Posts tagged ‘Bay of Bengal’

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

15/09/2016

Why water war has broken out in India’s Silicon Valley – BBC News

On Monday afternoon, a school bus was stopped in the Banashankari area in southern Bangalore. Three drunk men got into the bus and asked aloud: “Which child belongs to Karnataka and and which child belongs to Tamil Nadu?”

The 15-odd students, aged between 10 and 14, were stunned. Their school had asked them to leave early because the situation was tense, with violence and arson breaking out in many parts of the city.

“Luckily the driver handled it tactfully. He told the intruders that everyone was a native of Bangalore and that their families supported Karnataka on [water sharing with] Cauvery,” said a parent, not wanting to be identified.

Battle for access

By dusk, dark smoke had filled the Bangalore skies. Some 35 buses had been set on fire by protesters, just because the buses belonged to a travel agency whose owner is Tamil.

Is India facing its worst-ever water crisis?

India to ‘divert rivers’ to tackle droughtEarlier this month India’s Supreme Court ruled that Karnataka must release 12,000 cubic feet of water per second to Tamil Nadu from the Cauvery river until 20 September. Both states say they urgently need the water for irrigation and a battle about access to it has raged for decades.

Karnataka says water levels in Cauvery have declined because of insufficient rainfall

India’s water war

The Cauvery originates in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu before joining the Bay of Bengal.

The dispute over its waters originated in the 19th Century during the British rule between the then Madras presidency (modern day Tamil Nadu) and the province of Mysore (now Karnataka).

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have both argued that they need the water for millions of farmers in the region.

The Cauvery river water tribunal was set up in 1990 after the failure of several rounds of talks between the two states.

Dozens of meetings have been held to find a settlement to the century-old dispute.

In 2007, the tribunal ruled Tamil Nadu state would get 419bn cubic feet of water a year. Karnataka would get only 270bn.

Karnataka says water levels in the Cauvery have declined because of insufficient rainfall – 42% of the 3,598 irrigation tanks in the state are dry – and that it cannot therefore share water with Tamil Nadu. So Tamil Nadu went to the top court demanding 50,000 cubic feet of water per second.

When the Supreme Court on 2 September asked Karnataka to “live and let live”, the state softened and offered to release 10,000 cubic feet of water per second to Tamil Nadu every day for five days.

On 5 September however, the top court ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cubic feet of water per second for 10 days. This ruling was later modified to 12,000 cubic feet of water per second until 20 September.

This would mean that nearly a quarter of the water now available in the Cauvery basin will flow into Tamil Nadu.

A truck from neighbouring Tamil Nadu set on fire in Bangalore

Tamil Nadu says it badly needs the river water for irrigation. Drought-hit Karnataka argues that most of the river water is now needed for drinking water supplies in Bangalore and some other cities, leaving no water for irrigation at all.

But even farmers in Tamil Nadu are unhappy with their share.P Ayyakannu, president of the local South Indian Rivers Interlinking Farmers Association, called it “akin to giving pigeon feed to an elephant”.

Rising violenceFeeling let down by the top court’s order, Karnataka is boiling.

The main city of Bangalore is the worst affected: the violence in the technology hub forced the closure of many offices and much of the public transport system. Police have imposed an emergency law that prohibits public gatherings, and more than 15,000 officers have been deployed across the city.

One person was killed when police opened fire on protesters on Monday evening. Buses and trucks bearing Tamil Nadu number plates have been attacked and set on fire. Schools and colleges are closing early and many businesses are shut.

A group of activists belonging to a fringe pro-Karnataka group assaulted an engineering student because he had ridiculed Kannada film stars for supporting the strike on Friday, by posting memes on Facebook. The student was hunted down and forced to apologise.

Across the border, in Tamil Nadu, petrol bombs were hurled at a popular restaurant owned by a resident of Karnataka in Chennai while the driver of a vehicle with Karnataka number plates was slapped and ordered to say “Cauvery belongs to Tamil Nadu”.

