Writing Some Codes Tomorrow

During our code review today at office, I suddenly realize there are many technical dreams I have once had but didn’t fulfill it.

When I demonstrate the data-aware controls, and the architect, I recalled the time I started to learn C#, and all kinds of other language. I always wanted to

1. Write a language – I mean, some really productive language like PHP, or C#.

I thought I am not interested it any longer after my shift from technical field to business field in 2003, but today, I am re-assured that I want to do it. It brings me a lot of happiness.

2. Write some really cool applications.

Like the Web based IDE idea I described in my Chinese blog

Hands on CEO?

I have many roles in life. I know majority of the blog reader (some are 5 year long readers! Amazing! It is even more amazing than keep writing it) knows my role as a blogger – a blogger in Shanghai and broadcast what is happening here.

I also have another role – CEO of Kijiji, the eBay’s subsidiary in China. The other day, Chris (the great intern from Stanford, who has been very valuable for us) asked me: “Jian Shuo, I am just confused about why you are so hands on? I didn’t see a CEO, especially in the multinational companies who really write code.”.

My answer was a long answer. To be sure, I think I am growing more and more mature, and found some good balance between strategy, and execution. Before May this year, I really looks like a CEO – a personal whose full time job is thinking (or use the more fancy word – planning, creating strategies, read reports). However, many companies succeeds not only because of a good strategy, it is because of the right strategy combined with the right execution. I found I can still be helpful to develop the technical team because of my (luckily) technical background. So I did it. I am happy about the result so far. So I am back to the technical world – as long as I can be of help.

Nanpu Bridge was Closed Shortly

This morning, when I drove from Pudong to Puxi on the Nanpu Bridge, I saw there is no car on the opposite of the Nanpu Bridge. This is very strange, since in rush hours, it is unbelievable there is no single car there, for that long.

When when I approach the Puxi side, I found policeman were there, and there are policemen to block the cars from all directions. In short, the Nanpu Bridge was closed for a short period of time this morning.

It is very common that for some “very important person”, police close a road or many to let them go. It is rare though for the whole bridge to be closed. I don’t know what happened, who are coming, and who the “VIP” is.

The policemen are using public resources, but without limitation of its power, currently, it seems it is their own resources. That is a problem.

This reminds me of my trip to Cambodia. From time to time – many times a day – our tour bus was stopped and pushed aside just for the VIPs to pass. This was very typical in China 10 years ago. Recently years, China has changed to be better. At least in terms of police guarded cars, China is better than Cambodia. We are often stopped, but not daily at least. However, there is still a long way to go – when the time will come when those VIP feel a little bit embarrassed to close the whole bridge in rush hours for several minutes they can save.

Please note: This is Cambodia, not China

Keep Walking

Recently, I started to learn management and marketing. It seems to be another interesting field besides coding and technology. :-)

I am reading the book named Marketing Management and Drucker’s The Management Practices. Interesting books. It takes some time to get familiar with this field, but I am keep walking…

Chinese Characters

I blogged about China for 5 years but still didn’t mention the Chinese character. How can it be possible. Let me talk about the Chinese characters today.

It is Completely Different from English

I am not talking about the language itself, I am talking about the characters. Is there a difference?

The written language of many language, like English and German, are record of the pronunciation. You see the written language, and chances are, you can pronounce it.

Chinese charters are the record of meanings, or the object, and has separation between the oral language, or the pronunciation.

This major difference makes it possible for Chinese to survive in the last 2 thousands years, and, in my personal belief, to hold the country as a united country.


China is so large, and pronunciation of the same language changes dramatically. For example, in Southeast part of China, almost every village has their own variety of pronunciation, and it differs from each other every 10 km.

I could not understand the language Shanghainese say, and now I can understand but still cannot say the language after I am in this city for 12 years. It is not just accent – it is completely another language!

However, the written language of the whole China is the same. No matter how different people pronounce, when they write it down, it is the same language! That is the amazing thing about Chinese.

The Written Language

How does it work? You may ask.

