So-called Capitalism Isn’t Working

While that’s a nice tagline, it should really say:

Corruption is working


Corruption is alive and well

When you have corrupt leaders in Africa who refuse to participate in the international capitalist system and instead hoard assets, engage in genocide and starve their peoples to death, this is not a failure of capitalism. This is corruption and a refusal of other nations to breach the sovereignty of said African nation.

Capitalism has raised millions of people in China and elsewhere in Asia and South America out of poverty. We’ve shown the failure of Communism. 50 years ago the Chinese kid would have looked the same as the African kid. While the current Chinese kid does not exemplify the ideal outcome, it is definitely a better outcome than his continuance in the situation on the left.

Capitalism certainly isn’t perfect, but then again nothing is. Everything must go through growing pains.

We need to think of the next stage as Compassionate Capitalism. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to solve problems of people, not of business, to work towards a better future for all and think of the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits-in that order).

If this picture inspires something in you, it is your responsibility as a world citizen to use the best tools at your disposal: you, your abilities, and entrepreneurship to take action and solve these types of global challenges. Grassroots level (i.e. with the entrepreneur) is the best place to start.

That being said, anyone of us could start the next Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which does tremendous work to increase access to healthcare and education around the world. Or choose your issue, maybe it is clean water (such as charity:water), maybe it is starvation, maybe it is corruption. The point is, what are YOU going to do about it.


Chinglish and other Funny Signs in SH

“Harmonize” is a very popular euphemism in China, as are its derivatives, “harmonious.” Consider this introduction to the Expo which uses “harmonious” no less than 3 times in 1 paragraph:

And if you’re a party cadre or the family member of a revolutionary martyr, you get discounted entry to Century Park (in English, no less, because you know, revolutionary martyrs only read English):


Then, of course there are just the misspellings (which has since been corrected),

and of course the seemingly mistranslated:

I always love an Unimaginative Journey and a Goodwill tour of Narcissus Queens…

However, I will give this one credit for the (perhaps unintended) play on the popular health food market in the western US (Trader Joe’s):

Buying and Selling on Taobao

TaobaoA quick intro for those of you who don’t know, Taobao is China’s C2C internet selling platform, similar to eBay or Amazon.  It’s owned by Alibaba Group and all the online payment transactions for the site happen by your bank in combination with Alipay (also of Alibaba Group).  By the way, why does no one notice how monopolistic Alibaba Group has gotten in this area?

You can buy literally everything imaginable on Taobao from mobile phone recharge cards to patio furniture and shoes.  I’ve bought shirts, shoes, books, etc on Taobao.

Setting up an account is relatively simple if you can read some Chinese.  All you need is an email account, password, and the ability to navi-guess around the site in Chinese.  Actually buying and paying online becomes more complex, requiring a local bank account with either 一卡通 or 信用卡.  But this is how most of us get our salaries paid anyway.  If you can find a local friend to help you set up the link between your Taobao account and your bank account (through Alipay, of course) the first time, its pretty easy to just type in your PIN number whenever you want to buy something in the future. has a much more comprehensive and picture-oriented description of how to search and buy on Taobao.  They also offer to help you do it, for a small fee of course. Update Nov 12, 2011:  My Chinese tutor is offering Taobao (and Chinese online shopping, in general) training sessions to help get your accounts set up, bank account linked, and you shopping online. 300RMB for 2 hours + review materials. Contact: Lucy 134 825449 83 wangxin0824[at]hotmail[dot]com . Only in Shanghai.

Feeling relatively confident in my Chinese reading ability and comfortable navi-guessing and shopping on Taobao, today I decided to try my hand at selling on Taobao. And ran into a Great Wall. To sell on Taobao, you of course need a local bank account linked to Taobao through Alipay (again), which since mine was already linked was easy enough.  However, you also have to verify your identity, and while this may sound simple, for a foreigner, it’s not.

