Archive for November, 2016

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

29/11/2016

Digital payment firms cash in on India’s money mess, but can it last? | Reuters

Digital payment providers in India have mobilised hundreds of extra workers to enrol small merchants and offered their services for free, betting that severe cash shortages will prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Signing people up, however, may be the easy part.

Getting shops and customers to change their reliance on cash permanently will involve convincing people like Mohammad Javed, a 36-year-old meat shop owner in New Delhi.

Working out of a bustling market in the capital, he is surrounded by banks and ATM machines, but says he does not know how to use a credit card machine, let alone a mobile wallet.

He says business has dropped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s shock move on Nov. 8 to ditch higher value banknotes, but Javed does not believe mobile app providers offer a solution to his problem – or to his customers.

“We don’t have knowledge or resources to open a mobile wallet or card-swipe machine, and our customers who pay 100-200 rupees ($1.46-$2.92) are not interested either,” he said.

Javed’s reluctance is a reality check for the likes of Paytm and smaller rival MobiKwik, which have gone into promotional overdrive since Modi’s announcement.

The prime minister, whose government supports digital payments, brought in demonetisation to crack down on the shadow economy and improve tax collection.

“Why should India not make a beginning in creating a ‘less-cash society?’,” he said on Sunday, “Once we embark on our journey to create a ‘less-cash society’, the goal of ‘cashless society’ will not remain very far.”P

ROMISING SIGNS

The companies say results have been promising so far.

Paytm, backed by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), has added 700 sales representatives since Nov. 8, taking its number of agents to 5,000.

Advertisement boards of Paytm, a digital wallet company, are seen placed at stalls of roadside vegetable vendors as they wait for customers in Mumbai, India, November 19, 2016.

The company, which has 4,500 full-time employees, plans to double the number of agents to more than 10,000, as it aggressively expands its network.

It says it has nearly doubled the number of small merchants signed up to its services to 1.5 million in the last few weeks and added eight million clients to the 150 million it had before the banknote ban.

MobiKwik, whose backers include U.S. venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and American Express (AXP.N), said it had increased its agent base to more than 10,000 from about 1,000 before the Modi move.

Merchants on its platform have risen to 250,000 from 150,000 previously, and chief executive Bipin Preet Singh said they were aiming for a million in up to two months. It has added 5 million accounts since Nov. 8, bringing the total to 40 million.

But challenges loom.

Credit Suisse estimates more than 90 percent of consumer purchases are made in cash, as millions still do not have bank accounts. Those who do have bank cards mainly use them to withdraw from cash machines.

Sales of cheap smartphones have boomed in recent years, but internet networks remain patchy, especially in rural India. Financial literacy and technology usage also remain low.

Dillip Kumar Agrahari, a vegetable seller in a Mumbai suburb, recently signed up to Paytm but does not know how to operate a smartphone.

He hopes switching to digital payments will improve his business as the cash crunch drags on, but says he will have to depend on a cousin to help with accounts.

Many businesses have traditionally opted for cash transactions because they are hard for the tax man to trace, given sales taxes are typically at least 10 percent.

Mangal Singh, a furniture store owner, said nearly 80 percent of his business was transacted in cash, even though he accepts credit card payments.

“We are working on wafer-thin margins,” he said. “If we are asked to pay 12.5 percent tax and other charges, we will have to close down our shops.”

Concerns also remain about the infrastructure for mobile payments, as customers or merchants from one platform cannot transfer payments to another.

MobiKwik said it had started offering wallet-to-wallet transfers, though not all rivals were on board.

WHEN WILL PROFITS COME?

The challenges raise questions about whether the business models of mobile payments providers are sustainable.

Paytm recently slashed fees until Dec. 31, from a system of fees that ranged from 1 to 4 percent, with the most lucrative coming from telephone and utility bill payments.

MobiKwik is not charging fees until March 2017.The closely-held companies are loss-making.

Paytm Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company expected to reach profitability in two years, without giving details. MobiKwik’s co-founder Upasana Taku said they hoped to become profitable in mid-2018.

Fitch Ratings believes that once the cash crunch subsides, some merchants and customers will go back to business as usual, using notes to pay for transactions.

“I would expect some amount of behavioural changes,” said Fitch analyst Saswata Guha. “We’re still not sure if this shock per se is incentive enough for them to completely change the way they do things.”

