Archive for November, 2014


Narendra Modi woos Saarc nations, pledges slew of investments to counter China – The Times of India

India pledged a slew of regional investments at Saarc summit this week, seeking to counter China’s growing economic inroads into its backyard as it remains embroiled in bitter rivalry with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said South Asia‘s largest economy would fund regional infrastructure, health facilities and even a communications satellite, and promised to free up its markets to exporters in smaller countries in the region.

Modi, who won a landslide election victory in May, has made clear that boosting India’s influence in its immediate neighbourhood is a key strategic priority for his government.

Critics say the previous Congress party government began to take relationships for granted, allowing economic giant China — which shares a border with four of India’s neighbours — to step into the breach.

But the failure of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) to make any significant progress during a two-day meeting underscored the scale of the challenge New Delhi faces.

Cross-border trade among the eight Saarc nations — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — still accounts for less than five percent of total commerce in the region.

“Indians want to keep South Asia as their exclusive sphere of influence,” said Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in Delhi.

“To do that… we need to play the economic game and we need to play the connectivity game better. We have been protectionist, and that is not good,” he said, welcoming Modi’s pledge to help smaller nations reduce their trade deficits with India.

Leaders signed just one agreement, on energy cooperation, at a summit that was overshadowed by the rivalries between India and Pakistan, leading host country Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to say that Saarc had fallen short of expectations.

Nepal, long under the political influence of New Delhi, has benefited hugely from China’s bounty over the last decade, getting much-needed new roads and other infrastructure. Even the venue where the leaders met was built with Chinese money.

It is among several Saarc nations including Pakistan and Sri Lanka that reportedly support full membership for China, which currently enjoys observer status in the regional grouping.

India has resisted promoting its regional rival to full membership status, which comes with the power to veto agreements.

Frustrated by the slow pace of progress towards regional cooperation, it has also sought to woo its neighbours outside the Saarc framework.

via Narendra Modi woos Saarc nations, pledges slew of investments to counter China – The Times of India.


Women still outnumbered in top jobs – China –

Despite China having one of the highest rates of female employment in the world, only a small percentage of women work in senior positions, said a research report released in Shanghai on Thursday.

Women hold less than 10 percent of executive level jobs in China and have only a 1 in 15 chance of reaching the chief executive suite, the report based on a study by Bain & Co said.

Only about 6 percent of CEOs and 8 percent of board directors are women, and only 27 percent of senior managers are female, according to the report.

The study in May surveyed 850 women who hold a variety of positions in more than 25 industries and 50 cities across China.

Disruption from family commitments is the top obstacle to women advancing in China.

“I wish to excel in my career and take good care of my family at the same time. Sometimes I feel that I might have been expecting too much,” said Meng Xiaoqing, a 25-year-old clerk who has been working for three years for a furniture maker in Shanghai.

Meng said she once aspired to become head of her department, but she dropped the plan because she “might not be able to handle more responsibilities and a household at the same time”.

China has introduced a series of gender parity policies and has promoted equal opportunities for women, but accepted norms and behaviors are somehow disconnected from these policies, said Jennifer Zeng, co-author of the study.

About 73 percent of working-age women in China are employed, compared with 67 percent in the UK, 66 percent in Australia and 62 percent in the United States.

Women tend to be as qualified as men when they enter the workforce, comprising 47 percent of university graduates in China, and they initially progress in equal numbers, holding 46 percent of professional positions, the report said.

“My observation is that enterprises have been investing heavily in improving gender parity, and female employees are better informed than ever about how to protect themselves when gender discrimination occurs,” said Liu Wei, a lawyer at Shanghai Shenda Law Firm.

The real challenge is for companies themselves to counter the prevailing stereotypes, differences in women’s and men’s leadership styles, as well as gender and organizational biases, Zeng said.

Neither men nor women seem to like female bosses, who are perceived as being detail-oriented to the point of micromanaging. As women move up in seniority, they are also more likely to be labeled “aggressive” and “less feminine”, and such stereotypes and labels can undercut women’s confidence levels and make it more difficult for them to work effectively with others.

via Women still outnumbered in top jobs – China –


Indian Stock Exchange Rises Up World Rankings, Catching Up With China – India Real Time – WSJ

Indian shares are on a roll and that’s bringing the country’s stock exchanges onto the global stage.

English: National Stock Exchange of India Русс...

English: National Stock Exchange of India Русский: Национальная фондовая биржа Индии (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Friday, the market capitalization, or total value of listed companies, on Mumbai’s BSE exchange reached a new record of 100 trillion rupees ($1.6 trillion.)

The market value of companies listed on Indian stock exchanges has risen by more than 40% over the past year, as investors are betting that Indian companies will benefit from a turn in the local economy and policies expected from the new government that came to power in May.

The BSE stood 10th among the world’s stock exchanges as measured by market value at the end of October, according to data from the World Federation of Exchanges.

It is followed closely by India’s National Stock Exchange, which is ranked 11th.

Industry experts say India’s standing is likely headed higher.

