Monday, May 4, 2009

Perceptions and Misperceptions in Sino-American Relations

There’s no end to theories predicting the demise of the U.S., rise of the Middle Kingdom, World War 3 between 2 nuclear powers, or even possibly a new power duo partnership closer than the U.S. and Britain had at one time.  The Sino-American relationship is clearly going to define international politics in the future. The balance of power between China and the United States has already been dominating the headlines, especially since the recent election of the United States President, Barack Obama.  Every move each government makes is carefully watched and the wording of each press release analyzed and decoded as a democratic union and communist party attempt to work side by side.   

In past Sino-American relations, the U.S. has been the more dominant and aggressive country while China has not been as forceful or vocal in international politics. Now, China is making more demands and has higher expectations of cooperation from other countries while the U.S. is more willing to compromise with and listen to other nations.  It can also be observed that the relations between China and the U.S. have focused on overcoming the differences between the two, the contrast between an Easter and Western part of civilization, and thus the complex cultural dynamics between two countries, one still developing and the other highly modernized.  

Looking toward the future, however, I predict the relationship will be the most successful if the leaders of each nation can emphasize the similarities their people and countries share. If the Sino-American relationship grows to be a strong partnership that could unite the world and work together to tackle many of the biggest global problems, the most immediate being the international financial crisis.   To make this possible, the U.S. must work very hard to correctly perceive the Chinese and eradicate any gross misperceptions Americans may have. Obviously, China must also do the same towards the U.S. This bond will be possible if the Chinese misperceptions of American motives and intent can be eliminated and if American misperceptions of Chinese culture and mindset are corrected. These misperceptions fall generally into three somewhat distinct, yet heavily interrelated sets of concerns: those having to do with issues which are 1) economic, 2) political, and 3) social. 


1) Economic Dimensions

                While the Chinese (mostly only the upper class and emerging middle class) have enjoyed the material wealth brought by capitalism, the emerging “new left” intellectual and political population in China is critical of the American economic system. Voices among the latter dub it "crony capitalism" and think that it allows for the rich to get richer while neglecting the poor and rural people, leaving them behind (Cha, par. 12).  Criticisms of the American finance industry have been plentiful during the current economic crisis, and many Chinese publications and articles blame the West for the catastrophe; they commonly diagnose American greed and lack of regulation as the problem (Jacques, par. 4).  In fact, the Chinese government does not believe that the U.S. dollar will continue to be the strongest currency in the future (Jacques, par. 11). In this regard the Chinese have even called for an international currency and more regulation from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, with less participation and decision-making from the United States (“Chinese premier delivers keynote speech at Boao conference,” par. 31).  

                At the same time, American leaders have accused the Chinese of manipulating their currency value to keep their goods artificially cheap so that the demand for their exports remains high (Lander, par. 1).  But, in the current atmosphere and deep sense of uncertainty of what the future holds for the financial world, many Americans, such as influential investor Jim Rogers, are investing heavily in China and think “it’s the single strongest market in the world since last fall” (Kimelman, par. 10).

            This strong market not only holds the investment of Americans, but the massive workforce and speedy rate at which expansive projects are able to be completed holds captive the American awe and imagination.  This perception of China could not be more correct, and was recently demonstrated with the way Beijing prepared for the 2008 Olympics, constructing stadiums, hotels, and infrastructure what seemed to be almost overnight (Balfour par. 2).  But what Americans do wonder is how long China’s economy can sustain these speed-of-light growth rates and GDP expansion?  While American companies may be envious of the seemingly endless workforce and low cost of labor, they do perceive the challenge that China faces keeping these millions of people employed and occupied, with 6.1 million of them being recently graduated students (“Where will all the students go?” par. 3). 

            China knows that it has a valuable asset with its immense population and healthy workforce, but they perceive its benefit to be its quick money making ability while Americans would perceive the workforce to be less dependable and not innovative enough.  I noticed this as well during my internship in Hong Kong last summer when I was confused and frustrated by the lack of creativity in my coworkers, but I quickly realized it was how they had been trained and what was expected of them. 


2) Political Issues

            The political climate between China and the United States has been most deeply affected by the West’s push for China to democratize.  China has interpreted this as the West’s attempt to keep China subordinate (Shirk, p. 262).  What China misperceives about the U.S. is the mindset of the “white-man’s burden” or “American exceptionalism.” That is a sentiment held by the American people who hold that it is their duty to bring democracy to the rest of the world because they believe it protects human rights and is the best government for the people.  However, Americans don’t understand the Chinese desire for stability, and their need to control a vast population of one and a half billion people.  The American population of a little over 300 million people is much smaller and more spread out, generally living less densely, while over 90% of the Chinese population lives on less than 40% of the land (Ebray). The Chinese fear that absolute chaos will break out due to criticisms of the government or serious political activity. Jackie Chan, for example, expressed a belief that a free society leads to a chaotic society.  He clearly prefers stability and harmony to the right to choose (“Jackie Chan's China comments prompt backlash”).  In response to Chan’s views, many Chinese citizens have criticized him and come out in support of democratization. Yet Chan’s statements are clearly parallel to those of the authoritarian government in power in China.  Americans have long misperceived that as China grows richer, it will slowly democratize, but in fact the Chinese Communist Party has retained a firm grip on the power (Fukuyama, par. 2).   What the U.S. doesn’t always think about though is “were China to democratize today, the political consequences would likely threaten middle-class prosperity, if not political stability in general” (Fukuyama, par. 9).

As briefly alluded to earlier, ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China sixty years ago, the government has been relatively quiet and building its strength before becoming a vocal presence on the international scene. This adheres to a Chinese saying “taoguang yanghui - hide one's capabilities and bide one's time” (Jacques par. 4).  Now Hu Jintao and other top leaders of China are speaking out, expressing strong opinions, and taking a more pro-active role in world affairs.  Other countries are starting to call on China to act even more politically. For example, the U.S. is putting pressure on China to work with North Korea and encourage Kim Jong Ill to stop his involvement with nuclear weapons (Dingli).  Americans perceive China as attempting to consolidate its influential presence in Southeast Asia and gather allies among the regional countries.  

It seems evident that a major road-block in future Sino-American relations is going to be China's demands for respect as a world power but also the expectations from the Chinese to be offered special treatment and exceptions as a still-developing country.  While the U.S. may be patient with that argument, it will not tolerate the perceived corruption that it believes has infiltrated even the highest levels of Chinese leadership.  The U.S. wants to work with China but American leaders and business people cannot take part in the culture of gift-giving or favor-receiving that often permeates Chinese politics and business.    

 As China develops and matures, Susan Shirk, author of China: Fragile Superpower prudently warns that Americans must not overreact to China’s economic rise. Otherwise the U.S. risks sending the message that it aims to keep China subordinate no matter what, taking away any incentive China might have to act as a responsible world power (p. 267-8). 


3) Social Aspects

Americans tend to view China as having a very formal and traditional culture.  While elderly Americans might envy the respect they feel Chinese elderly receive and American parents hope to instill the Confucian value of filial piety in their children, some aspects of traditional Chinese culture are perceived to be outdated and unfitting in modern times.  For example, promotions are often reserved for those with seniority or connections, discouraging young workers from hopes their hard work and energy will pay off in the near future.

