Archive for September, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Links: O2O Business in China

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

Going “Brick-and-Mortar”

Let’s get industrial. O2O is about [people] buying things online, but collecting them from a shop on their side of the computer or smartphone – or having the stuff delivered to their doorstep. But China’s woefully inefficient logistics network .. acts as a brake on e-commerce growth, the Economist wrote in August, and that leads to online retailers seeking “brick-and-mortar” outlets to increase the points of delivery and to make their goods more accessible for their online customers.

Dalian Wanda Group’s (万达集团) and Suning Commerce Group (苏宁云商) are a recent example in the news. Wanda’s property development section (the company’s other major trades would be culture and tourism)  provides department stores or plazas all over the country, and Suning Commerce Group is a retailer with reportedly more than 1600 stores across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The two have signed a cooperation agreement: Suning will open stores at Wanda Plazas throughout the country, Reuters wrote on September 6.

National Soft Power, too

China News Service (CNS) explained, on September 7:

Suning coming into play is a direct result of an upgrade at Wanda. Wang Jianlin has long indicated that the answer would be revealed on this day.

其实,细心的人早就能发现这次合作的蛛丝马迹。它与万达正在进行的业态升级紧密关联。甚至可以说,苏宁的入局,正是万达进行业态升级的直接成果。王健林一直引而不发,直到这一天揭晓答案。

The adjustments had been watched by many skeptical observers for about half a year, without Wang Jianlin providing much of a response during all the time, according to CNS. But as for Wanda’s department stores, or plazas, CNS has reassuring news:

Are Wanda’s stores really as bad as comments from outside suggest? Not at all. One one occasion, in an internal meeting, Wang Jianlin revealed that nearly half of the Wanda stores were incurring losses, but that the other half of them were profitable. He was in a position to cut the outlets that were incurring heavy losses, optimize the portfolio, and then have a attractive story to tell to the Hong Kong capital markets, with a beautiful financial report.

万达百货真的有外界评说的那么糟糕吗?并不是。王健林曾经在一次内部会上透露,万达百货有近一半是亏损的,但还有另一半是盈利的。他完全可以砍掉亏损严重的门店,优化资产组合,用亮丽的财报去给香港资本市场讲一个动听的故事。

The CNS article also points out that Wanda became involved in the culture industry in 2012.

Compared with real estate business, the contribution the culture segment could make to [the Wanda group’s] revenues and profits was very low, but it perfectly fitted into the strategic requirements of the national advancement of soft power, and its synergy effects with real estate, tourism, and other trades was obvious. As big onlooking companies  from the real estate began to recognize [Wanda’s approach], they scrambled to emulate it.

2012年,万达发力文化产业。跟地产比起来,文化产业能够贡献的收入和利润份额在当时非常之低,但是却紧密契合了国家提升软实力的战略需求,与地产、旅游等行业的协同效应非常明显。以至于在后来,许多大型地产企业都看明白了,开始争相效仿。

CNS also refers to the acquisistion of AMC Theatres (AMC Cinemas), and Infront Sports and Media, and offers an explanation as to why such acquisitions would make sense, and concludes:

There are many more such examples. Every draw in this game of chess was made not from a spur of the moment, but as a move taken after careful consideration, serving the transformation plan for the entire Wanda group. This is also true for the adjustments of the stores, and the introduction of Suning.

这样的例子还有很多。万达的每一步棋子都不是临时起意,都是深思熟虑之后的谨慎之举,并为整个集团公司的转型大计服务。调整百货,引入苏宁,也是如此。

The message provided by CCTV’s website for the foreign audience is equally heartwarming:

The Wanda Group, headed by Asia’s richest man Wang Jianlin, seems unstoppable.

Complementary illustration ...

Complementary illustration …

The Financial Times, in an online article published on August 6, isn’t quite that enthusiastic – although, it should be said, their misgivings aren’t about the Wanda-Suning romance which was only made public in September, but about the O2O industry in general. Rising labor costs could hamper the business model, and it is not entirely clear what lasting new business models will emerge.

That said, if O2O is really a lifestyle, as suggested by Chinaskinny, the question might come up, sooner or later, if and how costs play a role in that customer “hobby”, and if the promises it makes to the supplier side are sustainable, For sure, the example of the nail specialists who can make so much more per hour, if based on O2O, is all over the internet, as observed by the FT.

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Related

» Baidu Q3 forecast, TechCrunch, July 27, 2015
» Traditional Industries, new Bones, April 17, 2015
» Central Committee Cultural Decision, Oct 28, 2011

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: and now for Something Better?

