China Books

Mark Kitto's China Cuckoo

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Mark Kitto; photo courtesy of the author

First-time author and China hand Mark Kitto is perhaps most famous for being ousted by a government-controlled publisher for the That's magazines, which he helped start.

The ensuing lawsuit and drama has been another reason for Mark's well-known status. For a recap, see an earlier Danwei post: That's magazines: a cautionary tale.

But now there will be something else for people to talk about when they talk about Mark - his new book.

Here is a video from Mark's agent, about China Cuckoo:

China Cuckoo is published this month and can be ordered via Amazon. Mark will also be appearing at the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival on March 15, and at the Beijing and Chengdu Bookworm for the International Literary Festival. Danwei interviews the author and excerpts from his book, below.

Why did you write this book?

I have a story - which many Danwei readers are familiar with I fear - and not much else left, after a dozen years of putting a heck of a lot into China (with my magazines), but that story is not an entirely unhappy one. In fact I have ended up all right. I hope the book might be an ‘uplifting’ read for people (and it sounds like a few people might need a little uplifting soon).

I also hope that the story of setting up a new life in Moganshan, on the surface a simple tale of life in a Chinese village, for a non-China based reader at least, might illuminate certain home truths about China, some comfortable, some not so, some remarkably similar to the reader’s own home truths and some remarkably different, in an entertaining context.

And by the by, it’ll be good to get some unpublicised details of the history of That’s Magazines out into the public domain.

For those who don’t know; what and where is Moganshan and how did you end up there?

Moganshan is a mountain and a village, about two hours west of Shanghai. It was set up as a heat retreat by missionaries and other foreigners in the early 1900s. After ’49 it became the “East China Sanatorium”, something like a health resort in a Kundera novel. Now it is gradually reverting to its role as a heat retreat, at least on summer weekends, for the Shanghai foreigners and local tourists. My wife and I leased a villa as our own ‘retreat’ when I was working in Shanghai and when that work came to its abrupt end, we moved to Moganshan permanently, to live the quiet life.

Are you worried that writing about your former state-owned business partners might make difficulties for you in China?

You mean like have them call me a Muslim terrorist again? I rather doubt it. Now that I have finally lost my trademark case in the High Court - the decision was made in November - there is nothing left for them to trouble me for. I suppose there might be some embarrassment but most of the people concerned have moved on. (I guess I have too.) And I always hold out hope that the senior minister who once said to the people who took my business away “I know Mark was getting out of hand but did you really have to be that nasty to him?” might read the full story at last, from my side, and, who knows, buy me lunch one day? Is that too much to ask? On second thoughts don’t answer that.

Was it unpleasant reliving the experience of losing your business?

Of course. But in China Cuckoo I try not to dwell too long on the unpleasant bits, or maybe just long enough to put the nicer bits in context.

Do you plan to stay in Moganshan for the long term?

I generally reply to that question with: “for the foreseeable future.” I’d love to stay here for the long term. It is a beautiful place. The locals are friendly. We live in a nice house. Life is good. But it is not perfect of course. My major concern, typical for someone my age I suppose, is: where to send the children to school? We might have to move for them. Or as you hint above, maybe I’ll upset someone and we’ll be moved on. Or maybe the Peter Mayle effect will kick in and we’ll be overrun by tourists… (wishful thinking).

Towards the end of the book you make some negative remarks about foreigners in China, including yourself, which might upset some readers. Think you might lose some friends?

Funnily enough, two China based western friends who have read review copies of China Cuckoo said how those comments were fair and honest. In fact the first one said he was actually moved by them. The second said I can expect to upset some people who might see themselves er, differently. He described them as the ‘self-important brigade’. That was reassuring.

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Why the title China Cuckoo? Why Cuckoo?

It’s a kind of quadruple entendre with a double bluff U turn somewhere between the second and third meaning. In other words it is open to interpretation and, I hope, lively debate. I know which meaning(s) I was thinking of when I chose it. I’d like to leave it up to the readers to work out which ones those were.

Any plans to return to the media business?

