Book Review: ‘Tiger Woman on Wall Street’

28 January, 2014 at 07:00 | Posted in books, China, Culture, Economy, Society | Leave a comment
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Junheng Li writes about her journey from China to America, shattering conventional wisdom along the way

By Valentin Schmid
Epoch Times

For a China skeptic, reading this book is like listening to a sermon. For a China bull, it will start ringing the alarm bells. For anyone interested in how the world’s second-largest economy works, this book provides a great overview, neatly packaged within the life story of a remarkable and interesting woman.

“My father’s quintessential tiger parenting ultimately resulted in an American success story built with Chinese strengths,” Junheng Li tells us about her upbringing in the suburbs of Shanghai in the 1980s, her American college experience in Vermont in the 1990s, and her successful Wall Street career in the 2000s.

Having lived in both cultures and having experienced both education systems, Li offers her insights on the differences between China and America. She builds a compelling case for why the mainstream perception that “China will rule the world” won’t come to fruition in the near future, and why America, despite its problems, is better equipped for a long-term contest.

“Until the software—the quality of its citizenry and society—matches the government-led hardware of infrastructure buildup, China is far from constituting a credible threat to America,” she writes.

Drawing on her experience as a Chinese citizen and an American businesswoman—Li now runs a boutique investment research firm specializing in Chinese companies—she sheds light on deep issues such as declining moral values in a communist state, and more practical matters like the risks hidden in the Chinese banking system.

Although the subtitle, “Winning Business Strategies from Shanghai to New York and Back,” over-promises a little, specific investment and real-life examples, as well as many Wall Street anecdotes, illustrate her main points.

As a result, the narrative never gets too dull or technical, so the book remains accessible to the average reader. In addition, most investors, whether professional or not, can learn a few things from Li’s contrarian methods.

Drilled for Success

For Li, education is the determining factor in her personal life, and in how China and America compete. In what she refers to as “tiger parenting,” Li’s father drilled her to be successful from a very young age.

She had to complete arithmetic exercises while kneeling on a rugged washboard with sharp edges. Her dad threw her in a swimming pool as a toddler with a small flotation device so she would learn how to swim.

“It was the only way his daughter would gain an edge in China’s highly competitive education system,” Li writes, adding she knew he was doing it for her, so she could be successful later in life.

She writes that the basic rigor of learning mathematics and grammar as a child is an asset she would use for the rest of her life. However, the Chinese system is based mostly on memorization, whether it is mathematics or Communist Party propaganda. Independent thinking and innovation are not taught.

“The [regime], represented by the Ministry of Education, still holds onto Marxist and Maoist teachings because it is afraid to part with the bygone era—parting with it would mean reform, and the party inherently fears reform,” Li writes.

This is a major flaw, which constrains the full potential of the country’s citizenry, according to Li. Rampant cheating in high schools and universities explains why Chinese companies have been successful mostly by working hard and copying others, fielding few innovations of their own.

Thanks to her father, who never believed communist propaganda and was an avid Voice of America listener, Li got inspired by the American classic movie “Gone With the Wind,” and set her sights to move to the United States.

After another round of hard work and memorization, Li aced her Chinese university and the TOEFL English exams, and got a scholarship for Middlebury College in Vermont.

In America, it wasn’t the academics of her economics course material, but rather the way education was approached in the United States that baffled Li.

“The hardest changes lay in the social and ethical rules that governed the campus.” She writes about the relaxed supervision, yet strict code of ethics at her college. Students were expected to complete their work independently and honestly, something she had never heard of in China.

According to Li, this approach of accountability, as well as risk taking and independent thinking in class and group work is a cornerstone of American innovation—a big advantage it has over China.

“China’s education system has failed to produce either an honorable or an innovative society,” is Li’s shattering verdict.

An Honor Code

Ultimately, the differences in the two countries’ education systems reflect a different moral code, which also translates into business practices.

“It [seems] counterintuitive. China had delivered impressive economic growth since I was a child. One would think that as a country gets richer, its people would no longer need to fight for their livelihoods. Shouldn’t they therefore hold themselves to higher moral standards, like the honor code we had at Middlebury?” Li asks.

Apparently not. Li then astutely analyzes this moral dilemma: Having robbed the Chinese nation of its spiritual beliefs by persecuting religious believers and indoctrinating the masses with atheist communist ideology, the Chinese Communist Party replaced a noble code of ethics with money worship and belief in the Party itself, which cares for nothing but power.

According to Li, solely caring about profit and outdoing others are the direct reasons for China’s creativity-stifling education system, slew of corporate scandals, widespread official corruption, and destruction of the environment, all of which Li documents with numerous examples.

“Social values remain weak because the system does not encourage citizens to believe in a power higher than the state—and given the personal tragedies and inequalities that many Chinese have witnessed in the last 30 years, the state is hard to believe in,” she writes.

Poised for a Crash

All of these factors have played a role in creating a lopsided behemoth economy that is ripe for a huge adjustment.

“Many people living in China, from the top leadership in Beijing to corporate executives to average citizens, believe the country is nearing an inflection point that will force it to reflect and reform.”

For Li, the command nature of the economy, the lack of morality, and the problems in the education system have left the Chinese economy with a one-size-fits-all solution of exploiting cheap labor and massive debt expansion, mostly for infrastructure investment and real estate.

