Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chinese Americans Face Stereotypes, Good and Bad

The first large group of Chinese immigrants came to the United States in the middle 1800s. At that time, some Chinese moved to the American west to build a railroad across the country. Many others worked in mines or on farms.
Chinese immigrants helped the U.S. economy. However, most Americans saw the Chinese as competitors.

William Wei
William Wei
William Wei teaches history at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He says Chinese immigrants were not treated well. They had to live together in poor neighborhoods, or do hard work in laundries and restaurants that did not pay very much.

Mr. Wei says the American public did not believe Chinese immigrants could ever be part of their society.

In fact, in 1882 the US Congress approved and the president signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. The law barred Chinese people from moving to the United States and becoming citizens. It was the first and only US law to ban a specific ethnic group.

The US government cancelled the ban during the 1940s after China became an American ally in World War II. Yet the government limited the number of Chinese migrants to just 105 per year. Finally, in 1965, the government ended the system restricting Chinese immigration.
Frank Wu
Frank Wu
Frank H. Wu leads the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California. He says the history of Chinese immigrants in the United States helps explain why so many Chinese Americans are well-educated.

“The Chinese people who were able to immigrate were talented, they were students on scholarships, they were people who had great potential,” he says.

Mr. Wu says many Chinese Americans are pleased the American public considers them smart, good citizens who fit well into the country.

But, he adds, even positive stereotypes about Chinese Americans cause problems.

Mr. Wu says the United States includes people of many races, and one race should not be considered better.

He says white Americans may also blame other minorities for not being as successful as the Chinese.

Some Americans say: ‘Look what we did to the Chinese. We discriminated against them, committed violence against them, excluded them from our country, yet they still have achieved. Therefore, if your minority has not succeeded in our land of opportunity, it is clearly your fault.’”

Mr. Wu says such thinking leads people to think victims are responsible for their abuse.

Charles Gallagher of LaSalle University added that all Chinese Americans are not good in school. One who does not succeed as easily may feel he or she does not really belong.

Helen Zia
Helen Zia
Helen Zia is a Chinese American writer. She says US policy makers may believe the Chinese are successful, so the government does not have to help those who are poor or suffering.

And, Ms. Zia says, some people may believe Chinese Americans are too successful

If we are perceived as being able to endure everything,” she says, “it also means that we can be perceived as being able to take over everything.” Read more at VOA.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Another Chinese Counterfeit Product: Social-Media Followers

Chen Kun, a Chinese actor
Chen Kun is a Chinese actor, singer and heartthrob who has touted products from Johnnie Walker whisky to KFC chicken. He's also a social media master: On Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, he's listed as having 72.5 million followers. Yes, 72.5 million.

Let's pause to ponder that number: That's nearly 12% of China's Internet users. It's more than the population of France. By comparison, Justin Bieber has a mere 50.8 million Twitter fans around the world.

Clearly Mr. Chen, 38, has a huge fan base, but is the 72.5 million number the real deal?

Surely not, say Chinese social-media experts, who treat such numbers with skepticism, partly because China's Weibo population is swollen with fake followers. They're referred to as "zombie fans," and they haunt brands as well as celebs.

So why would anyone buy zombies to unleash on Weibo, which China's Sina Corp. is preparing to spinoff in an initial public offering on the Nasdaq?

Because size matters, obviously.

One Asian ad exec who asked not to be named described buying fake fans to give an ego jolt to a new venture in China. The rate, he said, was about 5 U.S. cents for a zombie that's just a name, and 16 cents for higher-quality fakes with some content on their profiles. In addition to zombie fans, there's a market for faux re-tweets and comments, too.

It's hard to get a clear picture on the exact size of the problem, or how Weibo's fakes compare to those on Twitter. (Twitter said in its initial public offering filing in October that it believed less than 5% of monthly active user accounts were false, though some observers say the figure is higher.)
Weibo influencers and their followers:

Weibo, which says it has 129.1 million monthly active users and that it is committed to fighting faux accounts, hasn't given an estimate of how many there are.

