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Archive for March, 2019

Bookworm Festival Pulse: A Conversation with Enoch Li

当我们在谈论抑郁症的时候,我们在谈些什么?

“我很痛,同情令我更加痛,然后你要我保重,怎保重,你怎么会懂?”

如果你简单看一眼李以诺的简历,就可以知道她有多优秀:她曾担任汇丰银行伦敦、巴黎、东京和北京办事处的国际经理,且以“卓越”(Distinction)成绩获得欧洲工商管理学院变革培训与咨询高级管理硕士,于伦敦大学获得法学硕士(荣誉)学位。

然而2009年底,一场生理上的疾痛以及抑郁症让以诺的生活彻底颠覆。身体上的不适将她推入了抑郁症的泥沼。可是当时的她选择忽视所有生理、心理信号继续硬撑下去。她不断告诉自己“我可以,我是战无不胜的”,结果却将自己越推越远。在那段艰难的时光里,是写作与游戏让她重拾对生活的热情。

这段抑郁症的经历让她发现在当今的社会中,心理健康远没有得到应有的重视。因此,以诺创办了小熊创意法(www.bearapy.me),希望利用玩耍来激发人们的创造力。她通过管理学、组织心理学和行为学的专业知识帮助走上工作岗位的成人发掘内心的快乐,减少在社区和工作场所积累的疲劳和心理健康问题。

这一次,以诺带着她的新书《都市压力:在玩耍中走出抑郁》来到了老书虫,与老书虫的朋友们探讨玩乐心态在工作企业起的有效作用,并通过她的亲身经历分享如何避免职业疲劳,面对抑郁症。

当以诺被问及这段抑郁经历中让她收获最多的是什么时,她沉思了一会儿说:“我从这段经历当中学到最多的就是与你自己的情绪沟通真的很重要。你要感受你身上的所有情绪,并且不断追问自己这种情绪意味着什么为什么会产生这种情绪。通过这样的追问,我才真正更了解自己。当我说我更了解自己的时候,不单单指的是好的方面,还有我不怎么喜欢的那个自己。当各种恐惧、假设、无疑是的想法涌入我的脑海时,我都会追问:这种情绪究竟是什么?在真正了解了这些情绪后,不要躲着他们,要将他们当作自己的一部分,接受他们。” 这一段面对抑郁症的经历使得以诺更加强大,也能更勇敢地去面对未来的挑战。在某种程度上,这段痛苦的经历给了她力量,让她知道自己是那么地坚忍不拔。

然而并不是所有人都能够像她一样顺利走出抑郁阴霾的。在许多文化中,精神健康污名化使得人们没有勇气去寻求帮助。很多人都认为心理问题是失败者的标签,甚至还有人还将心理健康问题等同于精神病。在中国,文化对抑郁症的抑制性建构使得抑郁症患者受到诸多的社会质疑。面对这样的歧视,以诺认为我们应当多谈论心理健康鼓励更多人讲出他们的故事,以此来减少心理疾病的耻辱感。比如说鼓励名人、有影响力的人分享相关经历可以让大家意识到“哦!原来成功者也有这样的困惑。”当越来越多的人都愿意讲出他们的心理健康问题,这个话题才能去污名化,但这一过程不可能一蹴而就。

文化影响不仅仅体现在公众对于精神议题的认知与个人心理疏导意愿上。对于疏导者而言,他们也要结合文化背景,根据个人情况进行针对性调整。之前在帮助中国国有企业的员工时,以诺改变了咨询策略,变身为“老师”来教他们而不是以更平等的身份来提供建议。以诺谈到,“沟通策略的调整取决于每个人的经历。因为我了解我们如今的社会竞争有多激烈,所以能够与他们产生共鸣……(在心理疏导中)帮助者一定要了解对方的文化背景,要让对方知道他们可以有很多面,并且要和他们认真谈论每一个维度。这样一来他们就会知道帮助者是真正了解他们的……我需要知道他们最担心的是什么。很多情况下,他们关心的不是钱,而是单纯希望有一个美满的家庭和幸福的亲密关系……当然还要考虑到整个国家的文化语境以及对方的家庭背景。理解所有的语境,并根据语境提供相应的疏导策略。”虽然以诺不是专业的心理疏导师,但她希望能够帮助人们认识到心理健康的问题,并找到合适的出口。

