Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

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.

17/09/2014

Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

Twenty-four percent has cited the credibility deficit of the government as a main reason behind the lack of trust in Chinese society, according to a survey conducted by People’s Tribune, a magazine of People’s Daily.

Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese societyThe survey finds more than 80 percent of respondents think of Chinese society as “sub-healthy” and 40.4 percent  believe that a crisis of credibility is sickening society.

The “symptoms” are, in order, distrust in “whatever the government says”, “distrust between people’, “doubt over food and medicine safety” and distrust in “doctors’ professional ethics”.

A lack of faith is the most recognized problem in the survey. When asked to choose which group suffers the most from the symptom, more than half of the respondents chose government officials. In a report of the People’s tribute, the choice was referred to a recent case of the self-styled “qigong master” Wang Lin, who claimed to have supernatural powers. He has been put under the spotlight after his photos with many government officials and celebrities were published online last summer.

The superstition in officialdom mirrors corruption in the government, the report said. In terms of the reason behind the loss of faith, some 50 percent of netizens cited “unethical behaviors have gone unpunished”, while 20.8 percent blame the “mercenary” market economy.

Extreme, violent and anti-social behaviors have been chosen by nearly one third of the netizens as another major illness of society, with the “disadvantaged groups” as the most obvious example. “The growing social inequality and feeling of deprivation” have been cited as the main causes.

The full list of responses of the survey

1 Lack of faith

2 “Bystander attitude”or being indifferent

3 Anxiety over work, life and future

4 Habitual distrust

5 Ostentatiousness

6 Reveling in scandals

7 Hedonism

8 Extreme, violent and anti-social behaviors

9 Addiction to the Internet

10 Masochism, complaints about the Party and state system

via Survey shows 10 problems of Chinese society – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

15/09/2014

Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re tired of walking behind someone who’s trudging along as they text, has this Chinese city got the sidewalk for you.

Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”

On Monday, Weibo users reacted to the news with a mixture of amusement and scorn. “It’s such a lazy design. Shouldn’t the cellphone lane be placed [farther from the road]? It is not practical at all,” wrote one user.

Another dismissed the innovation, writing, “It’s just another imitation of foreign inventions,” the user wrote, referring to a similar experiment launched in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. “Besides, it seems only to be serving as a tourist attraction,” the user wrote of the road, which is located in a Chongqing tourist area called “Foreign Street Park.”

Still another wondered whether the road would make anything safer. “Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?”

via Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

12/09/2014

Soft power: Confucius says | The Economist

“HARMONY is the most valuable of all things,” said the Chinese philosopher Confucius two and a half millennia ago. There is little of it in evidence in the frosty relationship between the woman who was the founding director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Oregon, Bryna Goodman, and her fellow historian, Glenn May. Their offices are separated by a ten-second walk, but the scholars do not exchange visits. Their palpable ill feeling reflects growing discord among Western scholars about a decade-old push by China to open government-funded cultural centres in schools and universities abroad. Intended to boost China’s “soft power”, the centres take the name of the peace-espousing sage. They tap into growing global demand for Chinese-language teaching. But they are also fuelling anxiety about academic freedom.

In America the Confucius programme has been widely welcomed by universities and school districts, which often do not have enough money to provide Chinese-language teachers for all who need them. But critics like Mr May believe China’s funding comes at a price: that Confucius Institutes (as those established on university campuses are known) and school-based Confucius Classrooms restrain freedom of speech by steering discussion of China away from sensitive subjects.

In June the American Association of University Professors called for universities to end or revise their contracts with Confucius Institutes (America has 100 of them) because they “function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom”. Mr May has been asking the University of Oregon to close its institute, to no avail. Ms Goodman (who is no longer the institute’s director) says that in funding its interests China is like any other donor to American universities. She says that the institutes have become lodestones of what she calls a “China fear”.

When China opened its first Confucius Institute in 2004 in Seoul, it hoped the new effort would prove as uncontroversial as cultural-outreach programmes sponsored by Western governments, such as the British Council, the Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe-Institut. The idea was to counter fears of China’s rise by raising awareness of a culture that is often described by Chinese as steeped in traditions of peace.

Through the Hanban, a government entity, China provides the centres with paid-for instructors and sponsors cultural events at them. Its spending is considerable, and growing rapidly. In 2013 it was $278m, more than six times as much as in 2006. China’s funding for Confucius Institutes amounts to about $100,000-200,000 a year on many campuses, and sometimes more (Oregon received nearly $188,000 in the last academic year). By the end of 2013 China had established 440 institutes and 646 classrooms serving 850,000 registered students. They are scattered across more than 100 countries, with America hosting more than 40% of the combined total. There are plans for another 60 institutes and 350 classrooms to be opened worldwide by the end of 2015.

Chinese officials express satisfaction. In June Liu Yunshan, who is in charge of the Communist Party’s vast propaganda apparatus, said Confucius Institutes had “emerged at the right moment”. He described them as a “spiritual high-speed rail”, promoting friendship by connecting Chinese dreams with those of the rest of the world.

Others are less sanguine, however. In America criticism has recently grown stronger. Earlier this year more than 100 members of the faculty at the University of Chicago complained that Confucius Institutes were compromising academic integrity. In an article published in 2013 by Nation magazine, one of the university’s academics, Marshall Sahlins, listed cases in several countries involving what appeared to be deference to the political sensitivities of Confucius Institutes. These included a couple of occasions when universities had invited the Dalai Lama to speak and then either cancelled the invitation or received him off-campus.

In one case, at North Carolina State University in 2009, the provost said after the cancellation of a Dalai Lama visit that the Confucius Institute had indicated the exiled Tibetan’s presence could cause problems with China. This year Steven Levine, an honorary professor at the University of Montana, wrote to hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world asking them to mark the 25th anniversary in June of the violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests. None of them agreed. Global Times, a Beijing newspaper, recently called the protests of foreign academics “a continuation of McCarthyism”.

Ms Goodman argues that the study of China needs all the funding it can get, even if that means taking money from countries with vital interests at stake—whether China, Taiwan, or the United States. She says that if China were ever to meddle politically in Oregon’s institute, the Confucius programme would be quickly shut down.

Such assurances do not address a big concern of critics—that the political influence of Confucius programmes is often subtle and slow-acting. If the critics are right, it is very subtle indeed. Surveys suggest that in many countries China’s image has not markedly improved over the past decade. The Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, says 42% of Americans viewed China favourably in 2007. Last year only 37% did. The political dividends of China’s soft-power spending are far from obvious.

via Soft power: Confucius says | The Economist.

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