Archive for September, 2014

30/09/2014

Education in China: Online learning is becoming more popular | The Economist

NEARLY 7m students began their courses at Chinese universities at the start of a new academic year this month. In line behind them, a new cohort is already cramming for next year’s university entrance-examination, the notorious gaokao. But some young Chinese see drawbacks in bricks-and-mortar tuition in China because of a rigid style of teaching, the funnelling of students into courses they do not enjoy, the cost and dim job prospects for many graduates. Small but growing numbers are considering options online.

Internet-based methods of teaching, known as Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs, are already gaining in popularity in other countries. Typically, MOOCs offer students free access to instructional videos but charge for certificates showing satisfactory completion of coursework. In China, despite deeply ingrained reverence for traditional institutions, the trend is also beginning to catch on.

One startup in the field is a non-profit organisation in Beijing calling itself One-Man University. It is not officially recognised as a university, but it has gained a big leg-up with backing from non-state companies that see MOOCs as a potentially large new market. To attract viewers, 56.com, a video-streaming website, is distributing the service’s instructional videos without advertisements. Since it opened in 2011, One-Man University has acquired 130,000 registered members.

The organisation’s 27-year-old founder, Tong Zhe, studied physics at Peking University. He decided to offer online courses because he felt that the Chinese approach to higher education was too formulaic. Mr Tong’s 15-minute videos are prepared by professional teachers whose delivery is livelier than what is usually experienced in the dour lecture-halls of Chinese universities. Within three years Mr Tong aims to offer all university and high-school subjects. (The service’s name in Chinese, Wanmen Daxue, is a pun on the English that also means “ten thousand subjects”.)

Universities do not seem opposed to the idea. The principal of Southern University of Science and Technology, Zhu Qingshi, has said of One-Man University: “Education in the internet age can make everyone equal. I believe it will bring a revolution to education.” They are also getting into the business themselves. The government has allowed a first wave of open online courses—such as those provided by Xuetang, a MOOC supported by Tsinghua University—to be hosted on EdX, a non-profit platform, which is sponsored by Harvard and MIT. In May Chen Jin, Nanjing University’s president, said the university intended to work with Coursera, an American MOOC provider which has signed a deal with NetEase, a Chinese distributor, to host online courses.

via Education in China: Online learning is becoming more popular | The Economist.

30/09/2014

Water consumption: A canal too far | The Economist

THREE years ago the residents of Hualiba village in central China’s Henan province were moved 10km (six miles) from their homes into squat, yellow houses far from any source of work or their newly allocated fields. These days only the very young and very old live there. Close to their old farms, a giant concrete canal now cuts a swathe. From October 31st the channel will gush with water flowing from China’s lush south to the parched north.

The new waterway is part of the biggest water-diversion scheme in the world: the second arm of what is known as the South-North Water Diversion Project. This is designed to solve an age-old imbalance. The north of China has only a fifth of the country’s naturally available fresh water but two-thirds of the farmland. The problem has grown in recent decades because of rapid urban growth and heavy pollution of scarce water supplies.

The result is a chronic shortage. The World Bank defines water scarcity as less than 1,000 cubic metres (35,300 cubic feet) of fresh water per person per year. Eleven of China’s 31 provinces are dryer than this. Each Beijing resident has only 145 cubic metres a year of available fresh water. In 2009 the government said that nearly half the water in seven main rivers in China was unfit for human consumption. All this has encouraged ever greater use of groundwater. Much of this is now polluted too.

In 1952 Mao Zedong suggested the north could “borrow” water from the south. After his death China’s economic boom boosted demand for such a scheme and provided the cash to enable it. In 2002 the diversion project got under way. An initial phase was completed last year. This involved deepening and broadening the existing Grand Canal, which was built some 1,400 years ago, to take 14.8 billion cubic metres of water a year more than 1,100km northward from the Yangzi river basin towards the port city of Tianjin.

In late October the second, far more ambitious and costly route is due to open. This new watercourse, over a decade in the making, will push 13 billion cubic metres of water more than 1,200km from the Danjiangkou dam in the central province of Hubei to the capital, Beijing. The aim is to allow industry and agriculture to keep functioning; already in 2008 Beijing started pumping in emergency supplies from its neighbouring province, Hebei. The new canal will help avert an imminent crisis. But the gap between water supply and demand will remain large and keep growing.

