01 The Art of Reporting
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      To dig up some background material, a reporter visited the village where the company's CEO had spent his childhood.
      A villager: "Oh, that Big Head (the CEO's nickname), he was a real princeling. Him and his gang were always getting into trouble. They kept the whole village jumping."
      A teacher: "He didn't know his place in class, and his grades weren't ideal."
      A classmate: "Big Head was really something. One time he had the teacher in tears."
      Later, when the report was published, it said in part: "He was a born leader with outstanding organizational, planning, communicative and coordinating skills. He had the ability to act independently and the courage to challenge authority. His EQ [emotional intelligence quotient] was very high. Once, when conversing with him, a teacher was even moved to tears."
      The CEO read the report and smiled.

02A Cut-Off Line
by Music Hall Owner

      The middle school test scores had not been out very long when the best middle school in the county – First Middle School – set the minimum score for admission.
      Five hundred ten points! Many candidates who were just a few points short looked at the announcement and cried bitterly. Everybody understood one fact: the admission line was set in concrete. There was no "back door" that anyone could take to get in.
      The son of the county's Chief Commissioner had scored only 500 points. He was stymied outside First Middle's door.
      The next day, the county television station broadcast some important news. They said that, after further study by the leadership, First Middle had decided to enroll an additional group of students and the admission score had been lowered to 500 points.
      All of a sudden, candidates who had cried bitterly yesterday were now crying tears of joy.
      They never dreamed who had changed their destiny.

02B Taboo Name
by Crazy Ancient Pride

      The Mayor's secretary, Xiao Dong, stopped by for a chat. "Say," he whispered, "our mayor seems to really worry that his name is tempting fate. I happened to say it the other day and he rolled his eyes at me."
      He hadn't meant anything in particular by saying the name, but the Mayor read his own meaning into it. It was enough to make him really nervous. The Mayor was named Andy Fyre. In a few days the annual Fire Prevention Conference would be held in the city, called the Anti-Fire meeting, and that really was tempting fate. Unfortunately it happened that the Secretary-General would have to preside over the meeting. What could be done to make things better?
      The Secretary-General racked his brain for several days and finally came up with a remedy. A few days later the "City Working Conference on Controlling Inflammables" opened triumphantly.

03 Saving a Reputation
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      The Office Manager of S Bureau was taking early retirement, and Secretary Xiaoya, a bloomer in the company, was seen as the best replacement. She had great work skills. The Bureau Chief was always praising her, which had led to some dubious talk around the office.
      It turned out differently than people expected. Xiaoya remained a secretary. The talk about her disappeared like so much smoke.
      This conversation was in a secret apartment.
      "Why didn't you promote me?"
      "This is the best way to clear your name."
      "That's not anything for you to worry about."
      "I've got inside information that the higher-ups have picked me for the vice mayor's job. For the time being I can't have any hint of scandal."
      "If you leave our office, what happens to me?"
      "The mayor needs a secretary, too."
      "And my reputation?"
      "We'll clear your name again."

04 Reclassification
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      Z County had borne the embarrassing label "Nationally Recognized Poor County" for decades. Although the previous Chief County Commissioners had each sworn a solemn oath to change the classification when they came to power, they had all eventually left office without resolving the matter.
      Commissioner Fang, the new Chief County Commissioner, had resolved to himself that he would personally see to changing the classification. Under his pragmatic leadership, things had started to get moving in the county. They could be rid of the poor county label this year.
      At the Leadership Conference, however, Commissioner Fang's proposal to drop the label was opposed by several people. He stared hard at the County's Communist Party Secretary, pleading for help.
      "A change in the classification would be a good thing," Party Secretary Wu said in a measured voice. "But where would we find several million Yuan to replace the poverty relief funds?"
      Z County kept its classification as a poor county. Not a few people privately praised Secretary Wu a good Party Secretary who was concerned for the welfare of the masses.

05 The First Lady
by Bladeless Sword

      My husband got a promotion to be the Director of the X Bureau in S City. I also transferred there to work with him in the X Bureau. Since I was the "First Lady" of the office, my colleagues were all very respectful and in fact even fawned on me. Only my Section Chief seemed to take no notice that I was the Director's wife. The Chief was also a woman, rather ordinary looking, but with a certain air about her.
      A fellow from my home town came into the Bureau on business and asked me to help him out. I readily agreed. It was a trivial matter, I thought, but things came to a halt when we took it to my Section Chief [for approval]. She said she'd have to research the matter.
      Hrumph! Something the First Lady wanted done, what was there to research?
      I was mad as heck and just about lost it, but then the phone rang. I picked up the handset.
      "Please ask Mayor Zhang's wife to come to the phone."
      The caller said her name, and I stared in surprise at my Section Chief. She....


