Archive for ‘New York’

19/05/2019

China’s ban on scrap imports revitalises US recycling industry

  • US paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap waste materials
  • Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves
China phased in import restrictions on scrap paper and plastics in January last year. Photo: AP
China phased in import restrictions on scrap paper and plastics in January last year. Photo: AP
The halt on China’s imports of waste paper and plastic that has disrupted US recycling programmes has also spurred investment in American plants that process recyclables.

US paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap scrap. Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves.

And in a twist, the investors include Chinese companies that are still interested in having access to waste paper or flattened bottles as raw material for manufacturing.

“It’s a very good moment for recycling in the United States,” said Neil Seldman, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Washington-based organisation that helps cities improve recycling programmes.
Global scrap prices plummeted in the wake of China’s ban. Photo: AP
Global scrap prices plummeted in the wake of China’s ban. Photo: AP

China, which had long been the world’s largest destination for paper, plastic and other recyclables, phased in import restrictions in January last year.

Global scrap prices plummeted, prompting waste-hauling companies to pass the cost of sorting and baling recyclables on to municipalities. With no market for the waste paper and plastic in their blue bins, some communities scaled back or suspended kerbside recycling programmes. But new domestic markets offer a glimmer of hope.

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports became an ‘earthquake’

About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to Dylan de Thomas, a vice-president at The Recycling Partnership, a non-profit organisation that tracks and works with the industry.

Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons, one of the world’s largest producers of cardboard boxes, has invested US$500 million over the past year to buy and expand or restart production at paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Brian Boland, vice-president of government affairs and corporate initiatives for ND Paper, Nine Dragons’ US affiliate, said that as well as making paper from wood fibre, the mills would add production lines turning more than a million tonnes of scrap into pulp to make boxes.

“The paper industry has been in contraction since the early 2000s,” he said. “To see this kind of change is frankly amazing. Even though it’s a Chinese-owned company, it’s creating US jobs and revitalising communities like Old Town, Maine, where the old mill was shuttered.”

Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons has invested US$500 million in paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Photo: Handout
Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons has invested US$500 million in paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Photo: Handout

The Northeast Recycling Council said in a report last autumn that 17 North American paper mills had announced increased capacity to handle recyclable paper since the Chinese cut-off.

Another Chinese company, Global Win Wickliffe, is reopening a closed paper mill in Kentucky. Georgia-based Pratt Industries is constructing a mill in Wapakoneta, Ohio that will turn 425,000 tonnes of recycled paper per year into shipping boxes.

Plastics also had a lot of capacity coming online, de Thomas said, noting new or expanded plants in Texas, Pennsylvania, California and North Carolina that turned recycled plastic bottles into new bottles.

Chinese companies were investing in plastic and scrap metal recycling plants in Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina to make feedstocks for manufacturers in China, he said.

GDB International processes bales of scrap plastic film into pellets to make garbage bags and plastic pipe. Photo: AP
GDB International processes bales of scrap plastic film into pellets to make garbage bags and plastic pipe. Photo: AP

In New Brunswick, New Jersey, the recycling company GDB International exported bales of scrap plastic film such as pallet wrap and grocery bags for years. But when China started restricting imports, company president Sunil Bagaria installed new machinery to process it into pellets he sells profitably to manufacturers of garbage bags and plastic pipe.

The imports cut-off that China called “National Sword” was a much-needed wake-up call to his industry, he said.

“The export of plastic scrap played a big role in easing recycling in our country,” Bagaria said. “The downside is that infrastructure to do our own domestic recycling didn’t develop.”

China to suspend checks on US scrap metal shipments, halting imports

That was now changing, but he said far more domestic processing capacity would be needed as a growing number of countries restricted scrap imports.

“Ultimately, sooner or later, the society that produces plastic scrap will become responsible for recycling it,” he said.

It has also yet to be seen whether the new plants coming on line can quickly fix the problems for municipal recycling programmes that relied heavily on sales to China to get rid of piles of scrap.

About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to a non-profit group that tracks the industry. Photo: AP
About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to a non-profit group that tracks the industry. Photo: AP

“Chinese companies are investing in mills, but until we see what the demand is going to be at those mills, we’re stuck in this rut,” said Ben Harvey, whose company in Westborough, Massachusetts, collects trash and recyclables for about 30 communities.

He had a car park filled with stockpiled paper a year ago after China closed its doors, but eventually found buyers in India, Korea and Indonesia.

