Chinese Gold Farmers

In case you missed it, there's been an ongoing, sustained effort by the Chinese government to hack foreign governments, companies, newspapers-- basically anything or anyone with a computer. As usual, the Chinese government is trying to play coy in the face of a mountain of evidence. It really doesn't surprise me though; it's just another example of the country's "why figure it out for ourselves when we can just steal it" mentality.

5 Tools for Language Mastery

It's fairly often enough that questions pop up asking about language learning. Usually the questions ask how useful it is to study a language, and which language one should study. If you go about it with the goal of fluency, then it is definitely useful, and will definitely pay off.

I've found that there are 5 big things you need to do to develop all-around (reading/writing/speaking/listening) fluency in a language. And if you are going to take the time to learn a language, your goal should be fluency if you hope to someday use the language in a business context. Nobody has any use for a kid who can only utter a few disconnected phrases.

To become fluent, you need to immerse yourself in the language. What does immersion mean? For starters, immersion definitely entails living in the country where the language is spoken. However, living in the country in and of itself will not immerse you. It's entirely possible to live in a country for years and never speak the local language beyond "hi/bye" and giving basic directions to a taxi driver.

“This is what happens, Larry.”

They call Los Angeles the "City of Angels", I don't think Standard & Poor's is finding it to be that exactly. As you all probably know by now, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit today in LA against S&P alleging they "falsely represented that its credit ratings of RMBS and CDO tranches were objective, independent, uninfluenced by any conflicts of interest that might compromise S&P's analytical judgment, and represented S&P's true current opinion regarding the credit risks."

Although the DoJ probe began in November 2009, Standard & Poor's should really have seen this coming when they decided to downgrade the US in 2011. The government has denied it, but this is 100% a clumsy attempt at retribution for the downgrade. And it bears some striking parallels to a similar case in Los Angeles that took place back in the early 90s, just about the time of our conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis.

The Fundamental Difference Between the US and China

In the comments from my post last week about differences between the US and China, a few people had expressed interest in what Chinese people see remarkable about our culture. I think the biggest thing that almost in a sense fascinates Chinese people about our culture is our spirit of individualism. China is, and has been, a collective culture for thousands of years.

This is also the biggest thing that divides our cultures.

Appearance vs. Substance in China

Have you ever wondered if all the new stuff they're doing in China is really everything it's chalked up to be? It's a perfectly legitimate question to ask, especially so because in China appearance is far more important than substance. This isn't meant to be a value judgment, to say that this is good, or bad, or whatever. That's just how it is here, and this is one of the major ways in which working in China is different than the west.

Every society in some way has the concept of 'face', but the Chinese take to a whole new level. There's a whole art, almost a science to it. There's a defined procedure as to how to exchange business cards (with two hands, among many other things) how to receive a gift (try to decline it at first, but once you accept it, don't open it in front of the person who gave it to you), the list goes on. Doing things correctly allows you to 'gain face' and consequently you will see your social standing rise. Not following procedure will cause you to 'lose face' and your social standing falls.

Killing Me Silently: Beijing's Smog

Working in an office in and of itself usually wouldn't expose one to hazardous conditions. The city in which one lives could have its fair share of dangers though. Crime is a given; all big cities have their fair share of crime, but it's usually isolated in certain neighborhoods. The truly awful smog in Beijing the past few days has made me to give a little more thought to the silent killer that is pollution.

A Manufactured Crisis

This honestly has to be one of the dumbest 'crises' we have ever been in. After a series of arbitrary dates determined by short term, kick-the-can down the road fixes set by Congress, we have once again reached the debt ceiling. Once again the GOP is demanding considerable spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the limit, and once again Barry doesn't think he has to entertain the idea. Timmy G's "extraordinary measures" are fast becoming the norm.

But the reality is that we aren't in a crisis at all.

The Marginalization of John Boehner

So as of a few hours ago we have a solution now to the fiscal cliff. Kind of. Maybe. It seems that the only things they really agreed on were what taxes were going to rise and by how much. The agreement raises $620 billion over the next decade, but substantial spending cuts were left out of the mix- only $15 billion. There are rumblings now though that the House Republicans are going to try to amend the Senate-passed bill to add more spending cuts.

In all of this, what I have found most fascinating is how much John Boehner has really moved from the spotlight to the sideshow.

China Is Headed for the Pits in 2013

A few days ago, I gave Miss Cleo a call and got some ideas about a different perspective on my comments last week. Specifically she told me that I was painting too nice a picture and wasn't being critical enough in my views. So without further ado, here are the same points told from a slightly different perspective.

More Outbound Investment / M&A

3 Things to Watch for in China in 2013

Olaf has looked into his crystal ball and sees a bright future for China in 2013. Naturally there still are serious problems that pose an existential threat to the ruling party (property prices, bank capitalization, demographic trends, wealth gap, etc.), but my feeling is that these won't come to the front burner quite yet. So without further ado, I present my predictions:

More Outbound Investment / M&A

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