Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cross Cultural

China is Not Like Dealing with West

In China, you start off with complete distrust and then you build trust on top of that

In the west, we do business with the mentality of ‘I trust you until I don’t because I have a legal system where I can get you if you do something against what we agreed to’. In China, you start off with complete distrust and then you build trust on top of that. So, the person across the table is thinking the same way. If you offer them a fair deal, they’re going to think you’re screwing them and that they have to dial back that deal. You don’t offer someone a fair deal. You offer them an outrageous deal because then you can dial it back to be a fair deal."    --   JAMES McGREGOR   2014 January 22  FINANCIAL POST 

Why Is Starbucks So Expensive in China?

Imagine walking into Starbucks and discovering that your grande latte cost $27. You'd probably think that the world's coffee supply had suddenly vanished. Or that you'd traveled by time machine many decades into the future.

These inflated prices gives you a pretty good idea of the relative cost (adjusted to per capita income) of what a Chinese person pays for the drink. China's per capita income, at about $7,200, is around five and a half times less than the American figure. Yet at a Starbucks in Beijing, a grande latte goes for about $4.80—or a dollar more than what it costs in the United States. A simple beverage of espresso and steamed milk is pretty damned expensive in China.

Considering this, it's a small miracle that Starbucks is still in business there at all. But in fact, the Seattle-based caffeine empire's China operations are thriving. Last December, Bloomberg reported that Starbucks plans to double its China workforce by 2015,  adding hundreds of new stores in cities across the country in the process. The company even expects China to become its second largest market—behind just the United States—by this time.

In fairness, per capita income is a crude way to measure the buying power of Starbucks' actual customer base: The majority of its stores are located in China's large, coastal cities, where most people earn a lot more than the nationwide per capita average. Nevertheless, it's striking that in a developing country, one lacking an indigenous coffee-drinking culture, so many people are willing to pay a premium for Starbucks products. Logically, wouldn't it make sense for Starbucks to drop its prices a little in order to attract even more customers?

The problem with this idea is pretty simple—operating a Starbucks store in China is expensive. For a country where labor is cheap—Starbucks baristas in Beijing make much less than their American counterparts—this may seem counterintuitive. But labor is just one component that goes into making a grande latte, as this Wall Street Journal infographic shows:

What's expensive are the logistics. The coffee beans Starbucks brews in its Beijing stores, as well as other materials like cups and mugs, don't cost any more to import in China than in the United States. The problem is getting these materials from point A to point B. "Transporting coffee beans from, say, Colombia to the port of Tianjin is about the same as transporting them from Colombia to the port of Los Angeles," says David Wolf, a public relations professional and expert in Chinese business. "It's getting them from the port in Tianjin to the store in Beijing that's expensive." China has invested billions of dollars over the years to improve its port and transportation infrastructure, but the combination of taxes, fees, and middle-men add to logistics costs—which are then passed on to customers in the form of marked-up frappuccinos and lattes. 

So if Starbucks is so expensive in China, why do so many people go there? Most cities in the country have coffee shops that provide a roughly similar cup of coffee—and similarly comfortable atmosphere—at much lower prices. How does Starbucks make it work?

One major issue is culture. Since the Chinese economy opened up to import products in the late 1970s, these goods acquired a certain cache with image-conscious consumers. "Traditionally foreign products were regarded as better-made, higher-status, and simply nicer," Fei Wang, a Washington, DC-based consultant who grew up in Wuhan, told me. "A person's social standing was defined by the objects they own." Far from acting as a deterrent, high prices actually enticed customers who wanted to show off their new affluence; put another way, purchasing a good like a cup of coffee at a premium was a good way to obtain "face" in business or personal relationships. And Starbucks had the good fortune of entering the country at a time when coffee drinking became fashionable among hip, young Chinese consumers.
There are signs, however, that Chinese preferences for high-priced, imported goods may be waning. With the rise of e-commerce—and more frequent foreign travel—Chinese consumers have begun to feel that they're paying too much for simple pleasures like a cup of coffee. "After living in America for awhile I was shocked at how expensive Starbucks was when I went back to China," says Wang.  This trend appears to be happening across other industries, too: A disgruntled shopper told the Wall Street Journal's Laurie Burkitt that it simply wasn't "worth shopping in China anymore." 
Could the Starbucks allure fade in China, as the country's once-non-existent coffee shop market matures? Probably not anytime soon. The company has proven adept at adding local touches in its Chinese stores, such as green tea flavored coffee drinks and collectible mugs, and has shown a flexibility that has eluded other foreign companies hoping to capitalize on the market. Eventually, though, Chinese customers may decide that a latte is just a latte—and the no-name place down the street is more than good enough.   -- 2013 September    THE ATLANTIC

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ken Hsieh

So proud of Maestro Ken Hsieh who has built a solid reputation in Asia and in North America

