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FINANCIAL MADNESS - by Justice Litle

China presents two stories at once. In the long run, the dragon's rise seems inexorable. It's hard to imagine anything that could thwart it. In the short run, however, China must deal with dangerous internal weakness, namely a rotten banking system, poor internal controls and a dangerous torrent of "hot money" - speculative capital in pursuit of aggressive returns - that threatens to boil over the economy and unleash massive instability down the road when it withdraws, similar to the Asian currency crisis of the late '90s.

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SHANGHAI SURPRISE - by Karim Rahemtulla

Last week, I spent several days in Beijing and Shanghai, hosting a Supper Club Venture Capital meeting.

China is a conundrum. It makes no sense. And people accept that as normal. It is a country that has collided with capitalism and is now trying to manipulate it. It is country with a government that is adept at sleight of hand. What remains to be seen is whether China is pulling off an economic miracle, or just the wool over the world's collective eyes.

After having a few days of pondering the puzzle of China, visiting with companies and catching the local real estate scene, our group sat down to discuss what it was that did not make sense about the commerce that we were seeing.

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I teach personal economics at Columbia University and Rollins College, and we discuss the various financial problems people face. I often ask students, "What's the financial solution to being heavily in debt and not earning enough money, or not having a good enough job and so forth?" The answer is always focused on one thing: making more money. Get a better job, get a higher income, or win the lottery. None of them ever say they should cut back on wasteful expenditures. Remember Andrew Carnegie's statement, "The key to every successful company is to be cost-conscious." Not wasting money, is a very powerful concept, but one that's often ignored.

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The U.S. economy is vulnerable on so many fronts. Social emphasis is being placed on protecting ourselves against terrorists and the threats of nuclear and chemical attack. But perhaps an equally serious peril is being ignored: our dependence on Middle East oil, for example.

We face a shrinking dollar, growing federal debt, increasing trade gap, record-high consumer debt, mortgage bubble, rising oil prices, inflation, flat productivity, falling wages-all part of the same trend translating to financial vulnerability, of course. But this economic sword of Damocles3 points the way to how everyone can change their investing mode, not only to avoid loss but also to maximize their investment profits.

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