Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

21/06/2016

Yoga Takes Over the World on Second International Day of Yoga – India Real Time – WSJ

A year after the first International Day of Yoga was celebrated the world over, yoga enthusiasts were back again Tuesday morning lunging forward, raising and stretching their arms, and slowly inhaling and exhaling.

The day was introduced when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully lobbied the United Nations to dedicate 24 hours to the ancient discipline in September 2013.This year, Mr. Modi joined thousands of people in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh as they pulled their mats out for a massive demonstration. World over, 173 countries will celebrate the discipline Tuesday.

“We are disconnected from ourselves in today’s times. Yoga helps us reconnect with ourselves,” Mr. Modi said, addressing participants at his event.

On Monday, Mr. Modi also released a set of commermorative postal stamps showing the various steps of the “surya namaskar,” or sun salutation.In India’s capital city, President Pranab Mukherjee conducted a Yoga class at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, his residence-cum-office located in the heart of Delhi.

Images of different Yoga postures were displayed at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York in the build up to Yoga Day.

“Practicing yoga can help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours,” said Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.

Source: In Pictures: Yoga Takes Over the World on Second International Day of Yoga – India Real Time – WSJ

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14/12/2015

‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The Moranbong band’s shows at China’s National Center for the Performing Arts have been cancelled “due to some reasons,” an employee at the venue told China Real Time Saturday night.

A person who had a ticket to one of the band’s invitation-only shows confirmed that he received a cancellation notice late Saturday afternoon. Short hair, glittery miniskirts, electronic pop music and perhaps even the theme song from the 1976 Hollywood hit “Rocky” were expected to grace the stage of Beijing’s top music hall Saturday night as the Moranbong band was set to kick off three days of shows in the Chinese capital.

The group — which was accompanied by an army orchestra, the State Merited Chorus – arrived in Beijing on Thursday and was expected to stay until next Tuesday on what the North Korean official news agency KCNA described as a “friendship visit” to China.

Zuma Press China’s state-run media lit up with news reports on the group’s visit in recent days, with the official Xinhua News Agency publishing a slideshow showing the women arriving in Beijing dressed in military-style frocks and fur hats. It was unclear Saturday evening whether the band was still in Beijing.

Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported that band members were seen at Beijing’s Capital International Airport and had flown back to Pyongyang late Saturday afternoon. But no updates were forthcoming from Xinhua and other Chinese state-run media. The visit was to have been the group’s first overseas tour — although no one, it seemed, knew how to obtain a ticket.

Neither the concert venue nor China’s foreign ministry was able to provide instructions on buying a ticket when asked by China Real Time this week. A ticket agent at the National Centre for the Performing Arts said before Saturday’s cancellations that the performances were being treated as a national-level foreign affairs activity and that the concert hall was responsible only for providing the venue. “We don’t have a single ticket on hand; we even don’t know yet which room will be offered for the performance,” the ticket agent said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that she had no details on the show or its audience — and had not been invited herself. ”This performance is not organized by the foreign ministry so I have no more information to offer,” she said at a regular briefing. “As for where to buy the tickets, I have no information. I myself have no ticket to the performance.”

Some speculated that the tour was being organized by another official organ, the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. Neither that department nor the North Korean Embassy responded to requests for comment. China has long been North Korea’s economic and diplomatic lifeline. Yet the traditional alliance between the two has come under strain in recent years, particularly after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and North Korean forces seized a Chinese fishing boat later that year.

Even so, both countries have played up their ties again since this fall when senior Chinese official Liu Yunshan stood alongside Mr. Kim at a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. Mr. Liu, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, also passed along to Mr. Kim a letter from Xi Jinping in which the Chinese president called for closer relations.

Whether Moranbong’s short-lived visit to Beijing was intended to show a further warming of ties between China and North Korea — also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK — remains open to debate. Asked Friday about the group, Ms. Hua called the tour “a major event showing the friendship between the DPRK and China.” “We believe it contributes to our mutual understanding and the sound and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” she added.

Zhang Yushan, a researcher at the Jilin Social Science Academy who studies North and South Korea, cautioned against reading too much into the visit. “This spice-girl diplomacy doesn’t really mean China and North Korea’s relations really will become warmer,” he said. This week, a top United Nations official called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court over “gross human rights violations.” China called a vote to stop the meeting, although it failed to halt it. “North Korea was seeking help from China”, Mr. Zhang of the move. “We are both very practical.”

