Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2005, 12:00am


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German carmaker goes into overdrive on buyer pampering

What do Lenovo group chairman Liu Chuanzhi, Sohu chief executive Charles Zheng Chaoyang and a group of top Microsoft and Nokia executives have in common? They all drive BMWs in Beijing.

The German carmaker's top three dealers in the capital sell a combined 10 luxury cars a day. That's an impressive figure given that there is a long-standing bureaucratic directive banning state-owned company executives from displaying such ostentation in their choice of personal transport, meaning most of them opt for Audis or Volkswagens.

To further pander to the expensive tastes of its customers, BMW is about to open a state-of-the-art sales and maintenance centre near Beijing Capital International Airport.

Lai See embarked on his first assignment to the capital yesterday to be given a sneak preview - it's reminiscent of Cathay Pacific's VIP airport lounge, complete with massage chairs and a sleep area.

Talk about being driven to distraction.

Democrat loses his way in Beijing

Legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the Article 45 Concern Group, may be able to survive much better in Beijing with a better command of Putonghua than Lai See, but his tech skills still leave a lot to be desired.

Attending a law congress in the capital, Mr Tong first lost his mobile phone, then his laptop computer contracted a viruses and he even forgot to take his camera, resulting in him having to ask journalists to take photos of him.

A lesson perhaps for other democrats planning to visit Beijing soon.

Cnooc digs deep for hurricane victims

To the growing list of developing countries rushing to the aid of the world's wounded superpower, add another unlikely benefactor: CNOOC.

Just weeks after losing out to Chevron in an often nasty fight to acquire Unocal, China's leading offshore oil company is donating US$200,000 to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

A generous move, indeed, considering the barbs flung at CNOOC by many a Capitol Hill politician during the Unocal saga.

There is just one minor snag. Lai See understands that in all the chaos of the US government's rescue operations CNOOC is still trying to figure out which federal agency to send the money to.

For smoke tom prefers filters

The podcasting trend is sweeping the world but mainland internet portal Tom Online isn't ready to jump on the bandwagon. The reason? Amateur radio hosts given the chance to speak just might say something the government doesn't like.

'I think content filters are very important,' said chief executive Wang Leilei. 'Most of the people like entertainment music-related broadcast content. But anti-government content is forbidden.'

Filtering blogs using keyword technology is relatively simple, although these can be skirted using artful homonyms (in one, Mao Zedong's name is transformed into a vivid description of a toilet).

Screening MP3 audio files, however, is more problematic. But when it came to protecting the internet from anti-government rants, Tom was on the case. 'We have a huge team to do a lot of filtering,' Mr Wang said. 'You need to do this kind of tough job in China.'

Is this a princessling in our midst?

Not every princeling - or princessling - is happy to be seen in the papers.

Over the weekend, the Hong Kong Economic Times carried a story that Premier Wen Jiabao's daughter, under the alias Lily Chang, has been helping CSFB to secure an underwriter's role for China Construction Bank's upcoming share offering. The semi-official China News Service immediately carried a strongly worded denial.

So what's the story? No one at CSFB would confirm or deny it. However, there is a family precedent. Mr Wen's son used the alias Chen Xing when he was chief executive of Unihub, a company he sold to his joint-venture partner Richard Li Tzar-kai's PCCW.