外国记者 Foreign Correspondent

Reporting in China

Plastic surgery in Beijing

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December 11, 2009 – Beijing
A meeting with Huang Chuanren, a plastic surgeon, in one of those Chinese coffee shops with plastic plants, mock ornate furniture, and a range of pretentious-but-disgusting coffees. This one offers a Blue Mountain coffee, or a Jamaica blend, or several types of sweet milky versions catering to Chinese tastes.

Huang wears a dark grey sweatshirt with a plastic Playboy logo. He is middle-aged, open and very chatty. We discuss sex change operations. He was the first surgeon in China to specialise in this procedure and advised the government on the regulations that now govern the operations. Every hospital in China tries to provide them now, since they are seen as proof of the technical skills of their surgeons, as well as of the open-mindedness of their bosses.

However, he himself has given up performing operations however, and not because of their grueling length or because his clients have struggled to readjust to normal life. Many of them end up dancing in the seedy bars on Sanya island, he says, because they are unable to hold down their original jobs or face down the prejudice and curiosity of society.

He quit because his mother insisted that his failure to have a child with his wife was because he had disrespected the laws of nature. Huang visited a Buddhist monk, together with three of his patients, in order to seek advice. He said that while no ordinary person would have been able to spot that the women were transsexuals, and that one of them was even married to a man who didn’t know she had formerly been a man, the monk saw through them straight away. He warned Huang it was bad karma to continue, but that he could do some modest repair work on previous clients if necessary. Huang lamented, however, that his wife had still not been able to conceive.

Then he told us about the growing demand for plastic surgery among Chinese government officials. Faced with having to appear before the television cameras on a more regular basis, and with having to make more public appearances, officials want to make sure they look the real deal. Demand for eye-lifting operations, nose jobs and other facial operations is through the roof. They now represent 20 per cent of all his work. He said no Politburo members had been tampered with, but said provincial governors and party secretaries were common enough and are smuggled in under cover of darkness, his other clients having been hustled out of the clinic.

Plastic surgery is also becoming a popular corporate gift for the senior executives of state-owned enterprises and their wives. It’s one way of cementing a deal, I suppose, although I’m surprised that the people giving the presents are willing to risk offending the recipients with the suggestion that they could benefit from a touch-up.

Dinner with Peter Foster, our Beijing bureau chief and his wife Claire in Sanlitun, where we went to a French restaurant above a flamenco dancing club, which itself was above a hip hop club, which sat in turn on top of a kebab stand that infused the whole building with its fragrance.

2009年12月11日,北京
和整形医生陈焕然的会面采访是在一家典型的中式咖啡店进行的。店堂里装修风格华丽却失真,摆设着塑料植物,咖啡价格昂贵味道却难以忍受。这家提供的就有蓝山咖啡,牙买加混合咖啡,还有一些迎合中国人口味的加糖添奶咖啡。
陈医生穿着深灰色的羊毛衣,上面绣着花花公子的标志。陈大概40岁左右,非常健谈。我们讨论了变性手术的相关话题。陈是中国变性手术的第一人,也是他建议政府立法规范变性手术的操作。现在中国大一点的医院都希望能提供变性手术的服务,这是整形医疗水平最高标准的体现,也是院领导们思想开放的证明。
陈医生现在已经不做变性手术了,这倒不是因为手术时间非常长,过程辛苦,或是大部分的手术者之后回归正常生活的挣扎艰辛。陈医生说很多人手术后都落到去三亚酒吧跳艳舞,因为原先的工作无法继续,社会的偏见和歧视依然严峻。
陈医生不再主刀变性手术的原因是他的母亲坚持认为他和他妻子多年未育是做变性手术的业障报应。陈去和厦门,寻访一位得道高僧。同行的有三位变性人,都是由陈完成的手术。这三位男变女都非常漂亮,普通人根本看不出他们曾经做过变性手术,其中的一位结婚多年,丈夫还一直没发现妻子最早是男儿身。然尔,那位高僧却一眼就看出他们半生为男,半生为女。他提醒陈继续做变性手术的话业障会变深重,但可以做些修复手术。陈叹息道时到今日他们夫妻两人还是没能怀上孩子。
陈透露说近年来找他做整容手术的官员越来越多。现在国内的政府官员出镜率高了,他们希望能有个正面年轻的形象。特别是去眼袋,提眼角,垫鼻子还有其它面部整形手术大热。官员整容在陈医生的整容手术中占到五分之一。中央高层倒是没人来找过他,但是省长,省委书记有挺多的,都是乘夜间,手术室清场操作。
公关公司现在经常把整形手术当作礼物送给国企的高层和他们的配偶。这倒不失为达成协议的一个好方法。自然我也好奇在送出这样的礼物时,送礼方会没有得罪受礼方的顾虑,毕竟是在提醒人家你需要一点改造工程。
晚餐去了三里屯的一家法国餐厅,和Peter,Claire夫妇一起进餐。这家餐厅坐落在一家弗拉门戈舞吧之上,弗拉门戈舞吧之下是一个街舞吧,街舞吧之下是个卖羊肉串的地方,烟雾弥漫,整栋楼都充斥着肉串的味道。

