Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Usual Suspects

Got a call from a reporter friend while slaving away at my desk. She's helping a big European broadcaster organize a global panel on Freedom of Expression. They want someone in Beijing who speaks English well and is willing to discuss the topic on radio. I said Good luck.

Last night went to a banquet thrown in honor of John Major, the ex UK Prime Minister. Sir John was in town attending or presiding a seminar on Private Wealth Management, for a fat fee I'm sure. He said I can speak straight now since I'm no longer a politician. Then he went on and on about what an economic powerhouse China is becoming. People asked him questions on rising oil price, the rising influence of Russian, then oil price again.

I had the urge to ask—“Dear Sir John, what do you think of the horrible smog out side?”—but that surely would have spoiled the party. It seemed that what most people really enjoyed, was talking about the obvious while also ignoring the obvious.

I sat next to a private banker who had purchased real estate in seven different Chinese cities. He said trust me man, the real estate price would continue to rise, if not at the astronomical rate in the past. China has this weird characteristic, he said, that as long as there was stability for thirty or forty years, the country's economy would sail smoothly and overtake the world--just check your history books. Don't be bearish on the current problems. China, and Chinese, want stability, which begets prosperity.

Back to my reporter friend. She said if you don't want to--or can't--do it, can you recommend someone? I promised to ask the few usual suspects around. They speak good English, and they know where the boundary lies for any topic deemed sensitive. Meanwhile, I could not shake off the sense of a thrilling irony of living in such a vast country while only a few usual suspects can be found.

Oh well. Sir John mentioned repeatedly last night that China will overtake Japan as the world's 2nd largest economy by 2020. I can't say I'm not proud.

So what if there are only a few usual suspects around willing to talk about Freedom of Expression in English, in this great capital of our beloved motherland?

1 comment:

megantheory said...

So glad to have you back, it's been a while. I often wonder, how much can panels, such as those your friend is helping to organize, contribute...considering that so much cannot be said or discussed by its guests. We are left to infer and interpret their comments, and may often be incorrect in our assumptions. I guess it's better than nothing.