很多听众都有问及家人和朋友在帮助抑郁症患者康复的过程中应当扮演怎样的角色。以诺讲到,家人和朋友可能会成为“双刃剑”。如果家人和朋友不知道如何反应处理求助者的困惑,他们可能反而会将人越推越远。你可以经常听到家人说“别想了”“明天会好的”,可事实上不是这样的。所以家人和朋友同样需要知道了解如何应对这样的求助。以诺在博客(NochNoch.com)上写了很多经验,告诉人们在这种情况下什么该说,什么不该说。家人和朋友只有知道该如何回应身边人的求助后才能帮到他们。“其实陪伴就够了。也不要告诉他们该做些什么不要阻止他们哭……”首先做当一个真诚的倾听者

作为一个社会企业家,以诺不仅向跨国公司、初创公司、非营利组织和政府组织提供有关情绪与心理健康问题的建议,帮助员工应对工作场所的挑战,而且她还关心底层劳动者的福祉。她非常愿意与政府组织合作,为工友们开设社区课程,讲述应当如何照顾好自己。以诺特别提到,对于这些朋友而言,她可能不会用“心理健康”这个术语,而是会告诉他们该如何疏解自己的情绪,好好照顾自己,毕竟对于他们而言“心理健康”是一个模糊、触不可及的概念。

在采访的最后,以诺非常诚恳地给老书虫的朋友们分享了一些关于如何减轻疲劳与压力的建议。她说:“很多人认为压力似乎是不愉快的事情; 然而有时候压力可能会有很多好的方面,比如可以激励你去做更多的事情。所以真正的问题在于我们如何处理压力,面对那种被打倒被淹没的感觉。只有明确这是一种什么压力搞清楚触发压力的原因与压力真正的根源后,我们才能对症下药。我认为避免过大压力的另一种方法就是了解我们的极限,然后释放压力。比如说对我而言,疏解的方式就是写书法,花时间独自充电。我觉得每个人都需要找到自己的方式,找到一种玩乐方式,找到一种与自己相处的方式……寻找到适合自己的方式来释放这种情绪。”

如果你遇到现在的以诺,你会发现她是如此地温暖、善良、平易近人,不吝于将自己的感触分享给所有人。

她不再想要与抑郁症“作战”,而是学会了接纳自己。

以诺在她的博客里写道:“放弃不意味着软弱,也不能证明之前所有的努力都是无意义的。在健康与快乐面前,名利真的没那么重要。”

Stress and the City: A Conversation with Enoch Li

Written by Copper

BLF Volunteer, 2019

Bookworm Festival Pulse: Grief Works: a Conversation with Julia Samuel

Julia Samuel is a psychotherapist from the UK who sits before an image of her book, titled “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving.” The title, which someone in the crowd draws attention to later, symbolizes a central tenant of Samuel’s philosophy, which is that grief is a natural process. If we allow it the time and space it requires, it will, in fact, work to make us better.

The audience are a mix of men and women of all ages who, when asked if they have lost someone recently, nearly all raise their hands in affirmation. Samuel herself is a petite woman with a wisp of powdery blond hair across her forehead and the sort of calming disposition you might expect from a psychotherapist, which seeps through her voice when she takes the microphone.

The first question from the moderator, Wendy Tang, is why she began this work, and Samuel’s answer is a relatable one: she was drawn to it by her parents who experienced great loss in their lives and never spoke about it. She says about this that grief is generational; many of the older generations didn’t feel they had the luxury to grieve, since many of them grew up in times of war or upheaval. But what we don’t say, she tells us, can have an even greater impact on us than what we do say, because if you block out grief, you might succeed in blocking out your capacity to feel pain, but you will also block out your ability to feel joy.

When she is asked by an audience member why it is not better to just choose to feel good, and therefore reject pain, she tells us that she can understand the logic of this, but that “as human beings, we can’t apply logic to an emotional system.” If we keep grief at bay it will come back when we least expect it, and it will be out of our control when it happens. “When people come into my office and go through the process of telling me what they’re feeling,” she explains, “it’s a bit like laying an egg.” They leave feeling lighter, because they have allowed themselves to process their feelings.

The word “grief,” she tells us, comes from a Latin word that means ‘to be robbed,’ and this feels right when she says it, because losing someone we love feels very much like being robbed of that relationship. The degree of pain we feel, she tells us, will be equal to the level of importance and love we had for the person. This equivalency of investment and love for loss and pain remains true for the death of pets and unborn children, although grieving for a pet or an unborn child can be difficult, because it is often not respected or understood by those around us as carrying the same weight.

