We warned that Richard Behar’s groundbreaking article on China’s resource grab in Africa in the June issue was the longest piece this magazine has ever published, so we were happy to hear from so many readers who made it all the way through — and agreed that the investment paid off. Some focused on the Chinese “building and bribing their way through the jungles of Africa”; others noted the complicity of Western governments, companies, and consumers and worried about the ecological and social costs of items in their homes. The story has already been cited in congressional testimony, and CNN has called it “one of the most important magazine articles in years.”
Global War for Resources
I have been reading Fast Company for how long? Ten years? I don’t even know. But I do know this: The China-Africa article is perhaps the best I’ve read in your magazine ever. Who says serious journalism is dead? Bravo!
Silver Spring, Maryland
I found Richard Behar’s article so alarming that I kept reading to the end. As Americans, we must not put up with immoral behavior from others, simply because they are willing to provide us with cheap goods. It is our American moral values that have led to our sustained economic success.
Lake Jackson, Texas
“China Invades Africa” is the most thought-provoking piece I have read since [Thomas] Friedman’s The World Is Flat. While in Paris recently, I had the opportunity to experience the opulence of the Palace of Versailles. Behar’s article makes me wonder if the current U.S. economic dominance may go the way of the cultural dominance of France. Are we so engrossed with our success that we have become oblivious to Africa and China as we shop ator for our discount items? Maybe in 200 years, the Chinese tourists will be visiting our empty palaces of industrialization and marveling at what they once were.
The article clearly describes the new colonialism. The sad thing is the quote by the head of Mozambique’s Forest Department: “To understand others, you have to understand you, America. If you stop buying Chinese products made from our wood, then we can conserve our timber more. You will make a difference. We are all part of the problem.” So the Africans are corrupt, the Chinese are exploiting them, and we Americans are to blame. There is one constant in this new world of ours: America is going to be blamed for everything.
Bruce A. Hurwitz
Cliffside Park, New Jersey
As a son of Africa and an immigrant from Eritrea, I must commend you on being one of the few major publications to write about Africa. I know there is a lot wrong with the continent, but I feel Behar has it all wrong. I understand fearmongering sells print, with the historical images of China and its perceived ruthless trade policies going back to the Treaty of Tianjin and the Opium Wars of the 1800s. The truth is much simpler but not as romantic or politically correct. The problems of Africa boil down to the lack of accountability of Africans toward themselves, which creates an atmosphere that tolerates corruption and ultimately the lack of respect toward the lives of fellow Africans.
Seyoum B. Michael
Silver Spring, Maryland
A lot of emotions ran through my mind and heart while I read your article about Africa, but mostly sadness. I am a veteran who served in Asmara, Eritrea, when it was part of Ethiopia in the late 1960s and witnessed firsthand our outrageous behavior in that beautiful country. You wonder why we always seem to support the wrong folks. Why, indeed?
I did not pick up the June edition till almost 11 p.m. Needless to say, I was quite late getting to bed, as I turned to “China Invades Africa” and could not put it down. Not only do you expose China’s very questionable tactics, you also underscore that we Americans have not been much better in the past. Perhaps, I should say “in the present,” with the “boys” from Equatorial Guinea being welcome buddies to the Washington crowd. It seems that if we need a commodity, poverty and freedom of speech are swept aside as not our problems.
Microsoft vs. Itself
Alex Bogusky is a great, creative capitalist (“Believe It or Not, He’s a PC,” June). But the bottom line is that Microsoft simply can’t compete with Apple’s innovative products.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Microsoft needs to stop trying to “look like” and lock a few genuinely creative engineers in a cave until they can come up with something phenomenal that actually works well. Then they can let Bogusky worry about how to promote it.
Grand Blanc, Michigan
I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the article on Crispin Porter and. I work closely with many of these people and appreciate the various perspectives that were delivered. This will be a very interesting relationship to see unfold.
I have some advice for the execs promoting Microsoft’s $300 million marketing plan: Spend $200 million on making better, easier-to-use, and more-reliable products — then donate the extra $100 million to charity! You’ll get more users and more positive press, sell more (better, please) products, and help make the world a better place.
Jonathan W. Logan
I read with disappointment your article on Bogusky. I’m afraid you were as dazzled by this guy as the employee who thinks he looks like Jesus and has a halo.
Jann Balos Sabin
Cities on the Rise
As a frequent visitor to London, I found the first paragraph of “London Calling” (June) distorted reality. The underground is fast, efficient, and clean. One can go anywhere in London (almost) using the buses. There is no finer way to see the city.
Stanley R. Levy
Alice Rawsthorn is right: London has become a magnet for the creative industries. It has got talent, networks ripe for collaboration, and a real sense of entrepreneurial spirit. As the city reinvents itself and develops, it still feels like the place to be.
Marketing a Stigma
The “Ring Around the Collar” ad that Dan and Chip Heath lambasted (Made to Stick, June) would not have worked unless consumers already felt that men’s shirt collars get dirtier faster than the rest of the shirt and are a challenge to launder.
Dumont, New Jersey
I didn’t realize Visa was subconsciously making me feel bad for paying in cash. But now that you bring it up, you’re right! No wonder antianxiety drugs sell so well.
Seeing Red, Going Green
In an issue in which Elizabeth Spiers purports to explode the myth of the “buy local” ethos (Not So Fast, June), perhaps we should focus the same kind of scrutiny on products that claim to be “eco-smart.” Wine in a Tetra Pak probably is a good idea (“Spin the Bottle,” June). The weight, collapsible form, and ease of transport for Tetra Pak boxes are all clear winners versus bottles. However, the claim that a product is recyclable does not always add up to consumers being able to recycle it. After checking all the Tetra Pak containers in my kitchen, I found that none had a recycle symbol anywhere. No local recyclers I called will take them. Laminated materials are very hard to recycle because they must be separated. Glass is easily and endlessly recyclable. Here it seems that the marketing spin of a “greener” wine outweighs the true reality of the product.
Redondo Beach, California
If Spiers shopped at a local farmers’ market, she wouldn’t confuse Kashi, Muir Glen, and Odwalla with locally made products. Here in Vermont, our farmers’ market does save transportation costs, does cut out the middle man, and does keep dollars flowing in the local economy.
Tip O’Neill, the former speaker of the House, famously said, “All politics is local.” The McDermott corollary is: “All politics may be local, but all local politics are global.” Wherever the long-haul trucker lives, she is spending money locally and elsewhere. I love heirloom tomatoes from the Hudson Valley but am also partial to soft-shell crabs from Maryland. We do not need to become puritans; we need only to learn to balance our lives in reasonable ways with reasonable tolerance for ideas, large ones and small, local and distant.
Rye, New York
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The information graphic in “Spin the Bottle” (June) should have depicted a tenfold decrease in Boisset’s carbon footprint. We regret the error.