She argues that while the export model of manufacturing cheap goods was successful in lifting 500 million people out of poverty during the past 30 years, it has now hit its limits as wage growth has surpassed the level of productivity growth.

Advancements in productivity are limited by an education system that fails to promote innovation, and therefore prohibits the progression toward more value-added products and services.

According to Li, the second wooden leg of the Chinese growth miracle is its massive debt expansion and investment in unproductive projects. Because the Chinese regime is obsessed with growth, when growth threatened to slow as part of a normal economic adjustment, it always forced banks to expand lending.

This prevented the occurrence of smaller cleansing cycles and created one massive debt super cycle, which has to come to an end sooner or later. More money funneled into unproductive investments by state decree will not result in more value creation. Instead, it looks like the whole economic system is poised for a crash—sooner, rather than later.

“The country’s trajectory seems similar to that of an athlete on steroids. As with most athletes on steroids whose temporary outperformance is inevitably followed by a long period of underperformance, the truth will eventually find its way out,” she writes.

The astute analysis found in “Tiger Woman on Wall Street” goes far deeper than the hyped-up numbers of Chinese GDP growth, currency reserves, or self-made millionaires. Li’s accurate and vivid description of China’s cultural fabric and its economy makes this a must read for anyone interested in the country’s economy and its people.

“Tiger Woman on Wall Street” is available from the McGraw-Hill Companies in print and in Amazon Kindle format.

via Book Review: ‘Tiger Woman on Wall Street’: photo 2

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Why Child Laborers Don’t Want to Go Home to Liangshan, China

21 January, 2014 at 07:10 | Posted in Children, China, Economy, Society | Leave a comment

Child laborers beg not to go home when rescued, while officials back home squander money excessively

By Zhou Xi, Radio Free Asia

A recent Radio Free Asia report has highlighted two corresponding issues in China that have drawn much public attention.

The first news in focus is that when an illegal child labor site was discovered in an electronics factory in Shenzhen City and 41 youth were rescued, none of these teenagers wanted to be sent home.

One girl told the reporter: “I can eat rice and meat here, at home I only have potatoes and corn. I don’t want to go home.” Their hometown is Liangshan in Sichuan Province, one of the poorest areas in the province as well as the whole nation.

There, transportation and utilities are undeveloped, and farmers’ per capita annual income is only 2,000 to 3,000 yuan ($300 to $500), roughly the same amount as these child workers earn in a month. Even the parents feel that going out to work is not a bad thing—the children can gain experience, make money, and eat meat. Even with working 12 hours a day, they have a far better life than at home.

Meanwhile, the West China City Newspaper reported on Jan. 7 that a member of the Communist Party Standing Committee of Liangshan, who is also the Secretary of State-Owned Assets Supervision Administration Commission in Liangshan, was criticized by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission for feasting on public funds.

While leading a work group to conduct grassroots inspections, the official spent over 15,000 yuan ($2,480) on a dinner in which cigarettes and alcohol accounted for over 8,000 yuan ($1,322).

An article by Zhi Shang Jian Zhu (Constructing on Paper) said “Spending 15,000 yuan on a meal—such squander even humbles the affluent areas, not to mention it happened right in Liangshan, where the rescued child workers do not want to return home because they don’t have meat to eat.”

It looks like there is actually no absolute poverty, only absolute injustice. While people are hungry, the officials live in extravagance. Where did their money come from? It comes from those incredibly poor people.

This is exactly what the old saying “Yu Rou Xiang Li” describes (Treat commoners as fish and meat, kill and eat as you wish), it’s not a lifestyle issue, but a crime in the rawest form.

It might be coincidental for the two pieces of news to break out at the same time, one is about child laborers working 12 hours a day, the other is about squandering county officials. These people come from the same hometown, but they live in two totally different worlds.

As early as 2008, it was exposed by the media that a lot of child labor was exported to Shenzhen and Dongguan in Guangdong Province from Liangshan, which is very remote and inhabited by elderly, minority nationalities, and the poor.

So how was the squandering local official reprimanded for his 15,000 yuan work dinner? He was merely criticized in a written notice.

Those children of poor families, even if they are “rescued” and sent back to Liangshan, will most likely return to the city in groups after the Chinese New Year at the end of January, and continue their child labor lives, eating rice and meat.

An article by Di Guo Liang Min (Empire’s Innocent Citizen) said the situation hasn’t changed since the 2008 media exposure. But would media exposure today help people realize how bad Liangshan’s poverty really is?

The image of local officials enjoying an extravagant dinner with a scene of child laborers being exported in large groups in the background creates a modern version of ‘Behind the vermilion gates meat and wine goes to waste, while out on the road lie the bones of those frozen to death,’ (written by the famous poet Du Fu of Tang Dynasty in 755 A.D.).”

The state of poverty in the remote, poor areas such as Liangshan is always troubling, and many feel helpless about the child labor phenomena. Some people even blame the media for exposing the existence of those child laborers, because it resulted in the children being forced to return to their hometown where they only have potatoes and corn to eat.

Such bitterness and frustration constitutes a true portrayal of contemporary Chinese society.

