Thursday Jul 03, 2008

Go for Gold

Cross posted at

Humor me. Have a piece of paper and draw the productivity curve of yourself over the next 15 years. Most people's curve steeply go upward during their younger years (30 to 45) and flattens out as they age (50+).

Humor me again. Draw a curve of China's economoic growth over the next 15 years. If you think the break-neck speed will continue forever, you are crazy. Most people predict a gradually flattening curve after about 10 years.

If you are 27 to 35 years old in China, do you see the amazing similarity of your curve and the country's? Do you realize this overlap happens once and only once? China will not have the same growth rate again. Therefore, the opportunity is reserved only for one generation, and that's you. Not me, a geezer, not those who are still in college or just graduated.

Or, we can reverse the angle of the conclusion, if this generation does not answer to the call, China will not grow as fast for the next 15 years. History has forged you and China together. Isn't that exciting?

Be entrepreneurial, take risks, innovate. Whatever you do, don't fail China. Don't fail yourself. Don't fail history. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") TagEnd() </script>

Tuesday Jul 01, 2008

Diversity is Gold

Cross posted at

No. It is useless to counts people's ethnic origins. What turns diversity into a competitive advantage is the difference in philosophy, perspective, or approaches to problem solving. In "The Wisdom of Crowds" James Surowiecki made a point that individuals in a group must be different and independent otherwise the wisdom disappeared.

And I also found the peril of global thinking. Too many company thinks globally by insisting the same policies, strategies, or business processes for all their global presences. This actually turns globalization into a burden: management either simplifies by sinking to the lowest common denominator or complicates by creating bureaucratic machines to handle all differences. Both make globalization a liability. Observe how Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and too many companies failed on capitalizing China.

Companies must carefully choose what should be the same globally and what can be different for each locale. This choice requires courage and a team that knows both the soul of the company as well as the uniqueness of each region, or at least the regions that matter. Does having a large employee base in China help? Or they simply become nuisance in management because they are so far away and so difficult to manage?

Don't confuse an American company with global presences with a company that is globalized. Similarly, don't confuse a staff with only diverse ethnic origins with a diversified staff. In both cases, the former is a competitive disadvantage and the latter an advantage.

No, it is not easy at all. Neither is making money. Are you an American company trying to make money in China, or India?

Wednesday Jun 04, 2008

A more expressive language?

Bi-lingual readers, did you notice my Chinese posts are always shorter? Hmm...

Sunday Jun 01, 2008

A Beijing online purchasing experience

Yes, mundane as it sounds, it is worth a blog.

In a hurry, I asked Haiping to procure some for me. She diligently researched, on Internet of course, and found the desirable one. What happens after is where the American and Chinese experiences diverge.

She picked up the phone, spoke to a human being, confirmed the availability (just briefly), and placed the order. A day later, a young man, a bit sweaty and in such need of a shower that I wished to shorten our interaction as much as possible, rang my doorbell and presented me with the merchandise: 5 2GB USB-stick for 66rmb each. Plus 5rmb of shipping makes the total 335. Yes siree, I bought 5 USB sticks for US$48.33, call it US$10 each.

Find me a place the shipping charge is less than a dollar in US.

Wednesday May 28, 2008

Skin Scraping

Cross posted at

Somewhere between Xi'An and Beijing, my friend and her daughter caught a cold — an ordinary travel story except for the treatment she sought.

Traditional Chinese medicine has 4 standard treatment methods: pressure points massage, acupuncture, spot heating, and herbs. Note that surgery is not one of them and the first three are different physical forces on the same system: the "qi" circuitry. Based on a completely different set of theories than its western counter-part, Chinese medicine believes energies in a body govern life, or the healing processes.

To treat colds, one merely needs to unblock the natural balancing hot and cold energies; skin scraping the right areas the right way does just that. The bruises are the proof: the toxins now have floated to the top and will soon dissipate.

Physiologically, scraping damages the skin. When our body tries to repair, it also eradicates the cold virus. It takes a few hundred years to discovered the best areas to stimulate such responses.

Yes, both the mother and the daughter had their skins scraped. (Pictured is my back.) They felt much better the next day. Skins felt just fine, except during hot showers. Small prices to pay, they happily claimed, to be able to enjoy the rest of the China trip. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Chinese Medicine") Technorati("Skin Scraping") TagEnd() </script>

Saturday May 24, 2008

ErWang Temple, no more

Cross posted at

Just saw the report that ErWang Temple of DuJianYan collapsed during the earthquake. I took the picture on the left last November.

