Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

11/04/2014

All you need to know about business in China | McKinsey & Company

A lot of people view China business as mysterious. Relax. Consumers behave pretty much the same everywhere. Competition is pretty much the same everywhere. You just need to ignore the hype and focus on the basic fact that in China today, there are six big trends (exhibit). That’s it. Six trends shape most of the country’s industries and drive much of China’s impact on the Western world. They are like tectonic plates moving underneath the surface. If you can understand them, the chaotic flurry of activity on the surface becomes a lot more understandable—and even predictable.

Coauthors Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel discuss China’s six megatrends with Nick Leung, the managing partner of McKinsey’s Greater China office.

These trends move businesses on a daily basis. They’re revenue or cost drivers that show up in income statements. Deals, newspaper headlines, political statements, and the rising and falling wealth of companies are mostly manifestations of these six trends, which aren’t typically studied by economists and political analysts. In fact, we happen to think that Chinese politics or political economics are wildly overemphasized by some Westerners in China. So let’s tell a story about each of these megatrends, with some important caveats. They’re not necessarily good things. They’re not necessarily sustainable. For every one of them, we can argue a bull and a bear case. Most lead to profits or at least revenue. Some may be stable. Some lead to bubbles that may or may not collapse. We are only arguing that they are big, they are driving economic activity on a very large scale, and understanding them is critical to understanding China and where it’s headed.

via All you need to know about business in China | McKinsey & Company.

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11/04/2014

India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist

LICK your lips: mangoes are coming into season in Andhra Pradesh, piled up on roadside fruit stalls. Hyderabadis claim theirs are the country’s sweetest. So too are the bribes paid by the state’s politicians to get people to vote. Since early March state police have seized more money from politicians aiming to buy votes—590m rupees ($10m)—than the rest of India combined. An excited local paper talks of “rampant cash movement”, reporting that police do not know where to store the bundles of notes, bags of gold and silver, cricket kits, saris and lorry-loads of booze.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state, is due to hold an impressive series of polls in the next few weeks—municipal elections and then both state-assembly and national ones. Many politicians keep up old habits by paying voters, especially rural ones, to turn out. A villager can stand to pocket a handy 3,000 rupees per vote. Economists predict a mini-boom in consumer goods.

If this is the lamentable face of Indian politicking, the hopeful side is that, increasingly, skulduggery is being pursued. A worker with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Hyderabad says police looking for illicit cash stopped and searched her car five times in a single drive one day last week.

This may be because in Andhra Pradesh, unusually, politicians are not currently running the show. The state is under “president’s rule”, with bureaucrats in charge, ahead of its breaking into two on June 2nd. Then, a new state, Telangana, will emerge to become India’s 29th, covering much of the territory once ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the fabulously wealthy Muslim dynasty whose reign India’s army ended in 1948. A rump coastal state gets to keep the name Andhra Pradesh. For a decade Hyderabad will serve as joint capital.

The split will have a bearing on the national election. In 2009 the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress, returned to national office on the back of two whopping southern victories. Congress scooped 33 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state. Its ally next door in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), got 18 seats. Both now face heavy defeats. “The south’s biggest impact nationally will be negative, in not voting for Congress”, says K.C. Suri of Hyderabad University.

via India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist

AGAINST a powerful alliance of factory bosses and Communist Party chiefs, Zeng Feiyang cuts a frail figure. Mr Zeng, who is 39, works from a windowless office in Panyu, on the edge of the southern city of Guangzhou, where he runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called the Panyu Migrant Workers’ Service Centre. For more than a decade his organisation has battled against the odds to defend the rights of workers in the factories of Guangdong province. For his troubles, Mr Zeng has been evicted from various premises, had his water and electricity cut off, and been constantly harassed by local officials and their thugs. Then last autumn he received a call from one such official. “The man asked if I wanted to register the NGO,” he says. “I was very surprised.”

Over the past three years other activists at unregistered NGOs have received similar phone calls from the authorities about the sensitive issue of registration, an apparently mundane bit of administrative box-ticking which in fact represents real change. China has over 500,000 NGOs already registered with the state. The number comes with a big caveat. Many NGOs are quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money. Of those genuine groups that do seek to improve the common lot, nearly all carry out politically uncontentious activities. But perhaps 1.5m more are not registered, and some of these, like Mr Zeng’s, pursue activism in areas which officials have often found worrying.

