09/12/2016

China has gained hugely from globalisation | The Economist

LI DONGSHENG, who is 35, says he is too old to learn new skills and too old to get married. Construction and factory work used to be plentiful, he says, as he eats his lunch from a yellow plastic container while sitting on a wall outside a job centre in Hangzhou, a city on China’s wealthy eastern seaboard. But these days he can rarely find even odd jobs. He sleeps rough and has not visited his parents, who live hundreds of kilometres inland, for two years.

Millions of people like Mr Li have powered China’s rise over the past three decades, working in the boom-towns that have prospered thanks to China’s enthusiastic embrace of globalisation. Yet many are anxious and angry.Factory workers in America and Europe often blame China for stealing their jobs. There is no doubt that China has benefited enormously from its vast pool of people, like Mr Li, who are willing to work for a fraction of what Western counterparts might earn. Since 1979 China’s transformation into the workshop of the world has helped lift hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty.

Yet many of the worries that have recently animated Western voters are common in China, too. Working-class Chinese, as well as members of the new middle class, fret about rising inequality, the impact of mass migration from the countryside into cities and job losses. “China will not shut the door to the outside world but open more,” said the president, Xi Jinping, in November. But even globalisation is occasionally attacked. On December 6th Global Times, a jingoistic newspaper published in Beijing, ran an opinion piece blaming globalisation for China’s income inequality, housing bubbles and the ravaging of its environment.

China’s own policy failures are much to blame, too. But the government has sensed the danger of rising public anger created by the divide between rich and poor (in the 1980s China was among the most equal societies in the world; now it is one of the least so). A decade ago it switched its “chief task” from “economic construction” to establishing a “harmonious society”—ie, one with a more even distribution of wealth (as well as a beefed-up police force to keep malcontents in check). China is now becoming slightly fairer overall: thanks to a dwindling supply of cheap labour and government efforts to boost the minimum wage, blue-collar salaries are rising faster than white-collar ones.But many people feel that inequality and social mobility are getting worse in other respects. For example, members of the fast-growing middle class complain about the emergence of a new plutocracy. They say that the wealthiest owe their fortunes to corruption and personal relationships, not hard work. Mr Xi’s waging of the longest and most intense campaign against graft since the party came to power in 1949 is partly (as he admits) a sign of fear that anger over widespread and egregious corruption might imperil the party’s rule.

 

Among blue-collar workers, a structural shift in China’s economy, from labour-intensive manufacturing to higher-tech industries and services, is fuelling job insecurity. In 2013, for the first time, the contribution to GDP from services, such as transport, shops, restaurants and finance, pulled ahead of industry, including manufacturing, mining and construction (see chart).

In the past couple of years, jobs in manufacturing have been declining, partly because globalisation is beginning to play the same sort of role in China as it does in developed countries. Some factories have been moving to cheaper locations abroad.The impact is pronounced in many of the hundreds of towns that specialise in making certain products. Datang, China’s “sock city” near Hangzhou, is a good example: in 2014 it made 26bn pairs of socks, some 70% of China’s production, but many factories are closing as garment-making moves to cheaper countries in Asia. As a local boss explains, “People simply won’t pay more for a pair of socks.”

Millions more jobs are threatened by efforts to reduce overcapacity in bloated and heavily indebted state-owned enterprises (SOEs), such as steelmakers and mining companies. Nervous officials often prefer to prop up such businesses rather than risk an explosion of unrest among laid-off urban-born workers. The government worries more about such people than it does about unemployed migrants from rural areas: they stay in the cities rather than return to the countryside.

The official unemployment rate in urban areas has remained remarkably steady at around 4% for years, even during the worst of the global financial crisis. But those figures are highly misleading. For one thing they exclude migrants from the countryside, who often suffer the worst labour abuses, such as long periods of unpaid leave as well as of unpaid work: bosses often suffer the worst labour abuses, such as long periods of unpaid leave as well as of unpaid work: bosses often hold back wages for months. About 40 construction workers in Beijing protested last month to demand unpaid wages from a project three years ago (pictured above).

Many of those who used to work in factories, such as Mr Li in Hangzhou, are ill-equipped to find new jobs in service industries. Official data show that more than two-thirds of workers laid off in recent years were poorly educated and around half were aged 40 or older. Those are big handicaps. The government has assigned 100bn yuan ($14.5bn) to pay for the resettling and retraining of workers laid off in the steel and coal industries. But the scheme’s details are unclear. Migrants, usually first out of the door, often cannot afford to stay in a city without a job. Those who do find work in service industries are not necessarily happier. In the third quarter of 2016, for the first time, labour unrest in such firms was more common than in manufacturing, according to China Labour Bulletin. The Hong Kong-based NGO recorded 2,271 protests by workers in all industries between January and November (see map). That is more than 14 times as many as in the same period of 2011.

Drawbridge up

As anxieties grow, migrants are likely to suffer. Like those in the West who resent foreign immigrants, Chinese urbanites often blame their cities’ problems on outsiders, albeit on people from other parts of the country (who often speak very different dialects and lack “civilised” city ways). The 280m such migrants in urban China feel marginalised and resented. Weibo, a microblogging site, has accounts dedicated to subjects such as “Beijingers safeguarding the city of Beijing”. In May, 12 city and provincial governments tried to broaden their pool of university entrants by reducing quotas for local students. Parents in three cities staged demonstrations, worried their children would lose a precious advantage (pictured is one such protest in the eastern city of Nanjing).

