Profile of TV host Yang Lan

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 5: (CHINA OUT) TV host Yang Lan attends the opening ceremony of the LAN Club Shanghai on July 5, 2008 in Shanghai, China. The club, occupying a four-storey classical building at the Bund, is the second in a series launched by the South Beauty Group, a luxury club service provider in China. The club boasts its grand lobby, Chinese lounge, bars, and the exhibition hall. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Fast Company has a cool profile of TV host Yang Lan. She is one of China’s biggest celebrities and she’s aiming to become a media mogul.

She has sought to turn that fame into a full-fledged business empire. Yang has created new programming for TV — including one of the first shows targeting women — and set up sites on the burgeoning Chinese-language Web. She has bought print publications; she sells credit cards; she’s even hawking a co-branded jewelry line with Celine Dion. She and her husband, Bruno Wu, are one of China’s richest couples; Forbes has estimated their wealth at about $300 million. All of which has led the foreign press — and her own handlers — to rarely miss an opportunity to call her the Oprah of China.

It’s not a fair comparison: The clapping session is an apt metaphor for the ways in which the Chinese-media marketplace — and Yang herself — is fundamentally more constrained than the American. There are the constantly changing government regulations; television, says Jeremy Goldkorn of the Beijing media blog Danwei.com, “is the most tightly controlled of all Chinese media because it remains the one truly mass media. There are a huge variety of rules and restrictions on TV content, and they change regularly.” And there is her generation’s own worldview; China’s fortysomethings entered adulthood as their nation simultaneously opened up (under Deng Xiaoping, to get rich was seen as progressively more glorious) and closed down (Tiananmen Square in 1989 imprinted on their young minds that breaking the rules was not the path to glory).

Yang Lan, 42, has done wonders to achieve what she has so far, being careful to maintain her above-the-fray image while morphing with the fast-shifting landscape. “You do what you can do,” she says with a sigh in lightly accented, fluent English. Some of her ventures have succeeded — her interview show has been one of the past decade’s megahits — while others, including her Sun TV network, have been huge flops. Through it all, she has held on to her biggest asset: her fame. Liu Yingqi, vice president of China Life Insurance Co., which sponsors New Girl in the Office, says, “She’s the audience’s Yang Lan, society’s Yang Lan.” But the same country that has embraced her and elevated her to such success has also kept her from being the woman she wants to be — Yang Lan’s Yang Lan.

Good luck to her!

China is now the world’s second-largest economy

Chinese construction workers dig a ditch in front of new business complexes in Beijing August 16, 2010. China is now the world's second largest economy, after outperforming the Japanese economy in size and domestic product.  UPI/Stephen Shaver Photo via Newscom

China passes Japan.

Can the Chinese keep this up, or will we see a bubble in China?

Chinese concept train straddles the highway

Train that straddles highway.

One of the biggest problems facing crowded cities today is transportation. If there is no existing subway or train system, building one can be extremely cost-prohibitive, not to mention disruptive to existing transit systems. The Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Company has an idea that could address the issue at a tenth of the cost of installing a subway. It’s a train that straddles the existing highway.

While the train looks intimidating at first, it’s actually quite smart. Unlike a subway, which puts trains underneath roads, Shenzhen’s design requires minimal infrastructure, using the above-ground routes already constructed. Presumably, it requires only tracks on either side of the road to operate, and would run on solar and grid electricity. The cost for building it is estimated at 10 percent that of building an equivalent subway.

China has already commissioned a test section of 115 miles of track in Beijing’s Mentougou district to begin later this year. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

Bribery in China

Bribery is a serious problem in China, but BusinessWeek reports that U.S. prosecutors, along with their Chinese counterparts, are stepping up enforcement.

U.S. prosecutors, empowered by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) to investigate allegations of bribery anywhere in the world, have been stepping up their activities in China, where a tradition of gift-giving in business often degenerates into serious graft. The FCPA bans U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials. It also applies to foreign companies like Siemens that list their securities on U.S. exchanges. Companies that violate the FCPA face millions in fines, and executives can go to prison. U.S. authorities have upped the number of bribery cases they pursued to a resolution around the world, from 11 in 2005 to 34 last year, according to Trace International, a nonprofit anti-bribery group based in Annapolis, Md. In a report released June 17, Trace pointed out that China, with 25 cases completed since enactment of the FCPA, fell behind only Iraq and Nigeria for the most international corruption prosecutions. Citing a World Bank estimate that more than $1 trillion in bribes are paid each year, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on May 31 called “combating corruption one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.”

Chinese prosecutors, meanwhile, are getting more aggressive under their own antibribery laws, says Patrick M. Norton, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson who focuses on international mediation.

Slowly but surely, the game is changing.

Deadly landslides in China

Soldiers hold shovels after mudslides hit Zhouqu County in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province in this August 8, 2010 video grab. Mudslides engulfed the town in northwest China on Sunday, killing at least 127 people and leaving nearly 2,000 residents missing as rescue teams dug out crushed homes and sought to blast away debris clogging a river. REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

Mudslides engulfed the town in northwest China on Sunday, killing at least 127 people and leaving nearly 2,000 residents missing as rescue teams dug out crushed homes and sought to blast away debris clogging a river.

