Posted by: Andrea | June 11, 2009

Oh, Wong-Fu

Despite their stumbling through their mandarin, I am so proud to see them enjoy their success.

Photo by Jeff Widener

With the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre looming, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has gone ahead and blocked popular social media sites access including Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Hotmail, and Flickr.  Although internet censorship is nothing new in China, the timing is surely ironic.  Students and intellectuals protested for civil liberties and democracy in 1989 and twenty years later, civil liberties have been truncated before the protesting has a chance to begin.

As a 2nd generation Chinese immigrant living in North America, I hesitate before I join the outcry of protestations.  What choice does the PRC have?  If you understand their philosophy, then you know that in general, they are trying to do what they think is right and best for China as a whole and it’s just their approach that is in dispute.  Their method: the sharp discipline of a controlling parent.  We all know that it fails at times, and the deaths that occurred at Tiananment twenty years ago can testify.  But we also know that where the United States government has failed, we can see where the PRC has not.  Take Hurricane Katrina for example, and contrast that against the PRC’s response to the earthquakes in Sichuan.   Consider the BBC’s survey of Chinese citizen reflections on the earthquake one year later; one writer comments, “I think the Chinese government did a good job and deserve more positive attention among international communities. Problems might still exist, but efforts were astonishing, when one talked about the issues in China, the thing people should keep in mind is that China was not a developed country. China is just trying to provide their people a good living standard.”   Meanwhile, one year after Hurricane Katrina shows a much bleaker evaluation.   Now, I admit that criticism will always abound.   But if we anthropomorphize China as a single country entity, and assume that the PRC will always do what is in its “best” interest, then it is easy to understand why the PRC might want to stem the criticism they know it going to happen on Thursday in all the social networking sites.   If people don’t talk about it, then maybe they’ll forget it did happen.  If people don’t talk about it, then maybe it didn’t happen.  If it didn’t happen, then we can continue on business as usual and keep on our track of economic liberalisation.

Being a child of both worlds, western by nurture and eastern by nature, I have the liberty of shrugging off my cloak of western socialization to see the issue from multiple points of view.  It is a complex issue because it cuts into the very grain of the PRC’s philosophical foundations: they are not democratic.  They may liberalisation policies to appear democratic, but the underpinnings of the PRC remain staunchly communist: all privileges are the country’s to grant.  They are not seen as rights.   And if Tiananmen was any example, trying to force China’s hand through protests and trade blocks will not work.   Diplomacy and peaceful collaboration over time and a focus on influencing the next generation of leaders will be the more appropriate answer.

Additional reading on Tiananmen can be found on the Council of Foreign Relations website here.

Posted by: Andrea | April 5, 2009

China has itself to blame over money supply

By PAUL KRUGMAN New York Times
April 3, 2009, 8:26PM

Back in the early stages of the financial crisis, wags joked that our trade with China had turned out to be fair and balanced after all: They sold us poison toys and tainted seafood; we sold them fraudulent securities.

But these days, both sides of that deal are breaking down. On one side, the world’s appetite for Chinese goods has fallen off sharply. China’s exports have plunged in recent months and are now down 26 percent from a year ago. On the other side, the Chinese are evidently getting anxious about those securities.

But China still seems to have unrealistic expectations. And that’s a problem for all of us.

The big news last week was a speech by Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of China’s central bank, calling for a new “super-sovereign reserve currency.”

The paranoid wing of the Republican Party promptly warned of a dastardly plot to make America give up the dollar. But Zhou’s speech was actually an admission of weakness. In effect, he was saying that China had driven itself into a dollar trap, and that it can neither get itself out nor change the policies that put it in that trap in the first place.

Some background: In the early years of this decade, China began running large trade surpluses and also began attracting substantial inflows of foreign capital. If China had had a floating exchange rate — like, say, Canada — this would have led to a rise in the value of its currency, which, in turn, would have slowed the growth of China’s exports.

Posted by: Andrea | February 19, 2009

Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling

I stumbled upon Jane Hyun’s “Bamboo Ceiling Workshop” almost accidentally; a friend had forwarded me the facebook invite and asked if I wanted to go.  It was a Wednesday evening and I almost let the rain convince me to stay in, cozy up with a book and make a dent on that paper I’m researching.  But I went anyways, and was pleasantly surprised and inspired by the workshop.

The asian american electorate is one of the fasted growing groups in the North American labour force.  It makes sense, afterall – most asian generation X and Y’ers grew up on the backs of their immigrant parents hard work, and rightly felt the need to excel in their school and careers to justify the sacrifice their parents made for them in this brave new world.

This is a phenomenon that hasn’t received much attention until now.  The asian american diaspora has led to a number of interesting trends that, in Jane Hyun’s opinion, should be noted.   Why?  Because in the heart of the knowledge economy that has slowly taken over the steel mills and pulp factories and manufacturing plants, there is an equally slow takeover of the workforce that doesn’t operate in the white boys club.   Companies operating in the knowledge economy hold the majority of their assets in their labour force.  High turnover rates lead to high transaction costs, and high transaction costs lead to unnecessary expenditures on an already weakened financial situation for most companies overall.

Here are some facts and figures taken from Jane Hyun’s website:

  • Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing groups in the U.S.labor force but remain one of the least represented groups in senior management ranks at Fortune 500 companies.
    A 2003 Catalyst study showed that while Asian women make up an important and growing source of talent, they make up .29% of the 10,000+ corporate officers of Fortune 500 companies. A previous study by Cliff Cheng showed that Asians make up less than 1/2 of 1/% of Fortune 250 companies.
  • Many Asian American professionals report that they are often misunderstood in business settings. Second and third-generation Asian Americans who don’t speak a syllable of Asian dialect report being mistaken as foreigners or expatriates in the workplace.
  • While Asians are well represented in entry level positions, few advance to senior management ranks or corporate board positions because of cultural barriers or lack of organizational resources.

