Manhattan condos and Chinese buyers

The reports of Chinese snapping up luxury/trophy properties in major cities, in China and aboard are nothing new, we have been reading them for a few years.  But I only get to see it first hand this week when my friend with three friends came to New York on a condo buying spree.

His friends have a New York real estate broker lined up. The group leader asked him at a dinner if he would like to tag along. Initially, my friend has no desire to buy but to visit his kid in US. However, as more home work was done, he began to change his mind, and ultimately, put a deposit down on a condo he found online, before leaving for US – the condo has a sales office in China. The deposit is totally refundable upon the inspection in New York. All without the help of the NY broker the group retained, who gave no information other than a few pictures of two buildings they’d visit. When I heard this and saw the pictures, my thought was, either the broker doesn’t care or the broker deals with too many Chinese buyers (who, in general, require very little since they don’t know what to ask …), taking them for granted.

The broker lined up 10 buildings to visit – the group has no idea/info of the buildings and sequence. At the very first one, the broker said, ” … the condos may be gone by tomorrow …” so two of them bought, one each @ $2.81 million. It’s outrageous. Perhaps this is the reason the broker refuses to provide any info: needn’t to. The buyers buy indiscriminately and decisively.

I thought Carrie Chiang who was recruited by Barbara Corcoran in 1988. She’s still with Corcoran. Her annual property listing is $200-300 million (a little trouble 2009). I doubt that Chiang takes anything for granted.

With my resources and my friends, I’m able to put together a team that will take care of condo buyers’ need with honesty, from buying to renting. Contact me if you need the following services:

  • finding the property
  • visit/inspect
  • real estate broker/attorney/CPA/estate planning
  • mortgage broker
  • appraisals
  • rental management
  • insurance


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Ants have mercy


imageThey eat my flower.
They’re so tiny.
How could they climb so high?
But high, they did.
I preyed.
I begged.
Begged for their mercy.
And mercy they did.

All are taken by cell phone, from yesterday except this one, which is just now, today: mostly eaten away by the ants.

image image image image


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Divorces, Shanghai style

WSJ and 上海离婚登记处

Are you being shanghai’ed should add one more meaning now: divorce. They certainly do thing differently: In Shanghai, Couples Rush to Divorce to Buy Property Later.

Splitting up often means selling the house. But Shanghai couples dashed to split up on Monday so they could buy.

Spouses were scrambling to cut ties, at least on paper, amid rumors that the city might soon shut a loophole that families often use to buy more property: divorce. The surge is a response to concerns about rising property prices and government efforts to slow the increase.

Under current rules, a family buying a second home is required to put a down payment of up to 70% while a first-time buyer needs to put up only 30%. Widespread rumors—denied late Monday by housing authorities—say the penalty would be extended to those recently divorced for one year.

Dozens of couples packed into Shanghai’s Xuhui District Divorce Registration Office to register divorces on Monday eager to break up. One woman, who gave her surname as Gu but declined to give her full name, said she was there to help her parents divorce after 35 years of marriage. The idea is to buy an apartment for the older couple that has an elevator, said Ms. Gu, and the divorce can help the “buyer” save on the down payment.

“We don’t have much money, so there’s no other way. The property price is so high that it’s unbearable for us,” Ms. Gu said. The divorce, she said, wouldn’t destroy her family, because her parents have a stable relationship.
A paper divorce has been a way to circumvent the current restrictions, allowing one of the recently divorced partners to qualify for the lower downpayment. Ms. Gu said she had been considering a paper divorce for her parents since April and accelerated the process after hearing the rumor.

By afternoon at the Xuhui divorce office, just one of the Shanghai district offices inundated with sudden demand for divorces on Monday, a sign had gone up asking applicants to return another day. The office, on the third floor of a government office near Shanghai’s South Station, said in the notice that the rush of applicants exceeded the center’s capacity. It asked registrants to return later “to ensure service quality and guarantee the normal of order of marriage registration window”—which is adjacent to the divorce office.

Many wanted immediate service. Photos circulating online showed a line forming on the street outside a Huangpu District registration office early Monday morning; others showed the Pudong District office crowded with people.

Shanghai authorities have already rolled out measures to cool the local real-estate market this year. The government banned peer-to-peer lending as a funding tool for down payments and raised the down-payment rate for certain second homes. The restrictions seemed to have some impact, as home-price gains softened over the summer, though they still surged 27.3% in July from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Late last week and over the weekend, rumors circulated anew that Shanghai would again make it harder to buy and sell homes, sparking a rush to close housing deals. Last Friday, Shanghai’s real-estate transaction center said its website crashed for about an hour, apparently due to a connection failure after web traffic surged.

Daily transactions for new homes on Monday topped 1,000 for the third day in a row. Transactions for new homes averaged 600-700 per day in July.

