Monday, March 30, 2015

Vancouver b.c.

It’s so quiet for an audience of nearly 20,000. The blades slicing the ice and the thwack of hockey sticks were the only sounds. No music or imploring PA cheers for an NBA franchise. No 12th man for the Seattle Seahawks. Just elegant ice borne choreography.

Rogers Arena in the rain is not the best of Vancouver. Huddled under new construction and the intertwined Skyway transit system, arrivals on foot converge on efficient and friendly ticket monitors who banter lightly and easily with families and children. Consigned to the upper reaches, I found a beer stand where a young man said, “follow me”.
“It’s OK just tell me where to go.”
“My pleasure, where are you from?...Oh, Seattle we go there…Yup, its more expensive these days, but we just go to eat.” We lift to the third floor and he walks me to door 315.

(Hmmm, Vancouverites coming to Seattle to eat. I guess the restaurant scene is that good.)?

“Are you a beer drinker?...May I buy you one?...OK, but hope you enjoy one later. 

(There is beer everywhere but my TV watching hockey drought in Canada left me with the long gone ubiquity of Molson; now there is the universality of BUD.)

“Do you have hockey in Seattle?...Gee, I hope you get a franchise. The competition would be great, and you’re right we wouldn’t have to make all the long trips we now have for our games. But the big thing is it might get the fans excited. We need that up here. The fans aren’t really with it.”

This isn’t the hockey crowd I knew in New York where the blue collar Rangers of the 50s and later the Islanders, to say nothing of the bluer collar Bruins and Black Hawks brought out the working stiffs who looked like an aggressive hockey line just walking along. 

These were the “fashionable” Pacific North Westerners dressed in layers of dull colors, jeans, some boots against the dripping rain and soggy trainers. Couples with a surfeit of tattoos peeking out from patches of exposed skin and the occasional splash of pink or orange hair under a pretty angular face with way too much bright lipstick. Lots of families with another reflection of a changing Canada: Asians, and Middle Easterners of all varieties, Southeast Asians and the rare black face.

The circular track that ringed the arena at each level moved the crowd smoothly as the regulars knew their paths and split off to the tunnels that led up into the seats. Hockey night in Canada is a cultural landmark.

Rogers is an older style arena built in 1995 (that qualifies for old in these days of short-lived stadiums) with high-banked seating. Not quite the near vertical of the basketball arena in Chicago where the top cheap seats let you watch Michael Jordan’s magic from the top down, a unique perspective and treat. Or the old Madison Square Garden that gave you the best ballet seats to watch the Rangers do their thing. But Rogers Arena is fine. I was near oxygen-needed level at one end of the stadium with a clear, unobstructed view, and as luck would have it two rare empty seat to my left leading to an aisle.
South Asian seatmates to my right. A young couple below me, she Asian, he white and a late-arriving yuppyish couple below me to my left. He was annoying and ignored the “please do not lean forward” plea written on the hand bar in front of him. I let it go and moved over one seat. Gotcha.
The young Asian woman had a mobile with at least 7 inch screen that she had attached to an arm-lengthening rod and handle she used to improve her selfie-selection and ability. She and her boyfriend cuddled convincingly. What was left the pre-game was consumed with their selfies, his attentiveness to their selfies and mutual absorption.

The Canucks were hosting the Dallas Stars.

Dallas? Hockey? Inconceivable. What can Dallas know of ice hockey? Field hockey. Lacrosse. Even cricket. But ice hockey in Dallas? The journalist’s mantra clicked in: follow the money. There's an arena. There's TV, even if it is only local. Translation: There are ads.

I remembered. They sing the American National Anthem and O Canada when teams from the two countries meet. A strong male baritone with tenor range did justice to the aggressive and unsingable American anthem. O Canada is almost sweet by contrast; a national love song with promises of defense rather than the rockets red glare.

Rogers Arena had a multi-million dollar TV rebuild to install the TV Jumbotrons. The Bose audio system had been replaced with something bigger, better, clearer. Take that vaunted Bose!

The arena fills up just before the first face-off. Before that you might believe the franchise and the city are in trouble. Vast empty seating areas, but all is well. The cheers and applause that greeted “YOUR VANCOUVER CANUCKS” as they first came on the ice has dissipated and silence greets the face off.

No team controls a face off. It’s a melee of sticks and bodies until someone skates clear and play is underway. The result is no cheer even when your team has the puck. Way too early to consider an advantage. But one and a half minutes into the match Dallas scores. Sloppy defense on the part of the Canucks; they seem to be slow starters. Does not bode well, but the inherent rhythm of ice hockey takes hold and the ballet is on. 

3 minutes into play comes what I had expected, a fight. Helmets off but gloves remain and arms swing wildly. Down they go. Out they go, Five minutes apiece for fighting.

Hockey had been a skater’s paradise when I first fell in love with MY NEW YORK RANGERS. Then TV came along and more was needed for the bloodthirsty viewers so hockey nights became fight nights. 

