Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

25/07/2014

What Happened to India’s Girls? A New U.N. Report On Sex Selection Offers Some Answers – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s census data consistently shows two things: the country’s inexorably expanding population and its deep preference for sons over daughters.

A new United Nations study takes a deep look at how parents keep choosing boys over girls, despite laws that seek to block the use of ultrasounds and other pre-natal tests to determine the sex of an unborn child.

India’ child sex ratio – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 — has deteriorated sharply over the past 20 years, dropping to 918 in 2011 from 945 in 1991.

India’s sex gap “demonstrates that the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” said Lakshmi Puri, an Indian who is a U.N. assistant secretary general.

Here are five significant takeaways from the U.N. study, written by Mary E. John, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for Women’s Development Studies.

Improvements in the Overall Sex Ratio are More Nuanced Than You Think

Since 1991, the number of women per 1,000 men has been rising, though it remains far below normal. In 1991, there were 927 women for every 1,000 men. In 2011, the year of the most recent census, that number had risen to 943. The U.N. study argues that much of the improvement isn’t because fewer girls are being born and surviving into adulthood. In India, in the past, women had a shorter life expectancy than men – unlike the situation in most of the rest of the world. That has changed. Indian women now outlive men, in part because of lifestyle changes and “diseases that take a greater toll on” men.

via What Happened to India’s Girls? A New U.N. Report On Sex Selection Offers Some Answers – India Real Time – WSJ.

23/07/2014

China’s Next Great Water Project Uproots More Than 330,000 – Businessweek

China’s track record for forced relocations that accompany large infrastructure projects is dismal. Many of the 1.3 million people relocated during the construction of Three Gorges Dam in the 1990s and early 2000s were moved from ancestral villages and farmland, where they could profitably grow crops, to newly (often shoddily) built apartments, with no job training or employment help. The result: vanished earnings and increased social dislocation.

A child standing next to his family's possessions as residents in central China's Henan province make way for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project in 2010

So far, it appears that the relocation of more than 330,000 people during the ongoing construction of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project is somewhat better planned, although still deeply flawed. Beijing News looked at the fate of approximately 70,000 people relocated from homes in Hubei Province for the construction of the middle leg of the project, which aims to redirect water from China’s lush south to its arid north. The local government seems to be more aware of the importance of protecting migrants’ livelihoods, but that awareness hasn’t yielded simple solutions.

“It isn’t easy to tell people they must leave their homes,” Gufang Yan, a staffer at the Nanzhang Bureau of Immigration, told the newspaper. “Nobody gave us information about how to find a job; we did not know anything about recruitment,” said a man named Chen Yan, who was relocated for the project four years ago. He eventually managed to find work near his new home repairing cars, and he learned on the job.

via China’s Next Great Water Project Uproots More Than 330,000 – Businessweek.

22/07/2014

China food scandal spreads, drags in Starbucks, Burger King and McNuggets in Japan | Reuters

The latest food scandal in China is spreading fast, dragging in U.S. coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King Worldwide Inc and others, as well as McDonald’s products as far away as Japan.

The logo of a Starbucks coffee shop is seen in New York June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

McDonald’s Corp and KFC’s parent Yum Brands Inc apologized to Chinese customers on Monday after it emerged that Shanghai Husi Food Co Ltd, a unit of U.S.-based OSI Group LLC, had supplied expired meat to the two chains.

On Tuesday, Starbucks said some of its cafes previously sold products containing chicken originally sourced from Shanghai Husi, a firm that was shut down on Sunday by local regulators after a TV report showed staff using expired meat and picking up meat from the floor to add to the mix.

A Tokyo-based spokesman at McDonald’s Holdings Co (Japan) Ltd said the company had sourced about a fifth of its Chicken McNuggets from Shanghai Husi and had halted sales of the product on Monday. Alternative supplies of chicken have been found in Thailand and China, he added. The company’s shares briefly fell as much as 1.4 percent to a 15-month low before closing down 0.4 percent.

China’s food watchdog said it ordered regional offices to carry out spot checks on all firms which had used Shanghai Husi products, and would inspect all of parent OSI’s sites around China to see if enough has been done to ensure food safety. It said the case could be handed over to the police.

The regulator’s Shanghai branch said in a statement on Tuesday it had demanded production, quality control and sales records from OSI. It added it already ordered McDonald’s to seal over 4,500 boxes of suspected meat products and Yum’s Pizza Hut to seal over 500 boxes of beef.