These unregistered NGOs are growing in number and influence. They are a notable example of social forces bubbling up from below in a stubbornly top-down state. The organisations could be a way for the Communist Party to co-opt the energy and resources of civil society. They could also be a means by which that energy challenges the party’s power. And so their status has big implications. Guo Hong of the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences in Chengdu calls the liberalisation of NGO registration laws “the partial realisation of freedom of association”. Just as economic liberalisation in the early 1980s had a profound material effect, so these latest moves could have a profound social one.

via Chinese civil society: Beneath the glacier | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has lasted longer, gone deeper, and struck higher than many analysts and academics had expected. Xi has been so zealous that since late last year retired Communist Party leaders including ex-President Jiang Zemin have cautioned him to take a more measured pace and not be too harsh, say Ding Xueliang, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Willy Lam, an expert on elite politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Berlin on March 28

Xi is cracking down on the army and the police at the same time, something no leader has done before, says Ding. Gu Junshan, a lieutenant general in charge of logistics for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been charged with bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on March 31. He will be tried in military court.

China’s former top cop and security czar Zhou Yongkang is under investigation for corruption, say Ding and Lam. When asked at a March 2 press conference whether Zhou was under suspicion, a government spokesman avoided a direct answer, saying, “Anyone who violates the party’s discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is.” He added what seems to be a veiled confirmation: “I can only say so much so far. You know what I’m saying.”

More than 180,000 party officials were punished for corruption and abuse of power last year, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s watchdog. While most were low-level officials—or “flies,” as Xi has put it—they also included senior party members—“tigers,” in Xi’s words. Thirty-one senior officials were investigated by the commission last year: Eight had their graft cases handed over to prosecutors. The remaining 23 are still being investigated.

via In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

And the Award for Best Chinese Film Goes to… – China Real Time Report – WSJ

And the winner is…no one.

That was the message from the China Film Directors’ Guild, which declined to hand out its two top prizes—best picture and best director—for 2013, citing a lack of high-quality contenders.

“What China’s film industry needs now is not to be coddled, but to hold itself to a higher standard,” said director Feng Xiaogang, chairman of the guild’s nine-director awards jury.

China’s box office has been booming in recent years, growing from a mere 950 million yuan ($153 million) in 2002—when China first began allowing modern theater chains—to 21.6 billion yuan last year. But an increase in quality hasn’t followed the increase in revenue, directors and many industry experts say.

Decades ago, many film directors resolutely gave up their artistic ideals to save the Chinese film market from going bankrupt and devoted themselves to the flood of commercial films,” Mr. Feng said at the awards ceremony Wednesday night in Beijing, which was aired live on state television.

Prominent Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin,” which won best screenplay at last year’s Cannes film festival and has been critically celebrated, wasn’t eligible for consideration for the awards because Mr. Jia’s company couldn’t provide the guild a legal copy of the film on DVD or online. This film didn’t make it to China’s big screens because it hasn’t been approved by censors.

via And the Award for Best Chinese Film Goes to… – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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11/04/2014

Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters

Good news for Chinese health, bad news for the cigarette industry.

“China’s capital Beijing is proposing to ban the use of government money to buy cigarettes, either as gifts or to be provided at official functions, state media said on Friday, in the latest move to try and curtail smoking.

Extinguished cigarettes are seen in an ashtray at the Shanghai Railway Station December 23, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

China, home to some 300 million smokers, is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, and smoking is a ubiquitous part of social life, particularly for men. Cartons of cigarettes are commonly given as presents or provided at formal events.

The Beijing government rules, currently in the proposal stage, would ban cigarettes being provided or given at any official event, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The rules also seek a ban on promotional sales activities or advertising for cigarettes and a ban on smoking in public places like train stations, hospitals and schools, with fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), the report said.

Beijing, along with other parts of China, already bans smoking in many public places, though the rules are generally ignored.

Xinhua did not say when the new rules may go into effect.

Tougher regulation of smoking is a priority this year, officials from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in January, adding that the agency was pushing lawmakers to toughen laws on tobacco use.

The ruling Communist Party said last year that officials must not light up in schools, workplaces, stadiums, and on public transport, among other places, so as to set a positive example.

($1 = 6.2125 Chinese yuan)”

via Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters.

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01/04/2014

Almost 10,000 Divorces Each Day in China’s Breakup Boom – Businessweek

China is facing a boom in breakups. Almost 10,000 marriages end in divorce every day, a figure that has been growing for the past decade, according to a report in China Daily citing Zhang Shifeng, head of the department of social affairs at the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Almost 10,000 Divorces Each Day in China's Breakup Boom

In 2012, the last year for which figures were available, China counted 3.1 million divorces, up 133 percent over 2003. Big cities are the epicenter of China’s new wave of “conscious uncoupling,” including Shanghai, Tianjin, and Beijing. In the capital, 164,000 couples tied the knot in 2012, while one-third as many dissolved their marriages—pushing the number of divorces up 65 percent since 2011.

