shenzhen on your list of people to talk to…we really have a world class operation there! I can put you in touch with the right people… Have a great trip! Looking forward to reading your reports… Eric Fremd efremd@brocade.com

at 9/29/2005 4:29:27 PM, Don C said:

On my two trips to China, I was struck by numerous things things: the incredible air pollution (I couldn’t see the ground when flying from Hong Kong to Shanghai, approx. 1000 miles, on a clear day); the rough and ready frontier feeling in Shanghai; the sight of donkey carts next to Maserati’s on the streets of Shanghai; the incredible skyscraper architecture in Guangzhau and Shanghai–pay particular attention to the tops of skyscrapers.

The lack of queues of people where we would expect to see orderly lines–everyone bunches together as a mass and moves out at once, including at stop lights with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and trucks; some very anti-American propaganda editorials in the South China Times; the beautiful fashions worn by women in Shanghai; the constant smell of chemicals in the air. Be sure to take a course or two of Cipro with you in case you come down with an intestinal ailment–take it at the first signs or you’ll be sorry. Have fun. You are on a wonderful adventure!

at 10/3/2005 7:13:06 AM, Wade C said: Not sure if you’re there yet, but you are in for a wonderful adventure. I travel to Taipei, Hong Kong and Shenzhen twice a year, and if I’m lucky Shanghai once a year. There is no describing Shanghai! You just have to experience it.

I’ve been to LA, NY, Tokyo and Seoul and Shanghai is by far the best. I’ve read many, many books about the culture, history and etiquette and I agree with the above postings that the Chinese are a peaceful people and those that you run into will be more than happy to help you in anyway they can if you avoid the “Superior American Attitude.” Contrary to popular belief, we don’t know it all and the world does not cater to us as they once did. I believe you will enjoy your experience.

Embarking on the Silicon Road

Travelling the Silicon RoadDear Gentle Reader,

You should know something about me first thing before we proceed any farther and delve into China, both literally and figuratively. This will tell you volumes about me, really, and what you are in for in these electronic ponderings and mental wonderings.

The first thing I thought of when Steve Drace, Electronics News’ publisher, approached me about traveling China for a month, the very first thing to flash through my brain was this: “I’ll get to eat Chinese food every day for a month straight! Cool!”

Yosemite Sam: He Dug Clear Through to Chinee. Of course Warner Bros. holds the copyright on this long-eared galoot.The second thing that flashed through my brain, a snippet from a long-dormant neuron that climbed up out of the nether regions of my id, was a bit from a Bugs Bunny cartoon viewed years ago in my long-lost childhood. I don’t recall the exact pretext, but it involved Yosemite Sam — suffering from one of Bugs’ nefarious machinations — digging a hole in the Earth, digging and digging and digging some more, maniacally, all the way through, to where he pops out of the ground upside down, to be confronted by someone who is clearly Asian: “Oh no!” Yosemite Sam exclaims. “I done dug clear through to Chinee.”

It wasn’t long before I was in my suburban Ohio backyard attempting to replicate Sam’s feat. Not sure why; it would be years later before I was exposed to the delights of Chinese cuisine and culture. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to China.

But I digress. These were the first two things I thought of. Not what an incredible opportunity for me professionally, as a journalist, to be charged with trying to separate the rather sizable myths from the realities involving China and the semiconductor industry. Not what a wonderful opportunity it was for me personally, as one who loves to travel to foreign lands and has never been to China. Not what a fascinating time it would be to travel to China, one of the oldest cultures and the largest country in the world, not to mention the last significant bastion of Communism — a country that is in the midst of economic and cultural changes of historical proportions.

Nope. All those thoughts came shortly afterward, of course, along with more mundane issues, like the fact that I don’t speak one word of Mandarin or Cantonese. The first things that I thought of were food and childhood cartoons, in that order. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about me and what this means, dear Gentle Reader. But consider yourself warned.

Copy That, Mission Control,
We’re (Finally!) Going with Throttle Up

Electronic News Travels to ChinaI should also mention the relief I felt, too. When your boss’ boss sends you a terse e-mail that simply states “please call me as soon as possible; I have something I need to discuss with you,” well, it either means really bad news, or really good news. Fortunately for me, it was the latter. I was to be charged with the rather Herculean task of traveling to China for a month, and finding out “what’s really going on” there, particularly with regard to the chip industry.

That was nearly nine months ago; it was back in January when this plan was hatched. Why so long? Well, when your trip involves a large media conglomerate, outside marketing as well as internal advertising and marketing efforts, outside sponsors and its own Web site no less, things get complicated. When your trip is a professional endeavor, involving daily work, i.e., daily postings to a blog on said dedicated site, as well as news stories filed from the other side of the planet … well, logistically, sometimes it seems as if it is almost akin to flying to the moon.

For someone that likes to travel light, and even at age 36 has trouble sleeping the night before even the smallest trip because of excitement and the urge to hit the road, it’s been a little irksome. I’ve hung up after more than one conference call over the past nine months and hollered: “Jeez! It’s not rocket science! It’s China, not Mars! Why is all this taking so long and being such a complex pain in the tuckus?” And sometimes I would hang up the phone, close a related e-mail and think, “I’d get there faster if I went out in the backyard and started digging.” Or think that it would, indeed, seemingly be easier, logistically, to fly to the Moon or Mars.

The Historical Silk RouteBut it seems that the time is finally here. After a lot of efforts both within Reed Business Information and its subsidiary eLogic, which handles all our Web stuff, as well as from those of us here at Electronic News, my embarkation on what we’ve termed the Silicon Road (that’s a pun on the Silk Road, for those of you not paying attention back in world history class), is at hand. Soon I’ll be setting out to try and separate the Western business and cultural myths from Chinese realities.

If there has been one thing I’ve learned about traveling, it’s that sometimes you find what you expect to find, but more often than not, even when you do, you also find things that you didn’t expect. Sometimes this can be good, like an uncharted hot spring literally in the middle of nowhere on a four-day backpack trip in the Eastern Sierras. Sometimes this can be bad, like when it’s Friday night, you’re down to your last 20 euros in cash, there is only one ATM in all of Leuven, Belgium where your Bank of America ATM card actually works, and it’s out of cash.

But there is certainly a lot of myth surrounding China, both in general and when it comes to the semiconductor industry and the corresponding domestic market. And we’ll save that for ensuing entries.

Until next time, Jeff

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

9/30/2005 1:32:44 PM, Tom Gutowski said:

I’ve been to China a couple of times and am amazed at the difference between the number of people it takes to make a hard disk in China compared to Malaysia compared to Ireland. Oh well if you have a few million extras might as well keep them employed and cheaply at that. And by the way that Chinese food, you won’t get any you recognize in China, except maybe the white rice. Good luck on your trip.