In the past the U.S. has also been very critical of the human rights violations in China, especially the lack of free speech or any form of government opposition.  China has not reacted well to these criticisms in the past, and has responded with equally scathing reports on the status of human rights in America.  Under the current Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken a much less vocal approach to the issue and refrained from publicly rebuking or questioning China's human rights practices, which Shirk believes have been counterproductive in the past (Shirk, p. 262).  This has already proven to be good for Sino-American relations because the Chinese feel that the U.S. is finally treating them with more respect and not infringing on internal matters.  

            The Chinese and Americans also misunderstand each country’s journalistic culture.  The media in China is closely monitored by the state while the American news sources fiercely protect their right for free speech.  The Chinese misperceive American motives to be anti-Chinese when negative news regarding Sino-American relations is released.  Chinese news sources would prefer to report that meetings and talks between the U.S. and China were successful in order to keep the national opinion in favor of the U.S. and avoid inciting a huge anti-West flare up.  In order for China to help the U.S. deconstruct misperceptions about its media it should lessen the state control over the media so that Americans believe they are being fed more than just what the Communist Party wants them to hear.  China recently launched a new newspaper, “The Global Times,” aimed at helping the international world “Discover China” and trying to improve the Communist Party’s image throughout the world. “The effectiveness of such efforts has yet to be proven, however. In media, Beijing hasn't yet hit on a formula to connect broadly with Western audiences” (Bodeen, par. 7). 

            The misunderstanding of the social differences in China and U.S. can largely be attributed to the lack of education in the West concerning Chinese culture, history, and language as well as a widespread, basic unawareness about current events, geography, and society in other hemispheres.  In the standard American education curriculum Eastern topics are studied only briefly, and due respect is not given to Chinese philosophers, such as Confucius (Ash).  An awareness of this could lead the Chinese to feel insulted and slighted, believing that Americans do not value or respect their ancient culture and the great thinkers in their traditions.  However, the Chinese don’t realize that this is a flaw of the American mindset and not a result of any intentional action.  If the U.S. worked to incorporate more Eastern philosophy and history in the curriculum the general American population would have a stronger foundation to understand and be in support of a strong Sino-American relationship.

In a recent article in “The Guardian,” a London newspaper, Timothy Ash  explains how an understanding of Confucianism could help explain Chinese contemporary society, politics, and even foreign policy (par. 5).  For example, the Chinese government’s desire for stability, as commented upon above, directly stems from the Confucian value of harmony. This is underscored in this quote from President Hu Jintao in February 2005, promoting the Communist party's proclaimed goals of a harmonious society and world: “Confucius said, 'Harmony is something to be cherished'” (Ash, par. 3).  As I observed on a trip to multiple mainland universities in 2007, more recently Chinese university students have been able to pursue the academic study of Christianity, the dominant religion and philosophy in the West in order to understand the way Americans think. If many more Westerners than currently do so would correspondingly take Ash’s advice and study Chinese philosophers and religions more fervently it would create the opportunity for a greater understanding and interpretation of China by outsiders. Because English is the lingua franca of the world, especially in business, the Chinese population has made a much more concerted effort to learn English than Americans have made with Mandarin.  Although Mandarin is used in only a few countries as the core language, it has the greatest number of primary speakers worldwide, and it would be prudent of Americans to acknowledge this and respect China’s language by placing a greater academic emphasis on it (“The World’s Most Widely Spoken Languages”).  In Jim Rogers’ book, soon to be released, A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing, he recommends that children learn Mandarin so that they too can share the benefits from China’s massive economic growth  (Kimelman par. 7). 

            Although China is emerging as a strong global power with strong leadership, the country still has to undergo quite a bit of improvement and does not feel caught up to the consistent level of modernization that the United States has achieved.  Because the two countries are at different places developmentally, the main priorities of each can come into conflict and resulting misperceptions about this can weaken the partnership between the two countries.  The United States is often critical of China’s environmental standards and practices, or what it perceives to be a gross lack of such, while China does not feel that it should be held to such stringent green policies until it has had the chance to fully develop and catch up.

However, China does have the unique opportunity to bypass many of the environmental mistakes that the United States and other developed countries made by instituting green technologies and lifestyles now, instead of having to backtrack and change old habits or undo what has already been done.  Yet, since the economic crisis, China has abandoned its environmental priorities even more in favor of speeding up the recovery of the hyper economic growth rate China has been accustomed to for the past decade (Ansfield). While China has numbers and statistics that make it sound like they are truly clamping down any environmental problems, the truth is that the de-centralized Environment Protection Agents are often more favorable to local business people than to the drinking water or natural flora and fauna. 



What the U.S. and China must realize is that they have more in common than not in common, and both countries belong to the same world and are a part of human civilization.  They cannot focus primarily on their differences and must realize what the benefits are which close cooperation between the two countries can bring for both their own national interests and to the international community.  With two very different governing philosophies there will be no end of lively discussion and unique proposals set forth to address world issues.  However, each country must treat the ideas and opinions of the other country with respect and an open mind.  In a way, China and the U.S. almost have the relationship of a younger sibling and an older sibling.  China must be coddled by the United States a little bit while the U.S. must be supportive and accepting of the invigorating energy China can bring and ideas for change. The U.S. and China can be compared to the yin and the yang: each country excels in an area that the other country may struggle in.  A cliché saying often quoted says that opposites attract and these two countries may not always be the best of friends, but they are bound to be close partners.  When working together, they must keep in mind each other’s weaknesses and tap each other’s strengths. 

None of this will be possible with misperceptions clouding the vision of either side, however, and now is an opportune time to work toward a shared responsibility between of the great nations of the world.


List of Works Cited


Ansfield, Jonathan. “Slump Tilts Priorities of Industry In China.” The New York Times 19 Apr. 2009


Ash, Timothy Garton. “Comment & Debate: Confucius can speak to us still - and not just about China: There is a simplistic way to read this renaissance of an ancient tradition. The truth is very much more interesting.” The Guardian (London) 9 Apr. 2009. 19 Apr. 2009


Balfour, Frederik; Engardio, Pete; Roberts, Dexter; and Einhorn, Bruce. “Broken China.Business Week. 23 Jul. 2007.


Bodeen, Christopher. “China Launches new English-language Newspaper.” Yahoo News. 20 Apr. 2009.


Cha, Ariana Eunjung. “For China's New Left, Old Values;Emerging Movement Views State Power as a Remedy for Free-Market Inequalities.” The Washington Post 19 Apr. 2009.


“Chinese premier delivers keynote speech at Boao conference” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political 18 Apr. 2009.


Dingli, Shen. “China Tires of Pyongyang’s Antics.” Asia Times Online. 27 Apr. 2009.


Ebray, Patricia Buckley. People. A Visual Source Book of Chinese Civilization. 27 Apr. 2009.


Fukuyama, Francis.  “For China, stability comes before democracy.” The Daily Yomiuri- Tokyo. 13 Jan. 2008.


 “Jackie Chan's China comments prompt backlash” Associated Press 19 Apr. 2009.


Jacques, Martin. “The Great Shift in Global Power Just Hit High Gear, Sparked By a Financial Crash.” The Guardian (London) . 20 Apr. 2009.


Kimelman, John. “Q&A: Jim Rogers Isn’t Buying a U.S. Stock Recovery.” Barrons. 20 Apr. 2009.


Lander, Mark. “China Jittery About Obama Amid Signs of Harder Line.” The New York Times. 24 Jan. 2009.


