Doubts over impact of massive R&D spending
“But for all the flashy figures, there remain serious questions as to the effectiveness of this spending boom. Traditional measures used to quantify outputs as a result of R&D spending are notoriously murky in China. Although the country overtook the US in 2011 as the world’s leader in patent applications, a bulk of these patents are filed for so-called “utility model” designs that usually signify incremental changes with little added inventiveness.”
Finding ways to deal with China’s sex-ratio imbalance
“As China’s professional classes debate the issue, what is not in doubt in the fact that the male to female sex ratio at birth has risen gradually from 108.5:100 in 1982 to 118.6:100 in 2005, and continued to fluctuate around 118 until 2010. Although the 6th National Census witnessed a slight decline in sex ratio imbalance, men still outnumbered women by 33.98m.”
HK tolerance of Mainlanders wears a little thin
“Speculation over a connection between these events reflects real concerns and anxiety felt by many Hong Kong residents. When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, it was guaranteed its own legal system for 50 years, with freedoms of speech and assembly. Prior to the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, Hong Kong boasted one of the highest degrees of press freedom in Asia.”
Balancing drawbacks and benefits of dam construction
“Even in the realm of pure economics there are significant costs. A new study from Energy Policy casts further doubt on the economic efficiency of major dam projects in developing countries, such as those underway on the Tsangpo. The study found that dams built in developing countries cost twice as much as initially forecast, and 80% of major dam projects are built behind schedule by an average of seven years.
There is also the risk of a major natural disaster. The Tibetan Plateau, due to the Karakorum fault zone, is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world. Seismic events affecting dam reservoirs could be deadly to millions of people downstream.”
Independent film struggles to survive
“Yet there remains reason for optimism. Despite the crackdown and the climate of fear, filmmakers continue to make movies outside the mainstream studio system. Many of them explore sensitive social and political issues. Yunnan’s Zhao Dayong, for example, premiered his latest film, Shadow Days, at the Berlin Film Festival in February.”
Taiwan remains primary focus of updated and improved navy
“The transformation and breadth of ambition of the PLA(N) is evident in the increasingly adventurous activities of its ships, which for the past six years, for example, have been an active presence in the Gulf of Aden, where they are involved in counter-piracy operations and in home waters where, besides the ever-present threat of conflict with Taiwan, there is an increased emphasis on the enforcement of maritime claims, protection of economic interests and humanitarian missions.”
External events and domestic risks govern speed of economic reform
“The main threat to reform, though, is from domestic economic risks, in particular the shakiness of the financial system caused by the expansion of debt since the onset of the global economic crisis. Following the unprecedented and unrepeatable stimulus splurge five years ago, the explosion of shadow banking and local government borrowing raise the spectre of a potential financial meltdown, possibly starting with a property crash, as in the US and UK in 2008.”
31st Mar 2014
Centralisation and decentralisation – not a crossroads for China
Although it is widely known that 2014 is the Year of Horse, it is less known is that it is also a Year of Jiawu – a painful reminder of the 1894 War of Jiawu when China was defeated and humiliated by Japan. Two sexagenary cycles later, in a way symbolized by the Gregorian calendar’s […]
"China has cancelled this week's bilateral human rights dialogue with Britain, which David Cameron highlighted as one of the "important achievements" of his high-profile trip to Beijing last year. Beijing accused the UK of making irresponsible comments and using human rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs."
"Last month, China announced its new urbanisation plan, a massive feat of technical and social engineering which will move more than 100 million country-dwellers into cities over the next six years. The question is how. China’s current development model has proved environmentally disastrous; ghost cities and towns have triggered fears of an impending real-estate meltdown."
"In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States — and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese."
"Statements by Chinese leaders confirm Beijing’s interest in turning to its Southeast Asian neighbors. At the World Peace Forum, a high-level international security meeting that took place shortly after the U.S.-China summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi affirmed that Chinese diplomacy will “take its surrounding region as a priority” with the goal of fostering “a more peaceful, stable and prosperous neighboring environment.”
"As export-hungry Europeans have feted president Xi Jinping on his imperial progress across the continent over the past week, how many have realised just how extraordinary is the political experiment he is leading back home? In essence, he is trying to turn China into an advanced economy and three-dimensional superpower, drawing on the energies of capitalism, patriotism and Chinese traditions, yet all still under the control of what remains, at its core, a Leninist party-state. He may be a Chinese emperor but he is also a Leninist emperor. This is the most surprising and important political experiment on the face of the earth. No one in the 20th century expected it. No one in the 21st will be unaffected by its success or failure."
"England's GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against their Chinese counterparts from 2017, in a response from exam regulators to ministers' calls to toughen up a marking system they say has been discredited by years of grade inflation."
"Pollution levels that the World Health Organisation considers to be a “significant concern” and for which “immediate actions” are recommended” are described as “good” air quality in China. Therefore, it is not surprising that on days when the US Embassy reports “very unhealthy” pollution, the Chinese assessments are “moderate” - even when reported daily concentrations are similar."
"The greatest unsolved mystery in China right now is not the disappearance of Malaysian airliner MH370 but the fate of Zhou Yongkang, the feared former head of China’s security apparatus. From 2007 to 2012 a member of China’s top political body, the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou is now reportedly under investigation for corruption, casting suspicion on hundreds, if not thousands, of his of his allies, subordinates, and relatives."
