More drinking with the journos

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post.

Just got back from another night at Cotton’s Bar, drinking with the other expat journalists in town. The usual gang was there. The famous Shanghai novelist autographed copies of her book.

The guy starting the new Speakers Bureau was going around signing up potential speakers.

And the venture capitalist was surreptitiously checking out people’s business plans. A different venture capitalist this time — Zhongsu Chen, from New York, who’d done a stint as an exec at the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Another newcomer to our little beer night was Matthew Chervenak, who runs a company providing information to the pharmaceutical industry. He’s launching a new monthly newsletter and passed around a copy of the first issue. Very nice production standards. I didn’t find a single typo. The only thing I could criticize at all was the use of double quotes instead of single quotes in headlines and a couple of widows and orphans.

I could’t not comment. I proofread everything handed to me. People have given me their college essays to read, and I’ve edited them. I can’t stop myself.

The big topic of conversation was the recent publication of a list of the 50 most powerful people in China. This led, naturally, to wondering how powerful the Chinese government was and how closely it monitored our activity.

The consensus was: not so much.

From the outside, the Chinese government looks like a huge monolith, but, in practice, it’s a lot of little departments that don’t really communicate with each other and none of which have sufficient resources to do much of anything at all.

The remarkable thing is that China works at all, but I have a suspicion that China works despite the government, not because of it, and its the places where the government is the least effective that the economy is growing the most.

Signing off in Shanghai,