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A day with a data product manager in China | "ONE DAY IN CHINA" Episode 2

And Robert Wu, CEO of BigOne Lab, talks about why China-based newsletter matters in an interview with Jiang Jiang

As the chill of winter begins to embrace Beijing, with 立冬 (the start of winter) falling on November 8 this year, I hope you're well-wrapped up if winter is also making its presence felt in your part of the world.

It's Friday, and as promised, I'm thrilled to release the second episode of “ONE DAY IN CHINA”. This short video series captures the daily lives of individuals from various industries across China, offering a unique glimpse into their world.

This episode features Amber, a data product manager at BigOne Lab, a data intelligence company in China. Given that many of GRR's subscribers found us through BigOne Lab’s newsletter Baiguan – with Amber as its chief editor – she might already be a familiar face to you.

Interestingly, Amber wasn't our first choice. Initially, I planned to feature Robert Wu, the CEO of BigOne Lab and a pioneer in the Chinese newsletter space, who also happens to be a long-time friend. However, fate had other plans. After shooting a day in Robert's life, I lost most of the footage during a flawed transfer from my cellphone to my laptop aboard a high-speed train. Despite efforts to recover the videos, they were irretrievably lost.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Robert introduced me to Amber, coincidentally my middle school and UVA alumna, and we decided to capture her day instead. And what a fortuitous turn of events it was! The footage of Amber exceeded all expectations, to the point where I'm torn between whose story I prefer (Sorry, Robert – you know I adore your story too!). It just goes to show, life is full of unexpected twists.

For those craving more of Robert, don’t worry. I conducted an interview with him, discussing challenges he faces as a CEO, his insights on China-based newsletters, and the information gap between China and the West. Robert describes himself as an “accidental” CEO in the interview, which might make this episode an “accidental” success too. Both are testaments to the beauty of life's unpredictability and the value of embracing the unexpected.

Lastly, I highly recommend one of Robert's latest newsletters titled “How to understand today's China by looking at one of her richest towns?”. He explores Shengze 盛泽, a town near Shanghai, through the lens of his ex-colleague's family business. Robert’s observations on trade wars, environmental protection, industry consolidation, and more, are eye-opening.

One of the highlights for me is what I'd call "春江水暖孩儿先知” - children being the first to sense the warmth of spring, symbolizing the intuitive understanding of changing trends.

We were joined by Mr. Y's wife and two sons. The older son is 12 years old, at the age of cramming pre-middle school exams. The younger one is 8 years old, a jovial little fellow with sparkling eyes. The two kids struck me as very bright. Although their schoolwork is tough (they have to stay at school until 8pm, which is common in China), they did not appear to me as nerdy, but full of bright ideas. The older son can already argue with adults very eloquently. The younger son is sharp at guessing your implied message.

They also surprised me with their sophisticated knowledge of different electronic products. For example, they can pretty much tell what model of iPhone I have just by seeing it, even though they themselves only use secondhand iPhone 6 passed from their parents and only have access to their phones during weekends. At school there is an extra-curricular class for drone-driving. Each student is required to bring their own drones. All the classmates agree DJI has the best drones. They also know a lot about cars, especially EVs. I remember I only started to pay attention to gadgets and machines when I was in high school, but not at such a young age.

If you like this piece, you can also subscribe Robert's personal newsletter Lost in Translation 迷失南京.

Subscribe GRR newsletter for free to get a glimpse into the priorities of both the leadership and the general public in China.

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