Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 24 — Salome CHEN, Property and Technology Developer

Oscar Fuchs
Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I’m your host, Oscar Fuchs.
Oscar Fuchs

Salome Chen is a child of the 清 [Qīng] and 明 [Míng] Dynasties, as well as a child of the modern Chinese property boom. So in many ways she personifies the quirky mix of tradition and modernity of today's China.

Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 24 — Salome CHEN, Property and Technology Developer


SC: I hate plants. They scare me.


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I’m your host, Oscar Fuchs.

Today's guest Salome Chen is an original. She has a fascinating family background, she's a proud feminist, she's an academic... you know what, I can't try to encapsulate our conversation in this intro, so I'm not even going to try. What I will say is that on the day of our recording, the studio suddenly went on the fritz five minutes before we were due to start, so we had to quickly race across Shanghai to my apartment, where we ended up recording this episode. A big thanks to Salome for being a good sport. And to you, have fun listening out for any background noises, especially from the school next door.

This episode is coming out just after the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, and so it's fitting that part of Salome's story deals with her family history. Just a quick note for anyone who needs reminding, the last two dynasties before the Revolution in China were the 明 [Míng] followed by the 清 [Qīng]. The 明 [Míng] were 汉 [Hàn] Chinese, and the 清 [Qīng] were ethnically Manchurian.

[Part 1]

OF: Well, thank you so much Salome.

SC: My pleasure.

OF: I am here with Salome Chen. And what would you call yourself these days?

SC: Oh, it's difficult. I’m just a small entrepreneur trying to do whatever is interesting for me.

OF: OK, let's talk about how you got to this position. You have a very interesting background.


OF: The first question I would ask you is the same question I ask everyone which is, what is the object that you have prepared that in some way describes your life in China?

SC: I don't know what you would call this, a wallet or a card folder? It's a TUMI.

OF: OK, Yes.

SC: Yeah. That was 2009, I was preparing to build my first company. You know, I studied in Germany, so luxury brands, I don't give a ****. Oh, sorry for the dirty word, but…

OF: But hang on, isn’t TUMI a German brand?

SC: I didn't know at that time.


SC: I was a poor German student. And I was an engineer, I didn’t care.

OF: Oh wait, so where were you in 2009, you were in Germany?

SC: No, in Beijing.

OF: In Beijing, OK.

SC: So I had a real estate client who wanted to pay a visit to Europe. He didn't speak English, so he invited me to go with him. I caught up with him in Barcelona. So we went to a really expensive Spanish restaurant, which everyone enjoyed. We drank a lot of extremely expensive French wine. I don't know what it was, I'm not a drinker. On the second day we were walking down the street. Suddenly he grabbed hold of a tree, and told me “Take me to McDonald’s.” I was like “Holy hell, what's going on?” “I'm hungry, I didn't like the breakfast at the hotel”. That was a five star hotel. So I took him to McDonald's. And not far from there was this TUMI shop. So he's energetic, he wanted to buy everything. So it was the first time in my whole life that they locked down the whole shop.

OF: Oh.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Because he asked them to, or…

SC: No, no, he didn't. Because he wanted to buy so many things, that kind of shop never had so much business.

OF: Yes.

SC: So he's like “I want to buy you a gift. Pick any bag you like.” You know, Chinese girls, they always like bags. But my family's not like that, we don't like to take things from people. But he didn't allow me to refuse. So I just picked the cheapest one. It’s this one.

OF: That's a great story. And it touches upon a lot about what I want to talk to you about today. And specifically, you know, your life working with these ultra-rich real estate developers. Because that was your background in Beijing, right? You were in real estate.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Why don't we start with that part of your story then. So tell me about your time in Beijing.

SC: You know, when you look back, you feel like… it wasn't my life.

OF: Right.

SC: It’s someone else's life.

OF: Right.

SC: I went to Beijing end of 2004.

OF: Because you're not from Beijing?

SC: I'm from here, Shanghai.

OF: Right.