This temple was first built probably 1000 years ago. Last renovations was around 1908. It completely collapsed this time. Guess it qualifies as a once in a 100 years earthquake.

It is such as sad feeling that what I saw last year is gone forever. I had a similar sensation when the World Trade Towers collapsed during 9/11. I visiited the restaurant on top of them not too long prior to the disaster either.

The TV news showed workers spraying antiseptic over the debris. There are less and less "miracle rescue" stories and more and more on tent cities, heroic logistical efforts, and the national mourning. The whole country stood in silience for 3 minutes a few days ago. Cars stopped and honked at the same time. Many moist eyes, tears, or even crying during those minutes.

I honestly do not know if any government can do better than China handling a disaster of this scale. The actions were swift, organized, transparent, and open-minded. That 3-minute silence touched every citizens and solidified the entire country. Chinese showed their bests. Money poured in; factories mobilized to produce whatever; distribution systems efficiently move goods to the right places, even drop got a receipt from the recipient; civilians blogged, photo'ed, or emailed heart-wrenching stories.

Won't forget this for a long, long time.. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Earthquake") TagEnd() </script>

Monday May 12, 2008


China, at 2:38pm today, had a major earthquake at SiChuan, WenChuan, at 7.8 scale. Few minutes later, at 2:35pm, Beijing's TongZhou had one at 3.9 scale. I was at home and felt the rolling moves. Company evacuated everyone to the nearby open area. I heard no damages.

Friday May 09, 2008

You have 7 years to learn Mandarin

Fortune magazine's Geoff Colvin agreed with economist Angus Maddison that by 2015, China will become the largest economy, supplanting the USA, of the world. That's 7 years from now.

He noticed that the US supplanting then the largest economy only in 1890, overtaking, guess which country, China. Since technologies will inevitably spread to every corner of the world, population will eventually became the main factor for economy. It is only natural that China to "resume its natural role as the world's largest economy by 2015," taking them 125 years to catch up the lead the US has from industrial revolution and and wars.

I agree with the eventuality of this prediction, but not necessary the exactness of 7 years: more like 20 in my opinion. But this is hardly the main arguement.

The new generation of business leaders, now in their 20s or 40s, must learn to do business in China and with Chinese. 7 years is not that long to master a language, especially when one is not even trying.

Thanks Jim Grisanzio for mentioning. I am adding this line just to send trackback.

Friday Mar 28, 2008

Swimmers in HouHai

There is something in the water. Oh My Gosh, someone is swimming. Hmm, why would anyone swim in that water? Wow, it is quite a distance. This guy is an able swimmer.

Just when that interest was fading, I found his launching pad. One of his fellow swimmers just finished dressing up, next to a big bottle of rinsing water, probably communal. This is a popular swimming hole, evidenced by a group of men drying up under the nice sun, horsing around and having a good time.

Three paces fore, I found this sign saying swimming is not allowed.

I walked on, shaking my head and not knowing what to say. Looking up, a restaurant worker is cleansing his mop in the same water. In addition to whatever the ducks leave behind, I wondered what else are in this big swimming pool.

Monday Mar 17, 2008

Would you marry him?

Phone rang. Girlfriend cried on the other end. She was sick and lonely. She was stranded in the biggest snow storm in 50 years and can't get home. Sob. Tears. More sob.

Deng hung up, put on a pair of long underpants, grabbed an extra jacket, threw few things into a tote bag, borrowed about $80, and ran out. In between them, thousands of cars parked on the highways. Millions of people waited in train stations, bus depots, or airport terminals. In 24 hours, he reached the point all mechanized transportation halted.

Girl was still 250 miles away. The ambien temperature hovered below freezing.

Off he walked! For more than 18 hours he walked on the icy and deserted highway through freezing rains and blizzards. He walked, Forrest Gump style, by himself. His trousers were wet and covered in ice. He ran out of foods. A stranger gave him $15 and some foods. He used the money to buy some talking time for his cell phone. Soon, the money ran out and, again, he entered radio silience involuntarily.

After about 65 miles, the stranger found him and told him that the girl was OK and arrived home. Deng collapsed almost immediately. He recovered in a couple of weeks and became the hero of China's storm of 2008. Women all over the country thought he was the most romantic one of the year.

The girlfriend dumped him a couple of months after.

Thursday Feb 07, 2008

Year of the Rat

This will be my 3rd installation of Chinese New Year blog. There had been sad departures this year in Beijing. We have seen many friends leaving their posts, often for something better or bigger. This is a vibrant and fast-paced city. People come and go. Many left their imprints on our hearts.

