Friday, September 25, 2009

National Day Parade?

My friend, with whom I shared a flat in Scotland, gave me a call on Monday and invited me to dinner on Tuesday evening. He also invited two lovely British girls who are currently traveling in Beijing. He made good friends with the parents of one of the ladies when he was studying in Britain. So, the girl called him to meet up and here came the welcome dinner.

We watched the traditional ‘face changing’ shows in the Sichuan restaurant named 'Ba Guo Bu Yi' near the famous 'Nan Luo Guo Xiang (南锣鼓巷)', had a nice dinner and chatted happily on various topics. During the dinner, the two ladies asked us if they could go and watch the National Day parade at Tiananmen Square and if there would be any fireworks. Neither my friend nor I could say definitely if they could be allowed access to Tiananmen Square to watch the parade. I said hesitantly, ‘Yeah, maybe … we don’t know about that. There could be some fireworks on that day.’ My friend said, ‘We really don’t know. Actually people here don’t care much about the National Day celebration … They are busy preparing to travel outside Beijing during the national day holiday’. Then, I realized how much the people living in Beijing cared about the 60th Anniversary celebration. Very little! This is in sharp contrast with the media coverage of the event.

Perhaps, people in Beijing are just not in the mood to celebrate? It's more about holiday than National Day, I guess?

Friday, August 28, 2009


I haven’t blogged a lot recently. I’ve been busy and lazy. When I return home after a busy day, I just don’t feel like doing anything that may require the use of brain. Ok, this is just an excuse. The fact is I am a bit lazy. Despite my laziness, there are still a lot of things happened in the past a few weeks that I would like to blog about. I’ve been to meetings with people from Dangdang and Joyo (Amazon China) respectively. Being a fan of internet-based business, I’m always interested in the competition between the two B2C online retailers in China. I’m happy to have the chance to have a glimpse of how they carry their business differently and what they are planning to do in the future. I may write a post on this topic sometime in the future. Another topic I may blog about is NAME. Yes, I mean a person’s name. My Chinese name is Hang Something. It’s my real name in Chinese pinyin. ‘Something’ is my family name. As you can see, my Chinese name ‘Hang’ is quite pronounceable. I DON’T have an English name. ‘Hang’ is my Chinese name and English name in one. However, people in the office tend to give me an English name ‘Jack’. Do I need any English name? No! But, if I do, it’s Hang!

By the way, where is Jack? Jack died when Titanic hit the iceberg. Hang hangs on and is still alive and kicking! :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Representative offices in China? Probably no.

I wrote a post recommending foreign companies to go for LLCs (WFOEs) instead of rep. office in China. Today, I came across a similar post entitled 'Representative Offices In China. Things Just Got More Difficult/Expensive.....' on China Law Blog. I think the post echos my points. Why not do business legally and wisely in China?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

President Sarkozy: music, but not politics!

Hi Mr. President,

How are you doing? I hope you are well. You know, I don't like your opinions on Tibet. But, I do like your wife a lot. Don't get me wrong. I mean I like your wife ... for her MUSIC. I suggest you listen more to your wife's music, or perhaps talk to her more often instead of talking to some 'spiritual leader'. That does not help spiritually, you know?

Stay healthy.

Best wishes,
Songwriter, singer and former model, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Ok, the above was written with tongue in cheek. Just now when I turned on the radio, a hostess and a male guest were talking about music (mainly Jazz, blues) and some songs were played. When the song 'You Belong to Me' was played, it immediately got my attention. I said to myself, "I like the song and the voice. Who is the singer?". Then I did some research online and this is what I found out. The singer is Carla Bruni, the former model and now wife of French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. She quit her modeling life and successfully turned into a musician. Fortunately, she did not stop pursuing her music career after marrying the President. She's good and talented. She will be on my music radar from now on.

The song is actually a cover version. A solo acoustic version of the song was also recorded by Bob Dylan in 1992. I listened to Bob Dylan's version too, but I like Carla Bruni's version of the song a bit more. Great, I finally find a new song to add to my ipod!

Wait, I changed my mind. Bob Dylan's version is equally excellent!

Songs from external links:
You Belong to Me by Carla Bruni
You Belong to Me by Bob Dylan

Lyrics -You Belong to Me (by Bob Dylan)

See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sunrise from a tropic isle
Just remember, darling all the while
You belong to me

See the marketplace in old Algiers
Send me photographs and souvenirs
Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to me

I'll be so alone without you
Maybe you'll be lonesome too
And blue

Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it's wet with rain
Just remember 'til you're home again
You belong to me

I'll be so alone without you
Maybe you'll be lonesome too
And blue

Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it's wet with rain
Just remember 'til you're home again
You belong to me

Juliette Lewis: “I just want to tell you I love you, and I miss you. Don't
forget about me. You won't forget about me?”
Woody Harrelson: “I won't forget about you. It's cool. No matter where he takes
you, Timbouktou, it don't matter, because it's fate. Know? Nobody can stop fate. Nobody can.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Land King! 地王!

