Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inside the Beijing bubble

Talking to the maid at my hotel.

me: Where are you from?

her: Hubei.

me: How long have you been in Beijing?

her: Only one month.

me: How do you like it?

her: Of course I like it! There is nothing to do in Hubei.

me: Are things tough in Hubei?

her: Not tough, but nothing to do. It's not easy to make money.

The hotel has a fancy gym -- it's a membership place, so hotel guests mingle with affluent Beijingers who presumably live or work near Zhongguancun (high tech / university / research district). I was shocked by the number of personal trainers. There were more people working out than trainers, but not by a huge margin. In China I often get these moments of disequilibrium where my economics-brain screams "labor surplus" and "massive income inequality". Then I remembered the last time I saw the same thing -- the upper east side of Manhattan :-)

The Beijingers (men and women) were not buff, but they were trying hard! I felt a little bit like Mike Katz in Pumping Iron (I am exaggerating, of course).

Mike Katz, hulking the lineup: "Sometimes when you're working out in the gym and you're so much more developed and, you know, unbelievable in comparison to anybody working out around you, you say to yourself, 'Man, am I real?'"

Sunshine in Beijing.

Money Talks! even at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing... :^)

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