Written by malcolmmoore

December 21, 2009 at 8:30 am

Don’t force the chief to admit he lied

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December 10, 2009 – SHUANGQIAO

Biofuel machine "factory"

Adam and I return this morning to room 208 to eat a meagre breakfast of millet porridge, a few stale steamed buns and a tea egg.

Shuangqiao, the nearest town to the village, is clearly coal-powered. Huge lorries trundle through, carrying coal to nearby factories and homes. We visit a few private coal yards close to the hotel. At each one, two or three temporary workers spade coal from middling piles into bags or onto the back of horse-drawn carts. The horses look well-fed, but frequently whipped. As I approached them, they bowed their heads to the ground with worry. The hairs on the back of their legs had frozen into icicles of sweat.

The people are much jollier than down in the south, and universally preoccupied with my height and Adam’s PLA hat, which has flaps and makes him look Russian in their eyes. The bosses of the coal yards we visit say they have heard of the biofuel, but dismiss it as a fuel for peasants who can’t afford the superior luxuries of coal. One worker, however, says he is interested in investing in a biofuel machine, since he feels that it represents the future.

In the biggest yard, we sit inside with a family who have been coal salesmen for a decade. They tell us that with more people moving into apartments and using electricity, their sales have halved in three years. A brand new coal-fired power station at Hulan, with four cooling towers, has also crippled them – the station gets its coal from a state-owned mine and supplies their former customers.

After a huge lunch of beef, potatoes and a mix of cucumber, gourd, and egg and mushroom dumplings we return to the village. Yesterday, the boss claimed that he was selling his biofuels to nearby factories. When we asked if he could take us to them, he hesitantly agreed.

But when we get to the village, we are too early. The chief is still in the middle of his baijiu lunch. He sends his wife to look after us, but we scarper into the fields to avoid putting her out because she hasn’t eaten yet.

After half-an-hour, one of the chief’s cronies shows up, roaring drunk and with his flies undones. He takes us to the “factory”. This turns out to be where they made their biofuel compressor machine, which is romantically titled “Compress and Support BioEnergy Machine”. Rather than a production line, the factory is a yard in which two men are welding a few boilers.

Inside, another couple of engineers are busy reverse-engineering an enormous machine made by a company called Weida. The men take it slowly to pieces before hammering out their version of the machine’s cogs and gears from brick-sized blocks of steel. Adam is forbidden to photograph the process in case he lands them in trouble from the manufacturer. A small boiler in the corner is burning the biofuel briquettes.

When we push the chief to take us to a factory that is actually using biofuel for production, he demurs, muttering that there was a chicken farm that was heated with his biofuel but that they had sold all of their chickens yesterday. Adam nudges me and reminds me not to ask too many awkward questions. If the chief has to admit he was exaggerating, it will be a huge loss of face. And since he is relatively drunk, and staggering around the room, he might not react well to pushy foreigners. Adam reaches out to stroke his fur coat in a friendly manner and is rewarded with a venomous stare.