Property developers surrounded by journalists at the public auction
No. 3, the winnerPan Shiyi, Chairman of SOHOChina, gestures "Niu (牛)".

You don't have to be the 'King of Pop' to get the media coverage and become a super hot topic in China. To be a 'Land King' is enough to make it a hot topic and get continuous and intensive media exposure in this country. What is a 'Land King'? 'Land King' in Chinese refers to the real estate developer who pays the highest land transfer price ever in history to buy a piece of land in a certain geographic area (e.g. a district in Beijing, a city, a province, or China). So, a property developer could be a 'Land King of Haidian District' if it pays the record high price in Haidian District to buy a chunk of land. The developer could also be a 'Land King of Beijing' if the price paid is also the highest price ever in Beijing.

Housing price has been the most talked-about topic in China for years. The surging housing price is the real pain for people living in Beijing, Shanghai and almost everywhere in this country. You MUST have your own house! That's what people think here. The financial crisis brought down the housing prices to the delight of prospective buyers. Apparently, the financial crisis was so 'weak'. The housing price plunged for a short period and begins to soar again! Record high prices have been paid for pieces of land in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou respectively this year. When 'Flour (land) becomes more expensive than bread (house)', the price of the bread (house) will naturally go up. On June 30th, Fangxing Property, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinochem, acquired a chunk of land on Beijing's Guangqu Road for 4.06 billion yuan (US$59.7 million), the highest land transfer price ever in the city's public auction. Fangxing Property is not a big name developer in Beijing. But the developer successfully outbid big players such as SOHOChina, Vanke, Poly and was crowned the 'Land King' in Beijing. This has been big news recently. Those who were selling their houses in the nearby area had either increased the asking price dramatically or withdrawn their properties from the market to wait for a better time to sell. Pan Shiyi, the Chairman of SOHOChina, says to media that the record land price will surely push up housing prices in the nearby area of that piece of land. Understandably, he wasn't happy that SOHOChina failed to win the bid. However, he pointed out that his company could not compete with the less known Fangxing Property, a state-owned enterprise that had benefited from the government's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package and obtained huge loans from Chinese banks. Also, the 'Land King' in Hangzhou 'coincidentally' turned out to be a company with SOE background. I assume we can see clearly where China's soaring bank lending goes! It goes to SOEs and the real estate market (and the stock market, too?). Isn't the government trying to curb speculation in property market? We don't want to see so many 'Land Kings', especially the 'Land Kings' with SOE background! If the housing price continues to rise crazily, a 'HOMELESS' generation of young Chinese will soon come up!

Can you afford to buy an apartment for CNY13,000-24,000/sq. m. with a monthly salary of CNY 3,000-10,000 (before tax) in Beijing?

P.S. The 2008 average monthly salary of staff in Beijing is CNY3,322 (US$488.5).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It may take another 10 years ...

Picture from
I've been following the news on Urumqi since the bloody riot broke out. As usual, I've read a lot of reports online from western news outlets, such as BBC, CNN, Reuters, Guardian, FT, WSJ, NYT and so on. I was once again disappointed by their 'fair and balanced' news coverage. Little improvement has been made from last year's coverage of Tibet. I've followed some western journalists on Twitter who are reporting from Urumqi. Strangely enough, the short messages they left on Twitter seemed to try to tell people what was going on there (the facts). But when the full news articles came out online, they never seemed to be balanced news coverage. Some western media even compared the 'peaceful protest' in Urumqi with the Tiananmen protest in 1989. What a joke! What an irony!

In 1989, Chinese people had no access to western media and few Chinese could speak and read English. I was till a child back then, but I clearly remembered my parents strongly support and sympathize those students who protested in Tiananmen because 'they were protesting against corruption'. Yes, my parents solely relied on CCTV for information then, but they supported the protesters! Now, 20 years later, more and more Chinese can speak English, and western media are more accessible. The number of Chinese who are studying, working and living abroad is huge and still growing. However, the overseas Chinese, fully exposed to western media and democracy are exactly those who are at the forefront of criticizing and protesting against biased western media. Does this mean anything to those western media? I'm afraid not. Eyes shut, ears closed.

Fortunately, I managed to read some balanced news articles on Guardian. So, there is till hope.

A few weeks ago, I left a comment under a post by a blogger, Aimee Barnes. The post had something to do with journalism and China. Then Aimee asked my opinion about something like how western journalists can improve news coverage of China. Honestly, I didn't give any opinion but said that I thought it might take another 10 years for western media to cover China with more fairness and balanced opinion. For some reason, my comment did not appear under that post. Anyway, it did not bother me.

