Posts tagged ‘United States’

14/05/2015

India learns to ‘fail fast’ as tech start-up culture takes root | Reuters

After ping pong tables, motivational posters and casual dress codes, India’s tech start-ups are following Silicon Valley‘s lead and embracing the “fail fast” culture credited with fuelling creativity and success in the United States.

Taking failure as a norm is a major cultural shift in India, where high-achieving children are typically expected to take steady jobs at recognised firms. A failed venture hurts family status and even marriage prospects.

But that nascent acceptance, fuelled by returning engineers and billions of dollars in venture fund investment, is for many observers a sign that India’s $150 billion tech industry is coming of age, moving from a back office powerhouse to a creative force.

“There is obviously increased acceptance,” said Raghunandan G, co-founder of TaxiForSure, which was sold to rival Ola this year. He is now investing in others’ early stage ventures.

“My co-founder Aprameya (Radhakrishna) used to have lines of prospective brides to meet … the moment we started our own company, all those prospective alliances disappeared. No one wanted their daughters to marry a start-up guy.”

Srikanth Chunduri returned to India after studying at Duke University in the United States, and is now working on his second venture. “I think what’s encouraging is that acceptance of failure is increasing despite the very deep-rooted Asian culture where failure is a big no,” he said.

“IT’S OK TO FAIL”

via India learns to ‘fail fast’ as tech start-up culture takes root | Reuters.

11/05/2015

U.S. Congressman says engagement with China has diminished under Xi | Reuters

A United States Congressman told reporters that China’s engagement with U.S. lawmakers has diminished under President Xi Jinping in a marked change from the policy of his predecessors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry (R) during a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014.     REUTERS/Greg Baker/Pool

He also said that Chinese and Hong Kong officials were looking for a scapegoat when they blamed last years’ pro-democracy protests on “foreign forces”.

“I think it has diminished,” Congressman Matt Salmon said of China’s engagement with U.S. lawmakers under President Xi. “This president has a whole different philosophy. In fact I think if anything, this president is moving in the other direction, (away) from constructive engagement from the past two presidents.”

Salmon is chairman of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Republican representative from Arizona is in the middle of his fifth term in Congress.

Salmon was in Hong Kong as the head of a U.S. Congressional delegation, which also visited Vietnam and discussed political, trade and economic issues.

Salmon said he had not been contacted by anyone from the Chinese Embassy since he became chairman of the Asia Pacific subcommittee.

“It’s kind of strange because every other embassy in the region has reached out to me, and their ambassadors have asked for an audience with me, every one of them except for China,” he said.

The United States and China are the world’s two biggest economies. Chinese President Xi is scheduled to make his first state visit to the United States in September as the countries seek to ease tensions over issues ranging from trade and human rights to Internet hacking and theft.

Salmon said he and his delegation had met Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and told him the United States had not played any role in last year’s pro-democracy protests, in which tens of thousands of people occupied major highways for two and a half months to demand open nominations in the city’s next chief executive election.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have blamed “foreign forces” for instigating the unrest, which Salmon said was “a convenient way to scapegoat someone else”.

via U.S. Congressman says engagement with China has diminished under Xi | Reuters.

07/05/2015

Corruption: Not so far away | The Economist

“THE mountains are high; the emperor is far away,” goes a Chinese saying that has always given comfort to bureaucrats who play fast and loose with the law in remote parts of the country. But often, these days, distance is not enough. Those who hanker after the added protection of a foreign jurisdiction are often called “naked officials”. The term describes people who have moved families and assets abroad in readiness for escape themselves. Now, however, anti-graft officers are trying to extend their reach beyond China’s borders.

Since late last year, as part of the most intense and sustained anti-corruption drive in the history of Communist-ruled China, officials have been stepping up efforts to persuade foreign countries to send back those who have fled with their ill-gotten gains. On April 22nd they released a wanted list, together with mugshots, of 100 such people, as part of a new operation called Sky Net. The list was compiled by a Communist Party body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), whose agents often hold suspects in secret detention and torture them. “We will apprehend them no matter where they flee to,” Fu Kui, a member of the CCDI, told state media. The operation involves other agencies such as the police, the central bank and the foreign ministry.

