Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gouging Tourists in China

For those who haven't travelled to China yet, you might presume the living expenses there would be lower and cheaper, no matter you travel to the cities, the small towns or the villages in China. Everything is relatively expensive in China and even more expensive than traveling to some developed countries in Asia region like, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.

When I visited some famous attraction sites like the Forbidden Palace, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven etc. in Beijing, China last year, I was quite surprised that the minimum entrance ticket has increased to at least 60 yuan (US$10) per person for every attraction. According to NetEase, some people might think that when the operators impose high entrance fee, it would create a good mechanism in order to reduce the crowds of visitors and eventually, to preserve the attraction sites in good condition. Due to the exclusiveness and scarcity of tourism resources, even though the ticket prices were raised from 50 yuan to 500 yuan, a visitor would have the “now-or-never” mentality and suck it up. Look at the National Day Holiday in 2011 (from October 1 to 7). Forbidden City received 130,000 visitors per day, the Great Wall, 64,500, and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, 50,000. High Prices have clearly failed to serve as a swarm of visitors from visiting the attractions. No matter how much I pay the entrance tickets to attraction sites in China, nothing is worth my money spent as many of the sites aren't properly maintained. It's really upsetting seeing some of the historical sites such as the walls and ceilings at Forbidden Palace have begun to ruin down. It is even pathetic seeing most of the animals aren't properly taken care in clean and spacious environment other than, smelling urine everywhere at Beijing Zoo.

Apart from the rising of the entrance tickets to attraction sites, the living expenses such as property and food are also on the rise too. When I was in Beijing, I did some research about the cost of household products. To my surprise, a small cup of hot coffee at a restaurant or Starbucks costs about 35yuan (US$6). Majority of the locals can't afford to drink coffee. They take hot soya milk or hot Chinese tea for their breakfast. Their earning wages are too low to be able to survive in China. A basic liquid washing detergent of 3litre costs up to 70yuan (US$11). Since the liquid washing detergent is extremely expensive, I wonder how many households use washing machines? Do they still washing their clothing with their hands? I don't have any idea... For a typical fresh degree graduate in China, she/he earns 2000yuan-3000yuan (US$300-US$400) per month where most of the portion of her/his salary goes into paying for the room rental. The rental for a typical small room of 20sqm in Beijing city costs from 2000yuan (US$334) per month onward. Majority of the locals can't afford to dine at restaurants. Those who dine in restaurants are normally tourists or wealthy Chinese people. I remembered I had to pay at least 180yuan (US$30) for 3 simple dishes with rice for 2 servings in a Chinese restaurant in Beijing city or Shanghai. If you dine at Western or other Asian restaurants then, you will expect to pay higher bills. I find it very amusing in China... anything is related to overseas food and products such as Western food and products, they are more expensive than the locals' products. Even the fast food such as KFC, you need to spend from 30yuan (US$5) for a set meal per person. The size of the KFC fried chicken is even smaller than what I had in Malaysia. No matter how expensive is the fast food meal or how frequent the fast food operators keep rising the prices, the Chinese people still support the fast food industry. All the Western and imported branded goods are extremely more expensive than other similar branded stores outside China. I was told that the imported Western and branded goods to China, are being taxed up to 40% thus, many of Chinese people take the opportunities to shop for branded goods when they travel to Hong Kong and overseas countries. This is a reason why you find long queues which are occupied by Chinese tourists at branded stores in overseas countries.

The Economist magazine introduced  the Big Mac index in the last century based on the theory of purchasing-power parity to compare entrance fees at some famous tourist attractions in China and overseas countries (Source: http://img2.cache.netease.com/cnews/2012/1/29/201201291858036f149.png)

A list of ticket prices for tourist attractions in China in the order from the highest to the lowest from Ministry of Tofu
Jiuzhai Valley, Sichuan province 310/160 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)
Wuyi Mountains, Fujian province 250 yuan (for three days)
Mount Hua, Shaanxi province 100/50 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)
Badaling section of the Great Wall, Beijing 45/40 yuan (Tourist season/dull season)

Chinese tourists are gouged (by the Chinese)


Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images
Chinese tourists pose for photos in front of a portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong  at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Feb. 27, 2012. (source: MSNBC)

BEIJING – It can be exorbitantly expensive to travel in China – and Chinese tourists are fed-up.

For instance, Sanya, a big resort city on China’s southern tropical island province of Hainan, is usually a dream destination for winter holiday makers. 

But it is becoming a target of netizens complaining about being ruthlessly ripped off there. One irate tourist recently complained on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging site, that he paid almost $635 dollars for a meal of three dishes including one fish.

Tourists everywhere could complain about getting gouged. But it seems that Chinese tourists truly are justified in their gripes.

For example, a recent study published by Netease.com, one of China’s biggest Web portals, borrowed the concept of the Big Mac index from the Economist to compare the prices of tourist attractions in both China and overseas.

The Economist’s Big Mac index is based on the “theory of purchasing-power parity.” 

They use the cost of a Big Mac in the U.S. as a benchmark and compare it to the local cost of a Big Mac to create a comparison between the currencies.

The Netease.com article borrowed the Big Mac index idea to compare entrance fees charged at Chinese tourist attractions versus those overseas.
The statistics are eye-opening. 

Andy Wong / AP
Tourists visit Tiananmen Gate on China's National Day in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2011 (Source: MSNBC)

For example, the cost of admission to Jiuzhaigou National Park in southwest China, a U.N. biosphere reserve famous for its shimmering turquoise lakes and snow-crusted mountain peaks, costs 220 Yuan ($35) to get in, or, 14.3 Big Macs.

