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A Time For New Beginnings

by Joe

New Beginnings in 2018

 

The end of December 2017 was a time of celebration for the entire Word 4 Asia family as one of our team members, Leo became a first-time father with the birth of a son (daughter)!  We’ve been celebrating for his family ever since.

Of course, there is always great happiness whenever a newborn comes into the world.  We even specially recognize the first born in every nation.  In China, the first birth of 2018 occurred in Hong Kong, just eight seconds into the new year.  Let’s all congratulate Imma Chan and Pan Cheung on the birth of their baby boy, Ka-lam!  He was one of three children born in the first minute of 2018.

Full Moon Celebration

The Chinese have some very interesting ways of celebrating the birth of children.  For instance, the “full-moon” or “full-month”, called “Man Yue” ( 满月 ) celebration coincides with the end of the new mother’s confinement period.  This is the time when the mother and the baby are formally introduced to the extended family and friends. Often, this is the first time that many of the guests are meeting the baby!  It is very customary to serve guests with traditional cakes and eggs, dyed red to symbolize good luck and fortune.  Eggs represent fertility and their shape symbolizes harmony.  When the baby is a boy, an odd number of eggs are given, if you have a girl, you give out an even number of eggs.   Also very common is the giving of plain round red glutinous peanut cakes ( 红糯米花生蛋糕 ).  In the event of a baby girl, these cakes are molded into the shapes of tortoises ( 龟壳状蝴蝶 ) considered more Intricate and delicate.

Naming Customs

The naming of the newborn is also steeped in tradition.  On the third day after the baby’s birth, the baby will be given a bath, and names will be given to the new born baby. There are two names for the baby, one is a nickname used before going to school, the other is the formal name. The name is very important to the baby, Chinese believe the name will determine the baby’s future. Historically, the paternal grandfather picks a suitable name. Some parents even consult a fortune teller to help them pick a prosperous name. These are the top five most popular Chinese baby names by gender:

 

Top 5 Most Popular Chinese Baby Names By Gender

Boys

Girls

张伟 Zhang Wei (Great)

王芳 Wang Fang (aromatic)

Wang Wei (Great)

王秀英 Wang Xiu Ying (elegant & brave)

Li Wei (Great)

李秀英 Li Xiu Ying (elegant & brave)

Liu Wei (Great)

李娜 Li Na (elegant)

Li Qiang (Strong)

张秀英 Zhang Xiu Ying (elegant & brave)

Gift Giving

The Chinese also have their own version of a Western baby shower; it is celebrated 30-days after the birth.  Red packets containing money, called hongbao or and jewelry for the baby, from relatives and friends. More recently, baby clothes, toys, books and gift vouchers are also gifted.

Another traditional gift is a lock-shaped pendant ( 长命锁 ), called a “longevity lock”.  This tradition can be traced back to the Ming and Qing Dynasty.  A ring, shaped like a lock, is hung from the baby’s’ neck to “secure” the baby’s grasp on life.

The locket is made of silver and sometimes also gold.

Taboos

With a traditional view on preserving the safety and health of both the mother and the baby, a number of taboos have developed over centuries.   For example, pregnant mothers cannot attend wedding ceremonies or funerals, which are considered unlucky.  Neither can they eat rabbit (superstition says that eating mutton will result in the baby having the mouth of a rabbit – a cleft palate ( 兔唇 ).

In  Guangdong province, tradition belief holds that family members must not move furniture or drive nails into walls when there is a pregnant woman in the family.  In the case of the nails, the superstition holds that doing so can result in a miscarriage.

Food Rules

There are also certain dietary restrictions new mothers traditionally have followed.  For instance, no eating of raw fruit or vegetables, drinking hot coffee or cold drinks or even cold water.  Water must only be consumed warm or hot. The rationale is that following these food rules will help restore balance to the new mother’s body after childbirth.

Traditionally, new mothers were also fed a soup of pig’s feet and peanuts, or an oily carp soup, drunk directly after childbirth. The belief is that these foods will stimulate the production of mother’s milk.

 

Wishing You Well in 2018

Whether you are birthing a new child, or a new business, or just a new attitude in 2018, the entire ‘family’ at Word 4 Asia wishes you a very happy and successful year!

 

 

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I Believe in Christmas

by Joe

Merry Christmas. I believe in Christmas. Yep. The actual historic and supernatural story. This is part of what drives the work of Word4Asia.
If you’re not exactly sure what that story is please write. I have a book to send you.