Normal life has been disrupted in Bangalore

Protests have shut down Bangalore city

The latest violence brings back memories of the anti-Tamil riots in Bangalore in 1991 over the same issue.

Then, some 200,000 Tamils were reported to have left the city, after incidents of violence and arson targeting them.

There was a proposal in 2013 to set up a panel comprising representatives from the two warring states to resolve disputes over river water sharing.

But successive governments have dragged their feet on this, and the two leaders – Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah and his counterpart in Tamil Nadu, Jayaram Jayalalitha – have not reached out to each other to resolve the crisis. And with Delhi reduced to being a reluctant referee, the onus has fallen on the Supreme Court to crack the whip.

Source: Why water war has broken out in India’s Silicon Valley – BBC News

23/06/2016

Why India’s monsoon is difficult to forecast | The Economist

METEOROLOGISTS are forecasting a bumper monsoon for India this year. This is good news for the more than 600m people—about half of India’s population—who depend on the rains it brings. Knowing when and where the monsoon will arrive is especially important for farmers; even now, two-thirds of India’s fields lack irrigation. But forecasting the monsoon remains fantastically difficult, especially as four in every ten monsoons are classified as abnormal anyway. What makes India’s monsoon so unpredictable?

The word monsoon derives from mausam in Hindi (and originally from Arabic), meaning “weather”. Monsoon climates typically have two very distinct seasons: wet and dry. In India, the onslaught of the rains begins when moist air is carried northwards from the Indian ocean during the summer. The winds transporting the main or “south-west” monsoon come from an area south of the equator which is characterised by high atmospheric pressure. As the air gathers moisture during the journey, atmospheric convection forms huge storm clouds which arrive first in southern India around early June (as they did this year). The monsoon creeps north and west, showering Pakistan and north India about a month later. By September it is in retreat, and has normally withdrawn from the south of the country by December. Many factors seem to affect the duration and intensity of the monsoon. One is El Niño, a climatic phenomenon associated with warmer temperatures in the tropical Pacific ocean. Last year the monsoon proved disappointing while El Niño was in full swing: total rainfall between June and September was 14% below the 50-year average. How exactly the phenomenon interacts with the monsoon is not well understood, however, as even large Niños in the past have coincided with normal monsoons.

Anthropogenic emissions also seem to affect rain patterns. India is the world’s fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. The insulating effect of such emissions helped make last year the hottest on record; this year looks set to be even more scorching. A warmer atmosphere probably means even greater variability in the monsoon. Rainfall extremes are expected to increase, thanks in part to the fact that a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture (about 7% more, for every degree Celsius of warming). Air pollution complicates matters further. It is a terrible problem in India, contributing to more than 600,000 early deaths a year. Cooking at home, and the smoke it releases, accounts for much of the trouble. Aerosols such as black carbon interact with sunlight. Some of these tiny particles—many less than a tenth the width of a human hair—scatter light, while others absorb it. In the former case, this prevents the light from warming the earth’s surface. In the latter, absorbing the light causes the particles to warm the air around them. Both alter the heating of the atmosphere, and therefore the heating of the land relative to the ocean—the process which drives the monsoon.

Scientists are using a variety of techniques to better forecast the monsoon, from monitoring changes in land use (because vegetation stores more moisture) to sending underwater robots into the Bay of Bengal (to learn more about the salinity and temperature of the ocean). Their research could improve climate models and farming practices—but improved water-storage facilities, better irrigation and more access to insurance schemes might have to make up for the gaps in knowledge that will persist.

Source: The Economist explains: Why India’s monsoon is difficult to forecast | The Economist

10/06/2016

17 People Die on India’s Roads Every Hour, Report Says – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s roads are getting more dangerous, with 17 people dying in accidents every hour, a new government report shows.

“Much more needs to be done,” to make India’s roads safe, Sanjay Mitra, secretary of the Ministry of Roads and Transport said in the report.

The data is pretty damning. The total number of road accidents in India increased 2.5% in 2015, to 501,423. The number of people killed climbed 4.6% to 146,133. Injuries rose by 1.4%.