In contrast, Yellowstone National Park costs an adult entering by foot or bike $12 dollars, the equivalent of 2.7 Big Macs. (It costs $25 dollars for one vehicle, including all passengers).

In Paris, the Louvre Museum costs 2.9 Big Macs, while a ticket to China’s Palace Museum inside the Forbidden City in Beijing is as much as 3.9 Big Macs.

The well-known Great Wall just outside Beijing also looks expensive – its cost is 2.9 Big Macs, compared to the Taj Mahal, which is a quarter of one Big Mac (for Indian tourists; foreigners are charged more).

No regulation
“There’s no government supervision of ticket prices,” said Wu Jingmin, a former tour guide who agitated the tourism industry in 2006 by publishing his book “How Can I Not Rip You Off? – A Tour Guide’s Monologue.” In the book, Wu exposed how the industry scams tourists, from tour agencies to restaurants and even local governments.

Besides high admission fees in China, travelers also often have to pay additional costs at tourist sites for such items as shuttle buses or cable cars.

At Changbaishan, the sacred mountain on the border of China and North Korea, a tourist must buy three different tickets at $16 a piece if they wish to take in the view from its three different peaks, and that doesn’t include the extra $14 for the shuttle bus. 

Chinese tourists also normally travel during one of the three one-week-long national holidays. Even if that means going to Beijing’s Forbidden City with 130,000 more visitors than on a usual day, or slowly pushing their way forward on the Great Wall when it is as packed as a rush hour subway.

“The regulations for ticket prices are in complete disorder,” Wu, the former tour guide, told NBC News in a phone interview. “Local price regulators usually say ‘yes’ to tourist attractions, no matter what they want to charge. 

Then the tourist-trap managers give a big discount to tour agencies, who make the money from selling very expensive tickets to tourists.” 

Wu complained that little is being done to remedy the situation. 

“The natural resources belong to the people. They just build a wall around it and then charge a high ticket price to the people, who don’t really have a choice. This industry’s future is worrying,” added Wu. 

He’s says he’s planning to create his own tour packages to counter the notorious prices in Sanya

(Source: http://behindthewall.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/16/11231025-chinese-tourists-are-gouged-by-the-chinese?lite)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Awesome In-flight Safety Demonstration

How do these budget airlines, Air Asia and Cebu Pacific Airlines, attract their passengers to watch and listen attentively to the in-flight safety instruction?

AirAsia steward explains zany airline safety announcement

Remember the AirAsia announcement clip that went viral recently? You know the one we're talking about - the hilarious video of the in-flight safety instruction which had airline passengers hooting in laughter. 

Well, Yahoo! Malaysia spoke to Quinton Dinesh Thomas, the senior flight attendant in charge of the zany announcement and this is what he had to say.

"I have boarded many flights as a passenger or when i was a junior crew and realized that during the safety demo briefing, many passenger read books, sleep or just look outside the window instead of paying attention.

"I would rather have at least 90% of passengers - better 100% of them - listen, smile, laugh, enjoy the safety briefing, than to have 50% not paying attention at all," Thomas said.

Well, his announcement certainly got the attention of the denizens of cyberspace. The video of his announcement was put up on YouTube on April 12 and has already got over 339,000 views so far.

The posting resulted in dozens of comments as well as over 2,000 'likes'.
One commenter said this was the first time in 20 years he or she paid attention to an in-flight announcement.

Another called the announcement 'amazing' and said flight announcements - especially safety ones - should be done creatively and in an engaging manner.
"I can now easily recall the safety measures. You did a good thing by posting this video. I hope Air Asia acknowledges you, especially when the media picks up on this," said the person, whose login name was 'kevinrohanthomas'.
According to 'saymawa', the person who uploaded the video, the announcement was made during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Krabi, Thailand.
He added he was aware his job is on the line because of his deviation from the standard text announcements requested from the Department of Civil Aviation but said he wanted to do something to educate and entertain passengers while ensuring they got the safety message clearly.
"I never work for the money, I work because I enjoy what I do and I love my job,"said Thomas.
We think he deserves a round of applause for getting people to listen to him. What about you?

(Source: http://my.news.yahoo.com/airasia-steward-explains-zany-airline-safety-announcement.html)

This will keep the seat backs in an upright position: Cabin crew perform in-flight safety demo... while dancing to Lady Gaga

By Daily Mail Reporter

We've all done it - failed to pay attention during a routine safety demonstration aboard an aeroplane.

But passengers flying to the Philippines are suddenly changing their tune.
Cabin crew on board a Cebu Pacific Airlines flight had the attention of everyone on board as they danced their safety demonstration - to Lady Gaga.

Stunned passengers were unable to take their eyes off the bouncy attendants as they indicated the emergency exits to Just Dance.

See the hilarious video below
NOW you'll pay attention: Cebu Pacific Airlines cabin crew break out into a choreographed dance to Lady Gaga's Just Dance as they demonstrate airline safety
NOW you'll pay attention: Cebu Pacific Airlines cabin crew break out into a choreographed dance to Lady Gaga's Just Dance as they demonstrate airline safety
Gimmick: Not only were passengers paying attention, they were trying to capture the demo on film. It has since gone viral on the internet
Gimmick: Not only were passengers paying attention, they were trying to capture the demo on film. It has since gone viral on the internet
They also performed to Katy Perry's California Gurls. The music competes with a voiceover that informs passengers what to do 'in the event of an emergency landing'. 

One quick-thinking passenger filmed the performance on a mobile phone, posting it to YouTube.