In China? No. Maybe somewhere else. Besides, I’d hate to be labeled a “China Media expert” or someone like that. I think what I accomplished withThat’s Magazines was create content and a tone that appealed to two completely different audiences, local and foreign, in one publication and in one language. I’d rather be known for that than all the other stuff, and I hope it is something that is marketable elsewhere. I have an idea for a place to do it again actually. Like I say, maybe one day. In the meantime, I’d like to write books.

How is the book going to be marketed? Will it be published in the US as well as UK?

It’s coming out in April in the US as “Chasing China”, and with a different jacket illustration. Apparently the Americans do not get, or go, ‘cuckoo’, though my own straw poll proved otherwise. Maybe it’s only the ones who’ve lived in China, like me, who go cuckoo. As for marketing, it is being given the works, as is the way with publishing nowadays; radio, TV, festivals, talks, parties, above the line advertising, below the line, viral, intravenous… you name it. I am looking forward to getting stuck in myself. It’s been a while since I worked on a marketing or advertising campaign.

Do you think Moganshan will get too popular and eventually be Disneyfied by hordes of tourists?

Very good question. Very hard to answer. That all depends, ultimately, on the Zhejiang Provincial Government, who are the custodians of the place, and their local representatives, the Moganshan Administration Bureau. As with so many other great potentials for development in China, there are people with vision, there is stultifying bureaucracy, and there are politically sensitive issues, in this case: old foreign resort in China, unpleasant reminder of the bad old days and the unfair treaties, yet highly favoured by top Chinese officials as their own hideaway, but also potentially very lucrative real estate, and so on. On a simple level, one great advantage of Moganshan is that it is too small to overdevelop. There isn’t room for a golf course, or need for a chair lift, or a flat enough space for a bigger car park. I have said elsewhere in print that Moganshan could be the Chamonix of China, if certain people got together, and got their act together. It would be good if it does end up that way someday, but the current, snail-like, rate of change suits the place (and me) just fine.


History Repeats Itself

by Mark Kitto

There was one other dramatic death of a foreigner on the mountain, the famous, amongst the few who know of it, Felgate murder.

Lao Han had mentioned it to me once. “Some Chinese servants got fed up with their master and killed him,” he informed me with an air of authority that did not quite ring true.
Everyone likes a murder story, and this one seemed to be the only real drama in Moganshan’s short history. It was exactly what I needed to spice up my impromptu lectures to our inquisitive visitors.

I delved back into the North China Daily News in the Shanghai Library and uncovered a couple of brief reports. Then I did what anyone looking for dinner conversation does. I Googled Felgate.

Robert Joseph Felgate of Kentish Town, London, gave up a promising career as a carpet salesman and left for China to become a missionary in 1894 at the age of 34. He was married with two small boys.

Felgate’s religious zeal only lasted five years however, its disappearance coinciding with the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, when several of his colleagues had their heads chopped off or were burned alive. Felgate resigned from the Inland Mission and moved to the safety of Shanghai, probably along with a few of his parishioners, where he started work at the Seamen’s Mission. There he set up a profitable restaurant for the sailors that evolved into the Shaftesbury House lodging house. It was in Shanghai in 1907 that he heard of an opportunity in Moganshan.

For several years the Summer Resort Association had been looking for a resident manager to relieve them of the onerous burden of running the place during their holidays. In the years up to 1907 every report of the annual meeting repeated like a bashful plea for help, “failed to find a resident manager.”

Felgate took the job at a salary of 150 Mexican dollars per month. But it does not sound like the Association was prepared to give Felgate the full executive powers which they were dying to rid themselves of. I can’t help thinking they did not entirely trust him. Perhaps this mistrust was prompted by Felgate’s character, which was later described by the British Consul in Hangzhou as “somewhat restless and highly-strung.”

Within a year of his appointment Felgate was engaged in an acrimonious dispute with a workman in the village, Carpenter Li. It was about money, one thousand dollars, a huge sum in those days. The case was straightforward. Li thought he was owed a thousand dollars and Felgate did not agree. His excuse for withholding payment was shoddy workmanship.

