4 December, 2005

Goodbye Sondra

Sondra. La Idler of Idle Days, one of the founders of Tomorrow.sg and a friend has passed away. Mr Brown offers a better eulogy than I am able.:

Sondra, aka Idler of Idle Days passed away yesterday, from Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare blood disorder. I was informed of this by her sister.

Our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.

Daryl pointed out a particular post she wrote about moving to the UK with her new love, and her plans for 2006, and he is right. It is gut-wrenching to read in the light of this shocking news. But also precious to us, because it was a rare glimpse into her personal side, her hopes, her dreams:

“I will miss my family and friends. I will miss the food, possibly shopping and above all, Singlish. I will miss my cat, the familiar smells of Singapore, the familiar sight of the lunchtime crowd in the CBD…. so many things!”

And we will miss you, girl.


I had met Sondra a total of three times and had exchanged occasional e-mails since leaving Singapore, about mostly irreverent matters. She initially struck me as a reserved person, although that impression dissolved over time. I regret not knowing her better and am saddened that I never will.

(photo via E)

by @ 10:25 pm. Filed under Blogs, Singapore

the decline of the euro-pean empire

Hello Kitty’s evil has infected the European Central Bank.:

Euro Kitty

Gold, silver euro coins with ‘Hello Kitty’ images to be sold

TOKYO, Japan—Coin-importer Taisei Coins Corp. and Sanrio Co. … will jointly sell three euro coins with images of the latter’s ‘’Hello Kitty’’ character on them, beginning on Dec. 5. A 1-ounce gold coin with a face value of 50 euros will cost 168,000 yen. A quarter-ounce, 10-euro gold coin will cost 52,500 yen, and a 1.5-euro silver coin will cost 8,400 yen. Images on the coins… depict ‘’Hello Kitty’’ characters enjoying life in Paris.

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by @ 9:40 pm. Filed under Japan, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Hello Kitty watch

roach on china’s looming slowdown

Morgan Stanley’s chief economist Stephen Roach lays out quite well what is wrong with the Chinese economy and, moreover, why it is difficult to judge when a downturn will take place. To simplify, the state may seek to use market-boosting measures to prevent a significant slump. As Roach notes, this will not just forestall the downturn, it will create a more precarious situation for China and the world when an inevitable downturn happens.:

The die is now cast for a significant slowing of Chinese GDP growth in 2006. At work is likely to be a downturn in China’s all-powerful investment cycle.

About six weeks ago, I threw in the towel on the ever-elusive China slowdown call (see my 21 October dispatch, “Wrong on the China Slowdown”). In doing so, however, I cautioned that we simply may have been too early in looking for a downshift in Chinese economic activity. Based on intelligence gathered during a recent visit to Beijing, I am increasingly convinced that is, indeed, the case. In my view, the die is now cast for a significant slowing of Chinese GDP growth in 2006. At work is likely to be a downturn in China’s all-powerful investment cycle, driven by an important and surprising contraction in bank lending.

YuanChina’s booming investment cycle is on an unsustainable path. For 2005, we estimate that fixed asset investment is likely to exceed 46% of Chinese GDP — astonishing by historical standards for China or any other economy. Given China’s special investment needs as a large developing country — namely, urbanization, industrialization, and infrastructure — there is every reason to look for an investment-led growth dynamic. But the Chinese investment cycle has gone well beyond what those fundamentals might suggest. Even in the heydays of their own development booms, the investment shares of the Japanese and Korean economies never got much above the low-40% range. I very much agree with Andy Xie who recently argued that China is now at a point where its ever-rising investment share is a recipe for excess capacity and deflation (see Andy’s 22 November dispatch, “China: Toward a Deflationary Landing”).

The consensus view in the markets is that China will sustain its investment boom through the 2008 Beijing Olympics — that it will simply not accept the potential embarrassment of a growth slowdown until after that momentous event is over. Old China hands also note that the Chinese economy never slows immediately after the unveiling of a new development plan. With the 11th five-year plan covering the 2006-10 interval, this historical tendency also suggests any slowdown could be deferred until after 2007. Consider the implications of that possibility: If China stays the course of its investment-led boom, then the fixed asset investment share of its GDP could well be in the 55-60% range by 2008 — a recipe for a monstrous overhang of excess capacity. With Chinese inflation already quite low — the CPI increased at only a 1.2% y-o-y rate in October 2005 — China is not that far away from outright deflation. Should its capacity overhang continue to build through 2008, a deflationary endgame in China would be more likely than not, in my view.

If you read the whole thing, you will note that Roach is optimistic that financial sector reforms will mitigate the Chinese tendency or ability to continue to use its state-owned banks (SOBs) for pump-priming. He also notes that cynics doubt that governments will permit the SOBs to act according to shareholder interests when loan and investment growth stalls. AsiaPundit is generally among the cynics, and his cynicism is amplified as ‘the state’ is a far more complex beast than Roach mentions in his note.

The PBoC would no doubt be keen to see the end of policy loans, but NDRC economists have already been hinting that pump-priming may be needed. Further down the chain, it must also be considered how much control the central state has over regional banks, and how much control the big state lenders have over their branches (for that matter, AP is also concerned about the head offices).

