22/11/2014

In China, 8,000 Teachers Go on Strike – Businessweek

For three days in November, 8,000 schoolteachers in China’s northern Heilongjiang province refused to enter a classroom. They were on strike, demanding that the city government honor a pledge made in January to raise their salaries and benefits.

An SVG map of China with Heilongjiang province...

An SVG map of China with Heilongjiang province highlighted Legend: Image:China map legend.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s remarkable about this demonstration is that there is no equivalent of the American Federation of Teachers in China; independent unions in any industry sector remain illegal. And yet, from factory workers to teachers, Chinese citizens are increasingly using the toolkit of collective action to push for fair labor practices.

Earlier this year, the government of Zhaodong, a city of about 100,000 people, promised to raise teacher salaries and provide compensation for those forced to travel in snowy and inclement weather. (Heilongjiang is China’s northernmost province, bordering Siberia.) For almost 10 months, the promises went unfulfilled.

via In China, 8,000 Teachers Go on Strike – Businessweek.

22/11/2014

So What Does Obama’s Immigration Reform Mean For India’s High-Skilled Workers? – India Real Time – WSJ

President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms unveiled Thursday in the United States bring little sunshine for those in India’s technology outsourcing industry who are waiting for him to boost the number of skilled-work visas or H-1Bs.

The president’s reform plan bypassed Congress to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

To be sure, the reform measures also contained minor benefits for businesses with workers from overseas. “We will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed,” said Mr. Obama in a prime-time address in the U.S.

But that means very little for India’s outsourcing firms that have long been lobbying to increase the number of H-1B visas so they can send more Indian programmers and engineers to their clients in the U.S.

Indian software exporters such as Tata Consultancy Services 532540.BY +0.35%, Infosys and Wipro send thousands of skilled Indian workers to the U.S. every year to cater to the technology needs of their clients.

The immigration reforms bill, introduced last year, sought to triple the number of H-1B visas available to 180,000 a year but was pulled after many lawmakers argued that the changes would result in an influx of illegal immigrants. It is still uncertain when the reform bill will be considered again.

As a result, industry and market watchers weren’t expecting the president to make any path-breaking changes to increase the number of skilled-worker visas issued annually. In fact, most of the changes announced are on expected lines.

via So What Does Obama’s Immigration Reform Mean For India’s High-Skilled Workers? – India Real Time – WSJ.

22/11/2014

China commits $45.6 billion for economic corridor with Pakistan | Reuters

The Chinese government and banks will finance Chinese companies to build $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years, according to new details of the deal seen by Reuters on Friday. The Chinese companies will be able to operate the projects as profit-making entities, according to the deal signed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a visit to China earlier this month.

At the time, officials provided few details of the projects or the financing for the deal, dubbed the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The deal further cements ties between Pakistan and China at a time when Pakistan is nervous about waning U.S. support as troops pull out of Afghanistan.

Pakistan and China, both nuclear-armed nations, consider each other close friends. Their ties are underpinned by common wariness of India and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence in South Asia.

via China commits $45.6 billion for economic corridor with Pakistan | Reuters.

21/11/2014

Four regions to scrap urban-rural ‘hukou’ distinction – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

In a long-awaited reform, four Chinese provincial regions have removed the rural/urban distinction in the household registration system, or “hukou“, making things fairer for residents, chinanews.com reported.

Four regions to scrap urban-rural '<EM>hukou</EM>' distinction

The four regions are Henan, Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces and Xinjiang Ugyur autonomous region, said the report.

The regions stipulated there will be no more rural hukou and urban hukou, with both rural and urban dwellers registered as “residents”.

They are the first provinces to put into action a State Council document on reform of China’s household registration system, which was released on July 30, urging officials to scrap the urban-rural distinction.

Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province said the distinction was removed since Nov 1 this year, and people can now change their hukou at local public security stations. For example, dwellers with a “rural hukou” can change it for one that just reads “resident”.

Southwest China’s Guizhou province and East China’s Jiangxi province also introduced drafts of reform plans, and the public’s feedback is being solicited on the drafts.

Guizhou’s draft schemes propose that from Jan 1 next year, households will no longer be labeled as “urban or rural” but as “collective households or family households”. The collective households refer to those who register under an organization, such as a workplace.

Set up in 1958 in order to control mass urbanization, China’s hukou system effectively divided the population in two – urban households and rural households.