More often, migrants are subjected to a kind of apartheid, in effect excluded from subsidised urban health care and other public services because they have no urban hukou, or residence permit. Urban schools commonly (and illegally) require that parents of migrant children pay extra fees and produce documents such as rental or job contracts that few of them can supply. Children who do get places are sometimes taught separately from those of urban-born parents. The central government is making it easier for migrants to obtain hukou in small towns and cities where apartment blocks often lie empty but jobs are scarce. But it is getting harder for people from the countryside to settle in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, owing to measures such as the demolition of ramshackle housing where many of them live and stricter qualifications for local hukou.

The Communist Party has treated the presidential election in America and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union as propaganda victories. People’s Daily, the party’s mouthpiece, gleefully reported on the “dark, chaotic and negative” election campaign that had revealed the “ill” state of America’s “so-called democracy”. China Daily called the Brexit vote a “political earthquake”. Its message was clear: giving people the freedom to make such momentous decisions can have dangerous consequences. With the West plunged into uncertainty, China has seized the chance to present itself as a beacon of stability.

Yet the party knows that in China, too, the rise of inequality and loss of manufacturing jobs present big challenges. Mr Xi may talk confidently of keeping China open, but the case for doing so is not clear to many of China’s citizens, nor even to the government (ask foreign businesses in China about the difficulties they face). Since the country first launched its “reform and opening” policy in the late 1970s, arguments have never ceased over how far to go. In the 1990s, when the party launched its first wave of SOE closures, resulting in millions of lay-offs, some angry workers even began to embrace a neo-Maoist movement that harked back to the days of guaranteed jobs (and far firmer controls on internal migration). As he prepared to take over in 2012, Mr Xi engaged in a fierce struggle with another leader, Bo Xilai, who had gained huge popularity partly thanks to his Maoist rhetoric. Mr Bo is now in jail, but Mr Xi has adopted his Mao-loving style and has lashed out at Mao’s critics.

Parents want to take back control

Anti-elite sentiment, such as Britain and America are experiencing, is the party’s worst fear. Mr Xi is a member of the party’s upper class: his father was Mao’s deputy prime minister until he was purged. Many of his closest allies are also “princelings”, as offspring of the party’s grandees are often called. That is why he has tried hard to portray himself as a “common man”, highlighting his experiences of living in a cave and working in the fields during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He is appealing to popular nationalism, too, with talk of the country’s “great rejuvenation” and the “Chinese dream” (shades of Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again”).

China does not have the complication of free elections, much less referendums. But the party feels that it needs to appear responsive to popular opinion in order to stay in power. That is becoming more difficult as economic growth slows and the main public demand—for greater wealth—becomes harder to satisfy. Even with strong institutions, rule of law and freedom of the press, Britain and America are struggling to contain popular rage. China is dealing with many of these same forces with fewer outlets for discontent. Mr Xi is trying to keep anger from spilling over by locking up dissidents with greater resolve than any Chinese leader has shown in years. He knows that global elites are under attack. That is making him all the more determined to protect China’s.

Source: China has gained hugely from globalisation | The Economist

09/12/2016

Mr Trump’s backing of an admirable but neglected country is worrisome | The Economist

WHEN President-elect Donald Trump tweeted last week that he had spoken to Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen—“The President of Taiwan CALLED ME”—almost all of Washington’s Asia hands suffered palpitations.

It was the first presidential-level contact between America and Taiwan since “normalisation” in 1979, when Jimmy Carter broke off diplomatic relations with “Free China”, as Taiwan was then often known, and recognised the Communist government in Beijing instead.

At the time Congress tried to reassure Taiwan by making provisions for continued weapons sales and hinting that America would step in should the island be attacked. But, under immense Chinese pressure, America has always kept Taiwan at diplomatic arm’s length. China regards Taiwan as one of its provinces, and refuses even to honour Ms Tsai with her title of president. It has long been assumed in Washington that any American move to alter the status quo would so infuriate China that it might wage war on the island, probably dragging in America. Didn’t Mr Trump know he was playing with fire? To Washington’s Asia experts neither possible answer to that question seemed encouraging.

But then, something strange happened: nothing. No explosion of rage issued from Beijing, as many expected. The foreign minister, Wang Yi, dismissed Ms Tsai’s call as a “small step”, or “petty” as it might also be translated—a mild response by Chinese standards. In the lull, some Asia hands allowed themselves to breathe out. Perhaps, even, the breach was not wholly without precedent—Ronald Reagan had invited senior Taiwanese officials to his inauguration, after all, and got away with it.

Perhaps, even, Mr Trump gets grudging admiration for reminding the world that Taiwan deserves more recognition as a peaceful, prosperous democracy. For too long China has controlled the narrative over the island. Far from being a renegade part of China, it has in its entire history been ruled directly from the Chinese capital for not much more than a decade: briefly in the second half of the 19th century, and from 1945-49. Never have the Communists ruled Taiwan, so shouldn’t their bullying be decried more often? As for the “one China” idea that the Communist Party insists upon, America has never agreed to it; formally, it merely “acknowledges” that both China and Taiwan hold to the principle that there is but one China. That acknowledgment was made in the 1970s, with dictatorships in Beijing and Taipei both claiming to rule all of China. Today, a democratic Taiwan has no such pretensions. Why should American policy be set in stone?