($1 = 68.1384 Indian rupees)

Source: Digital payment firms cash in on India’s money mess, but can it last? | Reuters

29/11/2016

How China Plans to Revamp Job Security – The Short Answer – Briefly – WSJ

China’s leaders are preparing to loosen job-security regulations as part of efforts to keep businesses afloat amid slowing economic growth. Here is what you need to know.

What Is China’s Labor Contract Law?

A broad set of standards on employment practices that took effect in 2008 after an unusually lengthy debate to safeguard worker rights and boost job security. Some businesses blame it for inflating wages.What Is Happening?The labor ministry has been consulting academics, lawyers and businesses on ways to revise the law to make it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers. The focus is on regulations related to open-ended contracts and severance pay.

What Is at Stake?

The law’s most contentious regulations include one that gives employees the right to request an open-ended contract after 10 consecutive years at a company or two consecutive fixed-term contracts. Another contested provision states that laid-off workers are entitled to one month’s salary for every year of employment.

What Is Next?

Observers say the government may publish draft amendments for public comment next year. They would eventually go to the rubber-stamp parliament for approval.

Source: How China Plans to Revamp Job Security – The Short Answer – Briefly – WSJ

29/11/2016

Nissan Revs Up Connected Car Plans in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday that it planned to accelerate the penetration of internet-connected vehicles by offering a connection device to existing customers in Japan and India starting next year.

Nissan has been among the most aggressive car makers in putting connection technology in lower-priced vehicles. Now, it is expanding the offering to owners of older models.

The device will allow car owners to get live updates on maintenance needs, make service appointments and order parts ahead of time. Nissan said it planned to bring the device to other countries eventually and install it in 30% of the 40 million Nissan vehicles on the road globally today.

The device contains a Global Positioning System tracker and can transmit information about the vehicle’s health to Nissan through mobile networks. The goal is to give customers a taste of connected-car services that will become available on new cars, Nissan said.

“In the coming years, customers will see sophisticated applications of software and hardware that will keep them connected with work, with friends and family. It will allow them to control their vehicles from their phones in their pockets,” said Kent O’Hara, who runs Nissan’s after-sales division.

Source: Nissan Revs Up Connected Car Plans in India – India Real Time – WSJ

25/11/2016

China battles foreign influence in education | The Economist

CHINA has long oscillated between the urge to equip its elite with foreign knowledge and skills, and an opposing instinct to turn inward and rebuff such influences.

In the 1870s the Qing imperial court ended centuries of educational isolation by sending young men to America, only for the Communist regime to shut out the world again a few decades later. Today record numbers of Chinese study abroad: over half a million people left in 2015 alone, many for America (see chart).

The Communist Party officially endorses international exchanges in education while at the same time preaching the dangers of Western ideas on Chinese campuses. A new front in this battlefield is emerging, as the government cracks down on international schools catering to Chinese citizens.

Only holders of foreign passports used to be allowed to go to international schools in China: children of expat workers or the foreign-born offspring of Chinese returnees. Chinese citizens are still forbidden from attending such outfits, but more recently a new type of school has proliferated on the mainland, offering an international curriculum to Chinese nationals planning to study at foreign universities. Their number has more than doubled since 2011, to over 500. Many are clustered on the wealthy eastern seaboard, but even poor interior provinces such as Gansu, Guizhou and Yunnan have them.

Some international schools are privately run, including offshoots of famous foreign institutions such as Dulwich College in Britain or Haileybury in Australia. Even wholly Chinese ventures often adopt foreign-sounding names to increase their appeal: witness “Etonkids”, a Beijing-based chain which has no link with the illustrious British boarding school. Since 2003 some 90 state schools have opened international programmes too, many of them at the top high schools in China, including those affiliated with Peking University and Renmin University in Beijing.

New laws are making it harder for such schools to operate. In 2014 Beijing’s education authorities stopped approving new international programmes at public high schools. Several other cities, including Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan, have also tightened their policies on such institutions. Some have capped fees for international programmes. The Ministry of Education says it is pondering a law that would require public high schools to run their international programmes as private entities (fearing this event, a few schools have already begun doing so).

