With help from some Western spin doctors,
Beijing is learning how to answer American threats about trade sanctions -
shut up, or we'll cut off credit to both Uncle Sam and Wall Street.
China's usually secretive officials
yesterday launched their first open push-back campaign aimed largely at
political critics of China's cheap economic machine - mainly Democratic
presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Chinese officials began giving
unprecedented public interviews warning that China may liquidate its more
than $1 trillion in holdings of dollars and U.S. IOU's in the event of U.S.
arm-twisting via a trade war.
A drastic dumping would cause the
greenback to crash, ignite a bond-market panic on Wall Street and send oil
surging well past $100 a barrel almost overnight, experts said.
One of China's most outspoken officials,
He Fan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that any kind of
trade war the U.S. might launch in order to force China to alter its
currency values would trigger what analysts call China's "nuclear
"If we start a trade war with China,
they would end it on the first day with an atomic currency bomb," said
Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital. "We can't fight a trade war
with China - we don't have any weapons, just IOU's."
The two Democratic contenders for the
White House have caused an international furor with their trade-war saber
rattling, blaming China for stealing factory jobs from America and demanding
that Beijing boost its yuan currency to make prices higher for its goods
sold abroad, in an attempt to make American exports more competitive.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a China
expert from his years running Goldman Sachs, said a trade war could be a
disaster and "trigger a global cycle of protectionist
legislation." - NEW
YORK POST 9 August 2007
China declares its support for
This follows suggestion it may dump
US$ holdings in a trade war
(BEIJING) China yesterday delivered a vote of confidence in the US
dollar, saying dollar assets form an important part of its foreign exchange
reserves and the US currency plays a prominent role in the global monetary
The comments, made to Xinhua news agency by an unidentified central bank
official, follow a report last week by a British newspaper suggesting that
Beijing could dump its vast US dollar holdings if a trade war broke out with
'US dollar assets, including American government bonds, are an important
component of China's foreign exchange reserves as the dollar enjoys a major
position in the international monetary system based on the large capacity
and high liquidity of US financial markets,' Xinhua quoted the official as
Britain's Daily Telegraph said on Wednesday that 'the Chinese government
has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United
States', and was hinting that it might liquidate its holdings of US
Treasuries if Washington imposed trade sanctions.
The story caused a stir in global markets. US President George Bush said
China would be foolhardy to dump dollars, while the top Republican on the US
Senate Finance Committee wrote to the Chinese ambassador seeking
Asked about the newspaper report, the central bank official said: 'China
is a responsible investor in the international capital markets.'
His comments follow concerted liquidity injections on Thursday and Friday
by global central banks to soothe investors' fears that spreading losses
stemming from investments in sub-prime US mortgages could snowball into a
global credit crunch.
Restating official policy, the bank official said Beijing's priorities in
managing its US$1.33 trillion in foreign currency reserves were safety,
liquidity and investment returns - in that order.
He said China had always taken a long-term, strategic view in its
reserves management that took account of the changing trends in the global
capital and foreign exchange markets.
'The close economic and trade relations between China and the United
States play an important role in the stable development of the two
countries' economies and the world economy as well,' the official told
The Daily Telegraph said recent remarks by Xia Bin and He Fan, two senior
economists at government-backed think-tanks, were the first time Beijing had
warned that it might use its foreign reserves as a political weapon.
Analysts and traders in China played down the two economists' remarks.
They did not believe the comments indicated any change in Beijing's official
policy and said their remarks in any case were not new.
13 August 2007
Beijing may soon let people invest
China, holder of the world's largest
foreign exchange reserves, is considering allowing individuals to invest
directly overseas for the first time to ease pressure on its currency to
appreciate, a regulator said.
'We are currently studying measures to
allow individuals' outbound direct investments and securities investments,
and we will further relax capital account controls related to individuals,'
Deng Xianhong, deputy director of the State Administration of Foreign
Exchange, said in an interview carried on the government's website
Chinese individuals at present are
permitted to invest abroad only through licensed funds run by banks and
China's foreign exchange reserves have
swelled to a record US$1.33 trillion, encouraging the government to loosen
capital controls that are aimed at safeguarding financial stability.
Starting Feb 1, China made it easier for
individuals to convert yuan into foreign currencies while tightening
controls on short-term capital inflows. The government previously required
each transaction to be approved by the currency regulator.
