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China’s Sticky Floor

May 13, 2009

A friend of mine (thanks Matt) sent over this article about the concept of a sticky floor in china’s work places.

If you are confused about the concept of a sticky floor, it has nothing to do with spittle and cigarette butts, rather it is a similar concept to a glass ceiling but for workers much lower down the food chain.

The authors claim that sexual discrimination is rife amongst China’s factories and women are unable to rise from the factory floor. Worker’s rights being a concept left for wealthy western employees.

I’m not sure that this is true though. In my experience of China, particularly of working with senior party officials, I have met many extremely powerful women. I have dealt with many companies with female CEOs and even negotiated against a fearsome female opponent who was the head of a state owned steel mill.

I am sure that the authors are not incorrect, it is just that one needs to take a step back.

I would like to see more of the study to really understand wage levels for men and women doing the same job. Perhaps they differ greatly.

However, when you look at the numbers of men and women employed in foreign invested companies at managerial level I believe that you would find a far greater number of women employed. It is a simple fact that foreign companies tend to favour women over men.

As with all surveys if you look hard enough you will always find the answer you were expecting but I do think that if we look at the economy as a whole then China is doing pretty well on sexual equality.

There is no doubt that China still has a long way to go on sexual equality but the same might be said for most western countries as well.

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Brilliant Link

May 4, 2009

This is brilliant, just superb.

A telegraph link to copycat cars at the Shanghai Autoshow.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/picturegalleries/5208546/Chinas-copycars-familiar-looking-vehicles-at-Shanghai-Auto-2009.html

Normally I have a witty comment or try to share my insight. This time I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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A word about a Crisis

May 1, 2009

I just attended an excellent networking meeting. Nice place, nice people.

The speaker spoke with authority on China although still managed to bring out a couple of the most basic errors about China and the Chinese language around.

This is a shame because I suspect he really knew his stuff but it turns people off when somebody gets something like this wrong.

The word for ‘crisis’ in Chinese is weiji 危机 and it is commonly said that the word is made up of two characters meaning ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ as such a crisis is dangerous but there is still opportunity.

So far, this makes sense. However, the character ji really doesn’t mean ‘opportunity’ it means ‘an opportunity for something to occur’ as such the best literal translation would be that weiji means ‘a moment where there is the opportunity for danger to occur’ or more simple ‘an occurrence of danger’

The second common mistake is to refer to China as the Middle Kingdom, the literal translation of the actual name for China used by the Chinese 中国 zhongguo. People often use this to say that the Chinese saw (see) themselves as being at the centre of the world.

This is not actually true, they considered their land as a sacred place that existed ‘between heaven and earth’ not the centre of this earth that barbarians reside in.

I would point out that this seems rather conceited but I am after all a POM so I am not going to lecture anyone on seeing their country as hollowed, special or anything else for that matter.

As for the Chinese seeing opportunity in a crisis, I would say that it is true, they are a smart people and smart business people from all races see crisis as an opportunity. Just don’t try to mangle the language that I love to prove the point!

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Interesting Article on the China’s Copper Strategy

April 22, 2009

My friend Matt sent me this article yesterday, which I thought I would share with everyone.

Seemingly a dry look at what China is doing regarding copper, it contains one or two interesting bits of information and style.

I have seen the question of whether or not China looking to use the current economic situation to further its interests quite a lot lately.

I often find it interesting with western journalists that they see such a move from the US as ‘prudent financial policy’ (although i suspect when it comes to the US that term is oxymoronic) but when China does it they are ‘trying to take over the world.’

The stand out part of this article is that it does not take such a tone.

So China’s longer-term view is that now is the time to secure a substantial foothold in copper to ensure the country will not be exploited in the same way it was with oil, iron ore and other materials in the last boom. ”

As someone who was on the western side of negotiations on iron ore deals 6 years ago I witnessed first hand just what that exploitation was.

At the top end of the scale were the major mills who had to purchase in a sellers market. It wasn’t so bad for them but they were definitely the weaker party during talks.

At the bottom end were thousands of massively uninformed small Chinese buyers scrabbling around for any bit of iron ore they could lay their hands on ripe for exploitation by anyone claiming to have ore. Right in the middle of this unholy mess were the mines in India and Brazil just putting up prices until it all collapsed.

No wonder the Chinese have decided to change their strategy- I would say that is a very smart move.

