Archive for March, 2013

25/03/2013

* Third Pole glaciers shrinking, affected by black carbon

China Daily: “About 90 percent of glaciers in the Third Pole region are shrinking, accelerated by black carbon being transferred from South Asia to the Tibetan Plateau, a top scientist has warned.

The Third Pole region, which is centered on the Tibetan Plateau and concerns the interests of the surrounding countries and regions, covers more than 5 million square kilometers and has an average altitude of more than 4,000 meters.

The area has the largest number of glaciers outside the polar regions and exerts a direct influence on the social and economic development of some of the most densely populated regions on earth, including China and India.

The glaciers are at the headwaters of many prominent Asian rivers.

Influenced by global warming, its alpine glaciers have seen drastic changes in recent years, such as thinning and shrinkage, which pose potential geological hazards to people both on and around the plateau.

Like Antarctica and the Arctic, the Third Pole is drawing increased attention from the international academic community, but the results of former international studies in this area are inconsistent, said Yao Tandong, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences‘ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.

The scientist, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said some people believe the glaciers will retreat and finally disappear by 2030, while others argue they will remain unchanged.

There are even people who argue that the glaciers have even moved forward, he said.

Researchers at Yao’s institute say they can now draw a more comprehensive picture of the region, by showing data on the glaciers’ status over the past 30 years. An investigation using topographic maps and satellite images revealed the retreat of 82 glaciers, area reduction by 7,090 glaciers and the mass-balance change of 15 glaciers.

“Systematic differences in glacier status are apparent from region to region, with the most pronounced shrinkage in the Himalayas, the southeastern part of the region.

Some of the glaciers there are very likely to disappear by 2030,” Yao said.

“The shrinkage generally decreases from the Himalayas to the continental interior and is smallest in the western part. Some glaciers there are even growing.”

He said changes in the glaciers will be accelerated if the planet continues to warm.

Potential consequences would be unsustainable water supplies from major rivers and geo-hazards, such as glacier lake expansion and flooding, which could threaten the well-being of people downstream.”

via Third Pole glaciers shrinking, affected by black carbon |Society |chinadaily.com.cn.

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25/03/2013

* China pulls 1,000 dead ducks from Sichuan river

BBC: “Around 1,000 dead ducks have been pulled from a river in southwest China, local officials say.

Dead pigs along Songjiang, Shanghai - picture released 10/3/13

Residents found the dead ducks in Nanhe river in Pengshan county, Sichuan province, and alerted the environmental department, they said.

Local residents and livestock were not at risk as the river was not used for drinking water, officials added.

The news comes as the toll of dead pigs pulled from Shanghai’s Huangpu river passed 16,000.

Speaking in an interview with China National Radio on Sunday, Liang Weidong, a deputy director in Pengshan’s publicity department, said that the authorities were first made aware of the ducks on Tuesday.

Officials discovered over 50 woven bags which contained the carcasses of around 1,000 ducks in the river.

They were unable to determine the cause of death as some of the ducks were already decomposed, Mr Liang said, adding that the bodies had been disinfected and buried.

An initial investigation suggested that the duck corpses had originated from upstream and were not dumped by local Pengshan farmers, he said.”

via BBC News – China pulls 1,000 dead ducks from Sichuan river.

25/03/2013

* Behind China’s Switch to High-End Exports

WSJ: “As rising labor costs push manufacturing of T-shirts, jeans and the like out of China, the country has been able to offset that loss by grabbing the high end.

[image]

And nowhere is that on better display than the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

When the switch is flipped each night for the span’s two-year artistic light show, the electricity flows through sophisticated power devices made by Gary Hua’s factory not far from Shanghai.

In the six years since it was founded, his company has grown to 1,000 employees, who last year made three million power-supply units for high-efficiency light-emitting diodes. The company, Inventronics Inc., expects to double production this year and export more than half that output.

With labor costs increasing in China, the country is now shifting its manufacturing focus to high-tech exports such as computers and sophisticated power devices. Shaun Rein of China Markets Research tells the WSJ’s Jake Lee how Western countries are reacting.