The dispute was taken to the Mokanshan Summer Resort Association Judicial Committee, by Li interestingly enough, not Felgate. The case dragged on for some time. At last in 1911, having already reduced the claim to four hundred dollars, the Judicial Committee finally got both parties to agree to two hundred. Felgate paid one half of it and openly boasted that he was never going to pay the other. Felgate’s wife had left him in the intervening years, taking their two sons to America.

In the winter of 1911, apart from a missionary’s wife and her two children who had stayed on after Christmas, Felgate was the only foreigner on the mountain. He displayed increasing signs of paranoia that Li was out to get him. The carpenter had already threatened to burn his house down but Felgate had three by now and he moved between them, sleeping in different rooms, with loaded guns beside his bed, every door and window locked and three guard dogs downstairs. The front door of his main house was fitted with a special mechanism that required the removal of a small a pin before it could be opened. He also made an impromptu will on a piece of notepaper. He cut out his wife and sons, who he must have felt had betrayed and abandoned him, and left his entire estate to his sister in England.

Felgate’s behaviour shows every sign of a man who knew he had it coming.

On the night of January 11, 1912, it came. A gang of six robbers broke into his house, somehow without upsetting the guard dogs nor waking the servants in their shack a few metres away. The burglars were looking for money and valuables, perhaps the guns they had been told Felgate kept. No one can know for sure how or why exactly, but during the robbery Felgate was bashed on the head, bundled up in a blanket and thrown out of the house into the freezing night. By the time he was found in the early hours of January 12 he was dead, either from blood loss, shock or exposure. Maybe the murder had been accidental. Perhaps the robbers had only wanted to shut him up. Chinese criminals – down the ages and into the modern day - prefer scare tactics and focus on collecting the loot. They did not find much because they could not break into Felgate’s strong box.
One of the first on the scene, denying responsibility, was Carpenter Li. He was sent off to the Chinese magistrate in Hangzhou and nothing is known of what became of him. I suspect he quietly bought his way out of trouble with one hundred dollars. Two of the robbers were caught in March and executed.

Straight after the murder the local magistrate in the nearest town openly expressed his terror that the British would send a gunboat up the canal to seek revenge. The memory of the ‘Great Powers’ retribution after the Boxer Rebellion – the infamous sacking of the Summer Palace – would have been fresh in his mind. A quick public execution of a couple of culprits was the obvious preventative measure. The other four were never apprehended.

The foreign residents of Moganshan were obviously upset by Chinese bandits murdering of one of their number. The Daily News ran a series of outraged reports over the following weeks, as you would expect. An obituary of Felgate however, was prominent by its absence.

By the 1930s Felgate was a distant memory and the foreigners on Moganshan had become accustomed to Chinese bandits. The ‘better class of Chinese’ had by now followed them up the hill and built their own villas. Among them were the two biggest gangsters in Shanghai.

Du Yue Sheng, also known as Big Eared Du, and his confederate Zhang Xiao Lin between them ran Shanghai’s illegal opium trade. Their gang was called the Green Gang. It operated openly as the “Three Prosperities Corporation” and effectively held the key to governing Shanghai outside the upright and up tight International Settlement. They were patronized and even funded indirectly by the French and Chiang Kai Shek had a mutually beneficial understanding with them.

The pair ended up with villas in Moganshan more by accident than design. The honorary boss of the Green Gang, ‘Pockmarked’ Huang, whose day job was police chief of the French Concession, upset the warlord of Zhejiang Province. One of Huang’s bodyguards had got into a fist fight with the warlord’s nephew and the nephew had come off worse. So the warlord, no doubt at the request of his nephew, had Pockmarked Huang kidnapped.
Zhang Xiao Lin went to plead for his release. As a sweetener for the warlord – I appreciate this sounds extravagant, but you must remember we are talking about the 1930s equivalent of Colombian drug cartel barons – Zhang took with him the blueprints of a villa he had built in Moganshan, up the road from the warlord’s ‘seat of government’ in Hangzhou. It was to be a gift.

The warlord was touched by the gesture but he had aspirations. He sought official recognition for his political abilities. In other words he was trying to go “legit”. He told Zhang that the generous offer was “too much”. Nonetheless he released Pockmarked Huang. And Zhang Xiao Lin was left with a villa on Moganshan.

