Welcome to big wave Wednesday. I was going to blast out a beautiful sunrise from Sunday but a giant swell hit the central coast on Monday and it has been pumping ever since. With the high tide and huge waves the coast has been getting pounded the last couple of days and the results have been spectacularly dangerous. In fact, this swell is going to go down as a double dip as we’ll bring you part II on Friday. That’s right, two blogs for the price of one.
The first two photos are from Monday morning. The first shot was taken along West Cliff Drive from my old stomping grounds near Swift Street. Then I headed south along the cliff to Woodrow Avenue before shooting the final four at Lighthouse Point. A combination of gigantic waves along with the high tide created explosions of salt water tapestry from sunrise to sunset. The waves were a little sloppy for surfers but it cleaned up somewhat for Tuesday. Monday was tremendous-Tuesday was both delightfully and deliciously epic and that’s what’s coming up on Friday.
So now that we’ve talked about big waves, let’s talk about big bucks. The United States has more billionaires (415) than any other country in the world. Who’s number two? Russia, Japan, Bermuda? No, the answer is China. That’s right, the country that has brought us mu shu pork, shrimp with lobster sauce and Yao Ming is now number two. A year ago there were 15 billionaires in China. Now there are more than 100 according to the widely watched Hurun Report, 66 according to Forbes Magazine and 55 according to my favorite waiter over at the Hong Kong Gardens. And speaking of twos, U.S News and World Report’s first annual ranking of America’s best high schools ranked my son’s school, Pacific Collegiate, as number two in the entire country. Jason says they would be ranked number one if they had a PE program. That’s a mighty impressive accomplishment for a small school on the westside of Santa Cruz that doesn’t have a football or baseball team.
Anyway, getting back to today’s lunch specials, unlike America’s rich like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Alex Rodriquez, China’s are hardly famous, even in Shanghai. Few know Yang Huiyan, owner of a property development company or Robin Li, the CEO of China’s leading search engine. They are as invisible as a tiny prawn in a sea of sweet and sour sauce.
Yet who they are and what they decide to do-or are allowed to do-with their money and newfound influence will have political and economic consequences in China and probably far beyond, analysts say. In other words, the days of the $1 egg roll could be over.
China’s new billionaires are building their staggering wealth on the backs of the richest companies you have never heard of. Thanks to the capitalist stock mania sweeping the communist mainland, Chinese private and state-owned companies are issuing stock for the first time and becoming the most valuable companies in the world-sometimes overnight. These companies are hotter than sizzling rice soup.
Back in early November, the first day state-owned energy company PetroChina listed shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, its market valuation ran up to more than $1 trillion, topping that of any company in history. Analysts are skeptical about the way China’s stocks are valued, particularly those like PetroChina with huge amounts of untradeable government shares. But on paper, it has dethroned Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company in the world. And it did so without a gigantic oil spill off the coast of Alaska although the waters of the North China Sea do appear to be a bit murky.
Play by play announcers and analysts argue that the obscure finances of the companies make it impossible to know their true value. And if the Chinese market is a bubble, the new billionaires will disappear as quickly, just as General Tso’s chicken does when it hits my plate.
The emergence of the super wealthy is a dramatic turnaround in a country that once branded enemies of the state as “capitalist railroaders.” Although we did learn in the Tom Cruise classic “Risky Business” that “there is something about the motion of a train.” As much as the bounty of billionaires is a source of pride, it is also a potential cause for concern in this poor communist country. Per capita income in China is less than $1,000 per year, not including the sales of dim sum, pu pu platters and all to go items.
So that’s our show for today. Hope you enjoyed our big wave version of close encounters of the surge kind along with our sampling of provincial Chinese cuisine. Coming up on Friday, part II of the December pounding of the coastline. And for all you sports fans out there, Happy Hanukah and may your lives be filled with latkes, sour cream and applesauce. Rest assured mine shall be. Gotta run, I’m off to play a little Chinese checkers, grab a snack of milk and fortune cookies and then I’m heading back down to the cliff. Enjoy the energy and enjoy the flow.