Read the article in Chinese.

via Why Child Laborers Don’t Want to Go Home to Liangshan, China » The Epoch Times

Britain’s First ‘Social Supermarket’ Opens Its Doors

12 December, 2013 at 07:04 | Posted in Economy, Environmental issues, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment

By Jane Gray

LONDON—The shelves of Britain’s first “social supermarket” are stacked with surplus foods that would have otherwise gone to waste, offered at up to a third of normal retail prices. The store opened its doors to customers in Barnsley, Yorkshire on Monday.

The store is accessible via membership card and is available only to shoppers on benefits such as income-based jobseeker’s allowance or pension credit. Around 500 residents in the area have been invited to participate.

Although a first in the UK, the idea behind the store is not new. Around 1000 similar stores have already been set up in Europe, with around 600 of them in France.

The organization behind the initiative in the UK, Community Shop, is already an industry expert in providing surplus food solutions for supermarket brands. Besides this store, Community Shop is looking to open more locations in the UK in 2014.

Social entrepreneur, Sarah Dunwell, who is directing the pilot scheme at Company Shop, Community Shop’s parent company, said that the stores will act as a “bridge between food charities and the mainstream retail shopper.”

“It’s designed to take the pressure off people who have a low family budget,” she said.

Whereas food banks give immediate support, Dunwell said that social supermarkets can provide a long-term solution for people living on the poverty line.

Supermarket chains Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Tetley, Co-operative Foods, Ocado, Marks & Spencer and manufacturers Young’s and Muller are supporting the scheme. All are providing surplus food to the Community Shop.

The global snacking company Mondelez International, owner of Cadbury and the brands formerly owned by Kraft Food, is also taking part.

Tony Bilsborough of Mondelez International said they are finding innovative ways to ensure surplus food “reaches people’s plates.” They are looking to support the scheme as it rolls out to other areas.

In the first six months of this year, Tesco produced 28,500 tonnes of food waste. Dunwell said the scheme provides an “ethical solution to waste disposal.”

No Compromise on Quality

Dunwell stressed that the store is providing good quality food that are all in date.

What is different, she explained, is that there will be less choice.

“There will always be cheese but maybe one day it will be cheddar and another day it will be Red Leicester,” she said.

In addition, the stores carry frozen food products with labels from competing supermarket chains that normally wouldn’t be seen together.

“For example, you’ll get an Asda lasagna, next to a M&S lasagna, next to a Tesco lasagna. Actually I like looking at those next to each other.”

Other items could be trial products or have labelling errors. The store will not serve any alcohol or tobacco.

Dunwell said that the social supermarkets are expected to be self-sufficient after the first year. John Marren, chairman of Company Shop, is investing in the project until it hits profit.

Six stores are forecast to open in London by mid 2014, backed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and chairwoman of the London Food Board Rosie Boycott. Twenty stores are projected to open in the UK by the end of 2014.

via Britain’s First ‘Social Supermarket’ Opens Its Doors » The Epoch Times

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‘Africa’s Youngest Billionaire’ Got to the Top Via Truth, Love and Compassion

2 June, 2013 at 19:12 | Posted in Body & Mind, Economy, Science | Leave a comment
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'Africa's Youngest Billionaire' Got to the Top Via Truth, Love and Compassion » The Epoch TimesBy Jasper Fakkert
Epoch Times

SAN FRANCISCO—At age 31, Ashish Thakkar has gone from being a penniless civil war refugee to heading a multi-million dollar pan-African conglomerate. He has enough wealth to be known as Africa’s youngest billionaire. But when it comes to wealth and business, Thakkar has his own view.

Thakkar’s parents, originally from India, were forced to leave Uganda in 1972 during the expulsion of Asians by then-president Idi Amin. They fled to the United Kingdom, and this is where Thakkar was born. When he was 12, his parents decided to sell their business and move the family to Rwanda.

But a peaceful life didn’t last long. When the Rwandan genocide broke out in 1994, Thakkar and his family were forced to flee the country—through the now famous hotel Rwanda—to Uganda.

“It was, of course, horrific … Today, I’m probably thankful I got to see that, because it was an experience which has reshaped my thinking and my philosophy,” said Thakkar in an interview with The Epoch Times in San Francisco.

In Uganda, Thakkar and his family started to pick up their lives again. Eager to start his own business, Thakkar convinced his parents when he was 15 to allow him to drop out of school and start his own business. His parents consented. He managed to borrow $6000 and rent a small store in a nearby shopping mall where he started to sell computers. He frequently flew back and forth from Uganda to Dubai to purchase the computer supplies he sold in Uganda.

Eventually Thakkar settled in Dubai where he founded the Mara Group. Thakkar has proven to be extremely proficient in business. He has grown the group to now operate in 26 countries, 19 of them in Africa, and to employ more than 7,000 people. It’s ten subsidiaries operate in the communication technology, real estate, hospitality, and manufacturing sectors.

But despite heading a multi-million dollar conglomerate and ambitions to become a defining force in strengthening Africa’s business power, Thakar is not your average entrepreneur.

A ‘Clean Intention and Clean Heart’ in Business

At the center of his personal and professional vision are what he describes as the core values of “truth, love, and compassion.”

“People should never underestimate these values. It’s so important; they were applicable a hundred years ago, and they are still applicable today,” he said.

“When you do things with clean intention and clean heart, it always works out. I am a strong believer of that.”

They are values that Thakkar relates back to his spiritual belief as well as what he went through in Rwanda as a teenager. It helps him in dealing with the problems he encounters in doing business.