At the Xuhui District divorce office on Monday, a 32-year-old man and his pregnant wife were among those waiting to end their marriage of five-plus years. The couple declined to give their names but said they want to upgrade their two-bedroom apartment by purchasing a bigger one with three bedrooms to make way for the baby—their second—due in October. Divorce, they calculated, is the only way they can afford to fulfill the plan.

As a couple, they face an initial 70% payment for the new 4.3 million yuan (about $643,900) apartment. Divorced, one of them could do a deal with only a 30% initial payment. When a staff member at the registration desk told the wife that she might run into additional barriers for getting divorced because of her big belly, she cried. “We don’t have any other way out,” she said.

Late Monday, Shanghai’s commission of housing and urban-rural development issued a denial via its official Weibo microblog that authorities will shortly impose new limits on home purchases.

– Dominique Fong, Junya Qian and Yifan Xie

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Service, service and service

IMG_4963Hunter Vision Center, Inc 华埠眼镜公司
4157 Main St, Flushing, NY 11355 @ Sanford
(718) 939-6888

I go in on a weekday afternoon, at around 4pm. The store isn’t crowded. Two female staff are busy with clients. They don’t see me, don’t acknowledge me and continue as if I’m not exist. All the stores I go to, if no staff is available, someone would always say, “Just a moment, I’ll be right with you.”

But this common courtesy doesn’t seem apply in Chinese stores. I needed to add a pad on a glass and parked near by. So I patiently waited.



For 15 minutes. Until a third female clerk comes around, as if just sees me, asking, “Do you need help?”

Won’t return. Yelp


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The invading forces

I spot a dancing group at the pool after the match. It’s pretty secluded area. Many neighbors and neighborhoods in China complained about them for the noisy and turf. (Dalian and Beijing). Now they bring that to US as well. It’s inexpensive – cost nothing, except the speakers and when they wear uniforms. The monks are all over New York …

IMG_5093 IMG_4674

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Can’t believe nowadays catalog is still in use, when nearly everyone (at least students!) has access to Internet. This is a nicely produced book.

image image image image

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The child labor

2016-08-22This 2014 Time article is about 73% parents are supporting their adult children. With the help of a chart, it shows adult children live at home much longer nowadays … and goes on to write:

… Little more than a century ago there was no such thing as adolescence. You were a child to 13, and then you went to work. …

Child labor was acceptable at that time in US. No one talked about human right and child right as people do now. Perhaps, people who had advanced a lot faster should look at other countries with understanding, that, they too, need time to develop.

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‘Gangster grannies’ and China’s shadow banking world “中国大妈”和影子银行世界

BBC, 18 August 2016

Karishma Vaswani, Asia business correspondent

Think of the words shadow banking, and you’ll probably conjure up an image of a slick-suited, smooth-talking mafia-esque character who will most likely be found in seedy bars or night clubs.

But in China, sometimes it could be a 60-year-old woman running the show, and that may have serious consequences.

This week, state media reported that a clampdown on shadow banking in China uncovered $30bn (£23bn) worth of illegal banking activity. It may seem a staggering figure, but analysts say this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So what is shadow banking?

Michael Pettis from Peking University has described it as “the financial activity that exists outside the formal banking sector”.

In its most basic form, it includes pawn-shops, the man on the street offering you ready credit at exorbitant rates, and attractive but risky investment schemes.

It also encompasses unregulated wealth management products offered by legitimate financial institutions.

But a substantial part of the sector also includes individuals or informal networks with no financial licence or regulation.

How did it grow so fast?

Informal lending has always existed in China’s economy, but shadow banking really took off post the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.

These unregulated lenders offered alternative options for small and medium-sized businesses and real estate developers to get access to loans during what could have been a crippling credit crunch.

Chinese policeman
Image copyrightAFD

Image captionAuthorities have long been reluctant to stop shadow banking

Chinese authorities turned a blind eye to them at the time, because they were arguably helping the economy to keep growing.

But as with many industries in China – such as the internet, for example – things only start getting regulated when they get very big and start getting noticed. And that’s exactly what’s happened with shadow banking.

How do they work: The ‘gangster granny’ case study

Amongst those arrested in China recently as part of what has become an ongoing crackdown on illegal banking is a woman named only as Sun.

The Shanghai Daily says Mrs Sun is 60 years old, although other media outlets haven’t said how old she is.

She reportedly led a local gang and provided shadow banking services to about 100 customers who wanted to buy real estate abroad or pay for their children’s school fees in foreign countries.

Police reportedly said it was the largest illegal banking operation found in Shanghai in years.

And here’s how it appears to have worked: Mrs Sun’s customers sent her money transfers in Chinese yuan. She and her network of agents then transferred an equivalent amount in foreign currencies to their foreign accounts, or wherever else the money needed to go, through a remittance channel that operated outside the official banking networks.

