Monday, September 24, 2007

Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 in the Capital Markets Industry

A pilot study on awareness and use of Web 2.0 by Canright Communications and Evalueserve found that of the executives surveyed, 44% were “extremely” interested in Web 2.0 for business, but only 17% felt “extremely” or “very” knowledgeable about the technology.

The survey results—which were distributed at the Financial Markets World Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 in the Capital Markets Industry event today—mirrored the speakers’ sentiments: the business community in general imagines grand possibilities for Web 2.0 technologies in the workplace, but the barriers to adoption, such as lack of understanding at the executive level or compliance issues, are still great. So great that the speakers were able to give only isolated success stories, and no universal suggestions, to the mostly financial audience.

I came to the event excited to be educated. I knew a little about Web 2.0, but I was overwhelmed by the possibilities I saw in the news and just wanted authoritative instruction on how to filter through all of the noise. (I also wanted to see David Teten, my colleague and co-Managing Director of Nitron speak and moderate one panel).

The most informative sessions to get the overview were Matt Nelson of TowerGroup’s opening remarks, and the last talk I attended, Dion Hinchcliffe’s ‘Applying Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 in Financial Services: Early Notes from the Field’. In fact, Dion’s absorbing speech would have been better placed early in the day, as it provided a good background, real-life examples of Enterprise 2.0 successes, and a straightforward summary of its shortcomings.

Other speeches and roundtables drilled down on specific topics, like Instant Messaging, Collaboration, Web 3.0, and David’s talk on using Web 2.0 to source deals (I did not hear the last talk by Tom Steinthal of BSG Alliance). Since I was learning about these areas for the first time I was only able to understand on a superficial level, but was most impressed by Penny Herscher of FirstRain and her simple yet sharp insights (e.g., Web 2.0 will profoundly change buy side research).

Stephen Leung, a Senior Manager at BEA Systems, who was a panelist on both the ‘Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 in the Financial Services Industry’ and ‘Rich Internet Applications and the Client Portal: Using Web 2.0 to Improve the Client Experience’ panels, spoke loads on the infrastructure and applications side of Web 2.0, and probably received the most questions from the audience, but the discussion was unfortunately too technical for me.

Although the roundtable topics had various titles, and nearly all of the discussions went overtime out of lively discussion, I didn’t come out of the event in control of Web 2.0 like I thought I would; I just learned how much more there was to it, especially more creative uses of Web 2.0 apps for businesses than I could have imagined.

In following the “Top 10” theme used by Xignite Chariman/CEO/Founder Stephane Dubois to kick-off the first roundtable, here’s my Top 10 Learnings from the event:

10) Web 2.0 technologies should fit into existing workflow and should be invisible to users.

9) The finance world’s secrecy and competitiveness inherently conflicts with Web 2.0’s nature of viral, self-correcting information sharing.

8) Longtail, mashups, fine-grained entitlement, folksonomies, meta data, geo-tagging and MetaWiki are good things.

7) Individuals can use Web 2.0 tools to leverage existing social networks to generate sales or make deals. One can do this outside of any business structures, based on one’s own diversity of contacts, character, competence, the relevance and strength of one’s contacts, and access to information.

6) Executive decision makers’ lack of information on and understanding of Web 2.0—“What’s the ROI?/I don’t have time for this!/Kids these days and their crazy technology…”—prevent companies from realizing adoption. Any new technology would face similar barriers.

5) Web 2.0 is not a technology or a step in development, but a social concept.

4) Legal/compliance teams haven’t yet figured out how to effectively regulate Web 2.0 tools without reducing them to meaninglessness. But giving employees unbridled Web 2.0 tools is also incorrect.

3) Internal company Wikis—which act as a unified log for all project developments and conversations—are a successful example of Enterprise 2.0 in the real world. Key to success is to motivate employees to use it and control the structure themselves.

2) Each element of SLATES (Search, Links, Authoring, Tagging, Extension, and Signals) is required for a Web 2.0 tool to be effective.

1) There is no clear solution for how the capital markets industry should integrate Web 2.0 into business. The interest is there, but Web 2.0 is still effectively consumer-driven, not enterprise driven.

More discussion on Enterprise 2.0 is in order, but before then, more actual application of Enterprise 2.0 in the workplace would be more informative.