More Related Video

The Bay Lights” Transforms San Francisco Skyline

Inventronics exemplifies China’s shift toward producing the higher-end products that are fueling the country’s export growth. China has been increasing exports in industries as varied as computers, car parts, high-technology lamps and optical-surgical equipment, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Chinese, European Union and U.S. trade data.

HSBC economists estimate that China’s share of global exports increased to 11% last year, from 9% before the 2008 financial crisis and around 5% at the turn of the millennium. China’s exports rose 8% last year while global trade expanded just 1.6%, according to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.

Chinese employment in higher-value industries such as electrical- and communications-equipment production has jumped since 2008 and now exceeds employment in textiles, garments and leather making, says Royal Bank of Scotland RBS.LN +0.68% economist Louis Kuijs.

High-tech goods are more valuable and are a bigger market than clothes. Over the past two years, Chinese exports to the U.S. of high-tech electronics, auto parts and optical devices rose 24%, to $129 billion, while exports of clothes and footwear rose just 5% to $47 billion. That has caused China’s share of the U.S. trade deficit to expand $20 billion last year to a record $315 billion, according to a U.S. government analysis.

A chunk of what is marked “Made in China” is made up of parts and design that originated elsewhere, making trade data a little fuzzy. The chips in Inventronics’ LED drivers are from the U.S., for example.

But China’s exports contain a rising percentage of materials that were made in the country, according to the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 28% of the value of Chinese exports came from foreign producers. In 2005, the figure was 36%.”

via Behind China’s Switch to High-End Exports – WSJ.com.

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25/03/2013

* Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some

Working in these Times: “If we are to take recent news reports at face value, the collective conscience of the worlds consumers can be eased, because conditions at Chinese factories are improving.

Last year, The New York Times told us that these workers are “cheap no more,” and just this February, the Heritage Foundation, touting the virtues of global free trade, claimed that Chinese factory wages have risen 20 percent per year since 2005. Foxconn, Apples major supplier and the manufacturer of approximately 40 percent of the worlds consumer electronics, says it will hold free union elections every five years.

But Pollyannas should take pause: The average migrant workers $320 monthly salary in 2011 was actually 43 percent less than the $560 national average, according to government statistics. And though its true that Foxconn will permit the election of union leaders, we have yet to see how much Chinas so-called democratic unions can empower the workers they purport to represent.

Skepticism and caveats aside, the reality is that the lot of formal production workers in China is indeed advancing, however slowly and painfully. But that is true only for formal workers. What many consumers and observers fail to note are the perilous conditions of Chinas temporary production workers and the increased tendency among Chinese factories to use such workers to manufacture the brand-name products that fill your home.

Factories supplying Apple and Samsung, for example, make heavy use of temp workers. According to official statistics, temp workers make up 20 percent of Chinas urban workforce of 300 million, though the proportion in individual factories often tops 50 percent. As China turns into a land of short-term workers, there are grave implications for labor, companies, and Chinese society.”

via Wages Rising in Chinese Factories? Only For Some – Working In These Times.

25/03/2013

* China’s Xi tells Africa he seeks relationship of equals

Reuters: “China’s new president told Africans on Monday he wanted a relationship of equals that would help the continent develop, responding to concerns that Beijing is only interested in shipping out its raw materials.

TANZANIA-DAR ES SALAAM-CHINA-XI JINPING-ARRIVAL

On the first stop on an African tour that will include a BRICS summit of major emerging economies, Xi Jinping told Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete that China’s involvement in Africa would help the continent grow richer.

“China sincerely hopes to see faster development in African countries and a better life for African people,” Xi said in a speech laying out China’s policy on Africa, delivered at a conference center in Dar es Salaam built with Chinese money.

Renewing an offer of $20 billion of loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015, Xi pledged to “help African countries turn resource endowment into development strength and achieve independent and sustainable development”.

Africans broadly see China as a healthy counterbalance to Western influence but, as ties mature, there are growing calls from policymakers and economists for a more balanced trade deal.

