Friday, April 30, 2010

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 30

Episode begins with Haiping warning Haizao about having the baby she is pregnant with from Secretary Song. Haizao is optimistic that Song will help her and her child. Haiping says that only pessimists survive, and that she can only rely on herself.

Later in bed, Haiping and Su Chun are discussing Haizao. Haiping blames the city. "This broken city! This broken city! (这破城市!)" she exclaims, it is such that she cannot even take care of her own sister. Su Chun exhorts her not to blame the city, since every life goal and every place one lives is chosen by one's self. There are many people like Haizao, who care only about their short-term gains.

Haiping and Su Chun discuss the fact that they will get the keys to their apartment the next day. Haiping wants to have the apartment appraised both for size and quality. Su Chun says they have bought an apartment off the plan (in advance, 期房) so it is just like making a wager. They will only know about the quality after they live there for a year or two. And their usage rights are only for 70 years, not 80, and by that time the apartment will be worn out.

Haiping and Su Chun run into Grandma Li's son, daughter-in-law and grandson. It turns out that the apartment given to them because of the death of Grandma Li is two floors under Haiping and Su Chun's apartment. They will be neighbors again. Haiping complains that they cannot get away from life of the shikumen.

Secretary Song buys much expensive furniture, imported Italian furniture, for Haizao and her stomach is noticeably large.

The next scene is of Haiping and Su Chun at a cheap market for finishing supplies. They buy some discarded tiles, a kitchen, and building supplies. Haiping is seen lugging heavy supplies up the six flights to their apartment. They put in the floor, a rug, and a table and are putting finishing touches on things.

A man comes to the door of Haiping and Su Chun's new apartment. He says that the apartment they live in, along with many others in the xiaoqu, is 2.7 meters less area than in the contract, meaning they paid 20,000 yuan extra (or didn't get what they paid for). They are asking for all the residents to sign a petition in order for them to weiquan "uphold their rights". The man also has a petition to change the property management since it is an "open system", meaning that the garbage collectors are not employed, and only come when they want. Haiping signs both petitions.

Secretary Song's wife is waiting when he arrived home late. She is angry and he says they can divorce. She cries. Song says he knows that Secretary Sun is investigating him, and he will either become a dragon (master) or will spent the rest of his life in jail. His wife is concerned.

Haiping says: "Gold houses and silver houses are nothing compared to one's own dog-house (金窝银窝都不如自己的狗窝). Today is the most at ease I have ever been in my life."

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 29

The scene from end of last episode repeats, with the roof the house falling on Grandma Li and the construction workers and cronies fleeing.

Grandma Li's son and daughter-in-law frantically pull bricks off the pile, also unearthing construction hard hats. One of the hard hats has a water bottle inside with the worker’s name painted on it.

Secretary Song receives a call, and the person tells him to look at the newspaper. On the front page, the first story is about a demolition where a 77-year-old woman was killed by a collapsed building. Song is furious. He calls Boss Chen to his office. He curses and yells at Chen. He tells Chen to die. Song tells him to give one of Chen's two remaining apartments to the Li family, and solve all their economic needs. The other apartment should be given to the police, and if the man who organized the actual demolition is arrested, Chen should take care of his family. Chen says that he thinks there might be a problem, because the police "eat vegetarian" (吃素) [are immune to bribery?].

Song goes to Haizao's apartment very late. She awakens and comes to ask him what is the matter. He says nothing. She says she is pregnant. She wants to get an abortion. Song tells her to have the baby. They argue.

Song arranges for a nanny (保姆) to take care of Haizao. He also takes her shopping and buys the dinning room table that his wife had looked at, but was too grudging to buy.

Secretary Sun (Song's superior) arrives back from Beijing to hear the new news.

Secretary Song and Boss Chen are in Song's office. Chen says that he will decorate the apartment for Grandma Li's family, and everything will be okay. Song says: "a life for an apartment". Song tells him to decorate the apartment in a durable way, not a luxurious way. He also tells Chen to give them 20,000 yuan, and not 200,000 because otherwise they will think the money comes so easily that they can rely on Chen for the rest of their lives. He also tells Chen that he will be taking the apartment that Haizao is living in.

Secretary Sun upbraids the investigator. He wants proof, proof of an official's misbehavior, proof the loan from Bank President Xie, proof of the demolition and death of a person. "Let the proof speak." He says that their investigation must continue, despite resistance from people in city police. Beijing is also investigating.

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 28

Secretary Song's wife and daughter are upset because he is never home for meals, and sometimes doesn't come home at night. He comes home late again and his wife tells him to sleep in the den. He grabs her, pushes her down on the bed, and rapes her (apparently). The next day Song calls his wife to say he is not coming home that night.