Look at this picture I draw.

On the first line is the original Chinese characters.

A circle with a dot in it means the Sun. A moon shape with cloud around it is the Moon. What people mean by putting the Sun and the Moon together? It means light, bright…

On the right, there are two characters, one is pointing to top, and one is pointing down. So the left one means “up” and the right one means “down”.

At the bottom, there are one line, meaning 1, two lines = 2, and three lines = 3.

Then with the mountain shape – a horizontal line with three vertical lines above it (with the middle one higher), people are expressing “mountain”, and for water, they draw it like water.

That is the origin of the Chinese characters.

In the several thousands characters (two thousands are commonly used), the most basic characters are either the same of the nature, or has some meaning like 1, 2, 3…

Pronunciation and Characters

I just imagine. If someone pronounce 山 (or Mountain) as Mountain, and pronounce 一 (or one) as one, as long as they write it the same way, they are still speaking Chinese!

From the middle of the last century, a general pronounciation was enforced to make it easy for people to communicate. This is called Putonghua 普通话 or Mandarin. Many people say basically two languages, with Putonghua and the local language.

I am convinced because of people share the same written language, China is always a united nation while empire like its size already broke into smaller countries. If China should have used a language the record the pronunciation, it should have already be the same situation as Europe – German, French, English… many very similar but different languages, thus became different countries.

Just because it is the shape of the nature, I still can directly read all the books written thousands of years ago without too much difficulty (a little bit). This is a miracle that I enjoy.

Hope this helps to bring some interest about Chinese to you.

The Dinner – Part IV – Elected Officials

Let me break down the article into several parts to avoid being too long in one entry.

Elected Officials

If you ask me about a new word or new concept I learnt from the dinner, it will be a very normal and not-noticeable phrase – elected officials. I know this seems strange for people in U.S. Let me tell you why.

The dinner was of a lot of fun. We chatted many topics, and I didn’t notice significant difference from my chat with people from business world. People in the business world (I mean from U.S) talked a lot about politics, and people in the politics world talked a lot about business. :-)

I did the comparison between the “elected officials” and officials in China. We talked about democracy processes and how can it be, or is it feasible in China at all. The first step of democracy, as many people believe, is election.

I shared my experience about the only meaningful election I attended in China – the election of the Property Owner’s Committee in my residential area. (I did vote for some time, but it was a joke since I never heard about the names on the list, and it seemed every one didn’t know them, so the voting is a random vote).

In my residential area, like many others in Shanghai, we have residential committee who represent the resident to govern the affairs of the area. This seems a start of the democracy process in China. For me, this start is quite significant. Only after people learnt to exercise their democracy right within a small area (like a residential area of 10 thousand people) well, can we manage bigger elections. Let me tell you how did that go.

In my post named Democracy in Residential Area in April 2006, I described the election committee. Sounds good, isn’t it?

Later, whenever they have a community meeting, I will make sure I attend – just to witness how democracy practice in the area really goes, and form some basic idea about the direction of China’s future.

To my disappointment, I found there is still a long road to go for people to really understand, appreciate, and practice democracy well, even in an area as small as a residential area.

Fighting instead of Talking

The biggest issue people face in the committee was, There are two or three groups of people who both insist that the other one or two groups of people have to left the committee before they could move on.

There are people who represents people who refused to pay the management fee due to dissatisfaction about the management company. There are people who insisted to pay because they believe those who didn’t pay hurt their interest. There are people to believe the right approach is giving more clear standard to the management company for them to perform and keep the current company for the stability of the service, and the other group believe by getting rid of the current company is the only choice.

The form is a democratic format, but the problem is, after being educated in a non-democratic system that there must be only one correct answer to anything, not so many people really appreciate the different point of view, and they put their energy in fighting. In the last meeting I attended, they fight with each other – I mean physically fighting – hit people on the nose or head – just like this.