 “The World’s Most Widely Spoken Languages.” Saint Ignatius High School. 27 Apr. 2009.


Shirk, Susan L. China Fragile Superpower. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.


“Where will all the students go?; Chinese unemployment.” The Economist- U.S. Edition. 11 Apr. 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

If I were in the California State Senate....

SB 858





An act to add Section ¬110687 to the Revenue and Taxation Code, relating to the appropriations or use of taxpayer money to publicly finance stadiums or arenas for professional or university sports teams.

There is little existing law governing this matter and California city councils have spent and lost billions of dollars of taxpayer money financing large development projects for professional sports franchises. As it stands today, the education budget is constantly reduced, state workers are frequently laid off, yet nevertheless city council members still try to divert money for unnecessary sports facilities in hopes of promoting economic development and growth. There is no surplus money in the budget to be wasting millions of dollars on entertainment facilities. Public opinion is not in favor of this use of tax money and in almost every scenario these projects do a disfavor to the city because most often in the past the investment is not profitable for the city or even very stimulating economically.

This bill would require that no tax-payer money collected in the state of California could be used to fund professional sports and no government bonds could be issued to finance the construction of public performance facilities. The sports franchise must privately finance the operating and building costs of its own stadium as is expected of any other private business.

This bill would require cities still wishing to give professional sports franchises some sort of economic break to vote on any proposals of special tax rates, land deals, or other non-monetary assistance. The citizens would have to pass the proposal with a majority vote and there would be no way to overturn the vote; if it did not pass the only option would be to put it on the ballot the next year.

This bill would ease the pressure that professional sports place on city councils to help finance new stadiums and it would furthermore allow mayors to focus tax-payer money on more vital issues such as education and environmental concerns.

This bill would encourage the city to think of more creative ways to stimulate economic development and create public spaces based on outdoor parks and public recreation instead of professional entertainment.

This bill would encourage renovation of existing stadiums and sporting facilities so as to conserve resources and make use of the structures that we already have invested in so heavily.

Vote: Majority
Appropriation: No
Fiscal Committee: No
State-mandated local program: No


The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
SECTION 1: It is the intent of the Legislature to use the tax-payer money collected in the state of California for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of Californians. The Legislature hereby finds and declares that tax-payer money is not best utilized to fund professional sports. Private businesses should not be dependent upon support by the state and, as privately owned enterprises, professional sporting teams should not be unconditionally supported by the government.

SECTION 2: It is recognized by the Legislature that professional sporting franchises do provide certain, though limited, benefits to cities. They can boost morale and unify a city, so it is understandable that a city council may want to provide limited economic benefits to attract a sports franchise. However, any special arrangements made with a professional sports franchise shall be enacted only if a majority of citizens who vote in the local city elections support the proposition.

SECTION 3: It is recognized by the Legislature that the financing of the construction for stadiums can go through many layers and become rather complicated and that all proceedings the city government are involved in with the construction or renovation of a new stadium shall be clearly recorded and easily accessible for all citizens to see.


SUBJECT: Stadiums cannot be financed with public funds.

ORIGINAL COMMITTEE REFERENCE: Banking, Finance, and Insurance Committee

DIGEST: This bill forbids any tax-dollars raised in the state of California or government issued bonds to be used to finance the construction, renovation, or operations of a stadium or venue for professional sports.

Specifically this Bill:

1. Makes it illegal for any tax-payer money or government issued bonds to go towards financing the construction of a stadium for professional sports.
2. Requires that all stadiums must be renovated, constructed, or operated using private financing.
3. Requires that any special offers on land, any sort of economic benefits a city extends to a professional sports franchise, to anyone involved in developing or building the stadium, or to any private financing agents involved must be voted on by the city’s population on the next ballot and cannot be enacted unless passed by the majority of the population.
4. Urges city councils and mayors to use the money that might have been spent on professional sporting stadiums to fund the construction of low cost housing, improving the education system, creating affordable healthcare, and benefiting the public transit system.
5. Encourages professional sporting teams to share stadiums and split the cost of construction with other business interests. This increases the usefulness of the venues and allows for more quality structures to be built. The stadium should be versatile enough to also be an ideal location for concerts and other entertainment or large gatherings of people.
6. This bill could also entice professional sporting teams to renovate existing venues instead of building entirely new and unnecessary structures. This will be more cost effective and a better use of resources.
7. This bill makes any negotiations between the government and professional sporting teams completely transparent so that citizens are aware of how professional sports are being supported by their government.


Federal Law:
1986 Tax Reform Act legislates that stadiums cannot be financed with any tax-free dollars. However, this simply put the pressure back on mayors and city leaders to fund the stadiums and so had the opposite effect desired because the professional sports teams found loopholes in the law and ways to work it to their advantage. This increased publicly funded stadiums and in the 1990s almost $4 billion tax payer dollars were used to pay for stadiums, most of which will never be paid back, either physically or in economic benefits.

S 1880, the Stop Tax-Exempt Arena Debt Issuance Act, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) This bill was not passed but was read in the Senate, so it shows that legislators have been thinking about this issue. However, this bill was introduced in 1996, and the 1990s was when the public financing of stadiums was at its height, and so it was an inopportune time to present this legislation. There were also many publicly funded construction projects already underway that made this bill really complicated because it was a retroactive bill. The author of the bill had noble attentions but his strategy for passing the bill was ineffective. He knew from the beginning that the bill most likely would not pass.

California State Law:
SB 4 by Murray in 1996
BILL SUMMARY: SB 4 would create a California Public Performance Facilities Authority, within state government, to acquire, construct, manage, or operate public performance facilities, including sports stadiums and performance halls. SB 4 would authorize the Authority to issue revenue bonds, incur other forms of indebtedness, and sell premium seat licenses, facility naming rights, and sponsorship rights, and to impose a facilities fee on tickets for these facilities.

AB 2805 by Ridley Thomas
BILL SUMMARY: Revises existing law provisions in the California Redevelopment Law for project area time extensions, applicable only to the City of Los Angeles for the purpose of rehabilitating the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for occupancy by an NFL franchise.


This bill will force professional sports to become more independent as private companies and save the state of California millions of tax dollars that can be better spent on other projects. The ultimate goal is to make the most of the hard-earned tax-payer money. Cities will no longer be trapped into funding enormous projects that they cannot financially support. The money California does not spend on funding the construction of stadiums can also be used towards recovering the massive budget deficit and crisis the state is facing.

There important fiscal effect of this bill is that it would allow for a better allocation of public money. Even if there are no new stadiums built in the state, there will not be a negative fiscal effect because there is no evidence that they provide huge economic benefit.

The state will not lose any money in tax revenue if these operations leave because any revenues they might have made were more than lost with the financing the state provided to build the stadiums.

