Archive for August, 2009

I have an Asian Palette.  I am not sure how one defines it, but for me, it means a rice-based diet, cooked vegetables, soy sauce and anti-butter.  I’m quite sure this is not the definition of asian palette, btw.

I thought I will write about some food/drinks which are generally not western-palette friendly.  Not yet, anyways.  Which means I am not going to write about Peking Duck, or Dumplings, or Boba tea… 

The first item is Hong Kong Style Milk Tea.


It even has a Wikipedia page here!

My favorite Chinese food blog, Cha Siu Bao, recently did a write-up on the HK Style Milk Tea competition. 

There is nothing especially new about this.  It is a derivation from the English milk tea, only better (in the opinion of the Asian Palette!). 


Instead of English breakfast tea, each restaurant selects their own unique blend of tea leaves.  What’s uniform about it is that the tea is very rich (tea is boiled for a few minutes), very smooth (very fine filter using what’s nicknamed as “pantyhose”), a bit thick (using evaporated milk), and very sweet (lots and lots of sugar). 

You drink this milk tea with almost any food.  It’s for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner…  and breakfast.   One interesting variation is what we call “yin yang”, which means coffee + milk tea.  Yep, coffee and tea all in one!

Where to get this in the US: chinatown.  Most Chinese bakeries and “hong kong style western food” restaurants (will explain in a later post).  Just ask for “hong kong style milk tea” and someone will hopefully point you in the right direction!


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The Rio Tinto Debacle

There is something about the Rio Tinto case that has been bothering me.   Perhaps it is because I cannot quite form an opinion on it – one one hand, I am appalled by the due process of the legal proceedings.  Where the accused employees were held without charge for 5 weeks, and without right to consult a lawyer for even longer.  On the other hand, from what I have read, this is in accordance with the local Chinese law.  So we can’t quite challenge the proper execution of a law, can we? 

In one of my previous posts, I talked about gray areas in Chinese business laws.  I might have misused the word “gray area”.  The better phrase may be the selective enforcement of laws.  An example in the US is jaywalking.  In NYC, jaywalking is illegal and and you’re subject to a fine.  Everybody does it anyways.  Imagine you are amony 20 jaywalkers at a junction and a policeman pointed at you and gave you a fine.  Just you and nobody else.  Tough luck – you did break the law!

It is naive to think that one can do successfully do (big) business in China without some form of bribery or corruption.  Or what in the US might be labeled lobbying instead. 

What makes me uncomfortable in the RioTinto case is that the employees seem to be caught in the middle.  Australia, China and certainly RioTinto all wish to treat this as a case against individuals.  It lets all parties save face in the process and allows business to go on as usual.  I know some of you will tell me that stealing competitive secrets and bribery is illegal and will be prosecuted in most developed country also.  Which is why I am not sure what to think of this.  Maybe you can enlighten me here.

p.s. Another reason this makes me feel uneasy is because this is analogous to a tactic often used within the Chinese political system to remove political threats.  Once in a while, high level political officials will be prosecuted for corruption and either executed or sent to a zillion years in hard labor. 

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Christopher Clarke wrote a very nice piece published in the Yale Global Online titled: US-China Duopoly Is a Pipedream

Here’s the exerpt and the jist:

In short, Sino-American economic symbiosis has come to look more like a mutual death grip in which neither side dares make a precipitous move for fear of going over the cliff with the other.

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Discovery on Baidu

Discovery Channel recently partnered with Baidu and launched a website targeting Chinese audience.  The site hosts a selected number of Discovery shows, with Chinese subtitles.  My first impression from watching a couple of clips is that it can probably double as an English learning tool!

I’m excited to see this for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I do see a market for non-Disney media content in China.  Non-Disney, non-news, non-politically sensitive content.  Secondly, Internet video content presents a huge opportunity in China since it is much less regulated than traditional media channels. 

The website will be ad-supported.  Over time, I see the opportunity for Discovery to further monetize through e-commerce; selling DVDs and other merchandise.  Other potential content areas include home improvement, cooking, traveling, and yes, even Disney.

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There are many rules and regulations in China that are ignored systematically.  One of the hardest things for an outsider to master is the art of tiptoeing through the gray area.  If you use the western interpretation of the law, you will find PRC laws paralyzing – if you are going to be a boyscout about it, you will not be able to get anything done. 

To further illustrate this, let me try to explain the different approaches to establishing law.  The US focuses on fairness, equality, logic, and transparency.  In the most general term, we expect that everyone should be treated the same under the same set of circumstances.  Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but that is what our system aspires to do. 

The Chinese legal system is more similar to parenting.  Just because other kids have an iphone doesn’t mean you can have it too.   When I said no more TV ever, I really meant no more TV until I change my mind.  When I said you’re grounded for life, you can of course go to school… and after school activities, and if you behave well, I won’t say a word when you tell me you’re heading out for a movie.  Let’s both just forget the rule is there. 

To operate in China effectively requires one to push the envelop and challenge the authority.  But remember, not all laws are meant to be broken.  And just because your neighbor breaks the law doesn’t mean you can do so too.  And herein lies the art of doing business in China.

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