Monthly Archives: October 2010

After enduring torments in George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith learnt to love Big Brother. After the midterm elections, which are also likely to be painful, Barack Obama should learn to love big business.

John Gapper

I admit to having been sceptical about Alan Mulally‘s chances of turning around the ingrained culture and under-performance of Ford when he was recruited from Boeing as chief executive in 2006. But Mr Mulally has been proving me wrong.

Ford’s third quarter results put the company on track to be free of net debt by the end of the year. More importantly, Mr Mulally’s internal restructuring appears to have placed it on a long-term growth path, rather than being a short-term fix.

A lot of conventional wisdom about the industry have been proved wrong recently, including the idea that it would be a disaster for any of the Big Three to go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was the best thing that could have happened to GM. Read more

John Gapper

This weekend in Shanghai, I met Zhou Libo, China’s most popular stand-up comedian and, among other things, a judge on China’s Got Talent, which has just concluded its first season (the winner was a man who plays the piano with his toes).

Mr Zhou is the closest China has to a Jon Stewart, a comedian who draws his material from topical issues such as the rapid rise in house prices. He also does imitations of China’s political leaders, including Wen Jiabao, the premier. Read more

John Gapper

I spent a comfortable hour and a quarter today on the high-speed bullet train from Nanjing to Shanghai – a symbol of China’s technological progress and the extreme lengths to which it has gone to acquire western technology.

The journey on the service that opened this summer was fast, smooth and relaxing – starting from Nanjing’s newly upgraded station and ending on time in Shanghai. Although the trains did not quite have the same polish as the TGV service in France, the ambience was otherwise  similar.

China is building one of the biggest high speed rail networks in the world, having started with the Beijing-Tianjin line, built in co-operation with Siemens of Germany in time for the 2008 Olympics. Read more

China was introduced to its likely next leader this week when Xi Jinping was named to a top military post at the Communist party’s annual plenum. No one knows much about him and few are bothered.

John Gapper

On my visit to China with a group of journalists, I today visited Beijing Middle School 101 – a school at which 4,000 students up to the age of 18 prepare for university. It was a remarkable insight into the achievements and aspirations of China’s new generation.

I had expected to find intelligent and highly-motivated students, but what was more surprising was how immaculately many of the group of 30 students we met spoke English, and their thoughtful and open comments on Chinese society. Read more

John Gapper

I am in China this week and, on my first full day in Beijing, took a trip to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. While there, I saw the following customer service declaration on the cable car. It made this visitor happy:

Two years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, regulators are working on ways to prevent it happening again. That means finding a way to wind down a complex, global financial institution safely, while making its shareholders and bondholders suffer enough to discourage reckless behaviour.