Once Upon a time, in the UK

Arguably, no interview with Margaret Thatcher has been quoted as much in the past three decades as the one, published by Woman’s Own in 1987:

But [the welfare state] went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society.

This is also the interview people quote from most frequently, and preferably without much context, because “there isn’t society” wasn’t the end of Thatcher’s point. In fact, “tapestry” was just her word for society

But words are one thing; deeds are another.

Much of what Thatcher did during the earlier years as prime minister looks pretty much what we like to refer to as the will of the people. That is a somewhat abstract concept for a number of reasons, but she had a point at the time. Things – Labour policies – had gone too far, for too many people.

But Thatcher herself, and her successors, including “New Labour”, went too far as well. Deregulation of the financial services was one example. An economy with banks “too big to fail” is a corporate-welfare economy. Unfathomable amounts of of public funding has been used by now to save the financial system, but it appears that the causes of the 2008 calamities haven’t been addressed with the thoroughness they should.

At the same time, there is real poverty in Britain and in Europe, among common people. Those people are apparently too small to count. A society that reacts to their problems with a shrug has a problem itself, and will get yet more problems. A political class too ignorant to understand how modern manufacturing works adds to the problems. Callousness and ignorance are a nasty mixture.

Fast Forward to 2015

In that light, even if Jeremy Corbyn were a full-blown idiot (or villain), that would look like a manageable problem. At worst, a five-year premiership, if attained, would be another waste of time, but at least, it would be one more closely scrutinized by the mainstream media that previous wastes of time.

Then there’s the character issue. I’m far from saying that character doesn’t matter. But I do say with confidence that there is no way to know the true character of a politician before he assumes real powers. It isn’t even easy to predict a man’s behavior after assuming power when you know him personally. And it to predict his decisions is impossible if you “know” a man merely from the media.

One of the last last hurrahs from Corbyn’s opponents appears to have been this, from the Telegraph:

Jeremy Corbyn led a campaign for the release of two convicted terrorists who were jailed for their part in the car bombing of the Israeli embassy in London and a Jewish charity building.

Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami were convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK in 1996, which injured 20 people. They were jailed for 20 years.

That sounds pretty ugly, as reported from the Telegraph’s angle. But it sounds reasonable as reported by the Guardian.

A common citizen is in a difficult situation when having to make choices between different politicians and platforms or manifestos. The media aren’t making his choices easier. One step to develop a clearer political eyesight might be to admit that we actually know very little, and to admit that propaganda isn’t necessarily something very Chinese, or much about agitation, let alone about confronting us with representations that run counter to our  long-established concepts, but rather something to soothe or to tranquilize us.

But for too many people, the established policies of their countries have gone too far. They have gone wrong. That’s true for my country, too. That’s a moment when things begin to shift, and I believe it’s a good thing if they shift in a rather benign way. That’s democracy at its best.

A Universal Ideal

When asked what he thought his greatest weakness as a potential leader, Corbyn said that “I tend to see the best in people all the time. Is that a weakness? I don’t know.”

His answer would most likely be that it isn’t a weakness at all – that’s the message of those three sentences. At the same time, it reads a bit like a disclaimer. And he’ll need one. For all the experience he has, from decades of serving his constituency, his main job has been to ask critical questions. Now, he will have to provide serious answers just as well, and answers of that kind are never uncompromising. Maybe Corbyn should have an appointment with Barack Obama and Alexis Tsipras. They know both sides of the finishing line which in Corbyn’s case, for the time being, is the door mat of No. 10 Downing Street.

But what came to my mind when reading what he saw as his greatest weakness (or strength), and in the context of the accusations that he was too close to terrorism (or whatever the accusations were meant to amount to), was an old Chinese philosopher, Wang Yangming.

Obviously, what you get to see and hear from a professional politician is the artwork, or the package – see above, re “knowing” your country’s leaders. But even the choice of the artwork says something about the leanings of a campaign. Wang Yangming believed in the unity of knowledge and action, in terms of content and time. Man has an innate knowing of what is right, say Wang’s teachings, and there doesn’t need to be a barrier between knowledge and action, neither in terms of content, nor in terms of time. In fact, according to Wang, there can be no such barrier or difference between knowledge and action, if it is the kind of knowledge he referred to.

Politics of that kind are a fairly universal desire – but you might need to be a neo-Confucian to fully believe in the chance.

Either way, it’s too early to know if Corbyn is that kind of man. And we’ll only find out about that if the movement that has made him Labour leader will be successful, at least to some extent, so that time and circumstances can put Corbyn to the test.