This year his concert in Vancouver's Coal Harbour attracted ~ 7 thousand people

Here are photos of his concert of previous years at this stunning setting

  • Outdoor Concert at Coal Harbour
  • Bio
  • Ken Hsieh in China - 2015
  • Sarah Cheng

  • TOKYO:


    Photos courtesy of Mayowill

    8-9,000 showed up for this outdoor concert

    --  2015 January 9, Malcolm Parry, VANCOUVER SUN

    December 2014

    Air Canada Presents Beethoven's Ninth for the 21st Century (J)
    Conducted by Ken Hsieh

    The Symphony Hall

    A photo posted by William Luk (@mayowill) on

    Monte Cristo Magazine 2016

    Aaron presents Alex

    Back in Hong Kong again  

    DJ Alex Merrell in Hong Kong:

    This is one of our most successful introductions - we introduced Alex to Aaron Suen, who brought Alex to Asia for the first time to Socialito.

    This is what happens when they try chicken feet!
    This 'hot' DJ is fellow Croftonian and daughter of my good friend who is a noted artist whose work hangs in the lobby of IBM Plaza in NY.        >>  MORE 

    From Hong Kong straight to New York Fashion Week.   Good thing Alex has a lot of energy! >> MORE

    Monday, August 26, 2013

    Asian Americans

    My Face Does Not Match My Race
    What life's like when your looks don't tell your story.
    I am the fifth-generation descendant of a pioneer Chinese-American family, but I have red hair and freckles.  My Caucasian face has marked me as an outsider in the hinese community (even in my own family), while my Chinese heart has forever made me feel like an outsider in the large white culture in which I live.  I have lived my entire life in physical conflict - my face does not match the nthnicity I claim as my own.

    I had a typical Chinese-American childhood, meaning that my family insisted I learn as much as possible about my ancestors.  My aunt told stories of my great-great-grandfather, who came to this country to help build the transcontinental railroad.  My grandfather recounted tales about my great grandfather, who, although illiterate, became a successful merchant, was one of the founders of Los Angeles Chinatown, and married my great-grandmother when it was against the law for Chinese and Caucasians to marry.  When I was very young, my grandmother used to take me around at wedding banquets to introduce me to relatives, carefully explaining that each of them had a different title depending on birth order and whether they came from the maternal or paternal side.  All of those people had black hair and lovely golden skin, but I can remember how confused I was when I'd see my reflection in mirrors or store windows.  Still, I've always known exactly where I fit in the family tree.  No matter what my skin an dhair colour, I will always be Fong See's freat-granddaughter, Sumoy's niece, Gim's third cousin once removed.

    Since my face and my ethnicity are in conflict, how do I express my cultural background?  The same way everyone does - by what is in my home, by how I dress, by what I eat and, of course, by how I see the world and how the world sees me.  My home is decorated with Chinese scrolls and a large number of Chinese antiques.  Although I try to avoid clothes with frogs or mandarin collars (too obvious), I do love Chinese silk, Chinese prints, Chinese peasnat jewelery.  While I don't have a lot of time to cook Chinese food, I've grown to love Ken Hom's Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood, which is filled with the kinds of home-style dishes that my grandfather and my father used to make.  And lathough I know that all mothers nibble at their children'sleftovers on occasion, I feel compelled to eat every last piece of gristle and such every last bit of marrow out of my kid's disgarded chicken bones, because that is what a woman from the Chinese peasant class is raised to do.

    In America, I don't quite fit in, no matter where I go.  In Chinatown, waiters offer offer forks or reguse to bring me a particular dish because its 'too strange for American tastes".  I ;ve had my own blood relatives  discuss my appearance in front of me as though I wasn't there, commenting on my build ("not fat like most Americans") and concern for family and history ("She expresses filial piety unlike most Americans").

    I've been in conversations where someone who looks Chinese has said "You're more Chinese than I am".  Its usually meant as an insult: Why would anyone want to be so backward?  Although they're ashamed of their heritage, I cherish mine.  (But to be fair I've never had to spend a day lookin Chinese in a culture that values being white.)  On the other had, some Chinese Americans - usually younger, college educated and stringently politically correct - see me as too "assimilated'.  To them, that's the ultimate dirty word, the ultimate sellout.  There's no way I could ever understand what it means to be Chinese.

    However, I do look 'right' in the larger white culture.  So it's true that I've never been the overt victim of either or positive or negative sterotypes.  No one's accused me of being good at math or science.  No one's ever made a pass at me because I fit some sexual sterotype of the China doll.  But at my baby shoer, which was held in a Chinese restaurant, a couple of my firneds mistake my father for a waiter, calling him 'surly' and 'slow'.  When my husband and I bought our first house, the housing laws still stated that we couldn't sell the house to anyone of "Ethiopian" or "Mongolian" descent.  That statewide law barring ownership of property had kept my family - even those who had only one-quarter Chinese blood and looked about as Chinese as I do - confiend to Chinatown for nearly a century, meaning that assismilation was not an option to be argued over at cocktail parties or at academia symposia.