SC: But a lot of my mom's family is from Beijing. I’m even one eighth 满 [Mǎn]. Even…

OF: Ah, Manchurian.

SC: Manchurian, yeah. We’re actually from the 爱新觉罗 [‘Aisin-Gioro’] family, but I'm sure not the royal family. No.

OF: Wow, OK.

SC: Yeah, so…

OF: OK, now I feel intimidated. Are you actually a princess?

SC: No way.

OF: OK, so you were returning to your northern roots.

SC: Yeah, I was a regional planner, I worked with GIS…

OF: Which is what?

SC: You use all these geometric data to work on big maps. All the information, you calculate all the data. I was an environmental engineer, and I studied hydraulics also. And I was very interested in socio-economics-related planning. No one understood that, so I went into real estate.

OF: Because I guess in China back then, the real estate boom hadn't happened yet.

SC: It had just happened. So they needed a lot of people, all from different fields.

OF: Right, I see.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Because it was just an industry that was booming.

SC: It just boomed.

OF: Yeah, right.

SC: Yeah. So basically, you do business development. So I went to work for this private equity firm. And we bought buildings, and converted them into serviced apartments and hotels. Really luxury.

OF: Right, this is where we start to deal with the kinds of people you mentioned in your story.

SC: Yeah.

OF: And this is what fascinates me, because you came from an engineering - very scientific - background. And now you were thrust into this life of excess and luxury.

SC: Yeah. The job is fun, also. And I always enjoyed researching hotels, how the functions are, how you should do the programme. You get to understand what society really is. You know, what you read in classes, that's not real. You have to really understand what small details change people's mindset. There were a lot of difficulties between the serviced apartment group, the investors, the management group, the constructors. We even ran out of cash in the middle, and we didn't have cash to pay employees for almost six months. You just remember the way we did the forecast: they did 5-10 year forecasting, they wrote down all these occupancy rates so high - 80%, 90%, 95% - because we didn’t have many five star hotels, or many serviced apartments. That was something really new in China. So you believed “Well, they can do that”.

OF: Yeah. Because that's my image of real estate in general, there's a lot of puff. You know, you have to say “It's going to be 80% occupied, 90% occupied.” But based on what, right?

SC: Yeah, the thing is, how to analyse the macro world. How, for example, the politics in the States, like now, will have influence on your own small business? You don’t know. And meanwhile, we enjoyed our time. Work hard, play harder. Living in a very colourful way. And also, because of the Olympics, you had a lot of openings. Of buildings, of shops, all those luxury brands came to China. And I got invitations. You know, I realised in the fashion business, they invite a lot of comparatively young and stylish people to parties, to create the scene. You were the tool to create the scene. But then the traffic became worse and worse. Also the pollution. Finally, I couldn’t live there anymore. So I got an opportunity to work for another private equity firm in Shanghai. So I went back to Shanghai.

OF: OK. Before we go on to your story about Shanghai, let's go backwards now.

SC: Yeah.

OF: So tell me about your background. Tell me about your family.

SC: Oh, my family is progressive conservative.

OF: OK, what what do you mean by that?

SC: My dad's family, we were officials in the 明 [Míng] Dynasty. So they decided not to surrender to the 清 [Qīng] Dynasty, and moved to Shanghai. We bought a lot of land. And also we had three sea ships for shipping goods; famous brands; I don't know, hundreds of houses; and we also had a law firm, one of the earliest law firms in Shanghai. So it was a scholar family, I would say. My grandma’s grandad didn't want to pay the tuition fee for the girls - that's the conservation part - but my grandmother is a very powerful, strong, lady. Super smart. So she argued, and the family said that if she did a law major then they would pay her university tuition fee. Otherwise, no. And she decided to go to a normal school, and pay everything by herself. Yeah. And didn't give up. And that's my grandmother. She was really a strong lady. And she got married to my grandfather. In the Second World War, my grandfather had a war wife. In China actually, we never really had this multi-wife system. But in the Second World War time, it was allowed. So my grandma helped to build up an education business here in Shanghai, and was independent. Even after 1949, when my grandfather divorced the other wife, she didn't take him back.