First I tried pretending I was a local because I have a local bank account, yada yada, Not so fine.  You must input the ID # matching the person who opened the bank account.  In this case, it has to be the number of digits on a local Hukou ID card (If you don’t know what a Hukou is, this post probably doesn’t apply to you…).  Well since I’m not a local, I don’t have a Hukou so my bank account was opened with my Passport, which obviously doesn’t have the right amount of digits.  Fail #1

There is an option for Foreigners to sell on Taobao. So next I tried that: first line, OK.  Second line, please input your Guarantor’s name, ID number, phone number, etc, etc.  Uh…FAIL #2.  So as a foreigner selling on Taobao is much more difficult.

I guess they’re afraid we’ll list something super expensive, let some poor unsuspecting local buy it and transfer the money, and then leave the country with his money.  Granted, it could happen, but what’s the highest value item anyone’s ever bought on Taobao (without first seeing the item)?  Maybe 10,000RMB, maybe 100,000RMB?  So all of US$1400 or US$14,000?  Is that really worth it?  Fail #3.  That’s why banks, credit cards, et al have insurance and fraud protection.

Anyway, as you can see I was a bit frustrated with my Taobao selling experience today and I wanted to save other foreigners the same annoyance and waste of time.  And I’m sorry, I don’t know what happens after IF you get a Guarantor to validate your account.

It’s also interesting to note the differences between Taobao and eBay.  Taobao takes the money immediately from the seller’s account and holds it in escrow while waiting for confirmation from the buyer that the item has been received (or a certain period of time has passed) before sending the money to the seller.  eBay lets the buyer and seller decide between themselves how and when to pay and ship.

Can I further point out that since Taobao holds the money in escrow awaiting confirmation of item receipt from the buyer, that the whole paranoia of foreign seller runs out of town with the money is NOT very likely.  Fail #4

And that’s today’s Taobao 101 Guide.

Overruns and Seconds in Shanghai

Look inside any garment and there’s a good chance you’ll see a “Made in China” label.  njrd-shoppingGarments of all sorts, qualities, and brands are made in China.  Most of the garment manufacturing is centered around the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou/Shenzhen) or Ningbo.  Despite this, and the tight watch designers keep on their production facilities, many people assume (sometimes rightly so), that its easy to shop for their beloved clothing brands right here in Shanghai.

Overruns, 2nds, and ‘it just fell off the truck’ do end up in Shanghai.  However, they are not easy to find: some hunting and lots of patience are required.  Recently I had a very satisfied shopping customer looking for specific brands, namely Banana Republic, LK Bennet, Reiss, Joseph, and Diane von Furstenburg.  We did manage to find a number of the brands she was looking for, at places besides the outlet malls.  While I never guarantee these are ‘real’ (whatever real means in this country), its worth taking a look.  Right?

For discount designers tucked away in small shops, try XinLe Road, ChangLe Road, HuaShan Road, JuLu Road, Maoming South Road and Fengxian Road.

For additional help shopping my shanghai, and the best prices, please contact me!

Network Marketing in China

I’ve signed up on a site where people can ask questions about traveling to different places and have them answered by locals, as a way to get the real feel for the place.  Besides the obvious and just plain stupid questions (do I, as an American, need a visa to China), some people have started asking more business related questions.  Below is one such question (and my response to it), though a site like China Success Stories would have been a much better platform.  (rolling eyes)

Hello Friends, Can you help me? I’m looking for experienced network marketeers to head up a new network in your country and I wondered if you could think of anyone who you feel would like to be involved as a Country Leader at this crucial launch stage.
We are not looking to sign up ‘regular’ distributors at this moment but are looking for the serious team players who will become our global team partners.
As a fouder of this NEW very narrow NICHE business in your country, first year total earnings of $100,000 potential with second year earnings of $100,000 a month potential for the right people.
If you can help me that would be great and your input would be much appreciated.
Look forward to hearing back from you.

Best wishes,

Teodor M Muntean


You know that network marketing is borderline illegal in China and is governed by many complex and unclear laws, regulations, and procedures. This is why Mary Kay and Amway had to offer retail outlets in addition to network marketing distributions when entering the market. This is also the reason many other network marketing companies have not entered China. Pursuant to that, you will not find an ‘experienced network marketeer’ in China who can lead a whole country network.

I think you’re jumping the gun. You can’t, nor should you even consider, finding a Chinese business partner on the internet, particularly on a site devoted to helping travelers. That’s just absurd! And shows a complete lack of knowledge and commitment to the Chinese market on your part.