I know a post like this will automatically get me the label of 'Chinese nationalist' from western media. Well, I think calling those Chinese who protest against biased news reports 'nationalists' is just CHEAP tactics. Wanna check how 'nationalist' is defined here?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Economy cools while films get hotter

'If You Are the One', a top performer at the Chinese box office (RMB 340 million)

China’s film industry is one of the few industries that are immune to the current financial crisis. I watched a TV program entitled Economy Cools While Films Get Hotter (《冷了经济 火了电影》) on CCTV a few days ago. A number of actors, producers and some other professionals involved in the film industry are interviewed in the program. The lipstick effect is believed to have played a role in China’s fast growing film industry under the current financial climate. There is no doubt that China’s film industry has been growing by leaps and bounds in the recent 5-7 years. According to the program, the number of homegrown films grew from 88 in 2001 to 406 in 2008. Box office sales grew to RMB 4.341 billion ($638 million) in 2008 from RMB 950 million ($140 million) in 2003. Despite the impressive growth of the film industry, the program points out a number of issues that need to be addressed:
  • A small number of homegrown films are making money. Most homegrown films are either losing money or merely at breakeven.
  • It’s difficult to raise capital. Many film production companies spend more time raising capital rather than actually creating and producing films.
  • Lack of original/excellent creation in film production.
  • Box office is the only main revenue stream. More revenue streams need to be utilized.
This is an interesting TV program that gives some basic knowledge of China’s film industry. China’s homegrown films accounted for more than 60% of the total box office in 2008, and China is one of the fastest-growing film markets in the world. No wonder U. S. is battling to get more Hollywood films exported to China. Some Chinese film production companies (e.g. China Film Group, Huayi Brothers) are doing very well. However, for all Chinese filmmakers, there is still a lot to learn from their American counterparts.

In short, China’s film industry is prosperous and full of potential. However, there are still a lot of losers out there. It can be very risky to invest in this fast growing industry.

BTW, Transformers 2 has been on screen for a while and I will contribute 80 yuan to China’s box office sometime next week.

Related reading: China's film industry on fast track

Friday, June 26, 2009

An era ended

MJ, King of Pop
When the shocking news reached this corner of the world in the morning, I felt really sad. I was not and never expected to get emotional. The polarized image of MJ had been lingering in my head for a long time. But, that did not last any longer. I got overwhelmed by the sadness in the afternoon when I was looking through the news and the reactions of people on the internet. Those photos, music and videos are so evocative of the old days when MJ was singing. I just could not hold back the emotion and it's stirring inside! Words fail me ...

Michael,你依然是那个流行乐之王! 一路走好!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


2009 Declaration of the Anonymous Netizens
Finally, Google is blocked, which means I cannot use Gmail and Google Docs. I am really frustrated, because my primary email is with Gmail. Besides, I need to use Gmail/Docs to update my blog. The harsh and irrational decision to block Google has infuriated millions of netizens in China. I had a peek at some Chinese online forums and vented my anger there. The blockage has been on for a while and nobody knows how long it will last. The government has made a very stupid decision. I don't see how they can justify the decision and I don't see what they are going to achieve. One thing is for sure, netizens are unhappy. Here comes the widespread 2009 Declaration of the Anonymous (Chinese version (also see the photos)/English version). I feel much better after reading it. My words are saved.

How productive is the GFW?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Debating an eye feast? LOL

Photos from

The China Swimwear Design Contest Final was hosted at the 'Water Cube' sometime last week. I happened to watch the fashion show on TV (live? no sure). But, unfortunately I missed the first half of the show, in which the Chinese National Flag Bikinis were featured. Not being a fashion conscious guy, I still enjoyed the show. You know, beautiful and willowy models! A feast to the eyes! However, before I came across the report here (in Chinese), I was not aware of the debate whether using Chinese national flag design of bikinis is a disrespect to the flag. Some fellow blogger has translated the report into English here.

Honestly, I didn't expect this national flag design could trigger a debate. Anyway, I am amused. What to debate for? Maybe some Chinese netizens have got too much time to spend on the internet? Why not just feast your eyes on those beauties and come up with something more meaningful? Actually, I'm a bit suspicious of the truth of the report. Because I haven't seen such debate of the topic on a number of popular online Chinese forums. On second thought, maybe the report was cooked up by some crappy journalist? Easy job, em?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Photo story

