Cunning McDonalds

We all know that that McDonalds has marketing masters guiding the conquest of every last prime urban location on the globe. Sometimes seeing the results of their efforts is kind of scary though.

McDonalds in Chinese kindergartens McDonalds in Chinese kindergartens

The two pictures above (click for the full images) were taken at separate kindergartens in Shanghai. And you can bet the phenomenon is more widespread here in China than just two kindergartens. I’ve seen a few other companies pull the same kind of advertising stunts in kindergartens, but McDonalds is way ahead of the competition.

I asked at the kindergarten which owns the McDonalds stand playset, and they did indeed buy it with their own money. The kids love that playset. (I don’t know the story for the other one; I was only there briefly.) But it’s pretty amazing… in China, too, people are buying products from McDonalds to advertise for free for McDonalds. Even in kindergartens.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Looks like a minimal investment on the part of the school pictured on the right. They seem to be recycling their fries holders.

  2. McDonald’s also has a line of clothing for toddlers. Heck, I’d resist buying them, but really, it’s not like McDonald’s makes them, and you can’t tell the brand without looking at the tag, and, hey, they’re actually really well made and nice looking.

    Disclaimer: I am not a toddler, but I am related to one, my daughter.

  3. Did you know that Happy Meals account for 40% of McDonalds totaly revenues…?

  4. Da Xiangchang Says: December 17, 2004 at 1:48 am

    I have nothing at all against McDonald’s clever and aggressive marketing strategies. After all, even with all the advertising in the world, it’s not like Ronald McDonald is holding a gun to your head and ordering you to buy Big Macs. I love it when McDonald’s makes people mad, like when braindead French farmers trash some stores or when some freak makes a piece-of-crap anti-McDonald’s film (Super-Size Me). Personally, I LOVE McDonald’s–not for its wretched food (face it, it sucks) but rather for what it stands for. McDonald’s is the epitome of the big American multinational, the ones that certain imbeciles are always railing against. So everytime I see a new McDonald’s somewhere in a weird foreign location, I smile, because I know it’s making these imbeciles madder and that the forces of globalization are relentlessly moving forward. Some people think that’s bad, but I know the truth: globalization and American multinationals will make the world a much richer, happier place. That’s why I love McDonald’s and their crappy toy sets in Chinese kindergartens!

  5. I don’t mind about corporate globalization. However the problem with Macdonald is they destroy the environment. Every year, 5 million acres of rainforest are destroyed in South America to create grazeland for cattle. I blame MacDonald as one of the culprits for destroying the Amazon rainforest.

  6. Da Xiangchang Says: December 17, 2004 at 4:18 am


    I’m sorry but that’s a bunch of horsecrap. The specious argument that McDonald’s uses cows from rainforests was proven false in the “McLibel” trial of 1996 when the judge rightfully fined two “environmental activists”–i.e., welfare hippie types–60,000 pounds for libeling McDonald’s. McDonald’s only uses beef from America or locally grown cows. But you don’t need this trial to know this is an idiotic charge; common sense should tell you otherwise. America has like millions upon millions of acres for cows to graze on; why the hell would McDonald’s want to cut down Brazilian trees to make more land?!! Truly, this is a very braindead argument.

  7. Da Xiangchang,
    you are one scary scary guy…

    From an imbecile.

  8. You can see the effects on capitalism here – there are pros and cons to it. In one sense, China can thank Deng Xiaoping and the opening of the doors to capitalism and welcoming foreign investment. It’s one of the very reasons/causes why you are in China and the reason why you can post such a thing, really.

    At the same time, you could slowly see the loss of China’s art and culture to such propaganda. People begin to value shit they don’t need. E.G. working a job they hate to buy shit they don’t need.

    The kindergarten Happy Meal playset is real proof of this as is the purchase of Yao Ming as McDonald’s global spokesperson. If you can, please take photos of anything Yao Ming wearing a McDonald’s jersey plastered on sides of buildings and pamphlets dropped from overhead airplanes.

    People begin to value shit they don’t need in this culturally bankrupt country of obese beasts (extreme statement, I know, but isn’t it so true?) It’s a common occurance in America, thus the explanation of Wal-Mart as the #1 company in America. What the fuck? Have you seen the absolute garbage Wal-Mart sells? Who shops there? Please do not tell me you do. I’ll be so disappointed in everything about you – yes, you have every right to be embarrassed.

    If you’ve seen Wal-Mart’s propaganda, I mean, weekly advertisements, its garbage and 95% of the shitty products are Made in China. I had a chat with an American salesperson/business owner of American-made long skateboards. He was describing products Made in China as “Chinese shit” and I felt that was rather narrow minded to say.

    It isn’t the Chinese who design shitty products as they only make things from the blueprint at a maximized profit ratio for the company that commisioned them – typically a company based in the USA. So you don’t blame China for producing VERY economic items for the demanding, cheapskate, penny-pinching, Wal-Mart shopping American consumer. They are only fulfilling a need and doing a damn exquisite job at that.

    If they want to produce the finest craftsmanship based artwork, structures, paintings, pencils, processors, cars, THEY CAN. But as a money-hungry USA company that just fired 400 of your employees due to health care costs and insurance and worksman compensation and escalating salaries, why else are you going to source China to produce your useless plastic Christmas tree stand unless you want maximum profit?