“China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached,” Xi said to applause. “We get on well and treat each others as equals.”

But gratitude for that aid is increasingly tinged with resentment about the way Chinese companies operate in Africa where industrial complexes staffed exclusively by Chinese workers have occasionally provoked riots by locals looking for work.

Countering concerns that Africa is not benefitting from developing skills or technology from Chinese investment, Xi said China would train 30,000 African professionals, offer 18,000 scholarships to African students and “increase technology transfer and experience”.”

via China’s Xi tells Africa he seeks relationship of equals | Reuters.

24/03/2013

* Africa’s trade ties with China in spotlight as President Xi visits

Reuters: “Chinese President Xi Jinping faces growing calls from policymakers and economists in Africa for a more balanced trade relationship between the continent and China as he arrives in Tanzania at the beginning of an African tour on Sunday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping adjusts his earphones during his visit to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Moscow March 23, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

China’s ties with the continent dates back to the 1950s, when Beijing backed African liberation movements fighting to throw off Western colonial rule. It has built roads, railways, stadiums and pipelines to win access to Africa’s oil and minerals like copper and uranium to feed its booming economy.

Many across Africa see China as a valuable counterbalance to the West’s influence. But as the relationship matures there is mounting discomfort in Africa that the continent is exporting raw materials while spending heavily to import finished consumer goods from the Asian economic powerhouse.

“He will be looking to tone down the feeling that China is just here to exploit resources. I think that is going to be his main job,” James Shikwati, director of the Nairobi-based Inter Regional Economic Network think tank, told Reuters.

China’s new leader is due to land in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, on Sunday for a state banquet before delivering his first policy speech on Africa in a Chinese-funded conference hall on Monday.

Xi will go on from Tanzania to South Africa where leaders of the world’s major emerging economies, known as the BRICS, will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday and could endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an infrastructure bank at a summit.

The proposal underscores frustrations among emerging markets at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are seen as reflecting the interests of the United States and other industrialized nations.

Xi’s visit to Africa – which ends in the Republic of Congo – on his first trip abroad is seen as a demonstration of Africa’s strategic importance to China, driven by Beijing’s hunger for resources and African demand for cheap Chinese imports.”

via Africa’s trade ties with China in spotlight as President Xi visits | Reuters.

24/03/2013

* In a Changing China, New Matchmaking Markets

NY Times: “FROM her stakeout near the entrance of an H & M store in Joy City, a Beijing shopping mall, Yang Jing seemed lost in thought, twirling a strand of her auburn-tinted hair, tapping her nails on an aquamarine iPhone 4S. But her eyes kept moving. They tracked the clusters of young women zigzagging from Zara to Calvin Klein Jeans. They lingered on a face, a gesture, and then moved on, darting across the atrium, searching.

Throughout Sanlitun Village, an open-air mall in Beijing, Yang Jing searches for potential matches for clients.

Informal “marriage markets,” where parents try to find spouses for their children, have popped up in parks throughout Beijing, including the Temple of Heaven park.

Yu Jia, at center, seeking a bride for her son Zhao Yong, viewed a photo of a possible candidate.

“This is a good place to hunt,” she told me. “I always have good luck here.”

For Ms. Yang, Joy City is not so much a consumer mecca as an urban Serengeti that she prowls for potential wives for some of China’s richest bachelors. Ms. Yang, 28, is one of China’s premier love hunters, a new breed of matchmaker that has proliferated in the country’s economic boom. The company she works for, Diamond Love and Marriage, caters to China’s nouveaux riches: men, and occasionally women, willing to pay tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to outsource the search for their ideal spouse.

In Joy City, Ms. Yang gave instructions to her eight-scout team, one of six squads the company was deploying in three cities for one Shanghai millionaire. This client had provided a list of requirements for his future wife, including her age (22 to 26), skin color (“white as porcelain”) and sexual history (yes, a virgin).