The transfer will supply about a third of Beijing’s annual demand. A spur of the canal will provide an even greater proportion of Tianjin’s. But these shares will shrink over time. Even if people use less water, population growth, the expansion of cities and industrialisation will increase China’s overall demand. By lubricating further water-intensive growth the current project may even end up exacerbating water stress in the north.

Shifting billions of cubic metres across the country has caused huge disruption. The government says it has moved 330,000 people to make way for the central route. Laixiang Sun of the University of Maryland in America reckons the number uprooted is at least half a million. There will also be health and environmental costs. Diverting river-water northward could promote the spread of diseases common in the south, particularly schistosomiasis, a debilitating snail-borne disease. Reduced flow in the Yangzi may make coastal water supplies vulnerable to intrusion by seawater and increase the potential for drought.

The financial cost is also high. Mr Sun puts the cost of the project at more than $62 billion—far higher than the original $15 billion price tag. His estimate does not include the running of the project or the building of 13 new water-treatment plants to clean the water.

By increasing supply, the government is failing to confront the real source of the problem: high demand for water and inefficient use of it. Chinese industry uses ten times more water per unit of production than the average in industrialised countries, according to a report by the World Bank in 2009. A big reason for this is that water in China is far too cheap. In May 2014 Beijing introduced a new system that makes tap water more expensive the more people use. But prices are still far from market levels. Officials turn a blind eye to widespread extraction of un-tariffed groundwater by city dwellers and farmers, despite plummeting groundwater levels.

Raising the price would cut demand and encourage more efficient use. It should also help lure industry away from water-scarce areas where prices would be set at higher rates. Arid areas that are forced by the government to pipe water into desiccated cities like Beijing could offset their losses by charging higher tariffs.

via Water consumption: A canal too far | The Economist.

30/09/2014

Obama-Modi Meeting Offers Chance to Reset U.S.-India Ties – Businessweek

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings in Washington give the two leaders to chance to reinvigorate an economic relationship that both see crucial to growth and security.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The two days of talks, which began with a private dinner for Modi at the White House last night, are pivotal, U.S. officials said ahead of the summit. In addition to Obama’s sessions with Modi, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will host today a luncheon for the Indian leader.

This is the first time Obama and Modi have met, and it also is Modi’s first visit to the U.S. since he was denied a visa in 2005 over anti-Muslim riots in his state of Gujarat three years earlier. Modi won a landslide election win in May, and the U.S. is seeking to repair relations while India is wooing foreign investors to revive its economy.

“The U.S. is eagerly trying to move forward with Modi in order to put the past behind them,” Milan Vaishnav, an associate in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said in a phone interview. “The two sides have a foundation in terms of a bilateral government-to-government relationship and a people-to-people relationship to build on. In terms of a leader-to-leader relationship, this is almost like starting anew.”

via Obama-Modi Meeting Offers Chance to Reset U.S.-India Ties – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

Fake Trade Documents Sneak Money in and Out of China – Businessweek

Companies have “faked, forged, and illegally reused” trade documents to sneak $10 billion of hot money in and out of China since April of this year, a Chinese official announced yesterday.

Fake China Trade Disguises at Least $10 Billion of Hot Money Flows

A multi-month investigation into China’s dodgy export and import numbers has revealed the latest invoicing scams, said Wu Ruilin, a deputy head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, at a press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, reported China Daily today.

Much of the financial funny business was carried out through the port of Qingdao, where a commodity financing scandal was unearthed earlier, he added. The fraudulent trades have “increased pressure from hot money inflows and provided an illegal channel for criminals to move funds,” Wu said, adding that they had also distorted trade data.

China’s long-standing problem with false invoicing got an added level of official scrutiny after unusually high export numbers early last year. Companies have long inflated export numbers to disguise capital inflows, often aiming to benefit from China’s appreciating currency or to invest in property when that market was still hot. Exaggerating imports has been used to spirit money out of China, by contrast.

The practices of China’s banks will now be in the spotlight, as they have failed in “verifying the authenticity of the deals, which helped increase the fraudulent activities,” China Daily reported Wu as saying. All told, the foreign exchange regulator found 967 separate illicit foreign-exchange transactions through August, and imposed 180 million yuan (almost $30 million) in fines. The investigation now covers 24 provinces and cities across China.

via Fake Trade Documents Sneak Money in and Out of China – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

China’s Norinco Is Defense Giant on Global Growth Path – Businessweek

At the Africa Aerospace and Defence expo in September, weapons buyers from across the continent descended on Air Force Base Waterkloof in the South African capital of Pretoria for a bit of shopping. There they were wooed by Chinese defense gear giant Norinco, which has honed its pitch to an art.

