Driving around the Chinese town of Yi Wu, my crew and I were listening to the radio when an ad came on encouraging listeners to trade in their old TVs and washers for new ones.
"You can get a 13-percent rebate!" the speakers blared.
The government is going all out to promote its rebate programs and get its citizens spending. The manager of Xin Hong Electric, a store selling electronics and appliances, told us his sales were up as much as 30 percent. Not only can Chinese get discounts on new refrigerators, dryers or microwaves but cars too. Car sales were up nearly 80 percent in October compared to a year ago, driven in part by tax breaks and China's version of the U.S.'s "Cash-for-Clunkers" program. China is expected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest car market this year.
At Xin Hong Electric, I was struck by how many people were taking advantage of the rebate. We met up with a paper fan maker who had just bought a new fridge to add to his recent purchases: a TV, an air conditioner, a washer, and a microwave. He told us he had wanted to upgrade his appliances, anyway, and thought, why not do it now and save some cash?
That savers' mentality is said to have contributed to the imbalances in the world economy. Americans have been taking on too much debt and overspending, while Chinese (and certainly many other consumers in Asia) have been saving for a rainy day. Many economists say the government trade-in programs have had some success, but getting Chinese to feel comfortable spending will take a lot more work. They say the government will need to improve its retirement and health care programs so that people don't have to worry as much about paying large potential medical bills. The bottom line is consumers need to feel confident enough in the future to open their wallets today.
How confident are you in your home country's economy?
HONG KONG, China – Bankers are sharing some dark humor these days. To prepare for my reports this morning, I called up several bankers to get their read on the markets.
Not everyone can see the funny side of the financial turmoil.
One of them told me he has started a betting pool with his colleagues on which storied Wall Street firm will be the next to go belly-up.
Perhaps I would have found his little game funny if I didn't have my life savings locked up in his top contender.
If the market reaction Tuesday is anything to go by, another bankruptcy a la Lehman would surely deal a crushing blow to the financial sector in the U.S. and unsettle investment firms around the world.
All day, panicked traders in Asia have been selling off shares of banks and brokerages even though the institutions out here have little or no exposure to Wall Street's woes.
So what would another collapsed firm mean to you? Do you still trust your bank? Invest with the same brokerage? What is the best way to survive these times - other than resorting to a dose of black comedy and gambling?
A friend of mine in the business community told me that sometimes he takes his investment cues from the news media.
"When you guys talk about how hot a market is, I sell," he explained to me during the commodities boom. "When you talk about how disastrous a sector is, I buy."
Well, this week with the headlines dominated by the bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I couldn't help but wonder if my friend is soon going to invest in a home in the United States.
Property prices are falling all over the world. The troubles in the U.S. housing market are spreading as financial firms turn gun shy about lending to potential homeowners like you and me.
Even in places such as China and Macau - which have strong economic stories behind them - home prices are deflating. It's hard not to think that the world property market is poised for even further falls.
So, if you can get the mortgage, is it time to buy your dream home? Or does even the thought of it make you shudder?
Take a deep breath. Put aside your nationalism and tell me honestly: In 20 years' time, which city will be the world's financial capital?
New York? London? Dubai? Hong Kong? Shanghai? Mumbai? Or someplace seemingly off the radar today?
Based on the flow of bankers moving out East, Asia's cities seem to be getting a leg up. The credit crunch in the West is forcing financial firms there to tighten their belts and shed thousands of jobs.
Many of these institutions are choosing to relocate some high-fliers abroad to head up new divisions in cities with growing influence over the world economy such as Shanghai and Mumbai.
Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley, are hoping to tap the potential in the rapidly expanding emerging markets in an effort to offset a slowdown in more mature economies.
So is this a temporary trend or a sign of the West's waning influence over the global financial industry?
Which city do you think it will be?
When Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang limped off the track the other day, millions of Chinese were shocked and saddened. So were the international companies that have been using the track star to build their brands in China for the past several years.
Liu Xiang pulled out of his race with an agonizing injury.
U.S. sportswear giant Nike quickly took out ads in seven newspapers around the country expressing empathy for Liu.
The ad features a photo of Liu and reads:
LOVE SPORT EVEN WHEN IT BREAKS YOUR HEART
I don't know about you but, as a former hurdler myself, I found that last line gut-wrenching.
Most people who have competed in sports, at one point or another, know first hand the disappointment that comes with injury or the sickening feeling of defeat.
I can only imagine how much worse it would feel if a billion people were equating the success of the nation with your performance.
Talk about pressure.
Obviously, Liu's sponsors are showing him a lot of support and say they plan to stand by him. But for how long?
Marketers I spoke to said that the the most important criteria for these brands is to find players that perform.
In addition, the games this summer have created a new generation of Chinese medalists from which big international firms can choose to market their brand.
Until now, marketers say, Liu Xiang and basketball star Yao Ming were really the only choices.
So, as a brand, at what point do you pull the plug?
And one more question: who do you think are going to be the next big sports superstars in China or otherwise? Which athletes during the Beijing games stand out to you?
In France, if you try to get into the country with a fake Louis Vuitton handbag, customs officials will confiscate it from you and slash it to shreds before your eyes.If you tote the same bag around in China, no one will even blink. Despite China's efforts to improve intellectual property rights protection, buying fakes is still not against Chinese law. But should it be?
A shopworker in Beijing holds up a handbag based on a Louis Vuitton design.
The government has been cracking down on counterfeiting operations especially for the Olympics. Authorities have been carrying out raids in cities such as Shenzhen, an industrial town renowned for its plethora of copied goods like fake DVDs, Prada knock-offs and now even bogus iPhones.
The recent crackdown by authorities has sellers skittish for sure. When we made the 45-minute trip there from Hong Kong, one of the touts took us to a shop operating out of a dodgy hotel. Another showed us his secret chamber in a mall where he displayed his best stuff - all of it safely tucked away from inspectors.
The bottom line is the goods were still on sale.
The counterfeit trade employs a lot of people in China. Lawyers hired by multinational companies have complained to me that the economies of entire towns rely on the manufacturing of illegal products so officials are reluctant to step up their efforts to shut these unlawful factories down.
Some buyers I have spoken to have justified their purchases of fakes, saying the international brands are just greedy and shouldn't be charging so much in the first place.
At the end of the day, everyone agrees it's the buyer who is driving demand. So should the buyer be punished? How embarrassed would you be if your fake LV was ripped to pieces in public? Would it stop you from buying a copied product again?
Let me know how you feel.
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.