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Friday, October 03, 2003

Chinese Teddy Bears, Japanese Cars and Hope

It's Friday, and right on cue Shanghai based ChinaBiz journalist Fons Truinstra has pre-posted his weekly column. One of the week's little treasures.

Shanghai – This week I have purchased an American product made in the US. I thought I should mention this as even the Americans nowadays prefer to buy Chinese teddy bears and Japanese cars, because they are more competitive than American products. There is still hope!

What I bought is anti-spam software (Ihatespam – really good stuff). The number of spam messages I had to delete every morning passed the 100 threshold, so I decided that simply deleting them was not good enough. Maybe I’m more exposed to spam than the average internet user, because much of my work takes place online, but I’m sure that the nuisance of spam will force you too one day to act.

There are other trends in my purchasing habits that I find personally more worrying. This summer I have cancelled the last subscriptions on printed foreign media. I now get everything I need for free through the internet. Actually, I get much more than I need.

I pay 130 renminbi a month to Shanghai Telecom and no dime goes to any media company anymore.
Again, I might ahead of the crowd, because of my specific situation as a journalist in China. For foreign publications we traditionally had to pay a stiff surcharge in exchange for which we would get the publications two or three days after the rest of the world got them. Finding alternatives, mostly over the internet, has been more important here in China than elsewhere in the world. But again I’m quite sure that I’m not that far ahead of you all.

The worrying part of this is that Shanghai Telecom does not pay my bills. When we do not pay media companies for their information anymore, who is in the end going to pay my bills? That is a bit of an existential question for a light column like this, but still worth to consider. It is not only American manufacturers who have to face changing markets it is no different for journalists. I have been walking around with a shield saying “We are Doomed” at a meeting of the Shanghai Foreign Correspondents Club, but I do not think the message came across. We would rather write about other trades going down the drain than about ourselves.

It reminded me of my early lessons in history. Then we were taught the big theories about how cultures emerged and went down, emerged and went down. What was interesting was that the theories varied very much, only the end was similar. Every culture went down too. So when these great thinkers were asked how their theory would apply to their own, existing culture, they were all sure that their own culture was the only exception: their culture would not go down. It is a very human thing: we only like bad news when it is about others, not about ourselves.
Source: China Trade

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