Appropriations: No Fiscal Committee: No Local: No


Affordable Homes Collaborative
After-School All Stars, Los Angeles
Alameda Community Learning Center
Alliance for Affordable Services
United Teachers Los Angeles
University of Southern California
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
Coalition Against Public Funding for Stadiums


California is in a huge budget crisis as a state and the cities are also severely suffering financially. It is time to get priorities in line and realize that the state should not be spending more money on professional entertainment, even with the intention to stimulate economies. Based on the lack of success of past developments that tax-payers have invested in, it is obvious that what the economy needs is not a new stadium. Hotels, businesses, and tourism can be attracted without needing to build entire new large developments. In fact, most fans will travel less than 20 miles to attend a professional sporting event. Professional sporting events do not generate new income; they are in fact a substitute entertainment event. Families or individuals who spend money going to a professional sports event would be going out for entertainment anyways and would be spending that money elsewhere, at a bowling alley, in a restaurant, or at the movies. Tax dollars should be concentrated where they are needed, for example in schools, public transportation, and healthcare. Investment in stadiums almost never turns out to be profitable for public financiers and there is no reason why tax-payers should be taking on the almost certain result of no return. The estimated construction costs of stadiums are almost always underestimated and therefore cities can be trapped into paying much more than they ever agreed.

In fact, these new stadiums start off a vicious cycle. When the construction is completed, the new ticket prices are astronomical to help pay for the construction costs, fans can’t afford these new ticket prices nor are they willing to pay them, especially in this economy, and then the stadium is half empty, the concessions don’t make very much money, staff are laid off because they aren’t needed; then the morale of the team decreases, restaurants near the stadium aren’t patronized because there are fewer fans going to games, fans buy less merchandise because they will not be wearing it at games and city income is low, defeating any positive benefits a stadium is supposed to bring.

Even if professional sports teams threaten to leave California because they will not receive public assistance to build stadiums, it will difficult for them to find a new home as there are few cities and states that are in the financial position to invest in these sorts of grandiose and unnecessary projects. In California it is completely unethical for our state to invest in these projects when the state is experiencing a huge budget deficit. Public opinion is not in favor of these projects and the citizens would be in outrage if it appeared their politicians were approving construction projects that were basically lining the pockets of the owners of the sports franchises. California has much higher priorities right now and cannot put professional sports ahead of our other values.


Government Finance Officers Association
United States Conference of Mayors
National League of Cities
Uniform and Textile Service Association
National Association of Bond Lawyers
Bringing Awareness of the Chargers Stadium Search
Anschutz Entertainment Group
Majestic Real Estate


If California stops supporting professional sports the teams will all leave the state and live in other states. The revenue from the taxes on stadiums’ concessions, tourists, and income taxes from all the people who are employed by the stadium and professional sports teams will be lost. Cities need stimulation economically, especially in these dire times, and the perfect way to do that is to build new attractions to keep professional sporting teams and fans happy. These stadiums employ thousands of people and all of those jobs would be lost if professional sports teams were to leave, increasing the unemployment rate. The teams are also a great way to unite communities and generate spirit and city pride. Since the stadiums are not only used for professional sporting events, the city would lose a venue to house many non-profit and community service events, concerts, and other large attractions such as Motocross or Monster Truck events. Swap meets, fairs, carnivals, private functions and parties are also held in these stadiums. Many new stadiums also are restoring and incorporating historic buildings and these buildings may not receive the funding to be preserved without being a part of a new stadium development. Professional sports help lower crime rates by giving the youth something else to do and care about. Going to professional sporting events is a part of every American youth’s childhood and we do not want to deprive children of that and drive them to the streets because of boredom and lack of entertainment. It is also not the role of the state to tell the local counties what to do with their tax-money, and it should be up to the tax-payers to decide how they would like their hard earned dollars spent.


I am pretending to be Christine Kehoe and represent San Diego in the California State Senate and provide legislation to benefit my constituency. San Diegans will be very favorable toward this bill because the city recently supported the construction of Petco Park, a new ballpark in the downtown area. While the neighborhood has seen economic revival and is becoming a great destination, this is not purely the result of the ballpark. The convention center, trolley service, and an influx of housing, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife to the area have brought urban renewal to San Diego. The city not only paid for most of the stadium but is now stuck footing the bill for the large chunk of the operating costs. Citizens enjoy Petco Park but they do not think it is worth the bill that they have assumed.

The city has been under pressure from the Chargers to build them a new stadium for many years and, so far, is not giving in. This bill would help take pressure off the city officials from funding another stadium for the Chargers. The Chargers have long been threatening to move to Los Angeles but Los Angeles has not been offering them a great deal. The team has also looked at going to Chula Vista, which is a city that is part of San Diego County. However, neither city has offered a public financing deal that the Chargers have accepted.


This bill requires a very straightforward strategy to pass. It must be presented soon because the budget crisis is fresh, as is the global economic recession, and so people are feeling conservative with their money. There is a Democratic majority in Sacramento and they would be the most in favor of this bill because they generally prefer to support affordable housing, education, healthcare, and environmental measures over business, while Republicans are often in favor of business and believe in the trickle down effect.

All the evidence and proof is available to back up this bill; it just needs to be compiled by the committee. The most compelling argument would be an analysis showing the little to no positive economic benefits for a city from building a new stadium. Evidence and case studies of privately financed stadiums must also be presented to show that stadiums can be privately financed and how successful they have been. It would be helpful if a few developers or financing agents would also speak out about their willingness to fund the construction of a new stadium and to work with professional sports teams. Also, numbers are going to be very important evidence in supporting this bill and an analysis of the salaries of professional sports players and team owners should be released and compared to those of teachers in the public school system or the cost of building affordable housing. The revenues from the stadiums and professional sporting teams should be released along with an explanation of where all the money goes.

Some ideas of alternative benefits that cities can offer professional sporting teams to aid in the construction of stadiums should also be presented so that businesses know there are many ways to work with this bill.

A lot of public opinion polls should be conducted because the public is definitely in favor of this bill and this would help put pressure on the legislators to vote in favor of this bill. There should also be a lot of publicity around this piece of legislation so that the public can get involved and write to their assembly representatives and senators.


Though initially controversial, once the research behind Senate Bill 858 is presented the argument will be convincing and the bill will pass. The bill also is not as drastic as it first seems. It still leaves open many ways for cities to attract professional sporting teams and assist them in the building of stadiums; it just prevents them from being directly financed with money collected from the tax-payers. Also, research has shown that the stadiums that are privately funded have a better business plan and the budgets are more sustainable, so those stadiums are the few that actually end up turning a profit. There is plentiful economic research which has proven that stadiums actually do very little to revive a city economically; the only examples of professional sports teams really reviving a community is when they move to small cities and communities.

In fact, if there are any economic benefits to building these brand new stadiums for professional sports teams, they are mostly felt by the team owner and players whose salaries are astronomical. Because of complicated laws around the public financing of stadiums, it makes it difficult for the team owner to pay back revenue to the city and then the city ends up footing most of the bill for the stadium and the operating costs, as the case in San Diego with Petco Park.

The time is also right to present this bill because California has just gone through a huge crisis attempting to get the budget passed and the state has a huge budget deficit to make up. If this bill is not passed, it will look like the state is being irresponsible and frivolous with the tax payer funds. Also, there have been recent examples of publicly financed stadiums that are bankrupting the city government and huge failures that aren’t even filled by the fans, such as the new Yankee Stadium in New York, which is costing over $1.3 billion.

All of the arguments in favor of publicly financed stadiums are easily rebutted and supported with little to no hard facts and evidence. The favorable arguments are theories and cannot be proven. It has been argued that professional sports can lower crime rates by giving the city’s youth something to do, but a study was done and there was no effect on the crime rate before and after the construction of a professional stadium; the major factor in determining crime rate was the size of the city.

