Archive for ‘Technology’

20/11/2014

Fossil-hunting: Bone China | The Economist

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

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

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

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

via Fossil-hunting: Bone China | The Economist.

11/11/2014

COMAC signs deal for 30 C919 jets with China Merchants Bank: source | Reuters

Chinese state-owned plane maker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC) has signed an initial agreement to sell 30 of its C919 single-aisle commercial jets to the financial leasing arm of China Merchants Bank (600036.SS), a person with direct knowledge of the deal told Reuters on Tuesday.

The nose of China's home-grown airliner C919 is unveiled in Chengdu, Sichuan province, July 31, 2014.  REUTERS/China Daily

The order, sealed at China’s premier air industry trade show in Zhuhai, lifts COMAC’s order book for the C919 to 430, mostly from domestic companies. Still in development, the C919 will be the first Chinese-built jet of its type, targeted at eventually competing with Boeing Co (BA.N) and Airbus Group NV (AIR.PA).

Financial terms of the order weren’t disclosed.

via COMAC signs deal for 30 C919 jets with China Merchants Bank: source | Reuters.

11/11/2014

Airbus aims to double China component sourcing value to $1 billion by 2020 | Reuters

European jet maker Airbus Group NV (AIR.PA) aims to double the annual value of aircraft components it sources from China to $1 billion by 2020, the firm’s China Chief Operating Officer, Rafael Gonzalez-Ripoll-Garzon, said on Tuesday.

A flight test engineer holds an Airbus Group flag after the first flight of the Airbus A320neo (New Engine Option) in Colomiers near Toulouse, southwestern France, September 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The Airbus executive’s comment, made on the sidelines of China’s premier airshow in Zhuhai, came as the European firm’s chief rival Boeing (BA.N) said it’s also seeking to ramp up China component sourcing.

Kent Fisher, Boeing Commercial Airplane’s vice-president and general manager of supplier management, said that over the next few years his company is looking to double the $2 billion worth of aircraft parts it has sourced from China in total over the last 30 years. Fisher was speaking at a separate press briefing at the air show and didn’t provide further details.

Boeing also said it had signed a deal with Aviation Industry Corporation of China to produce composite tail parts for the Boeing 777 program, beginning in 2017.

Airbus and Boeing have been competing fiercely in China, which will need over 6,020 new planes worth $870 million the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s latest forecast.

Both have been increasing their sourcing in China, using locally made composite materials and parts like emergency doors in aircraft like the Airbus A330 and Boeing B787 jets.

via Airbus aims to double China component sourcing value to $1 billion by 2020 | Reuters.

11/11/2014

China unveils sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft | Reuters

China unveiled a sophisticated new stealth fighter jet at an air show on Tuesday, a show of muscle during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama for an Asia-Pacific summit.

A J-31 stealth fighter of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force is seen during a test flight ahead of the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

China hopes the much-anticipated J-31 stealth aircraft, developed by the Aviation Industry Corp of China (Avic), the country’s top aircraft maker, will compete with U.S.-made hardware in export markets.

The twin-engine fighter jet was unveiled at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in the southern city of Zhuhai, an annual event at which China shows off its military technology, a Reuters witness said.

The J-31 conducted a demonstration but was not put on display afterwards although a mock-up version was on show.

via China unveils sophisticated stealth fighter aircraft | Reuters.

07/11/2014

Alibaba Looks Ahead to ‘Singles Day’ – Businessweek

So far, Alibaba (BABA) is doing a good job living up to the hype that surrounded its record-setting initial public offering. The Chinese e-commerce company yesterday, Nov. 4, reported its first earnings numbers since its IPO raised a record $25 billion in September, and Alibaba’s sales for the quarter increased 54 percent, to 16.8 billion yuan. Although higher costs for integration of newly acquired businesses and other marketing expenses helped drive its earnings down 39 percent, to 3 billion yuan, that result was still better than many analysts had expected.

Merchandise is prepared for Singles' Day online sales on Nov. 5, 2014 in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, China

“The China retail business is proving to be a powerhouse,” wrote Rob Sanderson, managing director with MKM Partners, in a report published Nov. 4. China’s market, he added, offers “impressive growth even at a very large scale.”

via Alibaba Looks Ahead to ‘Singles Day’ – Businessweek.

28/10/2014

Softbank invests $840M in India tech companies – Businessweek

Japanese telecommunications company Softbank Corp. is investing nearly $840 million in two technology companies in India, eyeing what it sees as a lucrative market for growth.

Softbank said Tuesday it is investing $627 million and becoming the biggest shareholder in Snapdeal, the largest digital marketplace in India with 25 million users and 50,000 businesses. It brings together products from thousands of big and small brands.

The Tokyo-based company, which recently acquired Sprint in the U.S., is also investing $210 million in Ola Cabs, which runs the technology to connect consumers with cab drivers in India.

Softbank executives said they were banking on India because it has a large number of Internet users, the online market is not yet saturated and connection speeds are likely to get faster.

via Softbank invests $840M in India tech companies – Businessweek.

22/10/2014

Boeing and Chinese partner to make jet fuel from ‘gutter oil’ | Reuters

Aircraft makers Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp of China have launched a joint pilot project to turn used cooking oil into jet fuel.

Their plant, based in the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, will be able to convert just under 240,000 litres a year of used cooking oil into fuel, Boeing said in a statement.