For now, many Taiwanese are basking in Mr Trump’s attention. They hope for further gestures when he is president—a free-trade deal, perhaps, which Mr Trump’s advisers say they are keen on striking with Taiwan, and more American weapons. There have been rumours that Mr Trump is mulling another possible flourish before then: a meeting in New York in January with Ms Tsai, who will be travelling to Guatemala, one of a handful of countries that officially recognise Taiwan. Ms Tsai’s office dismisses talk of this as “excessive speculation”. But were such an encounter to happen, it would cause rapture in Taiwan. It would also trigger even greater palpitations in Washington.

China would still play things cool. For a country that craves predictability in its external environment, a Trumpian America has suddenly become the wild card. But, Chinese officials remind themselves, using an old saying, the way to deal with 10,000 changes is not yourself to change. Some Chinese policymakers are pessimistic about relations with America under Mr Trump, noting his staunchly protectionist views and his inclination to improve ties with Russia in ways that might leave China isolated. (Anti-China tweets from Mr Trump reinforce the downbeat view.) Others are more hopeful, seeing a transactional president minded to cut deals with China, America’s essential counterpart on everything from trade to security. The appointment of the China-friendly governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, as ambassador to Beijing is a fillip. For now, the regime will bide its time.

Yet, far from diminishing, the risks will grow. One, in the near term, lies in the nature of Mr Trump’s team. Almost the entire Republican establishment of seasoned Asia experts has refused to serve under him. So those handling policy towards Asia are notable for their inexperience or for their ideological inclination to favour Taiwan over those once disparaged as “ChiComs”.

For all Taiwan’s virtues, this should be a worry. America’s relationship with China is broader, more complex and far, far more vital than its one with Taiwan. Making the running on Taiwan implies disregard for the bigger relationship. China’s help on many global issues, including counter-terrorism, is essential. And there is an urgent need for agreement over North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programme, which is developing dangerously fast. Only China can make North Korea change course. Finding the means to cajole or coerce China to act should be an American priority, from which much of the rest of Asia policy should flow. Yet Mr Trump’s team appears to be giving little thought to this.

Stop that tiger, I wanna get off

And then comes the risk of increased Chinese neuralgia over Taiwan during a Trump presidency. Years of propaganda and “patriotic education” have fuelled an irrational nationalism over Taiwan among ordinary Chinese. President Xi Jinping himself has said that the Taiwan “problem” can no longer be left to future generations. For now, the nationalism is in check. After all, officials claim that, for all the mischief by Taiwan’s splittist politicians, ordinary folk are true Chinese patriots. But should Mr Trump stir things up, it may dawn on the Chinese that the claim is not true, and that Taiwanese politicians promote de facto independence because that is what people want. If public anger grows, Mr Xi will be riding a tiger from which he will struggle to dismount. By then, it will no longer be possible to wait and see.

Source: Mr Trump’s backing of an admirable but neglected country is worrisome | The Economist

07/12/2016

The Great Wall: China takes on the world with new Matt Damon film – BBC News

Despite a long tradition of movie-making, and much critical acclaim for its directors overseas, China has never yet produced a truly global blockbuster.

But this is being billed as the moment when Chinese film finally takes on the world.

The Great Wall is one of the most lavish and expensive films ever shot in China.

Directed by the living-great of Chinese cinema, Zhang imou, it makes use of vast theatrical sets, elaborate costumes as well as great Chinese cultural icons like, er, Matt Damon.

Matt Damon?

The US superstar’s leading role in the swashbuckling Chinese showcase has already been the subject of much controversy.

“Well, ‘whitewashing’ you’ve got to define,” he tells me.”Whitewashing for me was always like Chuck Connors playing Geronimo, so I don’t know if that would even be the right term to accuse us of.

‘We never consider race first’

The accusation that a Caucasian male star has somehow been shoehorned into the piece to give the film a more direct appeal to American and European audiences is something that also rankles with Zhang Yimou.

“Matt Damon plays a foreign mercenary who comes to China to steal gun powder,” Mr Zhang tells me.

“Of course he is a foreigner. For the director, we never consider the race question first. We always think about the story first. If the story flows, if the story is good.”

Mr Damon joins the massed ranks of the Chinese army on top of perhaps the greatest cultural icon of them all, the Great Wall, built not to keep out men, according to the fantastical plot, but monsters.

The budget of at least $100m (£80m) underwrites a US-China collaboration of a kind that is becoming increasingly common nowadays.

And such collaborations align neatly with one of the political priorities of the Chinese government: to expand its international cultural influence.

The Great Wall’s director Zhang Yimou with actors Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe

Rivalling Hollywood‘s soft power

As Hollywood comes to China in desperate search of new, lucrative audiences, China is desperate to harness something of the elusive magic.

If it can build its own film industry, the argument goes, it can use it to develop its so-called “soft power”, in the same way US movies have carried American values and norms around the world for a century or more.

And that appears, on some level at least, to be what The Great Wall is trying to do.It can appeal to Chinese and international audiences alike, hence the internationalised plot line, allowing the incorporation of a Hollywood star.

And it carries a central message about time-honoured Chinese ingenuity (the gunpowder), as well as lasting cultural power (the Great Wall).

Matt Damon though is having none of it.”No, I didn’t for a second think this film was a propaganda tool,” he says.