Members of the Moranbong Band are believed to have been selected by Kim Jong Un himself. The group has become the most well-known girl band in North Korea since its debut in 2012. In addition to anthems urging listeners to “support our supreme commander with arms,” Moranbong’s repertoire also includes a surprising number of foreign pieces, including the “Rocky” theme song

Source: ‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ

12/11/2015

Five myths about the Chinese economy – McKinsey Quarterly

A widely held Western view of China is that its stunning economic success contains the seeds of imminent collapse. This is a kind of anchoring bias,1 which colors academic and think-tank views of the country, as well as stories in the media. In this analysis, China appears to have an economy unlike others—the normal rules of development haven’t been followed, and behavior is irrational at best, criminal at worst.

There’s no question, of course, that China’s slowdown is both real and important for the global economy. But news events like this year’s stock-market plunge and the yuan’s devaluation versus the dollar reinforce the refrain, among a chorus of China watchers, that the country’s long flirtation with disaster has finally ended, as predicted, in tears. Meanwhile, Chinese officials, worried about political blowback, are said to ignore advice from outside experts on heading off further turmoil and to be paranoid about criticism.

My experience working and living in China for the past three decades suggests that this one-dimensional view is far from reality. Doubts about China’s future regularly ebb and flow. In what follows, I challenge five common assumptions.

  1. China has been faking it

A key tenet of the China-meltdown thesis is that the country has simply not established the basis for a sustainable economy. It is said to lack a competitive, dynamic private-enterprise structure and to have captured most of the value possible from cheap labor and heavy foreign investment already.

Clearly, China lacks some elements of a modern market economy—for example, the legal system falls short of the support for property rights in advanced countries.2 Nonetheless, as China-economy scholar Nicholas Lardy recently pointed out, the private sector is vibrant and tracing an upward trend line. The share of state-owned enterprises in industrial output continues to drop steadily, from 78 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2011.3 Private industry far outstrips the value added in the state sector, and lending to private players is growing rapidly.

In fact, much of China’s development model mirrors that of other industrializing and urbanizing economies in Asia and elsewhere. The high savings rate, initial investments in heavy industries and manufacturing, and efforts to guide and stabilize a rapidly industrializing and urbanizing economy, for example, resemble the policies that Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan followed at a similar stage of their development. This investment-led model can lead to its own problems, as Japan’s experience over the past 20 years indicates. Still, a willingness to intervene pragmatically in the market doesn’t imply backwardness or economic management that’s heedless of its impact on neighboring economies and global partners.

Furthermore, China’s reform initiatives4 since 2013 are direct responses to the structural changes in the economy. The new policies aim to spur higher-value exports, to target vibrant emerging markets, to open many sectors for private investors, and to promote consumption-led growth rooted in rising middle-class incomes. Today, consumption continues to go up faster than GDP, and investors have recently piled into sectors from water treatment to e-commerce. These reforms are continuing at the same time China is stepping up its anticorruption drive, and the government hasn’t resorted to massive investment spending (as it did in 2008). That shows just how important the reforms are.

  1. China’s economy lacks the capacity to innovate

Think tanks, academics, and journalists alike maintain that China has, at best, a weak capacity to innovate—the lifeblood of a modern economy. They usually argue as well that the educational system stomps out creativity.

My work with multinationals keen on partnering with innovative Chinese companies suggests that there’s no shortage of local players with a strong creative streak. A recent McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) study describes areas where innovation is flourishing here.5 Process innovations are propelling competitive advantage and growth for many manufacturers. Innovation is at the heart of the success of companies in sectors adapting to fast-changing consumer needs, so digital leaders like Alibaba (e-commerce) and Xiaomi (smartphones) are emerging as top global contenders. Heavy investment in R&D—China ranks number two globally in overall spending—and over a million science and engineering graduates a year are helping to establish important beachheads in science- and engineering-based innovation. (See “Gauging the strength of Chinese innovation.”)

  1. China’s environmental degradation is at the point of no return

To believe this, you need to think that the Chinese are content with a dirty environment and lack the financial muscle to clean things up. OK, they got things wrong in the first place, but so did most countries moving from an agrarian to an industrial economy.