The clip is the latest internet sensation, going viral within hours and chalking up one-and-a-half million hits in just over 36 hours.

Candice Iyog, vice President of Marketing at Cebu Pacific Airlines, told GMANewsTV: 'Cebu Pacific has always been known as a fun airline, we wanted to get the message across to our customers that flight safety doesn't have to be boring.
'This was an experiment that we hope to repeat and also a chance to showcase the talent of some of our cabin crew staff.'

What do do in the event of an emergency landing: Katy Perry's California Gurls also featured in the bizarre demo
What do do in the event of an emergency landing: Katy Perry's California Gurls also featured in the bizarre demo
Making their point: The cabin crew had worked with professional choreographers for the dance - but also did a normal safety demonstration before the flight took off
Making their point: The cabin crew had worked with professional choreographers for the dance - but also did a normal safety demonstration before the flight took off
She said that the airline had hired professional choreographers to compose the steps.

'We knew that the performances would be well received, but we didn't expect them to be this popular,' she added.

But just in case they were criticised for not taking safety seriously, the cabin crew preformed a normal safety demonstration before take-off.
The dance version was not performed until the plane hit cruising altitude - a special rendition for those passengers who had failed to watch the first version.

The video has already come to the attention of celebrity host Ryan Seacrest - who flagged it up to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

'gotta see this! Flight attendants dancing the entire safety demo to @ladygaga & @katyperry,' he tweeted.

As of the time of writing, neither star had yet replied.
The discount airline has also been known for in-flight games and flight attendants in hot pants.

(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1317103/Cebu-Pacific-Airlines-cabin-crew-perform-flight-safety-demo-Lady-Gaga.html#ixzz1sF3mh3iE)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tourists Fly to S.Korea for Celebrity Looks

Tourists flock to S.Korea surgeons seeking celebrity looks

It was in the mid-2000s when South Korean plastic surgeon Joo Kwon noticed a trickle of Chinese women walking into his clinic, even though he hadn't advertised overseas.

"They somehow found a way to the clinic... and nearly all of them said they want the face of Lee Young-Ae," Joo said, referring to a top South Korean actress who starred in the pan-Asian hit drama "Jewel in the Palace".

Korean Female star: Lee Young-Ae in a popular drama, Jewel in the Palace
The trickle has now turned into a flood of Chinese packing Joo's JK Plastic Surgery Centre -- one of the country's largest -- and many other clinics, lured by the looks of South Korean entertainers who have taken Asia by storm.

A Hallyu (Korean wave) of pop culture over the past decade has won a devoted fan base in China, Southeast Asia and Japan. The South's TV dramas dominate prime-time airwaves and K-pop bands sell out concerts and top the charts.

Legendary TV hits like "Winter Sonata" and "Autumn Fairy Tale" help draw tens of thousands of foreign fans to filming locations in South Korea every year, boosting the tourism industry.

Now skilled plastic surgeons in the looks-obsessed South -- who often helped beautify Korean stars in the first place -- are enjoying an unexpected boom as they do the same for their foreign fans.

According to government data, overall medical spending by foreign visitors hit a record $116 million last year. Fourteen percent sought plastic surgery or skin treatments such as botox.

Almost a half of all foreigners seeking a nose job, a facelift, a jawbone reduction or a tummy tuck were from China. Their number nearly tripled from 1,657 in 2009 to 4,400 in 2010.

"The Hallyu boom has definitely played a key role in drawing new patients from abroad," said Hong Jeong-Geun, spokesman for the Korea Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.

Hong said many star-struck foreigners visit clinics with photos of celebrities like Kim Hee-Sun, a popular actress in Asia, and ask surgeons to emulate her nose angle or eyes.

Korean Female Celebrity: Kim Hee-Sun

"They understand that some stars, rather than born beautiful, were made beautiful with a little bit of help from plastic surgeons," Hong told AFP.

Cut-throat competition among the country's growing number of plastic surgeons -- who now number some 1,700 -- made them even more aggressive in trying to lure new clients, he said.

Joo's clinic in Seoul's affluent Gangnam district -- home to more than 400 plastic surgery and skin-treatment clinics -- is at the forefront of such efforts.

About a half of its customers are non-Koreans, from China, Japan, the Middle East and even Africa. Patients picked up at the airport by limousines are greeted by staffers who speak English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or Mongolian.

Joo declined to give the total number of patients at his clinic but said 10 doctors perform dozens of surgeries every day.

The clinic recently opened its own hotel to better serve deep-pocketed foreigners who spend an average of about 20 million won ($17,675) to get multiple surgery during a single visit.

"I think there's a good chance that plastic surgery can become South Korea's new major export industry," said Joo.

Customers like Anny Guo are highly sought after.

The daughter of a construction firm CEO in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin, she flew to Seoul to get a nose job and make her high cheekbones less prominent.

Her parents gave her 100,000 yuan ($15,860) after she begged them for months.

"I want to have a face and skin like Song Hye-Gyo...or nose like Han Ga-In," the 24-year-old college student told AFP, referring to popular South Korean actresses.

Korean Female Celebrity: Song Hye-Gyo

Famous Korean Female Celebrity: Han Ga-In appeared in the famous and recent drama, The Moon that Embraces in the Sun

Many South Korean TV shows are aired with subtitles on Chinese websites only a day after being screened in Seoul.

"Most of my friends who watch South Korean dramas want to come here to get surgery. They think plastic surgeons here are the best in Asia," said Guo.

Policymakers have eased regulations, allocated a greater budget, staged presentations overseas and given awards to successful clinics to promote all kinds of medical tourism.

