May 19, 2004

East to East

And so it begins dear reader. I hope you'll excuse my sporadic (non existent) blogging over the last three weeks. In that time, I've been from Colorado to Paris, and back to Baltimore. And before I board the plane I'd like to bang out a few notes about the market and some open positions. First, though, I leave for China today. Hong Kong to be precise. I'm hoping I'll be able to write to you daily while I'm there. There's a great tour lined up, and I'll get a first hand look at some Chinese manufacturers. The only concern I've had so far is how much I'll be allowed to say. China is a booming nation. It's gaining in respect and economic power in East Asia and all over the world. But I'm not sure you can still say what you want to there. In fact, when I went to get my Chinese visa, I was made to sign a waiver stating that I would do no reporting or journalism while in China. It didn't say anything about blogging, of course. But I'm guessing that's a distinction that might be a lost on any bureaucrat, much less one concerned about an agitating American. However, I'll do the best I can. And I've brought my digital camera. If the old aphorism about a picture being worth a thousand words is true, then three or four pictures should equal my average day's worth of bogging. And if I can't speak freely, I'll take good notes and send them to you later, when I get to Japan. I have no reason to believe there will be much restriction on what I say and when I say it (other than that little form). And besides, I'm going with an open mind. In fact, I'm going for exactly this reason, to separate the urban legends from the mundane realities. After China, its' off to Japan with another round of meetings and interviews lined up, and even some rice planting. There will probably be sushi eating as well. And perhaps saki drinking. Or beer. There will also be a lot of examination of the Japanese economy, to see if it's a preview of the soft, slow motion depression that may be taking hold even today in America. I hope next to write to you from India. Right now, though, the chances are fading. I applied for tourist visa to India a week ago and thought I might get it in a day or two, as I did with the Chinese visa. After three days of personal interviews and visits with various folks in the Indian embassy, I'm thoroughly delighted at their pleasant demeanor and utterly baffled at what seems like a giant, diplomatic version of your local department of motor vehicles. One minute, I'm being invited to lunch by the charming Minister of Commerce after an imprompt ten minute conversation about the Congress Party's victory and the reaction of the capital markets. The next, I'm transferred to a press affairs officer who says I must reapply for the visa...from Tokyo. Not to be daunted (yet), I'm going to give it a go and try to get my India visa in Tokyo. If not, it's off to Thailand, and after that, to Perth in Western Australia and then Sydney. Back in the states in mid-July, just in time for the San Diego currency conference, which I'll be speaking at. For more on that coference, by the way, please check here: Look Ma! No wires! The crappy image quality will get better as I learn to use the camera, I hope. And by the way, yes, I'm still convinced that a few Asian central banks already have a very good reason to quit acquiring dollars, domestic inflation. My suspicion is that Asia is on the verge of being a lot more economically self-sufficient than America would like to believe. Namely, Asia doesn't need the American consumer, and by extension, the American dollar, as much as we think it does. If Asian countries no longer buy dollars in order to keep their own currencies competitively weak (and their exports to America cheap) a huge source of dollar demand gets shut off. Goodbye dollar standard, hello China Standard. It's a long way between here and there, though. I hope you can tune in now and again. I'm a notoriously bad traveler, often losing bags, missing planes, and unwittingly taking rides from rogue cab drivers. At the very least, it should be entertaining. Plus, I have a bad stomach, and that should make for some good stories considering some of the places I'm going and the local cuisine that I'll find. Provided I don't make myself ill or get lost, I'm hoping to use this time to figure out just what kind of investment world you, your children, and your grand children are going to be living in for the next fifty years. How truly global and competitive has the world become? What's the image of America abroad? And how different is that image from reality? Where are the real bull markets? How do you invest in them? These are just the obvious questions. The most interesting ones are always the ones you never would have thought of. I'll be asking them out loud, though, and if I have answer, you'll read that too. Meanwhile, it's at least a six hour flight to LA. I'm going to stretch my legs. Talk to you soon, Dan P.S. Just to put this whole wireless, multimedia thing to the test, I asked a passenger waiting by my gate to snap a digital pick of me digitally blogging, sort of an M.C. Escher hand drawing the hand recursive media image. Sort of. Hopefully my future pictures will be better looking. P.P.S. Please, no comments about my SUV of a laptop. I'd hoped to get something lighter and less...big. But this one had all my support software loaded on it. Plus, it's excercise all its own just hauling it around.


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