Archive for ‘Chindia Alert’

29/09/2016

China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters

China’s state planner has punished hundreds of coal and steel companies by forcing them to close or cut output for violating environmental and safety regulations, the latest effort to crack down on the country’s heavily polluting industries.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) forced two steel companies to shut completely, 29 firms to halt production and another 23 to curb output, it said in a statement on Thursday. The closures and curbs followed a nationwide inspection of more than 1,000 steel makers in the world’s top producer.

Among more than 4,600 coal mines inspected, the NDRC has revoked safety certificates for 28 coal mines and forced another 286 coal mines to halt production, it added.

The planner did not identify or name the companies, or give details on how the companies broke the rules and how long the penalties will be in place.

Beyond the safety and environment rules, the NDRC also listed other infractions such as violations of energy consumption rules or quality standards.

The statement reflects the government’s continued push to force ageing mills and mines to comply with tough new pollution rules by meeting emission standards and installing appropriate monitoring equipment.

China’s unwieldy coal and steel industries are considered two of the biggest sources of pollution in the country.

The government is targeting coal output cuts of 500 million tonnes in the next three to five years.

Source: China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters

29/09/2016

This Map Shows the Severity of India’s Pollution Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

A new map from the World Health Organization shows just how bad India’s air pollution problem is.

The interactive map, which shows the average levels of dangerous particulate matter in the air that can lodge in lungs and cause diseases, was made by the WHO in conjunction with the U.K.’s University of Bath.

It shows that 92% of the world’s population live in places where air quality is worse than the WHO’s recommended limits.Researchers used satellite data as well as information from ground stations to create the map. WHO data released in May showed that the city of Gwalior was India’s most polluted city, coming second in the world to Zabol in Iran.

The map plots levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in the air. The darker the red on the map, the higher the concentration. The PM2.5 pollutants, which come from dust, soot and smoke, can penetrate deep into the lungs and increase the risk of heart and lung diseases including asthma and lung cancer.

The map paints a dark swathe of red across northern India, meaning that the annual average PM2.5 levels are above 70. The country gets progressively lighter in color toward the south, indicating lower pollution levels. But not one spot of the country is green–indicating healthy air.

A man sifted through trash at a massive garbage site in New Delhi, Sept. 27, 2016. PHOTO: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

India’s capital, New Delhi, is the 11th worst polluted in the world, with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122. Mumbai is another hotspot, with an average PM.2.5 level of 63.

The World Health Organization said that worldwide, around 3 million people a year die of causes linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution and that nearly 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In India, air pollution comes from a number of sources, including the burning of trash, the use of coal for cooking, factories and exhaust fumes. In some parts of the country, like Delhi, dust storms exacerbate the problem. The Delhi government has made efforts to reduce car use, but experts say more needs to be done.

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at WHO said in the report. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

Source: This Map Shows the Severity of India’s Pollution Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

29/09/2016

Chinese Tourists Encouraged to Behave Ahead of Mass Vacation – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Urinating on the streets of Hong Kong? Hurling hot water at flight attendants? Stealing wood from Lovers’ Beach in Thailand?

These are the kind of mainland-Chinese tourist antics that the motherland is looking to stub out ahead of the week-long national holiday known as Golden Week, when throngs of citizens travel both domestically and abroad.

To help them do so, the China National Tourism Administration and one of China’s dominant online travel firms, Ctrip.com International, are teaming up to find model tourists to promote travel behavior worthy of emulation—and national recognition.

“Civility of Chinese tourists is an important indicator of a country’s soft power and one of the major ways to export a country’s influence,” the tourism administration’s Vice Chairman Wang Xiaofeng said at an event announcing the campaign.

The two organizations, along with state-run newspaper China Daily, are asking the Chinese public to provide examples of what they think is model traveler decorum. Ctrip will give gifts to exemplary participants, such as free travel products and company souvenirs, said Ctrip senior director of investment relations Zhou Shiwei.

“The campaign is about changing the perception of Chinese travelers,” he said. “We definitely want Chinese travelers to be well-received abroad.