I am a coward clothed in non-violence. I deserted hockey and have not been seen since.

But this early fight was the only fight and lasted less than 30 seconds to the enjoyment, but hardly overwhelming shouts and cheers of the arena.
Then it was back to ballet. Dancing, ballet, hockey, basketball are among the activities where the best seats are high up. The top down view is where you see what is going on: the development of play, the patterns, not the whirl of randomness that is seen from the high priced ringside seats on the flat.

I was captivated but also wrapped in the silence that helped concentration. The ice is white, the puck is black, but it’s still two eyeballs' reach to follow the whipped speed of passing, capturing, banking to the next skater, and the instant reversals of play. It all gets lost as players crash into the boards nicely designed to be shock absorbers that leave players with their limbs and muscles largely intact. Not so sure about knees. But hell, running hurts knees too.
The play was a delight as I settled in. Period one ended 1-0 Dallas but the play had patterned.

“The second half face-off is bright to you by Bridgestone.” 

The narrow strips of neon ads that cycled every few seconds on the face of the third tier announced this astounding fact. As did the Jumbotron, a four-sided recently installed set of LED high definition screens that permitted the TV addicted to watch play as they do at home, with the benefit of replays…all brought you by…

How much did Bridgestone pay to sponsor the second half face-off? If I went around and through the arena could I find a single fan that was aware of the tip-off sponsor, and would there be one who bought a tire from Bridgestone because the name resonated the next time they went to “Firestone” or “Goodyear” or “Discount Tires”?

I lost track of the number of in-the-arena-sponsors. Banks and travel services, cars, NEXT (free) from the Pepsi stands (30% less sugar and no additional sweeteners). If you have 30% less sugar why on earth would you even think of having additional sweeteners?

You would? Caveat emptor.

Period two evened the score for the Canucks at the far end of the arena in a scrum in front of the goal. The replay made it clear, as it always does. The live event was strictly: take my word for it because you did not see it. 

Dallas was Stars when it came to set piece plays. Their patterns were visible; you could see it coming from on high. The challenge of defense was to break it up and the Canucks were doing OK but Dallas was better, at least marginally.

The break between periods two and three were the real half time with the score now tied. Perfect scenario for period three. Anticipation. Suspense. Tension. The conflict that every good story needs and now comes a resolution.

But you wouldn’t know it backstage. Backstage being the fans circulating among the beer and popcorn and hot dog and everything-is-overpriced food and drink stands. I had gone to the lower level to meet friends and was struck by the relaxed nature of the ruminating crowd as it ebbed and flowed. I did not feel tension, nor could I see it. No snarling "we'll get em" epithets. Or "what the hell was the ref thinking?"

The line waiting for the men’s toilet was awesome. Flow control lines that doubled and tripled capacity. Men waited for what turned out to be another efficient traffic flow with: in on one side out on the other. A steady stream that moved. 

The toilet scene made me think of a high school physics class when my teacher told us the unforgettable tale of how sanitation engineers learned of their real challenge in designing sewer systems long after the first major sports franchises hit Los Angeles. No, not the fact that an arena of 80 thousand peed and crapped at half time. Rather the late 50s and early 60s when TV became ubiquitous and millions headed for their toilets at every time out, much less half time, in an NFL game. The problem was national reaching into every city, town and village in North America. 

(Did you know there are less than 12 minutes of actual play in a 60-minute professional football game? You do the math.)

See high school physics does stick with you. (I flunked first time around, but did a makeup after a summer of tutoring...still only got a B.)

Period three was high tension at 2-2. My high tension that naturally led to conspiracy theories. This is too good. The sport looks impossible to fix. Could the players be that good? Well, I suppose so. Follow the money. The levels of betting are bound to be high. Las Vegas surely has a hockey book.

Dallas scored with about 4 minutes to play. 3-2. Game over?

Crowd noise had been subdued from what I expected. Good plays produced cheers; a score produced a short eruption of joy or sorrow but hardly ear-splitting. A counter score produced the long dull AWWWHHHOOO that tapered off to hurt silence. The Dallas 3-2 score produced a resigned sad, audible lament. No anger. No blame. Just: AW. A few shifted in their seats and prepared to leave.

But no respite on the ice. The Canucks had not given up. More conspiratorial thoughts as the pace of play quickened. Pressure from the Canucks and with a bit more than 2 minutes left: TIE SCORE.

I had forgotten my NFL rules and assumed I had what Bob and Ray on radio had intoned when they announced a tie score: “A wasted day”. I date myself children. For the younger of you, Bob and Ray were American versions of the British Goon Squad (that’s dating me internationally). OK, how about: John Cleese? Does that help?

OK forget it.

Score tied. 5-minute overtime. Someone has to win is the North American mantra. Well, the NHL anyway.

The fans are happy. More hockey. The players? I wondered. Would they rather go home to their families or roadie entertainment for the visitors with a meaningless tie (they get paid no matter what)?

No matter, duty calls. It called louder to the Stars who scored with less than a minute to play. The lonesome Canuck goalie, deserted by his team, slumped alone standing next to his betrayed net.