Popping the China real estate bubble

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 28: (CHINA OUT) A view of the skyscrapers in the Lujiazui Financial District opposite the Bund is seen on July 28, 2008 in Shanghai, China. Shanghai is the financial hub of China and will host the 2010 World Expo. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Many financial experts have been worried about China for quite a while. Specifically, many have been concerned that a real estate bubble has emerged in China, as local governments have spent like mad as they pushed for more economic development for their region.

Concerns are also growing in the Chinese government, and Bloomberg reports that Chinese banks will now be subjected to even more rigorous stress tests.

China’s stress tests of banks will assess the risk that a possible slump in property prices may strain developers’ finances and cause homebuyers to default, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The banking regulator told lenders to include worst-case scenarios of prices dropping 50 percent to 60 percent in cities where they have risen excessively, the person said, declining to be identified because the regulator’s requirement hasn’t been publicly announced. Previous stress tests carried out in the past year assumed home-price declines of as much as 30 percent.

That’s a staggering assumption, but when you read about what’s been going on in China, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Short-seller Jim Chanos was sounding the alarm back in April.

CHARLIE ROSE

It’s going to be that bad for China?

JAMES CHANOS

I think it’s going to be that bad for the property market in China. Let’s be clear: What we’re talking about is a world-class—if not the world-class—property bubble.

What makes it a bubble?

What we define as a bubble is any kind of debt-fueled asset inflation where the cash flow generated by the asset itself—a rental property, office building, condo—does not cover the debt incurred to buy the asset. So you depend on a greater fool, if you will, to come in and buy at a higher price. We’re seeing behavior [we saw] in 2005 in Miami or ’06 or ’07 in Dubai.

You have said it’s a thousand times worse than Dubai.

Well, we said that [with tongue] firmly planted in cheek. But then again, according to a news report this week, there’s a developer that’s going to put in a new Times Square in suburban Beijing, replete with 32 Broadway theaters. You’re beginning to hear about these bizarre developments in China, indoor ski resorts similar to what we saw in Dubai.

There’s plenty more projects like that one. Let’s see if the government can create a soft landing here.

The Economic Priority and Sportsbook Reviews

As the midterm elections draw near, President Obama’s focus remains on the downturn in the economy. However, more than a year after taking office in January of 2009, the economy has picked up less than many had hoped.

Since entering into office, Obama funneled millions of dollars into infrastructure and research through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Many opposed to the act said the it was a waste of money spent on special interests.

The dirty economic word in Washington remains “bailout.” To many, that word signified the Government failing the American people and giving away their hard earned tax dollars to companies that had not bothered to take care of themselves.

In late July of 2010, however, Obama proclaimed the auto industry bailout a success as the auto companies added 55,000 new jobs. There was even some talk that the tax payers had a small chance of seeing profit on their bailout investment.

However, come August, even the President had to admit that the housing market was still a “big drag” on the economy.

As the economy fails to pick up at the speed many Americans – especially out of work Americans – would like to see, many are turning to less traditional methods of making money, like using information in sportsbook reviews to try their luck at betting.

Former President Bill Clinton is famous for saying in an election, “It’s the economy, stupid.” During times of economic downfall, the economy tends to overshadow every other political issue as Americans fight to find jobs and keep themselves afloat. It’s not surprising, then, that the Obama administration continues to place the economy as a top priority, and with the current economic trends, it can be expected that President Obama and his administration will do so for months to come.

Are Smokeless Cigarettes, Home Improvement Items Luxuries or Necessities?

Since the economy woes began over one year ago, the employment rates have remained high and people have modified their purchases accordingly. In order for the economy to grow, people need to spend money but since things are uncertain, many people are not spending as much money. People are making adjustments to spending habits because of the economic instability.

This reluctance in spending is evident in the quarterly results for both Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Both companies recorded second quarter profits that were better than expected; however, it appears that these increases were not due to increased sales but lower prices. This is indicative that people are still being very cautious with their money.

People are also deciding that items that were once considered a necessity like microwaves or high speed internet may be less of a necessity in these cash-strapped times. This depends on the age group being questioned — older people feel that landline phones are important while younger people find them unnecessary. Consumers are determining which things can be discarded to save money while keeping up quality of life in this economy.

The revenue crush applies to states as well; many states have increased cigarette taxes. In New York State, the excise tax for cigarettes is the highest in the country but people who smoke are now travelling to other states to purchase cigarettes. While the customers are out of state, they are also making other purchases which hurt the convenience stores that typically sell cigarettes. These taxes may not apply to smokeless cigarettes at this time so this phenomenon is not happening with the sale of these items. Cost consciousness is causing significant alterations in behavior to save money in this instance.

While the economy is in flux, people are evaluating current purchases and selecting the best way to get their money’s worth. Once the economy improves, people will change their behavior.

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