Mr Democracy

A written constitution for the UK (made in China)


  • Welcome to Mr Democracy, the story of a British artist who set off to get a written constitution for the UK made.
    Understanding the changing balance of power in the world, and with a nod to Britain’s ‘democratic’ ventures across the world, he chose to get it written in China, and ship it back to the UK.
    Read more under 'about' and in the many blog entries.

Archive for the ‘China experiences’ Category

Challenge Anneka/Bond Hong Kong

Posted by mrdemocracy on 15,09,2008

I’m now on BA flight BA0032 Hong Kong London Heathrow. The novelty of flying never really wears off on me, I actually love it, the high class pretence, the mini food, the thousands of stories and that are airports. Actually, the place where I was staying in Hong Kong, Mirador Mansions (and neighbouring Chungking Mansions on my last stop over) are like dirty messy airports, with a racial mix which really is like a deck of shuffled cards. Every time you stepped in the lift there were people from every corner…Ghana, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Liverpool… The place has a terrible reputation apparently, with gruesome stories about attacks in the lifts in the early hours. I didn’t feel unsafe.

After Huang Pu, there was not too much too tidy up regarding the toy production and shipping, just exhibition stuff. I had another altercation with the shipping agent unfortunately. Marco explained that actually there is no charge for the frieght in China, its all charged at the destination, hence why it seemed so cheap. He reckoned the final price should have been around half of what I was paying, but I had already seen the quote and handed the goods over, so it was a bit late to haggle now…but worth a try. The shiping agent begged to differ, that it wasn’t worth a try, and after a telephone call in a noisy restaurant, the next email suggested we shouldn’t use them again. Although I had made lots of questions about different quotes (which wastes their time), in the end she had made things stressful by managing to not coordinate a quote which tallied at both ends until late the night before the goods were delivered, after a 6 hour wait in their office, which is pretty bad.

I took a train down to Shenzhen, the city built rather unsubtly on the border with Hong Kong. I say unsubtly because it’s mission is to take Hong Kong as a blueprint for making money. It is literally on the border with Hong Kong – you can walk over the border in the train station and get right on the MTR, Hong Kong’s metro. I was talking with Adrian Wong, and friend in Hong Kong, about capitalism in Hong Kong. In theory Hong Kong practises one of the purest forms of laissez faire free market capitalism of anywhere in the world, yet it has decent free-at-delivery health care, excellent public transport and much social housing (though perhaps not so good). Tax is Hong Kong is negligible, though not at tax-haven rates. This can be afforded because the Hong Kong government acts like a business, letting but never selling the most expensive of all commodities, land. But this struck me as a deviation from the Neo Liberalism developed by Thatcher and Reagon – they sold off everything the state owned for a fraction of what it was worth (something the German government is also planning to do), referred to as selling of the family silver.

Shenzhen is a city of superlatives. As China’s first SEZ (Special Economic Zone) it was here that China experimented with capitalism, or ‘socialism with chinese characteristics’ as they call it. Shenzhen is part of the Pearl River Delta – a collection of cities which make up the biggest manufacturing base in the world.  Shenzhen developed from a fishing village, with a population in 1979 of just 20000, its population has grown to 14million, just 2 million of whom have a permanent address. Funnily enough, in the OCAT there was an exhibition of films made in a factory, this time CCTV type footage above each workers table, coupled with an installation of factory sewing machines in the huge gallery. It could be difficult to fill that space its huge.

