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与FT共进午餐

(Lunch with the FT) China's Oprah 1736
与洪晃共进午餐

中国版《Time Out》主编洪晃自己就是个名人,这缘于她的“口无遮拦”和她不平凡的家庭出身。在西方受过教育的洪晃说,如今,中国人的思想正在发生变化。

After a few minutes waiting on the Beijing street outside what should have been the Cantonese restaurant recommended by Hung Huang for lunch, my phone rings. “It doesn’t exist, does it?” she laughs, a little ruefully, as it had been in turn recommended to her by the listings editor at one of the magazines she owns, a Chinese version of Time Out. I never quite worked out whether the restaurant had been knocked down or simply not built. After all, either can happen in the blink of an eye in today’s China. Pressed for time, we take the easy option and agree to meet at the St Regis Hotel, just across the road in the city’s embassy district.

我在北京的大街上等了几分钟,这里应该是洪晃推荐的粤菜馆所在之处,我们约好在这里吃午餐。这时候,我的手机响了。“那儿就没这家餐厅,是吧?”她笑道,声音里有一丝郁闷,这家餐厅是她旗下杂志——中国版Time Out《乐》——的城市生活指南编辑向她推荐的。我一直没有搞明白,这家餐厅究竟是拆迁了,还是从来就不存在。毕竟,在当今的中国,这两种情况都有可能在转瞬间发生。由于时间紧迫,我们选择了一个简单的办法,约好在北京国际俱乐部饭店(St Regis Hotel)见面,就在马路对面的使馆区。

Hung (pronounced “Hong”) Huang is sometimes labelled as China’s Oprah Winfrey, a description that both flatters and underestimates her. She has an agony column in her listings magazine; an internet blog offering advice that is a little racy - at least by local standards; an expanding stable of magazines; and a television show, all cleverly leveraged by her own high-profile personality.

“中国的奥普拉”?过誉还是低估?

But she has neither the power nor the income of a US talkshow host. Hung stands out from the crowd for other reasons: her outspokenness in a country where stiff self-censorship in public is the norm on most issues, and her political pedigree.

洪晃有时被称作中国的奥普拉•温弗瑞(Oprah Winfrey),这种描述对她既是一种过誉,也是一种低估。她在自己办的城市吃喝玩乐指南杂志上,有一个读者来信专栏;还有一个网络博客,提供有些大胆挑逗的建议——至少按中国标准衡量是这样;品种不断增加的杂志;以及一档电视节目——所有这些都精明地利用了她的张扬个性。

Hung’s mother was an interpreter for Mao Zedong and visiting US dignitaries, and also served for a short time as his English teacher. Her stepfather was China’s foreign minister. In the mid-1970s, when overseas travel was impossible for ordinary Chinese, Hung went to high school in the US and later graduated with a political science degree from Vassar College, New York. Such political connections offer privilege in China, and, as she was to discover later, a touch of danger.

但她既不具备美国脱口秀节目主持人的影响力,也没有那么高的收入。洪晃之所以脱颖而出,是出于其它原因:她的直言不讳——在中国,公共场合的严格自律适用于多数话题——和政治出身。

In recent months, Hung, 45, has also adopted a baby, which allows both of us to reflect on entering the St Regis what a paradise China is for children. Bring your kid into restaurants and hotels in Beijing and you won’t be greeted by the grimly tightened sphincters that welcome you in the west. “The nice thing about China is that it is fairly relaxed,” she says. “It doesn’t have that many sort of etiquettes you have to follow, although they are superficially creating them now.”

洪晃的母亲曾担任毛泽东和来访美国政要的翻译,有一小段时间,还当过毛泽东的英语教师。她的继父曾担任中国外交部长。上世纪70年代中期,当普通中国人还不可能出国旅行的时候,洪晃已经前往美国就读高中,后来毕业于纽约瓦萨学院(Vassar College),获得政治学学位。在中国,这种政治关系可以带来特权,同时,正如她后来发现的,也会带来那么一点危险。

I remind her of the etiquette instructions for China’s aspiring yuppies that now help to fill magazines like her own. Yes, she laughs. “Otherwise how are you going to sell all those luxury products? You only need chopsticks in China. Two sticks, and you can eat. How can you sell cutlery and butter knives?”

中国真是个儿童的天堂!