2009年12月10日,双桥镇
这边的居民普遍比南方的要快乐活泼点,对我的身高和Adam的军帽都感到好奇。Adam的帽子有耳廓,看起来像苏联人,当地人都这样认为。煤厂的老板对生物燃料有所听闻,但认为只是农民因为买不起煤才退而求其次。一个工人倒是对投资植物燃料压缩机感兴趣,觉得生物能源是未来所趋。
在附近最大的一个煤厂,我们和煤厂老板一家人在屋里聊了会天。这家人从事煤炭行业已愈十年。在过去的三年里,镇上很多居民搬进了公寓房,开始使用电取暖,他们的生意已经比以前减半了。新建成的呼兰发电厂对他们的生意也造成了打击。电厂的煤是国有煤矿提供的,火力发的电供给了一些原先采煤取暖的居民。
中餐我们吃了一大锅土豆炖牛肉,还有两三斤各色饺子,有黄瓜,西葫芦还有蘑菇鸡蛋馅。饭后我们回到了村子里。昨天村长介绍说他们也给周边的工厂提供玉米杆子燃料块。我们提出希望能参观工厂,他很不情愿地答应了。
车子到达村子的时候,离约定的时间还早。村长还在白酒席上。他让他的妻子回来招待我们,但我们还是找借口去了村口田里,村长妻子还没顾的上吃中饭呐。
半小时后,村长的一个跟班找到了我们,明显有点醉意,裤子拉练都没拉上。他带我们去了“工厂”。结果呐,却是他们制造压缩机的工厂。这个压缩机还有个名字,叫做“扶压式生物能源机”。工厂外间没有生产线,只有两个工人在焊接锅炉设备。
工厂内间有两三个工程师在拆装一个巨型设备。他们把机器慢慢拆成砖块大小的铁部件,再锻击成他们想要的压缩机的齿轮装备。车间禁止拍照,大概是怕被机器的原厂家(weida)发现,给他们带来麻烦吧。车间一角的锅炉就是用他们的玉米杆燃块采暖的。
我们后来催促村长带我们去一个用玉米杆子做燃料的工厂,他表示为难,咕哝着说附近只有个养鸡场是用玉米杆子燃料的,但是昨天所有的鸡都被卖掉了,今天暂时关停了。Adam示意我别问太多不合适的问题,如果村长被逼承认自己夸大事实的话,那可是很失脸面的。并且他当时已经很有醉意,走路都有点不稳,可能也应付不来比较坚持己见的外国人。Adam友好地拍了拍他的毛大衣,却被狠狠地回瞪了一眼。
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Written by malcolmmoore

December 19, 2009 at 8:30 am

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Not quite a green revolution