    Anyways, if I run into one more person who claims China has poor quality, I’m going to put a blunt bat into the persons face. WORD.

  9. I’ll never forget the first time that I truly understood the power of American marketing. No, it wasn’t the time I saw Starbucks in the forbidden city or the time I saw I guy handing out free Nikes on an open sewer-lined playground in Guangzhou, or the time I saw a fat guy with a Harley tattoo in a Beijing hutong. It was when I went to the elementary school in Ningbo where my friend was serving as an underpaid wai jiao. After shaking hands with the principal, we went to observe a 2nd grade class taught by a Chinese English teacher. It was the first day of classes and the first time the little ones had ever studied English.

    The teacher, who was obviously not in the employ of any multinational corportation, had written one sentence on the board. “I like Coca-Cola.” For the entire class she went up and down the aisle and the kids repeated “I like Coca-Cola” until their faces were blue (er, coke red). 4 words. One brand.

    This is not garden variety marketing, people, this is true power. If we can convince young teachers in small cities to teach marketing slogans to 2nd graders, we should be able to teach 20 something Chinese men/women how to successfully change their government. Use the power of marketing for good!

  10. Da Xiangchang Says: December 17, 2004 at 8:14 am


    Haha, love your rant on Wal-Mart. Personally, I almost never shop there; Amazon is the place for me. And yes, America is a consumer-driven society, but I seriously doubt other nationalities, if given Americans’ wealth, would behave any differently. It’s easy to say, “I won’t buy a Mercedes like that shallow idiot!” when you’re making $10,000 a year–but once you make $1,000,000, let’s see what kind of car you drive! All the people of the world who trash “shallow” American values do so simply because they themselves don’t have the money to enjoy those values. It’s jealousy masquerading as dignity, pure and simple. The reason why the average French, Chinese, Russian shops less than the average American is not because of their supposed higher value system but rather because they have less money. Regardless of nationality, the average person is an idiot who is easily swayed by commercials into wanting more stuff. And the richer a country becomes, the more “shallow” it’ll be; it’s inevitable. But again, I see nothing wrong with that because built on the profits of “shallow” corporations are the glories of modern culture (music, film, books, etc.). After all, artists can only flourish when they aren’t starving. So it’s no accident that all the major cultural manifestations of the 20th culture–photography, movies, jazz, rock, cartoons, rap, etc.–were invented by “shallow” Americans. The supposedly more “cultured” nationalities–say, the Europeans–have invented almost nothing major culturally during the past 100 years. Oh, wait–there’s one thing. Cubism! Haha.

  11. Kaili: I enjoy your posts considerably, many times rather funny and always entertaining useful. Da Xiangchang, although often crude and rather brazen, is accurrate in his post this time. I think rain forests and all those other environmental things of importance, but unfortunately there are they who have their own agenda and propagate misinformation to advance their own agenda. The “true believers” take that misinformation as gospel and run with it.

    Most Chinese manufacturing, both from an anecdotal standpoint of what I have observed and from a statistical standpoint, lack well integrated quality control procedures. That is what the Japanese, Korean, European, and American companies bring most to the table here in China.

    All those American companies doing business in China is the result of a political decision made in America a while back. As an example, Volkswagon came to China very early, but as with most Europeans in the beginning, it was for developing business to sell to China. America, to the contrary, opened it borders to Chinese made products. Amercian companies no doubt wanted products cheaply procured for resale in the United States at fat profits, but the real decision, political, was to allow this to take place. The huge trade deficit the United States has with China (and before that Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc.) is really a huge transference of wealth, but done in such a manner that the recipient develops into a modern industrial state. That is what globalization really is, allowing other states to move out of their feudal state into a modern industrial state.

    I work with a lot of Chinese, American, Japanese, and European companies and am participating in that process. I enjoy traditional China, as I do traditional Japan and Vietnam. I enjoy the music (yes, you rabid ‘whatever the new music is’ fans, I enjoy that clingy stuff immensely), the literature, and the arts and crafts. But I also enjoy the fact that the Chinese are becoming rich, rich enough to enjoy the things that they want to enjoy.

  12. Wow, what a discourse (that I read about 57% of).

    I have one thing to add. Capitalism is the natural result of freedom. If people are free to price their goods at competitive prices, and get more business, then you’ve got capitalism. And when you have competition, you usually have better quality.

    Bwt, in China, can you get your McBurger with an egg on it? When I was in Nanchang, I remember that being common, but I never went into McD’s (and only got ice cream at KFC).

  13. JFS, thanks for the comments – interesting viewpoint. What politics suggested that America “open its doors to China?” The last sentence you stated …

    “But I also enjoy the fact that the Chinese are becoming rich, rich enough to enjoy the things that they want to enjoy.”

    … is basically what I was talking about:

    People begin to value shit they don’t need. E.G. working a job they hate to buy shit they don’t need. And it relates to what Da Xiangchang remarked:

    “Regardless of nationality, the average person is an idiot who is easily swayed by commercials into wanting more stuff.”

    It’s called marketing and that’s what I do every day. You’d be amazed of the stupid things people “want”. Today, I heard on mainsream television news in a long line at the post office, that Apple iPod’s are being sold out everywhere due to consumer demand. Marketing, not product, is the cause for this – Apple put millions and millions into marketing so that the mainstream consumer related “MP3 = iPOD”. Apple was one of the last to enter the MP3 market. So when you pay $299 for the product, $250 of that goes to paying the budget of the marketing team of Apple.

