Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

22/10/2014

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Gets a Toehold in China – Businessweek

In its quest to dominate the social media industry worldwide, Facebook (FB) has long hankered after China, where the company been been banned since 2009. Facebook may have just gained a foothold to help it infiltrate the Chinese market: the appointment of Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to the board of one of China’s top business schools, the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.

Tsinghua University in Beijing

Tsinghua University announced Zuckerberg’s appointment on Monday to the school’s board, a meeting ground of sorts for Western corporate higher-ups and Chinese officials. In addition to Zuckerberg and top brass from IBM (IBM) , Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), and other multinationals, it includes Chinese government officials and entrepreneurs tasked with advising Tsinghua SEM’s development.

To the business school, Zuckerberg is an impressive name to add to a cadre of corporate superpowers. To Zuckerberg, who will fly to Beijing this week to attend the school’s annual board meeting, the appointment could provide an additional way for Facebook to make its case for reentering China, analysts say.

via Facebook’s Zuckerberg Gets a Toehold in China – Businessweek.

21/10/2014

China likely to close ‘gift’ loophole in corruption fight | Reuters

China’s largely rubber stamp parliament is likely to close a loophole when it meets next week to ban officials from getting around corruption allegations by claiming money received was simply a gift, a state-run newspaper said on Tuesday.

Currently, officials can defend themselves from accusations of receiving bribes by saying money or other goods received, like luxury watches or bags, were just a present from a friend, the official China Daily reported.

It is only considered a crime if a link can be made to some sort of abuse of power, it said.

President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping campaign against deep-seated graft since assuming office last year, warning, like others before him, that the Communist Party’s very survival is at stake.

Xi has vowed to take down high-flying “tigers” as well as lowly “flies” in an anti-graft campaign that has felled Zhou Yongkang, once the powerful domestic security tsar, as well as Jiang Jiemin, the former top regulator of state-owned firms.

The gift rules will probably be changed at a regular meeting of the National People’s Congress opening on Oct. 27, the newspaper said.

“The draft is likely to deem that accepting gifts or money of a considerable amount would be punishable for all government officials,” it added.

“The draft proposal will discuss the possibility of handing down punishment to public servants for accepting goods or money of a certain amount without a direct link to misconduct.”

The amendment is almost certain to be approved as state media generally does not flag such changes if they are not going to be passed.

Under the present system, gifts are meant to be handed over to the government within a month of being received, and some provinces have even set up special bank accounts to handle such money, the newspaper said.

via China likely to close ‘gift’ loophole in corruption fight | Reuters.

21/10/2014

China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters

China’s leadership unveiled a blueprint for some of the most comprehensive economic and social reforms in nearly 30 years in November 2013.

Implementation since then has been slow but steady. China has eschewed riskier, game-changing reform but the incremental steps aim to reach enough critical mass to sustain momentum and help the world’s second-largest economy shift down fairly smoothly after decades of investment-fueled growth.

The following are some of the significant steps taken since the Communist Party Central Committee’s Nov 9-12 policy conclave:

OCTOBER, 2014

Oct 16 – The top economic planner is considering tightening rules for bond issues, according to traders and a leaked document.

Oct 11 – The State Council says it will institute a resource tax on coal while eliminating other taxes to simplify the tax structure.

Oct 9 – China levies tariffs on coal imports in a move to reduce the country’s dependence on the polluting energy source.

SEPTEMBER, 2014

Sept 9 – Domestic firms in many areas no longer require government approval to invest overseas but must register their investments with authorities starting Oct 6.

Sept 1 – The budget law is revised to allow local governments to issue bonds directly.

AUGUST, 2014

Aug 29 – The Politburo approves salary cuts for top officials at big state-owned firms to counter graft and income inequality.

Aug 26 – China cuts on-grid prices of thermal electricity from Sept. 1 to reflect a fall in coal prices.

Aug 20 – The government cuts taxes on high-tech companies, abolishes the need for firms to seek approvals in 68 further areas and additionally allows lower levels of government to approve business projects in 19 other areas.

Aug 15 – China eliminates 21 approval processes for a list of industries and lower levels of government are given the right to approve certain projects in an effort to cut red tape.

Aug 12 – China will raise natural gas prices for bulk buyers and non-residential use from Sept. 1 in an effort to reform pricing.

Aug 4 – Foreign firms in China are allowed to use their registered capital to buy stakes in other Chinese companies.

JULY, 2014

July 15 – The state-owned enterprise regulator chooses six state firms to test out reforms expanding the role of private capital in China’s state sector.