To properly setup and start a networking marketing business in China, you will need no less than 1Million US Dollars. Also, if you opt to go with a local partner, that organization needs to be considered very closely. You should personally be here researching the options and making sure you can trust them.

My feeling is you know nothing about China and this is more like a scam than a real intent to do business here.

A few articles about China

With the economy in decline, particularly in the West, it seems young people are interested in fleeing the poor US job market to test their luck in China.  If that’s the case for you, here’s A useful article about money for people planning to move to China.

However, before you jump on the China bandwagon, you should probably read about how bad things have gotten in Shanghai.  In this article from the Telegraph, foreign service companies as well as Chinese manufacturing companies are closing left and right without paying up their workers.

After reading that article, this article may seem a bit dated (which it is, October 08), but some people think that Money can still be made in China, just not the easy money of a decade ago.

If that inspires you to give the China market a shot, Make sure you have what it takes and are well prepared.

Chinese Construction

I just finished reading the September/October 2007 issue (yes, I know I’m a little behind, but blame this one on my mom) of Probate & Property which had 3 extensive articles on Real Estate Law in China and the property market.  The reason for the articles was the new Property Law of China that was enacted in March of 2007 and effective in October of 2007.  The articles were much too detailed and in depth to discuss here, but the highlight, which many people already know, is that in China land may not be ‘owned.’

As the Communist Party, continuing to adhere to Marxist principles, the government owns the land.  People can and do own the buildings on top of the land but they don’t own the land.  The land is used for development under ‘land use rights.’  Land use rights last for between 40-70 years, depending on the type of development.

This explains to me why all the construction in China is so poor: there’s point in investing in quality construction when your lease term is only 40-70years.  The construction only needs to last 40-70years, not a lifetime or even many generations like some of the great historical buildings we still admire today.  Why spend the money on something that won’t be around for more than 50years, because you can cut corners and get it done for cheaper if you sacrifice quality.  My apartment, according to my dad’s guess is 10-12 years-old, while in fact, its about 4 years.  It just looks older due to number of factors, among which, shoddy construction, air pollution, and acid rain.

Sure this might sound like a sarcastic post (and it largely is) but have a look for yourself.  Land ownership leads to stricter  standards and higher quality construction than ‘land use rights.’

Reflections on the Olympics

Despite my doubts whether Beijing would pull off a successful Olympics and the controversy over free press, human rights, the Opening Ceremony, and other issues, in my opinion, China hosted an amazing Olympics. The skies were blue, there were large tracks of greenery, the Olympic Green was very attractive, traffic was not a problem, the volunteers were helpful and spoke English, security was present (most of the time, until you hear my friend’s story) but not imposing, the city was clean (almost sterile), the new subway is sleek and modern, and people were friendly and helpful. Everything was very well done, with a few exceptions. Visitors who didn’t speak Chinese were still at a loss when trying to communicate with taxi drivers and average folk. The buses shuttling spectators between venues were overcrowded and no one knew how else to get between venues. But my biggest complaint is the re-sale ticket market. There were a few scalped tickets available but nothing to justify the many half (or more) empty events. Where were all the other tickets? Where were the tickets to the Water Cube?  Nonetheless, those who know Beijing, I believe, were all similarly impressed with how well Beijing pulled off the Olympics.

Unfortunately, those changes were not lasting.  Despite the fact that the Paralympics are currently going on, the skies have already greyed over, the pollution has returned, and the streets are jammed again.  Some of the changes will remain, though: the renovated airport (now one of the largest in the world), the modern, extensive subway lines, the unique venues of the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest, and Beijingers pride in having hosted such an unrivaled Olympic games.

If you’re curious for more insight into China and reading the blogs of China-based expats isn’t enough for you, also check out NBC’s lessons in Chinese Culture 101.  I can’t say I wholly agree with the portrayal, as many are far from complete and give only positive snippets of Chinese culture, but what makes them interesting is NBC’s take on Chinese culture.

I expect that with the upcoming election, China’s continued phenomenal growth, the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the 2010 Guangzhou Pan Asia games, and everything else, we’ll continue to hear a lot about and from China.