The authorities suspect there could be many more such financial illusionists.

So who would turn to shadow banking?

Because it is an unregulated industry, it’s hard to say definitively who uses them, but it appears that Chinese companies, corrupt officials looking to move their money overseas, local governments interested in higher returns and the Chinese middle classes have all invested in the shadow banking sector.

Part of the problem is that if you’re looking to grow your investments in China, there’s not much you can do these days.

Chinese stock board
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionTrust in the stock market has taken a serious hit earlier this year

There aren’t that many financial products the Chinese can invest in. Authorities are trying to develop China’s financial sector, but it’s still a relatively new and young market, and investors don’t have that much financial knowledge yet.

So what options are you left with?

Well, the stock market – but it crashed last year, and although it’s on its way up again, many investors have been burned.

The property sector – it also crashed, so people are understandably nervous. Plus you need a large amount of money to start investing, and it’s an illiquid investment.

Saving your money in banks – interest rates have been cut frequently so you’re not going to get very good returns.

So shadow banking which offers much higher returns is appealing – but it is risky, because it is unregulated.

Another compelling reason is that mainland residents can only change up to $50,000 worth of foreign currency per year, which makes it tricky if you’re looking to fund a big purchase overseas.

And then there’s the greed and envy factor. China’s become a rich country in a pretty short space of time. And everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses.

You know how it goes. Your mate, let’s call her Tina, gets a raise. She starts investing some of her savings. Then she takes you out for a drink and shows off her brand-new watch and tells you all about the holiday home she’s buying – and the fantastic new investments scheme that’s paying her some ridiculous return that’s allowing her to do this.

And you get sucked in. That’s how shadow banking can take off.

Beijing's forbidden city 
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionAuthorities have now zoomed in on the illegal banking

Why crack down on the sector now?

Chinese authorities are in the midst of a concerted effort to clamp down on individuals and organisations that are trying to take money out of the country, because of concerns over capital outflows and the weakening of the Chinese yuan.

But in turning a blind eye over the last decade, China has allowed the creation of a financial monster that many warn is out of control.

Moody’s Investors Service says that the shadow banking system continues to expand rapidly, with assets held by these less regulated banks totalling some 78% of China’s GDP.

And in its annual review of the Chinese economy, the International Monetary Fund recently said that almost half of the shadow banking products that have fuelled China’s credit boom carry “an elevated risk of default”.

Notwithstanding that China’s economy is managed differently from that of other countries and that the government can step in and bail the sector out, if it comes to that, this is still very worrying.

This isn’t just a problem for the Chinese authorities. It’s a problem for the “gangster grannies”, the doting grannies, China’s middle classes and all the rest of us.

Because if China’s credit boom can’t be relied on, that means China’s economic growth is at risk – and that’s bad news for us all.

“中国大妈”和影子银行世界  (谷歌·翻译)


但是,与许多行业在中国 – 如互联网,例如 – 东西,只有当他们得到非常大的,并开始开始得到监管越来越注意到。而这正是与影子银行发生了。

那么,股市 – 但它在去年遭受重创,虽然它的道路上再次,不少投资者已经被烧毁。
物业部门 – 它也应声,这样的人是可以理解的紧张。另外,您需要一大笔资金开始投资,而且它是流动性不足的投资。
节省你的钱在银行 – 利率已频频下调所以你不会得到很好的回报。
因此,影子银行它提供了更高的回报是吸引人 – 但它是有风险的,因为它是不受监管的。
你知道如何去。你的伴侣,让我们叫她蒂娜,得到了加薪。她开始投资她的一些积蓄。然后,她带你出去喝一杯,并显示了她崭新的手表,告诉你所有关于放假回家,她的购买 – 这是她付出有些可笑回报的允许她这样做了梦幻般的新的投资方案。

因为如果中国的信贷热潮,不能靠,这意味着中国的经济增长正处于危险之中 – 这对我们来说都是坏消息。

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Buddhist monks in New York

They’re fake, of course. They’re everywhere in New York’s touristy spots (yes, I do think New Yorkers are smarter … not easily fooled …). They even fight within, for a better spot to work/cheat. High Line Park is one of their favorite spotsI caught this monk working in May. This sign is posted at the low end of the park (the Gansevoort Street, next to Whitney Museum). New York Times in 2016 and NY Post in 2015, have reportedThey’re in Central Park too. Picture on the right is an ad for monks in China (don’t know if it’s a prank or for real): salary and fringe benefit paid to lure new monks …

IMG_0785 IMG_0784 IMG_4345 image

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I got them from Trader Joe’s – shows how pro I’m -:). The tall one is an exotic orchid – how ‘exotic’ I don’t know but it certainly looks different.

image image

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A well acted and written movie, on Boston Globe reporting on 6% Roman Catholic priests molesting boys. The influence of the churches in Boston is very strong that they can make court documents disappear; they can tell the well regarded journalist that “… Marty Baron (his boss, the editor) will move away … (and you’ll remain here) … that Boston is a small world …”

2016-07-14In the end, Cardinal Law who knew the abusive priests but chose to ignore the problem, by assigning them to another church “resigned, and was eventually promoted to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the biggest churches in the world.”