But the night was young. Don’t try to leave the Rogers Arena on a rainy, chilly Vancouver night and expect the cabs that the cab driver that brought you promised would be there. The two cabs I saw were full.

Two cabs? 

There couldn’t be more. Traffic stood still from three directions amidst the maze of sleeping construction machinery. Weather festooned police officers with colorful wands couldn’t even wave them at the cars and limos. No one was moving. The stretch limos in threatening black and virginal white, those penile substitutes  for common transportation, lined every curb. Hmm, one to five people in each? 

It’s a six-block walk to Granville Street and then another five blocks to the hotel. Half way on the soggy walking slog a cab grateful for a fare he did not expect in that part of town swings around to retrieve me from the rain. The promised 5-dollar fare according to the hotel clerk was 13 dollars going and 10 dollars returning. But then the Canadian dollar is below the US dollar for the moment.

I’m going to support Seattle’s efforts at an NHL franchise. It is back to being a beautiful sport if one night’s experience is a legitimate example of play after the NHL’s “fight night” period. And if not Seattle, its worth a trip to Vancouver live Hockey Night In Canada. 


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My friend and colleague Peter Goldmark wrote a letter to Brian Williams published by the Huffington Post - worth a look. That prompted me to write my own:

Dear Brian,

When we were kids, most of us learned life by testing our parents and the world around us. The more mischievous or adventuresome, or both, knew instinctively where the boundaries were. Just as instinctively we pushed on those boundaries. 

A hand on a hot stove became an instant lesson. Playing hookie and claiming an interesting day at school escalated the boundary test if our lie had not been outed. When we were brought up short most of us got the message. The bad boys and girls kept trying bigger lies until the consequences became consequential.

Sound familiar? 

Many of my friends have asked what you likely ask yourself: Why?

We all do it don't we? 
We pad our parts. 
Doesn't every good story get better in the retelling.
A State University graduation becomes Harvard.
A dropout becomes a PhD.
Like the bespoke tailor who takes a little tuck here and a little tuck there to make the fit better. But as the waist expands and the body shape changes, so too do the clothes. The fit is no longer alterable, it is unrecognizable.


You have been successful by the worst standards. Smart, handsome, well educated, and well connected. Privileges all. These could have been your foundation. Instead you sabotaged yourself. You accepted the seduction of the medium that used the face and voice of Brian Williams to promote a false image.

Richard Salant, a man who knew and admired you early on saw the promise in Brian that he hoped would lead you into the Pantheon of values that Salant represented; standards set so high that Dick himself spent a lifetime reaching higher and higher. His journey created CBS News, the best broadcast news organization in network television. From Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, to the beginners on the overnight assignment desk, one standard prevailed: get it right.

Brian, you got it wrong. 

The early success you enjoyed kept you from climbing the mountain of experience where each step gets more difficult than the preceding step. You accepted and enjoyed the premature fame, the fortune, the accolades, and the support that goes with being an false image. 

The good news is you recognized the fact that your career had been built from the top down. 
You are smart enough to be insecure. 
The bad news is you chose the easy path to deal with your insecurity.

Instead of learning to paint, you borrowed a masterpiece and claimed it as your own. Instead of studying and practicing, you borrowed the late quartets of Beethoven and his Missa Solemnis and claimed them as your own.   

Your recent lies deny you the privilege of innocence until proven guilty.
Quite the opposite. 

Everything you claim is now open to doubt. Your golden youth; your career trajectory; your admirers and fans are scattered in the aftermath of  your lies.

There is a path to redemption. You need the cooperation of your employer. Here is what you tell your employer and write to your former colleagues:

Memo to NBC and everyone at NBC News.

I screwed up. I made a mess of a news organization, friends, and family that have given me every opportunity to succeed, and I blew it all away.

No apology can offset what I have done. Nevertheless I apologize.

I ask for the opportunity for redemption. 
If NBC News will keep me, I want to start my journey again where it should have begun. 

I want a job as a reporter. A beginning reporter. Anywhere, doing anything, at a beginner's salary. I want to learn my craft and the values that I must meet. 
If NBC News will not have me, I promise you I will find a news organization somewhere that will give me a chance to work and learn. 

A year, or years from now, judge me. 

I have shamed myself and brought shame and dishonor to all of you who represent the best of a craft that demands so much more than I have given it. 

(Brian: A story goes with the redemption aspect of my suggestion.

Dick Salant, a corporate lawyer who worked to heights of fame and fortune in the world of politics and business came to CBS News when his mentor Frank Stanton recognized that the collection of 400 skilled news professionals needed unique leadership to achieve their promise.
The announcement of Dick's succession produced the predictably infantile reaction from us: "Oh shit, a corporate lawyer; we are doomed".
Dick knew the challenge and he knew he was the odd man out choice. Within a year we all knew better. The crusade had its leader. The army had its Commander in Chief. The team had its leader.

But that's not the end of the tale as it applies to you Brian.

