Sunday, May 20, 2007

Minor update: Milestones reached...

It's been a few crazy weeks where I've just been too tired/frustrated to blog but the outcome has been quite positive for us. We're now able to offer credit to our clients without worrying about the risk of default (at a pretty cheap price I might add), I am consolidating my interest in my company, we're buying a decent car, we're finally getting a real accounting system (at a ginormous price) and we're starting to make headway at the process of rebranding / revamping our image.

Now as for this blog, I've been kind of at a cross roads. I'm not going to stop but I'm just trying to figure out how I want to organize it going forwards. I've basically got two passions - politics/economics/development (I see these things as highly related), and business. The latter I've really not really had an opportunity (or rather taken the time) to develop here. It's being overwhelmed by the former as I have a lot more online material that I'm able to exploit (particularly after discovering google reader).

I think of blogging as a bit of a dialogue or even a monologue - but I think I have to focus a bit better. Given the relative size and growth of our business, the numerous political and legal changes that seem to be happening in China, not to mention the speed that it's happening, I feel that a dedicated blog may help in making me focus and flush out my ideas - even if I'm only talking to myself.

I guess it comes back to why I am blogging - and hopefully it's not just an exercise in vanity. Do I want to be seen as a China blogger? An entrepreneur in China? or simply that scary right wing (though I think of myself more as a libertarian) ideologue? Anyway, that's what I'm thinking. It's true what they say though, the older you get, the more you realize what you don't/didn't know. I tend to see the world in black and white, but doing business - particularly here, one seems to always be left with choosing between various shades of grey. I want to talk about that - I just have to figure out how. Anyway, 'till next I blog.

Driving in China

So true... We're also in the process of buying a car in China. Just deciding how to structure it at the moment but there are few things that approach the bizarro world of driving in China.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hmmmm... I guess I won't have the pork

Link here. "lurid accounts today of pigs staggering around with blood pouring from their bodies in Gaoyao and neighboring Yunfu, both in Guangdong Province. The Apple Daily newspaper said that as many as 80 percent of the pigs in the area had died, that panicky farmers were selling ailing animals at deep discounts and that pig carcasses were floating in a river." Yum.

For Instapundit, the story is that the government is suppressing the news. The funny/scary thing is that I was about to call my aunt about it and a colleague here stopped me saying that I had to be careful about what I say on the cell phone cuz they listen and will arrest people for that type of thing... he seemed serious... how one cannot get lost in the sea of millions of people beats me (I mean I should hope they would have more things to worry about than listening to my cell phone conversations - that must be an incredibly boring job).

Who to believe... According to HK colleagues these things and warnings happen all the time for stuff like fish, vegetables and meat. For contamination perhaps but epidemics? Staff here say that Apple Daily is "always lying" (or perhaps the more appropriate translation is that they're always trying to trick people). I think I'll just avoid the pork. Especially the cheap pork.

Update: Pig death identified.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Be a Happy Capitalist?

Interesting. I suppose it really shouldn't be so surprising that greater liberty for all translates into greater happiness... though I suppose for some, quite the opposite happens (whose numbers, I suspect, are probably overpopulated with elites). Quoting the National Review on the Economist's Free Exchange Blog:

Why so glum? The numbers show that high average incomes, a low unemployment rate, extensive economic freedom, and relatively open labor markets tend to boost happiness levels, while generous welfare handouts, lower levels of inequality, and bigger government have little or no positive effect. The areas where the French do relatively well, such as low inequality and size of government, tend not to make its people feel much better, while the areas where they do poorly, such as unemployment and economic freedom, take a real bite out of happiness.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Some fantastic photos of China

I've been in the process of considering how we want to redevelop our website so I've had stock photography on the brain. Here's a fantastic site of great photos 'humanizing' China (and lest anyone be concerned, no I'm not thinking of pawning of these). Hat tip: Hao Hao Report.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Acumen, Healthcare and Microfinance

Hat tip to my sister, Beata, for emailing me this one. I may have fallen in love (no, not with my sister). I am now following way too many blogs too many of whom post regularly with 3050 posts read in the last 30 days (I mean Instapundit alone posted 863 - which is a wonder that he gets anything done during the day). Anyway, just had to share this quickly as I am way behind on practically everything.

Acumen is a charity that advocates entrepreneurial solutions. It linked to a speech by Laurie Garrett (a medical and sci fi writer for Newsday). Here are a few quotes (as chosen by Beata):

"For decades global health has been treated as a charity. Billions of people the world over have, for decades, been dependent on the kindness of strangers for their health and survival. While other fields of development may have encouraged capitalist solutions, health has been treated as if it were too sacred to be besmirched by profits. In the wealthy world every aspect of health, from record-keeping to pill-making; ambulance driving to hospitalization, is a profit center. We seem to feel that if you are living in France, Denmark, Canada, Japan – in those places it's ok for hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals to realize profits from the health enterprise. We just don't think that is ok in poor countries.

