There is an air of expectation drowning out the thumping disco music in
the private room rented out to celebrate old friends meeting again.
Three or four bottles of Chivas are scattered amongst the dice and
glasses and plates of fruit and one of the girls is pouring two
parts green tea and one part chivas into a jug – the preferred
drink in western China's discos.
in the hallway, the music from the dance floor drowns out the voices
of friends drinking, eating and smoking cigarettes in the other 20 private rooms this disco holds.
The people in this particular room drove here in big
black cars. They have gold dangling from their wrists and necks
and most of them will be returning to Shanghai or Beijing or Shenzhen
tomorrow afternoon – returning to offices, studios and boardrooms.
are roughly 20 different discos and clubs in Chengdu that have more
than 15 private rooms each – for 300 to 3000rmb a night
groups of well-to-do middle aged and young Chinese rent these rooms
out and party till the morning light, discussing business, singing
along with the songs of the day and doing copious amounts of drugs.
After a few hours of sleep, they head to whatever job it is they
have that provides the funds for this lifestyle.
Chongqing they have three times as many clubs and discos. Rarely
a night goes by in these clubs with empty rooms. This new generation
of Chinese has more money than they know what to do with and they
are enjoying it.
same people quote Chinese classics, remember being born during the
Cultural Revolution, remember when the first DVDs and cell phones
came out and remember what it was like to be broke.
have almost reached the economic level at which we can begin to
stop worrying about money and start revitalizing our culture."
first we are going to party."
What a Party
are signs on the wall leading to the private rooms in the Top One
club in Chengdu that say:
will destroy your life."
every private room there is a small sign that warns that drug use
is unacceptable and will be punished by law. In that same room,
the bus boys replenish the Chivas and fruit, replace the ashtrays
and clean up the tissues littering the floor. While they scurry
about, a glass plate is passed around and the whole crew takes a
line of "king powder" – it could be Ecstasy, it could
be speed or it could be Ketamine. Discos are filled with girls twirling
their hair (Spin-Head, another drug the Chinese have invented) and
the rooms are filled with people murmuring quietly and taking naps
between dances untill the sun rises. A new drug recently hit the
street called Feng Ye – Maple Leaf. So called for the red filter
that covers the one's eyes after taking the drug. The word is that
the drug is a mixture of LSD and Ecstasy.
probably had no clue that we Chinese party like this, live like
this, did you?"
America, our Beat and Hippe eras are over – drug use is an
escape, a diversion from reality and as such it is seen as a problem
by the authorities. The "productive" phases of drug use
have ended in the West.
China, the authorities are no less vigilant about drug users, especially
heroin. The difference lies not in how the police treat drug users,
its how the users themselves see the use of a drug.
only can it be construed as a symbol of affluence and achievment,
but also as a break away from tradition and forward into a new modern
China – with music, art and thought to rival London and Tokyo
and New York. The days of doing acid and writing songs or drinking
absinthe and writing poems in the West are over – maybe not
literally, most artists still do drugs no matter where they are
from – but in the minds. It has been done, we already saw the
era come and go. After 50 years of ideological rule, the rise of
capitalism in China feels relatively new and exciting.
desire for booze, powder and women is common in most parts of the
world, but here it is like a celebration – a party to mark
the end of one era and the beginning of another, more prosperous,
more exciting era to come.
people in this private room are ardent patriots. They are convinced
of the rise of China – they can see it right before their eyes
in the form of luxury and revel. And so they take pages from the
books of the Western nations who rose in the 20th century –
the roaring 20s, the Beats, even that class of Europeans wiped out
after the First World War immortalized by Saki and others.
first generation of modern rich Chinese find themselves in a period
of time that mirrors the expansion of the Tang, more than 1000 years
ago: foreigners coming to study and do business, borders secure
and stable, leadership in full control and a middle class that likes
to party. Their children are going abroad. They drive Jeeps into
the Tibetan foothills and drink yak butter tea with monks.
are on top in a country that, as far as they and most other nations
are concerned, is headed for the top.
there is a sobering revelation amidst all this revelry:
history has always been shaped by peasants and wars" says the
the only question is how to keep those 800 million peasants from
crashing the party.