Earlier this month a new law banned for-profit private schools from teaching the first nine years of compulsory education. That came only days after Shanghai started to enforce an existing ban on international schools using “foreign curriculums”. Some such institutions already offer a mixture: Wycombe Abbey International, which is based in Changzhou in eastern China and affiliated to a British girls’ boarding school, teaches “political education”, a form of government propaganda, and follows a Chinese curriculum for maths. But the new regulations threaten to nullify the very point of such institutions for most parents, which is to offer an alternative to the mainstream Chinese system, in which students spend years cramming for extremely competitive university-entrance exams that prize rote learning over critical or lateral thinking.

Lawmakers say the rules are prompted by concerns about the quality of international schools. The expansion of international programmes within regular Chinese schools also spurred a popular backlash against the use of public facilities and funds to teach pupils who plan to leave China. Since the number of people attending public schools is fixed, the elite high schools are accused of squeezing out regular students to feed their lucrative international stream. Local governments often provide capital for private schools, too.

The move to control international schools is “the next logical iteration” of a wider campaign against Western influences, reckons Carl Minzner of Fordham University in America. In 2015 China’s education minister called for a ban on “textbooks promoting Western values” in higher education.

This mission extends far beyond the educational realm: the government has called for artists and architects to serve socialism, clamped down on video-streaming sites that carry lots of foreign content and even proposed renaming housing developments that carry “over-the-top, West-worshipping” names. Chinese organisations that receive foreign funding, particularly non-governmental ones, face increasing scrutiny.

The Communist Party is instead seeking to inculcate young Chinese with its own ideological values: the new directive on for-profit schools calls on them to “strengthen Party-building”. After pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, nationalistic “patriotic education” classes were stepped up in schools, a move that Xi Jinping, the president, has taken to new levels since 2012, seeking to infuse every possible field with “patriotic spirit”. “Morals, language, history, geography, sport and arts” are all part of the campaign now. Unusually, he also seeks to include students abroad in this “patriotic energy”.

But lashing out against international schools could prove risky. Any attack aimed at them essentially targets China’s growing middle class, a group that the ruling Communist Party is keen to keep onside. Chinese have long seen education as a passport to success, and it is not just the super-rich who have the aspiration or means to send their offspring abroad to attend university. Some 57% of Chinese parents would like to do so if they could afford it, according to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Even Mr Xi sent his daughter to Harvard, where she studied under a pseudonym.

Since school is optional after 15, and parents must pay for it, even at public institutions, the state will find it tricky to prevent high schools from teaching what they want. Moreover, constraints on international schooling in China are likely to swell the growing flow of Chinese students leaving to study abroad at ever younger ages. This trend is the theme of a 30-episode television series, “A love for separation”, about three families who send their children to private school in America.

Restricting for-profit schooling also risks hitting another growing educational market: urban private schools that cater to migrant children who cannot get places in regular state schools because they do not have the required residence permits. A law that undermines educational opportunities for the privileged and the underprivileged at once could prove far more incendiary than a little foreign influence.

Source: China battles foreign influence in education | The Economist

25/11/2016

China breaks patent application record – BBC News

China-based innovators applied for a record-setting number of invention patents last year.

The country accounted for more than a million submissions, according to an annual report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo). It said the figure was “extraordinary”.

Many of the filings were for new ideas in telecoms, computing, semiconductors and medical tech.

Beijing had urged companies to boost the number of such applications.

But some experts have questioned whether it signifies that the country is truly more inventive than others, since most of China’s filings were done locally.

What is a patent?

A patent is the monopoly property right granted by a government to the owner of an invention.

This allows the creator and subsequent owners to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale or importing their invention into the country for a limited time.

In return they must agree for the patent filing to be publicly disclosed.

To qualify as an “invention” patent, the filing must contain a new, useful idea that includes a step – a new process, improvement or concept – which would not be obvious to a skilled person in that field.

Some countries – including China – also issue other types of patents:

Utility model patents. The ideas must still be novel, but it is less important that there is a “non-obvious step”

Design patents. These require the shape, pattern and/or colour of a manufactured object’s design to be new, but do not require there to be a novel technical aspect

Skewed figures

A total of 2.9 million invention patent applications were filed worldwide in 2015, according to Wipo, marking a 7.8% rise on the previous year.