China to collect applications for scrap metal import licences from May

Keith Ristau, chief executive of Far West Recycling in Portland, Oregon, said most of the recyclable plastic his company collected used to go to China but now most of it went to processors in Canada or California.

To meet their standards, Far West invested in better equipment and more workers at its material recovery facility to reduce contamination.

In Sarepta, Louisiana, IntegriCo Composites is turning bales of hard-to-recycle mixed plastics into railroad ties. It expanded operations in 2017 with funding from New York-based Closed Loop Partners.

“As investors in domestic recycling and circular economy infrastructure in the US, we see what China has decided to do as very positive,” said Closed Loop founder Ron Gonen.

Source: SCMP

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06/05/2019

Ex-CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee admits spying for China

A man (R, wearing blue tie) identified by local Hong Kong media as former CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing LeeImage copyrightAFP
Image caption A man (R in blue tie) identified as Jerry Chun Shing Lee by Hong Kong media

An ex-CIA agent has pleaded guilty to spying for China, the US justice department says, in a case believed to be linked to the dismantling of a US espionage network.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 54, left the CIA in 2007 to live in Hong Kong, where he was recruited by Chinese agents.

Prosecutors say the naturalised US citizen was then paid to divulge information on US covert assets.

This led China to bring down a network of informants between 2010 and 2012.

About 20 informants were killed or jailed during that period – one of the most disastrous failures of US intelligence in recent years.

The US Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John Demers, said Lee’s case was the third involving US agents and China in less than a year.

“Every one of these cases is a tragic betrayal of country and colleagues,” he said.

What did Lee do?

Lee, who worked for the CIA between 1994 and 2007, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver national defence information to aid a foreign government in a court in Virginia on Wednesday, the justice department said in a statement.

It said Lee was contacted by the Chinese intelligence agents in 2010. They offered him money, promising to take care of him “for life” in exchange for the required secret information. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were deposited in his Hong Kong bank account between May 2010 and December 2013.

Mr Lee created a document containing information about CIA activities, including locations to which US agents would be assigned.

In 2012, FBI agents searched a hotel room in Hawaii registered in Mr Lee’s name and found a USB drive. Investigators found the document on unallocated space in the drive, suggesting it had been deleted.

The search also revealed Lee to have a day planner and address book containing notes of intelligence provided by CIA agents, their true identities, operational meeting locations and phone numbers, and information about covert facilities.

Lee was interviewed by CIA officers in 2012 during which he said he had met Chinese intelligence officers but concealed the fact that they had set him tasks, the justice department said. In 2013 he first denied knowing about the document on his USB drive and then admitted he had created it but said he had never handed it on to Chinese agents.

Mr Lee was arrested at New York’s JFK airport in January 2018. He will be sentenced in August.


Spy v Spy

By Tara McKelvey, BBC News, Washington DC

The Lee case shows that the battle between Chinese and US spies has intensified over the past year, turning into a new “Cold War”, as Michael Collins, the deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, called it.

The Chinese are investing more resources into their efforts to ferret out information about the US government, while the US government has become more aggressive in its pursuit of US citizens who have helped Chinese agents.

And when the guilty party is a former CIA officer, one of their own, the men and women who work in the field of US intelligence are ready to “bring the hammer down”, one senior intelligence official said.


CIA spy operation in China: Key dates

Three armed Chinese policemen guarding the US embassy in BeijingImage copyright AFP
Image caption Chinese police guard the US embassy in the capital, Beijing
  • 2010: Information gathered by the US from sources deep inside the Chinese government bureaucracy start to dry up
  • 2011: Informants begin to disappear. It is not clear whether the CIA has been hacked or whether a mole has helped the Chinese to identify agents
  • 2012: FBI begins investigation
  • May 2014: Five Chinese army officers are charged with stealing trade secrets and internal documents from US companies. Later that same month, China says it has been a main target for US spies
  • 2015: CIA withdraws staff from the US embassy in Beijing, fearing data stolen from government computers could expose its agents
  • April 2017: Beijing offers hefty cash rewards for information on foreign spies
  • May 2017: Four former CIA officials tell the New York Times that up to 20 CIA informants were killed or imprisoned by the Chinese between 2010 and 2012
  • June 2017: Former US diplomatic officer Kevin Mallory is arrested and charged with giving top-secret documents to a Chinese agent
  • January 2018: Former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee is arrested