“I think our world is a much better place when we’re talking to each other and collaborating and making art together.”

Performers promoting The Great Wall film in Beijing

‘No director has 100% freedom’For Zhang Yimou, the experience of working on such a giant US-Chinese co-production has, he says, opened his eyes.

Not to the political sensitivities of communist China, of which he is already well aware of course, but of the restrictions that commercial pressures bring to bear.

“This time I discovered that Hollywood has lots of restrictions too,” he says.”It is a system based on producers and companies… As far as creativity is concerned, I think there is not 100% freedom for any directors around the world. The job of a director is to do his best under limited circumstances.

“Whatever the truth in that, it is surely the case that American films have been such powerful vehicles for the transportation of American values for the simple reason that those values have universal appeal.

So is the first all made-in-China blockbuster finally about to be released?Zhang Yimou thinks the time has come.”The world is following Hollywood. Everyone else is absent,” he tells me.

“This is not normal.”

Source: The Great Wall: China takes on the world with new Matt Damon film – BBC News

06/12/2016

Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change | South China Morning Post

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday her phone call with US president-elect Donald Trump should not be interpreted a significant shift in American policy, and stressed that both sides saw the value of maintaining regional stability.

“Of course I have to stress that one phone call does not mean a policy shift,” she told a small group of American reporters in Taipei. “The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the US election as well as congratulate president-elect Trump on his win.”

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen initiated phone call with Donald Trump, says island’s presidential spokesmanTrump’s phone call with Tsai broke four decades of diplomatic protocol, alarming some commentators who feared it could spark a dangerous confrontation with Beijing.

Others though, especially US Republicans, have welcomed it as a sign Trump will not be bullied by Beijing, and believe the United States should offer more support to Taiwan’s democracy.

Sources in Trump’s team said the call was planned weeks in advance to establish the incoming president as a break from the past, although vice-president-elect Mike Pence described it as a “courtesy” call, not intended to show a shift in US policy on cross-strait ties.

Tsai echoed that line. “I do not foresee major policy shifts in the near future because we all see the value of stability in the region,” she said.Beijing has reacted with relative calm to the call, lodging what it called a “solemn protest” with the US government, but also underlining that its economic and diplomatic relationship with Washington depended on the US acceptance of the one-China principle, which recognises Beijing as the sole representative of the Chinese nation.

Beijing blocks Taiwan from taking part in almost all international bodies. Tsai’s office said she had told Trump during the phone call that she hoped the United States “would continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues”.

Reacting to criticism of the call, Trump himself pointed out that the United States sold billions of dollars of arms to Taiwan.

Beijing has already increased the pressure on Taiwan since Tsai’s election, upset that she has not publicly endorsed the “one China” principle – although she consistently expresses the need for dialogue.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to blame Taiwan for the phone call, calling it a “petty” move, and the nationalist Global Times tabloid initially recommended that Beijing should continue to talk to Trump but punish Taiwan.

Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior non resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, wrote that this could include renewed efforts to deny Taiwan access at various multilateral organisations, the stealing of diplomatic allies, punitive economic measures and more intense or frequent military exercises aimed at Taiwan.

If that happens, the domestic support Tsai had received for her call could be countered by greater tensions with Beijing, he said, “What remains to be seen is what kind of ally Taiwan will have in Washington if and when such a shift occurs in the Taiwan Strait,” he wrote in The National Interest.

On Tuesday, there were also signs of growing concern in Beijing that Trump’s constant criticism of Beijing in his speeches and on Twitter might actually mean something. His latest salvo – complaining about China’s currency and trade policy, and its actions in the South China Sea – sparked a frustrated response in the Global Times.What does Donald Trump’s phone call with President Tsai mean for future US arms sales to Taiwan?

“Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it,” it wrote. “China should brace itself for the possible fluctuations of the Sino-US relationship after Trump is sworn in. We must confront Trump’s provocations head-on, and make sure he won’t take advantage of China at the beginning of his tenure.

”The Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily took a more measured line, arguing that dialogue was vital to maintaining friendly relations and correct some of Trump’s “inaccurate” criticisms of Beijing.

“Trump’s recent demeanour has proved people’s doubts on his inexperience in diplomatic relations. In fact, Trump is not that ignorant on China and China-US relations, he has some sensible understandings and his own take on matters. But the problem is that Trump’s rhetoric shows that he only knows one side of China and China-US relations,” it wrote in a front-page editorial on its overseas edition.

“At the present, the peaceful transition of China-US relations is the key task that both countries face. It depends on joint efforts, not just good wishes from one side.”

Source: Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change | South China Morning Post

06/12/2016

Beer Diplomacy: Another Investment Follows a Visit by Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ

After pulling a pint for Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, an iconic English pub has now pulled in Chinese investors.

The Plough at Cadsden was purchased by a London-based investment company that the broker, Christie & Co., described as a Chinese company. Terms weren’t disclosed.

The purchase, by SinoFortone Investment, came after Mr. Xi shared a beer with former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at the pub.

Unknown is how his visit may have led to the purchase. But it is the latest deal to follow the Chinese leader’s movements.

On the same day Mr. Xi visited the pub, he also joined Mr. Cameron on a visit to the Manchester City soccer club, in the north of England. The following month a Chinese consortium said it had invested $400 million for a minority stake in the successful soccer club.

