11/04/2014

India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek

The results of national elections in India, expected to be announced on May 12, could mean good news for Japan and not such good news for China. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition party, has long been a favorite of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to foster military and economic ties with India. Modi, the front-runner in the contest to be India’s prime minister, and Abe also share an antagonism for China. Modi has criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being too accommodating toward China and has pledged to take a tougher line on issues such as the border dispute between the two countries that has festered for decades.

A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidate

Abe has clashed with China in a dispute over the ownership of several islands in the East China Sea. When it comes to the Chinese, “the Japanese are extremely apprehensive,” says P.K. Ghosh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “It doesn’t take a genius to say India can be the largest friend of the Japanese.”

Abe has long treated Modi as a kindred spirit. Even after the George W. Bush administration put Modi on a travel blacklist for his alleged role in the 2002 riots that killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat state, Abe welcomed Modi to Japan. The Indian politician, who was exonerated by the Indian courts, visited in 2007 during Abe’s first term as prime minister and then again when Abe was opposition leader in 2012. “Japan has worked very hard to improve relations with India,” says retired Indian General Vinod Saighal, author of Revitalising Indian Democracy. With a Modi victory, he says, relations “will get a boost, certainly.”

via India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has lasted longer, gone deeper, and struck higher than many analysts and academics had expected. Xi has been so zealous that since late last year retired Communist Party leaders including ex-President Jiang Zemin have cautioned him to take a more measured pace and not be too harsh, say Ding Xueliang, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Willy Lam, an expert on elite politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in Berlin on March 28

Xi is cracking down on the army and the police at the same time, something no leader has done before, says Ding. Gu Junshan, a lieutenant general in charge of logistics for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been charged with bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on March 31. He will be tried in military court.

China’s former top cop and security czar Zhou Yongkang is under investigation for corruption, say Ding and Lam. When asked at a March 2 press conference whether Zhou was under suspicion, a government spokesman avoided a direct answer, saying, “Anyone who violates the party’s discipline and the state law will be seriously investigated and punished, no matter who he is or how high ranking he is.” He added what seems to be a veiled confirmation: “I can only say so much so far. You know what I’m saying.”

More than 180,000 party officials were punished for corruption and abuse of power last year, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s watchdog. While most were low-level officials—or “flies,” as Xi has put it—they also included senior party members—“tigers,” in Xi’s words. Thirty-one senior officials were investigated by the commission last year: Eight had their graft cases handed over to prosecutors. The remaining 23 are still being investigated.

via In China, Xi’s Anticorruption Drive Nabs Elite, Low Ranks Alike – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

And the Award for Best Chinese Film Goes to… – China Real Time Report – WSJ

And the winner is…no one.

That was the message from the China Film Directors’ Guild, which declined to hand out its two top prizes—best picture and best director—for 2013, citing a lack of high-quality contenders.

“What China’s film industry needs now is not to be coddled, but to hold itself to a higher standard,” said director Feng Xiaogang, chairman of the guild’s nine-director awards jury.

China’s box office has been booming in recent years, growing from a mere 950 million yuan ($153 million) in 2002—when China first began allowing modern theater chains—to 21.6 billion yuan last year. But an increase in quality hasn’t followed the increase in revenue, directors and many industry experts say.

Decades ago, many film directors resolutely gave up their artistic ideals to save the Chinese film market from going bankrupt and devoted themselves to the flood of commercial films,” Mr. Feng said at the awards ceremony Wednesday night in Beijing, which was aired live on state television.

Prominent Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin,” which won best screenplay at last year’s Cannes film festival and has been critically celebrated, wasn’t eligible for consideration for the awards because Mr. Jia’s company couldn’t provide the guild a legal copy of the film on DVD or online. This film didn’t make it to China’s big screens because it hasn’t been approved by censors.

via And the Award for Best Chinese Film Goes to… – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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11/04/2014

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

“Even assuming Modi has been responsible for XYZ, we don’t see an alternative,” Hegde said. Referencing a Twitter post by music director Vishal Dadlani, he said, “If I had to choose between a moron and a murderer, I’d probably choose the murderer.”

Not everyone states their case for supporting Modi in such blunt terms, but interviews with young professionals in Bangalore, the information technology hub known as India’s Silicon Valley reveals a calculation in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that omits the riots from the equation.

For many people in Bangalore’s highly educated workforce, Modi is a welcome alternative to what is seen as an ineffective and corruption-tainted Congress party. They are part of what some media organizations have called a “Modi wave” that opinion polls, however unreliable, say could bring the BJP to power and push out the Gandhi-Nehru family’s Congress party.

