2020 is a tough year

My Jenny Lou is closed

2020 is a tough year for many businesses in Beijing, too many to mention. Some are simply the victim of the wave of destruction in Beijing, in particular in my gongti area (Worker’s Stadium), for others it is the impact of COVID-19.

My favorite Jenny Lou decided to close, it was in front of Buona Bocca and Mala Bocca (Xindong Lu, the small street of Jiamei Dental), see how it looked like in February 2020. Reason: too few foreign customers… as many cannot be back.

Another victim is Cafe de la Poste, was in operation for some 15 years.

Gongti destruction

As posted earlier, most within the gongti area is to be razed.

See here an update with the buildings on the north side being demolished, the coffeeshop also marked “to destroy”, Superlife biting the dust and our beloved Legend Beer and Laburnum Thai Restaurant being smashed to pieces. The whole gongti area is becoming very flat…

See the date of the picture.
It seems some buildings will be spared (IQIYI and the “hotel”) but who knows… Also the fate of (formerly called) Gongti Yibai (Gongti 100 see how it was originally https://www.frommers.com/destinations/beijing/active-pursuits) remains unclear but Club One Third is still making a mess of the traffic in the street till early morning hours.

 

Rotary Nuertingen Kirchheim Teck

ZOOM

My good friend Eli Khoury who worked a few years in Beijing is now the president of Rotary Nuertingen Kirchheim Teck Club in Germany. We miss him and his lovely family.
The club: https://nuertingen-kirchheim-teck.rotary.de
He invited me to give a talk about Beijing using ZOOM. I finally found a way to do it so that my face is not sun-burnt red – the camera of my iMac desktop sucks. The iPhone is much better, and with some extra lights it looks really so much friendlier.

Topic of the E-Meeting

“Surviving Beijing during the pandemic. What’s next for the economy?”

Time was 13:20 CET / 19:20 Beijing time on 16 September 2020 and the talk with Q&A took some 40 minutes. I gave an overview on how the COVID-19 epidemic started and how Beijing (and China) handled the fight against the virus, with the today result it is the safest place to be for the virus. I explained how life was during the “lockdown” – that was not really a lockdown as in other countries, while somehow draconian. I survived it very well. Now Beijing is slowly back to “normal” but still with some restrictions.

I also talked about the impact on the economy and what we can expect in the near future.
I also explained there is a lot of fake news, such as the story that China “made the virus by purpose”. And that it is clear another virus of the same kind can be expected in the future; to ward it off, China is clamping down on the trade of wild animals and improving the sanitary conditions of the “wet markets” where vegetables, fish, meat and so much more is sold.

Old China Hands Lunch 5 June

Back again

Old China Hands Lunch 5 June marked our second lunch after the virus outbreak. Attendance was still pretty modest for several reasons: we were 17. All in all not too bad.
I have tried to have an idea about how many of our members are blocked abroad and unable to return “home”. Well, it is not a nice picture with close to 30 of our usual attendants unable to return; probably there are more, some did not yet reply to me. As I mentioned earlier, I expect many to give up on China for good, with their business, family life and social life wrecked. Chinese authorities couldn’t care less and there is no end in sight for the misery. China is losing many friends, that’s for sure. Really sad.

 

See the dishes I chose. The restaurant is now also well known for its collection of fresh flowers, done by Susan.

Next lunch

Tentatively planned for Friday 3 July.
All of Morel’s Restaurant staff has been tested for the virus and the restaurant is regularly checked by the hygiene department. As the restaurant observes all regulations strictly, they are one of the locations still allowed to operate.
I also must stress again to our members that the restaurant is giving us a very special deal and they should respect that. You are expected to pay for any extras. If you don’t like it, you go somewhere else.

Old China Hands Lunch is back

A modest restart

Old China Hands Lunch is back after a 3 months “pause”. As 1 May was the first Friday of the month we decided to do it on Friday 8 May, giving us also more time to evaluate the “situation”.
I asked our members for an update on their situation and sadly many of our regulars are stuck outside of China as they are not allowed to return to China. They are in UK, USA, Australia, Thailand, Germany, name it. It does not look good when they could return, I think not before October in the best case.
That is obviously dramatic as many have office and home here with all their belongings. Their business is, the least to say, seriously affected.
Some say they will leave China for good. I can’t blame them. China and in particular Beijing is turning against foreigners and racism and xenophobia pop up regularly.
China for sure knows how to turn friends into enemies. And they couldn’t care less.

Our lunch

We were exactly 16 and I insisted on all observing the rules of social distancing, 4 per table, temperature check etc.
Some were still too scared to “mingle”, some simply freaked out. Oh well.

Anyway who came was pretty happy and Morel’s Restaurant served us well.
I am planning the next lunch for Friday 5 June.

 

My COVID-19 Newsletter

Looking back and evaluating

I started my COVID-19 Newsletter about two months ago, first article was “Virusland is back“, dated 30 January 2020.
Since then I have been posting nearly every day.
Preparing the newsletter has demanded lots of work, and was time-consuming.