But the ideal is one of the things that made Corbyn’s campaign work. I’m curious about how things develop from there, and a bit more hopeful about politics in general. I’m also hopeful that in the not too distant future, my country, too, will experience what Britain is apparently going to have now: genuine, democratic choices.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Xi Jinping: Commemorating the War, Expanding the Picture

The following is a translation of a People’s Daily article, republished on Enorth (Tianjin) on Saturday morning local time. The article appears to be a combination of an event, and more or less verbatim quotes from a speech by Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on the occasion. There is no clear distinction between what Xi Jinping said, and what is added by the (unnamed) commentator or commentators (人民日報評論員, as stated by another republishing website).

According to Guanchazhe, a magazine and website from Shanghai, the ceremony described underneath took place on Wednesday, with Xi Jinping awarding commemorative medals to Chinese and foreign war veterans or veterans’ family people, and delivering an important speech (发表重要讲话, a conventional term to express appreciation and attention for the words of top leaders). Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli reportedly attended the event.

Main link: Carry forward the Spirit

Links within blockquotes added during translation — JR

A heroic spirit between Heaven and Earth, inspiring the Ages with Awe

天地英雄气,千秋尚凛然

At the solemn moment of commemorating the 70th anniversary of China’s war of resistance against Japan and the world’s victory over fascism, the motorcade with the veterans of the war of resistance, the martyrs’ sons and daughters,  the former frontline exemplary persons, escorted by guards on motorcycles, first received the reverence of the motherland and the people, on Tian An Men Square. At the Great Hall of the People, State Chairman Xi Jinping awarded veterans, comrades and high-ranking veterans of the war of resistance with the People’s Republic of China’s War-of-Resistance 70-years Commemorative Medal. The whole nation, from the leadership to the masses, cherished the memory of the martyrs in the war of resistance who fought bloody battles, sung the praise of the great war-of-resistance spirit, standing together and expanding towards the great power of the nation’s rejuvenation.

在纪念中国人民抗日战争暨世界反法西斯战争胜利70周年的庄严时刻,天安门广场上,抗战老兵、英烈子女、抗战支前模范的乘车方队在摩托车护卫下最先接受祖国和人民的敬礼;人民大会堂,国家主席习近平向抗战老战士、老同志、抗战将领等颁发中国人民抗日战争胜利70周年纪念章。举国上下,人们缅怀浴血奋战的抗战英烈,讴歌伟大的抗战精神,凝聚起迈向民族复兴的伟大力量。

“A nation that is hopeful cannot be without heroes, and a promising country cannot be without pioneers.” Secretary-general Xi Jinping looked back at the hard and bitter war of resistance against Japan, the unremitting and continuous struggle of the Chinese people ever since the opium wars, and how the Chinese nation moved from the darkness into the light, from humiliation to a position of prosperity and strength, inspiring a people of hundreds of millions to move forward along a road marked with the heroes’ footprints, with the confidence to achieve the Chinese dream.

“一个有希望的民族不能没有英雄,一个有前途的国家不能没有先锋。”习近平总书记回望艰苦卓绝的抗日战争,追溯鸦片战争以后中国人民的不懈抗争和持续奋斗,道出了中华民族从黑暗走向光明、从屈辱走向富强的力量所在,鼓舞起亿万人民沿着英雄足迹前进、实现中国梦的必胜信心。

The people uphold their own heroes, the motherland needs her own heroes. Stilling the hunger only by eating tree bark and cotton batting, Yang Jingyu, as he was told to surrender, sternly replied: “no need to say more, just open fire.” Zhang Zhizhong fought to the last moment, “determined to die for the country and the people, just as the sea isn’t clear and stone won’t rot, there won’t be the slightest change.” The eight-hundred heroes of the Sihang Warehouse, “without instructions or command, rather died than retreated”, The 82 Liu Lao Zhuang Lian soldiers fought to the end, all heroically sacrificing themselves for the country … At the Chinese nation’s most dangerous hour, thousands upon thousands of heroes at the war of resistance casted themselves into death, spilled their blood, in a heroic spirit that conquered mountains and rivers, they lifted the hearts of millions of people to awaken the nation to the resistance against foreign aggression. The deeds of their heros will forever remain in history, and their awe-inspiring righteousness will illuminate the centuries.

