As a rule, few journalists have MBAs; those who do are usually good enough at math to figure out the difference between what you make writing articles as compared to creating PowerPoint presentations about silos, industry best practices and rightsizing. Then they change jobs. This is a sign of intelligence, and the whole premise of financial journalism is that the suits are smarter than we are, and thus should make more money. It is therefore frustrating to watch a billion-plus-dollar US company ignore the well-meant and oft-repeated advice of this magazine that they do a little math and maybe revisit that business plan before plowing millions into launching China’s bazillionth desperately-not-needed group buying website. Well, Groupon, we told you so.
Today, anonymous sources leaked that Gaopeng.com, the joint venture between Groupon.com (as opposed to Groupon.cn, a competing business – you see the problem already) and Tencent, is preparing to lay off one-third of its headcount and close 40 offices. (Offices? Isn’t this a dot.com? Isn’t everyone supposed to be telecommuting to some cloud-server-virtual-device thingy?) Tencent managers apparently stopped investing in the JV after the Rohypnol wore off, and it was this lack of cash, plus the general pigheadedness of the business model, that led to the downsizing.
The layoffs will put around 1,000 young, idealistic-yet-somehow-greedy-in-a-socially-acceptable-way dot-com hipsters on the hard Chinese streets. Some of them were imported from overseas, and the ink on their Z visas isn’t even dry yet. Our heart goes out to them. It’s bad enough to lose a job at this particular macroeconomic moment, but a worse fate is in store: Now that the poor bastards are penniless, sleeping in public parks with only fixed-gear bike frames for pillows, it’s just a question of time until the expat wealth-management industry starts calling to offer them tax-efficient investment solutions. Well, if you can’t kick a guy when he’s down, when do you kick him?
Unfortunately, reality has yet to intrude at Gaopeng. Company CEO Yun Ouyang said that Gaopeng remains committed to China, and um, something about a new strategy involving lower-tier cities.
The already infamous “basket-brawl” that erupted during a “friendly match” between the Georgetown University Hoyas and the Bayi Military Rockets has given the China pundits the perfect metaphorical platform from which to question the fundamentals. What does the brawl mean for Sino-US relations? Is China a status-quo power? Can we squeeze in a reference to “Ping-Pong diplomacy” somewhere in here?
Here at CER, of course, we try to concern ourselves with more elevated subjects; we rarely descend to discuss things grown men do with balls, be they paddled, dribbled or breaded and deep-fried. And we dislike how a self-interested university recruiting mission is being cast as diplomatic couples’ therapy. Nevertheless, we cannot pass the basket-brawl by. There are so many unanswered questions! For one, scheduling a “friendly match” with a team called the “Bayi Military Rockets”: Who made that call?
Not to appear partisan. Of all the academic institutions most deserving of being bombed from orbit, Georgetown University is certainly in the top five; encouraging Chinese students to attend a school operated by those unscrupulous yet clever Jesuits is to abandon them to the tutelage of blasphemers and sybarites. Nor does our sympathy extend to a team that calls itself “the Hoyas” and yet has a bulldog for a mascot – an irritating blend of the abstruse and the trite. Anyone who looks up the etymology of the term “Hoya” quickly understands why this is a team that deserves to be beaten with folding chairs and pelted with bottles, and if the agents of justice happen to be demented louts wearing khaki shorts, all the better.