My mission in Hong Kong was also to shoot video in a port, although I was able to record more than I’d thought possible in Huang Pu. Asking around hadn’t produced too many suggestions, so I went down to the container base to see what I could see. Its possible to see quite a bit just from the perimeter fence actually, but there were a couple of buildings with trucks whizzing through them (like multi-story car parks) which looked like they should have had better vantage points, although on apporoaching them, I did have a sinking feeling I wasn’t meant to be there, and would have to James Bond-like smuggle myself in. The trick is trying to look like you know where you’re going, or at least what you’re looking for, in place you’ve never entered before. I wandered down some concrete corridors, but all the men leaving had saftey helmuts and hi-vis tabards, so that wasn’t going to work – about turn. I checked the lifts – on the 7th floor there was a canteen, and a 7-11 – that must be kind of public, right? I couldn’t actually order anything because you needed to pay with a card of some sort, so I strolled straight over to a window seat. The workers in there didn’t seem to care, so I slipped my camera out and wedged it against the window, but the windows still weren’t to clear. I had a brainwave – the toilets, they should have a window I can open, and shut myself in, and they did. I had the shock of my life when I heard the door shut and the lights go out, and screamed ‘hello’. Thank goodness someone was still there, who still seemed not to care. The next day I took metro and taxi round Kowloon and Hong Kong island looking for vantage points. I say I took a taxi, a taxi driver persuaded me in broken English that he knew a place with great views of the container base, which it would have been, had it not been obstructed by trees. I didn’t feel completely cheated, but it was a waste of 50HK$ and an hour and a half. The container base is amazing, its just like children’s building blocks, but 100 times the size and the blocks are delivered all over the world; and somewhere in there were my 1000 toys with the new constitution, on their way home.

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Huang Pu, wuh-hooo!

Posted by mrdemocracy on 09,09,2008

They’re off. Today I relaxed for the first time in two months! It was a stressful day though, completely Challenge Anneka.

Our deadline was 11am at the warehouse in Huang Pu, Gaungzhou’s main port. Despite everyone telling me it would be easy to find a truck and driver (man with a big van), we … had some trouble finding a man with a big van. Fearing that one wouldn’t be enough, we got two trucks (Jackson’s friend recommended them for us), and we met them at a metro station. From there we tried to get to the installation factory. I say tried to, we were again struck by the no-maps-no-directions-curse, loosing us valuable time. In the end someone came to meet us on a bike, after a few circles and many phone calls. Arriving at the installation factory I seemed to be in more of a rush than anyone, but Marco got the idea pretty quick. As the boxes started coming downstairs, I went upstairs to pay up. As this wasn’t Marco’s place, we settled using some plastic chairs to count the cash, I’ve never counted to much so fast!

The pressure only increased as we got back on the trucks to speed off to the port. I was concerned about traffic and getting lost, particularly not being able to find our warehouse. Jackson and I were on the phone all the time to each other and Laura from the shipping company. Arriving at Huang Pu, we were told we had to go to a counter to hand in a form, and get another one. I don’t know what people normally do, I can’t imagine many people do so much themselves. The queue at the counter was long and slow, and we noticed that the counter closed at 11:30 for lunch. Lunchtime in China seems to be as strict as France and Italy (used to be), and it also has nap time built-in, I approve. We made it! We were the last ones before the little counter window was slammed shut, that was lucky. We then went off to find our warehouse, 8c. We then discovered that it was closed for lunch, I don’t know why we weren’t told this by Laura beforehand. We unloaded onto pallets next to the warehouse, thankful that it didn’t rain, and paid the drivers. Lunchtime gave me a moment to start some filming – coming in with the goods had given me the opportunity to get right into the port, and it was the container base, cranes and all. I hadn’t known this before, I had thought we might have left our boxes at a warehouse owned by the shipping company, but they were not around.

After lunch the pallets were driven into the warehouse, boxes bouncing around, I don’t know how they are supposed to get to England. They had a piece of string to hold them together. And they were marked with chalk. We’ll see.

The filming opportunities got better still. A little wander round the corner and we were at the waterfront, with the cranes dropping the containers onto barges set for the short ride to Hong Kong, where they will be transferred to bigger cargo ships. Amazing. I still can’t believe we could get in and get so close, what happened to all the Olympic security? One guard told us we weren’t allowed to film, and asked us who we were. It did help that we were customers. We couldn’t really argue that we were lost (we were a long way from our warehouse), but maybe just curious customers. I tried to be discreet, and although he could still see we were there, he never come back. Jackson started to get a bit nervous with the huge cranes moving tonnes of container above our heads and rolling on their train tracks next to us, so we called it a day. Walking out of the container base in search of a bus or taxi, I really felt like I’d done it, the toys were on their way. Thanks Arts Council England, thanks for believing I could do it.