China's New Export: Military in a Box

Namibia Deputy Defense Minister Petrus Iilonga, wearing Prada sunglasses and a Lenin pin, studied models of battle tanks before representatives from Norinco, a state-controlled conglomerate also known as China North Industries Group, ushered him into a room marked VIP for some personal salesmanship. Nearby, the Tanzanian military chief, General Davis Mwamunyange, furrowed his brow while a company official in a charcoal suit and orange tie described a truck with a radar device mounted on the back. “Just about a month ago, we did a live test on this one,” the Chinese official confided.

Norinco has even devised a novel way to make buying weapons easier: It bundles together starter kits of basic defense gear—everything from rifles to howitzers, laser-guided bombs, armored personnel carriers, tanks, and drones—for governments that want to quickly outfit their armed forces. Chinese state media has dubbed the package a “military set meal.”

STORY: Why Japan’s Controversial Shrine Infuriates China and Korea

More than three decades after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and the Communist Party founded Norinco, in the wake of a humiliating border war with Vietnam that ended in a stalemate, the company sits atop a military-industrial complex that increasingly rivals the U.S. war machine in firepower and influence.

via China’s Norinco Is Defense Giant on Global Growth Path – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

Mental Illness in China: Still a Stigma – Businessweek

Of the approximately 173 million people in China estimated to suffer from “a diagnosable psychiatric disorder,” only about 15 million have ever received medical treatment, according to a 2012 paper in the British medical journal Lancet. The country of 1.4 billion people has only about 20,000 psychiatrists, just 4,000 of whom are adequately trained and qualified, according to the journal.

Beijing Begins to Pay Attention to Mental Health Care

Awareness of mental health as a public health issue is still nascent in China, and great stigmas still attach to acknowledging that oneself—or a close family member—may suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or another condition. At the same time, the massive changes associated with China’s rapid urbanization—including millions of children separated from parents who go to work at distant factories—adds enormous psychological strain, according to the journal.

In May 2013, China’s first law to safeguard the medical privacy of people seeking health for mental treatment went into effect. The law also prohibited involuntary treatment of mental illness without the consent of a guardian. In the past, Chinese political dissidents were sometimes labeled as “mentally ill” by authorities, who used this excuse to confine them; human rights activists say this practice has not been totally abolished. Still, despite its flawed enforcement, the American Journal of Psychiatry hailed the new law as “a high-water mark for Chinese psychiatry, and potentially for global mental health.”

via Mental Illness in China: Still a Stigma – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek

The increase in China’s elderly people to more than 200 million has created a host of challenges, from a shrinking labor force to soaring pension needs. But there’s a silver-haired lining.

China's Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion 'Silver Hair' Market

The market of goods and services for China’s rapidly aging population will reach 4 trillion yuan ($652 billion) this year, or eight percent of GDP, according to the “China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry” issued Tuesday in Beijing.

The industry is expected to rise to 106 trillion yuan ($17 trillion) by 2050, amounting to a third of the Chinese economy. That would make it the world’s largest market for the aged. That year China will have 480 million people over 60—one quarter of the world’s elderly—says the report, which was published Sept. 23 by the China National Committee on Aging.

“The silver hair industry has started the rapid booming phase, making it a new promising industry in China,” said Wu Yushao, deputy director of the committee, reports the China Dailytoday. “The major reason for the boom is based on the growing number of aging people.”

Future opportunities to serve the elderly will be clustered in four main fields, the report explains. Those include appliances (to serve the less-mobile elderly, for example), services (such as home care and special transportation), real estate (assisted living centers), and financial services. The latter—insurance and money management for the elderly, for example—will make up the biggest portion of the market and still has lots of room to grow.