"Medical tourism, plastic surgery included, will be a new growth driver for our economy....and the popularity of our stars is helping us a lot," said Jung Eun-Young, deputy director of the health ministry's policy department.

Even cosmetic surgeons, however, have some reservations.

Joo Kwon said it was undesirable that more and more Koreans are seeking such operations.

"I think South Korea has a very rigorous and narrow definition of beauty because we're an ethnically homogenous society and everyone looks pretty much the same. It is also related to low self-esteem," he said

"I think the situation will somewhat moderate in future as society becomes more diverse. But it will take quite a bit of time until we get there."

(Source: http://news.yahoo.com/tourists-flock-korea-surgeons-seeking-celebrity-looks-064810998.html;_ylt=AsdI.UTQsz7L_yGlroKN75MBxg8F;_ylu=X3oDMTQzMWNzam5jBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBXb3JsZFNGIEFzaWFTU0YEcGtnAzM3OTM5Zjc0LTIwYWMtMzZkNS1iMjA5LWNiOWYwMmJjNzQwMARwb3MDMjAEc2VjA3RvcF9zdG9yeQR2ZXIDNDk2MWRkZjAtODZjNy0xMWUxLWIyZmYtMzUzYTdiMmJkNmFk;_ylg=X3oDMTFrM25vcXFyBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAMEcHQDc2VjdGlvbnMEdGVzdAM-;_ylv=3)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sea Dispute between China & ASEAN Members

This is the current conflict and tension between China and ASEAN members (Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia) when China, which is known for being the strongest and richest country in Asia region, claims uninhabited island, Spartly Islands and the whole South China Sea as part of China territory. China and all the ASEAN countries want to claim their shares on the South China Sea, which is popular for the world's busiest shipping lane.

Philippines deploys second ship in China standoff

  April 13, 2012

  • Graphic on disputed boundaries in the South China Sea. The Philippines said its flagship navy vessel was involved in a standoff on Wednesday with two Chinese surveillance ships that blocked the arrest of intruding Chinese fishermen

The Philippines deployed a second vessel to tiny islands in the South China Sea on Thursday in a bid to protect its sovereignty in an increasingly tense territorial standoff with China.

Authorities said a coast guard boat joined the Philippines' biggest warship at Scarborough Shoal, where two Chinese surveillance vessels were protecting a group of Chinese fishermen from being arrested.

"It has arrived in the area. It is there to support our navy and to show our flag," foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters, referring to the 56-metre-long (184-foot) search and rescue coast guard vessel.

"It is mandated to protect our seas."
However Hernandez also emphasised the Philippines was intent on ending the standoff peacefully, and quickly.

"We are confident the two sides will find a diplomatic solution as they are committed to finding one," he said.

"We want this to be resolved immediately. Our people are there, the Chinese fishermen are there. It is hot and they could run out of food so we want this to be resolved as soon as possible."

The dispute began on Sunday when Philippine authorities found eight Chinese fishing boats at the shoal, a group of tiny islands and reefs 124 nautical miles west of the country's main island of Luzon.

The Philippines accused the fishermen of being there illegally, asserting the area was Philippine territory because it was within the country's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognised by international law.

However China claims all of the South China Sea as its own, even waters up to the coasts of other countries, and Chinese authorities insisted the fishermen were allowed to be at the shoal.

Competing claims to the South China Sea have long been regarded as one of Asia's potential flashpoints for military conflict.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have competing claims to the waters.

More than 70 Vietnamese sailors were killed in 1988 when China and Vietnam battled for control of the Spratlys, an archipelago south of Scarborough Shoal.

The sea holds huge economic and political significance, as it is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas resources, is home to vast fishing grounds and hosts shipping lanes that carry a third of the globe's maritime trade.
In the latest flare-up in tensions, the Philippines deployed its navy flagship vessel to Scarborough Shoal immediately after the Chinese fishermen were discovered there.

But the two Chinese surveillance vessels appeared on the scene on Tuesday and blocked the Philippine warship from arresting the fishermen, who had reportedly hauled in corals, live sharks and some endangered species.
"For us, this is illegal fishing, illegal poaching and that is why our navy is there to protect our sovereignty and assert our rights," Hernandez said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila released a statement on Wednesday insisting the waters belonged to China and ordering the Philippine warship to leave immediately.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin accused the Philippines of "harassing" the Chinese fishermen and said a protest had been lodged.
"We urge the Philippine side... not to make new troubles and create conditions for the friendly relations of the two countries," Liu said.

The Philippines and Vietnam complained last year of increasingly aggressive acts by China in staking its claim to the South China Sea.

The Philippines accused Chinese vessels of firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen, as well as harassing an oil exploration vessel and placing markers on islets within Philippine territory.

However this week's standoff is the highest-profile in recent years.

(Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/philippines-deploys-second-ship-china-standoff-030306132.html;_ylt=Akg07NBim0DV7u5JLwtfeXsHV8d_;_ylu=X3oDMTFmaHJtNzE2BG1pdANJQiBNb2R1bGUEcG9zAzEEc2VjA01lZGlhSW5maW5pdGVCcm93c2VMaXN0;_ylg=X3oDMTNjaDZjNGJkBGludGwDc2cEbGFuZwNlbi1zZwRwc3RhaWQDMWQ1MGUzYmQtYWE3Ni0zZjFkLWJjOTgtMmVkNmZkMWRmNGI5BHBzdGNhdANlbnRlcnRhaW5tZW50fGFzaWFuBHB0A3N0b3J5cGFnZQR0ZXN0Aw--;_ylv=3)


Philippine warship in standoff with Chinese vessels

The Philippines' biggest warship was locked in a standoff on Wednesday with two Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, reigniting tensions in a decades-long dispute over the resource-rich waters.

