Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Is Competition or Cooperation Better for Leadership Development?

In the capitalist societies of today, often winners in the race to the top, of wealth, prestige, and power, is determined by constant competition for limited resources among all capable actors.  Many have been taken aback by the ruthlessness of such constant competition, arguing that the hostility of the competitions bring out the worst in our leaders, prioritizing success over ethics and goods human relations.  However, examples can demonstrate that for the youth to become good leaders, competition is still necessary for honing their necessary skills, including the very ability to seek cooperation in order to achieve certain goals.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Hey, Looks Like the Rain is Coming on the Other Side!"

This blog discusses rains quite a lot, and perhaps that is unsurprising given how central rain patterns are to the agriculture-centered local economy.  Indeed, when in villages, one of the most common topics of conversations is whether or not rains have come, when did it come, how long it was, and how strong was the downpour.  In a place where motorcycles are the chief mode of transport, the coming and going of rains is not just important to gauge the success of crops, but when and how long trips to the next village or market town can be.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

How a Geopolitical Alliance of China and Russia is Exploiting the US's "Imperial Overreach"

A hundred days into Donald Trump's presidency, it is almost comical to see how his foreign policy has deviated from what people thought it would be when he was first elected.  People thought was going to make amends with Putin, only to see him profess that Russo-American relations has "reached an all-time low."  They thought he would pressure hard on China for unfair trade practices, only to see him profess his "good friendship" with Xi while refusing to label the country a currency manipulator.  They thought he would take America out of foreign entanglements, only to see military presence increased in Syria and Korea.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Media's Sensationalization of Voicing Asian Injustice as a Threat of a "Fifth Column"

The incident involving police brutality against Dr David Dao, an Vietnamese-American passenger in the United Airlines flight in Chicago has sparked widespread outrage among the general public in the US.  The Asian-American community has especially been up in arms about the fact that the passenger in question may have been selected and roughed off because he is of Asian descent. Media outlets both in the US and across the world has been quick to cover the story, with several videos emerging out of the incident to evidence the level of what is perceived as unnecessary force by the police throughout the incident.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What is the Perverse Incentive behind “Close Enough is Good Enough”?

A few months ago, there was a good article written on the prevalence of chabuduo (roughly translated as “close enough”) mentality in China.  A mentality widespread among the nation’s craftsman, it is responsible for countless examples of shoddy manufactures that together plague the reputation for “Made in China” both at home and abroad.  The article argues that the persistence of the chabuduo mentality, so ingrained in modern-day Chinese economy but largely absent historically in its ancient civilization, presents itself as a massive obstacle for the country to move up the value chain.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Key to Ending Ivory Trade is not Bans, but Increase in Supply of Ivory in the Market

In economics, there is a type of product called "Veblen good" that does not contradicts the normal supply-and-demand relationships.  For a normal good, a decrease in supply corresponds to an increase in price, leading to a corresponding drop in demand as consumers reduce consumption and/or seek out cheaper substitutes for the now more expensive product.  But for a Veblen good, while decrease in supply also leads to a price increase, demand actually surges, with consumers assigning higher value to the good due to the higher price of the good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is "Proper" Customer Service for an "Outsider"?

The author has been living in the town of Iringa for so long that, not entirely deliberately, he has become a frequent customer in many of the town's local eateries.  Given that it is rather unusual to see Chinese people hanging out in local eateries to begin with, he has become a largely recognizable face among the staff of these eateries.  And as a recognizable face, he is often treated with smiles, handshakes, and quite a bit of eagerness with it comes to being informed of what are on the menu and recommended for the day.  For the longest time, the author simply thought such behaviors are just the norms of how staff in food places talk.

Friday, March 17, 2017

「学生」という身分だからこそできる世界の「巡り方」

たぶんご存知でない方もたくさんいらっしゃいますが、著者の学生生活は日本で始まった。5歳で中国から移住していた著者、言語が分からぬまま入れられてしまった石川県金沢市のとある保育園は実に最初の学校経験であった。その後もそのまま隣の小学校に入学し、両親が学術研究で忙しいため、放課後には町が運営する児童センターで毎日何時間ほど過ごした。そのおかげで、12歳にアメリカに移民する前にはすっかりごく普通で日本っぽい小学生になっていた。

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can Honesty be a Trait not Developed but Enforced?

