SheLeads Summit 2021, a creative conference for all professional females working in China to celebrate female leadership

Sitting at my desk this morning at an uber early hour, I challenge myself to choose something of the maelstrom to tell you about. There is always so much to choose from. There’s the urban environment, which the New Hampshire girl revels within, this Bladerunner-cum-reality. There’s the natural environment, which one sees as green patches along the grid, whilst looking down from the fifteenth floor of one’s faculty building. Then there are the people, so many many people, most of whom one tunes out, head down, or held high, moving forward.

There is always so much to choose from, but the ‘so much’ sits upon a liminal layer…being processed. I am always processing the information. But there is something which stands out from the rest, from all the work to do, and all the impressions I ratiocinate between my own culture and the one I live and breathe here in China. What stands out right now is the SheLeads Summit 2021 which I signed up for last night. I also became a registered member of SheLeads International last night.



This is Anita. She founded SheLeads, and I met her at Never Brunch Alone a few weeks ago. We were ten women that morning, most of us new to one another. Meeting nine new friends at one time, making a speech to introduce myself, and eating brunch in a new location for me…it was all overwhelming. Anita was powerful, and I was glad to get to know her a bit better afterwards, as we drove to an afternoon event on effective listening.

On Friday night, we’re going to meet up to celebrate the third year anniversary of SheLeads. It blows me away to be a part of a network like this in China, a nation which was once a matrilineal society, thousands of years ago, but has since been, as with much of the world still today, a patrilineal and patriarchal society. Talk about cutting edges…..

I look forward to learning from women here, to networking and gaining insights into the Chinese business world. As co-founder and CEO of Yanlu Arts and Culture, I am hungry for knowledge about how various sectors interact, and really excited to do so from a new perspective, that is, an empowered woman’s perspective.

Oh the obstacle course of starting a business in China right now…

I know, I know, you’re like What? I thought this was an academic-tilted Chinese culture and lifestyle blog written from an expat perspective. Well surprise surprise, now it’s a doing-business-in-China-as-a-foreigner-during-seriously-tense-times blog, too.

our first sign…
let us know what you think, we’re still in the design-phase

Yes, I did it. Finally my dream is coalescing, the dream of helping my own country and it’s potential big brother (just kidding), I mean it’s potential ally in saving the earth sphere from unfitness-for-human-existence, My dream is help the US and China to get along for just long enough to actually help humankind evolve, rather than devolve. It’s a kind of private-sector cultural diplomacy, to make up for the dearth of public-sector cultural diplomacy.

I came to China in September of 1999, and slogged through the English teaching machine for ten years, teaching myself Chinese and how to think well enough to write down what I think. That last bit took a lot longer than I thought it would, and I’m still learning how to un-think so many thoughts I grew up around…thoughts about exceptionalism, thoughts about capitalism, thoughts about norms when it came to truth, goodness, and beauty. Then in 2009, I tested into an MA program in Classical Chinese Literature at Sichuan University, which turned into a PhD program, which then turned into a full-time faculty position.

I love going to work in a building that looks like this.
It was Chinese calligraphy that got me into all this trouble in the first place…my first love.

So, fast forward 22 years..and with the new book I’ve been writing, on the relationship between culture and the New Silk Roads…I realize that if you want something done the right way, well, you’ve got to find a good business partner, build a good team, and do it yourself. Fortunately, there are a lot of other great organizations here in China as well as in the US, and reaching out to other people who rely on culture first to save human civilisation is an enjoyable process.

What’s not enjoyable are the hurdles. Oh my goodness is it challenging registering a business here. Opening a bank account as a foreigner, even though I’m an A-level foreign expert, is like pulling teeth. It took me three afternoons of three hours each to finally get a personal account, in order to open a business account with the Bank of China. Before they realised I speak fluent Chinese I could hear them accusing me of money laundering, or of just wanting to get my money out of China. As if wanting to save money I’ve hard-earned and paid copious taxes on should be a crime. But I’m not complaining. I’m just expressing. It’s not easy. But it’s doable.

WeChat is open in China to new users again!!!

As we went on to build our social media platforms, we turned first to the biggest here in China. As in, if you don’t have a public business on WeChat in China, then you’re not doing business. So imagine my sadness when I found out that as a foreigner, I cannot open an account. Then imagine my sadness again when my business partner (who’s a Chinese national) told me that, while she could open a business account for Yanlu Arts & Culture, WeChat had shut down registration for new users. What a Saturnine feeling that is. To be young and nascent, and yet to have doors close on you.

But it’s over now. The South China Morning Post reports that WeChat is open to new users once again, and my business partner is on the case. We must take advantage of this window of time. The door could close again anytime, as Tencent (Wechat’s parent company) takes great pains to avoid the fate of Didi and Alibaba, both recently heavily penalised in China’s new tech and internet regulatory moves on its own domestic markets.

It appears that checked capitalism is not as fun, romantic, or utopic as Western (champaign) Marxists make it out to be. It’s hard. Really hard. To try and build a dream with big brother watching over us. Not complaining. Just expressing.

So that’s it for me for today, back to the book. Stay tuned for more adventures…blow by blow.