”Examples include pictures of Chinese soccer fans who picked up trash in Seoul, even after the Chinese men’s team lost to South Korea earlier this month, or photos of Chinese tourists patiently waiting in line.Ctrip says the campaign is aiming to publish a compilation of guidelines and pictures suggested by Chinese netizens during Golden Week. Chinese tourists can upload pictures via Chinese social-media network Weibo, and to the China Daily website. It is unclear how the photos will be verified.More than 600 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad in the next five years, as China’s middle class grows and visa restrictions ease in some countries welcoming Chinese spending. Last year, about 120 million Chinese traveled overseas—10% more than in 2014, according to the national tourism administration.

Domestically, tourism generated about $620 billion last year, with more than four billion trips taken.

The campaign, entitled “Good Chinese Tourists,” is an addition to other recent efforts the government has put forth to curb travel misbehavior. Last year, it unveiled new measures that allow authorities to track the bad habits of wayward tourists for up to two years.

The tourism administration also recently published a guidebook on civilized tourism, in which it urges tourists to refrain from spitting and littering—common practices back home—and to take photographs only where permitted. “Do not chase, beat or feed animals,” it adds. “Do not be greedy with complimentary items.

”For traveling abroad, the guide includes recommendations that cutting in line is “shameful wherever you are” and suggests that tourists “not leave footprints on toilet seats.”

Source: Chinese Tourists Encouraged to Behave Ahead of Mass Vacation – China Real Time Report – WSJ

28/09/2016

This Is How India Is Keeping Its Place as Asia’s Fastest-Growing Large Economy – India Real Time – WSJ

What a contrast! See pair of articles – this on on India, the other on China, both from WSJ.

India is on track to keep its spot as Asia’s fastest-growing large economy, the Asian Development Bank said Tuesday.

The Manila-based development lender expects the Indian economy to grow by 7.4% in the year that ends next March, keeping its earlier forecast unchanged in an update to its regional outlook.

The ADB lifted its forecast for China’s growth this calendar year slightly, to 6.6%, but it still expects India’s economic growth to broadly outpace its neighbors’ through 2017. (The comparison isn’t exact. India and other South Asian countries report economic data on a fiscal-year basis. China and others use calendar years.) In Asia, only Myanmar, which is opening up after decades of isolation but remains small by comparison, is expected to expand more quickly, at 8.4%.

The ADB said India’s growth prospects have been buoyed thanks to the enactment of “long-awaited structural reform.”

The bank lauded “strong progress” in restructuring Indian lenders’ balance sheets, which for years have been weighed down by bad loans. Large corporations are also finding ways to reduce debt, the bank said, which could also help resuscitate long-stagnant lending and investment.

Recent legislation that creates a national goods-and-services tax, the ADB said, is “a key step toward a much more integrated, productive economy.”

Other factors, the bank said, should keep Indian consumers spending.Government workers are due to receive a big boost to their pay and pensions, while abundant monsoon rains this summer will likely lift rural incomes.

There are risks, though, the ADB said.

Much of India’s recent growth has been driven by government spending. But that has slowed after a burst of public investment last year. New Delhi this financial year wants to shrink its budget deficit, but so far, it hasn’t raised as much money as expected from selling off stakes in state companies and other assets. That means expenditure may need to be reined in even further.Investment by private companies, meanwhile, has been “listless,” the ADB said.

Foreign direct investment in India has remained strong, the bank noted, and New Delhi has been raising limits on foreigners’ stakes in Indian enterprises. But the $63 billion flood of foreign investment seen last year “would be difficult to replicate,” the bank said.

Rapid price growth, too, could continue to weigh on Indian consumers and investors. Inflation in India, which the ADB forecasts at 5.4% this year, remains among the highest in Asia.The nation’s central bank is now actively mandated, for the first time in its history, to keep consumer inflation within a government-set range. “While this is a ground-breaking monetary policy reform, the target of 4% would seem somewhat ambitious,” the bank said.

Source: This Is How India Is Keeping Its Place as Asia’s Fastest-Growing Large Economy – India Real Time – WSJ

28/09/2016

Warning Sounded Over Chinese Economy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

What a contrast! See pair of articles – this on on China, the other on India, both from WSJ.

Recent stability in the Chinese economy masks deep-seated problems that threaten to rattle global markets in advance of a leadership change next year, according to a survey.