The Philippine government said the Chinese ships were blocking efforts by its navy flagship vessel to arrest Chinese fishermen that were found on the weekend to have illegally entered its territory.

In a dramatic day of diplomacy, the Philippines summoned the Chinese ambassador in Manila and lodged a formal protest, but China insisted it had sovereign rights over the area and ordered the Philippine warship to leave.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he was looking to end the standoff through diplomatic means.

"No one will benefit if we have violence," he told reporters.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said both sides wanted a peaceful resolution, but also cautioned that negotiations were at an "impasse" and his country was ready to defend its territory.

"If the Philippines is challenged, we are prepared to secure our sovereignty," del Rosario said.

The standoff was occurring at Scarborough Shoal, just 124 nautical miles from the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

China insists it has sovereign rights to all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coast of other countries and hundreds of kilometres (miles) from its own landmass.

The Philippines says it has sovereign rights over areas of the sea within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, and that its position is supported by international law.

Apart from China and the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, making the waters one of Asia's potential flashpoints for armed conflict.

The South China Sea holds enormous economic and political significance, as it is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas resources, has huge fish stocks and hosts shipping lanes that are vital for global trade.

The Philippines and Vietnam complained last year of increasingly aggressive acts by China in staking its claim to the South China Sea.
The Philippines accused Chinese vessels of firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen, as well as harassing an oil exploration vessel and placing markers on islets within Philippine territory.

However this week's stand-off is the highest-profile in recent years.
It occurred after the Philippines detected eight Chinese fishing boats at Scarborough Shoal on Sunday.

The Philippines said the boats were subsequently found to have hauled in live sharks, corals and some endangered species including giant clams.
The two Chinese surveillance vessels appeared on the scene on Tuesday, and blocked the Philippine warship from approaching the fishing boats.
The Chinese embassy in Manila released a statement on Wednesday ordering the warship out of the disputed waters.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin accused the Philippines of "harassing" the Chinese fishermen and said a protest had been lodged.
"We urge the Philippine side... not to make new troubles and create conditions for the friendly relations of the two countries," Liu said.

But in Manila, del Rosario insisted the Philippines could do as it pleased at Scarborough Shoal.

"We are there because we have sovereignty over the area. We want to be there and we have the right to be there," he said.

The Philippine coast guard also said it would deploy a boat to support the warship.

On Wednesday evening, del Rosario briefed reporters again, saying no breakthrough had been achieved.

Philippine concerns about China's perceived aggressiveness prompted it to seek help last year from the United States in building up its poorly equipped military and weak maritime defence capabilities.

The United States responded favourably, delivering the Gregorio del Pilar, a a 115-metre (378-foot) decommissioned US coast guard cutter, to replace a World War II-era vessel as the Philippine Navy's biggest ship.

The Gregorio del Pilar is the vessel involved in Wednesday's stand-off.

(Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/philippine-navy-standoff-chinese-ships-015620667.html)

China urges 'direct' talks on maritime disputes

China urged "direct" talks with Southeast Asian nations Thursday to resolve overlapping maritime disputes, a day after regional leaders pledged to work towards easing tensions.

China and several Asian countries have rival claims to uninhabited islands in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in hydrocarbons and straddles strategic shipping lanes vital to global trade.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday stressed the importance of a decade-old declaration on the conduct of the parties (DOC), pledging to promote peace in the disputed area.

China did not participate in that meeting, but is a signatory of the DOC agreement.

"Formulating a code of conduct on the South China Sea... should be reached through direct negotiations between China and ASEAN countries," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Cambodia is eager to bring its diplomatic ally China into the drafting process for the code of conduct, but the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam say the bloc should draft it themselves before presenting it to Beijing.

Hong said that the dispute should be resolved peacefully among the countries involved and suggested a regional organisation like ASEAN should not take a stance on the dispute.

China has competing territorial claims in the sea with ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

US naval commanders have repeatedly said they are concerned about minor incidents, such as recent clashes over fishing rights and energy exploration near the islands, blowing up into major regional conflicts.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Cambodia on the eve of the summit in what many analysts took to be a form of pressure on Phnom Penh to use its ASEAN chairmanship to slow down the South China Sea negotiations.
Analysts say ASEAN is paralysed by differences over how to deal with regional superpower China's claims.

(Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/china-urges-direct-talks-maritime-disputes-160730018.html)


Philippines urges united ASEAN stand on South China Sea

ASEAN should forge a common position on a proposed code of conduct aimed at easing tensions in the South China Sea before talking with China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday. 

Aquino told fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that the fundamentals of the proposed code should be "internal" to the regional bloc's members, according to a statement from the Philippine foreign ministry.

"It is important that we maintain ASEAN centrality," Aquino said at the annual ASEAN summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
"After the CoC (code of conduct) has been finalised by ASEAN, then ASEAN member states will meet with China."

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said there was a "big disagreement" at a session earlier when ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan announced that China might be invited to take part in the drafting of the code.

"We are saying that we're happy to invite China but this should be done after the approval of the CoC (by ASEAN). I think that we should be masters of our own destiny as far as the CoC is concerned," del Rosario told reporters, adding that Vietnam expressed a similar sentiment.

He said that it would be difficult for ASEAN -- which operates by consensus -- to have all of the 10 members agree on inviting China to be involved in the code's drafting.