Many BJP supporters see Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader and the Gandhi family’s heir apparent, as ill suited for the job of running a country that is trying to revive its slowing economic growth and to provide opportunities for prosperity to its burgeoning middle class. (A note for people unfamiliar with this round of Lok Sabha elections: Indians will vote for members of Parliament in their local constituencies, and the winning party’s leadership names its ministers when it forms a new government.)

via Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight.

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11/04/2014

China’s soaring potential a springboard for budget airlines | Reuters

The chairman of Spring Airlines requires his employees to use both sides of a sheet of paper before throwing it away and even removed most of the bulbs lighting the corridor to his office – all part of his quest to save money.

A Spring Airlines crew member sells food onboard an Airbus A320 aircraft near Shanghai July 6, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song

China’s first low-cost airline has been profitable since 2006, its first full year of operation, but the budget aviation market is about to get a lot more competitive as the government moves to promote low-cost travel to meet a surge in demand from an increasingly wealthier population.

Over the last 18 months, Spring has been joined by two new competitors. China’s big state-backed carriers are also looking at launching budget carriers, a strategy industry executives say would be an additional boon to plane makers Airbus Group (AIR.PA) and Boeing Co. (BA.N).

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) plans to add nearly 80 new airports by 2020, including a $14.5 billion second airport in the capital Beijing, and is urging other airports to build new terminals and convert existing facilities to handle budget airlines.

The initiative, industry observers say, would usher in a new era for low-cost carriers (LCCs) in a country where one in four people travelled by air in 2013. That number is set to rise to almost the whole population in the next two decades, according to Airbus executives, with China to replace the United States as the world’s largest aviation market during the same period.

via China’s soaring potential a springboard for budget airlines | Reuters.

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11/04/2014

Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters

Good news for Chinese health, bad news for the cigarette industry.

“China’s capital Beijing is proposing to ban the use of government money to buy cigarettes, either as gifts or to be provided at official functions, state media said on Friday, in the latest move to try and curtail smoking.

Extinguished cigarettes are seen in an ashtray at the Shanghai Railway Station December 23, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

China, home to some 300 million smokers, is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, and smoking is a ubiquitous part of social life, particularly for men. Cartons of cigarettes are commonly given as presents or provided at formal events.

The Beijing government rules, currently in the proposal stage, would ban cigarettes being provided or given at any official event, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The rules also seek a ban on promotional sales activities or advertising for cigarettes and a ban on smoking in public places like train stations, hospitals and schools, with fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), the report said.

Beijing, along with other parts of China, already bans smoking in many public places, though the rules are generally ignored.

Xinhua did not say when the new rules may go into effect.

Tougher regulation of smoking is a priority this year, officials from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in January, adding that the agency was pushing lawmakers to toughen laws on tobacco use.

The ruling Communist Party said last year that officials must not light up in schools, workplaces, stadiums, and on public transport, among other places, so as to set a positive example.

($1 = 6.2125 Chinese yuan)”

via Beijing seeks to ban purchase of cigarettes with public funds | Reuters.

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10/04/2014

Chinese Communist Party banquets cut by half in 2013 under Xi’s austerity drive | South China Morning Post

A new study has revealed the impact of President Xi Jinping’s belt-tightening measures, with the number of official banquets falling by as much as 50 per cent last year.

scmp_07jul08_ns_dinner8_dw8_6863.jpg

Zhang Zhongliang, director of the statistical education centre of the National Bureau of Statistics, showed that Xi’s year-long campaign not only cut down expenditures but also freed up time by “setting officials free” from such obligations.

Zhang read out some findings of the study on the effects of Xi’s eight-point austerity directive at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Thursday.

He said county-level officials, who typically spend the most time at banquets among all ranks of government, on average attended 12.2 official banquets per week last year, compared to 18.2 per week in 2012.

Zhang said county engagements dropped by one-third, while provincial and national-level officials saw the number of banquets drop by half.

This gave civil servants an average of 30 minutes more with their loved ones, Zhang said.

It was not reported whether the survey was based on reports from bureaus or monitoring by third parties.

At least six different sectors were directly affected by the crackdown on official parties, mainly the catering, tobacco and wine industries, the study said.

Zhang said the catering industry’s growth dropped to 3.8 per cent last year from 8.8 per cent the previous year. The total sales of luxury wines in the mainland market plunged 40 per cent in the same period.

Zhang said these measures partly contributed to a slowdown in the country’s economy but it was “a price that must be paid” to root out corruption.

