We are but estranged lovers

 I'm flustered.

Simply flustered.

My job is destroying my mental health. 

How do I know this?

I used to walk a bit less than 2 miles to feel physically good.  Now it stretches over 3 miles before I begin to wear out.  Am I in better shape?

Of course not.  It's just the time it takes, the distance it takes to mentally repair myself is longer than it used to be. 

Of course, this would all be much easier for me to handle if I could just visit my factories.  Managing a sourcing regime is hard, harder if you are 8000 miles away and unable to have conversations with suppliers face to face. 

Fortunately, I do have competent teams on the ground.  Unfortunately, there are instances where experience tells me "truly understanding the situation" requires my presence. 

Meanwhile, Thailand (open) and Vietnam (about to open), look pretty enticing. 

When China continue to march to the beat of its own drum?  It plays well.  All of China believes "The West" has brought this plague upon us.

China is a tough place to work. No question about it.  The energy that China brings to the table however, is hard to deny.  WeChat can only go so far, however.   To get the job done properly, I must be in China.  

The pandemic has wiped out small brokers and middlemen.  Trading companies.  It has shown however the importance of having an infrastructure on the ground.   Larger companies benefit from this.  Smaller companies do not.  Those quite frankly too cheap to "build out" an organization on the ground are at a large disadvantage.  Those that did not invest in people, instead preaching the lazy mantra,

"I can do it myself", have suffered the consequences. 

Our team in China is twenty strong.  But I feel it is hard to move larger projects forward all the same from a distance.  From thousands of miles away, it is hard to radiate a sense of urgency.  Simple as that.

To be blunt, "the people must see their Emperor" once in awhile. 

Suppliers production schedules may not suffer, but it sure feels good to see the factory manager face to face and walk the assembly lines anyway.  The Chinese simply have a greater energy about them when the customer shows up to talk deals. 

And I feel they want to talk with me, too.  Wrong or Right, my suppliers tend to believe working directly with the foreigner moves things along.  I think their right. They also respect the commitment of the Barbarian showing up to their castle. 

Do I miss the subways?  Nope.  The overpriced hotel food?  Can't say that I do.

But I greatly miss the feeling of accomplishment, the efficiency of driving one's own train so to speak.  And yeah, I miss the culture as well.  Don't get me wrong, I don't miss what China has become, ie this pervasive "birthright" of the Nation to bend others to its own will.  But I am cognizant that others will say America for decades has been the same. 

Of course that would be a rather unsophisticated comparison.  

I think very highly of China's young people.  Their energy, and their insatiable desire to make money and do business with us.  I've found China's factories willing and helpful.   And more competent than our own American factories, that will raise prices at the drop of a hat.   My leverage over the  American supply chain is nil.  

Ocean carriers and steamship lines are gouging the planet.  They should go to jail.  But I don't have much faith in accountability anymore.   You may say a good display of hubris is always a sure sign of an impending collapse.  I say the abandonment of accountability is another. 

Covid has upset my travel plans, simple as that.  But this War has too.  The West has no qualms isolating Russia, which is about to be cast into the Dark Ages for the foreseeable future.  But how do we handle China?  Methinks no flights from China will be banned over any Western Airspace anytime soon. 

Bottom line, when will China let me back in?  I admit it is a hurt to one's ego to not be missed.  And China doesn't miss us. At least publicly.   So China lumbers on, one closed city at a time.  Line upon line of covid test takers stretching out from city block to city block.  Oblivious to the rest of us, expecting this "export party" to last forever.  And it probably will.

This isn't about "bending" China to our will.

We just have no where else to go.  China knows they can keep us out indefinitely.  And the purchase orders will keep coming. And their right, they will.  But resentment, though it may boil slowly,  will take much longer to cool down.   

The West and China have become two estranged lovers forced to share the same bed.   With no interest in reconciling.   What a terrible existence. 


  1. Dear F., still come to your blog from time to time - discovered in 2011 when we were studying in China for 1y. Keep writting, always super interesting. D

  2. P.s - keep writting your blog. So many months without a post...? is everything ok?

  3. FF, you have been our for several months, man. Hope everything is ok with you.

  4. We have not talked for many years, but i asked you some advice when i moved to China for a bit. I am curious if you ever regret learning this stupid language. I think 5 years spent learning this was the biggest waste of my entire life now. Re Kurt

  5. Hope everything is good with you.

  6. Does anyone know if something happen to Francis? Didnt write for a year.. hope everyhthing is ok.


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