“Some things don’t work out, and they’re not meant to work out. And the things that do, are meant to … I think honesty, being transparent, being truthful is the key thing,” he said.

While the first few years of his career were all about the bottom line, Thakkar says that has now transformed into the idea of making a difference and how to “really move the needle on a global scale” for Africa.

And it is this needle that Thakkar is now tirelessly trying to move—hoping to give young African entrepreneurs the same opportunities he had.

“If you’ve been given the tools to help others, then you must now help others,” he said.

Supporting African Youth

A report published earlier this month by the United Nation’s International Labor Organisation (ILO) states that on average 12 percent of youth in Africa are unemployed, a number that exceeds 50 percent in some individual African countries. It’s a number that the ILO doesn’t expect to change anytime soon.

Thakkar believes that the answer for Africa lays in its small- and medium-sized businesses. While these private enterprises have the potential to provide a large number of jobs, many fail. Thakkar wants to improve the success-rate of these businesses by guiding them and setting them up for success.

In 2009, Thakkar created the Mara foundation to provide young entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to succeed in Africa, as well as to empower and inspire them. Part of the foundation’s program connects successful entrepreneurs as mentors with new entrepreneurs.

“I’m a home product, I’m made in Africa. So I’m not someone who has done it in Silicon Valley, who quickly made an amazing amount of money by creating the right app. This was hardcore training on the ground in Africa,” he said.

But the last thing Thakkar wants to see is wealth become a goal in and of itself for these young entrepreneurs.

“The measurement of wealth is the worst thing … The driving force being just purely wealth, I don’t get it. It doesn’t excite me,” Thakkar said.

According to Thakkar, impact, not wealth, should be the defining factor what inspires young entrepreneurs. “I want to celebrate the people who are creating the most impact,” Thakkar said.

Thakkar is now frequently called “Africa’s youngest billionaire,” a title he himself calls unfortunate. “Some things you can control, some things you just can’t,” Thakkar said about the lists published on the internet that list him as a billionaire. When asked whether the statement is true in essence Thakkar declined to comment.

“We were on the top philanthropists in Africa list, that is more of an exciting thing for me. That inspires others, you know I want to be on that list.”

Thakkar said he believes that the fact that wealth is not an exciting factor for him comes from what he and his family went through.

“No matter how much money I would have had, I would have still been a refugee. … I wouldn’t have been able to stop that with my wealth … I still could have got shot in crossfire,” Thakar said. “Money can’t buy everything.”

via ‘Africa’s Youngest Billionaire’ Got to the Top Via Truth, Love and Compassion » The Epoch Times

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Anti-Corruption Activists Arrested for Demanding Officials Disclose Wealth

23 April, 2013 at 10:48 | Posted in China, Economy, human rights, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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By Carol Wickenkamp
Epoch Times

Eight activists have been detained in the past few weeks for calling on over 200 high-level officials in the Communist Party to publicize details of their assets, alongside new leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Most recently, rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi and veteran democracy activist Zhao Changqing were locked up on April 17, two days before Xi’s latest speech about countering corruption at a Politburo meeting on Friday.

“All Party members must keep high mental vigilance and gain more public trust for the Party by new progress in the anti-corruption struggle,” Xi said, according to state mouthpiece Xinhua.

Also on Friday, state-run media created special webpages that lead to online informant centers where the public can report on corrupt officials.

If they are afraid of their assets being publicized, it shows that there’s some issue with their property – Liu Weiguo

Overseas advocacy group China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said police have been detaining activists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens in a crackdown against anti-corruption and other politically sensitive issues.

The CHRD report added that the seized activists are part of “The New Citizens Movement,” and their petition for asset disclosure includes Xi Jinping and new premier Li Keqiang.

Lawyer and activist Liu Weiguo told New Tang Dynasty Television that Ding Jiaxi was completely within his rights to make the request for transparency. “If the human rights of a lawyer can’t be protected, then the basic rights of citizens will be trampled by the authorities.”

“If they are afraid of their assets being publicized, it shows that there’s some issue with their property,” Liu continued. “They possess huge amounts of undisclosed wealth. Officials fear that this evil will be exposed, so they stifle citizens who ask for disclosure.”

Ai Xiaoming, former professor of Sun Yat-Sen University, told Voice of America that Ding’s appeal is in line with the Party’s anti-corruption campaign. “So if you say asking officials to disclose their wealth is illegal, you are actually saying that the anti-corruption requirement raised by the Party is illegal.”

Prominent lawyer Zhou Ze blogged about the crackdown on his Weibo account: “It will be very difficult to systematize official asset disclosures,” he said. “Citizens who call for officials to disclose their assets get punished. The chasm between ordinary people, and the Communist Party and its officials is vast.”

With research by Ariel Tian.

via Anti-Corruption Activists Arrested for Demanding Officials Disclose Wealth » The Epoch Times

Driving ‘Green’: It’s Easier and Cheaper Than You Think

5 September, 2012 at 07:00 | Posted in Economy, Environmental issues, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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ARA

Driving in a more environmentally friendly way is easier and more important than many people think. It’s important because, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, highway vehicles account for 28 percent 1.5 billion tons of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions each year.

The good news is that you don’t have to buy a new car or dramatically change your lifestyle to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Just follow these easy steps:

Upgrade lubricants.

