I don't actually live in Beijing, I live an hour or so away, but I visit frequently. As I write this I'm having breakfast in a popular expat breakfast nook. There are about nine tables occupied by expats; five of them are couples with small children.
This trend is also in view at my workplace; most of my colleagues are married and have young children or babies, and only a couple of them are married to Chinese women. (The ones that are married to Chinese women tend to be married to ethnic Chinese raised in a western country.)
There are some former hellraisers in the bunch, guys who have been in China a long time, and they talk about the old days with me over quiet after-work drinks. The usual stories: "Whores and English groupies everywhere." "Drunk every night." "All the teachers were bedraggled old whoremongers or young dudes on the prowl." "Our salaries were low but everything was dirt cheap."
And then around 2009, 2010, 2011, things changed, they tell me. Also a familiar story -- it became harder to get Chinese work visas without qualifications, while more and more qualified non-alcoholic teachers poured into Chinese international schools as it became harder to earn a good living teaching in America, England, and Australia. The cheap and cheerful and boozy hutongs were bulldozed and replaced with shops and malls and modern apartment blocks.
Of course, I am now viewing the world through middle-aged goggles, and the amount of time I've spent studying for my Master's Degree in Education has limited my going out, but as I walk around, what do I see?
Baby carriages and healthy sober good-looking young couples.
And they are untroubled by the ghosts of the drunken old whoremongers and off-the-rails young party dudes.
But where did they go, the ones who couldn't or wouldn't sober up? What country do they hide in? The lucky ones who have pensions probably retired to Thailand (which, when I visited in February, looks to be turning into the world's largest retirement home.)
And the others? Probably working out in the sticks someplace, away from major cities where there are a lot of expats.
But what will the boozy whoremongers do in a bold new world without booze and whores?