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January 11, 2006

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Winston

Nice to see your great blog here.

keep up the good work!

HongXing

My conversation With an Indian

Originally copied from tiexue.net

In Shenzhen, in a small coffee shop by the road, I was meeting an Indian from our client company, on a business trip to China. I started my first conversation with an Indian. Indian asked me: “Why don’t you ask for a receipt for your coffee?”

I, confused, said, “I can’t reimburse it, why receipt”?

Indian proudly said, “When our company sends us on business trips, all meals are reimbursed”

Before I can answer, Indian asked, “Do you know Tibet?”

I said I do. Indian started again, “This small country is between India and China.”

I replied immediately, “You have the Dalai of Tibet. We have the regime of Tibet.” I was about to kick him if he wasn’t an employee of our client company.

As we left the coffee shop, Indian mentioned Hong Kong and said randomly and stupidly, “Is Hong Kong right beside China?”. I was amusedly depressed. Must be very good propanganda in India for their citizens to receive this kind of knowledge!

So I replied, “100 years ago. China fought a war with Britain, and lost. So Hong Kong was taken away by Britain. 100 years later, China became stronger, and so took Hong Kong back.”

Indian thought a bit, and said “So Hong Kong belongs to China?”

I affirmatively said, “Just like New Delhi belongs to India.”

Indian changed the subject.

He’s from the TATA company in India, working as a software programmer for TATA. TATA is one the biggest company in India, leader in automobile and steel.

He started to proudly show me his employee ID. And said, “In my company in India, I can take this ID and face a scanner, and all doors would open for me.”

I said, “We can do the same here.”

India coughed a bit, and asked me, “Do you know TATA?” I said yes I do, it’s a big company.

He looked very proud, and said, “Is your company a big one?”

I said, “It’s not so big. Only average in China. China has about 12 cell phone companies. Our is just an average-sized one”

He felt surprised for the first time, “China has 12 cell phone companies? I always thought there are only 1 to 2 companies in China capable of producing cell phones.”

I replied, “Our company is not so big. We only sold 10,000,000 phones last year.”

When Indian heard the figure 10,000,000, I noticed a big change in the color and texture of his face. His left eye twitched a little bit.

I then continued, “Hmm, yes. Last month, our company just sold half a million CDMA phones in India.”

Indian was shocked again, said, “half a million. That’s a big number. How many cell phone users in China?”

I replied, “China has China Mobile, and it has about 200,000,000 customers in China. Another one is called China Telecom, and it has about 100,000,000 customers.”

Indian looked he was about to faint, and said, “Oh my god.”, his voice a bit unstable.

I continued, “Usually for a Chinese, he buys a new cell phone every 1-2 years.”

Indian still could not believe his ears and thought I was lying. So he asked, “In China, can a software engineer make 150 dollars a month?”

I was about to cough blood. How can India fool its citizens like this? I said, 150 dollars? That’s about how much they can earn in 1 week.

Indian was visibly shaken and could not say a word for the next few hours. In his mind, Chinese are poor, Chinese could not effort cell phones. Chinese’ salaries are lower than Indians.

Then at the end of that day, he did something that made me laugh for days.

He took out a CD, and came to my laptop, and asked, “Can your laptop support CD Rom?”

I thought to myself, “This is the level of an employee of India’s biggest software company?”

I lent him my USB harddrive. But his old IBM laptop did not support USB ports…

Then we went to our hotel, and in our hotel, I connected online using wireless. I then opened a friend’s MSN Spaces site, and showed Indian a few pictures of the city of Wu Xi. I told him, this is my hometown.

Indian was psychologically wounded, looked at the pictures, and said, “This is the most developed city in China, right?”.

I told him mercilessly, “No. There are a few hundred cities like this in China. Wu Xi is a very average one.”

Indian said, “Oh.”

I said, “Can I see some pictures of Indian cities”?

Indian, stated shifting his eyes, and touched his face, and coughed, and said “Tonight is too late. I am kind of tired, let’s sleep first.”

Julien Pain

Rebecca,
I really love to read your comments on our work, whether you compliment or criticize our action. I'll try to answer briefly to the points you make.

First, we mention in our press release that these recommendations have not been sent only to the US. We sent them also to the OECD and to leaders of the European Union. So far, all the companies we're targeting are US based. But we know that European companies would probably do the same, if they had a better position in the Internet sector.

We don't think that the US have lessons to give to the rest of the world (remember we're a Paris based organization…). We have to be realistic. So far, only national legislators can compel companies to respect certain ethical standards. I'd love this task to be taken by the UN, but I don't think the UN would be efficient, unfortunately. So if we want the situation to change, we need to have US legislators involved at some point.

Second, as I say in the press release, "Reporters Without Borders is convinced that a law regulating the activities of Internet companies should only be drafted as a last resort, and we therefore recommend a two-step approach." I far prefer companies to chose self-regulation and draft themselves a code of conduct. But what if they don't do it? We need a "stick" to make them react. And that "stick" is the threat of a compelling legislation that would be drafted by US representatives.

I really don't think that waiting for these companies to understand that it's in their long term interest to change their behavior is realistic. If there wasn't any arm embargo with China or North Korea, arm manufacturers would sell as many bombs as they could to these countries (well, some still do it, but at least it's not legal…)

We don’t like at all to advocate for more legislation. We're actually doing the opposite all day long. But in this case I believe it might be an appropriate solution. And quite a few US representatives seem to think this way too. I hope that this issue won't be taken only by the US, but by all democracies.

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