OF: Wow, OK.

SC: So in this way, you can see how… I always say, I'm very proud to be a feminist. That's my family. And for my mom's family, they were officials of the 清 [Qīng] Dynasty. My mom's father was a famous doctor and had his own hospital. You know, if you were a hospital director, basically you become Catholic. And the family was more Western style, yeah.

OF: And so going to your parents then, what did your parents do?

SC: It was also complex. My dad was super smart, so he didn't finish his university, and was chosen out to study the atom bomb, doing research.

OF: The atom bomb?

SC: Yeah.


SC: But then, he became right wing - that meant being an enemy of the country - and was 22 years in prison.

OF: Wow.

SC: Yeah. Then he just became a high school teacher. And my mom, she never went to a real university, because of her family background.

OF: At that time, of course, if you were powerful, then you were a target.

SC: If you were a scholar, if you were catholic, if you were not in the extreme lower class, you were the enemy.

OF: Yes.

SC: Yeah. And then she also became a teacher, teaching high school. And then she quit her job in 1978 and went back to her hometown in 天津 [Tiānjīn]. She was number one of the whole city. Then my mom did her college degree, and actually she went on to work as a library director for almost 10 years.

OF: OK. And then along comes you. You're the daughter of an atom bomb researcher, and a first class student.

SC: Yeah.

OF: I can see now why you went into environmental engineering. Was that always going to happen?

SC: No, you know, China was quite isolated. Since I was eight years old, I read the biography of Fermi.

OF: Oh, you mean the physicist?

SC: Yeah, the physicist.


SC: Yeah. So in my mind, you have to study maths and physics. That's something. But then suddenly, I heard this word “architect.” I didn't really know what ‘architect’ means. The architect sounded like a nice job. So I wanted to be an architect. And then we had a big fight at home. My dad was like “No, you don't want to be an architect. You’re not an engineer, you’re not an artist”. And my dad was like “If you want to be an architect, get out of my house.” I was 17. So we negotiated and I went to 同济 [Tóngjì] University. And they had no hydraulics department - because my uncles and aunties were quite famous hydraulic engineers from 清华 [‘Tsinghua’] University - and the thing closest to hydraulics was ‘Water Supply, Drainage and the Environment’.

OF: Were you passionate about the environment at that time?

SC: No, I hate plants. They scare me. I spent my childhood was my dad's mom. So she was very old. My parents were in a different city. So no-one really took me out. We didn't have many children's books at home. So I read a lot of Chinese ancient ghost stories, in which all these special flowers became ghosts.

OF: In ghost stories, the flowers were ghosts?

SC: Yeah.

OF: Everyone who is listening would know that, if they're Chinese?

SC: Yeah.

OF: Oh.

SC: And I don't understand why people always think that plants are something romantic and beautiful. For me, they’re really scary and sick.

OF: OK. So ever since you've read these ghost books, you've been scared of plants?

SC: Yeah.

OF: What about your house now?

SC: I have some flowers. But I put on gloves to throw them out, or I ask my 阿姨 [āyí] to do it.

OF: OK, I'm gonna have to test this now, and see if there are other people who are scared of plants. Otherwise, have you ever met anyone else?

SC: Not really.

OF: So you don't like plants, and then you went into environmental engineering.

SC: That’s a disaster.

OF: That’s a problem.

SC: Yeah.

OF: So how did you end up in Germany? That was part of your story.

SC: Because 同济 [Tóngjì] was founded by Germans in 1907. So it's kind of a tradition. And Uni Stuttgart is the best in hydraulic engineering, and also very famous in environmental engineering. And we got invitations to send students there. That's how I want to Germany.

OF: Well, thank you. Let's fast forward back then. So you had moved from Beijing, and you're going back to Shanghai.

SC: Yes.

OF: And you were still in real estate.