Next generation lubricants such as Royal Purple motor oil are formulated with unique advanced additive technologies that allow for longer intervals between changes. This means fewer oil changes which saves you time and money, and helps the environment.

Additionally, Royal Purple motor oil has been reported to improve fuel economy by as much as 5 percent compared to ordinary lubricants. It’s also been reported to increase horsepower and torque, so you can switch to an environmentally friendly product without sacrificing performance.

Take care of your tires.

Underinflated and/or misaligned tires can increase fuel consumption by as much as 4 percent, according to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Making sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure will maximize fuel economy and improve the safety and longevity of your tires.

Replace a clogged air filter.

If you have an older vehicle with a carbureted engine, replacing a clogged air filter can improve your fuel economy by up to 6 percent. Air filters keep impurities from damaging the interior of the engine, so replacing the dirty filter will save gas and protect your engine.

Stay tuned.

Keep your car in shape by following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance. Fixing a vehicle in need of a tune-up can improve gas mileage by up to 4 percent.

Recycle.

If you do your own oil changes, find a place that will accept your used motor oil by visiting http://www.earth911.com.

Learn more at www.fueleconomy.gov and http://www.royalpurple.com

via Driving ‘Green’: It’s Easier and Cheaper Than You Think | Autos | Life | Epoch Times

Experts Warn About Chinese Investment in Europe

29 August, 2012 at 17:04 | Posted in China, Economy, Society | Leave a comment
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By Lian Xin
Epoch Times Staff

The Chinese regime has boosted investment in Europe during the European Union debt crisis, but much as the troubled region needs the money, and there are reasons for caution, according to two experts. Professors of economics and business described what they said are hidden agendas that have little to do with business.

Professor Xie Tian of the University of South Carolina Aiken Business School told NTD Television, a New York-based, primarily Chinese broadcaster, that he thinks the investment is meant to mute human rights concerns, and to help the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) get military technology and weapons from the continent.

“The CCP is under pressure from the international community for its human rights issues. Governments in Western Europe denounce CCP’s human rights violations. The CCP diverts the pressure through economic investment,” he said. “So the CCP certainly has other hidden motives beyond making money.”

He added that he believes the Communist Party hopes investing will help it to obtain military technology from Europe, and lead to fewer restrictions on exporting arms from Europe to China.

“However, the West actually knows this, so it won’t sell its real high-tech arms to the CCP,” according to Xie Tian.

Xia Yeliang, a professor at the School of Economics of Peking University, said in an interview also with NTD that in recent decades, the Chinese regime’s foreign investments have brought little return in revenue. He said he thinks the investments are not always meant to build profits.

Xia referred to the financial losses and bankruptcies of state-backed Chinese firms, including some engaged in overseas investments. “It’s hard to say that these kinds of Chinese investments are entirely for economic purposes. In many cases, these investments have a strong political purpose,” he says.

They are aimed both to “strengthen China’s influence” in Europe, and “produce a psychological impact” in line with broader public diplomacy goals.

When investment flows from Europe to China, problems have ensued, according to French magazine Liberation. It quoted a French businessman in China who decided to withdraw his company from China over corruption and lack of security.

And even with a massive infusion of funds, Xie does not think the influence will be outsize. “The CCP is not yet at the point of truly influencing or manipulating the European economy. As far as China is concerned, this is a large portion of China’s total foreign investment. But in fact, its total amount is very, very small. The scale is also far less than the capital investment of Japan or South Korea in Europe.”

via Experts Warn About Chinese Investment in Europe | Business & Economy | China | Epoch Times

Science in Quotes: Nature and Economy

4 April, 2012 at 07:43 | Posted in Economy, Environmental issues, Nature, Science, science in quotes, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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“Nature’s economy shall be the base for our own, for it is immutable, but ours is secondary. An economist without knowledge of nature is therefore like a physicist without knowledge of mathematics.”
— Carl Linnaeus, in “Linnaeus: Nature and Nation,” as translated by Lisbet Koerner.


Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) was a swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician. He is known for his work on taxonomy.

via Science in Quotes: Nature and Economy | Earth & Environment | Science | Epoch Times

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The Dangers of Choosing to Remain Ignorant

9 March, 2012 at 08:40 | Posted in Body & Mind, Culture, Economy, Environmental issues, sustainable development | 2 Comments
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New book indicts the willful blindness encouraged by capitalism

By Faith Wood

In spite of our protests to the contrary, as individuals, we prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar. We prefer to surround ourselves by people who think like us and share our ideals and values.

We crave conformity over critical thinking and individuality—heck, our schools and industries are filled with examples of talented people ‘toeing the party line.’

We stay silent when we should speak out or question for fear of being ostracized.

This may allow us to construct a world around us that feels cozy and safe, but it also blinds us to valuable information and behaviors that should alert or alarm us. We stay silent when we should speak out or question for fear of being ostracized or ousted from the group. This fear of not belonging primes us into becoming willfully blind.

Ignorance No Excuse

The term “willfully blind” is a legal phrase that can be traced to the 19th century. It refers to a situation in which, if an individual could have and should have known something, then the law treats it as if he knew it. The claim of not knowing isn’t a sufficient defense.

Margaret Heffernan notes in Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril (Random House): “The law doesn’t care why you remain ignorant, only that you do.”