Fast-food chain Burger King and Dicos, China’s third-ranked fast food chain owned by Ting Hsin International, said they would remove Shanghai Husi food products from their outlets. Pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc said on its Weibo blog that it had taken down all meat products supplied by Shanghai Husi and cut ties with the supplier.

via China food scandal spreads, drags in Starbucks, Burger King and McNuggets in Japan | Reuters.

21/07/2014

To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ

One major question hovering over China’s anti-corruption campaign – already the longest the country has ever seen — is when it’s going to wind down.

According to anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan, who briefed fellow officials on the campaign last week (in Chinese), it won’t be any time soon.

And the major reason for that may well be that Beijing hasn’t yet figured out how to end it.

Wang laid out the anti-corruption strategy in unusual detail during these meetings, supplying a road map that outlined where the campaign had been and where it’s now headed (in Chinese).

Beijing’s anti-graft crusade isn’t just a one-off initiative, but an extended battle which began last year, taking down, as President Xi promised, both high-ranking “tigers” and lower-level “flies.”

And it’s accelerating.  According to an analysis that appeared on the website of the People’s Daily earlier this month, from January to May this year, Wang’s inspection teams disciplined 62,953 people, an increase of 34.7% over the same period the previous year (in Chinese).

In his briefing last week, Wang conceded that the campaign didn’t start all that well.  Indeed, in the early stages of the campaign, Wang said, the sense among his inspection teams was that corruption was buried so deep within China’s political marrow that it couldn’t be defeated, only deterred from growing.  Party officials were only too comfortable with political business as usual, where bribes and personal connections overrode considerations of actual talent when it came to selecting and promoting cadres.

“Some localities and departments, as well as some party organizations saw the pursuit of honest government as not their main responsibility,” Wang said, adding that the only option at that point was to “not allow corrupt elements to gain a foothold” in the few institutions where corruption was not already omnipresent.

The tide turned, he said, when cadres were finally given political cover by Beijing to report on their comrades engaging in corruption, especially those selling access to government officials and offering bribes for promotion.  That routine had become worrisome to Beijing because unqualified and immoral officials were becoming policy-makers.

Moreover, Wang argued, by focusing on specific areas known to be rife with graft—such as land development and real estate projects, mining rights, and public welfare funds—inspectors showed skeptics and potential targets that this campaign was a serious effort to rollback misconduct.

So what’s next?

That’s the tricky part.  Punishing corruption is one thing; preventing its reemergence could be a far-greater problem.  As one Chinese analyst admitted despondently in the pages of the People’s Daily (in Chinese), unless the system is thoroughly reformed, there’s a good chance that “the rot will come back.”

Continuing to press hard against corruption seems to make sense if Beijing’s expanding fight against graft is finally starting to show success and developing the party’s legitimacy as a problem-solver on issues that matter to the masses. But there’s also concern about just how much longer the campaign can be maintained when, as the analysis above notes, there is “a danger of overdoing something, leaving some people in a constant state of anxiety.”

Fear is evidently freezing some officials from becoming more actively engaged in supporting Xi’s call for changes in how the government operates—a passivity that has led to complaints in the Party media (in Chinese).

And there’s a greater danger:  That this effort to tear down corruption is simply dealing with the existing problems and not doing anything about building a new way of decision-making.

As a leading Chinese commentator on the current leadership’s policies put it in the same People’s Daily essay, the real need is “to create a good political environment, allowing officials to devote oneself, heart and soul, to do things, and not focus on the small circle of relationships one has with one’s superiors, doing always what one is told to do.”

That’s an attractive vision, but one that would require a major restructuring of politics in China.

via To No End: Why China’s Corruption Crackdown Won’t Be Stopping Soon – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

17/07/2014

Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post

A mainland regional official was sentenced to life imprisonment today for bribe-taking, a court said, the first high-ranking bureaucrat to be jailed in the corruption crackdown overseen by President Xi Jinping.

afp_emblem_wangsuyi-0717-1.jpg

Wang Suyi, 53, was last year removed from his post as chief of the Communist party’s United Front Work Department in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, an agency that liaises between the ruling organisation and non-communist groups.

He was convicted of bribery and sentenced to life in prison by the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing, the court said on its official account on Weibo.

He was charged with taking more than 10.73 million yuan (HK$13.5 million) in bribes between 2005 and last year in exchange for securing business deals for companies and promotions for individuals, earlier local media reports said.

Wang was the first official to face criminal trial among the 40 of vice-ministerial or higher rank investigated since China’s once-in-a-decade power transition in 2012 that anointed Xi as chief of the ruling Communist Party, according to the reports.