    After purchasing fine furniture via my marketing, I had a chat with an African American client regarding Indians. To the Indians, the land was not ownable nor did it have a price tag affixed to it, it was free. They were promised “riches” and “goods” by the settlers and the Indians “signed” away the land because they believed no one could own it. Now where the hell are the Indians? (Watch the latest HBO stand-up comedies by Chris Rock’s “Never Scared” (political and very smart comedy) and Dave Chapelle’s standup comedy “Killing them Softly”, they both touch upon this hilariously).

    It’s losing sight of what is “rich”. Watch out for the transfer of power/riches. How else does one make a dollar out of fifteen cents? Though many will lose sight, even in a culturally rich country such as China, I do believe if any country is going to surpass that major flaw in human nature and overcome it, it’ll be the most populous nation in the world – CHINA. Word.

    • Wilson (Sinosplice/RACINGMIX)
  14. Mr. Wilson, unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the only comedians I see on TV are on CCTV and speak in Chinese, I am not in the position to follow the latest standup comedians in the US.

    Your comments on the American Indians concept of land ownership probably need to be put in some form of context. For instance, in Nevada, the Paiutes were called digger Indians by the White Settlers. They were essentially a hunter gathering society, a paleolithic people even into the beginning of the 19th century. Land itself was not a contributor to the social economic structure. But not all Indian societies were hunter gathering. The farming communities were a different species. Farming requires tilled land, and that is finite. Finite commoddities are, by difinition limited and hence are distributed in some restricted sense, analogous to land ownership. Those Indian communities that did farming had land ownership in some form.

    I collect what many will consider as useless “shit”. I like books, and have a rather large collection of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Latin, and Greek books of one form or another. This “shit” may be “shit” to others, but I enjoy and treasure these items. Who am I to judge others for what they value. If they like an Ipod, then what is it to me, no matter what it costs them. Personally, I will not procure an Ipod, but that is because I am looking for an MP3 gadget that also records voice conversations, otherwise I would no other objections to an Ipod.

    Your comments about the power of marketing reflect, in my opinion, an American perspective formed by the litigious nature of its society. Americans have the habit of not finding individuals responsible for their own conduct, but rather put the blame on organizations, especially if they can foot the bill. That is not to say there is not miss-information or fraud, but I believe the problem is not McD, or Apple, or Walmart or their marketing departments. If people are buying “shit” that they do not need, it is because they are buying it. But who am I to judge whom is buying poorly or wisely. I do not mean any offense, but I do not want Wilson, or Kaili, or John, or anyone else determing what I ought to buy and how much of it I should buy.

    Fat Americans appears on the surface to support your contentions about the power of marketing. But I recall that when Marius, on his last campaign against Sulla, although an old man at the time, had difficulty mounting his horse because of he had become fat. I recall in the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” that at a dinner with Liu Biao, Liu Bei arose and saw his reflection, and that reflection showed an ‘potbelly’ and an ‘inner tube’ on our hero. Although these are anecdotal, I do believe they illustrate the condition that no matter what society nor when, abundance creates a difficulty in maintianing proper balance between production and consumption. But I do not believe imposing poverty on people is the solution.

  15. JFS, nice! You’re right, who am I to judge? I like the tie in to Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the line: “No matter what society nor when, abundance creates a difficulty in maintianing proper balance between production and consumption.”

  16. Da Xiangchang Says: December 18, 2004 at 4:25 am

    An anecdote:

    V. S. Naipaul, the Nobel laureate, is in India, speaking at a big conference. Someone gets up and says, ¡°Sir Vidia, as you know, India has always been the home of the spirit. And now we are threatened by materialism. Don¡¯t you think this is an alarming thing ¡ª given that India is the home of the spirit?¡±

    And Naipaul says, ¡°I¡¯m rather patient with materialism: the poor need it.¡±

  17. “So when you pay $299 for the product, $250 of that goes to paying the budget of the marketing team of Apple.”

    Wilson, I know you were probably exaggerating to make your point, but I¡¯d like to correct this. Apple¡¯s OPEX (which includes marketing expenses) is ~25%, so less than a quarter of any revenue from ipods goes to the marketing team. Also, the gross margin on the ipod is 22%, which means that for a $299 product, they gross $66 — the profit from ipod sales doesn¡¯t even cover the costs involved in running the business that produces and markets them.

  18. In order to stop the cultural decline of China due to Western imperialist bourgeois spiritual pollution, I suggest the government or some board of experts dictate what is culturally acceptable. Oh wait, they already tried that during the Cultural Revolution. People certainly didn’t “want shit they don’t need” back then.

    Also, most of the people who shop at places like Walmart shop there because they are poor and can’t afford high-quality, high-culture items. It is pretty easy to attack the poor for showing such a lack of taste and class for buying cheap shit they can barely afford. The next time I see some poor white Å©Ãñ or illegal immigrants shopping at Walmart and eating at McDonald’s, I’ll be sure to tell them to get with the program and start shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue.

  19. I wouldn’t be too scared about McDonald’s advertising to kids in China because their food doesn’t taste that good by itself, and especially when compared to Chinese food. They won’t eat McD’s all the time and get very fat.

    Super-Size Me wasn’t that bad; I thought it was informative about fast food in America, etc.

