Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Dad: I love you. Now buzz off.

Gigi Chao has penned an open letter to her tycoon father about her marital status and sexual preference. It’s a touching, classy piece from a very cool woman.
The transcript, as published in the SCMP is below.
Dear Daddy,

I thought the timing was right for us to have a candid conversation.

You are one of the most mentally astute, energetic yet well mannered and hard-working people this humble earth has ever known.

Your confidence, quick wit, and charisma brightens any room you enter.

I love you very much, and I think I can speak for my brothers also, that we have the utmost respect for you as a father and role model in business.

I am sorry that people have been saying insensitive things about you lately. The truth is, they don’t understand that I will always forgive you for thinking the way you do, because I know you think you are acting in my best interests. And we both don’t care if anybody else understands.

As your daughter, I would want nothing more than to make you happy. But in terms of relationships, your expectations of me and the reality of who I am, are not coherent.

I am responsible for some of this misplaced expectation, because I must have misled you to hope there were other options for me. You know I’ve had male lovers in the past, and I’ve had happy, albeit short-lived, relationships. I found myself temporarily happy, buoyed by the freshness, the attention, the interest, of someone physically stronger than myself.

But it was always short-lived, as I quickly lost patience, and felt an indescribable discomfort in their presence. It usually made me frustrated, and I would yearn for my freedom again. I’ve broken a few hearts, hearts of good, honest and loving men, and I’m sorry that it had to be so.

But with Sean, a woman, somehow it was different. I am comfortable and satisfied with my life and completely at ease with her. I know it’s difficult for you to understand how I could feel romantically attracted to a woman; I suppose I can’t really explain it either. It just happens, peacefully and gently, and after so many years, we still love each other very much.

My regret is that you have no idea how happy I am with my life, and there are aspects of my life that you don’t share. I suppose we don’t need each other’s approval for our romantic relationships, and I am sure your relationships are really fantastic too.

However, I do love my partner Sean, who does a good job of looking after me, ensuring I am fed, bathed and warm enough every day, and generally cheering me up to be a happy, jolly girl. She is a large part of my life, and I am a better person because of her.

Now, I’m not asking you to be best of friends; however, it would mean the world to me if you could just not be so terrified of her, and treat her like a normal, dignified human being.

I understand it is difficult for you to understand, let alone accept this truth.

I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out who I am, what is important in my life, who I love and how best to live life, as an expression of all these questions. I am proud of my life, and I would not choose to live it any other way (except also figuring out how to be gentler on the planet).

I’m sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong.

There are plenty of good men, they are just not for me.

Wishing you happiness.

Patiently yours,

Your daughter, Gigi.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Na Thanks, Hubei.

Strings attached?

Now that Li Na has won her second Grand Slam tennis tournament, lots of people in China want a piece of her. Some, including the government of her home province of Hubei, are willing to pay a tidy sum to get it. This picture is of Li Na receiving a check worth $132,000 from Hubei’s Communist Party chief (Li Hongzhong), simply for having brought pride to the Chinese people. He looks happy to be basking in her reflected glory. She, on the other hand, looks like there are 800,000 other places she’d rather be, including resting at home with her feet up, munching on a few well-deserved Want Want rice crackers.
This publicity event has caused something of a firestorm in the social media on the Mainland. Most comments criticize the Chinese government for wastefully spending public money by giving it to a celebrity who is in no need of it. (She won twenty times this amount in prize money alone down in Melbourne.) Others criticize Li Na herself for not keeping up appearances and etiquette by pretending to be pleased, irrespective of how loathsome she may find the state-sponsored system of pushing athletes.  She has famously asserted her individuality as a key reason for her breakthrough success and steadfastly refused to allow herself to be used by an autocratic regime to promote itself and its legitimacy.
She is someone known for her humor and wise-cracking, which itself is a refreshing change from the usual stereotype of the stoic, robotic Asian athlete. However, she clearly considers being used as a propaganda tool as no laughing matter. Hopefully, there will be a lucky charity organization that in the near future will get a sizable donation, indirectly courtesy of the CCP. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Billion-Dollar LGBT Baby

Gee, Dad, maybe you just misplaced my wedding invitation.

Some people just don’t get it. Cecil Chao’s – everyone’s least favorite Chinese playboy billionaire – has doubled the reward or “dowry” to one billion Hong Kong Dollars ($125 million) – for any man who can convince his daughter Gigi to turn her back on her legal wife and tie herself down in a straight marriage. Never mind that she is Asia’s most celebrated and cheered LGBT advocate, ironically due in large part to her dad’s shenanigans. He seems to believe that money can solve all problems. Um, no. But the rest of us are getting plenty of entertainment observing how high he will go with his folly bid. Do we hear two billion?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In Asia, Superman losing out to Galaxyman

