Gao Xiqing is the president of the China Investment Corporation, a Duke educated attorney, who established the Chinese securities and exchange system and now, in his current role, controls a huge amount of Chinese capital, capital invested in a lot of American debt.
We spent some time together in August during the Olympics but we didn’t talk economics — mostly sports. In the current Atlantic Monthly the best American journalist writing about China, James Fallows, interviews Gao. I highly recommend it.
“People, especially Americans, started believing that they can live on other people’s money. And more and more so. First other people’s money in your own country. And then the savings rate comes down, and you start living on other people’s money from outside. At first it was the Japanese. Now the Chinese and the Middle Easterners.
“We—the Chinese, the Middle Easterners, the Japanese—we can see this too. Okay, we’d love to support you guys—if it’s sustainable. But if it’s not, why should we be doing this? After we are gone, you cannot just go to the moon to get more money. So, forget it. Let’s change the way of living. [By which he meant: less debt, lower rewards for financial wizardry, more attention to the “real economy,” etc.]”
Hit the rack at 9 last night, too delirious to hold my eyes open, but drugged myself with a Restoril for extra insurance. Then Junior burst in with news of an unwanted phone call: “Loser!” he said. “It’s not even 9 and you’re in bed!” I pleaded that my circadian rhythms, whatever they are, were confused, and fell back into an uneasy slumber, the dog using my face as its pillow. At 4 a.m. I was back awake, this time with the usual terror dreams of naked public speaking, elevator plunges (naked elevator plunges) and missed appointments. “A fine day to slay the dragon!” I exhorted myself and my irritable bladder. “Up and at ’em!”
So now it’s five a.m.. I have eaten my daily bowl of oatmeal, am on cup number two of double-strength Peet’s French Roast (espresso ground for that full amphetamine experience), and now have the entire day ahead of me. I need to edit some college essays for a friend’s daughter – and I need to sort out travel for the next month – Bangalore, RTP, Chicago, NYC – I need to pay bills, deal with this quarter’s taxes, sort through my Olympic souvenirs, dig though 4000+ photographs from Beijing, write thank-you notes, file collected business cards, answer moldering emails, set up conference calls, ward off the bureaucrats, and fit in my daily Crossfit torture. From hanging around gold medalists to paying the garbage man …. I feel mentally whip-sawn between the alien exoticism of Beijing and the early fall despondency of a Cape Cod summer town gone quiet and to seed now that the tourists and renters are back in Bronxville and Westchester getting ready for the start of school.
The harbor is vacant. Yesterday I launched my shell at 9 and set off into a stiff northeasterly breeze, the first pure air I’ve had in a month, pumped right down across the Gulf of Maine from Greenland. It was a good row, nearly a fantastic one, with a strong pace that nearly convinced me to start filing more Fall Head regatta applications before it is too late. I lost weight in China and worked out every day using the Crossfit regime, so now is the time to really start focusing on that late February weekend when I intend to do some damage at the World Indoor Rowing Championships. I did make a request to be let onto the rowing course at Shunyi near the Beijing Airport for a personal victory lap. The CMO of one of Lenovo’s key suppliers got on the course a week before the Games and I wanted to do the same, but no, the course was locked down for the Paralympics which starts this week on the tail of the Olympics. Some other time perhaps.
I have a few posts to get out the door. They are:
A recap of the Voice of the Summer Olympics program. The metrics indicate the program in terms of traffic, blew away the targets set late in the spring. The media campaigns that surrounded it were also strong and over delivered their targets. In terms of press and reputation, I think the program went beyond what I expected. So, victory will be declared, I need to lock down the final report on the interactive component of Olympic sponsorship today for a review with the CEO next Tuesday.
A theoretical post on the future of athletic blogging and its place in the long tail. I sense that PC and consumer electronics marketing is going from what we call “spec pods” (speeds, capacities, dimensions) to a more task/application model. In the mid-80s, customers of the first PCs didn’t ask for an “8088 with 256K RAM” – they wanted a “Lotus 1-2-3 machine” for financial modeling. Today, Best Buy and other retails are starting to show more products marketed with an end-state, or goal in mind. “Get your video on YouTube.” I think the same is coming to consumer PC marketing as the so-called Web 2.0/Social Media revolution climbs down from the mountain of hype and into a sustainable state where everybody from chatty teens to Michael Phelps to your mom begins to seek hardware and software on the basis of how it activates the new consumer of model of “click, consume, contribute” rather than the old one of “configure and confusion.”
