Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Fall of Communism?

A few days ago, I had lunch with a group of company directors. Amongst them was a person who was once a senior government official. He is now in the private education business and travels to China quite often. He pointed out that the newly rich and highly educated Chinese in China (the Chinese are all over the world nowadays) shun their fellow countryman who are less well-educated and certainly not rich. They would rather work with foreigners in their country than their countryman.

Indeed, China today is communist in name only. They are embracing capitalist thinking and approaches to advance their causes within the country as well as outside it.

Not too long ago, the Chinese government-owned and controlled CNOOC went to the heart of capitalism to attempt to acquire Unocal Corporation - the 9th largest oil company in the US. I wonder what Mao Tse Tung would have thought of it - victory of communism over capitalism in capitalism's own backyard? Deng Xiao Ping would, no doubt, have approved though - the colour of the cat didn't matter so long as it caught the mouse.

Coming back, the divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots in China is growing. It struck me that that was why communism in China became popular in the first place. Taken to its logical conclusion, we may yet witness the second communist revolution about 20 years hence?

Food for thought.

Battle for Unocal
Uncharted Waters
China drops bid
What CNOOC Leaves Behind

Monday, September 05, 2005

Rise of the consumer

I was at the Comex exhibition yesterday (an annual end-user computer exhibition like the annual Comdex in the US). I can only remember a few exhibitors who where selling PC and PC-related products - Maxtor, Dell, Chamoxa, Pluto, Linksys. Most of the big name companies such as HP, Toshiba, Compaq were selling Notebooks and Printers. IBM was entirely missing if not for its Thinkpad. Panasonic was selling its DECT phones at generous discounts, and its PC Notebook - the first time I'm seeing this from Panasonic. All of only ONE exhibitor was selling Linux (Xandros) - and that only as a sideshow. The major software vendor was represented by Microsoft (then again, selling mostly X-boxes). There were a few other smaller software vendors plying software such as the Hans Chinese language software and I saw a promoter outside the exbition hall carrying some flyers on Peachtree accounting software. External hard disks are hot, although by no means new. It reminded me of external hard disk-like drives I was playing with some 16 years ago in my then organisation.

But the rest of the exhibition was overrun by exhibitors selling consumer electronics products, really, with brand names like HP (sells more cameras and printers nowadays), Canon, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji Camera, Nikon, etc. Even printers are considered consumer electronics nowadays. I came away from the exhibition with a greater impression of the tons of digital cameras, video cameras, Cellphones and MP3 players (plus speakers mainly from Creative Technologies) on offer. Starhub was literally giving away the O2 phones for new sign-ups and there was a perpetually long queue. Too bad I am already a Starhub subscriber!?

Will consumer electronics take over Comex one day? Is software dead? Is the open source / Linux a fluke? It doesn't seem profitable enough to afford exhibition space?

The times they are a'changin... (Bob Dylan, 1964)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Returning a favour

My criticism of the situation in New Orleans in no way detracts from the dire needs of those still stranded and hurt. Seeing people on TV asking about the fate of their loved ones and pleading for help in locating them evokes memories of when South and South-east Asia were struck by tidal waves (tsunamis) caused by gigantic undersea earthquakes less than 9 months ago.

Then, the US provided assistance both in kind and in cash. I am sure it is time that Asia reciprocrates. Yes, we are not a very wealthy part of the world, but Asia has experienced tremendous growth over the last couple of years, with more to come in spite of the rising cost of oil. I would like to think that the US contributed partly to this through its benign policing of the world. It is the only superpower with the ability to extend its reach globally. Many prefer to see sinister, self-serving and arrogant motives in this.

No matter what your views are, it is time to put aside differences of opinion and look at the present needs from a humanitarian perspective. Whatever your political affiliations, it is time to be magnanimous.

Irony of a disaster

By now, the world is aware of the destruction wrought by Katrina on the southern coasts of the US. What disturbs everyone, I am sure, is not so much the destruction caused by the Hurricane, but by humans upon humans in this tragedy. Instances of looting, rapes, and willful destruction of property by people on other people within a natural catastrophe is incomprehensible and inhumane.

This disaster has certainly brought out the worst in people, and ironically, in probably the most developed country in the world. It just goes to show that humans are no nearer being better with developments in economic strength, social advancements in justice, equality and, dare I say, democracy? But perhaps this is an over-simplification as it does not take into consideration the cumulative deprivation of the very people that have been hurt of hurricane Katrina.

But then, in the Asian Tsunami of December 2004, Indonesia's Aceh population, which suffered one of the worst destruction not unlike New Orleans', were not much 'developed' either and are certainly a deprived lot. Makes you wonder...

Links to information on the Katrina disaster:
Fox News
Yahoo News
Satellite Photos
Skin Colour?
About Hurricane Katrina
The American Red Cross

Clarification: This blog does not received any part of any donation made through the links above. I have no affiliation to the American Red Cross. Please give as you are able and where conscience dictates.