"I think it's time to tell truth to power: The charity model of global health is racist. It assumes that the health leaders of the poor nations of the world will endlessly get on bended knee, and with outstretched arms beg for alms. It doesn't matter to whom the begging is directed – the World Bank, USAID, Bill Gates, Bono – it is still begging. The charity model offers no supply or resources guarantees over time. Yet it expects targeted achievements, realized in very short time windows, allowing the donor to brag about the numbers of lives saved, thanks to his beneficence.

"I think it's time to get out of the charity model, and get serious about investment. My take-home message is this: Invest in small businesses, even micro-finance approaches to health. Do not invest in models that promote health by subsidizing outside corporate interests. Rather, build local economies and businesses, employ the unemployed, and do so aggressively."
Breathtaking. May many hear and heed her words.

"Simple Explanations"... for Stupid People?

I'm often accused of being overly defensive of Americans and overly cynical of the mainstream media. Perhaps somewhat foolishly, I poke fun at the nationalism of a few of my close colleagues at work by saying stuff like "I'm not Chinese, I'm from Hong Kong" or that kind of thing (the reality, is that I view myself as being Canadian first).

That said, in reading and watching the news abroad, you begin to get a greater appreciation for the level of quality that the Wall Street Journal strives for. Certainly their stories aren't always free of bias but at least they strive for accuracy and facts first versus the likes of the New York Times and to a lesser degree, the Washington Post who write stories framed within their world view and then arrange the facts accordingly (or even sometimes irrespective of the facts). I had a bit of a disagreement, not so long ago, with a China blogger / journalist over what constituted bias after a surprisingly inaccurate comment by a journalism professor no less.

But if you thought they were bad (and granted, many do not), the international press is far far worse. I figure it just comes down to plain jealousy - the US can do no right - as the world's only superpower, when it uses this power, it is accused of being imperialist, but when it does not, it is accused of being isolationist. Further, from the Chinese context, I have found that my one colleagues views are not that unique - that the reason China has not industrialized is because of "the man" in the form of Europe and the US (ok fine, he didn't really phrase it like that), keeping it down. My uncle even went so far as to suggest that the killings of Chinese workers recently in Ethiopia were the result of the CIA who were attempting to disrupt China's own imperialist ambitions in Africa - because of "jealousy" (i.e. if Halliburton can't have it, no one should).

This however really scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Milenio is a newspaper in Mexico that apparently put out an ad with the picture of Uncle Sam + Mirror = picture of crazed Seung-Hui Cho holding a gun (the mass killer at Virginia Tech). At the bottom is the text "Such a complex world needs a simple explanation" - to which I can only wonder, that if it's really that complex if you would really want stupid and possibly insane people to be interpreting it for you. Following his hate filled rant, I'm not clear whether Milenio is in fact suggesting that Cho was because of American values? Or perhaps it's about the US Military?

I mean, there were a number of articles easily debunked immediately following the massacre that proclaimed that this was uniquely American because of America's "gun culture" as if the US brought this on itself. Of what I saw of his diatribe from NBC's ill advised broadcast, (other than the fact that we know he was totally insane), it could have come from any number of unhinged "activists" decrying the corporatization of America, multinationals, race and class wars. Maybe that's what the Milenio was saying? As per usual, the Wall Street Journal did a decent piece on some of the numbers being pushed by both sides of the gun control debate (unfortunately on the other side of the pay wall).

Update: Fred Thompson makes some points on American popularity abroad. Why current American political leaders don't say stuff like this beats me. Hat Tip: Instapundit.

Yep, that's China...

I don't think there's anyway in getting around the fact that things happen a little different here in China. Check out Bill Dodson's post on what happened at his friend's factory. The ways that some people go about trying to make a buck around here is nutty enough to shake your head and think that if they put their minds to doing something productive, they'd be truly rich.

Much has been made of China's attempts at establishing rule of law, but the will of Beijing seems to be slower to reach some of the industrial areas of China. On one hand, I tend to agree with those who think that China's development isn't so much different than others - from Russia to other Asian Tigers and even to the West. I usually think of China as the wild wild East. There are however, three key differences I think: technology, population and speed. While I don't think this changes the substance of industrialization, it certainly makes things more interesting.

A Healthy Sense of Fear?

An article from TCSDaily exploring why Americans feel less secure economically despite very tangible evidence that they've never been better off. Is this uniquely American?

Convincing Americans that their economic security is actually embedded in a kind of economic insecurity is, admittedly, a tricky argument to make in the political arena. But it's made easier by the fact that America remains a genuinely entrepreneurial society. This is one of the things that distinguishes the US from continental Europe and other parts of the globe.

Fight or Flight in the Developed World

For all the fears that outsourcing will steal jobs, as previously noted, the easy counterpoint to make is the rock bottom low unemployment rates in the US (and Canada, though the same can't be said for most of Europe). That said, this only proves there are a lot of companies who "get it" and understand how to compete against their global competitors. Quoted in the Economist's Free Exchange Blog:

... if we're going to cost more here, then we'd damn well better have a reason for it. Deliver something that can't be had so easily in Hyderabad [insert any country, city or even company here], is my advice.
Too true.