Among the wanted fugitives, for whom Interpol has issued arrest warrants, 48 were the most senior officials in their workplaces. One was the deputy head of a provincial construction bureau accused of fleeing to America with 250m yuan ($40m) in embezzled funds. Another was a county-level finance official who allegedly took 94m yuan to Singapore.

Officials say that Sky Net is a new phase of Operation Fox Hunt, a campaign launched by the police last year to secure the repatriation of criminals (not just the corrupt). Officials say the exercise has been a success, having secured the repatriation of 680 fugitives from 69 countries. On April 27th the state prosecutor’s office said a further 61 people suspected of “dereliction of duty” had been arrested after spending time on the run abroad. Many had turned themselves in.

But anti-corruption officials have a big problem: the 39 countries with which China has extradition treaties do not include America, Australia or Canada, which are among the favoured destinations of corrupt fugitives. China has been pressing these countries for more co-operation. After a visit to Beijing in April by Jeh Johnson, America’s secretary for homeland security, state media said America “actively” supported China’s efforts. The Americans say they have agreed to a more “streamlined” procedure for handing back Chinese nationals whom they decide to repatriate. But they insist that such cases be handled according to American law and “values”.

China says it has sent 61 agents abroad (it has not said where) to “persuade” accused fugitives to return and face justice. It has also been trying a new tactic: scaring them with horror stories. State media last month reported one fugitive in America who dared not even see a doctor, so worried was he that his identity might become known. He returned home of his own will, a broken man.

via Corruption: Not so far away | The Economist.

07/05/2015

Why China’s consumers will continue to surprise the world | McKinsey & Company

China has an awesome consumer story. Yet lately you can’t pick up a newspaper, go online, or watch television without hearing continual moaning about the country’s slowing economic growth and the need for “rebalancing.” The reality is that Chinese consumers are going to continue to increase in wealth and complexity. And if you’re worried the country’s economic importance is declining, you’re probably looking at its performance the wrong way.

Don’t worry about consumer spending as a percentage of GDP

As in most developing Asian economies, China’s early growth was based on savings, investment, and exports. You get your population to save, move to the cities, work in factories, and make stuff. This is sold, and cash is brought back home for investment. Plus, you get some foreign investment as well. This process enabled China to develop its infrastructure largely with its own cash. That, by the way, is not the norm. Developing economies typically borrow from foreigners and then default—for example, American states such as Mississippi and Florida were chronic defaulters on foreign debt as they initially developed.

One of the downsides of this investment-first approach is that it makes consumption look small and often like it’s shrinking. Chinese consumption decreased from approximately 51 percent of gross domestic product in 1985 to 43 percent in 1995, 38 percent in 2005, and 34 percent in 2013. By comparison, consumption is around 61 percent in Japan and about 68 percent in the United States. In fact, China’s small and decreasing consumption percentage is one reason why people keep talking about “rebalancing”—the need for the economy to become driven more by consumer spending than investment and exports.

Our position? Don’t worry about this stuff.

First, from 2000 to 2010, the size of the Chinese economy more than doubled.1 So consumption grew from around $650 billion to almost $1.4 trillion. Regardless of its relative percentage of GDP, China’s consumption has been growing faster than just about any other country’s in absolute terms. Second, just getting consumer spending back to 43 percent of GDP, the level in 1995, would have a huge impact on “rebalancing.” It would also create the largest consumer market in the world. Third, most of these numbers are wildly inaccurate. Consumer spending is nearly impossible to measure in such a big, complicated economy. Combining a vague number with two other big vague numbers (investment and net exports) is very fuzzy math. Until economists start putting uncertainty estimates on their China calculations, relative percentages aren’t worth paying much attention to.

Household income is what matters, and it’s great

The number you really want to keep in mind is household income. You can’t have consumption without income. And here’s where it gets really awesome. China’s household income is huge. It is now likely above $5 trillion a year. Plus, lots of income is unreported, so this is really the lower boundary for true household income. Developing economies—especially the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China—are frequently grouped together, but Chinese consumers dwarf all the others in terms of household income (Exhibit 1).