Search as the proxy for brand awareness and media impact on brands. Avinash Kaushik, guru of web metrics gurus at Google throws the question at my feet about why Google Analytics is showing a decline in ThinkPad searches and an increase in Lenovo searches. As we ran a butt-load of television through NBC during the Games, TV that was designed to build awareness of the word “Lenovo” in the minds of the American public, we saw some interesting side effects, not direct effects that one would expect. So …. Share of voice. Pre- and Post-awareness. Readers of this blog know I detest the notion that one can build a brand online through mindless repetition and pure SOV – that I believe brand is earned through a reputation for customer service and word of mouth about one’s excellence. All well and good. But when the brand actually spends three weeks advertising like its top competition does all of the time what is the net effect and what can be learned the morning after?
Digital rights vs. broadcast rights: I believe we’ll see some interesting divisions in the old broadcast model of large events, with Fox, NBC, Eurosport spending a lot of money for exclusive broadcast rights. I bet that the IOC and NFL and others are going to get wise and sell off the digital rights in a separate stream very soon. When that happens, whoo-ee, if Beijing wasn’t a web experience, just wait a few years. It’s a coming.
China SMM: lots of smart thoughts and insights shared at a final lunch with Will Moss, Sam Flemming and Kaiser Kuo. I need to digest, but let’s say the forthcoming US blogger tour of China is going to open some eyes in a big way – not necessarily positive. First off – China is not a blogger’s paradise. As Sam F. has pointed out – the world is built on forums over there. As Kaiser puts it, blogs are what he calls “Sick Kitty Blogs” (This is my kitty. My kitty is sick. Please send me money so I can take my kitty to the doctor.)
So, lots on my mind, lots to do, a desk to clean off, mementos to catalogue and now a holiday weekend on my doorstep. The crickets are frantic in the darkness, the paperboy just tossed the Times onto the end of the clamshell driveway, in two hours the bonito should be crashing out in the Sound, and I’ve got a lot to answer for.
I was scheduled to meet Sam Flemming from CIC Data, the top China social media consulting and monitoring company at 2 pm today, but spaced out and was on my way to Tien’amen Square to snap some shots and buy a new 50 mm 1.8 portrait lens. I got an email from a colleague telling me I was in serious hot water for blogging about how I was conning Beijing cabbies into taking the special Olympic lanes on the ring roads on the basis of my ordinary yellow IOC/BOCOG security pass placed on the dashboard. Since there was a URL of a site that apparently was linking to me – www.accreditationabuse.com (no such site exists of course, but I am gullible as well as a flaming doofus) – I flew back to my hotel room to do damage control. I got into the room, fired up the PC, and there was a direct Tweet from Sam confirming our 2 pm which we had scheduled a month ago.
Whoops. Right. That meeting. As I sent a direct tweet back to Sam and checked my email it dawned on me that I was the victim of a classic jape at the hands of my colleagues who watched me wrestle all last week with a certain entity which shall not be mentioned. They knew I was paranoid and a perfect sitting duck for a practical joke. Got me. Nice.
I call Sam and Sam is in the hotel already getting ready to have lunch in the mall with Kaiser Kuo – he of my top ten resolutions for Beijing list, founding member of China’s first heavy metal band, the Tang Dynasty, and premier Sino-Social blogger and interactive expert from Ogilvy. So I invited myself to finally meet Kaiser.
We did dim sum, told stories, I learned a pantload about SMM and interactive trends – like more in the course of a lunch than in three years of China watching from the States. Then we got onto one topic of another and that led to my saying I wished I could meet the Imagethief, (blog won’t load for me due to a neverbeforeseen “compression” error) Will Moss, with whom I’ve swapped mutual admiration links in the past. Aha, Will works in the same plaza as the hotel, so Kaiser dialed him up and within the hour we were all sitting in the coffee shop yakking it up some more.
Will Moss, Sam Flemming, and Kaiser Kuo
Will brought along Ben Ross, who has been blogging about his experiences as a shampoo/massage boy in a Chinese barber shop. (The kind with scissors, Will and Kaiser were keen to point out). Pretty wild stuff.
This was a great way to spend my second to last afternoon, and after we broke up I made my way to the Nikon dealership, bought the lens, then walked back through Tien’amen and the back streets to the hotel. Off to the farewell staff party, then I pack. Tomorrow will have to be souvenir day. No rowing at Shunyi – the course is locked down in preparation for the Paralympics which begin this week. Thanks to Sam, Kaiser and Will for the nice reception, makes me want to move to China all the more.