In fact, a lot that’s good is happening. Start with social activism. A documentary on China’s serious air-pollution problems (Under the Dome), by Chai Jing—a former journalist at China Central Television (CCTV), the most important state-owned broadcaster—was viewed over 150 million times in the three days after it was posted online, in March 2015. True, the 140-minute video, which sharply criticizes regulators, state-owned energy companies, and steel and coal producers, was ultimately removed. But the People’s Daily interviewed Chai Jing, and she was praised by a top environmental minister.

China is spending heavily on abatement efforts, as well. The nation’s Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, mandating reductions in coal use and emissions, has earmarked an estimated $277 billion to target regions with the heaviest pollution.6That’s just one of several policy efforts to limit coal’s dominance in the economy and to encourage cleaner energy supplies. My interactions with leaders of Chinese cities have shown me that many of them incorporate strict environmental targets into their economic master plans.

  1. Unproductive investment and rising debt fuels China’s rapid growth

To believe this, you would have to think, as many skeptics do, that the Chinese economy is fundamentally driven by overbuilding—too many roads, bridges, and buildings.7 In fact, as one economist has noted, this is a misperception created by the fact that the country is just very big. An eye-popping statistic is illustrative: in 2013, China consumed 25 times more cement than the US economy did, on average, from 1985 to 2010. But adjusted for per-capita consumption and global construction patterns, China’s use is pretty much in line with that of South Korea and Taiwan during their economic booms.8

China’s rising debt, of course, continues to raise alarms. In fact, rather than deleveraging since the onset of the financial crisis, China has seen its total debt quadruple, to $28.2 trillion last year, a recent MGI study found.9 Nearly half of the debt is directly or indirectly related to real estate (prices have risen by 60 percent since 2008). Local governments too have borrowed heavily in their rush to finance major infrastructure projects.

While the borrowing does border on recklessness, China’s government has plenty of financial capacity to weather a crisis. According to MGI research, state debt hovers at only 55 percent of GDP, substantially lower than it is in much of the West. A recent analysis of China’s financial sector shows that even in the worst case—if credit write-offs reached unprecedented levels—only a fairly narrow segment of Chinese financial institutions would endure severe damage. And while growth would surely slow, in all likelihood the overall economy wouldn’t seize up.10

Finally, the stock-market slide is less significant than the recent global hysteria suggests. The government holds 60 percent of the market cap of Chinese companies. Moreover, the stock market represents only a small portion of their capital funding. And remember, it went up by 150 percent before coming down by 40.

Rumors drive the volatility on China’s stock exchange, often in anticipation of trading by state entities. The upshot is that the direct impact on the real economy will most likely be some reduction in consumer demand from people who have lost money trading in shares.

  1. Social inequities and disenfranchised people threaten stability

On this one, I agree with the bears, but it’s not just China that must worry about this problem. While economic growth has benefited the vast majority of the population, the gap between the countryside and the cities is increasing as urban wealth accelerates. There’s also a widening breach within urban areas—the rich are growing richer.11

Urban inequality and a lack of access to education and healthcare are not problems unique to China. People here and in the West may find fruitful opportunities to exchange ideas because the pattern across Western economies is similar. Leaders of the central government have suggested policies to improve income distribution and to create a fair and sustainable social-security system, though implementation remains a matter for localities and varies greatly among them.

In short, China’s growth is slower, but weighing the evidence I have seen, the sky isn’t falling. Adjustment and reform are the hallmarks of a stable and responsive economy—particularly in volatile times.

From: http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Winning_in_Emerging_Markets/Five_myths_about_the_Chinese_economy?cid=other-eml-alt-mkq-mck-oth-1511

02/11/2015

The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India | McKinsey & Company

India has a larger relative economic value at stake from advancing gender equality than any of the ten regions analyzed in a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth.

If all countries were to match the momentum toward gender parity of the fastest-improving countries in their region, $12 trillion a year could be added to global GDP. What’s more, India could add $700 billion of additional GDP in 2025, upping the country’s annual GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points (exhibit).

Our new report, The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India, reveals that about 70 percent of this “best in region” potential would come from raising women’s participation in India’s labor force by ten percentage points between now and 2025, bringing 68 million more women into the labor force—70 percent of them in just nine states. This will require bridging both economic and social gender gaps. To determine this, we have created a measure of gender equality for Indian states: the India Female Empowerment Index, or Femdex. Our analysis shows that scores vary widely, and India’s challenge is that the five states with the lowest gender inequality account for just 4 percent of the female working-age population; the five states with the highest inequality account for 32 percent.

