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A Greener China

by Joe

A Clearer Future
It has now been nearly five years since Chinese former premier, Li Keqiang, announced to the world that China would “resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.”  China’s aggressive stance on achieving greater sustainability is in response to what has been referred to as an “Air Apocalpyse”.  More than 1.6 million people per year die in China from breathing toxic air. 


A view of Beijing; after a rain (left) and on a smoggy day (right)

The statement marked a major shift away from China’s former policy of putting economic growth before environmental sustainability. At the time, many people wondered if this lofty goal was really achievable. Impressively, China has made major advances.   An example of progress:  concentrates of fine particulates (sulfur and metals) in the air have been reduced by 32 percent on average in some of China’s largest cities.

As a result of its environmental improvements, Chinese citizens can expect better health and longer life spans; increases which can be counted in additional years. For instance, assuming that these environmental gains are permanent, the 20 million residents of Beijing are projected to live an estimated 3.3 years longer on account of these changes. Citizens of Shijiazhuang will receive an additional 5.3 years, and those in Baoding 4.5 years. Nationally, the average Chinese citizen may live an additional 2.4 years longer.

Benchmark the Accomplishment
These changes and improvements have occurred over the last four years. In comparison, it took the United States nearly a dozen years to achieve similar improvements in our own environment.

The Power of Goal Setting
Leading up to premier Li Keqiang’s speech, urban areas were assigned pollution reduction goals. For instance, the Beijing area was required to reduce pollution by 25 percent, and the city set aside an astounding $120 billion for that purpose.

Moving Past the Numbers
Stretch goals like these were supported by emissions measurements at the level of individual firms. For example:
• China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country’s most polluted regions, including the Beijing area.
• Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions. If they didn’t, the coal was replaced with natural gas.
• Large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.
The Chinese people are familiar with personal sacrifice in support of national objectives. For instance, part of the pollution abatement plans included removing coal boilers – used for winter heating – from many homes and businesses. This was done in winter, even though replacement heaters were not yet available.

No Easy Feat
China has invested heavily to achieve their environmental improvements. In fact, between 1998 and 2015, more than $350 billion have been poured into 16 separate sustainability programs which addressed challenges to more than 65% of China’s land area.
Consider what the nation has done so far:

• Reducing erosion, sedimentation, and flooding in the Yangtze and Yellow rivers
• Conserved forests in the north-east
• Desertification trends have reversed in many areas, and while mostly driven by climatic change, restoration efforts have helped.
• Reduced the impact of dust storms on the capital Beijing
• Increased agricultural productivity in China’s center and east.
• Deforestation has declined, and forest cover has exceeded 22%.
• Grasslands have expanded and regenerated.
• Agricultural productivity has increased through efficiency gains and technological advances.
• Rural households are generally better off, and hunger has largely disappeared.

China’s Commitment to Sustainability

As of now, Chinese air pollution levels still exceed their own standards and far surpass World Health Organization recommendations for what is considered safe. Much has been accomplished, and much still is left to be done. However, China is committed to addressing their vexing environmental challenges including:
• pollution of its air, water, and soils
• urban expansion
• vanishing coastal wetlands and the
• illegal wildlife trade

A huge sign of the nation’s commitment was shown when President Xi has laid out the 13th Five Year Plan which expresses his vision for a Chinese ecological civilization; a “beautiful China”.
President Xi’s broad framework for improved sustainability includes:
• Devoting “more energy and taking more concrete measures to advance the building of an ecological civilization, accelerate efforts to develop green production and ways of life, and work harder to tackle prominent environmental problems.”
• Ratcheting up Beijing’s control of environmental policy in an effort to overcome a lot of the local autonomy concerns that have hurt the implementation of similar policies in the past. This is critically important as Beijing rolls out a limited nationwide cap-and-trade program, which introduces a complex market mechanism for emissions reduction into a still largely state-directed economy.
China is poised to have a truly impressive 21st century. The nation recognizes its size and potential contribution to either environmental sustainability or ecological ruin and is making plans to lead toward greater sustainability.