Closer to home, Mr. Xi’s patronage of the state-owned Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop in Beijing was followed by an announcement that the restaurant chain plans an IPO. The Plough, which describes itself as “probably the most famous pub in England,” is near Chequers, the country house retreat for British prime ministers. The pub “has become quite a tourist attraction for Chinese visitors” since Mr. Xi’s appearance, Christie & Co said.

SinoFortone Investment extolled the virtues of beer diplomacy, calling pubs “the best way culturally to link people from different countries and build friendships.” The company added that “The English pub concept is growing very fast in China.” SinoFortone has also invested £100 million ($1.28 million) in London Paramount Entertainment, a large theme park proposed for construction on the Swanscombe Peninsula in North Kent. The deal was announced while Xi Jinping was in the U.K.

Source: Beer Diplomacy: Another Investment Follows a Visit by Xi Jinping – China Real Time Report – WSJ

02/12/2016

Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

An Indian aerospace startup has said that it will launch its mission to the moon in a year’s time, as it takes part in a Google-funded competition to become the world’s first-ever privately held company to make a soft landing there.

Team Indus‘s rover, nicknamed ‘Ek Choti Si Asha,’ or ‘one small hope’ in Hindi, won the Axiom Research team a million-dollar prize from Google last year.

A group of more than 100 scientists and engineers, including around a dozen former ISRO scientists, make up Axiom Research Labs’ Team Indus. The team is India’s only entry in the Google-funded Lunar XPrize challenge, which has a bounty of $30 million.

To win the prize, a team has to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

“A full launch vehicle from ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization] will launch our spacecraft into the orbit of the moon end of 2017,” Rahul Narayan, the fleet commander of the team, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

The supermoon rising above Cape Town on November 14, 2016, when it was closest to the earth in 68 years.

The Team Indus spacecraft is expected to make it to the moon’s Mare Imbrium region by January 2018.

The race is on. Sixteen other teams from across the world want to make the 238,900-mile trip, and Team Indus is the fourth team to announce its launch plans, said Mr. Narayan.

“We are considering the team from Israel great competition at this point,” he said.

The Indian team’s plan is the country’s first shot at becoming the fourth nation to land gently on the lunar surface and unfurl its national flag, after the U.S., Russia and China.

The South Asian nation’s inexpensive Mars mission put its satellite Mangalyan, which now appears on India’s new 2,000-rupee bank notes, into the red planet’s orbit for $74 million in September 2014. The U.S. spent $671 million getting its Maven satellite to Mars orbit.

The team said its mission would cost $60 million.

Team Indus’s core leadership team, including fleet commander Rahul Narayan, fourth from left.

“We’ve already raised about $15 million through private equity,” said Julius Amrit, co-founder and director. The company aims to raise $20 million by charging companies or universities to put their instruments on board to collect data. It also expects to raise another $20 million from sponsorship, donations and grants.

Its top investors include Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group, one of India’s biggest conglomerates; Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Indian outsourcing firm Infosys; and the owners of e-commerce website Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd.

“We are quite confident at this moment that we will have enough money to send our spacecraft to the moon,” Mr. Amrit said.

The Bangalore-based startup won a million dollar prize from Google last year for its WALL-E lookalike moon rover, which will shoot high-quality images, video and data and beam them from the moon’s surface to the company’s mission center in India.

 

But the mission isn’t without its challenges.“If you have to softly land, you need to be able to [precisely] manage your velocity and time [to switch your engines on and off],” said Dhruv Batra, Program Lead at Team Indus. “Unfortunately, there is no throttle-like mechanism in a spacecraft, like you have in a car.”

Another challenge is to be able to land at the right time of the day—to make sure the solar panels are able to power the gadgetry, while making sure the temperature isn’t too extreme for the batteries and other electronics to work properly.

“We are currently refining each and every output of our simulations to arrive at that level of precision we need,” said Mr. Batra.Seven years ago, Team Indus was one of the last teams to sign up for the Google challenge, and its founders had no prior experience in aerospace engineering or space sciences, said Mr. Narayan, the fleet commander. “It was just a dream.”

Source: Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

01/12/2016

Divorce is on the rise in China | The Economist

WITH his slick navy suit, silver watch and non-stop smoking, Yu Feng is an unlikely ambassador for Chinese family values. The office from which he operates, in Chongqing in western China, looks more like a sitting room, with grey sofas, cream curtains and large windows looking out on the city’s skyscrapers.

Women visit him here and plead for help. They want him to persuade their husbands to dump their mistresses.

Mr Yu worked in family law and then marriage counselling before starting his business in 2007. He charges scorned wives 100,000-500,000 yuan ($15,000-75,000); cases usually take 7-8 months. He befriends both the two-timing husband and the mistress, encouraging them to find fault with each other, and gradually reveals that he has messed up his own life by being unfaithful. He claims a 90% success rate with clients, most of whom are in their 30s and early 40s. “This is the want, buy, get generation,” he says; sex is a part of China’s new materialism. But changing sexual mores and a rocketing divorce rate have prompted soul-searching about the decline of family ties.

The ernai, literally meaning “second wife”, is increasingly common. So many rich men indulge that Chinese media sometimes blame extramarital relationships for helping to inflate property prices: some city apartment complexes are notorious for housing clusters of mistresses, paid for by their lovers, who often provide a living allowance too.