When I heard their talking, I found there are some representative’s mind is still as old as in culture revolution – they believe class fighting is still the most important thing. Not many people – I just saw one person, but I was astonished. I realized the physical world can change dramatically, but people’s mind, especially for massive audience as big as China, it takes not years, instead, many generations to change. I predict the change will eventually happen – just like it took me three years (since my trip in U.S. in 2004) to start to think about it – not fully understand yet. I know it really takes time.

Back to the elected official topic. For the whole government to be elected, there is a long way to go. The problem is, there are not enough research about whether it is feasible and what is the time table. “Election” is not as simple as election. It needs education, awareness, knowledge, experience, and tolerance – a lot of things to make it really work. How to archive it? I believe the democratic practice in a residential area is a good start. Maybe the only way to learn to follow a democratic process is to really do it. Although there is chaos at the very beginning, it seems the only way people learn about it.

What do you think?

Yifan has Hukou Today

First, the name of my baby is finally determined. We decided to call him Wang Yifan 王逸凡. Out of all the name, we like this name best and there is no bad similiar meaning related to it. We are happy to announce his name. The english name is Yifan Wang…

Second, he got his Hukou today.

In China, everyone must have a Hukou (refer to Hukou System in China). It is a residential permit that bind someone to a piece of land and restrict free move from one location to another. As I decribed in my previous article, this stupid system is not as powerful as 20 years ago, but it is still in effect, so my darling has to register with the police to get his Hukou. I did it today.

With the Hukou Booklet, the marriage certificate, national id and new-born baby certificate, I added Yifan’s name on our Hukou booklet. Officially, Yifan is now part of our family.

Something interesting for Yifan’s Hukou.

1. There is a column saying: When and why you moved into this family?

The answer was: June 2, 2007, because of newly born.

2. The Origination 籍贯

This is wired. It said: Mingjin County, Henan Province.

I asked the police why, and they said it is by regulation that every person’s origination must follow his father (not mother) and has nothing to do with where he was born or raised.

My origination was also given according to my father, so does Yifan. That means, he is legally bound to a land that he has never been and maybe only visit several times in his life time.

According to this law, his son or daughter will also be treated as a person coming from the county 1800 km away. I firmly believe Hukou system won’t last that long.

3. He has has national identification card number already.

Although it will be at least 18 years for him to claim his id card, he already has a number that is uniquely assigned to him. Isn’t it interesting?

4. The other things like education. Wendy has ‘Graduate’ in the field, and I have ‘B.S.’ and guess what’s in Yifan’s field? It says: ‘pre-school child’. There are also some fields I feel funny, like “Marriage status: not-married”…

Anyway, Yifan has Hukou today.

The Dinner – Part III – Government or Party?

This is the part III of my dinner last night with mayors, city councils, and executives from city league and NCUCR…

During our talk, we realized when people tried to understand the politics in China, the major problem or source of confusion is about the structure of government, party, and legalization system.

People use the “government” to refer to anything that seems from the “government” – such as the government setup the great firewall, or the government issued this rule. The reality is, there is a distinct difference between the “government” and the “party”. Typically, the people holding government positions also holds party positions, and the two organization share similar people but they are still different.

Manuela analysed the constitution of China – I even really didn’t read it thoroughly yet, and pointed out that 2/3 of the representative in the People’s Congress can change the government head and appoint new people. There are two facts: 1. Do not follow the written rule is the real rule in China. 2. It only mentioned about the government, not party.

To understand this difference is the key to understand the different of government behavior and the differences U.S. and Chinese politics systems, I personally believe so.

The Dinner – Part II – NCUSR Delegation

Well. I wake up in the morning (at 8:30 AM). I believe the delegate has already assembled at the lobby of hotel and heading to Suzhou. And me? The baby was like a alarm clock – he cried exactly at 1:00 AM, 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM, and I wake up to take care of him. Pretty tired today.

The NCUSR Delegation

This is the second time I met with Jan Berris from National Committee of US-China Relationships. I recorded our last gather on June 9, 2006 one year and two weeks ago (see? the benefit of having a blog).