Examples of willful blindness are evident everywhere, from ignoring (or failing to read) your financial statements to delaying attending the doctor for a symptom that just won’t go away.

While we tell ourselves that ignorance is bliss, unfortunately this level of inattention can ultimately destroy us. After all, just because we don’t look at the statement doesn’t mean we don’t owe money and won’t still lose the house.

Heffernan’s proposition in Willful Blindness is that when capitalism is part of the equation, the tendency to be deliberately blind elevates exponentially.

Corporate executives greedy for compensation, politicians who vote for legislation knowing it will never work, and auditors who turn blind eyes to findings because they don’t want to lose their client’s business all make destructive blunders because of willful blindness.

The conclusion Heffernan reaches is that fear of change and conflict can blind us to evidence. And so can the power of the almighty dollar.

Chapter by chapter, the author challenges readers to stop turning a blind eye. She points to historical evidence, such as the days of the Hitler regime—when so many people turned away and did not want to see what was happening right under their noses.

Heffernan quotes a letter written to an Austrian concentration camp by a local woman during World War II. The woman requests that “inhuman deeds be discontinued, or else be done where no one has to see them.” The fact that you don’t want to see that which makes you uncomfortable doesn’t change what’s happening or your culpability as a bystander.

Willful Blindness forces readers to explore such indisputable evidence of our tendency to blindness. The author’s research covers personal, corporate, and political genres, from the BP refinery explosion in Texas and in the Gulf, to Enron, to hurricane Katrina, and the subprime mortgage meltdown, to tanning beds, Bernie Madoff, and global warming. There are too many examples to ignore, and yet our ability to do so is staggering.

Heffernan notes that “people are about twice as likely to seek information that supports their own point of view as they are to consider an opposing idea.” They’re particularly “resistant to changing what they know how to do, what they have expertise in and certainly what they have economic investment in.”

We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering out whatever unsettles our egos.

Victims of Complacency

A challenge to our big ideas feels life-threatening. And so we strive mightily to reduce the pain, either by ignoring the evidence that proves we are wrong, or by reinterpreting evidence to support us.

In today’s fast-paced society, our demand for longer working hours and quest for multi-tasking regimens is only contributing to our vulnerability and putting us at even greater peril.

Heffernan, however, does pose a few antidotes to willful blindness. She warns that if a group is too comfortable (complacent) with one another, it ought to sound alarm bells. It is when we are most uncomfortable, she writes, that we are able to avoid slipping into the mind-trap of Willful Blindness.

Faith Wood is an internationally recognized behavioral strategist (www.imind.ca). Courtesy Troy Media (www.TroyMedia.com).

via The Dangers of Choosing to Remain Ignorant | Viewpoints | Opinion | Epoch Times

 

China ‘Shocked’ Australian Mining Companies Don’t Take Bribes

6 March, 2012 at 14:53 | Posted in China, Economy | Leave a comment
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By Victoria Clarke
Epoch Times Staff

An unnamed former Australian senator has declared that China’s mining companies are “shocked” by the lack of bribery in the Australian mining industry.

According to a series of emails published by Wikileaks on Feb. 27, the former Australian senator—dubbed “source CN65″—describes China’s mining sector as deeply corrupt.

The emails were an exchange between the senator and Stratfor—an international intelligence analysis company. Stratfor provides daily intelligence, security, and financial briefings to clients, including the Australian Defense Force.

The Senator stated, “Where foreign companies do get access to tenements, they always seem to lose out because the mining sector in China is one of the most corrupt sectors of all.”

The former senator then went on to state: “They simply cannot get it in their heads that the rule of law applies to mining projects in Australia. They refuse to believe that they have a right to receive a mining lease subject only to complying with relevant environmental permitting conditions. They think you have no credibility unless you tell them that you need to bribe someone.”

Bribery, or “guanxi” as it is known in China, is a common problem. In 2010, four officials of an Australian-based mining company Rio Tinto were arrested in China and reportedly admitted taking bribes of over $10 million.

The leaked information was part of a Wikileaks release of The Global Intelligence Files. Over five million emails from the Texas headquartered Stratfor were made public. The emails date between July 2004 and late December 2011.

The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods, according to Wikileaks.

via China ‘Shocked’ Australian Mining Companies Don’t Take Bribes | National | Australia | Epoch Times

Charity Donations in China Mostly Go to Official Coffers

27 February, 2012 at 09:38 | Posted in China, Economy | Leave a comment
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By Gao Zitan
Epoch Times Staff

Nearly 60 percent of donations to charities end up in government coffers, according to a recent study.

The “2011 China Charity Contribution Report” was published on Jan. 8 by the China Charity and Donation Information Center of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The report relates to NGOs in 2010.

As reported by Beijing Times, 58.3 percent of donations go to government offices or organizations affiliated with the regime, such as China Red Cross, while only 1.3 percent of donations have gone to independent charity organizations and nursing homes.

Chen Shuqing, a member of China Democratic Party, was critical over the statitics. Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power it has monopolized social activities in the name of governance, he said, including charities. Chen said that the Party treats management of donations to charities as part of the rightful functions of government.

“Among charities, the so called ‘Red Cross’ is only an extension of the Chinese government,” he said. “The donations made by the people to the Red Cross, are actually taken by government. The government manages and distributes these donations without any proper bookkeeping; it’s difficult for people to know where these donations have been used, how much [has been used], and what it has been used on,” Chen said.

