Shanghai Love

I just got back from my eight-day business trip, which included a fascinating four days in Shanghai. Maybe in my earlier trips I hadn’t noticed just how glitzy and glamorous the scene there has become. This time – perhaps because I was there working on a fashion product – it really hit me: you can’t distinguish the people shopping on Rodeo Drive from those on Huaihailu.

Last Sunday morning I sat at a coffee house in the French Concession and began counting the number of passers-by using iPods, wearing designer sunglasses and knee-length Italian boots. It was a fashion show, and the Chinese yuppies seemed even more brand-conscious and willing to shell out vast sums for the latest trends than their expat counterparts (and a lot of the expats seemed quite brand-conscious as well). So, so different from Beijing. Sure, there are some pockets in the city like Sanlitun that are more brand-derangedconscious than others, but all in all Beijing seems to have far different priorities. Which is why I am glad I’m living here. (And it’s not like these are dazzling insightful observations – we all know the Shanghai-vs.-Beijing debates. It’s just that this trip drove home the differences more dramatically than before, and I was somewhat amazed.)

I am sleep-deprived and caught a cold yesterday, but I can’t shut down the PC until I put up this link to an absolutely must-read piece by Chinese author Mao Jian about Shanghai and how it has transformed and become glitzified, its priorities turned upside down compared to the 1980s.

My classmates and I look at one another, heavy with nostalgia. The ’80s swim in front of our eyes, yet we blink and find ourselves in a new century. In the ’80s, all was quiet by 8 p.m. The old man at his dumpling cart and the old lady selling eggs poached in green tea had quit their hawking. That’s what passed for nightlife. By 9 p.m., everyone was in bed. Now the fun starts at 9 p.m.

Shanghai is once again leading China. And in Shanghai, life gravitates toward the night; consumption follows not far behind. If you close before 10 p.m., you don’t qualify as a major establishment. Of course, there are plenty of places to go after 10 — cafes, bars, nightclubs. No wonder friends who returned after living overseas in the 1990s exclaimed, “Wow, look at how decadently you live!”

Before, we took our dates to a public park — entrance fee: a penny — and simply strolled the night away. Now the soiree extend from restaurant to movie theater to coffee shop, and you’d better be prepared to shell out $150. To be modern is the highest goal in life, and today’s interpretation of modernity means a Shanghai babe wearing Calvin Klein underwear. The whole of China follows in the footsteps of Shanghai. We’re giving our 5,000 years of history a facelift; time to lighten up and move on.

And be sure to read through to the end where Mao Jian writes about what the cash-oriented Shanghai psyche has done to the traditional concepts of love, when a woman seeking to get rich by sticking her claws into a foreigner was scorned and derided. 180 degrees. Now she’s put on a pedestal.

It’s a funny article that’s really quite sad. I love Shanghai for a weekend. I am really glad I chose not to live there. At this point in my life, that’s not the kind of place I belong. (In fact, I doubt there’s any point in my life at which I belonged in a place like Shanghai.) This trip made me appreciate Beijing more than ever before. Despite the torturous winter.



It’s 1am and I am still at the office in Shanghai, waiting for a client to approve a press release. So in my boredom, I just checked the stock market, and noticed that gold is now up 31 percent from when I recommended buying it in January. In that thread and especially in this thread, I took a lot of heat for daring to suggest the US dollar had no where to go but down and that gold would inevitably go up. “You are a fool” was one of the more memorable comments. At the time, commenter Kenzhu placed a bet with me that I was wrong when I said gold would be up ten percent within six months. And I lost that bet – it took eight months. And now, 10 months later, its up 31 percent.

As I said in those earlier threads, I am a dilettante and have no qualifications as an economist or fortune teller. But this wasn’t, in my eyes, a matter of economics, but simply of common sense in light of the collapse of our housing market coupled with a similar if less dramatic catastrophe in our auto industry, all further exacerbated by America’s insane involvement in two wars with no way to pay for them. Combine that with quietly creeping inflation and you have the perfect storm.

Gold isn’t the only way to go. Stocks (some of them, at least) will probably rise too, as the markets are flooded with liquidity as the Fed desperately drops interest rates. But for now, gold, precious metals and foreign currencies are where I am putting my money. Gold will be over a thousand within six months at the latest. But then, what do I know?


2008 US Presidential election update

For anyone with poor eye-sight, this was written by Raj – Richard is on blog-writing leave.

The Washington Post leads with the following article on the Democrat race.

Obama Criticizes Clinton’s Drive to Win

Sen. Barack Obama leveled a fresh round of criticism at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday, accusing his rival for the Democratic nomination of following a campaign plan that prizes calculation over candor and that is aimed more at winning the election than uniting the country.

Obama used a speech in Spartanburg, S.C., to sharpen his differences with the Democratic front-runner and to frame the choices before voters a year ahead of the 2008 election. Calling the senator from New York “a colleague and a friend,” Obama nonetheless cast Clinton as representative of a style of politics that has been better for the politicians than the country.