China News – August 10, 08

Why China is not inclined to Democracy

Symbolizing China’s feelings toward foreigners – A summary of new movie examining China’s complex relationship with outsiders, through a Chinese Graduate student’s life in the US

Blogging in China

Bush’s speech on China

China: The High Tech Police State

Faces of China in Photographs – Some amazing pictures of the diversity and yet similarity of China’s people (pdf)

How to bring China into International Systems

Video of Beijing preparing for the Games

Only 4 Days till the Opening Ceremony

The Beijing 2008 Olympics will start in 4 days!!

As of this morning, my plane tickets to Beijing are bought and in hand!  I have a place to stay and the promise of Olympics Games’ tickets.  Beijing Olympics, here I come!!!

I’ll be in Beijing from the evening of August 14th to the morning of August 19th if anyone wants to meet up.  Yay!!!!

More (paranoid) Security

As of yesterday all the food & drink vendors and retail outlets in and around Shanghai’s subway stations have cleared out their inventory and closed.  No more grabbing breakfast in the subway station for me.  :(  They’ve even put tape over the doors to make sure no one sneaks anything inside.  Some larger, more established outlets are still running, such as McDonald’s.

How do they decide who stays and who gets closed down?

Do they compensate the stores that are forced to close?

China News – August 3, 08

With less than a week before the start of the Olympics, most news coming out of China is related to the Olympics.


China as a Global Economic Superpower

To be an economic superpower, a country must be sufficiently large, dynamic, and globally integrated to have a major impact on the world economy. Three political entities currently qualify: the United States, the European Union, and China. Inducing China to become a responsible pillar of the global economic system (as the other two are) will be one of the great challenges of coming decades—particularly since at the moment China seems uninterested in playing such a role.

Chinese yuan still undervalued by BigMac standards


China, Visas, & the Olympics-the Great Mystery

Something extraordinary is happening in China, and we are not talking about the Olympics. Rather, Chinese officials have been clamping down on visa applications and implementing bureaucratic impediments to new and renewed visa applications under the guise of pre-Olympic security.

Etiquette and dressing guidelines for BJ residents – You’ve got to be kidding me

Lingering last minutes complaints with the Olympics

The next month is supposed to showcase China as an open, rising power. Yet the International Olympic Committee and Chinese organizers have been criticized for failing to deliver on pledges of unblocked Internet access, TV reporting freedoms and clean air.

Beijing managing Human Rights for the Olympics

Covering up Beijing


Chinese TVCensoring Chinese TV

To mark the occasion, a feature in the current issue of Oriental Outlook magazine takes a look at the history of TV drama and how programs make it to air. This includes an interesting article on the workings of CCTV’s censors.

Satirical Post about all of Beijing’s quirks

Welcome to Beijing, friends from the foreign press! I greet you on behalf of the many expatriates who’ve lived in Beijing for years. We’re all really eager to read the stories you file. We can’t wait to see what this city, which we know all too well, looks like from the perspective of visiting journalists — you, with your keenly honed observational abilities and your uncanny wordsmithery. (Is that a word?)

China, the Olympics, and the looking forward

Hosting the Olympics was supposed to be a chance for China’s leaders to showcase the country’s rapid economic growth and modernization to the rest of the world. Domestically, it provided an opportunity for the Chinese government to demonstrate the Communist Party’s competence and affirm the country’s status as a major power on equal footing with the West. And wrapping itself in the values of the Olympic movement gave China the chance to portray itself not only as a rising power but also as a “peace-loving” country. For much of the lead-up to the Olympics, Beijing succeeded in promoting just such a message.

China News – July 27, 08

Last week’s China News roundup.

Increasing restrictions to broadcasting from the Olympics

Why the Chinese people are so proud to host the Olympics

China’s internet propoganda army

Sex + Criticism + China = Book Deal

Places you can protest during the Olympics

China is offended

Polite conversation

“One poster focuses on “etiquette when communicating with foreigners.” Locals are instructed not to ask foreigners personal questions about their age, salary, love life, health, income, political views, religious beliefs or personal experiences.”

So that leaves what? The weather?

Buying their Silence