Articles in julie chang’s travel blog
On American indie musician Brian Seymour’s 2006 Web site promoting his tour through China, he promised a “fostering of cultural exchange and creative collaboration.” So when he decided to perform at Shanghai’s Cotton’s, a restaurant with a predominately expat clientele on June 22, Seymour’s intentions for his most recent tour in China seemed to demonstrate otherwise.
As expected, Seymour’s audience at Cotton’s was a large expat crowd. If the listeners were not Chinese who either lived or were born abroad, they were foreigners.
The derailing of Seymour’s good intentions is not all that uncommon. Despite hopes for performing for more ordinary Chinese when touring China, foreign indie artists often find themselves playing for large expat crowds. In fact, the economics of touring make it almost unavoidable. Artists and their promoters have a hard time making a profit if they do not tap the expat demand.
Bai Zhuxian’s modest eatery is easily overlooked amid the many retail signs that decorate the bustling streets of central Xi’an. Just around the corner, Chef Wong’s Prosperity and Fortune Restaurant, boasting both neon lights and promises of what could only be good things, could bewitch any passerby.
Yet the vast difference between the two establishments does not lie in their physical exteriors but in the attitudes of their chefs. “When you go into the kitchen, all you deal with is smoke and grease…” Wong says.
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There is little debate among Beijing’s cognoscenti that Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) is one of city’s most prestigious medical schools. Yet PUMC first-year graduate student Zheng Li regrets the path that has taken her there.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer because my Chinese is very good,” said Zheng, now a biochemistry major who relinquished her law aspirations in high school. “[N]obody from my family supported me, so I had no [option to pursue law].”
“Doing research is boring,” said Zheng, yet she finds it difficult to consider another career path after investing six years of hard work into pursuing medical research.
When it comes to choosing careers, Chinese traditionally value stability over happiness. And as the stagnant Chinese economy tends to spur desperate job searches in an already highly competitive environment, college graduates in general are under pressure to find well-paying jobs.