Posts Tagged ‘Asia Times’

China travelers to move down market

September 27, 2017

A series of Sanford Bernstein reports shows that the wave of Chinese travelers is rising from below the current super-wealthy level, posing a raft of new challenges. Morgan Stanley research highlights some of those issues are previewing now in Macau.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes, editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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VIP revival tests Macau mass hysteria

September 23, 2017

As high rollers return and new rules restrict smaller money movements, longstanding assumptions that Macau and Beijing prefer mass market gambling look more dubious.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes, editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Forget Hong Kong, try ‘one country-two systems’ to settle Israeli-Palestinian conflict

June 28, 2017

Twenty years after the handover, it’s clear ‘one country-two systems’ is failing in Hong Kong. But maybe it could solve the Israeli-Palestinian standoff.

The perfect way to mark my adopted hometown’s return to Chinese sovereignty is reading (or re-reading) Hong Kong On Air. It’s not too early to start asking what comes after 2047.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes, editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Still no friends of the earth

April 23, 2014

Another Earth Day, another year marked by climate disasters across the globe, another year without meaningful action on climate change, another year of the failed UN process on climate change droning on. No wonder Mother Nature is so angry.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

How to succeed in business by really trying

January 4, 2014

Asia has incredible disparities in wealth not just within nations, but between nations. China, Japan and South Korea are among the biggest economies on earth, with the latter pair also ranking high in terms of per capita wealth and output. Southeast Asian nations rank much further down those lists, despite many geographic and natural resource advantages. In How Asia Works, author Joe Studwell convincingly explains the dichotomy.

In his earlier book, Asian Godfathers, Studwell focuses on how tycoons in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia game the system to make themselves richer and keep their compatriots poor, holding back development in the process. Southeast Asia’s billionaires have yet to create a manufacturing company that can play in the global big leagues.

How Asia Works looks at the opposite side of the Asian gulf. It explains how Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, which had per capita GDP comparable to Malawi 60 years ago – created globally competitive companies and entered the top echelon of world economies. As a bonus, Studwell includes an insightful analysis of China’s progress as a global economic power.

As my Asia Times book review notes, Studwell’s observations, based on a century and half of history, contradict free market doctrine. The invisible hand of the market works in rich countries but needs the strong arm of government to help developing economies progress. The formula for transforming a poor country’s economy includes land reform to increase agricultural productivity, since small plot yields outstrip those of plantations; government-led industrial policy to create homegrown export industries, using local entrepreneurial talent and competition at the national and global level rather than bureaucrats, to pick the winners; and financial market regulations to ensure capital flows support industrialization. Studwell’s conclusions are at once radical ideas in an age of blind faith in free markets as the one true engine of economic growth and almost comically obvious to anyone reading economic history without ideological blinders.

A century and a half ago, German economist Friedrich List characterized Britain’s advocacy of free trade as a cynical and hypocritical attempt to reinforce its economic preeminence achieved through centuries of mercantilism. In that spirit, How Asia Works urges rich countries and their institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to stop pushing developing nations toward free market policies that keep them poor. What’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gosling.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Penguin blazes trail to Chinese literature

December 22, 2013

Chinese modern literature may not be at the top of your last minute holiday shopping list, but Penguin Books would like to change that. The publisher is building a niche in Chinese fiction in English.

Penguin’s efforts to spread Chinese literature may be helping to its parent company, German media conglomerate Bertelsmann gain ground with Chinese authorities. Penguin China’s managing director Jo Lusby acknowledges that publishing Chinese novels in English fits Beijing’s objective of spreading Chinese cultural globally in an interview included in the Asia Times article. But she adds that the Chinese works Penguin chooses meet literary standards for publication and are expected to succeed commercially.

In 2012, Penguin published Northern Girls, the contemporary story of a young woman who leaves her village in northern China to work in the factories of the south by young novelist Sheng Keyi. (See an interview with Sheng from her visit to the 2012 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.) It’s a rollicking good read that runs the gamut of emotions.

This year, Penguin has published a pair of novels from the early 20th century by Lao She. Mr. Ma and Son move to 1920s London to run an antique shop inherited from Mr. Ma’s elder brother.

As I wrote in Asia Times, the book reflects Lao’s experience as a Chinese teacher in London, as well his love of English literature, with echoes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and George Bernard Shaw. A work about culture and generation gaps with entertaining characters, it’s easy to see why Mr. Ma and Son remains one of Lao’s best loved books in China.

Penguin also published Cat Country, more difficult to understand, both as a literary work and a commercial choice. A fantasy work about a dysfunctional society of cat people stoned on reverie leaves, Cat Country was intended as a political satire of China in the 1920s and 1930s.

First released as a serial in 1932, Cat Country can also be seen as a Chinese version of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s tale of drug-addled utopia gone wrong published in the same year. Lao’s novel also anticipates another anthropomorphic critique of Communism, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, published a decade later. Eerily, Cat Country also anticipates China’s Cultural Revolution that drove Lao, tormented by Red Guard radicals, to suicide. Lao has since been politically rehabilitated and his birth centennial was celebrated with Chinese television miniseries version of Mr. Ma and Son.

Penguin says it plans to publish more classic and contemporary Chinese literature in the years ahead. Whatever the company’s political and business motives, these books provide a welcome window in the Chinese society with a degree of honesty that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Ask not what’s happened to America since JFK

November 22, 2013

I’d just walked into my second grade classroom after going home for lunch. Oddly, a radio was on a table at the front of the room, with a voice saying, “…and we pray for the health of our president.” I wondered, why are we praying for that? What could happen to President Kennedy? Then I heard what had happened.

