Thursday, November 22, 2007

The New Plan

I'm a firm believer that one of the greatest requirements for success is flexibility; being able to adapt your tactics to the reality of the situation. In Chinese, 随机应变.

So as I've been hitting walls with the job search to date, I'm thinking about switching up my tactics. I've received two prompts from two very reasonable people suggesting I try my hand at freelance writing, which--in my mind--is a really cool and really hard business to break into.

But while I'm somewhat skeptical as to its chances of success, I can't think of more ideal circumstances under which to give it a try. I'm young, I'm mobile, I have no dependents, I'm financially secure and living in a low-cost environment, and I have lots of time, talent, and spirit to spend on trying something new.

So the new plan is to write some easy articles about contemporary Chinese culture, politics, economics--pretty much formal expansions of the kind of thing I post on this blog--and send them to low-level newspapers, magazines, and online publications based in the States. After I've built a small portfolio of published work, I'll approach a real venue with an inquiry about doing an in-depth reporting project.

In the meantime, I can continue looking for real (office) jobs here in Dalian. If I get totally sick of the tenement and need a job to support a nice apartment, I can always suck it up and teach English.

Here are some ideas for freelance articles I'm interested in researching/writing. If you have any suggestions or comments, I would LOVE to hear them.

-Chinese Language Schools: since China's over opening twenty years ago,
thousands of Chinese langauge schools have cropped up as easy cash-makers around the country. But even as the popularity of Mandarin studies increases, so do new, high-tech language-learning methods. How are tahe Chinese language schools and the traditional classroom method reacting to the challenges of Web 2.0 and other new forms of
foreign language education?

-Modern Art in a Modern City: Dalian is definitely a modern, progressive city by Chinese standards, but whereas it has a gigantic international expo center and flourishing hi-tech sector, it is not known for its arts scene. One artist here has been working to open Dalian's first modern art gallery; but what challenges does he face, and what road must he travel in order to succeed?

-What "Market Economy" Means to the Average Chinese: When we hear about China's economic success over the past decades, we often frame it in terms of the move from a state-run planned economy to a market economy based on individual enterprise. But who are these individuals, and how do they view this shift? To understand the new market economy, me and a Chinese writer-friend are going straight to the markets: interviewing old peddlers vending cheap goods on the street and talking to young entrepreneurs selling imported brands (and knock-offs) at one of Dalian's up-scale shopping plazas.

-Hollywood Goes Mandarin: A day or two after I posted about how all the hunks in Ocean's 13 suddenly understand Chinese, I watched "War" and discovered Jason Stratham also understands Mandarin. Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 3, too. When-- and why-- did learning Chinese become a symbol of Hollywood macho, especially among cops and robbers? Could this be a direct result of China's increasing soft-power? Has China's economic and cultural rise infected even the hottest elite of Hollywood action stars?

Are these articles interesting? If you saw them in a magazine, would you read them? What particular angle interests you, and what kind of publication do you think would be the most suitable venue?

Thanks for any suggestions!


MWScranton said...

feedback on your ideas:

#1: I like it, but it would have to have a wider appeal. I feel the danger is there of invoking the terrible "rise of China" angle that so many articles about China (published in the US) invoke.

#2: Can't see how this would have much wide appeal outside art circles unless you applied his example to a modern trend seen across the country

#3: yea fine, but isn't this just reporting? What's the angle? What are you telling me? What will I learn by reading this? If the answer is "China is growing," most readers already know this.

#4: I really see this as a coincidence, but hell worse things have been published in US newspapers and everyone has seen more than a handful of articles published that turn nothing into something. This one seems less promising.

What about timing something coming up with the Oscars? Surely someone will publish an article about Western holiday celebration in China, even though it's not a new story.

赵晨威 said...

Thanks for the great feedback!

Regarding #3, let me try get some focus: would you rather read an article about how small individual enterprises operate in the "new" China; or about the background stories of a diverse population of private traders bonded by a common marketplace?

Keep it coming!

MWScranton said...

One problem about my feedback first is that I live in China. I'm not your target reader probably.

This might not be what you're asking, but maybe it provides some focus: I have ALWAYS wondered how businesses can survive when they sell the same shit as everyone else does on their street/alley/floor of a shopping mall/ etc?

Example: here in Chongqing, we have a street that has at least 50 shops, some small, some big, and they all make banners, name-cards, the printing shops that are all over this country. And all the owners appear to be from 温州 (or maybe they are just imitating the famous businessmen...). They are right next to each other, seemingly have no differences, yet all stay open? What's going on here? It could be interesting if presented right.

On another note, the 成语 you quoted, 随机应变, doesn't this more apply to situations that involve emergencies, not just regular life? 比如说,当医生能过随机应变。???I know the meaning and usage of many 成语 has changed over time though。

赵晨威 said...

I've definitely wondered about that myself. Logic would spread them out as much as possible across the city to convenience local customers, and yet they all gather together... makes it easy for suppliers, anyway. I could try and work that angle into things.

You're probably right about 随机应变. I've been using a lot recently, and their definition is: "do as the changing circumstances demand; suit one's actions to changing conditions; act according to circumstances." But it may have originally meant "take evasive action in dire straits" like you suggest.

owshawng said...

Why not do an article about your job search? I know some westerners who think all you have to do is be white and speak English and you will easily succeed in Asia. Might be a good topic for college newspapers and an eyeopener for undergrads contemplating a year or 2 overseas.

Or do an article comparing the bureaucracy at your school in China to your alma mater. College kids and recent grads could probably relate to it.

赵晨威 said...

Those are two great ideas!

Nadia Chaudhury said...

so i've been meaning to comment on this entry for a while. your art idea sounds really, really interesting and i wish i brought you over to the rail so you could've met phong, the publisher. he's really big on art (that's where we get our funding) and we publish articles about art around the world and i'm sure he'd be interested in what you'd have to say. if this sounds good, i'll talk to him and give you his email.

miss you,