Originally edited and posted by David Teten on NextNY, Circle of Experts blog, and The Virtual Handshake blog.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Nanjing chosen as capital of China's new Cha-ching! Dynasty

Last week, Louis Vuitton opened its Nanjing store. It opened with all of the pomp and ribbon-cutting and champagne and full-page newspaper ads announcing itself that one would expect from LV anywhere in the world. What I didn't expect, though, was the literal mobs of shoppers that rushed the store the second the doors swung apart.

Nanjing people are known for their, well, modesty. They don't expect too much in life, so they're fairly content with what they have. Nanjingers don't have as a high a per capita GDP as the Sang-hei-nin down the river, but, as they like to say, at least they aren't in Anhui. Having acted as China's capital for the 11th time just last century (almost as many times as Xi'an), the past is a much more exciting topic than the future. It's almost as if the important modernization projects going on -- the skyscrapers, the subway, and booming new satellite towns like Jiangning -- are happening to them, not by them.

So I was taken by surprise by the photo in the Yangtse Evening Post of crazed shoppers clamoring for bags that have a six-month waiting list in Tokyo. I mean, what happened to the good ol' days when Nanjing girls wore polyester stockingettes that didn't match? When old ladies fought on the street? When summers were spent jumping off the Shuiximen city wall into the moat?

Two great quotes have been on my mind that are giving perspective to the designer phenomenon:

"Consumerism is the belief that goods give meaning to individuals and their role in society."
--Gary Cross, An All-Consuming Century

"Development can be a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy."
--Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom

Consumerism isn't new to Nanjing. Before, there were Playboy man-bags. Now we have LV man-bags. What is different, it seems, is how much brand has trumped other considerations, like quality and even personal taste. Average Nanjingers' happy-go-lucky status, perfected over the years, is becoming one of material competition seen in Shanghai. Gone are the days of hiking in the mountains or going to Confucius Temple for yummy snacks like duck-blood soup red bean porridge. Those are just for tourists now; ironically, the tourists now experience a Nanjing that no longer exists for the natives.

The obsession with branding is now literally like branding in the bovine sense. No longer do your clothes belong to you; you belong to them, which is demonstrated by the prominent logos. Example: there is Polo shirt now popular here (let me know if it's anywhere else) in which the teeny tiny Polo appliqué is replaced with one that takes up a 1/4 of the shirtfront. The sole purpose must be to see from space that you are Polo.

If you asked any of the twenty-somethings who went to Louis Vuitton on Day One why they liked LV so much, could any of them describe what I assume is the reason for its fame -- the craftsmanship, or the design? Doubt it. Even more essential, could they explain why they themselves are so attracted? Doubt it even more. These Gen-Y/one-child-policy children/little emperors, according my top source (XM's mother) care only about surrounding themselves with trappings of the good life, as defined by the society in which they are competing.

So, Nanjingers -- at least the young and salaries ones -- are giving meaning to their lives through spending all their cash on expensive stuff. I can't help but think, though, how is that contributing to their upwards development? Where do people go from here, except an endless spiral of wasteful consumption of stuff you don't know you actually don't want, you just think you do? 'Cause that what looks like happened where I grew up. This herd mentality (lots of cow metaphors today) is tying people down, rather than bringing the freedoms of development.

I admit I can't stop how Nanjing or its people changes, and I don't want to keep it from developing. I don't want to become its cultural warlord, either. Maybe my rant today is an expression of White Man's Destiny Part II: Revenge of the Other, in which I want to help Chinese rise not above their original savage ways, but above the McLifestyle, marketing savvy and consumption patterns that we have exported to them. Or maybe I just suffer from first-world ennui, and want to say that I live in--gasp--!!!CHINA!!! And I want !!!CHINA!!! to keep its stockingettes and man-bags and people yelling at each other on the street so there's something to laugh about with the folks back home.

But actually, I just want Nanjing to be a place where people are happy that they have so much already, 'cause mountains and and pipas and even awesome dead bugs have intrinsic value. And heck, at least it isn't Anhui.

Originally posted on Lost Laowai on August 5, 2007.

Year of the Not-So-Golden Pig

I am always a bit behind in writing and posting ideas. This post would optimally have hit the blogsphere, sometime, say, in the months before an estimated 22 million Chinese women conceived in order to give birth to babies before the end of the year.

But alas, it's too late to stop them. However, my inability to think of other stories journalistic integrity requires that I bring forth the information I know regardless of the consequences (not like I expect any Chinese mothers to be reading this blog, for foreigners, in English).