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Business Lessons from a Road Trip

by Joe

Lesson #1: Los Angeles and New York are not America!

Word4Asia Consulting is a true boutique firm. My team and I assist Western nonprofits who wish to work legally in mainland China. We work with the largest network of #nonprofits in our sector and as our reputation grows, so does our client list and vice-versa.

I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. For some years now, I’ve reserved a special ten day period in the summer to get out on America’s backroads for a solitary ride. The goal is to ride roads I have not been on before. I literally take the ‘roads less traveled’. I’ve just completed my latest trek, a 3,995 mile adventure from my home near Los Angeles to northern Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and then back again via Highway 50, the loneliest highway in America. I avoid the interstates whenever feasible.

Using this unique perspective, I’d like to share some business thoughts derived from my hours of reflection. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the read and some truths which will be helpful to you in your arena of #leadership.



Hear me!  I like large Cities. My wife and I live in Orange County.   I enjoy NBA, NFL, options for eating, beaches, malls and people. Despite the high cost of living, it would be hard to leave.

This past spring, I heard Steve Mnuchin share at a Los Angeles World Affairs event.  He said, “One thing I learned quickly when I took the position is that New York and Los Angeles do not necessarily represent America.”  Riding the roads of our country brings this home mile after mile after mile. Not only do most people not live in LA or New York, they have no desire to do so. They question why my wife and I would spend the money we did for our crackerjack size property when we could easily trade it for acreage. Maybe we’re insane.

On my annual ride, I’m mostly ‘alone’.  I don’t encounter the number of cars I see en route to LAX.  In rural/normal America, there are seldom lines, people are usually ready to begin a conversation and seem quite content to live in a location where demonstrations are not experienced, helicopter chases of stolen vehicles are unseen and the price of gas is a dollar per gallon less than we Angelenos have to pay. Scenic lakes, mountain vistas and bucolic landscapes are still unencumbered by sub-divisions.

Frankly, the only way I know of to fully appreciate this principle is to go ride the roads. Statistics don’t fully make the point. To fully understand the drastic difference, you have to experience the drastic it.

Like America, China is replete with super large cities full of energy and life.  Often colleagues or clients assure me they understand China when what they have seen is Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. China is a big country.   However, as in America, it can be tempting to paint with too broad a brush.   The truth is that 42% of China’s population is still living in rural areas. Over the past twenty years and over 120 trips to China, I have been able to see pretty much all areas.  This includes the most rural regions where roads do not touch. Like America’s small towns and back roads, these places are also China and the people who live there have very real opinions and feelings.

Today, China is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change.  As I think about my experiences there, I have to consider two factors; what I’ve learned on my trips and when I learned it.  To assume that what I learned about China ten years ago is still true would be a mistake.

As thought leaders trusted by others to recommend and guide decision making, we must be sure to remember “Los Angeles and New York are not the sum total of America.” We live in a big, complicated and varied world.  What is appropriate in one location could absolutely be disastrous in a nearby community.

As #consultants let’s discipline ourselves to get off the Interstates, out of the airports and five star hotels and experience, listen to, and actually see the expanse of our targeted space.

Gene Wood is founder and CEO f Word4Asia, a leading non-profit consulting firm headquartered in Orange County, California.  We work with customers who want to legally conduct business in mainland China.  With over twenty-years of continuous operations, we have successfully helped our clients accomplish their objectives.  If your plans include China, we’d be happy to talk with you and provide some insights we hope will be helpful.  You can reach me at  I’ll look forward to your call!

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Hoop Dreams in China: Yao Ming Leads the CBA

by Joe

The Chinese are fanatical in their love of basketball.  The game has been a part of their culture for nearly as long as it’s been a part of ours, as surprising as that may sound.  In fact, Piengiane, a Chinese government official who had seen the fledgling game being played in America, introduced it to China in 1896.  This was the same year that Dr. James Naismith first hung his peach basket in a Massachusetts gym.

