A Singapore Sling Looking Down on Marina Bay

I get off the MRT at Somerset station and walk back along Orchard Street to the Four Seasons Hotel.

When you register at the Four Seasons Hotel they offer you cranberry and mango juice on a white napkin with a flower beside it. It’s delicious.

In the evening they turn down the bed covers and set out white slippers on a white bedside mat.

The Herald Tribune is waiting for you in a little brown bag on your door handle in the morning.

The headline on this Thursday November 8th is “The Steep Road Ahead”. I’d been watching CNN on the cross-trainer in the gym. I already knew that Barack Obama was back in the White House.

Tan Mai got in touch about a week ago. All she said was “Please Go Learn about Singapore” with details on where I was staying.

When I checked in I was handed a message telling me that Mr Zhang would meet me in the lobby at 1030am on Thursday morning.

He took me outside to a patio with little tables and chairs half-hidden between the tropical plants. It was already hot and humid. Hardly anyone else was out there.

Then he said what he wanted – that took me back a little. I was to start a new Gmail address in a false name, share the login with him, set up Google Docs on the same account.

“I use this,” he said. He showed me his iPad with a little keyboard stand.

“What name you choose?” said Zhang.

“Gordon Banks,” I said after a moment’s thought.

So, did he want to browse Western media during the 18th Communist Party Congress which was just beginning? Did he want to monitor recent reports on the wealth accumulated by the families of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping, destined to be the new President?

I don’t know. I had certainly read that searches on keyword combinations like “Xi Jinping – Assets” were blocked in China.

Then, on Saturday morning, I read that searches to all Chinese Google domains were being redirected to an inactive Korean website.

And was Zhang watching Gangnam Style parodies like the one by artist, Ai Wei, and the one from the free Tibet movement where a bobblehead Xi ends up being pelted with vegetables and dancing monks flourish the Tibetan flag?

The original Gangnam Style video has now been viewed over 600 million times in YouTube.

On Saturday night Zhang said he wanted to take me out and we took a taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and went up to the Top Bar which looks down on the marina and across to the columned Fullerton Hotel which was the commercial centre of old Singapore.

We both had a Singapore Sling and looked out on the resplendent skyline. He turned to me at one point and said “Asia Rising” and nodded.

Then “Tomorrow I ask you questions,” he said, before dropping me off again at The Four Seasons.

As I lay in bed, I thought about Psy, the Korean rap artist. I’d watched a video of him speaking to students at the Oxford Union. His mission, he said, was to be as ridiculous as possible and make people laugh. But he is an artist who works hard at his craft. Making 600 million people laugh is quite an achievement!

Would Zhang like a Chinese entertainer to become a global presence?

I don’t know. I really don’t.

I remember seeing a picture of the winner of China’s first hit talent show called Supergirl. She was punky and stylish with a David Bowie look.

But the old men who run the country did not like that and the show was changed.

It could be someone like her.

Does Zhang think about any of this? I really don’t know.

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