It is not just businessmen who keep mistresses: President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has revealed that many government officials do too. According to news reports Zhou Yongkang, the most senior person toppled by the current anti-graft crusade, had multiple paramours; former railways minister Liu Zhijun is rumoured to have kept 18.

China has a long history of adultery. In imperial times wealthy men kept multiple concubines as well as a wife; prostitution was mostly tolerated, both by the state and by wives (who had little choice). Married women, in contrast, were expected to be chaste. After 1950 concubines were outlawed and infidelity deemed a bourgeois vice. Even in the 1980s few people had sex with anyone other than their spouse or spouse-to-be.

Over the past 30 years, however, sexual mores have loosened and more young Chinese are having sex, with more partners and at a younger age. Some clearly continue to wander after marriage. Some 20% of married men and women are unfaithful, according to a survey of 80,000 people in 2015 by researchers at Peking University.

In many respects growing infidelity is a predictable consequence of economic development. Individuals are increasingly willing to put their own emotions or desires above familial obligations or reputation. Improved education and living standards mean they have more financial freedom to do so. Most Chinese couples previously had few chances to meet members of the opposite sex in social situations after marriage, but migration means that many couples live apart. Even if they live together, the pool of temptation has grown larger and easier to dip into, thanks partly to social media.

Businesses like Mr Yu’s indicate that not all spouses see affairs as an unpardonable offence. But surveys also suggest that infidelity is the “number one marriage killer”. Last year 3.8m couples split, more than double the number a decade earlier. China’s annual divorce rate is 2.8 per 1,000 people (also double a decade ago). That is not quite as high as America’s 3.2, but higher than in most of Europe. Chinese families are fraying fast.

Source: Divorce is on the rise in China | The Economist

01/12/2016

As Trump retreats, Xi Jinping moves to upgrade China’s global power play | South China Morning Post

With US president-elect Donald Trump threatening to build a wall on the Mexican border and force Asian allies to increase defence spending, Beijing is busy luring countries across the eastern hemisphere into its orbit.

President Xi Jinping, who is consolidating his power at home, is planning to host a big “One Belt, One Road” summit in China next year, sources close to the central government told the South China Morning Post, adding that the event would match, if not exceed, the scale of this year’s G20 summit in Hangzhou, which attracted about 30 state leaders.

China plans US$2 billion film studio and ‘One Belt, One Road’ theme park

At a time when established world powers are struggling with domestic problems, Xi sees a chance to push ahead with his oddly worded brainchild, a geopolitical push to extend Beijing’s influence to remote corners of the globe.

The belt and road initiative encompasses 65 countries including China, stretching through Southeast, South, Central and West Asia to the Middle East, Africa and East and Central Europe.

However, with globalisation facing increasing scrutiny and electoral scepticism in developed countries, it’s doubtful whether a one-party state with its own deep-rooted economic woes will be able to bind countries together through a programme viewed by critics as a Chinese plot to export its infrastructure and influence.

In addition, China’s shrinking foreign exchange reserves, the falling value of its currency and a tightening of central government control on big overseas investments have raised questions about whether there will be sufficient funds to grease China’s ambitions.

Hong Kong trade presence needed in ‘One Belt, One Road’ cities

The belt and road initiative was launched by Xi in 2013 as an attempt to boost connectivity between China and other countries along the ancient land-based and maritime Silk Roads through trade and infrastructure projects, including high-speed railway lines and energy pipelines. But the wave of populist, anti-globalisation reflected in Trump’s stunning victory in last month’s US presidential election has put its smooth implementation in doubt.

Previous Chinese infrastructure projects overseas, including energy- and resource-related ones in Africa, have triggered resentment in local communities, with Beijing accused of exploitation and failing to benefit local workers.

Even though an increasing number of key US allies, such as Canada and Britain, have joined the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), set up as part of the belt and road initiative, mistrust over Beijing’s efforts to extend its geopolitical influence are mounting.

James McGregor, greater China chairman of APCO Worldwide, a public relations and consulting firm, said the level of cooperation between Beijing and the incoming Trump administration would be crucial in determining the success of the belt and road initiative.

One of Trump’s policy advisers, former CIA director James Woolsey, has described the current Obama administration’s opposition to the AIIB as a “strategic mistake”.

How One Belt, One Road is guiding China’s football strategy

“Through OBOR and various diplomatic initiatives, China is seeking to lead peacekeeping and economic development efforts in the region,” McGregor said, referring to the belt and road initiative. “But this will be very difficult if the US and China are not aligned and working together in the region to help provide security and promote peace.“

So if Trump pushes an agenda of confrontation with China in regard to trade and security arrangements in Asia, China will have a more difficult time managing its investments in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.”

But Professor Wang Yiwei, from the school of international studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said Trump’s protectionist agenda, most notably with his vow to withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, would provide an opportunity for the belt and road initiative to “fill the gap in the market”.

“For a long time, countries around the world have been following America’s standards and development model. But now even the US itself has suffered from its system,” he said. “The US has not learned its lesson from the financial crisis – it has failed to adjust and reform its industries – and it is now blaming the problem on globalisation.”

Wang said that with the belt and road initiative, China was becoming more resistant to the risk posed by the incoming Trump administration and the anti-globalisation trend sweeping the West.“

[The belt and road initiative] is designed to counter the risk posed by the market in the West,” Wang said.