“It is a matter of time before we make it to the top 5,” stock exchanges in the world, said Kalpana Morparia, chief executive of J.P. Morgan India, in a statement Friday.

If the market cap of Indian companies keeps increasing at its recent pace, the BSE and NSE could soon overtake Germany’s Deutsche Borse and China’s Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

via Indian Stock Exchange Rises Up World Rankings, Catching Up With China – India Real Time – WSJ.


China Soon to Have Almost as Many Drivers as U.S. Has People – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China will soon have nearly as many drivers as the U.S. has people.

As of this week, the number of Chinese motor-vehicle drivers was poised to break past 300 million people, according to the country’s top law-enforcement agency, including 244 million licensed passenger-car drivers. The U.S., by comparison, has about 319 million men, women and children, and nearly 212 million licensed drivers.

Meanwhile, China has 154 million private autos, next only to the U.S., said the ministry. The U.S. government puts the number of cars and trucks there at around 240 million, suggesting China still has a ways to go before it can fill parking lots the way Americans do.

The numbers – a result of China’s wealth accumulation over the past decade as well as the rise a domestic car-manufacturing base – have all kinds of implications for the world’s No. 2 economy. The rise in the ranks of drivers could be good news for an industry facing slowing growth and overcapacity, though it also complicated Beijing’s efforts to wrap its arms around the country’s massive pollution problems.

First, the details: Chinese drivers are increasingly female, both older and younger, and new to the streets.

via China Soon to Have Almost as Many Drivers as U.S. Has People – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


Inheritance law: A lack of will power | The Economist

IN RECENT weeks China’s leaders have been talking up the need to enhance the rule of law. Their aim is to strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on power while at the same time ensuring that justice is served more fairly. This may improve the lives of some. Many people complain bitterly that courts often pay more heed to the whims of officials than to the law. But in the realm of death, it is the law itself that is the problem. The country’s statutes on inheritance remain little changed from the days when few had any property to bequeath. The rapid emergence in recent years of a large middle-class with complex property claims has been fuelling inheritance disputes. The crudity of the law is making matters worse.

Today’s inheritance law was adopted in 1985 when divorce and remarriage were rare and international marriage nearly unknown. Few owned homes, cars or other valuable property. The law does at least grant men and women equal rights to their kin’s estates, but otherwise it is based largely on tradition. It is specific when it comes to handing down “forest trees, livestock and poultry” but runs out of steam when it comes to newfangled notions such as intellectual property; never mind domain names and digital photographs. A sweeping reference to “other lawful property” is its unhelpful attempt to cover all eventualities. What counts as property? By whose laws? The statute has no answers.

Modest changes were approved in 2003, but woolly areas remain such as in procedures for registering wills. This has led to rancorous court cases like one that last month attracted much public attention. It involved a disputed will and the embattled surviving family members of a famous calligrapher and his estate worth about 2 billion yuan ($326m).

Since the last revisions to the law, society has kept up its blistering pace of change. The divorce rate has risen in each of the past ten years. In 2009 divorces outnumbered marriages. Thus there are now ex-spouses and stepchildren among those squabbling over estates. China’s embrace of globalisation means that some assets (and indeed, clamouring relatives) are located in other countries.

China’s one-child policy has sometimes complicated matters. State media reported on a car crash in 2012 in which both parents died several hours before their sole child, a six-year-old girl. She automatically inherited their assets in that short interval but had no legal heir herself, meaning the assets went to the state instead of other kin.

At a meeting in October Chinese leaders expressed support for amending the inheritance law (though a long-mooted plan to introduce an inheritance tax still looks far from being put into force: the middle class does not want that). Yang Lixin of Renmin University in Beijing says that despite this resolve it could still be several years before the law catches up with reality. It is enough to send legal drafters to an early grave.

via Inheritance law: A lack of will power | The Economist.


Higher education: A matter of honours | The Economist

FINE porcelain, Chinese-landscape scrolls and calligraphy adorn the office of Shi Yigong, dean of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Little about his ornamentation hints at Mr Shi’s 18 years in America, where, like thousands of Chinese students, he decamped for graduate study in the early 1990s. Mr Shi eventually became a professor at Princeton University but he began to feel like a “bystander” as his native country started to prosper. In 2008, at the age of 40, he returned to his homeland. He was one of the most famous Chinese scholars to do so; an emblem for the government’s attempts to match its academic achievements to its economic ones.

Sending students abroad has been central to China’s efforts to improve its education since the late 1970s, when it began trying to repair the damage wrought by Mao’s destruction of the country’s academic institutions. More than 3m Chinese have gone overseas to study. Chinese youths make up over a fifth of all international students in higher education in the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries. More than a quarter of them are in America.

Every country sends out students. What makes China different is that most of these bright minds have stayed away. Only a third have come back, according to the Ministry of Education; fewer by some counts. A study this year by a scholar at America’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education found that 85% of those who gained their doctorate in America in 2006 were still there in 2011.

