Posts tagged ‘Bangladesh’

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

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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

05/03/2016

China lays out its vision to become a tech power | Reuters

China aims to become a world leader in advanced industries such as semiconductors and in the next generation of chip materials, robotics, aviation equipment and satellites, the government said in its blueprint for development between 2016 and 2020.

In its new draft five-year development plan unveiled on Saturday, Beijing also said it aims to use the internet to bolster a slowing economy and make the country a cyber power.

China aims to boost its R&D spending to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product for the five-year period, compared with 2.1 percent of GDP in 2011-to-2015.

Innovation is the primary driving force for the country’s development, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech at the start of the annual full session of parliament.

China is hoping to marry its tech sector’s nimbleness and ability to gather and process mountains of data to make other, traditional areas of the economy more advanced and efficient, with an eye to shoring up its slowing economy and helping transition to a growth model that is driven more by services and consumption than by exports and investment.

This policy, known as “Internet Plus”, also applies to government, health care and education.

As technology has come to permeate every layer of Chinese business and society, controlling technology and using technology to exert control have become key priorities for the government.

China will implement its “cyber power strategy”, the five-year plan said, underscoring the weight Beijing gives to controlling the Internet, both for domestic national security and the aim of becoming a powerful voice in international governance of the web. China aims to increase Internet control capabilities, set up a network security review system, strengthen cyberspace control and promote a multilateral, democratic and transparent international Internet governance system, according to the plan.

Source: China lays out its vision to become a tech power | Reuters

24/02/2016

U.S. Design Company Redesigns the Cycle Rickshaw to Make it ‘Sexy’ – India Real Time – WSJ

It is not quite reinventing the wheel, but one company is trying to overhaul an old-fashioned form of public transport–the cycle rickshaw.

Funded by the Asian Development Bank, Colorado-based Catapult Design has produced a new, flashy design for the vehicle — ubiquitous in Indian and other South Asian cities — that includes electrical assistance and gears for tricky hills.

Cycle rickshaws, or pedicabs, in South Asia provide backbreaking but vital work for the drivers who pedal passengers often on short “last mile” trips from other forms of transport to their final destination.

Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, has half a million cycle rickshaws alone, Bradley Schroeder, who is leading the $340,000 project to develop an open-source design of the pedicab, said. But the design hasn’t improved much in 40 years.

The ADB will spend $150,000 on manufacturing 60 prototype vehicles and testing them in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, and Lumbini, a tourism hotspot in the Himalayan nation and the birthplace of Buddha, over the coming months.

Half of the new rickshaws will be pedal-only, and the rest will have built-in electrical assistance provided by a lithium-ion battery, the company said.

Most rickshaws are currently made from tubular steel and if they have electrical assistance, it is provided by a heavy car battery, Mr. Schroeder said. Exposed parts of the rickshaw’s mechanics mean that clothes such as saris can become caught and cause accidents.

The new design is made from stainless steel and the mechanics are fully enclosed and include gears. The lithium batteries are more lightweight and the electrics comply with European Union standards, he added. The vinyl cover on the rickshaw provides protection from the elements.

“We wanted to make the body very sexy,” Mr. Schroeder said. The designers talked about adding seatbelts but decided against it since the the speeds were so low.

The new cabs are more expensive – they will cost $750, compared with about $400 for an average rickshaw. That cost, Mr. Schroeder says, is a result of the reduced weight and the addition of smartphone vehicle-hailing and driver-evaluation technologies as well as touch screens that can deliver tour guides to passengers.

“Weight is everything in the pedicab industry,” Mr. Schroeder wrote in an emailed response. The lighter model will mean that the pedicab will have a top speed of 15.5 miles an hour, but, Mr. Schroeder wrote, “essentially the vehicle will go as fast as the wallah (driver) can pedal and since the vehicle is lighter and now has gears, the wallah should be able to go faster.”

The drivers of the rickshaws for the trial in Nepal will be taken from the existing pool of the cities’ rickshaw chauffeurs, Mr. Schroeder said.

His team spent several months interviewing drivers, owners and garages. “There are a lot of questions, it’s not always easy. But over time we win them over and they are happy,” he said.

“They live on the fringes of society and are very concerned about making money every day,” he said. “They can see their industry is in decline.’

But although the cycle rickshaw is steeped in tradition, its drivers aren’t resistant to change.

“If you show them a 3-D printed model of the design, they’re blown away,” Mr. Schroeder said.