Record trade surpluses have driven up the
nation's foreign exchange reserves. The yuan has gained about 9 per cent
since the government scrapped a decade-old link to the US dollar in July
China has resisted pressure to let the
yuan gain more rapidly out of concern that companies aren't ready for a more
volatile currency and pricier exports would lead to job losses.
Foreign exchange purchases by Chinese
individuals between February and June more than tripled from a year earlier
after the relaxed rules took effect, Mr Deng said in the interview.
Mr Deng didn't provide a timetable for
further policy changes, adding that a decision will depend on whether the
regulator can effectively monitor and manage further relaxations.
Chinese individuals can currently invest
foreign currency in domestic B-share markets that are denominated in Hong
Kong dollars and US dollars. They can also buy overseas securities through
investment portfolios offered by domestic banks, fund managers and
brokerages under the qualified domestic institutional investor programme, Mr
Deng said yesterday.
No direct outbound investment by
individuals is allowed, he said. - Bloomberg
17 August 2007
Reaching minorities a delicate
Treading the fine line between
recognition and insult
Prospective buyers at a luxurious condo
development put the question to the architect: how can such high-end suites
be so affordable? Silently, the architect demonstrates the answer by walking
on water. Graheme / Koo president Ken Koo devised this advertisement
for Concord Pacific's Aquarius project.
The message is clear to people from all
cultures, he said: the architect and the developer were achieving the
Still, Koo tinkered with the television
ads when he ran the spots for Asian audiences. He included an Asian female
architect. The mainstream television ad showed a white male architect.
Asian buyers have fuelled Vancouver's
real estate market and developers are increasingly targeting ads to cultural
groups because they are afraid that trying to be everything to everyone can
be a recipe for disaster.
Koo said targeted marketing to minority
groups can boost sales even though critics say such advertising is
Koo warned developers to be careful with
what they produce because some advertising can offend desired buyers without
"Developers must be wary of cultural
differences," Koo said.
Many groups like to feel that the
developer is savvy enough about their culture to speak to them directly, he
That's why he employed a Hong Kong soap
opera star to appear in advertising promoting a condo project called HV2.
The same development had a parallel
advertising campaign geared to the mainstream community. Those ads included
lifestyle photos with descriptive text.
The HV2 ads targeting Asians showed Chung
Pui, who played a powerful developer in the soap opera At the
Threshold of an Era. His recommendation conveyed credibility because
people associate actors with their on-screen personas, said Koo. But the ad
wouldn't work for the mainstream community because few people without Hong
Kong heritage would be familiar with the character.
Koo built on Pui's character and was able
to touch on the key project selling point that buying a condominium unit was
a good investment. One TV spot showed Pui advise his son to buy a unit as an
investment, Koo said.
"Before the stock market crashed
several years ago the real estate investment market was predominantly
Asian," Koo said.
Group Inc. vice-president of sales Joe Mireault agreed with Koo that
developers should be sensitive to cultural differences.
Mireault's firm specializes in Asian
marketing. He follows general rules and advised against being too clear-cut
and exaggerating differences.
He first tells developers that if their
project is across from a cemetery or in a location where its address has
fours in it, the non-Asian demographic is a better target market. Asians see
those elements as bad luck symbols, he said.
Mireault believes Asians are more
colour-sensitive than other people. When Irix developed ads for Cressey
Development Corp.'s Magnolia development in Richmond, it used a soft
yellow background instead of a white one because many Asians associate white
"Yellow is a symbolic colour that is
pleasant and relates to authority," he said. "Red means happiness
and good luck in Asian culture. Blue has a sinister association. Purple is
luxury and expense."
Other minority groups appreciate
recognition and inclusion in condo advertising, said Gareth Kirkby,
editor of Vancouver's gay newspaper, Xtra! West.
"Even if there aren't two gay men on
their own, ads can hint at a strong gay aesthetic," he said.
Wasserman and Partners Advertising Inc.
president Alvin Wasserman disagreed with Koo, Mireault and Kirkby that
targeting cultural minorities can boost sales.
"Nobody wants to be singled
out," he said.
