Monthly Archives: June 2013

John Gapper

Being invited for tea in China sounds like the sort of hospitable gesture that visitors come to expect. For the growing arm of Chinese bloggers – and users of Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter – it has a different connotation.

In that context, he cha” (drink tea), means being asked to come and talk to the state security services about what you have been writing. That doesn’t mean being arrested, or even banned from Weibo permanently, but it is a shot across the bows. Read more

I once rashly asked the chief executive of a large listed enterprise if he was overpaid. “I’ve taken no holiday and spent every weekend of the past 18 months trying to rescue this company, breaking up my marriage in the process,” he responded drily. “So, no, I don’t think I’m overpaid.”

John Gapper

You would think that an American executive who came to China in 2006 and has only made one sale since then might be feeling a little discouraged. But, as I discovered on a visit to the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, Brad Bean is not.

Since Mr Bean is trying to sell luxury yachts to billionaires – 70-to-100-metre vessels that retail for between $50m and $120m each – he thinks he is making good progress. China, after all, is not the obvious place to buy a yacht. Read more

Andrew Hill

You’re about to hear a lot more about “good banks” and “bad banks”. The report from the parliamentary banking standards commission, due on Friday, and Stephen Hester’s departure from Royal Bank of Scotland will reignite questions such as whether RBS should be split into “good” and “bad” operations (Mr Hester opposed this).

Running in parallel is a philosophical debate about how you ensure banks are “good” – in the sense of having a strong, positive purpose.

But there is also the question of whether banks that do good are always good banks. Read more

Sales of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four have risen since Edward Snowden revealed how the National Security Agency of the US gains access to telephone records and data from technology companies. So far, if people do not exactly love Big Brother, they are prepared to accept some invasion of their privacy in return for security.

Everybody loves a conspiracy – provided they are part of it. That is the lesson of the outbreak of outrage in the UK last week, when the “secret world government” that attends the Bilderberg meetings landed on the front lawn of middle England.

Everywhere one looks, Google is doing remarkable things. It could soon overtake Apple in downloads of applications; it is developing self-driving cars; people wear its kooky augmented reality Glass spectacles; it is signing renewable power deals in South Africa and Sweden.

Andrew Hill

Ingvar Kamprad’s withdrawal from key operational roles at Ikea, the company he founded, has more steps than the furniture retailer’s most complex product assembly manual. The question, though, is once he has built his legacy, will it hold together?

The latest move, announced on Wednesday, sees him step down from the board of Inter Ikea Holding, putting his youngest son Mathias in as chairman of the unit, which reaps the royalties from the stores and owns Ikea’s brand and intellectual property. Read more