A couple of years later Dicvk announced to a still growing news organization that he had hired a new correspondent. Mike Wallace.
"Mike Wallace, oh shit, now he's gone off the rails; we're going Hollywood and its all over."
What we did not know was that Dick was gambling. He had an instinct. He needed an experienced broadcaster with a name in an attempt to rescue the ever-to-be-rescued CBS Morning News.  Dick gambled that there was more to Mike who had said to him: "I have done many things in my life, but if you give me this opportunity it will fulfill a lifelong dream for me; the dream of being a CBS News correspondent."
Dick introduced Mike to a room full of the most skeptical audience Mike ever faced. Everyone who could fit squeezed into that NY newsroom. We all brought along our ten foot poles. 
Mike's message was simple:
"I know what everyone of you is thinking. You think this man has lost his mind. All I can tell you is this: 'I have the job I have wanted all my life'. I ask all of you for one thing: 'Give me six months. If you feel I have not earned my right to be here among you, I will voluntarily leave.' 
That's where you are Brian. We are all holding ten foot poles.
I wish you the outcome of what your former admirer Richard Salant and Mike Wallace accomplished:
Salant was more than the longest serving CBS News President, he was George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and FDR all in one. He built and guided the most trusted news organization in broadcast history.
Mike's career proved his promise. 
And neither of them made any claim to being more than they were.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


1.     The death of Brown and Garner has sparked national outrage, and the anti-police demonstrations have erupted into long-time looting and clashes in Ferguson, Missouri. What do you think the tragedy was rooted from and why the loss of control in public emotions happened?

The two deaths and the reaction to them are not new. The history of police overreaction and/or incompetence goes back hundreds of years in US history. The source is as unchanged as the history: racism. It took 250 years for the United States to move from the concept of “separate but equal” in its treatment of blacks to the legal concept of full equality of all citizens. The Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision that provided for equal education came down in 1954 and here we are 70 years later with parts of the US still effectively segregated as in Ferguson.
One major difference in the current events is new media. News is now available 24/7 on cable television and the Internet where smartphone use keeps everyone informed anytime and anyplace, all the time. China has even more experience with social media than the USA does. News in China moves at the speed of light, often ahead of the government’s attempts to regulate the flow of information. In the USA with its open information flow the situation becomes exaggerated through fear that is often the result of rumour that passes for news or other unsubstantiated reporting.
Ferguson and the behaviour of police forces in a big city like New York and tiny place like Ferguson are falsely lumped together as a single event.

When a community is aggrieved, it reacts, and often violently. In the civil rights struggle in the USA demonstrations in the 1950s and 60s were often peaceful while the reverend Martin Luther King was alive. He preached non-violence and set the moral tone for much of the black community. Prior to Dr. King violence and looting prevailed. After Dr. King the picture is mixed. In NY peaceful demonstrations have prevailed, while rioting and looting characterize Ferguson. Much of the difference is in the size and experience of the communities involved. New York City, America’s largest city and Ferguson, Missouri one of its smallest communities.

2.     Compared with Missouri’s days of violence, New York has seen large but peaceful protests after the deaths of two African Americans. What are the main reasons that contribute to the two different outcomes?

The easy answer is in the character of the two police forces. The NY City Police Department is a force of nearly 40,000 men and women including members from all of the city’s minorities. As many as 800 different languages are spoken in New York City, more than any other city in the world. 40% of the city’s inhabitants of New York are foreign born. In short, diversity is the fundamental character of the city. There is a long history of violent clashes between and among many of the minorities including everything from local gangs to organized crime families (like triads in HK and mainland China and Taiwan). But the experience of a now relatively integrated police force gives the city the opportunity to deal with threats of violence in the context of minority cultures and languages. Many minorities have learned that there is more to be accomplished through peaceful demonstration than through violence. Violent demonstrations have diminished in many large American cities.
Looters are another story. Looters are not demonstrating, they are ordinary criminals who take advantage of any situation and are nothing more than thieves who want to steal anything they can get their hands on. The police in New York City as in other large cities have learned how to deal with looters fairly effectively.

3.     Do you think the two cases mentioned above will set off African-American Civil Rights Movement? Why and how? What the activists’ appeals are mainly about?

Since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King 46 years ago the US Civil Rights Movement has not had a new national – much less international – leadership. Even local and regional leaders have been relatively weak. Part of the reason is the immigration of Mexican and Latin American minorities into the USA, the growth in the Asian population that includes significantly Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The primary and secondary public schools in the USA just this year became majority/minority. More minorities than white Americans now attend public schools in the USA.

The minority population of the USA will exceed the former white majority within the next year or two. This is a long way of saying that a combination of events and facts have diversified and thereby diminished what was the former African American Civil Rights movement. The struggle for civil rights and human rights continues but it has diversified into many minority communities and can therefore appear to be weaker than it once was.

4.    The police have been a lot argued about in the Brown and Garner deaths. Some say they are too militarized, what do you think? What can be done to establish better relations between the police and the communities they serve, especially communities of color?