There are also many ways to compromise on this issue, which professional sporting teams and legislators will realize when they are debating over this bill. For example, the city can help build the infrastructure surrounding the stadium, easy public transportation to the stadium, and public parks and recreation space around the stadium, creating a larger destination and attraction. Professional sports teams can also join together and share a stadium which would split the cost, allow them to finance a better facility, and put the huge investment to work more often. If the stadiums are privately owned rather than publicly financed they will also be easier to rent out for conferences, concerts, other entertainment acts like Motocross or Monstertrucks, fairs, farmers markets, swap meets, and high school or university sports events because it will not have to go through the bureaucracy of the government agencies.

This bill will be popular with both parties because in fact it represents the government taking a step back and out of meddling with businesses which conservatives will like and also shows a refocusing of tax dollars on essential issues like education that liberals will appreciate. In the recent economic crisis it has shown that the government should not be involved in business and it is best to just let that sector succeed or fail on its own accord, and the same is true with professional sports. City leaders will like this bill as well because it will take some of the pressure that team owners have attempted to place on them to finance a stadium. Any negotiations between the mayor and team owner must also be completely transparent and will help both parties remain accountable and reasonable and keep the public informed. This is very important because a few construction projects have claimed to be privately financed when they were really using tax-free government bonds and other loopholes in the system, like the PILOTS deal in the financing of the new stadium in New York.

The success of this bill would encourage other legislators to enact even more stringent legislation limiting even more benefits and deals the city can give the sports team until they are completely independent businesses.

SOURCES CONSULTED{A9C7AB36-1519-4040-8BE2-50B93331A8B8}&DE={AD2A7D4C-F35C-4861-B410-2BC129CE7473}

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrity Diplomacy

I have always wondered why my peers can be so obsessed with celebrities and entertainment since I am usually the last person you would find reading US Weekly or star-gazing on Melrose Avenue or at Hollywood hot spots. If I was a contestant on a “recognize this famous face” or “celebrity trivia” game show, I would spend most of the game stuttering and racking my brain for answers that I know are not there. Apart from my adolescent love, Aaron Carter, I generally preferred living my own life to stalking the famous.

While it gives me more time to read and talk about international politics, an easy way to shut me up in any conversation is to bring up popular movies, television, or celebrity gossip, all areas where I have little to contribute. Sometimes I do make an effort to catch up and peruse Perez, pick up an issue of People, or sit still long enough to watch an episode of Entourage. However, whether or not I understand or agree with the vast amount of attention paid to celebrities and entertainment, a majority of the population seems to care and probably can even recite the names of Brangelina’s brood. This helps illustrates the ability of the mass media to close the gap between the general public and VIPs.

What does interest me about these famous faces is the ways in which they have been increasingly interacting with the realm of politics in an emerging field being called celebrity diplomacy. Celebrities have become more and more visible in politics as time has gone on, but the question is - for better or worse?

Andrew Cooper, the author of Celebrity Diplomacy, explores the multiple facets to this question in his book, and concludes that celebrity politicians do in fact fill a necessary void in the system and should be used in conjunction with conventional diplomacy to raise awareness and call attention to global issues that other wise may not have enough coverage in the media.

The author of Media Spectacle, Douglas Kellner, agrees, and even furthers Cooper’s thesis to assert that effective politicians need to become global celebrities, citing none other than President Obama for his main example (there’s no surprise there).
While I can see the merit to both of their points and believe celebrity diplomacy can be an effective tool if used correctly, there seems to me to be an underlying contradiction.

Celebrity diplomats are doing a great job raising awareness about global issues that it can be difficult to inform the public about, but they do not take a firm stand when it matters most. They do what they do best, making appearances and interacting with the media, but how often are their actions judged by the outcomes? Bono probably feels justified in recently demanding that traditional radio stations should pay performance royalty fees when they play songs (in turn, padding his bank account even more) when he can say that he used the U2 Vertigo world tour to promote his ONE campaign to fight poverty. Is it ironic that this tour was the second biggest money-maker of all time?

How serious can we take celebrities who are encouraging us to fight poverty, world hunger, or AIDS, when they are dressed in top-line couture and it is probably safe to assume that off the stage they are demanding bottled Evian and bottles of Hypnotiq or Jack Daniels?

So here lies the contradiction: that money could help feed a starving refugee from Darfur, but without a celeb-led campaign to Fight for Darfur most people wouldn’t even know about the genocide in the Sudan.

For better or for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, celebrities' involvement in politics is obviously here to stay, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is perfect.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Batting .500 but not scoring 2400

You know, it almost seems kind of funny. Throughout this whole economic crisis we have been pointing fingers at the supposed irresponsibility of the financial giants and then calling our government socialist when they help out the cash flow of these struggling companies. What we don’t realize though is that our government has been supporting “private” businesses for years, and in fact some so-called private businesses depend on our government to subsidize almost half their operating costs. If that isn’t socialism…

We never think of socialism as a pillar of American democracy. In fact, I think most Americans would be quite offended if it was suggested that our society does not follow free-market principles and is actually propped up by the government. However, one of our great American pastimes is made possible by massive amounts of greenbacks that may as well come straight from the mint.

Cities fight to attract professional sports teams to their locality, offering them land, an elaborate, gorgeous new stadium, tax breaks, guaranteed ticket sales, and even promise to foot part of the operating costs, all in hopes that the team will bring an economic revival and surge of spirit to the area. In theory, it sounds like a decent investment on the cities’ part- hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and developers may flock to the area bringing with them tourists, jobs, and urban renewal. Many cities (Two examples are Fresno and New York) across the country have fallen prey to the vision of recreation space, a community gathering center, and a vibrantly renewed core to the city centered around this venue that showcases spectacles such as a man throwing a little white ball almost 100 miles per hour, and tearing up his shoulder while he does it.

San Diego is just one such example, and not even a depressing one as most of them go. Four years ago the city agreed to finance Petco Park in downtown San Diego. The city also agreed to pay for over half of the Padres’ operating costs, with the Padres paying for the rest. In reality though, the city’s part of the deal is comparable to an adjustable rate mortgage, and adjusted to inflation, so every year the city’s contribution increases, while the Padres’ fixed-rate portion of the payments has stayed the same. Yes, San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter downtown has seen an economic revival with hotels, apartment buildings, and restaurants popping up around every corner, but is building a new baseball stadium the only way to do this? I think the enormous new convention center was already creating a lot of energy in the same area as the ballpark.

While I love summer afternoons with friends barbequeing hot dogs and cheering my favorite baseball team, the long-suffering, but hopeful Padres, on to victory, I don’t want the success of my local sports team to trump the performance of the neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, it seems like that is exactly what the city council has allowed.

Even though these projects are blips on the radar compared to the massive developments Dubai embarks upon, they are still no small piece of change in the city’s bank account. The Chargers have long been begging for a new stadium, and I am sure there will be another ballot measure before too long asking for millions more, fixed ticket sales, and so on, but before you are in support of an economic awakening that the Bolts could potentially bring to Mission Valley, think about the kids, crammed into dilapidated classrooms in groups of forty to a teacher, all because our education budget has been cut. Do you think they’ll benefit from living in a city that cares more about having the best record in the NFL than their SAT scores?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

He knows how to get action, but can he show us how to take action?

