Archive for April, 2016

26/04/2016

As China’s Economy Slows, Unrest Among Veterans Rises – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Over lunch in a Beijing backstreet, four Chinese veterans raised glasses to toast their reunion with fiery “baijiu” liquor.

PLA veterans stage a sit-down protest outside government offices in Hubei province on May 4, 2015.

They’d not drunk together since they were in the same army unit, fighting skirmishes with Vietnamese forces in the aftermath of a 1979 border war.

Now in their 50s, they’d come here shortly before an annual parliament meeting in March to fight a different kind of battle – to demand the welfare support that they say was promised to them, and millions of other veterans, on leaving the armed forces years ago.

The four veterans, all from the southern province of Hunan, are an example of the problem facing President Xi Jinping as he prepares to lay off 300,000 out of 2.3 million troops in the biggest restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, since the 1950s.

China already has at least six million PLA veterans on state welfare, thousands of whom have staged well-organized protests in recent years over what they see as insufficient government support. Traditionally the government has offered subsidies to former soldiers and reserved slots for them at state-run companies, though many veterans say officials don’t follow through or that the perks aren’t enough to make ends meet.

Now, with an economic slowdown threatening to cause millions of state sector layoffs, prominent military figures have warned that veterans’ protests could escalate if the government can’t provide jobs or sufficient welfare support for the 300,000 being laid off.

One of the largest veterans’ protests was in June last year when several thousand, mostly veterans of China’s war with Vietnam, wearing uniforms and medals, protested outside offices of the Central Military Commission, which commands the armed forces and is headed by Mr. Xi.

A month earlier, there was another big veterans’ protest outside a Beijing courthouse. Smaller demonstrations occur frequently in other cities, according to experts who monitor them.

Many other veterans have tried to sue the government or lodge formal petitions, as the four in the restaurant did. Before lunch, they said, they’d submitted one at a nearby building that houses the petitions office of the Central Military Commission.

Officials there took the petition and scanned their identity cards, but gave them neither a receipt nor a reply, they said. “They just told us to go back where we came from,” said one of the four, a 54-year-old former worker in a coal-washing plant. “We got the feeling it was useless to go there.”

Source: As China’s Economy Slows, Unrest Among Veterans Rises – China Real Time Report – WSJ

26/04/2016

China Bans Some New Coal Power Plants – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China Bans Some New Coal Power Plants A coal-fired power plant in Shanxi, China. Beijing has announced a ban on new coal plants in areas with surplus power supply.

Beijing has announced a ban on new coal plants in areas with surplus power supply.

China’s government is banning construction of new coal-fired power plants in areas with surplus power supply, a move that could weigh on already-struggling coal markets. As WSJ’s Brian Spegele reports:

The new measures outlined Monday by China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, underscore the central government’s deep concern with overcapacity across China’s economy, a result of weakening industrial demand as growth slows.

Beijing has previously said it aimed to curb thermal power overcapacity; analysts said the fact that it now came from an official NDRC communiqué was the clearest signal yet that it won’t tolerate new coal capacity in regions that already have excess supply.

Weaker demand for coal inside China could ultimately lead to higher exports, which would exacerbate the huge supplies of coal sloshing around global markets. The higher supplies could drive down global benchmark prices and hit the bottom lines of major U.S. and international coal producers.

The global commodities downturn has proven particularly tough on global coal companies. St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. and Arch Coal Inc. are among the large U.S. miners to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in recent months. The U.S. sector has shed 31,000 jobs since 2009.

Source: China Bans Some New Coal Power Plants – China Real Time Report – WSJ

19/04/2016

Will Delhi’s Extreme Traffic Restrictions Have an Impact on Air Pollution This Time? – India Real Time – WSJ

Delhi has implemented severe restrictions on which cars are allowed on the road again in hopes of combating the megacity’s horrendous air-pollution problem.

Volunteers remind commuters the reason for restriction placed on vehicle movement in New Delhi, India, Friday, April 15, 2016.

Similar air-clearing measures had mixed results during the peak Winter smog season but this time citizens are hoping for better results.

