Monday, June 19, 2006

China in Africa and Vietnam


Two articles to note this morning:

China’s Wen Jiabao kicked off a seven-nation Africa tour in Cairo on Sunday, pledging to not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs—a nice way of saying that Beijing is unconcerned about internal politics or human rights in Egypt, Ghana, the Congo Republic, South Africa, Angola, Uganda or Tanzania so long as its deals for raw materials and minerals are respected. This should play well at least with the government officials Wen visits, and is actually a page from the old U.S. playbook vis a vis the Saudis and other large oil producers; but don’t look for adoring peasant crowds to mob China’s premier as he demonstrates China’s tirelessness in the resource-rich Southern Hemisphere and equatorial regions.

Mobs did adore Bill Gates on a recent visit to Vietnam, though, where the U.S. and China are jousting over the Hanoi government’s (and people’s) allegiance. A story in today’s Times nicely bears out my thesis last week about Vietnam’s new importance to the U.S. as Beijing attempts to peel away more traditional American allies in the region. Vietnam is taking a page from India’s Cold War playbook, where it was happy to reap financial and prestige benefits that come with being in the middle of a turf war.

If you wait long enough, everyone becomes a capitalist; note particularly the words of Ly Qui Trung, who grew a single restaurant into 33 outlets based on the McDonald’s model of standardized processes. Ray Kroc’s industrialization of foodservice continues to ricochet around the world:

Called Pho 24, after the national dish of noodles, beef, spices and greens served in an aromatic broth, the stores earn their franchisees up to $40,000 a year, Mr. Trung says, a handsome income in Vietnam.

"I use the method of McDonald's: everything is standardized, everything is uniform," he said. "It's nine steps from taking the order to serving the food to saying goodbye."

He expects to open 100 stores in the next two years, including a restaurant in southern China next month.

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