Last month, former President Bill Clinton and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Haiti for a whirlwind overnight visit to refocus international attention on one of the most impoverished and desolate countries
in the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately conditions of despair are not a new development in Haiti, and what the world needs to see is not another set of scripted political meetings like the G20. What this country needs is leaders who will commit the time and resources to help Haitians create reliable government and legal institutions to attract foreign investment and expand the agriculture industry.

The international community must help Haiti seize its current advantages to emerge from the world-wide economic recession on stable ground and prevent the country from falling back into chaos. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti has stationed 9,000 peace-keeping soldiers there since 2005. The U.S. enacted the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement, or HOPE II, that gives the Haitians special tax exemptions on trade with the U.S. for 10 years. Foreign aid was doubled last year and now amounts to $800 million. However, this is not enough and the more fortunate people of the world need to work together to do more.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying "give a person a fish and feed him or her for a day; give a person a fishing pole, fand feed him or her for a lifetime." Well, the Haitians are hungry for a future, a chance for prosperity, and we must work towards that
rather than tying over their hunger with quick fixes for stability.

Bill is showing us how to take action and The Clinton Global Initiative, a separate program of the William J. Clinton Foundation, has actually helped make a decent start, as noted in this press release:

During their trip to Haiti, President Clinton and Secretary-General Ban toured the sites of two commitments formed as a result of President Clinton’s Call to Action on Haiti at the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in September 2008. Global leaders, business executives, and philanthropists made more than 20 commitments that directly concentrate on strengthening long-term recovery efforts and are valued at more than $130 million.

But these efforts can be expanded upon. The first problem that must be addressed is the lack of faith in the governing body because of corruption and instability. As soon as this is addressed, foreigners will feel more comfortable investing in Haiti and help the economy pick up. While the Haitian politicians need to take responsibility and action for their own country, as a global community we can help speed up the process by sending in a team of international government leaders. The team would help the Haitian government set up the type of system that they think would be best for the future of the country, but also provide insight and knowledge on how to go about this the best way from the successes and failures of other countries. The team will act as consultants and work horses on a committee led by the most educated Haitian leaders. They will live in Haiti until the project is complete and also be charged with the task of helping to create a corruption free government. The legal and political documents of the country will be revised and the team will help enforce them while they are there. The key to the success of the government strengthening will be to do what the Haitian leaders think will be the best for the country, but also to offer outside advice and opinions as appropriate, and act primarily as the vehicle for implementation and enforcement.

Another vital area that needs improvement is the agriculture sector. About two thirds of the population farms for a living, yet is so inefficient that they are nowhere close enough to producing enough food for the country. An article in The Economist provides some shocking statistics:

Though more than half of Haitians work in farming, they produce less than half the country’s food needs. Haiti’s agriculture is the least productive in the world, says Joel Boutroue of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A hectare of rice paddy in Vietnam will produce 20 tonnes of rice a year, whereas a Haitian hectare yields just one tonne.

So accompanying the government team should be a team of agricultural experts who work with the Haitians to develop sustainable farming improvements, but using the limited technology and resources the country already has. Improvements in agriculture will also help prevent the total devastation that has resulted in the last few years every time Haiti is hit by a hurricane or large storm and the cities are covered in mud.

Clinton has done well at calling attention to the matter and getting some action started, but this time he needs to go all the way. If he truly dedicates and focuses his efforts on rallying international support to help Haiti , whether through his foundation, the U.N., or other channels, we have an opportunity now to help put together the pieces of one of the poorest countries in the Americas. But budgets are already tight, and success is not going to result from increasing foreign aid. We need leaders with knowledge and skill to devote their time and talents. The Clinton Global Initiative is based on commitment, something Bill may have had difficulty with in the past, but here is his chance to lead the way and show that he has changed, and join with his wife in working for change.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Different Kind of Sustainability

In California we often talk about sustainability. Conserving natural resources, recycling, turning off lights when we leave a room, being careful with our use of water - to us that means being sustainable.

However, when one applies the term to Dubai, it brings up a whole different set of concerns. Attractions and accommodations expecting to draw 15 million tourists are under construction as we speak. Dubailand, Dubai Health City, The Palm Triology (three artificial islands in the shape of palm trees), The World (a mini world made out of islands), Tiger Woods Golf Dubai, the Burj Dubai - the tallest building in the world (shown in the picture here), and many more mega-projects are underway in the Emirate.

As you can see, sustainibility as used in the Californian context is not quite the main concern here. The government on the West Coast is limiting carb emissions while Sheikh Muhammad, the ruler of Dubai, is encouraging the building of outlandish project after outlandish project.
"I do not know if I am a good leader, but I am a leader. And I have a vision. I look to the future, 20, 30 years. I learned that from my father, Sheikh Rashid. He was the true father of Dubai. I follow his example. He would rise early and go alone to watch what was happening on each of his projects. I do the same. I watch. I read faces. I take decisions and I move fast. Full throttle."

My question is - is this super city sustainable? Is there enough wealth in the world to patronize these never ending developments? I can't fathom how in the world all of these multi-million dollar homes, vacation properties, lavish hotels, top of the line boutiques, fancy restaurants, and endless entertainment parks are going to be able to keep their bottom line in green numbers.

The funny thing is, after spending a week in Dubai I got the feeling that the main priority of the developers is not the return on investment, but the prestige of having built a project and contributed to creating the new Las Vegas of the world. It is all about creating the biggest and the best, being the first, and making impossible ideas become reality in the city that is striving to become the world's number one destination.

So let's say the financing for all these massive projects doesn't fall through, all the grand opening ceremonies are held (Atlantis The Palm celebrated its opening on Sept. 24, 2009 with the most expensive private party ever hosted), and there is a steady stream of visitors in Dubai, what will happen next? Most likely the success of a few developments will entice entrepreneurs to build even more, until what once was a sand-covered Emirate becomes the world playground.

It sounds exciting, fun, and glamorous, and it is - well for those who are fortunate enough to have enough resources to visit - but here is where my Californian concerns of sustainability are raised. For a city whose government is mostly concerned with building the biggest and best, what will be the environmental effects of completely replacing the sand dunes with a concrete jungle? What are the consequences of devoting so many of the world's precious and limited natural resources to creating a fantasy land for the small percentage of the population who can actually afford it?

Already there have been concerns about the drainage and flow of the water around the human-made islands of the Palms and the World. Hundreds of new species are being brought into the area to create unnatural reefs and opportunities for snorkeling. The skyline of the city is muted most days with a semi-permanent dusty haze that is a combination of sand mixing with humidity and the pollution. Walking or biking anywhere is virtually impossible, making driving the only mode of transportation, with public options almost non-existent.

While I was taken in by the glitter and sparkle of the city during my time there, there was always a nagging feeling in the back of my thoughts, who knows maybe it was my conscience. I kept wondering if this was realistic? Necessary? But most of all, I want to know what it means for the developing countries. it does not seem fair that such a large share of the world's resources can be used to benefit such a small percentage of the population.

Oh well, the Emirate has already made it clear that it will not stop until it has the biggest and best of everything. It will be interesting to see how concerns of sustainability are addressed in all senses of the word- from financing the construction projects to completion, attracting tourists and businesses to fill the vast developments, and addressing environmental concerns as they arise. Let's just hope the rest of the world will watch and learn, and who knows, maybe the next city that aims to make a name for itself will seek to create an affordable eco-green community where the goal is sustainability.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

International Experiential Corporate Learning in Dubai

Preparing for Departure!