06 Opportunity
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      CFLAC (the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles) was looking for a Public Affairs Officer. Little Cold put in an application.
      On the written exam, he scored highest of all the candidates.
      A lot of his co-workers clamored for him to take everyone out to celebrate.
      One of them, an older fellow, said gravely, "Do you know the backgrounds of the other two qualifiers? One is the sister-in-law of the head of a city government office. And the other is the nephew of the Deputy Director of the city's Human Resources Department."
      Everyone fell silent.
      Little Cold was a nervous wreck the day of the oral interview. His answers were replete with careless errors. He was extremely depressed when it was over.
      The results were announced publicly two days later – Little Cold had been hired.
      His co-workers were puzzled to no end. They all praised the public hiring [process] as fair and unbiased. Then the older fellow said quietly, "It fits that it turned out like this. When two tigers are fighting, heh, heh….

07 Job Requirements
by Jade Willow Next Month

      S County selected the principal for the Number Eight High School publicly. Lu Zhi and Li Dong were the main people under consideration.
      "Lu Zhi scored twenty points higher than Li Dong, the second place candidate, on the written exam."
      "That guy Li Dong knows how to eat, drink and be merry, but other than that, how many cards has he got in his deck? Lu Zhi's going to win this one for sure."
      "He's had his ups and downs lately. It's hard to say who'll have the last laugh."
      The two each had their successes and failures in the ensuing written test, check-up and other sections. In the end, Lu Zhi won out with a total score 0.1 points higher than Li Dong.
      Over a month after Lu started work, Li received a transfer to be the principal of the Number Two High School, a position envied by everyone.
      Li Dong went to a sauna with the Mayor.
      "Li, my man, how do you like the way things turned out?"
      "You're brilliant, Mr. Mayor! You arranged it marvelously!"
      "That's inappropriate," the mayor corrected him. "It was the job requirements!"

09 Circles
by Zhang Liang

      The descendants of the brave men of Liangshan (aka the
108 heroes of destiny) set up a "Water Margin Cultural Exchange Society". Little River Song, who was already a person of some political prominence, was chosen to be one of the directors, but he wasn't very interested in the job. Little Use Wu, an educator, went over to have a heart-to-heart with him.
      "We politicos have our own circles," Little River whined grouchily, "and you guys in the entertainment game have yours. So how come these people insist on roping me in to do some useless job?"
      Little Use laughed. "Of course, wonderful things happen where circles intersect," he said.
      A few days later, a sister-in-law of Little Song's superior wanted to buy a horse and came to him for help. This put him in a real bind, but just then Little Stop Duan, a horse rancher, came forward on his own initiative to save the day.
      Since then Little River has straightened out his thinking. He's done everything he could to become the Cultural Exchange Society's president.


10 Second Thoughts
Ma Changshan

      The Anti-Corruption Bureau's car arrived downstairs.
      It really hadn't been easy getting my position as Vice Mayor!
      If I hadn't accepted that 80 thousand U.S. dollars from that Hong Kong merchant….
      I looked at Jun's and our son's backs….
      An urgent knock on the door.
      I teared up….
      "What's wrong?"
      "I've got a problem…."
      Jun and our son were stunned.
      Jun gave me a sudden shove. "Ha," I said. So I'd been dreaming.
      The next month a Hong Kong merchant really did send me US$80,000 to get my help starting a project, but I didn't dare take it.

11 Nip in the Bud
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      If the Finance Director hadn't blown the whistle, the old Bureau Chief wouldn't have been arrested and thrown in jail, and Assistant Chief Gu wouldn't have been able to set things right.
      [Gu was promoted to Bureau Chief] and the Finance Director thought that no one was better qualified. In the normal course of events, only the Finance Director would have been considered worthy of filling the vacant Assistant Chief's position. However, against all expectations, after Gu had had the good fortune of sitting on the treasured Bureau Chief's throne for only a month, he transferred the fellow to a country town to be a branch office manager. He also called it by the fine-sounding euphemism of "being tempered in the grass roots".
      One evening his wife asked him, "How could you treat the Finance Director like that? If he hadn't blown the whistle, you would have been the Assistant Chief for who knows how long."
      "He was able to bring down the old bureau chief. Who's to say, maybe someday he would've stabbed me in the back. It's called 'nipping a problem in the bud.'"