“These millionaires are very picky, you know?” Ms. Yang said. “Nobody can ever be perfect enough.” Still, the potential reward for Ms. Yang is huge: The love hunter who finds the client’s eventual choice will receive a bonus of more than $30,000, around five times the average annual salary in this line of work.

Suddenly, a signal came.

From across the atrium, a co-worker of Ms. Yang caught her eye and nodded at a woman in a blue dress, walking alone. Ms. Yang had shaken off her colleague’s suggestions several times that day, but this time she circled behind the woman in question.

“Perfect skin,” she whispered. “Elegant face.” When the woman walked into H & M, Ms. Yang intercepted her in the sweater aisle. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” she said with a honeyed smile. “I’m a love hunter. Are you looking for love?”

Three miles away, in a Beijing park near the Temple of Heaven, a woman named Yu Jia jostled for space under a grove of elms. A widowed 67-year-old pensioner, she was clearing a spot on the ground for a sign she had scrawled for her son. “Seeking Marriage,” read the wrinkled sheet of paper, which Ms. Yu held in place with a few fragments of brick and stone. “Male. Single. Born 1972. Height 172 cm. High school education. Job in Beijing.”

Ms. Yu is another kind of love hunter: a parent seeking a spouse for an adult child in the so-called marriage markets that have popped up in parks across the city. Long rows of graying men and women sat in front of signs listing their children’s qualifications. Hundreds of others trudged by, stopping occasionally to make an inquiry.

Ms. Yu’s crude sign had no flourishes: no photograph, no blood type, no zodiac sign, no line about income or assets. Unlike the millionaire’s wish list, the sign didn’t even specify what sort of wife her son wanted. “We don’t have much choice,” she explained. “At this point, we can’t rule anybody out.”

In the four years she has been seeking a wife for her son, Zhao Yong, there have been only a handful of prospects. Even so, when a woman in a green plastic visor paused to scan her sign that day, Ms. Yu put on a bright smile and told of her son’s fine character and good looks. The woman asked: “Does he own an apartment in Beijing?” Ms. Yu’s smile wilted, and the woman moved on.”

via In a Changing China, New Matchmaking Markets – NYTimes.com.

24/03/2013

* ‘If girls look sexy, boys will rape.’ Is this what Indian men really believe?

The Observer: “A shocking series of brutal attacks has led to a national debate on sexual violence. The Observer asked a group of young men in Goa for their views. The talk revealed a disturbing mindset

Indian woman at food stall

“Rape is a big, big problem. It starts with the woman. They drive the man fucking crazy.” Papi Gonzales leans back in his chair and surveys the other young Indian men around the table in his beach bar, seeking approval. They nod in agreement, eager to make their own points. “When the girls look sexy and the boys can’t control themselves, they are going to rape. It happens,” said Robin Shretha, one of the waiters.

Since a 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi in December and later died in hospital from her injuries, the issue of rape has been hugely prominent in India. Last week headlines were dominated by the gang rape of a Swiss woman on a cycling holiday in Madhya Pradesh. In the same week a British woman leapt from her hotel window in the northern city of Agra at 4am to escape the unwanted attention of the hotel manager, who was trying to get into her room.

According to government figures, a rape takes place in India every 21 minutes. The number of reported rapes rose by 9% in 2011 to 24,000. Yet conviction rates are falling, down to 26% in 2011.

The recent cases have led to worldwide outrage, and demonstrations led by women have filled the streets of major cities. But what do India’s young men think? The Observer gathered a group in the western region of Goa to hear their views. They were: Abhijit Harmalkar, 28, a driver; his brother, Avinash, 24, a factory worker; Bhivresh Banaulikar, 26, an auditor; Brindhavan Salgaonkar, 20, a factory worker; Robin Shretha, 21, a waiter; and Papi Gonzales, 32, the owner of the bar.