He also said that there are a number of charities that appear to be independent but which are actually affiliated with the regime.

While official charities are flush, in January China’s Foundation Center http://www.foundationcenter.org.cn received a joint letter from seven non-profit NGOs in the Qinba Mountain area in Northwest China, saying that they faced problems of survival.

Out of these seven, six were established around 2000. In the early days of operations, they were supported by foreign funds. But in recent years, international agencies have stopped financial support to Chinese charities. At the same time, there is very little local support.

According to the China Youth Daily, there were about 381,000 NGOs registered in China by the end of 2007—most of them are affiliated with the government. The number of non-registered self-organized NGOs is estimated to be about 3 million, the article said.

Deng Guosheng, Director of Tsinghua University School of Public Management Innovation and Social Responsibility Research Center, said in an interview with Sound of Hope radio: “Chinese grassroots NGOs were established initially with help of foreign aid, and subsequently developed well. Due to the international financial crisis, European debt situation, and slowdown of the US economy, many international NGOs have gradually withdrawn support from China. Local NGOs depend on foreign help and have no other source of support.”

Deng added that he suspects funding to have been withdrawn because of perceptions of China’s economic development—but he said that development only benefits certain sectors.

Wei Zhongping, an independent candidate running for a seat in China’s lowest-level legislature, told The Epoch Times that charitable donations in China lack proper supervision. “Where the donations have gone is not known to us, and there is no way to investigate either.”

Unaccountability erodes public trust and deters contributions, he said. Chinese media reports indicate that charitable donations fell by 80 percent from June to August of 2011, after scandals about charities came to light.

“Unlike in other countries, pop stars and entrepreneurs in China do not come forth to make donations,” Wei said. “One of the main reasons is misuse of the funds. Those who donate on goodwill get totally disappointed because they’re actually feeding some greedy ‘worms.’”

He pointed to the siphoning off of funds donated after the earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province in 2008. “An ample sum came by way of donations to alleviate the suffering of the people. But the first thing the government officials did with the earthquake donations was to buy a bunch of luxury cars.”

The Beijing Times reported a study by Deng Guosheng on that topic. He and a team of 10 conducted a four month survey of earthquake donations, and using only official figures found that 80 percent of the 76 billion yuan donated went into government accounts.

“Who would care to donate anymore?” Wei said. “The donors are all bitterly disappointed.”

Read original article in Chinese

via Charity Donations in China Mostly Go to Official Coffers | Society | China | Epoch Times

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What Looms Behind China’s Growing Urbanization

5 February, 2012 at 07:40 | Posted in China, Economy | Leave a comment
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Epoch Times Staff

China’s urban population has passed the 50 percent mark, according to China’s Bureau of Statistics. This is the first time in Chinese history that the urban population exceeds the number of people living in the countryside. And while the regime touts urbanization as the engine behind China’s future economic development, analysts say there are problems with the statistics.

China’s urban population has passed the 50 percent mark, according to China’s Bureau of Statistics. This is the first time in Chinese history that the urban population exceeds the number of people living in the countryside. And while the regime touts urbanization as the engine behind China’s future economic development, analysts say there are problems with the statistics.

“Urbanization exceeding 50 percent means China’s thousands of years of history as an agricultural society is about to begin a new era,” a Jan. 17 China News Network article quoted from a report by Li Peilin, Director of the Institute of Sociology at China’s Academy of Social Sciences.

Li also said that after industrialization, urbanization will become the engine behind mainland China’s future development.

Statistical Manipulation

Urbanization in mainland China is not a natural growth process, but a forced one, and some of the statistics are fabricated and give a distorted picture of the new city dwellers and their future prospects, according to some analysts.

Cheng Xiaonong, a China affairs researcher at Princeton University, questions the validity of the official statistics. He says the so-called urbanization is just a statistical trick, whereby in many places, towns have been upgraded into cities, and villages renamed as districts, suddenly turning the countryside into an urban area.

“Looking at China’s map, many county seat towns have been renamed as cities. After changing the name, lots of rural populations suddenly become city populations,” Cheng told Voice of America (VOA) in a Jan. 17 report.

Migrant Workers

According to a Tianjin.net report on Jan. 18, some mainland scholars say it would be more accurate to calculate China’s urban population by counting only those who are registered city household, rather than counting the total city population.

The [huge numbers of] migrant workers who are in a city but don’t enjoy the benefits of a city, can’t be considered part of a city’s population, the report said.

Therefore, when the urban population was said to have reached 47 percent, some scholars estimate the actual number should have been 40 percent, with the rest being fabricated.

Forcing Farmers off their Land

In a Nov. 23, 2011 report, Beijing Times—one of the country’s most outspoken newspapers–quoted Gan Zangchun, deputy inspector at China’s National Land Bureau, saying that government land acquisition has created “fake urbanization.”

Princeton University’s Cheng Xiaonong also remarked on this in his VOA interview. He said in lots of places in China farmers are forced to live in towns.

Citing Chongqing as a typical example, Cheng said, “[Party chief] Bo Xilai has been promoting a policy of moving farmers into towns–building apartments and moving farmers into them–and treating this as urbanization.”

Cheng said urbanization isn’t about calculating statistics, but about farmers being able to move into the city and gaining the same level of treatment that city residents get.

