Posts tagged ‘United States’

01/07/2016

Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

THE first revival of the Silk Road—a vast and ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe—took place in the seventh century, after war had made it unusable for hundreds of years. Xi Jinping, China’s president, looks back on that era as a golden age, a time of Pax Sinica, when Chinese luxuries were coveted across the globe and the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion. The term itself was coined by a German geographer in the 19th century, but China has adopted it with relish. Mr Xi wants a revival of the Silk Road and the glory that went with it.

This time cranes and construction crews are replacing caravans and camels. In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert. In the first five months of this year, more than half of China’s contracts overseas were signed with nations along the Silk Road—a first in the country’s modern history.

Politicians have been almost as busy in the builders’ wake. In June Mr Xi visited Serbia and Poland, scattering projects along the way, before heading to Uzbekistan. Last week Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, made a brief visit to Beijing; he, Mr Xi and Mongolia’s leader promised to link their infrastructure plans with the new Silk Road. At the time, finance ministers from almost 60 countries were holding the first annual meeting in Beijing of an institution set up to finance some of these projects, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Like a steam train pulling noisily out of a station, China’s biggest foreign-economic policy is slowly gathering speed.

Chinese officials call that policy “One Belt, One Road”, though they often eviscerate its exotic appeal to foreigners by using the unlovely acronym OBOR. Confusingly, the road refers to ancient maritime routes between China and Europe, while the belt describes the Silk Road’s better-known trails overland (see map).

OBOR puzzles many Western policymakers because it is amorphous—it has no official list of member countries, though the rough count is 60—and because most of the projects that sport the label would probably have been built anyway. But OBOR matters for three big reasons.

First, the projects are vast. Official figures say there are 900 deals under way, worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

Next, OBOR matters because it is important to Mr Xi. In 2014 the foreign minister, Wang Yi, singled out OBOR as the most important feature of the president’s foreign policy. Mr Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

Source: Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

30/06/2016

India to get over $1 billion from World Bank for Modi’s solar goals | Reuters

The World Bank said on Thursday it would lend India more than $1 billion for its huge solar energy programme, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought climate change funds from its visiting head.

Modi is banking on India’s 300 days a year of sunshine to generate power and help fight climate change rather than committing to emission cuts like China.

The World Bank loan is the global lender’s biggest solar aid for any country and comes as India has set a goal of raising its solar capacity nearly 30 times to 100 gigawatts by 2020 and is attracting mega investment proposals from top companies and institutions.

“Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement released after he met Modi. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.

“India is the largest client of the World Bank, which lent it around $4.8 billion between 2015 and 2016.

Modi’s office said he told Kim about the need for climate change financing for countries like India that are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path”.

India wants the share of non-fossil fuel in total installed power capacity to jump to 40 percent by 2030 from 30 percent currently, but there are challenges including weak finances of state distribution companies forced to sell subsidised power, difficulties hooking up solar projects to grids, and access to affordable capital.

Still India reckons its renewable energy industry could generate business opportunities worth $160 billion this decade, making it a lucrative market that has already attracted big global players such as Japan’s Softbank Corp, Taiwan’s Foxconn, First Solar, Trina Solar Ltd and Finland’s state-controlled utility Fortum Oyj.

German development bank KFW has already agreed to offer India low-interest loans of around 1 billion euro over the next five years to fund roof-mounted solar panels, and the construction of solar energy farms and self-contained solar power facilities not connected to the grid.

Source: India to get over $1 billion from World Bank for Modi’s solar goals | Reuters

24/06/2016

China rejects bending rule for India to join nuclear club | Reuters

China maintains its opposition to India joining a group of nations seeking to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling access to sensitive technology, said the head of the arms control department in China’s Foreign Ministry.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met this week in Seoul, but China said it would not bend the rules and allow India membership as it had not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.

“Applicant countries must be signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT),” Wang Qun, the head of arms control department in China’s Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying in Seoul on Thursday night.

“This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognized by the international community,” Wang said according to a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday.China is leading opposition to a push by the United States to bring India into the NSG which aims to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation by stopping the sale of items that can be used to make nuclear arms.

