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Archive for June, 2009

The news that Hummers will be everywhere in China was disturbing.  But maybe they are not going to China afterall?   

Hummers aside, there seems to be a trend of increased government control over the past few months.  Slightly worrying signs.

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Where to draw the line?

I am pondering about this.  Where does one draw the line when it comes to bribery/corruption?  Particularly relating to business dealings?  This does not apply just to China, but let’s take China as an example.  OK, I know bribery/corruption is illegal. I’m defining it broadly.  Maybe I should call it influence instead.  So that includes taking people out for elaborate dinners, gifts, using “agents”, lobbying (in this country), etc.

I would say, definite NOs if:
– You are going to harm innocent individuals.  E.g. contaminated milk, leaded toys
– You are going to sabotage a competitor.  E.g. paying someone to block a competitors’ deal
– You are breaking the law, outright 
– You are robbing Peter and giving it to Paul.  For example, you’re enhancing the wealth of the management of a company while hurting their shareholders. 

Likely YES if:
– You are removing an artificial roadblock.  E.g. you are paying authorities not to delay a regular business license application
– You are “paying to play”

NOT SURE if:
– You’re getting an unfair business advantage or special treatment.  E.g.  winning a contract from a competitor
– The Yahoo/Google predicament.  They’re paying to play.  Not with money, but by cooperating with the government.  Their actions causes harm to someone who is innocent according to US law, but not innocent according to Chinese law. 

What do you think?  Are there hard and fast rules?

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This year in particular, I find myself spending more time reflecting on what happened 20 years ago.  I ponder whether with all the progress China has had over the past two decades, June 4th could have repeated  itself.  Disturbingly, I find myself thinking that it could.  Not in the same way or same form, but in the same spirit.  

I am worried that China’s economic strength will deterioriate rather than enhance the advancement of human rights.  I worry because Chinese citizens seem to have adopted the view that sacrificing the freedom and happiness of a small group of people for economic prosperity is the right thing to do. 

I am afraid not that June 4th will be forgotten, but that June 4th will be viewed as a positive.  I am worried that China’s economic progress will make the suppression of individuals justifiable or even encouraged.

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Here is a  reflective piece on the Tiananmen Square incident 20 years ago. 

On that note, I am planning to read Zhao Ziyang’s memoir just recently released called Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang.

Update: there are some good coverage this year.  Here are a couple from the Financial Times: West miscasts Tiananmen protesters, and Netizens use strength in numbers.  And here’s one from the Asia Times: Forget Tiananmen, thus spake Confucius

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This is a sad news indeed.  A Chinese company bought the Hummer brand and will be bringing this gigantic (ugly ass) car to China! 

I hate Hummers.  And especially Hummers in crowded cities.   In New York City, they even have Hummer limos which is the most obnoxious car in the world.  They literally take up the entire road when they turn. 

Hummer Limo

Who needs a car like this?!

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I came across this post by Michael Pettis on his analysis on why he thinks Chinese saves much more than the US.   There are multiple reasons listed, most of which relates to policies and how Chinese do not have a safety net, how the credit system is not in place yet. 

I think the real question is: why are Americans saving so little, and the Chinese saving so much? 

In my mind, there’s one simple answer.  Americans have formed the habit of spending their future projected earnings, and the Chinese have formed the habit of insuring their future with current and past earnings.   

Digging a layer deeper, Americans are confident that good and better days, will come while the Chinese worry that good days will not last.   

I agree with Pettis that the reason is not purely “cultural” but largely sociological.

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