China High My Fast Times in the 010: A Beijing Memoir


St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

368 Pages


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ZZ’s parents got him out of Communist China—but now that he’s got his American education (including a law degree), under his belt, and now that China loves a go-getting capitalist like ZZ, what better time to return? America was never the “Wild East” like this one: Beijing is the perfect place to start a business, live large, and get a piece of every lissome girl, hash cigarette and bottle of Cristal China has to offer. ZZ taps into China’s unreliable but plentiful workforce of “spit-‘n-squatters” to start his brainchild, Goodiez, which delivers food all over Beijing. ZZ is the perfect guide to the real new Beijing: he’s got insider’s cred but an outsider’s eye for the strange mores and daily annoyances of Chinese life. In China High, he offers a rare glimpse into the world of guan xi (a network of favors), the insidious importance of “face”, and into the clubs and cafes— with all their above-ground and below-ground pleasures— frequented by the new young professional class in China.
But ZZ’s glam urban life comes to a crashing halt when he’s picked up by the police for smoking an opium-laced pot “Zigarette.” None of ZZ’s connections do more than get him a few extra dumplings at chow-time in Sunshine Prison, where unable to bribe his way out, he is forced to take a serious look at the life he has been leading.


Praise for China High

"A snappy narrative that captures the hipster buzz of nighttime Beijing . . . a worthwhile story, well told."—Seth Faison, The Washington Post

"Born in Shanghai but raised in America, ZZ, an adventurous young lawyer, moves to Beijing to make his fortune. After a stint at a Chinese law firm, ZZ goes into business for himself, first as an independent lawyer and then as an entrepreneur when he starts a company called Foodiez, which provides delivery service for multiple restaurants around Beijing. ZZ spends his days lounging in run-down Café 44 and his nights at clubs in the company of some of the city’s most beautiful women. ZZ enjoys the privilege of being an exalted foreigner with knowledge of the language and culture. But ZZ’s charmed life comes crashing down around him when he’s arrested for smoking a joint laced with morphine—and finds himself facing 14 days in jail and a possible eight-month mandatory rehab stint. The jail time proves a harsh awakening for ZZ, who does some serious soul-searching while behind bars. ZZ’s crisp, jaunty memoir offers a unique look at Chinese culture as well as his own compelling journey to adulthood and enlightenment."—Booklist

"'ZZ'? Who's that? When you read this sassy memoir, you will see why this China-born, American-raised law school graduate might want to keep his name out of the papers. The book starts as a smartly written . . . account of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in Beijing, where the night scene is hot and so is ZZ's motorcycle. ZZ starts 'Foodzie's,' an innovative delivery service, but the plot thickens when he is imprisoned, not, as in other China memoirs, for political dissent but because he was caught with a 'Zigarette,' a hand-rolled special laced with morphine. The absorbing heart of the book is ZZ's short but transformative term in a dark, wet prison, where he bonds with an assortment of criminals, his introduction to the 'real' China. This prison coming-of-age reminds him of Confucius's classic admonition that a boy becomes a man at the age of 30 . . . this is a spiritual journey of universal, not merely Chinese, import."—Charles W. Hayford, Library Journal

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Read an Excerpt

ZZ is a Chinese national who spent half of his life in the United States. He returned to China as an attorney with one of the top international law firms in the world, and currently divides his time between Beijing and Shanghai.

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  • ZZ

  • ZZ is a Chinese national who graduated from Brandeis University and Boston College Law School. He returned to China as an attorney with Sidley Austin Brown & Wood.