I’ve read the “drive to win” criticism before. Is this a media invention, or what Clinton’s opponents have effectively accused her of? Because I’m not sure that’s a good slogan. Politicians want to win and will do whatever they can that thinks will gain them more votes than lose them. Of course you need to be consistent in your policies and believe in them, but accusing someone of wanting to win is daft. I’m not sure Obama used that term, but if the Post considers itself his supporter (not sure whether it does or doesn’t but the article is rather one-sided) it should not repeat it.

Anyway, whatever Clinton’s critics throw at her it doesn’t seem to work in turning the voters against her. The Times reports with this piece.

Clinton puts her war room on attack

One poll taken after last week’s debate showed Clinton extending her lead over Obama, which already averaged 45% to 22%. Her rivals are in a bind: every punch by Clinton proves her toughness, while every jab by them can be portrayed as a sign of their desperation to win.

Certainly reminding people of the (Bill) Clinton years isn’t terribly bright (which is what Obama did according to the Post article), given from what I understand a lot of Democrats see it as a good era economically, socially, foreign-policy wise, etc. This rather demonstrates Obama’s inexperience to me. Even if there is something negative from a previous administration, if it was generally thought of as good don’t bring it up – that’s a free tip for the senator from me.

Now we switch to the Republicans, with some interesting news from

Republicans 2008: Giuliani 31%, McCain 18%

Rudy Giuliani remains the top presidential contender for Republican Party supporters in the United States, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. 31 per cent of respondents would support the former New York City mayor in a 2008 primary.

Arizona senator John McCain is second with 18 per cent, followed by actor and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson with 17 per cent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney with nine per cent, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with eight per cent.

Although it is not surprising to see Giuliani at the front, it is interesting that McCain has just squeezed back into second (according to A-R at least). Does he have too much left to do, or could he still get the nomination? Certainly Thompson has not shown himself to be real presidential material – having a film-star profile does not equate to being seen as a great politician. As much as I love Patrick Stewart for his Shakespearian acting (plus as Captain Picard), I’m not sure I’d be happy to vote for him in an election. Giuliani is vulnerable in that he can’t use the 9/11 thing to win against someone like Clinton. Indeed that seems to be a part of McCain’s platform.

McCain charts Rudy’s inelectability on a map

Following on his analysis of next year’s general election, John McCain’s campaign has released this poll showing how he stacks up with Rudy Giuliani in a hypothetical general election race against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Unlike his fake election article predicting victory over Clinton, his campaign’s own map shows him trailing her in enough key states to lose the election. But McCain’s argument is that he can compete with her better than Giuliani, winning in Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky and running closer in Minnesota, Michigan and Missouri.

Most Republicans, I’m sure, will be realistic in thinking they’ll have to face her rather than Obama or Edwards. Stephen Dinan points to a state like New Jersey where Giuliani could challenge Clinton, but I’m not sure he’d be able to win it.

Out of all the Republican candidates it appears McCain would do best against Clinton. He is the oldest candidate and some ultra-right Christians et al are unsure of his “conservative” values. But what do they want more – their views unequivacably supported, or seeing someone at least generally right-wing beat Clinton into the White House?

From what I’ve seen McCain could appeal to the undecided/wavering group of voters that may tip the balance in enough states. His candicacy bid may depend on what Republicans want more – a candidate they like and try to force on the rest of the country (Giuliani), or a candidate they’re unsure about but has more appeal to different types of voters (McCain). Sometimes, if you really want to win, you have to hold your nose whilst voting. The question is, are there enough nose-pegs to go around?


The Washington Post has published a poll that also shows McCain moving into second place behind Giuliani and ahead of Thompson.


Traveling for 10 days

It’s off to Shanghai and the suburbs of Guangzhou for what promises to be another sleep-deprived week of media activities. Will be in Shanghai through Thursday afternoon, then to Dongguan through the weekend. Sorry for the inevitable radio silence to come.


YouTube is Back

Really. Enjoy it while it lasts.


No Justice

We can walk into their country and blow innocent civilians’ brains out and walk away free as a bird. What’s happened to America?


“Why Asian guys can’t get white girls”

This will be a first: I am linking to a YouTube video I cannot watch myself (the Cybernanny is on steroids this week), simply because, based on this blogger’s endorsement, I suspect it’s funny. Let me know.


Sexy Beijing is back, and so is W*kipedia

Check it out.


China Law Blog on Kebab Boy

Most interesting.


Damn, Michelle Malkin really hates me

Could I ask for a higher honor? It’s nice to know she reads me and has now linked to me no fewer than three times (here’s the latest). If I can say that I got under the skin of the most dangerous far-right rabble rouser in America, then this blog and all the hours that have gone into it (and there were lots until it all but ground to a halt this year) were worth it.

Malkin is evil; evil Malkin –
That is all ye know on earth
And all ye need to know.