Eight priority actions can help accelerate progress, including education and skill-building, job creation in key sectors, corporate policies to promote diversity, and programs to address deep-rooted mind-sets about the role of women in work.

Source: The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India | McKinsey & Company

25/07/2015

Should Britain Pay Reparations to India? Shashi Tharoor Says Yes, Narendra Modi Praises Him, What Do You Think? – India Real Time – WSJ

Should Britain pay reparations to its former colonies, including India? An articulation of why the former holder of empire should make amends, or at least say sorry, for two centuries of colonial rule, has sent a video of Indian law maker Shashi Tharoor viral and opened up a debate in India.

In a 15 minute speech given during a debate at the Oxford Union in the U.K., telegenic and floppy-haired Mr. Tharoor, who is a former foreign minister and a onetime under-secretary-general at the United Nations, argued that “Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India.”

Speaking in favor of the motion, the opposition Congress party politician said that India’s share of the world economy when the British arrived was 23% but by the time they left it had slipped to 4% because “India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India.”

“In fact, Britain’s industrial revolution was actually premised upon the de-industrialization of India,” he added.

The YouTube clip of the Congress politician’s oration has been watched more than 1.5 million times since it was uploaded last week, making it one of the most-viewed clips from the Oxford Union, a prestigious debate chamber at the University of Oxford.

A video of Jack Gleeson, an actor explaining to the chamber why he left the Game of Thrones, has over two million views as does one of Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, impersonating Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Others to have appeared at in the red-walled debate chamber in the recent past include Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, former U.S. Senator John Edwards, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and onetime South African President F.W. De Klerk.

Indian social media lit up with praise for Mr. Tharoor’s eloquence and ability to take on the British establishment: Opposing speakers in the debate included Sir Richard Ottaway, a politician with the United Kingdom’s right-wing Conservative party.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to Congress’s rival the Bharatiya Janata Party, praised Mr. Tharoor for the speech.

via Should Britain Pay Reparations to India? Shashi Tharoor Says Yes, Narendra Modi Praises Him, What Do You Think? – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/04/2015

U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters

The United States and China contributed most to record mountains of electronic waste such as cellphones, hair dryers and fridges in 2014 and less than a sixth ended up recycled worldwide, a U.N. study said on Sunday.

Overall, 41.8 million tonnes of “e-waste” — defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — were dumped around the globe in 2014 and only an estimated 6.5 million tonnes were taken for recycling, the United Nations University (UNU) said.

“Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’, a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials,” said David Malone, the U.N. under-secretary-general and rector of UNU.

The report estimated that the discarded materials, including gold, silver, iron and copper, was worth some $52 billion.

The United States led e-waste dumping with 7.1 million tonnes in 2014, ahead of China on 6.0 million and followed by Japan, Germany and India, it said.

The United States, where individual states run e-waste laws, reported collection of 1 million tonnes for 2012 while China said it collected 1.3 million tonnes of equipment such as TVs, refrigerators and laptops in 2013.

via U.S., China top dumping of electronic waste; little recycled | Reuters.

12/12/2014

Modi Gets International Yoga Day – India Real Time – WSJ

It’s probably not a stretch to say that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi just scored a win at the United Nations.

The international body Thursday declared June 21 the International Day of Yoga, something Mr. Modi called for in September in his maiden address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

”By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change,” he told the group of nations at the time. ”Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”  On Thursday, 177 countries co-sponsored the resolution to establish an international day of yoga, Pakistan, India’s neighbor and long-time rival did not join in doing so. Malaysia is also not sponsoring the event. Islamic clerics sparked controversy in 2008 after issuing a fatwa against yoga, because of its association with Hinduism.

via Modi Gets International Yoga Day – India Real Time – WSJ.

07/12/2014

India Says Pollution Levels Need to Rise Further to Boost Growth – Businessweek

India said its pollution levels will need to increase in the years ahead to support its economic development and it won’t discuss limiting greenhouse-gas emissions at United Nations climate talks that began this week.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar also said the government is preparing to make a pledge on how India will develop cleaner forms of energy, though he stopped short of indicating when the country might take on the sorts of caps for emissions that the U.S., China and Europe are adopting.