One word to describe their views would be “unreconstructed”. Others would be “alarming” and “frightening”. Plenty of Indian men have joined the recent demonstrations. Plenty of Indian men are committed to the cause of women’s rights. But this discussion revealed the deep moral conservatism of some young Indian males, coupled with confusion about gender roles in a society where economic modernisation is outstripping social attitudes.”

via ‘If girls look sexy, boys will rape.’ Is this what Indian men really believe? | World news | The Observer.

22/03/2013

* China’s Princesslings

Business Insider: “If you follow Chinese politics at all, you’ll have heard of a word that’s become synonymous with corruption and privilege — “princeling”.

China PSC

The term refers to the offspring of Chinese party officials, and is often used to describe those who leverage their family connections into political power.

However, there are signs that these princelings could soon be replaced — by a new, female generation of “princesslings.”

State news agency Xinhua recently released a number of in-depth profiles of high ranking Communist Party officials to celebrate China’s power transition, and observers have noted that a large number of these officials have female offspring.

Amongst those who have daughters are President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Xi’s daughter, Xi Mingze, is said to be a student at Harvard University, where she reportedly studies under a pseudonym and is protected by bodyguards.

According to Chris Luo of the South China Morning Post, Internet users have dubbed the female offspring “princesslings,” and some wonder if these princesslings could do a better job than their male counterparts.

“Daughters are generally well-behaved,” one Weibo user observed. Princelings do not have a reputation for being “well-behaved.”

Bo Xilai, one of the most famous of the group (his father was Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China) became the center of a murder scandal last year and was ousted from the party. Bo’s own son has also come under scrutiny for his lavish lifestyle. And it is widely acknowledged that many princeling’s have used their connections to gain lavish fortunes.

If this new generation of princesslings do come to hold power in China, it will be something of a change.

Just 23 percent of Communist Party members are female, and of the 3,000 deputies in the National People’s Congress, 23.4 percent are female. No woman has ever reached the top echelons of Chinese political culture: the Politburo Standing Committee.

But Luo writes that it’s just as likely that the “husbands of these privileged daughters [will] benefit from the political inheritance of their fathers-in-law.”

However, the rise of the princesslings does appear to be another sign of the growing power of women in Chinese life.”

via China’s Princesslings – Business Insider.

22/03/2013

* As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting

NY Times: “China’s state leadership transition has taken place this month against an ominous backdrop. More than 16,000 dead pigs have been found floating in rivers that provide drinking water to Shanghai. A haze akin to volcanic fumes cloaked the capital, causing convulsive coughing and obscuring the portrait of Mao Zedong on the gate to the Forbidden City.

So severe are China’s environmental woes, especially the noxious air, that top government officials have been forced to openly acknowledge them. Fu Ying, the spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress, said she checked for smog every morning after opening her curtains and kept at home face masks for her daughter and herself. Li Keqiang, the new prime minister, said the air pollution had made him “quite upset” and vowed to “show even greater resolve and make more vigorous efforts” to clean it up.

What the leaders neglect to say is that infighting within the government bureaucracy is one of the biggest obstacles to enacting stronger environmental policies. Even as some officials push for tighter restrictions on pollutants, state-owned enterprises — especially China’s oil and power companies — have been putting profits ahead of health in working to outflank new rules, according to government data and interviews with people involved in policy negotiations.

For instance, even though trucks and buses crisscrossing China are far worse for the environment than any other vehicles, the oil companies have delayed for years an improvement in the diesel fuel those vehicles burn. As a result, the sulfur levels of diesel in China are at least 23 times that of the United States. As for power companies, the three biggest ones in the country are all repeat violators of government restrictions on emissions from coal-burning plants; offending power plants are found across the country, from Inner Mongolia to the southwest metropolis of Chongqing.

The state-owned enterprises are given critical roles in policy-making on environmental standards. The committees that determine fuel standards, for example, are housed in the buildings of an oil company. Whether the enterprises can be forced to follow, rather than impede, environmental restrictions will be a critical test of the commitment of Mr. Li andXi Jinping, the new party chief and president, to curbing the influence of vested interests in the economy.”

via As Pollution Worsens in China, Solutions Succumb to Infighting – NYTimes.com.

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