When I ask her if it is the same process for someone who has experience rejection from their families, and therefore a great loss, she tells me that grieving for someone who is gone is a straightforward process: we can create rituals, wear jewelry or pieces of clothing that make us feel close to that person. We can celebrate that person’s life and hold farewell ceremonies that pave a path towards acceptance; they are gone, and that will not change. With rejection, on the other hand, we will always retain the hope that something might one day be different.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice she gives is in answer to an inquiry about what we should do to help those we love who are grieving; should we actively encourage them to share their grief? Or wait for them to share naturally?

Samuel says it’s important to acknowledge their loss, and say you are sorry. Let them know that you are there for them, then ask them what they need. “Do you need me to distract you? Take you to a movie? Listen to your stories?” Don’t try to read their mind, just ask, then be present.

By the end of the of the session Samuel has fielded an astounding array of questions from the audience that spanned a wide field of traumas and tragedies, from sexual abuse and suicide to genetic disease. Afterwards, I am struck by how an audience of strangers who I might pass by every day on the street has so quickly revealed their humanity. We forget, in our isolation, that the human experience is shared, in both its splendor and its grief. I am reminded of Julia’s assurance that the best thing we can do for one another, when the time arises, is to listen.

Written by: Amanda Fiore
Writer & Writing Educator in Beijing, China
BLF Volunteer, 2019
WeChat: AmandaJaneFiore

Bookworm Festival Pulse:The Transformative Power of Poetry&Music

The cool air from the fans overhead does little to cool our anticipation; every seat is taken, and the crowd is restless from the wait, watching as wires are connected and musical instruments are squeezed into the little space that is left in the Bookworm. Sensing the mood, Matthew Byrne, the British poet and charismatic founder of Spittoon—a Beijing-based arts collective that exploded onto the scene in 2015—grabs the mic. He explains that what we are about to hear is the result of a one-month collaboration between musicians and poets, where the music has been inspired by the poetry. This creative melding of genres is the purpose of the Spittunes series, one of many literary events put on by Spittoon around Beijing.

The strumming of an acoustic guitar by Liane Halton, who sits placidly in all black at the front of the room, announces itself on the speaker. They are low notes with a deep acoustic vibration, and once the mood is set, poet Anthony Tao steps to the microphone. Tao’s poems seem as if they are meant to go to the music, landing on our ears in suggestions of images. I catch the lines, “with dust wiggling inside chests,” and, “in the congealed, sticky air of summer/there was conversation . . .” It is clear that there is a deep, intellectual purpose to his descriptions, especially as I hear the line, “there were artists/who created a new genre of art/in the form of dying.” But Tao’s story-telling style, and the lull of the guitar with the images of dragonflies behind them, pulls me back and forth from the words to the music. A line from Tao’s poem seems to say it all: they are “unsure if gravity/pulled them toward destruction/or a new morning.” (These two will perform their album at the Bookworm on Sunday, Marych 24th at 6pm).

After a short break the next act begins. Wen Liang, a thin Chinese man with a shadow of a beard and a stylish collared shirt sets himself up behind a table with a computer. He turns on some sort of electrical box that comes out as static at first, then stretches into an odyssey of extracted sound, eventually coalescing around the futuristic tune of his keyboard. I let my eyes drift closed, thinking first of an alien communication, then air moving through a ventilator. As the chimes come there is the feeling of waking up from a dream, somewhere gently soothing.

Eventually South African poet Lethokuhle Msimang begins to read. Her voice is soft and velvety, buoyed by Lian’s computerized equivalent of dew drops, then ocean waves, which conjure the setting of Msimang’s poem. She plants us on a beach where an old man is sitting, looking out at the sea. A woman much younger than him approaches. She says hello and we imagine a touching moment, then we hear from Msimang the secret thoughts of her character, “these youths are too quick to trust an old face, and had I gathered the strength to have my way with her, the ocean would have drowned the sound her resistance. . .” The man is too old and too weak, and so instead there is a quiet exchange, and they share a respectful silence. That Msimang is talking through the voice of a would-be rapist with this kind of honesty and even compassion leaves me with my mouth open. Seagulls squawk through the computer of Lian’s accompaniment.

