Sưu tầm – How A Stoic Thinks About Sex

If you’re born into certain religious faiths, you tend to be raised with strong views on sex that come from on high. You’re not supposed to have sex before marriage or do this or that because God wouldn’t like it. (How that entitles you to regulate what other people do is less clear, but we’ll leave that to another discussion). And if God doesn’t like it, well that’s trouble. It is a rigid and restrictive worldview, to be sure, but it also offers a great degree of simplicity and clarity. Do this, don’t do that.

For those who are not religious, however, it is a little less clear what to think about all things sexual. Should you do whatever you want—following every urge and impulse your body has? Should you chase pleasure? Or should you avoid it? What do you teach your children, whose innocence you want to protect, without being controlling or repressive?

These are the type of questions the Stoics were always wrestling with, as they tried to find a rational path through the world. A path that was both in accordance with our nature—as they liked to say—and also not ruled by our passions.

As it happens, one of the most direct comments we have on sex from Epictetus is both modern and commonsensical:

“As for sex, abstain as far as possible before marriage, and if you do go in for it, do nothing that is socially unacceptable. But don’t interfere with other people on account of their sex lives or criticize them, and don’t broadcast your own abstinence.”

Basically, try to be responsible and mind your own business. Not a bad way to live.

There’s no reason to be a pleasure-hating moralist (that is its own passion, anyway). There’s not much to admire in the stories we hear from Greece and Rome about slaves and prostitution and pederasty either. Worse still are the hypocrites who say one thing and do another.

Epictetus’s formula is almost a perfect Aristotelian Mean: Don’t abstain and don’t overdo. Leave other people to their own choices. Keep your own choices private. And don’t think you’re better than anyone else—because you’re not.


Sưu tầm – Put On Your Big Girl Panties and Get Over It

I got the email early this morning. My treasured Thai masseuse Denise had just ended her relationship with her partner. Being 61 to my 66, she and I have been sharing our relationship stories while she’s been tending to my injuries over the past many years.

It hit her much harder than she’d expected. Denise is gay, and the rivers from which we both prefer to draw our connections have experienced something of a drought lately. My long term and rather messy BF connection ended on my birthday in mid-January, after a supremely difficult and painful seven months of his living in my house. A temporary engagement to be sure, but he turned out to be, let’s be kind here, not what I had thought, given that we’d never had much time together to begin with. BAM, now it’s living under the same roof. That will definitely bring out the monsters on both sides, if any exist.

We’re both party to that mess. You wanna blame someone? Go look in the bathroom mirror.

For Denise, who, like me, has terrible difficulty with superficial anything, is world-traveled and cares deeply about both personal growth and personal responsibility, finding good company- especially intimate company, is the proverbial needle in a haystack search.

Photo by Lucas Gallone on Unsplash

As we age, and our lifestyles have settled into a way of being which involves a fair amount of alone time- by choice, thank you- we also find it challenging to find people who are both equally committed to developing themselves as well as physically attractive. We’re no different from someone in their twenties or forties. We live in a world where people are terrified to turn twenty, as one teacher shared with me on Medium. So of course, as we age, we’re finding folks who would prefer the younger versions of ourselves, even as they themselves age.

Denial is one powerful drink. I sup from it myself at times. Perhaps the sole saving grace is that I am fully aware of the fact that I suffer from it, can laugh at it, and move on.

Denise said that she is doing what she and I always do when faced with an open field ahead: Put On Our Big Girl Panties and Get Over It.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

That sign lives on the wall right at eye level in my office.

Yesterday morning, being one to love self-flagellation, I paid my way onto Fitness Singles again. My membership had lapsed four years ago, but I’d had a few folks take a look in the interim.

There was one guy in particular who fit the precise type I am after. I joined. All the pics were still accurate. Wrote him a funny email. He took a look, passed. Moved on. And there you go. About $145 investment to get passed over, and there’s no question it’s because of a number.

It troubles me that so many of us take this personally. As though someone who doesn’t find us attractive is attacking us. Well, look, some do, but if a guy or gal passes you over because you’re too old or too young or too out of shape or too fit or whatever the hell the problem is, that’s not a statement about you. It is in fact a statement about their preferences.

Nobody should be raked screaming over the coals for a preference.

There was one guy who lives in Boise who caught my attention. I had no idea who he was (his profile assumed you did, and that’s a Big Red Flag right there. OF COURSE YOU KNOW WHO I AM). I thought, look, I’m heading to Boise to take a look at properties. Wrote another funny no harm no foul, I’d love your input email. Nothing. Then I checked out his age bracket. This is a 58-yo guy looking for a 30 yo girl. Well, hell. That’s his perfect right. He might have been drawn to a photo but there is no way in hell this man is going to want to meet me on the basis of my age alone.

This is what we do. The guy in question- and it was actually very easy to figure out who he was, which was a tight end for the 1985 Bears, was extremely self-absorbed, self-referential. Once I saw the resume, I blocked the profile. I don’t even want to talk to the man, his arrogance is so obvious. He is still selling himself on the basis of something he did 34 years ago. While that may appeal to a certain segment of the population (men in their sixties, for example), I have difficulty imagining that it would appeal to a girl who wasn’t even bornin 1985. But look, it just might. As I sit here in Bali surrounded by the beauty of a brand new day, I am also surrounded by hundreds of thousands of lovely young women who would absolutely kill for a shot at this guy. Again, this is what we do. Who the hell am I to judge? Precisely. None of my beeswax, any more than it is any of some ancient, pissed off old man’s beeswax that I prefer younger, athletic men.

