Monday, August 15, 2005

Nina's Thoughts on Having your Cake

It seems Nina has been thinking further about her recent trip to California. See my earlier posts Visitors from Across the Pond and Nina's Photos. She has now shared some very interesting thoughts on her impressions of America formed during this visit. I think she just wanted me to go ahead and post another one of her photographs.

Nina, thanks for sharing with us. If you keep this up I may just need to give you guest blogging privledges. And you know I like visiting China, blue sky or not.

Last weekend I got some time to think about my American trip. Since I went to Europe a few times, this American trip was really nothing extremely different in my eyes. But still, there are something impressing:

Blue Sky

Right after I arrived at San Francisco, the first inspiration, wow, the air was so fresh, it was so easy! Looking at the sky, it was so blue and clear, I could not help making quite a few deep breath - America is America, the taste of air is so different. One time I talked to my boss Mr. Berolzhemer, I wanted (him) to visit our Tianjin factory more often, he said he wanted to see the blue sky.In China we can not have really blue skies, in big city like Tianjin, it is very industrial, more and more foreign investment makes our economy growing rapidly, meanwhile, we pay the cost of pollution. The Chinese government has already been aware of this problem, we are looking forward to our own blue sky. I believe soon Mr. Berolzheimer will not have that EXCUSE to refuse our invitation.

Thinking about this, a proverb came to mind. "You can't have your cake and eat it too." This means that things people want are often incompatible. e.g. You can't have blue skies AND inexpensive industrial production. Air pollution control costs money and that adds costs to production. Examples of this are the England during the industrial revolution, the U.S. and Japan in the 1970s. Japan used to be famous for inexpensive products.

Now the first thing coming to my mind is that China will someday be the biggest market for air pollution control equipment. Unfortunately, things usually have to get worst (really bad) before change comes. I am confident that within our live time, the Chinese government with discover the words "Quality of life" and force companies to install such equipment. Here's to the BLUE SKY future of China. China will be a leader in air pollution control technology and the cost of goods will be very high.

Editor's Note: I don't want to be a pessimist, and there is progress being made. For more information on this topic see this week's new Business Week article:
"A Big, Dirty Growth Engine"


In China it is illegal to carry guns. But in America, I got to know it is allowed. My colleague - also one of my best friends - Eric uses his guns for hunting and personal protection which I respect. He has about 22 guns. Wow, I personally have never owned a gun and never plan to. Actually I have never seen so many guns. He locked them into a safety tank, I was so excited that I wanted to feel them and carry them. Eric suggested me to take some pictures, after confirming thousands of times the gun was unloaded, I took five COOL pictures. Look - I am really a virago now.

Here are some interesting statistics I got just know from internet:In 1994, 44 million Americans owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Although there were enough guns to have provided every U.S. adult with one, only 25 percent of adults actually owned firearms; 74 percent of gun owners possessed two or more.There is an interesting movie called "
Bowling For Columbine " which addresses the gun issue in America. From reading the statistics I got to know that Gun laws are a very controversial issue in America. It is a right written in the U.S. Constitution that citizens can own guns. American has the highest murder rate in the world. Again, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Freedom vs. Murder

Made-in-China Products

The words MADE IN CHINA were synonymous with CHEAP products.

In California, I tried to find some gifts for my Chinese friends. I could hardly find products non-made-in-China. In China town, everything even the people are made in China. Now I am taking over the new job then all invoices to the customers will be made in China.

China sells cheap but low-value-added, low-tech products to America, America sells expensive but hi-tech, high value-added products to China. In theory this benefits both America and China, this is the sense of international trade. China has the much cheaper labors. That is why I was in America. This creates a lot of opportunities for Chinese people. On the other hand, I am sad because our American associates are losing jobs. But I am sure they will have better chances, because in broad sense, they are going to have high-tech and high value-added jobs.

In America, people's vacation impressed me, even very ordinary people go on vacations regularly. It is very different from China. One taxi drive told me he just came back from Hawaii, and he was ready to go back. In San Francisco, I saw a lot of families, they came for vacation. People live an easy life, no worries at all. In China, people can only go on vacation when they have extra money and extra time. Chinese people have a good-or-bad habit: save money. This relates to Chinese social benefit system. We do not have a complete environment to relax people. This is our problem.

I envy people who live in European countries too. Check out these statistics. Average number of vacation days....Italy 42 days, France 37 days, Germany 35 days, Brazil 34 days, United Kingdom 28, days Canada 26 days, Korea 25 days, Japan 25 days, U.S. 13 days. Perhaps it's because Americans have relatively few vacation days that they use them well.

More statistics....Gross National Product (GNP) Percentage of World GNP...USA 32.9%, Japan 13.4%, Germany 6.0%, Britain 4.6%, France 4.2%, China 3.7%, Italy 3.5%, Canada 2.3%, Mexico 2.0%, Spain 1.9%. You will note that there is an inverse relationship with the number of holidays and GNP. Here we go again.... You can't have your cake and eat it too. Vacations vs. Money.

Chinese people are concerned with Quality of Life much more now, especially young generation, they know how to get loan from bank, they borrow money for studying, traveling, housing...for everything. They know life is short, if they saved money and waited for inflation, that means they did not make the money. I personally support this idea, we can not expect what will happen tomorrow, we can only enjoy today.

Chinese people now also have much more holidays than before, government started the two-golden-week a few years ago, that is the first week of May and October, the purpose is to develop tourism and create more employment, people now go out for holidays, even go abroad for vacation.

In closing

I can feel the distance from China and the outside world is shortening day by day in every aspect, we are becoming more internationalized, I am more pound of being a Chinese now, the feeling of "I love China" is getting stronger inside me.

People all said America is a dream land, I am not sure what dream I can fulfill there. To see is to believe, I only saw a small part of America, I still have strong interest.No matter where we live, we need to be happy, that is important. Right? I believe that the key to happiness is balance. Coming from the country that "invented" this way of thinking (Taoism), this is part of our religion. I also believe that happiness comes from friendship and understanding.



Jea said...

Dear Nina:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I did not find them ridiculous, but rather interesting.

I always wonder what people think when they travel to other countries and explore new cultures and ideas. I love to travel and meet new people, to experience other ways of life. In the process you compare your own life with the people's you have met and I always take a piece with me to grow as a human being. The globalization is bringing people from all over the world together more closely. I believe, if it was not for international trade, people would not travel as much. I am also a foreigner in America and even though my upbringing and my life in America are not too different, there are still many things that are different. I love and miss my home country a lot, but I have learned to love America and I feel that I live a very interesting life. America is a very hard working country and I wish the people could have more time off to slow down their pace and to enjoy life more. There are a lot of Americans who cannot afford going on vacation, because America is a very expensive country.

It will be interesting to follow China's economic development. China has such vast business advantage today, because so many business relay on China. My personal opinion is that China will not continue to stay as a country of low-value added and low-tech products. Currently, China is housing great knowledge and one day China will take advantage of that knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Why did Jea think Nina might have expected her to find her post ridiculous, for heaven's sake? It was just interesting, wasn't it?