Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sweet Organic Yogurt

My organic yogurt tastes sweet.

It makes me curious since I can't seem to find sugar in its listed ingredients. Upon further investigation though, I find the curiously worded "evaporated cane juice". "That's sugar" - my third grade science education saves me from puzzlingly over this myth for the rest of my life.

But I feel almost guilty. We are not suppose to think through these things. We like our yogurt organic and low-fat, we like sweet taste to help our happy digestion, but we don't like the word "sugar" on our otherwise healthy yogurt. "Evaporated cane juice", the geeky sound of it makes us feel so much better.

In Chinese idioms, there was a fable about "three in the morning, four for the evening". Once was a man who raised monkeys, he became poorer and had to bargain to cut their food. "I'd promise each of y9u three chestnuts in the morning and four for the evening." The monkeys were angry, "How can you treat us so poor!". "Then how about four in the morning and three in the evening?" the man re-offered. "That's much better", the monkeys were satisfied with his concession and jumped off triumphantly.

The modern day version of the story in the U.S. is probably presidential election. I don't know Barack Obama would keep his promises without raising taxes, nor do I know how McCain would balance his budget by cutting Pork Barrel Projects. No matter, all we care is whether Palin sounds stupid in interviews or eloquent in debates, or what "pro-America" really means. With Peggy Noonan weighting with mighty wordsmithship, is there any doubt this is more of a battle of words than anything else? Inside-out China lead to to an interesting article about verbage, but I see us more of prisoners of words. The challenge of the art is how to tell us we are in trouble without saying the word "trouble", or in McCains case, how to reassure the fundamental is sound without uttering the word "sound". Modern Homo Sapiens are not that different from old-time primates.

Certains words are to be avoided. While I'd love to be in that room to see the drama, no one in the media would utter nationalization or sociolization outright. If we were to sustain bailouts and revamps without otherwise changing our economic habit or raising our own taxes, we will sure shedding some of our burden to the next generation. But we don't want to hear that, we prefer to call it economic "smoothing". The chinese, being an old civilization surely understand the power of words, how else can you find naked capitalism basking under the glory of socialism? In a new market de-regulation, the China Security Overseeing Commitee calls the newly allowed short selling "security financing" (融券). My suspicion is that "shorting" would sound too much capitalist and unpleasant.

Give us our sweet yogurt, but never say sugar. You are in business.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Calling All Monet

Fall color is beginning to be in full swing. For kids, they don't worry about the financial crisis, nor do they have the agony of your football team losing, all they call is the 16th birthday of Hanna Montana! Yay! For adults, nothing is quite like a sunny weekend to brush the mood up. I find the pictures loose a bit of color and brightness, so I decide to leave one of them dark and in black and white in protest.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Next Big Step in China?

This autumn is a bit extra chilly. I don't hear the topic of trade policy and China from the presidential debates when turmoil on the Wall Street is all the rage, but let's not lose sight on changes in China that could have potentially significant effect on the world economy for years to come.

China is said to address agriculture policy on the coming parliament conventions. The new policy would "allow agriculture land to circulate". Many believe the wording is a cover for capitalization of the agri-land, and a prelude to complete privatization.

Whether privatize or not, a new wave of land concentration and corporation of agriculture production are in sight. Many of those who are now called "migrant workers" will then simply be called "workers". Many of them, for one reason or another, will sell their land asset and become permanently labor force, whether in urban factories or on the newly formed agriculture corporations. Many of the young in China's rural areas have already left their home. Years after, a young man who wants to start up on agriculture will have the same problem as young ones in Indiana - it's difficult to get into since land will be difficult to lease or purchase. After the private capital pours into agriculture, there will be no longer an excuse to keep the price of agriculture products down, thus changing the relative price of Chinese economy. And since China is so big, it will have profound effect on the world economic structure too. [On a side note, the word "farmer" will no longer has a connotation of slightness in China.]

It's hard to judge if the new direction of the policy will be successful. But if the process in the cities are of any guidance, we can probably anticipate that the increase in productivity and the economy will be there but rights of individuals will be encroached in many cases. As economists would say, economists care not the redistribution problem until there is a crisis.

It all seems remote compared to the financial crisis we are in. However, some argues what happens in China is the single most important factor shaping our changing world. The integration of China into the world economy has realigned world's manufacturing industry and jobs; the cuddling of foreign capital and poor protection of workers rights has put pressure on the negotiation positions American workers are in; etc. The dead-weight will be cast, the credit issuance will resume. The next step of what China is going to do will have prolonged effects for years to come.

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