Robin Williams would have a hey day with the stupid shit we do when we date.

I like younger men but I’m not interested in arm candy. The guy I was looking at was the director of a sports gear company, funny, well-read and intense. And athletic. That he’s not the slightest bit interested in me isn’t his problem or mine. We like what we like. Next.

And if there’s nobody, then frankly, nothing wrong with that. As I said in another article, love the one you’re with.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Get Over It.

Back when the ex and I first connected on line, he couldn’t have cared less about the 17-year age difference. The quality ones don’t. We did our level best over the next 10 years, it simply Did. Not. Work. Not a function of the age difference. Too much baggage there on both sides, and we ended up finding out that in person, full time, we were toxic for each other. I’m sad it took us ten long years to discover that, but it happens. It. Just. Happens.

It is our habit as humans to pore endlessly over what went wrong, to descend into denial and anger and justification and stupid plans to get someone back. There’s actually a young man on Medium who specializes in helping you get your ex back. Look. The ex is now madly in love with Someone New in Phoenix. He hates hot weather. Is miserable in the heat. Wait ‘til May, honey. Enjoy yourself, whatever doesn’t melt on the sidewalk. There’s a reason an ex is an ex. Sometimes we need to let them stay an ex.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Get Over It.

It was this man’s habit to dump me, go shopping, find someone new, it gets screwed up (and now I know why) and return, hat in hand.

He’s done this twelve times in ten years and is supremely predictable.

I’ve been supremely predictable in that I take him back every time.

I’m an outright fool if I can’t find the humor in our utterly predictable patterns. We all have them. While I don’t know this, it’s likely just part and parcel of being human. It’d be extremely nice if certain aspects of our nature resolved themselves with a combination of experience and time, but sometimes they just don’t.

Panties, as it were.

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

Especially as we lurch our way towards the Hallmark Cards Most Romantic Day of the Year, those of us who are newly dumped, widowed, deserted, or otherwise finding ourselves alone- especially if not by choice mind you- then we get to once again question our journey.

It is indeed at its heart a solo one. Like it or not we’re largely born alone (unless of course you’re a twin or quint, but we tend not to marry those folks) and we largely die alone (unless you’re an Indonesian motorcyclist with his wife and two kids crammed on the back and drive like they do here).

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

How we fill our time in the middle is up to us. If I wholeheartedly choose to believe that I am worthless as a human being unless I am adored by some man, then shit, I might as well pull the plug right now, given my dating history.

Denise will be fine. I will be fine. You will be fine. There is a time to be with ourselves, in the deep quiet of our being. When we question our value based on societal norms, I might suggest that we’re asking the wrong questions.

The better question is, perhaps, what shall I do for me today, which speaks to my soul, lightens my heart, puts a smile on my face, and gives myself and others joy?

Big. Girl. Panties.

By Julia E Hubbel

Full link: https://psiloveyou.xyz/put-on-your-big-girl-panties-and-get-over-it-5b6fd1e09114

Sưu tầm – Your Amazing Sex Life Doesn’t Matter

An impressive package is like a woman’s thigh gap. Fleeting.

That night he asked, “What’s the biggest penis you’ve ever seen?” We were all sitting at IHOP, which serves the best food in the world at 2 am. Five or six of us took over a booth. We were shattered. Not kidding. One of us had drunk hiccups. It wasn’t me, promise.

What I’m trying to say, the group was anti-hiccup-mate.


Clearly, nobody was getting laid tonight. But if you can’t have sex, you can at least have omelettes. The very next best thing.

Anyway, one of the guys in our group felt insecure. Obviously, when you’re down and drunk you should voice it. I don’t know if I’m being sarcastic or not. Anyway, he’d burned through four chicks in a row. First, they dug him hard. After a few weeks, not so much. Ghosted.

A haunted penis.

He wanted to know why. Was it his penis? Specifically, size. He asked if his penis scared girls away, and wanted opinions.

A haunted penis, I thought. Do go on…

No, and yes. You see, I’m a Buddhist. We know that false expectations hurt guys and girls alike. Some of us lose sleep over stupid sh*t like thigh gap. Others over waist size. Girth. So on.

Guys stay awake at night worrying about their junk. Their abs. Their pecks. Their alpha male persona.

Hey, work on your health. Your fitness. Your diet. Your whatever. None of that has to with with getting laid. Sure, you’ll come closer to the current ideal. But I know that I love spinach and kale with feta, washed down with bourbon. It’s a feeling all unto its own.

No magazine on earth cares about whether you find a satisfying relationship.

Women have dealt with this shit for ages. Too thin. Not thin enough. Not tall enough, too tall. Goth. Not edgy enough. Text this or that in order to excite your man at work. Uh, not my man.

Especially these days, he only wants texts as emergencies. Or vital information. Agree. Shit, we both have careers.

Is that repressed? No, but feeling guilty is.

No matter what, you’ve got to develop some confidence to accept yourself. Because I’ll see you this. No magazine on earth cares about whether you find a satisfying relationship. None.