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by @ 9:21 pm. Filed under China, Money, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia


The recent posts in the Far Eastern blogosphere on the ‘Taiwanization’ of Mainland China sparked a lot of healthy argument. In what is sure to be a less controversial statement, AsiaPundit argues that the Mainland authorities are seeking a ‘Singaporization’ of China. Richard Willmsen notes with some distress that China’s image-building exercises aren’t particularly modern.:

MisschinaMeanwhile on an international level the Miss World contest allows a carefully constructed Chinese message to be broadcast to an audience of two billion across the globe. Over the past 10 years the Chinese have worked hard to dispel once ubiquitous images of China, the bicycling factory state, and glamorous events like Miss World are a tonic. Not only that - the contest sends a strong message to the world about China’s changing values and internationalisation, that the days of the Red Guards are over. “This sort of programming helps build an international image that is unthreatening and somehow reassuring,” says Crane. “After all, beauty pageants were once considered as American as apple pie.”

Unfortunately, what these witless and seemingly profoundly vapid Communist Party dullards, whose apparent ambition is to transform China into somewhere as bland and unthreatening as a Disney theme park, are incapable of realising is that it also portrays China as a country which is utterly, utterly naff.

I suspect that the Shanghai government in particular wants to transform the city into something “as bland and unthreatening as a Disney theme park.” While I agree with Richard that this can be utterly naff, it’s easy to see where they are getting their inspiration.

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by @ 8:27 pm. Filed under Singapore, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia

the spirit of ‘97

Martyn at the Peking Duck points to a Newsweek item that caught my attention earlier this week. Arguing that China is not necessarily the place to be putting your money right now.:

HindenburgRecently words such as ‘collapse’ have been replaced with, for instance, ‘unsustainable’ and speculation that China’s stunningly successful economic formula of massive domestic investment, cheap money, use of existing technology, export-led growth, cunningly hidden protectionist policies, the hard-selling of the mythical ‘China market’ and huge amounts of FDI cannot last forever and is consequently starting to show cracks. After all, what goes up, must come down, or so says this *must read* article.

Despite “insatiable” domestic demand and government measures to curtail investment in overheating sectors, China now has an overproduction of, for example, steel, cement and cotton - all this during the biggest building boom in history. Likewise, China’s factories are churning out too many finished consumer goods like cars, mobile phones, textiles and clothes. Adding to the gloom includes higher manufacturing costs, sluggish domestic demand, anti-dumping quotas, razor thin profit margins, fierce competition, rampant intellectual-property theft and a weak legal system. Furthermore, fixed-asset investment (infrastructure projects, factories, apartment blocks, office towers etc.) will likely top a staggering 54% of GDP this year. Comparisons with the investment frenzy that led to the 1997 Asian Crisis are inevitable.

AsiaPundit is often asked what he would recommend as an investment strategy for China. AP does not usually offer investment advice, but if he is plied with a few beers he will often offer nuggets such as this.: “China really reminds me of what Korea was like a decade ago, I’d probably wait for the crash and then buy into high-quality distressed assets.”

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by @ 7:33 pm. Filed under China, Money, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia

snickers with chinese characteristics

While the road-safety tests for the Landwind indicate that China still has a long way to go in making comparable automotive products to the West, the Weifang Radish reports that Chinese has perfected and improved upon Snickers’ technologies.:

…the American Snickers cost 7.8RMB while the Chinese Snickers only cost 3.5RMB.

Well, was there any difference? Yes, the Chinese snickers was far superior in appearance, taste and smell. This is most likely due to the fact that the Chinese Snickers was produced on October 1 whereas the American Snickers was produced on May 16 and was probably stored in less than ideal conditions during it’s long journey from America to Jialejia.

The American Snickers had a distinct un-fresh flavor to it and even tasted a bit chemically. The Chinese Snickers, by contrast, tasted fresh and natural and was all around delicious.


Top: American; Bottom; Chinese

AsiaPundit too endorses Chinese Snickers. However, AP questions whether the chemical taste in the US export bar is simply added because it is for export markets. (China, to AP’s regret, has not yet developed any Butterfinger technology)

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by @ 6:45 pm. Filed under Food and Drink, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

the friendlies exposed

AsiaPundit had tentatively approved the Five Friendlies, and was simply awaiting details on their superpowers. Angry Chinese Blogger has the exclusive.:

Though information about MASCOT is scarce, and their existence has been denied by Beijing, Washington (now a subsidiary of Haliburton) and the RIAA. Some information has been gleaned from official communiqués and scribbling found on restaurant napkins.

From this information, Angry Chinese Blogger has been able to construct a dossier on MASCOT, and to put together limited profiles for each of its members. It has also obtained the one and only authentic and unedited picture of the team still in existance.


Mighty American, Subservient China, Obedient Taiwan

Each of the MASCOT team members has a codename ranging from Weapon X 1 to Weapon X 5, and can be identified by the characteristics given to them by their animal DNA.

* Weapon X1: Huanhuan, Zippo Lighter (Rumored to be an Olympic Flame)

* Weapon X2: Jingjing, Edible Panda

* Weapon X3: Beibei, Carp

* Weapon X4: Nini, Swallow

* Weapon X5: Yingying, Tibetan Antelope

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by @ 12:01 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Sports

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