A few years back, the author was traveling through the city of Hamburg in northern Germany during his vacation days as a Master's student.  Perhaps one of the most shocking (at least to the author) was how the subway trains crisscrossing the city did not have actual entrance gates in most stations.  Instead of a series of gates where commuters had to stick their train tickets into before emerging on the other side so that they can proceed to the train platforms, the Hamburg metro simply had ticket machines inside the trains to validate tickets, while the stations themselves simply connected to the outside without restraint on entry or exit.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Does an Unusual Practice Become a Norm?

About a year ago, the author wrote about how few people here in Iringa carry umbrellas and do not mind being in the rain.  It was just another when the author was taking a motorcycle taxi across town when the rains started to fall heavily.  The author did have an umbrella in his hand, but the motorcycle was going way too fast for it to be opened.  Even as the drizzles turned into downpours, the author did not even attempt to get the motorcycle driver to slow down or stop. As his clothes grew wetter from the rains, he realized that he stopped minding being in the rains...in a way more Tanzanian, maybe.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nationality as a Practical Tool: Is the Future of Citizenship not Tied to Patriotism?

What does being "American" mean?  When hearing the word, one can usually conjure the pictures of loud being with distinctive accents proudly talking about the wealth and power of their home country, the global ubiquitous pop culture, and voicing their worries at the current political directions.  Inevitably (and often quite obviously), these same people will have citizenship of the USA.  Without the need to elaborate, the fact that they have the citizenship of the USA makes them America, and entitle them to speak of the country's culture, politics, and wealth in a matter-of-fact, this-is-my-business manner.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Journey Outside the USA Continues....

Many readers of this blog may or may not realize that the author of this blog is actually an American citizen.  Yet during more than six years of this blog's run, the vast majority of posts are written in locations about topics that are distinctively unrelated to the author's country of citizenship.  Even when written, America only exists as an elusive point of reference for other countries, a passive player looming large in the background that features much in the collective psyche of the local populace, but not nearly as much in the workings of their daily lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is "Enough" Really Enough?

When the author was traveling around Eastern Europe a few years ago, a Chinese man met on the bus told him of a Chinese friend who used to work on a potato farm in Russia.  The man said his friend was busy gathering potatoes during the season when all the sudden, the boss of the farm told him to stop.

“Hey, we got enough potatoes for the season, so you can stop now,” the boss said in a rather matter-of-fact way.

“Wait, so what do we do with the rest of the potatoes?  We still have many hectares that we haven’t harvested,” the friend was positively confused by the boss’ order.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why Speculation Makes for the Best Political Propaganda

To anyone outside the highest echelons of North Korean political hierarchy, the Hermit Kingdom's state-directed intentions remain completely opaque.  Any provocative moves emerging from the country almost often come as unpredicted and surprising, giving major media outlets all that much more to work with when they think about breaking news headlines.  In the past years, that usually meant the next missile or nuke testing that raise the blood pressures of the Japanese and South Koreans.  But apparently the North Koreans have other initiatives up the sleeve that change up the pattern a bit.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Can A President Trump Spark a Massive Increase in South-South Migration?

An immigrant leaves his/her homeland for a reason.  For some, different political and religious beliefs opposed by the ruling establishment force them to seek more tolerant host societies.  For others, familial ties and international romance must be maintained through physical relocation.  But for the vast majority, migration is about economic opportunities, a chance to escape relative poverty by heading toward destinations that offer better-paying jobs and a safer, more orderly, and more entrepreneurial environment to realize unfulfilled dreams of individual prosperity.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How Lack of Financial Discipline Fuels an Explosive Growth of African Government Debt

In his work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki attempts to dissect the mentality of the poor, the middle class, and the rich.  Among all the differences he notes of the three, one is constantly repeated and stands out as pivotal in the difference.  The rich, he argues, invests in assets and not liabilities.  And when the rich makes these investments, they do so through incomes earned through assets, and not by taking on more liabilities in the form of loans to be repaid.  By wisely investing in income-generating assets within their means and then reinvesting resulting incomes in more assets, a small initial capital can quickly turn into a large sum.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is Lack of Optimism a Bottleneck for Development in Africa?