Ignoring these risks is shortsighted, said authors of the China Beige Book International, a quarterly survey that tracks the world’s second-largest economy.Data from the group’s third-quarter survey of 3,100 Chinese firms and 160 bankers point to some potential problems. New growth engines intended to shift the economy away from investment toward consumption-led growth are increasingly wobbly as corporate cash flow is squeezed and Beijing doubles down on traditional engines to stabilize output, the China Beige Book says.

“I’d find it earth-shatteringly surprising if we don’t have a significant problem between now and China’s leadership change” in the fall of 2017 when the 19th Party Congress convenes, said Leland Miller, China Beige Book’s president. “This is not a stable economy. It’s one that twists and turns and happens to end up at the same spot. There are real problems below the surface.”

Growth in China’s service industry, a cornerstone of its planned transition to a new and more sustainable economic model, weakened during the third quarter as financial services, private healthcare, telecommunications, media and other subsectors flagged, the group’s data showed. In retail, the apparel, luxury goods and food sectors slowed, it said, as online retailers continued to cannibalize brick-and-mortar sales.

Despite Beijing’s pledge to reduce excess Industrial capacity and pare debt, China remains heavily dependent on government spending to power traditional debt-fueled growth engines, the group said. Much of the economic momentum during the third quarter came from infrastructure, manufacturing, commodities and real estate and many of these sectors are in danger of losing momentum, it said.

While property sales remained strong in major cities, cash flow in the sector tightened and borrowing increased, a sign that investors should “think about getting off this train sooner rather than later,” the China Beige Book said.

“Deteriorating corporate finances and a rebalancing reversal seem a high price to pay for a quarter’s worth of stability,” the group added.

Economic and monetary authorities didn’t respond to requests for comment.

China roiled global markets last year when stocks plunged and Beijing intervened to prop them up. A few months later, it introduced a new currency system in which the yuan fell against the dollar, fueling concern that this would launch a destabilizing round of currency depreciations among rival trading nations. State spending and easy money policies since then have settled investor nerves.

China is expected to report third-quarter economic growth of around 6.7% next month, the level it posted in both the first and second quarters. Gauges such as industrial production and fixed-asset investment have been surprisingly robust over the past month.The trigger for another potential market jolt in the next few quarters could be the release of particularly weak Chinese service or retail data coinciding with a Federal Reserve interest rate rise or another global event, Mr. Miller said. “Right now, the markets are lulled to sleep,” he said. “People become used to the stable China narrative until they start looking more closely into the data.”

A report released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund said China can reduce the negative impact on the global economy of its shift to slower but more sustainable growth by ending its use of targets to artificially prop up growth and by communicating its intentions clearly.

Other economists say they expect the Chinese economy to remain relative stable through the once-in-five-year leadership change, which is expected to be in October or November of 2017, as long as Beijing continues stimulating the economy enough to avoid a drop in growth. “I don’t think there’s going to be a crisis next year,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist with Capital Economics Pte. “But they often take their foot off the pedal too much, then tend to panic again and put it back on, creating a lag.”

The Bank for International Settlements warned last week that mounting leverage raises the risk of a financial crisis in China. The nation’s total debt, led by rising corporate obligations, is on target to reach 253% of gross domestic product by the end of 2016, a doubling over the past eight years, according to credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings Inc.

Third quarter China Beige Book data also pointed to areas of strength. The job market remains strong. The manufacturing outlook improved with new domestic and international factory orders picking up and deflationary pressure on industry ebbing.“It was not a disaster of a quarter,” Mr. Miller said. “But it’s a lot more negative than people think.”

Source: Warning Sounded Over Chinese Economy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

27/09/2016

What India’s Decision to Ratify Paris Climate-Change Pact Means – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s announcement that it would ratify the 2015 global agreement on climate change increases the chances that the pact will go into effect this year.

Source: What India’s Decision to Ratify Paris Climate-Change Pact Means – India Real Time – WSJ

25/09/2016

Culture: Chinese, Indian and Japanese

I’ve just finished watching a short six-part series featuring Joanna Lumley on her trip from near the northern-most tip to the southern-most island of Japan – http://www.itv.com/hub/joanna-lumleys-japan/2a4327a0001. If, like me, you have not been to Japan but are curious about that mysterious far eastern country, then this show is well worth investing six hours of your time.