So here I am one day before departure and packing for Dubai! I really have no idea what to expect or what I am going to need so that is making packing a little bit difficult and I think I am going to end up taking one of everything, just in case. It is a Muslim country and the dress is definitely more conservative, so my business outfits will be all pant suits. I looked up the weather and it is supposed to be around 30 degrees Celsius the entire time, or roughly 90 degrees, so it is going to be hot!

I have a few books about the culture and city that I am reading on the plane ride over, which is only 16 hours. I have been collecting articles and information about Dubai for a few months now and have a list of places that I want to see for sure. I had lunch two days ago with a student at USC who is from Dubai and she gave me an even longer list of must-see spots. I don’t think it is possible to be more excited for a trip!

I contacted a friend who graduated from USC two years ago and now works for a real estate company in Dubai so that we can hopefully meet up. One of the many great things about the Trojan family- there is guaranteed to be some USC affiliated person no matter where in the world you go!

There are about 35 students going on the trip and we split up into pairs, with each pair assigned a company to do a report on for the group. My partner, Harb, and I did a report on Nomura, a Japanese financial services company that only recently set up shop in Dubai when it bought the Europe/Asia branches of Lehman Brothers. We’ve been talking a lot about it in our pre-trip meetings, but I am already getting a feeling for how international the population is in Dubai.

English sounds like it is very prevalent, which is good because I know absolutely no Arabic, but I hope I get a chance to pick up a few phrases. I am also looking forward to trying different kinds of Arabic food because I have not had a chance to try much of it yet.

Well, I guess I had better get back to packing and figure out if there is any way at all I can make my suitcase lighter! Next time you hear from me I will be on the Arabian peninsula, almost exactly on the other side of the world!

Sunday- First Day of Company Visits

We made it! We arrived around 8pm last evening and since then we have already squeezed so much in that it feels like we could have been here for a week. I’ll start with the flight over. It was not unbearably long and Air Emirates is really nice. Our group was pretty much all sitting together and so we had a lot of fun calling each other using the individual entertainment consoles and playing games of Battleship against each other. I stood in the back galley speaking with the flight attendants for awhile which was really interesting. One was from Portugal and the other from Greece, but they both live in Dubai with all the other Air Emirates employees. They said 11,000 of them live in a cluster of large apartment buildings together! After seeing the Air Emirates training facility today- I totally believe it!

Not only was the airplane very new and clean, but the airport was sparkling and grandiose, completely putting LAX to shame! The columns were glittering and there was a huge waterfall that we admired from a glass enclosed elevator. My phone picked up free Wi-fi in the airport so I have already sent a quick e-mail to my parents letting them know I made it safely!

Next came check in at the hotel, which is a new establishment a little bit off the main road. Last night we explored around the hotel and the mall that it is connected to. The group all went to the food court, which took only cash so we had to find an ATM to get some durhams, the name of the money in the U.A.E. I was struck by how nice

Although we had to wake up extremely early this morning, the breakfast buffet at the hotel before our first meting was well worth the struggle with jet-lag. Mickinsey, an international consulting firm, was the first company who visited us. It was the perfect first presentation because the representative was so informative and extremely smart, so it helped us get a good first perspective of business in Dubai. After her talk, the company that I did a report on, Nomura, brought a panel of employees who are mostly ex-Lehman

Most of that conversation focused on the economic recession and Lehman’s collapse, and they described their experience transitioning from working at an American company to a Japanese company, and being relocated to Dubai.

After lunch with them we visited the Air Emirates training school and Jones Lang Lasalle, a real estate company, and now I am here writing this! It was a really long day with about 10 hours of meetings, but I have seen and learned so much already. Now it is time to shower and go explore the city on our own a bit!

Monday and Tuesday

I have decided that if I ever start a company in Dubai, I am going to start a model building company. Ever visit we go to has a huge sprawling model of the development they are planning on building. Plus, creating those mini worlds would be very fun and I would love getting into the details. They also seem like the only projects in Dubai that are actually finished, because everything else is under construction or in a planning phase.

Since I’ve written we visited Jumeirah, a hotel management group that runs the Burj al Arab, the world’s only seven star hotel, Nakheel, the company that is developing The World Islands, the Dubai Merchant Exchange, Dubai Healthcare City, Tiger Woods Dubai, and Dubailand. As you can tell, we have been busy!

Each of these visits was different but they all had one thing in common- a focus on being the world’s first, biggest, or best. This is a common theme in Dubai and in fact, the Emirati people are not as concerned about the monetary compensation for their work or careers, but the prestige associated. Even if the Burj al Arab is not a huge money-maker, they are just proud to be home to a hotel with service that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

The scale of the Dubai Heathcare City and Dubailand developments was hard to wrap my mind around. If I started my model building company, I would definitely want to have a close relationship with those two companies! I will be interested to follow the continued construction of the two projects and see if they reach completion. When they do reach completion I wonder if there will be enough business to keep them open. These projects are amazing, but they are so massive it is hard to imagine that there is enough world-wide demand or tourism for attractions of this scale.

Tonight we are going to the house of a local Dubai family for dinner. Their daughter has been helping plan this trip and giving us all the background information on the culture and places to go. I am really interested to see what the actual houses are like here and if they are in a neighborhood. We are also celebrating St. Patrick’s Day tonight so I better go see if I brought any green in my suitcase…I don’t want to get pinched!

One night in Abu Dhabi

We just returned from an overnight stay in Abu Dhabi. I wish we could have spent more time exploring that city! Abu Dhabi is another Emirate and is the center of the oil money in the region. It is like the Washington D.C. of the U.A. E. while Dubai is like New York City. From the short time we were there I really liked Abu Dhabi because it had more of a community feeling and it felt like I could live there, while living in Dubai would feel like living in Las Vegas. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also seem to have a mini rivalry and it was funny to see those sentiments emerge in these visits.

Surprise, surprise, we visited a few more development companies in Abu Dhabi, but the most interesting visit was to one of the major newspapers - The National. One of the biggest things I have learned since being in Dubai is how involved the government is in everything, from business to the newspaper. The newspapers don’t publish any criticisms of the leadership in the U.A.E. and would also refrain from saying anything negative about the economic conditions or developments in Dubai. I think they are strongly encouraged to present a very positive scenario through the media. The newspaper stressed that they were not censored in any way, but I still get a feeling that they aren’t telling us the whole truth.

After we finished our business visits on Wednesday we went to see Emirates Palace. I thought that it was finally going to be a historical site, but lo and behold it was a gorgeous hotel that was built in the last 5 years. The place definitely had the Midas touch and every surface shone and sparkled with gold. It was a truly expansive property and we explored as much as we could before security stopped us. It was also very expensive and one of my friends on the trip somehow ended up buying $40 cookies! We also stopped to see the Grand Mosque but it was closed to visitors for prayer time. The architecture was very impressive and, fitting with everything else, it was huge!

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at Atlantis The Palm to see the new luxurious establishment. It was amazing! It looks pretty similar to the pictures of the one in the Bahamas.

Now we are back at our excellent 5 star residence, the Crowne Plaza in Festival City. We have finished with the business portion of the trip so it is time to visit all the tourist attractions! This afternoon some of us are going to Wild Wadi Waterpark outside of the Burj al Arab and I can’t wait!

