WHILE many of his former classmates are running around with mobile phones making deals and networking like there is no tomorrow, Xiong Ni spends most of his time fishing. ''Let other people make money,'' he says. ''I have no interest in that kind of life.'' The kind of life that interests this unemployed 26-year-old is one of quiet contemplation and meditation as far away as possible from the commercial frenzy that has engulfed Beijing over the past year or so. And that is where the fish come in. ''Fishing is very relaxing, it soothes the brain,'' he says, sitting against a lakeside tree gazing intently through a pair of cheap black plastic sunglasses at his motionless float. Xiong's favourite spot is a small lake just inside the busy second ring road, part of the ancient waterway which leads from the Fragrant Hills in the west to the inner sanctum of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhongnanhai, right in the centre of Beijing. The lake, being home to a particularly fertile strain of green pond weed, is not quite as picturesque as the waters China's leaders gaze out to each morning, but it is pleasant enough. Despite its inner city location, the lake is remarkably tranquil, with only the cicadas in the surrounding trees and the occasional marauding school child to disturb the peace. The lake's placid surface is dotted with water lilies which make ideal targets for the numerous dive bombing dragonflies, while the far distance is framed by a number of sturdy, albeit slightly rundown late Qing Dynasty mansions. Xiong and his fishing buddies will often spend the whole day here, setting up at dawn and breaking only for a light lunch at a nearby privately run cafe. It is a lifestyle which serves as reminder that not everyone in China is feverishly making money and is a throw-back to the days, not so long ago, when Beijing was just about as sleepy a national capital as you could possibly get. Xiong never really dropped out of Beijing's materialistic frenzy, he just didn't drop in. ''After I graduated from high school, I was assigned to a local factory but that was so boring I walked out,'' he said. ''All my school friends were trying to get into business, travelling to Shenzhen and that kind of stuff, but that wasn't for me.'' Xiong rapidly discovered he could live quite happily at his parent's house, doing odd jobs to support the family when necessary. He only works when he absolutely has to and spends all the time he can in contemplation by the lakeside. He has nothing but contempt for the cut-and-thrust materialism of modern commercial Beijing. Young people's overwhelming desire to make money is short-sighted and will ultimately lead to failure, he says, not failure perhaps in terms of social standing but ''failure to develop the spirit''. At this point, the modern-day sage with the fishing rod and sunglasses interrupts his discourse to focus on a slight ripple on the lake surface. Nothing happens, so he continues: ''My old school friends think I'm a loser but I don't care. I look at their crazy competition to see who can get rich the quickest and sometimes think that they are the losers.'' Not that there is no competition by the lakeside. Xiong and his cronies, who range in age from nine to over 70, do compete in a leisurely kind of way to see who can catch the best fish, but no one really takes it too seriously. The major competition appears to be about who can tell the most outrageous lies about the ones that got away.