New questions are being raised about how many Weibo accounts are real and truly active, and about how the platform should define active use. A professor at the University of Hong Kong recently found that 10.4 million Weibo users were responsible for around 94% of all messages, while other users just re-shared those messages or never posted anything, according to an article in the South China Morning Post this week.

Rand Han, founder of Shanghai-based social media agency Resonance China, said fake fans may have PR and vanity appeal, but they have a negative impact on community managers and content.

"Generally you'll see accounts that inflate [numbers] also have very poor, irrelevant content, mostly because the mechanism that tells you how good your content is -- new followers, real engagement -- has been broken," Mr. Han said.

Still, agencies can feel pressured to buy them. It's a cycle that Mr. Han describes like this: "A brand wants 1 million followers but also doesn't have the budget, or resources, or any significant assets to achieve this number [organically], and is also tied down by global guidelines," he said. "Then three agencies pitch and the only way they can win is to promise said numbers. One promises, and due to the lack of support, chooses to fake. When the next agency comes in, they have to keep pace with the previous agency. The only way to do this is to also fake."

How do you fix the problem? Through "education, or introducing new metrics, like active and verified rates, to temper expectations," Mr. Han said.

Sam Flemming, founder and CEO of China-based social business intelligence firm CIC, says more brands are "trying to weed out zombie fans or stop the practices leading to zombie fans."


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple Watch Makes Its Fashion Magazine Debut In China

Liu Wen Wearing the device
The Apple Watch will makes its media debut in November, gracing the cover of Vogue China. Liu Wen, a 26-year old supermodel, will sport the Apple Watch Edition, one of three models for the device Apple unveiled in September.

"Vogue China is following in the Vogue tradition of moving with the times, giving our readers the first glimpse of a pioneering piece of technology that also doubles as a highly covetable fashion accessory," Angelica Cheung, the magazine's editorial director, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Vogue China said putting Apple Watch on its cover was the magazine's idea. "The styling of the Apple Watch on the cover of Vogue China's November issue is an editorial decision, coming about in the same way the editor and team select and style pieces on all their covers," the spokeswoman said in an email.

Still, cooperating with the request -- the watch won't be available to the public until sometime next year -- signals the Cupertino, Calif. company is looking to cement its brand both in fashion and in the wider world.

For its event introducing the watch, Apple invited press from multiple fashion publications, a first for the company. After the event, Apple hired a top marketer from Gap, adding to its roster of recently acquired executives from fashion and retail. Apple's global retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, who left her position as CEO of Burberry in 2013, is focusing intently on expansion in international markets.
China, in particular, has been an increasing priority for Apple. The nation's slice of the company's revenue expanded from 2%, in 2009, to 16% last quarter.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus -- larger smartphones, which have sold more successfully across Asia -- began on Friday morning in China. Within six hours, one million orders were taken by the three largest carriers, according to Fortune.

Apple did not return requests for comment.

The Vogue China cover was styled by Karl Templer and photographed by David Sims, both veteran Vogue contributors. Apple Watch Edition, the product worn on the cover, sports an 18-carat gold casing. The company also released a basic version of the device and an activity-oriented version, Apple Watch Sport. Apple has not commented on the pricing of the products, which will begin shipping in 2015 at an unspecified time.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Simpsons Now In Mandarin

“Woo hoo! Now we can reveal Springfield is actually in Guangdong.” That was how The Simpsons’ executive producer greeted news that the hit US show will air for the first time in China. The long-running hit starring the doughnut and beer obsessed Homer Simpson and his irreverent son Bart will be streamed online in China by Sohu Video, reports Variety. The latest season (there are 26 in total, in case you wondered) will be shown with subtitles in Mandarin, in a deal done with the show’s maker Fox.

“The introduction of The Simpsons, a household name in the US, will further enrich our users’ choice of the best American content when they come to our platform. This deal once again demonstrated our commitment in bringing the best experience to our users and tireless efforts to enhance our competitive edge in the industry,” said Charles Zhang, Sohu’s boss. The timing of the deal will strike some as noteworthy, given Beijing has recently banned some US shows from airing on online video streaming platforms . (Week in China)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Going Gaga Over Alibaba

What do Midland Railway and IBM have in common? The answer is they were the largest companies by market capitalisation in the UK and the US when each country reached the apex of its economic dominance in 1914 and 1967 respectively.