Rising discretionary spending is the exciting part

Discretionary spending is buying the stuff you like but don’t need. Or you only sort of need. And, fortunately, people seem to have an endless appetite for everything from entertainment to skiing to caffe lattes. Chinese citizens are now moving beyond being able to only afford the basics of life, and their discretionary spending is taking off. Growth in spending on annual discretionary categories in China is forecast to exceed 7 percent between 2010 and 2020, and growth of 6 to 7 percent annually is expected in a second category of “seminecessities.” Both of these categories are growing faster than spending on actual necessities, which are expected to grow around 5 percent a year, about the same as expected GDP growth (Exhibit 2).

Finally, an important related issue is the Chinese tradition of saving. If we compare spending and saving rates across the emerging markets, we see a spike in savings in China. That spike is fairly understandable. First, it’s cultural. Second, they are precautionary savings—no social safety net means if you get sick, it’s all on you. Third, Chinese savings are not unique. Japan, Korea, and Taiwan all hit 30-percent-plus savings rates in their early development. And fourth, without much of a consumer-finance system, it’s tough to use debt to hit truly spectacular consumption levels. After all, a vacation home or car may cost the equivalent of a year’s income.

That’s our rant on China’s macro consumer situation. Basically, we believe it remains a great story. It may be volatile. It’s also somewhat unpredictable. But you just don’t get a consumer growth story this good anywhere else.

via Why China’s consumers will continue to surprise the world | McKinsey & Company.

29/04/2015

Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ

If cities were stores, to find the best deal you’d be advised to shop in Mumbai for Levis and Coca Cola KO -0.15%, go to Rio for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and stop off in San Francisco to buy an iPhone 6.

5.21
1.89
Mumbai
1.89
2.22
Johannesburg
2.43
2.77
Beijing
3.14
3.53
Singapore
4.25
Berlin
4.79
San Francisco
4.79
New York
5.21
Rio

Deutsche Bank research published last week compares prices for everyday items in cities around the world. Overall, across a range of products, India is “the cheapest major economy.”

Looking for a cheap date? A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers costs $24.70 in Mumbai – making India’s financial capital the least-expensive place in the world to show someone a good time.

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Try to do the same in San Francisco or Tokyo and you won’t get change from $100 – in fact, you’ll need to scrape a few more dollars together to cover the bill.

Need a man’s haircut? A short-back-and-sides in New Delhi on average goes for $2.40, a snip of the price elsewhere in the world. A trim in Tokyo costs 15 times more.

The study compiles prices posted on the Internet and from secondary sources, though it doesn’t say what they are.

“We have tried our best to use goods and services that are standard across countries or are close substitutes,” the authors of “The Random Walk Mapping the World’s Prices 2015,” wrote.

Such studies, including this one, do not reflect the true cost of living though because they ignore housing rents – often a person’s biggest monthly outlay.

Add on the price of accommodation in Mumbai, which can have rents as high as those charged in New York, and the city would suddenly look a lot less easy on the wallet.

*The price in each country.  **A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers. ***Two nights in a standard 5 star hotel room, four meals, two snacks, car rentals for two days, two pints of beer, four liters of soft drinks/water, and a bit of shopping (a pair of jeans and sports shoes.)

via Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/04/2015

U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters

The United States and China contributed most to record mountains of electronic waste such as cellphones, hair dryers and fridges in 2014 and less than a sixth ended up recycled worldwide, a U.N. study said on Sunday.

Overall, 41.8 million tonnes of “e-waste” — defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — were dumped around the globe in 2014 and only an estimated 6.5 million tonnes were taken for recycling, the United Nations University (UNU) said.

“Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’, a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials,” said David Malone, the U.N. under-secretary-general and rector of UNU.

The report estimated that the discarded materials, including gold, silver, iron and copper, was worth some $52 billion.

The United States led e-waste dumping with 7.1 million tonnes in 2014, ahead of China on 6.0 million and followed by Japan, Germany and India, it said.

The United States, where individual states run e-waste laws, reported collection of 1 million tonnes for 2012 while China said it collected 1.3 million tonnes of equipment such as TVs, refrigerators and laptops in 2013.

via U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters.

19/04/2015

Foreign automakers double down on China bets despite slowing growth | Reuters

Foreign automakers continue to plough money into factories in China, the world’s largest car market, even as the biggest economic slowdown in a quarter of a century crimps sales growth.

