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Forum: Our World The World RSS
(Now the Official China thread)
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Author name (Administrator) #61
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Member since May 2011 · 2457 posts · Location: Brisbane
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In reply to post ID 3402
Two things to update on China today.

One is four months old, I keep meaning to mention it but forget every time.  The Black China Hand talks about black prisons, off-the-record lockups that help disappear undesirables.

Black prisons can always be closed once you discover them but shutting down or out the cabal that created them is much, much more difficult. That is where the focus needs to be.

This next bit hits closer to home for me.  A photography blog talks about an up and coming Chinese brand name, Yong Nuo.  They're makign flashes and other components, and their stuff is becoming more competent with each iteration. 

Most Chinese flash manufacturers, who actually have the ability to create a pretty good product at an amazing price, do not understand this. They will frequently sell direct to the public at only a 2-3% profit margin on top of the actual manufacturing costs.

Obviously, no retailer can compete with this. Some will order the flashes and build in a small margin for themselves in hopes that people will buy from a more convenient source. But there is nowhere near the margin to stand behind the products, let alone test them thoroughly.

And since the whole system is built on as little margin as possible, quality control at the manufacturer is not what it could or should be, thus compounding the problem.

It's a huge problem for China.  Much like smaller Korean manufacturers they have absolutely no idea how to get their shit into retail shops effectively, nor do they seem to have any interest in understanding, let alone implementing, customer services like return policies and reasonable overseas warranties.

Note that I say this as an outside observer, I could be entirely wrong.  But personal experience lends weight to the idea.  When I buy stuff from China it's typically a crapshoot, I never really know if it will be appropriate before I receive it, and I can't really go looking for other peoples' reports on it, 'cause they don't use part numbers, or if they do they're basically random.  I orrdered two photo umbrellas and they arrived, almost identical, in different packaging and with different part numbers on them.  From the same shop.  On the same order.

They're so cheap that if it doesn't work I give them away or throw them out, but it's not a long-term success plan, is it?  Get consistent, get some resellers, get some fucking trustworthiness.  Don't make me come over there, China!
BLEARGH
Author name #62
Member since Oct 2007 · 310 posts
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Chinese manufacturers have a very 17th century understanding of economics and capitalism. All they care about is the sale. They make a horseshoe, you buy it and put it on your horse, and they expect that they'll never see you again. China's industry knows nothing about branding, promotion, customer loyalty, repeat business, or core competency.

One of the screwball reasons for this is that the communist party effectively runs all manufacturing with a wartime mentality. Any factory is in constant hazard of being nationalized and turned to making some other unrelated thing without any notice. Sometimes those orders don't come from the top, as a lower-level guy might decide that his toothpaste plant should also start making aluminum scooters because the profit margin is better. This is also the reason why there's so much food and consumable contamination, because the supply chains (and waste output) are not properly segregated in such an arrangement.

Ironically, without a longer eye on tomorrow China's industry also has no ability to reinvest. There's no incentive for them to reduce the defect rate if they don't know that they'll be making camera lenses tomorrow. There's no incentive for them to reduce manufacturing costs if they might have to retool every sewing machine for vinyl instead of cotton. There's no incentive to increase output if every worker is still getting paid. All that matters is that they get the sale tomorrow, and that their dirty western competitor doesn't.
This post was edited on 2011-05-18, 17:43 by Kendrick.
Author name #63
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Newsweek has a review of Henry Kissinger's latest book, which is unsurprisingly about the challenge of dealing with China both politically and economically. They choose an interesting excerpt that punctuates the wide cultural gulf that makes negotiation difficult:

“When the Chinese view of preemption encounters the Western concept of deterrence, a vicious circle can result: acts conceived as defensive in China may be treated as aggressive by the outside world; deterrent moves by the West may be interpreted in China as encirclement. The United States and China wrestled with this dilemma repeatedly during the Cold War; to some extent they have not yet found a way to transcend it.”

