Private Wine Clubs V. Failing Battery Companies: The Chinese Paradox

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Private Wine Clubs V. Failing Battery Companies: The Chinese Paradox

Not unlike a bulbous-nosed businessman in Shanghai, A123 Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:AONE), a beleaguered manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, has found some solace in the arms of a Chinese companion. Unlike the businessman, A123 Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:AONE) has not sought out a rural peasant as a trophy wife, or the pink lit bevy of beauties from Shanxi province, plying their trade in all night “barber shops.” Instead, A123 Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:AONE) has made a home in the cash rich coffers of Wanxiang Group Corp., a Chinese conglomerate, who have agreed to acquire up to an 80% stake in return for an up to $450 million investment.

Talk about your role reversals. Instead of simply strolling down to the bars in the French Concession of Shanghai, particularly those on Hengshan Lu, and picking up one of a thousand woman looking for a gweilo boyfriend for the price of two $5 mojitos, the Wanxiang Group has chosen to head to Middlesex County (I’m liking this analogy), MA with a bag full of money looking for its hookup. $10 for a beautiful woman to talk to you, or $450 million for a failing battery company? Wow!

When I was living in China, the foreign businessman was a much sought after commodity. In the days leading up to the Beijing Olympics, it seemed the Chinese had determined that a single foreign consultant’s worth no longer equaled an army of worker ants putting in 16 hour days, for a wage that would make Kunta Kinte blush. The splendor and perceived achievements of the Opening Ceremonies seemed to have only cemented this idea.

I dare say China, you’re wrong. You’re not quite there yet. You still need the Western finishing school provided by foreign guests and consultants. Just look how easy it is for us to still pick up your women, while you pay nearly a half a billion dollars for expensive employees of a failing company.

I understand cultural differences. However, if you are looking for the trappings of Western wealth and luxuries, I have a little quiz for you. Not unlike one of those games where you are asked to find the differences between two similar drawings, see if you can find what’s not quite right yet with this true but equally wrong situation…..

In 2008, a Ferrari nearly runs me over as the owner yells into 1 of 2 mobile phones he is holding. And then begins yelling at me. The $200,000 car then scrapes the passenger side door and rear quarter panel of the car on the high curb before parking in front of a sign filled with both Chinese characters and “No Parkee, big Monster Tow Danger.”

The driver then proceeds to begin screaming at a beggar 40 yards from his car claiming he’s responsible for his accident. While this verbal barrage is continuing at a volume that would make a New York Yankees fan in the bleachers cringe, a woman in the passenger side of the vehicle begins climbing out the driver’s side. She straightens out what could be no less than a four figure dress, and is fixing her diamonds. She then proceeds to pull all the phlegm in her body out with both a noise and a full-body hack that would have saved Linda Blair her famous movie exorcism, before spitting it all over the street. It’s estimated that 16 million liters of spit enter the Shanghai sewers each day. Finally, the man grabs the woman by the arm and drags her into his private wine club.

This I saw, the remainder I must trust to my girlfriend whose wine expertise brought her from Paris to this upscale wine club….

Firstly, the man demanded a male waiter, rather than my girlfriend, the European sommelier who speaks Mandarin. The manager finally explained her pedigree, and he ordered from her a $70,000 bottle of Chateau Petrus. After tasting it, he spit it in his girlfriend’s empty glass and demanded a $60,000 bottle of LaTour, that he didn’t detest as much. He did however ask for ice and 7-up so he could seemingly make the world’s most expensive sangria. After 20 minutes, he signed his check and left allowing the door to close on the face of his date/girlfriend/escort/wife.

Later that night following my girlfriend’s shift, we sat on the roof of our apartment staring at a starless (and smelly) sky, due to air and light pollution, while we recounted the actions of this muppet, as we were enjoying his nearly untouched bottles of France’s best Bordeaux.

If you are reading this, or the version spit out by Google Translate, and can’t find at least eight things wrong with this “picture”, I have a company I need to sell you. Today only, $385 million “I give you best price.”


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