Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Professional websites now available in English

It's been bussy recently. DuoArts Consultancy is growing and having a one-man enterprise in the Netherlands (fortunately, I possess a larger network in China), this means loads of extra work. Funny how you spend so much time on marketing to provide your company with future projects. Though, I like to do marketing and becoming a self-made-expert in this field. Thanks to this blog I learned how to pay attention to page-ranks, write stories that other people read, creating several links for the search machines to be able to find you quick and easy, as well as some basic html writing (yes, I'm from a previous generation!).

All the knowledge gathered, has been used to make my professional site at www.china-advies.com a popular one amongst Dutch readers (... and potential clients!). Unfortunately, on the expense of my original blog Experiencing China. You will find the website now also available in English, as part of an internationalization strategy.

Besides my work for DuoArts Consultancy, I'm still working on a volunteer basis for the Empowerment Foundation as a project manager China. The two schools I wrote about in previous articles are doing fine. There's only one slight problem, the virtual absence of donation coming in. We had some donations but unfortunately to little to succesfully continue the projects. Currently, I'm fighting against the image, existent in the Netherlands, that China is by no means a development country because of it's huge annual economic growth rates. The other side of the coin (is this an English/American/Australian etc. expression as well?) is that 950 million Chinese still weren't able to improve their pover living standards. But, there is good news. The previously Dutch website of the Empowerment Foundation is also available in English now. You will find it at www.empowermentfoundation.nl.

Monday, February 27, 2006

China and Taiwan

A couple of weeks ago I met a Chinese from Taiwan. The funny thing is that, although I consider myself to be a China expert, I never really included Taiwan as part of this expertise. Though Taiwan certainly is of interest both professionally and personally.

Listening to what the lady from Taiwan told me about her country, culture is roughly similar to that of China, although Taiwan doesn't share the same history and institutions that were build to suit the recurrent political situation. In mainland China that is (socialist) bureaucracy. I've heard and read that Taiwan has a considerable bureaucracy as well, just like in the Netherlands, both countries being prosperous, democratic and capitalist in nature. Though one cannot compare Chinese socialist bureaucracy with Western or, probably also, Taiwanese bureaucracy.

Taiwan just might be a good opportunity for my business. China is coming up as the local power in the region (or already is), but I think Taiwan has certain advantages over China (yet). For example, a stable and well organized economy, qualitative high standard products, a educated workforce and less involvement of the state in business. This is what the mainland more or less still lacks. One day, I just might pass by... and look for opportunities.

In relation to China-Taiwan, many people ask me if there will be a war. This because China considers Taiwan to be an inseperatable part of its territory. This is true and because of the recent tensions (I'm talking about 6 months ago), when the Chinese adopted a ambiguous law that allows them to take back what they consider to be theirs, one might think of war. But I don't think this will be the case. China, on the one hand, knows that for maintaining its present course and development it doesn't need war but stable economic relations with the US, EU, Japan and Taiwan. Furthermore, economic ties between China and Taiwan are so interrelated that a war would jeopardize steady economic growth. On the other hand do the majority of the Taiwanese not reject reunification, which might sound as a surprize to non-Chinese readers. But it is true. In general, the Taiwanese are proud of their democratic and economic achievements, but at the same time feel Chinese. Eventually, reunification wouldn't be of a too big problem to them. Eventually! The current conditions still make reunification impossible but both ordinary mainland Chinese and Taiwanese believe that China eventually also will liberalize politically, which will make this reunification more feasible.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Experiencing China One Year Old!

Dear readers,

Today 'Experiencing China' is celebrating its first birthday. A time to look back and forward.

Celebrating my birthday in June in Beijing

15 November 2004 I wrote...
I am Marc David Brand and this is my first experience with blogging. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and currently live in Haarlem, a city 11 kilometres from Amsterdam.

What followed was a whole bunch of stories about China, the country that facinates me since 1998. High time was this year when I lived in Beijing for five months. Back home I decided to change this blog's former name 'Marc & China' into 'Experiencing China', which I thought of as more appropriate.

From November 25th till December 21st I will be back in the Middle Kingdom, and try to find some time to write about my experiences. "I'll try"... because a lot has changed since November 15th 2004. At that time I was, for a period, (delibarately) unemployed because I needed time to work on a couple ideas that I already have for some years, namely to set up a consultancy for Dutch small and medium sized companies in China or those who wish to do something in China. In January this year the company was founded, but one step needed to be taken first, that is, studying Mandarin in Beijing. In July I returned and actually really started with my work as a freelance consultant, and successfully! This time I visit China because of work I have to do for three companies.

The writing I do here is for you my readers. This year I had 1,512 readers from more than 25 countries (excluding 13 hits 'unknown' and 'the rest' 49 hits). Although lately I receive more commercial comments than interesting comments, I am very pleased with everybody that took the time to write to me. Keep reading this blogsite then I will promise you I'll try to be a better writer.

Xiexie nimen (thank you everybody)!


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

DAC's new website!