12 Newsworthy: Points to Look At
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      An impoverished college student had the misfortune to be afflicted with a brain tumor. Faced with inordinate medical expenses, she and her family lost all sense of hope.
      The school organized a charitable collection on campus, but contributions fell far short of the huge amount needed. Someone suggested asking the media for help in mobilizing assistance from the public. The school sent someone to the city to cajole the largest newspaper into helping.
      "Is the student a male or a co-ed?"
      "A co-ed."
      "Is she pretty?"
      "Is that important?"
      "She's OK."
      "Is she an orphan?"
      "Her parents disabled or have long-term illnesses?"
      "In that case, as much as we'd love to help, we can't."
      "Why not?"
      "There's nothing newsworthy!"

13 Stealing Experience
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      S Key Middle School was really uptight about quality education (as opposed to exam-oriented education).
      First year, situational teaching.
      Second year, innovative education.
      Third year, inquiry-based learning.
      Fourth year....
      Without exception, the scores of S Middle School students on the annual Gaokao college entrance examination were always among the best in the province. The school thus attracted many applicants who wanted to learn.
      One day the principal of M Middle School led a delegation to study how S Middle School did things. "My brothers," he exclaimed at the welcoming banquet, "We're doing the same things you do. What's going wrong"?
      S Middle School's principal, who was a bit tipsy, scooched over and whispered in his ear, "I won't kid you, brother. We shout slogans until the earth shakes, but when the doors are closed and we get down to work, it's the same old traditional exercises and assignments."
      Two years later, M Middle School was also rated as a leader in quality education.

14 Shuffle
by Music Hall Owner

      Bureau Chief Zou likes to play mahjong. He loves to hear the "swoosh-swoosh" of the tiles being shuffled.
      People were saying that Bureau Chief Zou would be rotated to another position, and that the whole county would undergo a major shuffle. Every day he sought out the county leader to play mahjong with him.
      The leader always has good luck when he gambles. Bureau Chief Zou gets bled dry whenever he plays with him, but he stuck with it and learned something from the leader every time. After many days of listening to the shuffling of the mahjong tiles, he was eventually rotated into a very good unit.
      At a meeting on his first day at the new unit, Bureau Chief Zou said, "We need to learn from the county's practices. We should rotate our middle-level cadres and shuffle the responsible people in the sections around."
      After that, the "swoosh-swoosh" of mahjong tiles being shuffled is often heard Bureau Chief Zou's home. His luck is starting to get better, too.

15 Trajectory
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      The happy-go-lucky years of one's youth, playing a reed pipe while taking care of the cattle. The difficulties of a student's career. The excitement of starting a job. The meticulous concentration of work. A worn-out bicycle. A faded black satchel. A pile of soggy tea leaves. A crowded workers dorm. An endless wait. Reasonable but unexpected advancements. Leader of S Department. Consistent work habits. Life in a rut. A wife's nattering. The grumbling of friends. Insights of every description. The palatial residence of Z Department's manager. The private vehicle of M Department's manager. The other woman of N Department's manager…. Innumerable sleepless nights. A package of Dragon Well tea. Two Zhonghua cigarettes. Four bottles of Maotai liquor. A continuous stream of monetary gifts in red envelopes. A villa…. A frigid prison cell. He's looking out the window. The sunlight is warm.

17 To Go or Stay?
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      She was holding her daughter in her arms, an infant in swaddling clothes, as the police officers walked into the yard. She stood still as a post in front of the window, and her tears began to flow quietly.
      It'd been four years.
      An abandoned warehouse.
      Trampled by two ferocious men, she'd fainted dead away.
      Three days later, she'd been taken to a strange town in the mountains and squeezed into a room plastered with red ["congratulations on your wedding"] cards. There was an able-bodied man in the room.
      She'd pleaded, run away, and tried to commit suicide. It was all in vain.
      A year later she'd given birth to a son.
      Three years later a daughter was born.
      "Good Mommy, don't cry, don't cry," her three-year-old said with childish innocence as he tugged on her hem.
      Her heart skipped. "There's a good baby, Mommy's not crying."

