Colby Buzzell in Shenzhen: ‘The Id of the Chinese Economy’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  08.07.07 | 11:09 AM ET

imageSkate punk turned U.S. Army infantryman turned war-zone blogger turned best-selling author Colby Buzzell recently traveled to Shenzhen, the center of China’s economic boom. It’s “a city of eleven million that did not exist twenty years ago,” Buzzell writes in the August issue of Esquire. Now it’s home to 11 million people with “hundreds of construction cranes stalking the landscape like dinosaurs.” Buzzell spends his time in Shenzhen wandering around, meeting random people and walking into situations that reveal a bit of the darker side of the new China.

Buzzell writes:

Being half Korean, I’m blessed with a lot of Asian features, but I definitely do not look Chinese to the Chinese or to anybody else for that matter. And of course, as any visitor here will tell you, people curiously will stare, but when they did, it almost always wouldn’t be in the face. Their eyes would be drawn to my arms, since they’re covered in tattoos.

Unlike in America, where having any tattoos is about as rebellious now as buying something that’s nonrecyclable, in China tattoos are still somewhat taboo, and I was told they were looked down on by most Chinese.

One evening I spent an hour or so inside a dark club on the second floor of a building downtown, drinking Tsingtao beers while watching the three go-go dancers up onstage do their thing, yawned, and then decided to go over to the disco club next door. The doorman fixed on my tattoos as I walked up, then pointed to the sign by the door that had a bunch of Chinese writing and underneath it a bunch of stuff in English about some kind of dress code. Whatever. It was the second club that night where I was rejected at the door because of the color of my skin. As I walked over to a different club down the street, I came across another individual who was having the same problem.

It’s another stellar story in a wave of stellar stories about China in U.S. magazines.

Related on World Hum:
* China on the Rise: Stories by Jeffrey Tayler and Peter Hessler
* China’s Wulingyuan National Park: A Gasp at Every Twist and Turn

Photo of Shenzhen by .shyam., via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Tags: Asia, China

1 Comment for Colby Buzzell in Shenzhen: ‘The Id of the Chinese Economy’

Tony Magnusson 08.09.07 | 5:06 AM ET

Apparently, the club doesn’t want hooligan visitors - therefore, abide by the ‘dress code’ or leave.

Perhaps arms covered with tattoos go unnoticed in Los Angeles or San Francisco, for instance, but less tolerance would be found in many other american cities.  If this guy enjoys hanging around and making general assumptions whilst in Shenzhen, he should acknowledge that he himself would not appreciate being generalized by others.

Go back home, Punk.

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