The rise of Asian Americans 

Asians now fastest-growing racial group in the US

Asians have surpassed Hispanics as the largest stream of new immigrants to the United States, hushing the population of Asian descent to a record 18.2 million and helping to make Asians the fastest- growing racial group in the country, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.  

They are more content than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success, according to the survey.   >> MORE

FACT:  Vancouver has the largest Chinese population in the Western world

Asian-Americans account for 5 percent of the population in the United States, they account for greater numbers at prestigious institutions like Harvard (18 percent), Stanford (24 percent) and the University of California, Berkeley (46 percent). At Princeton, they accounted for 13 percent of the undergraduate student body last year, and make up 14 percent of the current freshman class. - INTERNTATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE     23 January 2007

Diaspora forms 'bamboo' supply chain
A far-flung network of family and friends helps move goods throughout the world

The key links in the supply chain are the enduring familial and business relationships between merchants in southeast China and the country's diaspora.

"Who can hold a candle to the influence of the Chinese diaspora?" a British investment banker says of the estimated 34 million Chinese who live outside China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

Even those who have lived outside the motherland for generations are seen by Beijing as powerful vanguards in its domestic modernization march and its emergence as a global economic colossus.

"The Chinese government sees the overseas Chinese as a very important force," said recent Chinese emigré Zong Li, associate professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, who is himself busy developing academic connections between Canadian and Chinese universities.

"Their strategy is that even if you physically move out of China, you can still make a contribution to China through business and investments, and culture."

Beijing's policy reversal in the past two decades to allow Chinese to emigrate throughout the world, he said, was a deliberate move to invigorate an unbreakable "bamboo" cultural and business network to help modernize China.

In Canada, there are almost one million people of Chinese descent, and Chinese immigrants are arriving at the rate of up to 40,000 a year, making them the single largest source of immigration.

The community's numbers include the descendants of railway-building workers and the scions of billionaire tycoon Li Kai Shing, who has close ties to Beijing's power brokers.

More than half of the overseas Chinese live in Southeast Asia, where they have been moving for centuries. But they are now found on every continent and many -- even in small numbers and out-of-the-way places -- are fervently focused on doing business with their ancestral homeland.

Peru is home to one of the largest Latino Chinese communities. Chinese slave labourers working on sugar plantations were the first arrivals in the mid-19th century, and the fledgling Peruvian-Chinese community grew in the following century in successive small waves.

Like elsewhere, many of these immigrants established restaurants known as chifas in what is commonly referred to as Barrio Chino de Lima, one of the Western Hemisphere's earliest Chinatowns. But, as China sought to beef up its relations with Latin America, local Chinese business and cultural groups also became bridges for trade.

Today, China has become Peru's third-largest export market. Fishmeal and metals are the big products. China's Shougang Group owns Peru's major iron-ore mine.

Back in Indonesia, home to about seven million residents of Chinese descent, trade with China grew by close to 30 per cent in 2003 to the equivalent of $12.7-billion.

The burgeoning trade has developed despite well-entrenched discrimination against the ethnic-Chinese minority, dating back to the Dutch colonial period.

In recent years, the repeal of laws that banned the use of Chinese characters and publications, and outlawed public celebration of Chinese New Year, sparked a renewed interest in the old country.

By some estimates, business conglomerates owned by ethnic Chinese -- like the Salim Group, Sinar Mas, Lippo and Barito Pacific -- control upward of 70 per cent of the Indonesian economy. China is now Indonesia's fourth largest source of imported goods, primarily machinery, electronics and motorcycles.

China is also pouring money into infrastructure projects in Indonesia, the so-called "relationship investing" that was once a cornerstone of U.S. economic policy in developing countries. Agreements for soft loans totalling $400-million were signed in 2002. The money is being used to build bridges, power plants and railway lines.

While denying that trade policy favours Indonesia's ethnic-Chinese community, a Chinese diplomat in Jakarta conceded the relationship is partly driven by shared language and values.

"This is a sensitive issue between Indonesia and China because of our recent history," said deputy commercial secretary Li Haisheng. "The Chinese government's position has been made clear to Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, that if a person is Indonesian, they are not Chinese.

"But of course there are a large number of people here who can still speak Chinese fluently so obviously they are in a position to take advantage to do business in China. They can serve as a bridge between the two governments."

China in the world

Large overseas Chinese communities in several countries maintain strong links with their ancestral homeland, in some cases acting as a bridge for trade, investment and cultural relations.

