2008年4月30日 星期三

Murdoch’s ‘Head of Content’


Murdoch’s ‘Head of Content’

Rob Bennett for The New York Times

Robert Thomson, a longtime friend of Rupert Murdoch, became publisher of The Journal in December.

Published: April 28, 2008

In a long career, Robert Thomson has left a trail of happy reporters in his wake — at The Financial Times and more recently at The Times of London, where the newsroom under his guidance was, in the words of a former colleague, “the happiest place to work on Fleet Street.”

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Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Rupert Murdoch stood on a makeshift platform in The Wall Street Journal’s newsroom last December, with Leslie Hinton, left, and Robert Thomson.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Wall Street Journal.

He’s got his work cut out for him at The Wall Street Journal.

Last Wednesday morning Mr. Thomson, who is 47, walked into the morning news meeting at The Journal, his first day as the de facto editor in the wake of the resignation of the managing editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, whom Mr. Thomson has known since the 1980s when the two were foreign correspondents in Beijing.

With editors assembled around the table, Mr. Thomson said the paper would not rush to replace Mr. Brauchli, and he assured the group that people who thought the paper was straying from its traditions were misinformed. Then, he said, he offered something no reporter or editor could resist: more space for more words.

Mr. Thomson said that the News Corporation, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch and which bought the newspaper’s parent company, Dow Jones, last year for close to $5 billion, would invest $6 million a year to add four pages for international news.

Adding heft to a paper at a time when cutbacks are the industry norm — The Journal’s advertising revenue, like other newspapers, declined in the first quarter — is a nice start for Mr. Thomson to ease the anxieties of Journal staff members whipsawed by change. But the vagueness of his role — publishers do not typically attend news meetings — has everyone wondering what else he has in store.

“As far as I can tell, he is a mystery man,” said one editor at the paper who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “It’s better for him to turn out to be a nice guy and an inspired journalist than for him to start out telling us he loves us, and then turn out to be Darth Vader.”

Mr. Thomson will soon become much more familiar to The Journal’s staff, because he is the one charged with executing Mr. Murdoch’s vision for the newspaper. He may be the publisher, but his responsibilities include few of the business tasks that title usually connotes.

“I’m the head of content, that’s the simplest way to say it,” he said.

Mr. Thomson’s own story is an up-by-the-bootstraps tale of ambition and guile. The tabloid version would read like this:

Born in rural Australia, he falls hard for the newspaper life as a child watching his father in a home-based part-time job proofreading galley sheets of the local paper. He initially bypasses university (he earns a degree later in life) to become a copy boy at age 17 at The Melbourne Herald, where one of his tasks is to fetch milkshakes for the reporters to coat their stomachs before their after-work drinking sessions.

“It was what people imagine to be a journalistic upbringing,” Mr. Thomson said in his 11th floor office in Lower Manhattan. “It’s the most interesting job on the planet. You are being paid to be curious.”

He later earned credentials as a reporter by uncovering corruption in the Australian judiciary — which he turned into a book in 1987 called “The Judges” — and covering China, including the events at Tiananmen Square, for The Financial Times and The Sydney Morning Herald.

In China, Mr. Thomson became friendly with Mr. Brauchli, but many people who know both say their friendship has been overstated in the press.

“I don’t think they were best buddies,” said Adi Ignatius, an editor at Time magazine who was a foreign correspondent in China at the time. “But there was a certain esprit de corps among foreign correspondents, especially in Beijing at the time.”

As he worked his way up the ranks of The Financial Times, eventually becoming United States managing editor in 1998, he befriended Mr. Murdoch, and by all accounts, sparks flew.

Andrew Gowers, who beat out Mr. Thomson to become editor of The Financial Times in 2001, recalled a visit he made to the New York bureau in which Mr. Thomson took him to lunch to meet Mr. Murdoch at the News Corporation’s Manhattan office. “There was something going on there, it was like a coquetry really,” Mr. Gowers said. “It was clear they had seen a lot of each other at that point.


“He has this intuitive way with people, which he’s deployed to a remarkable extent with Rupert.”