Source: The BBC

08/03/2019

Not girls, queens or goddesses: calls in China for a return to the real meaning of women’s day

  • March 8 has devolved into a prime time for online sales campaigns and advertising rather than a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, critics say

Job seekers look at the job advertisements at a job fair for women on the International Women's Day in Huaibei, Anhui province, on Friday. Photo: Reuters
Job seekers look at the job advertisements at a job fair for women on the International Women’s Day in Huaibei, Anhui province, on Friday. Photo: Reuters
Every year around March 8, the internet in China is plastered with references to International Women’s Day.
Online commerce sites promote discounts on items from jewellery to massage machines to electronics; groups and individuals post “supportive” comments for the women in their lives; and retailers roll out advertising campaigns with “feminist” messages.
But critics say the true meaning of the day is being lost and the annual commemoration has become less of a chance to celebrate women’s achievements and more of an excuse to push spending.
It has also spawned a phenomenon called “Girls’ Day”, that reinforces the social preference for youth and beauty, they say.
International Women’s Day was first organised by the former Socialist Party of America in New York in 1909 and later became a fixture on calendars among socialists and in communist countries before being adopted by the United Nations in 1975 .
When marrying young is the norm, courageous Chinese women take back control by asking parents to “Meet me halfway”
In China, it has been celebrated since 1924, with women using the day to highlight the need for their rights.

“Women’s day was meant to celebrate the spirit of women fighting for their rights, encouraging women’s independence and empowerment, that they can have all sorts of lives and not be a part attached to men,” Guo said.

“[The campaigns] give the impression that girls are innocent, without social experience, and ‘women’ are older, less attractive.”

Women need opportunities at work, at home and in public life, a rights advocate says. Photo: EPA
Women need opportunities at work, at home and in public life, a rights advocate says. Photo: EPA

Even international firms have come under fire for linking their products with Girls’ Day. On Thursday, in an advertisements for the film Captain Marvel, Marvel Studios’ China team wrote on Weibo, “Happy Girls’ Day! Captain Marvel Brie Larson sends her wishes to all girls in China.”

Commenters said the first Marvel movie to showcase a woman superhero was undermining its message by highlighting a day with a mixed meaning.

“The film basically sells feminism, yet you are talking about Girls’ Day?” one comment said.

China gender and sexuality centre shuts down as censorship chill spreads

Other firms, such as sportswear company Nike, won a round of applause for breaking stereotypes with Dream Crazier video. The video centred on breakthroughs from female athletes around the globe, complete with Nike’s slogan, “Just do it”.

Feng Yuan, the co-founder of Beijing-based group Equality, which is dedicated to women’s rights and gender equality, said many shop owners or platforms wanted to turn any special day into a shopping bonanza, but they only appeared to be trying to please women.

“We should be alerted that the names of ‘Girls’ Day’ or ‘Goddess’s Day’ indicate that many regard women only as consumers, caretakers or an ‘empty vases’,” Feng said.

The focus on women’s appearance was driven home on Thursday night in a fumbled attempt by a university in the country’s north to mark the day. In a Weibo post, Shandong University claimed it was the founder of Girls’ Day on March 7, and the original meaning was “three plus seven equals 10. You score 10 out of 10 points for sweetness.” It claimed the day was for university students to care for women and for female students to showcase their attractiveness.

The post quickly met with criticism. The Intellectuals, an online media outlet, said “the day recognises women’s achievements, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, language, culture, economic and political standing. It originated from North America and Europe’s workers’ movements in the early 20th century.

“Whether you call it Girls’ Day or Queens’ Day, it’s an insult to the true spirit of the day.”

On campuses throughout the country, it has become a tradition for banners with supportive messages to be put up on buildings and message boards. But rather than celebrating women, many of the banners sexualise them in what critics say amounts to a form of sexual harassment.

“I’ve met scores of women in the spring, but I’d rather be sleeping with you,” one banner read.

The sexualisation of the event is compounded by jokes online that play on the Chinese word for “day” and “sex” to suggest that the real meaning of the day is to “welcome girls into womanhood”.

Women’s rights advocates say the public needs to sever the sexual and commercial ties to the day and focus on the many areas in which women’s rights need to be improved.

How a Chinese #MeToo musical whipped up a storm before the censors stepped in

That includes the lifting of a ban on the official Weibo account of Feminist Voices, which before it was shut down without explanation on women’s day last year, had some 180,000 followers and published articles on sexual harassment, women’s rights or workplace equality.