Dear readers, the most vocal elements of the Chinese press would have you believe that this is the year of the Golden Pig, a magnificent year full of wealth and auspiciousness (hence all the babies). Now, everyone knows it's the year of the pig because it rolls around every 12 years and is thus hard to get out of order between the dog and the rat. But whence the golden in the year of the Golden Pig?

Sneaky, brainwashing capitalists, that's who. According to Wikipedia and a number of skeptics and dissenters like this site (in Chinese), we are in the year 24 of the 60-year cycle, or the year of the Fire Pig. Yes, the Fire Pig, folks. (A couple of other sites dispute that it's actually the Earth Pig year, but my calculations still yield Fire Pig.)

I don't know who first came up with this idea that this year was golden, but it's been promulgated most evidently by jewelers, who—unsurprisingly—have seen great sales in golden pig items this year. Every few weeks my local daily, the Yangtze Evening Post, features an "article" about what kind of jewelery to buy. Soft advertisements Articles like this one drop names like Orient Department Store and Millenium Star Jewelers. Another one from the same paper, which was not reproduced online, discussed which kinds of jade from TESIRO were most appropriate for Golden Piglets to wear. English language media like the Shanghai Daily and even the Economist take the bait (the Economist actually just reports on the baby boom caused by it, and doesn't question the nomenclature).

Now, it makes sense that marriages and births would be up the past two years, since the baby boomers from the early 80s are now getting married and having kids of their own. I'm not against an increase in the rate of births and sales of diapers and baby insurance, per se. What bothers me is retailers' intentional distortion of 5,000-year-old oracle bone fact and slapping of "golden" on innocent zodiac animals.

The media deserve an even bigger reprimand for corroborating the falsehood, which has actually caused people to 1) have babies because it's a "lucky" year, overflowing schools and heightening the already-intense competition on these poor kids; and 2) spend their hard-earned kuai on useless golden-piggy merchandise. There are of course articles out there refuting the Golden Pig myth (how else would I have known?), but they seem to have fallen on deaf ears for the recently married/superstitious/illiterate/gullible crowd.

For the record, the next golden pig year will actually occur in 2031, which in itself is misleading. The original meaning of the character , is metal, not gold. So, in 2031 women will be birthing metal pigs. I suppose that is less painful than fire pigs. But fire pigs have such magnificent personalities! From one random site in Chinese (my abbreviated translation):

2007, ding hai year: (mountain-crossing pigs) are clever and intelligent, self-supporting, peaceful do-gooders, and wealthy. Women will be fortunate and stable.

First posted on Lost Laowai on July 7 2007.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Does Life Imitiate Zhang Yimou Movies, or Does Zhang Yimou Just Make Sh*t Up?

Under the streetlamp, a man crouches on the ground. “Needles and thread”, he calls. The snow muffles the transmission of his words, and the night covers him. No one comes.

A woman in labor helplessly bleeds to a slow death. The instruments clatter to the floor as the young nurse panics, and the doctor, still in shackles, goes into convulsions after being fed buns and water after days without food.

A pregnant woman again asks a man, again, for an apology. The man, from within his yard, throws money at her instead. It falls to the ground, flips thinly in the air, scatters. The woman does not pick it up.

A child’s face. Wide-eyed, pencil in hand. Earnest and dirty in black and white.

These are the images of China that I can still remember I had before coming here. Going through them mentally now, as I write, they are just as powerful as they were eight, ten years ago.

I started watching Chinese movies at around age 17. I had taken a beginner’s Japanese course in tenth grade, and my interest in Chinese cinema drew from my interest in anime. After exhausting all of the anime on the video store “Asian” shelf, Zhang Yimou movies followed naturally. I was a fan of neither Shirokawa nor Bruce Lee.

For anyone who has seen Chinese movies like “To Live”, “Red Sorghum”, “Qiu Ju” or “In the Heat of the Sun”, the imagery is unforgettable. The plots are unadorned, characters often give to silence, and the shots are long, all which allow time for the images to sink deep in one’s mind. I must have watched “To Live” five times. I cried each time, several times throughout the movie. I wondered, why are Asian movies so sad? Years later, an Asian-American friend finally enlightened me: “It’s because Asians think sadness is beautiful.

After exhausting that video store collection, I thought little of China until college, and even then, it was more of an afterthought, a Plan B. I was intent on a degree in Japanese, or International Relations. Freshman year I took a course way out of my league called “Political Economics of Southeast Asia”, a graduate-level seminar. The professor pitied me, and rather than write a paper on the topic at hand, had me write a book review of Kristof and Wu Dunn’s China Wakes.