It's often said that Russian diffidence comes from the long cold winter, which is not a reference to the weather so much as it is to their historical estrangement from the rest of Europe. In the same way, China has had to stand on its own for so long that it speaks a completely different diplomatic language from the rest of the world. Western powers can't afford to look conciliatory towards China for fear of appearing weak to each other. There's simply no way to accommodate China and make them feel included without feeling like you're giving up too much to them.

The full article is here:

http://www.newsweek.com/2011/05/15/dr-k-s-rx-for-china.html
This post was edited on 2011-05-18, 17:35 by Kendrick.
Author name (Administrator) #64
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Member since May 2011 · 2457 posts · Location: Brisbane
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That's a very good link, thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Four decades ago, Richard Nixon grasped sooner than most the huge potential of China. “Well,” he mused, “you can just stop and think of what could happen if anybody with a decent system of government got control of that mainland. Good God … There’d be no power in the world that could even—I mean, you put 800 million Chinese to work under a decent system … and they will be the leaders of the world.” That prophecy is being fulfilled in our time. The fact that until now China’s rise has been a boon to the United States rather than a bane owes much to the work of Henry Kissinger. With this book he has given his successors an indispensable guide to continuing the Sino-American “coevolution” he began.

I think I really want to read that book.
BLEARGH
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In reply to post ID 2448
Quote by Kendrick on 2010-03-29, 17:30:
When you look at those numbers, you need to think about the "average" yearly income of the Chinese, which works out to around USD$2,000 after conversion. I put quotes around the word because the average has dirt-poor farmers at one end, and absurdly wealthy real estate tycoons at the other. That means that in real terms, $160 a month isn't the actual average.

And now, somebody noticed. I didn't know about the Hurun Wealth Report, which is an NGO publication that enumerates the worth of the richest Chinese. A Time Magazine blogger has noticed that the list is breeding discontent in China, and causes the wealthiest to be investigated (or at least publicly disliked.) Here's the link:

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/05/17/to-be-young-ri…
Author name #66
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Lawrence, you've been observing that China is having to take responsibility on a global scale in reluctant fits and spurts? A number of news sources are reporting on the recent visit to the United States, where high-ranking general Chen Bingde has stated that China might be willing to establish foreign bases in Africa. Ostensibly they're to reduce piracy, but really what's going on is they want to protect their investment in mining and other related industry. This would be not unlike the United States having bases in otherwise sovereign places like Guam, Puerto Rico or Japan. I see a future where China ends up having to do the international police work for which the US has shouldered the burden over the last century. Here's the link from Time:

http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/05/21/facing-the-thr…
Author name (Administrator) #67
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Member since May 2011 · 2457 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I saw a similar article talking about the general's words, but I never once thought that it meant China was establishing bases in Africa.  Instead, it seems to me that China's launching assaults on pirates, a mini-invasion police action.

As I see China's rise, I confess I view it with a sliver of fear, as do many I'm sure.  The more I read about the fundamental differences in thought between China and, well, me the more I wonder what a dominant society created by such aliens would be like.  And a police force comprised of such odd-thinking people? 

And then I wonder, is this what other countries thought of America?  The America that (until recently) shone a beacon of truth and trust and who I thought was always fighting the good fight?  How much of that was because of when and where I was born and raised?

And that brings me back to China: Are they going to be a power for good, an empire like America that ostensibly tried to do the right thing?  Or will they act only in their own interests, like it seems America increasingly does?

Or has America always been a bad actor and I was just too close to it to notice?


And as always, this brings me back to my meta question: Can China achieve any of their empire before imploding, fracturing or polluting themselves to death?  If there's one thing that this thread has made abundantly clear, it's that China is a big place with a lot of problems, deeply rooted issues that seem to make it nigh impossible to achieve a great, stable empire state.  And certainly, will prevent it from staying there for long.
BLEARGH
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Quote by NFG:
And as always, this brings me back to my meta question: Can China achieve any of their empire before imploding, fracturing or polluting themselves to death?  If there's one thing that this thread has made abundantly clear, it's that China is a big place with a lot of problems, deeply rooted issues that seem to make it nigh impossible to achieve a great, stable empire state.  And certainly, will prevent it from staying there for long.