人民崇尚自己的英雄,祖国需要自己的英雄。以树皮棉花果腹的杨靖宇面对敌人的劝降,凛然回答:“不必多说,开枪吧。”张自忠战斗到最后一刻,“为国家民族死之决心,海不清,石不烂,决不半点改变”。四行仓库八百壮士“没有命令,死也不退”,新四军“刘老庄连”82名官兵血战到底,全部壮烈殉国……在中华民族最危险的时候,千千万万抗战英雄抛头颅、洒热血,书写了气壮山河的英雄史诗,唤起了万众一心、共御外侮的民族觉醒。他们的英雄事迹永载史册,他们的浩然正气光照千秋。

The heroes come from the people, and the people nurture the heroes. How many mothers, in the fourteen years of the war of resistance, gave their sons to the battlefield, how many common people gave all they had for the country to resist the enemy. This is the ocean of the people’s war which trapped and destroyed the enemy, these are thousands after thousands of heroic sons and daughters who, with their flesh and blood, saved the nation, a Great Wall of defense for the nation’s dignity, and wrote, for a shaken world to read, chapters and pieces of patriotism. “No matter if they directly partipated in the war or if they assisted from the back area, all Chinese people who threw themselves into the war of resistance against Japan are war heroes, they are all national heroes.”

英雄来自人民,人民哺育英雄。十四年抗战,多少母亲送儿上战场,多少百姓毁家纾难御敌寇,是人民战争的汪洋大海陷敌于灭顶之灾,是千千万万的英雄儿女以血肉之躯筑起拯救民族危亡、捍卫民族尊严的钢铁长城,谱写下惊天地、泣鬼神的爱国主义篇章。“无论是正面战场还是敌后战场,无论是直接参战还是后方支援,所有投身中国人民抗日战争中的人们,都是抗战英雄,都是民族英雄。”

To engrave history in our hearts and to cherish the memory of the martyrs is to inherit the great spirit shown by the heroes. In those years, countless heroes in the war of resistance saw the fall and rise of the world, with a sense of duty from patriotic feelings, faced death without fear, with national integry that would rather die than surrender, [the heroes] defied brutal depression, they fought to the end with sublime heroism, they unyieldingly, firmly and indomitably kept their confidence in victory, casting the great spirit of the war of resistance. Today, we advocate the heroes, learn from the heroes, so that we will advance and enrich that spirit, so that we will defend peace on a new historic journey, so that we will unlock the future, and fulfill our countless heroes’ unfinished hopes to revitalize the Chinese nation.

铭记历史、缅怀先烈,为的是传承英雄身上展现的伟大精神。当年,无数抗战英雄以天下兴亡、匹夫有责的爱国情怀,视死如归、宁死不屈的民族气节,不畏强暴、血战到底的英雄气概,百折不挠、坚忍不拔的必胜信念,铸就了伟大的抗战精神。今天,我们崇尚英雄、学习英雄,就是要弘扬这种精神,在新的历史征程上守卫和平、开创未来,实现无数先贤英烈振兴中华的未竟夙愿。

Great times summon great spirit, a sublime cause requires ambitious minds. To recall how the Eighth Army smashed the Japanese army in the Huangtuling battles, when the writer Wei Wei wrote that “on the battlefield, it was clear to see that two different kinds of spirits measured their strengths against each other. One was the Japanese ‘warrior’s way’ spirit; the other was the Red Army’s revolutionary purpose, finding out whose determination was greater, and who of the two would prevail.” In a blood-and-fire, life-and-death struggle with the aggressor, the spirit of resistance against Japan was hardened into steel, and encouraged the Chinese people to win the first complete victory over foreign invaders in modern times. Today, as we carry out a new great struggle with many historical characteristics, we also need heroes, and a heroic spirit for the new era.

伟大时代呼唤伟大精神,崇高事业需要精神引领。追忆八路军击溃日军的黄土岭之战,作家魏巍曾这样写道:“在战场上看得很清楚,这是两种精神在较量:一种是日本人的‘武士道’精神,一种是老红军的革命意志,看看究竟谁更顽强,谁压倒谁。”在同侵略者殊死搏斗的血火淬炼中,抗战精神百炼成钢,激励中国人民取得了近代以来抗击外敌入侵的第一次完全胜利。今天,我们正在进行具有许多新的历史特点的伟大斗争,同样需要英雄,需要新时代的英雄精神。

To engrave in our hearts all the things the heroes did for the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, to advocate the heroes, to defend the heroes, to learn from the heroes, to care for the heroes, to advocate the great spirit of patriotism, to advocate the great spirit of the war of resistance against Japan, we can certainly lay the cornerstone of confidence, revive the ability to struggle, to be united with one mind in the struggle for national rejuvenation, to create the Chinese nation’s new splendor.