It was thus vicariously through that (now) New York Times Op Ed journalist and his wife that I witnessed T****n, danced with corrupt politicians, and sans entry permit took a train through the impoverished countryside. It was also the photo pages of China Wakes that featured that now-famous schoolchild, her big black eyes representing the millions of other Chinese schoolchildren and their big black eyes and their collective dream to end the depravity through education.

As it turned out, neither Japanese nor International Relations were my forte, so I made the bold decision to screw it all and start again from zero with Chinese, promising myself that a year of intensive study abroad would get me across the threshold of acquiring proficiency in somethingforgodsakes. I indeed must have crossed some threshold, because after all these years in China behind me, I still don’t want to go back.

P.S. Learnings since my first impressions? 1) Just like America is not like Hollywood, China is not like Zhang Yimou’s countryside. For emphasis, Chinese people hate Zhang Yimou (even though they make sure that each of his new films beats the previous in box office earnings). 2) Journalists are contortion artists that are always able to kaleidoscope significant yet neutral information to fit western audiences’ preconceptions of The Other as democratizing/not democratizing/threatening/stark and pitiful/changing for the better/enigmatic. Mr. French and colleagues, don’t disappoint us.

The First Honest Apartment Advertising in China

In American suburbia, like the one I grew up in, new housing developments fell into two categories: those named after the streams and hills which they drained/bulldozed to develop, and those named using esoteric Celt words that sound mysterious and intoxicatingly inviting.

The apartment buildings Chinese developers are popping up makes good ol' Plum Run and Turnbrae seem low class; what Chinese city doesn't have a Cité International or Imperial Garden By The River? I'm pretty sure Shanghai had a governmental order a few years ago (I couldn't find the article) to stop using foreign place names in their new buildings, since it so painfully wronged respectful, Shanghai-unrelated places like Santa Fe and Venice.

I know, this comes as news to no one, since I'm not the first person in the blogsphere to mention this romanticizing phenomenon, and I'm actually quite late in doing it, but I just had to bring attention to the apartment building which, I believe, is the first to be brutally honest about itself.

It is called Muma, or in English, "Trojan Horse".

Muma's advertisements cover bus stops and billboards across Nanjing's downtown. The ads feature models in gauzy, filmy wispy dresses and strappy high heels standing next to horses (the strappy heels are "Grecian", get it?). These ads convey the boutique lifestyle that Muma is selling.

Now, after being flabbergasted by the sheer capital invested into so many advertisements, I had Muma on my mind and got to thinking about the name...why Muma? In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized Muma is a great name for all the apartment buyers out there fed up with unrealistic, misleading apartment names.

Think about what a Trojan Horse is: a huge structure used to bedazzle townsmen so that they throw open their gates unarmed, resulting in being plundered and overtaken. So...follow my logic...the Trojan Horse apartment building is actually intimating to potential buyers that all of the horses and heels and lovely ladies are all just a trick, a plot to get their money! In a market where image is everything, isn't that the perfect admission?

In order to check if Muma actually had a good reason for its name before writing what would be complete slander, yesterday I visited the construction site and the sales office thereon. Unable to get a comprehensible answer from Saleswoman Yi, I was happy to score a nice brochure-cum-lifestyle magazine instead. It gave no explanation either, but did detail apartment designs.

If the ads represent the intrigue of the horse, then the apartments represent its reality as a tool of deception. Muma, my friends, is typical of a serviced apartment: 37 or 52 sq.m., "essentially furnished", with windows facing north and having your living room television backing the dining room table. Basically, a cramped apartment for 1-2 persons max. Horse and girl not included.

Cost of a Muma apartment, per sq. m.: RMB 17,900

Entertainment value of being named "Trojan Horse Apartments": priceless.

First posted at Lost Laowai.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lost in Pinyin-ation

While in the Shanghai Museum a month ago, I picked up a museum guide flier “Treasures in museum’s collection” which featured this instantly forgettable sentence:

“Yuan Ji (Shi Tao), Zhu Da (Bada Shanren), Kun Can (Shi Xi), and Zhan Jiang (Hong Ren) were the four monk painters of the late Ming and early Qing period.”