It's said that America is the one place in the world where everybody gets up in the morning and goes to work. This is the vaunted protestant work ethic that supposedly made the United States a manufacturing powerhouse, a scientific leader and an educational utopia. It's all too easy, in retrospect, to see and to say that wasn't actually true. But like all generalizations there is some truth to the idea that Americans wanted to earn their keep, to pull their weight, and to contribute something meaningful to the world.

Of course, if that were ever true then it's less true today. Plenty of Americans have no problems with government benefits or other programs designed to increase their standard of living with absolutely no contribution of their own. These are the things that Americans were taught to dislike about Cuba, about France, and about any place that openly embodied socialism. The reason that American isn't a manufacturing powerhouse any more? We went after lower prices and greater distribution. The reason we aren't scientific leaders? Our best minds are working on advertising and copyright law instead. Education? Less important than we fooled ourselves into believing.

I don't know why Chinese get up in the morning. It might be duty, or ancestral obligation, or just plain complacence. Do you remember the scene from Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams' character is attempting to teach a student how to respond to an insult? It was a way of illustrating how Asian culture doesn't address challenge and conflict in the same way as western culture. If America built an empire on the protestant work ethic, can China build one on obligation?

I hasten to point out that I'm speaking in very flowery, vague poetry here. That might be the only way to draw the contrast properly.
Author name #69
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I wish I could step outside my head and answer that question, but I am trapped by my history.  I can't easily believe China's history and present will allow for any sort of society I'd be proud to call my own.  It won't be easy to create a lasting empire the way they're going.


I read something interesting today:

Quote by ChinaLawBlog:
At current rates of construction, China can build a city the size of Rome in only two weeks, and as much housing each year as there is in all of Spain.

Ye gods.
Just like NFG, but x 9!
Author name #70
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It's Time again. Not to shill for them or anything, but they like to do analysis of the China situation where many others are simply content to report statistics:

There are few countries in the world that have benefited more from China's rapid economic growth than Australia. The boom in exports Australia has enjoyed due to surging Chinese demand, especially for raw materials, is a key reason – perhaps the determining factor – why the country avoided a recession after the 2008 financial crisis. Trade with China is also spurring investment and creating jobs. But simultaneously, Australians are becoming uncomfortable about their growing relationship with China. They fret that the economy is becoming too dependent on China for its growth.

Full article is here:

http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/2011/06/07/why-do-…
Author name #71
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A very interesting article, and its assertions re: Australia seem accurate to me.

[reads whole article]

Dammit, every time I read one paragraph and write up a response, the next paragraph says what I was about to.  An excellent overview of China v The World as it stands currently, IMO.

Thanks for the link.
Just like NFG, but x 9!
Author name (Administrator) #72
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A few things I've read recently that I've been meaning to discuss here.

1. The Wiki is live.  This link is to the Resources page.  Your forum login should get you in, and you can update that if you've got any decent sources you'd like to share.

2. The Nanking Massacre is a significant blot on the China/Japan relationship.  A recent Sandcastle Empire article talks about the lengths Japan went through to prevent Chinese claims for compensation over these and other events:

Then in the late 1970s  China’s new supreme leader Deng Xiaoping was persuaded to do a deal: in return for a promise of billions of dollars in Japanese economic aid and technology transfers over subsequent decades, he signed away Chinese citizens’ rights. Thereafter top officials in Beijing proved almost as assiduous as their counterparts in Tokyo and Washington in sweeping victims’ claims under the rug.

Interestingly, this was something that very few people knew about, and fewer discussed, especially publically.  Iris Chang's book about the massacre was perhaps the first to really point out how much effort Japan went through to prevent what would surely be an endless series of claims:

Chang’s book posed a threat  not only because it broke the silence on one of the most dishonorable episodes in Japanese history but, far more alarmingly for Tokyo, it highlighted the not-a-penny compensation policy. This had previously been regarded by  Japanologists as the ultimate no-go area in East Asia studies.