SC: Yes. I worked for a private equity firm. But there was so much money floating everywhere. So all the big investors - all these big financial groups - they wanted to buy licences, they didn't want to invest in heavy industry. During my time in Beijing, it was basically ‘real estate, real estate, real estate’. But after maybe 2012, people started to use all different kinds of financial tools. So some people can do huge business. And for the middle/lower classes, it became more difficult.

OF: Yes, that makes sense. And is it also a function of… everything was already built, and there were fewer projects in terms of just the simple ‘real estate, real estate real estate’?

SC: No, the thing is, like, for example, you can never have enough infrastructure. But for infrastructure, you don't earn money from it. So people made up stories to sell residences. It's not balanced. So it relies very much on leverage. The most support you get is from the bank. So if politics change, if macro policies change, that means a huge risk. And you cannot diversify your risk.

OF: Right. Which just makes the whole environment much more complicated.

SC: Yeah, you really need long-lasting government support, and very stable policy. Which means that private investors would hesitate to invest.

OF: I'm looking at the time, let me finish by asking you then, what projects are you working on today?

SC: Basically, my company, we build certain projects, and one of them includes an exhibition hall. And it's a technology one, but I tried to make it very ‘arty’ and ‘storytelling’. Yeah, I’m putting together different technology projects, and making them into a cluster of stories.

OF: So this is almost going back to your first dream of being an architect, you can now really work in that area.

SC: I hired some good architects to work as interior designers, because they have a better understanding of structure and space. And architects have more training in engineering and technology. So they can understand why I want to combine all these different technologies together. Yeah.

OF: And when will this project be online?

SC: Difficult. Yeah. We…

OF: Because right now is a very difficult time, as you say. Like, there's no knowing what will happen in the future.

SC: Yeah. But for example… I cannot get into much detail, but we are also influenced by the Chinese/American relationship. So there's a payment problem. And also, it's a government-sponsored project. So there will definitely be a lot more procedures to through, some I know, some I don't yet.

OF: Yes.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Well, good luck. We will definitely keep in touch. I want to see this project being built in the future.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Thank you, Salome. We will move on to Part 2.

SC: Yeah.

[Part 2]

OF: Let's go, very quickly. Are you ready?

SC: Yeah.

OF: We have a short amount of time, so we'll race through this. Question 1, what is your favourite China-related fact?

SC: 江南 [Jiāngnán], which we use to refer to the 长江 [‘Yangtze’] Delta region. You go somewhere warmer and green, it arouses this nostalgic feeling. Yeah.

OF: So 江南 [Jiāngnán], what is that area?

SC: Shanghai and maybe part of 浙江 [Zhèjiāng] Province and the south part of 江苏 [Jiāngsū] Province. Yeah.

OF: They are culturally, they're historically, connected, aren’t they.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Because we don't use really ‘江南 [Jiāngnán]’ very often, do we? Or do you hear that a lot?

SC: When we talk, when you speak, you don't use it that much. But when you write, it's still very poetic. People use it a lot, a lot. Since I was one year old, and not in the city centre but in this small town which was owned by my family, you have these old relationships between people, and all these rivers around. It's peaceful. Yeah.

OF: Right, next question. Do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese? That you like to teach people, maybe?

SC: Yeah, 设身处地 [shèshēn chǔ dì], which means ‘put yourself in someone else's shoes’.

OF: Right.

SC: It's very easy to be judgmental. I'm very judgmental. But you have to put yourself in other people's situation and try to understand. This makes you have a much wider world. It’s my moral standard. Yeah.

OF: Yeah. Question 3. What is your favourite destination within China?

SC: I will say the Silk Road. Yeah. I was born in 玉门 [Yùmén]…

OF: Which is where?

SC: It's close to 敦煌 [Dūnhuáng].

OF: Ah, OK.

SC: Very west. And not only because I was born there, I went there when I was 40 exactly, for my birthday. And also my dad was 80, it was more like a birthday gift for my dad. Beautiful, yeah. And also, there are so many different cultures there, there’s cultural communication. I love history, and that's beautiful.

