Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2009, 12:00am

State firms ready to take on world-class teams, says coach

Li Rongrong's a good sport.

How do we know? The chairman of the State Asset Supervision and Administration Commission spent the first 20 minutes of a two-and-a-half-hour internet chatroom session yesterday talking about sport.

He began by saying he had just finished reading some commentaries on the internet about Brazil's victory in the Confederations Cup football tournament in South Africa.

Even when he wasn't talking about sport, he was making sporting analogies.

He said state-owned enterprises had played some 'good games' over the past six years after more than 30 years of training and pre-match warm-ups.

He believed his team now belonged to the Premier League - the English one, not the Chinese one.

With most mainland football fans believing the Chinese Premier League is worse than the Scottish Second Division, Mr Li's comments prompted one netizen to ask him how long it would be before the national team qualified for the World Cup again.

'That's right - it is not a small gap,' he said. 'But objectively speaking, we have improved a lot in the past six years ... but like our national team, sometimes you think they suck and sometimes you think they have played well.'

But obviously realising that comparing the performance of Sasac with that of the national football team was not a good idea, he switched tactics and brought in the National Basketball Association.

'I admire the NBA,' he said. 'They have a set system and mechanism to ensure the game is exciting. Look at their stadiums, they are always packed, unlike ours, which don't even have a few people. But Rome wasn't built in a day ...

'As a state-owned enterprise, we need to become a good team, so we need to build up our system and mechanism.'

Perhaps Mr Li is the man to guide China to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

What if Zhao had prevailed?

After having a senior government official talking about sport, next up are brokerage analysts discussing politics.

A trio of CLSA analysts speculated in their two-page 'ChinaOpps' commentary yesterday about what the mainland would have been like if former premier Zhao Ziyang had survived the political battle in 1989 and remained in power.

Having just read his book Prisoner of the State, released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, the three said Zhao, who died in 2005, would 'not only have pursued economic reforms but also supported it with political reform'.

'Zhao is nearly forgotten in China despite that he was the only voice of moderation for the students in Tiananmen,' they wrote.

'He was a man ahead of his time, and his intellect and temperament would make him well suited to be a political leader today.'

The authors concluded that China had since moved towards a more 'collective leadership that perhaps provides the check and balance that Zhao Ziyang thought the Chinese government needed'.

Banker searches his soul

The HSBC chairman is Green by name and also nature.

In his new book Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World, Stephen Green (below) addresses questions about how, living in a globalised world caught in an age of financial and ecological turbulence, we should respond to the differing needs of individuals and institutions.

As an ordained priest in the Church of England, Mr Green's conscience has obviously been pricked by the 'marginalised of the world'.

'But even this soul-searching over the culture of capitalism as the world's engine of growth will not of itself let us rest easy,' he writes.

'How are we going collectively to face the challenge of climate change?' he asks, then goes on to say: 'Aren't we just fretting about the means - the capitalist system - when we should be fretting about the end - economic development, in its present carbon-intensive form with the grave threat it poses for the whole planet?'

As well as green issues, he also tackles greed and the current financial crisis, calling for 'recognition of the moral dimension of what has happened'.

To restore public confidence and trust in the markets, he says, company executives 'have to recognise that values go beyond 'what you can get away with'.'

The chairman's book will be launched in the United States, Britain, Hong Kong and the mainland on Thursday.