3. Via ChinaLawBlog, an interview with Tom Doctoroff who describes the Chinese consumer rather nicely:

After 13 years here, I am fundamentally convinced that there is a unifying "Confucian" conflict -- between self-protection and status projection -- that brands have a fundamental role in resolving. Unlike practically any other country (Korea and Vietnam come closest), China is both boldly ambitious (ladders are meant to be climbed and meritocracy is a cherished value) and regimented, with hierarchical and procedural booby traps for anyone who hasn't mastered the "system." This tension between upward mobility and fear-based conformism shows up everywhere, in every business meetings, in every struggle with a mother-in-law, in every new generation release on the internet. Brands that help consumers simultaneously stand out and fit in have the greatest appeal.

4. From James Fallows, three sobering notes about china:

  - The Earth Policy Institute says that Cancer is now the biggest killer in China.
  - China News Watch saysthat ChinGov efforts to control the internet are becoming more and more effective, and harder to circumvent.
  - AlJazeera describes a significantly worsening surveillance situation, as this ABC Australia video demonstrates.
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #73
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Subject: Too many men in China
A very interesting interview over on Shanghai Scrap with Mara Hvistendahl, who has written a book on the gender imbalance in China.

Basically, Chinese moms tend to abort female babies, 'cause the culture prefers to have sons.

And this means that there's 152 boys for every 100 girls.

Um, China?  Your daft cultural baggage and access to modern medicine means one of every three of your precious sons is going to be unmarried.

I just want to grab and shake people and call them idiots, but I reckon I'll wait until Kendrick points out the inevitable other side to the story so I can keep from forming an uneducated opinion.  =)

But it does bring up an incredibly interesting topic for discussion: Now that women have fought and largely won the right to control their own pregnancies (except in cultural backwaters like the USA) how can we bemoan the fact that literally millions of women have made the decision to abort their pregnancy for bad reasons:

Quote by Mara H:
But choice now includes this whole range of options that are essentially frivolous consumer decisions.

It's a very fascinating read, and I could paste quotes from the entire article all day.  It's better for you to go read it yourself.

Quote by Mara H:
Chinese abortion clinics advertise on prime-time television and offer discounts to students.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/throwaway/Chinese-abortion-ad.jpg]
Online Chinese abortion ad.
BLEARGH
Author name #74
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Quote by NFG:
I just want to grab and shake people and call them idiots, but I reckon I'll wait until Kendrick points out the inevitable other side to the story so I can keep from forming an uneducated opinion.  =)


There's no other side to this story. China's gender imbalance problem is unsustainable, and would sadly be easily corrected if only they got over their prejudice against women. As observed by the author you've quoted, it's not just marriage that's a problem as other more base needs are being addressed in the human trafficking issue.

I don't think I've had the opportunity to talk about Mao's labor math yet. In the 1950s when the Communist party was still working out the details of their system, there was a debate as to whether a woman's unit of work was equal to a man's. The argument went on for a week or so before Mao came out of his boudoir (where he had three lovers at the time) and declared that labor is not fractional, and that for purposes of accounting a woman was equal to a man. Ironically, this would have been the beginning of a great social change, except that China steadily moved away from the socialist model and towards a market economy that didn't resist traditional sexism so much.

The gender imbalance problem gets written about in the west about once every six months, just like the coal mine deaths. Here are a few other recent examples in other major and minor media:

http://caase1821.blogspot.com/2010/04/effects-of-chinas-on…

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/27/with-1-chi…

http://www.paloaltoonline.com/square/index.…?i=3&d=1…
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Subject: China's economy to crash?
I found an interesting article today that talks about China's impending financial crisis.  I  love the drama, it's a great spectator sport.

Chinese consumers were punished severely over the last 10 years for the banking crisis of the late ’90s.  And they’ll be punished even more soon.  Keeping money in the bank didn’t make that much sense, and investment alternatives were limited. However, they could invest in an asset that supposedly never declines in price – a house or condo.  So they did.  As China slams the brakes on the economy and as housing prices fall, the banks will lose plenty of money. But more importantly, it is the people who bought tremendously overpriced houses, and their relatives who lent them money, who will lose.  The wealth and hard work of more than one generation will be lost, and this kind of pain leads to political unrest.

Source: Vitaliy Katsenelson
BLEARGH
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