OF: Right. Because that whole area is squeezed in between 新疆 [Xīnjiāng] and then Tibet, and then Mongolia.

SC: Yeah.

OF: You’ve got everything there, haven’t you.

SC: Yeah. All the Buddhism, Hinduism; you can see the landscape change, the culture change, the language change; and even people, they look different. If you go deep into history, the world becomes much much bigger.

OF: Yes.

SC: Yeah.

OF: Wonderful. If you left China, what would you miss the most, and what would you miss the least?

SC: My parents. For me, people are always the most important thing. And of course, then I wouldn't miss those populists.

OF: Oh what do you mean? Oh, populists.

SC: Yeah, you know what I mean.

OF: I do. And it's the same wherever you go, right? If we were in the UK, I would say the same thing about people there, right?

SC: Yeah.

OF: Is there anything that still surprises you about life in China?

SC: No, not really. Become my grandma always taught me to keep calm and not be surprised. And I’ve got used to that attitude. If there is anything new or very different happening, I will just try to analyse why. Yeah.

OF: Yeah, that's definitely the scientific side of you. What is your favourite place to go out, to eat or drink or just hang out?

SC: Maybe the riverside, the west bank. Because, I told you, I had this colourful expensive life back in Beijing. A lot of parties, drinks. And I’m kinda tired of that. So I miss my childhood, this peace and the connection with local people. So I chose to live not too far from the river, and in the morning sometimes I go jogging along it. You see all these big ships, slowly moving there. And that's the industrial part of Shanghai, and it's something more stable.

OF: Right. It’s much more real, right?

SC: Yeah.

OF: Very good. What is the best or worst purchase you've recently made?

SC: I'm not really a shopper. I hate going shopping with girlfriends, that drives me crazy. So normally, I make a list. I know what I want, I go to the shop, I pick up things, and I go. The last thing I really liked was my ring.

OF: Oh, nice. I can see it.

SC: Yeah, it's designed by a friend of mine. I told my husband “If you buy me a Tiffany or whatever, I will not marry you”. I was not nice to him. Every gift he bought me, I was like “Oh, this is expensive”. You know, “It’s not worth that much”. I'm very into art, I love museums, my preference is a very practical thing, or something really designed, meaningful. So I told my husband, I have a friend called Paloma in Beijing. She had her own store and does the design. And the nice thing is she even built a factory in Ethiopia to help local people who were dumped by their husbands who got diamonds and left their families. I was so touched by this story, and her design is brilliant. So I told my husband “Either I get a ring from her, or I don't want a ring”. I don't mind if I'm married without a ring, I’m Chinese. So we went to Paloma, and I told her to the style that maybe I wanted, so she designed it for me.

OF: And that's the ring.

SC: Yeah, that's the ring.

OF: You're not very romantic?

SC: I'm OK, right.

OF: You are.

SC: If you put romantic meaning onto these small details, you don't really get anything big.

OF: Right, right.

SC: Yeah.

OF: What is your favourite WeChat sticker? OK, send it to me now.

SC: Ah.

OF: OK, I have it. I have it.

SC: I like the one with sunglasses. Because I enjoy mocking people slightly.

OF: Oh.

SC: Yeah.

OF: So this is you saying “Cool”. But really, you're saying “Hmm”.

SC: Huhuhuh.

OF: OK thank you. And next question, what is your favourite KTV song?

SC: Sorry, I don't sing songs. I'm a terrible singer. For me, it was like, I didn't know I was a terrible singer. You know, when you’re a kid, you don't know. You just try to sing songs. And I was a good student. So when we had this music exam, I did the paperwork very well. Full score, always. And my teacher told me "You don't need to sing, you passed the exam”. And really, she just let me pass the exam. 60 exactly. Not even 61. How bad does that mean? My dad was a good singer, but my mom was terrible. So I think maybe I followed my mom. Yeah. If you ask me to sing… I don't know.