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December 9, 2009 – Harbin

Biofuel compressor machine, Qinlao

An early flight from Pudong into Harbin, in Heilongjiang, where it was -10C. The airport is equipped with small cabins where disembarking passengers can change into warmer clothes. The sign on the outside was in Chinese, English and Russian. In the airport cafe, two tables of blonde Russian ladies sipped tea and ate bowls of rice.
From the airport, we went directly to a small village which the People’s Daily had earmarked as a model project to pioneer the use of biofuels. According to the report, the entire village would try not to  burn coal during the winter, and would instead use plant stalks.
It sounded unlikely in print, and over the phone earlier in the week the village chief had admitted to Elyn that they “didn’t have enough plant stalks”. When we arrived, the smell of coal was heavy in the air and the first door we stopped outside had a large sign on it offering coal at 490 kuai a ton.
The village was very neat and seemingly more prosperous than some of the rural villages we have seen in the past. It turned out that they are indeed using the plant stalks, but the People’s Daily may have jumped the gun. Coal is still being used because there are not enough plant stalks to go around. By next year, the village chief promises, Qinlao will have abandoned coal altogether. This year, they simply can’t make enough to keep up with demand.
We clamber into his Hyundai, which smells of baijiu, still has the plastic covers over its sun-visors in the front, and has been tricked out with fluffy white seat covers and fake Louis Vuitton monogram floor mats.
He took us to the old village school, which has been converted into a factory. One machine makes corn stalks into animal feed pellets and another turns them into compacted briquettes for fuel. His grand plan is to start exporting the feed to South Korea and the fuel across China. Although the corn burns up faster than coal, it also ignites more easily and creates a fiercer heat.
His sister-in-law shows us the inside of her house, complete with a multicoloured kang. I felt the platform in the hope that it might be warm, but sadly it was off. They heat the house for two or three hours every night before bed, and that’s enough. One or two tons of corn, which would cost around 450 kuai a ton, is enough to power them through the winter.
The village chief seems like a feudal lord, although he peppers his speech with enough reference to Laobaixing, the common people, to show he is at one with his constituency. Still, his house has ornate ironwork, including bright orange leaping deer, the thickest double-glazing any of us has ever seen, and he tells us that he paid for the village road after striking it rich in the construction industry in Qingdao. He also paid for the plant stalk compacters. The fuel compactor, which threw up huge clouds of dust as it made its bricks, is a design the village came up with itself, with the help of some local engineers. They’ve been perfecting it since February.
Departing, we made our way to a “business hotel” in the nearby town. I get a larger room than Adam, our photographer, and Elyn. In fact, the room is the size of two tennis courts but empty of furniture. It looks like you could use it for ballroom dancing. It’s the second cheapest room available. I wonder if the suite is a whole floor. Or maybe the suite costs more because it has more fittings. The room is 280 kuai. Elyn and Adam are paying 180 each, but there were only two of the cheapest rooms available so I took the ungentlemanly step of upgrading myself.
After check-in, dinner. A classic example of how helpless I am without my assistant. Adam and I descend to the lobby but decide it is too cold for a drink there. We ask about a restaurant and are pointed to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs, there is a large spread of plastic dishes, each piled with the raw ingredients to choose from. Since, however, we don’t know the Chinese names of any of these dishes, we resort to smiling and pointing at a whole range of mismatched courses. The helpful waitress warns us not to order too much, but we ignore her and end up with a mountain of food.
We then start looking for a table to sit down, but it turns out that there is no dining room. We are asked to get in the lift and go to the second floor, where we are ushered into room 208, which has had a table and chairs installed. Adam and I drink a couple of warms beers. Because it is freezing outside, the locals don’t want their beer chilled too.
On CCTV, as I sit in the giant hotel room, there is a show discussing the Telegraph’s website report about a fish that was boiled in oil and was still gasping desperately when served. A video of the fish had made its way onto Youtube and been picked up by our web reporters in London.
There’s a particularly gruesome bit when the Chinese diners start poking their chopsticks into the fish’s maw. The story became the most-read item on the website, but I was a bit ashamed of it and under the microscopic scrutiny of the Chinese talk show hosts, who debated the differences between Chinese and Western culture, it came across as yet another attack on Chinese habits from the foreign media.
Telegraph story: http://twurl.nl/v413qn

哈尔滨

我们搭乘了从上海浦东机场飞往哈尔滨的早班机。中午落机的时候,地面温度只有10度。哈尔滨机场很贴心的给落机的乘客提供了添衣加暖的小隔间,门上贴有中文,英文和俄文的标识。哈尔滨的俄国人很多,在机场咖啡屋等摄影师的时候我们就发现了两桌金发碧眼的俄罗斯姑娘,喝着茶,吃着米饭。

从机场出发我们直接去了这次采访的目的地,人民日报誉为的生物燃料环保示范村。人民日报的文章称该村今年过冬取暖将尽量不使用煤,而用秸秆取代。

没有亲眼所见,很难不置疑。之前我们联系了该村的村长,他承认“我们没那么多的杆子”。我们到达村子的时候,空气中漂着浓厚的烧煤气味。我们走访的第一户农家大门上就写着出售煤炭的告示,490元一吨。

村子还是很整洁的,比我们之前去的一些农村要富裕些。访问了几户农家后,我们发现他们的确在烧玉米杆子,只不过人民日报的数据稍微过实了点。玉米杆子供应量不足,村民们也只得烧煤。村长承诺等明年冬季,这个村子就会成为真正意义上的无煤村。今年的话还是供不应求的状况。

我们爬进了村长的现代轿车。车内弥漫着白酒的味道,防晒板上还套着塑料封套,座位上铺着白色毛绒坐垫,底下垫着仿冒的LV毯子。
村长带我们去了原来村里的小学,现在已经改造成加工玉米杆子的工厂。厂里有两台机器,一台将玉米杆子压缩成块状做燃料,一台压缩成颗粒做饲料。村长雄心勃勃地计划明年将饲料出口给韩国,将燃料售往全国各地。虽然玉米杆子烧的比煤快多了,但其燃点低,致暖性好。
之前走访村民的时候,村长的嫂子邀请我们进屋参观。内屋有张色彩斑斓的大炕。我摸了摸炕,希望是张暖炕,结果却是冰冷冷的。村民一般晚上在睡觉前采暖两到三个小时,就够维系一夜了。一到两吨450块一吨的玉米杆子燃块就够他们过一个冬天的了。