Extravagance among party cadres drove up consumption in the short-term, but would distort supply and demand in the long run, he said.

via Communist Party banquets cut by half in 2013 under Xi’s austerity drive | South China Morning Post.

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10/04/2014

Govt declares holiday on B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary – The Times of India

English: B. R. Ambedkar delivering a speech to...

English: B. R. Ambedkar delivering a speech to a rally at Yeola, Nasik, on 13 October 1935 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Centre has declared a holiday on Monday on account of Dr B R Ambedkar‘s birth anniversary, giving about 50 lakh central government employees an extended weekend.

“It has been decided to declare Monday, the 14th April 2014, as a closed holiday on account of the birthday of Dr B R Ambedkar, for all central government offices including industrial establishments throughout India,” said an office memorandum issued by ministry of personnel.

April 14 is not a compulsory holiday for central government employees. “Every year, the Centre takes a call on whether or not to declare an off for its offices across the country,” a personnel ministry official said.

via Govt declares holiday on B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary – The Times of India.

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10/04/2014

What Drives China’s Protest Boom? Labor Disputes and Land Grabs – Businessweek

What are the main reasons Chinese take to the streets, picket government offices, and besiege factory gates? A recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Science provides some answers on why people protest, a question that keeps China’s party officials awake at night.

Workers gathering on a square before the government headquarters in Wenling, east China's Zhejiang province on Feb. 17

Most protests erupt over labor disputes and land grabs, according to the Annual Report on China’s Rule of Law No 12 (2014), also known as the Blue Book of Rule of Law. The analysis reviewed 871 “mass incidents”—protests involving more than 100 people—carried out by more than 2.2 million people from January 2000 through September of last year, as the official China Daily reported.

As China’s leaders push for faster urbanization, with plans to convert hundreds of millions more farmers into city dwellers, land disputes are a growing problem likely to get even bigger. “In land acquisitions and forced demolitions, for example, many officials often overlook public interest,” Shan Guangnai of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the official newspaper.

The majority of the protests involved fewer than 1,000 people. Still, almost one-third of the incidents included between 1,000 and 10,0000 people, and 10 megaprotests involved more than 10,000 people demonstrating en masse. Of the largest, half were protesting pollution issues. The two other main causes were traffic accidents and conflicts involving China’s many ethnic groups, which include Tibetans, Muslim Uighurs, and Mongolians.

Almost one-half of the protests were directed at government, with disputes due to problems with law enforcement, land acquisitions, and forced demolitions involving local officials, plus various other rights issues. The remainder of the demonstrations focused on conflicts with enterprises, landlords, schools, and village committees. The large majority of protests—about four-fifths—were organized rather than spontaneous, and 36 incidents resulted in a total of 79 deaths.

The report also showed that protests occur most often in more-developed regions, including eastern and southern China, with Guangdong province alone accounting for about 30 percent. And the number of incidents is rising each year.

via What Drives China’s Protest Boom? Labor Disputes and Land Grabs – Businessweek.

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10/04/2014

Chinese Exports Plummeted Last Month. Puzzled? We Have You Covered – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s exports were down 6.6% on year in March, confounding economists, many of whom expected growth of over 4%.

What’s going on?

First, it’s important to remember that China’s trade statistics in the first quarter are often skewed by the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, when activity slows down in much of East Asia.

But economists expected exports to show signs of a pickup in March, the first month not affected by the holidays, which this year fell in late January and early February.

One explanation is the March data was warped by over-invoicing. This is a practice by which Chinese companies dodge capital controls by using fake export invoices to get money into the country to benefit from relatively high onshore interest rates.

Beijing cracked down on the practice last spring, but over-invoicing was still prevalent in March 2013. Since then it has decreased because of tighter regulatory controls. The government’s efforts to guide the yuan currency lower this year also has diminished the attraction of such a carry trade.

That could mean the year-ago comparison was artificially boosted, making March 2014’s numbers look poor by comparison.

“Do not worry about the export data,” wrote Louis Kuijs, an economist at RBS in Hong Kong, in a note to clients.

RBS estimates year-on-year export growth in March 2013 was inflated by 11.8 percentage points due to over-invoicing. The bank also thinks export growth on-year in March this was 5.2% adjusting for over-invoicing.

“The competitiveness of China’s manufacturing sector is still solid, allowing its export sector to benefit from global demand growth,” Mr. Kuijs wrote.

Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Asia, agreed with this assessment.

“The main reason is that the over-invoicing distortions were peaking last year around this time,” he said. Now, “the increased currency volatility and deprecation is discouraging that activity from a financial incentive perspective.”

via Chinese Exports Plummeted Last Month. Puzzled? We Have You Covered – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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