July 14 – China loosens currency controls to make it easier for domestic companies and individuals to set up special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for investments overseas.

July 2 – Banks are allowed to set their own exchange rates for the yuan against the dollar in over-the-counter deals with clients.

JUNE, 2014

June 27 – Regulators lower the threshold for banks to enter the foreign exchange market and removes a layer of approvals.

June 25 – China gives the greenlight to three banks wholly funded with capital from private firms, to be the country’s first private lenders.

MAY, 2014

May 21 – The experiment for China’s first municipal bond market is launched.

May 21 – Private firms are invited to invest in 80 major projects in the energy, information and infrastructure sectors.

May 16 – Financial regulators tighten oversight of interbank loans.

May 16 – China sets up international energy trading center where crude oil futures will be traded for the first time.

May 15 – Securities firms get the go-ahead to expand into new businesses such as the online financial services market.

May 6 – State-owned enterprises to increase dividend payouts by 5 percentage points to up to 25 percent of their profits.

APRIL, 2014

April 23 – Premier Li Keqiang says China will allow private investment in 80 projects in energy, information and infrastructure.

April 22 – Changes to the environmental law seeking stiffer penalties for polluters submitted to parliament.

April 11 – Chinese firms can invest up to $1 billion overseas without seeking approval, China’s top planner says.

April 10 – China allows cross-border stock investment between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

April 9 – The government relaxes price controls over non-public hospital services.

April 2 – The government says will fast-track some spending and cut taxes for small firms, as a way of supporting the weakening economy.

MARCH, 2014

March 31 – Britain and China sign an agreement to set up a clearing service for offshore yuan trading in London. That follows a similar agreement with Germany.

March 24 – China simplifies review procedures for mergers and acquisitions.

March 21 – The securities regulator issues rules for a pilot program allowing listed companies to issue preferred shares.

March 20 – The foreign exchange regulator relaxes curbs on foreign investment in China’s stock market.

March 20 – PetroChina, China’s biggest oil and gas producer, is welcoming private investment into oil and gas pipelines in China, according to chairman Zhou Jiping.

March 20 – China lifts ban on equity financing for listed property developers after four years.

March 16 – China sets 2020 targets for urban population growth and registered urban residents.

March 15 – The central bank doubles the yuan currency’s daily trading band against the dollar.

March 11 – Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan says China’s deposit rates should be liberalized in one to two years.

March 11 – Development of 3-5 privately-owned banks to be tested in Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong, bank regulator says.

March 11 – The cabinet outlines its healthcare reform plan.

March 7 – Loss-making solar equipment maker misses interest payment in China’s first domestic bond default.

March 5 – Premier Li Keqiang promises to wage a “war” on pollution and reduce the pace of investment to a decade-low.

March 1 -Simplified corporate capital registration comes into force. Government data later show 309,500 new firms were registered in March, up 46 percent from a year earlier.

FEBRUARY, 2014

Feb 26 – Beijing details pension reform that seeks to decrease urban-rural economic divisions before 2020.

Feb 21 – The central bank gives operational details for cross-border yuan deals made through Shanghai free trade zone.

Feb 20 – Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest oil refiner, says it will sell up to 30 percent of its retail business to private investors in a multi-billion dollar revamp.

JANUARY, 2014

Jan 29 – The cabinet sets up a cross-ministry group to boost development of three service zones in Guangdong province.

Jan 22 – Six teams to supervise economic reforms are set up, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in charge.

Jan 17 – China’s wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang became the first to implement changes to the one-child policy.

Jan 6 – The cabinet publishes guidelines strengthening regulation of off-balance lending.

DECEMBER, 2013

Dec 11 – Beijing strips 82 powers away from central government ministries. Over 200 administrative approvals are set to be abolished or delegated to local authorities in 2014.

Dec 10 – New standards on performance ratings of officials break the obsession with growth and include such criteria as work safety, innovation, environmental and resource costs.

Dec 8 – The central bank sets guidelines for issuing of interbank certificates of deposit, a step towards allowing markets to determine interest rates.

Dec 4 – The government expands its value-added tax trial to rail transport and the postal service.

Dec 4 – The central bank announces details of financial reform test runs in the Shanghai free trade zone.

NOVEMBER, 2013

Nov 30 – The stock market regulator announces IPO reforms.

Nov 12 – Anhui province, which spearheaded land reform in 1978 announces pilot land reforms, including accelerating the development of large-scale farming, completing land use rights registration before end-2015 and simplifying land transactions.

via Factbox: China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters.

