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From Yahoo’s perspective

The Deal:

Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will contribute its Yahoo! China business to Alibaba.com and the two companies will work together in an exclusive partnership to grow the Yahoo! brand in China. (Yahoo press release in 2005)

CEO Bartz:

…  she disliked how the Yahoo brand was being treated in China, according to a source familiar with the situation. But Bartz said at a July conference that it wouldn’t “make any sense at all” to try to buy the brand back or to “get rid” of Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba.

“We have a bigger play just riding the fortune of Alibaba than we ever could being Yahoo China,” she said.

From Alibaba’s perspective

The Deal:

Alibaba Group acquired China Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com.cn) in October 2005 as part of its strategic partnership with Yahoo! Inc. (Alibaba Group’s website)

Ma’s perspective:

“We will digest Yahoo China in our own way”

Ma said the way Alibaba integrates Yahoo China will be a “case study,” but did not say how the portal may continue to change.

Articles: Alibaba Mulls Yahoo China Future After Bing Deal; Alibaba Removes Classifieds Business From Yahoo China

Here’s the reality.  Yahoo relinguished control over it’s Yahoo China brand back in 2005.  While it is true that Alibaba has since neglected Yahoo China and focused on Taoboa, Alipay and others, in the end, they are doing what makes the most sense for Alibaba Group as an aggregate. 

Since Yahoo owns 40% of Alibaba Group, everyone’s interest should be aligned.  Well, economically at least.  Strategically, the day Yahoo decided to give up control is the day Yahoo threw in the towels for China.  Personally, I think that is one of the few good decisions Yahoo has made in the past few years.

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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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Wang JianShuo, as always, wrote a thought provoking post a few days ago, titled, “Why people don’t use v-mails in China“?  I have always pondered about this, as well as the question raised in his related post “Do you have a calendar“.

Wang’s perpsective is that Chinese people don’t use v-mails because they have leaped over the technology and adopted SMS and IM.  If the objective for using v-mails is to reach others when they are not reachable…  then the internet and mobile phones should have eliminated the need because (technically) everyone is now reachable 24/7. 

There is certainly merit to this argument.  I also agree with some of the comments on his blog that social ettiquettes also come into play.  While it is impolite in the US to take a phone call in the middle of a face-to-face meeting, it is impolite in China not to pick up your phone when it is ringing. 

The question then is, are these differences in ettiquettes shaped by culture, or by habit?   If we had mobile phones in the 70s and 80s, would we have voicemails today?  If we had IM and SMS in the 90s, would we use emails the same way we do?  I think not.  Just look at the teenagers today; with no legacy habits, their behaviors resembles those in China.

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Jackie Chan’s recent remarks has gotten him quite a bit of press.  Apparently the actor went on some rantings about his personal political view that “Chinese needs to be controlled”.  There were some debate about whether “controlled” is the appropriate translation and he might have really meant “regulated”.   Where he got the most heat, however, is for saying that HK and Taiwan are “chaotic” due to “too much freedom”. 

Chan’s remakrs have spurred strong criticisms from HK and Taiwan, some suggesting that Chan should be stripped off his various “ambassador” responsibilites.  What’s ironic about this is that while this is all in the name of defending freedom/democracy, they are, at the same time, squandering it.  Social pressure and self-censorship is a powerful and dangerous force. 

I hope Chan will not bow to social pressure and apologize for expressing his opinions.   We shall see.

Update: NYTimes just published an article on this as well.

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Case for Tainted Milk

Maybe it is the economic crisis, or the election, or the declining status of the US (and rise of status of China)… or more likely because the victims were local Chinese; compared with the leaded toy incident, the “tainted milk” problem seemed to have received disproportionately less coverage than poisonous toys, or even the tainted pet foods.  I suppose our sense of righteousness decline when the deaths are in China, and not here.

But that’s not why I’m writing about this.  I saw this article in the New York Times this morning, titled “Courts Compound Pain of China’s Tainted Milk”.  And here’s a quote at the end of the article:

“Judge Chen said it would be better for the parents’ complaints to be treated in the traditional manner. The government should handle them as an administrative issue and dole out compensation, he said. It has already agreed to pay medical bills, but has yet to offer more compensation.

Some Chinese have raised questions, though, about whether the government should be using taxpayers’ money to compensate for private companies’ mistakes.”

This seems to be a legacy of the system before privatization of businesses, when the government essentially took up all liabilities in the country since they own the country.  Has anything really changed?  Most large corporations have government “connections” (which is really bribery, or corruption, or lobbying, depending on how you want to look at it), giving them protection.  This is particularly prevalent at the local provincial or city level.  Privatization have helped legitimize some of what once was illegal; before, government officials might have received Rolexes, now, they get to become Chairman of pre-IPO companies. 

I believe that corruption is the biggest stumbling block against the development of China; both socially and economically.

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Liu Xiang and Transparency

I was flipping through NBC Olympics last night, and managed to catch a glimpse of Liu Xiang before he withdrew.  He was grimmacing so much before the start I couldn’t help but wonder: shouldn’t he have withdrawn before the match?  I see several rationale for him to make his brief appearance… To be very cynical, it can be a commercial decision.  Liu has obligations to Nike, for example.  Or, perhaps it is image control – to show that Liu is really committing above and beyond.  Whatever it is, he didn’t show up because he thought he could be competitive.  He knew for a long time that he won’t be.

Which brings up the topic of transparency.  If Liu have been injured for months and knew he wasn’t going to be competitive before the race, wouldn’t it be better for him to brief the press ahead of time?  The higher the expectations, the higher the disappointment.  Transparency and honestly plays well towards public opinion.

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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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