He liked it so much he got one for Big Eared Du, right below his.

Zhang Xiao Lin was in the mould of Al Pacino in Scarface. But for the difference in country and years, he could have been the inspiration for Tony Montana. He was a thug who clawed and fought his way to the top and then went over it. He also did drugs in a big way. When he was eventually shot dead by one of his own bodyguards he was off his head and incoherently paranoid. While he was alive and enjoying life in Moganshan he kept tigers and peacocks, built a tennis court and a swimming pool and used to be met at the bottom of the mountain by a police reception committee who would let off fireworks in his honour. Village myth says he fed one mistress to his Moganshan pet tiger and locked up another in a grotto for playing around with one of his bodyguards while he was away on business in Shanghai.

Big Ears on the other hand was constantly striving to throw off his gangster persona. He longed to be a member of the political and cultural elite. He also tried to put his ill gotten gains into respectable business. He set up one bank (his first major client was the French Consul General) was appointed director of another and went into the flour trade and shipping business. When he came to stay in Moganshan he donned a scholar’s gown and once mused out loud to his favorite mistress that he wished he could write poetry. Being a Beijing opera star, she obliged him by running off some lines. But he had a fearsome reputation in private. On his first visit to Moganshan he naively brought every one of his mistresses with him. They bickered so much that he boxed their ears to shut them up. They were lucky. One day in Shanghai, so another story goes, the brother of a crony of Chiang Kai Shek’s complained to Du Yue Sheng that a dancer he had enjoyed a fling with and whom he had got pregnant was getting out of hand, demanding money. Du told him not to worry, he’d set up her up in the water lily business. Then he had his men drown her in a Shanghai river. He did have a sense of irony.

Unlike Zhang, Du died peacefully in exile in Hong Kong in 1951.

Both Du and Zhang’s villas are still standing and open to overnight guests. Zhang’s, the ‘Immense Sea’, is run by the provincial government as a state guesthouse. Du’s has been taken over and restored by a Hangzhou Chinese-foreign joint venture hotel. True to the character of their original owners, the brasher types frequent the Immense Sea and eat behind closed doors and shuttered windows while the hotel chain which runs Du’s villa aspires to be a classy boutique hotel, yet sadly fails. Zhang’s tennis court is a tree nursery, his waterless swimming pool is full of leaves and the animal cages have rusted away, leaving red brown stumps of metal in their concrete floors.

There are currently 30 Comments for Mark Kitto's China Cuckoo.

Comments on Mark Kitto's China Cuckoo

Scott Savitt, please review this book.

It's a shame he had to go with the hackneyed and overused "Chasing China" for the US market. Tells you something there, huh? Original title is just fine.

As for the "Thats" franchise...it just plain sucks now.

Well, its was never very good, but Mark couldn't have had much to work with. It was short and punchy back in the day, with pretty lousy writing, but decent layouts, and given the other options, i.e. none, people read it. And of course the ad revenue must have been nice. I don't know Kitto from Adam, but it seems fairly obvious that he could see the long term potential.

The only thing that sticks with me about That's Shanghai circa 2000 was the awful back page columns of the one partner, Katherine Lau I believe her name was. Just horrible, meandering, pointless navel gazing about something her mother told her when she was three. Absolutely worthless.

Oh, and for a short time there was a society column or something like that by a UK woman I think, Crystal or something. We used to get a laugh about how dumb that was, it was written in a very upscale tone. It was so bad we thought it was all tongue in cheek, but later it really seemed like she was for real.

Ah, memories. Those were the days.

"after a dozen years of putting a heck of a lot into China (with my magazines)"

I think China gave Mark a heck of a lot more than he ever gave China. We are talking "that's" here (well described by LACJ above) and a bog-standard travel title. You really think that is a "heck" of a contribution?

Next up - "China: my part its rise" by the owner of City Weekend magazine.

still, I will try and get hold of the book as I just love all that Mark v Intercontinental Publishing soap opera

Katherine Lau was the original founder of the whole franchise way back when in Guangzhou when the publication was called "Clueless in Guangzhou". I assume Kitto was the one that took it to the next level.