The issue of India’s membership was not formally discussed at the NSG meeting this week, Wang said on Friday.

The United States, which has a nuclear cooperation deal with India, considers it a nuclear power that plays by the rules and is not a proliferator, and wants to bring Asia’s third largest economy into the 48-member group.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington.

On Friday, on the sidelines of the plenary meeting of the NSG, Wang stressed China considered it important to handle new memberships under a consensus and that there was no move yet to allow a non-NPT state to join.

“International rules will have to be respected, big or small,” Wang told Reuters. “Big like NPT. Small like the rules and procedures of this group.”   “The important question of which we are concerned, is how to deal with the question of participation of countries within the group of non-NPT states. It’s a formidable task.”Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue on Thursday at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a regional summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but there was no breakthrough.

One diplomat at the NSG plenary in Seoul said the group’s outgoing chairman, Argentinian diplomat Rafael Grossi, would act as a “facilitator” to continue to search for an accession deal.

Opponents argue that granting India membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, an ally of China’s, which has responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own.Pakistan joining would be unacceptable to many, given its track record. The father of its nuclear weapons program ran an illicit network for years that sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

Source: China rejects bending rule for India to join nuclear club | Reuters

23/06/2016

Foreign Direct Investment Into India Jumps 26%, U.N. Says – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s fast-growing economy attracted $44 billion in foreign direct investment in 2015, making it the 10th largest destination globally for such investment last year, according to United Nations figures released this week.

That represents a 26% increase in foreign investment in India over the year before, according to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, which published the data in its latest World Investment Report. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has touted the growing stream of overseas money entering India as a signal accomplishment of his two years in office.

The latest U.N. figures suggest in particular that the Modi government’s efforts to encourage more global companies to “Make in India” are reaping some success. Foreign investments worth $28.7 billion in so-called “greenfield” manufacturing projects, or those that start from scratch, were announced in India last year—more than double the $11 billion in investments that were announced in 2014. Electronics manufacturing saw an especially big boost, with $13.5 billion invested in such projects in 2015, compared with $1.1 billion the year before.

The Modi administration has made changes to keep the money coming. Last year it began allowing foreigners to own larger stakes in Indian companies in insurance, construction, mining, manufacturing and others. This week the government announced increases in foreign-investment limits in defense, retail, civil aviation, pharmaceuticals and grocery businesses. The changes, the official press release declared, make India “the most open economy in the world” for foreign direct investment.

Some experts doubt the latest rule changes will cause more money to flood in right away, though, given the degree to which Indian regulations remain vague and regulatory decision-making remains opaque.

India has risen steadily as a host of overseas investment since 2000, when the entirety of foreigners’ stakes in the economy was valued at $16 billion. The same figure last year was $282 billion.

In terms of yearly inflows, the country still ranks far behind mainland China, which lured $136 billion in foreign direct investment in 2015; Hong Kong, which attracted $175 billion; and Singapore, $65 billion. The U.S. was 2015’s top host of investment from abroad: $380 billion of it flowed into the world’s largest economy last year.

Among executives surveyed by the UNCTAD, 19% picked India as the most promising host country for investment over the next few years. Nearly half picked the U.S.; 21% chose China. But world-wide, the U.N. body expects foreign investment flows to dip by 10% to 15% this year. Its surveys indicate that multinational companies are skittish about volatile exchange rates, geopolitical uncertainty and mounting debt in developing countries.

Source: Foreign Direct Investment Into India Jumps 26%, U.N. Says – India Real Time – WSJ

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

18/06/2016

The great crawl | The Economist

LATE last month a black-and-white photograph of a professor from Beijing Jiaotong University spread on social media. His image was edged by a black frame, like those displayed at funerals in China, and trimmed with white flowers of mourning. Though Mao Baohua is still very much alive, he had angered netizens enough to depict him as dead. His crime? To suggest that Beijing should follow the likes of London and Stockholm, by charging drivers 20-50 yuan ($3-7.50) to enter the capital’s busiest areas in the hope of easing traffic flow in the gridlocked city.