On Thanksgiving Day in 1998 The Financial Times published a scoop on its front page that made an unhappy holiday for reporters at competing newspapers: Exxon and Mobil were close to a merger that would create the largest public company in the world.

Mr. Thomson, new to his position as managing editor at The Financial Times, dispatched street hawkers to pass out the paper at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade several blocks away from the paper’s Manhattan offices, and appeared on television to promote the scoop. Then the early follow-up coverage suggested the deal might not happen.

“You just want to curl up and die at that point,” recalled Will Lewis, the reporter who wrote the article and who is now the editor of The Daily Telegraph in London. “Robert says, ‘I trust you. Go back to the prime source.’ He pushed me forward. And the story was then confirmed.”

Reporters who have worked for Mr. Thomson say he is loyal, almost to a fault. One reporter said he “can’t say no.” And many former colleagues say he is not the type of manager who is capable of easily firing workers.

In fact, the prevailing theory as to why he never became the editor of The Financial Times is because the paper needed to trim its ranks after a hiring boom during the dot-com days, and Mr. Thomson was not seen as the right person to do that.

When Mr. Thomson learned almost seven years ago that he would not be named editor of The Financial Times, he did what many defeated journalists might do — he retreated with colleagues to a dark corner of a bar. But then he turned to his friend Mr. Murdoch and took the helm of the mogul’s 217-year-old Times of London.

At The Times, he changed the appearance of a venerable newspaper — some would say a British institution. He shrank the paper from a broadsheet to a tabloid format, and increased circulation even as many traditionalists complained about the new format.

“In Britain, people think of it as stodgy, extremely traditional,” he said last year at a lecture at RMIT University in Australia, where he received a journalism degree in 1989.

“So, it took an Australian to shrink it in to a tabloid, or a compact,” he joked. “We used the ‘c’ word, so it was more socially acceptable.”

In the last two years Mr. Thomson persuaded Mr. Murdoch to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an event Mr. Murdoch had not attended in years. (Mr. Murdoch prefers the company of deal makers, like those at the annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, sponsored by the investment bank Allen & Company.)

From event to event at Davos, Mr. Thomson and Mr. Murdoch were often together. “It was like Rupert was on his arm,” said Mr. Gowers, who saw both men there.

Mr. Thomson also encouraged Mr. Murdoch to buy The Wall Street Journal and, according to one person who knows both men, was a driving force behind the News Corporation’s offer.

As a result, Mr. Thomson, who lost out at The Financial Times, is now running its biggest competitor. Beyond overseeing changes to the paper, he must confront a news staff that is recovering from Mr. Brauchli’s departure as managing editor.

“I thought he would figure out a way to survive for a year maybe, but plenty of people here didn’t think he was going to leave at all,” said one reporter, referring to Mr. Brauchli. “There were a fair number of rank-and-file people here who were naïve” said the reporter, who like others spoke only the condition that his name not be used.

Mr. Thomson declined to discuss Mr. Brauchli’s departure, but generally he has only good things to say about him. The notion that the paper is betraying its roots by becoming more general in its coverage, he said, is “fallacious.”

“Foreign correspondents were incredibly frustrated,” he said. “They couldn’t get international political stories in to the paper. That wasn’t Marcus’s fault. They just didn’t give him the investment.”

Mr. Thomson said he was not worried that expanding news coverage would alienate The Journal’s core readers. “We’ve increased the pagination to display more domestic and international news, not reduced the business story count,” he said. “It is highly amusing that left-wing media commentators who tend to regard all businesspeople as criminals or reprobates are worried about us alienating business readers.”

Traditionalists at The Journal take note: Mr. Thomson is unmoved by legacy. “There is a great temptation to be so respectful of history that you are haunted by it,” he said during the lecture at RMIT. “The truth is, if you are haunted by history, you will be history.”

Telling Stories About the Fish on Your Plate

Campaign Spotlight

Telling Stories About the Fish on Your Plate

Published: April 28, 2008

A new campaign for a restaurant chain that specializes in seafood is telling customers not only about the meal on their plates but also how it got there.

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Bonefish Grill's new campaign highlights a search for simple recipes.