18 News
by Music Hall Owner

      The Chief of the News Department let Young Li, a trainee reporter, go out looking for news.
      The first day, Young Li asked whether it would count as news if a man were bitten by a dog, and the Chief chewed him out. "If that kind of thing could be considered news," the Chief said, "then it'd be news if you tripped and fell while you were walking down the road, too."
      The second day, Young Li asked whether it would count as news if a man bit a dog. The Chief responded, "What won't people do these days? What'd be the big deal if someone bit a dog?"
      The third day, Young Li said that a man had bitten a dog and the dog got rabies. The Chief said, "Now that's news. Write a good report."
     The fourth day, Young Li said he'd seen a man bite a dog, and the dog got rabies and died, but the man was OK. The Chief said, "That's weird news. We'll have to do up a special report, an analysis of how a man's bite can be worse than his dog's."

19 Doggie Boy
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      An unkempt Doggie Boy was swaggering down the Avenue looking for work.
      He saw a crowd looking at something and scooched his way to the front. Someone who could've been either a man or a woman was putting on a show. Every once in a while someone would throw some money on the ground.
      "This guy's crazy," Doggie Boy mumbled to himself.
      A youth fellow looked at him sideways. "You're the crazy one," he said. "That's called performance art!"
      Doggie Boy looked at the money covering the ground. Suddenly a light bulb went off.
      That afternoon, there was one more performance artist on the street – Doggie Boy. Unfortunately, he had to put the brakes on just as he was getting started, because Urban Control showed up. [See here, story #8.] And he got fined fifty Yuan.
      "That guy doing the same thing as me this morning," Doggie Boy said, mad as hell, "how come you didn't pay any attention to him?"
      The Urban Control officer replied arrogantly, "How come you didn't have a permit to put on a show?"

20 The Chief's Red Envelope
by Hou Fashan

      Every year Richie sucked the government tit for a pot of cooking oil and two bags of wheat from a relief program, so he was very grateful to the Village Chief.
      Whenever something was happening in the Village Chief's family, Richie would make sure to send his regards: On February 2, the Village Chief's wife's birthday, he sold a sheep so he could send a "pro quo" gift; on June 6, when the Village Chief's grandson got a certificate of merit from the school where he was in first grade, he sold another sheep so he could send a gift....
      Richie said you've got to give something to get something, and there's always more where that came from!
      One day Richie's son was getting married, and there was no end to the people coming over to offer their congratulations. The Village Chief came, too, and in front of everyone he stuck a red envelope in Richie's hand.
      Richie was suddenly speechless when he opened the envelope that evening. Inside was an Impoverished Family Application for Assistance form!

21 Many Thanks
by Kang Wei

      The infant son of a real estate broker was kidnapped for ransom. Fortunately John Doe provided an important clue to the police and the kidnappers were soon arrested. The broker's son was returned safe and sound.
      "For the blessing of having a son saved, one must give a multitude of thanks!" The broker took out a large bundle of cash that he'd gotten together to pay the ransom, and handed it to John Doe as a reward.
      To his surprise John Doe, being honest and straightforward, wouldn't take it.
      The broker was all choked up by John's integrity and altruism.
      While they were talking, the broker learned that John Doe had just purchased a condo developed by the broker's own real estate agency. "Return the place to us," he said. "I'll let my people know what's going on."
      John Doe was perplexed.
      "You're my boy's savior and I can't let you be taken for a ride," the broker stated frankly.

22 Slip of the Tongue
by Satisfied Cloud Stream

      At the organization's regular study meeting, the Bureau Chief once again read the characters for "broad range improvement" as "broad radian improvement". This was not a secretary's typo, but was introduced by the Bureau Chief himself in completing his draft, a slip of the tongue made daily for years that everyone had become accustomed to.
      The Bureau Chief felt an urgent call of nature and left unexpectedly in the middle of the meeting. He designated Secretary Straight to continue reading the study materials. The Secretary read and read until another "broad range improvement" appeared ominously in the text. Since he'd been tasked with reading item by item, how couldn't he be leery of correcting the error for the Chief? He hesitated in desperation, then also read the phrase as "broad radian improvement".
      As luck would have it, Secretary Straight's embarrassed pause inadvertently imitated the Chief's slip of the tongue to a Tee. In an instant, everyone was rolling on the floor in laughter.
     The Section Leader's face swelled up like a pig's liver and he yelled right into Secretary Straight's ear:
      "You, you're a brave little guy, making fun of the Bu, Bureau Chief!"