It’s hard enough to internalize Chinese names if you don’t know Chinese (or if you do, but the characters aren’t alongside). But it’s even harder when everyone has two names, like all of these painters. The names in parentheses are their hao, what I would equate with self-selected pen names. Hao are often stamped onto paintings, in addition to signing. If the museum translated the hao after their names, the result would be as follows (my translation):

Yuan Ji (Stone Waves 石涛)

Zhu Da (Eight Big Mountains Person 八大山人)

Kun Can (Stone Stream 石溪)

Zhan Jiang (Magnificent Compassion 弘仁)

Now, those nicknames are much more approachable than the pinyin lets on! Visiting the Nanjing Museum on its free admission day over the May holiday, I found that the English translations alongside its artwork always gave just the pinyin names, too, even though everyone’s hao is interesting.

Someone should let these institutions know they need a new English translator. Do Chinese people not see the imagery of the characters like I, a non-native character reader, does? Hao remind me of Native American names because the symbolism is intentional, and are chosen to reflect the person’s personality. (Compare my dime-a-dozen “Lauren” to, say, “Buffalo Bull’s Backfat“).

Some famous Chinese have taken personalized naming to another level altogether: Qi Baishi (or should I call him Qi White Stone 齐白石), a modern Chinese painter most famous for his beginning painting at middle-age, used a host of hao on paintings, since he kept changing them over the years.

He didn’t stop with hao either; he also completely changed his first and last names, finally settling on the Qi Baishi by which he is best known. His “nomography” (I made that term up), which I have below, is a good example of how transitory a Chinese name can be (my translations):

Original surname and given name: 纯芝Chun Zhi

First hao: 渭青Green, 兰亭Orchid Pagoda

Later surname: 齐Qi

Later given name: 璜Huang

Later hao: 濒生Bordering Birth, 白石山人White Stone Mountain Person, 红豆生Red Bean Born, 木居士Wood Inhabitant…[1]

Qi Baishi is pretty typical in the number of names he’s taken as an artist. It’s as if a name is impermanent to Chinese people—at least all the famous ones, like artists, writers, and emperors. I wish I knew the history of this practice in China, or if any other cultures follow it. I mean, how do people do Chinese historiography research? How can you keep track of who’s doing what if their names constantly change?

Anyway, I don’t have those answers, so I’ll stop here and hope that someone will tell me. How is this at all relevant to laowai like ourselves? Maybe we should open out minds to the possibility of renaming ourselves as we change in life.

Next time you think about getting a chop made with your Sinicized name on it, reconsider getting a personalized hao instead. Or several. Maybe we can modernize them, as in “Skyscaper Hermit”, or “A retreat avoiding the crowds”…

[1] There are also some other weird hao he used which I don’t trust my own understanding enough to translate. He uses two characters, 寄 and 萍 often, which makes me think they have some personal meaning other than the vanilla translation. These are: 寄园, 寄幻仙奴, 寄萍, 毛萍, and 萍翁. If anybody has any guesses on these I’d love to hear.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First Post

Hello dear readers,

Welcome to my blog. I suppose it needs an introduction--a rasion d'être--so if you feel the same way, read on. I decided to start a blog as a means of expressing my thoughts, mostly for my own sanity, but also for the benefit of friends and family in the US who want to keep up with my Life on the Other Side of the World, the P.R. of C. It was hard to pick a "theme" for the blog though. I know having a theme, like "Nanjing History Blog" or "Comments on the Chinese Press", would make the blog a more interesting read for people who want consistency and go to different blogs for their individual themes. However, not wanting to be confined by a) subjects I don't know enough about (AKA all of them) or b) the same topic all the time, I have decided the theme of this blog can only, initially, be whatever inspires me to write. This is getting back to the blog as an outlet. If people do find that interesting after all, great. And if my thoughts end up drifting in a particular thematic direction, I'd be fine with that too--maybe it will be a way for me to learn a decent amount about some subject, like art or history.

Enjoy! I know I will.

Our Harmonious Society

By now, just about all laowai should have heard of our “Harmonious Society”. The first time I saw those words was about three years ago, in Chinese “和谐社会”, written in huge font on a billboard along the road just after the Lupu Bridge in Pudong, Shanghai. At the time the sign was an anomaly, but within the last year it's become ubiquitous. It's on red banners. It's on billboards. It was a major theme in CCTV's 2007 Chinese New Year program, probably the best indicator of its priority as a government message. It’s the name of the new high-speed trains, the “Harmony Lines 和谐号”, which started running in April. It has even jumped the party line into corporate consciousness: witness KFC’s new ad campaign, “Harmonious Family 和谐家庭” (ugh). Facing somber issues like the rich-poor disparity, uprisings, and government corruption, the Harmonious Society is President Hu Jintao’s way of curiously both admitting and denying that China is currently unharmonious: great effort at all levels has been put into writing the word “Harmony” everywhere, yet no clear definition, examples, or instructions about how to actually go about creating the Harmonious Society were given to me. Not until Yu Dan.

