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So far drewchapman has created 186 blog entries.

The China bubble

I am not an economist. Nor am I a China expert. But I’m deeply fascinated by both subjects. So I go to great pains to study them — to learn, to process, to understand. And if there’s one thing that I’m taking away from being in China in 2013, it’s that there’s a bubble here, and potentially a big one. Beijing Olympic buildings I’ve spent the last few days in Beijing driving around neighborhoods, suburbs, downtown, talking to locals and ex-pats, businessmen and tourists. I did the same in Shanghai, and in the space in between. And everywhere I went, I saw enormous buildings — apartments, office towers, factories — standing empty. Brand new, or five years old, it didn’t make a difference — there was no one in them. No workers, no tenants, no companies. And it’s not like I saw just one or two examples. On the train from Beijing to Shanghai you sped past countless vacant factories. Brand new, gleaming, and empty. You could see right through them. Office buildings in Beijing had nobody going in or out, and nobody in the lobbies. Same with apartment buildings. In fact, a large number of apartment buildings didn’t even have windows slapped onto them. They just had wind blowing through them — and they looked to have been built a while ago.  […]

By |April 26th, 2013|china|4 Comments

Beijing vs. Shanghai

China ex-pats, especially the ones in Beijing, like to spend a lot of time comparing their city to other cities around the world. I think it’s part of what makes China so interesting — it’s an entire country just now presenting itself on the global stage, and comparisons with other countries and cities are inevitable. The Forbidden City, Beijing There’s also a subtle — or not so subtle — rivalry between Beijing and Shanghai, China’s two largest metropolitan areas, and I find that interesting. Each city, in a way, represents possible futures for the country. Beijing is the capital city, with all that implies. The government rules from Beijing. The party is all powerful there. There are a huge array of monstrous party buildings, big, ugly things that they used to build in East Berlin or Moscow, with flags flying out front and soldiers standing guard at the perimeter. Beijing is gritty and sprawling, with no real downtown, just endless apartment buildings that stretch out into the ungodly polluted haze.  […]

By |April 25th, 2013|china, economics|Comments Off on Beijing vs. Shanghai

Blog posting from China

I spent the last ten days in China, traveling around the country, seeing what new there is to see, taking notes and talking to people. I only posted twice while over there, and I’m back in the States now. I had planned to put up new blog posts every day, but that plan fell apart, mostly due to my own paranoia. Yes, you can get Starbucks on every corner in Shanghai. After posting twice from Beijing — once about the Chinese Communist Party and once on the growing environmental catastrophe over there — I began to see a small spike in the number of blog hits coming from inside China. I also began to get slightly odd Twitter messages and emails. They tended to be in broken English, and they asked where I was from, or where I was in China at the moment. This spooked me.  […]

By |April 25th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Blog posting from China

China and the environment

China’s economic progress is everywhere on display here, and it is impressive. New airports, new bullet trains, new highways, new factories. But just as visible, and far more disturbing, is the environmental degradation. And it too is everywhere. The air in Beijing is atrocious. You can smell it, feel it in your eyes and throat, and you can see it. Literally see it. The haze is thick all around you. During the four days we were in Beijing the pollution index never got above 200 (anything over 150 is considered unhealthy), but a month ago readings in the 500’s were commonplace in the city. The locals I spoke to said they basically just stayed indoors.  […]

By |April 21st, 2013|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Things I didn't know about China…

…but have been told by locals (or am seeing for myself). — Private property is still, technically, hard to come by. The state still owns most land. But you can begin to buy property. The hard part is that there are almost no mortgages available to Chinese citizens, so if you’re buying, you need to pay cash. And land is expensive, especially in the desirable parts of Beijing and Shanghai. A plot in the Dongcheng district of Beijing can run $15 million. To get around this, buyers take out long term leases for property. Seventy-five or ninety-nine year leases. In Beijing real estate time, ten years is a lifetime, so seventy-five years is unimaginable. “Lease don’t buy” works well here in China. — There is a large and growing ex-pat community in Beijing. Businessmen and women, for sure, but also artists, teachers, students and just regular old people who want to be part of an economy running on overdrive. I’ve met freelance writers, English teachers, tea traders, budding entrepreneurs, as well as the usual assortment of middle-management types. And most love it here. They find the pace and wide-open quality of the lifestyle invigorating.  […]

By |April 19th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Things I didn't know about China…

Mao kitsch

In Beijing, the shops are full of Mao kitsch. Not all the shops, but the touristy places in the hutongs, the back alleys of the central city. They have revolutionary postcards, T-shirts with Mao’s image, playing cards with the faces of all the army’s generals, handbags with patriotic slogans written across them (in Mandarin and English). None of these things are meant to be taken seriously — they are made with a knowing, hipster wink.  So if China has finally gotten to a place where even the Revered Leader himself can be the object of a clever joke, that raises the question of what exactly is Mao’s legacy here? Aside from a slew of slowly disappearing policies (like the one child law, and state ownership of a considerable amount of property), there seems to be one true remnant of Mao in China. The Chinese Communist Party.  […]

By |April 18th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Mao kitsch

The answer is in the past

Great article in today's NY Times here on how the Chinese government has started finding ancient answers to modern problems. The gist of the article is that often modern social engineering has unexpected consequences, but sometimes hearkening back to older answers can smooth the way to a resolution. For instance, when floods washed away the burial grounds [...]

By |April 11th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The answer is in the past

What exactly is a television (advertising edition)

Interesting follow up to an earlier post (here) about how Neilson is now willing -- and able -- to count streaming as a form of TV watching. The new announcement (here, from theverge.com) has ABC saying they will offer a cross-platform ad buy to their advertisers. The platform is called ABC Unified. Essentially, this means [...]

By |March 7th, 2013|economics, TV|Comments Off on What exactly is a television (advertising edition)

Big Data (part 2)

Completely fascinating article here about how researchers and scientists at Stanford and Columbia teamed up with engineers at Microsoft to discover new side-effects of certain drugs through big data. How’d they do it? Well, basically, the researchers looked at online search queries that named certain drugs, in this case paroxetine, an anti-depressant, and pravastatin, a cholesterol-lowering statin. When people searched online for side effects of one drug, they used certain terms: dizziness, dry-mouth, etc.  The researchers knew which particular drug  caused those side effects. But when people combined the two, they came up with new searches. What did that mean? […]

By |March 6th, 2013|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Why I haven't posted lately

The usual excuses: time pressure, exhaustion, etc. But the truth is, I am about to launch into writing book two of The Ascendant, and with the surfacing of that real work, blogging will have to take a back seat. I don't have the creative energy to write a great book and consistently write a great [...]

By |March 4th, 2013|writing|3 Comments