In the following century, the game of basketball took on entirely new dimensions as sports became a major industry across many leagues, including the NBA.  The change was revolutionary.

In China, leaders like the PROC’s first Prime Minister, Chou En Lai, and  Chairman Mao Zedon of the People’s Republic of China have used basketball as a way to improve youth fitness and promote teamwork.  Today, the game continues to be supported by China’s highest officials.

Some of the best Chinese players in the NBA have had their start in the CBA, including Wang Zhizhi (Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat),  Mengke Bateer (Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors), Yi Jianlian (Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Legends).  Of course, the greatest of the Chinese players, Yao Ming, previously played with the Houston Rockets for fourteen seasons (1997-2011).  Previously, he played for the Shanghai Sharks.  Yao’s CBA and NBA accomplishments are legendary.

Along the way, the Chinese have thrilled and cheered to the marvelous athleticism of American basketball legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant whose peerless feats astounded all of us and changed the game.

Chinese basketball has its own version of the NBA, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) Sports Company, Inc.  It is the pre-eminent professional men’s basketball league in Asia.   However, for Chinese basketball to continue to grow and attract new players and fans, the league needs continued improvement.  To address that need, Yao Ming was unanimously elected president of the CBA.   As president, he has been empowered by the ‘top brass’ of China’s central government to institute changes that will make the game more competitive.  (source: China National Radio.)

Obstacles to a more competitive league include the fact that the CBA has intense rivalries but no conferences. Officiating is seen as inconsistent at best, corrupt at worst. There’s no free agency for Chinese players, who are bound to their clubs. And those clubs struggle to develop youth talent.  When asked about where he sees challenges he’ll need to address, Yao Ming recently said   “The question reminds me of the year 2004, when our first foreign coach of the national team, Del Harris, asked me the same question,” Yao said. “My answer then was, ‘There’s no biggest problem, because there are problems everywhere.’”  Yao has been very busy instituting reforms in the way the CBA approaches both the game and the business of basketball.

The most attention-getting of Yao’s reform measures is the formation of two national teams, each with an independent coaching staff and roster, to alternately represent China at international events through 2018. The move aims to motivate coaches and players by creating competition between the two squads and involving as many young players as possible.  Like in the United States, youth have many alternatives they can pursue.  He recently said, “Basketball faces stiff competition from sectors such as electronics sports in attracting the young generation.  That’s why we will encourage Chinese basketball to continue its cooperation with the education and entertainment sectors to create a platform where kids can enjoy learning different things simultaneously.”   Another related  challenge is that China is still in the early stages of creating a system to develop young players as they mature.  In the United States, our young players benefit from school team participation, club teams, college teams with sharp-eyed recruiters and attractive athletic scholarships.  A very small percentage  ultimately make the NBA at the end of this long development cycle.   About developing China’s version of this system, Yao Ming has said, “”Before we choose the road for development, we need to make sure what fits us most and what prerequisites we already have.”  True to his culture, Yao Ming is proceeding slowly and methodically.

Professional basketball can be as big a business in China as it is in the United States, if not bigger.  However, in various ways, the profit motive has been elusive.   As with all other aspects of life in China, government officials installed by the Communist Party leadership oversee the sport.   Yao has asked for changes so that more power is shared between the government officials and the team owners that have investments in their teams.  As of this time, new changes in how the league runs will provide the owners more voting power on league decisions and more access to marketing deals.  To orchestrate the privatizing of the CBA, Yao Ming will need to demonstrate the same acumen for team work and leadership that he so skillfully employed on the court.  Of course, to invest more, team owners want similar earnings opportunities as their American counterparts have in the NBA.  Under the previous system, CBA franchises were required to transfer sponsorship earnings to the league, who then take a cut and give millions to broadcaster Infront Sports & Media before dividing the remainder between the sides.  Such a system left franchises with little to invest, and many had lobbied for a system like the NBA’s, which sees teams keep most of the sponsorship they earn.

