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Archive for July, 2008

EQ

Is China ready for the Olympics?  As we get closer, increasingly, I don’t think they are.  Not in the same way Athens wasn’t ready – if you look at the infrastructure, Beijing is more than ready.  But not emotionally. 

To almost everyone in China, the Olympics is a monumental moment.  It indicates China’s coming of age – that it has “made” it.  Hence, nothing can get into its way.  Sacrifices has to be made.  And sacrifices have been made by many residences of Beijing (not the wealthy ones, of course). 

Yet, is Beijing ready for failure (of any extent)?  Recent news suggest that they’re not.  When air quality is being challenged, an official replied that Beijing is like a steam room.  That what you see is really steam, and not pollutants.  Instead of admitting that pollution remains a problem, he chose to deny it (a cover up, as we say). 

So much has been invested in the Olympics, China cannot allow it to fail.  For China, there is only one possible outcome – that the Beijing Olympics will yield awe from around the world.  What if that doesn’t happen?  Can the nation still feel the pride of what has been achieved to date?

Update: Wang Jian Shuo blogged about his impression from his recent short trip to Beijing.  Similar sentiments there.

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I work in the IP business.  Trying to explain the concept of licensing and copyrights to partners in an emerging/developing market is a difficult task.  China, of course, is one of the most difficult ones.

Copyrights is a product of our legal society.  It exists to encourage, protect, and reward inventions and innovations.  It works in the US because our legal environment allows it to be enforceable.  It works, most importantly, because it is normal business practice.  We have grown accustomed to it, and have learnt to expect and respect this practice.

It will be interesting to see whether this practice will eventually be applicable in China.  I suspect it will evolve into a modified form; at least in the foreseeable future, the power will lie still in the hands of the masses (i.e. the consumers), as opposed to the inventors/creators.

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This has happened to me twice already… once in the notorious Silk Market in Beijing (which was expected), and a second time in New York’s Chinatown (a bit surprising).

So here’s the story.  I went with some friends to buy a few items.  Since the items are all the same in every other store, we decided to walk around, ask for quotes, then buy from the seller with the lowest price.  All seems rational to me (minus the shoe leather costs).  In both cases, however, the seller with the lowest offer increases the quoted price when we went back to buy the items (often within a 10mins timeframe).  We were pissed, and decided to go somewhere else.  For us, the price should have been final, and that was unacceptable business practice. 

I suppose there is a certain logic to it from the seller’s perspective.  If we went back to seller A, seller A now has the information that his quote is the lowest (free competitive research for him).  He then assumes that we will still buy if he raises the price marginally.  Or perhaps he wasn’t thinking that far.  We are trained to believe that customers are always right.  If we can haggle a price and not buy on the spot, why can’t the seller change his price over night?

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I’ve given the show, Managing China (on CNBC International), several plugs before.  I watched a few episodes recently, and I must say, I am no longer a proponent for the show.  They’ve changed the host twice already.  The current host likes to put words into the interviewees’ mouths.  Rather than informational, it has become a propaganda piece.  Granted, it’s the reporter’s job to craft a story; yet, a good reporter will allow its subjects to tell their story and not force his own agenda (at least not so blatantly). 

On another front, a few business information websites have sprung up recently.  www.chinastakes.com, and www.thechinaperspective.com.  Both have their limitations; chinastakes has original articles, but needs better editing.  thechinaperspective needs to be updated much more frequently.  I’ve always thought there will be an opportunity to provide a china business information website targeted at the global investor market.  Just think about the information assemetry there; all the chinese papers, journals, magazines, blogs, etc. that we cannot read.  If I can open a center to translate rand package relevant industry/company news and articles… Think about it!

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In Episode #4 of Koppel’s TV series (see below), he tried to highlight the injustice in how corruption charges are made in China.  Basically, if you were a government official and accepted more than a certain threshold of bribes, you face the death penalty.  On the other hand, the people who offered the bribes (in this case, real estate developers) were never persecuted and continued making zillions of dollars. 

I do see where Koppel is coming from.  Seemingly, these real estate moguls are above the law.  But for me, corrupt officials are the stem/root of the problem.  I do not have any issue with treating corrupt officials much stricter than those who offer the bribe.  In fact, I believe that it is a better and more efficient solution. 

As a side note, if you end up watching the series, this is yet another example of how bad China’s PR is.

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Discovery had a 4-day series called Koppel: People’s Republic of Capitalism.  I missed the first two episodes, and am hoping they will do a rerun.  Then, USA (i think) has Beyond Beijing; documentary about the six Olympic Cities besides Beijing. 

These two series cannot be any more different.  Koppel’s is the typical US-centric view: talking about auto makers and their threats, corruption, challenging (though cautiously) human right issues.  Beyond Beijing, on the other hand, seems to be straight from CCTV, a propaganda. 

Can someone pls import some better documentaries from Asia?  I’d suggest approaching TVB or ATV in Hong Kong.  Much more objective perspective, in my opinion.

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Dogs off Menu

FT has an article called “Beijing Want Dogs off Menu for the Olympics“.  I am sure by now you’re gasping at the idea that someone is actually eating dog meat, and many of you are hugging your adorable pets…  Why do dogs get so lucky?!

Beijng is doing a lot for the Olympics – and seemingly everyday now, more and more for the cosmetics.  Some policies have wonderful long-term impact, e.g. teaching cabbies basic English, better public bathrooms, cleaner air (although some are short-term messures only).  But others, as least to me, leads to the loss of part of the charm of a city with deep traditions.  Broken English translations in signages and on menus are being corrected.  Having dogmeat on the (english) menu is now banned.  There will be nothing left to call home about!

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