The campaign centered on story-telling, intended to be more engaging that prosaic product-focused ads, is for Bonefish Grill, which opened its first outlet in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2000 and has since grown to more than 140 units in 31 states. The chain is owned by OSI Restaurant Partners, which is also the parent of eateries like Outback Steakhouse and Carabba’s Italian Grill.

OSI describes Bonefish Grill as a “polished casual” seafood restaurant, featuring dinner items like Bang Bang Shrimp, Mahi Mahi Piccata, Mussels Josephine, Scampi-Topped Filet Mignon and various wood-grilled fish dishes. The restaurants have dining rooms, open kitchens and large bar areas with community tables; to encourage the casual vibe, reservations are not required and seats are set aside each night for walk-up customers.

The campaign, which carries the theme “Taste the pursuit,” has a budget estimated at $1 million to $2 million. There are television commercials, print advertisements, postcards and other direct mail and Webisodes on the Bonefish Grill Web site.

The campaign is the first work from the new Bonefish Grill agency, Cliff Freeman & Partners in New York, part of MDC Partners. Freeman was hired last September for a new assignment as the Bonefish Grill agency of record, handling tasks like brand strategy, Web development and customer-relationship marketing as well as advertising.

Initiative in New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, is the media agency for Bonefish Grill.

The campaign is starting as the restaurant industry is struggling with a sour economy that threatens to put an end to a love affair of decades between Americans and dining out.

Purveyors of every kind of meal, from fast food to high-end steak dinners, are suffering declining sales as rising gasoline prices and falling home prices force consumers to economize.

“There’s no question the restaurant category is under attack, as are so many of our retailers,” says Rich Turer, vice president for marketing at Bonefish Grill in Tampa, Fla.

“Traffic across the industry is off, depending on the region,” he adds. “We’re feeling more pain in some areas, while some restaurants are up year over year.”

As a result, “we think the time is right” for a new campaign for Bonefish Grill, Mr. Turer says.

“Increasing our awareness is a key opportunity for us,” he adds, because Bonefish Grill is “a brand that gets some of the highest rankings in research in food quality, price/value, atmosphere and likeability.”

Previously, ads for Bonefish Grill were “species-driven,” Mr. Turer says, promoting, say, “a specially topped wolfish” or “Canchito with a Rockefeller topping.” He summarizes that approach as “Here’s this piece of fish; come in today.”

The new tack, centered on telling what Mr. Turer calls “a compelling story” about where and how Bonefish Grill finds its fish, “is just such a natural fit,” he adds, because of the lengths the chain actually goes to obtain its menu items.

“It’s a real story,” Mr. Turer says.

The first wave of ads, which began in February, feted fish from the Caribbean, while the second batch, running this month, is concentrating on the Mediterranean.

The tales are told in a casual, conversational style, as if being shared with a friend over a drink or two. To reinforce that realistic approach, a documentary filmmaker named Rob Devor was hired for the commercials and Webisodes.

“We’ll be bringing it home on ice,” an announcer says in a commercial set in the Caribbean. “That’s what we do.”

In another spot, the announcer describes how Bonefish Grill came to the Caribbean “in search of fish, and whatever else makes the locals so happy.”

“We’re Bonefish Grill,” the spot concludes, “and if it’s something good, we’re bringing it home.”

The headline of a print ad proclaims, “We found the recipes of the Mediterranean locked away in wrinkly safes.”

The text goes on to explain: “You don’t find thousand-year-old recipes on the backs of soup cans. Try again. Try going to the Mediterranean. We found old fishermen who liked to talk. And we listened. And listened.”

And a commercial set in the Mediterranean talks about how much of a “challenge” it is to find the best fish.

“But fishermen don’t come back empty-handed,” the announcer says.

Freeman has considerable experience with restaurant accounts, producing campaigns for well-known brands like Little Caesars, Quiznos and Shoney’s.

And more than two decades ago, Cliff Freeman — the man, that is, not the agency — created the famous “Where’s the beef?” campaign for Wendy’s when he worked at a shop called Dancer Fitzgerald Sample.