Employees work at the third factory of Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile company, after its inauguration ceremony, in Wuhan, in this July 2, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/China Daily/Files

Market leaders Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and General Motors (GM.N) show no sign of letting up on their planned investments, while Toyota Motor (7203.T) and Ford Motor (F.N) are also pursuing new China expansion plans.

That’s in spite of the economic slowdown further depressing the car market in January-March, when sales grew only 3.9 percent, compared to 9.2 percent a year ago and way below the 7 percent growth that the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) predicts for this year.

via Foreign automakers double down on China bets despite slowing growth | Reuters.

18/04/2015

Apple Grows its Own Solar Farms in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Call it savvy public relations or plain good investing, but Apple is becoming a solar-power developer in China.

News Thursday that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is partnering with SunPower., a major U.S. solar-panel maker, to build two solar power plants in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, highlights Apple’s attempts to offset its growing carbon footprint in China, where it is expanding at a rapid pace.

Although financial terms weren’t disclosed, SunPower said Thursday that Apple will co-own the projects, which have the combined capacity of 40 megawatts.

Apple has previously said it wants to be carbon neutral everywhere it operates, but that admirable goal is considerably absent in China, where the bulk of its products are made. Until now, unhappiness over air pollution mainly has been directed at the Chinese government, but Apple — already under fire over labor and customer-support issues –could become a major target. Initiatives like these could go a long way toward making sure its image in China remains favorable.

Apple tends to be financially involved in clean-energy projects only when they provide electricity for its operations. Apple and SunPower, for example, have partnered together in the U.S. to develop six solar power plants, all of which provide at least some power to Apple’s facilities.

In this case, however, Apple’s solar plants are being built in Sichuan’s remote Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefectures, far from Apple’s corporate offices, retail stores or manufacturing partners. The region is known for its rolling grasslands, where herders take yaks and sheep to graze, and where multi-colored Tibetan prayer flags are strung up along the slopes of hills.

In an interview on Thursday with China’s official Xinhua news agency, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, Lisa Jackson, said the solar plants will be located in grasslands primarily used for raising yaks. Ms. Jackson, who was previously head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Apple will take care to minimize the impact of construction on the environment. An Apple spokeswoman said Friday in an email that Apple and its local partners won’t use cement to install solar panels or dig trenches for wires during construction.

Apple has been expanding quickly in China as it attempts to go after the country’s burgeoning middle class. The company currently has 21 retail stores in mainland China and hopes to double that number by the end of next year. Although Apple’s latest efforts to produce clean energy in China might be a drop in the bucket when compared with amount of fossil fuels consumed by its manufacturing partners, Ms. Jackson told Xinhua that the company hopes to lead by example for its more than 330 suppliers.

Apple’s latest projects join a wave of new solar farms under construction in western China. Solar-panel makers, Chinese policy banks and other clean-energy developers are all piling into the business after China revived its solar industry amid the country’s ambitious targets to add as much as 18 gigawatts of solar-power capacity by the end of this year.

via Apple Grows its Own Solar Farms in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

10/04/2015

Banyan: Where all Silk Roads lead | The Economist

NOT content with both purifying the Chinese Communist Party which he heads and with reforming his country, China’s president, Xi Jinping, also wants to reshape the economic and political order in Asia. With the flair that Chinese leaders share for pithy but rather bewildering encapsulations, his vision for the continent is summed up in official jargon as “One Belt, One Road”. As Mr Xi describes it, most recently last month at the Boao Forum, China’s tropical-beach imitation of Davos’s ski slopes, the belt-road concept will “answer the call of our time for regional and global co-operation”. Not everybody is convinced. Some see it as no more than an empty slogan; others as a thinly disguised Chinese plot to supplant America as Asia’s predominant power. Both criticisms seem misplaced. Mr Xi is serious about the idea. And it is less a “plot” than a public manifesto.

Mr Xi first floated the idea in 2013, in Kazakhstan. He mooted a “a Silk Road economic belt” of improved infrastructure along the main strands of what, centuries ago, was the network of overland routes used by silk traders and others to carry merchandise to and from China through Central Asia and Russia to northern Europe and Venice on the Adriatic. In Indonesia, Mr Xi proposed “a 21st-century maritime Silk Road”, reaching Europe by sea from cities on China’s south-eastern seaboard via Vietnam, Indonesia itself, India, Sri Lanka, east Africa and the Suez Canal. At the time, the proposals sounded rather fluffy—the sort of thing travelling leaders often trot out, harking back to a distant past of supposedly harmonious exchanges.