OF: This is why this is still a good question, because I got a good story from that. And you can't be good at everything. Do you accept that now?

SC: I always accepted that. Just my parents wanted me to be good at everything. I'm not.

OF: Very good. And finally, what other China-related media sources do you rely on?

SC: I have a lot of people who work in the media field on my Moments. Especially because I lived in Beijing, so I know a lot of people there who get to know certain things. And you know, in Beijing you have the rumours, different kind of rumours all around. So I get trained: you hear something, you analyse it with your experience, you do some research by yourself. Yeah, I try not to read so much Chinese media.

OF: Yeah. Thank you so much Salome, what a fascinating conversation. I don't know how to actually classify it. We went into so many different details. The last thing I will do is to ask you, out of everyone you know in China, who do you recommend that I interview in the next season of Mosaic of China?

SC: Sam. He's like a trip advisor. He does all this planning for travellers who want to get a deeper understanding of a place. Sam is someone who really loves culture and loves people, so he tries to explore things with his beautiful eyes. He has beautiful blue eyes, that's how I got to know him. Really.

OF: Wonderful. Well I look forward to meeting Sam. And thank you so much, Salome.

SC: Yeah. Thank you.


OF: So I have one major correction to make, and it was to a comment I made right off the bat. No, TUMI is not a German brand. I don't know where I got that from, it was actually founded by an American who had been in the Peace Corps in Peru, and is named after a Peruvian ceremonial knife. So actually in researching that mistake I discovered a link to the Peruvian healer Katherine Wong from Episode 04 of the season, and also to last week's episode with DJ BO, who was also in the Peace Corps, not in Peru but in Mongolia.

As for other connections, Salome's comments on the China real estate market were also reflected in the episode with Wendy Saunders, the architect from Episode 12 from this series; her favourite hangout by the 黄埔 [Huángpù] river in Shanghai was the same as that of Michelle Qu, the improvisational comedian from a few weeks ago, Episode 20; and Salome's favourite WeChat sticker was actually not a sticker at all, but one of the WeChat emojis, just like with the brand namer Vladimir Djurovic from Season 02 Episode 13, or the fitness community leader Vy Vu from Season 01 Episode 08.

As always, you can find images from today's episode on the Mosaic of China website, or on Instagram, Facebook and WeChat. Apart from her object - the TUMI credit card holder - there are also photos of where Salome was born, in her hometown of 玉门 [Yùmén] in 甘肃 [Gānsù] province; some of her parents and the other relatives she mentioned; her wedding ring; and plenty more besides. And if you're at the website you'll also be able to see how to subscribe to the PREMIUM version of the show, which includes an average of 10-15 minutes per episode. Here are some clips from today's full-length version.

[Clip 1]

SC: So I asked my husband “Where’s 枝江 [Zhījiāng]?” He was like “Oh, that's the airport of 宜昌 [Yíchāng].” I was like “What?”

[Clip 2]

SC: So you have to really read the news, and then really know what you’re reading.

[Clip 3]

SC: I was like “Bull****, I’ll give you a difficult one”. That's how ‘Salome’ came to my mind.

[Clip 4]

SC: For me, they’re totally not pretentious. When they are nice to you, you know that's something you can trust.

[Clip 5]

SC: Beijing really shocked me. I went there, and it was totally not what I had imagined.

[Clip 6]

OF: So you thought you were being polite, but actually you were insulting her.

SC: Yeah.

[Clip 7]

SC: And he is one of the guys who proposed to me.

OF: You're kidding.

SC: No.

[End of Audio Clips]

And that's all for this week. Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs, with artwork by Denny Newell. I'm taking a planned summer vacation next week, so we'll be back for Episode 25 of the Season on August 3rd. But before then, coming right up is a catch-up with the luxury club GM Lori Li from Episode 10 of last season. So stay tuned for that, and I'll see you next time.

[Catch-Up Interview]

OF: Hello, Lori.

LL: Hello.