    Btw John, you should make the Name field required so you don’t have all these no-name commenters.

  20. John, because of these images on your website, I now feel like a bigmac… for shame!

  21. My dear Wilson: I know I live in a world of my own making, but it is a pleasant world. One time while I was in America, in a church building, in the lobby, standing before a bulletin board reading the posters, I came across one directed toward the youth. Toward the bottom of the passage was something like “be the best you can be”. I looked at my wife and said, “look at that, he’s quoting Homer.” She looked at the poster and replied, “He’s not quoting Homer.” “Well”, I said, “he may not have intended to, and he may not even know it; but he is quoting Homer, it is from the Iliad. That is the passage that Cicero credits for inspiring him to achieve whatever he achieved in life.” My wife was not impressed.

    Back to the subject posting. Here in China I suspect it is more naivete than wittingly going out of their way to advertise brand names. But it happens even in the United States. I always think of the coup that Sony got from the exposure of their brand name from the back of one of their computer monitors during the “trial of the century” when that ex-football player was accused of killing his wife and that guy with her. And Sony did not even have to pay anyone for that advertising caper.

    Jessica, I am not so sure about that. Not long ago in idle chatter with a friend of mine, he told me that he himself did not like carbonated drinks nor hamburgers, but his son really did. He continued on saying that the youth in China now really like carbonated drinks (and American style fast foods).

    Also, eating at McDs does not automatically make your fat. While on a trip, by myself, I was chatting with my wife by computer. She was telling me to watch my diet. I told her not to worry, I was eating Chinese food only. She told me there are such a thing as fat monkeys. “Fat monkeys!” I said. “Yes,” she said, “in the jungle there are fat monkeys and skinny monkeys. It is not what you eat, but how much of it that also is important.” While here in China I quite often go look at new housing units. I am not in the real estate business, but I do like to see what the prices are and what is happening in that sector. I was in a development not far from Kunshan, a nice development, lake and boating docks, with single detached homes, etc. While in the sales lobby, I saw a Chinese family come in. They had a girl, maybe ten or twelve, rather chubby, too chubby. Perhaps common in America, but rather rare here in China. Then I heard the father start speaking. Ah, Taiwanese. But I suspect it was not eating at McDs that she got so chubby, it was just eating and eating.

  22. Today I did a promotional event for my company at a kindergarten I’ve never been to before. There were balloons all around. About half of them had my company’s logo on them. The other half had “I’m lovin’ it” and a big M on them.

  23. i agree with wilson.

    right now prof Wu Jinlian argues that china not only need a “market economy” but also need a “good market economy”. market mechanism works well in many parts of the society, but i have to say it fails to work in some fields like enviroment protection. and marketing, and integral part of the market mechanism, creats a lot of troubles to society and people. marketing makes people excited for “shit” they don’t really need, and marketing need A LOT of money, big big money.

    because some are related to value judgement, it’s hard to say whether it’s good or not, eg, if people are happy with “shit” they buy, then some will say marketing “shit” to them is a good thing. but something are very clear, over-packing just waste our natural resources, so some government set rules to restrict over-packing, like in japan. seems chinese government set an upper limit for adv spending for chinese firms a few years ago, but i am not sure this rule is followed or not.

    marketing is a natural part of american culture (am i right?), and it’s said american firms are masters of marketing, i believe it. but some marketing is not ethical.

    as i know, american firms have a relatively higher business ethical standard back at home than in china. and some marketing practices are not that good, like putting a big english logo among a group of old chinese buildings, or promoting unhealthy food to chinese kids… so china faces three challenges – first, to learn how to make great marketing, second, to know what is ethical marketing, third, to think about the limitations of marketing in the society.

  24. i found this pic and used it in my post, look at the eyes of these chinese kids:

  25. There are two separate issues here: marketing to kids in a classroom setting and the “evils” of marketing in general. In a classroom setting, you have a “captive audience.” At least this is the legal argument you will hear in the US — kids are required by law to go to school. Since they are forced to be there, you basically have government-sanctioned marketing in the schools when private compaines enter the public school. I doubt the Chinese legal system really gives a rip about this kind of thing. (not for that reason, anyway.)

    About the “evils” of marketing in general, I’d really like to know what proposed solutions everyone has. Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. And as annoying as marketing certainly is, it is a form of speech. I think you can regulate where certain kinds of marketing take place, etc. — and even the form of marketing (cigarette TV ads are illegal in the US, for example). But you have to be careful if you go down this road in a free society. Who should decide what is “acceptable?” Well, the government would have to. I’d rather have a bunch of crappy, annoying marketing than state-approved messages. (“I eat at McDonalds. This is George W. Bush, and I approved this message.”) Anyway, it is all about finding the right balance. But I tend to put the burden on something called “parental responsibility.” A foreign concept to most. Raise your own kids – don’t ask TV or the government to do it.

  26. Nic; That was not a hamburger with an egg on it. It was a Sausage McMuffin – same as you find in North America.

    Nice to see lots of smart libertarians reading your site John 🙂

    Back to McD’s: I wonder about the quality of the McDonald’s China marketing team. Last year they had that cringe-inducing ‘song’ “I’m Lovin’ It” set to repeat ALL THE TIME. It was complete torture to sit down and eat at the restaurant. I felt terrible for the workers there who had to listen to that ‘song’ all day. Man that would be hell!