After a short break we are greeted once again by the sounds of a computerized synthesizer, brought to us by Solent. This one is a long slow swim through a cool, gentle lake. It is the lapping of the tide and the gliding of your flotilla body. It is so much like suspension it’s hard to stay seated normally, and so my eyes slip closed. Now it’s a body being rocked gently. It’s fingers and arms vibrating. It’s whips of sound and drips in a basement and a door opening.

I think to myself that closing your eyes is the only way to experiences Spittunes fully, and that they should tell you this in the beginning. They should pass out sleeping masks to complete the transformation. This is when bi-lingual poet, Jady Liu, who is an unassuming young man in a zipped up black jacket begins speaking. He slips from Chinese to English and back again. From the English I can understand, I hear a non-judgmental portrait of isolation in today’s hyper-connected world. I hear, “isolated pockets of solitude,” “trapped in our mazes,” and “We keep talking./We keep silent./We meet. Just meet./We depart. We depart.” And, “in the dilemma of reality and delusion.”

For the final set, pianist David Bond, drummer Matthew Byrne, and Spanish poet Jaime Santirso take the stage. Santirso is wearing a yellow tee-shirt that says, in big block letters, “Treat People with Kindness.” He reads standing up from loose sheets of paper and stops between poems for the music. The drums are light, the keyboard celestial. Byrne and Bond are visibly pulled into one another’s rhythm; there’s something soothing about the two of them. When one is playing the other is leaned forward to listen, and it is a listening that is nearly part of the music.

Santirso begins again, and if you don’t know Spanish is doesn’t matter, because his voice sounds political and poetic and determined. He likes to make sounds with his voice that are beyond or not in need of translation. Little exhales of purpose. Little tremors of intellectualism. Repetition sounds good in any language. Sounds have their own harmony especially when spoken with a voice that feels them as Santirso is doing. He says “ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta” as if he’s a part of the drumming.

I want to get out my camera to capture the way Bond’s hair is flying around him as he presses into the piano keys, and how Byrne’s foot pounds against the bass drum in time with his head nodding, but then I remember I am here to type these images into being, not snap pictures of them. I hope I’ve done them some justice.

Written by: Amanda Fiore
Writer & Writing Educator in Beijing, China
BLF Volunteer, 2019
WeChat: AmandaJaneFiore

 

Bookworm Festival Pulse: A Conversation with Karoline Kan

About 3 Generations of Life, Loss and Hope inChina

Karoline Kan is a soft-spoken, petite young woman with long black hair that she keeps swept across her right shoulder. She has a palpable sweetness to her disposition that emanates from the stage and into the room, and she sits beside Riley Brett-Roche, a PhD candidate from Standford University, who is there to ask questions and moderate the talk.

The book, Under Red Skies, is a multi-generational story of three women: herself, her mother, and her grand mother. She tells us that her mother gave birth to her while the One Child Policy was in effect, and she was the forbidden second child. She doesn’t go much into what this must have meant, for her mother and her family, aside from that her mother lost her job, and never got another one that was formally recognized by the government. Kan also mentions, as a brief aside that leaves the room deadly silent, that many women who had a second child were forced to go through a sterilization process that the police continue to deny.

Kan notes that many people throughout time feel the younger generations in a society are different from older generations, almost as if they belong to two countries, but “when you sit down and think about it, you realize their stories are impacting our stories and our lives.” That one generation was born from the other, and so we are intricately and inherently connected.

When she’s asked what she hopes people who read the book will learn about it, she says “I hope this book will be an inspiration for people to discover more stories about Chinese people. I don’t want to be regarded as a voice for my whole generation . . . because my storyi s just one of tens of millions of stories in China.”

“Most Chinese people will tell you,” she says, “that regarding their personal history, there is nothing special to tell. They look at their neighbor or their friend and you see that they all share the same tragedies. You think, ‘that is China. That is my generation.’ They think they are just common women who know nothing who never went to school.’”

For example, her grandmother lost two sons to starvation, and she thought it was just a normal story, not worthy of being told; perhaps through Kan’s book, these stories, and others like them, will find a shape and a space to be heard.