The 10 countries with the largest populations of overseas Chinese:

Indonesia: 7,310,000
Thailand: 6,100,000
Malaysia: 5,280,000
Singapore: 2,291,100
Philippines: 2,200,000
Myanmar: 2,000,000
United States: 2,000,000
Vietnam: 1,900,000
Canada: 1,270,000
Formers Soviet Union: 680,000

Global distribution
Population of overseas Chinese by continent:

Asia: 28,175,750
Americas: 3,570,750
Europe: 1,618,640
Oceania: 570,625
Africa: 136,865

-by Paul Dillon and Estanislao Oziewicz      Published in GLOBE &      23 Oct 2004

Asians top US foreign wealth list

Asians earn the fattest incomes and are the most qualified and employed among the foreign-born population in the US, the latest US Census Bureau report reveals.

Asians made up a quarter of the 33.5 million foreign-born Americans, who in turn made up 11.7 per cent of the 288.4 million population, the report said.

Those who are not US citizens at birth are classified as foreign-born.

"The Asian population is doing well in terms of socio-economic characteristics in the US," Census Bureau statistician Kevin Deardorff said.

He said Asians had a tendency to have higher incomes and higher educational levels. The report, based on data from the 2003 Current Population Survey, showed that 87.4 per cent of Asians in the US had at least a high school education, compared with 84.9 per cent among those from Europe and 49.1 per cent from Latin America.

The proportion with a bachelor's degree or higher ranged from 50 per cent among Asians to 35.4 per cent for those from Europe and 11.6 per cent from Latin America.

The proportion of foreign-born workers in management and professional occupations was highest among Asians - 47 per cent - compared with 41.3 per cent among those from Europe and 12.7 per cent from Latin America.

Based on total household income, the report said 53.8 per cent of Asians earned US$50,000 or more a year, compared with 42.7 per cent among those from Europe, 29 per cent from Latin America and 44 per cent among US natives.

The median household income nationally was US$42,400 in 2002.   - AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE    7  Aug 2004  

Some facts:

1. From Nations to Networks 
2. From Export to Consumer "cultures"
3. From Western to the Asian Way
4. From Government-controlled to Market-driven
5. From Villages to Supercities
6. From Labour-intensive to High-technology
7. From Rich to Poor
8. From Traditions to Options
9. Emergence of Women
10. From Belief to Fundamentalism

Asians have unique consumer profiles. Their homogenous traits have demonstrated impact as a market unto itself in certain brand name consumer products.

  • high disposable income

  • highly educated

  • adaptable and highly mobile

  • superstitious and culturally aware


China holds cards in Trade Wars

With help from some Western spin doctors, Beijing is learning how to answer American threats about trade sanctions - shut up, or we'll cut off credit to both Uncle Sam and Wall Street.

China's usually secretive officials yesterday launched their first open push-back campaign aimed largely at political critics of China's cheap economic machine - mainly Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Chinese officials began giving unprecedented public interviews warning that China may liquidate its more than $1 trillion in holdings of dollars and U.S. IOU's in the event of U.S. arm-twisting via a trade war.

A drastic dumping would cause the greenback to crash, ignite a bond-market panic on Wall Street and send oil surging well past $100 a barrel almost overnight, experts said.

One of China's most outspoken officials, He Fan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that any kind of trade war the U.S. might launch in order to force China to alter its currency values would trigger what analysts call China's "nuclear option."

"If we start a trade war with China, they would end it on the first day with an atomic currency bomb," said Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital. "We can't fight a trade war with China - we don't have any weapons, just IOU's."

The two Democratic contenders for the White House have caused an international furor with their trade-war saber rattling, blaming China for stealing factory jobs from America and demanding that Beijing boost its yuan currency to make prices higher for its goods sold abroad, in an attempt to make American exports more competitive.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a China expert from his years running Goldman Sachs, said a trade war could be a disaster and "trigger a global cycle of protectionist legislation."  - NEW YORK POST   9 August 2007

China declares its support for greenback
This follows suggestion it may dump US$ holdings in a trade war

(BEIJING) China yesterday delivered a vote of confidence in the US dollar, saying dollar assets form an important part of its foreign exchange reserves and the US currency plays a prominent role in the global monetary system.

The comments, made to Xinhua news agency by an unidentified central bank official, follow a report last week by a British newspaper suggesting that Beijing could dump its vast US dollar holdings if a trade war broke out with Washington.

'US dollar assets, including American government bonds, are an important component of China's foreign exchange reserves as the dollar enjoys a major position in the international monetary system based on the large capacity and high liquidity of US financial markets,' Xinhua quoted the official as saying.