Boss Chen and his cronies are thinking about a plan to frighten Grandma Li. Chen says putting a dead cat or some feces in her house, but his cronies say that is too low for him, a big CEO. Instead, the cronies say they will use the "thatched boat to catch arrows" [use someone else's offensive to gain the offensive, from Three Kingdoms one of four classics of Chinese literature, I think].

The investigator comes to see the head official, Secretary Sun. The investigator says: "We have learned of a new development. Bank President Xie has borrowed 300 million from the bank and given it to Chen Sifu (Boss Chen)’s company. We have also learned some things about Dajiang Property. Besides the shikumen project that is related to Song Siming (Secretary Song) [i.e. the demolition involving Grandma Li], they found out that all the funding for Chen's company to list in Hong Kong comes from the bank, a Hong Kong businessman, and Tianda Property (the real estate company owned by Song’s other friend)." Secretary Sun tells the investigator to increase their surveillance of activities and not let out any word of the investigation. The next day Sun will go to Beijing to tell his boss in person.

Song has Boss Chen buy a Ferrari and redo his image to look like a CEO.

Song tells Chen to hurry up and complete the demolition. Chen meets with his cronies. They tell him the "grass boat/catch arrows" plan is to first distract Grandma Li's son and daughter-in-law with a first demolition team, then knock a hole in the wall with a second team. Once it rains, none of them will be able to live anymore. Boss Chen says this is a good plan. Then he says: "You idiots! This is not 'using the thatched roof to borrow arrows', it is called 'doing one thing under the cover of another' (暗度陈仓). You never studied!"

4 construction workers go one way, and the rest go the other way. The first group start to knock on the walls, and Grandma Li's son and daughter-and-law come out protesting.

The workers and Boss Chen's cronies pull Grandma's Li son and daughter-in-law away from the building. There is an argument with much pushing and shoving. Meanwhile, two construction workers scale the house and start to cave in the roof. Grandma Li awakes and screams "Help!" but no one can hear.

Grandma Li gets out of bed and crawls for help. It is unclear if she is crawling to get out or crawling to get under the demolition (so that it will intentionally fall on her). The roof falls on top of Grandma Li. Her son rushed inside.

The workers say that even though they knocked in the side where Grandma Li was not staying, she intentionally crawled under the roof so it would fall on her. They run off.

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 27

The last scene from the previous episode repeats again. Secretary Song tells Boss Chen to pay off Grandma Li or solve the problem in order to be involved with the entrance of a Hong Kong businessman into Jiangzhou real estate. Boss Chen leaves.

Secretary Song calls Haizao and says they should eat together with Haiping and Su Chun in the apartment Haizao is living in. Song wants to be a part of the family. Song arrives and they start eating. Haiping and Su Chun are both awkward. Eventually, Su Chun confesses that he wants to quit his job and go into business for himself: opening an online bookstore for children's books. Song promises to introduce a classmate of his who is in the publishing business. Song leaves. Haiping is furious that Su Chun wants to quit and didn't tell her before.

Song tells one of his real estate friends that he needs to find a road out, and he will use Boss Chen's company as a shell for listing in Hong Kong. Without any [political] background, Boss Chen's company will not draw any attention. His friend asks him to explain but Song demurs, saying they will discuss it at dinner.

At dinner Song tells a story: "Once there was a place called America. There was an old man with three sons. The oldest and the second oldest were both working in the city. The youngest son and the man relied on each other to survive in the countryside. One day a man came and said, 'can I take your son into the city to work.' The old man said, 'No, absolutely not. Get out of here.' 'If I find a spouse for your son in the city, can I take him there?' The old man said still said, 'No, get out of here.' The man asked again, 'If the spouse I find for your daughter, your future daughter-in-law, is a daughter of Rockefeller, would that work?' The old man thought for a minute. In the end, the idea of his son being the son-in-law of Rockefeller moved him. He agreed. A few days later the man went to the magnate and oil king Rockefeller and said, 'I have a spouse for your daughter, will that work?' Rockefeller said, 'No, get out.' Then the man said, 'if the son-in-law I find for you is the vice-president of the World Bank, would that work?' Rockefeller agreed. Another few days later, the man went to the president of the World Bank and told him to appoint a vice-president. The president of the bank laughed, 'I already have so many vice-presidents, I cannot appoint another one, especially immediately.' The man said, 'If the vice-president is the son-in-law of Rockefeller, will that work?' The president agreed. So this young man immediately became the son-in-law of Rockefeller and the vice-president of the World Bank. This story tells us that the abilities of the young man are not important; what is crucial is how you gather the strings and build the bridge [work as a go between] and operate things. If he [Boss Chen] just shows up at the appropriate time. We will be the brothers and the father, and can ask him for whatever we want. We already have our Rockefeller who will build the bridge with strings. What we lack is a World Bank."