19/10/2014

Jayaram Jayalalithaa Granted Bail – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Supreme Court Friday granted bail to Jayaram Jayalalithaa, the influential leader of one of India’s biggest regional parties, as she appeals her conviction nearly three weeks after she was sentenced to four years in jail for corruption.

In September, a court in Bangalore found Ms. Jayalalithaa and three of her aides guilty of having accumulated wealth beyond their known sources of income.

On Friday, the Supreme Court granted her “conditional bail on grounds that she is unwell and needs to rest at home,” her party’s spokesman Aspire K. Swaminathan told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

After a case that lasted close to two decades, Ms. Jayalalithaa had to step down immediately from her position as chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu after the September verdict. Her party – the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam– quickly named O. Paneerselvam as her successor as chief minister, she remains the leader of the party and has been in jail in Bangalore since Sept. 27.

Ms. Jayalalithaa denied wrongdoing and appealed for bail in the Karnataka High Court earlier this month on health grounds. But the court rejected her bail plea saying there was no reason to suspend her conviction.

Subramanian Swamy, a petitioner in the case against Ms. Jayalalithaa and a leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said the top court has asked Ms. Jayalalithaa to submit her appeal within two months in the Karnataka High Court, “failing which her bail would be cancelled.”

via Jayaram Jayalalithaa Granted Bail – India Real Time – WSJ.

30/09/2014

Education in China: Online learning is becoming more popular | The Economist

NEARLY 7m students began their courses at Chinese universities at the start of a new academic year this month. In line behind them, a new cohort is already cramming for next year’s university entrance-examination, the notorious gaokao. But some young Chinese see drawbacks in bricks-and-mortar tuition in China because of a rigid style of teaching, the funnelling of students into courses they do not enjoy, the cost and dim job prospects for many graduates. Small but growing numbers are considering options online.

Internet-based methods of teaching, known as Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs, are already gaining in popularity in other countries. Typically, MOOCs offer students free access to instructional videos but charge for certificates showing satisfactory completion of coursework. In China, despite deeply ingrained reverence for traditional institutions, the trend is also beginning to catch on.

One startup in the field is a non-profit organisation in Beijing calling itself One-Man University. It is not officially recognised as a university, but it has gained a big leg-up with backing from non-state companies that see MOOCs as a potentially large new market. To attract viewers, 56.com, a video-streaming website, is distributing the service’s instructional videos without advertisements. Since it opened in 2011, One-Man University has acquired 130,000 registered members.

The organisation’s 27-year-old founder, Tong Zhe, studied physics at Peking University. He decided to offer online courses because he felt that the Chinese approach to higher education was too formulaic. Mr Tong’s 15-minute videos are prepared by professional teachers whose delivery is livelier than what is usually experienced in the dour lecture-halls of Chinese universities. Within three years Mr Tong aims to offer all university and high-school subjects. (The service’s name in Chinese, Wanmen Daxue, is a pun on the English that also means “ten thousand subjects”.)

Universities do not seem opposed to the idea. The principal of Southern University of Science and Technology, Zhu Qingshi, has said of One-Man University: “Education in the internet age can make everyone equal. I believe it will bring a revolution to education.” They are also getting into the business themselves. The government has allowed a first wave of open online courses—such as those provided by Xuetang, a MOOC supported by Tsinghua University—to be hosted on EdX, a non-profit platform, which is sponsored by Harvard and MIT. In May Chen Jin, Nanjing University’s president, said the university intended to work with Coursera, an American MOOC provider which has signed a deal with NetEase, a Chinese distributor, to host online courses.

via Education in China: Online learning is becoming more popular | The Economist.

30/09/2014

Mental Illness in China: Still a Stigma – Businessweek

Of the approximately 173 million people in China estimated to suffer from “a diagnosable psychiatric disorder,” only about 15 million have ever received medical treatment, according to a 2012 paper in the British medical journal Lancet. The country of 1.4 billion people has only about 20,000 psychiatrists, just 4,000 of whom are adequately trained and qualified, according to the journal.

Beijing Begins to Pay Attention to Mental Health Care

Awareness of mental health as a public health issue is still nascent in China, and great stigmas still attach to acknowledging that oneself—or a close family member—may suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or another condition. At the same time, the massive changes associated with China’s rapid urbanization—including millions of children separated from parents who go to work at distant factories—adds enormous psychological strain, according to the journal.

