All entries for August 2007
August 16, 2007
KAL on the Cold War II
Writing about web page http://www.economist.com
My environmentalist ideas
- We should all give up cars and get on bikes like the Chinese have done for ages. At least the ones who are capable of cycling should. This should be encouraged by extending the width of the cyclist lane to first take up 50% of the traffic lane, gradually expanding to 75% leaving the remaining for buses, electric cars and ambulances.
- We could consider dumping waste into volcanoes, instead of trying to process waste which almost inevitably results in even more waste being created.
- Tropical places and particularly hot places around Africa should export electricity generated from solar power. This would make use of their natural geographical advantage as opposed to their natural but numbered resources that they are so busy exploiting in the vain hope to fight raging poverty.
August 15, 2007
Shopping for identity
There’s a book called Shopping for Identity by Marilyn Halter highlighting how consumerism has recently adopted a distinctively minority-oriented track with compelling facts along the lines of “in a couple of years, the concept of ‘white majority’ will evaporate and everyone will belong to a minority group (in the US)”.
Having read that, I couldn’t help but look at things around me for proof. Disturbingly, I found the proof not in the numerous ethnic restaurants operating around the UK but in the increasing number of churches catering for Asian believers. In fact, this trend started quite some time ago. I remember having door-to-door Christian preachers coming to my home in 1997 telling me and my father about the story of Jesus. At that time my dad had the time and the wit to sit down and talk to the preachers, and managed to convince them to rethink the whole idea of Jesus. I’m still proud of him for that. Back then they were already armed with monthly issues of mini magazines bearing the ‘good news’ in Traditional Chinese (more often used by Taiwanese and Hongkongnese) and a number of other languages not usually associated with Christianity.
It’s disturbing because religion is evidently being commodified and sold as a product, with a very much up-to-date marketing strategy.
August 14, 2007
- Nepal’s national motto reads: Mother and motherland are dearer than the heavens.
- China and Bhutan don’t have diplomatic relations and in order to obtain an entry clearance to Bhutan one has to apply through Bhutan embassies in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Kuwait or contact the diplomatic mission of Bhutan in the UN in New York or Geneva.
- There’s no Bhutan embassy in the UK either.
August 13, 2007
I’ve forgotten how to be rude. It’s worrying. It feels like I can’t defend myself. I used to be a master of offensive language in my high school, all sorts of cruel and yet witty similes, metaphors and curses used to float to the surface of my brain waiting to be picked up and thrown at whoever was not pleasing me. I haven’t practised that unique skill of mine for quite some time and now I’ve realised I’d lost it! I can’t think of anything that would classify as good verbal abuse. It’s gotten trickier. Calling people names just makes you sound pathetic and childish and plays a joke on yourself. How do adults go about offending each other? And why do I feel defenceless without this ability to be nasty? What would it give me even if I were able to be nasty at will? Is it so necessary to have that invisible verbal sword or do people learn to get by without it? Perhaps that’s what being civilized entails!
August 12, 2007
Beijing is employing an unprecedented number of volunteers to support the Game. There is a number of jobs that are paid, mostly highly skilled; but the majority relies on the good will of the people. Some jobs are considered more prestigious than other, some are more fun to do, some involve more responsibilities and etc. And then there are jobs that are so shite that you have to pay to get done: cleaning, garbage collection, merchandise stocking and etc. These jobs are as essential to the Games as the translators, the team managers, the accommodation bookers and the like. It’s a bizarre situation, where the top and the bottom have to be paid and the middle ones are the ones who are not good enough or bad enough to be paid. This situation is echoed in real life employment and I’m one of the middle ones…
August 11, 2007
Three ways NOT to lose weight
1. Starving. Starving means putting a relative stop to your digestive system, so there is no output, so to speak, and hence no weight loss.
2. Eating vegetables only. Not sure why, perhaps because of the fibres, iron and calcium.
3. Eating fruits only. Because of all the sugar.
There’s little time left before the 2008 Olympics finally arrive in Beijing, but what will happen after it? Will there be an anti-climax? Will there be a backlash? Will there be billions of unpaid debts? Farmers who have abandoned their heritage and their lands to come to the city and build for the Olympics; children that have been left to care for by the elderly and the neighbours while the parents are trying to make a little profit off this pompous event; even greater gap between the rich and the poor who were offered little compensation for their lost homes. China is putting on a great propaganda campaign for itself ahead of the Games, but what will come after the Games is what will tell the true story of China’s development.
August 09, 2007
on the quality scares over Chinese products
It comes as a surprise to me that media reports haven’t looked closer into the Chinese products scares, conveniently pointing at corruption in Chinese government and content with that serving as the only reason.
The problem with the quality of Chinese goods is by no means new. Russians have developed a nasty dislike for the Chinese people working on Russian markets precisely because of the quality of Chinese products that have been sold in Russia. Made in China has long become a synonym to “fake”, “forged” and “poor quality”.
It is important to go back to the basics and remember why anyone wanted Chinese products in the first place: because of all the cheap labour. But that is all there is. So, if a product does not involve much labour, and is in any way costly because of the nominal costs of the materials, then China, as a manufacturer, can’t compete. Pet food, toothpaste – all involve ingredients that are costly to produce. They also involve standard health and safety checks that should be performed before the product is released. Those checks also form part of the bill.
One of the core issues the Chinese manufacturers have with their foreign counterparts is that in an effort to reduce the cost of production, the company that orders the goods has unreasonably high expectations of how cheap they can buy the products for. In order to fulfill that expectation, some Chinese manufacturers, performing under great pressure of competition, are forced to accept agreements and sign contracts that lead to the manufacturer promising to produce certain goods at inconceivably low prices. This almost inevitably leads to forging materials, replacing parts and generally cutting down on the cost of production at the expense of quality and safety. Any self-respecting big company with a good reputation can afford to reject a business offer that the manufacturer deems impossible to make. It is, therefore, the smaller, struggling provincial factories that agree to take up unreasonable requests and end up producing goods that are faulty or do not match the quality.
So here’s the other end of the stick: quality issues arise not only as a result of corruption in standard setting bodies and are rarely only down to the responsibility of the manufacturer. Nike, H&M, Adidas, just to name a few, also have their factories set up in China and also employ and benefit greatly from the notorious cheap Chinese labour. If the ordering company is not willing to pay for all the quality checks, for better quality materials and other essential parts of production, then whatever safety issues occur on a latter stage would be the responsibility of both parties.
It is crucial to correctly identify the potential of the Chinese manufacturers and not to overestimate it. When safety scares occur, it may seem easy and straightforward to put all the blame on the manufacturers, but there is a cause and effect relationship between the foreign companies not willing to pay for all the necessary quality checks and the subsequent failure of the product to meet the standards.
Olympics over Party
I am a fond lover of the Chinese central news. During my current visit to Beijing I noticed something rather interesting. For the first time in decades the word party is giving way in popularity to another word, “Olympics”. To say that the upcoming Olympics are doing wonders in Beijing is to say nothing. I don’t think there’s ever been such precedent in history that measures in its scale to the efforts the Chinese are putting into this Game. The marketing of the event is much like the marketing of The Simpsons movie, except this one has been going on since Beijing was voted to host the 2008 Olympics.
Starting tomorrow, the Beijing transport authorities will be introducing a testing regime that involves rescheduling the office hours of large companies and offices to try and regulate morning traffic and shortage of public transport. The reported ‘clear sky days’ are nearing 260 days per year (out of the 365)! And this is at a time when major news channels are pessimistically announcing that 7 out of 10 heavily polluted cities in the world are in China. My point is, the Olympics is everywhere now and China, Beijing is transforming before the eyes.