No fireworks and fan dancers for me. No way. I ate large with my buddies and caught the end of the show on TV. I’ll buy the DVD and watch it this winter when it’s nasty outside. Tomorrow is a day off! Going to go find some serious Chinese olympic garb (rowing shirts, baseball jerseys), load up on souveniers for the gang, maybe check out some sights with the camera, then hit the big staff party blow out (invitation says it goes until 2).
I can’t believe this is done. Longest three weeks of my life hands down. Need to find something to fill the gap the Olympics filled for the past 20 months of my life. The next chapter is going to be an interesting one I think.
My day (which ends in 27 minutes) started near the Ming Tombs, at 5 am at a very nice house. I didn’t want to wake anybody so I walked the grounds — an old persimmon orchard — and snapped some shots. I ate a persimmon the night before – my friend told me Americans never really get to experience them because they are hard to cultivate and serve. The trees must be grafted onto rootstock to thrive, and then, when the fruit is ripe (it resembles an apple) and the leaves have fallen, the fruit should be ripened in powdered lime (the mineral, not the citrus) or in a warm place for two days. It was served nearly frozen and spooned out of the center. I liked it but wouldn’t go crazy for the next one.
As I walked the path clicking away I could hear the fruit randomly proving Newton’s point with a dull thud – a measure of how quiet it was where the farm was located… the steep hills to the north are where the Great Wall passed, and to the east is the ancestral burial grounds of the Ming dynasty (which was replaced by the Qing Dynasty, the final one before the Nationalists (The “Last Emperor” was a Qing) took power.
I drove back into the city and met some of the Lenovo Athlete bloggers at a round of Olympic table tennis at Beijing University. I sat next to Seth Kelsey, the American fencer, saw Joshia Ng the Malaysian track cyclist (Keiren) and David Oliver the American track star. There were others, but I was rude, didn’t introduce myself as that would have been rude in the middle of a game and could only stay a half-hour (but saw some ferocious volleys involving a determined Hong Kong player) before I went to the Olympic Green to dodge the SBD’s (“Silent But Deadlies”, what I call the electric vehicles that creep up behind you), and admire some dedicated national pride at work. I will never contemplate painting my face after seeing this work of art.
Then I checked out of our Showcase on the Green, took off the Lenovo uniform shirt affectionately nicknamed “The Oven Mitt” by those who admire it’s bulletproof, flame retardent qualities, and made my way to Shunyi to watch the rowing. This was the high point of the day. Dave’s very own “Chariots of Fire” moment. I saw true greatness before my very eyes.
Dinner? An astonishingly awesome Chinese meal of cucumbers and chili, black bean spareribs, roasted eggplant, smoked rice, and beef and peppers and onions, two Tsingtaos, and home with actually enough time to upload 457 photos and write two blog posts. So, half-a-day-off, saw two sports, did a little work, and had a most profound walk amongst the persimmons.
(*Empachers are the yellow boats favored by most Olympians, I own one, and saw a lot of them today.)
I just discovered Row2K’s blog. Ed Hewitt delivers the best rowing coverage anywhere, anytime (and I send him a PayPal payment from time to time to keep Row2K rolling).
Anyway, he has Brad Lewis (gold, LA 1984, Assault on Lake Casitas) Xeno Mueller (Gold, Atlanta 96, Silver ’00, Iron Oarsman) guest blogging from Beijing and Shunyi. Man I wish I could join them. I am starting to get frantic to get out of the basement of the Hyatt and out to the venue to see some serious rowing!
Josiah Ng is a Lenovo Athlete blogger and a track cyclist (I sent him a picture of my fixie — the Snotrocket — and he thought that was cool though his fcycle costs about a gazillion dollars and wins Olympic medals and mine is a salvaged garage survivor).
He’s blogging and wrote this post about what it felt like to march in with the Malaysian contingent on Friday night. While the rest of us marveled from the stands and the television, he did it from the track and the floor:
“The most exciting part would be when we first walked out into the stadium in front of a hundred thousand screaming people. I can’t explain the feeling but I had goosebumps all over me. We were the 10th country out of 204 to walk out. The first country was Greece and the last was China. The roar from the crowd was deafening as the Chinese contingent was announced. Towering over everyone was Yao Ming, their flag bearer.
By the end of the night, we had stood for over 5 hours so our feet were screaming pain. On top of that everyone was sweating through their clothes because of the heat and humidity. I’m just glad we didn’t have to wear suits like some of the countries. They were literally drenched in sweat. But at the end it was all worth it.