Brown and Garner are two examples of the same problem. There is evidence that the adoption of high technology and deadly force weapons by police departments has outpaced the training of even the best police departments. A small police force like Ferguson demonstrated everything that is wrong. The following chart from USA Today demonstrates how the population mix in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis Missouri, has changed.
What has not changed is the local Police force in Ferguson that remained predominantly white, underfunded and poorly trained though relatively well equipped. Much of the local police force’s equipment came from the US Department of Defense in a program meant to help underfunded small police forces to be better equipped. The problem is the military equipment included automatic weapons, and heavy armored vehicles, the kinds soldiers use to fight wars. This was the equipment the Ferguson force used to confront demonstrators when they marched to protest the shooting of a young black man by a police officer. In English the expression for this excessive display of force is called “overkill”.

By contrast the NY City Police Department has equipment and trained officers men and women for every conceivable eventuality. The NY City Police defend the representatives from 140 countries in the world who meet at the UN. There are almost daily parades that celebrate the national days and religious holidays of the many different national and ethnic populations in the city. Police are trained to prevent violence in what are daily demonstrations for a variety of causes and complaints in the city. There are the ordinary daily crimes of burglary and car theft. There are violent crimes of rape of murder. The NY City Police Department is far from perfect but what it has more than any other police department in the world is an experience and training not available elsewhere. Response to danger or crime can be nuanced to meet the different levels of threat.

5.     Though with the guarantee of law, in reality do the communities of color still experience injustice? How often, in what way and what does that bias come from?

Any minority in the USA will have his or her stories of daily experience with bias. African Americans and dark skinned Latinos stand out from a white population and are the most frequent victims of everything from racial profiling by police who may automatically watch them more than others. Statistically, more African American are arrested and imprisoned in the USA than any other group. The lack of a coherent immigration policy has added to racial bias particularly among the recent Mexican and Latin American undocumented immigrant population. In some cities a traffic violation by an undocumented foreigner can result in deportation. The growing Muslim populations in the USA are easily identified by their dress, as are some Indians from India.
The USA is often called a “melting pot” as if the many diverse populations are integrated into a mix like a stew. That may be a nice image but it is false. The realty is that minorities tend to naturally congregate. Districts and sections of cities develop along socio-economic lines that often parallel the origins of their populations. In the US that includes ethnic, national, and religious minorities. NY for example has the largest Jewish population outside Israel. There are sections of NY where Jews form a majority locally. Chicago has the largest Polish population outside Poland. San Francisco has the largest Chinese population in the country. These are not integrated communities; they are enclaves of people with common languages, and origins.
This proliferation of populations can easily fall victim to racism. If you are considered “different” because of how you look, how you dress, the language you speak, the culture you follow, you are often treated less well than when you are part of what may be considered the mainstream population.
The NBA, as popular in China as it is in the USA, is a sport whose players are predominantly African-American. Spectators and fans of the NBA in the USA often include more whites than blacks. In this case the difference is economic. The tickets are expensive and not readily affordable by less well off African-Americans. This is an example where a white man or woman may feel discriminated against as a player, while blacks may feel discriminated against because they cannot afford the price of a ticket to a game.

6.     The piece of article by John Eligon of the New York Times, in which he used the term “no angel” to picture Michael Brown, has stirred up controversy and bounce. How do the American media deal with issues relevant to colored groups? How do they portray them and to avoid racial discrimination? Will the cultural stereotypes perpetuated by the media happen a lot? In what occasion?

I expect the editor responsible for Mr. Eligon’s article is asking him or herself the same questions. Mr. Eligon is African-American. He has said he made a mistake using the phrase “no angel” and suggested he should have said that Mr. Brown was not perfect. Much of the article dealt with positive aspects of Michael Brown’s life, but they are lost in the controversy. The controversy is a reflection of the sensitivities of minority issues and how rapidly people and groups can feel discrimination and bias. This can be difficult for many Chinese to understand. China has nearly 60 minority populations, yet the total population is more than 95% Han. How many Chinese ever see someone who is an obvious minority? Foreigners yes from the West.  I can remember when I first came to Shantou in 2003 and went downtown, little children would follow me. When I inquired why they followed me, I was told: “They have never before seen a foreigner.” That has changed by now but 2003 is barely more than a decade ago. China’s obvious minorities are in the Western and Northern Provinces, where they are often a majority population locally. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Chengdu and a few other mega cities in China are increasingly experiencing an influx of foreigners. It is more common to see people who look different, and speak other languages. But few of these people are permanent residents. They are tourists or short-term business travelers. There is less racial tension when foreigners or minorities are temporary visitors compared to permanent residents.