A man was being forced into a mini van
Pushed into the van
Policemen in plain clothes?
The photos show what happened under my flat about one and a half hours ago. Very loud argument broke out from outside. Out of curiosity, I looked through my window and saw a bunch of people including a woman were wrestling with a man. Those people were shouting, 'Get him in the car! Get him in the car'. The man was shouting, 'Let me go, I don't know you! ...' Apparently, they were trying to force this man into their mini van parked in the middle of the road. I thought it might be a kidnapping and grabbed my camera to take some shots. As the 2nd photo shows the man was overpowered and pushed into the mini van. When they were about to leave, a black car suddenly appeared and blocked the mini van. Several guys in plain clothes came out of the car and shouted, 'Don't move! (别动).' Then, the mini van stopped. At that moment, I thought those guys must be policemen. It seemed someone must have called the police earlier before the incident. The man 'kidnapped' stuck his head out of the window of the mini van and screamed to the policemen, 'I don't know them! I don't know them!' At that moment, my camera ran out of battery and I couldn't take more shots. Those 'kidnappers' began to talk to the policemen and behaved obediently. Anyway, the man was rescued and they moved out of my sight a few minutes later.

Phew! My photos will not be used as evidence by the police!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Travel 2.0, Youth 3.0? Any idea?

I have some understanding of what 'Web 2.0' refers to. Even though there is little revolutionary development from so called 'Web 1.0', the term 'Web 2.0' came into existence and has been widely used by many people to refer to the web we are using today. I have no problem with it since everybody has some knowledge about what 'Web 2.0' means. But, it seems some people have become addicted to conjuring up new concepts nowadays. In the last a few days, I came across terms like 'China Travel 2.0' and 'Youth 3.0' on the internet with absolutely no clue what they refer to. These so called 'new concepts' left me bewildered. How can 'travel' be 2.0ed, and 'Youth' 3.0ed? And, how did the age of 'Youth 2.0' circumvent us without being noticed? Weird, weird, very weird!

Anyone knows what 'Youth 3.0' is?

No idea? It doesn't matter. I've come up with a new concept 'Sex 2.0'. I AM SMART

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vancl, the fast follower excels

Chen Nian, the founder and CEO of Vancl
Yesterday, I watched a TV program interviewing Chen Nian (陈年), the founder and CEO of His name isn't unfamiliar. He is also the co-founder of (Amazon China). When Amazon acquired Joyo, he continued to work as an executive VP. However, things went sour when heated argument between him and the newly appointed top American executives began. In the end, he was not happy and left Joyo. Now, here comes Vancl, a leading online shirt retailer and a brand of men's apparel. Actually, Vancl isn't the first to explore the B2C business online. It's PPG who made a buzz first. PPG's advertising campaign almost made PPG a household name in China in 2007 and early 2008. PPG's ads were everywhere on TV and on many newspapers. However, PPG's advertising campaign backfired. It was too EXPENSIVE, which cost PPG the first mover advantage. News came out last year that PPG was in trouble and short of cash. The entrepreneurial Chen Nian was amazed by PPG's business model: selling shirt online, self-owned brand, outsourced logistics & production, and no factories needed. According to himself, he studied PPG for several months before coming up with the idea of Vancl. The business model is not much different, but Chen Nian put his advertising campaign ONLINE. That's why whenever I browse the internet, I see Vancl. Vancl was established in Oct. 2007 and later in mid 2008 received a total of USD 30 million venture capital investment. Vancl sells more than 10,000 shirts per day. According to the TV program, Vancl's sales revenue reached RMB 300 million in 2008, which was a miracle for a newly established company.

Two months ago, I bought a shirt, a pair of trousers and shoes on Vancl. Honestly, I'm very satisfied. It's inexpensive and the quality is very good. I remember Chen Nian boast that Vancl's products, moderately priced, are made of well selected high-quality fabrics, and the quality is not inferior to many big name brands. I am not an apparel expert, but I assume he lives up to what he's promised. What makes Vancl an instant success? Here are some of my thoughts,
  • Being a fast follower. PPG, the first mover, found the niche
    market. Vancl followed with improved business model and is more capable of executing the business plan.
  • Knowing clearly who the customers are. Vancl targets male professionals aged between 25 to 40. Well, I'm one of those customers who's reluctant to spend time walking around shopping malls to buy clothes for work use.
  • Knowing how to reach target customers at a reasonable cost. Vancl's ads have been on a lot of well selected websites (e.g.,,, etc.). I've heard from a friend who has some contact with the marketing officer of Vancl that over 80% of their advertisement is online. There seems to be a profit-sharing agreement with various websites. That's exactly where PPG did wrong. I watched PPG's ads on TV and newspaper. All that I knew was I could dial a telephone number to order PPG's shirts, but I wasn't aware of PPG's website even though it was vaguely mentioned in the ads. Also, it's too expensive to advertise on TV and newspaper.
I think the above three points are the keys that led to Vancl's success. Also, there are other reasons behind Vancl's success. For example, Vancl knows customers needs very well and keeps improving their products; and Vancl's other marketing activities (e.g. customer loyalty program, giveaway electronic coupons) help foster a large number of loyal customers; good logistics ...