To play at the same level as American athletes, the Chinese will need to continue to sharpen their ability to communicate with each other on the floor verbally and body-language-wise, and to acquire the same passion for the game.  So far, these traits have been lacking.  To improve in this area, Yao Ming has called on his relationships within the NBA.  Foreign (American and European) coaches are participating in NBA sponsored leagues for hundreds of teams in Beijing and Shanghai under the Junior NBA brand. The goal is to get kids playing the game in environments that prioritize creativity and fun over training-focused activity.  It’s not enough to master the drills that incorporate highest level skills.  Chinese players should ‘feel the game’ the way American players do and they must be able to use the skills with the same finesse as American players do.

To help his CBA players learn to think and play more like NBA players, Yao Ming is encouraging the recruitment of American players.   Playing on CBA teams is an excellent opportunity for older NBA players who are extending their careers as well as an opportunity for other players who have not made it to the NBA.   To attract the best players in China as well as American players, the CBA is offering very attractive salaries.  The minimum salary for a rookie in the NBA is $582,180 and in the CBA is $815,615.

Jimmer Fredette, who in his senior year with the Brigham Young Cougars literally attained ‘superstar status’, is a great example.  In his senior year, Fredette was averaging almost  29 points per game, but once in the NBA only played at so-so levels and lasted only five seasons.  Prior to the 2018 season, Yao recruited Fredette to the Shanhai Sharks to prove what can happen to the social fabric of a Chinese team when American players are added to the roster.  As expected, Fredette changed the culture of the team, made it more American with high-fives, butt-slaps and laughs. The team responded, going 30-8 and making the playoffs, with Fredette leading the league at 37.6 points per game. Fans responded as well, leading to sellouts of Sharks games before the season ended in March with a first-round playoff loss. Fredette’s flair for scoring, and enthusiastic embrace of the local culture, sparked something powerful in China, where he soon was provided a shoe deal and his own commercial.

Yao Ming is also working to professionalize the game itself, in terms of the need for a standard set of rules.  David Shoemaker, who just recently stepped down from his role as CEO of NBA China has commented on  Yao’s efforts in this regard and said, “He wants rules that people understand — a draft for players, more movement [via free agency], rules around salaries and salary caps, things that he as an NBA player had exposure to and now has chance to impart on the league.”

Changing the CBA is going to be a challenging game for Yao to win.  Its been reported that CBA owners pushed back on Yao’s first round of recommendations which included splitting the league into two conferences, increasing the number of games (CBA teams play just three months, plus playoffs) and restricting the court time of non-Chinese Asian players.   Yao has also proposed ending the compulsory play on the national team in favor of the invitation model in place in the US.  As it stands now, compulsory play means that the CBA game schedule is interrupted.

No stranger to on-court injuries, Yao Ming is approaching his new opportunity as though it’s still early in the first quarter.  He’s’ going to play strategically and he’s going to give it his all.  If what we have seen from Yao, the Houston Rocket’s Center, is any indication of what Yao, the President of the CBA, has ahead, he’s going to play this game to win.



Word4Asia is a Southern California-based consulting company helping organizations accomplish their objectives in China.  We have over twenty years of experience and have put many wins on the board during that span.   Founder and CEO, Gene Wood, is passionate about helping clients as well as being an avid basketball fan who can be regularly seen courtside watching his beloved LA Clippers.   If your organization has aspirations in China, or even if you’d just like to talk ‘hoops’, Gene hopes you’ll reach out.  He can be contacted at







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A Long Row; 2,000 Years of the Dragon Boat Festival

by Joe

China’s fascinating culture is full of appreciation for its ancient history.  One of the more colorful events occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of China’s lunar calendar.  In Western terms, Dragon Boat Festival occurs each year in June.




