Cheetos In China: You Are What You Eat

Somewhat typical canal in China -- water might be used for irrigation and/or fish farming and/or laundry... and as a dump for old bikes

  Goodness gracious, who knows what's in that candy bar. Stay away from that hamburger, and don't even think about those Doritos. It's all going to make you fat, give you diabetes, rickets and high blood pressure, you know. And yet, in Shanghai, Chinese shoppers might actually consider Cheetos and Ding-Dongs and pork rinds as health food. China's toxic harvest: Consumers flock to imported food When Yuri Valazza started a small imported food shop in Shanghai eight years ago, his target consumers weren’t Chinese. "At that time it was almost 90 percent foreigners," recalls Valazza, sitting at a small table in shop in the city's former French Concession neighborhood. Not anymore, thanks to a rising consumer class … [Read more...]

Conspicuous Consumption in Shanghai. Or, Better Living Through Enhanced Consumerism

An Audemars Piguet Millenary Chalcedony Tourbillon - now that's a mouthful...

What a difference a couple of decades make on the world consumer stage. Who'd have ever imagined Red Communist Chinese buying up luxury goods from Versace, Bvlgari and Versace by the sackful? And yet, here we were last month in Shanghai airport, and my traveling companion discreetly nods at middle-aged (and very ordinary) couple ahead of us in the immigration line, and murmurs sotto voce "Luis Vuitton luggage. The real stuff." Well, the couple certainly had bags. Whether they were genuine or knock-offs, I had to take his word for it. Couldn't tell, couldn't care. Same scene repeated several times with different Chinese colleagues, folks who might not otherwise comfortably afford a Vacheron Constantin watch or a Coach hand-bag, but … [Read more...]

Travel Notes from the Road


Ten days, ten flights, nine cities, lots of windshield time. Planes, trains, and automobiles, and not much time to walk for exercise. “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” –Ellen DeGeneres Bloody cold in Korea. Snow, sleet and ice. Under-armor long johns, waffle-weave thermal undershirts, thick-soled shoes and wool socks save the day. It is indeed possible to dress warm, travel light and still cut a fine figure. Always thought those Michelin-man down coats looked a bit silly in a business setting. Lost weight (again) despite eating massive quantities at Korean BBQ and Chinese banquet fare. Probably mostly due to the … [Read more...]

Weekend Reading and More China Watch Stuff

The "Rocket of China" steam locomotive, constructed by C.W. Kinder in 1881 --- Chinese Engineering and Mining Company ( China) records of 1882

China Watch A couple notes of caution on those seeking to diversity in their 401(k) through investment in emerging markets. This usually means BRICs and sometimes China-focused ETFs or mutual funds. As far as stocks go, last week we featured the mess that is Qihoo 360, a China-based internet search company with issues of fraud and dodgy accounting. Here is more proof that investing in China is not for the faint of heart or shallow of pocket. From Alex Dalmady's blog: "Sigh" No Forest" In a move that should surprise no one, Canadian/Chinese forestry company Sino-Forest filed for bankruptcy in Canada yesterday. The timing of the filing shouldn't be a surprise either, since the company was due to deliver its 2011 audited financial … [Read more...]

A Little bit of Geopolitics, a Little Bit of Potash

"Dhow" - James Welsh, 1830

I like history. I like travel. I like politics. And I like travel books. Wrap those all together, and you've a Robert D. Kaplan book.  "Monsoon - The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power" is the latest book from this globe-trotting author.  From the inside dust jacket: On the world maps common in America, the Indian Ocean all but disappears. The Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region is relegated to the edges, split up along the maps' outer reaches. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, for it was in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters that the great wars of that era were lost and won.  Thus, many Americans are barely aware of the Indian … [Read more...]

Looking Forward, Looking Back

2011 has been a good year, and 2012 is going to be even better, barring any disasters, floods, tornados, major illness, earthquakes, personal injuries, investing black swans, pestilence, wars and famine. In which case we'll have a few challenges.  Did I mention I'm an incurable optimist? A couple of posts form Financial Samurai and My University Money tickled the Nostradamus bone, so I'll let fly with a few predictions/trends/SWAGS for 2012. Predictions So here we go, in no particular order: Investing in food-based companies will continue to yield profits and dividends.  Ya gotta eat, and companies like  Terra Nitrogen, Golden Enterprises, Cresud SA, will continue to provide the raw materials and the grease to spackle … [Read more...]

A Couple Of Headlines and A Stock Consideration

CF Industries

It seems I'm posting frequently on the subject of food and investing for the long term. Well, this is a short post along those very lines. Here are  a couple of headlines worth considering. From China's Corn Demand MindBlowing Dow Jones Newswires 08/17/2011 @ 7:40am China's struggle to meet the growing demands of its middle class is fueling a sudden surge in demand for corn, sending vast ripples across the U.S. farm belt and potentially upending the grain's trade flows around the world. China's need for corn -- which forms the basis of sweeteners, starch and alcohol as well as feed for livestock -- was on stark display in July when the nation ordered 21 million bushels of U.S. corn in one hit, more than … [Read more...]

A collection of Links on China

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Lots of China stuff in the news today:   From the Wall Street Journal: China's Economy Faces Three Contradictions China is undeniably an economic miracle. It has been doubling living standards every decade since it started opening up, a feat that took the U.S. about 30 years even in times of its fastest growth. But fissures are showing in China's economic foundations. I was part of a team a few years that evaluated the possibility of locating a manufacturing facility for my company. At the time, the official outlook on labor supply issues for the rich coastal areas, where most industrial development occurs, was that continued migration from the hinterlands would provide an endless supply of cheap labor for China's … [Read more...]

Centavos Model Portfolio Haz Sad Face

Model Portfolio - May 2011

It’s been a while since I posted the last update on the Centavos Model Portfolio on March 29th.  Since then, I’ve made the following additions in the uranium sector. Bought 4,000 more shares of JNR Resources, a uranium exploration company, bringing my total to 8,000 shares an average cost of $0.22.   The share price has now sunk into the mid-teens, where I’m content to let it sit without further buys. Bought 1000 shares of Denison Mines, another uranium junior, at a cost $2.26 a share.  At close of market today, the shares were up a little at $2.36. Denison is a company I purchased last year when it was a little over a dollar a share, and sold when it went over $4.  Since the crash in uranium, I figured I could buy back in.  … [Read more...]

Hyperventilating with President Hu Jintao

Image via Wikipedia I was all set to write a post this morning on health, fast food and burgers, but the headline and the blurb at the WSJ on China caught my eye “Hu Highlights Need for US-China Cooperation, Questions Dollar” BEIJING—Chinese President Hu Jintao emphasized the need for cooperation with the U.S. in areas from new energy to space ahead of his visit to Washington this week, but he called the present U.S. dollar-dominated currency system a "product of the past" and highlighted moves to turn the yuan into a global currency. Mr. Hu also offered a veiled criticism of efforts by the U.S. Federal Reserve to stimulate growth through huge bond purchases to keep down long-term interest rates, a strategy that China has … [Read more...]