As I know, the orders made via are still on the rise. But, wait! Where is PPG now? Can Vancl take a breath now? I am afraid not. Masamaso and Bono are coming to get you!

Related reading:
VCs in China: Kleiner’s shirt factory, Sequoia’s farm
Vancl Secures Series C VC Financing

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Apricot-picking trip

Apricot trees

I got a call from my ex-ex-boss early last week, inviting me to join his family, relatives and former workmates to go on an apricot-picking trip to a village in Haidian District on Saturday. I said, 'Great, I'll be there'. On Friday, a former colleague, also a good friend, invited me to dinner and asked me to stay at his flat so that we could go together in his car early in the morning. It was raining when we hit the road. It took us about 1 hour to get to the village. When we met the other people we headed for the apricot orchard, which is on the hill near the village. We did apricot picking in the rain, which took away some of the fun. However, I noticed that a lot of people/families still managed to come out to do the trip. Anyway, the trip was not so bad. It's great to meet some friends I haven't seen for a while. It's my second fruit-picking trip. I did one many years ago. Fruit-picking is the activity that you go to a fruit orchard, enjoying your time with family/friends while picking fruits. Then, you can bring the fruits home after paying the farmer. Fruit-picking trips are popular in Beijing in Spring and Summer when fruits are ripe. Families/friends drive to the fruit orchards in the countryside. They are welcomed by the farmers who raise fruit trees in orchards, because it helps speed up sales during fruits' short maturity period.

By the way, unlike the other people, I didn't bring back any apricot which is not my favorite fruit. Next time, I'll take an apple or peach-picking trip. :)  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The anniversary

I was frustrated and angry today, because my wireless internet connection did not work almost the whole day, and I was treated with terrible customer service by the vendor who sold me the CDMA wireless card at Buynow Plaza. However, I'm happy to read the post entitled 'Looking Forward to Tomorrow' on China Hearsay before I go to bed. It's nice to read a post like that by a laowai who keeps the sanity, which is in sharp contrast with so many 'commentators'. I left a comment on the above-mentioned post and I do not have the desire to say more about the anniversary.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, too. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Representative Office or LLC in China? That is the question.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from one of my blog readers from US. We exchanged some emails chatting about some Chinese pop musicians, and later he expressed his interest in doing business in China. He said that in future his company would register a representative office in China and work on getting Chinese clients, which prompts me to wonder why foreign investors tend to register a rep. office instead of a LLC (limited liability company) to do business in China. So, here comes this post, in which I'll remind interested foreign investor of the regulations that he/she needs to look into before he/she decides to register a business entity in China, also I'll talk about the pros and cons of a rep. office and LLC.

Before you decide to invest in China, you're advised to look through the Catalog for the Guidance of Foreign Invested Enterprises (Revised 2007) (or, 《外商投资产业指导目录(2007 年修订)》in Chinese), which is a catalog of encouraged, restricted and prohibited foreign investments. Basically, it tells you which industry you are allowed or not allowed to invest in, and in what form, WFOE or JV, etc. Unfortunately, I cannot find an officially translated version of the Catalog. Interested foreign investors may use Google to find unofficially translated English versions of the Catalog. Anyway, don't worry. Foreign investors are allowed to invest in most industries in China. Then, let's look at the pros and cons of a rep. office and LLC.

Pros of Rep. office:
  • No minimum registered capital requirement.
  • No allowed to conduct actual business (only for liaison purpose);
  • Cannot hire Chinese employees directly; Employees sign employment contracts with a qualified HR company (e.g. Beijing Foreign Enterprise Service Group Co., Ltd. or 'FESCO' in short) and employees are then dispatched to work for the rep. office. The service provided by FESCO is not cheap.
  • Must pay taxes even if a rep. office does not have any income. The tax payable is calculated on the basis of a portion of a rep. office's expenses.
Pros of LLC:
  • Can conduct actual business in China;
  • Can hire Chinese employees directly;
  • Pay taxes just like any other Chinese company.
  • Minimum registered capital requirement: RMB 30,000. (Trust me, nobody would do big business with you if your liability is limited to just RMB 30,000. To make your company look trustworthy, increase the amount!)
Rep. office is only useful for companies that need special permit or license to operate business in certain industries in China, for example, banking or securities. Before these companies can obtain a license to operate their business legally, a rep. office is a reasonable choice to begin with. Foreign universities can also register a rep. office to recruit Chinese students. I would advise most foreign investors to registered a LLC if you're serious about doing business in China.

Of course, there are other business forms you can choose. My objective in this post is to advise foreign investors to go for LLC rather than a rep. office. Don't always assume a rep. office costs you less than a LLC (You pay the registered capital and it's still yours, right?).

