The South China Sees

Back in Chengdu. And one thing hits you on the head: that China is definitely becoming buddy-buddy with Africa. Read the papers or watch Chinese TV, and you’ll see China and Africa are getting really close. (For instance this article from the People’s Daily.)

Indeed, it seems China is aligning itself with whatever countries the US isn’t involved in — Venezuela comes to mind. Forget Huntington and the Clash of Civilizations. In the Liz Aab crystal ball, the 21st century will be one of US-Northern / China-Southern alliance grab. China is positioning itself as a leader of the southern (aka developing) world, a region the US doesn’t (yet) feel is worth much of its political attention. Our mentality towards the developing world is more or less let philanthropists and NGOs deal with Africa. How many people can you name who have gone to Africa for some sort of project, Peace Corps or research or health care or building housing? And now, how many people can you name who went to Africa for business?

China realizes that they’re great value in having strong ties to Africa — natural resources and trade, I suppose (let me know if you know have thoughts on this topic). I met a Chinese guy last week at a tea house who’s uncle is opening a casino is Zambia. “Why Zambia?” I asked. “You can make money there. They need televisions, bicycles… and China can supply these things.”

And here’s another odd thing: there are twenty students in China on a 5 year Chinese government scholarship from a small island you’ve never heard of unless you frequent the Caribbean: Dominica. (Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.) Dominica is an island of 70,000 people, on which the Chinese are building a massive stadium that my parents told me can fit the whole island. Weird eh? Why would China want to have such strong ties with an insignificant country at the pivot point of the Caribbean sea, 400 mi east of Cuba and 300 mi north of Venezuela? Hmm.


I’m just starting to read a fascinating book on the Opium Wars now. As far as I can tell, the Brits went to war with the Chinese in the mid 1800s because they wanted to buy tea to go with their scones and coddled cream, and the Chinese didn’t want to buy anything from them in return. This had created a trade deficit wit China (like the one our former snowy-haired Treasury Secretary whined about but which our shiny new Treasury Secretary doesn’t mind — I agree). And the tea deficit irked the (also snowy-haired) Brits who already decimated the seal population in order to recreate trade balance. Befuddled, the snowy haired Brits started listening to gansta rap and determined the best solution to quick money was either by pushing drugs, becoming a gansta rapper or basketball. The snowy-haired Brits couldn’t rap and the Chinese weren’t yet interested in hoops as Yao Ming wasn’t yet born. So it was then elementary my dear Watson, and opium dens sprung up in China like poppies in the Wizard of Oz. The Chinese government in response went on a War on Drugs rampage. They threw some stones at the Brits who bombed them from the Star Ship Enterprise and other advanced naval vessels. The British Empire got Hong Kong and dim sum and of course tea, which apparently is now being sold in America in gourmet pyramid baggies under the ingenious label “Pyramid” according to an article in the NYT this week.

Feel free to correct me.

I mention this to provide you background to this morning’s pop quiz: what’s the number one US agricultural export TO China (excluding Hong Kong)? Hint: it’s not fresh oranges (that’s #2).

Answer: Frozen chicken. (See the USDA’s full list.)  The Chinese love chicken, ALL parts of it let me tell you, but c’mon, will the US really dig ourselves out of a trade deficit by selling them KFC? Unless our plan is to help them fatten up and get diabetes so we can sell them our expensive prescription drugs…. (Would the ensuing confrontation be called the “Insulin Wars”? )


  • Chinese people who work part-time at McDonald’s make 4.5 RMB / hr — that’s a little more than 50 cents an hour.
  • If I pass out flyers at a trade fair, and look foreign, I can make 150 RMB / hr.
  • If I tutored or taught English, I can also make 150 RMB / hr.
  • If I tutored or taught English, but looked Chinese, it would be only about 40 RMB / hr.


And then the most exciting news of the day: I finally got my act together and put up a website. It’s still in the beta phase, and I’m learning website-stuff as I go. But a major major shout out to Ben Delbanco, dear high school friend and computer guru who helped set up the thing. I think I may be the first person to outsource computer programming from China to New York…

Check it out and let me know what ideas for improvement you have:

Your panda-watcher, Liz


7 thoughts on “The South China Sees

  1. I guess all I’m wondering is how exactly I can go about getting my own fly website…also, how much Ben ripped off Blogspot in the formatting of this one. Not too much, I think-I think they also use something like WordPress. Though I know little about such affairs.

    Great emails, Liz, by the by. Very enjoyable. Tibet sounds like quite the experience-your descriptions of altitude sickness were accurate and mildly terrifying. Though I tend to hone in on the medical.

    Good insight on the moves China’s making, too. Any thoughts as to whether other middle/low income counties (notably Nigeria, South Africa, and India) might also engage in such machinations, or is China more driven to face down the current global system?

  2. Your website is fantastic, especially the “About Liz” feature. I feel like I know you so much better now.

    I have been focused on new stores in Macau and Shanghai, as well as getting daughter #1 off to college. Will write soon.


  3. Welcome to blogland! Population: Everyone.

    Seriously, you entries are awesome, and I’m glad you now have them conveniently archived. I feel like I’m getting a preview into what’s coming that NO ONE here pays any attention to, because it’s all terror, terror, terror. War, war, war. Jeez. Future? Who needs a future?

    Africa, huh? Are those guys still around? I thought Sally Struthers took care of them in the ’80s. Did I miss something?

    OK, on to my own political commentary. People ask me what I think about the Pope’s recent contentious statements about Islam. I refer them to the following for my answer:

  4. Liz, I am embarassed to say you outdid my CS4 junior year website assignment. Keep having experiences like these so you keep having updates like these to add!! What can I say, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Love and miss you. Allison

  5. James, wish I had some insight into India and other power players down South. Any political scientists out there? Are you seeing any China influence in Africa now that you’re there? — Liz

  6. I’ve been listening to BBC and just yesterday they were talking about how the IMF was complaining about the amount of money China was lending African countries. When I heard that I scoffed, because I already knew that. Let that be a lesson to the world, read Aabservations or be behind!

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