One of the friends at the table says: "Ok, my bank can do it. How much is needed?" Song holds up three fingers. "30 million, alright". "Add a zero," says Song. "Ah!?" Song says he is not alone in this project, and there is no risk. We need an asset form filled out with 300 million. Then, when the company lists, 300 million will become 3.5 billion. The bank's money will be returned." "Okay".

Boss Chen tells his works to frighten Grandma Li to get her out, as all the other households have left, and she is the last dingzi hu/

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 26

The scene from end of last episode repeats, with Su Chun going into his new office.

The general manager of the factory apologizes to him and says that they may need Su Chun to invite Mayor Zhang out for some events in the future. One of Su Chun's colleagues tells him that he heard Su Chun is the Mayor's wife's sister. Su Chun suspects that Haizao's lover, Secretary Song, is behind this, not Mark.

Haizao is bored. No one has time to eat with her and she has nothing to do: Song is working, Haiping is teaching Chinese, and Su Chun is being taken out to karaoke and banquets by his colleagues.

Song's wife and her friend have a long conversation about marriage, mistresses, and life. Song's wife knows he is back with Haizao.

Haizao starts to practice yoga.

Su Chun's colleagues ask him for a favor over dinner. They also give him a gold Buddha statue. They continue to drink and dine with him. He gets drunk and they take him to a massage parlor. When he awakes he runs out of the room.

Secretary Song calls Haizao and tells her to go look at apartments. If she likes them, he tells her to call him.

Haizao does not like the apartment because it is too far from her work and from Secretary Song.

Boss Chen comes to visit Song. Chen complains again about Grandma Li and her stubbornness in not leaving. He has done everything he could, knocked down all the surrounding buildings and even their roof, polluted water runs through the area, there are cockroaches, mice, and bugs. Song suggests that he give a little extra money to them. Chen says that he is in the business of making money, not losing it. A dozen square meter house demolished in exchange for an over 100 square meter apartment. Song says he must solve the problem, no matter what. There is a Hong Kong businessman who wants to enter Jiangzhou real estate, and it will involve Chen's company if he can finish the job.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 25

The end of last episode is repeated after the restaurant name, South Beauty, is shown again.

Secretary Song's friend tells him that the real case involves a factory in Fujian Province that manufactures the same product as the one in Jiangzhou. They are asking for help from Song in order to join the two factories together so that they both profit, in which case the Su Chun issue would be meaningless. Song promises to look into the issue.

The executive from the ship-building factory makes a call and demands that the case against Su Chun be dropped immediately.

One Month Later

Su Chun receives a notice that the case against him has been dropped. Then a top executive from the factory comes to tell him that they have joined with the Fujian factory, and to thank Su Chun. He is dumbfounded.

Young Bei takes Haizao's mobile phone to find Su Chun's number and sees a text message from Secretary Song. He is angry, tells Haizao he wants to break up, and strangles her. After releasing her, he leaves.

He returns the next day to get his things and move out.

Haizao goes to Secretary Song's office and waits by his car. When he leaves work, he sees her crying. They drive off.

Secretary Song tells Haizao that he helped Su Chun with his case. Haizao says she accepts her fate and will return to Song's side.

Song tells Haizao to live in the apartment he lent to Haiping and Su Chun. He says that soon they can go look for housing and buy one.

The next morning outside the apartment complex, two people in a car write down in a notebook the department of Song.

At Grandma Li's house, she is still lying in bed. Her daughter-in-law tries to get her to move around. Grandma Li says she wants to die. The daughter-in-law says she can't die because it would be worth anything. Grandma Li says: "Oh, so my life is only worth a hukou".

The head of investigative unit goes to the leader, named Secretary Sun. Sun says to keep waiting to see what their overall scheme is before they act.

Su Chun is congratulated by his colleagues at work. He gets a new office.

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 24

Haiping goes to the police station. They ask her about the blueprints that Su Chun drew, and whether he gave her money. She says nothing. The police say they are giving Su Chun an opportunity for a light sentence, and that her lack of cooperation will hurt him. She remains silent. The police leave the room.

A group walks into the Jiangzhou City Planning Showroom. Secretary Song is among them. He calls Mark (the foreigner Haiping is teaching) to ask about something, and Mark tells him about Haiping and Su Chun.

After Haiping leaves, the police talk about the case. Su Chun has confessed, but they lack other evidence. In particular, they can't find the 50,000 yuan that Su Chun took since it was not deposited in the bank.

Song asks his friend to look into the case -- "to see how deep the water is, so I will know from where to engage the issue". 24 million yuan is the claimed loss, but they only gave Su Chun 5,000 yuan a month in wages. The annual income of the entire output of the company is only 35 million. The company is a ship-building factory. Song’s friend tell him that if he is unfriendly with the man, he can help Su Chun get a light sentence; if he is friendly with the man, he will have to use his guanxi to get the company to withdraw its case. Since no indictment has been made, this will end the case and the involvement of the police.