Britain's Daily Telegraph said on Wednesday that 'the Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States', and was hinting that it might liquidate its holdings of US Treasuries if Washington imposed trade sanctions.

The story caused a stir in global markets. US President George Bush said China would be foolhardy to dump dollars, while the top Republican on the US Senate Finance Committee wrote to the Chinese ambassador seeking clarification.

Asked about the newspaper report, the central bank official said: 'China is a responsible investor in the international capital markets.'

His comments follow concerted liquidity injections on Thursday and Friday by global central banks to soothe investors' fears that spreading losses stemming from investments in sub-prime US mortgages could snowball into a global credit crunch.

Restating official policy, the bank official said Beijing's priorities in managing its US$1.33 trillion in foreign currency reserves were safety, liquidity and investment returns - in that order.

He said China had always taken a long-term, strategic view in its reserves management that took account of the changing trends in the global capital and foreign exchange markets.

'The close economic and trade relations between China and the United States play an important role in the stable development of the two countries' economies and the world economy as well,' the official told Xinhua.

The Daily Telegraph said recent remarks by Xia Bin and He Fan, two senior economists at government-backed think-tanks, were the first time Beijing had warned that it might use its foreign reserves as a political weapon.

Analysts and traders in China played down the two economists' remarks. They did not believe the comments indicated any change in Beijing's official policy and said their remarks in any case were not new. -- Reuters  13 August 2007

Beijing may soon let people invest abroad

China, holder of the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, is considering allowing individuals to invest directly overseas for the first time to ease pressure on its currency to appreciate, a regulator said.

'We are currently studying measures to allow individuals' outbound direct investments and securities investments, and we will further relax capital account controls related to individuals,' Deng Xianhong, deputy director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said in an interview carried on the government's website yesterday.

Chinese individuals at present are permitted to invest abroad only through licensed funds run by banks and brokerages.

China's foreign exchange reserves have swelled to a record US$1.33 trillion, encouraging the government to loosen capital controls that are aimed at safeguarding financial stability.

Starting Feb 1, China made it easier for individuals to convert yuan into foreign currencies while tightening controls on short-term capital inflows. The government previously required each transaction to be approved by the currency regulator.

Record trade surpluses have driven up the nation's foreign exchange reserves. The yuan has gained about 9 per cent since the government scrapped a decade-old link to the US dollar in July 2005.

China has resisted pressure to let the yuan gain more rapidly out of concern that companies aren't ready for a more volatile currency and pricier exports would lead to job losses.

Foreign exchange purchases by Chinese individuals between February and June more than tripled from a year earlier after the relaxed rules took effect, Mr Deng said in the interview.

Mr Deng didn't provide a timetable for further policy changes, adding that a decision will depend on whether the regulator can effectively monitor and manage further relaxations.

Chinese individuals can currently invest foreign currency in domestic B-share markets that are denominated in Hong Kong dollars and US dollars. They can also buy overseas securities through investment portfolios offered by domestic banks, fund managers and brokerages under the qualified domestic institutional investor programme, Mr Deng said yesterday.

No direct outbound investment by individuals is allowed, he said. - Bloomberg   17 August 2007

Reaching minorities a delicate art
Treading the fine line between recognition and insult

Prospective buyers at a luxurious condo development put the question to the architect: how can such high-end suites be so affordable? Silently, the architect demonstrates the answer by walking on water. Graheme / Koo president Ken Koo devised this advertisement for Concord Pacific's Aquarius project.

The message is clear to people from all cultures, he said: the architect and the developer were achieving the impossible.

Still, Koo tinkered with the television ads when he ran the spots for Asian audiences. He included an Asian female architect. The mainstream television ad showed a white male architect.

Asian buyers have fuelled Vancouver's real estate market and developers are increasingly targeting ads to cultural groups because they are afraid that trying to be everything to everyone can be a recipe for disaster.

Koo said targeted marketing to minority groups can boost sales even though critics say such advertising is condescending.

Koo warned developers to be careful with what they produce because some advertising can offend desired buyers without realizing it.

"Developers must be wary of cultural differences," Koo said.

Many groups like to feel that the developer is savvy enough about their culture to speak to them directly, he said.

That's why he employed a Hong Kong soap opera star to appear in advertising promoting a condo project called HV2.

The same development had a parallel advertising campaign geared to the mainstream community. Those ads included lifestyle photos with descriptive text.