    On the other hand, perhaps it was a clever marketing plan designed to increase store turnover by having customers leave as quickly as possible to avoid the song/music – thereby freeing up seats.

  27. Very much related to everything we’ve been talking about above – Google search this:

    ‘Renzao Meinu’

  28. JFS, I must say we have essential points of disagreement. No I’m not a tree-hugging hippy (at least anymore ;-), but I after several years in development studies I’ve lost any faith I may have had in the supposed ‘trickle-down’ benefits of capitalism. Sure, in the cities China is more developed than most of New Zealand, well it looks like it at least. But the problem I have with countries like NZ and the US sending all their manufacturing to China is not just that it loses us jobs, who cares — but that it is kind of a new order of power. Mr Big Business man and Mr Government Official getting a bit on the side will benefit from Special Economic Zones, but the migrant workers in there have no rights or choices in their lives except to continue making money for Phil Knight and the like. These transnational companies are rich and powerful because of their ability to exploit the poor transnationally without restraint from any government. And if Beijing were to put restraints on them (eg health benefits, or minimum wage, or the banning of compulsory pregancy tests) the companies have the power to shut shop and move to the next 3rd world country. Sure, Taiwan and Japan developed through this, but how many times can we keep moving it to the next underdeveloped country? The thing investors like about China is the huge gap between rich and poor — the ability to market their goods to the rich, and invest in low-cost production exploiting the mostly hukou-less poor migrant population of 94 million.

    Macdonalds doesn’t participate in this exactly, and although I’m emotionally against the Americanisation or the Westernisation of the world its not half as much of a problem as the exploitation of the poor in my opinion. As Da Xiangchang said, “McDonalds is the epitome of the American multinational”. Unfortunately, for me, that has rather negative connotations.

    Note however, my rather negative post posts no clever solutions. I’d agree with whoever it was that said marketing is free speech, nothing you can do about etc, but brainwashing is free speech too and we don’t support it (right?!!). It’s scary to me how dependent we are on marketing/materialism/image and identity etc. It’s insane. It was almost relaxing for me to live in a village and escape the stuff. (note I said almost. I’m a child of the 80s, never lived without materialism, not sure how to in fact 🙂

  29. Da Xiangchang Says: December 21, 2004 at 4:03 am

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with cheap developing-world labor. In fact, I see nothing wrong with child labor. The key is to be realistic and not live in a leftist fantasy. First, people are SELFISH. People always blab about a more just world where everyone shares resources, but this is never going to happen. Let me repeat that: IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. People who earn $100 will want to keep the $100, not give $50 of it away to someone else.

    So the ONLY way poor countries will develop is when rich nations send their manufacturing to be done in these countries. Yes, it’s a shame that poor workers are getting paid crap wages for the same work than Americans get paid a lot more for, but if the American company removes its factories from these poor countries, these people would make even less money doing indigenous work or maybe even starve to death! Same thing with kid labor. It’s unfortunate they have to work, but if the company removes the factory, what do you think these kids will do–go off to school, eat hearty lunches, and do calculus problems? Listen, THERE ARE NO SCHOOLS FOR THESE KIDS!* No matter how much weepy-eyed Westerners might despise developing-world labor, it’s the only way for these countries to develop. The West has gone through a similar situation–remember kids in smokestacks during the Victorian era?–and it’s now the developing world’s turn. And I’ll bet you anything that no matter how “badly” an American multinational treats its third-world labor, it’ll still be 1,000 times better than how they’re treated in their own country’s factories! That’s why I have NO PROBLEM with Nike, McDonald’s, CocaCola, etc.

    • Of course, one might argue the rich nations should provide schools for poor countries, but again, this is never going to happen to a great extent because people are selfish. I can prove this point easily: you (if you’re Western) can undoubtedly provide enough tuition and food for a developing-world school if you were to just sell your car and buy a crappy moped to get to wherever you want to go. Or at your work, instead working 40 hours a week, why don’t you work 50 hours, and then use your overtime to feed poor foreign children? But I know you won’t, and the only reason is because YOU’RE SELFISH, just like the 6 billion other people in this world.
  30. Kaili: This post is becoming rather old, but due to travel to the United States I was not able to reply earlier. Your observation is uderstandable, as well as your concerns. Da Xiangchangs last post is a useful reply, but let me just add my own thoughts here. Your observation of the plight with the poor, etc. is not the problem, it is an observation of the outcome of the problems that present day societies are encountering. The problem is that change is taking place, technological change that has the capacity to improve people’s live rather dramatically; but the problem is that change does not occurr instantaneously everywhere. So change occurrs piecemeal, in a specific place within a specific social strata at any time and then expands from there. Not everyone is educated nor trained to participate in the new technology, the physical infrastructure is not able to be installed everywhere at the same time, and the social, legal, economic, etc. infrastructures are not able to put in place everywhere at the same time. The lag between the initial installation and the remaining installations cause the disparity in wealth distribution that is observed. In spite of this lag, though, the change is better than not attempting the change because the old system failed in resolving many of the problems that they were encountering.