"I believe that they need to have consensus if they are going to pursue this and they will not have consensus," del Rosario said.

"We are trying to do it as fast as we can, but what we are objecting to is we don't want China to be invited in terms of the drafting and the decision making."

Asked which countries wanted China to take part, he said: "I think Cambodia would be one of them." Cambodia is the current chair of ASEAN's rotating leadership.

During Indonesia's chairmanship of the regional bloc least year, ASEAN and China agreed on a set of guidelines for the proposed code, ending a nine-year impasse.

The code is envisioned to be a legally binding document aimed at preventing small incidents in the South China Sea from escalating into bigger conflicts that could draw in major world powers like the United States.

ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam along with non-members China and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas.

The Philippines and Vietnam accuse China of aggressively asserting its claims in recent years. The United States meanwhile asserts a "national interest" in keeping the sea's shipping lanes free and open.

Surin, the ASEAN chief, said recent clashes have "given a sense of urgency" on efforts to try to resolve the disputes.

"It has given the global community a sense of concern that this could lead to open conflict which will not be in the interest of any party," Surin said in an interview with AFP.

"So we have the support of the international community to resolve this problem peacefully, effectively as soon as possible and we are working on it."

The South China Sea will be a key issue during the ASEAN Regional Forum, a security-focused meeting held annually in July involving ministers from 27 countries, including the United States, China, India, Japan and Australia.

(Source: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/philippines-urges-united-asean-stand-south-china-sea-174416389.html)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spending WANTS More Than NEEDS

In today's world, the young consumers of Generation Y and Z are the top and main big spenders in brands, latest gadgets, fashion and style. These Generation Y and Z born from 1980's to the millennium digital years since both of these generations are exposed to the latest media technologies such as the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 player, smartphone, tablet computer, social networking etc. 

The young generations of Y and Z are also being pampered and spoiled with materialistic by their parents, family members and peers since they are still schooling. As such, they don't appreciate the value of hard earned money but they develop the habit to maintain their lifestyle by continuously spending and upgrading their latest gadgets and fashion in order to look good with their personalities, without thinking and saving for their rainy days. The issue of being materialistic is growing rapidly throughout the world. Apart from that, the advertising and marketing use a lot of gimmick tools to brainwash the consumers' psychology mindset from WANTS (unnecessary material things) to become NEEDS (basic survival in life). We must be able to distinguish between NEEDS and WANTS if we want to be smart money savers. 

I found this inspiring project video by Mr Thirasak Tanapatanakul and would like to give you an idea about the negative consequences of the young generations who are obsessed to the world of materialistic. He experienced with his four year old son, who was screaming crazily when he refused to fulfill his son's request for the latest smart phone. He immediately realizes that we live in a world of over-consumption by non-necessities in life. As such, he and his wife created this project to educate his children and other people to return to the basic and fundamental needs which we really need in life like food, energy, medicine and basic entertainment. 

Will you be willing to spend your quality time with your children by taking them to explore the natural environment instead of spoiling them with unhealthy lifestyle like gadgets, branded goods and television?

Top 10 Reasons People Spend More Than They Earn

Written by Clint · Filed Under Money 101, Spending  Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Source: Accumulating Money

Rule #1 of financial freedom is spending less than you earn. If you can’t do that, you’ll never be financially successful no matter how hard you work, how many hours you put in, how many promotions you receive, or how much money you make.
It’s a simple rule, and most would consider it common sense. But, the U.S. has a negative savings rate, meaning this common sense rule may not be so common place. I recently saw a statistic that claimed that about 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year.

It’s helpful to understand why people over spend, and be aware of any that might apply to you.

10.Keeping up with the Jones’ – Psychology plays a big role in our spending habits. We want to feel as successful or more successful than those around us. We spend a lot of money to keep up that image. The reality is, the neighbors probably can’t afford that new boat either.

9. Avoiding the truth – It’s easy to overspend when you don’t keep tabs on how much you have. People will go for years unaware of their true financial situation because they’re afraid to look at what kind of mess they are in. It’s easier (temporarily) to just avoid it. They’ll pay their minimums and add new credit cards as necessary ignoring the growing debt total.

8. Counting the chickens before they hatch – In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold made a large down-payment on his swimming pool expecting that his upcoming Christmas bonus would cover it. Instead, he was enrolled in a Jelly of the Month club. We are often similarly optimistic about incoming money. It’s spent before it’s received, and it’s often not as much as was expected nor received when expected.

7. Plastic doesn’t feel like real money – It’s common to spend more when using credit cards than cash. The experience of hading over a card that you get back is just not the same as handing over some cold hard cash and seeing it disappear.

6. Immediate gratification – It’s all around us. We’re bombarded with the immediate gratification mentality. “Instant pain relief”, “fast food”, “on demand video”, and the big financial one, “buy now, pay later”. We’re too used to getting what we want now even if we don’t know how we’ll pay later.

5. Lifestyle maintenance – Most people increase their expenses as quickly as they increase their income. The same cannot be said for decreases in income. Once we become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it’s pretty difficult to cut back, even if our financial situation changes for the worse.

4. Poor as a child – Whether they’re trying to make up for their deprivation as a child, a fear of money being taken away that isn’t spent immediately, or a lack of financial understanding, being poor as a child is an often used excuse of overspending adults.

3. Sense of power – Spending money actually makes some people feel powerful. The more they spend, the more powerful they feel, and the only way to get that rush is to spend more money.

2. Prove self worth – Buying that fancy new car proves you are somebody, right? For some people spending makes them feel like they are worth something to the world.