The US media suffers from a lack of diversity in its own ranks. Mexican and Latin Americans are relatively invisible in US mainstream media. African-American reporters and editors are not a reflection of their percentages in the population as a whole. Asians even less so. Here the development of minority media is the partial answer.
There is a selection of Spanish- speaking cable channels and radio stations in the country. African-Americans have cable networks devoted to their audiences. Cities with significant Chinese populations have Chinese cable channels. The concept of integrated media may be an ideal to some, but the reality is elsewhere. All of these developments contribute to the fact that the typical white reporter has fewer and fewer opportunities to experience or learn about minority populations and cultures in the USA.
Stereotypes are still common. A parallel example in China comes from CCTV where minorities are often portrayed wearing their native costumes. This makes it difficult for a Han Chinese to imagine a minority as a neighbor who might be an ordinary office worker, or a doctor or lawyer or schoolteacher.
If you see a very tall black man or woman, what is your first thought? Basketball player, or bus driver, or doctor or lawyer?
In New York City many of the small green grocer shops are owned and operated by Koreans. White New Yorkers often think of Koreans in that role. Many Chinese immigrants who came to New York decades ago started restaurants and dry cleaning establishments. There are still many older New Yorkers who when they see a Chinese think food or dry cleaning.
Stereotypes die hard.
Fortunately among the young as the world travels more and more stereotypes are also dying.

7.     China has shared the same characteristics with America that they are both countries with many ethnic groups. What China can learn from America's experience and lessons to deal with the ethnic minority problem

There are partial answers to this question in some of my previous answers.

There remains a larger challenge for China because its majority/minority situation is unique. India with a comparable population is a nation of minorities speaking at least 400 distinctly different languages, plus a variety of religions and ethnicities. China by contrast has a national language with hundreds of provincial and local dialects. Mandarin, China’s common language gives the population an advantage. Chinese can speak to each other, even if there are many other differences between them that include misunderstanding their common language.
Chinese tend to identify themselves through their family. After that they may consider their hometown or their home Province.
At the same time since the modern Chinese revolution in 1949, the concept of the Chinese nation has never been stronger.
But what of the 57+ minorities in China? How Chinese do they feel, and if you are a Han Chinese how do you feel about them? Are they what the Chinese constitution calls for: citizens with equal rights and privileges?
These are the challenges and opportunities facing China.

The national government feels challenged when there are demonstrations or riots in the minority areas of the country. The issue is how to deal with the minorities. If they want to live by their separate languages and cultures, should they be forced into integration into the Chinese mainstream? Historically that is not likely to succeed. Can a minority be forced into subjugation? Again, historically not likely?

How much representation do Chinese minorities have in mainstream China? Minorities represent less than 5% of the population, so should they have any more representation than they do? There are many more questions than answers to these issues.

The best and worst examples of minority issues are in the smaller countries. Holland has a population of about 16 million with a minority foreign-born population of about 1.6 million or 10%. Integration of the Dutch minorities, many from former colonial Indonesia have been relatively successful through education of the domestic and foreign populations.
Norway has a population of 5 million, including 600,000 relatively recent foreign immigrants. A recent survey of native Norwegians has uncovered racial and ethnic bias that includes significant strains of anti-Semitism against Jews, and a strong dislike of Muslim, Somali and Roma (gypsy) populations.

Racism is a fact in almost all countries and populations. Racism is not new. Majorities have problems with minorities because they tend to be different. The differences can be small and insignificant. What Chinese Province does not claim to have the most beautiful women and the smartest children? There is no objective truth to those claims and yet we tend to believe them, at least a little bit.
“Ethnic cleansing” whether it is the many recent genocides in Africa and the Balkans, or historic examples that almost exterminated entire native populations in North and South America including the Nazi Holocaust throughout Eastern and Western Europe, these are examples of extreme racism. How far have we advanced may be the best question to ask?  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


This sequence involves the following analysis by RHODIUM of the outlook for China, followed by comments from an analyst and final comments from me.