Written by: Amanda Fiore

Writer & Writing Educator in Beijing, China

BLFVolunteer, 2019

WeChat:AmandaJaneFiore

Bookworm Festival Pulse: Myths and Dreams in Paris by the Book

“Once a week I chase men who are not my husband,” is the first line Liam Callanan reads from his new novel, Paris by the Book, while standing behind a substantial glass of redwine and a microphone. “Once a week I chase men who are not my husband . . . I walk my daughters to school, stare past the parents that stare past me, and search for that day’s man.”

It is a striking beginning, in the words of Liam’s 42-year-old female narrator, Leah, who “lost” her husband. He was a writer with a tendency to wander off, and so despite the police’s suspicions that he drowned in a nearby lake, Leah’s two daughters are convinced he has simply wondered off. These suspicions are buoyed when they find an unfinished manuscript of their father’s that takes place in Paris. Desperate with the idea that he must be in alive, writing in some café in the French capitol, they convince their mother to take them on a family trip so that they can follow in the footsteps of the characters; in the end, they are sure they will find their father.

Liam tells us that the book is, in a way, about the myths and dreams that sustain us. We can see this reflected in the fact that Paris itself holds a mystical quality. When he is asked why this is, he says it may be because the city has not changed in generations, and because even when we arrive for the first time we feel as if we have been there before in our lives. But regardless of the reason, there is no arguing about the fact that the city has captivated millions of imaginations.

“Paris is a beautiful myth,” he says, “a dream on the horizon.” We dream about going there, and when we arrive we realize there are parts of the dream that are true, and parts that are not true. The architecture and the Seine do not disappoint, but the sidewalk smells a little bit less pleasant than the smell of freshly baked croissants we had imagined, and people have atendency “to step in front of you and then slow down, “which is of course annoying. Somewhere between myth and reality is the truth not just of Paris, but of life in general.

Liam went back and forth to Paris while writing, but when writing in the USA he “traveled” to Paris by listening to audio files of the city that had been uploaded to youtube. He could hear Russian, and English, and French and the sounds of Vespas whizzing by the sidwalk.

The first question Liam is asked is about being a man writing an entire novel with a female narrator. He answers that at first, the book was third person, then “I reached a point where I was stopped. I was blocked. And what I tell my students to do if they’re blocked is to ‘hand the microphone’ to each character and see who can move the story forward.” He says he gave the microphone it to each character, and they had nothing to say. Then he handed it to Leah, and she couldn’t stop talking. “So I gave her the book.” He adds that “I am not an expert in women, but I am expert in Leah. I know her very well.There’s a lot of me in her.”

 

Written by: Amanda Fiore

Writer & Writing Educator in Beijing, China

BLFVolunteer, 2019

WeChat:AmandaJaneFiore

Bookworm Festival Pulse: Short and to be Continued

Authors Colin Barrett and Shi Yifeng discuss their inspiration to keep writing

By Hatty Liu

“I think novels are less demanding of the reader than a short story,” said Irish author Colin Barrett, stunning the 50-something attendees of “Short and Complete: Stories Behind the Stories,” a short-story writing panel that convened at The 12th Bookwork Literary Festival on March 18, 2019.

“With a novel, you have chapters that you can read on your commute, dipping in an out of the story as you choose,” he explained. “With a short story what you see is all you get.”

In conversation with literary agent Peng Lun, founder of Archipel Press, Barrett and Beijing-born author Shi Yifeng discussed their motivation to write and the audience for short stories at the intimate 8 p.m. session. “You either love [the short story] or hate it,” said Barrett, whose debut story collection Young Skins, set in a small fictional Irish community similar to Barrett’s own hometown in County Mayo, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Shi, who is a literary magazine editor and the author of award-winning novel Fruits Under the Red Flag and novella No Chen Jinfang Anymore, was even more to the point. “Being a writer is like laying eggs; how to sell the egg is the responsibility of the egg-seller,” he declared. “I just focus on laying the biggest, best, and most beautiful egg I can.”

Still, both writers acknowledged that their creative processes are fraught with anxiety over where they can continue finding material and how their work will be received. “I don’t really plan whether this is going to be a short story, or a novel, or do I fictionalize something or write something autobiographical,” said Barrett, “but work with whatever form works best for a certain narrative and makes me feel the most creative.”

Shi agreed. “Every writer has these worries—what to write next, what happens if you can’t, and can you still call yourself a writer if you can’t?”