The HV2 ads targeting Asians showed Chung Pui, who played a powerful developer in the soap opera At the Threshold of an Era. His recommendation conveyed credibility because people associate actors with their on-screen personas, said Koo. But the ad wouldn't work for the mainstream community because few people without Hong Kong heritage would be familiar with the character.

Koo built on Pui's character and was able to touch on the key project selling point that buying a condominium unit was a good investment. One TV spot showed Pui advise his son to buy a unit as an investment, Koo said.

"Before the stock market crashed several years ago the real estate investment market was predominantly Asian," Koo said.

Irix Design Group Inc. vice-president of sales Joe Mireault agreed with Koo that developers should be sensitive to cultural differences.

Mireault's firm specializes in Asian marketing. He follows general rules and advised against being too clear-cut and exaggerating differences.

He first tells developers that if their project is across from a cemetery or in a location where its address has fours in it, the non-Asian demographic is a better target market. Asians see those elements as bad luck symbols, he said.

Mireault believes Asians are more colour-sensitive than other people. When Irix developed ads for Cressey Development Corp.'s Magnolia development in Richmond, it used a soft yellow background instead of a white one because many Asians associate white with death.

"Yellow is a symbolic colour that is pleasant and relates to authority," he said. "Red means happiness and good luck in Asian culture. Blue has a sinister association. Purple is luxury and expense."

Other minority groups appreciate recognition and inclusion in condo advertising, said Gareth Kirkby, editor of Vancouver's gay newspaper, Xtra! West.

"Even if there aren't two gay men on their own, ads can hint at a strong gay aesthetic," he said.

Wasserman and Partners Advertising Inc. president Alvin Wasserman disagreed with Koo, Mireault and Kirkby that targeting cultural minorities can boost sales.

"Nobody wants to be singled out," he said.

He rejected campaigns showing same-sex couples in ads for a development in a gay neighbourhood as strongly as he opposes ads with overt Jewish symbolism that aim to sell to that cultural community.

"I think it's condescending," he said.

Instead of creating what Wasserman calls "pure ethnic plays," he likes to target consumers based on their income levels, ages and stages in life.  -   by  Glen Korstrom     BUSINESS IN  VANCOUVER   June 29-July 5, 2004; issue 766

Despite well-intentioned marketing many American multi-nationals have screwed up in Asia because they do not understand fundamentally Asian cultural values.    Their difference in viewpoints is well illustrated by the following story which appeared in the news.

Teflon comes unstuck in China `mass panic'

Concerns about the safety of non-stick cookware coated with DuPont's Teflon have triggered what a company spokeswoman called a ``mass panic'' among Chinese consumers, forcing retailers to pull all non-stick cookware from their shelves as sales plummeted.

The public alarm was sparked by news reports earlier this month that the the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had alleged that DuPont failed to report potential risks from the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used to make non-stick pots and pans.

News of the agency's move evoked little response in the United States and Europe, where Teflon has been on the market for decades.

Not so in China. Spurred on by heavy media coverage of the EPA report and a spate of scandals involving contaminated food, environmental degradation, and shoddy, locally made goods, consumers opted not to take a chance and spurned Teflon and other non-stick goods.

Retailers quickly responded to the buyers' strike. Last week Beijing Sogo and some department stores in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, removed non-stick cookware from their shelves, as did managers of some ParknShop supermarkets in Guangdong.

``After some news reports saying a substance in Teflon-coated pans potentially poses health risks, we started to remove the related non-stick frying pans from our shelves,'' an official at a ParknShop in Guangzhou's Tianhe District said.

Some individual homeware stores in Guangzhou's Tianhe and Wangfujing shopping centres also said they started to send Teflon-coated cookware back to warehouses as a temporary measure until the concern abates.

Although some large retail chains including Wanjie, Trust-Mart and Carrefour stores in Guangzhou still sell non-stick frying pans, their sales dropped more than 60 per cent in the past week, store employees said.

An official with one of the Wanjie stores in Guangzhou said sales of China-made brands of Teflon-coated cookware fell by more than 60 per cent over the past week.

``Today, no one shows any interest in non-stick cookware,'' he said.

``This is because the worries that using Teflon-coated pans might increase the risks of cancer have not been dispersed.''

Safety concerns have also delayed China cookware makers' new-product promotions.

An official with Aishida, one of the largest cookware producers in China, said the company suspended the promotion of its new non-stick frying pans amid the increasing worries on non-stick cookware.

But the official, who declined to be named, said the Teflon controversy did not seriously affect its non-stick cookware sales because 90 per cent of its production is exported.