The South China Morning Post previously quoted a senior editor with a regional party newspaper as saying that Wang’s mistresses accused him of taking 100 million yuan in bribes, and of nepotism involving about 30 relatives.

Xi took office as president last year and has vowed to root out corrupt officials, warning that graft could destroy the ruling party.

Corruption causes widespread public anger in China and the drive has been widely touted.

At least 10 mainland provinces have launched investigations to track down so-called “naked officials”, those whose relatives have moved abroad, and the party is increasingly punishing members on charges of “adultery”, as it tries to clean up cadres’ reputation for corruption and womanising.

But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to combat it, while citizen activists calling for such measures have been jailed on public order offences.

via Ex-Mongolia party officer gets life imprisonment for taking millions in bribes | South China Morning Post.

17/07/2014

Four of every 10 Asians living with HIV are Indian – U.N. report – India Insight

India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, with 2.1 million Indians accounting for four of every 10 people infected in Asia, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday.

People walk near a red ribbon sand sculpture created by Indian sand artist Patnaik on the eve of World AIDS Day in Odisha

The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected worldwide since it began in the 1980s, the U.N. AIDS programme said, adding that the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising around 35 million.

Here are some facts and figures on India from the report:

India accounted for 51 percent of AIDS-related deaths in Asia in 2013 and 8 percent of deaths worldwide.

via India Insight.

15/07/2014

One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post

An explosion rocked the car park of Xining’s main airport today, state media reported. One person was injured by shrapnel, according to the authorities.

xining_blast-net.jpg

Police and bomb experts rushed to the scene within minutes of the blast and cordoned off the area around the busy Caojiapu (variably spelled as Caojiabao) airport.

One cleaner was hit when the object detonated in the lot just outside the terminal, the China West Airport Group said in a press statement at 4pm.

According to Chinanews.com, the staff was hit by a piece of glass and was sent to hospital.

Airport operations were not affected, the airport authority said. Cars in the parking lot were moved to other areas to clear the scene.

The Qinghai public security bureau and armed police are now conducting further investigation.

The explosives were concealed in a rubbish bin at the corner of the car park, according to the China Youth Daily.

A person surnamed Bao working for the public security bureau of Haidong prefecture near Xining told the South China Morning Post that the bureau’s command centre were not informed of the blast as yet, but that they would be sending staff to the scene.

“Airport police, anti-terror police, SWAT and paramilitary [officers] have cordoned off the site and are doing further investigation,” Bao said.

The Caojiapu airport is the busiest airport in the Tibet Plateau region. According to the airport’s figures, it handles four million trips a day.

Earlier in June, the airport held an emergency rescue drill – the largest held in the past 10 years – involving firefighters, medical emergency response teams as well as runway and airport maintenance teams.

Clearing explosives was part of the drill.

via One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post.

08/07/2014

China to prepare for aging society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

Ten ministerial-level departments, including the ministries of civil affairs and education, on Monday jointly released a circular calling for the country to prepare for the coming aging society.

Old Couple

Old Couple (Photo credit: AdamCohn)

The circular stressed the importance of building an elder-friendly society as the percentage of the senior population is rising quickly.

China’s aging citizens reached 200 million at the end of 2013 and will account for more than 30 percent of the country’s total population by 2042, according to the circular.

Government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should carry out more voluntary services for the elderly and encourage the young generation to be more aware of seniors’ needs and concerns.

The circular also called for accelerating development of industries serving the demands and convenience of the elderly, such as nursing homes and adult education classes, the circular said.

Elderly citizens should not be regarded as burdens but valuable human resources for the sustainable growth of the economy, according to the circular.

The public sector will encourage the elderly to participate in various social activities, such as teaching in schools or helping with scientific research, in order to give them a sense of satisfaction while also promoting social harmony and the economy.

The circular also emphasized establishment of a national elderly care system, strengthening social security for the elderly and improving laws that protect the rights and interests of senior citizens.

via China to prepare for aging society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

08/07/2014

China’s Communist Party Reminds Colleges: Keep it Clean – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The chiefs of some of China’s most prestigious universities last week reported to their version of the principal’s office: the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The party-appointed heads of 26 top Chinese colleges and universities were reminded at a meeting last week of their obligations to run honest institutions, according to the commission. The commission, which acts as the internal party watchdog, said the officials signed a clean-governance pledge before the Ministry of Education’s top official, Yuan Guiren, and that several more will do so later this month.