After the trial, Mr. Schroeder hopes a bicycle, motorcycle or auto company picks up the unpatented design and uses it to manufacture the product.

Source: U.S. Design Company Redesigns the Cycle Rickshaw to Make it ‘Sexy’ – India Real Time – WSJ

14/05/2015

India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Parliament is not known for its productivity. Disruptions, adjournments and delays to proceedings are often a feature of parliamentary business in the world’s largest democracy.

But the recently-concluded budget session was the most productive in recent years, according to PRS Legislative Research, an organization that tracks the affairs of the Indian Parliament.

During the four-month-long sitting, productivity in India’s lower house –the number of actual working hours as a percentage of the total scheduled hours for parliamentary business – was 123%.

That’s the most productive the lower house, known as the Lok Sabha, has been in 15 years. In fact, the lower house decided to extend the session by three days.

The upper house was slightly behind, with a productivity measurement of 101%.

“A lot of financial business got done, a lot of legislative business got done and a lot of issues of national importance were discussed,” said Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research.

“Both the houses met for a longer period of time and that’s the reason the productivity of the Parliament has gone up,” he said.

Such prolonged discourse eventually results in robust policies and laws, which ultimately helps in better governance, said Mr. Roy. ”If you debate something extensively, then the different nuances of the subject come out,” he said.

via India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ.

14/05/2015

Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters

A surprise delay to India’s new goods and services tax (GST) marks one of the most painful setbacks suffered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government as it nears the end of a first year in power, with markets falling and farmers braced for a poor monsoon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event in New Delhi February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Investors had hoped that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party‘s majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, would ensure Modi could push through reforms far more smoothly, but that assumption has taken a battering.

Late on Tuesday, the government submitted to strong opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, by agreeing to delay the landmark tax legislation until at least July.

The introduction of the GST would constitute India’s biggest tax reform since independence.

The delay to the bill is a blow to a government that is already dealing with rural discontent over proposed land reforms, which have also still to be sent to the upper house for approval.

The GST would replace a patchwork of levies by the central and state governments, reducing corruption, attracting investment and — according to the finance minister — add 2 percentage points to India’s growth.

Senior officials said on Wednesday they feared the delay could become yet another “sell” signal for foreign funds, already angered by the government seeking to tax them for several years of previously untaxed gains.

“A delay in parliament approval of the GST bill will send a wrong signal to investors, who are already grappling with tax notices,” said one senior government official dealing with economic policy decisions.

India was Asia’s second best performing market last year and the government has scored some successes. It has, for example, improved its finances, held successful telecoms and coal block auctions, and allowed more foreign investment into the insurance and defence sectors.

But the shine has worn off. Foreign investors sold nearly $2.2 billion in shares during the last 16 trading sessions.

via Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters.

20/11/2014

India Worst Slave Country, Says Global Slavery Index – India Real Time – WSJ

More than 14 million people in India are estimated to live in modern slavery, according to a new index on global slavery that ranks the country first out of 167 countries based on the number of people subject to abuse such as forced labor, servitude or sexual exploitation.

The other countries with the highest numbers of people in modern slavery are China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand. Together with India they account for 71% of the estimated 35.8 million people in modern slavery, says the 2014 Global Slavery Index, a report produced by global human rights organization the Walk Free Foundation. It defines modern slavery as “one person possessing or controlling another person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty.”

Modern slavery in Asia, particularly in countries such as India and Pakistan, often includes entire families who are enslaved through bonded labor in construction, agriculture, brick making, garment factories and manufacturing.

In India, lower castes and tribes, religious minorities, and migrant workers are disproportionately affected by modern slavery the Indian section of the report says.

In 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs launched the ‘anti-trafficking portal’, which includes  information on criminal justice statistics, anti-trafficking police units, government and law enforcement training, the anti-trafficking legislation, and reporting mechanisms, including the ChildLine hotline number.

India has also improved law enforcement efforts by establishing 215 anti-human trafficking units across the country to investigate human trafficking cases.

Legislation on its own though is not enough to ensure success of a criminal justice response to modern slavery, according to the report.

via India Worst Slave Country, Says Global Slavery Index – India Real Time – WSJ.