But the reason I’m raising it here on my blog is that to me it shows in stark contrast the three cultures today: Chinese, Indian and Japanese.

The series illustrate, without a shadow of doubt, that the Japanese have somehow managed to retain most of its old traditions and culture while adopting much of (the best of ) Western culture.The two co-exist happily and without any visible friction.  For example, young girls in traditional kimono are shown visiting the famous cherry blossom festival, alongside Japanese in plain western clothing. Or modern, educated Japanese taking time off to do a multi-temple pilgrimage (see Lumley photo). 

The Chinese, in my opinion, have (certainly in urban areas) disbanded most of their traditional and culture – apart from a few national festivals – and adopted western customs and culture wholesale. Apart from a few speialist travelogue TV series on rural China (http://watchdocumentary.org/watch/wild-china-episode-01-heart-of-the-dragon-video_3a9158d41.html), any TV show on China reveals mainly western modernity.

And finally, my take on Indian culture is that it has not moved far from what has been prevalent over the centuries, apart from a thin veneer of western culture and customs such as car ownership (see India on Wheels – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013q5y0) and western clothing or education for the upper class in the English language.

I would really like to hear from you, my blog readers, on this subject, hopefully based on personal experience rather than based on a TV programme!

 

23/09/2016

Guns and ghee | The Economist

TO MANY Indians, their country’s strategic position looks alarming. Its two biggest neighbours are China and Pakistan. It has fought wars with both, and border issues still fester. Both are nuclear-armed, and are allies with one another to boot. China, a rising superpower with five times India’s GDP, is quietly encroaching on India’s traditional sphere of influence, tying a “string of pearls” of alliances around the subcontinent. Relatively weak but safe behind its nuclear shield, Pakistan harbours Islamist guerrillas who have repeatedly struck Indian targets; regional security wonks have long feared that another such incident might spark a conflagration.

So when four heavily armed infiltrators attacked an Indian army base on September 18th, killing 18 soldiers before being shot dead themselves, jitters inevitably spread. The base nestles in mountains close to the “line of control”, as the border between the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir is known. Indian officials reflexively blamed Pakistan; politicians and pundits vied in demanding a punchy response. “Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire,” blustered a retired brigadier who now mans a think-tank in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Yet despite electoral promises to be tough on Pakistan, the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi has trodden as softly as its predecessors. On September 21st it summoned Pakistan’s envoy for a wrist-slap, citing evidence that the attackers had indeed slipped across the border, and noting that India has stopped 17 such incursions since the beginning of the year. Much to the chagrin of India’s armchair warriors, such polite reprimands are likely to be the limit of India’s response.

There are good reasons for this. India gains diplomatic stature by behaving more responsibly than Pakistan. It is keenly aware of the danger of nuclear escalation, and of the risks of brinkmanship to its economy. Indian intelligence agencies also understand that they face an unusual adversary in Pakistan: such is its political frailty that any Indian belligerence tends to strengthen exactly the elements in Pakistan’s power structure that are most inimical to India’s own interests.

But there is another, less obvious reason for reticence. India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest. Puzzlingly, given how its international ambitions are growing along with its economy, and how alarming its strategic position looks, India has proved strangely unable to build serious military muscle.

India’s armed forces look good on paper. It fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations (see chart).

It has topped the list of global arms importers since 2010, sucking in a formidable array of top-of-the-line weaponry, including Russian warplanes, Israeli missiles, American transport aircraft and French submarines. State-owned Indian firms churn out some impressive gear, too, including fighter jets, cruise missiles and the 40,000-tonne aircraft-carrier under construction in a shipyard in Kochi, in the south of the country.

Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained. “Our air defence is in a shocking state,” says Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs. “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.” On paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly. A report earlier this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%. They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

Such delays are far from unusual. India’s army, for instance, has been seeking a new standard assault rifle since 1982; torn between demands for local production and the temptation of fancy imports, and between doctrines calling for heavier firepower or more versatility, it has flip-flopped ever since. India’s air force has spent 16 years perusing fighter aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era models. By demanding over-ambitious specifications, bargain prices, hard-to-meet local-content quotas and so on, it has left foreign manufacturers “banging heads against the wall”, in the words of one Indian military analyst. Four years ago France appeared to have clinched a deal to sell 126 of its Rafale fighters. The order has since been whittled to 36, but is at least about to be finalised.