Zhejiang-based Supor Cookware Company, one of the largest pressure cooker makers in China, said it was little-affected because most of its goods are shipped overseas.

Olivia Chan, spokesman for DuPont in China, said the company has complied with the reporting requirements of the law.

She said the company will file a formal denial to the complaint within 30 days, adding there is no legal basis for the EPA's allegations.

Given the chain reactions by supermarkets and department stores, Chan said DuPont is disappointed by the retailers' reaction and hopes it would be temporary.

Chan attributes the panic to media reports on the controversy.

``Even though we translated the full report by the EPA into Chinese soon after some news reports misinterpreted the report, the extensive coverage has triggered the mass panic,'' she said.

Chan said PFOA has been used for 50 years in Teflon and the cookware is safe since PFOA is vaporised during manufacturing.

DuPont China Holdings president Charles Browne said the Chinese media's ``misinterpretation and misunderstanding'' of the EPA's press release have caused unnecessary concern among mainland consumers and the government.

``This misinterpretation of the EPA press release has led to unease about using non-stick cookware. PFOA is not hazardous to human health,'' he said. In an attempt to ease concerns, a ``crisis team'' comprised of senior DuPont executives from the United States, Hong Kong and Shanghai flew to Beijing for a meeting with the quarantine authorities.   - by Olivia Chung    THE STANDARD   22 July 2004

Female visible minorities now earning more than their white counterparts, study shows
But wage gap is the reverse for men in visible minorities working in Vancouver

Canadian-born women who are visible minorities in Vancouver are earning more than their white colleagues, but the reverse is true for their male counterparts.

Krishna Pendakur, a Simon Fraser University economics professor who produced the research findings, said it's hard to explain the earnings gap between whites and visible minorities in Vancouver, but added he was surprised it still exists.

"It looked like it was shrinking, but then it grew out again," said Pendakur, 36, adding that he grew up in Vancouver and has not experienced racism.

The research shows Canadian-born visible minority males in Vancouver typically earn six per cent less than their white counterparts with the same education and language skills.

In 1971 they made 10 per cent less. That number dipped and eventually hit zero in 1991, but then climbed to six per cent in 1996 and 2001, said Pendakur, who conducted the study with his brother Ravi Pendakur, who works with the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Karen Mock, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, said visible minorities today still face systemic barriers to employment.

"You do still find barriers due to subtle discrimination," said Mock from the foundation's Ottawa office. "People are passed over for promotions, excluded from the inner circle. The studies show these are some of the experiences racial minorities have in the workplace."

For visible minority women born in Canada, the Pendakur study showed the opposite is true.

Their research shows they were making 14 per cent more than their white counterparts in 1971; the latest research suggests the gap is still around 10 per cent.

"Visible minority women used to work a lot more hours than white women," said Pendakur, adding that the trend might still exist today.

The Pendakur study compares groups with the same education and language skills but doesn't track the type of job they're doing or the industry they're working in.

All were born in Canada and all have similar education and language skills.

Roslyn Kunin, a Vancouver labour market economist, said current research shows people of East Asian origin, such as Chinese or Japanese, tend to have a favourable earnings gap compared with other visible minorities.

"There is a high propensity toward education in those groups," she said. "It's a tradition within families, a desire to do well in the new country."

According to Pendakur, explaining the discrepancy is a question of access or desire, because factors such as education, training, household status and language were similar.

"Visible minorities may have preferences that take them different places in the labour market," he said. "They want different stuff."

Or they have different access. However, that theory would suggest access by visible minority females is greater than that of males.

Kunin said earnings gaps are often systemic and related to cultural beliefs, and can take a long time to close.

The gap between aboriginals and whites is much larger than that for visible minorities, the Pendakurs' research revealed.

The latest survey shows aboriginal females earn about 37 per cent less than their white counterparts with the same education, while aboriginal males earn about 50 per cent less.

The research was driven by the Pendakurs' belief that while studies have generally shown immigrant groups often face significant and substantial labour market disadvantage, there's debate over the degree to which minorities in Canada are subject to similar disadvantage.

Mock said closing the earnings gap will take further research to show a diverse workforce translates into a healthier bottom line for companies. - by Tracy Tjaden   BUSINESS IN VANCOUVER   June 29-July 5, 2004; issue 766


Cultural intelligence measures your ability to negotiate the multicultural maze
A high IQ won't prevent cultural faux pas, but your CQ might

VANCOUVER - What is your "cultural intelligence" quotient?