Back in Los Angeles

Well I guess the trip had to end at some point, but I definitely was not ready to come back to school! The jet lag that I never experienced on the way there has definitely hit me now, and I have been pretty sleepy but I think I will recover in no time.

The last few days in Dubai were spent relaxing, exploring, and now it is time to digest the whole experience. I have learned so much about the Arabian Peninsula especially the culture, business (obviously!), government, and geography. I will definitely be watching this area very closely in the future to see how the construction and development progresses and to see if it is sustainable. I am quite concerned about the environmental effects of all the artificial islands in The World and the three Palms so I will be following that news.

I hope that I am able to come back and visit the region again soon, and explore even more of the countries around. I think it is a beautiful culture, especially the Arabic hospitality aspect, which is so warm and inviting.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

China, Tibet, Action!

“Don't consider your reputation and you may do anything you like” is an oft-quoted Chinese proverb, but not often enacted by the leaders of the country.

If China desires to be an international leader and receive respect from world powers than it must realize that its internal affairs are now international business. The Chinese government is most strongly criticized for its human rights violations, especially its military rule and refusal to compromise in Tibet. As the G-20 nears, it will be hard for other international leaders to work with China to solve economic problems unless the Chinese officials take actions towards remedying the situation in Tibet.

The time to act is now because the situation in Tibet is getting worse by the day. Tibet is closed to journalists and foreigners until the end of March. When Cambodia was closed to foreigners, the Khmer Rouge rose to power. Tibetans are viewed as terrorists by some Chinese; some even refuse to rent hotel rooms to Tibetans. Police are quick to use force or violence to prevent or quickly squash any form of protest. The Chinese authorities are attempting to stamp out a religion, a culture, and a people. Many Tibetans have not even learned their own language. Monks are not allowed to hold prayer sessions.

China claims that it helped end feudalism in Tibet and free serfs and slaves, but in fact, prior to China's seizing of Tibet in 1959, there was little difference between the rich and poor of the Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his attempt at a peaceful protest and solution. The most recent strategy is to pursue the "Middle Way," a compromise between the two leaders. Tibetans want to protect their religion and culture and the Chinese want to retain possession and control of the region. Tsering Shakya, an expert on modern Tibet at the University of British Columbia perfectly expressed the situation in an Associated Press article "On Display: conflicting Chinese, Tibetan views" by Gillian Wong:
"Tibetans see their homeland as the exclusive territory of the Tibetan people, while China sees the absence of Chinese authority in Tibet as part of their national humiliation."

No major changes are likely to be made in this generation because the Chinese leaders and the Dalai Lama are both stubborn. The older Tibetans of this generation remember the freedom they enjoyed before 1950 but the Chinese leadership will not ever allow Tibet to revert back to that state, so we must wait until that generation has passed away and the new generation fully accepts Tibet as a part of China.

The international community must deliver a neutral third party to set up talks between Hu Jintao, the paramount leader of China, and the Dalai Lama, the head of the exiled government of Tibet, to prevent the situation from resulting in a serious show of military power and an eradication of the Tibetan culture. A Scandanavian country would be the best option to supply a moderator since they have the cleanest human rights protection records and least activities as colonizers, so they could be not criticized for contradicting their own country’s past.

It is critical that each side thoroughly understands each other in order to assure the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of Tibet and China. In fact, it is in the best interest of both groups to preserve the Tibetan culture and way of life because it is another reason for people to visit China and expanded tourism in the region could be a source of large revenue for the government.

The central government’s main concern with the Tibetan culture is that it is an extremely religious society and the Chinese government views religion as an extreme threat to its power. Tibet should be made a into a Special Cultural Zone that has limited autonomy such as Shanghai and a few other regions enjoy as SEZ's. China is a country of paradoxes and is often described as one country with two systems; there is no reason that should not apply to Tibet.

China wants legitimacy on the stage of world affairs for its economic and diplomatic growth but it will not gain the respect it desires until it lives up to promises to protect human rights and the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Inside the mind of CosmopolitAnne

Some Q and A:

You have just attended a presentation by President Hu Jintao. You have the chance to ask one question. What is it and why?

I would ask the President what he believes is the most prominent value or characteristic shared by Chinese and Americans, how we can capitalize upon this commonality to unite two very different countries to create a stronger Sino-American relationship, and what is the most important global challenge that would benefit from such a closer partnership. I would raise this because I think our countries could have an even greater positive impact on the world if we focused on our similarities rather than differences. If we could realize how much we have in common our two nations could make great strides regarding international issues.

What is one aspect of American culture that you think it is difficult for foreigners to understand?

I think that the United States’ legislative process is one aspect of American culture that is very difficult for foreigners to understand. Our legislative process can be messy, slow, and very confusing but it ultimately serves its purpose to come up with the best possible solution for the biggest number of people. It protects against tyranny of the majority, holds elected officials accountable by holding frequent elections, and has a very transparent process that citizens can follow every step of the way. Foreigners may not grasp that the seemingly inefficient, nit-picky, verbal war is the essence and beauty of the American legislative system.

The world today is undergoing a series of rapid changes, in the ways that people, think, work, and interact with one another. Describe briefly how you see the world changing in the next twenty years and where you see yourself in it.

Over the next 20 years I see the world becoming increasingly more globalized as international business grows and foreign cultures interact more frequently. The countries of the world will work together as partners instead of independent units on the global front as we realize that wherever located we are all share the earth and need to take care of each other. I think some natural resources will become scarcer and we will have to figure out how to distribute them appropriately and protect them for the future. I think that the people of the world will return to promoting moral and ethical values after seeing the disastrous effects in the finance world that is the result of greed and unethical behavior. Technology will pervade every aspect of our life and we will constantly be in interaction with it. This will especially affect how humans interact, as there is less face to face contact and we are able to communicate with people all over the world without ever meeting in person. As technology increases and the media finds new ways of using technology our attention will constantly be sought by outside influences and it will pervade our lives, leaving us less time to ourselves and our own thoughts. This will increase the phenomenon of multitasking, which will also increase productivity. The job market is going to be incredibly competitive, especially after the world wide economic crisis, however those who are innovative, adaptable, and good at working with people will be successful.

People will need to think about the effects of their actions on others, and even on a global scale. In the age of globalization, however, people will have to try extra hard to guard their own thoughts and opinions from being formed by outside forces.

People will continue to develop their careers and marry later as a general trend and their work hours will continue to be too long. We will need to remember to prioritize family and our personal life as work will be relentlessly demanding. However, people will start to equate job satisfaction less with monetary rewards and more with the personal contributions they feel they are making to the world with their work. With increasingly globalized work, our co-workers could be on the other side of the earth as we rely more and more on technological means of interacting. As already, but increasingly, people will essentially work from anywhere in the world, which might lead to more ex-patriate living and travel, even further escalating globalization.

As diverse cultures and peoples are increasingly more exposed to each other I intend to be on the front lines helping understanding and acceptance of those who are different from us and working for peaceful international relations. I plan to be involved in international business and investing in emerging countries to help them interface more effectively with the more developed nations. I also want to fight hunger, poverty, and illiteracy through social entrepreneurship. I hope to inspire ethical behavior in the world so that we can all be successful but achieve this success through helping others.

Most immediately I see myself attending graduate school, working internationally, and then ending my career as a professor who will inspire these values in the next generation of leaders who will lead our world.