I’ve been “married” for five years. I only use quotes because the modern institution of marriage is a farce. Any institution that regulates who you can love doesn’t care about you at all.

Just love. That might start out as mind-blowing sex. But mind-blowing sex doesn’t last forever. Which means a huge penis doesn’t always matter. A smaller penis and a fair amount of technique does just as well. So don’t sweat the small stuff, even if it’s yours.

When a girl’s smitten, she doesn’t care. Not really.

The best sex doesn’t matter.

The perfect wedding doesn’t fix anything. Neither does the best sex in your life. Been, there. When you measure the best sex against the best meal, where do you come up? Torn. Because they’re both just stimuli.

Look up some of your favorite porn stars. They deal with the same shit you do. Doubting their looks. Wondering if they should have kids. Trying to decide if it all matters. Getting their body back.

Human shit.

The poet Philip Marlowe once wrote, “Sex is too good to share with anyone.” He was halfway right. I think his main point is that we highly over-idealize sex. We confuse it with other things. Like happiness.

So, your penis size doesn’t matter. Your sex life doesn’t have to matter, either. And neither does your thigh gap. Or d-cup?

Why on earth would anyone think the perfect genitalia solves everything? Oh, that’s right. Mass media.

And because #FOMO, I guess. Social media finally produced a universal truth. We’re afraid of missing whatever.

Newsflash: I haven’t had actual coitus for a few months now. Baby and everything. It happens. We’re figuring things out. Bottom line, we’re both overwhelmed right now. But also happy.

Boner poison.

Both of us have baggage. It was hard enough managing pleasurable sex on our own. Now we have this cute little demon to deal with.

Guy math: immeasurable increase in adrenaline.

Adrenaline = boner poison.

Your boner poison doesn’t have to involve a kid. Maybe a recent promotion, which you thought would make you happy but just buries you with new expectations and responsibilities.

But there’s no choice. Wanna be happy? Stop trying to label it. You’ll never have the perfect mix. Adjust your mind instead.

Youth doesn’t matter.

Imagine new parents. They have everything they want, but they hunger for their 20s. Mainly, the sex from that decade.

We forget how much our 20s sucked. No steady income. No respect. A completely unpredictable future.

Booze and sex were the only things we had.

You don’t even really know if you want kids. F*ck, you don’t even have a washer and dryer yet. But everyone keeps asking about your biological clock. You come home from the laundromat, and there’s your dad on FaceTime. “So, make me a grandpa.” He laughs, but he ain’t joking.

To me, that’s torture. Consider baaaam, you have a kid.

Surprisingly, less stress.

Sometimes my spouse and I get into these little arguments about whose turn it is to rescue our baby from her nightly possessions — the baby that arose from, admittedly, the best string of sex either of us have ever had.

It doesn’t matter who wins. Whoever goes in the nursery immediately falls apart and says, “Hey, girl.”

And we realize. Great sex often leads to a kid.

Point? The things you wanted most (like a kid) might hurt your sex life. Figure it out. Understand that sex isn’t a given. During times of transition, your sex life is gonna take a plunge. Kid, or no kid.

That matters if you’re single. Sure, you read some online news post about how Kate Beckinsale maintains her body positive image.

She’s 44. Had her first daughter 18 years ago. That blows my mind. Because I remember watching Underworld in my teens. Thinking about how I’d never have kids. I was a vampire, dammit. But it turns out the vampire was a parent the whole time, just playing the part. Like us all.

Everyone deals with sexual insecurity.

Flashforward a few years, one of my friends stood up in the middle of a drunk game of Settlers of Kataan. She said, “I think I have thigh gap. It depends on the angle. Right?”

So we started playing a different game. We played, “Can I slide my palm through there?” Yes, we could. Congratulations, Steph. You officially have thigh gap. You can sit down.

That doesn’t guarantee your ideal mate has a huge penis.

Thigh gap’s not a coupon to great sex.

Everyone’s afraid that deviating a little from the ideal of the day dooms them to a life of solitude. Sure, almost nobody wants to have sex with Jabba the Hut. (I say almost because I know some people, and it’s a big world.) But there’s good news. No human being alive looks like that.

Let’s get literary. In A Moveable Feast, F. Scott Fitzgerald shows his junk to Earnest Hemingway. Why?

He wants to know, “Is it too small?”

You see, the architect of the great American novel was having some problems at home. To be diplomatic.

Hemingway said, “It’s pretty small.” Then he paused. “But don’t worry, just shove a pillow against her ass. That should work.”

To be clear, this does work. Don’t shove the pillow directly under under butt. Aim for just above, near the small of her back.

You’re trying to increase the arch. Ah, if only high school geometry textbooks used better examples…

These two were talking before the days of supplements and pharma pills. The same logic applies. You see, the secret’s out. Erectile function drugs aren’t magic. They just help most of the time.

These days, performance anxiety does as much harm as porn abuse. Consider our doctor, who says he hears a hundred guys a year come in with junk problems. He prescribes ED drugs.

But they’re a band-aid. They don’t even work all the time. Especially not if your boss is hounding you about those reports.

The solution?

Get comfortable with yourself. First, understand that a woman feels attracted to you before you ever unzip your pants. Same goes for girls. He’s not going to suddenly discover your lack of thigh gap and run.