The offbeat, even wacky humor that was the trademark of “Where’s the beef?”; the Little Caesars campaign, “Pizza! Pizza!”; “Hmmm. Toasty!” for Quiznos; and other restaurant ads from Freeman is missing from the Bonefish Grill campaign.

“It would have been completely inappropriate,” says Cliff Freeman, chairman and chief creative officer.

“It’s not ‘Where’s the beef?’ or ‘Pizza! Pizza!’” he adds. “I let the reality of the brand determine what needs to be done.”

The story-telling idea for Bonefish Grill — “They will take any trip, at any time, to buy fresh fish,” as Mr. Freeman sums it up -- “was really pretty simple,” he says, “yet ultimately completely differentiating.”

“By telling the stories,” he adds, “people would get an idea of the character of the brand.”

The stories are being expanded online with the Webisodes, which run one to two minutes apiece, two to four times as long as each of the TV commercials.

If customers have “seen the commercials, seen the Webisodes, they have something to talk about with the servers” when they visit the restaurants, Mr. Freeman says.

Now that they have discussed fish from the Caribbean and Mediterranean, the next offerings that the customers and wait staff can chat about in coming months will come from countries like Iceland and Argentina.

“The plan at the end of the year is to do a sort of ‘We travel the world’ synopsis,” Mr. Freeman says, and “highlight the whole gestalt of it.”

Gestalt? Isn’t that the fish served during the Jewish holidays?

gestalt PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Phonetic PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Hide phonetics
noun [C usually singular] SPECIALIZED
something such as a structure or experience which, when considered as a whole, has qualities that are more than the total of all its parts:
This new biography is the first to consider fully the writer's gestalt.

gestalt PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Phonetic PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic Hide phonetics
adjective [before noun]
considering or treating what a person experiences and believes as a whole and individual thing:
In gestalt psychology and gestalt psychotherapy, people's thoughts and emotions are seen as complex wholes.

(from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

2008年4月29日 星期二

One Guy Who Has Seen It All Doesn't Like What He Sees



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中 國國家發展和改革委員會(National Development and Reform Commission, 簡稱﹕國家發改委)經濟運行局巡視員許之敏在介紹第一季度宏觀經濟運行情況的新聞發佈會上表示﹐據有關部門預測﹐今年夏天全國的氣溫比常年要偏高﹐這可能 會導致電煤供應緊張。但他補充說﹐消費者價格指數(CPI)的漲幅仍然偏高﹐今年價格調控的目標任務也很艱巨﹐政府在實施能源價格改革時有必要將這些因素 納入考慮範圍。








One Guy Who Has Seen It All Doesn't Like What He Sees

Peter Bernstein has witnessed just about every financial crisis of the past century.

As a boy, he watched his father, a money manager, navigate the Depression. As a financial manager, consultant and financial historian, he personally dealt with the recession of 1958, the bear markets of the 1970s, the 1987 crash, the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s and the 2000-2002 bear market that followed the tech-stock bubble.

Today's trouble, the 89-year-old Mr. Bernstein says, is worse than he has seen since the Depression and threatens to roil markets into 2009 and beyond -- longer than many people expect.

Mr. Bernstein, whose books include 'Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk,' sees two culprits. One is the abuse of securitization -- the trend for banks to hold fewer loans on their books and instead turn them into securities that were sold to other investors. The other is simply years of overborrowing by financial institutions and consumers alike.

Mr. Bernstein is hopeful that Federal Reserve intervention will prevent deflation and depression, but he says there is no guarantee.

Excerpts of a recent interview:

WSJ: Aside from securitization, what were the main causes of the problem?

Mr. Bernstein: You don't get into a mess without too much borrowing. It was sparked primarily by the hedge funds, which were both unregulated by government and in many ways unregulated by their owners, who gave their managers a very broad set of marching orders. It was a real delusion. It was like [former New York Gov. Eliot] Spitzer: 'I am doing something dangerous, but because of who I am, and how smart I am, it is not going to come back to haunt me.'