In most cases the irreconcilable differences at the root of China’s rising divorces are common ones around the world: Top of the list are extramarital affairs, domestic violence, and an inability to communicate, said Du Huanghai, a Shanghai attorney cited in the China Daily report. Urbanites in their 20s and 30s “lack the patience to adapt to each other or make the necessary compromises, so their marriages are often in a fragile state,” Du said.

via Almost 10,000 Divorces Each Day in China’s Breakup Boom – Businessweek.

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01/04/2014

The Links Between the Delhi and Mumbai Rape Cases – India Real Time – WSJ

The two crimes were strikingly similar: In both, a young, ambitious woman was gang-raped by a group of impoverished men in one of India’s premier cities.

But their connection didn’t end there.

National outrage at the first case, involving a physiotherapy student who died from her injuries in New Delhi in Dec. 2012, arguably had an impact on how the country reacted to the second, in which a photojournalist in Mumbai was attacked while out on an assignment in an abandoned area of the financial capital.

They are also linked through the law.

The Delhi rape triggered changes to legislation to protect women that were subsequently used to convict the men charged with the attack in Mumbai.

Parts of that toughened up legislation, which made death the maximum penalty for rape in the case of repeat offenders, are also being used, for the first time, against the men guilty of gang-raping the Mumbai photojournalist.

Three of the four men convicted of gang-raping the photojournalist have also been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for gang-raping a telephone receptionist a few weeks earlier at the same location.

This makes them repeat offenders, so eligible for the death penalty, said the public prosecutor when he pressed fresh charges against the men last week in the hope of securing a death sentence for them at a trial court in Mumbai.

In the case of the Delhi victim, the attackers were punished under the previous version of the law, which awarded the death penalty for murder in the rarest of rare cases but set the maximum penalty for rape to a life term of 14 years.

The trial judge in the case in Mumbai allowed the prosecutor to introduce the new charge of repeated offense before sentencing began, but the defense lawyers appealed against the decision in the high court. The defense also challenged the constitutional validity of handing the death penalty to repeat gang-rape offenders.

The Mumbai High Court rejected the defense’s appeal against the fresh charges but refrained from expressing  its view on the “tenability of framing additional charge.”

The judges added that their decision not to interfere in the trial court hearing fresh charges should not be construed as approval.

The High Court judges also observed that sentencing repeat gang-rape offenders to death could bypass the “rarest of rare” criteria, which has long been invoked to prevent judges from using the death penalty too frequently or in an arbitrary manner.

via The Links Between the Delhi and Mumbai Rape Cases – India Real Time – WSJ.

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01/04/2014

China charges former senior military officer with graft: Xinhua | Reuters

China has charged former senior army officer Gu Junshan with corruption, state news agency Xinhua said, in what is likely to be the country’s worst military scandal since a vice admiral was jailed for life for embezzlement in 2006.

An unfinished residence which belongs to former People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Gu Junshan is pictured in Puyang, Henan province January 19, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

In a renewed campaign on graft, Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to go after both powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies”, warning that the issue is so severe it threatens the ruling Communist Party’s survival.

Gu has been charged with corruption, taking bribes, misuse of public funds and abuse of power, Xinhua said on one of its official microblogs on Monday. He will be tried by a military court, it added.

Three sources with ties to the leadership or military, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gu also sold military positions.

Gu has been under investigation for corruption since he was sacked as deputy director of the logistics department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2012, sources have said.

Sources told Reuters this month that Xu Caihou, 70, who retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year and from the Communist Party’s decision-making politburo in 2012, was under virtual house arrest while helping in the probe into Gu.

As one of Gu’s main supporters in his rise through the ranks, Xu is being implicated in ignoring, or at least failing to report, Gu’s alleged misdeeds.

Reuters has not been able to reach either Xu or Gu for comment. It is not clear if they have lawyers.

via China charges former senior military officer with graft: Xinhua | Reuters.

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30/03/2014

Accomplished women in India face higher risk of domestic violence: study | India Insight

Women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or are the sole earners in their families face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who are more dependent on their partners, according to a new study.

Much of India is still deeply patriarchal and there are wide gaps in the status of men and women. And this form of violence could be a way for men to reassert their power or maintain social control over their wives to preserve the “status quo” in the relationship, said the study’s author Abigail Weitzman.

Weitzman, a graduate student at New York University, looked at data from the female-only module of India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) collected between 2005 and 2006, concentrating on married women.

The study found that compared to women less educated than their husbands, women with more education face 1.4 times the risk of violence from their partners, 1.54 times the risk of frequent violence, and 1.36 times the risk of severe violence.

The study appeared in the latest issue of the Population and Development Review, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Population Council, an international non-profit organization that conducts research on development issues.

“The result of such violent responses may in turn prevent some women from pursuing employment or greater earnings opportunities either because they have been injured or because the material benefits of such opportunities no longer outweigh the physical costs at home,” the study said.

via Accomplished women in India face higher risk of domestic violence: study | India Insight.

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