The central character in the Christmas story is credited for the unusual success and unique ability of W4A to thrive in the midst of turbulent international times.

One part of the story involves some scholars who visited the Baby Jesus shortly after His birth. They brought gifts, the reason behind the gift-giving
phenomenon in this season.

Christmas is connected with our solar New Year more due to an accident of date selection than anything else but nonetheless that is our reality. The New Year
is as good a time as any for reflection on corporate and personal achievements and setting goals for the coming year.

Stay with me for a moment while I share one way I connect the two. Gifts and goals.

It is Christmas or the birthday of Jesus. So, it makes logical sense to make sure Jesus is primary in the consideration of giving gifts. It is also the season of ending one year and beginning the next.
Great time to do goal review and setting.

As I reflect upon my personal financial portfolio I divide it into four categories.

1) Investments
2) Cash
3) Real Estate
4) Eternal

The first three prepare me for short-term retirement. The remaining time I have here on earth is important for sure. Have some great plans/hopes for these years. My wife argues I’ll never stop working and perhaps she’s right.  However, if/when the time comes to at least ‘half-retire’ we have a large world map of countries on the wall. Plenty of places with no pins in them yet. I also have a map of USA roads traveled highlighted on my motorbike. Still plenty of unseen back roads. Add grandchildren, writing a final book of our work with W4A and time with friends and hobbies. NBA seasons to enjoy. Plenty to be done.

The fourth category prepares for the long-term retirement. If you believe the Christmas story you probably need no further argument here.

If Christmas is a true story as I believe it is, if Jesus was sent by God from heaven, if the promises of Jesus are true regarding where He came from and where He went back to, then heaven is real and we can go there for our long term retirement.  He said “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” It must be a real place. While we cannot take anything with us we can send it on ahead. For me (and the team at W4A) this is our goal. To use the resources entrusted to us to give gifts for eternal purposes. While we appreciate the tax-deductions (and take them), that is not what drives the gifts.  I want a balanced investment portfolio.

I was traveling in China in a remote border area. A member of the Chinese National Security Bureau picked me up shortly after I arrived and hosted me for several days. I invited him in to listen when I spoke. He said he needed to remain outside the venues but promised to listen. I enjoyed his company. As we said goodbye at the airport, he hugged me. As he pulled away, he said “I’ll see you again soon here….or there.” That is my desire for each of you I meet. Let’s plan for both.

Merry Christmas.

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Gift Giving in Chinese Culture

by Joe


In Western culture, the Holidays are a traditional time of gift exchanges as we mark the occasion and share friendship and love.  Found in cultures all over the world, it’s as if the custom was coded in our DNA.  Every culture has certain customs, rituals and beliefs that accompany gifting.  For instance, at this time of year, many people celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem and the gifts they gave to the newborn infant, Jesus.

With a culture as old as China’s, you can be certain that there is depth to the rituals, customs and even taboos that accompany gift giving.  As an outsider to their culture, Westerners should be careful to properly acknowledge and follow the Chinese customs in order to achieve the desired effect.

Let’s review some of the “do’s and don’ts” of exchanging gifts with native Chinese friends and colleagues.

 

 DO'SDON'TS
When gifting Chinese children with money tucked away in red envelopes (Chinese New Year), be sure to reflect their age in the amount given. More money should be given to older siblings and less to the younger ones. A gift to an older child or teenager should be enough for the child to buy a T-shirt or DVD.Don’t go “over the top” when giving a gift. It’s important not to potentially embarrass the Chinese if they are unable to reciprocate at the same level.
When giving money inside a red envelope, always use new, crisp bills. Folded or dirty, wrinkled bills are in bad taste.

Be aware of the symbolism the Chinese recognize in sound-alike words and avoid making social faux pas. For instance, avoid anything with a four in it. The Chinese word for “four”, 四 (sì) sounds like the word 死 (sǐ, death).
If you’re an expat manager supervising a Chinese team in China, limit year-end bonuses to the equivalent of one month’s pay.Never wrap gifts in white paper or with a white bow. It’s better to use colors like red, which represents “luck”. Pink and yellow are associated with happiness and gold evokes thoughts of wealth and fortune. White, on the other hand, is a funeral color, associated with death.
If you are going to give a gift in a group setting, be certain that the recipient is the most senior person in attendance. Don’t give a gift to a single person if that person is in a group and you cannot offer everyone else a gift, too.
As with giving business cards, always hand the gift to the person with both hands. This is a sign of respect because the gift is considered an extension of the person. When receiving a gift, also accept it with both hands and say thank you.

