Over the past four years of living and working in Beijing, China, we've seen tons of expatriate friends come and go. We took varied paths to our current stable lives in the country, but those routes often incorporated many similar elements. We started off out of college with a few kuai in our pockets and the pretentious optimism in our heads that finding a job in Beijing would be easy. We lived (and live!) a never-ending love-hate relationship (but constant fascination) with the mainland and its culture. And, above all, we've fed on an unbridled inner desire to learn and have as much fun as we could amid the greatest and craziest revolution the world may ever see.
Despite the ups and downs (and it probably was never that rough, mind you), none of us would have traded our experience in China for anything in the world. As we've somewhat risen on the food chain, finally giving in to taking 1.6 "xia li" taxis and forking out more than 20 kuai ($2.50) for a meal, we've never forgotten to help out friends, friends of friends and sometimes total strangers, just as there was someone there to throw some bones of advice our way.
In so doing, we've discovered the questions posed to us are often the same. The web presented the perfect vehicle for compiling and answering those most frequently asked questions, pointing (via links) to useful information sources, and sharing some of the wise and often humorous nuggets of our China experience.
Make no mistake, (a little) China Insight is not a job or housing listing or even a guidebook to the capital -- there are other sites that do that 24 hours a day (so we'll steer you there and not reinvent the wheel, because we're too busy with our own hectic jobs). This site hopefully will present fresh information from a different angle on China, primarily for younger expatriates. That's because it's written by people who have been there before, and know what matters. .
And for those people who follow China closely or know nothing about the country, we'll introduce you to useful and insightful sources. Too many web sites say they provide China information, but by the time you've wasted valuable time sifting through their "information," you discover they don't have the pulse of the country and don't know the "word on the street." Therefore, we're presenting information and useful web sites or links that we read, we visit -- that we, as China scholars, travelers and business people, depend on in our hectic work. After all, who has time to surf the web all day?
In the past, the type of information in China Insight was the kind that was traded over a bottle of beer in the local dive, as wai di (out of town) waitresses yawned and slumped their heads on the nearby table. The web now expands our forum, and hopefully we can gather and present the more interesting parts of the dialogue.
Beijing, February 1998
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