For those who understand Dutch, my company, DuoArts Consultancy, has a new website at www.china-advies.nl.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Remarkable fact

1. Netherlands 654 47.2 %
2. United States 216 15.6 %
3. China 119 8.6 %

I already noticed it some time ago that China is number three in visiting countries on my webstat. It might seem for you, the reader, as no surprise because this site is about China. However, in China blogspot.com cannot be opened unless you have special (illegal) software. Therefore, a 'thank you' for my Chinese readers who risk being cut off from all internet services when visiting blogspot websites.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Chinese car found to be not safe

A month or two ago a lot of attention was paid with the introduction of the first Chinese car on the European market. Peter Bijvelds, sole importer of the Jianling Landwind SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) and our Dutch version of Donald Trump, Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen, proudly announced that the financially affordable car would conquer the European market soon. As with every new car that enters the European market it is being assessed by laboratoria on aspects of safety and performance. The test results were simple devastating, at 64 km/h (for the US readers: not fast at all) the driver could be killed in case of a crash. Peter Bijvelds strongly opposes these results, of course, claiming that previous tests were satisfactory and that the car officially has been declared safe by the Chinese government.

source: www.anwb.nl

Mister Bijvelds points, however, are seriously flawed and the laboratories, as we say in the Netherlands, compared apples with pears (meaning the difference is too big to be compared). First about Peter's statements. He doesn't state where the Landwind car is tested. It probably was in China, where they do not have the high standards as in Europe. Furthermore, when he states that the Chinese government approved the car, one should immediately get suspicious. China wants to catch up with the world as soon as possible. Producing its own cars and exporting them to Europe is a great source of pride for the government. And they should be proud.

In order to understand my last statement, one has to understand traffic in China. Anybody who ever has visited China knows how appearingly unsafe the Chinese car owner drives. Being in the country more often or for an extended period, one notices, however, that somehow, though different, this way of driving works. It's like a group of birds flying in the sky, although they seem to follow random patterns of flying, they never bump into each other.

And here we have a nice example of how much Europe and China still have to learn from each other. Don't expect a Chinese car to be exactly like a European (or American) car. It doesn't need to. The Chinese drive much slower and consciously then their European counterparts. In our national newspaper, the Volkskrant, a reporter wrote that without inbuilt safety in a Chinese car, one gets to drive much more careful. In Europe, on the other hand, people take much more risks, unconsciously know that they are protected anyway. He has a point...

For me, exporting Chinese cars, whether safe or not, can be regarded as a significant step towards the development of China as a modern country. The Chinese car producers will learn from this incident and in the future export cars that can succesfully pass our tests. That's called 'learning by doing'.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rural China

China's economy is booming. Our travel from to Guizhou painfully made you realize that large groups within society still don't profit from the increased welfare. Our trip to Huang Kui's school in Baotian is a good example of the situation in rural China and the reason why EF helps his school.

Victim of One-Child-Policy
Huang Kui is a 36 year old man, who together with his wife, established a school after the birth of their second child. In China, due to the one-child-policy, in some areas such as Guizhou, it is allowed to have more then one child, but the parents are not allowed to work for the government. Huang and his wife, working for a government school, were fired as a consequence.

Due to a severe lack of (good) education, especially in rural China, the government tolerates private school to be established and that is what family Huang did.

Through a Chinese living in the Netherlands we got Huang's address and two colleagues of mine visited the place in February this year. It was then decided to incorporate the school into our projects.

China's Wild West
Once arrived at Baotian station, which hardly could be called a train station, we were picked up by Huang's wife and in an over growded truck we went over unpaved roads that had been turned into mudd pools due to the torrential rains during the monsoon. Soon it became clear how undeveloped this region was.


The reception at Huang's house was warm and easy going. In that respect the Southerners are quite different from the stressful and very formal Northern Chinese, once you pay them an offical visit. In the days following our arrival we gathered as much information as possible to be able to help the school where it was most needed. Because private school don't get any subsidy from the government, Huang's school lacked any luxury whatsoever. The class rooms were rough, grey and draughty. The rooms where some of the teachers live was in even worser shape. No windows and a piece of plastic that served as a door. In winter, although not very cold (15˚C/59˚F), it must be freezingly cold because of no heating and a moist climate.

The next day it became clear that first the physical condition of the school had to be improved before we could help Huang to improve the condition of the teacher and the education itself.

The Poor Masses
My journey from Beijing to Baotian makes clear how complex China's current situation is. It's in essence a country that is looking for a new balance. One of the hugest problems the country now faces, is the situation of people like Huang: a billion of rural residents, mostly farmers, not really profiting from the economic growth the country is experiencing for already more than 20 years. Due to poverty already 120 million rurals decided to move to the wealthy cities where they are treated a second rate people and do the dirty and dangerous work. The Chinese government faces the challenge of mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants and a growing dissatisfaction of a huge part of the people. Moreover, there is a growing problem of agricultural production. When rural families decide to move to the city, there will not be sowed and harvested. Another (minor) problem will be the theme of my next contri, that is, China's new rich.

Farmers selling in the city