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Where are the clothes?

Posted by mrdemocracy on 05,09,2008

We had another scare (there’s basically one a day) – Marco called to say the clothes weren’t there. After calls to Mr Shao and Ms Chen (from the company from whom Mr Shao buys his toys, but not actually the toy factory owners), we establish that the delivery company left the box at the depot. Marco and the delivery company try to persuade me to go and get it. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve paid them to deliver it, its a complete waste of time – there are no good maps and I’ll never find this place. So after hours of persuasion, Marco relents and goes, although its only (in theory 15 mins from his company). We arrange to meet up after at the installation factory, his colleague shows me the way there.

Marco arrives an hour an a half late, having walked for miles. He’s pissed off with the delivery company, they just told him ‘near the bus station, just go straight’. Indeed, it was straight, but about 2 miles ‘straight’. It has the positive affect of making me realise that this sort of thing happens to everyone here not just me. What is still hard to understand the reaction – there was no acknowledgement by the delivery company that this was wrong, giving him useless directions and making him walk 2 miles.

Anyway, it was another great day being able to see the installation factory. Bear in mind this factory really was just working to complete my order, re-wiring each doll with the new chip, DC socket and switch. They also had to test each one, which I had failed to anticipate – that meant all the time you could hear ‘Consti, constit, Constitution for the United Kingdom of Gre…’!! It was comical, and made complete sense for the project.

I was disappointed to see that the boxes were damaged, with not just scuff and crushes, but holes too, don’t know how that happened. We discussed it with Marco, and I won’t go into the detail, but there was trying to decide who was responsible – the toy factory, the transporters, or the factory that received the goods for not noticing until now. I accepted pretty quickly that we weren’t going to get any more from Mr Shao or Ms Chen (also she was more helpful), so it was up to Marco and me. I offered to go 50 50 on some new boxes, and he agreed, remarkably easy. All a bit silly really – I’m more worried about the booxes being damaged than the toys the boxes are meant to protect. It might have been better to pack all the toys together and have 1000 boxes left flatpacked to be assembled in the UK, in good condition.

We also spent several hours trying out one ‘mainline’ – the power lead connecting all the toys together, so that they could all be run off the mains (saving the need to change batteries). In the end the design was incredibly simple, just a 30cm length of thin wire connected to the next by a connector – the type used to connect a lightbulb wire to the mains wire. There is then a DC socket coming of each of these connectors aswell, which plugs into the toy. At the end of these (100) wires is a mains power convertor. It was exciting to get all the toys laid out and plugged in… but sad to see that it wasn’t going to work. The voice chips went out of sink very quickly, and after less than 10 seconds you couldn’t make out a word. I then tried it with just 2, and even they went out of sink fast, and became inaudible. Marco seemed dissappointed too, which he should – this was a big part of what we had discussed since the start. The electrical engineers had said it would work. I wasn’t at all annoyed really – it just didn’t work. I was much more annoyed that the delivery company had failed to deliver the toys and made Marco walk 2 miles to pick them up.

What was also really different here was spending 4 hours in the factory, recording and then trying to get the mainline working. It was different to be working with Marco, we were trying to solve the problems together, and the people from the factory too, whereas before I’d been more of a customer.

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Not Top Gun

Posted by mrdemocracy on 04,09,2008

I’m sitting on a bus bumping down the motorway to Shantou, about 250miles east of Guangzhou, in the dark (lights out at 8, reading lights don’t work), some Top Gun rip off on the TV, having just listened to the news quiz from back in October. The news quiz (link) is one of my home comforts. I’ve come across something called ‘superlito’ on my itunes now, fits the mood. I’ve also just spoken to my Dad, I asked him to call Nationwside to ask them to call me to explain why I can’t get any money from the cash machine. Despite having called to explicitly ask this, I now can’t get any money out of the wall. After saying they couldn’t comment because he isn’t the account holder, they explained, 2 or 3 times, that I should just pop into my local branch to sort it out. Eventually they seemed to understand this wouldn’t be possible, what with me being on a bus in China. ‘Service economy’ is a misnomer.

