Jan 122006

Some of you may know that we subscribe to Salon Magazine (www.salon.com). I just wrote a letter in response to a magazine-blog post there. I’m copying it below for family/friends/random readers that may have interest in this. You can read his original post (what I’m responding to) here. You may need to click on an advertisement in order to get into the site though.

Also, this guy has turned me on to an environmentally-friendly investment fund I need to check out…I’m posting the link to that here because a) I don’t want to forget about it, and b) we still need to re-invest the money we made from selling our house. (http://www.fecleanenergy.com/)

Two Cities: Bay Area and Suzhou
Hi Andrew,

I find your articles interesting. I have a personal question for you: Why you are interested in China anyway? My interest is personal…I studied Chinese at UCSC, came to China in 1991 (to study at Beijing U.), and have lived in China for the last two years. But I started studying not because I was interested in China, but because I needed to learn a language for school requirements, and was tired of memorizing all those Spanish verb tenses. Years later, after MBA school, I worked in the Bay Area as a marketing manager in several of high-tech companies. And starting in 2000, I was laid-off from many high-tech companies. In-between jobs, while my wife heroically worked as a low-paid marketing assistant, I worked as a waiter in a Japanese restaurant and taught night-school classes in order to pay our Bay Area housing mortgage. That was before two years ago, when we sold our house (for a decent profit), and moved to China. Our move was a “marketing re-positioning” for my family.

My current line of work somewhat relates to your last article. I do management and leadership consulting. In the Bay Area, saying you are a consultant means that you are really unemployed. Here, it means I’m trying to slowly help Chinese managers overcome their Confucian and State-Owned-Enterprise (SOE) cultural “blind-spots”. And I agree, it will take generations to overcome the damage that SOE culture has created.

I live in Suzhou, China. It’s a nice city. And if I have a craving to feel like I live in the Bay Area, I can always get on a bus to Shanghai (1 hour away), get stuck in traffic, and eventually get to a great Mediterranean breakfast restaurant that serves good falafel at a decent price.

I have heard that Suzhou was the #1 place for foreign investment in China last year. Which, on the surface, would be bad news for US tech workers because Suzhou is high-end (unlike, say, DongGuan in Guangdong, AKA Canton province). Siemens and Bosch have big presence here (well…Siemens has essentially become a SOE in China and so has big presence everywhere). AMD, Intel, Nat Semi, Fairchild, GSK, Samsung, Alcatel, Nokia, L’Oreal, Solectron, Delphi, Toshiba, BenQ (Acer), Philips, Maxtor, Seagate, Black&Decker;, etc…all have big presence here. But there is actually very little design work done here and most production is still low-end by US standards. And China has a long way to go before it can be competitive with India, or even in Software.

I respectfully disagree with what camilleRoy said in his comments. For starters, there are a lot of places you can discuss the negative downsides of globalization and its many facets (i.e. outsourcing). Mr. Leonard’s articles are distinctly non-ideological about this debate, and I appreciate that. Also, what I never see from the anti-globalization crowd is a well-though out alternative. Its always corporate greed yadda yadda yadda. What can we really do about the outsourcing trend? Furthermore, the tech-downturn in 2000 had *nothing* to do with outsourcing. It had everything to do with market expectations and financial situations. You could argue that George Bush in the White House also focused big investors away from volatile high-tech, and into oil and military stocks. As stocks -or the promise of getting riches from going public- was the financial and spiritual fuel behind Silicon Valley and its hard-driving workforce, this shift in investment priorities still is (in my mind anyway) the biggest continuing obstacle behind the Silicon Valley depression. And let’s not forget the trouble Bush’s friends at Enron did to California and Silicon Valley in particular. A 10 minute black-out will shut down a high-tech company for a almost a day. (BTW, Suzhou SIP region boasts no black-outs in the last 5 years…sort of a record in China). Then there are the culture problems of the US as well. If we want to compete as a society, we need to invest in education. Duh!

I feel that the argument about blaming China and outsourcing for America’s job woes is an engineered distraction, and very similar to what Chinese people do in regards to Japan. Blame the foreigner, but don’t look at the real problems that are right in front of us.

 Posted by at 12:12 pm

  3 Responses to “I letter to another blog”

  1. holy crap, i’ve never heard jesse sounding so thoughtful and competent. i’ve gotta get me some of that chinese tabaki he’s been smokin’!

  2. “China has a long way to go to be competitive with India, even in software.”
    You have to be kidding. Both China and India have the same per capital GNP in the 1980s, now China’s is about three times that of India’s. If you add up all the revenues of those India software companies, they barely match that of Huawei alone. If you have not heard of Huawei, then I doubt you know much about Hi-tech. I have no idea how good is your Chinese, but frankly even your English sounds a little funny.

    Man Chau

  3. Wow. Visiting guests are now criticizing my English. Perfect. Its why I learned Chinese…because the grammer is easy.

    My comment on software in the origianl article was more a reference to software outsourcing and how it effects US jobs. You are first making a comment about GNP…which is a different topic.

    I have been out of Hi-Tech for about three years, and out of the manufaturing side for six years…but last time I checked, Huawei was one of China’s biggest telecommunications and network equipment manufacturers. They used to OEM for brandnames like Netgear. The extent of their software that is known in the US is their equipment operating system that was copied…complete with bugs and comments notes…from the Cisco’s operating system. Cisco sued Huawei over this…which was the first time Cisco sued a Chinese company.

    I should be more professional and look up the stories in NY Times and news.com to give you reference, but I don’t have time. You can look them up yourself.

    And if you want to reference a Chinese company that is in the process of establishing real brandname, unique culture, and quality, I would look towards Haier.

    One more thing…Indian software programers developed “extreme programing”…which was the lastest fad in code developed management three years ago when I was a product manager in a software company. I stand by my claim…India is far ahead of China in this area.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.