Stop focusing on your pleasure. Focus on hers. And his. You both have hands. They’re not a metaphor for something else. Use them. Secret: a lot of girls like your hands down there. And guys, yes.

Plus, you can visit almost any sex toy store online and find literally anything you need. That’s right, strap ons designed for guys.

Mainstream porn, combined with our hyper puritan culture, has done some damage. Guys see the Iron Man package and think it’s normal. No, it’s not. No more normal than the girls’ thigh gap or perfect B-cups.

Those couples on PornHub? Bless them. They have truly impressive bodies. Don’t forget, they’re (often) surgically altered.

So stop worrying about the size of your junk. Or your tits, or thighs. Focus on your technique. Plenty of websites exist for that. You don’t need me.

Just google it.

My key point is that you can’t ignore your problems. You have to work through them, without giving into the stereotypes.

Above all, stop blaming your dick or your elusive thigh gap for your problems. When you break it down, the penis is just like a thermometer. The messenger. Likewise, your thigh gap all depends on the width of your hips, not the health of your diet or your Instagram pose.

Yes, read about sexual health. But not from the crap you pick up at the checkout aisle. Go to Barnes & Noble while they’re still in business. Learn how to do actual research in databases. Try stuff. Just not horny goat weed at the gas station. Uh, sketchy.

By Jessica Wildfire

Full link: https://medium.com/@JessicaLexicus/your-amazing-sex-life-doesnt-matter-34f5993bb399

Sưu tầm – Different Kinds of Stupid

“The older I get the more I realize how many kinds of smart there are. There are a lot of kinds of smart. There are a lot of kinds of stupid, too.”

– Jeff Bezos

You can ace the most prestigious grad school and then spend years in prison for insider trading. It’s happened. And the decision to risk everything on a trade that nets you a few percentage points is the kind of thing someone with half the IQ will look at and say, “How stupid are you?”

There are types of smart that have nothing to do with intellect. And there are types of stupid that have nothing to do with unintelligence.

Smart is the ability to solve hard problems, which can be done many ways. Stupid is a tendency to not comprehend easy problems. It’s also is a diversified trait.

A few kinds of stupid prevalent in business and investing:

1. Intelligence creep: Not knowing the boundaries of what you’re good at, and assuming talent in one area signals skill in all others.

Dictators are never marketed as just good at politics. They’re portrayed as superhumans, masters of everything. Joseph Stalin was born Joseph Jughashvili, but changed his name to a word that translates to “Man of steel.” North Korea said Kim Jong Il shot 11 holes in one on his first round of golf, was an architectural master, and a music virtuoso.

An innocent version of this happens when you’re good at one thing, so you and those around you assume you should be good at all other things.

Take the investor who is gifted at, and made a lot of money doing, one kind of strategy (merger arbitrage) and then extrapolates that confidence into something they have no experience in (gold, macro, politics, predicting recessions). The odds of a disappointing outcome then round to 100. Of course they do – the kind of nuance and skill needed to, say, forecast global interest rates is not the kind you thing you can pick up in a year.

The important thing is most investors without big success in one strategy would never consider betting their portfolio on a new, disparate strategy. They’re more likely to stick to what they know. You need intelligence in one strategy to make you think, with confidence, that you’re good at all the other ones.

An important investing skill is defining what you’re incapable of and staying away from it.

2. Underestimating the complexity of how past successes were gained in a way that makes you overestimate their repeatability.

There’s a thing in biology called Dollo’s Law that says organisms can never re-evolve to a former state because the path that led to its former state was so complicated that the odds of retracing that exact path round to zero.

Say an animal has horns, and then it evolves to lose its horns. The odds that it will ever evolve to regain its horns are nil, because the path that originally gave it horns was so complex.

Dollo’s Law affects investors and CEOs with a unique kind of stupid.

There are things that, once lost, will likely never be regained, because the chain of events that created them in the first place can’t easily be replicated. If you realized how valuable those things are you’d be more careful about risking their loss.

Brand is one. Brands are so hard to build, requiring the right product at the right time targeted to the right users who want that one thing, produced in the right way by the right people, all done with consistency. Once lost it is nearly impossible to regain, because of odds of building a successful brand in the first place were so low. So when management cashes in brand equity for short-term gain, I want to shout, “Stop! This isn’t a factory that you can just rebuild when it’s broken. If you lose that brand it’s gone for good.”

Teams are another. Success is often personalized among one person, discounting how important members of their team were to a win. That one person will often marginalize their team, or go out on their own, only to learn the hard way how vital others were to what they considered to be “their” success. And once disbanded that specific team will likely never return.

3. Discounting the views of people who aren’t as credentialed as you are, underestimating the special knowledge they have since they’ve experienced a world you haven’t.

A different kind of stupid is not believing that there are different kinds of smart.

Only seeking the input from those who fit your singular definition of smart misses the masses whose knowledge wasn’t measured by standardized tests. And those masses, with lower credentials than you, have likely experienced a world that you haven’t, which gives them a perspective you don’t have.

Solving problems means understanding how people behave. And you’ll only understand how lots of people are likely to behave if you open your mind to their views, opinions, goals, and solutions. Even people who are different than you. Especially people who are different than you.

4. Not understanding that in the classroom the game is you vs. the test, but in the real world it’s you vs. coworkers, employees, customers, regulators, etc., all of whom need to be persuaded by more than having the right answer.