Never give a clock as a gift. Traditional superstitions regard this as counting the seconds to the recipient's death
When gifting several people in a situation where hierarchy is relevant, such as a company setting, be sure to reflect the difference in status in what is being given to each person.Never give a man a green hat. The Chinese saying "wearing a green hat" means someone's wife is unfaithful.

With today’s regulations and the anti-corruption campaign best not to give money or an overly expensive gift to any government official.


 

To wrap things up, Word 4 Asia sincerely thanks all the wonderful people in our network for for the gift of your friendship and support  in 2017.  We look forward to what lies ahead!

Sincerely,

 

Gene Wood

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A New Era of Consumerism in China

by Joe

A crowded market street in Hong Kong.

If you’re looking for the world’s largest consumer market, you’ll have to look across the Pacific, all the way to China.  While per capita consumer purchases still lag the US, based on the sheer difference in populations between the USA and China, China is the hands-down winner in this contest.  China’s ascendency to King of Consumer Mountain occurred in 2016.  In 2017, the nation’s consumer market will exceed our own by 10.5% ($500 billion).  There are many factors that contribute to this startlng change.

First, economists point to the emergence of a new generation.  These consumers were born between the 1980’s and into the current  century and are collectively referred to as the “Youth Generation”.  Among this segment, consumption is growing at an annual 14% rate—twice the pace of consumers older than 35.   The Youth Generation will exceed 53% of total Chinese consumption by 2020.

Boston Consulting Group recently polled members of this market segment on their agreement with the  following statement: “I feel I have enough things and feel less the need to buy new ones.”  Forty-two percent of Chinese aged 18 to 25 disagreed with the statement, By comparison, 36% of U.S. and EU respondents of that age-group, 32% of Japanese, and only 26% of Brazilians also disagreed with the statement.

Young-generation Chinese also tend to be more sophisticated consumers than those older than 35. They are eight times more likely to be college graduates. They travel overseas twice as much. And they are more brand conscious than older Chinese and U.S. consumers of the same age.  The following products are included in China’s top 20 consumer items list.

  • US fashions
  • Skincare
  • Trendy snacks (kale chips, super foods)
  • Maternity Wear
  • Designer sneakers
  • Beauty accessories
  • Juice
  • Baby accessories
  • Jewelry
  • Fresh produce
  • Wine
  • Natural cleaning products
  • Jewelry
  • Seafood
  • Baby Food
  • Sporting goods
  • Make up
  • Packaged health foods
  • Breast feeding products
  • Gadgets

As in the US, Chinese brands are being sold using a variety of psychographic positioning strategies that build strong emotional connections between consumers and brands.  For example, a top priority of 18- to 25-year-old Chinese consumers buying skin care products is that the brands should “fit their personality” and convey that they are “young and energetic.”

The rise of e-commerce retailing is an incredibly important component in all this consumer activity.  This is attributed in part to the success of Alibaba, Tmall and JD.com, which took advantage of the country’s undeveloped traditional retail infrastructure. “Alibaba, Tmall and JD.com positioned themselves well to capitalize on growing consumer demand by creating their own payment systems (e.g., Alibaba’s Alipay) and logistical services (e.g., JD.com operates a self-owned logistics network).  In 2017, China will comprise almost 51% of total ecommerce sales; the United States is a distant second, making up 19% of total global ecommerce sales.

In addition to offering better prices and wider selections, e-commerce actually stimulates new demand in China by filling many needs that aren’t being met at brick-and-mortar stores. For example, according to Taobao, spending by the average e-shopper on organic and imported food and beverages has expanded eightfold over the past three years. Many popular online offerings, such as organic baby foods, rice, and tea, aren’t carried in local stores.

Chinese consumers also buy higher-priced products online. Our research found that overall consumption of home care products, packaged foods, and personal-care items increases only moderately as Chinese households become more affluent. But according to Taobao sample data, online purchases in these categories increase by around 150% when Chinese households enter the upper-middle class. Online purchases nearly double again among affluent households. In large part, that’s because these consumers can find more distinctive, premium-priced products online.

E-commerce drives consumption growth by helping companies overcome distribution challenges associated with reaching a national market and by dramatically expanding the reach of their brands. We analyzed Taobao sales of several leading premium skin-care brands that already have fairly wide coverage in department stores. We found that only 55% of Taobao’s online sales originated in cities that have those goods physically available in stores; 45% of sales were from the thousands of cities that don’t have those goods in stores. The trend was similar for fashion apparel and baby education products.