On Friday we called Mr Shao to ask about visiting on Saturday. He said it wouldn’t be worth it, we should come on Monday, then we can stay the night and the toys can come to Gaungzhou the next day. So we called on Monday morning, when he mentioned that in fact the factory is in Shantou, as I said about 250 miles east of Guangzhou – one of the reasons we’d chosen Mr Shaou was that the factory was ‘in Shenzhen’, just one hour down the road on a fast and frequent train journey. So we were pretty pissed off when he casually mentioned that it was in a city 6 fucking hours away. Why do people lie, do they have no scruples? No apolgy, no recognition, nothing. This time I wished he’d spoken English.

We visited the circuit board factory today, where the circuit boards are made, it was amazing. The whole process of anything being made involves an almost infinite number of factories and inductrial processes. Our flash memory is made in another factory (in Taiwan I think), then processed here in the office in Guangzhou. The micro controller is also made in another factory, and they are out on the board in yet other factories. You can also go further down the chain, and the parts and materials (paint, board etc) used in these components are made in other factories. I hope the video turns out well, it was certainly interesting, all the ‘tssst’s and ‘bmmpf’s.

Something has confused me. It seems Marco is more friendly and helpful since we’ve signed the contract, not less interested, as I’d always thought it would be. I thought before the contract they would be keen to secure our business, and after -especially in our case where it should be pretty obvious by now that we’re not big players – start with the excuses, delays and cock ups. But Marco has completely turned a corner, apologising for his English leading to misunderstandings, and quite sweetly checking by text to see if we got to Shantou ok in the evening, and then offering to look up a hotel if we couldn’t find one. It may be because we started chatting about more personal things over the internet, such as degrees and travel. I still can’t quite work if he knows I’m an artist and not a business man. We’ve talked about the ‘exhibition’.

Its 10 pm, so I guess we’re half way. We’re backing into a petrol station, lets see how long we stop.

It wasn’t long (enough to buy some food).

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I’m not sure about Article 16

Posted by mrdemocracy on 29,08,2008

On our return from Shantou, our first job was to recover, a few hours sleep on a wet bus didn’t suffice.

As we understood the toys were leaving the same night as us, it was was worrying to hear they had managed to take until lunchtime to complete the same 6 hour journey as us back to Gaungzhou. A few calls and questions later revealed that ‘the driver couldn’t find the factory’ in Gaungzhou. If I were the driver, I might have called to find out where I was going, not waited another 6 hours till they called me. Nevermind now.

What a disaster. Still in bed, my phone was quietly virating by my side on the studio floor tiles. Marco from the chip factory, to explain to my embarassment, that ‘article 16 seemed to be repeated’. Ok, so they do listen to it, the people producing the chips. I was never quite sure. I suppose the doll is not that weird, and its not that political, it just reads something, which happens to have lots of articles. I jumped on the computer and checked the article he mentioned, and sure enough article 16 was mentioned twice. So I went back and made a proof listen. It was even worse than he thought – after the first 2 minutes, it goes right back to the start. It was good to see that they take care of our order, that they want to do it right, but they now have an excuse to be late. When they asked us to try to slow the voice down, just after signing the contract, I tried to ask if changing the voice file would delay the process, and I understood not. Actually its ridiculous that it comes down to a day here and there, after weeks of negotiating and looking. We were working everyday, but we still could have started earlier.

He was checking the file himself, listening for mistakes. He asked me about what he thought was another mistake, I looked it up but it was fine, and on telling marco, he explained ‘ah, its a new word for me’.

I have re-edited the clip, and sent it back. Marco tells me they process the sound file themselves, by hand in a way, altering it to fit it on the chip. I offered him a tiny file (highly compressed – smaller than the last file they produced), but he tells me file size itself is not important. He has said I can visit the factories that modify the circuit boards and install the micro controller, thats soon, looking forward to that.