    I may not look Chinese, but I've felt these slights deeply, maybe even more than justified , because my 'face' weemed to suggest to others a shared attitude of ignorance and racism.  When I speak about my books and my research of Chinese-American culture, I talk about the history of the miscegenation laws, and how today people can marry whomever they like.  The proof of this change is in the world faces of children I see in Minneapolix, Missoula and Miami.  I can always tell an audiene that I may be an aberration today with my red hair and Chinese heart, but that in another 20 years they'll be able to meet someone and really not know what she is by her face.

    In a sense this mixing of cultures is already happening.  Today people such as Dean ain (Aisain and Caucasian), Keanu Reeves (Caucasian, Asian and Hawaiian), Mariey Carey (Black, Venezuelan and Caucasian) and Tiger Woods (Black, Caucasian, Native American and Asian) can become celebrities without being condemned or ostracized for their mixed blood.  This doesn't mean that they aren't occasionally called onto the politically correct carpet by people who feel that they identify too much with one side, or , conversely, for not wanting to be the poster child for this or that race, but it doesn mean that on television, Dean Cain can get the white girl and no angry viewers will launch a letter-writing campaign condemning it or enact a law forbidding it.

    We've come a long way from my grandparents' day when they had to leave the country to get married, but I still feel like an outsider, unable to match my face to my heart.  Yet even I have moments of acceptance. I like to think of one o f my first trips to China when a group of villagers finally  got past the shock of my face and hair and instead began to look for our physical similarities.  The women pinched my arms and then their own to demonstrate that we had the same proportions.  They put my hands on their face, then patted mine, remarking on its Southchina shape.  I was uttering and blissfully  embraced for who I am.  I was no longer just my face.  I was also my heart.
    byLisa See * Origi

    nal  appeared in SELF Magazine   11.1999

    Saturday, August 24, 2013

    TaiTai's Travel

    • Yes, that was me on the Prince's Building - Mandarin flyover     >> MORE
    Lawrence, wait for me!   

    I could not be more proud - there are so many layers to this street scene in Fez.  Some gallery should be displaying her works.    Nadine is a talented photographer.   
      >>  MORE

    Travel Tip: 


    Lawrence, wait for me!

    Moved from Merzouga in the Sahara to Taroudant. Just did the souk & will rest by the pool for this afternoon. Staying in an ancient Pasha's palace.  On to Essaouira tomorrow.


    Friday, August 23, 2013

    Taiwan Medical

    Great piece on BBC News today by Cindy Siu on Medical Tourist to Taiwan.

    Here's the print version she filed previously.       >>

    On Brains

    Very interesting specialty Taiwan has chosen to excel at - Brains!

    This reminds me of serious smart friend whose Dad trained as a physicist but for many years he could not secure an appropriate position where his family emigrated to decades ago.   So now they are a typical global Asian family - Dad teaching Physics in Taiwan, Mom  the most successful Asian food importer in Canada, son in Hong Kong working in Finance, and daughter studying in U.K.

    The new Asian affluent is thinking global. 

    Monday, August 19, 2013



    Chinese leaders' relatives have stashed wealth abroad: report

    But no evidence that the politicians were aware of their kin's actions: ICIJ

    [HONG KONG] Relatives of top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping and former premier Wen Jiabao have used offshore tax havens to hide their wealth, according to a mammoth investigation released yesterday.
    The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), citing information culled from 2.5 million leaked documents, said that Mr Xi's brother- in-law and Mr Wen's son and son-in-law were among those with offshore holdings.
    It is the latest revelation to shine a light on the hidden wealth of family members of China's top officials - a topic considered off-limits by Communist Party leaders.
    Offshore entities can be legal and there was no evidence that the politicians were aware of their relatives' actions.

    For many children of the Chinese elite who are hired by Wall Street banks, it's their business school credentials as much as their family connections that get them a foot in the door, according to a Hong Kong-based managing director at a U.S. bank who is involved in hiring.

    "These kids tend to be well educated. If Harvard Business School or Stanford let these influential people in, and those schools are on the list of places we tend to hire from, it's a natural process," said the banker


    Saturday, August 17, 2013

    Thank You!

    Much thanks to friends for voting for my niece recently:

    "Big thank you to everyone who voted for me for the Chinatown youth talent showdown! I won the people's choice award. Every vote counted!"

    Handbags to Raise Funds?

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    High Net Worth Individuals

    But perhaps the most powerful driver of fast-rising luxury fashion prices is the fact that there are simply more people who are able to pay up. 

    The number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in the world increased by 9.2 percent in 2012 to 12 million people, with combined total assets of $46.2 trillion, according to a report by Capgemini, a management consultancy. North America still hosts the largest number of HNWIs (3.73 million people, up 11.5 percent year-over-year, with $12.7 trillion in assets, up 11.7 percent year-over-year), but the number of HNWIs in the Asia-Pacific region increased by 9.4 percent, during the same period, to 3.68 million, with total assets up 12.2 percent to $12 trillion.