You may be interested in having a look at the Company Law of P.R. China (《公司法》). By the way, registering a company in China is not so difficult and you don't have to hire expensive lawyers to help, unless your case is complicated and you feel the need to use lawyers. However, if you don't want to waste time on your trips, you may need to hire a professional agent to run errands for you and get your company registered.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's Barca time on Dragon Boat Festival holiday

I didn't get up at 2:30 AM this morning as planned to watch the Champions League Final live on TV. I'm a fan of attractive and attacking football. Arsenal and Barca are my favorite football clubs. So when I woke up in the morning, I was a happy man. Barcelona is the WINNER! Ha, ha ... Rookie coach Pep Guardiola outsmarted Sir Alex Ferguson. Barca beat Man. United by 2:0. I'm watching the replay of the match now. Lionel Messi had a fantastic game and he is my pick for the World's Best Player of the year. It's great news to begin with the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. I'm going to buy and eat Zongzi to celebrate Barca's win and the festival today.

The Dragon Boat Festival is widely celebrated in China. This morning, CCTV had a good coverage of the celebrations in Guangdong, Guizhou, Zhejiang and across the country. The celebration event in my hometown (actually my father's hometown), Jiaxing of Zhejiang province, was on TV for about 2 minutes. Jiaxing is well known for Zongzi with the brand name of Wu Fang Zhai (五芳斋). Various fillings are used for Wu Fang Zhai Zongzi, and they are delicious! According to the TV report this morning, over 150 million Zongzi are produced by Wu Fang Zhai and sold across China every year. I'm going to buy some in the nearby supermarket here in Beijing. Great to eat Zongzi from my hometown on Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Barca's win is great, Zongzi is delicious and the festival begins!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The 'invisible' entrepreneurs

He is ordinary-looking, plainly dressed, hard-working but not so articulate. He is the bread earner of his family, but he takes big risks by putting all his savings into something called 'business'. He has limited education and no idea of business etiquette, but he IS in the business.

There is a culture of entrepreneurship in some regions of southeast provinces in China. About 4 years ago, I had the chance to have a glimpse of the small business of one of those entrepreneurs. At that time, my father, a retired electrical engineer was invited by someone to work for his startup business in a small city in Zhejiang. The business was to develop a product to be used to adjust the speed of battery-powered bicycle. Being bored at home, my father decided to move to the city and work for him. I was a bit worried and decided to accompany my father to go and have a look at the place where my father was supposed to live and work. The living and working conditions were anything but appealing. The boss (entrepreneur) was not rich and rented an unfurnished 3.5-storey apartment in the countryside, which was used for accommodation and workshop. The guy was married with a son. He employed some migrant workers. His family and all the employees including my father lived and worked in the unfurnished apartment. As the photos show, the floor was rough and uneven; The makeshift staircase looked dangerous; and, there was NO third floor! I had a chat with some migrant workers. They were young (between 17-23 yrs old) and worked 12-13 hours a day seven days a week. Actually, one 'migrant worker' turned out to be the niece of the boss. The boss' mother-in-law also worked as a cook in the apartment. Anyway, my father made the decision to stay and work. I was assured by the boss that he would take good care of my father. Then, I left the next day. My father only worked there for about 3 months. Later, I learned from my father that the business failed but the boss didn't quit and decided to start a new business.

In this story, the guy started with limited fund and utilized all the possible resources available to run his startup business. He was down but not out. He is the one that fits the description in the first paragraph of this post. Actually, there are many entrepreneurs like him working against the odds in the manufacturing industry in China, but they are 'invisible' to many because they are not in the fancy IT or high-tech industry and they are not in big cities. I know that less than 20% (or even a lower percentage) of those small businesses can survive over a period of five years. Win or lose, they are still the heroes in the economy. Nobody knows where the next Li Shufu (李书福, Chairman of Geely Automobile) comes from, right?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

China's 'angry youth'

Translation: (The words on the flags:) 'Justice' and 'Conscience'.

Chinese angry youth: 'Want to know what 'angry youth' really means? Just look at the words on my flags!'

'Angry youth' isn't 'angry youth' literally. Please, I hope some people can stop messing around with the phrase.'
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When I was criticizing western media's so-called 'balanced report' about China at a dinner with a friend the other day. He said, 'You're still an angry youth (fenqing in pinyin, or 愤青)'. Of course, he was not saying in a derogatory way. It was slightly complimentary. I assume he meant I was still challenging things that I thought was unfair.

However, the phrase 'angry youth' is always associated with nationalism in western media. Actually, Chinese angry youth are very diverse in their opinions. Two Chinese angry youth may have different, even opposit opinions about something. Calling those Chinese who stand up against western media 'nationalists' does not tell what 'angry youth' really means in China. In my opinion, 'angry youth' refers to a person who is somewhat rebellious, outspoken and would challenge the perceived unfairness, unjustice and unequality. Also, 'angry youth' is an universal phenomenon. Che Guevara is regarded as the most famous 'angry youth' by many Chinese.