India’s military is also scandal-prone. Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight. In July a military transport plane vanished into the Bay of Bengal with 29 people aboard; no trace of it has been found. In August an Australian newspaper leaked extensive technical details of India’s new French submarines.

The deeper problem with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Mr Shukla. Bizarrely, there are no military men inside the ministry at all. Like India’s other ministries, defence is run by rotating civil servants and political appointees more focused on ballot boxes than ballistics. “They seem to think a general practitioner can perform surgery,” says Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has worked as a consultant for the ministry. Despite their growing brawn, India’s armed forces still lack a brain.

Source: Guns and ghee | The Economist

23/09/2016

Shacking up | The Economist

WHEN Da Lin moved in with his girlfriend two years ago, his mother tried to stop them: she feared that their living together unmarried would sully his girlfriend’s reputation and, by association, his too. She will be happy only after they finally marry next year (his family is buying the apartment, hers the car).

That generational clash is replicated in thousands of families across China: cohabitation without marriage was long anathema and officially illegal until 2001. Today it is commonplace.China’s social mores are changing astonishingly quickly. Before 1980 around 1% of couples lived together outside wedlock, but of those who wed between 2010 and 2012, more than 40% had done so, according to data from the 2010 and 2012 China Family Panel Studies, a vast household survey (see chart). Some reckon even that is an underestimate. A recent study by the China Association of Marriage and Family, an official body, found that nearly 60% of those born after 1985 moved in with their partner before tying the knot, which would put the cohabitation rate for young people on a par with that of America.

The number of unmarried couples living together is growing for many of the same reasons it has elsewhere: rising individualism, greater empowerment of women, the deferral of marriage and a decline in traditional taboos on pre-marital sex. Greater wealth helps—more couples can afford to live apart from their parents. Yet Chinese cohabitation has distinctive characteristics. In rich countries, living together is most common among poorer couples, but in China youngsters are more likely to move in together if they are highly educated and live in wealthy cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Shacking up is seen as a sign of “innovative behaviour”, say Yu Xie of Princeton University and Yu Jia of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Elsewhere rising cohabitation represents the fraying of marriage: many couples never bother to wed. In China, however, cohabitation is almost always a prelude to marriage—as for Da Lin and his girlfriend—rather than an alternative to it. Marriage is still near-universal, although the skewed sex ratio resulting from China’s one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys has resulted in a surplus of poor rural men who will remain unhappily single. Some highly educated women in cities forgo marriage too.In some Western countries those who live together for an extended period enjoy some of the same legal rights and obligations as married couples. In China cohabitation carries no legal weight. And it is very hard for a child born out of wedlock to acquire a hukou, or residency permit, which provides access to health care, education or other public services.In the 1980s virginity was considered a woman’s chief asset and few couples dared to date openly, let alone live together. Now China is in the midst of a sexual revolution—some 70% of people have sex before marriage, according to a study conducted in 2012. Many young Chinese, however, still have conservative ideas about how their elders should behave: although cohabitation is also on the rise among the elderly, many of them avoid remarrying because their adult children oppose it.

Source: Shacking up | The Economist

23/09/2016

A glowing future | The Economist

UPON learning (via a terse government statement) that their bustling port city in eastern China had been tipped as the likely site of a plant to recycle used nuclear fuel, residents of Lianyungang took to the streets last month in their thousands. Police, whose warnings against demonstrations were ignored, deployed with riot gear in large numbers but only scuffled with the protesters, who rallied, chanted and waved banners in the city centre for several days. “No one consulted us about this,” says one woman who participated in the protests. “We love our city. We have very little pollution and we don’t want a nuclear-fuel plant anywhere near us. The government says it is totally safe, but how can they be sure? How can we believe them?” she asks.

Such scepticism is shared by many in Lianyungang, which already hosts a nuclear-power plant (pictured), and elsewhere in China, where the government plans to expand nuclear power massively. China started its first nuclear plant in 1994. There are now 36 reactors in operation, and another 20 under construction (see map). A further four have been approved, and many more are in the planning stages. Only one new plant has been built in America, in contrast, since 1994; four more are under construction. By 2030 China is projected to get 9% of its power from nuclear, up from 2% in 2012. In absolute terms, its nuclear generation capacity will have increased eightfold over the same period, to 750 billion kilowatt-hours a year, roughly America’s current level.