Overcoming these anxieties requires the writer to look beyond themselves and at the world they inhabit—an ability Shi argued is ingrained in the Chinese literary tradition. “For Chinese novelists, writing has never been a way for the reader to escape reality, but provide them a way to access society, to record it, and change it,” he said. Thus, “being a writer isn’t about burying yourself among books, but go to work, buy food, argue with people, do whatever you’re supposed to do—don’t isolate yourself from life.”

“Secondly, pay attention to other people: what are their problems, what are their solutions. Have empathy, and you’ll always find something to write about,” Shi added. “The most important technique in writing a novel is creating a character who is alive in your heart—I can see their thoughts and feelings, and recognize this person if I met them on the street. If it’s only a concept, or a symbol, and not a living and breathing person, then I personally can’t write,”

For Barrett, the interplay between fiction and reality is where he finds motivation to continue writing. “I agree that it’s not an escape from reality, at least not in my genre of writing. However, I’m not a politician, and I’m not trying to change society, but just presenting people and situations as honestly as I can.” he explained.

This way, seeing these records published is its own reward. “Young Skins came out five years ago, and I still get to talk about it today. I’m very lucky to be able to do that,” Barrett said.

Bookworm Festival Pulse: Huawei Panel Q&A

with Joe Kelly, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Huawei, and Elliot Zaagman, technology columnist and consultant.

Edited for length and clarity.

BLF: At least one audience question referred to ethno-nationalism. What place do you think Huawei holds in Chinese culture and the Chinese psyche, especially after the latest crisis, but even before?

EZ: They’re the best tech company in China. If you look at the ways that China is a leader in technology in the world, if you took Huawei out of that mix, there are very few areas where they are leading to that degree. If you contrast that with the US, which has many strong tech companies — well, China also has many good tech companies, but Huawei is the only one that’s a global elite, aside from some of these AI startups that have a lot of potential. If you took it away, which the US has been more aggressive about trying to do, it’s like taking a queen off a chessboard. They don’t have as much without it. […] It’s very evident that [Huawei] is tied with the Chinese nation and people. You look at their entire senior management team, they’re all from China, they only list Chinese universities they’ve been educated at. They say that, for example, Lenovo is a global company with Chinese roots, and Huawei is a very, very Chinese company that does business globally. The fact that they’ve had success abroad, and they produce very good products, and they make a lot of things well, is a source of pride for China. Ethno-nationalism is not something I really subscribe to, but it is something that you see a lot in China, and it is something that is used to unify the culture at Huawei. That does pose an issue, because […] it’s very difficult for you to really be a part of it. It’s the same thing with a Chinese vision of the world that is largely based on Chinese nationalism; how do you be part of it if you’re not Chinese? And that’s a very big question. […] That idea of ethno-nationalism can be very cohesive internally, but I think it does have some issues externally.

JK: It’s mostly anecdotal. When I meet Chinese people for the first time, and they learn I work for Huawei, they go, “Wow!” That’s kind of seen, almost, as a status. Currently the Chinese people are proud of Huawei. They’re proud of our technology, they’re proud to carry our phones. And if I go back six years, everyone wanted an iPhone, that was the aspirational product to have. Today, my Chinese neighbors, my Chinese friends, who don’t work for the company, are very happy and proud to have Huawei phones.

 

BLF, to JK: You got a few audience questions about company ethics. Do you have a written company policy on ethics?

JK: We have something called our Business Conduct Guidelines, which every one of the 180,000 staff including me, has to read, understand, and pass a test on, and then sign once a year. That covers things like complying with the law, whatever the law might be wherever we operate, it includes keeping customer data and networks safe, it governs the way in which we think and operate. It basically means that we have to comply with all laws. And I’ve been signing that contract every year since I started; it’s been around for quite a long time. I kind of feel like Huawei is a good mix between these global standards, technology standards, for how companies operate, how they think, what they do, with some Chinese culture as well. But for sure many of the cultural aspects of Huawei that I have to live with are very familiar. I’ve complied with similar rules in other companies around the world.

 

BLF, to EZ: On the panel, Joe talked a bit about how, as [Huawei] expands on the global stage, they’re learning more about how these multinational companies do business, and have written ethics policies. I’m interested in your experience working with Chinese companies, maybe on a smaller level. Is ethics something that’s discussed often in Chinese tech?