When you think about how all of this will work out in the long run, we are going to have an extremely risk-averse economy for a long time. The lesson has painfully been learned. That's part of the problem going forward. You don't have a high-growth exit from this, as you've had from other kinds of crises. We won't have a powerful start, where the business cycle looks like a V. Here, the shape of the business cycle is like an L, where it goes down and doesn't turn up. Or like a U, a flat U. The reason for that is that people aren't going to get caught in this bind again. They will tell themselves, 'I'm too smart to do that again.' And everyone else is going to be saying the same thing. It is, in fact, going to be a wonderful environment in which to take risk, because there aren't going to be any excesses.

I'm a child of the Depression, and I am thinking about what the early years were like after World War II. It took a very long time to get the memory of the Depression out of business decisions, and certainly banking decisions. I think this is going to be the same. The Fed, too, is going to be less decisive and is going to feel that what it should do is less clear. One of the things that gave people a sense that they could afford to take risks was the sense that the central bankers more or less know what they are doing. But I don't think we are going to feel that way going forward.

WSJ: You said that it could turn out that the smart thing to do is to take more risk, because everyone will be so risk-averse. What kinds of investments do you see as the big winners coming out of this?

Mr. Bernstein: You could say: the things that have been beaten down the most, which would be real estate. But I think real estate is going to be under a cloud for so long, and you can't buy real estate with cash, it is too much money. I think you should go with the stock market. If things are better, the stock market will go up, and if things are awful, the stock market is going to be way down. But it is a place where, if you want to take risks, you've got a wide range of choices. This is why I own stocks [in addition to other investments], because I don't know where the bottom is going to come, and I want to be exposed to every kind of possibility I can think of. And, at least, if you pick the stock market and you are wrong, you can change your mind. There is some liquidity there. Stocks never became cheap, but they didn't become crazy, the way other assets were.

WSJ: How long do you think this whole process will take, before we get back to normal?

Mr. Bernstein: Longer than people think. The people who think we will have turned in 2009 are wrong. There has to be a respite along the way. Nothing goes in one direction forever. But it will take longer than people think. If that weren't the case, I would be talking entirely differently. I would be saying, 'What an opportunity we have got.' And I just can't believe that the opportunity is here yet. There is too much to unwind.

WSJ: Can you explain the reason you think it will take a long time?

Mr. Bernstein: We have to go back to a moment when people have the courage to borrow and lenders have the courage to lend. Until credit is going up instead of down, you can't have growth. Housing has got to be a very important part of that; it always has been. You have to reach a point where somebody says, 'This house is cheap, I am going to buy it,' or where some businessman says, 'This is a great opportunity for us to expand our business. Everything is available to us.'

If China goes into a recession, God knows. The Iraq war and the whole situation with terrorism, we really don't know where that is going to come out. There are so many things that have got to get buttoned down before you say that the future looks good enough to take a risk.

WSJ: What kind of indications are you looking for as signs that the economy is about to get better and that the stock market and the investment world are about to turn the corner?

Mr. Bernstein: Somehow, the housing trouble has to at least flatten out. As long as that is going on, I think the pressure on the credit system is going to persist. It is kind of the leading indicator. It is where the trouble started. We have to underpin the consumer. That is why this is different. That is why this is like nothing we have had before.

Before, it was investment that made the V at the bottom of the business cycle. I don't see real investment turning enough without some sign from the consumer side. Maybe the foreign countries will do it for us. That is a substitute for consumption here. Maybe. But I think that they won't do enough for us, and maybe will be too infected by us to do it. But maybe growth in Asia will help us. The Asian thing is tremendously exciting.

E.s. Browning


得•伯恩斯坦(Peter Bernstein)見證了過去一個世紀里的幾乎每一場金融危機。

當 他還是個孩子的時候﹐他看到的是身為投資經理的父親在大蕭條中小心度日。而在伯恩斯坦後來成為財務經理、咨詢師以及金融歷史學家期間﹐他又親身經歷了 1958年的經濟衰退、70年代的熊市、1987年的股市崩盤、80年代末的存貸款危機、2000-2002年科技股泡沫破裂後的熊市。


曾 撰寫了《與天為敵:風險探索傳奇》(Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk)等書籍的伯恩斯坦認為危機背後有兩大元兇:一是資產證券化操作的濫用(銀行為減少帳面貸款金額而將這些資產打包成為可出售給其他投資者的證券) ﹔另一個則是多年以來金融機構和消費者都習以為常的過度借貸模式。