When we are seated, I ask her to explain the paradox of the luxury-goods explosion in China, a country where ostentatious displays of wealth can attract suspicion and envy, not to say unwanted political attention during periodic anti-corruption campaigns.

近几个月,45岁的洪晃还领养了一个婴儿,这让我们俩人在步入北京国际俱乐部时不禁在想:中国真是个儿童的天堂!在北京,如果你带着孩子去餐馆或酒店,迎接你的不会是西方国家侍者那种冰冷的“铁板”面孔。“中国的好处是相当随便,”她表示。“没那么多必须遵守的礼仪,尽管他们正在表面上创造这些东西。”

“The Chinese want to display [their wealth] to some people and conceal it to others. They want to conceal it to the tax authorities but they definitely want to display it to the rest of world,” she says.

我提醒她,为中国满怀抱负的雅皮士一族提供礼仪方面的指导,如今是她自己办的那些杂志的主题之一。是的,她笑道。“否则你怎么去卖所有那些奢侈品呢?你在中国只需要筷子。有了这两根棍子,就可以吃饭。可你如何去卖那些餐具和黄油刀呢?

It is the part of the Chinese that is really reputation-oriented. We want to have face in everything. We want people to really acknowledge our accomplishments. But by nature, the Chinese are conspiratorial. They don’t like to show their cards. They want to keep something hidden.”

落座之后,我请她解释一下中国奢侈品消费呈爆炸式增长这种矛盾的现象——在这个国家,炫耀财富可能招致怀疑和嫉妒,更不用说,在不时出现的反腐败运动中,还会引起不必要的政治关注。

Hung herself keeps little hidden, a quality that has earned her the familiar media tag of “provocative”. “China finds me to be provocative, but I don’t think I am provocative. I think no one in the west would find me provocative,” she says. “I have this American education, so there were a few things I take for granted, like why can’t I talk about sexual issues just because I am a woman. It never occurred to me that this would cause outrage in this country.”But surely you realise it now? “I do,” she smiles. “I am getting the hang of it.”

“中国人希望向一些人展示(自己的财富),而向另外一些人隐瞒财富。他们希望向税务机构隐瞒财富,但绝对希望展示给其它所有的人,”她表示。

Neither of us is feeling very provocative with the menu. She orders Hainan chicken rice, I opt for Sichuan fried chicken - both standard Chinese fare in any part of the world, let alone China itself.

“中国人非常看重面子”

Hung’s outspokenness tends to divide her (mainly female) audience. Some scorn her, but she says most find her refreshing, especially since they have long been told “to be considerate of everybody else except yourself”. This surely doesn’t apply to someone with a mother as strong as hers? Hung reckons it was in fact the long periods she spent away from her mother that made her self-reliant and also left her lacking some traditional Chinese reticence. It is something that worries her mother, who still lives in Beijing.

“这是中国人的一个方面,非常看重面子。在任何事情上我们都希望有面子。我们希望人们真正认可我们的成就。但从本质上说,中国人都想玩点阴谋。他们不愿亮出底牌,而总是希望隐瞒一些东西。”

“She knows I have a big mouth,” Hung says. “I remember the first time I gave an interview on television after my book (My Abnormal Life as a Publisher) came out, and they shot a part with my boyfriend, partner, or whatever you want to call him. The anchor said: ‘Are you guys married?’ And we said: ‘No.’ And my mom kind of freaked out. She’s like, you don’t understand, you don’t go into the media and claim that you are living with a man. And honestly it never even occurred to me.”

洪晃自己几乎毫无保留,这种个性为她赢得了人们所熟知的媒体标签:“越界”。“中国人觉得我越界,但我并不认为自己越界。我认为在西方没人会觉得我越界,”她表示。“我受的是这种美国教育,因此有些事我会想当然,比如说,为什么就因为我是女人,就不能谈论性的问题。我从没想到在中国这会引发众怒。”但你现在肯定认识到了吧?“没错,”她微笑着说。“我在学着呢。”

Her mother can always see the “downside” of things, an instinct nurtured by navigating through the murderous cycles of Maoist politics. She was put under house arrest at one stage in the late 1970s after Mao died, but survived. Hung never met Mao and says she was happy when he gave up taking language lessons. “That would be a rather difficult task for my mum, trying to teach an 80-year-old dictator how to speak English.”