He rejected campaigns showing same-sex
couples in ads for a development in a gay neighbourhood as strongly as he
opposes ads with overt Jewish symbolism that aim to sell to that cultural
"I think it's condescending,"
Instead of creating what Wasserman
calls "pure ethnic plays," he likes to target consumers based on
their income levels, ages and stages in life. -
by Glen Korstrom BUSINESS
IN VANCOUVER June
29-July 5, 2004; issue 766
well-intentioned marketing many American multi-nationals have screwed up in
Asia because they do not understand fundamentally Asian cultural values.
Their difference in viewpoints is well illustrated by the following story
which appeared in the news.
comes unstuck in China `mass panic'
Concerns about the safety of non-stick cookware coated with DuPont's Teflon
have triggered what a company spokeswoman called a ``mass panic'' among
Chinese consumers, forcing retailers to pull all non-stick cookware from
their shelves as sales plummeted.
The public alarm was sparked by news reports
earlier this month that the the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had
alleged that DuPont failed to report potential risks from the synthetic
chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used to make non-stick pots and pans.
News of the agency's move evoked little response
in the United States and Europe, where Teflon has been on the market for
Not so in China. Spurred on by heavy media
coverage of the EPA report and a spate of scandals involving contaminated
food, environmental degradation, and shoddy, locally made goods, consumers
opted not to take a chance and spurned Teflon and other non-stick goods.
Retailers quickly responded to the buyers' strike.
Last week Beijing Sogo and some department stores in Chengdu, capital of
Sichuan province, removed non-stick cookware from their shelves, as did
managers of some ParknShop supermarkets in Guangdong.
``After some news reports saying a substance in
Teflon-coated pans potentially poses health risks, we started to remove the
related non-stick frying pans from our shelves,'' an official at a ParknShop
in Guangzhou's Tianhe District said.
Some individual homeware stores in Guangzhou's
Tianhe and Wangfujing shopping centres also said they started to send
Teflon-coated cookware back to warehouses as a temporary measure until the
Although some large retail chains including Wanjie,
Trust-Mart and Carrefour stores in Guangzhou still sell non-stick frying
pans, their sales dropped more than 60 per cent in the past week, store
An official with one of the Wanjie stores in
Guangzhou said sales of China-made brands of Teflon-coated cookware fell by
more than 60 per cent over the past week.
``Today, no one shows any interest in non-stick
cookware,'' he said.
``This is because the worries that using
Teflon-coated pans might increase the risks of cancer have not been
Safety concerns have also delayed China cookware
makers' new-product promotions.
An official with Aishida, one of the largest
cookware producers in China, said the company suspended the promotion of its
new non-stick frying pans amid the increasing worries on non-stick cookware.
But the official, who declined to be named, said
the Teflon controversy did not seriously affect its non-stick cookware sales
because 90 per cent of its production is exported.
Zhejiang-based Supor Cookware Company, one of the
largest pressure cooker makers in China, said it was little-affected because
most of its goods are shipped overseas.
Olivia Chan, spokesman for DuPont in China, said
the company has complied with the reporting requirements of the law.
She said the company will file a formal denial to
the complaint within 30 days, adding there is no legal basis for the EPA's
Given the chain reactions by supermarkets and
department stores, Chan said DuPont is disappointed by the retailers'
reaction and hopes it would be temporary.
Chan attributes the panic to media reports on the
``Even though we translated the full report by the
EPA into Chinese soon after some news reports misinterpreted the report, the
extensive coverage has triggered the mass panic,'' she said.
Chan said PFOA has been used for 50 years in
Teflon and the cookware is safe since PFOA is vaporised during
DuPont China Holdings president Charles Browne
said the Chinese media's ``misinterpretation and misunderstanding'' of the
EPA's press release have caused unnecessary concern among mainland consumers
and the government.
``This misinterpretation of the EPA press release
has led to unease about using non-stick cookware. PFOA is not hazardous to
human health,'' he said. In an attempt to ease concerns, a ``crisis team''
comprised of senior DuPont executives from the United States, Hong Kong and
Shanghai flew to Beijing for a meeting with the quarantine authorities.
- by Olivia
STANDARD 22 July 2004
Female visible minorities now earning more than
their white counterparts, study shows
But wage gap is the reverse for men in visible minorities working in Vancouver
Canadian-born women who are visible minorities in
Vancouver are earning more than their white colleagues, but the reverse is
true for their male counterparts.