Under the system, rural citizens have limited access to social welfare in cities and are restricted from receiving public services such as education, medical care, housing and employment, regardless of how long they may have lived or worked in the city.

via Four regions to scrap urban-rural ‘hukou’ distinction – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

21/11/2014

China Stocks Up on Oil While It’s Cheap; Tanker Companies Profit – Businessweek

With oil prices off about 30 percent since June, China is importing record amounts of crude to build up a strategic reserve. Cheap fuel is giving tanker companies their best profits in years.

via China Stocks Up on Oil While It’s Cheap; Tanker Companies Profit – Businessweek.

21/11/2014

China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek

Even as northern China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province, continues to suffer from hazardous air—“people with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors or wear protective masks,” the official English language China Daily advised earlier today, Nov.20—some relief may be on the longer-term horizon.

The Baosteel Group Corp. facilities in Shanghai, China

Chinese authorities in Hebei province, one of China’s largest steel-producing regions, announced they plan to relocate steel, cement, and glass factories overseas over the next decade. The many industrial factories that surround Beijing and Tianjin are known to be a major source of the lung-choking smog that periodically smothers much of northern China. Hebei province alone produces 200 million tons of steel annually, or about one-quarter of China’s total production.

“The initiative comes at a time when local steel, cement, and glass producers are struggling, with sluggish growth in the world’s second-largest economy crippling demand for their products. In many cases, it has led to severe overcapacity,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 19.

By 2017, according to Hebei authorities, Hebei plans to move 5 million tons of steel production capacity, the same amount for cement, and 3 million “weight boxes” of glass production (a weight box is roughly 50 kg, the paper explained). Much more will be moved in the following six years, through 2023, including 20 million tons of steel, 30 million of cement, and 10 million weight boxes of glass production, Xinhua reported.

While steel manufacturers will be encouraged through unspecified preferential policies to relocate some production in Africa and Asia, cement and glass producers will go to those two regions, as well as South America and Central and East Europe.

“Hebei is a major source of industrial pollutants blamed for the notorious choking smog that often spreads to neighboring regions like Beijing,” Xinhua reported.

via China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek.

21/11/2014

How Indians and Chinese Study in the U.S. Shows Degrees of Development – China Real Time Report – WSJ

A record number of international students—close to 900,000 scholars–studied at U.S. colleges and universities last year and more than four out of ten of them were from India or China.

How the best and brightest from China and India choose their expensive American degrees demonstrates the differing levels of development between the world’s only billion-person economies.

Chinese students tend to choose undergraduate courses focused on business, while Indians opt for short graduate programs in more technical subjects like science and math.

A report from the Institute of International Education published this week has the figures. China continued to be the biggest exporter of students to the United States by far. It had more than 274,000 students stateside, which was a 17% increase from the previous year.

India was a distant second but still had more than 102,000 college and university students to America. That was a 6% increase from the year before, and the first rise in the number of students from the subcontinent in five years.

Back in the school year which ended in June 2010, China passed India as the biggest source of foreign freshman in the U.S.—a title India had held for years. China has been adding to that lead ever since.

China’s rise to the top—it had 200,000 more students last year to the U.S. than it did just eight years earlier—reflects the growing incomes and increasing globalization of the country’s citizens, analysts say.

Chinese students were much more likely to go to the states for undergraduate studies than Indian students. Only around 12% of Indians that study in the U.S. were there for undergraduate studies during the past school year, compared to 40% of Chinese students, the IIE study showed.

It makes sense, said Akhil Daswani, chief operating officer of OnCourse Vantage, an education consulting company in India, an undergraduate degree is a luxury few Indians can afford.

“If you are going to spend $250,000 over four years you have to have a considerable amount of disposable income,” Mr. Daswani said. “Undergraduate schools are marketing heavily (in China). It is the first place they want to go because they are getting so much business.”

When they go for an international degree, Indians prefer to get more bang for their rupee, they tend to go for two-year graduate courses that lead to high-paying jobs.

Close to 80% of Indian students in the U.S. last year were aiming to get technical degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, the study showed. That figure for China was 42%. Chinese students, meanwhile, leaned more towards business degrees. Around 28% of Chinese students were studying business compared to 12% of Indian students.

via How Indians and Chinese Study in the U.S. Shows Degrees of Development – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

20/11/2014

Fossil-hunting: Bone China | The Economist

A GIANT, pinkish femur juts out of the ground, longer than a person is tall. The area is littered with the fossilised vertebrae, leg and arm bones and skull of this Hadrosaurus. For 70m years it and other dinosaurs have lain buried here. Now the site in Zhucheng, in Shandong province in eastern China, is known as “dinosaur valley” for its more than 10,000 fossils found to date. The hunt for dinosaurs only properly began in China in recent decades. Already more species have been identified there than in any other country.