On an anecdotal level,  Jane’s message resounded immensely with me.  When I consider all the individuals who made it to partner level at my previous workplace, there was maybe one asian and he was male.   But if you look at the manager level, the number of asian females was almost in the majority.   But why weren’t any of them making partner?

It’s a double-sided question, first on the feminine level and second on the ethnic minority level.   Complicating matters is this phenomenon of reverse brain drain, where immigrants who have been educated at the highest levels in North America are returning to their home countries.   Ten years ago, these reverse-immigrants would have been received by their home countries as “rock stars.”   Today, so many have returned and the tides of globalization have swept such that when these revese-immigrants return, they are regarded just as “rocks.”   What a fascinating topic.

Posted by: Andrea | December 11, 2008

music break

If there’s one thing that asian americans love to do, it’s to “jam.”  I’ve been noticing Jennifer Chung spring up on the youtube scene for a little over a year now, and it’s great to see how her music has matured over this period.   There aren’t enough mainstream asian american artists out there right now, but I think we’ll see more artists like Jennifer and Justin Nozuka getting picked up by major record labels.   As for the genre, you might notice a heck of a lotta emo.

Posted by: Andrea | December 4, 2008

Canadian Liberals = failed.

vs.

Okay, so I know the Opposition Leader’s Office (OLO) doesn’t have the same resources as the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) but you’ve got to be kidding me.  If the OLO Liberals can’t even get a tape to the networks on time, in decent quality – how do you think they’d be able to run the country?

Posted by: Andrea | December 2, 2008

Canadian politics = failed.

cartoon courtsey of Filibuster Cartoons

cartoon courtsey of Filibuster Cartoons

Canadian politics have reached an all-time low.  ‘Nuf said.  It’s at times like this that I actually agree with my mother who said, “politics?! what politics?! don’t get involved! It’ll only give you more headache! The Canadian government is an idiot!” in her broken english.

This week, she’s proven her point.

Take a read at my article published on The Morningside Post for my take on this hoobaloo.

cartoon courtsey of skinnypanda.com

cartoon courtsey of skinnypanda.com

Interesting article published by ESPN on 19-year-old rising star golfer Michelle Wie.   This week she enters the final stage of the LPGA qualifying school (commonly referred to as “Q-school” for those familiar with golf sport vernacular).  Best of luck to her!

This is the first time I’ve seen an asian american of this caliber on the sports scene since Michael Chang was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame earlier this year for his immense career in the 1990’s.   The other big sports splash I’ve seen recently is Canada’s Carol Huynh who took the gold medal in women’s wrestling at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

portrait-chinese-americansThe Asian American Studies Program of the University of Maryland has teamed up with the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) to publish a demographic study of Chinese Americans, and are promoting this collaboration tomorrow at AsianWeek headquarters in San Fransisco.

The publication uses U.S. census data from 2000 to mostly provide data on who chinese americans are, where they live, how much they make, and how big their numbers are.   I think it’s great that people are recognizing that the asian american society is large enough to constitute tracking and study, but the data is almost a decade old.   Eight years ago, we were living in a pre-9/11 world.  Eight years ago, we were in an economic boom.  Eight years ago, China’s global economic presence was still a foreign concept.

A lot has changed in the past eight years, so I’m skeptical of the relevance of the study’s insights.  That being said, this is mitigated by use of the 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for more recent numbers, although the survey was conducted on a very limited basis (samples only selected from geographic areas with a population greater than 65,000 people totalling 1.5M individuals interviewed, which translates into 0.49% of the total American population).  Still, it’s better than nothing.

So if you’re in the San Fran area, I suggest you drop by – it’s being held at 11am at the San Diego Room, Hiram W. Johnson State Building, 455 Golden Gate Avenue.

For an online copy of the report, go to http://www.aast.umd.edu/PortraitofChinesesAmericans.pdf

Posted by: Andrea | November 13, 2008

strength and humility

CBC news released today a full 60-minute interview with Mellissa Fung, an up and rising reporter who was kidnapped by a family-run criminal group from a refugee camp in Afghanistan on October 12, 2008.  Held in captivity for 28-days in a small, dark, damp hole in the ground, there are three things that strike me as incredible about her story.

“dying is not an option.”

Her determination to survive and resourcefulness is clearly outstanding.  Even throughout the interview she is calm, thoughtful, somber yet not without hope.   She talks about hiding her second cell phone in her pocket, trying to move it in a location so it won’t be found when she’s initially kidnapped and held captive at the floor of the car.   She also talks about creating a false illness to convince her captors to expedite the process of her release.  These are things one would expect from Jack Bauer but not necessarily a small, nice Canadian asian young woman.

As soon as she was released into the safety of Afghan intelligence custody, Mellissa was able to make a phone call home.   Her father, who picked up on the other line, felt rightfully relieved to hear his daughter’s voice.  But when asked how she felt when she heard his voice, Mellissa said:

“I was so relieved he was okay…I was way more worried about my parents than I was myself. I knew they had to be worrying, they had to be so upset.”

Her interviewer, Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio One, commented that one of the first things Mellissa did after being released was to apologize all the trouble she put everybody through.

“I just felt bad that everybody was so worried.  I knew I was okay, but what was hard was that my parents, my friends didn’t.  That was the hardest part about all of this.”

Her humility and thoughtfulness under the worst of circumstances just astounds me.

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