EZ: No, it’s usually not discussed. This is an issue with China in general. I do think that there is a vacuum when it comes to things like ethical principles. There are a lot of reasons for that. It doesn’t mean that there are [no ethical principles]. But it does mean that they are many times subordinated to broader goals. […] And the issue is that there are lines that can get crossed in China that might not get crossed elsewhere. I don’t want to say that China is a bad actor and that Chinese companies are bad actors and that other countries and companies aren’t — it’s a tricky thing. Trying to define Chinese ethics and how they work in the context of technology, where ethics are more and more important, is a tricky thing. And especially now, when the Communist Party has more control than it used to, and its number one principle is […] control. How does that get embedded into technology in the future? That’s something that is concerning to me. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be worked out in a way that is beneficial for humanity, but it is a concern.

BLF: Do you think that might have to do with a greater alignment between the goals of Huawei and the goals of the State here, than you can say for most multinational corporations?

EZ: [The goals of Huawei] have been very much aligned with the goals of the Chinese state. We’ve seen over the last 6 or 7 years that Chinese companies and China itself has exerted more influence globally while internally becoming more closed. I think Huawei seems to be representative of that, as well; they seem to be quite closed internally, while spreading themselves globally. That I consider to be a fundamental contradiction. It is always a two-way street. It’s something I mentioned towards the end [of the panel]. You see China putting a lot more money into propaganda, you see Huawei putting a lot more money into PR, but it’s always to get their message out, what I don’t hear is anyone interested in how they can work with and learn about and meet the values and interests and cultures of the countries where they do business. And to me, that’s offensive.

JK: Huawei’s goals are very simple. They’ve got nothing to do with the goals of any state. Number one is, grow the business. Number two, look after the interests of customers. Number three, lead in innovation. We do that. We invest very heavily to do that. $15 billion in R&D last year, $13.8 billion in the year before. We’re one of the largest intellectual property owners in the world. So we’re driven. The loudest voice I hear inside Huawei is the voice of the customer. It’s not the voice of the investor, because we don’t have institutional investors. It’s not even the voice of the managers. It’s the voice of the customer. What the customer wants, the customer must get. And I think that that’s a culture that many companies talk about, but maybe some have forgotten what it really looks like.

Bookworm Festival Pulse: advice from Paul French to writers

Paul French Workshop 

Writers trickle quietly into Mesh, a low-lit, boxy lounge-bar with black and green leather sofas and walls of windows that look out onto the mid-afternoon in Sanlitun’s shopping district. They have come for a writing workshop with acclaimed, true-crime writer Paul French, a lanky British man with thick-framed black glasses and neatly trimmed hair, wearing a journalist’s button-down blue shirt and jeans. He starts off by saying “anyone taking this workshop probably has an idea for a book,” then rocks back and forth on heeled, brown leather shoes beside a projector and a screen. He goes over the basics, like the appeal of writing across genres, and the importance of research, then digs into of the kinds of nuanced historical details that breathe life into a place, and set him apart as a literary non-fiction writer. 

French’s chosen historical time period is 1930s and 1940s Shanghai. He tells us that white men living in Shanghai at the time would have drank a “Stengah,” which was a half whiskey half coke, and that they would have drank it in “Frenchtown,” which is what the French Concession was called at the time. He talks about the importance of smells, including that in the 1930s Shanghai smelled of “peanut oil and camphor,” and that Beijing used to smell of stinky tofu and the exhaust from city buses, but now it’s just dry air and a cleaned-up sort of “nothing.” He also talks about getting a sense of a character’s life by collecting the “ephemera” they might have found in their pockets at the end of the day, or stuffed into their mailboxes, like bus tickets, phone books, and shopping catalogues with advertisements the remind us of fashion and the squeaky wheels of tram cars with badly oiled brakes . . . as he speaks we can begin to feel ourselves the presence of a not-so-distant past rising up around us, with people shouting out for tuk tuks and passing cash into the hands of street vendors.

By the time he is finished, it is clear that writing true-crime is a thing French does with a passion for the historical period, an obsessive intrigue for his subjects, and dedication to the literary merit of his writing. His most highly acclaimed novel, Midnight in Peking, is being turned into a movie, and The Serpent, which comprises a series of murders along the backpacker trail in Southeast Asia is being turned into an audible series. As the talk wraps up, he is swarmed with writers who have questions about the projects they’re working on, and French patiently gives each person their time.

Short cut for interview

Written by: Amanda Fiore

Writer & Writing Educator in Beijing, China

BLF Volunteer, 2019

WeChat: AmandaJaneFiore

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