Showing posts from April, 2013

Stupid things I can't explain about my own country

I know it’s easy to knock on China.  And fashionable.  But other countries have their problems, too.  And I’m partial to one of them, in particular. Stupid things America does.  Upon occasion I'm an equal opportunity basher. I know in this blog that I usually speak about China, either good or bad, and in all sorts of contexts.  Yet all the writing and thinking I’ve done has only reminded me of America’s shortcomings as well.   And there are many. Oh where to begin….. Let’s start with taxes- What’s easier? Understanding the tax code or walking backward blindfolded to the moon? We all pay taxes, as we should.  However, the American tax code is so riddled with deductions, exemptions, etc that it’s more than past due to argue for a simplification.  In the past, it was thought to be purely a Conservative mandate.   Not anymore.  I think now simplifying the tax code sits squarely in the arena of those with common sense.  Having either a flat tax or a tax based o

Postscript. So where are our China Hands?

Postscript(More on Mr AC’s desire to create a tangible US-Sino exchange) Everyone back home moans and complains about how we don’t have anybody interested in China.   Rather, we have no one that speaks Chinese, and is at all acquainted with their culture. We wring our hands, and papers write articles, and wealthy people consider the issue in their leisure time.  It’s a bit of a farce really.  It’s been over 20 years since Tiananmen, however, and in that time nearly every country has developed a cadre of its own that is just that; relatively well versed in both the culture and the language.  The problem is there is no knowledge of who these people are.  There is no organized way of identifying them, and surely no interest in doing so.   I can only speak for my own country, America.    I know of a fellow who has spent over 20 years dealing with the country and at one time was actually recruited by the CIA clandestine services.  Turns out his time in country was used against

A well meaning American Capitalist just gave a lot of money to China First of all you have to give Stephen Schwarzman kudos for using his money in an enlightened way, channeling it through a scholarship fund.  The fund will be used to establish a Program with the aim of deepening US-Sino understanding.    He will give away $100 million of his own personal fortune.   Another $200 million will come via other private sources.   Maybe he will even be able to raise money from Chinese sources, but I doubt it.     Local Chinese that struggle to buy a house in Beijing’s obscene mkt will cringe when they hear the above number.   They will not be able to comprehend the grandiose statement that Mr. Schwarzman is trying to make.  In the view of many, it will also be viewed as an internal confirmation of just how rich a Capitalist can be.     For the past week I’ve put scrambled notes to paper.  Here are my takeaways: The obvious is the ti

My favorite books about China

The Secret Life of Chairman Mao.  The only true book about Mao I’ve ever read.   First hand account.  Tells not only about the Man himself, but about the sycophants he surrounded himself with.  Yes, there is some juicy gossip. Wild Swans…Jung Chang I kind of felt this was a self serving book.  But the importance of the book is it gives good background to China after the war up through when she left.  Right or wrong, I've deliberately not read her book on Mao because quite frankly, she wasn't there. The Longest Winter Fantastic book!  The last book David Halberstam wrote.   A book about America’s involvement in the Korean War.  Very readable.  One theme(not the only one)of the book that I was most moved with is how  simple, ordinary civilians did simply amazing things.  Spence…The Search for Modern China The first book about China I tried to pore through.  Self explanatory. Life and Death in Shanghai….Nien Cheng I think this is the first of many,

Grin and bear it

We need China to be poor again….continued Counter to what everyone thinks, espouses and believes,  the global village would just be better off if China were poor again. Yep, you heard me right. Don't get me wrong......being poor sucks.  But what’s the point of being rich, if most people within the country can’t share in it? A poor China is a more stable China.  America would be better off, too. We can make our socks somewhere else.   I can sleep at night if my socks jump up in price a staggering .25 cents a pair. They’d have to bring the factories and jobs back home. We can transfer factories to Latin America.  A stronger LA is a stronger America.   A prosperous neighbor makes the whole street shine.    Nowadays you have to think global.  By that I mean we have to think in terms of our neighborhood.  And our neighborhood needs another coat of paint.  That means we need to figure out a way to get all those jobs over to Peru, Brazil, and all those other coun

Why China Needs Mao Today

China needs Mao.   They need the Father of Modern China.   The Communist appeal in the 30’s had a lot to do with not just the staggering disparity of wealth but by a country run not by Beijing, but by local, brutal, ruthless chieftains whose main concern was the consolidation of their power and wealth, at the expense of the people they ruled.    These leaders were uneducated, peasants.   China from the 20’s through to the 40’s was nothing but an array of banana republics stitched together to call itself one nation.   China was a farce and weak, and given only paper respect. No one feared China. China is not “weak” today.  It is not a farce.  It has nuclear weapons.    Countries may not “fear” China, but they are certainly “leary” of the Heavenly Kingdom. Yet Chinese society today is very much like China in the 30’s.  Weak, in disarray, and without purpose.  Mistrust, and suspicion.   Everyone is a thief, or purported to be.  There is no unity when everyone is out for him

We will all be hacked

I am guilty of hacking.  That is, of refusing others the right that I myself was privy to.  The right to read something and to decide for themselves the meaning and importance of what they had seen.  Many years ago, I lived in Tokyo.  On the subways there were many advertisements.  One day I saw a Japanese company using Abraham Lincoln to advertise toothpaste.   Living in the culturally sensitive environment of Japan, where the Emperor is handled with kid gloves, I had developed a similar cultural sensitivity myself.  I promptly took down every subway ad I saw.  The Japanese didn’t stop me.  Than I  complained to the subway office. Imagine an American commercial using Hirohito as a toothpaste salesman!  Today there is a different type of hacking. The irony of not having freedom of speech within a society, is an ingrown intolerance of the native population for other’s views.   It is an insensitivity to others point of view.   And with it comes a flare of the temp

Is nothing NOT for sale in the Jaded Kingdom?