Krishna Pendakur, a Simon Fraser University
economics professor who produced the research findings, said it's hard to
explain the earnings gap between whites and visible minorities in Vancouver,
but added he was surprised it still exists.
"It looked like it was shrinking, but then it
grew out again," said Pendakur, 36, adding that he grew up in Vancouver
and has not experienced racism.
The research shows Canadian-born visible minority
males in Vancouver typically earn six per cent less than their white
counterparts with the same education and language skills.
In 1971 they made 10 per cent less. That number
dipped and eventually hit zero in 1991, but then climbed to six per cent in
1996 and 2001, said Pendakur, who conducted the study with his brother Ravi
Pendakur, who works with the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Karen Mock, executive director of the Canadian Race
Relations Foundation, said visible minorities today still face systemic
barriers to employment.
"You do still find barriers due to subtle
discrimination," said Mock from the foundation's Ottawa office.
"People are passed over for promotions, excluded from the inner circle.
The studies show these are some of the experiences racial minorities have in
For visible minority women born in Canada, the
Pendakur study showed the opposite is true.
Their research shows they were making 14 per cent
more than their white counterparts in 1971; the latest research suggests the
gap is still around 10 per cent.
"Visible minority women used to work a lot more
hours than white women," said Pendakur, adding that the trend might still
The Pendakur study compares groups with the same
education and language skills but doesn't track the type of job they're doing
or the industry they're working in.
All were born in Canada and all have similar
education and language skills.
Roslyn Kunin, a Vancouver labour market economist,
said current research shows people of East Asian origin, such as Chinese or
Japanese, tend to have a favourable earnings gap compared with other visible
"There is a high propensity toward education in
those groups," she said. "It's a tradition within families, a desire
to do well in the new country."
According to Pendakur, explaining the discrepancy is
a question of access or desire, because factors such as education, training,
household status and language were similar.
"Visible minorities may have preferences that
take them different places in the labour market," he said. "They
want different stuff."
Or they have different access. However, that theory
would suggest access by visible minority females is greater than that of
Kunin said earnings gaps are often systemic and
related to cultural beliefs, and can take a long time to close.
The gap between aboriginals and whites is much
larger than that for visible minorities, the Pendakurs' research revealed.
The latest survey shows aboriginal females earn
about 37 per cent less than their white counterparts with the same education,
while aboriginal males earn about 50 per cent less.
The research was driven by the Pendakurs' belief
that while studies have generally shown immigrant groups often face
significant and substantial labour market disadvantage, there's debate over
the degree to which minorities in Canada are subject to similar disadvantage.
Mock said closing the earnings gap will take further
research to show a diverse workforce translates into a healthier bottom line
for companies. - by Tracy Tjaden
BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER
June 29-July 5, 2004; issue 766
TO REACH CHINESE
intelligence measures your ability to negotiate the multicultural maze
A high IQ won't prevent cultural faux
pas, but your CQ might
VANCOUVER - What is your "cultural
Even if you have a high IQ (intelligence
quotient), a sensitive EQ (emotional quotient), and a lot of experience just
being yourself around the world, you might still be a bull in a china shop
prone to misspelling "cultural faux pas."
On the other hand, you might be a unilingual
meat-and-potatoes hockey fan, but you understand what Scandinavians mean
when they joke that the Danes invent it, the Swedes make it, and the
Norwegians don't buy it.
If you're feeling culture shock while shopping at
Metrotown, or are offended by friends who can't use chopsticks, Dave Thomas,
a professor of international management at Simon Fraser University and
co-author of Cultural Intelligence: People skills for global business, is
hoping to find a way to measure your CQ.
With a federal government research grant, he's
planning to meet a dozen scholars from Israel to Indonesia for a
brainstorming session in Vancouver in January to invent a way to quantify
someone's ability to zig instead of zag through the multicultural maze.
"There's a lot of people who are intelligent
with good social skills, but they're inept at interacting with people of
other cultures," says Thomas, a white American whose accent has been
formed by working in New Zealand, France, Hong Kong, Japan and elsewhere.
"People ignore cultural issues to their detriment."
The good news is that Vancouver ranks with
Melbourne, Auckland and Oslo among the world's most open, tolerant,
culturally cool cities, he says. "Vancouver's not perfect, but we're
pretty good. Canada is certainly better than our neighbours to the south.