Haiping goes to her lawyer but he says that the case has been taken over by one of the best lawyers in the city. Haiping is puzzled and calls Haizao. Haizao knows nothing about it.

Mark claims that he helped Haiping. She is very happy.

Su Chun is released from jail. He is at home waiting from Haiping, who is walking home with Mark. Haiping is ecstatic to see Su Chun when she arrives home.

As Secretary Song and the lawyer are leaving, someone is taking photos from the second floor.

Song meets with the right hand man of the ship building factory boss. He asks to have the case ended. The man agrees, but says there will be questions from above and the law may still move forward without them. He then leaves.

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 23

Haiping waits in the office. She meets the manager and asks if something happened to Su Chun. He says yes, and that Su Chun is suspected of selling company secrets.

Su Chun has been arrested and is in jail. Haiping goes to the police station. The officer says they are interrogating Su Chun and that Haiping should get a lawyer.

Haiping calls Haizao, who is back at her company. They search the newspaper and online for a lawyer. Haizao calls Young Bei, whose friend knows a lawyer that has experience with economic cases.

Grandma Li's son says he can't live any longer in the house. He wants to take the few hundred thousand yuan and live out his life. Grandma Li admonishes him, and says that in the 1980s, someone with 10,000 yuan was well-off. But now it is nothing. The son’s wife agrees: "We must get an apartment -- they keep their value".

The lawyer tells Haiping that the case involves over 10 million yuan so there is a possibility of more than 3 years in jail. She goes to try and raise 100,000 yuan for bail money. She calls Haizao; Haizao has the money.

The police call and ask Haiping to come to the station for questioning.

Wo Ju (Woju) – Snail Space 蜗居, Episode 22

*Apologies for not posting but my access has been limited*

Secretary Song's wife proposes divorce. He rejects her offer. She sobs.

Haizao says to Young Bei that they should break up. They both cry.

The scene changes to Song's wife crying. Song, like Young Bei, asks for forgiveness.

Secretary Song and Boss Chen go to visit Grandma Li. Song introduces himself as the developer of the property. Grandma Li sizes him up and says he is not a developer, but a government official. He smells not of money but of power.

Haiping gets another job teaching a foreign student after her Japanese student scores very highly on a test. She happily tells Su Chun.

Haizao and Young Bei are still together and happy.

Secretary Song is at dinner with two others (they are eating at South Beauty 俏江南, a relatively expensive restaurant in Shanghai). The larger one asks the other if the price of real estate in Jiangzhou (Shanghai) will still increase. "It will". "I am silly for asking. This land was bought by you, and the housing was built by one. Half of the city belongs to you. Of course you hope prices increase". Song says he is poor and never cares if prices increase or not. The large man replies that buying property is way to stave off inflation.

Song: "That will be difficult (to stave off inflation by buying property). The price of real estate is the result of governmental factors. Look at Jiangzhou (Shanghai). Every day hot money is flowing into the city. Then look at the area of Xujiawan (an obvious reference to Xujiahui area of Shanghai): how many new banks appear there every day, and how much stored in them is from outside? And this is only what you can see. There is more that you cannot see. If one day all this money leaves, ha! Look at Tokyo and Seoul. It's been over a decade and they haven't recovered. If at that time you apartment is still valuable and worth a lot, there will be no ordinary people who can afford it. No one will take it off your hands. And you will have to pay property tax and other assorted taxes. Perhaps in the end your asset will become a burden (资产变成负担)."

Will there be a property tax? There must be, to police you heartless rich people.

The other man says he has three parcels of land that he is sitting on. If he develops them early and sells them, he will miss out on profits. Song says that making some profit is better than losing money. They drink.

Haizao goes to her company to quit her job. Boss Chen tells her to wait and talk with him, then he calls Secretary Song. Song is in an important meeting, but he leaves. He meets Haizao as she is walking out of the company, takes her things, and leads her away to talk. She cries.

A triple screen appears: in the bottom left, Haizao and Song are together; above that, Young Bei skips happily into work; and to the right is Song's wife and daughter walking along the street. As Haizao gets into the car with Song, the other two screens fade out and the remaining one enlarges. Song drives off.

Haizao and Song have coffee. He gets a call and must leave. As he is leaving, his photo is taken.

[Funny note: when Haizao is sitting at the coffee table, she gets a text message. She opens her phone and it is branded "Coogle" -- with a C instead of a G. A clear instance of shanzhai (see my earlier post from last year).]

That night, Su Chun does not return home. Haiping is very nervous and goes to his workplace but does not find him.