The house wins big

For almost as long as one can remember, Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing (locally nicknamed Superman) has been the world’s wealthiest Chinese person. His sole rival for the overall Asian crown in recent years has been India’s Mukesh Ambani of the Reliance Group. However, there is a relative newcomer now nipping at Superman’s cape - Liu Che-Woo. Mr. Liu’s claim to fortune and fame? Macau. Yes, those gaudier-than-thou casinos which now generate gaming revenues seven times higher than Las Vegas.
Mr. Liu and his family are the majority shareholder of the Galaxy group of casinos, Asia’s third largest.Bloomberg/Businessweek puts his net worth at close to $24 billion, a stone’s throw away from Li’s $29 billion. Mr. Liu’s wealth has grown by 12% over the past year on the back of Macau’s 18% growth rate and Galaxy’s share price doubling. Mr. Li, meanwhile has seen stagnant growth caused by the kryptonite (for him) of diversification in mature industries.
An interesting side note is that, after Bill Gates and his $15.5 billion increase in net worth, the second highest gainer on the list belonged to Sheldon Adelson and his $14.4 billion rise. Adelson’s source of wealth superpower? You guessed it. Macau.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ni Hao Kitty

A view to relax regional tensions

Japanese and Chinese have long been uncomfortable bedfellows. Recent political tensions over the sovereignty of a few rocks in the Pacific Ocean (Senkaku Islands in Japanese, Diaoyu in Chinese) have kept decades-old rancor simmering well into the 21st century. However, such growlings have not kept the well-heeled Chinese tourists away from the Land of the Rising Sun. On the contrary, as reported in this Wall Street Journal blog article, Japan has emerged as the number one travel destination choice for wealthy Mainlanders, beating out the US and other popular destinations such as Hong Kong or the Maldives. Like many seasoned international travelers, the Chinese have been catching on to Japan’s unique natural beauty, fascinatingly unique culture and amazing food. Louis Vuitton bags and $1,000 rice cookers have also been a draw. It certainly helps that the RMB has appreciated by some 25% against the yen in recent months, which makes the Land of the Falling FX Rate a cost-effective choice, in addition to an alluring one.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Good at Squeezing Jews

A name card or donation? Hard to tell.

As reported in this SCMP article, Chen Guangbiao, China’s Mr. Modesty, has now turned his sights on buying the Wall Street Journal. He is confident that he can be successful at running an American newspaper, partly because he is “very good at working with Jews.” Ugh. Why that trait makes him better qualified than a few billion other people with the same skill is lost on me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Singapore Roads for the Rich

An entitlement to pay a fortune

A 3-series BMW in Singapore can cost $213,000, six times the price in the US. And yet, Mercedes and BMWs led car sales in 2013, making up one third of all vehicles sold in the island state. Such is the consequence of Singapore’s controversial car ownership policy intended to manage traffic congestion and encourage use of public transportation. What does the policy entail? At the heart of it is the government-mandated Certificate of Entitlement, or CoE, which confers the authorization to own a private vehicle for ten years. The CoEs are rationed according to a formula tied to a strict vehicle growth limitation. The selection process and value of CoEs are set at auctions that are open to the public and occur twice a month.
The result is a classic case of unfettered capitalism’s effect on prices and on wealth disparity. As a general rule, without caps and constraints, scarcity for highly desired products make them vastly more dear, particularly in economies with borders that allow the free inflow of money and investment. As wealth has increased in Singapore, the winning bids for CoEs has crested $80,000, even for run-of-the mill Toyotas. So naturally, as CoE prices rise into the stratosphere, more and more of those who can afford it also prefer luxury cars rather than Hondas and Peugeots. Carried to an extreme, this trend can lead to the odd sight of wide, leafy tropical boulevards populated only by either bling-mobiles or public buses. But such societal oddities are what observers have come to expect from everyone’s favorite nanny-state.
Bloomberg article with full details:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mr. Modesty


As an adjunct to the preceding blog entry about the Chinese tycoon who has allegedly set his sights on buying the New York Times after building himself up as China’s environmental leader and PR champ, above is a business card that he has been handing out to foreigners. It’s convenient that he’s run out of room on the card. “NYT Publisher” and “China’s Most Humble Servant” clearly would not have fit.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All the News that RMB Can Buy

A winning bid for the New York Times?

Chen Guangbiao is a successful (if rather showy) business tycoon and philanthropist who seems capable of selling just about anything. Last year (as reported in this blog), he sold cans of fresh air for $0.80 each to citizens in China choking on the polluted “for all five senses” air that shrouds major Chinese urban centers. Now he is seeing whether his charms can be applied toward buying something decidedly more daunting – the New York Times. As reported in various media sources (see link below), this near-billionaire has recruited an investor group and a financial advisor to help persuade the venerable newspaper’s owners to sell to him. The price tag? Unclear, because the owners have asserted flatly that the NYT is not for sale.
The publicity-hungry and highly nationalistic Chen has written an Op Ed in China’s Global Times newspaper that he wants to gain control of the NYT to set about "rebuilding its credibility and influence" in its coverage of China. Never mind that most of the NYT’s millions of readers think that it is already a global thought leader. Its ground-breaking expose on former Premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth (a meticulous piece that both won it the Pulitzer Prize and got its website banned on the mainland) is just one example of the quality journalism for which the NYT is widely known. Apparently, however, Mr. Chen equates journalism and jingoism when it comes to reporting about the Mainland. If by some sad twist of fortune he is successful in his quest, global citizens should be concerned. From a journalistic sense, it would be tantamount to Mr. Chen traveling to somewhere like Wyoming where the air is pristine and pedaling six packs of foul Beijing air. Let’s hope this story is fit for only the funny pages.