A few weeks ago, XM’s mother asked if we could help her buy a copy of TV lecturer Yu Dan’s Insights on , since she had heard it was a popular new explanation of the Taoist classic. Not having heard of Yu Dan until then, and I generally being confused when people speak in Nanjing-hua, we bought her Yu Dan’s Insights on instead, since it was in piles at the bookstore (realizing our mistake, XM went back the next day and scouted out Zhuangzi too). I didn’t give much thought to Yu Dan or Confucius again until last week, when I learned via Danwei that a small group of scholars had publicly taken issue to Yu Dan’s outrageously popular TV appearances on the show CCTV Lecture Room, and her books.

In sum, the three apparent issues people have with Yu Dan are:
1) She has compromised her scholarship (she’s a PhD and Media Studies professor at Beijing Normal University) by bending/editing Confucian thought so it applies to creating the Harmonious Society;
2) She has taken this obtuse philosophy out of historic context and boiled it down into inane and sometimes misleading jianghu which is entertaining to the masses;
3) Some of her explanations are just plain wrong.

As for #3, I’m not going to argue for her mistakes, since Confucius is tough and everybody makes mistakes (even though one of hers was really stupid).

However, I think her critics have missed the big picture in their other two complaints.

As for catering to the masses, first, Yu Dan is a Media Studies professor who in her spare time consults TV shows. She’s a specialist in high ratings, not the Classics. Of course she knows how to “make learning fun!” (i.e., simplifying). Second, she has even openly clarified that her shows and the books are a product of her personal reflections on The Analects—not some groundbreaking scholarly exposition. They should not be treated as the latter. Lastly, her episodes on CCTV Lecture Room were broadcast during a holiday last year, which in China means that other than those stupid (I mean, intrepid) enough to travel, essentially all your average Zhou’s sitting at home watching TV while eating chicken feet were potential viewers. And they loved it. In fact, shouldn’t that be the beauty of Yu Dan’s CCTV Lecture Room talks—they were an extremely successful step up from the lame kung-fu historical dramas (I mean, American Idol impersonator competitions) on these days?

And isn’t that just why she was chosen by state-run CCTV for the show—she’s smart, entertaining, and talks about how to achieve Harmony with your family and neighbors? It’s common knowledge that the government actively uses media to spread its own messages, not just filter those it doesn’t like. (I myself have, unfortunately, been on one staged TV contest, and cheered on an Indonesian friend who, despite an awful performance all around, won another. One fellow observer’s guess was that featuring Foreign Friends in these shows is to expose average Chinese to foreigners in advance of the Beijing Olympics, when they will flood the country).

But back to the government and Confucius…what critics seem to be forgetting as they get all hot and bothered about scholarship is that the Chinese government has always, as long as there have been Classics to interpret, interpreted them to their advantage. Around 2,200 years ago, Han dynasty founder Liu Bang grudgingly accepted Confucianism to legitimize his authority, and then changed it so it better resembled his preferred philosophy, Legalism…In the 5th century Northern Wei Buddhist political patrons claimed Lao Zi and Confucius were disciples of Buddha, in order to wrangle power amongst their respective followers…In the ensuing Sui dynasty, Confucianism and Taoism were again fused with Buddhism to legitimize it…I’m going in order here, and we’ve got at least 14 more dynasties to go. In sum, Chinese philosophy has time after time been used or abused to suit the needs of the ruling power. No one should be surprised that Confucius now teaches us how to contribute to a Harmonious Society. And to their credit, no matter how you interpret The Analects, Confucius actually does talk about harmony: don’t filial piety, friendship, loyalty, morality, and following rituals all keep people in order?

When I asked XM’s mom how she found the books, she said, “My memory’s not as good as it used to be. I enjoy what I’m reading, but I forget what I read by the next day.” Hmm. Maybe Yu Dan’s message isn’t getting through as well as the government hopes. And just the other day on the news it was reported that the top desires of Chinese included more money, a luxury car, a villa, and to win the lottery. Nobody mentioned harmony, but probably because it wasn’t a choice. Maybe using corporate advertisements as a vehicle for Harmonious Society are the better way to go after all. They won’t make any more sense, but at least we'll know who’s behind them.