    There is another factor that needs to be considered. expensive labor requires efficient labor (read that as replacing human labor with technology) whereas cheap labor eschews technology for inefficient labor (people labor). Each society needs to determine what that society deems more useful, expensive labor (highly automated) or cheap labor (human intensive). If you attempt to have expensive labor without automation you will end up with a very serious problem. That is the core of our health care system, very expensive labor that is very human intensive. The consequence is that it is a scarce commidity and the distribuition of its quality is very random and unpredictable. So when I go into a Walmart, I see a lot of elderly people working as greeters, etc. The work does not seem to be abusive, etc. We as a society need to determine what we wish to resolve, if we want expensive labor, then most of those people will disappear from the store. If we want to use Walmart, etc. as a means of employing people that in other conditions have no alternative to employment, then we will allow the cheap labor. Generally, the position is that when a society has full or nearly full employment, you allow the Walmarts to use cheap labor to employ those who would not be able to be employed within that technological system. When there is relatively high unemployment, then you require the Walmarts to automate so that they increase the salary schedules so those working earn sufficient income to employ those that society would prefer to be employed (those who have a capacity to earn better, etc.).

    To come back to the problem of change. The role of government should be to moderate those two opposing needs of society, to bring about change and to moderate the difficulties that the “unprepared people” will undergo while the change is taking place.

    It is not an easy struggle and there are a lot of problems that must be overcome. In my view, though, the liberals, that is they who have a compassion for the rest of humanity, often are in reality the real conservative (that is, those who are opposing change) and many of the conservatives (those who are out for their own needs) wind up being the real liberals (actually bringing about change that will in the end bring about the opportunity for a more egalitarian society). I see the real need of government is to prevent a too significant abuse of power of those who are benefitting from change) and to insure that the change improves the lives of more and more people, not less and less (which appears to be the case in the Phillipines).

  31. Da Xiangchang my dear,
    I read the “horsecraps” on Time magazine long time ago with a big Mac eating away the Amazon forest on the front cover, I didn’t know Mcdonald decided to sue the magazine.
    I haven’t heard of “Mclibel of 95” but I know the first amendment right protects the freedom of speech in America in most cases. As a matter of fact, I don’t hear a lot of libel cases in America in comparison to Hong Kong and England.

  32. Ahh JFS, your post reads like a first-year Business Studies text book! I see exactly where you are coming from though, and most of the world would agree with you (esp The World Bank, The Asian Development Bank and so on) but your view is primarily an economic one based on a first-world perspective. And it totally makes sense within the West too I think, and the elite members of much of the 3rd world, and at the national rather than the community level. But I’ve spent the last 5 years studying and researching the effects of this development on the poorest of the poor and frankly I’ve stopped believing in trickle down, or that development is merely a technology issue. I haven’t quite become a bitter-twisted cynic since I’ve focused my research on finding developments that are working… many areas in the Phillipines are good examples of this and their government appears to put a big focus on this.

    Many influential Chinese authors and historians of China have argued that this balance cannot happen in China since most of the powerful capitalist entrepreneurs are actually government employees (or ex-, or related), so there is less pressure for the government to balance the two factors you mentioned.

    Canton, McLibel was in the U.K. and as far as I know McDonalds didn’t win, the postman and the gardner did (see ). It was kind of stink one for old McD’s really.

  33. Scrap that, this website says McD’s did win, but the court upheld a lot of the criticisms of the defendents.

  34. Da Xiangchang Says: December 22, 2004 at 11:15 am

    Of course, that Mcspotlight website is the self-proclaimed “biggest, loudest, most red, most read Anti-McDonald’s extravaganza the world has ever seen.” And even this leftist website had to admit the judge fined the hippies 60,000 pounds! So forget the commie commentary and remember the verdict: 60,000 pounds for LIBELING McDonald’s.

  35. Kaili, you’re right about the textbook thing. Like most textbooks, you yawn find it hard to yawn read and yawn relate to … and then I read the words: “So when I go into a Walmart…” I had to stop right there.

    Da Xiangchang, your post about selfishness is what my real estate economics class discussed heavily in the final evening. It went from high density housing to family housing to questioning how it has succeeded in the Bay Area. My answer was: youth. You’ll find that most tenants/owners in the $1800/month 1 bdrm lofts are young professionals and have the ability to compensate, easier to adaptat to their rapidly-changing environments, mobility, even more OPEN in thought and social interaction.

    But my professor had an answer: Youth are self-obsessed, so selfish that they are impervious to outside influences and whatever is happening in the courtyard outside in the loft community. They don’t care who is living next door, blasting Nelly and 50 Cent.

    But my girlfriend had an answer, too: To live is to be self-obsessed.

    And you’re damn right. Every dollar I earn is mine. You’d have to fight me to the death to take my dollar away. You earn and you live to protect what you earn. If you don’t believe this, you’re living in the forest, in a shack, living off of $1.50 a day, and building bombs from dusty blueprints.