Adrian Geiges from Germany, was also an 'angry youth'. He published a book entitled How The World Revolution Once Accidentally Started In The Black Forest. The Chinese version of the book is entitled 《我的愤青岁月》(literally translated as My Days As An Angry Youth). 'Angry youth' does not necessarily refer to the young, but also the middle-aged and the old. Are 'Chinese angry youth' nationlists? Some are, some are NOT. Therefore, 'nationalist' should NOT be an acronym for 'China's angry youth'.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Communications can be more effective with less use of emails, ppts, etc.

My blogger friend Ramesh talks about the dark side of Power Point here, here and here in his blog 'Business Musings'. Later, he recommends a recipe for a power pointless, but effective presentation here. I find the topic interesting and want to expand the topic a little bit here. Many of us (if not all) unknowingly have done some ineffective and inefficient business communications to some extent.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from a friend who is a general manager of a PR company. He told me that his company were going to pitch to a well known French multinational company for a big project in Beijing. He asked me if I could do him a favor to translate his power point slides and do a presentation on behalf of his company to the top executives of the French company. 'In English?', I asked. 'Yes, they speak English', he confirmed. Great, my French is good enough only for aliens to understand. So, out of curiosity I agreed to do the favor (for free). When I received the PPT slides I was shocked. They put together 108 slides which were expected to be presented in about 20 minutes! And the worse was that they put too many paragraphs of Chinese in the slides. I took me an ENTIRE day to translate! Also, I noticed that it was the 12th version of the presentation. I thought the ppt presentation was not viewer friendly, and said that by no means could I finish the presentation in 20 minutes. Then they reduced the ppt to 91 slides. On a Friday afternoon, I did the presentation in front of the senior French executives and the feedback was good. But you know what? As I previously warned, I did not cover every paragraph of text they put on the slides. Anyway, my friend was very satisfied with my presentation. Later, I learned they spent about 2 weeks drafting and revising the ppt. What annoyed me most was that they put so much unnecessary information on the slides to window-dress and make it look 'more professional', which in my opinion was the opposite of effective communication.

If you can communicate a message face-to-face to a fellow worker in 5 minutes, why do you bother to spend 20 minutes writing an email to him/her even if he/she is sitting 3 meters away from you? Once I was asked by a country manager to send him an email to brief him on a meeting I had with a business partner. I did so in the evening. The next morning, he came into the office holding his blackberry and said to me, 'Hang, I got your email. It's a bit long and I haven't read it. Can you come and brief me in my office?' See? Even a reader may become fed up with emails. As a matter of fact, the message could be effectively communicated on phone or face to face in 5 minutes.

I've mentioned in my previous post that the newly appointed CEO of Eachnet (Ebay China), Wang Leilei (王雷雷) once criticized the staff in Eachnet for their excessive use of emails and ppts, which he thought was less straightforward and a bad habit.

Sometimes, we relies too much on emails and ppts for 'effective' communication. Communications can be simple and effective too!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I've got itchy feet!

I've been a loyal reader of Jonna's blog recently. I really enjoy her writing which is of great fun. Today, her post is about her plan of traveling in Yunnan, which prompts me to bring back the pleasant memory of my trip in Yunnan last September. I did solo traveling and made many friends during the trip. I've got itchy feet again, but I know I cannot take another trip now. That's why I'm sitting here listening to the beautiful song 《彩云之南》(The South of Colorful Clouds, which refers to Yunnan) by singer Xu Qianya (徐千雅). I really like her music about Yunnan and Tibet.

Being an adventurous guy, I 'illegally' went fishing on a fisherman's boat in Dali and solo trekked the Tiger Leaping Gorge. I also traveled to Shangri-La and made many friends with fellow backpackers in Lijiang. These are some photos I took on my trip. Man, I love traveling!

The countryside near the old town of Dali

Buskers & their dogs in Shuhe old town

A singer from Guangzhou in a pub in Shuhe

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Trekking Tiger Leaping Gorge
Backpackers at a guest house in Lijiang
Girls I met at a guest house in Lijiang

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thank you very much for buying our Chinese competitors!

Li Guoqing (李国庆), the co-CEO of Dangdang China's largest online retailer of books, CDs and videotapes, said that if Dangdang's biggest competitor Joyo had remained Chinese he would have had a much harder life. Obviously, he is right. Joyo was the No. 1 in the market before. But since Amazon's acquisition, Joyo has been going downwards and lagged far behind Dangdang. Joyo is not alone. Eachnet shares similar experience. Eachnet used to be the No. 1 auction site in China with over 60% market share. However, Eachnet gradually became mediocre after being acquired by Ebay. The new Chinese entrant, Alibaba's Taobao entered the market and quickly surpassed Eachnet. Now Taobao has firmly established itself as the most popular online auction site in China and the gap between the two is growing. Foreign internet companies do not seem to adapt well in China. Need more evidence? Google is trailing behind Baidu while Yahoo is struggling.

