Posts tagged ‘Harry Wu’

23/05/2016

Doubling down | The Economist

“A COLOSSAL roller-coaster” is how a senior engineer described it. He was talking about the railway that China plans to build from the lowlands of the south-west, across some of the world’s most forbidding terrain, into Tibet. Of all the country’s railway-building feats in recent years, this will be the most remarkable: a 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) track that will pass through snow-capped mountains in a region racked by earthquakes, with nearly half of it running through tunnels or over bridges. It will also be dogged all the way by controversy.

Chinese officials have dreamed of such a railway line for a century. In 1912, shortly after he took over as China’s first president, Sun Yat-sen called for a trans-Tibetan line, not least to help prevent Tibet from falling under the sway of Britain (which had already invaded Tibet from India a decade earlier). Mao Zedong revived the idea in the 1950s. In the years since, many exploratory surveys have been carried out.

But it is only after building the world’s second-longest railway network—including, in the past few years, by far the biggest high-speed one—that China’s government has felt ready to take on the challenge. It had a warm-up with the construction of the first railway into Tibet, which opened in 2006. That line, connecting Lhasa with Golmud in Qinghai province to the north (and extended two years ago from Lhasa to Tibet’s second city, Shigatse), was proclaimed to be a huge accomplishment. It included the highest-altitude stretch in the world, parts of it across permafrost. It required ingenious heat-regulating technology to keep the track from buckling. Advertisement: Replay Ad China further honed its skills with the opening of a high-speed line across the Tibetan plateau in 2014—though in Qinghai province, rather than in Tibet proper. But neither track had anything like the natural barriers that the Sichuan-Tibet line will face. It will be just under half as long again as the existing line to Tibet, but will take three times longer to build. The second line’s estimated cost of 105 billion yuan ($16 billion) is several times more than the first one. Lhasa is about 3,200 metres (10,500 feet) higher than Chengdu, yet by the time the track goes up and down on the way there—crossing 14 mountains, two of them higher than Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain—the cumulative ascent will be 14,000 metres. The existing road from Chengdu to Lhasa that follows the proposed route into Tibet is a narrow highway notable for the wreckage of lorries that have careered off it. Some Chinese drivers regard the navigation of Highway 318 as the ultimate proof of their vehicles’, and their own, endurance. Work on easier stretches of the railway line, closest to Lhasa and Chengdu respectively, began in 2014. Now the government appears to be getting ready for the tougher parts. A national three-year “plan of action”, adopted in March for major transport-infrastructure projects, mentions the most difficult stretch: a 1,000km link between Kangding in Sichuan and the Tibetan prefecture of Linzhi (Nyingchi in Tibetan). The plan says this should be “pushed forward” by 2018. It will involve 16 bridges to carry the track over the Yarlung Tsangpo river, known downstream as the Brahmaputra. Dai Bin of Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu says the Chengdu-Lhasa line could be finished by around 2030.

Source: Doubling down | The Economist

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20/01/2015

5 Takeaways From China’s GDP – WSJ

1 THE SLOWEST PACE IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS

For much of the last two decades, China has been working overtime to drive the growth of the world economy. Now, it’s slowing to suborbital speeds. Last year’s growth of 7.4% was the slowest since 1990, a year when China was reeling from out-of-control inflation and the sanctions that followed the Tiananmen Square massacre.

2 IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE

The slowdown of 2014 is unlikely to be a blip, and probably presages an extended deceleration of growth. The often bullish International Monetary Fund has penciled in 6.8% growth for 2015, as has investment bank UBS. Others are even more downbeat. Oxford Economics predicts 6.5%–and says this will be the last time China’s growth exceeds 6%.

3 COMMODITY EXPORTERS WILL BE THE BIGGEST LOSERS

China is a huge importer of raw materials, from oil to soybeans. Much of last decade’s commodity boom was premised on the idea of insatiable Chinese demand. As the extent of the slowdown crystallizes, prices for key goods are tumbling, and commodity-dependent economies like Russia, Brazil, Venezuela and Angola are already in trouble. Expect more of the same.

4 HOUSING IS THE WILDCARD

The only thing that could lift the fortunes of commodity producers would be a revival of China’s housing market. House prices were down 4.5% on year as of December, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Construction has ground to a halt on many sites as developers wait to see if the market will turn around. Prices could stabilize this year, said Haibin Zhu, an economist at J.P. Morgan, but that is far from certain. If moves to introduce a property tax end up killing confidence in the market, prices could keep falling.

5 THESE FIGURES NEED TO BE TAKEN WITH A PINCH OF SALT

Economists say it is daft to get hung up on changes of a few tenths of a percentage point in the official growth rate. The statistics bureau’s methodology is “not so scientific,” as Harry Wu, a skeptic at Hitotsubashi University in Japan, puts it. And even if statisticians at the central government level are immune to political pressure, few doubt that the local bureaus underneath them are capable of fudging the numbers to produce a more flattering picture.

Still, the general trend seems to be clear. If the government says the economy is slowing down, you can bet the slowdown is real.

via 5 Takeaways From China’s GDP – WSJ.

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