  36. By the way,

    MR. & MRS. SMITH – coming June 10th. This is the film of the summer! Watch the trailer below (Quicktime):

  37. haha, I just read daxiangchang’s post again and realised it was all addressed at me! In regards to the “you’re selfish” claim, I’d give an emphatic “yes!”. In regards to the would you work 50 hours a week and give the overtime to the kids etc I’d also answer “yes!”. See part of my selfishness is that I get a kick out of that kind of thing 🙂 And if you think that’s bollocks, I’d have to say it kind of is, because I don’t have an income to give, not yet anyway (or a car, or a house etc etc) — I study development studies and actually go to developing countries to try and research better ways to help the poorest. Let’s hope when I finish this thesis I can actually get a useful job that does something better than just research 🙂

    In most developing countries the main problem is not a lack of schools, its lack of enough money (at the family level, not the state level) to send kids to schools. It’s sad we can spend money on crap like Macdonalds (then advertise for them for free so they make even more money) and some people can’t even afford the $US10 to send their kids to school. To me, it’s even sad that China can spend so much on winning an olympics bid when I’ve met people without enough food or education or health in the western regions — not beggars, just ordinary people(sure sure there are business opportunities through it, but mostly Olympics countries spend more than they make through taxes — individuals will make money but the state, and thus the state dependents, won’t due to all the tax breaks) This isn’t just bleeding heart philosophy, hoping for a socialist utopia to stop it all — I’m not a socialist because you’re right, we are totally selfish too selfish for socialism to work anyway, and so is McD’s. I still eat at McD’s and buy loads of crap, despite professing to giving my career to poor communities — I will still get paid for it, even if I volunteer I’m richer than the people I’ve lived with. The fact that I can actually somehow acquire the money to travel overseas to do this research puts a huge difference between me and them. Comparatively, in NZ, I’m at the lower end of the scale — but I have access to choice and opportunity that they do not have. Why? Is it just the way life is? No, it’s through exploitation, through the selfishness of those with power and guanxi, including me and my nation. There you go I have revealed my “leftism” in all its faulty glory. Wide open for attack now right? I better stop, because I’m starting to break the trolling rule with my soapbox on development 🙂 sorry John!

  38. Da Xiangchang Says: December 23, 2004 at 8:09 am


    Haha, as long as you admit you’re a hypocrite, you’re an okay liberal in my book. I just despise leftists who blab about caring for the poor while rolling around in Lexuses or stuffing their fat faces with steak. If every rich American liberal were to give all their money away except $100,000 a year for living expenses, there would be NO hunger in this world. But we can’t all expect TeRAYza Heinz and Barbara Streisand to do that, now can we? Bunch of shameless hypocrites. That’s why I’ll never vote Democrat!


    Hmmmm . . . I haven’t seen the trailer. The best movie of 2004, however, is Spider-Man 2–an awesome mix of real human emotions and spectacular action sequences. Roger Ebert is right: this is the best superhero movie ever made. (Still, I haven’t seen a bunch of the Oscar contenders yet. I’ve seen The Aviator–good but not great, except DiCaprio who was mesmerizing. I’m most curious about Million Dollar Baby and Hotel Rwanda; gotta see those soon.) The worst movie I’ve seen in 2004 is House of Flying Daggers. Like I’ve said before, Zhang Yimou deserves to be frontally lobotomized for making this piece of phony [feces].

  39. My dear Kaili, no one was referring to trickle down economics. I live in a middle class Chinese apartment block, and this is not a high income middle class unit, but one that is evolving well. I am the only foreigner there. twenty years ago no one here would be able to live in such luxury. The tragedy of the poor is a tragedy, but that is no excuse to not allow economic development to take place. But it takes time and resources to develop any country. I am not that familiar with the details of NZ economic development, but I am with American economic development. The American economic development did not happen overnight, it took a long time was quite uneven in it distribution of wealth, both geographical and social. I work with construction projects, with Chinese companies and with Chinese workers, both professional and labor. I recall one project I worked on, there was an old women, probably around 70. She was the best worker there, outworked those in their 20s. She worked with a shovel, not high tech or anything of that nature. She had a lot of family members depending upon her. She was able to provide for them, but back in her village there was no means to provide. I recall a story of one of my ancestors, a Canadian. He was originally from Scotland. This is back during the beginning of the 20th century. One of his kinsmen died back in Scotland and had title. He was next in line (the kinsman had no children of his own, etc.) but had to return to Scotland to claim the title. He wrote back to them that when he was in Scotland he was starving and he saw no reason to return to starve as a lord as an improvement over starving as a commoner. You talk about the corruption, the guanxi, etc. American development was not overnight, was not polite and corruption free at all, and guanxi existed, in an American form. I am not familiar with NZ economic development, as I mentioned before; but I have no doubt that it also was uneven in its devleopment, was riddled with corruption, etc. in its development.

    As corrupt as China is, the economic wealth is getting to large numbers of common people. My criticism of the Philipines is that its the wealth is not getting to enough people that it should be able to. It is just too corrupt, and its corruption is too restrictive. In China the corruption is much more universal in the sense that it is not restricted to just a very small uppercrust of the society. As the society evolves, the system will become more transparent and much of the corruption will fade out. But the real needs of any society is for the distribution of wealth to as much of the total population as possible.

  40. The Aviator. You’ve seen it? It’s supposed to be released on Xmas 2004 – you must’ve caught an advanced screening. I’m definitely going to watch that EPIC.

  41. Da Xiangchang Says: December 24, 2004 at 3:08 am


    Naw, man, it opened already in LA and NY. One of the advantages of living down here as opposed to up there. 😉

    And Aviator’s definitely worth a look. DiCaprio, like I’ve said, is absolutely astonishing. I didn’t think he was a real actor until this movie; I mean, he could play a retarded kid really well, but I’ve never been impressed by any of his adult roles. This movie changed my mind; he’s the real deal. Scorsese is, as expected, visually brilliant. He’s going to win Best Director this year, and I’m 75% sure this movie is going to win the Best Picture Oscar. DiCaprio deserves Best Actor, but everyone says Jamie Foxx is going win–damn, I need to see Ray too!