I wrote two years ago that

Years are numbered in cycles of 60. You can think a Chinese "century" is 60 years. Instead of numbers, Chinese name these 60 with two counters: one in the cycle of 10 and the other 12. The former is called the "heavenly" counter (天干, TianGan) and the latter "earthly" (地支, DiZhi). The earthly counter is actually 12 animals.

Similarly, I wrote last year that.

Chinese years are counted with two cyclical counters, one has ten symbols and the other 12. Together, they make up cycles of 60. In a way, a Chinese century is 60 years. Each counter is characteristically categorized into one of the 5 elements — metal, wood, water, fire, and earth — that make up everything in the universe. These 5 elements are assigned to the first 5 planets of the solar system, respectively Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn.

Not only each counter has an element, it is either of Yin or Yang. This year is the 5th on the heavenly counter and 1st in earthly: 25th in the cycle or the year of 戊子 (WuZi). In Chinese numerology, odd numbers are Yang and even numbers Yin. The 5th heavenly counter, 戊, is of the earth element. Adding all these together, we have a earthy and masculine (Yang) rat coming.

This reveals a rarely known factoid about the earthly counters: why are those 12 animals chosen? It turns out the sequence of these 12 animals are alternating in Yang and Yin. Those with odd numbers of toes are Yang animals and those even Yin. The Yin or Yang of heavenly and earthly elements always matches: Yin with Yin and Yang with Yang. The world is in harmony and all is good, except for rats.

Rats have an unique Yin Yang quality. They have 4 toes in their front paws and 5 in the rear; they are both Yin and Yang! For this reason, rat designates the mid-night hour, the time in between Yin and Yang. This makes many Chinese not sure about rats: ghosty, sketchy, shifty. On the other hand, rats reproduce quickly and are impossible to exterminate: proliferating, energetic, diligent, and tenacious. There are advantages to be in the year of the rat. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Chinese Calendar") TagEnd() </script>

Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

China Shrank

New York Times reported that World Bank has been computing GPD, based on PPP, with 1980's prices all the time. After they have switched to current prices, China's GPD shrank to mere US$6 trillions, instead of US$10 trillions.

China Daily picked up the same story on December 18th, but the numbers are slightly different.

This is comical. PPP based GPD, said the article, is preferred by economists. World Bank is among the most prestigeous economist society. It is a collosal blunder for World Bank to have used a 25-year-old price basket for GPD computation. I don't really quite understand how can this happens, governments, China included, publish CPI data every year.

Does this mean the USA has lost their ground to pressure China to appreciate RMB faster? <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("GPD") Technorati("World Bank") TagEnd() </script>

Tuesday Dec 04, 2007

Another Year

According to China Daily, China's economy grew 11.2% in 2007. As for 2008, the forecast is 10.8%. I still remember government's target of 8% at the end of 2006. Guess many countries hope to deal with China's problem — having too much money. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") TagEnd() </script>

Wednesday Nov 28, 2007

Spitting, Queue-jumping, Swearing and Smoking

What constitute civilization? What makes a society pleasant to be part of, or intolerable? What makes you shake your heads, or irate and want to punch someone? What make you thinking of not coming back to this area ever?

Small things. What Rudy Giuliani called "quality of life" factors. In China, they fall into two general categories: inconsideration to others and not picking up after self. These are the new "4 pests" China government want to eradicate before Olympics. And I am 100% behind it. I would like to add the 5th one (and everyone has their favorite 5th one too) of littering.

I am confident that China will become a pleasant place for everyone. The economy is driving it and nothing motivates a Chinese more than growth. As the economy turns more and more consumer oriented, those "one time get rich schemes" will disappear and reputation will prevail as the leading success factor. At business level, this means quality and services. At personal level, this means good social behaviors. I also believe, in general, individual wealth promotes nicer social protocols.

It will be a nice day for me to see someone walking 5 paces, clear his or her phelgm into a tissue, and throw that into a garbage can. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("New 4 Pests") TagEnd() </script>

Monday Oct 29, 2007

They are 16 years old!

If you read Jim Grisanzio's blog like many, you have already known about our ACM/ICPC contest in Nanjing and seen this picture.

They are high-school kids! These two are 17 and their teammates are even younger. They, about 10 high-schoolers, are guests in this college-only event. They would go through the contest like real teams, but won't be eligible for winnning.

I chatted with them briefly. They have only heard about Solaris prior to this contest. "It seems very powerful. Everything that is supposed to work really does." Jim had a conversation with them too — in English. They are not shy, they know they probably won't win, but they knew the future will be theirs.

And I am real glad that they learned Solaris already.




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