Shop til you drop
For all the things that divide the world, sometimes it’s nice to reflect on cultural universals. Among our favorites are curse words, societal inequality and a general agreement that Oasis is the best band to ever exist. But today, let’s reflect on that less discussed commonality – the game show Supermarket Sweep. Regardless of what it’s called in your country, the concept of running around a store grabbing everything in sight is universally appealing. Given its amassed trade wealth, China has taken the opportunity to go on its own shopping spree, sweeping up foreign companies like it has a minute left on the clock and wants to show that rival family of snub-nosed dentists who’s boss. The spree continued this week with Lenovo snapping up a US software company, purportedly because its cloud computing allows them to listen to “Call Me Maybe” anywhere. Meanwhile, China Construction Bank is on the search for a European bank, because really, why not? Hasn’t it earned the right to treat itself? There are signs, however, that China is losing its excitement and beginning to think all this shopping is more of a hassle than its worth. Chalco dropped its bid for Mongolian coal producer SouthGobi Resources because, in the words of one anonymous insider, “They want us to fill out all this paperwork. Why can’t they just take our money and go back to subsistence living in their (now blinged-out) yurts?” But in a crisis-riddled world with deals this good, and signs they’ll continue to get better, we expect China won’t let up anytime soon.
Nothing to break in Shanghai
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Sino-Japanese relations – enough to put a Japanese diplomat in the hospital, or worse. Chinese officials have subtly pushed their countrymen toward boycotting products from the land of the rising sun – and police in cities like Beijing and Guangzhou have turned a blind eye to egg hurling. However, protestors hoping to smash some windows in the Japanese consulate in Shanghai will have no such pleasure. The consulate has been on lockdown since Japan suddenly claimed to have bought the tiny islands at the heart of the dispute. Armed police and paramilitary have been deployed to the consulate, giving sign-waving, angst-filled youngsters no opportunity to dent the side of any diplomat’s car. The reason: the consulate is simply too expensive to rebuild, as Shanghai authorities learned in 2005. The city ended up paying for imported Japanese paneling material after protesters put some serious holes in the building. Japanese companies have been taking some hits, however. Despite the danger of having a factory torched or products thrashed, FDI from the island nation is up compared to that from the US and the EU. Given the far worse US investment figures, Chinese might be better off pouncing on the US embassy.
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