21/03/2015

China’s Coming Education Crisis – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Yao Xinyu, founder of a popular software hosting service called GitCafe, opted not to attend college because he felt he could do a better job teaching himself what he needed to be successful in the real world.

His parents disapproved but he stuck to his guns, studied on his own and built the successful startup after attracting 3 million yuan in capital from Greenwood Asset Management in late 2013. The 24-year old doesn’t see much chance that colleges in China will change to better meet the shifting needs of China’s economy, he said, since demand is high, their business model is profitable and there’s little incentive to adapt.

“I just decided I knew how to develop my own career,” he added.

One the knottiest problems China faces as its economy slows is a mismatch between people’s education levels and the needs of an economy increasingly reliant on technology and innovation, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development said Friday in a report on China.

China’s productivity is decelerating and it’s important to reverse this “worrisome” trend given the nation’s rapidly aging population and the related prospect of slower rates of savings and investment, the Paris-based organization said.

“The knowledge taught and skills nurtured at school do not sufficiently match labor market needs,” it said. “Workplace training-based vocational education arrangements are woefully inadequate.”

While China has aggressively stepped up its spending on research, this isn’t translating sufficiently into innovation, the 34-member OECD said. China’s spending on research and development hit 2% of gross domestic product in 2013, which is above the European Union average, and has set a target of 2.5% of GDP by 2020. But innovation remains weak as measured by international patenting and trademark registration, the report said. “And the bulk of university research is not relevant for business,” the OECD said.

Many of China’s past gains in productivity were related to capital, but the country’s future focus should be on the economic benefits of better trained workers, said Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Paris-based group. “Productivity, productivity, productivity, it’s not a choice, it’s a must,” he said. “Without it, China’s not going to be able to continue growing at this cruising speed.”

China has targeted economic growth of 7% this year, a reduction from last year’s 7.4% which was its slowest pace in nearly a quarter century.

via China’s Coming Education Crisis – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

21/03/2015

ChemChina close to Pirelli deal that would trigger buyout offer | Reuters

China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) is close to becoming the biggest single shareholder in Pirelli (PECI.MI) in a deal that would trigger a 7 billion euro ($7.5 billion) buyout of the Italian tire company.

The Pirelli logo is pictured at their headquarters in Milan March 18, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Three sources familiar with the deal, which would be the latest in a string of Chinese investments in large Italian companies, said ChemChina was discussing a deal with Pirelli’s top shareholders to buy a holding company called Camfin, which owns 26 percent of Pirelli and is 50 percent owned by Russia’s Rosneft (ROSN.MM).

Without identifying the possible buyer, Camfin said it was in talks with an international industrial group to sell its Pirelli stake at 15 euros per share, valuing the tire group at 7.1 billion euros.

It said the stake would be transferred to a vehicle controlled by the new partner, after which a takeover offer for the rest the world’s fifth-largest tire maker would ensue.

If the offer succeeds, Pirelli will be delisted. The deal comes as Pirelli’s rivals Michelin (MICP.PA) and Continental (CONG.DE) look around for growth opportunities in Asia.

State-controlled ChemChina and Rosneft declined to comment.

Previous Chinese investments in Italy include State Grid Corp of China [STGRD.UL] buying into electricity grid company Terna (TRN.MI) and gas network operator Snam (SRG.MI).

Besides Rosneft, Camfin’s owners are a holding company comprising Pirelli chief Marco Tronchetti Provera as well as Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI) and UniCredit (CRDI.MI).

via ChemChina close to Pirelli deal that would trigger buyout offer | Reuters.

21/03/2015

Top South Korea, Japan, China envoys agree to work for a summit soon | Reuters

The foreign ministers of South Korea, Japan and China agreed on Saturday that a summit meeting of their leaders, on hold for nearly three years because of tensions over history and territory, should be held soon to mend the countries’ ties.

(L-R) Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi make a toast during a banquet at the South Korean Foreign Minister's residence in Seoul March 21, 2015. REUTERS-Kim Hong-Ji

The ministers were meeting, also for the first time in three years, in a bid to restore what had been a regular forum to discuss cooperation until it collapsed over what Seoul and Beijing saw as Japan’s reluctance to own up to its wartime past.