In May 2013, China’s first law to safeguard the medical privacy of people seeking health for mental treatment went into effect. The law also prohibited involuntary treatment of mental illness without the consent of a guardian. In the past, Chinese political dissidents were sometimes labeled as “mentally ill” by authorities, who used this excuse to confine them; human rights activists say this practice has not been totally abolished. Still, despite its flawed enforcement, the American Journal of Psychiatry hailed the new law as “a high-water mark for Chinese psychiatry, and potentially for global mental health.”

via Mental Illness in China: Still a Stigma – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek

The increase in China’s elderly people to more than 200 million has created a host of challenges, from a shrinking labor force to soaring pension needs. But there’s a silver-haired lining.

China's Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion 'Silver Hair' Market

The market of goods and services for China’s rapidly aging population will reach 4 trillion yuan ($652 billion) this year, or eight percent of GDP, according to the “China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry” issued Tuesday in Beijing.

The industry is expected to rise to 106 trillion yuan ($17 trillion) by 2050, amounting to a third of the Chinese economy. That would make it the world’s largest market for the aged. That year China will have 480 million people over 60—one quarter of the world’s elderly—says the report, which was published Sept. 23 by the China National Committee on Aging.

“The silver hair industry has started the rapid booming phase, making it a new promising industry in China,” said Wu Yushao, deputy director of the committee, reports the China Dailytoday. “The major reason for the boom is based on the growing number of aging people.”

Future opportunities to serve the elderly will be clustered in four main fields, the report explains. Those include appliances (to serve the less-mobile elderly, for example), services (such as home care and special transportation), real estate (assisted living centers), and financial services. The latter—insurance and money management for the elderly, for example—will make up the biggest portion of the market and still has lots of room to grow.

While 6.21 million people work in the U.S. financial industry and more than half focus on retirees, China has only 5.27 million, estimates Dang Junwu, deputy head of the Beijing’s Chinese Research Center on Aging. “There has been a huge gap in the financing industry for senior residents between China and the developed countries,” Dang told the English-language paper.

via China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

India Plans to Clean Up for Gandhi’s Birthday – India Real Time – WSJ

On Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a crowd at Madison Square Garden that cleaning up India was his priority.

Mahatma Gandhi never compromised on cleanliness. He gave us freedom. We should give him a clean India,” said Mr. Modi.

To honor Gandhi on the anniversary of his birth on Oct. 2, Mr. Modi earlier this month announced the launch of the Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, Mission. “I myself will set out with a broom and contribute towards this pious task” on Thursday, said Mr. Modi in an official statement. Previously called the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, the program will be restructured into two separate programs for urban and rural India.

Sanitation is one of the most pressing challenges India faces: almost 600 million people defecate in the open in the country.

The movement aims to “create a Clean India” by 2019 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. It’s an ambitious initiative, but viewed as critical to sustainable development in a country that has long ignored the most basic needs of many of its people.

As Oct. 2 draws nearer, millions of people across the country are joining daily the cleanliness drives organized by government departments, nonprofits and local community centers.

But the federal government will carry out the lion’s share of the work. Here’s what it has pledged:

The urban component is expected to cost 620 billion rupees (around $10.1 billion) over 5 years, and includes plans to eliminate open defecation, convert insanitary toilets into pour-flush ones and eradicate manual scavenging.

Manual scavenging — the practice of scraping feces out of primitive dry latrines or collecting waste from fields where villagers relieve themselves — has been illegal for decades but still persists in Indian regions lacking indoor plumbing.

In urban areas, 10 million households will be provided with around half a million public and community toilets and waste management facilities.

In rural India, 1,340 billion rupees (around $21.7 billion) has been pledged to construct around 110 million toilets across the country, said India’s rural development minister in a statement.

That’s a lot of new toilets, which if built could help prevent water-borne diseases like diarrhea, which kills almost 100,000 Indian children each year.

More toilets could also make women in India safer — in June, two teenage girls were assaulted in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh when, lacking toilets, they had gone outside to relieve themselves in the privacy of the darkness.

Mr. Modi has also directed state governments to ensure that all schools have separate toilets for boys and girls by Aug. 2015, according to a government of India press release. Many girls in India quit school when they reach puberty because of a lack of functioning toilets on the premises.

via India Plans to Clean Up for Gandhi’s Birthday – India Real Time – WSJ.

18/09/2014

Chinese Well-Being Is Low, Global Survey Shows – Businessweek

Despite years of rapid economic growth and rising incomes, Chinese aren’t feeling so great about themselves. And Chinese from the countryside are feeling even worse. That’s revealed by a new survey focusing on global well-being, released yesterday for the first time by polling agency Gallup and Healthways (HWAY) in Franklin, Tenn.