China can lay claim to driving most of that growth. Its domestic patent office – the Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (Sipo) – received a record 1,101,864 filings. These included both filings from residents of China and those from overseas innovators who had sought local protection for their ideas.

The tally was more than that of Sipo’s Japanese, South Korean and US equivalents combined.

Applicants based in China filed a total of 1,010,406 invention patents – the first time applicants from a single origin had filed more than one million in a single year.

But they appeared to be reticent about seeking patent rights abroad.

According to Wipo, China-based inventors filed just 42,154 invention patent applications outside their borders – Huawei and ZTE, two smartphone and telecoms equipment-makers, led the way.

There was a rise in the number of medical tech patent filings from China

By comparison US-based inventors sought more than five times that figure. And Japan, Germany and France also outnumbered the Asian giant.

One patent expert – who asked not to be named – suggested the disparity between Chinese inventors’ local and international filings reflected the fact that not all the claims would stand up to scrutiny elsewhere.

“The detail of what they are applying for means they would be unlikely to have the necessary degree of novelty to be granted a patent worldwide,” he said.

But Wipo’s chief economist said things were not so clear cut.

“There is clearly a discussion out there as to what is the quality of Chinese patents,” said Carsten Fink.

“But questions have also been asked about US and other [countries’] patents.”

And one should keep in mind that China is a huge economy.

“If you look at its patent filings per head of population, there are still fewer patents being filed there than in the United States.”

Patent boom

Part of the reason so many applications were made locally was that China set itself a target to boost all types of patent filings five years ago.

Sipo declared at the time that it wanted to receive two million filings in 2015.

The government supported the initiative with various subsidies and other incentives.

Adding together China’s invention, utility and design patents, its tally for 2015 was about 2.7 million filings, meaning it surpassed its goal by a wide margin.

One London-based patent lawyer noted that Chinese firms were not just filing patents of their own but also buying rights from overseas companies.

“This all goes to show the growth of the telecoms and high-tech industries in China, and that these companies are playing a more significant role globally than hitherto,” said Jonathan Radcliffe from Reed Smith.

“The fact we are now seeing them suing and being sued for patent infringement in Europe and in the US on subject matter such as mobile phones and telecoms standards – and indeed seeing Chinese companies suing each other over here in Europe for patent infringement – shows that they have truly arrived.”

Source: China breaks patent application record – BBC News

21/11/2016

A victory for China? | The Economist

THE relationship between China and America, as diplomats often intone, is more important than any other between two countries. But that did not help China understand the election of Donald Trump any better than anyone else. The government’s initial reaction was one of confusion, verging on denial. Many ordinary citizens expressed horror, but even more voiced admiration. Mr Trump, it seems, has a remarkable following in a country he blames for America’s malaise.

When news broke of Mr Trump’s victory, official media buried it. That evening, the flagship news programme on state television informed viewers of events in America in the final four minutes of a half-hour broadcast. While the rest of the world was glued to Mr Trump’s victory speech, Chinese viewers had to make do with Xi Jinping, China’s president, talking to Chinese astronauts orbiting the planet.

Chinese officials pay obsessive attention to ensuring the Communist Party’s line is reflected accurately by the country’s main media. But Mr Trump’s victory caught them in a muddle. Several outlets said Mr Xi had telephoned his compliments to Mr Trump. But Mr Trump said he had spoken to or heard from most foreign leaders—except Mr Xi. The phone call did not take place until six days after the vote. In most countries such a mistake would be insignificant, the result of sloppy reporting or ambiguous phrasing (in Mandarin, the phrase “sent a congratulatory note” can also mean “congratulate by phone”). In China it suggested that media overlords were not sure what line to take.

They had hoped the message from the election would be clear: that American democracy is in disarray and that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is the best choice for China. For the first time, an American election was given extensive coverage (the third presidential debate was broadcast in its entirety). The authorities may have made the right call, as they would see it. “Thank God we don’t use this voting system,” said one blogger.

Unlikely hero

But if some netizens disliked what they saw of the process, many more were captivated by the electoral drama and, especially, by one of the candidates. Ordinary citizens followed the campaign with unprecedented interest. Online, 20 times more posts referred to Mr Trump in the past year than to Barack Obama in the past eight years. One blogger compared Telangpu, as Mr Trump’s name is commonly rendered in Chinese, to the late Deng Xiaoping. Both, apparently, are visionary dealmakers. In China’s online world, wrote another netizen, “Trump has this almost untouchable presence.”