Home page of the leading Chinese e-commerce site, Taobao.

An important element in the success of ecommerce, is market penetration of smartphone technology.  There are now 550 million smartphones in use in China.  This is more than twice the number of cellphones used in the US, where smartphones have been adopted by 84% of all mobile phone users.  In contrast, smartphones are in use with 56% of China’s mobile phone users.  Mobile e-commerce, which already accounts for 51% of all online sales in China, compared with a global average of 35%, will grow even faster. On Taobao, a Chinese e-commerce marketplace founded by Alibaba, the share of sales transacted though mobile devices rather than PCs rose from 51% to 62% within the first three quarters of 2015 and reached 68% on the year’s Singles Day (November 11, 2015), one of China’s biggest shopping days because retailers offer special promotions. By 2020, mobile e-commerce is projected to account for 74% of all online sales in China.

Will economic disincentives make the difference in stemming Chinese savings rates? At 50%, China leads all nations in consumer savings. Increasing Chinese consumption could spur economic growth to new heights.

Make no mistake about it, though.  Even with the big increase in consumer purchases, Chinese consumers continue to lead the rest of the world.  The Chinese are great savers; the nation’s savings rate is 50%.  Contrast that with the savings rate in the USA, which is about 2-3%.  France, Germany, Belgium and Spain, all save somewhere in the ballpark of 12 – 16%.  In an effort to further spur the growth of China’s economy, its leaders are encouraging more consumption.  One way of doing this is to create dis-incentives to save by making property investment more difficult and less attractive by assessing property taxes on second properties.  Increasing consumption though, will require improving the way Chinese consumers perceive their nation’s future.  This is a critical shift that must be made in order to break China’s unhealthy dependence on foreign imports.

All of this growth comes at a cost.  Industrial and biological pollution has contaminated almost 90 percent of the underground water in China’s major cities. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one out of four (300 million) Chinese do not have daily access to clean water, and that one out of two (700 million) are forced to consume water below WHO standards.  In addition, China is home to 20 percent of the world’s population, yet only holds six percent of the world’s water resources. China’s water demand is expected to reach 818 billion cubic meters, but there is only 616 billion cubic meters available. Beijing has about 100 cubic meters of water available per person, well below the U.N. standard of 1,000 cubic meters per person, a threshold used to measure chronic water shortage.

Air quality is bad across the country, and lung cancer and cardiovascular illnesses are already rising and could get worse in the future due to factory emissions, vehicle exhausts and cigarette smoke.  Increased industrial output is going to increase the pressure on the environment.  China has been public about their desire to stem their carbon footprint and remain members of the Paris Treaty, a statement that the US cannot make at this point.  Can China accomplish both economic growth and sustainability objectives?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for a major portion of job growth in any country, including China. Yet, China’s SMEs have found it particularly difficult to access capital. In response, “underground finance” and a shadow banking system have developed as a way to supply credit to private companies, although at exorbitant interest rates. Despite being an illegal activity — until March that is — underground finance has become a big business in China.  Private lending,  the term used for the informal networks of money lenders that have developed outside of China’s banking system, currently funds between two trillion yuan ($317 billion) and four trillion yuan ($634 billion) in loans to SMEs annually.  In March, 2012, China announced reforms in the coastal city of Wenzhou that would legitimize underground finance. These reforms are now spreading to other parts of China as many new “micro finance” companies are being granted licenses to provide much needed capital to China’s SMEs.

Look for more of the same over the next 10 years.  Further reform of China’s banking system and the development of China’s capital markets will fuel a new round of growth and wealth accumulation and will be one of the major new trends affecting the country.

Economic growth from China’s upper and middle classes has helped the nation achieve a leadership position among global economies.

  • An online presence with the key ecommerce retailers such as Taobao will be an important element in your strategy.
  • US Domestic brand strength is important since the Chinese are attracted to well known and recognized western brands.
  • Having a mobile marketing strategy is vital to reach consumers who mostly shop online via their smartphones.
  • Understanding the culture, beliefs, attitudes and opinions of the ‘youth generation’ shopper is important to your brand’s success with these consumers.
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A Time of New Beginnings

The end of December 2017 was a time of celebration for the entire Word 4 Asia family as one of our team members, ….

Read More

 

I Believe in Christmas

Merry Christmas. I believe in Christmas. Yep. The actual historic and supernatural story. This is part of what ….

Read More

 

The Do’s and Dont’s of Gift Giving in China

In Western culture, the Holidays are a traditional time of gift exchanges as we mark the occasion and share ….

Read More

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