The project will allow the two aircraft makers to test the viability of producing biofuel using the cheap and widely available form of cooking waste, referred to in China as “gutter oil“.

Boeing and its Chinese state-owned partner estimate that 1.8 billion litres of fuel could be produced in China a year using gutter oil.

In February, the Civil Aviation Administration of China granted a subsidiary of state-owned behemoth Sinopec Corp a licence to produce jet fuel from used cooking oil.

Gutter oil has long been a public health concern in China due to its widespread use in restaurants. Used cooking oil can contain toxic compounds and is often considered insanitary.

Chinese media reported in 2010 that crime rings were collecting used cooking oil from sewers and drains, rebottling it and selling it as new.

Over the past two years, dozens of people have been given lengthy prison sentences for the scam, which has made many Chinese in major cities sick. Last year one man was sentenced to life in prison for making and trafficking gutter oil.

via Boeing and Chinese partner to make jet fuel from ‘gutter oil’ | Reuters.

21/10/2014

China to pitch high-speed trains to California | Reuters

State-backed China CNR Corporation is making a pitch to sell its high-speed trains to California, signaling China’s growing export ambitions for such technology after building the world’s longest network in just seven years.

A high-speed train travelling to Guangzhou is seen running on Yongdinghe Bridge in Beijing, December 26, 2012. REUTERS/China Daily

It marks the first concrete attempt by China to sell high-speed locomotives abroad and establish itself as a credible rival to sector leaders such as Germany’s Siemens, Canada’s Bombardier and Japan’s Kawasaki.

CNR, its unit Tangshan Railway and U.S.-based SunGroup USA are submitting an expression of interest to California’s $68 billion high-speed rail project for a contract to supply up to 95 trains that can travel as fast as 354 kilometers per hour (221 miles per hour), SunGroup told Reuters.

via China to pitch high-speed trains to California | Reuters.

19/10/2014

Costco Gets Into China via Alibaba’s Tmall Website – Businessweek

Attention, China: Costco is coming. To Tmall, at least.

The U.S. retailer has teamed up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) to sell products on the Tmall website. Food and health products will show up first, including many from Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland. Flat-screen TVs and weird exercise contraptions won’t be far behind.

Costco (COST) doesn’t have physical stores in China. In fact, it has precious few in Asia at large. There are 19 Costco warehouses in Japan, 11 in Korea, and 10 in Taiwan.

The Internet is a relatively easy way enter a new market. But Costco doesn’t do too much of that either. China will be the fourth country where the retailer takes Internet orders, in addition to Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. In Costco’s five other locales, it’s strictly on-floor shopping. All told, Costco gets less than 3 percent of its revenue from online sales, according to its most recent financial update.

Tmall—and China in general—offer something Costco requires: volume. With incredibly slim margins on merchandise (and sometimes no margin at all), Costco only makes a profit on membership fees. Those won’t be required for shopping on Tmall, according to Alibaba.

In other words, the entire country of China may be a loss leader—at least until the warehouses start popping up.

via Costco Gets Into China via Alibaba’s Tmall Website – Businessweek.

02/10/2014

China’s $163 Billion R&D Budget – Businessweek

The amount of money China spends annually on research and development has tripled since 1995—reaching $163 billion in 2012, or 1.98 percent of GDP. As China cracks down on corruption elsewhere in government, so too has Xi Jinping’s administration turned greater attention to curtailing massive graft in research fields—including arresting top scientists and administrators suspected of skimming off the top. In June, for instance, Song Maoqiang, former dean of Beijing University of Posts & Telecommunications’ school of computer science and technology, was given a harsh 10-year prison term for embezzling $110,000 in research funds.

One component of China’s campaign to clean up corruption is requiring central government agencies to disclose their annual research budgets. In the Aug. 29 issue of the journal Science, two researchers—based at China’s Dalian University of Technology and the U.K.’s University of Nottingham—mined and compiled available budget information to “open [up] the ‘black box’ of China’s government R&D expenditures.”

Three agencies—the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC)—together were responsible for distributing nearly three-quarters of China’s research spending in 2011. The agencies dole out grants through both competitive, peer-reviewed proposal processes (sometimes aimed at achieving national goals or research priorities) and through more inscrutable, contract-based research. In general, the latter is more susceptible to corruption. Defense-related research usually falls into this category.

After combing through extensive records only recently made public, the Science authors, Yutao Sun and Cong Cao, could still not fully determine where all of Beijing’s research money has gone. “Slightly less than half (45.25%) of the central government R&D spending in 2011 is not accounted for,” they write, speculating that it is “likely spent at eight defense-related agencies that have not yet disclosed [their department annual reports].”

The authors calculate that in 2011, China devoted 4.7 percent and 11.8 percent of its total R&D budget to basic and applied research, respectively. That is a much lower percentage than in countries whose science and technology achievements Beijing hopes one day to rival, including the U.S. and Japan. In 2009, the U.S. spent 19.7 percent and 17.8 percent of total R&D budget on basic and applied research, respectively, and Japan spent 12.5 percent and 22.4 percent. “The low share of scientific research expenditure has negatively affected China’s innovation capability and may jeopardize China’s ambition to become an innovation-oriented nation,” the authors conclude.

via China’s $163 Billion R&D Budget – Businessweek.

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