Even if you have a high IQ (intelligence quotient), a sensitive EQ (emotional quotient), and a lot of experience just being yourself around the world, you might still be a bull in a china shop prone to misspelling "cultural faux pas."

On the other hand, you might be a unilingual meat-and-potatoes hockey fan, but you understand what Scandinavians mean when they joke that the Danes invent it, the Swedes make it, and the Norwegians don't buy it.

If you're feeling culture shock while shopping at Metrotown, or are offended by friends who can't use chopsticks, Dave Thomas, a professor of international management at Simon Fraser University and co-author of Cultural Intelligence: People skills for global business, is hoping to find a way to measure your CQ.

With a federal government research grant, he's planning to meet a dozen scholars from Israel to Indonesia for a brainstorming session in Vancouver in January to invent a way to quantify someone's ability to zig instead of zag through the multicultural maze.

"There's a lot of people who are intelligent with good social skills, but they're inept at interacting with people of other cultures," says Thomas, a white American whose accent has been formed by working in New Zealand, France, Hong Kong, Japan and elsewhere. "People ignore cultural issues to their detriment."

The good news is that Vancouver ranks with Melbourne, Auckland and Oslo among the world's most open, tolerant, culturally cool cities, he says. "Vancouver's not perfect, but we're pretty good. Canada is certainly better than our neighbours to the south.

If you talk to people from New York or Los Angeles, they often feel more comfortable interacting here."

The bad news is that many of us are still on "cultural cruise control", merrily offending our friends and co-workers because we expect everyone to behave and react like us.

"Much of our behaviour is semi-automatic mode," he says. "It's like the person who drives from point A to point B every day, remembering nothing about the trip, as opposed to the Indy car driver, who pays attention to every little detail. If we go through on cruise control, we might mistreat someone and not know it."

In business, he says, the result of cultural incorrectness is an "astronomical" number of failed joint ventures in China, burned out and bewildered workers returning prematurely from overseas assignments, and communication gaps, compassion fatigue, and language wars breaking out in companies.

Especially, for instance, where staff at an IT firm in Surrey have little face-to-face time with colleagues in Bangalore.

"Business is notoriously poor at using these kinds of measures in making hiring decisions for overseas assignments," he says. "They tend to focus on technical skills. They think that if someone was a great manager in Ottawa, they'll make a great manager in Tokyo."

But that's often not the case, he said.

The problem for managers, teachers, or coaches is that cultural chasms often widen below the surface. "It operates at a level they can't see, " says Thomas. "Something goes wrong and then we say 'What the heck happened?'"

He says a CQ test might help companies better assess whether a star staffer from Port Moody is going to pan out in Port Moresby.

It would also make people more aware of the need for greater awareness.

Many books explain what to do when in another country. In general, here's what not to do:

- Treat someone as though they are you.

-Judge someone based on how you would act in a given situation.

- Suspect someone is being devious because they don't look you in the eye. "Many cultures find direct eye contact offensive. But in North America, it shows you're direct, honest, forthright," he says.

-Think your joke was funny because she covered her mouth laughing. "With some Japanese women, for example, nervous laughter could mean 'I'm afraid' not 'I'm happy'," says Thomas.   - by   Chris Johnson  VANCOUVER SUN    21 July 2004

Forget the white-bread '80s MTV. Now MTV Chi and other outlets cater to Asian Americans

On a recent afternoon in the darkened basement conference room of the Chinatown Community Development Center, 10 San Francisco teens are gathered around a noisy little box to watch MTV's newest incarnation, MTV Chi, a channel designed strictly for them, young Chinese Americans.

Queena Chen, a 16-year-old from Burton High School, hates "24," loves "Malcolm in the Middle" and can tell you what happened on each of the "CSI" episodes last week. Jake Nguyen, a 17-year-old student at Washington High, keeps three Xanga blogs and a Myspace account, and watches TV online. The group's musical tastes are intriguingly eclectic -- hip-hop, R&B, alternative, K-Pop (Korean pop), J-Pop (Japanese pop), Vietnamese pop. They know where to tune in to the hottest Cantopop on local radio (and won't hesitate to call you "vintage" for calling it Cantopop) and, like generations of Asian Americans before them, they know the names of every token Asian actor or actress on network TV.

They and their other ethnic Asian American peers have quietly become the target audience for a growing number of media outlets, including Imaginasian TV, AZN TV, American Desi and MTV. "Asian Americans are the third-largest ethnic group in the country. They happen to be the fastest-growing group in the U.S.," says Nusrat Durrani, the 45-year-old general manager/senior vice president of MTV World. "More importantly, though, it's a very influential audience. It's the most educated, it's also the most tech-savvy, and it is an underserved audience."

