Archive for January, 2009

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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.

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Funny Interlude

January 6, 2009

Now, I in now way agree with the sentiments here, but it is still very funny. 

fail-owned-screw-china-fail1
Thanks to http://www.failblog.org
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Should You Even Bother to Learn Chinese? Part 2

January 4, 2009

Back after the Christmas hiatus I wanted to return to the topic of Chinese language learning.

In a previous post I gave some reasons why you may consider it not worth learning to speak Chinese when doing business in China.

Obviously, as I Chinese speaker I did take the time to learn Chinese and thought it a worthwhile exercise, as such I must have had some pretty good reasons for doing so. Here are a few thoughts:

Practicality:

Speaking Chinese shows a long-term commitment to China. Once you are over the highly annoying conversations about your Chinese ability people often do relax and treat you more as they would a fellow Chinese. It won’t happen all of the time but it is nice when it does.

95% of the time, your interpreter will be absolutely hopeless*, speaking poor English, adding their own bits here and there and generally making life much more difficult than it needs to be. Much better to actually be able to speak directly to people than rely on someone else.

If you do chose to live in China for any period of time then it really does help to be able to pay your electricity bill, get a taxi, order a meal or generally just do more than ‘get by’ or ‘survive.’

Speaking Chinese allows you to speak to the other 90 odd percent of Chinese people who do not speak English. Imagine just how skewed an opinion of Britain you would have if you only spoke to 5 percent of the population. Even more so if it was only the 5% that were educated enough to speak a foreign language.

Enjoyment:

Chinese is an amazing language- it is not so much conceptually difficult as just completely different to western languages and requires a huge ‘brain shift’ in order to learn effectively. This is a rather fun process and a great challenge.

As adults, I think that we lose some of the thrill of learning and gain a fear of looking silly when starting new things. It is spiritually good to actually do something that is so different and new, no matter how old you are.

Employment:

This is a tricky one, people will tell you that speaking Chinese is a wonderful door-opening skill that will be your passport to riches and glory. It isn’t. Being super smart, a polymath and also speaking Chinese may well be, but speaking Chinese alone makes you about as attractive to a prospective employer as a gansu peasant.

Combine the ability to speak Chinese with just about any other important skill, however, and suddenly you become very attractive. If you are already a highly skilled engineer/ lawyer/ researcher/ IT expert and you take a couple of years out to learn Chinese then this is a winning combination.

If you are looking to study Chinese then my advice here is to study law or economics first, then plan to spend two years in China learning Chinese and networking. It will stand you in much better stead than a degree in Chinese ever would.

Conclusion:

Hopefully, by now, you have decided if learning Chinese is actually worthwhile to you. Over the next couple of posts I will look at where to start learning, how to start learning and a few clever tricks to help you on your way.

*Shameless plug: Interpreters provided by my company are not hopeless, in fact, they are generally rather good so if you do wish to have your own interpreter then we can provide one at a reasonable cost.