bank and bureaucrats come to the party as diplomatic dance continues It's good to see companies like Morgan Stanley trying to bridge the gap between China and the United States. Starting from today in New York, Morgan Stanley is sponsoring the month-long Festival of China - America's largest celebration of Chinese performing arts - in co-operation with the Ministry of Culture. The festival will feature more than 600 performers in the fields of dance, music, traditional opera and contemporary theatre. President George W. Bush, whose few visits abroad prior to becoming president included Beijing when his father was America's de facto ambassador there, will host a dinner. The festival's logo, shown here, renders the festival's English title in a kind of Chinese script form. It's not easy to make out, but then neither are Sino-US relations sometimes. man with the plan How is the calibre of Hong Kong's financial professionals? Not bad, if you ask Lai See. Yesterday Lai See was honoured to serve as one of the five judges at the inaugural Hong Kong Financial Planner Awards, hosted by the South China Morning Post and the Institute of Financial Planners. Three representatives from the banking, insurance and independent financial advisory sectors competed to deliver the best financial planning proposal for a person with $18 million in net assets who wants to retire in 10 years. (Lucky sod - the figurative retiree, we mean.) Lai See will be lucky to have such a problem 10 years before his retirement, although one of our fellow judges - Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu - can surely identify with such a dilemma. Indeed, Mr Chow was particularly pointed in his questioning, asking each finalist how they could manage an annual investment return of 10 per cent or better. (Remember that line at his company's next AGM, all you HKEx shareholders.) Stay tuned for the final result, which will be announced on October 20. caring capitalists Lai See presents another Postcard from Shanghai care of our Man in the Yangtze River Delta: Wednesday's official opening of BASF's biggest investment in its 140-year history was a curious one. With its partner Sinopec, the German chemical giant has invested US$2.9 billion in a 50-50 joint venture launched under grey skies at a site 40km north of Nanjing. BASF executives paid fulsome tributes to the 15,000 workers who completed the giant project in four years and also mourned their only fatality during construction - a worker killed in a truck accident. At a news conference before the official opening, however, Sinopec president Wang Tianpu made no reference to the project workers, preferring instead to speak about the future of his company and China's booming chemicals market. Capitalist Germany, it would appear, cares more for its workers than socialist China. retailers go flat out Remember the black days of Sars when desperate retailers tried to lure shoppers with lucky draw giveaways? One top prize was a Bel-Air flat. The freebies are finally back. The same organiser, We Love Hong Kong, along with the China Hong Kong Tourist Association and 4As Marketing, is launching 'The 2005 National Day Shopping Festival'. Between now and Christmas, the sponsors will distribute $130 million worth of gift coupons in the hope of stimulating a 10 per cent to 15 per cent increase in customer spending at hotels, retail shops and entertainment venues. It is anticipated that China's Golden Week holiday alone will generate $250 million extra income for Hong Kong as our mainland cousins descend en masse on our fair city. Alas, this particular We Love Hong Kong giveaway doesn't include a free flat.