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Archive for December, 2007

Happy Holidays!

 

Wish you all a Happy
and Healthy Holiday Season!

See you in 2008.

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Two weeks ago, I was sent a blog readibilty testing tool: http://www.criticsrant.com/bb/reading_level.aspx.  Many of you have probably seen it already.  I didn’t write about it because, alas, they rated me “junior high”.  One one hand, I want my blog to be readible to as many people as possible. On the other hand, this implies I write at the junior high level which I cannot admit. 

Being competitive (more in denial), I checked again today.  I’m glad to report that I have graduated to the “high school” level.  I think the word “assymetry” did it. 

Next step: College.

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Information Assymetry

I was brainstorming with a Chinese friend a while back, where I suggested the build of a lead generation site featuring translated mba-type education information.  I thought such information will be in demand by millions of entreprenuers who do not have access (or, who doesn’t want to spend 2 years) to an mba education.  The idea is to turn such lead generation site into a full fledge corporate training model, online and offline.  Management training in bits, if you may.  And, management training everywhere. 

At one point during the conversation, my friend told me: anything readily available in English will not be of value to Chinese business people.  They would have gotten access to them already.  She’s totally right.  First, a lot of educated Chinese can read and write English even though they cannot speak it.  Second, Chinese are much more resourceful than we are here.  If it exist somewhere on the web, they would have found it already. 

Which then makes me think.  There’s actually a much greater need for Chinese content to be aggregated/translated to English than the other way around.  They know everything about us, and we know nothing about them.  In the long run, this will certainly hurt us here.  As such, I see future opportunities in information and data driven businesses such as market/consumer research, business intelligence and entertainment media focusing on China.  Give me a shout if you are like-minded!

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Steve Rosenbaum pointed out in his comments below that “It’s not so much having access to information, it’s being able to understand it in a cultural context.”  Excellent point.  Do read.

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A lot of people have predicted the long-term demise of Hong Kong. For the longest time, Hong Kong was the conduit to mainland China for the rest of the world.  The argument goes that as China opens up, Hong Kong’s position will be diluted, and Shanghai will eventually overshadow the city.

I beg to differ.  If we look at Hong Kong’s development on an absolute and not relative basis (to other Chinese cities), I believe it will benefit tremendously from China’s growth, the same way it has over the past few years.  Language (officially trilingual), location (the harbor is an important asset), rule of law, servicing mentality, and universal education will give Hong Kong a competitive advantage sustainable for at least a couple of decades, if not longer. 

Sitting between the East and West for decades, Hong Kong has the unique ability to penetrate both cultures.  As such, its position will be enhanced and not diminished as China opens up to the world. 

Such is the opinion of a Hong Kong native (disclaimer!).

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I might have mentioned before… Wang JianShuo is my favorite Chinese blogger.  He is truely unique in that he writes a blog for westerners, but he’s a native himself.  Wang also heads up kijiji.com (eBay’s classifieds effort) and have worked in Miscrosoft for many years before.  Wang is in his late 20s and lives with his wife and (very) young son in Shanghai. 

Among many of his fabulous posts, here’s a couple of quotes from his latest post about “Grace and Beauty“:

“I may be too quick or too generalized to say that people in China are afraid of beautiful things. This is obviously wrong. Look at the beautiful furnitures, calligraphy, gardens, silk, and millions of great things we created in the past. China is so beautiful (although it takes time for us to re-discover it).

However, nowadays, people still didn’t recover from the lack of (material) resources in the 20th century. People hate luxury things (there are national wide propagandas against being luxurious). The famous saying for socks and cloths are: “New for three years; old for three years; patched and fixed, they last for another three years”. It seems to wear the same socks for 9 years is the virtue of Chinese people. So people face the moral conflict between being grace and beautiful, and saving money.”

And, in ending:

“I believe when people in China end the centuries of hunger, and war, we get back to the original track to pursue happiness, grace, beauty, and all kinds of great things, just as our ancestor did in the last few thousands years.”

Grace and beauty is not as superficial as it sounds.  It does not mean huge mansions and plastic surgeries.  Rather, it implies slowing down to breathe in the air and embrace humanity.  It reminds us that there is more to life than working 24/7.  Whether you agree or not, Wang’s posts are always thought provoking and insightful.

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China Hands

The China Law Blog ran an article today titled: Looking Out Airplane Windows In China Is For Grizzled Old China Hands ONLY.  It’s quite a fascinating read, and not unlike many conversations I’ve had recently.  Self-proclaimed “Old China Hands” challenging the new china hands.  It’s an interesting development.  Ten of fifteen years ago, if you have been to China or know a handful of Chinese contacts, you become a China expert.  Nowadays, the number of these China experts (often China consultants) are abundant.  The word Guanxi used to be magical; now is grossly overused. 

Fifteen years ago, everything in China was a struggle.  It is thus understandable that people who “suffered” through those periods will find themselves superior to the newcomers.  Yet, does spending time physically in China directly correlate with level of expertise?  I beg to differ.  It is what you managed to achieve in China that defines ones capability.  Spending 10 years living in China might give you some insight to habits, culture and language.  Yet, it is how you spent those 10 years that matter.  An expat who spent 10 years working for Motorola in China will not know anything about starting up a magazine in Shanghai. 

China is vast and quickly developing.  The term “China Hands” needs to be retired.  As the market becomes more sophisticated, we demand more sophisticated services.  The bar for service quality has risen.  Old China hands better adapt quickly or they will become obsolete.  Very quickly. 

On a side note, I once received a series of calls from a lawyer in CA telling me they have the license from the government to export Intellectual Properties from China.  How ridiculous does this sound?  Of course, he followed with list of credentials; mainly name-dropping of Chinese companies he has guanxi with… 

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Can Income Gap be Good?

One similarity between China and the US is that both countries are experiencing an increasing income gap between the rich and the poor.  I have read that income gaps are inherently bad for an economy.  Taking the US as an example.  The top 1% is getting richer and richer.  There are more millionaires than ever before.  At the same time, middle class and lower class are getting poorer.  The argument is that there is so much one can spend.  In other words, the rich is taking away money from the poor (who would have used it on consumption)… thus national consumption will fall over time as income gap widens.

The story in China is a bit more complicated.  As the rich certainly gets richer, the poor also, arguably, gets richer at the same time.  Almost everyone is consuming more.  The national as a whole will be consuming more as well. It thus seems that income gap is only bad for national economy if the rich starts to rob the poor.  Even if it is so, is necessary (or even beneficial) to have widering income gap in a developing economy?  Were the Rockefellars and the likes essential for economic development? 

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