Chinese black swans, February 19:
Black swans are a part of life. They are the term given by trader and author Nicholas Taleb to the unexpected, random, unpredictable events that disrupt models and forecasts, and make fools out of economists and analysts. SARS was a black swan, and so was 9/11. Who could have predicted the snow and traffic madness that hit China around the Chinese New Year period?
Beijing dodged a bullet for sure. The snow was the first serious black swan to hit China since SARS in 2003, and the fact that there was no disaster – no 50 dead in a stampede at Guangzhou railway station – was a great relief.
China is in better shape today to ward off the birds than it has been for a long time. But who knows what else is brewing out there? Another religious cult? An environmental disaster no one has thought of? Stock market turmoil?
These are not a doomsday predictions, just reminders to expect the unexpected. China got over the snow pretty easily, but it still has an unlimited capacity to surprise. It’s worth keeping in mind.
China beats the US in creative exports? January 21
Here’s a curious statistic: China is the world’s top exporter of creative goods, accounting for US$61 billion worth in 2005. Don’t believe it? Take it up with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
UNCTAD says that creative products can be exclusive or mass-produced. It has divided products into categories like “cultural heritage” for “crafts, traditional cultural expressions, festivals and cultural sites” and “design” for “furniture, interior, graphic fashion, jewelry and toys.”
All sounds a bit vague, doesn’t it? These definitions have led UNCTAD to name Italy the top creative goods exporter among developed nations.
What about the US? Surely few countries can match its cultural reach? Apparently, however, American creative output pales in comparison to China’s, coming up to just US$25.5 billion in 2005.
That’s a strange conclusion to reach.