村长看起来像一个封建领主,虽然他的话语中多次提及老百姓以示自己是为村民服务的。然而,他的房子却有华丽的铁门,上面配有亮橙色的跳鹿饰品,房屋镶着双层玻璃,厚度前所未见。村长告诉我们他在青岛的填海建筑工程中赚足钱后,回村里修了马路。两台玉米杆子压缩机器也是他购置的。燃料压缩机在将玉米杆子压缩成块的时候吞吐出大量的尘雾。村长介绍这个压缩机的主意是村委想出来的,当地的一些工程师提供了技术支持,从今年二月开始他们就一直致力于机器的改良工作。

离开了村子,我们去镇上找了一家“商务酒店”。我的房间比摄影师Adam和Elyn的要大一点。事实上,我的房间足有两个网球场大小,只是空荡荡的没家具摆设。这样的空间足够做一个舞池了,价格却是倒数第二便宜的。我好奇如果是套房的话,会不会占据整个楼面,或者是家具多,设备齐全的原因,套房的价格才贵些?我的房间是280元一晚,他们两个是180元。因为只剩两间最便宜的标间,所以我很不绅士的拿了高一级的房间。

办理好住宿手续后,我们准备用晚餐了。Adam和我先下到酒店大堂,本想喝上一杯,但实在太冷了。想前台询问附近的餐厅,却被带到附一楼的酒店餐厅。在楼梯底部摆放着满满的塑料餐盘,里面盛着各色生冷食品供客人选择。我们不知道如何用中文说出菜名,只好胡乱指一些菜肴。服务员很好心地提醒我们不要点太多,我们却没听进去,结果点了一大堆菜点。接下来我们开始寻找餐桌吃饭,未果。服务员让我们坐电梯上二楼。我们被领到208房间,里面放置了一张桌子和几把椅子。我和Adam喝了几杯热啤酒。哈,外面天寒地冻,本地人大概不希望自己的啤酒也是冰的吧。

饭后我回到自己的巨型房间,开始看电视。CCTV上有一档谈话类节目正在讨论每日电讯报网站上的一篇报道,内容是关于一条鱼被活煎,送餐时还在拼命挣扎。相关的录像视频被上传到Youtube上,每日电讯伦敦的记者看到并做了相关报道。其中尤为悚心的是中国餐客用筷子插入鱼颚的片断。这篇报道成为网站上阅读点击最多的文章,我倒觉得这篇报道价值没那么大。那位话题节目主持人分析说,这是中西文化的差异之处,是外国媒体对中国习俗的又一次攻击。

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Written by malcolmmoore

December 18, 2009 at 1:30 pm

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Welcome

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Welcome to Foreign Correspondent.

This is the diary of a foreign journalist working in China.

Over the last 18 months, my assistant and I have travelled across the
country, from Heilongjiang to Guangdong, from Zhejiang to Xinjiang.

The idea of this blog is to bring you a running commentary of what
life is like for journalists in China and hopefully entertain you with
some of the characters we meet along the way.

There will be a time lapse of a few days before we post each day’s
diary. This is to allow my newspaper to publish my articles first –
they are my employers, after all.

Each post will appear in English and Chinese. I hope you enjoy them,
and please do leave comments so we can improve our work.

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欢迎来到外国记者博客
ANY_CHARACTER_HERE
这是一名外国记者在中国采访报道工作的日记。
在过去的18个月里,我和我的新闻助理几乎走遍了中国大地,北抵黑龙江,南达广东,东到浙江,西至新疆。
这个博客希望能给您展示外国记者在中国采访报道工作的过程细节,也希望和您分享我们途中遇到的奇人趣事。
博客的更新和文章登出相比要后延几天。我们要等报社发表了文章后才能相应地贴出其间的日记。
每篇日记都有中英文对照。希望您会感到有阅读的价值。并请不吝评论,有助于我们提高工作和博客的质量。

Written by malcolmmoore

December 18, 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized