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Taken at the Three Gorges Dam in Oct. 2010.

Before leaving for China, Dennis West, publisher of our beloved local paper here in Wisconsin, said if I did a photo of me reading The Beacon, on the Great Wall of China, he’d run it in the news. We’ll see. Here’s the pic — it was a drizzly, misty day, and I had to climb a million wet stone steps and take a ski lift to get up there, but it was so cool to actually be at this historic site. And here’s a shot of another good-looking dude in the no-longer-Forbidden City area of Beijing.

On our trip through China the past two weeks, we were driven in Chinese-made cars, as well as a Buick Regal. The Buicks are built in Shanghai, where they are  considered a luxury brand. We saw them in every city and town we visited, and drove in a black one for 3 days in Beijing. An interesting Chinese brand is built by BYD, formerly a Chinese battery company that makes a lot of the world’s cell phone batteries. A guy named Warren Buffet has invested $250 million in BYD, which company PR lore says stands for either Build Your Dreams, or Bring Your Dollars — you pick. Another car we rode in, and it is shown here, is built by FAW (First Automobile Works) HongQi, a state-owned company, and has the look, fit and finish of a Lexus. FAW also builds a luxury limousine, including the one the President of China rides in, that sells for a modest $1.2 million. At the car-building city of Changchun, we saw dealers for virtually every global brand and saw car carrying trucks, each with 16 new Chinese cars aboard, by the hundred. China is now the largest automobile market in the world, out selling the U.S. by 60%, and its cars are nearly ready for the U.S. market. Watch for their EVs (electric vehicles). Warren Buffet is.

Just back from 2 weeks in China, I came away with one overwhelming impression: China is temporarily hyping its economy building millions of urban residences that won’t be filled, creating a housing bubble that will make the one in the U.S. pale into insignificance. This brand new city of high rises along the Yangtze River in central China, for example, is just 5 years old and has a population of 600,000, larger than Milwaukee. Everywhere we went, from Shanghai and Beijing to cities in the interior, construction cranes span the horizon and modern highrises crop up in clusters that could house another 20,000 here or 50,000 there. 80% of the Chinese are rural, and 15 million a year move into cities in search of jobs in new and growing industries. By 2004, China had 108 cities with populations over one million, and that will swell to 221 such cities by 2025, vs. 35 in all of Europe. My feeling is that jobs won’t grow fast enough to keep up with the housing boom, and I understand from a recent article ( that there are already 65 million vacant new urban homes in China. Building all these homes employs a lot of people, generates a lot of investment in construction and artificially makes the economy seem more active and prosperous than it is. But how long can China get away with a currency with buying power 40% below the dollar, and nearly 70% below the Swiss franc? As purchasing power tries to balance out, the demand for cheap Chinese goods may falter, industrial growth may slow, and China will have a housing bust to end all busts. Then what will the central planners do — manage another people’s revolution? My sense is that China’s growth is going too fast, and is being forced beyond what markets will absorb. China’s urbanization is impressive, but in my book, excessive.

See this new analysis from “Mother Jones” magazine: in

And by the way, per my earlier blog during the spill, neither the government, BP or the news media ever moved away from using “barrels,” of oil, which is an obsolete term in the industry and not comprehensible to most Americans, in favor of something we could easily relate to like “gallons.” This is gross distortion, just like BP and the U.S. governments estimates during the spill. The real rate of spill was often on the order of one million gallons of oil a day — how often did you hear that?

No wonder people lose faith in government and the news media, not to mention the criminals at BP. No truth. No justice. This nation is being degraded by these ingrates, who dangerously underestimate the populace and undermine their reputation for credibility.

I’m at the point in life where I get alumni publications and emails — and read them.

It’s interesting to see how some organizations view and treat their alumni. Of course, if they don’t need to raise money from them, like universities, that communication might be much more quixotic.

I’ve worked for several companies and public relations agencies in my career. One major company has had an off and on relationship with alumni. For some years they only viewed alumni as retirees, and on and off have supported a retiree organization. They’ve hosted a few events, small and large, sponsored a retiree website, and had a committee of current and former employees to plan and overview this. Right now, with more retirees than ever, including many helped off the ship through “rightsizing” programs, all is abandoned, even the website is gone. As for those alumni who have left the company short of retirement, they seem to be generally viewed as “the enemy” under the assumption they may have gone to work for the competition. As an old boss told me when I was hired years ago, “If you ever leave, don’t wait for the phone to ring.”

Another firm, a global PR agency, had an alumni website for several years, but abandoned it, probably through lack of interest both inside the firm and by those alumni, even though many could influence or become potential clients. Now that agency publishes an occasional letter with updates on the firm and a link to the founder’s blog, which is emailed to the old alumni list. New alumni can sign on if they wish.

Meanwhile, those colleges I’ve been associated with publish beautiful 4-color print magazines, and keep the emails and events flowing — they need and want our money.

Guess it’s just like life in general — those who still want something from us reach out, and those who are through with us — are through. I’m not bitter, just bemused.

October 2010

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