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At Mr Shao’s

Posted by mrdemocracy on 25,08,2008

I should mention that some of this blog has been written offline and at another time. The website is not easily accessible in China – I have to use a proxy such as Proxy4china.com which makes it slower.

Its 7:30pm, I’m sitting on the sofa in Mr Shao’s living room. We weren’t keen on Mr Shao right from the start. He’s a little younger than I expected, but not much more friendly. We were offered grapes and Pepsi, but the lavish tea set wasn’t put into use. It’s getting a little late, and we’d like to get it done. Jackson is now in the bathroom, calling his friend to ask what exactly you do put in a contract, as he’s never made one. Mr Shao is at his computer, perhaps chatting or doing some other work. We had pretty much arranged a price by the time we came (17Rmb, £1.35), but of course wanted to bring it down. Maybe making a price before coming all this way was a mistake – he knows we’re interested at that price. Our distrust of him raised considerably, when he explained that the quote he had given us didn’t include putting the arms, legs and head on the body of the doll. That would be extra you see, otherwise we would just get a bag of body bits. It’s a wonder you don’t get charged extra for plates, chopsticks, and furniture in Chinese restaurants, although Jackson tells me you do in some places. I bet they tell you after you’ve eaten.

We’re going through the various points of the contract now, Jackson amended Mr Shao’s document. We need ‘Suzy Sprints’ nappy for instance, that wasn’t in the photo. We mentioned visiting and videoing in the factory, he said it’ll be no problem, we might just need to slip it in the contract. The last bus to Guangzhou leaves at 9, and we’re half an hour from the bus station. Neither of us fancy staying in Huizhou, better back to Guangzhou, back to the Acedemy. There’s Peep Show on youtube there for me, and 19th century western art history DVDs for Jackson.

I just counted the wad of cash, Jackson seems to have everything under control with the contract. Mr Shaou just called to see about our box, how long it would take. Is this documenting something, describing it on your laptop while it happens? I wonder if he’s wondering what I’m doing. I wonder if he wonders who I am. Why have I come all this way to haggle with him in his house? I think he’s got a little kid, but maybe all the dolls are samples. He says the 7 days are tight, because of the clothes, which is a shame, we don’t really want them anyway. Just noticed that the larger boxes have contents details on the side, including a name or description – good, I can put “Oliver Walker/ Mr Democracy” on the side. I’m happy not just because it looks cool (Democracy arriving in cardboard boxes), but because the customs and Trading Standards should be more easily placated.

Jackson is now working against the clock to write the amendments to the contract. 3 minutes. Meanwhile, I hover and eat cold sweet bean soup, and get trinkets from Mr Shaou, who nows seems more friendly. Its worrying – these awful trinkets are probably the kind my doll should be made from. Instead, we’ve gone for something altogether better looking, after lots of skyping and emails back and forth with friends dotted around the world for advice. The original plan wasn’t to try to get something that I really liked, sorry China, it was to get something cheap and mass produced, which says ‘cheap Chinese s***’. On that note, maybe better to have gone for something better. Tom Shi, who was letting me use his studio, was keen that I don’t reinforce the low quality Chinese products stereotype.

We have missed the bus. Signed, paid up, now off round the corner to get a hotel and eat dinner with Mr Shaou and his little boy, at a restaurant cum aquarium. Its one thing to have the fish recently killed, but they try to avoid actually ever killing them, in order to keep them fresh. Our fish was descaled on the pavement while still flapping. Maybe I should stop eating fish aswell as meat.

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Second official visit

Posted by mrdemocracy on 08,08,2008

Back in Guangzhou, I got a knock at the door from the Police in the new hotel too. There were some attacks in the north (see here), so its fair enough that any foreigners in any part of China may be terrorists, despite the attackers being Chinese. This at least, is what my Chinese art student helper said. It is always amazing and scary just how easy and lightly people will bow down and take a bit of totalitarian government, with just the faintest of excuse. ‘The Olympics’ really was the reason for any abuse of Police power. I was more used to it now, after last time, and I do think people here are more used to the Police inviting themselves to any occasion than in the UK or Germany, but I still hate it. The came with a young woman interpreter. I like it that the police don’t actually speak English, it slows the interrogation right down. He pointed at the tripod and asked what it was. I said it was a tripod, I am a tourist. This just exemplifies the pointlessness of police interrogation anywhere in the world – harassing ordinary citizens. I say pointless, it does keep them in check, adding that little bit of fear which discourages us from protesting. ID cards in the UK should bring us that bit closer.