The reminder follows corruption probes by party officials into China’s energy business and the military, where suspicion of corrupt acts has landed numerous officials in detention. Last week, the party booted a former top general from its ranks ahead of prosecution, which analysts described as the most significant takedown since Chinese President Xi Jinping became the party leader in late 2012.

The university sector is getting treated with kid gloves by comparison, based on Tuesday’s statement.

Global corruption watchdog Transparency International alleges universities in many nations are hotbeds for corruption simply because the institutions typically absorb so much of the public purse. In China, it isn’t unusual for government inspectors and the party to remove selected university administrators on allegations of corruption – including bribery related to attending them — but one critic has recently told The Wall Street Journal that such moves represent only the tip of the iceberg.

A separate report this week from China’s party watchdog said that Shanghai’s Fudan University runs business activity that could lead to malfeasance. The school’s party secretary, Zhu Zhiwen, pledged to rectify the problems to avoid possible corruption, according to a summary of the findings published on the school’s website.

Fudan illustrates the challenge. With modest beginnings 109 years ago as a public school that would invite students to seize the dawn – as the Chinese characters of its name denote – Fudan has blossomed into a sprawling institution with over 30,000 students, multiple campuses and 11 affiliated hospitals.

Fudan’s business, the party commission said, exhibited cases of chaotic spending of scientific research funds, mismanaged infrastructure development and poor supervision of school-owned companies during its study earlier this year.

To consider their clean-up challenges, the university’s party administrators are being asked to stand in the corner.

via China’s Communist Party Reminds Colleges: Keep it Clean – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

01/07/2014

A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist

IN THE 1990s China had one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Young rural women in particular were killing themselves at an alarming rate. In recent years, however, China’s suicides have declined to among the lowest rates in the world.

In 2002 the Lancet, a British medical journal, said there were 23.2 suicides per 100,000 people annually from 1995 to 1999. This year a report by a group of researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that had declined to an average annual rate of 9.8 per 100,000 for the years 2009-11, a 58% drop.

Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong and a co-author of the recent study, says no country has ever achieved such a rapid decline in suicides. And yet, experts say, China has done it without a significant improvement in mental-health services—and without any national publicity effort to lower suicides.

The most dramatic shift has been in the figures for rural women under 35. Their suicide rate appears to have dropped by as much as 90%. The Lancet study in 2002 estimated 37.8 per 100,000 of this age group committed suicide annually in 1995-99. The new study says this declined to just over three per 100,000 in 2011. Another study of suicides, covering 20 years in one province, Shandong, found a decline of 95% among rural women under 35, to 2.6 suicides per 100,000 in 2010—and a 68% drop in suicides among all rural women.

Scholars suspect that the number of suicides is underreported in official figures (the official suicide rate nationally was 6.9 per 100,000 in 2012) and they make adjustments for that in their calculations. But in several studies, as well as in official data, the long-term decline in suicides has been marked across the spectrum, in rural and urban areas and among men and women from almost all age groups. The only notable exception is the suicide rate among the elderly, which declined overall but has crept back up in recent years, a worrying trend in a rapidly ageing society.

Two intertwined social forces are driving the reduction: migration and the rise of an urban middle class. Moving to the cities to work, even if to be treated as second-class citizens when they get there, has been the salvation of many rural young women, liberating them from parental pressures, bad marriages, overbearing mothers-in-law and other stresses of poor, rural life. Migrants have also distanced themselves from the easiest form of rural suicide, swallowing pesticides, the chosen method in nearly 60% of rural cases, and often done impulsively. The reduction in toxicity of pesticides has helped as well.

Jing Jun, a sociologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, notes that the increase in migration to the cities fits with the decline in rural suicides (see chart). Since rural dwellers accounted for most suicides, so the national rate has fallen, too. In 20 years, as the population went from mostly rural to more than half urban, the official national suicide rate dropped by 63%.

Suicides among urban residents are also dropping, suggesting other causes, too. Chinese newspapers frequently carry dramatic photos of suicidal people being rescued from window ledges and rooftops (like the woman in our picture). But the University of Hong Kong researchers found that urban suicides had dropped to 5.3 per 100,000 between 2002 and 2011, a fall of 59%. The simplest explanation is that, in spite of concerns about pollution, food safety and property prices, living standards and general satisfaction with urban life have gone up. Mr Jing also believes that, as in the countryside, the atomisation of extended families has reduced the family conflicts that can lead to suicides.

via A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist.

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