A few should be burned in hell.

Is there a justice in this world?  Yes and NO: 100 shades of grey.

Most wars … are because of different religions. I’m not judging, but stating a fact.

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A cardinal

A lovely red bird – cardinal (?) is resting in the backyard. Left is taken with t2i and right is with iPhone – the size of pictures is different?

IMG_3235 red bird t2i image iPhone bird

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A midsummer night

Fire, wine and laughs on a gorgeous night.

image image

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IMG Wimbledon blocked my video on Youtube

imageWhy is my video on youtube being blocked? – Copyright claim by IMG Wimbledon

The link to my video doesn’t work any more but judging from the title The Match Point, it must be a match I went to at Wimbledon in 2010, and took this video for a few minutes or less of a match when one player had the match point.

Does sport events could forbid a spectator from taking a video and post it on Youtube?

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Country of birth 出生国

IMG_2148Last Sunday Beijing Foreign Language University 北京外国语大学 held a seminar to commemorate centenary of one of my relatives, Mr. Zhou Jueliang 纪念周珏良先生百年诞辰研讨会. His daughter who’s also a professor made this post.

One of the attendees, is Isabel Crook who’s one year older than Mr. Zhou. At 101, she looks remarkably well. She’s accompanied by two of her three sons who were all born in China.

I’ve met Paul (in blue, above) in 2014 in Frankfurt and even earlier at one of BBC functions, which I only recalled recently. Automatically, we would say, Paul the English. In fact, his mom, Isabel is a Canadian. Should we consider Paul as a Chinese? The same goes with, a US born Chinese, in most people’s eyes, is still a Chinese.

Here is a fun: Walter H. Brattain (1902, Amoy, China – 1987, Seattle, USA) won a Nobel Prize in Physics 1956 while working in Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, USA. Wiki defined him as an American, because his parents were Americans. As of today, Nobel list by country, China has 11 laureates, includes Walter.

IMG_2103 IMG_2149 IMG_2147 IMG_2146

In EB-5 program, the applicant is handled by country of birth 出生国, instead of current nationality 国籍.

The world is becoming increasingly flat, where one was born seems less important. And each country may choose to define it differently: as in USA, no matter what, if you are born in this land, you’re an American and eligible to run for president. Although I was born in Beijing but I’m less certain what and who can be Chinese.

This wiki article explains “Chinese nationality is usually obtained either by birth when at least one parent is of Chinese nationality or by naturalization.”

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What do they see?

Looking at the map of China, each profession within the finances see differently.

  • 行研:  行业研究 Industry Research
  • 投行: 投资银行 Investment Banking (中国大陆称为券商)
  • 基金经理: Fund/Money Manager

IMG_2143 IMG_2144 IMG_2145

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imageI came home from a month-long trip and find my two orchids are about to flower again.

Re blooming during my absent should have taught me a lesson – to stay away from them. But, guess I never learnt. And as I’m fussing with this colorful one – try to get it to stand upright – I broke it -:( You could image how mad I was!

It has been resting in the small re-cycled jar since. And doing just fine. After I cut the dead flowers, the stem is crying – please stay away from me!

The unbroken one, thank lord, has 10 bulbs and I hope they would fully bloom, one by one. The #6 begins to bloom on Father’s Day, #8 on Sunday June 26; #9 on July 1st., and the #10 blossomed on July 4th.

image image 06-10 image image 06-17 image 06-19 on Fathers Day IMG_2152 #7 06-22 image 2016-06-26 #8 image image 07-04 #10 image all 10 on 07-04

I couldn’t get enough of orchids, apparently.

image 2016-06-09 IMG_2412 image #2 06-16 image # 2 n 4 06-19

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Blue bell Bella

imageThey are blue bell but the color is more purple? It’s been planted for a few years, only till now, they began to bloom, perhaps due to lack of sunshine.

The pictures are taken with an iPhone. Recently, a Chinese regulator/court faulted Apple for using Baili’s patent covering smartphone design. OMG, this is something new.

image image image image

Are they poison ivy?

image image image

  • 06.17, Bloomberg Apple IPhones Found to Have Violated Chinese Rival’s Patent
  • 06.17, wsj Apple’s Challenges in China Underlined by Patent Dispute
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