The assassination of John F Kennedy has become a great dividing line in the America of my lifetime. It was the nation’s first great television event, profoundly sad black and white images shared by every American live: the caisson carrying the president’s casket down Pennsylvania Avenue, the riderless horse with the boots upside down in the stirrups, John-John’s salute, Oswald’s surreal shooting in the Dallas Police Headquarters basement. Then, in living color, came Vietnam, the riots in cities across America, the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy that made us all question what kind of country we were living in, questions that only deepened with escalation of the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal.

Yes, much of the Kennedy presidency and legacy is about image, not substance. (The highs and lows of the Kennedy years are well chronicled in Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Best and the Brightest.) In the early 1980s, I was waiting for rush tickets at New York’s Public Theater. As the curtain was about to rise and our chances for tickets evaporate, in walked Jacqueline Kennedy on the arm of her post-Onassis companion Maurice Tempelsman. I was struck by how tiny and fragile she looked, short and so thin, the quintessential “social x-ray” of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. She wore the facial expression of someone whose shoes were too tight.

Or maybe it was her just profound disappointment at where America had gone since the heady days of Camelot and where it was going. The clarion call of JFK’s inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” would be ridiculed in today’s toxic political atmosphere. Ask yourself, is this the America you want?

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Chefs without borders

November 17, 2013

Researching an Asia Times article on issues between Malaysia and Indonesia gave me an opportunity to talk food with culinary masters from each country and sample their work at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

William Wongso is a scholar of Indonesian cooking as well as an author, chef, restaurateur and founder of ACMI – Aku Cinta Masakan Indonesia (I Love Indonesian Cooking), dedicated to preserving traditional recipes and spreading the good eating.

I sampled a fish stew and vegetables from the Batak group near Lake Toba in Northern Sumatra, prepared at The Kitchen, an addition to the Ubud festival that gives cookbook authors an opportunity to showcase and share their craft. The dishes used local spices to add a fresh tang, following Wongso’s edict, “Go back to our roots.”

One of his pet peeves is the modern obsession with presentation, also known as plating. “There are two things that matter: do the right thing in cooking; and use the right ingredients,” Wongso declared. “Wherever they talk about presentation, I ask, what is the benchmark? In Indonesian food it’s nasi campur,” a lump of rice surrounded by dollops of three or more vegetable, meat, chicken or fish items.

Chef Wan, Tourism Malaysia’s food ambassador, whipped up a version of laksa, a Malaysian standard. Born Redzuawan Ismail with Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese ancestry, Chef Wan noted how the region’s cooking draws from the groups that have visited over the centuries on the spice and silk routes. “Food to me is about diversity of culture and my family tree,” the famous television cooking show host and cookbook author said. “I encourage people to travel and learn about each other, marry each other.”

Turning to growing of intolerance in Malaysia, Indonesia and beyond, Chef Wan said, “Just because we have a different religion doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I hate it when people don’t use their brain. It’s only a bunch of people who don’t understand others, who think they’re better than other people, that cause trouble.”

“I have a long relationship with Chef Wan,” Wongso said. “We don’t talk about politics because politics makes enemies. Food makes friends.” To paraphrase Robert Frost, sharing good food makes good neighbors.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Ubud encounters: Bernice Chauly calls foul, Angelo Suarez calls cops

October 12, 2013

On opening day at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali, a panel on Southeast Asian writers featuring Malaysian writer Bernice Chauly and Philippine conceptual writer Angelo Suarez fielded a question about artistic freedom in their countries. (Look for more from the festival, which runs through October 15, here and at Asia Times.)

Chauly, who curates the George Town Literary Festival in her native Penang, said, “There’s a huge problem with censorship in Malaysia. I also work as an actress, and I was in a film that’s been stuck at the censorship board for more than a year.” The film features an angel that speaks in English, and a father with five children from five wives. “There are no fixed rules, so someone can just decide that they’re offended.”

Author of the memoir Growing up with Ghosts, Chauly added, “It’s safer to write in English if you want to be controversial.” We have become extremely sensitive about race and religion. If you’re not Muslim, you can’t use the Allah. It’s ridiculous.”

Suarez explained there’s a word in the Philippine language Tagalog, kuyog, which means to be lynched by a mob. “If someone doesn’t like your work, you will get lynched by someone in some fashion.”

Noting, “Religion is always inviting transgression,” he told about the Manila exhibition of a sculpture of Jesus with a penis in his forehead. “It’s offensive to me not because it’s a transgression, but because it’s a bad art. I think some form of aesthetic police has to be created.”

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Bo Xilai rises again

August 25, 2013

Bo Xilai’s dramatic ouster in March 2012 followed by last November’s anti-corruption pageant at the Communist Party Conference suggested that the disgraced leadership contender would be a whipping boy for the incoming Xi Jinping regime. Then, just as abruptly as he fell from power, Bo disappeared from the public eye, not just held in detention, but erased from the national discussion. It seemed that China’s new leadership team wanted to bury Bo and his saga that includes the murder of British citizen Neil Heywood and millions in misappropriated funds.

Suddenly, this week Bo was back in the spotlight. His show trial displays Bo at this iconoclastic best (or worst), apparently refusing to stick to the script of self-criticism and regret that his wife and police chief follow in exchange for relatively lenient sentences. Wherever the trial is heading, Bo seems determined not to go there quietly. Why the leadership opted to give Bo this platform to vent is hard to understand.

As I wrote in Asia Times months ago, it’s foolish to speculate on the behind the scenes machinations of Beijing’s top leadership. But it is worth watching how Bo’s trial turns out, the official line that emerges, and then look backward to try figuring out the Xi team’s motivation for giving Bo a final (?) star turn. It may simply be that China’s political system reached the stage of development where August is the silly season there, too.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.


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