Most Chinese urbanites see buying a vehicle as a rite of passage: a symbol of wealth, status and autonomy, as it once was in America. Hence their outrage at any restraint on driving. Since car ownership is more concentrated among middle- and high-income earners in China than it is in richer countries, any attack on driving is, in effect, essentially aimed at the middle class, a group the Communist Party is keen to keep on side. That makes it hard to push through changes its members dislike.

Since 2009 officials in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have repeatedly aired the idea of introducing congestion charges. Netizens have fought back, accusing their governments of being lazy, brutal and greedy. Many also gripe that the policy would be “unfair” because the fee would have less impact on the super-rich. Complaints about the inequality of congestion charging echo those made in London and other cities before they launched such schemes. But the party, nervous of being accused of straying from socialism, is particularly sensitive to accusations that it is favouring the wealthiest.

Because of such objections, city governments have not pushed their proposals very hard. But that is now changing in Beijing, where officials face a dilemma. Traffic jams in the city and appalling air pollution—30% of which comes from vehicle fumes, by official reckoning—may end up causing as much popular resentment as any surcharge. The local government is trying to work out how close it is to this tipping point. It is conducting surveys to “pressure test” how people would react to a congestion fee, says Yuan Yue of Horizon, China’s biggest polling company (the results will not be made public). It is likely that a concrete plan for a congestion charge will be announced soon. Beijing’s environmental and transport departments (not usual partners) are collaborating on a draft. State media have recently published a flurry of articles about this, not all in favour.

Public opinion is not the only challenge a congestion scheme faces. The urban planners who conceived Beijing’s layout, and that of other Chinese cities, never imagined that so many people would want to drive. The capital now has 3.6m privately owned cars: the number per 1,000 people in Beijing has increased an astonishing 21-fold since 2000, according to our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit (see chart).

On most days large tracts of the capital are now bumper to bumper amid a cacophony of car horns. Beijingers have the longest average commute of any city in China, according to data collected by Baidu, a Chinese search engine. The problem is not confined to Beijing. The capital has higher vehicle ownership than any other Chinese city, but car use is rising rapidly across the country. Many second- and third-tier cities are already clogged.

Beijing’s congestion scheme would be the first outside the rich world, where a handful of cities now charge drivers to enter a designated area. (Singapore has a different form of road pricing, with tolls on individual arterial roads.) Such measures have been credited with reductions in downtown car-use, improved traffic flow and greater use of public transport. They have also cut pollution, including emissions of the tiny PM2.5 particles that are particularly dangerous to health and abundant in Beijing’s air.

Transport planners reckon a congestion zone would have similar effects in Beijing, and complement existing attempts to restrict car use. In 2008, after Beijing staged the Olympic games, the city launched the current system whereby each car is banned from the urban core one workday per week, depending on the last digit of its licence plate. Beijing is now one of 11 Chinese cities with similar restrictions.

But some drivers choose to pay the 100 yuan fine, which is far higher than the congestion charge that Beijing is now mulling (around the sums suggested by Professor Mao). People also drive without plates, or buy second cars, to bypass the rules. In 2011 the capital introduced a lottery for obtaining new licence plates (six other cities do this). In Beijing the scheme has slowed the increase in car ownership, but not enough to cut congestion; some residents use vehicles registered elsewhere. Also in 2011 the capital raised parking fees, hoping to deter drivers. But people often park on pavements and traffic islands instead, usually with impunity.

Source: The great crawl | The Economist

16/06/2016

Reaping what they sow: Shaolin monks harvest wheat as a form of Zen practise | South China Morning Post

Monks at Shaolin Temple in Henan province have been harvesting wheat as a method to practice Buddhism, the China News Agency reported on Thursday.

The 1,400-year-old temple, famed as the birthplace of Chan (Zen) Buddhism and martial arts traditions, operates a farm of of about 70 hectares where they grow wheat, corn, vegetables and herbs.

During the wheat reaping season in June, groups of monks cut the crops, thrash the grain, bag it and carry it to the barn.

Farming is also a kind of self-cultivation,” said Shi Yanzi, the monk in charge of the farm. “We farm with the spirit of Zen, and plough and sow in our own mind too.