1. Can’t say no – Some people feel like a failure when they can’t meet the wants of others. Whether it’s new toys for the kids, new outfit for the spouse, or a night out with the friends, some people just can’t say no, even when they can’t afford to say yes.

(Source: http://www.accumulatingmoney.com/top-10-reasons-people-spend-more-than-they-earn/)

You are what you buy? How people who spend LESS on fashion are more cool


If you had $100 left in your wallet, would you go to dinner with friends or buy a new dress from H&M?

How you answered could define your happiness, your likability, and your overall outlook on life.

Two recent studies have come up against the old adage 'money can't buy happiness', concluding that materialistic buyers were less happy, and even less liked, than experiential spenders. 

Money can't buy happiness: Two recent studies have concluded that your overall outlook on life can be attributed to your spending habits
Money can't buy happiness: Two recent studies have concluded that your overall outlook on life can be attributed to your spending habits (Source: Daily Mail)

People generally believe that being able to purchase material possessions will improve their lives.

However, psychological research suggests that people who spend money on travel, food and other cultural experiences were able to get along better with others, feel less anxiety in social situations and had a greater overall well-being than those who spent their money on a pair of this season's shoes. 

Nearly 10,000 people answered online questionnaires about their personality and purchasing habits in a study conducted by researchers at San Francisco State University.

The results were published this January in the Journal of Positive Psychology, where researchers calculated that an 'experience shopper' had greater overall life satisfaction than a material consumer. 

One of the reasons for increased happiness for experiential spenders, is that they are risk takers, said Ryan Howell, an assistant professor at San Francisco State and the study’s lead researcher. 

'You are taking a bigger risk on a night at a new restaurant or play,' he said. 'You can’t return a trip or a meal the way you can return something from a store.'

Another reason, the researchers found, was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or 'being alive' during the experience and then later, in reflection, Howell said. 

Key to happiness: Spending $1,000 on travel instead of a new pair of designer shoes leads to greater overall well-being a new study revealed
Key to happiness: Spending $1,000 on travel instead of a new pair of designer shoes leads to greater overall well-being a new study revealed (Source: Daily Mail)

'As nice as your new computer is, it's not going to make you feel alive,' he said.

The initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as a new outfit, fades over time after the person becomes accustomed to seeing it every day, experts said. 

Experiences, on the other hand, continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.

Researchers believe their findings will be helpful in making people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases more aware that life satisfaction and happiness can be influenced by their spending habits.

This study reflected similar findings by researchers at the University of Colorado who found that materialistic buyers were less well-liked by their peers than experiential buyers were. 

Published in 2010 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, participants expressed negative stereotypes of materialistic people, considering them to be more selfish and self-centered than experiential people.

While these impressions were mostly attributed to the inherent reputation of materialistic people, rather than an admiration for experiential people, participants said they found the experiential shoppers more charismatic and wanted to spend time with them. 

By comparison, they found the materialistic shoppers shallow.

The stigma of materialism also led participants to dislike discussions based on materialistic, rather than experiential, purchases.

Experts also point out that people are less self-conscious when comparing experiences than they are when sharing stories of material possessions.
It will probably bother you more that your friend bought the latest

(Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2125669/You-buy-How-people-spend-LESS-fashion-cool.html#ixzz1rfw6aS59)

Chinese Teenager Sells Kidney To Buy Apple iPhone, iPad; Conspirators Charged With Intentional Injury

By Dave Smith   April 6, 2012 12:28 PM EDT   Source: International Business Times
(Photo: Reuters / Jo Yong Hak  Source: International Business Times)

On April 28, 2011, a 17-year-old boy traveled to Chenzhou City in the Hunan Province of China to sell his kidney for a new iPad 2. One year later, the boy's health is quickly deteriorating due to renal deficiency, and five conspirators have been charged with intentional injury.

"I wanted to buy an iPad 2 but could not afford it," said the boy, who is only listed by his surname, Zheng. "A broker contacted me on the Internet and said he could help me sell one kidney for 20,000 yuan."

The conspirators gave Zheng a total of 22,000 yuan (about $3,400) -- including an extra 2,200 for his troubles -- to have his right kidney removed at Chenzhou's No. 198 Hospital. China's Xinhua News Agency says one of the defendants was paid about 220,000 yuan (roughly $35,000) to arrange the transplant, of which he gave 22,000 to the boy and split the rest of the 198,800 yuan between the surgeon, the three other defendants in the case, and other medical personnel.

The boy used his surgery money to buy a new iPhone and iPad, but when Zheng's mother discovered her son with a new iPad and a disturbing scar, she called the police. Zheng tried to call back the broker, but his cell phone was reportedly powered off, and he and his mother were unable to reach him.

The trading of human organs has been banned in China since 2007. Several different factors led to the eventual ban, including accusations that the government harvested organs from executed prisoners and road accident victims. The No. 198 Hospital said they had no idea about Zheng's surgery because the department that performed the surgery had been contracted by an unnamed Fujian businessman.

Zheng currently lives in Anhui, one of China's poorest provinces that neighbors the Hunan Province. Reuters says that residents of the Anhui province typically leave to find work and a better life outside the region, but now, Zheng suffers from renal deficiency, and his health is in jeopardy.

While five individuals are charged so far, the Xinhua News Agency said "several other suspects involved in the case are still being investigated."

China is the second-largest-market for Apple, Inc., and its iPhone and iPad products have been the best-selling products in the country. iPhones start selling at 3,988 yuan (about $633) and iPads begin at 2,988 yuan ($474). China revenue, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, accounts for more than 16 percent of the company's annual earnings.