我们两个都不觉得菜单很“越界”。她点了海南鸡饭,我要的是川味麻辣鸡胸——这在世界上任何地方都属于常见的中式食物,更别说在中国国内了。

From this perspective, she thinks Chinese politics has changed a great deal, even if there is still one-party rule. “We went from this emperor-like figure like Mao to [a situation] where people are used to a change in government every five years. It’s not a coup. It’s not a leader falling out of the sky and announcing a succession. It was one of the biggest problems in China, that every time there was a succession people expected blood in the streets or a conspiracy.”

中国教条:处处为他人考虑,唯独自己除外

Even Hung, I am surprised to find, is a trenchant critic of how China is portrayed in the west and she complains that when she is overseas, she still gets asked how she got out of the country. “Well,” she replies, in a mock silly voice, “you apply for a passport and you stand in line for a US visa for hours and hours and hours and then you buy a plane ticket.”

洪晃的坦率往往会让她的听众(多数是女性)分为两派。有些人鄙视她,但她说,多数人还是觉得她让人耳目一新,尤其是因为他们长期以来所受的教育一直是“处处要为他人考虑,唯独排除自己”。这不会适用于像她这样有着坚强母亲的人吧?洪晃觉得,事实上正是由于她长期不在母亲身边,才让她变得那么独立,而且缺乏某些中国人传统的缄默。这正是让她母亲担心的地方,她仍住在北京。

Hung says the country’s pervasive censorship regime does not affect her lifestyle-centred magazines very much. “You do have to talk to [the censors] a little bit, like when we started a gay-and- lesbian section. We had to work around the stigma of that,” she says. She makes it clear that we should not expect too much overt change. It is not in the DNA of the country, in her view, or perhaps more accurately, of the civilisation. “A lot of [the restrictions are] cultural. Chinese are not adventurous. It is very difficult to change the way people think.”

“她知道我口无遮拦,”洪晃表示。“我记得,在我的书(《我的非正常生活》(My Abnormal Life as a Publisher))出版后,我第一次接受电视采访,他们拍摄的一段内容涉及我的男朋友,或者说是伴侣,或随便你怎么称呼。主持人问道:‘你们结婚了吗?’我们说:‘没有。’我妈妈简直吓坏了。她的意思是,你不懂,你不能到媒体上去说,你和一个男人住在一起。但说实话,我从未想到有什么问题。”

Hung identifies trends these days, not in politics, but in the market research she conducts for her media titles. What she finds there is, in many respects, anything but conservative. When you segment the population, she says, the older they are, the more they think the government is responsible for them. The younger they are, the less they care. “A lot of rich people are not concerned about government. They are concerned about poor people kidnapping their children. Four to five years ago, their concerns were policy-oriented, like tax. Can I take my money out of the country? Now it is crime. It is a wealth problem.”

她母亲总会看到事情的“负面”,这是在毛时代一次又一次可怕政治运动中养成的本能。毛去世后,上世纪70年代末她一度遭到软禁,但挺了过来。洪晃从未见过毛泽东。她表示,当毛泽东放弃学英语时,她很高兴。“对我妈妈来说,那是一个相当艰巨的任务——尝试教一位80岁的独裁者说英语。”

中国政治发生了很大变化

Mid-mouthful, we are interrupted by a French media executive who has shuffled over from an adjoining table to confirm an appointment next week. It turns out that his company has just poached one of her editors, without realising the contract contained a non-compete clause. After he leaves, Hung agrees that at times like this, western-style rule of law comes in handy in China. “It’s simple. Just buy out her contract.”

从这个角度而言,她认为中国政治发生了很大变化,尽管依然是一党制。“我们从毛泽东这种帝王式人物的时代,走到了今天,人们已习惯于每五年有一次政府换届。这不是一场政变;不是一位领袖从天而降,宣布改朝换代。那曾是中国最大的问题之一——每次改朝换代,人们都会看到流血事件或是阴谋。”

Still, it is not the turnover of editors that concerns her. It is the speed with which her customer profile is altering. “People change so quickly that the minute you complete one study - it might take eight months - and digest and analyse it and put it into print, people have moved on to the next thing.”

我惊奇地发现,即使是洪晃,对于西方人对中国的描述也持尖锐的批评态度。她抱怨称,直到现在,在海外的时候,还有人问她是如何从中国脱身的。“哦,”她回答时故意装傻,“你申请一本护照,排好长好长时间的队申请美国签证,然后买张机票。”

The market in celebrities is a case in point. In the past, celebrities were treated politely, until readers discovered the wonders of the “yellow press”.

