Economy

Olympic Biz - Why London Is Rolling Out Red Carpet For China

If the Olympics are showing the British all dressed up for public viewing, other activities going on now show the ever pragmatic UK approach to business.

The Bosideng London Store on Bond Street (Bosideng)
The Bosideng London Store on Bond Street (Bosideng)
Zhang Hong

LONDON - Just a day before the Olympics began, the Bank of England announced poor second-quarter economic data, a downturn of 0.7%. The recession is worse than expected.

Obviously Britain was not going to waste the opportunities presented by the event. Using the world's attention to the London 2012 Games as a magnet, the country has organized more than a dozen business summits, including one theme event called China Business Day devoted to discussing business opportunities in the UK.

Among the 8,000 accredited reporters who have come to London to cover the games, 700 hail from China. This probably explains why several meetings are organized specifically between Chinese journalists and members from the All Party Parliamentary Group for East Asian Business, London & Partners, the official promotional organization for London, the Greater London Authority, and not surprisingly the London Chamber of Commerce -- all aiming to attract both Chinese investors and consumers.

Aren't other countries jealous of this unique attention?

"China is indeed the biggest focus," David Slater, London & Partners Global Sales Director told Caixin. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase what London can offer."

Slater said that London & Partners employ seven staff members who speak Chinese -- precisely to introduce a series of investment possibilities in London. China comes second after America in terms of number of investment deals in the UK .

In 2011, London received more than 30 Chinese investment projects, providing 550 job opportunities in sectors such as software, financial services, the creative industries and retailing.

A delegation from the China Entrepreneur Club comprising two dozen top Chinese industrialists occupied the most significant place on the red carpet thrown for global investors. Among the visitors were Liu Chuanzhi, the founder of Lenovo and the world's second biggest personal computer maker; Ma Weihua, the President of China Merchants Bank; and Yu Minhong, the founder and CEO of New Oriental Education & Technology Group.

This visit initiated by the China Entrepreneur Club received full cooperation from UK Trade and Investment, a government department, which contacted the UK's business elite -- including Lord Rothschild, the Virgin Group, as well as the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, members of the royal family and other dignitaries.

On July 25, several of these entrepreneurs had a brief meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street, followed by a roundtable with the UK Trade Minister Stephen Green and London's Mayor Boris Johnson. "Although the meeting with Mr. Cameron lasted only about one minute, it was just great," Liu Chuanzhi told reporters, "because for the Olympic opening, eighty heads of state will arrive. It is particularly unusual that we were received under such circumstances."

Meanwhile, the message brought by Chinese industrialists is music to the Brits' ears. The Chinese economy is shifting in a consumer-driven direction now, and industrialists are looking for British partners to develop this market together.

China's affluent class has become the object of close attention for the British luxury industry. As Michael Ward, Managing Director of Harrods, London's most famous luxury department store, told Caixin that Harrods business with the Chinese has grown nine-fold over the past four years. In 2008, the store's business with the Chinese was two-thirds that of the Americans, whereas it's now five times greater.

To cater to Chinese clients' needs, Harrods now hires more than 150 staff who speak Mandarin and they are equipped with more than 100 CUP (China Union Pay) terminals. "The menu of the restaurant has been revamped to be more in line with Asian tastes," Ward said. "Europeans typically get to know these famous brands through their parents. Others learn to know them through practice. However the Asians' stage of practice is shorter than anyone else. They reach for the top luxury apparels very quickly, whether it's Christian Louboutin shoes, Hermès bags or Vacheron Constantin watches."

Blooming on the London stage

London has set the stage for the Olympics -- and the Chinese firms have started taking advantage. On July 26, Bosideng, a Chinese clothing retailer, launched a new flagship menswear store near Bond Street, the poshest shopping area in London, just a few hours before the Olympic torch passed by the store. "What we'd like to change is the image that China is only a garment manufacturer and not a design power," said Zhu Wei, the CEO of Bosideng's London store.

The Group's Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Yun Kuen Mak explained that Bosideng has invested 300 million yuan for the flagship store which is aimed at sales in upscale business and leisure menswear, as well as Bosideng's more well-known garments of down. "A Chinese brand with UK design and manufactured in Europe."

"The cost of this store's opening has been very high, but we think it's worthwhile", Zhu Wei said of the 300 million RMB ($47 million) pricetag. This is a breakaway for Bosideng from its previous sales model selling through distributors. Switching to take control of their own retailing is still very rare in China among similar garment companies. "We intend to put roots down here for the long-term and use London as a bridgehead to extend into the European market".

Zhu is not worried about the effects of the slowdown of the European economy. "This is a strategic decision. We are aiming for results in five or ten years, not an immediate gain or loss," he said.

Bosideng is not the only Chinese upmarket clothing brand ready to debut in London. On the same day of the Olympic opening, a fashion show of the Eve Group --another Chinese menswear outfit -- was organized as part of the China Business Day event. "It's a particularly good opportunity. We can influence some very important business figures through this activity and get them interested in elements of Chinese fashion -- as well as propagating Chinese culture," Eve's CEO, Xia Hua, told the journalists. "This is a far more influential method than calls from the government."

The fashion show was a warm-up for the brand's first workshop as well as a retail store opening this coming winter in London. Xia revealed that the store will be situated in Notting Hill, since the group has a brand with the same name.

What triggered Eve Group's decision to accelerate its entry into the London market was the praise offered by the chairman of the British Fashion Council after the fashion show last February. "Notting Hill changed the image of Chinese design. It can be worn by Westerners. And it's a brand that can develop huge commercial value," Xia concluded.

This fearless Chinese company intends to aim at the high end of the market, with a price range similar to that of Armani and other famous brands. "To have confidence is one thing, to have a good attitude is another. We have chosen to come up with a Chinese brand with Chinese concepts," Xia Hua declared. "So now we have to make it endure."

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Bosideng Facebook

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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