It also brings to mind something a friend who studied in Russia. She recounted how Russians said the difference between their system and ours was that they knew they lived lived in a system (a designed system) whereas it seemed we didn’t. Having said that it seems the Chinese, the Chinese I met, aren’t too aware of how much their system is designed, and how different it could be. Indeed, the writers in Shanghai asked me ‘so which human rights do you (all) think we so desperately need? I’m fine, my life is not interrupted by the police on a regular basis’. This was interesting if a little saddening, but it shows that the propaganda works. In another conversation with someone who worked with me in Gaungzhou, he asked if I could make one change in China, what would it be. We talked about it and agreed it would be one relatively simple change: press freedom. Press freedom would allow the corruption to (start to) be reported, bringing exposure and shame.

Since looking up an article about the terrorist attacks, google returns an update – that the attack now seems less black and white than first mentioned. Now its out of the (narrowly focussed) media spotlight, but I remember at the time a BBC ‘From Our Own Correspondant’ reporter commenting on how quickly the scene was tidied up, and there was little evidence of the attack. Have a look here.

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Expensive products are cheap

Posted by mrdemocracy on 06,08,2008

On my return from Shanghai, I met a man from Portsmouth University on the train. He was concerned that his pda would be constantly connected to the internet, ‘work’ had given it to him. I’ve grown up with a different impression of universities, not as corporations that send their employees round the world to meet business leaders and do consultancy work. We had that ‘you’re foreign too’ connection. He seemed relieved to see me, despite being on the way to meet his Chinese girlfriend in Guangzhou, some years his junior. We talked about politics, and he veered away again when we got too close to any view which might have been different from his. We did talk about China and the world though. I asked him about what the future held for the west, how we were supposed to compete with China. In doing so I reminded myself of another artical I’d read somewhere about cheap Chinese products, and ‘but we don’t make anything’ fears in the west. The article broke down the cost of products, as do the articles here and here, with the examples of trainers. The main thrust here is that yes, they make cheap products, but the profit goes to the west. Its ironic, the article I had read, and the man on the train’s arguments, were both to reassure westerners – its ok, depsite manufacturing lots, they don’t make all the profits. When I looked again for information on these breakdowns, you can see from the links that information about the injustices of sweatshops came up. He added that many of the jobs in the long chain of high-end products cannot easily be transfered away from the UK, such as advertising (culturally dependent), finance (based on a system which can be trusted) and sales (geographically located). Also, as Chinese wages rise, which they are (article a year old), this will make production in the west proportionally more competative, although that wasn’t the view 10 years ago. It predicted it would take decades before Chinese and Indian wages rise because the pools of cheap labour are so huge, but they have been. Its worth noting again on the other hand that the examples from the anti-sweatshop campaigns that these price breakdowns only work for high-end branded products, not for primark or ASDA stuff. I coincidently saw the exact same Clarks shoes in a shop next to my hotel in China, and they were roughly the same price. Now I got them for a bargain, as they were seconds, but its interesting that this can happen at all, and prices in ASDA or Primark are also not hugely disimilar in China.

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Slippers and Shanghai

Posted by mrdemocracy on 01,08,2008

The travel agent in the hotel had said it was too short notice to get a train ticket: it wasn’t, he just wanted to sell me a flight instead. The journey was fantastic. The train only stops once during the 15 hour journey, so shortly after the train departs, everyone puts their complimentary slippers on, and its very relaxed. The restaurant car was also something novel for me, allowing you to get out of the cabin and sit in a normal seat. Maybe one day the UK and EU will stop subsidizing air travel so absurdly, and we’ll see train travel serving the function it could so well (London to Liverpool standard class, 2.5 hours, £215 anyone?). I really didn’t want to get off when we arrived at 11am the next day, saying goodbye to my slippers and fantastic view of the country.