”Shaolin’s millennium-long tradition of farming was interrupted in the past decades, but was resumed by head abbot Shi Yongxin in recent years.

Shi believes producing food in the temple’s fields can also ensure food safety.

The Shaolin temple farm also opens to tourists to experience harvesting fresh vegetables or fruit.

Source: Reaping what they sow: Shaolin monks harvest wheat as a form of Zen practise | South China Morning Post

16/06/2016

U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

From the waters of the Philippine Sea this week emerged a partial outline of Washington’s vision for a new Asian maritime-security order that unites democratic powers to contend with a more-assertive and well-armed China.

A U.S. Navy aircraft-carrier strike group along with warships from India and Japan jointly practiced anti-submarine warfare and air-defense and search-and-rescue drills in one of the largest and most complex exercises held by the three countries.

The maneuvers were being tracked by a Chinese surveillance vessel, a U.S. Navy officer aboard the carrier USS John C. Stennis said on Wednesday. Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing hoped the training “will be conducive to regional peace, security and stability.

”Washington and Tokyo have long cooperated closely on defense. And the U.S. has been working to deepen strategic ties with India and to encourage New Delhi to play a more active role, not just in the Indian Ocean but also in the Pacific, as China’s rise shifts the regional balance of power.

Americans are looking for those who can share the burden,” said C. Raja Mohan, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India center. A strengthened three-way partnership among the U.S., Japan and India is “an important strategic shift.”

Source: U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

09/06/2016

China leads resistance to India joining nuclear export club | Reuters

China is leading opposition to a push by the United States and other major powers for India to join the main club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, diplomats said on Thursday as the group discussed India’s membership bid.

Other countries opposing Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) include New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria, diplomats said.

The 48-nation NSG aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though India has developed atomic weapons and never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.

Opponents argue that granting it membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, which responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own and has the backing of its close ally China.

“By bringing India on board, it’s a slap in the face of the entire non-proliferation regime,” a diplomatic source from one of a handful of countries resisting India’s push said on condition of anonymity.

A decision on Indian membership is not expected before an NSG plenary meeting in Seoul on June 20, but diplomats said Washington had been pressuring hold-outs, and Thursday’s closed-door meeting was a chance to see how strong opposition is.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to members asking them “not to block consensus on Indian admission to the NSG” in a letter seen by Reuters and dated Friday.

China, however, showed no sign of backing down from its opposition to India joining unless Pakistan becomes a member. That would be unacceptable to many, given Pakistan’s track record — the father of its nuclear weapons program sold nuclear secrets to countries including North Korea and Iran.

“China, if anything, is hardening (its position),” another diplomat said.

Most of the hold-outs oppose the idea of admitting a non-NPT state such as India and argue that if it is to be admitted, it should be under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a “tailor-made” solution for a U.S. ally.

Mexico’s president said on Wednesday his country supports India’s membership bid, but one Vienna-based diplomat said it still opposed the idea of it joining under conditions that did not apply equally to all.

Source: China leads resistance to India joining nuclear export club | Reuters

09/06/2016

India plans expanded missile export drive, with China on its mind | Reuters

India has stepped up efforts to sell an advanced cruise missile system to Vietnam and has at least 15 more markets in its sights, a push experts say reflects concerns in New Delhi about China’s growing military assertiveness.

Selling the supersonic BrahMos missile, made by an Indo-Russian joint venture, would mark a shift for the world’s biggest arms importer, as India seeks to send weapons the other way in order to shore up partners’ defenses and boost revenues.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.

The others are Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil.The Philippines is at the top of a second list of 11 nations including Malaysia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates, countries which had “expressed interest but need further discussions and analysis”, the undated note added.

A source familiar with the matter would only say the note was issued earlier this year.New Delhi had been sitting on a 2011 request from Hanoi for the BrahMos for fear of angering China, which sees the weapon, reputed to be the world’s fastest cruise missile with a top speed of up to three times the speed of sound, as destabilizing.

Indonesia and the Philippines had also asked for the BrahMos, which has a range of 290 km and can be fired from land, sea and submarine. An air-launched version is under testing.

Source: India plans expanded missile export drive, with China on its mind | Reuters

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