“Based on the accomplishments achieved through this meeting, the three ministers decided to continue their efforts to hold the trilateral summit at the earliest convenient time for the three countries,” a joint statement after the meeting said.

via Top South Korea, Japan, China envoys agree to work for a summit soon | Reuters.

14/03/2015

China’s greener energy efforts help global carbon emissions stall after almost 40 years of gains | South China Morning Post

China burned less coal and generated more electricity from renewable sources last year, which helped halt the rise in global carbon dioxide emissions in the energy sector.

China burned less coal last year and generated more electricity from renewable sources to help halt the global rise in  carbon dioxide emissions. Photo: Reuters

Emissions of carbon dioxide were flat at 32.3 billion tonnes last year, as they were in 2013, the International Energy Agency (IEA)  reported yesterday.

It ended steady gains over the past four decades except in years with an economic downturn.

“This is both a welcome surprise and a significant one,” IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said in a statement.

“This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today.”

The IEA, which is based in France, and advises governments of developed nations, said the halt in emissions growth was linked to greener patterns of energy consumption in China – the top carbon emitter ahead of the United States – and in developed nations.

“In China, [last year] saw greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal,” it said.

via China’s greener energy efforts help global carbon emissions stall after almost 40 years of gains | South China Morning Post.

14/03/2015

Mahatma Gandhi gets London statue near nemesis Churchill | Reuters

Britain will unveil a statue of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi on Saturday in London’s prestigious Parliament Square, a space packed with monuments to men who defended the British Empire which Gandhi helped destroy.

In an ironic twist, Gandhi’s likeness will sit close to that of Britain’s former wartime leader Winston Churchill, a man who strained to thwart Indian independence and who despised Gandhi and everything he stood for.

Churchill famously called Gandhi “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal palace.”

But almost seven decades after India won independence from Britain in 1947, in large part thanks to Gandhi’s peaceful civil disobedience campaign, relations between the two countries are strong with both nations keen to boost economic ties.

via Mahatma Gandhi gets London statue near nemesis Churchill | Reuters.

13/03/2015

Infrastructure: Aerotropolitan ambitions | The Economist

POLITICIANS in London who have been debating for years over whether to approve the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport might find a visit to Zhengzhou—an inland provincial capital little known outside China—an eye-opening experience. Some 20,000 workers are labouring around the clock to build a second terminal and runway for the city’s airport. They are due to begin test operations by December, just three years after ground was broken. By 2030, officials expect, the two terminals and, by then, five runways will handle 70m passengers yearly—about the same as Heathrow now—and 5m tonnes of cargo, more than three times as much as Heathrow last year.

But the ambitions of Zhengzhou airport (pictured) are far bigger than these numbers suggest. It aspires to be the centre of an “aerotropolis”, a city nearly seven times the size of Manhattan with the airport not a noisy intrusion on its edge but built into its very heart. Its perimeter will encompass logistics facilities, R&D centres, exhibition halls and factories that will link central China to the rest of the global economy. It will include homes and amenities for 2.6m people by 2025, about half as many as live in Zhengzhou’s main urban area today. Heathrow struggles to expand because of Londoners’ qualms, but China’s urban planners are not bothered by grumbling; big building projects rarely involve much consulting of the public.

via Infrastructure: Aerotropolitan ambitions | The Economist.

13/03/2015

Bargaining With Chinese Characteristics: Labor Group Defends Practices – China Real Time Report – WSJ

When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang omitted a reference to collective bargaining in an annual policy speech last week, labor scholars worried that Beijing may be backing away from a much-needed policy tool for dealing with rising industrial unrest.

China’s state-controlled trade unions are seeking to allay such concerns. They are pledging to keep promoting collective bargaining in a way that calms labor tensions without derailing growth in the country’s already-slowing economy.

“Collective wage bargaining is something we will continue to promote,” said Li Shouzhen, a senior official at the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, or ACFTU. “It is a tried-and-tested process that’s practiced by successful enterprises.”

via Bargaining With Chinese Characteristics: Labor Group Defends Practices – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

13/03/2015

India seeks edge over China as Modi visits Sri Lanka | Reuters

When Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena received India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an ocean-front colonial building on Friday, the two looked out over a $1.4 billion Chinese real estate project halted days ago after criticism from New Delhi.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The vista will have pleased Modi, whose government strongly opposed the land reclamation project inaugurated by China’s President Xi Jinping last year under a deal that gives China ownership of a patch of land overlooking a strategic port.