The Global Well-Being Index is designed as an alternative to traditional objective measures, such as GDP, life expectancy, and population size, the report explains. Instead, the index, which canvassed 133,000 people in 135 countries and regions, serves as “a global barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their well-being.” It’s important because people with higher well-being are “healthier, more productive, and more resilient in the face of challenges such as unemployment,” the report notes.

To find out just how people feel, the survey looked at five categories of perceived well-being, including financial and physical well-being, but also social well-being (“having supportive relationships and love in your life”), community well-being (“liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community”), and purpose well-being (“liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals”).

So where did the Chinese reveal themselves as particularly glum? On purpose, or feeling motivated every day, 35 percent of Chinese characterized their well-being as low, and 56 percent said it was moderate, while just 9 percent rated it as high. That compared with 13 percent of respondents in Asia who said they had high well-being, and twice as many, or 18 percent, globally.

On social and community well-being, the Chinese also lagged the rest of Asia and the world. And among rural Chinese, far fewer people expressed high satisfaction with their communities than urban Chinese— just 14 percent for those in the countryside, compared to 23 percent in cities. “With better access to education, entertainment, and employment opportunities, it’s not surprising that urban Chinese are more likely to be satisfied with their communities,” the reports says.

That split within China shows up when it comes to financial security, as well. Overall, the Chinese scored highly (Chinese overall also scored well in physical well-being), with 25 percent expressing high financial well-being, the same as the regional and global average. Yet the rate of those with low financial well-being among rural Chinese was twice that of those in Chinese cities, “speaking to China’s ongoing struggle with income inequality that has resulted from rapid growth,” according to the report.

via Chinese Well-Being Is Low, Global Survey Shows – Businessweek.

18/09/2014

Chinese Views of India: Culturally Rich but Backward – China Real Time Report – WSJ

From China’s side of the Himalayas, the view of India isn’t always that great.

“This place is like China from 20 years ago. It’s much, much worse than I’d imagined,” said Tony Jiang, 29, an employee at an electronics-parts maker in Hangzhou visiting New Delhi this week.

Reshma Patil, an Indian journalist who spent more than three years based in Beijing reporting on China for the Hindustan Times newspaper, writes in a recently published book that Chinese she met tended to view India as poor and unsanitary.

In “Strangers Across the Border: Indian Encounters in Boomtown China,” Ms. Patil argues that ties between the two countries are hampered by their citizens’ mutual ignorance of each other.

A survey by the Pew Research Center published this year found that 30% of Chinese have a “favorable” view of India and 55% an “unfavorable” one. By contrast, 50% of Chinese have a favorable view of the U.S., according to Pew. Just 8% of Chinese hold a favorable view of Japan.

More Chinese are getting first-hand knowledge by visiting India as tourists or on business trips.

But the numbers are still small. India’s Ministry of Tourism says that about 175,000 Chinese tourists visited India in 2013, a 46% increase from around 120,000 in 2010. Tourism experts say China’s newly affluent prefer traveling to Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

India Real Time interviewed some Chinese visitors to India to get their impressions of the country as the two nations focus on bolstering ties that have long been strained by territorial disputes. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India on Wednesday for a three-day trip aimed at deepening economic relations.

For some Chinese, the allure of India is its cultural heritage, especially its connection to Buddhism.

Mario Tang, a 26-year-old store manager from Shanghai who traveled across north India, said he came to see India’s centuries old history — against the advice of family and friends.

“My parents thought I was crazy. Most people I know think India is a poor, dirty, backward place,” Mr. Tang said.

He found it magical. “India is one of my favorite places on the planet,” he said. He visited Buddhist holy sites and even took a dip in the Ganges, India’s sacred river. He said Indians he spoke to seemed happy, something he attributed to “the power of belief and culture.”

Di Wenjie, a 32-year-old Chinese magazine editor who has visited India several times, said the country is “beyond imagination and full of color.” She says she studied meditation and yoga and plans to come again soon.

Others take a dimmer view.

“We didn’t have high hopes coming here,” said Mr. Jiang, the electronics-company employee, who was visiting Delhi for a trade fair. “Our impression was that Indian people are dirty and disorderly,” he said, while working on his laptop at a Starbucks in the center of the Indian capital this week.

Mr. Jiang also questioned Indians’ dedication to their jobs. “Indians are still eating breakfast at 10 a.m. Then they go home by 5 to 6 p.m.,” he said. “This is why this country is developing so, so slowly.”

His colleague, Ray Zhang, 28, said that his experience in New Delhi had been “terrible.” But he said he wouldn’t rule out returning to India to see the sights. “I’ve heard a lot about the Taj Mahal,” he said.

via Chinese Views of India: Culturally Rich but Backward – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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