Yes, lots of meandering and Chinese-American self loathing...

The criticisms above remind me of the old saw about the dog walking on its hind legs.

There's a certain kind of person who says "Wow! A dog walking! Amazing!"

And there's a certain kind of person who says "Pshaw. It doesn't do it very well."

In China expat circles, the latter is the "cool" position, especially when one is discussing the achievements of other China expats.

When any of the above ever-so-cool people manage to start a business in a "sensitive" industry (as publishing was when Kitto started), have it become a huge success, and then lose it in an acquisitive, old-style-China lawsuit, then perhaps they'll have the chops to be something other than the prating wankers they so obviously are.

ClassicsProfessor: Spot on. Brings to mind the "Laowai Death Stare" syndrom.

Mike: I don't think that he meant he was doing China a favor by "putting a heck of a lot into China". It's more about the fact that he spent 12 years of his life and ended up with nothing. Anyway, you don't start a magazine for laowais unless you are pretentious to begine with...

Well, someone is a bit sensitive.

I was not being all that critical of the magazine itself. That's was never intended to be classic literature, which may be why ClassicsProfessor has got his panties in a bunch. Certainly Lau's columns were not literature at all. Perhaps CP is her BFF.

That's was and is a free mag designed to help newbies get the lay of the land, and driven by ad revenue, and there is nothing wrong with that. As I said clearly, there is no way Kitto had much to work with in terms of qualified staff or flexibility in the contents he could explore.

Unfortunately, when you set up a business with extremely roundabout method of achieving legality, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position. That is not a criticism, (he had little choice) nor is it intended to ignore the way that the franchise was taken from him.

While I doubt he is completely blameless in the takeover, his story seems to be the only one out there, and it has the ring of truth to it, to my ears.

I haven't picked up a That's in year, but I would expect it is awful now. Too bad, as there was real potential there.

Another westerner who got sucked up in the China fantasy, before waking up to the reality of China. What's new?

classics professor - so now we should start applauding people for making effort alone and stay away from criticising the results - not that I was mid you - no matter how bad? That makes sense. Oh, its because we are all expats isn't is? The old expat immunity clause.

your walking dog analogy is perfect. there are those that are easily pleased by cheap parlour tricks and those prating wankers who thought that the dog was doing a perfectly good job with four legs.

LACJ: Maybe you should have a look at that's before you decide whether or not it's awful. It's really, really sad... people writing for the magazine want to push for change in the government/society, and people in other Chinese publications have similar ideals. But the burdening censorship of the Chinese government-associated publisher will always limit these publications to nothing more than tabloid-like literature that attempts to make itself out to be more than it can be. It doesn't matter how talented the magazine's staff are - if they are too bold, the magazine will be shut down. :(

My dealings with Mark were a bit mixed to be honest. Friendly and helpuf when he wanted something - not quite the same story when the shoe was on the other foot....

trolix: "people writing for the magazine want to push for change in the government/society,"

aw, now you are just taking the piss. I would advise YOU to read the magazine.

That comment was begging to be made, mike, but it's also reasonable to conclude that if a magazine regularly has to edit or spike stories it wants to print because of explicit or understood requests from censors, then the writers are pushing "for change in the government/society" simply by handing in those pieces.

Joel - take your point but feel you are stretching the semantics of "change" a little too much. Writers care more about their 1 yuan per word from the editor than they do about changing society. Editors care more about keeping the publisher happy than they do about changing society. And the publisher cares only about getting the ads in.


Also, I would argue that these magazines do not regularly have to edit or spike stories. There is a lot of self censorship in these magazines and the editors happily work within the agreed parameters. (yes, there will always be exceptions, but very rare).

Those stories that are edited are usually done so for the most mundane reasons, depending on what side of bed the censor got out on on that particular morning (and I should add, the censor is usually a friendly semi-retired bureaucrat - a long way from the 1984 type figure. Indeed, Kitto's Chinese partner fit that description quite well. I can never imagine him as the hard-nosed gazumper that some stories seem to suggest).


Adding a whip to Kitto's outdoor outfit would make him look a bit like a Zhejiang version of Indiana Jones...