Historic Roots

Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and suicide of China’s first poet, Qu Yuan in 278 BC.  Qu Yuan was very outspoken in his time and some of what he said was not in favor with the royal court.  To silence him, Qu Yuan was accused with false charges and expelled from the kingdom to live in exile.  During those years, he composed poetry to express his anger and sorrow.  Finally, at the age of 61, Qu Yuan tied a stone around his neck and drowned himself in the Miluo River in what is now Hunan province.  The dragon boat festival also commemorates the actions that local villagers took upon realizing what Qu Yuan had done.  Recognizing that he was an honorable man, the villagers took to their boats to search the river for his body.


Festival Customs

With the passing of time, many traditions have been established.

Dragon Boats have been used in China for thousands of years.

Dragon boats – These are paddle boats (like canoes), traditionally built from teak.  They are brightly painted like open-mouthed dragons that have scaly tails behind.  These boats are anywhere between 40 and 100 feet long and paddled by up to 80 rowers.

Perfume Pouches – In the days leading up to the festival, parents prepare wonderfully scented pouches for their children.  Sewn in colorful cloth and hung around the children’s necks or tied to the front of their clothing, these pouches are believed to provide protection from evil.

Zongzi is a traditional favorite and an important part of the annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Zongzi 粽子 ) – These are triangular-shaped, sticky rice dumplings filled with meats, beans and other fillings.  Flavors may vary from region to region across China.

Realgar Wine – This is a wine made from fermented grains and reddish mineral consisting of arsenic sulfide which is crushed to a powder and blended into the wine.  Historically,  the Chinese believed that realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and effective for killing insects and driving away evil spirits.


Dragon Boat Festivals in America

“Melting Pot” America is a country with a rich and diverse cultural mix.  The Chinese have made many important contributions to our growth and development.  25,000 Chinese immigrated in the early 1850’s to participate in the California Gold rush.  Between 1865 and 1868, over 4,000 Chinese immigrants worked alongside other Americans to build the Transcontinental Railroad  These mighty workers built railroad tracks where one would think it was almost impossible – across the Sierra Nevada mountains and into the Interior Plains.  They invested both their  physical strength and their intellect.  One journal of the time contains the following quote – “the Chinese are especially clever in aligning roads and could and are capable of striking a truer line for a longer distance with the unassisted eye than most white men can with the aid of instruments.”

Dragon Boat Race

Dragon Boat Race in Chicago, IL

At the heart of the festival is the race excitement, with nearly 120 dragon boat teams representing local corporations and non-profits as well as competitive teams from across the globe.  This year’s event even includes a team from Hong Kong who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Opening Ceremony includes Buddhist monks performing a traditional blessing and eye dotting ceremony to awaken the dragons for a weekend of racing, joined by Oakland’s Mayor Schaaf and the Oakland A’s Stomper. The Opening Ceremony also features lion dancing and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir singing the National Anthem.

Scene from the Pan Asian Festival at the Mall of America; Minneapolis, MN 2018

The festival is also a pan-Asian cultural celebration.  On stage, there will be Chinese acrobats, Taiko drumming, Tahitian dancing, martial arts, magic shows, and other special performances. Roving stilt walkers and Chinese drummers will also be appearing throughout the Festival.



Word 4 Asia is proud of our association with the Chinese people, both in China and in America.  Over 20 years, we have developed a masterful understanding of Chinese culture that includes the most efficient ways to accomplish organization objectives.  If your plans include a more active role in China, we’d be happy to share our professional insight with you!  For more information, contact Gene Wood at

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A Greener China

It has now been nearly five years since Chinese former premier, Li Keqiang, announced to the world that China would “resolutely declare war against pollution…


Read More


Business Lessons From a Road Trip

I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. For some years now, I’ve reserved a special ten day period in the summer to get out on America’s backroads for a solitary ride.


Read More


Hoop Dreams in China: Yao Ming Leads the CBA

The Chinese are fanatical in their love of basketball. The game has been a part of their culture for nearly as long as it’s been a part of ours, as surprising as ….


Read More



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