This is a cousin of #1 above. It’s common when technical founders assume their ability to design a great product is correlated with their ability to manage hundreds of people, when in fact those things can be miles apart.

People who create the best products are often able to do so specifically because their thought process isn’t restricted by norms that ground most people. But that same trait can make them counterproductive bosses, because the “rules-don’t-apply-to-me” mindset that’s so effective when building a new product can be disastrous when managing people, especially as a company scales. Very talented engineers, designers, product people can make HR and managerial decisions for which the only response is, “How stupid are you?”

The first rule of natural maniacs: No one should be shocked when people who think about the world in unique ways you like also think about the world in unique ways you don’t like.

5. Closed-system thinking: Underestimating the external consequences of your decisions in a hyperconnected world, or dismissing how quickly those consequences can backfire on you.

There’s a thing in economics where the professor says “assume a closed economy.” You model how an economy works assuming zero trade with, or influence from, other countries. Then you drop that assumption, view at the world as it actually operates, and BOOM … the original models are useless.

One kind of stupid is when you assume your business decisions live in their own closed economy, and the things you do either don’t affect others, or if you know they do, you underestimate those people’s ability to turn around and stick it back to you.

This is especially true in today’s world where things aren’t just connected; they’re an untangleable web where nothing is more than a few degrees removed from everything else in the world. If you mistreat your employees, or your customers, or your suppliers, and assume that it’s OK to do so because those actions will be contained to those people, the odds that your actions will eventually become known to someone who’s indispensable and who you rely upon are greater than they’ve ever been.

Bernie Madoff summarized this idea a year before his scheme unraveled. “In today’s regulatory environment, it’s virtually impossible to violate the rules,” he told an audience in 2007. “This is something the public doesn’t really understand. It’s impossible for a violation to go undetected. Certainly not for a considerable period of time.”

By Morgan Housel

Full link: https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/different-kinds-of-stupid/

Sưu tầm – The closest look yet at Chinese economic engagement in Africa

Field interviews with more than 1,000 Chinese companies provide new insights into Africa–China business relationships.

In two decades, China has become Africa’s most important economic partner. Across trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and aid, no other country has such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa. Chinese “dragons”—firms of all sizes and sectors—are bringing capital investment, management know-how, and entrepreneurial energy to every corner of the continent. In doing so they are helping to accelerate the progress of Africa’s economies.

Yet to date it has been challenging to understand the true extent of the Africa–China economic relationship due to a paucity of data. Our new report, Dance of the lions and dragons: How are Africa and China engaging, and how will the partnership evolve?, provides a comprehensive, fact-based picture of the Africa–China economic relationship based on a new large-scale data set. This includes on-site interviews with more than 100 senior African business and government leaders, as well as the owners or managers of more than 1,000 Chinese firms spread across eight African countries1 that together make up approximately two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP.

Africa’s largest economic partner

In the past two decades, China has catapulted from being a relatively small investor in the continent to becoming Africa’s largest economic partner. And since the turn of the millennium, Africa–China trade has been growing at approximately 20 percent per year. Foreign direct investment has grown even faster over the past decade, with a breakneck annual growth rate of 40 percent.2 Yet even this number understates the true picture: we found that China’s financial flows to Africa are around 15 percent larger than official figures when nontraditional flows are included. China is also a large and fast-growing source of aid and the largest source of construction financing; these contributions have supported many of Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure developments in recent years.

We evaluated Africa’s economic partnerships with the rest of the world across five dimensions: trade, investment stock, investment growth, infrastructure financing, and aid. China is among the top four partners for Africa across all these dimensions (Exhibit 1). No other country matches this depth and breadth of engagement.

Chinese firms in Africa

Behind these macro numbers are thousands of previously uncounted Chinese firms operating across Africa. In the eight African countries on which we focused, the number of Chinese-owned firms we identified was between two and nine times the number registered by China’s Ministry of Commerce, until now the largest database of Chinese firms in Africa. Extrapolated across the continent, our findings suggest there are more than 10,000 Chinese-owned firms operating in Africa today (Exhibit 2).

Around 90 percent of these firms are privately owned—calling into question the notion of a monolithic, state-coordinated investment drive by “China, Inc.” Although state-owned enterprises tend to be bigger, particularly in specific sectors such as energy and infrastructure, the sheer number of private Chinese firms working toward their own profit motives suggests that Chinese investment in Africa is a more market-driven phenomenon than is commonly understood.

Chinese firms operate across many sectors of the African economy. Nearly a third are involved in manufacturing, a quarter in services, and around a fifth each in trade and in construction and real estate. In manufacturing, we estimate that 12 percent of Africa’s industrial production—valued at some $500 billion a year in total—is already handled by Chinese firms. In infrastructure, Chinese firms’ dominance is even more pronounced, and they claim nearly 50 percent of Africa’s internationally contracted construction market.

The Chinese firms we talked to are mostly profitable. Nearly one-third reported 2015 profit margins of more than 20 percent. They are also agile and quick to adapt to new opportunities. Except in a few countries such as Ethiopia, they are primarily focused on serving the needs of Africa’s fast-growing markets rather than on exports. An overwhelming 74 percent said they feel optimistic about the future. Reflecting this, most Chinese firms have made investments that represent a long-term commitment to Africa rather than trading or contracting activities.