While 6.21 million people work in the U.S. financial industry and more than half focus on retirees, China has only 5.27 million, estimates Dang Junwu, deputy head of the Beijing’s Chinese Research Center on Aging. “There has been a huge gap in the financing industry for senior residents between China and the developed countries,” Dang told the English-language paper.

via China’s Rapidly Aging Population Drives $652 Billion ‘Silver Hair’ Market – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

China’s Legions of Tourists Will Spend $155 Billion Abroad This Year – Businessweek

China is preparing for roadways clogged with cars and trains overloaded with travelers during its weeklong National Day holiday starting Oct. 1. But the real action for Chinese tourists will be happening overseas.

Chinese tourists in Paris

Over the full year, 116 million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad and spend $155 billion, up 20 percent over 2013, projects a new report by the China Tourism Academy. That compares with less than $55 billion that will be spent by tourists inside the country, a gap of more than $100 billion. “The deficit will further increase in the future,” predicts academy head Dai Bin, who was quoted in the China Daily.

China now sends more tourists abroad than any country in the world, according to China’s National Tourism Administration. Favored destinations include Australia, South Korea, and Southeast Asian countries as well as, increasingly, Europe and the U.S. Chinese tourists abroad will exceed half a billion annually within five years, says Shao Qiwei, administration chief of the English language paper.

In the first half of this year, Chinese spent $70 billion on overseas travel, up 20.7 percent from the same period a year earlier. Chinese travelers abroad spend almost three times as much per capita as foreign tourists in China, says Fan Zhiyong, an economist at Renmin University in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Along with hotel lodging fees and restaurant meals, overseas spending includes plenty of purchases of such high-priced products as Rolex watches, Prada (1913:HK) shoes, and Chanel handbags. One-third of all Chinese travel expenditures goes to buy goods, often “luxury items—to take back home,” says McKinsey & Co. in a June report. Total spending could reach $194 billion by 2015, Morgan Stanley (MS) estimated last year.

via China’s Legions of Tourists Will Spend $155 Billion Abroad This Year – Businessweek.

30/09/2014

India Plans to Clean Up for Gandhi’s Birthday – India Real Time – WSJ

On Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a crowd at Madison Square Garden that cleaning up India was his priority.

Mahatma Gandhi never compromised on cleanliness. He gave us freedom. We should give him a clean India,” said Mr. Modi.

To honor Gandhi on the anniversary of his birth on Oct. 2, Mr. Modi earlier this month announced the launch of the Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, Mission. “I myself will set out with a broom and contribute towards this pious task” on Thursday, said Mr. Modi in an official statement. Previously called the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, the program will be restructured into two separate programs for urban and rural India.

Sanitation is one of the most pressing challenges India faces: almost 600 million people defecate in the open in the country.

The movement aims to “create a Clean India” by 2019 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. It’s an ambitious initiative, but viewed as critical to sustainable development in a country that has long ignored the most basic needs of many of its people.

As Oct. 2 draws nearer, millions of people across the country are joining daily the cleanliness drives organized by government departments, nonprofits and local community centers.

But the federal government will carry out the lion’s share of the work. Here’s what it has pledged:

The urban component is expected to cost 620 billion rupees (around $10.1 billion) over 5 years, and includes plans to eliminate open defecation, convert insanitary toilets into pour-flush ones and eradicate manual scavenging.

Manual scavenging — the practice of scraping feces out of primitive dry latrines or collecting waste from fields where villagers relieve themselves — has been illegal for decades but still persists in Indian regions lacking indoor plumbing.

In urban areas, 10 million households will be provided with around half a million public and community toilets and waste management facilities.

In rural India, 1,340 billion rupees (around $21.7 billion) has been pledged to construct around 110 million toilets across the country, said India’s rural development minister in a statement.

That’s a lot of new toilets, which if built could help prevent water-borne diseases like diarrhea, which kills almost 100,000 Indian children each year.

More toilets could also make women in India safer — in June, two teenage girls were assaulted in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh when, lacking toilets, they had gone outside to relieve themselves in the privacy of the darkness.

Mr. Modi has also directed state governments to ensure that all schools have separate toilets for boys and girls by Aug. 2015, according to a government of India press release. Many girls in India quit school when they reach puberty because of a lack of functioning toilets on the premises.

via India Plans to Clean Up for Gandhi’s Birthday – India Real Time – WSJ.

30/09/2014

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor

“Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China’s classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China’s would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history — but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.

Tibetan Settlement in India

This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements — from Spain’s Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq’s ethnic Kurds — are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state.

Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity — the status of Tibet — is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama’s exile in Dharamsala, India — an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People’s Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.

Read rest of article via Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor.

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