Having digested the news of the victory, Chinese officials have begun to see possible benefits in a Trump presidency (see Banyan). But Ma Tianjie, who runs a website called Chublic Opinion, argues that support for the president-elect is based on culture and values, not calculation. This suggests it has three significant things to say about Chinese society.

First, younger Chinese are not so dissimilar to Mr Trump’s American supporters. As one user wrote on Zhihu, a question and answer site: “Most Chinese born after the 1980s are from a working-class background, who can still sympathise with the uneducated ignorance demonstrated by the less refined.” Anti-elitism retains a broad appeal. “Trump won because he truly spoke in the people’s voice,” wrote one microblogger.

Next, decades of unbridled economic growth have created a Trump-like worship of money and winners. As Lao Lingmin argued on the Financial Times’s Chinese-language website, support for Mr Trump reflected China’s “law of the jungle”. Chinese society, he wrote, “does not exist for the protection of vulnerable groups”.

Thirdly, says Mr Ma, pro-Trump sentiments in China show how far views can be swayed by zealotry, fanned by social media. On Zhihu, a supporter of Mr Trump repeated the president-elect’s falsehood that “there are towns in Britain that are completely under the control of Muslim extremists, who are openly using white girls as sex slaves.” The post got 18,000 likes.Yet online reactions also showed that Chinese opinions are sharply divided. A well-known blogger on Weibo called Chinese Trump supporters “spiritual rednecks”. Another pointed out that China may suffer: “Don’t they know his policies will give China a really hard time?” Intellectuals were aghast.

A news website in Shanghai, however, published an article by an academic who said Mr Trump’s win revealed America’s “ever greater decline”. Official opinion is closer to this view than to Mr Trump’s Chinese cheerleaders.

Source: A victory for China? | The Economist

21/11/2016

How Dangerous Are India’s Railways? – The Numbers – Briefly – WSJ

The derailment of a train in northern India that killed more than 130 people highlights the dangers and challenges along the country’s rail network.

Accidents on the rail system resulted in more than 25,000 deaths in 2014, according to the latest statistics available.

While the cause of Sunday’s incident isn’t yet known, it again draws the spotlight onto the country’s rickety rail system.

So how dangerous is traveling on the country’s trains? Here are the numbers.

28,360     The number of railway accidents in India in 2014. Though that was a decrease of 9.2% from a year earlier, 25,006 people died. That figure is much higher than the 768 deaths recorded on America’s railways the same year.

17,480     The number of railway accidents that were reported to be due to someone falling from a train or a “collision with people at track.” In India, passenger trains are often full to bursting, with people hanging out of windows and doors.  Pedestrians also often cross tracks by foot. The government has sought to raise awareness about the proper use of level crossings and the dangers of strolling near railway lines.

5,024     The number of people who died in railway accidents in Maharashtra in 2014. The western state is home to Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, which has some of the most crowded and dangerous suburban trains.

442     The number of rail-construction projects active in India as of March 2014. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made modernizing the ageing network a priority,  and has made building a high-speed corridor a pet project.

$16 billion     The amount a government audit found that delays and poor planning had caused costs on the 442 rail projects to balloon.

40%     The proportion of the more than 31,000 railway crossing that are unmanned. Those level crossing contribute to about 40% of train accidents, according to a government news release.

Source: How Dangerous Are India’s Railways? – The Numbers – Briefly – WSJ

21/11/2016

A China-America romance? | The Economist

AFTER the wildest political upsets this year, here’s a prediction for next: China will deem its relations with America to be entering something of a golden period.

The prediction is no more outlandish than others that have recently come true. But is it madness? On the campaign trail, Donald Trump singled out China as the prime culprit ripping jobs and business out of the United States “like candy from a baby”. Mr Trump threatened a trade war. He promised that, on day one as president, he would label China a currency manipulator. He said he would slap a punitive tariff of 45% on Chinese imports. For good measure, he also promised to tear up the climate agreement that President Barack Obama signed with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, in September—a rare bright point in the bilateral relationship.Throw in, too, amid all the disarray inside Mr Trump’s transition team, the names being bandied about for those who will be in charge of dealings with China. They hardly reassure leaders in Beijing. Possibles for secretary of state, for instance, are Rudy Giuliani, New York’s former mayor, who has little experience of China, and John Bolton, a hawk who is actively hostile to it.