More broadly, in 2018, women still on average made less than 80 per cent of the average salary for men, according to a report by Chinese recruitment platform Zhipin.com. The report said women tended to hit a glass ceiling for promotion and pay due to the demands of marriage and child rearing.

Women’s rights have gained some attention this week as national lawmakers and advisers have met in Beijing for their annual gatherings. Huang Xihua, a National People’s Congress delegate from Huizhou in Guangdong province, ignited debate at the congress with a called for the two-child policy to be scrapped and for unmarried women to be granted equal rights to have children.

Feng, from Equality, was clear about what still needed to be done.

“For women’s day, we don’t need flowery words of praise, but more women-friendly and gender-equal policies, giving women an equal position and opportunity in family, career and public lives,” she said.

Source: SCMP

23/02/2019

Trump says he’s inclined to extend China trade deadline and meet Xi soon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday there was “a very good chance” the United States would strike a deal with China to end their trade war and that he was inclined to extend his March 1 tariff deadline and meet soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I think that we both feel there’s a very good chance a deal will happen,” Trump said.

Liu agreed there had been “great progress”.

“From China, we believe that (it) is very likely that it will happen and we hope that ultimately we’ll have a deal. And the Chinese side is ready to make our utmost effort,” he said at the White House.

The Republican president said he probably would meet with Xi in March in Florida to decide on the most important terms of a trade deal.

 

Optimism that the two sides will find a way to end the trade war lifted stocks, especially technology shares. The S&P 500 stock index reached its highest closing level since Nov. 8. Oil prices rose to their highest since mid-November, with Brent crude reaching a high of $67.73 a barrel. [.N] [O/R]

CURRENCY AGREEMENT

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two sides had reached an agreement on currency. Trump declined to provide details, but U.S. officials long have expressed concerns that China’s yuan is undervalued, giving China a trade advantage and partly offsetting U.S. tariffs.

Announcement of a pact aimed at limiting yuan depreciation was putting “the currency cart before the trade horse,” but would likely be positive for Asian emerging market currencies, said Alan Ruskin, global head of currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York.

“How can you agree to avoid excessive Chinese yuan depreciation or volatility if you have not made an agreement on trade that could have huge FX implications?” Ruskin asked in a note to clients.

In a letter to Trump read aloud by an aide to Liu at the White House, Xi called on negotiators to work hard to strike a deal that benefits both country.

Trump said a deal with China may extend beyond trade to encompass Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp.

The Justice Department has accused Huawei of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran and of stealing robotic technology from T-Mobile US Inc.

Chinese peer ZTE was last year prevented from buying essential components from U.S. firms after pleading guilty to similar charges, crippling its operations.

MEMORANDUMS NO MORE

Trump appeared at odds with his top negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, on the preliminary terms that his team is outlining in memorandums of understanding for a deal with China. Trump said he did not like MOUs because they are short term, and he wanted a long-term deal.

“I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything,” Trump said. “Either you are going to make a deal or you’re not.”

Lighthizer responded testily that MOUs were binding, but that he would never use the term again.

Reuters reported exclusively on Wednesday that the two sides were drafting the language for six MOUs covering the most difficult issues in the trade talks that would require structural economic change in China.

Negotiators have struggled this week to agree on specific language within those memorandums to address tough U.S. demands, according to sources familiar with the talks. The six memorandums include cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, including subsidies.

An industry source briefed on the talks said both sides have narrowed differences on intellectual property rights, market access and narrowing a nearly $400 billion U.S. trade deficit with China. But bigger differences remain on changes to China’s treatment of state-owned enterprises, subsidies, forced technology transfers and cyber theft of U.S. trade secrets.

Lighthizer pushed back when questioned on forced technology transfers, saying the two sides made “a lot of progress” on the issue, but did not elaborate.

The United States has said foreign firms in China are often coerced to transfer their technology to Chinese firms if they want to operate there. China denies this.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday urged the U.S. government to ensure the deal was comprehensive and addressed core issues, rather than one based on more Chinese short-term purchases of goods.

China has pledged to increase purchases of agricultural produce, energy, semiconductors and industrial goods to reduce its trade surplus with the United States.

China committed to buying an additional 10 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans on Friday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Twitter. China bought about 32 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in 2017. The commitments are a “show of good faith by the Chinese” and “indications of more good news to come,” Perdue wrote.

China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans before the trade war, but Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans slashed business that had been worth $12 billion annually.

Source: Reuters

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