Something smells like boiled rat. Tommy (Kwang Huk Wang) knows the smell from the bad old days, west of Guangzhou, when knowledge of where to get some boiled rat could save your life during the famine. Rat, boiled grass, soup made out of stones. Nowadays, there's not much more boiled rat...noodle soups, dumplings and sweet, sticky rice is closer to Tommy's daily fare. He wonders where the smell is coming from, looks up and down the crowded highway, has a moment's worth of nostalgia, then pushes it aside. Human emotions. That's a fucking bad thing especially when...
Hey, you mother's dog's cunt, get back to fucking work. What do you think I'm paying you for, to sit on the fucking highway and fart, you motherfucking mother's dogs cunt?"
Insults no longer matter to Tommy. The boss is Taiwanese anyway, barely human. Sitting around in a nice Italian suit, drinking Remy Martin XO Cognac out of a crystal goblet. Mixing Pepsi with French Wine. "I outclass you, you bastard," Tommy thinks grimly. Overtly, he remains humble, submissive. He knows that it's safer that way, and anyway, he'll get his revenge later.
Delayed dreams of revenge are king in the Special Economic Zone. It towers over the Hong Kong bay, like some kind of grotesque twin brother, the communist flag flying over the stock market building and the office towers, shoddy. Shoddy shit. I should move to Hong Kong, Tommy thinks, and then he thinks I'm a hick from the Mainland, in Hong Kong I would be a cockroach but in the SEZ I'm someone. He gets back into his office and he smiles. Keep insulting me, you Taiwanese sonofabitch, the day will come when I'll see you out of here with your tail between your legs, filled with stories about how you got screwed by the Cantonese. And the company will be mine. Mine and my backers...
And the shit I had to eat to get here...
SEZ is surrounded by several tens (hundreds?) of kilometers of barbed wire, guard towers, electrified fences. The countryside is starving and The Communist Party knows it. The city couldn't handle the number of people that would flow in here if they opened the gates. Millions of hicks like him, flowing in from every miserable little starving village in the west of the country, kids on the make, old people dreaming of the cast-off bone, even mothers with children that don't know what the fuck they're gonna do, just hoping, somehow, that City Air Makes Free. They started building this city in the early 1980's and people have been flowing in for twenty years. Twenty years. And always, in, in, and never out, the poor from the north, and east, and the west, and the rich pouring in for the south. Shenzhen, they call it. It was nothing but a swamp until they threw some wire around it and made it capitalist one day. Now, it's one of the wealthiest cities in the world, but you won't find it mentioned in any style magazine because Shenzhen is...
Tommy, get the fuck over here now. What's this? What's this? What kind of production numbers are these? I should drag you down by the nose to the warehouse and make you eat the rubber inventory, you mother's cunt, look at this
Great job, comrade leaders, Tommy thinks, You made the buildings look as tall as Hong Kong. Some of the buildings are taller. The streets are almost more crowded. The stock market is almost more boyant...
Tommy remembers the riots the day the stock market opened. Suddenly all these dumb, illiterate peasants from the countryside were told they could own a little bit of equity, a piece of the future. None of them knew what a P/E was, or even what the companies were earning. Or even exactly what it meant to own stock. Shit, did they line up to buy shares. "That's what they do, the fucking communists. They eyedrop you hope. Bit by bit. Keeps you going."
The riots to buy the shares turned into riots to sell the shares soon enough. Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but everyone knew that they'd been conned. So they lost their money and started to read.
It was the kind of information that nobody even paid any attention to in Hong Kong, and probably not in New York either. Business manuals. Technical Analysis. Methods of valuation. Little by little, their knowledge was growing.
And so was the unease of The Evil Eye of Mordor back in Beijing. They watched ambiguously as the stock market became rational, and the population became savvy, rich. Deep in their tenements surrounded by barbed wire, working for sweatshops, they were meeting in little clubs and talking about the stock market. No harm in talking about the stock market, right? I mean the government set the market up in the first place. "Get rich," Deng told the citizens. Getting Rich is Glorious."
How much interest do you think we want to pay on this back loan, Tommy? That's the problem with you fucking Cantonese, you think you're smarter than everyone else, but you're not. I know what the fuck you're doing you piece of shit. If I fired your fucking as tomorrow you think you could get another job somewhere, huh? You think so? Try it, you punk. I would have your ass blacklisted so fucking fast that you wouldn't make enough money to crawl back to your village and beg the old men to give you a job spreading shit on the fields. Don't fuck up the inventory controls again. And be respectful. You should be thankful someone is taking them time out to teach you some shit, you mother's cunt.
Tommy walks back out to smoke a Marlboro. Yup, boiled rat. There's an old man, just like in the bad days, selling some rat to a barefoot woman with three children. Poor bitch.
Tommy walks over to her and gives her a cigarette. Call it a humane impulse, Buddhist, Confucian.
"Say," says the barefoot woman," do you work for that company over there? The triple-eight group." "Yeah, yeah, I do, why?" "I bought some of the stock last week. Just a hundred shares..I saved up for months...Was it a good move? Are they doing well?"
Tommy smiles. For the first time all day, something has made him happy. He thinks of his own chunk of the triple-eight group, held in the name of his second Cousin, slowly growing...growing every day.
Yeah, you did good, old woman. Keep buying it. It'll go up one day. The profits keep increasing.
How did SHE get through the barbed wire towers, he wonders. Who beats her up at the factory, sticks his dirty foreign hand under her mother's skirt, leaves her with just enough money to walk aroud barefoot with three kids buying rats...
There he is! Get back in here you piece of shit. Don't you see we have work for you to do.
That't the way they are, all of them. All smiles when they see an investor, licking the feet of the buyers, then fuck, fuck, fuck to the workers. Smiling to the south, scowling to the north. Tommy goes back up to his office and turns on his laptop. The share took a dip yesterday, and he bought some. If it dips today, his broker will buy some more.
From his office, he can see the flag of Hong Kong flying over the border point. There, there are soliders, control towers, a long, long line of luxury limousines waiting to get into the North. Another long, long line of luxury limousines, waiting to go back to the south. Those people have style. Those people have class. He looks out the window for a while, through the drizzle, at the border of the new territories. Full of propaganda posters, to make up for the capitalism. "Work hard to build the future" says one.
Straight down, he can see the old woman. Happily munching on a boiled rat.
We're building it, you pieces of shit, he thinks, we're building it. We're going to build it right over your fucking commie graves.
Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is a real place, on the northern border of Hong Kong, It was set up as an experimental capitalist area in the 1980's and is now one of the wealthiest cities of China. It really is surrounded by barbed wire, and entry is only be special permit. Tommy is not a real person, but he is an amalgam of a group of different people I met. Look at Shenzhen and shudder, for that way is the future.
Yeah, I know the writeup is full of cursewords. So's Shenzhen.