“If farmers can never obtain the same benefits city folks have, then the 160 million migrant workers in China will never become [real] urban residents,” Cheng said.

Cheng added that urbanization is generally accompanied by economic growth. In other countries, urbanization happens naturally, but in mainland China, urbanization is the result of the Chinese regime forcefully pushing farmers off of their land.

“If you pull on a plant to make it grow faster and pull the roots out of the ground, can the plant still grow?” Cheng asked.

Professor Patrick Chovanec at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management also warned of this issue. “Mainland China’s policy makers have used urbanization as an excuse to build many buildings, but didn’t think about how to turn all that into an economic advantage for sustainable development,” he told VOA on Jan. 17.

In the U.S., the urban population exceeded rural population in 1920.

Renowned online commentator Yu Fenghui said on a Sina blog: “China is only at the 1920 U.S. level. It’s not really something worth getting excited about.”

Yu went on to say that as China’s urban population grows, it will bring along lots of resource shortages related to employment, education, retirement, and housing. Low-income growth, lack of social benefits, and inflation will add additional hardships.

Throughout China’s major cities, many impressive looking high-rise apartment buildings are nearly empty. Housing in Beijing and Shanghai is priced at 20 times the average city dweller’s annual income, and throughout China 85 percent of city residents who need a new house cannot afford one, according to a Dec. 29 Epoch Times report.

Read the original Chinese article.

via What Looms Behind China’s Growing Urbanization | Society | China | Epoch Times

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Shop Your House: Stage Using What You Have

19 January, 2012 at 07:06 | Posted in Economy | Leave a comment
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By Cathy Hobbs, ASID

As home staging always means highlighting the positives and downplaying the negatives, the overall visual presentation is key. Because many homes that are staged are owner occupied, a stager will either ask the home seller to remove a number of pieces in order to rent, or in some cases purchase, replacement furnishings.

Or, what happens more often in this economy is to use furniture a home seller already owns. I call the process “shopping the house” when I set out on a treasure hunt to see what items a homeowner may have hidden in a closet, attic, or in simply another room.

It may be hard for home sellers to “re-imagine” their home using items they already own, which is where a Certified Staging Professional comes in.

Recently, while teaching the three-day Certified Staging Professionals course in Arlington, Va., my students and I executed a dramatic before-and-after transformation without spending a single penny! Before the staging, an attached home in Arlington (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) was lingering on the market. Upon entry, I quickly noticed a home that was full of “stuff” but void of life. There were rooms with no clear function, some used as storage areas and poorly laid out.

In “shopping the house” we first went in search for large attractive furniture items we could use to create a solid floor plan and flow, and then from there fill in the gaps with accessories and artwork.

Read more: Shop Your House: Stage Using What You Have | Real Estate | Business | Epoch Times

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People Are Awesome: The South Carolina Coffee Shop Where Everyone Pays for Everyone Else’s Drinks

11 January, 2012 at 11:16 | Posted in Body & Mind, Economy | Leave a comment
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Cord Jefferson

The main conceit of the 2000 Kevin Spacey film Pay It Forward is that if one person does a kindness for three strangers, and those three people each do kindnesses for three strangers, and so on, one person can change the world.

Rarely do we see this acted out in the real world the way it was cinematically—one scene finds a man giving away his brand-new Jaguar to a guy having car troubles—but on a smaller scale, these sorts of random niceties happen far more often than you might think. Today, it’s selflessness at a small coffee house in Bluffton, South Carolina.

It all started two years ago at Corner Perk, a small, locally owned coffee shop, when a customer paid her bill and left $100 extra, saying she wanted to pay for everyone who ordered after her until the money ran out. The staff fulfilled her request, and the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has returned to leave other large donations every two to three months.

“People will come in and say, ‘What do you mean? I don’t understand. Are you trying to buy me a coffee today?'” the shop’s owner, Josh Cooke, told the local news. “And I say, ‘No, somebody came in 30 minutes ago and left money to pay for drinks until it runs out.'”

Read more: People Are Awesome: The South Carolina Coffee Shop Where Everyone Pays for Everyone Else’s Drinks – News – GOOD

China’s Uncompetitive Trade Policies

17 May, 2011 at 09:07 | Posted in China, Economy | Leave a comment
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By Heide B. Malhotra
Epoch Times Staff

China is aggressively pursuing the control of world trade, becoming more and more transparent in its effort to steamroll anything that threatens its ambitions.

The race for control is already well on its way. At this time, China already controls almost all of the world’s trade of rare earth metals.

“China controls about 95 percent of the global trade for the 17 minerals that collectively make up the rare earth metals market,” according to a 2011 article on the Fellowship of the Minds website.

It is not that China acquired the world’s rare earth metal mines, as they are on Chinese land, but it makes every effort to acquire mines in other countries. Then again, rare earth metals are found in the United States, in Canada, and according to the Pentagon, in Afghanistan. But only China is willing to mine these metals, while the others are not. The exorbitant production cost is claimed as the main reason.

Financial gurus suggest that China’s control of the rare earth metal trade “is mostly a result of low Chinese wages and lax environmental controls having made it unprofitable to mine the elements in other countries,” according to The Local, Germany’s English language local newspaper.

Read more: China’s Uncompetitive Trade Policies | China | Epoch Times

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