The experience of attending an opening ceremony as an Olympic athlete is absolutely priceless! I’ll never forget last night. One funny thing that I saw as we were exiting the stadium was an American woman crying. She was weeping of emotion and said this “we’ll never see anything like that ever again.” I guess that should paint a picture of how beautiful the ceremony was!”
How cool is that? What a lucky guy to have that to remember.
Met James McGregor, former Beijing bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal and author of One Billion Customers: LessonsFrom the Front Lines of Doing Business in China. Awesome guy (I rather hang out with a reporter than a supermodel) who worked with with my step-sister in the late 80s and who is now a major expert on China markets and economic issues. He uses Lenovo as a key example of a China brand going global. He made one observation that hit me after watching the magnificent opening ceremonies — the history of China from the ancient discovery of paper, the press, the compass, on to the exploration of space …. skipped right over the revolution, the Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution. As he put it, “There were no men in Mao jackets to be seen in the Bird’s Nest.”
I did get an amazing opportunity to see the future of China’s leadership — art and business — at a wild party at the Commune at the Great Wall. An architectural showplace in a valley behind the Wall where leading Asian architects each designed a showcase example of residential architecture. No pictures as it was dark, but i have been there before in the day time and the work is stunning. The party was crazy. i won’t drop names (cough Quincy Jones, cough Rupert Murdoch), but the young people I met, all of whom were in the internet media business from advertising to search, social media to application development, were incredibly smart and engaged.
I have my first event to catch at 9 am with a customer — beach volleyball — and heeding the sage observation of the great Charlie Clapp (silver medal, US Men’s 8+, 1984) that “nothing important happens after midnight”, hired a car to drive me the hour long trip back to my hotel for five hours of sleep.
food of the day: I ate cold lungs in hot pepper sauce. And they were good.
news of the day: the terrible attack on an American visitor was widely reported throughout Beijing and definitely cast a shadow on an otherwise exuberant day following the opening ceremonies. “Deranged” say it best.
uniform update: eased into it yesterday with the shirt (tucked into khakis). No visor (there will never be a visor). Today, no uniform. Going to the beach volleyball so I have on the Nantucket red preppy shorts and a polo shirt. Dave+uniform=fail.
Ok, I wasn’t there. Tickets were scarce and I don’t do well in heat and humidity. Still, as spectacles go, in the full Pink Floyd, Superbowl Half-time wardrobe malfunction sense of the term, this was over the top and impressive from a couple points of view.
I wonder if anyone watched it live in the States given its a work day and this all went down from 8 to noon. Beijing pretty much shut down for the event and I watched it on CCTV in Chinese. Which was a hoot, especially given the loving closeups of the Chinese officials sweating it out in their dark suits. Lots of paper fans were fluttering and there was one shot of Nidal looking like he had just stepped out of the Sweat Hut. At least George W. put his jacket back on when he stood to hail the American athletes. Looking good Mr. President and I heard his speech and his father’s speech at the dedication of the new US Embassy this morning was very good and heartfelt.
I’ll boil down the ceremony to the fireworks. The Chinese invented fireworks. They are the Picassos of pyrotechnics. right now the streets to and from the Olympic Green are exploding in chrysthanemums of color. As fireworks displays goes — this is the mother of them all.
The entertainment was good. Some great freakiness in the Bird Nest, with a condensed cultural history of China emphasizing the point that they;ve been inventing stuff like paper and calligraphy and fireworks while my Celtic/Teutonic ancestors were picking headlice off each other. Obligatory cute little kids in knapsacks getting smart. I’m not a big fan of children’s choral music — and the divas that were belting out the anthems were unrecognizable to my pop culture retardation.
Step-sister Dede went, so she will give me the full report tomorrow. But from the vantage of my bed, watching the #080808 tweets and our Lenovo2008 twittering delivering the blow by blow, I had a dang good time and about to hit the rack rather than sweat it out looking for a bus somewhere out there to get me back to be before 2 am.
Tomorrow. I move into the city with my sis. Deal with some athlete blogger issues, help plan a big blogger meetup in Sanlitun, and then go to a big party out at the wal with my sis and brother in law. Too hectic to think, so I try to keep my mouth shut.
And hey, WW team that made this all happen. Couple pieces of news
1. When CCTV films athletes in the iLounges the athletes are invarialbly looking at the Voices of the Summere Games page.
2. The USA Today article nails it — this blogger program was exactly the play we needed to support. And it’s only going to get better. Now to start meeting these fine people and helping them really kick it. 30 new posts today alone. People are talkiing. Be proud. This is working better than expected.