There is an interesting fact that few foreigners know about Japan.  That is, the biggest ethnic population of Japanese people outside Japan live in Brazil, numbering more than 1.6 million for a diaspora that just 2.6 million strong worldwide.  From a modern-day perspective, the oversized presence of the Japanese in an economically struggling and geographically distant country like Brazil seem rather strange, especially when Japanese migrant populations everywhere, including in US, Europe, and Asia, are shrinking as fewer Japanese seek to go and live abroad.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"丟東西"對國民性的啓示

著者幫助建立的幾家小店中有一個共同的現象:開店不過幾周就有十幾張客戶的身份證被遺忘在店員手裏。雖説本店需要用客戶證件作爲貸款的前提,但這些證件衹需要被看到而完全無需留在店裏。當然,店員也從來沒有想要任何人的身份證。對他們來説,額外保存這些東西沒有任何實質上的意義。可也就不知爲什麽,多個客戶在知道身份證忘在店中也沒有着急,以至於即便店員多次打電話給這些客戶,這十幾張身份證還是遺留在店中達幾個月之久。照此下去,可能這些證件注重會在繁忙的店中丟失。

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When the Atmosphere Determines a Holiday

Chinese New Year, come to think of it, can be a very elusive holiday.  Since it follows the lunar calendar that shifts back and forth relative to the Gregorian calendar in use today, the exact date for it fluctuates every year.  There simply is not a clear reminder that "ah, it is Dec 25 today, so it is Christmas" or "ah, it is Jan 1 today, so it is New Year's Day."  Instead, to remember Chinese New Year's, one often just go with the flow as everyone else celebrates.  The local malls and streets, and at home the dinner table and the decorations certainly would not have one forget the important day.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Enviable Professional Freedom of an Academic

Many people see one's academic and professional lives are two separate,distinct phases.  Schooling is something done in young age, a process of learning that culminates in certifications that signify one's ability to think critically and apply certain skill sets.  Those skill sets are prerequisites to a second phase, professional work that apply and further enhance academic knowledge that can be directed and sharpened to achieve certain goals that are worthy of financial compensation.  For most, one leads to the other (sometimes in reverse), and the two rarely, if ever, crosses paths.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"So, What is the Real Africa Like?"

As predicted in the previous post, the author's time in Japan cannot possibly pass without having to answer some questions about Africa.  The questions are really as general as the title of this post suggests, and the inquiry usually comes with unusual solemnity incompatible with the rowdiness of restaurants filled with drunken salarymen.  A deep breath needs to be taken before an answer is given.  The inquirer is expecting some serious details, and with so much seen in Africa, it is difficult to select for which details that will most interest the inquirers within their short attention spans.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Art (and Lack Thereof) of English Language Meetups in Japan

Despite the continued doubt about exactly how useful English language really is in Japan, there is no denying that there is in fact an active, if small, segment of avid English learners in Japan.  To call them "avid" does not imply half-heartedness.  Instead, the avidity comes from the fact that there really is no urgent need for them to learn the language at all.  They do not use English in their jobs, they have no need to travel abroad for either work or pleasure, and indeed, they have no need whatsoever to interact with foreign persons or cultures if so they wish.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What Does a Korean Hostel in the Middle of Tokyo Says about Internationalization of Japan

The author is a big user of hostels.  Being cheap locations with many people to meet and relative safety of numbers, they generally fit the author's intention to travel on the shoestring and bump into random people in random places.  Interestingly enough, the author had never before stayed in hostels in Tokyo, despite having lived in the country for over seven years.  The current trip gave him that particular opportunity, as he specifically sought out perhaps the cheapest place to sleep in central Tokyo, with the price tag of about 180 USD for a whole week and a half of stay.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How Does Old Age of Its People Transform An Economy

Japan is a country of old people, the stats are very clear on this point.  With one of the world's lowest birthrate and the highest median age, the country is set to become more and more elderly in the coming years and decades.  But those numbers do not really sink in until one hits the streets and sees the country at work.  Especially on menial public services jobs (such as street cleaners, trash pickup, train station maintenance staff), the average worker is definitely no less than 40, and more realistically (averaging) somewhere in the 50-60-years-old range.  It is sad to see such old folks bending over to carry large bags or wipe low places.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ringing in the New Year's in Rural Tanzania

Looking at international news on New Year's Day, they are filled with the revelations of big ities around the globe.  The massive firework displays, the pulsing light shows emerging from skyscrapers, and the thronging crowds counting down in joy, the big city celebrations certainly deserve the coverages they get for their sheer scales, efforts, and mass participations.  Here in the little frontier Tanzanian town, the same, of course, cannot be expected.  But in its own, much more toned-down way, the people did go out to usher in the New Year, with drinks, food, and more reasonably scaled gatherings.