For the two weeks starting April 15, most cars in the Indian capital will only be allowed on the roads every other weekday. In the so-called odd-even program, cars with license plate numbers that end in odd numbers are allowed on the roads on odd-numbered days and Sundays while cars with even license plate numbers are allowed on even days and Sundays. For the first few days of the plan most offices and schools were closed for a string of national holidays and the weekend, so Monday is the true test of whether the restrictions are working.

Delhi to Revive Odd-Even Restrictions to Battle Pollution “Today is the litmus test for the odd-even plan. Like the last time, we all need to cooperate to make it a success,” Delhi’s Transport Minister Gopal Rai tweeted from his verified account on Monday. There are 2.6 million private cars and almost 5 million motorcycles and scooters registered in Delhi, according to the latest figures from the capital’s Transport Ministry.

There are many exceptions to the regulations, meaning the number of cars on the streets will not be slashed by half. Women driving alone or with children, disabled drivers, emergency services, cars with diplomatic plates and motorcyclists are all exempt from the restrictions as are military vehicles and taxis.

Source: Will Delhi’s Extreme Traffic Restrictions Have an Impact on Air Pollution This Time? – India Real Time – WSJ

01/04/2016

Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

Xi Jinping is stronger than his predecessors. His power is damaging the country

“IF OUR party can’t even handle food-safety issues properly, and keeps on mishandling them, then people will ask whether we are fit to keep ruling China.” So Xi Jinping warned officials in 2013, a year after he became the country’s leader. It was a remarkable statement for the chief of a Communist Party that has always claimed to have the backing of “the people”. It suggested that Mr Xi understood how grievances about official incompetence and corruption risked boiling over. Mr Xi rounded up tens of thousands of erring officials, waging a war on corruption of an intensity not seen since the party came to power in 1949. Many thought he was right to do so.

Today, however, China is enduring its biggest public-health scandal in years. Tens of millions of dollars-worth of black-market, out-of-date and improperly stored vaccines have been sold to government health centres, which have in turn been making money by selling them to patients.

Mr Xi’s anti-graft war has often made little difference to ordinary people. Their life—and health—is still blighted by corruption. In recent days there have also been signs of discontent with Mr Xi among the elite: official media complaining openly about reporting restrictions, a prominent businessman attacking him on his microblog, a senior editor resigning in disgust.

Mr Xi has acquired more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. It was supposed to let him get things done. What is going wrong?

Credibility gap

In fairness, Mr Xi was bound to meet with hostility. Many officials are angry because he has ripped up the compact by which they have operated and which said that they could line their pockets, so long as corruption was not flagrant and they did their job well. But Mr Xi has also found that the pursuit of power is all-consuming: it does not leave room for much else. In three and a half years in charge, he has accumulated titles at an astonishing pace. He is not only party leader, head of state and commander-in-chief, but is also running reform, the security services and the economy. In effect, the party’s hallowed notion of “collective” leadership (see article) has been jettisoned.

Mr Xi is, one analyst says, “Chairman of Everything”. At the same time, he has flouted the party’s ban on personality cults, introduced in 1982 to prevent another episode of Maoist madness. Official media are filled with fawning over “Uncle Xi” and his wife, Peng Liyuan, a folk-singer whom flatterers call “Mama Peng”. A video, released in March, of a dance called “Uncle Xi in love with Mama Peng” has already been viewed over 300,000 times. There have been rumours recently that Mr Xi feels some of this has been going a bit far. Some of the most toadying videos, such as “The east is red again” (comparing Mr Xi to Mao), have been scrubbed from the internet. Many would take that as a sign that the personality cult is little more than harmless fun.

Mr Xi is no Mao, whose tyrannical nature and love of adulation were so great that he blithely led the country into the frenzy and violence of the Cultural Revolution. Although some older Chinese squirm at a style of politics so reminiscent of days long past, there is no suggestion that China is on the brink of another such horror.

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No liberal, Xi

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Source: Beware the cult of Xi | The Economist

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