I admire Jan a lot for continuously organizing delegates in U.S. from all fields, and all industry to visit China. According to the booklet about this visit, Jan organized 250 such visits since 1971, including the famous China Ping Pong Team’s visit to U.S. in 1972, which everyone knows a historical event on the history of China-US relationship. What I am also impressed so much is, she personally visited China for 90 times – I believe the data is out of date since she came to China recently these years also.

It is just like writing a blog – keep doing the same thing for a long enough time means something significant. If Jan is a blogger, she did it really well – 90 times of visit to the same country – the difference is, pay a visit is much more time-consuming than writing a blog.

I do agree with Jan that the only thing (well, maybe not the only, but at least very powerful thing) for people to understand a country is to have them visiting the country, experience it in a way that reflects the nature of the country, and have them talk with people inside the country.

This is many be the 5th time I talked about the bridge. Seriously, U.S. and China need many bridges to connect the two strong economic bodies and help to reduce the pain of culture and system conflicts. Jan is doing admirable job!

Wonderful Night with Mayors from U.S.

Please note that I archived this entry under “West Meets East” category.

I am just back from a wonderful night with some great persons from the delegation of National League of Cities/League of California Cities, and National Committee on United States-China Relations. I just used one not-so-accurate word to keep the title short.

To be more exact, I should not be so short about saying Mayors. There are mayors from Sacramento (Heather), Bluffton (Ted), Riverside (Ron) and Council members from San Diego (Jim), Madison (Cynthia), and executives or attorney from the National League of Cities, and League of California… Of cause I met with the great bridge between the two counties – Jan Berris, from National Committee on US-China Relationships… Oh. and we have Haisong who introduced me to the group.

I promise I will write about what we talked today, and the interesting topics from democracy to violence in online games, to legal systems, to culture differences… but not today. It is too late and I think I should go to bed to have my eyes rested. My eyes suffer a lot recently due to heavy usage to write computer programs with the dev team in my company. Considering how long the conversation was, and how long I may write, I hope I do it tomorrow.

P.S. I got permission to blog about the night from my friendly guests, and I will write more tomorrow.

P.S. The baby was still awake when I am back home at 11:30 PM. He wanted to sleep but couldn’t, so he seemed impatient and making little noises. I held him in my arms and wanted to calm him down. This is the 20th day since he was born, and for the second time, he reached out to get my glasses away with his tiny and soft hand – the second time in his life. I was amazed. Now he finally falls asleep as an angel. This is also the first night I am not with him since he was born. I hope I will be at his bed every night from now on, and see him growing and growing. I firmly believe every single day, he change a little bit – he is getting 50 g everyday in weight anyway – there must be some change.

Arranging Hong Kong – Xian – Beijing Trip

Readers asked me about how to arrange a trip in China. I understand that many tourist will do an around-China tour, so most of the tour is connected between multiple points, like Hong Kong to Xi’an, to Beijing, to Shanghai, and then back to San Francisco – something like this.

Let me rest assure you something.

1. You can buy tickets like this.

Some worries that the multi-stop tickets are more expensive. Well. I don’t think it is the case. Since most of the tickets are single trips, and round trip is typically the same price as double the single-trip. So don’t worry.

2. You can buy tickets locally.

Go to hotel receiption or call 800-820-6666 for ctrip to book the ticket, and they can issue electronic tickets.

3. You don’t need to have too long lead time.

Several days, say 4 days are very safe time for booking most of the lines, unless you are travelling at festivals.

The business festival is Spring Festival, and the second is Oct festival, and the third is May festival. Avoid them, and you should be OK.

My reader asked about the ticket of Oct 3 and Oct 9 of 2007. My answer is: you are not lucky since it is the national holiday and the tickets are generally hard to book. But the good thing is, Oct 3 and Oct 9 are much better than Oct 1 – Oct 2, or Oct 7 – Oct 8.

On Oct 3, most people already left home for travel destinations, and on Oct 9, most people have get back, but anyway, it is busier than norma days.