And yet China is starting to look on the bright side. Driving the growing optimism in Beijing is a calculation that, if Mr Trump is serious about jobs and growth at home, he will end up in favour of engagement and trade. Put simply, protectionism is inconsistent with “Make America Great Again”. From that it flows, or so Chinese officials hope, that Mr Trump’s campaign threats are mainly bluster. Yes, he is likely formally to label China a currency manipulator. But that will trigger investigations that will not be published until a year later. Even after that, there may be few immediate practical consequences.

What is more, China’s leaders may divine in Mr Trump someone in their mould—not delicate about democratic niceties and concerned above all about development and growth. Reporting on the first phone conversation earlier this week between Mr Xi and Mr Trump, the normally rabid Global Times, a newspaper in Beijing, was gushing. After Mr Xi urged co-operation, Mr Trump’s contribution to the phone call was “diplomatically impeccable”; it bolstered “optimism”, the paper said, in the two powers’ relationship over the next four years. Indeed, thanks to his “business and grass-roots angles”, and because he has not been “kidnapped by Washington’s political elites”, Mr Trump “is probably the very American leader who will make strides in reshaping major-power relations in a pragmatic manner.”

No doubt optimism among more hawkish Chinese is based upon calculations that Mr Trump’s administration will prove chaotic and incompetent, harming America first and playing to China’s advantage in the long game of America’s decline and China’s rise. “We may as well…see what chaos he can create,” the same newspaper was saying only a week ago. And Chinese leaders are delighted to see the back of Barack Obama. They hate his “pivot” to Asia. They are bitter that Mr Obama’s “zero-sum mindset” never allowed him to accept Mr Xi’s brilliant proposal in 2013 for a “new type of great-power relations” involving “win-win” co-operation. How could Mr Obama possibly think that the doctrine boils down to ceding hegemony in East Asia to China?

And so, it is not hard to imagine what gets discussed in the first meeting between the two leaders, after Mr Trump’s inauguration. In his victory speech, the builder-in-chief promised a lot of concrete-pouring: “highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals”. Mr Xi will point out that he has a fair amount of expertise in construction, too. It comes from running a vast country with more than 12,000 miles (18,400km) of bullet-train track where America has none, and a dam at the Yangzi river’s Three Gorges which is nearly as tall as the Hoover Dam and six times its length. Mr Xi will offer money and expertise for the president-elect’s building efforts, emphasising that China’s help will generate American jobs. In return, it would be an easy goodwill gesture for Mr Trump to reverse Mr Obama’s opposition to American membership of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and to lend more support to Mr Xi’s “Belt and Road” plans for building infrastructure across Asia and Europe. Advisers to Mr Trump suggest that is already on the cards.

The other leadership transition

A honeymoon, then, that few predicted. China certainly wills it. A calm external environment is critical for Mr Xi right now. He is preparing to carry out a sweeping reshuffle of the party’s leadership in the coming year or so. His aim is to consolidate his own power and ensure that he will have control over the choice of his eventual successors. That will demand much of his attention.

But don’t expect the honeymoon to last. For one, China may well have underestimated the strength of Mr Trump’s mercantilist instincts. It may also have second thoughts should a sustained dollar rally complicate management of its own currency. And even though America’s panicked friends have been this week, as the New York Times put it, “blindly dialling in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world”, Trumpian assurances of support have been growing for the alliances that China resents but that have reinforced American power in East Asia since the second world war. (As The Economist went to press, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was about to become the first national leader to meet the president-elect; he will reassure Mr Trump that Japan is taking on a bigger role in defending itself.)

And then who knows what might roil the world’s most important relationship? No crisis has recently challenged the two countries’ leaders like the mid-air collision in 2001 of a Chinese fighter jet and an American spy plane. Yet some similar incident is all too thinkable in the crowded, and contested, South and East China Seas. Remember, it is not just Mr Trump who is wholly untested in a foreign-policy crisis of that scale. Mr Xi is, too.

Source: A China-America romance? | The Economist

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