  42. Worth a look, you say? Man, nothing has made an impact in the past couple years as much as Aviator made. Many scenes will stay emblazoned in the mind and Leo definitely locks the role down. The sheer money they invested in the film, $110M USD, should be sufficient in foretelling how stunning the results are. I watched it just now on Christmas evening – sold out crowds all day apparently. Worth checking out – even for gasp $10.50 a seat. $9.25 + $1.50 online ticket “surcharge”. Greedy pricks.

  43. Da Xiangchang Says: December 27, 2004 at 9:20 am


    Haha, this is turning into a film-review topic. I’m sure John is thoroughly annoyed! 😉

    Yeah, Aviator’s good, but again, I don’t give it top marks cuz I wasn’t emotionally invested in it like I was Spider-Man 2; what can I say, I’m a sucker for romances–and Spider-Man 2 is very much a romance.

    The best Chinese movie I saw this year was Blind Shaft. This is the most realistic movie about China I’ve ever seen, and I’m surprised it’s not more well known in America. Maybe because it doesn’t depict the imaginary China of Western viewers–beautiful people flying through the air and sprouting Buddhist crap while drinking green tea. HA! (Interesting, the reception of House of Flying Daggers in America again shows how Western reviewers are generally clueless when it comes to Chinese movies. Americans in general love this wretched film! Every single Chinese person I know HATES THIS MOVIE [and they should since it’s a piece of shit], and for once, the Chinese are 100% right and American viewers wrong.)

  44. Da Xiangchang: thanks for the (?) compliment (never been complimented for being a hypocrite before :-). Did you actually mean to say “reserve $100,000 for living expenses”? I thought an annual income of $100,000 alone was an exceedingly rich person… Although I was talking before about giving money away, I’m actually not convinced that these problems are solved by giving money away. How is actually distributed? Handing it out isn’t sustainable… investing it in education or health?? The thing I like about Jiuzhaigou (Aba, Sichuan) where I was living in China is that the park administration actually shares some of the benefits of tourism with the people who are put out by it — the park residents. They aren’t exploited (much) by tourism companies who reap the benefits and put huge environmental and social burdens on residents like in other areas. To me, its enough if people are given opportunities such as this to improve their own lot. It’s not hard for them to do it, why don’t more companies and local governments etc do this too? Certainly doesn’t happen here in NZ either.

    JFS, NZ developed through the systematic alienation of land from the Maori. We made our money from huge farms that were bought through misunderstandings of the concepts of leasing (Maori idea) and private land ownership (Pakeha idea). Much more of it was not bought but seized through force. And ours was one of the best in the world at the time (since “Aotearoa” was actually recognised by the British crown as being an independent nation governed by the Maori.) We never had to go through feudalism or slave labour in order to develop, but our supposedly humane development has been primarily through the crushing of one people’s opportunities by another people’s desires. Is it then “development”, with the huge social problems it has caused with the original population of the country? In some ways (purely economically) it is. But for a lot of people who lost all their rights to succeed, not really.

    So what I’m saying is, yes you are right, our development is based on corruption (and bloodbathes)but I’m questioning whether this can actually be called development. Same way that the great leap forward in China is now referred to as the great leap backward (even though economic and industrial “development” occurred, 300 million people starved), maybe in the future historians will write off what we call ‘development’ as bollocks? In fact, many already do…

    I’m not one of them, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. Is this trolling yet?

  45. Da Xiangchang Says: December 27, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Debating development stuff is getting boring. I’m fascinated, however, by how many Kiwis write on this board. Like New Zealand has like NO people (less than 4 million, anyway). How the hell do Kiwis keep on popping up in so many places? They’re like the Jews. There aren’t many of them around, but they’re everywhere!

    I got to admit, I’m impressed. For a little country, it sure produced some famous people (though, all related to Hollywood). Russell Crowe, Peter Jackson, Jane Campion, that cute Maori girl in “Whale Rider” (a snore of a movie, however), and that old guy who climbed Everest.

  46. OK, I cede. Get off my soapbox etc.

    How many Kiwis write on this board? You’re not getting us mixed up with Aussies?

    Talking of Kiwis and Hollywood, when I was in China I picked up a pilot episode on vcd called “riverworld”. Its clearly filmed in NZ (although everyone speaks with American accents including the Kiwis), but I’ve never heard of it before. Anyone seen it in the US or China? I want to watch the rest of the series.

    Anyway, NZ is just the little playground for Hollywood directors wanting to save money because of tax breaks. Apparently overall Lord of the Rings lost the nation money because of all the free stuff we did (for example the orcs are the New Zealand army –don’t mess with us man!), but added billions to your beloved America. My brother put the airconditioning in Jackson’s new house… he has hobbit holes and an underground theatre! He’s doing all right anyway.

  47. i h8 Mcdonald it suck and they cut down the rainforest soon we wont be able to live anymore 🙁

  48. Excellent way to bring this thread back from the dead. Class. 😀

  49. I had a McDonalds playset when I was 5 years old. That was probably my favorite toy. Today, I am not fat. I worked at McDonalds for a year and was a manager, it was my favorite job yet. There are somethings that kids like, doesn’t mean they are McDonalds conglomorates for life.

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