Why Nostradamus wasn't born in modern Hong Kong
An interesting tale has come to our attention that we feel obliged to recount, since it's about that red hot news story - 'the race', as some newspapers like to call it, to become chief executive. Or, rather, it's the right to have your nomination rubber-stamped by the 1,200 members of the so-called election committee who have been told by our national government which stamp to use. This is what passes for the chief executives election here.
Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying are the current contenders for rubber-stamping. A senior academic tells us that he recalls attending a meeting at a local university in 1992 where an at that time relatively unknown C.Y. Leung was present.
'One of those slightly mysterious figures said to be 'close to Beijing' told me - 'that guy will be the second or third chief executive',' he said.
Our academic friend says he remembers the occasion vividly, since it appeared to indicate that five years before the handover Beijing was planning well ahead.
But our friend goes on to observe that it all makes perfect sense because 'Henry Tang's main [claim to] fame is for being intellectually challenged when faced with more than a glass of red wine, and China can hardly afford a third failure in the post'. With Tang seen as the big- business candidate, our friend surmises that Beijing may be anxious to distance itself from those guys. Which means that Tang is not so much a serious contender in this pantomime, more a stalking horse.
Hands off the tiller, if not the till
Ye Weifang, vice-chairman of IPO candidate Guodian Technology & Environment Group, is made of stern stuff. He told reporters over lunch this week that he hasn't had a holiday in his 42-year career in China's electricity industry.
It seems this is not uncommon among senior executives in state-owned industries. However, a wave of new thinking is sweeping through the sector, and it seems that over the past two years some SOEs are forcing their senior managers to take a break. 'There is a problem with the way we worked,' he said. 'We often think that if we leave our job, the organisation will not function smoothly. But in reality there is no such thing as an organisation that can't function if one of the senior managers is on leave.'
While this no doubt reflects on the ingrained culture of hard work on the mainland, elsewhere this sort of behaviour is viewed with suspicion - the thinking being that some characters don't like to take holidays for fear that accounting irregularities, or worse, might come to light in their absence.
This is why, in many companies in the West, senior managers and executives are instructed to be away from the office for at least a two-week stretch in a year.
Moving forward to Plain English Day
Today is Plain English Day, an event that is marked mainly in England by the Plain English Campaign, which has been operating since 1979 and claims to have 12,000 members in 80 countries.
This year, according to The Independent, the organisation is targeting ridiculous business management jargon. It's conducted a poll of the terms people find most annoying in the workplace, so you can try to avoid them.
Top of the list comes 'touch base', closely followed by 'I'll socialise that' and 'think outside the box'. Others include '24/7', 'at this moment in time', 'awesome', 'basically', 'between a rock and a hard place', and the constant use of 'like' as if it were a form of punctuation.
Send us the business-speak cliches that you find the most grating and we'll publish them in the interest of making life that little bit less irritating.
You can never be too cautious
It never rains but it pours. First, Standard & Poor's put the boot into the euro zone with a threatened downgrade of 15 economies, and now the mainland is joining in.
Dagong, the mainland rating agency established in 1994, has downgraded Italy's local and foreign currency credit rating to BBB from A-, and France from AA- to A+.
Dagong has big ambitions. It's targeting Moody's Investors Service, S&P and Fitch, but it doesn't appear to be moving any markets just yet.
Readers may remember that Dagong earlier this year slashed the US local and foreign currency credit rating to A, six levels below its top rating and five levels above junk. This was despite the fact that the US is the world's biggest economy, prints the world's reserve currency - the greenback - and has the most developed and liquid financial markets.
Dagong does share one attribute with its counterparts at Moody's, S&P and Fitch. Like them, it seems to make a habit of telling the world what everyone already knows.