OF: It's so good to see you again.

LL: Me too.

OF: I remember as part of our original interview, you were telling me about how you managed the private member's club during the economic crisis.

LL: Yeah.

OF: And recently, we had another crisis. So I really wanted to ask you, how did you cope with Yongfoo Elite during the Coronavirus?

LL: Oh, actually we decided to open a new lab. We invited Chinese chefs who were working in Michelin 2-Star or 3-Star restaurants abroad. We invited them to come back to China, to our lab, and to do Chinese food research. And then some of them got stuck in China because of the virus. So they can't go to Japan, they can’t go to France, to their previous restaurants. So they stayed in our lab for this whole year.

OF: Oh, gosh. So their plan was a few weeks, and they ended up being here the whole year.

LL: Yeah.

OF: Well, that's kind of good news for you, right?

LL: Yeah, we didn’t expect that this will be an additional bonus for us. But we really appreciate all the new blood. They’re doing very well, making a modern twist of traditional Chinese food. And actually, I think it's also a good time for all F&B companies to make internal adjustments and internal training initiatives. Because you can't do outside marketing, but you have like a time window to do some adjustments. Like us, we did the whole food research, it was like three months that we didn’t open up the restaurant, we only did the food research.

OF: Right. And did you see - emerging from Coronavirus in China - did you see a new version, a new definition of luxury? Or did we snap back to what you were talking about before, where luxury was about spending time in nature, spending time with family? Was that something which you saw continue after Coronavirus?

LL: Yeah, after this crisis, I think most people think more about life itself. How to be happier. Everybody actually changed their values a little bit. Yeah.

OF: Right. I've heard that, that people are now a little bit more health conscious, even now.

LL: Yeah, yeah. People became more and more conscious about their body, conscious about their mind. And I heard that everybody is going to the hospital to do a little bit of face adjustment. The other reason is that everyone is wearing masks, so they have a good chance to recover, and people will not recognise anything different.

OF: That’s so funny. So just like how you went into your lab and did R&D during Coronavirus, people are going to the cosmetic surgery lab, and are changing their faces.

LL: Yeah, yeah.

OF: Is that really true?

LL: Yeah, yeah. One of my friends, he's in this industry, he told us.

OF: Wow. Well maybe you did that. Lori, because you're looking wonderful.

LL: I said it’s like, everybody wants to do everything now. Yeah. They don't want to wait for anything, they realise that time is really limited.

OF: Yes. And that's something which we've experienced in China, which I hope the rest of the world will also get to. Where you do see some return to normal, and you really do understand the value of the things that maybe you took for granted before. And then what about you personally? We've talked about your business, how about you, did you have a tough year? Was it, for you, a year where you learnt something new about yourself?

LL: Oh, because I had plenty of time during the virus period, I started writing again.

OF: Nice.

LL: Yeah. I used to be a writer, and in 15 years I haven't really created anything like a novel. And now this year, every day I have had 3-5 hours to be totally by myself. So I started writing again. Now I’ve almost finished a middle-sized novel.

OF: Amazing.

LL: Yeah.

OF: Oh, wow. And are you already talking with publishers, or are you still in early stages?

LL: I already showed a part of it to some publishers, but I'm not in any urgency to publish.

OF: Yeah, I guess it's more for yourself, right?

LL: Yeah. But it's a good start. It stimulates me to write more and more. Now I'm already planning the second novel.


LL: Yeah.

OF: The birth of a new career. It's making me think that I have not used my Coronavirus time as well as you. Thank you, Lori. And we are going to be releasing this episode alongside one of the new episodes in Season 02. Unfortunately the person who you recommended, Wang Fang, she couldn't make it into this season.


OF: But we were able to find a very good replacement. So I look forward to you listening to the replacement. And it's just been a pleasure to get back in touch with you and to see your face. We have met actually a few times since your recording. I want to say thank you again for being part of this project. And I hope that we continue to stay in touch.

LL: Thank you. It is my great honour.

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