Modi’s was the first bilateral visit by an Indian premier in 28 years, a sign of a friendship that has warmed rapidly since a January election ousted a leader whose close ties with China had left Sri Lanka’s larger neighbour feeling unloved.

India and China are increasingly jostling for influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s decision to let Chinese submarines dock in Colombo port and the real estate deal were very worrying for New Delhi.

via India seeks edge over China as Modi visits Sri Lanka | Reuters.

13/03/2015

India in pacts to develop infrastructure in Mauritius, Seychelles | Reuters

Curious: India not known for its own infrastructure is offering to help its neighbours!

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has secured agreements to develop islands in Mauritius and Seychelles in an early success for his drive to wrest back influence in the Indian Ocean from China.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the inaugural session of Re-Invest 2015, the first Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet & Expo, in New Delhi, February 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

China has invested millions of dollars in recent years building seaports and highways in countries stretching from the Maldives to Sri Lanka that lie on vital shipping lanes through which much of its energy supplies and trade passes.

India, alarmed at the prospect of China building a network of friendly ports in a “String of Pearls” across the Indian Ocean, has stepped up its diplomacy, offering a range of civil and military assistance.

On Wednesday, as Modi toured Mauritius, officials signed an agreement to upgrade sea and air links on the remote Agalega islands, offering India a foothold in an area hundreds of miles from its coast.”

via India in pacts to develop infrastructure in Mauritius, Seychelles | Reuters.

11/03/2015

Ideology: Class struggle | The Economist

IN THE first week of March university students in China will return from a break of six weeks or more. They will find a new chill in the air. While they have been away, officials have been speaking stridently—indeed, in the harshest terms heard in years—about the danger of “harmful Western influences” on campuses, and the need to tighten ideological control over students and academic staff.

Universities have always been worrisome to the Communist Party; they have a long history in China as wellsprings of anti-government unrest. The party appoints university presidents. Its committees on campuses vet the appointment of teaching staff. Students are required to study Marxist theory and socialism. They are not allowed to study politically sensitive topics such as the grievances of Tibetans or the army’s crushing of the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

There is no sign of an anti-party campaign developing on campuses (students are signing up for party membership in droves, believing it to be a path to career success). But since Xi Jinping took over as China’s leader in 2012, the party has been trying to reinforce its control in numerous areas. In the army it appears that Mr Xi has been leading the effort personally (see article). In the academic realm, his involvement in the crackdown now unfolding is less certain. But he has shown no sign of resisting it, and some of the rhetoric warning of the dangers of Western values echoes his own. Mr Xi is certainly no liberal. In his rule he has tightened controls over the media, and there have been numerous arrests and trials of civil-society activists.

That officials have begun to turn their attention to campuses became evident on January 19th, when Xinhua, a state-controlled news agency, published a summary of a document issued secretly by the central authorities in October. It directed universities to “strengthen” their efforts to spread the party’s propaganda and promote its ideology. It told them to educate students better in the history of the party, as well as about the “Chinese dream” (a pet idea of Mr Xi’s). The document also urged educators “firmly to resist infiltration by hostile forces”. It was suffused with the same sense of a party under assault by Western liberal thinking that permeated a secret directive issued in 2013, known as Document Number Nine. That spoke of the threat posed by ideas such as universal values, civil society and press freedom—positive mention of which had occasionally surfaced in some Chinese newspapers and still occurs frequently in university classrooms.

An old-style propaganda campaign is now unfolding. On January 29th Yuan Guiren, the education minister, declared at a conference that “textbooks promoting Western values” would not be allowed in classrooms, nor would “slandering” of the party leadership. Officials at the same meeting echoed his views, including the party chiefs of Peking University and Tsinghua University, the country’s most prestigious colleges. On February 6th a commentary in the People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, quoted the party chief of Renmin University in Beijing as saying that Marxist thinking must “enter textbooks, enter classrooms and enter brains”.

via Ideology: Class struggle | The Economist.

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