American misperceptions about China’s economic power


Note: I have updated this post here.

Excellent post from James Fallows pointing out that a new Pew report shows that 44 percent of Americans think that the “top global economic power” is China. Just 27 percent of respondents correctly picked the U.S.

Yes, China owns a lot of American T-bills. And yes, China’s economy is developing rapidly. But China’s economic might is not as great as many people assume.

From an Oct. 22nd story in the Economist headlined “The Odd Couple: America should be much more confident in its dealings with its closest rival”:

China’s economy is still less than a third the size of America’s at market exchange-rates. Its GDP per head is one-fourteenth that of America. The innovation gap between the two countries remains huge. America’s defence budget is still six times China’s.

(Emphasis mine.)

Check out Fallows’s post (linked to above) for more info.


Two stories: Red shirts to protest, and Thai Airways sues the PAD

Two stories from Bangkok today that I wanted to point out:

  • Anti-government red shirt protesters will gather today at Bangkok’s Democracy monument for a demonstration between noon and midnight. Ousted PM Thaksin is expected to speak via video-link at 7 p.m. This story from Bloomberg has more info.
  • Thai Airways has sued the PAD — including Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya — for shutting down Bangkok’s airports just over a year ago. The airline wants $17 million for lost revenue. AFP has more.

Tiger Woods, Thailand, and Thaksin


Tiger Woods, Thailand, and ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — they’re all related, if you can believe it.

This is — I hope — the only post I’ll be writing about the Tiger Woods saga. But I wanted to point out the following story since there’s a Thailand connection.

Tiger Woods is half Thai. But my understanding is that Tiger has not, shall we say, fully embraced his Thai-ness. That is, while he has acknowledged his Thai heritage (his mother is Thai), he has not proclaimed a love for or a connection with Thailand.

A little poking around on the internerd revealed this interesting Nov., 2000 TIME story about Tiger’s visits to Thailand.

A few graphs follow. All emphasis mine:

[Tiger’s] total prize money and appearance fees will top $12 million, while endorsements will bring in an additional $50 million. But while Tiger can count on tournament marshals and security personnel to control the throngs on the course, off it the going sometimes gets tough, as was evident during his return to Thailand, the homeland of his mother Kultida.

Woods’ first trip to Thailand as a professional in early 1997 was a three-ring circus. Politicians and TV crews boarded his plane when it touched down in Bangkok before he could unbuckle his seat belt. Woods would describe it as the craziest week of his life; he was hoping things would be a little saner this time around. “I always enjoy coming back to Thailand,” he says. “It’s always neat to be back among family and friends.” Not everyone was so enthusiastic, however. Some Thais feel he should donate more of his wealth to their country; others resent the fact that he lends his name to companies that, in their view, exploit millions of low-skilled local workers. “He basically has forgotten the Thai people,” says Prasong Pathom, a medical doctor who followed Woods around during day one of last week’s tournament. “He is a great golfer and has done some good with his foundation in getting equipment for young kids, but a number of Thais see it as nothing more than a token gesture.”

Woods reportedly received an appearance fee of $1 million to compete in Bangkok while unwittingly taking on the role of political kingmaker. Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecom billionaire and prohibitive frontrunner to become Prime Minister in January’s election, is reported to have footed the bill for Woods in return for a couple of photo-ops. As a council member of Kasetsart University, Thaksin was also pivotal in awarding Woods an honorary doctorate of philosophy in sport. Woods’ handlers informed the university that he was on a tight schedule, however, and that the ceremony could only be 15 minutes long and held at his downtown hotel instead of at the university. “It took him 15 minutes to get something that took me four years,” one student complained in a local paper. After the ceremony, a clearly flustered Dr. Woods was greeted in his hotel lobby by a noisy group of 100 fired employees of sportswear giant Nike (which has a $100 million endorsement deal with Tiger), protesting the layoff of 1,016 workers in September. “Woods should be able to understand why that company can give him so much money,” says Lek Junya Yumprasert, a Thai labor committee official. “It would take workers here 72,000 years to make that kind of money.” Woods was swallowed by a phalanx of security men and quickly exited without comment.

Given that this is an old story, does anyone have any updated info to share?


So much to link to, so little time

Lots of good Economist and WSJ stuff to link to, and so little time. But here goes:

  • A fantastic Thailand story from the WSJ: “How to Make a Croc Look Cuddly: Paint It Like a Panda; Bears From China Are a Hit in Thailand, Prompting Makeovers of Local Animals.” Contains a wonderful image of a baby croc painted like a panda.
  • The Economist has a good story about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America: “Iran and Latin America: Ayatollahs in the backyard.” Ecuador watchers won’t want to miss this snippet:

    To see how Iran’s foreign policy works in smaller, ideologically sympathetic Latin American countries, take Ecuador—a country that has such dire problems raising money after defaulting on its debt that it can easily be swayed by cash from foreign governments. Ecuador is thinking of joining Nicaragua and Venezuela in recognising the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the hope of getting Russian government loans.

    This month an Iranian delegation was in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, to discuss loans for hydroelectric power plants, one of the 25 bilateral agreements signed when Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, visited Iran last year. Ecuador badly needs the plants: it was forced to start rationing power this month.

  • And speaking of the Andes, here’s the WSJ on what appears to be Bolivian President Evo Morales’s re-election: “Evo Morales Appears to Win Bolivia Vote; Second Term Expected to Bring More Ambitious Economic Changes; Ruling Party Poised to Take Over Senate
  • And finally, the Economist has an obit for Thai PM Samak Sundaravej, whose passing I mentioned earlier.

More soon. Don’t think the draw for World Cup 2010 has escaped my attention…


A few non-Thailand links

Here are a few non-Thailand related links that I wanted to pass along, just quickly, before the week comes to a close:

That’s it. See you next week.


“One hundred years from now, All new people”

From Wat Umong, near Chiang Mai. The proper perspective... on Twitpic

You’ve really got to love this sign, which @thaicam photographed recently at Wat Umong, near Chiang Mai. You can see a bigger version on Twitpic.

The sign says:

Cut yourself some slack. Remember, One hundred years from now, All new people.



Trapeze lessons on Thailand’s Koh Tao


Wait — you can take trapeze lessons on Thailand’s Koh Tao? Why am I only just now learning about this?

Don’t believe me? Point your browser to the Flying Trapeze Adventures (FTA) Web site and read on.