After disaster struck Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station in 2011, the Chinese authorities briefly halted this pell-mell rush toward the nuclear future, announcing a moratorium on the construction of new plants, urgent safety checks on existing ones and a prolonged policy review to decide whether nuclear power would remain a part of China’s energy strategy. The following year, however, the government resolved to carry on with its nuclear-energy programme.

The need is clear. Despite slowing economic growth, energy consumption per person is projected to rise dramatically, with no plateau in sight before 2030. Pollution from coal-fired power plants, China’s main source of electricity, causes widespread respiratory disease and many premature deaths each year, a source of persistent public anger. China has also made ambitious promises to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. If it hopes to meet such targets, it will need to embrace nuclear, “because the only other truly reliable 24/7 source of electric power is coal,” says Zha Daojiong of Peking University.China’s utilities are also keen. The state-owned firms that run all the country’s nuclear plants are thought to earn a good return on their investment (their accounts are too murky to be certain), in part because their official backing allows them to finance new reactors very cheaply, and in part because regulators have fixed power tariffs in a favourable manner. One estimate put the return on nuclear assets between 2002 and 2012 at 7% a year, compared with 3% for coal- and gas-fired plants.

China even harbours ambitions to export its growing expertise in nuclear power. After relying first on Russian designs, and more recently importing American and French ones, China has also developed indigenous nuclear reactors. A recently approved deal with Britain, valued at $23 billion, will see China help finance a French-designed nuclear-power station and possibly build one of its own design later.

But China’s nuclear push has its critics. These include those who live near proposed nuclear facilities. Many, like the protesters in Lianyungang, are happy to have the power they need to run their air-conditioners but want to keep the unpleasant parts of the operation far from their doorsteps. Chinese now has a word for NIMBY: linbi, a fusion of the words for “adjacent” and “shun”. The government has repeatedly backed down in the face of public demonstrations, twice agreeing to relocate a uranium-enrichment plant, for example. It has also put the decision about the reprocessing plant in Lianyungang on hold.

Yet attitudes to nuclear power may be less hostile than in many Western countries. A study published in 2013 found an even split between supporters and opponents of expanding China’s nuclear-power industry. Compared with their counterparts in the rich world, Chinese citizens showed much greater “trust and confidence in the government” as the manager of nuclear policy and operations, the emergency responder in case of accidents and the provider of reliable information about the industry. The lead researcher for that study, He Guizhen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says that even protesters like those in Lianyungang are not implacably opposed. “Their message is not really that you can’t build these things no matter what, but that we are concerned about safety, especially after Fukushima, and we demand that you take safety seriously,” she says.

It appears this message is getting through. Early this year the government acknowledged in a white paper that its system for responding to a nuclear accident had “certain inadequacies”. In April officials revealed plans to draft a national nuclear-safety law. In May officials announced 600m yuan ($91m) in funding for six new nuclear-emergency squads, which would be ready for action by 2018. In August—on the same day that protesters marched in Lianyungang—China conducted its first “comprehensive nuclear-security emergency drill”. This week the government said officials must consult locals before settling the location of new nuclear facilities.

Deborah Seligsohn of the University of California, San Diego, says that because China’s nuclear-power industry is centrally run and limited to a handful of companies, authorities are able to keep tight control over safety standards, and that they have not hesitated to slow projects down when seeing signs of strain. Supervision, however, falls to several different agencies and levels of the bureaucracy. The burden of inspecting and managing the growing number of plants, she says, could be better handled by a more independent regulator in charge of its own budget.

In July China Energy News, a newspaper, reported that “quality problems” with domestically manufactured pump-valves were forcing some plants to shut down unexpectedly. (Most plants have since switched to imported valves.) More alarmingly, regulators this month revealed that a radiation-monitoring system at the Daya Bay nuclear-power station, which is within 50km of the huge cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, had been turned off inadvertently for three months before anyone noticed. Since no radiation leaked, the government deemed the oversight an event of “no safety significance”—one of several such lapses this year. The residents of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, presumably, would not see it in quite the same way.

Source: A glowing future | The Economist