Check out my novel The Fake Celebrity in China available in paperback at: link, and blogged for free in an easily read format at: link

And here is a podcast interview I did regarding the book: link

I wasn't so cautious about attacking expats in China.

Good luck with your book Mark.

does anyone remember the Beijing Scene whose lao wai editor/publisher bore more than a little resemblance to Mr. Feldgate's last weeks above?

oops.. just caught Lao She's request for SS to review the book.. haha.. very subtle...

The history of these mags keeps on repeating over and over... witness That's and True Run's little flap this past summer. And I thought the video on Youtube was cool fun. Now if I could only retire to a place like Moganshan.

I am hoping the value of the book will be a road map for reinvention and revitalization in a small community.... can't wait to get my hands on it.

By the way my Chinese girl friend said your buns were the second best she had ever seen.

:)

It's sad that after going through so much a person would want to stay in China. It's sad too, that expats truly need a voice such as "That's Beijing" -- and yet they cannot have their own voice. It's a dog's life to be without freedom of expression.

It seems highly unlikely that any of the above posters are working in a foreign publication in china.

Their strident assertions (with the exception of one) about how editorial floors operate in China make as much sense as a cat trying to shit on the ceiling. Please do keep awake, people...

Also, and rather worringly, they seem to be judging these free (spelt: "free") magazines on the last issue they read. Nothing wrong with that, but when that last issue is so obviously from June 2004 perhaps they need to ask their dentist to update the magazine rack in the waiting room. I think your dentures are ready now..

A few things; I worked for Kitto, back in the day, and found him without exception to be warm, charming and personable. True, I was just a minion and I know that some of the more senior staff had difficulty with his style of management. But that is their business; I won't hear a word against him. I got a big laugh out of that video, and I'm delighted he's doing okay.

On That's: Alright, it wasn't the most scintillating of publications but you can't imagine what it was like working under those conditions. And people took the content for granted; who else did impartial reviews (not advertorial)? Where would the community have been without those listings?

Mike you are wrong, censors spiked lines, stories and pictures all the time. Every month. And I would argue that's did push the boundaries; we had a way of making extremely oblique references to things we weren't supposed to mention (prostitution, crime, homosexuality, recreational drug use). Alright it's not exactly Good Night and Good Luck but we used to list gay bars as just that – until the censors one day realised, and went apeshit.

LACJ: You're thinking of Tiffany, who used to irritate the piss out of all and sundry, quite deliberately. Sounds stupid, but it got people reading.

mark,as a long time friend,i respect u more when i read this.i think it's very easy for people to hate when they gave too much or sometimes their stuff been taken away unfortunately,u gave a lot to this country,and still love it,what an amazing thing!

i wish u will still think about to give,whereever u go,it's always an lovely thing to do,and ur heart will be very peacefully put on top it,then swim well!

ur friend,

neebing

Wow this conversation is still going! I almost forgot to stop by and see if anyone else was flaming me ;-)

Huxtable: Ah, Tiffany, that's right! Oh man, so annoying. But I can see that her column might have increased interest, if only so people could laugh at her not with her. Lord knows she made a lasting impression in a very short time, that was just about the time I stopped reading, as I got out of the bar scene.

As far an the censors, I take Joel's point but do not feel that throwing more ambitious content at the censors is really getting anyone anywhere. What I take his comment to mean is that each piece that gets spiked slowly broadens the range of acceptable subjects. However I would suggest that is not the case, really, as a censor can (presumably, I have zero insider knowledge of the media industry) easily reject any number of ambitious pieces, and I don't think the influence is transfered in any way up the ladder. If any of that makes any sense.

Shelley (aka Tiffany), is over in Bali now. She's a sweet old lady, who knew that not everyone liked the column, but that was the point, people talked about it.

First met mark on Maoming lu in 97 or 98? Memory getting cloudier as I get older :) when he was first launching the magazine, and wanted us to advertise.

Mark was just one of many doing the same thing - there were a spate of magazines opening and closing at the same time - anyone remember Graham Earnshaw's one?

The typical story would be that someone would get a publishing licence from a random government somewhere in the boonies, and run with that until either the government owners got greedy, or the Shanghai publishing people got annoyed.