To lure experts to Chinese universities, the government has launched a series of schemes since the mid-1990s. These have offered some combination of a one-off bonus of up to 1m yuan ($160,000), promotion, an assured salary and a housing allowance or even a free apartment. Some of the best universities have built homes for academics to rent or buy at a discount. All are promised top-notch facilities. Many campuses, which were once spartan, now have swanky buildings (one of Tsinghua’s is pictured above). The programmes have also targeted non-Chinese. A “foreign expert thousand-talent scheme”, launched in 2011, has enticed around 200 people. Spending on universities has shot up, too: sixfold in 2001-11. The results have been striking. In 2005-2012 published research articles from higher-education institutions rose by 54%; patents granted went up eightfold.

But most universities still have far to go. Only two Chinese institutions number in the top 100 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University includes only 32 institutions from mainland China among the world’s 500 best. The government frets about the failure of a Chinese scholar ever to win a Nobel prize in science (although the country has a laureate for literature and an—unwelcome—winner in 2010 of the Nobel peace prize, Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned dissident).

via Higher education: A matter of honours | The Economist.


India’s Car-Sharing Startups Look to Change a Driving Culture – Businessweek

The startups, modeled after U.S. car-sharing service Zipcar (CAR), are gaining in popularity. Slow economic expansion has frozen income growth, and prime lending rates have risen 26 percent in the past five years, discouraging people from taking out car loans. “A lot of people don’t want to invest in cars,” says Abdul Majeed, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chennai. “With traffic congestion and cost of ownership rising, and with poor public transport in most cities, car-sharing is bound to take off.” For younger Indians joining the workforce, car-sharing comes free of the hassle of maintaining the cars.

Bandra–Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, India

Zoomcar, based in Bangalore, has attracted U.S. investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which led an $8 million investment round in October, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Americans Greg Moran and David Back started the company in February 2013 with $650,000. They raised another $3 million last year. Summers was an early investor. “There were small-time operators, mom-and-pop type shops that didn’t have the technology and the right product,” says Moran, who, along with Back, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007.

via India’s Car-Sharing Startups Look to Change a Driving Culture – Businessweek.


South Asia Summit Nearing Failure as India, Pakistan Bicker – Businessweek

South Asian leaders overseeing a quarter of the world’s people struggled to agree on how to ease trade barriers in the region as India and Pakistan continued a decades-long row over a disputed border.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to meet every regional leader except Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a one-on-one meeting during a gathering in Nepal starting today. Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, last held a summit in 2011.

Failure to agree on cross-border travel and electricity supply would risk derailing Modi’s plan to turn the bloc into a regional force that can counter China’s growing influence. Chinese leaders have promised to invest part of a $40 billion Silk Road fund on infrastructure in South Asia.

via South Asia Summit Nearing Failure as India, Pakistan Bicker – Businessweek.


China Drafts a Law on Domestic Abuse – Businessweek

China’s government is seeking public input as it drafts a long overdue law to protect victims of domestic violence. In addition to shielding spouses from abusers, the law will address physical aggression against children and elders—all issues that are at once taboo and disturbingly common in modern China.

China Drafts a Law on Domestic Abuse

According to a 2011 study by the All China Women’s Federation, a quarter of women in China have been victims of some form of domestic violence. Yet for many years, spousal abuse was considered a private or family matter, making it difficult for victims to seek police intervention or professional counseling.

The problem of widespread domestic abuse first gained traction in Chinese news headlines in 2011 after Kim Lee, the American wife of a high-profile Chinese entrepreneur, posted photos of her badly bruised face on Weibo. She explained on the microblog that her husband, Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English language school, regularly hit her.

In 2013 the couple divorced, and Lee was awarded custody of their three children and 12 million yuan (nearly $2 million) in damages and compensation. Her decision to discuss the matter publicly helped ignite a national conversation.

According to Xinhua, the new “family abuse” law will require police to respond immediately to reports of domestic violence. It will also create mechanisms for victims to seek restraining orders against abusers. If a domestic violence case is heard in court, the draft law offers some guidance in sentencing, suggesting jail terms of up to seven years for serious offenders.

via China Drafts a Law on Domestic Abuse – Businessweek.


China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters

When eight South Asian leaders gather for a summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday, they will meet in a conference center donated by China to its cash-strapped Himalayan neighbor Nepal 27 years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches a guard of honour upon his arrival for the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

In the decades since it built the modernist brick and glass hall, China has massively stepped up its presence in South Asia, supplying ports, power stations and weapons.

China’s advance has been aided by bickering between India and Pakistan that stymies almost all attempts at integration in a region that is home to a fifth of the world’s population but has barely any shared roads, fuel pipes or power lines.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not welcomed Beijing’s renewed suggestion its status be raised from “observer” in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in which India is presently the only major power.

SAARC summits bring together leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Modi’s hope of using the group as a counterweight to China is unlikely to gain traction at the two-day Kathmandu meeting, with officials saying Pakistan is blocking deals to increase transport and energy connections.

Pakistan mooted the idea of upgrading China’s and South Korea’s status in the organization at a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers on Tuesday. It was quickly rebuffed by India.

via China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters.

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