If you talk to people from New York or Los
Angeles, they often feel more comfortable interacting here."
The bad news is that many of us are still on
"cultural cruise control", merrily offending our friends and
co-workers because we expect everyone to behave and react like us.
"Much of our behaviour is semi-automatic
mode," he says. "It's like the person who drives from point A to
point B every day, remembering nothing about the trip, as opposed to the
Indy car driver, who pays attention to every little detail. If we go through
on cruise control, we might mistreat someone and not know it."
In business, he says, the result of cultural
incorrectness is an "astronomical" number of failed joint ventures
in China, burned out and bewildered workers returning prematurely from
overseas assignments, and communication gaps, compassion fatigue, and
language wars breaking out in companies.
Especially, for instance, where staff at an IT
firm in Surrey have little face-to-face time with colleagues in Bangalore.
"Business is notoriously poor at using these
kinds of measures in making hiring decisions for overseas assignments,"
he says. "They tend to focus on technical skills. They think that if
someone was a great manager in Ottawa, they'll make a great manager in
But that's often not the case, he said.
The problem for managers, teachers, or coaches is
that cultural chasms often widen below the surface. "It operates at a
level they can't see, " says Thomas. "Something goes wrong and
then we say 'What the heck happened?'"
He says a CQ test might help companies better
assess whether a star staffer from Port Moody is going to pan out in Port
It would also make people more aware of the need
for greater awareness.
Many books explain what to do when in another
country. In general, here's what not to do:
- Treat someone as though they are you.
-Judge someone based on how you would act in a
- Suspect someone is being devious because they
don't look you in the eye. "Many cultures find direct eye contact
offensive. But in North America, it shows you're direct, honest,
forthright," he says.
-Think your joke was funny because she covered her
mouth laughing. "With some Japanese women, for example, nervous
laughter could mean 'I'm afraid' not 'I'm happy'," says Thomas.
- by Chris Johnson
21 July 2004
Forget the white-bread '80s MTV. Now
MTV Chi and other outlets cater to Asian Americans
On a recent afternoon in the darkened basement
conference room of the Chinatown Community Development Center, 10 San Francisco
teens are gathered around a noisy little box to watch MTV's newest incarnation,
MTV Chi, a channel designed strictly for them, young Chinese Americans.
Queena Chen, a 16-year-old from Burton High School,
hates "24," loves "Malcolm in the Middle" and can tell you
what happened on each of the "CSI" episodes last week. Jake Nguyen, a
17-year-old student at Washington High, keeps three Xanga blogs and a Myspace
account, and watches TV online. The group's musical tastes are intriguingly
eclectic -- hip-hop, R&B, alternative, K-Pop (Korean pop), J-Pop (Japanese
pop), Vietnamese pop. They know where to tune in to the hottest Cantopop on
local radio (and won't hesitate to call you "vintage" for calling it
Cantopop) and, like generations of Asian Americans before them, they know the
names of every token Asian actor or actress on network TV.
They and their other ethnic Asian American peers have
quietly become the target audience for a growing number of media outlets,
including Imaginasian TV, AZN TV, American Desi and MTV. "Asian Americans
are the third-largest ethnic group in the country. They happen to be the
fastest-growing group in the U.S.," says Nusrat Durrani, the 45-year-old
general manager/senior vice president of MTV World. "More importantly,
though, it's a very influential audience. It's the most educated, it's also the
most tech-savvy, and it is an underserved audience."
To fill the gap in the market, the past two years have
seen a flurry of firsts. In August 2004, Imaginasian TV became the first
24-hour, seven-day-a-week Asian American channel. Comcast soon followed,
transforming its International Channel into the primarily English-language AZN
TV. American Desi, aimed at South Asian Americans, premiered in December 2004 on
the Dish Network. Durrani's efforts at MTV World include MTV Desi, which
launched in July, and Chi, which launched Dec. 6. MTV K, for Korean Americans,
will premiere later this year, and a fourth channel is in development.
What distinguishes these startups from the average
network venture is a sense of urgency. Emily Chang, a 27-year-old Imaginasian
executive and the network's main "face" as the host of "The
Lounge," says the network is about "giving a voice to Asian
America." It's a mission she continues from her previous stint as a member
of the fiery, acclaimed Pan-Asian spoken-word group I Was Born With Two Tongues.