Road accidents also got more severe. The total number of people killed per 100 accidents was up 2.1% at 29.1 in 2015.

The Ministry of Roads and Transport said it had identified 700 “black spots” on roads, where more than five people died in the past year, and that it has earmarked 6 billion rupees ($89.9 million) to fix defects.

Source: 17 People Die on India’s Roads Every Hour, Report Says – India Real Time – WSJ

14/02/2015

China a Top Source of Ocean Trash: Report – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Marine biologists and ocean activists have grown alarmed about the seaborne plastic that fouls shorelines and clogs currents from the Arctic to the South Pacific. But the actual amount and source of it hasn’t been known because consumer habits and pollution-control practices vary so widely world-wide.

In a new accounting of global garbage, researchers in the U.S. and Australia led by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, calculated the share that each of 192 countries could have contributed to plastic waste in the oceans. Their study is based on consumer data and waste-management information covering coastal populations around the world. The U.S. ranked 20th by the researchers’ estimates, deemed responsible for just under 1% of the mismanaged plastic waste.

Unchecked, the amount of plastic waste fouling the seas may double by 2025, reaching levels “equal to 10 bags full of plastic per foot of coastline,” Dr. Jambeck said.

According to the researchers, the coastal population of China generated 8.82 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste in 2010, about 27.7% of the world total. Of that, between 1.32 million and 3.53 million metric tons ended up as marine debris.

via China a Top Source of Ocean Trash: Report – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

13/05/2013

* Myanmar Pipeline Puts China Ahead in Energy Shipping Dilemma

WSJ: “A new crude oil pipeline through Myanmar due to begin operations in September will put China in a favorable position compared to other Asian economic powerhouses challenged by energy security issues.

China’s Myanmar pipeline, which in the photo is under the red dirt trail, means it will be less dependent on the Strait of Malacca for its imported oil needs.

At a capacity of 440,000 barrels a day, the pipeline—running from Myanmar’s coast at the Bay of Bengal to China’s southern Yunnan region—will allow China to send less crude through the Strait of Malacca. The narrow waterway by Singapore, where the U.S. Navy has a strong presence, is considered a major threat to secure energy supplies by major Asian economies dependent on crude shipments from the Middle East and Africa.

China—helped by its own domestic oil production of just over 4 million barrels a day—last year relied on the narrow waters for around 37% of its total demand. That share will drop to about 30% once the Myanmar pipeline comes on stream.

In comparison, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all rely on the Strait of Malacca for around 75% of their total oil consumption, in part due to their small domestic production.

The Myanmar pipeline, which will run parallel to a major natural gas pipeline, comes on top of a string of oil and gas import pipelines already completed or planned to supply China’s less-developed inland regions.”

via Myanmar Pipeline Puts China Ahead in Energy Shipping Dilemma – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

09/08/2012

* Agni-II successfully test-fired

the Hindu: “India successfully test-fired nuclear weapons capable strategic ballistic missile, Agni-II, for its full range of more than 2,000 km from Wheeler Island off the Odisha Coast on Thursday.

The launch was carried out by Strategic Force Command personnel from a mobile launcher. The Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, which carried a dummy payload of 1,000 kg, was fired at 8.46 a.m. from a rail mobile launcher. Agni-II has already been inducted into the services and belongs to the group of Agni class of strategic missiles which form the bulwark of India”s nuclear deterrence policy.

Top Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials told The Hindu from Wheeler Island that the two-stage solid-propelled missile followed a text-book trajectory and zeroed in on to a pre-determined target point in the Bay of Bengal with a single to two digit accuracy after a 700-second flight.

They said the re-entry systems worked well and all other systems functioned perfectly.The electro-optical systems and telemetry stations tracked and monitored the missile’s flight path. Two ships stationed in the vicinity of the target point witnessed the terminal event.

The SFC personnel conducted the trial as part of regular user exercise. Agni-II is 20 metres long and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead weighing one ton.

It was the third success in a row for Agni variants following the launch of Agni-V in April and Agni-1 recently.”

via The Hindu : News / National : Agni-II successfully test-fired.

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