“We have a need to grow, so our emissions will grow,” Javadekar said at a press conference in New Delhi today. He said the onus on reducing emissions should be on richer industrial nations most responsible for global warming to allow poorer countries “space for more development.”

The comments indicate the difficulty in bringing all of the 190 nations gathered at the UN climate talks in Peru this week into a deal that will cut back on the pollution blamed for driving up the Earth’s temperature. While India’s emissions are the third-highest in the world, 30 percent of its residents live in poverty, scraping by on 75 cents a day or less.

Javadekar spoke before departing for the UN talks in Lima, Peru, which run through next week. They’re aiming to put together the building blocks for a deal by the end of next year that would cut pollution in all nations from 2020.

India is under pressure to make its environmental goals more clear after China and the U.S. jointly agreed Nov. 12 to rein in fossil fuel emissions. It was the first time a big developing country said it would take on a mandatory limit on pollution.

via India Says Pollution Levels Need to Rise Further to Boost Growth – Businessweek.

21/11/2014

China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek

Even as northern China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province, continues to suffer from hazardous air—“people with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors or wear protective masks,” the official English language China Daily advised earlier today, Nov.20—some relief may be on the longer-term horizon.

The Baosteel Group Corp. facilities in Shanghai, China

Chinese authorities in Hebei province, one of China’s largest steel-producing regions, announced they plan to relocate steel, cement, and glass factories overseas over the next decade. The many industrial factories that surround Beijing and Tianjin are known to be a major source of the lung-choking smog that periodically smothers much of northern China. Hebei province alone produces 200 million tons of steel annually, or about one-quarter of China’s total production.

“The initiative comes at a time when local steel, cement, and glass producers are struggling, with sluggish growth in the world’s second-largest economy crippling demand for their products. In many cases, it has led to severe overcapacity,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 19.

By 2017, according to Hebei authorities, Hebei plans to move 5 million tons of steel production capacity, the same amount for cement, and 3 million “weight boxes” of glass production (a weight box is roughly 50 kg, the paper explained). Much more will be moved in the following six years, through 2023, including 20 million tons of steel, 30 million of cement, and 10 million weight boxes of glass production, Xinhua reported.

While steel manufacturers will be encouraged through unspecified preferential policies to relocate some production in Africa and Asia, cement and glass producers will go to those two regions, as well as South America and Central and East Europe.

“Hebei is a major source of industrial pollutants blamed for the notorious choking smog that often spreads to neighboring regions like Beijing,” Xinhua reported.

via China Plans to Move Factories Abroad to Cut Smog – Businessweek.

20/11/2014

China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek

China’s hazardous smog is an in-your-face and choke-your-lungs kind of problem—hard to miss, particularly when air quality soars to severely polluted levels, as it did in Beijing today (Nov.19). But an equally dire environmental threat is the alarmingly low quality of China’s water resources.

A polluted canal in Beijing

That was highlighted in an investigative report on China’s water crisis in the official Xinhua News Agency yesterday. Sixty percent of China’s groundwater, monitored at 4,778 sites across the country, is either “bad” or “very bad,” according to a survey by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Xinhua reported. Meanwhile, more than half, or 17 of China’s 31 major freshwater lakes, are polluted, at least slightly or moderately.

The report said that 300 of China’s 657 major cities also face water shortages, according to the standard set by the United Nations. A particularly severe problem is the dearth of water in the North China region, including the cities of Beijing and Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei. Water per capita in that area amounts to only 286 cubic meters annually, much less than the 500 cubic meter minimum. Below that minimum is classified as “absolute scarcity.” (Xinhua says under 1,000 cubic meters per capita classifies as “scarcity.”)

With rapid urbanization an official economic priority, fears are that China’s crisis of degraded and inadequate water supplies could worsen. Meanwhile, about 3.3 million hectares of farmland—an area the size of Belgium—has become too contaminated to grow crops, China’s authorities revealed late last year.

“Experts blamed some local governments and businesses for recklessly pursuing quick money by developing projects that devoured resources and caused serious pollution,” the China Daily reported today, citing the Xinhua article on water scarcity.

via China’s Water Supply Is Contaminated and Shrinking – Businessweek.

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