铭记一切为中华民族和中国人民作出贡献的英雄们,崇尚英雄,捍卫英雄,学习英雄,关爱英雄,弘扬伟大的爱国主义精神,弘扬伟大的抗战精神,我们就一定能筑牢信仰的基石、振奋精神的力量,戮力同心为民族复兴而奋斗,创造中华民族的新辉煌。

Original title: Carry Forward the Spirit cast by the Heroes of the War of Resistance

原标题:弘扬英雄铸就的抗战精神

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Related

» Open the Skies for the Young, May 5, 2013
» PRC stands Towering, Mar 18, 2013

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Old Friends: No you Can’t, Yes we Can

1. You can’t invite that (alleged) War Criminal, can you?

Granted, there were a number of good reasons to stay away from the CCP’s military parade, and the falsification of history that marched among the ranks – after all, it was the Republic of the two Chinas that won the war -, was one of them. But then, Japan, too, cooks history books, and that would deserve more attention, too – I haven’t heard of any Western leader recently who’d cancel a meeting with Japanese prime ministers because of such issues. Maybe it is because history as a science isn’t considered to push economic growth, and therefore deemed useless. But then, history probably wasn’t a main driver of disharmony anyway.

Rather, what seems to have bugged a number of world leaders was Beijing’s guest list, which included Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president. A scandal?

Not if you ask Hua Chunying (华春莹), spokeswoman at China’s foreign ministry. Some Q&A from the ministry’s regular press conference on Tuesday:

Q: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will attend the September 3 activities. President Xi Jinping will also meet with him. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Is there a contradiction that China invites him to attend activities marking the victory of World War II?

问:苏丹总统巴希尔将来华出席9·3纪念活动,习近平主席将与他会见。巴希尔因战争罪受到国际刑事法院通缉。中方邀请他来华出席二战胜利70周年纪念活动是否矛盾?

A: African people, including Sudanese people, made important contributions to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. It is reasonable and justified for China to invite President Bashir to attend the commemorative activities. China will accord him with due treatment during his stay in China.

答:包括苏丹人民在内的非洲人民为世界反法西斯战争胜利作出了重要贡献。中方邀请巴希尔总统来华出席纪念活动合情合理。巴希尔总统来华期间,中方将给予他应有待遇。

Being not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, China will deal with relevant issue on the basis of the basic principles of international law.

中国不是《国际刑事法院罗马规约》的缔约国,将在国际法基本原则的基础上处理相关问题。

Now, one might ask why China is no signatory to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. That would go to the heart of the matter, while the spokesperson’s statement remains at the surface. The underlying answer may well be that to Beijing, Omar al-Bashir is primarily the president of Sudan, and only secondly, Beijing’s son of a bitch old friend. That al-Bashir’s immunity is, to Beijing, a matter of state sovereignty, not of personal responsibility or guilt. That aside, the attitude is best compatible with China’s interests in Africa – and maybe, there’s still a bit of a fear among China’s elites that they could, in a worst-case scenario, become targets of the ICC.

In a case like al-Bashir’s, Beijing’s critics are wrong, and Beijing is near-absolutely right. There can be no justice if leaders of small countries can be taken to court, and leaders of great powers remain immune. Peace may be “a journey” and “a never-ending process”, because dialogue is a voluntary choice. But when it comes to justice, tougher standards need to be applied. Unequal justice is an oxymoron.

Hua Chunying’s reference to the Rome Statute is also an elegant swipe against U.S. critics in particular: Washington has signed the Statute, but never ratified it.

2. You can’t Invite Shen Lyushun, can you?

Yes, we can, says Washington D.C., and so it happened on Wednesday. Taiwan’s English-language paper,  The China Post:

In a highly symbolic move, Taiwan’s representative to the United States attended an event in Washington D.C. Wednesday to commemorate the Allied Forces victory in the Pacific and the end of World War II.

Shen Lyushun’s (沈呂巡) attendance was the first time Taiwan’s top diplomat had been invited to attend similar events in the United States.

Now, guess what – Beijing reportedly didn’t like the guest list:

China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai did not attend the event even though he had been invited. Chinese officials have protested the inclusion of Taiwan’s presence at the event.

Which is fine. Dialogue remains a voluntary choice.

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Related

» Failure to Arrest, The Guardian, June 24, 2015
» CIA & Hundesöhne, Tagesanzeiger, Feb 7, 2013
» Not a party to treaty, John Bolton, May 6, 2002

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