RECAP: There's No Party Like an AmCham Party

By Joshua Cawthorpe, May 20, 2024

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What on Earth is a Chamber of Commerce? We've been asking ourselves this question for years, and after attending the lavish AmCham Spring Ball on Saturday night, we are no closer to finding the answer. Calling anything a chamber gives it an ominous, clandestine mystique. Add commerce to the mix, and one imagines a place where industrialists and freemasons meet behind closed doors.

Close, but not exactly.

Decorations.jpgImage via AmCham South China

The 2024 International Spring Ball was held in the LN Garden Hotel, Guangzhou, which spared no expense in fulfilling the request for 70s-themed decorations. Disco balls were on every table.

The evening kicked off with a champagne reception that would make Joe Rogan proud. The prosecco was flowing, and Mado was there deceiving customers with dizzying sleight of hand. In the far corner of the room was a carving station doling out heaps of heavenly smoked brisket and perfectly tender ribs. No knives were needed, and no knives were given—just plates of meat. If you closed your eyes and listened carefully, you could hear the uric acid crystals forming.


Image via AmCham South China

Shortly after 7.30pm, the crowd was shepherded into the ballroom, and Mr. Philip Chan took the stage. Chan is a former Hong Kong police inspector who then turned to the silver screen where he became well-known for his many roles as a Hong Kong police inspector. The Hard-Boiled and Bloodsport actor is an excellent emcee for a crowd that is plenty old enough to appreciate dad-jokes.


Image via AmCham South China

Self-deprecating, tasteful, and brief is the trifecta of an ideal host for an evening such as this. And unlike a That's award ceremony, they got right to the prizes with barely any superfluous distractions. Lest we be distracted from the lavish 9-course dinner, which included lobster tail, chicken disassembled and reassembled to resemble pork belly, and foams on every plate.


Appetizer course of pan-seared scallop with lemon ginger juniper berry jus vinaigrette. Image via That's

According to the invitation, AmCham had amassed more than RMB1,000,000 in prizes for the lucky draw. 

Among them were bejewelled watches, luxury hotel packages, and several round-trip international flights. Emirates and United Airlines both had tickets to the US and back, but Turkish Airlines came through with business and economy class tickets to anywhere in the world. A safe bet on their part as the hairlines around the room suggested that most would-be winners had their eyes on a trip to Türkiye after all.


Image via AmCham South China

After the white chocolate 'Bling Bling' truffle hit the table and the prizes had all been claimed, we were no closer to understanding what a Chamber of Commerce is than we were at the start of the night. But then there rose a commotion. The music became louder. Diplomats, CEOs and International School Headmasters rose from their seats, tossing their napkins onto their chairs in surrender. Like moths to a flame, the hypnotic anthem of our generation had been evoked. The crowd pressed towards the stage, arms to the heavens, shaping the letters of their coded ritual: YMCA.

Dance-Floor-Amcham.jpgImage via AmCham South China

The AmCham Ball itself is all pleasure and no apparent business. Yet our WeChats germinated with a dozen new contacts, several inspired by prosecco-fueled promises of collaboration and opportunity. And then it began to make sense. The Chamber of Commerce is a social club—a calendar of extravagant events where like-minded strangers are forced to sit together and encouraged to let loose.

Laughter-AmCham.jpgImage via AmCham South China

Within this network are all the lawyers, doctors, consular officials and shipping agents that one might someday need while making a career in China. And when entrepreneurial creativity strikes, it will surely be a contact from that fateful night that gets the ball rolling. Their faces might be foggy memories, but by now, we've all learned the importance of adding an alias to the WeChat contacts we wake up with: "Brian - blue suit AmCham Ball" has accepted your friend request. Now, let's chat!

Scan the QR code below to follow the American Chamber of Commerce in South China on WeChat.


[Cover image via AmCham South China]

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