24 The Leader
by Wang Yu

      A tableful of people were having dinner with Bureau Chief Wang.
      Each of them toasted him, and each downed their drinks in one gulp.
      Except Chief Wang. He would raise his glass and nod formally, but the glass never sullied his lips.
      That's a leader.
      When the better part of the liquor was gone, Chief Wang's cell phone rang.
      He answered, and right away his face became serious.
      The tableful of people trembled with fear!
       Chief Wang left his seat with his glass in his hand and went over to Little Qian's side. "Come, Comrade Qian Xiaohai, let me drink to you!"
      At that Chief Wang threw his head back and drained his glass. Everyone present was astounded, but after a moment it dawned on them to leave their seats one by one and drink to Qian Xiaohai.
      The Chief suggested that they rearrange the seating at the table and Qian Xiaohai took the seat of honor. Chief Wang sat to one side and announced, "Transfer orders have come down promoting Comrade Qian Xiaohai to Secretary of the Municipal Communist Party Committee."

[Fannyi's note: "Qian Xiaohai" could also be translated as "Little Ocean of Money".​]

25 Defending Against Attack
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      Bureau Chief X is fifty-four. His first term of office expires this year, and the higher-ups will have to decide whether he can continue to serve. The three Deputy Bureau Chiefs are itching to take over, particularly Deputy Chief Z. The Chief is especially guarding against Deputy Chief Z.
      One day the mayor visited to the bureau for an inspection, and the Chief and his three deputies accompanied the mayor around the office. As they were walking down the stairs, the Chief was focusing on his report to the Mayor and missed a step, narrowly avoiding a fall. Deputy Chief Z, who was walking at his side, held out his hand to steady him. "Chief," he said solicitously, "you're getting older. You need to watch your step."
      The Chief yanked his arm away and gave the deputy a dirty look. "I'm only fifty," he said coldly, "not yet at the age where I can't walk!"

26 The Art of Filing Reports
by Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang)

      In recent years, a certain coal mine has been criticized by its superior departments because of production accidents. The incidents were mentioned in general conferences and discussed in committee meetings, and the persons responsible for ensuring production safety were always filled with anger. Whenever those people returned from a meeting, they foamed at the mouth and glared in rage as they chewed out their subordinates.
      The year before last, the mine office hired a fellow who had retired from a long-time job as a township government secretary. Thereafter, the people in positions of responsibility were always in a good mood after the production safety meetings and no longer scolded people. Late last year, they even brought home an award for Improvement in Production Safety.
      It turns out that, in the annual production safety report, the old secretary had written: "This year our production safety achievements were outstanding. Our superiors set an unannounced quota of no more than two deaths. Last year two people died in our mine, but this year there was only one death, an improvement of 150%."

27 Saying is One Thing, Doing Another
by Xiao Fuxiang

      The Anti-Corruption Work training class wound up today. Everyone had worked hard, so the Organizing Committee prepared a reception for us.
      An assortment of alcoholic beverages was placed on each table.
      When the high-ranking leader who came to see us off arrived at his table, everybody lifted their glasses to give him a toast.
      After he had a few drinks in him, the high-ranking leader started shaking his head.
      The leader had a reputation as a drinker. The person in charge of the Organizing Committee knew he would want some good stuff to drink, so he'd ordered the restaurant to provide two bottles of "Maotai" [an expensive brand of baijiu].
      The high-ranking leader asked, "Is this OK?"
      The person in charge smiled and replied: "It doesn’t matter, sir, you just go ahead and drink."


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Selections from Undercover (Chapter 1: Focal Point)

 All stories from 卧底:闪小说精选300篇 Undercover: 300 Choice Flash Fiction Stories
Published by 出版社:百花文艺出版社 Baihua Literature and Art Publishing House
Index at
http://lz.book.sohu.com/chapter-9511-110873650.html; Translated from versions cited below

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

06 Opportunity
07 Job Requirements
09 Circles
10 Second Thoughts
11 Nip in the Bud
12 Newsworthy

13 Stealing Experience
14 Shuffle
15 Trajectory
17 Go or Stay?
18 News
19 Doggie Boy

20 Chief's Envelope
21 Many Thanks
22 Slip of the Tongue
24 Leader, The
25 Defense
26 Report Writing
27 Words and Deeds

01 Reporter's Art
02A Cut-Off Line
02B Taboo Name
03 Saving a Reputation
04 Reclassification
05 First Lady