December 29, 2005 - January 4, 2006

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Buy & Sell
Language exchange

"The most important characteristic of a chief executive of any region is that he or she should be a noble person."

- Li Ka Shing, business tycoon from Hong Kong, on the topic of the special administrative region's future chief executive. see more

Arabian delights

CHEF Tarek Mouriess carried about 10 kinds of ingredients in his suitcase on his flight to Shanghai to host an Arabic Food Promotion at the Hilton Shanghai.
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Good looks are not enough

By Jacob von Bisterfeld

It looked attractive; the feel was good; the paintwork executed in "two-tone"; the chromium plating gleaming and just perfect; the tires in dazzling multicolour: red, yellow and blue. The 12 gears should get me over the tallest mountain and run me effortlessly and fast on the open road.

The name on the frame: Forever.

There was a one year guarantee. And the price was right too.
A teenager's bike for a somewhat mature teenager who is, in fact, still a teenager at heart.

In short: it was my bike that was sitting there in the shop, screaming: "Buy me now, buy me now."

I mobilized my new "Forever" and proudly rode "ins blauen hinein" ("into the blue yonder").

Absolutely no complaints in the first hour at all and this was riding in real comfort.

The weather was warm, the birds were singing in verdant trees and the world was my oyster.

However, the first time I had occasion to change the front drive derailleur (2 positions), the chain flew off.

And yours truly was on his way to the office, replete with necktie, white shirt and cuff-links.

How to put a chain back without soiling hands and cuffs with copious deposits of sooty black chain grease?

Repeat performances of such mishap and several unsuccessful attempts at adjustments made for the first specific "Directions for use of this bike" which were: never use the open road high gear.

About a week later the right hand pedal shaft fell off which totally immobilized me and caused me to walk the remaining 5 kilometres home.

Conventional bikes have a square axle with a lateral hole drilled through it, to provide a secure and inseparable connection.

Not so on my "Forever", where the pedal shafts were mounted on a round axle with an "in line" locknut which soon vibrated loose after which the pedal shaft fell off.

For the remaining 10 or so kilometres, I had to learn the art of how to get to my destination on one pedal.

The faraway "Forever" service centre was prepared to fit a new locknut under the terms of the guarantee but as the taxi fares to the centre would have cost me about a quarter of the value of the bike and since the problem was caused by poor and cheapskate design, the free fitted nut was likely to last only one more week or less.

So I drilled a through hole myself, threaded it and screwed a 5mm bolt in. The shafts are now very secure.

Would you believe it, subsequently the flimsy plastic foot pedals broke and needed replacement too?

The next calamity occurred when I met an incline at a bridge and had to ride in the lowest gear.

Sadly, my legs were stronger than the rear gear change bracket as it twisted 90 degrees upwards under the pulling force of the chain.
Obviously, the bracket steel was just too soft for the purpose.

Then the chain broke; a link-pin had come out and subsequent repairs could not be remedied as the pin had to be peened over which was impossible for a roadside repairman to do.

It took three more chain break-repeats and walks home before I managed to buy a new chain with a conventional lock-clip.

In a few months the bright chromium plating on the handle bars was reduced to brown rust and the tires showed cracking as if they were 10 years old.

Next I noticed squeaking of the pedal shaft. Further inspection showed the ball bearings located there had been reduced to dust.

On the first bitingly cold day of this winter, the plastic gear change lever gave way and snapped off. Obviously, the plastic selected by the company became too brittle under cold conditions and just disintegrated.

I guess a new gear change lever will knock me back another 50 yuan plus an hour and a half of my time to have it installed.

And what calamity might befall me then, perish the thought?

My bike is now about half a year old and all the problems suffered can be reduced to the simple fact that too many entrepreneurs get into business without the slightest idea about material properties, good design or engineering. There are simply not enough vocational school retirees available who have acquired an in-depth knowledge of good workshop and installation practices. Everyone in China has a university degree and is great in theory.

Worse, they do not liaise with the technical staff of material suppliers and do not state clearly the conditions the material is supposed to be working satisfactorily under.

If the Forever designers had taken that little bit of conventional trouble, they would have finished with a bike that truly lived up to the high voluted name, at very little extra cost.

Yet their website boasts accreditation by the ISO 9001 and ISO 2000 International quality and management control standards.

All I can think of now is that the bike has been marketed under the wrong name. What appears to be missing is the letter "N". Fornever.

(The author is CEO of a Sino-German joint venture in China)

Cai Shaoyao

Balance public opinion and judicial independence



End of the Dream
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Auto fans melt away
With the approach of the Formula One Grand Prix, Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit, was worried about how to attract enough spectators to the circuit and rev up sluggish fan interest in the event.
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Under artificial eyes

FOR most customers, CCTV (closed-circuit television) surveillance cameras installed in shops, banks, buses or metro stops and many other places, merit little attention. But for Xiao Gang, such cameras have become an agonizing and confusing problem.

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