I had an office in the same building, same floor as Mark over on Dapu lu many moons ago.

There were more than a few issues of magazines where each issue was using a different publishing licence. In one memorable month the magazines got recalled and the police were busy rounding up all the copies to be destroyed.
I think in the end That's ended up with a Yangzhou licence.

Pretty much the only legally operating magazine at the time was the Shanghai Peace Talk, mismanaged by Minnie Yeung.

We could see the end coming a mile away, although hindsight is 20/20...

Could have been worse though, Beijing publishing was worse. The Beijing Scene guys were hiding from the police at one point, or so the rumour went.

Still, Mark is doing ok now in Moganshan, although he has gone a bit native.
At least Joanna keeps him in check!

As another long term Shanghai'er > 15 years and counting, I wish him the best of luck. There aren't many of us left now.

Lawrence / Computer Solutions

I don't know MK, unless it's Milton Keynes of course and I've never been to 'proper' China. I spent three years working for the HK government as it then was, living in Bik Yu Wan on the island. The best bit was being out in the New Territories away from the other gwai lo, in a countryside wire-ring-fenced with Nepalese squaddies running up and down hills, guarding the territories edges. I heard MK on the bbc world service a week or so ago during a fit of insomnia and caught the book title 'CC' so amazoned a buy. Best idea I've had for a long time. A great, solid read. I think it helps to have been around in HK for that just post Cultural Revolution period - I tried learning Cantonese and have an inkling how to say Lao Shan. Mark conveys a very real sense of place and lifts the everyday into prose that will achieve the same authentic period flavour the 1930s photos of Moganshan currently have. To have lost everything and found oneself is for me truly zen. Ace book, Mark!

I'm sure Mark's a lovely chap but two words ran through my mind as I was watching the video clip, especially the guitar bit: David Brent.

Whoa, what a harvest of largely nasty remarks. How might you have coped with what Kitto endured? The book is a good read, and an even better story. So all you guys who have found the time and effort to be so critical, write your own story first.

Dear Mr.Kitto,

I'm very interested in the report about your story China Cuckoo ( good title, I will read it )and your life in China on the BBC Chinese web side, especially in GuangZhou - my hometown, there you established a magazine called THAT'S, I wish I was there to help you but, I'm living in England and I have plenty to deal here, even though I always want to introduce the West to the East.

Yes, you are the most famous for being ousted by a government-controlled publisher for the That's magazines.

Like you, I always want to write something about my former life in China and where I met my British husband, as his former American agent said that if I can write it, it would be best selling in the US and world - wide. I have started some chapters but as stooped as many, too sad to remind the past, I had lost too much in China.

I visited more than ten big cities and some remote country side in China before I came to Europe, I have learnt a lot from the poor people, I like them, honest and intent to help others.

During my holiday in China, I always tried my best to help the foreigners, I know it's very difficult for foreign to live abroad.

My cousin in HK said that British are crazy people like me, that's why I find this land is suitable for my personality. This is the crazy world we are living in.

You Tube is funny, I assume you and your two dogs would like to read my story? It for the BBC my story competition, you can find it at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mystory/stories/family-and-friends/154465/

My heart was aching when I wrote it.

I'm not interested in famous, but I do want to have a chance to tell the world about my life with my wonderful husband and have some money to pay the bills, of course.

Happy New Year,

Liyi Brunner

Dear Mr. Kitto,

Thank you for sharing my comment with the public. An old Chinese saying :" When the old man on the frontier lost his mare, who could have guessed it was a blessing in disguise? - A loss may turn out to be a gain."

Personally, you had lost a lot of money on the That's magazine, but I saw from your writing and your three photos of you with your family, (your two children are lovely) and your life now is much better, in my view, love and happy family are the most important things in life.

I met an American student in Guagnzhou Sanman - the former British colony, who graduated from the Princeton University, he said that " Your English is very good, if you want to have a job as translation or interpreter from Chinese to English, you should go to ShangHai." And he recommended "That's ShangHai" to me. I have not read it yet because I was in a hurry to return to uk.

Best wishes to you and your faimly from England

Liyi Brunner

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