洪晃表示,她的杂志以生活方式为核心内容,因此不太受中国审查制度的影响。她表示:“你的确必须和(审查人员)有所协商,就像我们当初创办一个同性恋栏目时那样。我们不得不改变对同性恋的成见。”她明确表示,我们不应对“外在改变”抱有过高期望。在她看来,中国没有这种DNA,或者更准确地说,中华文明没有这种DNA。“很多(限制)源自于文化因素。中国人没有冒险精神。要改变人们的思维方式非常困难。”

“Now you can tell people how they are getting divorced, how they had an affair, and there was a lawsuit and illegitimate children,” she says. “Six years ago, you couldn’t report all this because it was supposed to be a negative type of thing - the country still felt an ownership of its celebrities.

如今,洪晃不是从政治层面识别这些趋势,而是从自己为旗下媒体所做的市场研究。她发现,在很多方面,人们并不保守。她说,当你对人群分类后就会发现,年龄越大的人,就越认为政府应对他们负责任;越年轻的人,则越不关心这些。“很多富人不在乎政府。他们担心的是穷人绑架他们的孩子。四、五年前,他们的担心来自于政策方面,如税收。我可以把自己的钱带出国吗?现在这是犯罪。这是一个财富范畴的问题。”

“Now it is as if the country has said: ‘We have got to have some cannon fodder for laughter and appeasement of the crowds - a kind of feelgood factor. So trash them!’”

法制挺管用

Hung says the idea of providing a service to readers, which I suppose includes rubbishing the reputations of celebrities, is entirely new in China. “The Chinese media have never been responsible to their readers in their entire existence. They were first responsible to the government; and then the great commercialisation came, and everyone rushed and became responsible to their advertisers.

吃到一半的时候,从邻桌走过来一位法国媒体高管,打断了我们的谈话,他是来确认下周的约会。原来,他的公司刚刚挖走了洪晃手下的一位编辑,却没有意识到合同里有一条非竞争条款。他离开后,洪晃承认,在这种情况下,西方式的法制正好在中国派上用场。“很简单。只须花钱买断她的合同。”

“It is finally getting to be an exciting time to be in the media. I think you are now going to see a cultural change, after the material changes in the landscape and buildings and housing. Now we are getting to the interesting part where we are changing people’s minds.”

不过,让她担心的并非编辑人员的流失,而是消费者特征变化的速度。“人们改变得如此迅速,当你刚刚完成一项研究——可能需要8个月,然后对结果进行整理分析,然后出版的时候,人们已经转而关注下一件事了。”

It seems like an oddly Orwellian note to end on, but neither of us can think of how to take the conversation further after that line. We pay the bill and leave.

名人市场就是一个很好的例子。过去,名人受到礼遇,直到读者发现了“小报”的神奇效果。

Garden Court, St Regis, Beijing

“现在你可以告诉人们,他们是如何离婚、如何闹绯闻的,还有关于诉讼和私生子的报道,”她表示。“6年前,这些你都不能报道,因为它们被认为是负面的东西——当时国家还觉得自己是名人们的主人。”

1 x Hainan chicken rice

“现在的情况则好像是国家说了:‘我们必须来一些可以取悦大众、缓和大众情绪的弹药——一种令人感觉良好的因素。那就拿他们开刀吧!’”

1 x Sichuan fried chicken

媒体新概念

1 x Perrier

洪晃表示,向读者提供服务——我估计其中包括让名人们名声扫地——在中国是一个全新的概念。“中国媒体自出现以来,从不对读者负责。他们先是对政府负责,后来伟大的商业化时代来了,人们争相投身其中,对广告商负责。”

1 x Coke

“媒体工作者终于将迎来激动人心的时代。继景观、建筑和住宅等发生实质变化之后,我认为将出现文化方面的变化。现在我们正进入一个有意思的阶段——改变人们的思想。”

2 x coffees

这看上去像是一个奇特的奥威尔式(Orwellian)结尾,但在此之后,我们俩都不知道该如何让谈话继续下去。于是我们买单离去。

Total: Rmb352.50

译者/牛薇

北京国际俱乐部饭店景苑咖啡厅

1份海南鸡饭

1份川味麻辣鸡胸

1瓶Perrier矿泉水

1杯可口可乐

2杯咖啡

总计:352.5元人民币

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