Long-term planning: China’s 21st century Silk Road strategy will take time to reap rewards

The decrease in America’s purchasing power in the wake of the financial crisis had caused the surplus production capacity in China, he said, and the belt and road initiative was a new way to boost China’s exports.

AIIB president Jin Liqun said in early November that the AIIB was “on track” to meet its big first-year targets, including lending US$1.2 billion by the end of this year. So far it has lent US$829 million to six projects in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

China invested about US$14.8 billion in 49 countries of the 64 other countries along the Silk Road last year, or 12.6 per cent of the country’s total outbound investment, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The US and the European Union remain the top destinations for Chinese outbound investment, which totalled US$146 billion in the first 10 months of this year.

Whether Chinese companies will be as enthusiastic as they used to be about pouring money into overseas projects remains to be seen, with Beijing banning overseas investment deals of more than US$10 billion until September next year and cracking down on overseas mergers, acquisitions and real estate deals involving more than US$1 billion because of concerns about capital flight.

But economists, citing the unsustainability of a strong US dollar, uncertainty about Trump’s policies and China’s need to push ahead with economic reforms, said the restrictions were more of a short-term constraint than a permanent hurdle.

“Restricting outflows is a step back, but it will not alter China’s long-term direction of capital opening,” said Tim Condon, chief Asian economist at ING.

Professor Zhang Jiadong, a belt and road specialist at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said the impact of foreign exchange controls on the belt and road initiative would be limited.

“Forex controls will mainly affect the speed of approval, but will have little impact on infrastructure investments, which usually involve lengthy preparations for feasibility studies and financing arrangements,” he said.

State-owned enterprises, with their capital size and building expertise, are major participants in the initiative. Foreign exchange clearance is just one of many long regulatory procedures they have to navigate, and they usually needed approval from the state asset watchdog and financial backing from state-owned banks.

“Overall, OBOR investment represents only a small proportion [of their activities],” Zhang said.

Chen Fengying, an economist at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the foreign exchange regulator did not cover belt and road projects.

“Investment in OBOR countries is groundbreaking and needs more government support,” Chen said. “They should be encouraged, rather than regulated.”

The biggest difficulty faced by the belt and road initiative is the need to ease suspicions among countries such as India and Japan, another big investor in Asian development projects, about Beijing’s strategic intentions.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a forum in Beijing on Wednesday that China would be accommodative to the needs of different nations in pushing ahead with the belt and road initiative. The AIIB is regarded as a rival to the Japan-led Asian Development Bank and the US-headquartered International Monetary Fund.

Zhang Jianping, an expert on belt and road policy at the National Development and Reform Commission’s Institute for International Economic Research, said mistrust remained a hurdle for China.

“Just because the US withdrew from the TPP doesn’t necessarily mean that its economic power is in decline,” he said. “All the major global financial and investment standards and institutions are still led by the US and Europe. Any attempt by China to rewrite those rules is bound to meet scepticism from the West.”

Observers said investors’ top concerns were returns on investment and safety, and that made developed countries the top destination for market, technology and management expertise, rather than developing countries . They faced bottlenecks in terms of capital, talent and management expertise in belt and road investment, which usually involved labour-intensive manufacturing or resource projects.

Beijing is pushing to build dozens of economic cooperation zones, which will be used to facilitate bilateral trade and investment and potentially draw more private firms. However, more government guidance in terms of policy and financing is needed to help private Chinese firms better integrate into economic development plans in other countries.

Liang Haiming, chief economist at the China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, said opportunities were opening up for China.

“The yuan’s depreciation against the US dollar will not affect China’s investment plans in OBOR countries,” he said. “The Chinese currency is actually strengthening against major Southeast Asian currencies.

“The capital flowing from emerging economies to the US will leave a good opportunity for Chinese capital to enter those countries.”

The Post’s annual China Conference in Hong Kong on Friday will bring business leaders and policy advisers together to share their latest insights on the business opportunities and challenges brought about by the belt and road strategy.

Source: As Trump retreats, Xi Jinping moves to upgrade China’s global power play | South China Morning Post

30/11/2016

India prisons: Why security needs to be improved – BBC News

Two major jailbreaks in a month have shone a spotlight on security in India’s overcrowded and under-staffed prisons. BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare reports.

On Sunday, five armed men in the northern state of Punjab attacked the high-security Nabha prison and freed six inmates. One of the escapees, a Sikh separatist leader, was recaptured on Monday.

It was a brazen attack. Assailants dressed in police uniforms arrived “on the pretext of depositing a prisoner” but began firing indiscriminately as soon as the prison gate was opened. They escaped with the inmates in a convoy of vehicles.

“This is what happens when there is diversion of jail staff to non-jail work and infrastructure is creaking,” said retired police officer Prakash Singh.

Prison break: Four unusual ways Indians have escaped jail

A bad seven days for Indian justice

More than 180 prisoners have escaped in more than 40 jailbreaks over the past two years, latest government figures say

Last year, two inmates escaped from the high-profile Tihar jail in the capital Delhi by digging a tunnel under a wall.

Last month, eight prisoners escaped from a high-security jail in the city of Bhopal in central Madhya Pradesh state. The inmates, members of an outlawed Islamist group, were killed outside Bhopal after they resisted arrest, police said.

Eight prisoners escaped from this prison in Bhopal last month

The men used bed sheets to scale the walls of the prison before escaping the high-security Bhopal Central Prison, police said.

The police version was questioned when unverified videos of the killing of the men surfaced from the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India. The matter is being investigated.