The recently opened $4 billion Addis Ababa–Djibouti railway, Africa’s first fully electrified railway, was financed through the Export-Import Bank of China. China is by far the largest infrastructure financier in Africa.

Impact in African economies

At the Chinese companies we talked to, 89 percent of employees were African, adding up to nearly 300,000 jobs for African workers. Scaled up across all 10,000 Chinese firms in Africa, this suggests that Chinese-owned business employ several million Africans. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Chinese employers provided some kind of skills training. In companies engaged in construction and manufacturing, where skilled labor is a necessity, half offer apprenticeship training.

Half of Chinese firms had introduced a new product or service to the local market, and one-third had introduced a new technology. In some cases, Chinese firms had lowered prices for existing products and services by as much as 40 percent through improved technology and efficiencies of scale. African government officials overseeing infrastructure development for their countries cited Chinese firms’ efficient cost structures and speedy delivery as major value adds.

On balance, we believe that China’s growing involvement is strongly positive for Africa’s economies, governments, and workers. However, there are areas for significant improvement:

  • By value, only 47 percent of the Chinese firms’ sourcing was from local African firms, representing a lost opportunity for local firms to benefit from Chinese investment.
  • Only 44 percent of local managers at the Chinese-owned companies we surveyed were African, though some Chinese firms have driven their local managerial employment above 80 percent (Exhibit 3). Other firms could follow suit.
  • There have been instances of labor and environmental violations by Chinese-owned businesses. These range from inhumane working conditions to illegal extraction of natural resources including timber and fish.

Differences in country engagement

At a national level, we focused on eight large African economies, and identified the following four distinct archetypes of the Africa–China partnership:

  • Robust partners. Ethiopia and South Africa have a clear strategic posture toward China, along with a high degree of economic engagement in the form of investment, trade, loans, and aid. For example, both countries have translated their national economic-development strategies into specific initiatives related to China, and they have also developed important relationships with Chinese provinces and with Beijing. As a result, China sees these African countries as true partners: reliably engaged and strategic for China’s economic and political interests. These countries have also created a strong platform for continued Chinese engagement through prominent participation in such forums as the Belt and Road initiative (previously known as One Belt, One Road), and they can therefore expect to see ongoing rapid growth in Chinese investment.
  • Solid partners. Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania do not yet have the same level of engagement with China as Ethiopia and South Africa, but government relations and Chinese business and investment activity are meaningful and growing. These three governments recognize China’s importance, but they have yet to translate this recognition into an explicit China strategy. Each has several hundred Chinese firms across a diverse set of sectors, but this presence has largely been the result of a passive posture relying on large markets or historical ties; much more is possible with true strategic engagement.
  • Unbalanced partners. In the case of Angola and Zambia, the engagement with China has been quite narrowly focused. For Angola, the government has supplied oil to China in exchange for Chinese financing and construction of major infrastructure projects—but market-driven private investment by Chinese firms has been limited compared with other African countries; only 70 to 75 percent of the Chinese companies in Angola are private, compared with around 90 percent in other countries. Zambia’s case is the opposite: there has been major private-sector investment but not enough oversight from regulatory authorities to avoid labor and corruption scandals.
  • Nascent partners. Côte d’Ivoire is at the very beginning of developing a partnership with China, and so the partnership model has yet to become clear. The country’s relatively small number of Chinese investors are focused on low-commitment industries such as trade.

The next decade

We interviewed more than 100 senior African business and government leaders, and nearly all of them said the Africa–China opportunity is larger than that presented by any other foreign partner—including Brazil, the European Union, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

But exactly how quickly will the Africa–China relationship grow in the decade ahead? We see two potential scenarios. In the first, the revenues of Chinese firms in Africa grow at a healthy clip to reach around $250 billion in 2025, from $180 billion today. This scenario would simply entail business as usual, with Chinese firms growing in line with the market, holding their current market shares steady as the African economy expands. Under this scenario, the same three industries that dominate Chinese business in Africa today—manufacturing, resources, and infrastructure—would dominate in 2025 as well.

We believe much more is possible: in a second scenario, Chinese firms in Africa could dramatically accelerate their growth. By expanding aggressively in both existing and new sectors, these firms could reach revenues of $440 billion in 2025. In this accelerated-growth scenario, not only do the three established industries of Chinese investment grow faster than the economy, but Chinese firms also make significant forays into five new sectors: agriculture, banking and insurance, housing, information communications technology and telecommunications, and transport and logistics. This expansion could start with Chinese firms moving into sectors related to the ones they currently dominate—for example, from construction into real estate and housing. Another part of this accelerated growth could come from Chinese firms more fully applying their formulas that have proved successful in China to markets in Africa, including business models in consumer technology, agriculture, and digital finance.

There is considerable upside for Africa if Chinese investment and business activity accelerate. At the macroeconomic level, African economies could gain greater capital investment to boost productivity, competitiveness, and technological readiness, and tens of millions more African workers could gain stable employment. At the microeconomic level, however, there will be winners and losers. Particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, where African firms are significantly lagging behind global productivity levels, African incumbents will need to dramatically improve their productivity and efficiency to compete—or partner effectively—with new Chinese companies on their turf.

