Thursday, June 9, 2016
This week, the DUNER BLOG travels to the Far East, where a most unusual conflict has arisen. It began when five years ago. Disney Corp...fresh off the amazing success of mega-resorts in Tokyo and Hong Kong...began constructing their sixth theme park in Shanghai. However, the wealthiest man in China, Wang Jianlin, decided to spoil the party. For the last two years, his company has frantically built a rival amusement park nearby. WANDA CITY opened last week, stealing away the excitement and revenue away from Disney CEO Bob Iger...whose park opens next weekend.
Why is Wang so mad at Walt? The answer is simple. Jailin, like many people in mainland China, deeply resents international corporations making huge profits off Chinese citizens. Indeed, the nation has a long history of fending off commercial intrusions. 500 years ago, Portuguese traders were refused entry. 300 years ago, British companies were limited to coastal ports like Hong Kong. Today, greedy American billionaires are the biggest threat to tiny Chinese salaries. In response, the Wanda Corporation is urging locals to boycott foreign-owned Disneyland Shanghai: "Five years from today, it will be unprofitable" Wang boldly predicts.
As much as everyone cherishes their childhood memories of riding on Space Mountain or watching Donald Duck cartoons, it is important to put these in perspective. While Disney does a great job building theme parks and making movies, they did not independently conceive all of their products. Walt didn't invent Aladdin...it's an Arab folk tale. The Jungle Book, their current hit movie, is a book written by Rudyard Kipling. Sleeping Beauty's Castle...the Disney top icon of them all...borrows heavily from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. So let's cut Wanda City some slack. With 20 million people, Shanghai is big enough for two theme parks!
Thursday, June 2, 2016
It was a small gathering in Buenos Aires last week.. But a significant one nonetheless. Some 250 people gathered to mark the 100th anniversary of the Torre Monumental, a 60 meter tall bell tower downtown. Like the Statue of Liberty, it commemorates a century of independence. Also like Lady Liberty, it took a couple of extra years to construct, so while the rest of the nation celebrated the bicentennial in 2010, the Torre had to wait until 2016. However, what makes the event important is the benefactor of the monument: It was a gift from Great Britain, hence its familiar name: Torre de los Ingleses.
Which brings us back to the Torre Monument. It reminds us of the time when the UK and Argentina were best buddies. In 1910, both nations were in the top ten global economies. England bought 40% of Argentina's beef and grain. Together, they built the Argentine railways...one of many joint endeavours. Just how close were the two nations? In 1914, the famed department store Harrod's opened its first ever overseas location in...you guessed it...Buenos Aires!
|Buenos Aires circa 1910|