Required Reading? 4 Things We Want to Know About "China High"

By Brian Kumnick on June 03, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week brought a flurry of legal-blog postings about a new (and Greedy-sounding) book by an attorney/author who goes by "ZZ."  China High: My Fast Times in the 010: A Beijing Memoir is ZZ's memoir of living large in Beijing in the early 2000s, indulging in a no-holds-barred sex-and-drugs lifestyle after being posted to Sidley Austin's Beijing office.  It may be a coming-of-age story, a fascinating expose of modern China, and a cautionary tale about the horrors of the Chinese prison system (where ZZ apparently has a brief stay during the course of the story), but what we really want from this book is a sort of combination career/travel guide for the aspiring international associate.

We admit that we have not read China High yet, but, in true blogger fashion, we are willing to speculate wildly based on whatever meta-information we can glean from the internet, which in this case means book reviews from Bloomberg and the Far Eastern Economic Review.  Here, then, are the questions we would be most interested in if we were actually sitting down to read China High:1. Why did "ZZ" bother with a pen name?  According to his publisher, "ZZ is a Chinese national who graduated from Brandeis University and Boston College Law School [and] returned to China as an attorney with Sidley Austin Brown & Wood."  Isn't the point of a pen name to remain anonymous?  Perhaps the nom de plume will keep the average reader in the dark, but it seems to us that certain parties who might really matter in ZZ's life -- employers, the Chinese government -- will figure ZZ out pretty easily from these details.  Shouldn't this worry him?

2. What does it mean to make $250,000 a year in Beijing, as the Bloomberg review suggests ZZ once did?  China has a per-capita GDP of just $6000, so $250K sure sounds like a fortune; but then again, Chinese taxes must be pretty onerous, right?  So what does that salary really buy?  Does one live like a king on that much?  A prince? A CEO?  What's the proper comparison?

3. Don't BigLaw associates in foreign offices have billing requirements too?  How does ZZ find time for all his alleged partying?  Is this a hint to associates everywhere to get themselves shipped out to a foreign office, so they can pull in the huge bucks and still have their weekends?  Or maybe the hint is, if you do get sent abroad, be terrified that you might end up in a foreign prison.

4. How can the non-BigLaw lawyer get in on this wild and crazy lifestyle?  It's hard when your firm doesn't have a sprinkling of offices around the globe.  But for this one, we've got an answer, courtesy of Legal Blog Watch.  Evidently, those small firm and solo types can really throw down.

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