伯恩斯坦: 如果你不借那麼多錢的話就根本不會讓自己那麼狼狽。眼下的麻煩最初是由對沖基金所引起的﹐政府不去監管這些基金﹐在很多方面其所有人也不去管理﹐只是給自 己的基金經理們下達泛泛的“沖鋒令”。這裡面存在一個錯覺﹐就像招妓門主角--前紐約州州長斯皮策(Spitzer)所想:我確實在做危險的事﹐但我是誰 啊﹐我多聰明啊﹐所以這些事不會反過來傷害我。

只要想到所有這一切需要經過很長的時間 才能最終得到解決﹐我們的經濟就將長期保持高度的避險意識。我們痛苦地吸取了這個教訓。而這將成為日後麻煩的一部分。我們無法通過快速增長來擺脫當前危機 ﹐就像以前從其他類型的危機中全身而退那樣。我們沒有一個強有力的開始﹐那樣需要一個看起來像是“V”字形的經濟週期﹐而當前的週期看起來像是一個向下沒 有反轉的“L”形﹐或一個平坦的“U”形。原因是人們不會讓自己重蹈覆轍了。他們會告誡自己﹐我是個聰明人﹐不能一錯再錯了。其他所有人也會這麼想。而事 實上﹐這倒成了一個冒險的好機會﹐因為市場上不會存在過度的風險了。

大蕭條時期我還是個孩子﹐我現在還在想二戰後頭幾年的日子是怎麼樣 的。過了很長時間﹐有關大蕭條的記憶才不再影響人們的商業決策、特別是銀行業的決策。我認為眼下這一幕又要重演了。Fed也將變得不再那麼果斷﹐而是覺得 自己應該做的就是不要太過明確。有一個因素促使大家感覺自己可以冒險為之﹐那就是央行官員多少總能知道他們在幹些什麼。但我想大家以後不會再這麼以為了。


伯恩斯坦: 你可以說﹐受到最沉重打擊的是地產業﹔但我認為地產業還將在陰雲下籠罩很長一段時間﹐而且你也不能用現金買房產﹐那實在是很大一筆錢。我覺得你應該投資股 市。如果情況好轉﹐股市將開始上揚﹐反之則將下挫。但股市是這樣一個地方﹐只要你願意承受風險﹐那麼你總有很寬泛的選擇。這就是為什麼我在其他投資之外選 擇股市的原因﹐因為我不知道市場何時見底﹐而且我希望自己擁有各種各樣的可能性。至少﹐如果你選錯了股票的話﹐你還可以改主意。這裡面存在一定的流動性。 目前的股價不算低﹐但它們也未曾像其他資產那樣瘋狂。


伯恩斯坦: 比人們想像的要長。那些以為2009年就能恢復元氣的人錯了。市場在復原期間肯定要有停頓。沒有什麼東西能永遠朝一個方向前進。如果要不是眼下這個局面我 可能會用一種完全不同的方式來談論這個問題﹐我可能會說“這是一個機會”﹐但我認為現在還談不上什麼機會。要解決的問題實在太多。


伯恩斯坦: 我們必須要等到人們有勇氣借貸、而銀行也有勇氣放貸之時。直到信貸出現增長而非萎縮時我們才能實現增長。房地產市場是一個非常重要的組成部分﹐它一直都 是。市場有望恢復時一定會有人說:房產很便宜﹐我要出手買進了﹔或者你會聽到一些商界人士說:現在正好是擴展業務的良機﹐每一樣事情對我們都很合適。




從 前﹐是投資行為使商業週期在底部展開“V”形反轉。現在我認為在消費領域出現改善之前﹐實際投資都不會出現明顯好轉。或許其他國家可以給我們幫這個忙。那 會對本土的消費帶來替代作用。可能會是這樣。但是我認為它們的幫助可能會“力道”不夠﹐或許還受到我們的影響。但亞洲的增長可能會對我們有所裨益﹐亞洲的 形勢非常鼓舞人心。

E.s. Browning