China's Outlook – Now and in 2020

by Daniel H. Rosen and Anna Snyder | August 8, 2014

How does economic reform relate to China’s future economic growth potential? How big a difference does the difficult undertaking of changing the rules of the marketplace make? The answer determines whether the risks associated with reform are really worth it. In our analysis of China’s continuing growth prospects, we put the growth outlook together in a transparent way, and include scenarios for what happens if reform falls short. We find that Beijing can hope to deliver 6% annual growth come 2020 – if it does everything right. Checking with Chinese officials we find they come to the same conclusion – as do IMF economists in their new calculations. If reform comes up short, the story is more dire and China can only look forward to 1-3% GDP growth six years from now. Chinese officials share that view, and recognize that social stability is tough at those levels, which is why they are so intent on changing business as usual today.
2020 outlook: Our baseline expectation is 2020 annual GDP growth of 6%. This assumes China’s ambitious economic reform program is fully implemented. Our two downturn scenarios – what the future looks like if reform miscarries – forecast the impact of hard-landing and crisis on China’s potential growth.
View from China and view from the Fund: Recent estimates from China’s leadership and the IMF coalesce around a 6% growth story for China in 2020. While our estimates vary in a few important ways, the IMF’s downward revision to China’s growth potential is consistent with our forecast.
Conclusions: China can only count on capital deepening for half of its 2020 growth potential. The other half depends on what economists call total factor productivity, or TFP. This would be the fruit of urgent, pro-market reform: adjustment of which sectors get labor and capital, how rapidly technology advances, and whether wealthier, skilled Chinese keep their assets at home rather than sending them abroad. The challenge is that this depends on rapid transformation of financial intermediation and implementation of many other reforms. Failure to accomplish those tasks would leave GDP growth somewhere between 1-3% in 2020.
Our model for China’s potential growth to 2020 is summarized below (Table 1), with GDP growth rates year by year and resulting GDP values in constant 2013 dollars – meaning all values can be understood in today’s purchasing power terms. We explore three scenarios: our baseline, the highest likelihood soft landing outcome; a hard landing; and a crisis scenario. We incorporate these projections into a major forthcoming Asia Society study of China’s reform program to be released this fall.
We start by considering projections from the IMF, the World Bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Chinese State Council, and private analysts, and then make adjustments based on our analysis of reform prospects. This is growth accounting: adding up possible increases in the factors that go into production (capital, labor, and “improvements”, including technological upgrading and structural adjustment) to get a more productive mix. Economists call that final set total factor productivity, or TFP. 2020 labor force growth in China is zero. Capital stock growth – if all goes well – could contribute three percentage points to GDP growth, as investment growth moderates from current rates that have pushed the debt to GDP ratio to 251% (and rising), according to Stephen Green at Standard Chartered Bank. Given China’s past performance, it is conceivable that it could generate another three percentage points of growth from TFP improvement come 2020, if reform and better enforced regulations dramatically change the industrial mix (so that private, sunrise industries get resources for a change), for a total potential of 6%.¹
Our analysis of the Chinese reform program and implications for China’s GDP outlook has been in the works since Chinese leadership broadcast an economic reform plan last November, pledging to give full play to market forces. As our outlook has taken shape, we continue to benchmark our views against other estimates, including China’s and the IMF’s, which just updated its long-term projections. In the following section we walk through these alternative outlooks and relate them to our own.
Hitting this year’s GDP target of 7.5% is a sensitive political subject which Chinese officials have little room to discuss. Finance Minister Lou Jiwei and the NDRC tried to move away from a dogmatic growth number back in April, but in the face of market anxiety Premier Li re-emphasized the primacy of the target in May and June. But talking about 2020 is okay. While a few growth-at-all-costs proponents still trumpet higher numbers, consensus is coalescing around a 6% 2020 outcome, with a 6.5% average for the five years to come – a major area of agreement with the model in Table 1. The official Chinese version of this trajectory foresees 20 million people urbanizing a year through 2020 (higher than we think) and electricity consumption growth of 6-7% through the decade (also higher than we are expecting, though we are working to understand why).
More important is a second area of agreement: what the downside risks to potential growth are and how low GDP growth would be by 2020 if they eventuated. In the hard landing scenario, a failure to implement reform sucks the TFP growth out of the economy, leaving nothing but capital stock growth, resulting in 3% GDP growth. In a crisis scenario, we imagine capital flight and an investment strike following the reform² shortfall, depleting capital stock growth and leaving the Middle Kingdom with barely 1% potential GDP growth – enough, by the NDRC’s reckoning, to generate jobs for just 1.6 million new entrants of the 10 million-plus who will be looking for work. In our model, the longer Beijing buys the kind of 7.5% GDP growth it is gunning for today, with the kind of costly debt creation it is still resorting to, the more likely there will be a crash in capital stock deepening in the out years. Chinese planners appear to share this view, understand that the reform imperative is motivating President Xi and defining China’s long-term growth potential, and agree with the range of downside outcomes. So we are basically on the same sheet music here, at least concerning the future headline GDP growth rate potential, which is about as much as long-term planners can seem to deal with.
Recently, the IMF released its annual report on the Chinese economy known as the “Article IV Consultation” – the results of an annual economic health checkup and summary of vital signs, produced in consultation with Chinese authorities (meaning a consensus must be reached between IMF economists and Chinese leadership). The Fund’s read-out on China’s economic reform agenda and impacts on China’s growth potential is broadly similar to our own. They expect a 7.4% growth rate in 2014 and project three medium-term scenarios for Chinese economic growth as well: fast reform, slow reform (baseline), and no reform.
Our picture differs from the IMF’s in two key ways. First, our baseline scenario assumes the full range of reforms laid out in the Third Plenum reform agenda are installed by 2020; by contrast, the Fund’s baseline assumes steady but slower efforts to implement reform. Their fast reform scenario closer approximates our baseline. Second, their reform scenarios model implementation of financial sector, fiscal, structural, and exchange rate reforms. In addition to those reforms, we consider the importance of redefining government’s role to focus on public expenditure priorities instead of industrial policy, pro-competition policies driving reregulation across sectors, SOE reform, trade and investment reform, land reform, environmental reform, and welfare reform (policy supports for labor and human capital). The IMF’s baseline shows growth falling to 6.3% by 2019, whereas ours shows growth slowing to 6.2% in 2019 and 6% by 2020. Slower growth in the medium-term means faster reform and a lower probability of crisis. Our balance of payments thinking therefore diverges for similar reasons; while the IMF’s current account projection hovers around 1% of GDP through 2023, our current account balance as a percent of GDP falls to zero by 2020. Our projections suggest a modest trade deficit on the horizon, offset by a positive net income figure – both effects of full-blown reform in the medium-term, successfully targeting domestic and external imbalances.
Considering the downside risks to potential growth agreed upon by both Chinese planners and foreign economists, why are we somewhat more optimistic about the balances? Internally, we continue to think the evidence of earnestness in reform since the Third Plenum is more compelling than many observers. On the external side, due to Rhodium Group’s extensive work on China’s outbound foreign direct investment imperatives, we are sensitive to just how important a balance will be to China in the years ahead, despite the indelicate tone Beijing is taking on foreign economic affairs today. Thus, our baseline assumes the fuller reform required to sustain cross-border trade and financial flows in the out years. There are caveats. First, the political challenges to reform implementation are real. The short-term, debt-driven stimulus propping up growth today is already depressing future potential, and if it is not reversed soon a hard landing will become the most likely scenario, increasing the tail risk of crisis, which would shave world GDP by 2.2% over the next six years and could consume some 20% of global economic expansion in the year 2020. Second, security fears can trump universally agreed upon economic logic, and if leaders in Beijing and elsewhere don’t do a better job tamping down rising nationalism, the obvious benefits of economic opening could be foolishly sacrificed to guard against self-generated threats.
President Xi Jinping has smartly observed that China’s market systems must “select the superior and eliminate the inferior”. Government is not smart enough to dictate how resources should flow to make that happen. What is superior and what is inferior is a market decision consumers must make. But the power to do so does not yet reside with China’s consumers; the state still determines outcomes in many respects. Over the last year Chinese leaders have started implementing market reforms, liberalizing finance, and leveling the commercial playing field to drive competition. It now appears they accept that the efficiency possible by switching from state allocation to market intermediation is the difference between 3% and 6% 2020 GDP growth rates. To make this switch the state must forego its monopoly on economic influence in principle and practice. Then high-quality regulatory institutions and talent pools must be built up. These are Herculean tasks. The trillion dollar question is whether a regulatory revolution can happen quickly enough to outrun the tsunami of challenges and enable a 6% 2020 GDP growth outcome.