Why foreign internet giants fail to win the competition against their Chinese counterparts? This is a question that many have tried to answer. I'm not going to do it here, but I have been keen to hear what those who have been personally engaged in the competition would say. Here are some of them.

The outspoken Li Guoqing ,once on a TV program, ridiculed Ebay by telling a story about Ebay's inefficiency. He says that once Ebay's Chinese team decided to change some Chinese fonts on Eachnet. The Chinese team could not do it right away. They needed to report to the US headquarter of Ebay to obtain an approval before they could actually do the change. The approval did not come soon and one China-based Chinese executive of Eachnet was very angry and threatened to resign. After all the farce, the change of fonts was finally done, which was not quick. I know the story sounds absurd and I am not sure if it is true. But from my personal experience with a foreign company in China, I tend to believe the story. If you have followed the news, Ebay and Tom formed partnership and Tom's former CEO Wang Leilei (王雷雷) became the CEO of Eachnet. When he began to work at Eachnet's Shanghai office, he was not impressed. He once said Eachnet's staff had the bad habit of doing every thing by emails, powerpoint files, etc. They did things in a less straightforward way. He thought they had gone too far, which was less efficient. Anyway, Wang himself failed to lead Eachnet out of oblivion and then quit. Another well known resignation from Yahoo China was Xie Wen (谢文). Xie, the former CEO of Hexun, was invited to lead Yahoo China as CEO by Alibaba's Chairman Jack Ma (马云). But after a meeting in the US with Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, Xie decided to resign. His resignation was just about 40 days from his appointment. Rumors say Xie had not won the support he needed to change Yahoo China. The reason for his resignation has not been disclosed.

I assume the above does give a glimpse at why foreign internet giants stumble in China. Has any of them improved? I don't see it for the time being. Actually, those foreign internet giants deserve a big 'thank you' from their Chinese competitors for destroying those Chinese companies acquired.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who's the leading figure of Chinese pop music?

Jay Zhou? Jolin? Oh, no, no ... Please don't underestimate our taste. It's this guy!

Xu Wei (许巍) is the singer and songwriter who sings quietly with his guitar. Unlike any other blatantly marketed Chinese singers, he keeps a relatively low profile. He has rarely (never?) been seen singing on stage with dancers behind him. He sings alone and quietly. His style is unique and simple, but his music has won him many young Chinese fans across China. He is called the leading figure of Chinese pop music (乐坛领军人物) by many Chinese media. I read the news that he's going to have a concert in Shanghai this May. My warning to those who are interested: His concert is always a sell-out. Get a ticket, the sooner the better.
Xu WeiXu Wei and Pu Shu at Xu Wei's Concert in April 2009
Photos from

I got to know him when I was waiting for my train in Shanghai Railway Station in late 2004. His MTV song 《曾经的你》was played on the big screen in the noisy waiting lounge of the railway station. The song caught my attention with his cool music, his unique voice and poetry-like lyrics. Since then I began to follow his music. I think his music touches the heart of young people. If you are young and you've ever felt lost/bewildered in life or you've been trying to solve the reality-vs.-dream puzzle, then you will see what I mean. If you are backpacking, you may talk to young Chinese backpackers about Xu Wei. I am sure they will tell you they love his music. In Lijiang of Yunnan province, I came across a guest house named after his song 《蓝莲花》(Blue Lotus). A young Chinese backpacker manages the guest house which is well known among many Lijiang-bound young Chinese backpackers. Here are some Xu Wei's songs from external links.
蓝莲花》(Blue Lotus)
完美生活》(Perfect Life)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cool images

How narrative and reflective images can be? Well, you'll have to look at the following images. Today I came across these images which spread like virus across Chinese online forums. The images easily caught my attention at the first glance as the stories presented in the images seem so familiar to an ordinary Chinese. At first I thought they were the underground works of some Chinese photographer, but they turned out to be the photo shooting for a newly published Chinese magazine called 'ozine'. The title of the series of images is 五星招待所 (or RedStar Motel) which covers topics of sex, murder, fake certificate, prostitution, drugs, kidnapping, etc., all in the setting of a small motel room. How creative that is! But, wait a moment. Some Chinese netizens have pointed out that the photographer copied the ideas of Lyndon Wade's work of Room 107. It seems to be true. But, these images are really cool anyway. What do you think?

Migrant workers
Murder Scene
S & M
Having fun?
What's going on next door?
Give me the ransom!
Want to buy a fake certificate?
Before or after deal???
Party time
Killing yourself softly
Porn film shooting