Monday, January 23, 2012

Economist: Fujifilm vs. Kodak

Most recently, The Economist magazine had two articles in a row comparing Kodak's woes and Fujifilm's revitalization. They are very much worth of reading. In particular I like the following quotes from the articles, which I specially shared here with the Thinking Space readers.

"...most important, firms must resist looking for a magic wand when hard work in needed."

"It is easy to think that companies can compete by outsourcing production and focus on developing and marketing. But many innovations bubble up from the factory floor. ... Today, as debates rage in America over the degree to which returns on capital exceed those from actual business operations, and the relative merits of employment in manufacturing versus the services sector, the history of Kodak is more relevant than ever."

The links to the original articles:

1. The last Kodak moment?

2. How Fujifilm survived?

A New Year Post and the new generation Chinese

Today is the Chinese New Year. Sincerely I wish all the readers of Thinking Space a great new year of dragon!

In this very first post of 2012, I would like to share how the new generation Chinese (typically to who were born after 1980) are thinking of some old, but at the same time very much timely, topics of mankind---revolution, democracy, and freedom.

The year of 2011 is remarkable for the global-wide revolution of looking for more freedom and democracy. From Tunisia to Egypt and Syria, and to the Wall Street, revolution and protests were everywhere. In consequence, TIME magazine made the Protester the person of the year 2011.

Being the largest nation of the world that remains the dictatorial leadership, China was expected to be greatly affected in the movement by many western human-right activists. In reality, however, the nation is barely shaken. At the end of December 2011, just few days before the new year, Han Han (韩寒), the most popular and well-known blogger in China, published his so-far most profound and clearly-stated viewpoints on revolution, democracy, and freedom. The three blog posts, "Speak Revolution" (谈革命), "Say Democracy" (说民主), and "Ask Freedom" (要自由), are the manifesto of the Chinese new generation on what they believe China will and shall be in this rapidly changing world. Han Han, being the speaker of this new generation Chinese, organized and concluded the message.

To anyone who are interesting in the contemporary China or the people who want to learn the future of China, he must pay attention to the three articles. In this post I therefore share some selected viewpoints from them. Moreover, I add it with a few comments of my own. Hopefully the comments may help the readers to understand better of the original messages.

Speak Revolution (谈革命)

Q: Does China need a revolution?

Han Han: No. China needs reform. But China does not need revolution.

The problems of having revolution in China:

(1) Only the cruel persons could (and would) be the ultimate beneficiaries of revolution. This is especially true in the eastern societies (such as China) that are constituted of many different classes and with very complicated interest distribution in heritage.

(2) Besides anti-corruption there is no other general consensus in China. Anti-corruption, however, can only be served as the cause of a revolution but not the goal of a revolution.

(3) Normally the goal of revolutions is to realize the common interest such as "freedom" or "just". There are, unfortunately, no markets of these issues in the contemporary China. Most Chinese people "feel" that they are now free. When being asked about just, most Chinese do not really care of it until themselves are unjustly treated.

Therefore, in the contemporary China revolution is impossible. The only transformation that may occur is reform. And it is happening.

Q: Isn't the problem of China too great to a reform?

Han Han: If it would be a revolution and suppose it were not suppressed (very unlikely) by the government, the following would become reality.

In the middle of the revolution, we will face the problem of whom leads. There will be no consensus among the students, the ordinary city citizens, the social elites, the intellectuals, the peasants, and the workers. In particular, the about 250 million people, who are very poor and previously have no access to Internet at all, will stand out. The revolution, no matter how it begins, will end with another wave of predatory wealth redistribution (in the name of "getting MY money back"). The middle-class will be destroyed. People will kill each other to grasp more money. Only if the society might be in disorder for 5 years, the people of China would look for a new dictator to end the turbulence and they would bow to his dictatorship. Revolution in China has no hope of bringing the true democracy.

Q: When would be the best time to have revolution and realize democracy in China (if it might happen)?

Han Han: Revolution and democracy are two less-related terms. One does not lead to another. In our history we have proved that revolution can not guarantee to bring democracy. History had given China an opportunity. The generation of our fathers had made their choice. Today China is the least likely nation of the world that may have revolution. At the same time China is with the most urgent need to be reformed. If you insist on asking when the best time of a revolution is, it will be when everyone automatically turns off the high beam of their cars on the street intersections. In fact, however, when it does come true revolution has already become unnecessary.

My comments:

Symbolically in the current China being able to access Internet or not divides Chinese into two groups. The ones who can access Internet are the beneficiaries of the economic reform. The ones who cannot are the sacrifiers. The people of the western society are often only able to hear the voice of the economic-reform beneficiaries. Precisely Han Han is a speaker of this group. Although many times Han Han writes and makes voices for whom cannot access Internet, it is undeniable that he represents only the ultimate interest group of his stand, the economic-reform beneficiaries. It distinguishes him from some other aggressive Chinese human rights activists such as Liu Xiaopo (刘晓波).

The ratio of population between the said two groups determines the stability of the current Chinese society. Since the economic-reform beneficiaries take control of media and government, the revolution of China may not occur unless the number of the economic-reform sacrifiers become significantly greater than the number of the economic-reform beneficiaries. Until now it is not the fact. Therefore I agree to Han Han's observation---currently in China there is no chance of any revolution that is similar to the Arab Spring to happen.

As in any society, people who are grouped because of benefit will break quickly as soon as the benefit becomes no longer. This is why Han Han asks for more and deeper economic reform. And this is why the Chinese government has to make all efforts for sustaining an annual growth rates of 8%. The longer the economic reform continues being effective, the more time China may keep its stability.

There is not going to be revolution in China soon. But the risk always exists because the economic reform has not addressed and will not solve a very fundamental conflict in Chinese society---the conflict between ethics poverty and immoral wealth. Pessimistically Han Han predicted that only the cruel persons might be the ultimate beneficiaries of revolution. It is inferred by the fact that during the economic reform the majority of the great beneficiaries get their benefit through the immoral ways such as corruption. The slogan of the Chinese economic reform ("white cat or black cat, whoever catches mice is the good cat") disclaims the value of morality and truth in the process of economic growth. By the theory it is only the economic outcome that matters. This philosophy accompanies the growing-up of the Chinese new generation. And it has become the dominant style of thinking among this generation.

Empowered by such an outcome-directing philosophy, many of the Chinese new generation become extremely selfish. They do not care of environment until the environment around themselves fails. They do not care of poverty until themselves become poor. They do not care of just until themselves are treated unjustly. Everything must be self, self, and self-centralized. It is truly impossible to imagine a revolution participated by them. On the other hand, the situation is desired by the dictatorial government because the risk of organized anti-government movements is thus restricted to the minimum.