India’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded and under-resourced.

Some 1,400 prisons house nearly 420,000 inmates against a capacity of 366,7810, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.

More than a third of positions for prison guards and officers are lying vacant. Nearly half of the staff positions in Tihar are vacant.

Inmates ‘do everything’

It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the prisoners in Indian jails are on trial, contributing significantly to overcrowding.The Bhopal jailbreak, described as an act of coldblooded murder by the inmates’ lawyer, served again to highlight what was wrong with India’s prisons.

The prison houses more than 3,000 inmates against a capacity of 1,400.

Madhya Pradesh also has a history of jailbreaks:In 2011, nine prisoners spiked the tea of six guards of the state’s Dabra prison and ran away

In 2013, five captives broke through the washroom window of the dilapidated Khandwa prison and escaped

Retired jail officials say no one is paying attention to a system that is crying out loud for support.

“Our jails are collapsing,” retired jail official GK Agarwal told me in Bhopal, showing me a number of handwritten official correspondences to officials, in which he had pleaded for reforms.

Two years ago, in a missive to top officials, Mr Agarwal had predicted a “big accident” at Bhopal jail owing to its “structure, vulnerable points, imprudent security and staff’s deplorable situation”.

But Mr Agarwal said nothing had moved.

Lawyer Dr Siddhartha Gupta, who spent two days in the jail on a minor charge of “disturbing peace outside the court” told me: “The presence of guards inside is next to nothing.”

It’s the inmates who do everything. From cooking to office jobs to counting inmates, everything is done by them.

“Under pressure to act, Madhya Pradesh’s new head of prisons, Sanjay Choudhary, is promising “speedy modernisation”.

“We are enhancing security, increasing manpower and creating a high-security zone,” he said.

Source: India prisons: Why security needs to be improved – BBC News

30/11/2016

All-American pick-up trucks aim to lure China’s wealthy | Reuters

Automakers Ford (F.N) and General Motors (GM.N) are aiming the pick-up truck, an iconic staple in the United States, at upmarket buyers in China, where most associate trucks with farmers and construction workers.

“The Chinese call it pika, pika – a very low-end worker’s (vehicle). But the (Ford F-150) Raptor is totally different,” said Wesley Liu, Ford’s Asia-Pacific sales director, ahead of this month’s Guangzhou autoshow.

Trucks are largely restricted to overnight driving in most Chinese cities, but four provinces – Yunnan, Liaoning, Hebei and Henan – have this year launched trial programmes allowing them into urban zones in an attempt to stimulate production as economic growth, and car sales, slow.

With those looser restrictions, U.S. pick-up makers aim to distance their trucks from local models made by Great Wall Motor (601633.SS), Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) (000550.SZ) and others – and appeal to Chinese premium buyers, like Meng Shuo.

The 32-year-old founder of an investment consultancy, who already owned a Chevrolet Camaro when he bought an F-150 pick-up truck five years ago through an unofficial grey market importer. He has since traded it in for a Toyota (7203.T) Tundra, and also owns a Mercedes (DAIGn.DE) luxury sedan and Porsche (PSHG_p.DE) and Mitsubishi (7211.T) sports cars.

Ford said in April it would bring a high-performance version of its F-series – the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 34 years – to China, the world’s biggest auto market. A spokesman said the company is studying whether to also bring a mass-market model such as the F-150 or Ranger pick-up to China, depending on demand and future regulations.

“The people who buy the Raptor maybe own some other premium vehicle already. This is another toy,” Liu said.The truck is aimed at four types of buyers, he said – the wealthy, who want to stand out from the crowd; business owners, who want more than a traditional commercial vehicle; drivers who want a single car for all situations; and “gearheads”, who just like the mechanics.

Even as Chinese authorities throw vast subsidies at green, clean auto technologies, the growing wealth of Chinese consumers has driven a boom in larger cars and sport-utility vehicles (SUV). With margins now under pressure in the crowded SUV sector, automakers see potential profits in high-end foreign pick-ups.

Ford and GM – which displayed its Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado trucks around the Guangzhou show, with t-shirt clad urban cowboys and an all-leather rock band selling the trucks’ macho, all-American appeal – have not yet announced prices for their pick-ups, expected to be launched next year. But they should command a sizeable premium to locally made models as China slaps a 25 percent tax on imports.

PICKING UP

For now, pick-ups are a tiny fraction of China’s market.

IHS Markit sees sales increasing by 14 percent this year to 368,791 pick-up trucks, but that would still be only 1.4 percent of China’s light vehicle market.

By contrast, sales in the U.S. are forecast at 2.7 million pick-ups, about 15 percent of the market.

Yan Ningya, an official involved in the Hebei pilot project, said the province, home to Great Wall and other automakers, accounts for half of China’s pick-up production.

The trial has not yet resulted in higher production, he told Reuters, but the local government will need a year from the pilot project’s launch in May to gauge its impact.

After that, the central government may do more to drive production, possibly reclassifying pick-ups as passenger cars rather than commercial vehicles, he said.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which directed the provinces to launch the pilot projects, did not respond to a faxed request for comment.

“China’s pick-up truck market will be very large in the future,” said Yan, noting domestic brands would likely upgrade their trucks to meet the tastes of middle-class drivers.

Source: All-American pick-up trucks aim to lure China’s wealthy | Reuters

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