To fill the gap in the market, the past two years have seen a flurry of firsts. In August 2004, Imaginasian TV became the first 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Asian American channel. Comcast soon followed, transforming its International Channel into the primarily English-language AZN TV. American Desi, aimed at South Asian Americans, premiered in December 2004 on the Dish Network. Durrani's efforts at MTV World include MTV Desi, which launched in July, and Chi, which launched Dec. 6. MTV K, for Korean Americans, will premiere later this year, and a fourth channel is in development.

What distinguishes these startups from the average network venture is a sense of urgency. Emily Chang, a 27-year-old Imaginasian executive and the network's main "face" as the host of "The Lounge," says the network is about "giving a voice to Asian America." It's a mission she continues from her previous stint as a member of the fiery, acclaimed Pan-Asian spoken-word group I Was Born With Two Tongues.

"This is not just the next new promising market of people of high income or something," she says. "We've gone through those very experiences of being Asian American and not being able to see Asian American faces on TV reflected. There is no one who is going to provide this to our kids unless we do it ourselves."

During the '80s, an MTV commercial showed the network's logo as a sandwich cut in the shape of its distinctive "M," loaded with mayo, mustard, mystery meat and tomatoes, then ketchup-squirted with its "TV." It made sense. Back then, the network was pretty much white bread. Twenty-five years later, MTV is on the menu in 429 million homes in 169 countries on every continent. "We have made it our business to connect with young people in their language and tell their stories around the world," says Durrani. "Look, we're not curing cancer, but (MTV World) is a historical project."

A native of Lucknow, India, raised on the sounds of Begum Akhtar and Osibisa, Cliff Richard and Little Richard, Durrani embodies a casual sort of progressive cool. He dresses in black-on-black high-end denim and keeps his hair in a fashionable George Harrison mop top. A poster for D.A. Pennebaker's Dylan film "Don't Look Back" that hangs in his office seems to have been chosen not just for what it signifies but also because its black-and-white op-art design nicely matches his outfit.

Durrani describes his first encounter with MTV in 1993 as something of an awakening. Although he had a comfortable job in marketing at Honda in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, he uprooted his family and moved to New York City in order to land a job at MTV. He started as an unpaid intern. At the end of 2004, he was named the head of MTV World.

He spent 2 1/2 years researching the Asian American channels, doing the requisite number crunching, but also convening house parties and focus groups. He refers not just to "the need" but to "the hunger" for Asian American-targeted programming. In one internal video screener he assembled for MTV Networks Chairman Judy McGrath, a young Asian American woman says, "A forum like this will really help us become unified, and then that will make it a lot easier to kind of bring a lot of what we stand for to a mainstream audience." Says Durrani of the channels, "The emotional component is always palpable."

MTV personality and San Francisco native Suchin Pak produces and hosts "My Life (Translated)" for MTV Chi, an intimate look at issues affecting young people of color. In a recent episode, Pak examined Asian Americans' desire for eyelid surgery. Karen Lee, a 22-year-old Danville native, was hired straight out of New York University as MTV Chi's first employee to produce news segments on Asian American artists and community issues. (Full disclosure: I was the subject of one of them.) In one of her short clips, one young Chinese American talks candidly about how she perceives beauty and desirability. In another, slam poet Beau Sia declares, "There are no Asian American role models."

But clearly the channels hope to create role models, to shape how Asian Americans see themselves and, just as importantly, how others see Asian America. The hosts for MTV Chi are the picture of Chinese American diversity. There is the petite 19-year-old firebrand Angel Tang, the 20-year-old metro fashionista Xiao Wang, the 29-year-old comic from the Pacific Northwest Simon Yin and the mixed-plate Chinese/Pacific Islander 23-year-old actor from Texas, Gregory Woo. Taken together, they do not merely reflect Asian America, they represent the breadth of Asian America to non-Asian Americans.

Because of this, the channels may represent a major shift in Asian American media. Until now, "ethnic" newspapers such as the World Journal, the Rafu Shimpo and Asian Week have been the dominant media in the community. Written largely by and for Asian Americans, they were particularly powerful during the social protests of the 1980s -- whether the issue was anti-Asian violence, Japanese American redress and reparations, or discrimination in college admissions.