In the past few months, however, the idea has been given a real push. China has gone further toward putting its money where Mr Xi’s mouth is. It has promised $50 billion to its new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which despite American opposition has sparked a race in which 47 countries have applied to join as founding shareholders. China has earmarked a further $40 billion for a “Silk Road fund”, to invest in infrastructure along the land belt and the maritime road. One motive for this splurge is self-interest. Chinese firms hope to win many of the engineering projects—roads, railways, ports and pipelines—that the new “connectivity” will demand. Improved transport links will benefit Chinese exporters. And helping its neighbours’ development will create new markets. That China seems to have realised this has led to comparisons with the Marshall Plan, America’s aid to help western Europe rebuild after the second world war.

China does not like that analogy, since it sees the Marshall Plan as part of America’s containment of the Soviet Union. It insists that its initiatives are for the benefit of all of humanity and are—favourite catchphrase—“win-win”. But it certainly hopes money and investment can win friends. Yan Xuetong, a prominent Chinese international-relations expert, has argued that the country needs to “purchase” friendly relationships with its neighbours.

In Central Asia, battered by low oil prices and plummeting remittances from migrant workers in Russia, the prospect of greater Chinese involvement is welcomed. Russia itself, though wary of China’s steady erosion of its influence in the former Soviet states of the region, is now too dependent on Chinese goodwill to do other than cheer. On the maritime route, however, suspicion of Chinese intentions is rife. Its arrogant behaviour in the South China Sea, where it is engaged in a construction spree to turn disputed rocks into disputed islands, has given the impression that it feels it can simply bully its smaller neighbours.

So the initial reaction in South-East Asia to the belt and road has been sceptical. In Malaysia, where the government’s usual response to a proposal from China is to applaud first and ask questions later, the defence minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, has said the maritime Silk Road has “raised questions” and that it must come across as a joint (that is, regional) initiative, rather than as a solely Chinese one. Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, who says he wants to turn his country into a “global maritime fulcrum”, was doubtful at first. But he now seems inclined to help—unsurprisingly since his own plan involves massive investment in ports and other infrastructure to which, he hopes, China will contribute. A visit to China last month yielded a joint statement promising a “maritime partnership” and describing his and Mr Xi’s visions as “complementary”. But Mr Joko had also made clear before arriving in Beijing that Indonesia did not accept China’s territorial claims in South-East Asian waters.

In India, another new leader, Narendra Modi, the prime minister, has his own approach to these issues. He visited Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Seychelles last month, three Indian Ocean countries to which he promised greater co-operation and spelled out India’s own interests as a maritime power. This was not presented as a riposte to China’s plans. But in January Mr Modi and Barack Obama produced a joint “strategic vision”. Implicitly, India’s response to China’s maritime ambitions has been to reinvigorate ties with small neighbours and to cleave closer to America.

via Banyan: Where all Silk Roads lead | The Economist.

08/04/2015

China to open 10 new air corridors to ease congestion -China Daily | Reuters

China plans to open 10 new air corridors to help ease chronic air traffic congestion and address the problem of frequent flight delays, the official China Daily said on Wednesday, citing a senior aviation official.

China Eastern Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, in this July 29, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Aly Song

“Over the past 10 years, the number of flights using China’s airspace has been increasing 10 percent year-on-year, but our airspace that can be used by civilian airlines is only one-third of that in the United States,”, Chen Jinjun, director of the air traffic management division of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), was quoted as saying.

The new routes will allow aircraft to travel to and return from a destination along two separate lanes, Chen said. On exsting routes they take the same lane at different altitudes.

Chen did not provide a timetable for the initiative or the location of the new routes. Chen and CAAC’s air traffic control officials were not immediately available for comment.

Last week, the CAAC opened the GuangzhouLanzhou air corridor, which can handle more than 400 flights every day and covers 32 airports in six provinces.

China has been scrambling to build airports across the country to keep pace with its fast-growing civil aviation market, but its military-controlled airspace has made flight delays the norm.

via China to open 10 new air corridors to ease congestion -China Daily | Reuters.

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