Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: It's my way or the Amway (China)

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

My loyal readers are probably expecting a stream of snarky remarks about Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), the self-described “high-class Mainlander” who got his comeuppance this week.

Kuo is the now former Government Information Office (GIO) representative in Toronto who set off a poop storm with his bigoted comments about ethnic Taiwanese.

These included calling us taibazi (台巴子, rednecks) and wokou (倭寇, Jap pirates) and calling Taiwan a “devil island.”

After days of mounting outrage, the GIO finally got its act together and fired him.

I could join the “pile on the bigot” party. But as a “high-class satirist” I’m going to take the high road.

Besides, there’s not much I can add. Kuo’s “look at me” chauvinism and amateurish provocations are funny enough on their own.

And as for the idea that his “freedom of speech” has been violated, that’s an argument beneath contempt.

Any clown knows if you sign up to represent Taiwan (and get a fat salary doing so), you can’t go shooting off your mouth like you’re Johnny Neihu or something.

I normally hate to agree with a Peanut-party member, but Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) had it right: As a government employee abroad, “if you don’t wash for three days, people will think Taiwan stinks.”

The phrase “high-class Mainlander” popped into my head this week while watching a cable TV news interview with a female Chinese tourist — one of the thousands who arrived courtesy of Amway — chomping betel nut for the first time.

Taking time out from some raucous Aboriginal song-and-dance-and-headdress activities with her frenzied colleagues, she talked with her mouth so agape that you could see her little Dragon tonsils wriggling around the mashed-up bits of betel nut. And her sunglasses were so tacky that even the most taike of Yunlin County five-and-dimes would throw them on the “rejects” pile.

Which brings me to another point: What’s with all the Amway (China) trips? I mean, does this US direct-selling giant have a devious plan to unify the two sides of the Strait to gain Asian market share from Herbalife?

And wasn’t Amway banned from doing direct sales in China just a few years ago?

Now, suddenly, they’re taking more cruises than The Love Boat.

A Wall Street Journal story from March 12, 2003, cleared things up. The group entered China in 1995, but quickly ran afoul of authorities over social unrest caused by get-rich-quick schemes that blossomed in the 1990s.

Amway was labeled, Falun Gong-like, as just another “evil cult.”

“That system [Amway’s direct-sales system] came into question in 1998, when Chinese officials cracked down on pyramid schemes and tarred direct-sales companies with the same brush. Though companies like Amway say their model is vastly different — their revenue comes from sales of real products, among other differences — officials saw no distinction. The State Council … banned all forms of such sales in a harshly worded notice that accused some companies of promoting “evil cults, secret societies, and superstitious and lawless activities.”

But then, “Amway went into proactive-communications mode, initiating meetings with central government officials to discuss its plight.”

Apparently they met with the right people — and took them to the right KTVs. Amway had to tweak its sales model a bit, but the Chicoms essentially gave the now guanxi-savvy company the green light to resume business, so that by 2003 it had “bounced back.”

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