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What is going on in China’s luxury goods sector?

April 13, 2009

I have heard from a good friend who is also in the luxury goods sector in China that even companies like Ermenegildo Zegna are having trouble paying their bills?

Is this just a case of pushing the smaller companies to keep reserves up or are they being squeezed hard by head office?

Personally I find it hard to believe that the luxury goods sector should be anything but booming in China. Given the enormous resources of the wealthy in China, anyone with money to put down 5k on a handbag probably hasn’t been greatly affected by the credit crunch.

I realise that the casual visitor to China will see a plethora of LV nags in the hands of the myriad golden sparrows on the streets of Shanghai, but most of the bags are fake.

Perhaps the companies are cannibalising profits from China to feed into other areas. Certainly, in this climate I don’t much feel like buying myself a new watch. Although just as like, that is fatherhood speaking too.

Watch this space, I will be interested to hear of any reports on how the market is actually doing.

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Statues and Pointless Arguments

March 3, 2009

My sincere apologies to anyone who reads this blog for the low number of posts recently.

rest assured my blogging will continue but since the birth of my daughter and the starting of a new project I have been a bit snowed under.

My posts may be shorter but they will resume a reasonable regularity!

So my thoughts turn to the statues and the plethora of angry comments floating around the internet, particularly on Richard Spencer’s blog.

The nastier side of me might say that to all of the Chinese who request the return of the statues, perhaps we could have our stolen IP back in return. But that would be petty.

It is a shame that the Chinese government didn’t simply buy them back, but I understand that would have been a loss of face- they consider the statues to be rightfully theirs.

I have seen hundreds of messages and articles complaining about western imperialism and patronising China.

Personally I think that we should all just get over it, accept the statues for the amazing things of beauty that they are and move on.

It would be nice if they ended up back in the public sphere for all to enjoy, no matter who actually owns them.

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China’s Net Crackdown and the International Economy

January 12, 2009

I thought I might start a new thread mixed in with the language posts for those not so bothered about learning Chinese but still interested in China news.

China has started yet another internet crackdown, the usual suspects are up for ‘not being tolerated’ these being porn/ lewd pictures and political dissent.

Different blogs and news groups have tackled the issue from various angles- “Nervous China Tightens Grip on the Internet” in the Sydney Morning Herald/ China widens “vulgar” online crackdown- Reuters/ Cracking down on internet lewdness- China Rises Blog and quite a few others have reported on this.

So what does this mean?

Firstly, Zhang Ziyi has been seen topless on a beach with an enormous Israeli financier (her fiancee). Pictures have surfaced and there are few things the Chinese government likes seeing less than a national beauty ‘disgracing herself’ with a foreigner!

This has lead to a general crackdown on lewd sites and the Chinese pornography industry, which thrives on the net despite the best efforts of the government.

However, the government is, at the same time, cracking down on political sites. This is less well publicised as it makes less interesting headlines than stories about Zhang Ziyi but the major discussion site Bullog.org has been taken down and it seems that the government is putting pressure on academics to remove signatures from petitions potentially embarrassing to the government.

Normally I do not comment on politics too much but I do think that this has serious ramifications for business.

The Chinese government sees the economic slowdown as a major threat to China’s stability and its control on power. People are losing jobs, factories are closing and demand in the economy is dropping- now is not really the time to relax the grip on power.

I doubt that the tightening of regulations on lewd internet pictures is just a ‘pretext’ for other crackdowns but it is likely to be the start of a much less tolerant attitude during the coming months.

Some foreigners will make much out of this- any headline featuring China and the internet usually grabs attention, however, as business people we should be glad of the government’s actions.

A stronger control on power and an obvious acknowledgement of the challenges facing China during the economic problems show that the government means to keep stability.

Stability means a better environment in which to do business for both Chinese and western firms, which means people keep their jobs, money keeps flowing and people are more content, which leads, in turn, to more stability.

It’s a shame that we don’t get to see pictures of Ms. Zhang’s bottom* but when you get past the attention grabbing, anti-China headlines it actually all makes sense. A political and economic meltdown makes no sense for anyone, least of all the average working Chinese just trying to feed their family.

*Actually I have never thought Zhang Ziyi that attractive- something I have in common with many Chinese men. Just goes to show that western and Chinese concepts of beauty can be quite different.