Don’t miss this gallery of charming — and bizarre — Chinese space-program posters.
I had to laugh when I saw an ad on TV last night for American Express’s new credit card: 1% of eveything you charge on your card is put into a savings account with a 3.15% interest rate. There’s a $35 annual fee for the card.
Okay, so let’s do the math. You wanna save some cash. But you have a hard time putting aside the dough on your own. The solution: keep buying stuff on credit — stuff you probably wouldn’t pay for cash for — and then you won’t have to worry about building your nest egg.
Go ahead and buy that new 42″ plasma screen TV for $2,200 — and a whopping $22 will go into your savings account! What a bargain! Throw a $2,000 Rolex (it’s used, so it’s cheap!) on the card, as well, as you’ve saved another 20 bones. When you substract the $35 annual fee, you’ve come out seven dollars ahead! (Of course, you could always pay cash for a cheaper TV and a less extravagent watch — and save the difference, plus the interest you’d have to pay on the credit card — but we all know what a hassle that can be.)
When most people think about saving money for the future, they try to figure out a way to make more cash — whether it’s through higher income or a hairbrained 1% savings plan like this. It’s much simpler, of course, to simply modify our lifestyles so we spend less than we make. It’s not necessarily easier, but it’s simpler.
One of my favorite passages in Rolf Potts’s excellent book “Vagabonding : An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel” is when Potts recounts a scene from the 1987 film “Wall Street.” Charlie Sheen plays a young stockbroker on the make; at one point, he tells his girlfriend that he wants to work hard and make a killing so he can one day retire and “ride a motorcycle across China.” As Potts points out, Sheen’s character — or anyone — could work for a year cleaning toilets, living inexpensively and saving as much as possible, and have enough funds for such a trip.
(Or, of course, assuming the journey might cost $3,000, you could always charge $300,000 on your new AmEx card and have the necessary loot saved for you automatically! Making the minimum monthly payments might be tough, however…)
Justin Logan at the Cato Institue argues that Taiwan needs to take a more active role in defending itself from China. From a recent Washington Times op-ed:
For the last 4 years, the Bush administration has continually begged Taiwan to purchase a special $18 billion package of weapons designed to help defend against the threat from China. Due mostly to relentless obstructionism on the part of the opposition pan-Blue coalition, Taiwan has failed to pass this special budget. If the United States fails to seriously pressure Taiwan — in the form of diplomatic “sticks” — Taiwan will continue to balk, emboldening China and endangering the security of both Taiwan and the United States.
Taiwan faces arguably the most precarious security environment in the world. It sits roughly 100 miles away from the behemoth People’s Republic of China, which is aiming a considerable campaign of military modernization directly at tiny Taiwan. In the face of this dire threat, Taiwan has displayed a stunning neglect of its own defense, and not just in terms of its refusal to pass the special budget. Over the last five years, Taiwan’s overall defense spending has dropped roughly 25 percent, to an anemic 2.4 percent of gross domestic product.
The reason it has the luxury to do so, according to Taiwan expert James Mulvenon, is Taiwan’s belief in a “blank check of military support from the United States.”
Michael Turton disagrees and has some interesting analysis of Logan’s position.
I know it’s been Chiwanese (Chinese/Taiwanese) 24/7 in these parts recently, but this was too good to pass up.
CS Monitor: “East meets West, with an Argentine twist”:
BUENOS AIRES – Like many in Latin America’s most Eurocentric country, 26-year-old Emanuela Gavezza has long fancied the West. Her grandparents hail from northern Italy, which she has visited almost yearly.
During the ’90s, when the economy here was booming with the Argentine peso pegged to the dollar, she started traveling to the United States. She even studied at the University of Richmond in Virginia for six months, perfecting her English.
This year though, Ms. Gavezza is looking East. She began studying Mandarin with a private tutor. She now relishes sopa de wan-ton in Buenos Aires’s two-block long Barrio Chino.
She is not alone.
Peter Hessler, who wrote the exceptional “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze,” has got a new book coming out in April. It’ll be called “Oracle Bones : A Journey Between China’s Past and Present.” Those’re the only details I’ve got. I may just have to pre-order this one.
(Hessler’s author bio in last week’s New Yorker mentioned his new book; I haven’t read his article in that issue yet, but it looks great — it’s about Chinese auto makers and Chinese car culture.)