05/09/2014

In Assam, villagers struggle to protect their land from the roaring Brahmaputra

Descending from the plateaus of Tibet and flowing through China, India and Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra is one of India’s mightiest rivers, its width running up to 10 kilometers at some places. On its 3,000-kilometer journey, the Brahmaputra provides a livelihood to thousands of communities living on its banks. They depend on it for food, water and farming. In 1950, however, the great earthquake in Assam altered the topography of the river valley and the people of Assam have since been struggling with intense droughts and floods.

Since the earthquake, Assam has witnessed severe cases of river erosion. According to official records, 36 villages, 10 schools, six tea gardens and hundreds of humans and animas have been washed away. The situation has been exacerbated by increasing deforestation and erratic climate changes.

In 2012, floods in Assam displaced over a million people and affected close to 4,500 villages. Today, these villagers from Tinsukia district in Upper Assam are struggling to protect their land and livelihoods from the eroding banks and the rising waters of the mighty Brahmaputra.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

03/09/2014

In Modi’s first 100 days, foreign ministry moves fastest on Raisina Hill

With her many visits abroad, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been running the busiest ministry in the new government.

India’s new foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, seems to be running the busiest ministry on Raisina Hill ─ the area of Lutyen’s Delhi that houses key government buildings ─ for the regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi’s decision to invite all the heads of state in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation group to his swearing-in ceremony, widely hailed as a good and forward-thinking move, meant that Swaraj had to be on her toes from the get-go. In no time at all, Swaraj and Modi embarked on trips to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal, which an Indian head of state had not officially visited since 1997.

Swaraj has had her hands full, visiting neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar in quick succession while overseeing the successful evacuation of hundreds of stranded Indian citizens from hotspots such as Iraq and Libya and formulating India’s position on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza. She has just returned from Vietnam and was set to go to Beijing for a trilateral meeting with the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers but the government called off her trip, perhaps in deference to the sensitivities of Japan, where Prime Minister Modi arrived on Sunday for a summit.

On Israel, despite the BJP’s highly favourable stance towards the country, India eventually stuck to its historical position by voting in favour of Palestine at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Many BJP supporters questioned the government’s move, with some saying it was unable to break out of a Congress-era mindset.

The new order at the Ministry of External Affairs has a spring in its heels. From looking to invite all heads of state in the African Union to New Delhi to attracting mixed responses for allowing Modi to cancel talks with Pakistan after its high commissioner met Kashmiri separatist leaders from the Hurriyat Conference, the ministry has been hogging the limelight on Raisina Hill.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

28/07/2014

Improving health care: Congratulations! Inoculations! | The Economist

FANS of the China model frequently say that, for all the disadvantages of a one-party state, there are also benefits. Enforcing basic health care is one—and by no means a small one. Last year China’s mortality rate for children under five years old was just one-fifth the rate it was in 1991, down from 61 deaths per 1,000 live births to 12. The maternal mortality rate has also dropped substantially—by 71%—since 1991. In 1992, one in ten Chinese children under five contracted hepatitis B. Today fewer than one in 100 of them carry the disease.

China’s advances have not gone unnoticed. Last month a group of four international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, said China was one of ten countries to have made exceptional progress in reducing infant and maternal mortality (see chart). Not all of the ten—which included Egypt, Peru, Bangladesh and Vietnam—are one-party states.

China’s improvement lies in two basic, connected areas: better care at birth and countrywide immunisation. Since 2000 the government has offered subsidies to mothers who give birth in hospitals, thereby reducing health dangers from complications—especially the risk of neonatal tetanus. The scheme also brought hard-to-reach people and groups into contact with the health-care system.

From 2001 to 2007, the share of births that took place in hospitals rose by 46%, making it easier to give a hepatitis B vaccine immediately. China now has one of the highest usage rates of the birth dose of the vaccine in the world: 96% of Chinese babies receive it on their first day of life. In 2012 the WHO commended China for a “remarkable” public-health achievement. That year it declared China free of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, this month said that China’s regulatory system for vaccines had passed the WHO’s evaluation with outstanding results. Dr Chan says she has “full confidence” in the safety of vaccines made in China. Last year the WHO approved one for the first time for use by UNICEF. (That has not dispelled suspicions within China itself, however, about the safety of Chinese vaccines.) China and the WHO claim that about 95% of children are vaccinated for measles, rubella and polio. In 2008 the government added eight new vaccines, including hepatitis A and meningitis, to its national programme. All are administered to children free of charge. Just as important has been the mobilisation of a network of health-care workers, at provincial, county and township levels.

via Improving health care: Congratulations! Inoculations! | The Economist.

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