Both firms were emblematic of their era. Midland Railway was the biggest coal hauler in the country that had ushered in the industrial revolution. IBM was the leading hardware manufacturer at the dawn of the computer age when American consumers were the envy of the world.But the two examples also highlight how fleeting global hegemony can be.

Few now remember the railway firm, which lost its independence after the First World War thanks to the Railways Act. IBM may still be a colossus, but it no longer ranks in the top 20 global companies in market cap terms.

In fact, when the New York Stock Exchange opens later today, IBM is also likely to be eclipsed by Alibaba, the company now best symbolising China’s ascendance on the world stage. The e-commerce giant priced its IPO in New York last night at $68 per share to the thunderous applause of global investors.

How gigantic is the deal?
Should the greenshoe be exercised, Alibaba’s flotation will raise $25 billion and rank as the world’s largest, beating Agricultural Bank of China’s $22.1 billion debut in 2010. When founder Jack Ma rings the opening bell, Alibaba’s market cap will be $177.5 billion, similar in size to Samsung Electronics. However, the stock price is expected to be much higher by closing on its first day, fuelled by newspaper hype and insistent demand from investors. Enthusiasm for the deal has been overwhelming, notwithstanding the fact that many investors have placed inflated orders to try to get some kind of allocation. The frustrated purchasing power of unallocated institutions, combined with the mass of retail investors who were unable to get into the IPO at all, could easily push the stock up into the stratosphere over the coming few days.
How is it likely to perform?
What happens to Alibaba after the initial fanfare dies down depends on what investors believe about its prospects for growth. Shareholders are unlikely to reap the same upside as investors in rivals Tencent and Baidu, which both listed a decade ago when they were less than five years old. Tencent has risen 150-fold since its June 2004 IPO, for example.

Alibaba is now 15 years old, so can we expect similar growth? There are numerous jumbo IPOs of companies with relatively mature business models which have still done well for investors. The most famous is Visa, which listed in March 2008 and still ranks as the largest IPO on record by a US firm. It rose 28% on its first day of trading and has quintupled since then.
A century of upside?
Jack Ma has no such qualms about Alibaba’s future. In the company’s pre-roadshow filing, he wrote a letter to prospective investors explaining how the company is only at the beginning of a 102-year journey, that will span three separate centuries from its inception in 1999.

Alibaba is not a mature business, its management says. Rather, its digital ecosystem will disrupt and transform all that it touches to the benefit of its Chinese customers and, increasingly, its global ones too.

A few years ago, Alibaba identified three pillar industries. In many respects it has only made inroads into the first one – e-commerce.
And outside China?
For many Chinese companies, their hallmark of success comes from going global. Alibaba has not really spent too much energy overseas yet, although it has made a number of smaller acquisitions. This is likely to change.

As Jack Ma put it in his recent investor letter: “In the past decade, we measured ourselves by how much we changed China. In the future, we will be judged by how much progress we bring to the world.”

Sohu Finance says one upshot of the IPO is the way it is shaping new perceptions of China’s internet firms. It notes that past listings tended to reinforce the view on Wall Street that China’s online giants were copycats of business models born in Silicon Valley. Thus Baidu was referred to as China’s Google, Renren as China’s Facebook and Sina Weibo as China’s Twitter.

“Of course, there are still many people calling Alibaba China’s Amazon,” writes Sohu Finance. “But this time there are a growing number of Wall Street investors realising that this title is not accurate.” In fact, many have given up trying to apply a simile to Ma’s creation.
Oh yes, so why didn’t it list domestically?
Some wonder why Alibaba didn’t list in Shanghai – where enthusiasm for buying into the IPO would have been intense.

But Doug Young, who writes the Young China Biz blog, says that this was never a realistic option since Alibaba is incorporated outside China (a common practice among Chinese venture-backed tech firms).

“Such overseas incorporation has not only barred internet giants like Tencent and Baidu from listing in China, but has also locked out other major names like China Mobile and Lenovo, which are also technically incorporated outside China for historical reasons,” he notes. Read more detalied report at Week in China.