With continued and likely growing Chinese investment, it will become ever more urgent to address the gaps in the Africa–China partnership, including by strengthening the role of African managers and partners in the growth of Chinese-owned businesses. Moreover, both Chinese and African actors will need to address three major pain points: corruption in some countries, concerns about personal safety, and language and cultural barriers. In five of the eight countries in which we conducted fieldwork, 60 to 87 percent of Chinese firms said they paid a “tip” or bribe to obtain a license. After corruption, the second-largest concern among Chinese firms is personal safety. For their part, our African interviewees described language and cultural barriers that lead to misunderstanding and ignorance of local regulations. If these problems are left unaddressed, the misunderstandings and potentially serious long-term social issues could weaken the overall sustainability of the Africa–China relationship.

Everyone—African or Chinese, government or private sector—has a role to play in realizing the promise of the Africa–China partnership. We suggest ten recommendations, consisting of actions to be taken by African and Chinese businesses and governments, to ensure the Africa–China relationship grows sustainably and delivers strong economic and social outcomes (Exhibit 4).

By Kartik Jayaram, Omid Kassiri, and Irene Yuan Sun

Full link: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/middle-east-and-africa/the-closest-look-yet-at-chinese-economic-engagement-in-africa

Sưu tầm – China’s loans hit all-time high as banks open floodgates in January to help slowing economy

  • New yuan loans reached 3.23 trillion yuan (US$476.97 billion), almost triple the amount from December
  • Flood of money could offer a lifeline to many indebted Chinese firms with total debt in China now close to 300 per cent of its gross domestic product

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, said on Friday that new yuan loans surged to 3.23 trillion yuan (US$476.97 billion) last month. Photo: Bloomberg

New loans in China surged to an all-time high in January, highlighting Beijing’s scramble to bolster economic activities at home amid the trade war with the United States.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, said on Friday that new yuan loans surged to 3.23 trillion yuan (US$476.97 billion) last month.

The figure almost tripled the 1.08 trillion yuan (US$160.8 billion) of loans in December, while also beating the 1.6 trillion yuan (US$236.27 billion) of loans issued in January 2009 when Beijing looking to put growth on track during the global financial crisis.

Total social financing, the more broadly defined measure of credit in the economy that includes loans, bonds and other non-traditional financing instruments, grew to 4.64 trillion yuan (US$685.18 billion) in January.

The data confirms that the world’s second largest economy is taking an ultra loose monetary position, even though Beijing has refrained from a benchmark interest rate cut or officially call for a shift in its monetary policy stance.

“Today’s data show that authorities have become more willing to ease monetary policy, with yuan loans and corporate bond issuance trending significantly higher,” said Jimmy Zhu, chief strategist at Fullerton Markets.

“More liquidity injections are still needed in order to stabilise the economy, especially in the private sector and given that [producer price index] data came out so weak today.”

China’s producer price index, which is the price producers charge the wholesales at the factory gate, rose just 0.1 per cent in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, down from 0.9 per cent in December and the lowest since September 2016.

China tells banks to ‘increase financial support’ for private firms
The flood of money could offer a lifeline to many indebted Chinese firms, which are in desperate need of cheap funding to make repayments with total debt, including government, corporate and household, in China now close to 300 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
However, analysts still expect China’s slowdown and job losses to worsen in the coming months.
Expectations are rising that authorities will pursue even more aggressive measures in the coming months to arrest a rapid slowdown, although any improvement will only show up in the economy in the second half of the year.
Total social financing, the more broadly defined measure of credit in the economy that includes loans, bonds and other non-traditional financing instruments, grew to 4.64 trillion yuan (US$685.18 billion) in January. Photo: Xinhua
Total social financing, the more broadly defined measure of credit in the economy that includes loans, bonds and other non-traditional financing instruments, grew to 4.64 trillion yuan (US$685.18 billion) in January. Photo: Xinhua

“While we cannot rule out a short term bounce driven by positive sentiment, we doubt that any such market-policy induced rally can sustain without improving fundamentals,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote.

At the start of the year, The National People’s Congress authorised the allocation of the local government debt quota ahead of schedule, with 1.39 trillion yuan (US$205.26 billion) available this year to support public investment.

Commercial banks have also been instructed to lend more to private enterprises and small-medium enterprises (SME) at affordable interest rates.

US investment in China increases by 124.6 per cent despite trade war

In turn, the State Council, the nation’s cabinet, has pledged to help commercial banks to replenish their capital via various channels in preparation of the need to absorb potentially souring debt.

Bank of China plans to sell as much as 40 billion yuan (US$5.9 billion) of perpetual bonds in what could be the nation’s first ever issuance of such debt by a lender.

The PBOC also cut the amount of cash held in reserve by all commercial lenders last month, the first such cut since 2016.

The central bank also changed the definition of a small business, meaning loans to an enterprise with a credit line of less than 10 million yuan (US$1.48 million) will qualify for targeted required reserve ration cut, up from the previous standard of 5 million yuan.

Haibin Zhu, chief China economist at JPMorgan, noted the danger of authorities undertaking policy easing measures in place of more structural reforms to the economy to restore productivity-driven, sustainable long-run growth.

Worries are mounting that state-owned company reforms are being delayed, while new market distortions are being created in the financial system, Zhu said.

“The instructions on the direction, quantity, and price of bank loans directly violate a fundamental principle in the financial sector, risk-based pricing,” Zhu said.