"It's our fastest growing major region by far," Cook said

(Source: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/324980/20120406/chinese-teenager-sells-kidney-apple-iphone-ipad.htm)

Young Consumers Pinch Their Pennies

Millennials were supposed to be the next golden ticket for retailers. A cohort of 70 million consumers roughly between the ages of 18 and 34, this was the first generation of Americans to grow up with cell phones and the Web. Marketers could reach them in myriad ways—tweets, Facebook pages—that were unavailable when their boomer parents started out. “Marketers thought, ‘Here come the Millennials, we’re going to have an awesome time selling to them,’” says Max Lenderman, a director at ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky. “They were waiting for a boom. Then comes the financial crisis, and all of a sudden the door has almost slammed in their face.”

No group was hit harder by the Great Recession than the Millennials. Their careers are stalled. They hold record levels of education debt. And an estimated 24 percent have had to move back home with parents at least once, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Almost a quarter of them describe lives of financial desperation, reports researcher WSL Strategic Retail. “It’s a culture shock because this generation has grown up entitled,” says Wendy Liebmann, WSL’s chief executive officer.

That’s bad news for the movie studios, clothing retailers, and home improvement chains that had hoped for better. Walt Disney (DIS) and Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE) need Gen Y-ers to fill seats at summer blockbusters. Gap (GPS) and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) are counting on 18- to 34-year-olds because they typically spend big on clothes. Williams-Sonoma (WSM) and Home Depot (HD) thrive on household formation—economist-speak for marrying, having kids, and buying a home—but many cash-strapped Gen Y-ers have put those modern rites of passage on hold. Twenty percent of 18- to 34-year-old respondents in a recent Pew survey said they had postponed marriage for financial reasons, while 22 percent put off having a baby for similar reasons.

It’s easy to understand why: In 2009 households led by those younger than 35 had 68 percent less inflation-adjusted wealth than such households in 1984, according to Pew in November. That compares with a 10 percent increase in net worth for all Americans over the same period. One contributing factor: Average student loan debt for 2008 grads receiving bachelor’s degrees hit $23,000, up 35 percent from $17,000 in 1996.

Getty Images(7); Corbis(1); Bloomberg(1)The job climate also hurts. The share of employed 18- to 24-year-olds in 2009 was 54 percent, the lowest since the U.S. began collecting data in 1948. “This customer doesn’t pay up for product, and they might not turn into a 45- to 50-year-old who will,” says Eric Beder, an analyst at Brean Murray Carret. “Retailers need to worry about how to build a relationship with this consumer.”

Hooking this generation was always going to be a challenge. Plugged into the Web’s endless information and choices, Millennials are pickier and less brand loyal than their parents. They also came of age amid eroding respect for institutions, including corporations and brands. Even before the recession they craved authentic products—for example, buying footwear from Toms Shoes, which donates a pair to poor children for every one it sells. The Millennial credo is “buy less and do more,” says David Maddocks, who runs an eponymous consulting firm that’s advised such brands as Nike’s (NKE) Cole Haan and Keds. “Boomers were about abundance, whereas this generation is about having enough.” The disproportionate impact of the recession could make Gen Y even less acquisitive.

Carmakers have struggled to woo the group. While Toyota Motor’s (TM) Scion has the youngest buyers of any car brand, sales have been paltry. And Honda Motor’s (HMC) youth-oriented Element sold so poorly that it’s no longer offered in the U.S. Clothing chains, however, have little choice but to chase Gen Y. Americans 25 to 34 spend the most on apparel and services annually of any age group.

Gap’s namesake brand chose Millennials as its target customer in 2010 and has since run ads featuring residents in young, hip enclaves such as Austin, Tex., and done design collaborations with fashion blogs popular with younger consumers. “Based on our research, we know style is important to them and they’re willing to spend money on pieces that are ‘trend right’ yet timeless in terms of quality and style,” says Art Peck, president of Gap North America. Macy’s (M) on March 21 unveiled its own Gen Y program, saying it will use social media, mobile shopping, and merchandise designed around locales and lifestyles popular with Millennials (say, college town or first adopter) to boost sales to them.

Unfortunately, getting 18- to 34-year-olds in the door increasingly means discounting, says Beder. This age group “is only drawn in by sales and promotions,” he says. “Maybe they want to be wired and fashion-driven, but they’re not willing to pay for it.” So companies that want to attract Millennials often cut prices. MGM Resorts International (MGM) is offering spring break vacations at its Las Vegas properties starting at $29 a night with such perks as $25 buckets of beer and $1 Jell-O shots. After starting with its budget inns, MGM has expanded the deals—a room for $69 a night—to its higher-end Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand hotels.

Gen Y frugality could eventually hurt the luxury market, too, says Pam Danziger, president of research firm Unity Marketing. She says a 25-year-old who shops at Gap typically trades up to Nordstrom (JWN), Saks (SKS), and perhaps Tiffany (TIF) decades later. But today, Danziger says, “We have a group of people who are seeking only to live within their means.”

Aware that Millennials can’t afford its wares, Be & D, a New York-based purveyor of luxury bags and shoes, is layering in lower-priced goods, such as an entry-level tote for $300. The company doesn’t expect to generate many sales from Gen Y that way; instead it hopes to build brand awareness for the future. “Without that generation, we’re missing a huge percentage of sales,” says co-founder Steve Dumain. “We need to stay relevant to them and be patient as they eventually will come back.”

The bottom line: Retailers have long sought 18- to 34-year-olds. But with their wealth down 68 percent since 1984, spending is at risk.

(Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/young-consumers-pinch-their-pennies.html)

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