¹ Here we don’t factor in a likely significant upward revision to GDP by the National Bureau of Statistics after its overhaul of the Chinese national accounts system this year. Neither do we include our working estimates on nominal GDP level from a separate study we are completing late this year. 
² See our forthcoming study; we define 10 clusters of policy reform focus, ranging from the financial system to SOE restructuring to competition policy reform and others. All are partly underway already, but could stall.

One analysts reaction:

 I've been to so many presentations that show how flawed the human mind is by automatically trying to find patterns where there are just hints of a match, and I think that is true of China.  It clearly is a case unto itself. 

I also think there is a difference between watching and worrying, and betting on the outcome.

I think we all have to watch and worry about everything, since the globe is so much more linked today than it ever was.  We saw that in the rising correlations among the international markets, and the growing diminishment of the diversification benefits from international investing.  But to bet on the outcome specifically is more challenging, and I think its so much more difficult not being in the thick of things.  We take transparency in some ways for granted, and while our markets and economy may be relatively more transparent than China's, it is not clear to me that they are going to make the same mistakes that we do.  They are sure to make mistakes, as we all are.  But making mistakes is just part of life and learning.  Its how you react to those mistakes -- what you do now to fix/correct them, and what you do differently in the future that determines whether its been a good or a bad lesson.  But I find it really challenging to believe that a centrally planned economy can be as successful as a relatively open one can be.  It may well be that neither
of our economies are open, and we are a lot closer than we think ....


The key to China is what the Rhodium analysis pinpoints: can the Chinese gov't, the central authority, pull off the reforms necessary to result in the estimated (guess) 6% growth by 2020?
The challenge is simple but profound. Central authority = a level of control most less-than-authoritarian regimes would give their eye teeth for. The Chinese have now had 40+ years of experience pushing and pulling the levers of an embryonic economy into the behemoth it has become.
So far so good.
But the easy part is rapidly drawing to a close. The leadership is not dumb. They know and understand the challenge they face. Xi Jinping may be better placed than Hu Jintao was to transition into reform mode. The difference is that Xi has thus far shown he has solid control of his Politburo. Hu Jintao never got there and much of the current corruption campaign is aimed at the previous members who fattened their fortunates and lined their wallets. That is step one.
The second step, reform, is the real challenge. How do you open up an economic system and reduce government control of the economy and still hold onto the levers of power that a one-party government needs to stay in power?
Here again, there is no precedent, no playbook, no prior experience. Virgin territory again as has been the case since modern China began to develop in the 1970s.
There is agreement (as the Rhodium study indicates) on what needs to be done. But how?