“The fiscal sustainability problem may be aggravated in the long run.”

By Frank TangKaren Yeung

Full link: https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/2186350/chinas-loans-hit-all-time-high-banks-open-floodgates-january

Sưu tầm – What Asia can learn from Brexit

Three perils to avoid in Britain’s messy EU divorce

Viewed from Asia, Brexit invites puzzlement bordering on incomprehension. Britain’s colonial heritage left a mixed legacy in this part of the world, but until recently the country was still admired for its competent government and economic prowess. Little of that will survive next month’s Brexit deadline, even if Prime Minister Theresa May does manage to avoid the catastrophe of “no deal” — leaving the EU without an agreement governing Britain’s departure or its future relations with the bloc.

Brexit provides obvious warnings beyond the spectacle of a once-respected power unable to govern itself. The folly of allowing referendums is one, an observation made privately by nonplused Singaporean diplomats in the aftermath of the original vote. For more doctrinaire critics of the west, Brexit also serves to illustrates the weakness of liberal systems of government. If Britain does indeed crash out on March 29 without a deal, those critics will have a point.

The irony, though, is that Brexit is the consequence of something many Asian leaders say they want more of — namely closer integration within their own region. And here Britain’s checkered European journey, both in its early successes and ultimate failure, offer useful lessons for Asia’s long-term future.

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether Britain’s EU referendum result was driven more by economic or cultural anger. On the one hand, the spoils from decades of globalization were shared unevenly. On the other, rising migration prompted a fierce public backlash. Yet both factors were the result of Britain’s decision to tie itself closely to Europe. As much as the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, Brexit is what deglobalization looks like — namely the messy unpicking of decades of economic coming together in the face of popular anger.

Asia starts from a different position. As a region, it is more integrated than many believe. In 2017, a record 58 percent of Asian trade took place between its own countries, according to the Asian Development Bank. This placed Asia ahead of North America, and not far behind Europe’s 64 percent.

That picture remains uneven, however. South and Central Asia are less interconnected than the prosperous east. Investment and people are more restricted than goods. Fiddly business regulations, non-tariff barriers and creaky infrastructure inhibit regional links. As the trade war shows, Asia’s vibrant exporting nations are often more closely connected to distant nations in the west than they are to one another.

For this reason closer integration has long been a goal of Asia’s elites, just as it was in Europe before the launch of the single market in 1993. And greater integration could indeed produce sizable benefits. Both the recently completed Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deals aim to boost this process. In its own way, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) does as well.

These dreams of closer ties can often seem distant, not least as talks over deals like RCEP drag on. The same is true for the grand-sounding ASEAN Economic Community, which has amounted to little since its 2015 launch. Whichever way you look at it, Asia is unlikely to develop EU-style free movement in goods or people any time soon.

Still, it is a fair bet that growth over the next few decades will lead to closer regional ties, especially as more Asian nations become consumer economies rather than exporting powerhouses. And here Brexit shows three perils that must be overcome — the first being that integration must be politically balanced. Much of the anger in the run-up to Britain’s referendum focused on the power of Brussels, as voters were exhorted to “take back control.” Backers of closer Asian integration will face a different challenge: managing the influence of Beijing.

Recent increases in Asian regional trade have stemmed largely from the growing weight of China, now the largest trading partner of most Asian economies. Future integration will be driven by Chinese infrastructure investment, and facilitated by deals like RCEP, in which China is a dominant player. The recent backlash against BRI in countries such as Malaysia and Myanmar provides just a small taste of the kind of politics that integration could bring, if China throws its weight around.

Second, Brexit shows how difficult it is to manage integration within countries, as well as between them. The benefits of integration, while sizable, have frequently been oversold in the past. They are rarely fairly divided either. Asian countries therefore need to think carefully about how to avoid the kind of populist backlash against integration that now cripples politics in both Britain and the United States.

Third, and most pressingly, Brexit illustrates how hard it is to undo integration once it has begun. Whether or not it succeeds, May’s proposed deal is an attempt to manage this awkward process of decoupling by mitigating disruption to valuable regional supply chains in areas like automotive manufacturing. Even this is unlikely to succeed, as shown by both Nissan Motor‘s recent decision to cancel plans to build its X-Trail model in the UK, and this week’s news that Honda Motor is planning to close one of its factories in the UK.

Honda Motor is planning to close its factory in Swindon, Britain.   © Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempts last year to redraw the North American Free Trade Agreement showed a similar pattern. Trump realized eventually that big changes to NAFTA would disrupt U.S. manufacturing industries, and settled for trivial amendments instead.

Facing this trio of challenges, Asia’s typically gradual and haphazard approach to integration could prove to be an advantage, avoiding some of the problems that have bedeviled Europe’s approach of building new common institutions and pushing grand political visions.

Still, if Asia is to enjoy the benefits of closer ties, it must eventually build new forms of political cooperation to manage that process. While the financial benefits of that integration are real enough, Brexit ultimately shows the importance of understanding that politics will trump economics in the end. And of building structures with decent exit mechanisms, just in case.

By James Crabtree

Full link: https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/What-Asia-can-learn-from-Brexit?utm_campaign=RN%20Free%20newsletter&utm_medium=one%20time%20newsletter%20free&utm_source=NAR%20Newsletter&utm_content=article%20link