An Evening with Lakhdar Brahimi

In a career spanning sixty years as a diplomat, Lakhdar Brahimi has seen it all. From his time as the Foreign Minister of Algeria to postings as a United Nations Special Envoy in South Africa, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently in Syria, Ambassador Brahimi has worked his entire life towards a goal of global peace. On November 9, the ambassador spoke to a small gathering of journalists at the Beijing offices of the China International Publishing Group about the Syrian conflict and the small glimmer of hope for the future that has come from the recent peace talks in Vienna.   On the failings of the UN member states, some more so than others: The most important mission of the United Nations to keep, or try and keep, to preserve, peace and security, and when peace is broken to try and restore it. That is why the United Nations exists. It is a very, very big responsibility. And a few people try and move the responsibility to the Secretary-General, but in fact the Secretary-General has a very different responsibility. The responsibility [for peace] is with the member states, not the Secretary-General. So, as you know, I was involved in many of these situations of conflict, and we have made progress only when there was real, strong support from the […]

Nov 13, 2015

Chinese Consumption Slows as Confidence Wanes

For months those who keep an eye on China (and the world economy, such is its reliance on China) have been told how domestic consumption is to act as a panacea of sorts as the country transitions from its previous model driven by exports and domestic consumption, yet it might be time to pump the brakes on that idea. At the end of September, the Westpac MNI China Consumer Sentiment Indicator was the highest it had been since May 2014, with MNI Indicators Chief Economist Philip Uglow saying “Our cross-section of urban Chinese consumers seems oblivious to the tirade of negativity that surrounds China at the moment.” Yet the very next month, Chinese consumer sentiment dropped to the lowest recording since the indicator came into effect in 2007, and just like that Huw McKay, senior international economist at Westpac, was saying, “This result openly questions the resilience of the Chinese consumer to the discouraging state of the real economy.” That is quite the swing.                     Source: Westpac, Deutsche Borse Group Earlier this week, Reuters published an article detailing how China’s economic slowdown was hurting the global wine industry, just one of the many industries that was once looking to China for the explosive growth that was going to carry the sector […]

Nov 10, 2015

Chinese Company Offers “Help the Elderly” Insurance to Combat Scams

So a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan walk down a road…heard this one before? Luke 10:29-37? Fine, so it’s not a joke. No, the now-famous parable for the Bible lesson of “love they neighbor” tells of three men walking separately down the Jerusalem-to-Jericho road, each coming across a man injured, bloodied, and lying on the road after being robbed by bandits. The first two men cross the road so to avoid the poor soul and pass by, while the third, the now-named Good Samaritan, stops and gives his assistance. If there is one lesson to be learned from this, it is that the first two men must not have had “Help the Elderly” insurance. Available for sale since October 16 on Alipay, Chinese altruists can now be protected against scam artists seeking to take advantage of naïve do-gooders with an insurance plan from Sinosafe Insurance (Side note: does everything China-related have to use the prefix “Sino?”) at the low annual cost of 3 yuan ($0.47). What, you say, insurance against scams that target helping hands? Unfortunately, such is the case. China has been plagued in recent years by a scourge of elderly scam artists that prey upon the few remaining non-cynics in China by “falling” then accusing any would-be helper of knocking them down. The bemused Good Samaritan is […]

Nov 2, 2015

Zombie Meat yet another Reason to Go Vege in China

  I have lived in China for around five years now, and much of that was spent in blissful ignorance. By that I mean that one of my favorite things to do in Beijing on a fine summertime evening was to sit around a weather-beaten plastic table that belonged on a patio back when patios were invented and eat chuanr, otherwise known as skewered meat liberally seasoned with cumin and chili. To sit in the nighttime humidity and chow on lamb shish kebabs while complaining about the air pollution and drinking lukewarm Yanjing beer seemed like a truly Beijinger thing to do. But oh how that ignorance has me looking back in wonder that I did not contract rabies or some other equally delicious disease carried by members of the Canidae (dogs, foxes), Mustilidae (badgers, minks) or Muroidea (rats) families. And if not for the dubious “lamb” that I ate, then what of its age? Was it in fact older than I, originating from a cache of “zombie meat” aged 30 years for flavor? Piquant yet nostalgic. I bring this up now as there has never been a better time in China to be a vegetarian. My in-laws are rabid vegetarians for a myriad of reasons, and being the son of a New Zealand sheep and beef farmer I have […]

Jul 14, 2015