A Nobel Peace Prize for Hu Jintao, October 20:
Guo Shuqing, chairman of China Construction Bank, said there are "10 times as many reasons for Hu Jintao to win" the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama. Guo cited Hu’s contributions to the North Korea nuclear disarmament talks, peace in the Asia-Pacific region, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and for his efforts to reduce poverty at home. That is an impressive list, but is Hu really any more qualified to win the Nobel Peace Prize than Obama? While Hu has arguably accomplished more – he’s been in office for about six more years than Obama, after all – none of the accomplishments that Guo cited seem really Nobel-worthy… But Guo wasn’t as much trying to suggest that the Nobel committee should have awarded Hu the prize as he was trying to expose the double standards of the international community in its dealings with China. It’s not a new argument, but recent trade disagreements have led to what appears from China to be a rising tide of protectionism. That’s hardly a recipe for international peace and understanding.
Filling a Gap, October 16:
Retail continues to be a hot sector in China. While national sales figures can be misleading, that doesn’t change the fact that Chinese consumers have continued to shop. They’re not all buying the same things, of course – anyone who keeps track of labels on the streets will know that sportswear brands like Kappa, formerly common in Beijing and Shanghai, are gradually being relegated to second-, third- and even lower-tier cities. Consumer research firm Access Asia talked about this trend in its most recent weekly email, noting that "smart casual" is now the preferred look for the urban middle class. Now we hear news that The Gap, preferred clothier of North American youth in the mid-90s (I’ll admit I was unaware of Gap’s rising fortunes as a purveyor of smart-casual wear), is on its way to China. No information yet on where it will choose to introduce its first direct foray into a foreign market in more than 10 years. But given the current consumer mood, its timing sounds fortuitous.