A turning point came with the 1994 premiere of Giant Robot, a zine put together by two Los Angeles hipsters, Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong, that presented a bento box of Asian American culture. Alongside good old "yellow rage" were compartments for Hong Kong cinephilia, Japanese anime and toy fetishes, U.S. indie-rock and art-school bona fides. The magazine -- which has spawned destination boutiques in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco -- defined a generation. "It was 'Here's all this cool stuff,' not 'Look at all of our problems,' " says MTV Chi's Karen Lee. Giant Robot celebrated how fun it was to be a young Asian American. It was an open invitation. The magazine's Web site notes that its readership is "about half Asian, half not."

Durrani argues that Asian Americans have become powerfully influential on popular culture. It's not hard to see his point: Take the b-boy/b-girl revival, rice-rocket car culture, even Gwen Stefani's Orientalist turn. With Latino pop icons crossing over and African American hip-hop becoming the mainstream, the young execs believe Asian Americans' time has come.

But building from boutiques to big business is difficult work. The upstart Imaginasian has had to carve out cable contracts city by city, and is still available in San Francisco only on Comcast Channel 28 on weekday evenings and late-night weekends. Even with MTV's muscle, both MTV Desi and MTV Chi are sold only as part of ethnic-specific "international" packages. In a more troubling development, parent company Comcast fired most of AZN's staff a day after MTV Chi's launch. The network still broadcasts a trickle of new content, but many insiders worry that Comcast officials have already decided that a network-scale business model is premature.

None of this seems to matter to the young people at the Chinatown Community Development Center. They are transfixed by MTV Chi. Once the launch welcome by Zhang Ziyi is over, they lean forward in their chairs, scribble down the names of artists, excitedly talk back to the television. They believe what they are seeing is unlike anything they have yet seen in their media-saturated worlds.

They take in music from Beijing punkers Brain Failure, Southern California-raised Playboy model Kaila Yu, and Mando-rockers the Flowers. They cheer for Chinese American rapper Jin and Taiwanese heartthrob Jay Chou. They know all plot turns in Jin's "Learn Chinese" video, and sing along with the melody of Chou's "Qi Li Xiang."

The Top 10 Chi Countdown -- determined by online voting on the network's Web site and not exclusive to Chinese and Chinese American artists -- matches the group's eclecticism. This show, which originally aired in December, includes New York-via-Austin indie rock from Johnny Hi-Fi, a Mandopop ballad from Jolin Tsai, sunny Singaporean pop from Stephanie Sun, and Madonna's "Hung Up." (Chi's current top 10 features UC Berkeley escapees Putnam Hall, Cantopop singers Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse, Kelly Clarkson and the inescapable Jin.)

Seward Yu, a 16-year-old Lowell student, thinks Countdown host Angel Tang is hot. Chen is annoyed by Tang's over-emphatic gesturing. "Can we tie up her hands, please?" she asks. During the "Making of MTV Chi" news segment, everyone groans when William Hung flashes onscreen.

After the lights go up, they passionately debate poet Sia's contention that there are no Asian American role models. For her part, Betty Wong, 15, a student at Galileo High School and the youngest of the group, is nonplussed by all the identity politics. "(That segment) was boring. If I was watching and they kept showing those, I'd turn the channel," she says.

The conversation turns to programming. Chen wishes MTV Chi would air Hong Kong personality Edison Chen's "Punk'd"-style show, "Whatever Things," from MTV Asia. She hates "D-Tour," a reality show featuring five supermodels from South America and Asia on a "Road Rules"-style trip. Wong loves it.

Tammy Yan, a 16-year-old Galileo student, wants programs such as MTV's "True Life" series that feature "regular" Asian Americans, depicting "the true us." Her brother Calvin notes, "The only way for Chinese or Asian recognition is through pop culture. When you see a movie, you might see Jackie Chan, but there's always another funny non-Asian guy along with the Chinese guy.

"Chris Tucker," adds Yu.

"Yeah!" Calvin Yan says. "It would be nice if there's only Chinese by themselves."

"No, but like," interrupts Queena Chen, "society isn't up to that yet."

"Especially America," adds Yu.

Nguyen speaks up from the back. "Maybe this isn't the solution. The channel is not going to provide the answer, but what it can do is provide a steppingstone to the answer." Everyone nods in agreement.

Queena Chen then asks, "Can we see the other 4 1/2 hours you have?"      - SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE   24 February 2006   Jeff Chang's book "Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation" is out in paperback. He is working on a book on the future of American identity.

HELLO! TAI TAI has effected cross-cultural global strategic investments with many of the world's richest Asian tycoons and Singapore's sovereign funds  for over two decades now.       We share a few practical experiences - VIGNETTES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PACIFIC  Enjoy!


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