"This is not just the next new promising market
of people of high income or something," she says. "We've gone through
those very experiences of being Asian American and not being able to see Asian
American faces on TV reflected. There is no one who is going to provide this to
our kids unless we do it ourselves."
During the '80s, an MTV commercial showed the
network's logo as a sandwich cut in the shape of its distinctive "M,"
loaded with mayo, mustard, mystery meat and tomatoes, then ketchup-squirted with
its "TV." It made sense. Back then, the network was pretty much white
bread. Twenty-five years later, MTV is on the menu in 429 million homes in 169
countries on every continent. "We have made it our business to connect with
young people in their language and tell their stories around the world,"
says Durrani. "Look, we're not curing cancer, but (MTV World) is a
A native of Lucknow, India, raised on the sounds of
Begum Akhtar and Osibisa, Cliff Richard and Little Richard, Durrani embodies a
casual sort of progressive cool. He dresses in black-on-black high-end denim and
keeps his hair in a fashionable George Harrison mop top. A poster for D.A.
Pennebaker's Dylan film "Don't Look Back" that hangs in his office
seems to have been chosen not just for what it signifies but also because its
black-and-white op-art design nicely matches his outfit.
Durrani describes his first encounter with MTV in 1993
as something of an awakening. Although he had a comfortable job in marketing at
Honda in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, he uprooted his family and moved to New
York City in order to land a job at MTV. He started as an unpaid intern. At the
end of 2004, he was named the head of MTV World.
He spent 2 1/2 years researching the Asian American
channels, doing the requisite number crunching, but also convening house parties
and focus groups. He refers not just to "the need" but to "the
hunger" for Asian American-targeted programming. In one internal video
screener he assembled for MTV Networks Chairman Judy McGrath, a young Asian
American woman says, "A forum like this will really help us become unified,
and then that will make it a lot easier to kind of bring a lot of what we stand
for to a mainstream audience." Says Durrani of the channels, "The
emotional component is always palpable."
MTV personality and San Francisco native Suchin Pak
produces and hosts "My Life (Translated)" for MTV Chi, an intimate
look at issues affecting young people of color. In a recent episode, Pak
examined Asian Americans' desire for eyelid surgery. Karen Lee, a 22-year-old
Danville native, was hired straight out of New York University as MTV Chi's
first employee to produce news segments on Asian American artists and community
issues. (Full disclosure: I was the subject of one of them.) In one of her short
clips, one young Chinese American talks candidly about how she perceives beauty
and desirability. In another, slam poet Beau Sia declares, "There are no
Asian American role models."
But clearly the channels hope to create role models,
to shape how Asian Americans see themselves and, just as importantly, how others
see Asian America. The hosts for MTV Chi are the picture of Chinese American
diversity. There is the petite 19-year-old firebrand Angel Tang, the 20-year-old
metro fashionista Xiao Wang, the 29-year-old comic from the Pacific Northwest
Simon Yin and the mixed-plate Chinese/Pacific Islander 23-year-old actor from
Texas, Gregory Woo. Taken together, they do not merely reflect Asian America,
they represent the breadth of Asian America to non-Asian Americans.
Because of this, the channels may represent a major
shift in Asian American media. Until now, "ethnic" newspapers such as
the World Journal, the Rafu Shimpo and Asian Week have been the dominant media
in the community. Written largely by and for Asian Americans, they were
particularly powerful during the social protests of the 1980s -- whether the
issue was anti-Asian violence, Japanese American redress and reparations, or
discrimination in college admissions.
A turning point came with the 1994 premiere of Giant
Robot, a zine put together by two Los Angeles hipsters, Eric Nakamura and Martin
Wong, that presented a bento box of Asian American culture. Alongside good old
"yellow rage" were compartments for Hong Kong cinephilia, Japanese
anime and toy fetishes, U.S. indie-rock and art-school bona fides. The magazine
-- which has spawned destination boutiques in New York, Los Angeles and San
Francisco -- defined a generation. "It was 'Here's all this cool stuff,'
not 'Look at all of our problems,' " says MTV Chi's Karen Lee. Giant Robot
celebrated how fun it was to be a young Asian American. It was an open
invitation. The magazine's Web site notes that its readership is "about
half Asian, half not."