The bonanza is explained by China’s great expanses of rock from the Mesozoic era, when “fearful dragons”, as they are called in Chinese, roamed. In many areas rivers, floods, sandstorms and earthquakes buried the animals soon after they died, so preserving them. An unusually large amount of the rock from this era is now close to the surface, so the troves of bones, eggs and footprints have been uncovered comparatively easily. A recent discovery in Liaoning province, the Changyuraptor yangi, is the largest known four-winged flying reptile and marks another vital step on the evolutionary path from dinosaurs to birds.

A rise in science funding also lies behind China’s dinosaur bounty: rather like the Chinese economy, Chinese palaeontology is in its rapidly emerging stage, says Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who himself has found more than 40 new species. Fossils are frequently uncovered at the country’s many construction sites, along the routes of new railways, for example.

Selling fossils is illegal in China. But many farmers now make far more money flogging fossils (including fake ones) on the black market than they do from their crops. Attempts to build a tourist industry around dinosaurs have been less lucrative. Farmers will have to be better compensated for their fossil discoveries if scientists are to win the battle of the bones.

via Fossil-hunting: Bone China | The Economist.

20/11/2014

Cheap Electricity for Poor Squeezing Out Solar in India – Businessweek

The villagers of Dharnai in northern India had been living without electricity for more than 30 years when Greenpeace installed a microgrid to supply reliable, low-cost solar power.

Cooking By Candlelight

Then, within weeks of the lights flickering on in Dharnai’s mud huts, the government utility hooked up the grid — flooding the community with cheap power that undercut the fledgling solar network. While Greenpeace had come to Dharnai at Bihar’s invitation, the unannounced arrival of the state’s utility threatened to put it out of business.

“We wanted to set this up as a business model,” said Abhishek Pratap, a Greenpeace campaigner overseeing the project. “Now we’re in course correction.”

It’s a scenario playing out at dozens of ventures across India’s hinterlands. Competition from state utilities, with their erratic yet unbeatably cheap subsidized power, is scuppering efforts to supply clean, modern energy in a country where more people die from inhaling soot produced by indoor fires than from smoking.

About as many people in India are without electricity as there are residents of the U.S., and the number is growing by a Mumbai every year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to bring electricity to every home by 2019 by leapfrogging the nation’s ailing power-distribution infrastructure with solar-powered local networks — the same way mobile-phones have enabled people in poor, remote places to bypass landlines.

via Cheap Electricity for Poor Squeezing Out Solar in India – Businessweek.

20/11/2014

China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek

China’s hazardous smog is an in-your-face and choke-your-lungs kind of problem—hard to miss, particularly when air quality soars to severely polluted levels, as it did in Beijing today (Nov.19). But an equally dire environmental threat is the alarmingly low quality of China’s water resources.

A polluted canal in Beijing

That was highlighted in an investigative report on China’s water crisis in the official Xinhua News Agency yesterday. Sixty percent of China’s groundwater, monitored at 4,778 sites across the country, is either “bad” or “very bad,” according to a survey by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Xinhua reported. Meanwhile, more than half, or 17 of China’s 31 major freshwater lakes, are polluted, at least slightly or moderately.

The report said that 300 of China’s 657 major cities also face water shortages, according to the standard set by the United Nations. A particularly severe problem is the dearth of water in the North China region, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei. Water per capita in that area amounts to only 286 cubic meters annually, much less than the 500 cubic meter minimum. Below that minimum is classified as “absolute scarcity.” (Xinhua says under 1,000 cubic meters per capita classifies as “scarcity.”)

With rapid urbanization an official economic priority, fears are that China’s crisis of degraded and inadequate water supplies could worsen. Meanwhile, about 3.3 million hectares of farmland—an area the size of Belgium—has become too contaminated to grow crops, China’s authorities revealed late last year.

“Experts blamed some local governments and businesses for recklessly pursuing quick money by developing projects that devoured resources and caused serious pollution,” the China Daily reported today, citing the Xinhua article on water scarcity.

via China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek.

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