The below are four stories told to me recently by friends.   It’s worse than you think.  I’m aware we all have heard other such stories as well. A longtime married couple friend of ours has a child they are looking to send to America to further her schooling.  We’ve been preparing for some time for this moment.  She will actually be joining us here in the Summer.  Meanwhile she goes to a good school here in Shenzhen.   Her family has property that has greatly increased in value over the last decade.   But they are just normal.  Actually, a lot of Chinese today are paper millionaires, reminiscent of the Japanese in the 80’s before the crash. Her father told me he recently received a call on his cell.  The caller knew who he was.  That is, that he had a daughter in this particular school.  Upon answering the call, the father was told that his daughter had been kidnapped.   Now in America, with all our well publicized crime, etc, people in China would think America is run by the i

General musings and observations

(General musings and observations with no general theme or aim, but something I’ve wanted to put down on paper for some time.  I may eventually expound a bit later on one of the below.) My wife likes to point out how rich her friends are compared to us.  She does her best to make me feel inadequate.  It’s the Chinese way to make me work harder.   As I’m a typical self confident(and might I add rather vibrant!) American male she fails miserably in this regard.  Though at times she does succeed in annoying me…ie won’t shut the fuck up, thus driving me downstairs at times.   Yet this time she came home the other day with yet another tale of one of her wealthy, Chinese friends. My wife, along with one of her Chinese friends went off to visit a new acquaintance.  They had trouble finding the way, but eventually rolled up to a gated community.   There was an actual guard stationed there.   However, she had to push in a code in order to gain entry, and a ticket spat out giving her t

It’s too late for freedom of the press in China...revised

(I've added a paragraph at the end. This has some relevance to the newest SARS outbreak, and why the WEST is questioning why it took so long to get the news out....again) It’s too late for freedom of the press in China. Quite often I think to myself, the best, most efficient way for China to reform itself is simply to give the papers free reign.  Shame and the constant revelation of law breaking activity would quickly act as an incentive towards reining in a freewheeling society such as this.  However, as the Cultural Revolution was quite often nothing more than an opportunity for ordinary folk to “get even” and settle long held grudges, with trumped up charges and accusations, one suspects the same would happen with freedom of the press as well. One is reminded again that China doesn’t have the Western ethic to“forgive and forget”.   Nope, this place remembers perceived slights forever. Anything that creates chaos in Chinese society is bad for China.  The sudden abil

Stupid things American Managers in China Say

(I may edit this in future.... these are some of the things I've witnessed that immediately come to mind....and yes, you may feel free to roll your eyes at any of the below.) “If we ran this place……..” Oh, shut the fuck up.  If you ran this place, what?   What?   The translators would be prettier?   You’d treat your workers here the same way you do back home?  That is…put everybody on contract, to avoid paying their health insurance?   You’d ensure even your driver had a performance review? “We need to lock ourselves in a room and create a business plan.” This is nothing but busy work.  It makes you look good on the performance review.  Or so you think.  And your business plan will be approved by….?   Short answer:  not you.  Not by anyone in China.  The US ofc will decide it’s fate, and you won’t be involved in the decision making process. “I don’t need to speak Chinese.  I have a translator”. You mean more likely than not you have a 22 year old girl fresh

Thank you Apple

Nice going, Tim. China’s big bully singles you out for ridicule and scorn, it backfires in a very public way, and China public opinion tilts in your favor. And you give the ball away. What were you thinking? What was your public relations team thinking? I know, I know, you are a long term guy.  China’s mkt will eventually surpass America’s. You made a calculated business decision.  I understand that.  Some day China’s sales volume will not only surpass that of the mother country, but greatly surpass anything you see in the States’. I get it. But you could have stopped this baseless propaganda machine in it’s tracks.    Instead, you’ve just opened yourself up to large scale fraud. Don’t you know anything about the ordinary consumer? You obviously don’t understand the Chinese consumer. Giving a free automatic one year warranty after each replacement is rather naïve. “Whoops, my phone just broke.” Remember when a certain, enlightened warehouse wholesaler in Ame

Why do Chinese not like our food?

Been out to eat lately? Been out to your local pizzeria on a Friday  night?  Long line, eh?  How abt the well established diner in your neighborhood?  The place that has everything?  What do these all have in common?  None of them have Chinese customers.  As Chinese flood my country, along with Indians, filling up every IT and computer related job in the economy, they are everywhere, and yet nowhere.  Buying up property, basically saving the housing mkt where I live, which is upscale, one never sees them in a restaurant.    Nor in a movie theater. I bring this up of course to my wife.  What does she say?  Chinese like to cook inside.  They don’t like to go to restaurants.   Why, I ask? If that’s the case why do I see them in Chinese restaurants?  Well, of course, that would be because Western food isn’t very good.  All of us that spend most of our time in China are probably tired of answering the question:  What is American food? Well, if you got your cheap ass off the