Durrani argues that Asian Americans have become
powerfully influential on popular culture. It's not hard to see his point: Take
the b-boy/b-girl revival, rice-rocket car culture, even Gwen Stefani's
Orientalist turn. With Latino pop icons crossing over and African American
hip-hop becoming the mainstream, the young execs believe Asian Americans' time
But building from boutiques to big business is
difficult work. The upstart Imaginasian has had to carve out cable contracts
city by city, and is still available in San Francisco only on Comcast Channel 28
on weekday evenings and late-night weekends. Even with MTV's muscle, both MTV
Desi and MTV Chi are sold only as part of ethnic-specific
"international" packages. In a more troubling development, parent
company Comcast fired most of AZN's staff a day after MTV Chi's launch. The
network still broadcasts a trickle of new content, but many insiders worry that
Comcast officials have already decided that a network-scale business model is
None of this seems to matter to the young people at
the Chinatown Community Development Center. They are transfixed by MTV Chi. Once
the launch welcome by Zhang Ziyi is over, they lean forward in their chairs,
scribble down the names of artists, excitedly talk back to the television. They
believe what they are seeing is unlike anything they have yet seen in their
They take in music from Beijing punkers Brain Failure,
Southern California-raised Playboy model Kaila Yu, and Mando-rockers the
Flowers. They cheer for Chinese American rapper Jin and Taiwanese heartthrob Jay
Chou. They know all plot turns in Jin's "Learn Chinese" video, and
sing along with the melody of Chou's "Qi Li Xiang."
The Top 10 Chi Countdown -- determined by online
voting on the network's Web site and not exclusive to Chinese and Chinese
American artists -- matches the group's eclecticism. This show, which originally
aired in December, includes New York-via-Austin indie rock from Johnny Hi-Fi, a
Mandopop ballad from Jolin Tsai, sunny Singaporean pop from Stephanie Sun, and
Madonna's "Hung Up." (Chi's current top 10 features UC Berkeley
escapees Putnam Hall, Cantopop singers Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse, Kelly Clarkson
and the inescapable Jin.)
Seward Yu, a 16-year-old Lowell student, thinks
Countdown host Angel Tang is hot. Chen is annoyed by Tang's over-emphatic
gesturing. "Can we tie up her hands, please?" she asks. During the
"Making of MTV Chi" news segment, everyone groans when William Hung
After the lights go up, they passionately debate poet
Sia's contention that there are no Asian American role models. For her part,
Betty Wong, 15, a student at Galileo High School and the youngest of the group,
is nonplussed by all the identity politics. "(That segment) was boring. If
I was watching and they kept showing those, I'd turn the channel," she
The conversation turns to programming. Chen wishes MTV
Chi would air Hong Kong personality Edison Chen's "Punk'd"-style show,
"Whatever Things," from MTV Asia. She hates "D-Tour," a
reality show featuring five supermodels from South America and Asia on a
"Road Rules"-style trip. Wong loves it.
Tammy Yan, a 16-year-old Galileo student, wants
programs such as MTV's "True Life" series that feature
"regular" Asian Americans, depicting "the true us." Her
brother Calvin notes, "The only way for Chinese or Asian recognition is
through pop culture. When you see a movie, you might see Jackie Chan, but
there's always another funny non-Asian guy along with the Chinese guy.
"Chris Tucker," adds Yu.
"Yeah!" Calvin Yan says. "It would be
nice if there's only Chinese by themselves."
"No, but like," interrupts Queena Chen,
"society isn't up to that yet."
"Especially America," adds Yu.
Nguyen speaks up from the back. "Maybe this isn't
the solution. The channel is not going to provide the answer, but what it can do
is provide a steppingstone to the answer." Everyone nods in agreement.
Queena Chen then asks, "Can we see the other 4
1/2 hours you have?" -
24 February 2006 Jeff Chang's book "Can't Stop Won't Stop: A
History of the Hip-Hop Generation" is out in paperback. He is working on a
book on the future of American identity.
HELLO! TAI TAI has effected cross-cultural
global strategic investments with many of the world's richest
Asian tycoons and Singapore's sovereign funds for over two decades now.
We share a few practical experiences - VIGNETTES
ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PACIFIC Enjoy!