My sources were international TV (I watch a lot every day), SCMP, China Daily, NYT, KNACK/TRENDS, De Standaard, Het Laatste Nieuws, Caixin, and many other such as daily newsletters from various sources such as AXION and Sinocism.
I did not intend to be a “news channel” covering everything. The idea was to focus on what has been affecting us in China, how we were dealing with quarantine and lockdown, and the impact of the virus worldwide.
I also tried to double-check sources and give a balanced view while avoiding some sensitive topics that might affect my residence status in Beijing.

I closely monitored the views I get on my different media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and others. I also closely followed the hits on this website, that also reveal how people reach my website. Many people on media such as LinkedIn don’t bother to read the article but start commenting. Oh well!
Overall I feel disappointed by the numbers. I don’t show them here but you can comment on how many hits would be nice in your opinion. (Nobody will give feedback anyway!)
One indication: the very few (valid) comments I receive.
It is also clear for me that the people close to me (and the ones I value) hardly ever visit this website.
Yes, quite frustrating.

Websites: a bygone era?

I feel that overall, people have become very superficial and have a very short attention span. Digging a bit deeper in issues is pretty rare. People seems to love very short news clips and rather love fake or sensational news. But you find a lot of “strong opinions”, based on hot air.

It is also very disturbing to see how world leaders such as Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro and some others drag their countries deeper and deeper into the abyss. Worst, they have followers who remain blind for facts and with whom it is a waste of time to argue. For them, the earth is flat. It shows how our Western democracies are imploding.

Foreign governments and embassies

You can wonder, especially recently, what embassies and representatives of foreign governments bring to the community.
Many embassies seem oblivious to their nationals in the country, hardly ever send out notices except to refer to the websites of their home ministry. How many keep their nationals informed and show interest in solving their problems?
Many embassy staff have no access to external websites. You can wonder how they can stay well-informed. You also wonder what they are actually doing. Have a problem? Please register your case online. Anyway most of the worries of their nationals “are not their responsibility and not in their scope of work”.

All of course depends on the big boss – the ambassador. In my 40 years here I have seen very different attitudes. Creativity, flexibility and initiative are often absent. Of course there are always exceptions. More than often, their work is made more difficult by the instructions and limitations they receive from their foreign ministry. In the past I did receive invaluable assistance from my Belgian embassy (and others). I accept their job has become more difficult by the short-sighted governments, and budget cuts.

Why am I doing this?

A good question that I often asked myself. Those who read my newsletter can agree I have no commercial interests to promote. As for my consulting company, we do not look for clients and we are very choosy.

One aspect I can mention is the promotion of my two books. Here again I see my closest contacts being of little help, if any, to help promote my books, or buying them (kidding, right!). The e-books are actually pretty cheap.
As a reminder, here they are:
“LAUGH AND GET WISER! Jokes and witty wisdom for adults”
The Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H291Z61
and
“Toxic Capitalism – The orgy of consumerism and waste: Are we the last generation on earth?”
E-book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0792X896M/

The impact of my newsletter in this respect has been close to zero. Very disappointing. This is how you know who your friends are, while I am (or better, was) always too ready to help others.

Trying to help EU countries

Through one of my positions with the Chinese government I was asked to help donate 1,000 test kits to some European countries. The test kits are of a very advanced, we can say, revolutionary design. They offer a COVID-19 test in 5 minutes without using a laboratory. Done on the spot. The kits have all certificates including CE (from The Netherlands) and I have the detailed documentation.

The idea was to donate (officially) to the embassy who would then decide with their government to use it in hospitals, research centers or any health organization interested to test the technology.
Oh well, red tape, inaction, zero response. And oh! Gosh, politics with the Chinese government! Can we do this? (BUT! Welcome Jack Ma! He brings business!)
I have now canceled the offer. Time was the essence but as it stands EU governments have been turtle-like to react. Learn from China!
Anybody interested, contact me. I do not have any business interest in this. I thought I could help…

Too bad, not a surprise that EU countries are hopelessly behind in tackling the outbreak, don’t have masks while they were warned two months in advance. Then they find some millions of masks rotten in a military warehouse.
If one tries to mail masks to family in Europe, good luck. Red tape (WE NEED CE!!!!!) and total lack of cooperation from customs (not to mention embassies) make it virtually impossible.
Remember when Chinese bought ALL masks around the world and shipped them to China? Chinese customs had special procedures to let them in.
Poor EU.

In short, bye. No more COVID-19 stuff

And don’t bother to ask me how are things over here in Beijing. Ask your embassy.
We will watch from Beijing how you all cope (?) to put in place logistics, equipment, health care workers, fail to use masks when needed (= as we do over here for a good reason), implement lockdown, …

Yeah interesting to look how crazy/idiotic people are. Keep hoarding! Buy toilet paper (they shit a lot!!!). And if you ever come to Beijing, your zero star hotel welcomes you in Xiaotangshan (now refurbished after its operation for SARS). And behave in the lift (elevator for others).
Yep, my last little humor (much more in earlier posts).
Meanwhile I will enjoy more great Belgian cuisine in Morel’s Restaurant.