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Clap your hands say ‘constitution’

Posted by mrdemocracy on 30,07,2008

After several days of looking online, we had an idea at the wholesale market. We found one doll that featured a sound control – you know, clap and it crys or sings or something. If they all had this, they could all respond to the same clap, or something louder, and all speak simultaneously, which would be a great improvement on what I thought I could get.

We have also been looking for voice chip manufacturers this week. Tom suggested we seperate out the process, it could be faster. Normally you would buy the toy from one supplier, and they would be responsible for the whole thing. We had been having difficulty getting toy manufacturers to agree to change the voice chip – 1000 is a small order, and the work involved for them to sell 1000 is almost the same as selling 50 000.

We called several chip companies. The third one we called said they had just received two calls from other companies with exactly the same inquiry as ours, which suggests they were supplying the others, so we decided to pay them a visit. A metro and bus ride later and we were on a dusty roadside, still waiting to meet someone from the factory after 5 phonecalls. It was frustrating, the no-maps thing was wasting so much time again. I say again, two days before I had managed to stop the taxi driver as he took a wrong turning on the 10 minute journey between Tom’s studio and the hotel. As we were approaching a main junction, I was reading the (mainly Chinese) map thinking to myself, ‘here its either a right turn or straight on’, so when we took a left, I tugged on his shoulder and pointed in the other direction, showing him the map. I don’t think it was dishonesty, just relying on an unreliable sense of direction.

We met with 4 people from the office in the end, and were suprised by their patience. It wasn’t a big order, and they spent 4 hours talking to us, which makes me think it wasn’t the ‘forth biggest chip company in China’, as they’d said. We explained what we wanted to do, and they said the linking up of several, or in fact all, of the toys to the mains would be possible. We didn’t mention that we were artists, or at least we weren’t meant to, on advice from Tom and Jim (from the British Council). They had suggested that Chinese business men don’t have the sympathy for ‘culture’ that you can often get if you say you are an artist in the west. Even so, in the west this only works at a low level, everyone else needs to know they’ll make decent money out of you. Unfortunately Sarah wasn’t too up on this line, and had already said we were ‘from the Art Academy’. She back peddled quite well, explaining that we were design students in a joint venture, producing something for a trade fair (an exhibition) in Liverpool. I don’t know if they beleived us, but I think they were interested to have a customer from Europe.

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Official visit

Posted by mrdemocracy on 27,07,2008

The hotel people just called up to my room, spoke no english (except ‘under’). They then knocked on the door, and tried to pull me out, I thought it was because I haven’t paid for this evening. luckily I was on the phone to Tom at the time, handed the phone to him, and he said ‘its becuase of the olympics, only certian hotels are allowed to have foreigners. Maybe you should go downstairs.’ The police then came in, smoking, looked in the bathroom, and left again (closing the door behind him), kind of ignoring me. Pretty much over, I hope. My friend reassures me it shouldn’t be a problem. Think I might go out soon. nice coincidence that Tom was on the phone at the time. would have been alot more worried otherwise. Maybe the hotel is not allowed to have foreigners.

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One World, One Dream?

Posted by mrdemocracy on 10,07,2008

The biggest set back before I left has been the visa issue. I’ve heard through friends of cases where people had been sent back at the airport on arrival because their passports were bent, because they had a beard, and people who had had their visa aplication rejected 6 consecutive times. So applying on a business visa as an artist with this project seemed risky. Originally I wanted to go for about 3 months, but now the maximum visa being offered, tourist or business, is 1 month. One World One Dream? With the prospect of just getting a one month visa, I need to try to plan more before I go. In the end, Jim Hollington at the British Council in Guangzhou said the best option was to go to Hong Kong, and get a multiple entry visa from there, this way I’ll have flexibility as I don’t have to proove when I’m leaving on entry, and can renew my visa by doing a border run back to Hong Kong.

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