"Only a year since assuming the top Party post in November 2012, Xi Jinping has emerged as the strongest Chinese leader in decades. His sweeping anti-corruption and mass line campaigns have shaken the bureaucracy, consolidated his power, and removed the supporters of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang. And at the Third Plenum in the fall of 2013, Xi asserted direct control over the economic reform and domestic security portfolios with the announcement of two new national committees that he himself will chair."
This is a link to livestreaming of occupation of Taiwan's legislative Yuan to protest Kuomintang's controversial China trade pact.
"Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done."
"The Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has said it will give employees sent to China a wage premium to account for the country's hazardous air pollution, a possible first for an international company."
" The Silk Road. The very name conjures up images of hardy, courageous merchants fighting off bandits and warring tribesmen as their caravans, carrying exotic silks and spices, ventured warily along a series of ancient trade routes that stretched more than 7,000 kilometers from China to the Mediterranean Sea and provided a connection between East and West for centuries. Now, plans are afoot to bring back the glory days, but instead of camels, the modern travelers will use automobiles, trains and aircraft to traverse a route that was responsible for the settlement and development of some of the greatest cities known to the ancient world."
"The Yarlung Tsangpo rises at a high altitude, in a geologically complex area. The river’s powerful flow, long course and large drop in altitude give it great potential for hydropower development. But the scale of dam building planned by China and India could have disastrous ecological consequences. China's plans date back to the early 1990s, when it carried out a series of hydropower development surveys of the river, with the Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge the focus of interest."
"In a year, the confident Mr Xi has made remarkable strides. He is sitting at the forefront of the country's most ambitious economic and social reform plan in decades. China also has a new vision in the form of Mr Xi's "China dream", the idea that Chinese citizens can attain national glory if they work as a collective. A campaign to eliminate government waste and bureaucracy makes daily headlines. But not all President Xi's changes are positive. Media and internet censorship has tightened dramatically under his watch. And other hoped-for changes, for example a complete overhaul of the national one-child policy and the use of labour camps, appear to have stalled."
"Two giant Chinese internet providers are locked in a fierce battle to attract customers to new apps that allow people to call and pay for taxis with their mobile phones – offering big discounts and rebates for using their service. The competition, the driver observed to a passenger, was making everybody better off; the internet companies were unwittingly demonstrating the "advantages of the two-party system". The passenger posted the comment on social media last month, and netizens soon took up the theme."
Listen to China Outlook editor Nick Fielding as he takes part in a panel discussion on China Radio International in the run-up to Presidential elections in Afghanistan .
"Premier Li Keqiang, in his government work report delivered at the opening session of the NPC, vowed that China would “carry out co-ordinated planning for military preparedness in all scenarios and areas”. "We will strengthen national defence mobilisation and the reserve forces, place war preparations on a regular footing, and enhance border, coastal and air defences,” he said."
" Prof Gladney noted that the attackers were all dressed in black "which is not typical of Uighurs and may be more likely the influence of South East Asian groups". He added: "Their knives were not Xinjiang knives, which tend to be ornate, with colourful stones and glass, and their flag was the wrong colour. The flag of East Turkestan is a light blue, this one is a dark blue or black and the writing is Arabic not Uighur, and poorly done."
"Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong business magnate, topped the Asia and China wealth list with a fortune of 200 billion yuan ($33.3 billion). Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group and Lui Che Wo, chairman of K. Wah Group and owner of Galaxy Entertainment, took the second and third spots."
"At the time when its first research station, Great Wall, was erected on King George Island in February 1985, China was unable to build on the Antarctic continent. But by February 26, 1989, when China’s second research station, Zhongshan, was built, China had advanced into the continent. China’s third station, Kunlun, was built in 2008 on a site about 4,087 meters above sea level and 7.3 km southwest of Dome A – an ice dome on the Antarctic Plateau notorious for its inaccessibility."
"YANG Wenzhuang, director of the primary level family planning guidance department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), has announced that the whole country is preparing to implement the new birth policy of allowing two children for families in which either parent is an only child. The policy is expected to come into force in some provinces in the first quarter of 2014. Vice Minster of the NHFPC Wang Pei’an commented that the policy adjustment would not lead to a sharp increase of yearly births; by 2020, the population will be below 1.43 billion, peaking at less than 1.5 billion, far behind the country’s long-term projection. The national plans concerning food production and fundamental public service resources are formulated on the basis of the population of 1.43 billion estimated to inhabit China by 2020 and 1.5 billion by 2033. It is predicted that after the modification of the policies, by 2015 the population will be less than 1.38 billion."
"Three problems are apparent in official NBSC data on inflation. First, the base data on housing price inflation is manipulated. According to the NBSC, urban private housing occupants enjoyed a total price increase of only 6% between 2000 and 2011. Second, while renters faced cumulative price increases in excess of 50% during the same period, the NBSC classifies most Chinese households has private housing occupants making them subject to the significantly lower inflation rate. Third, despite beginning in the year 2000 with nearly two-thirds of Chinese households in rural areas, the NSBC applies a straight 80/20 urban/rural private housing weighting throughout our time sample. "
"Beijing raised its air pollution alert to orange as smog levels were projected to stay hazardous this weekend, triggering orders for some enterprises to limit production and and a ban on outdoor barbecues and fireworks. Drivers were asked to reduce vehicle-use and take public transport, while the elderly and children were advised to stay indoors. The concentration of PM2.5, fine particulates that pose the greatest risk to human health, was 237 micrograms per cubic meter at 3 p.m. near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website. That’s more than nine times World Health Organization recommended levels. "
"Energy costs matter more now for Chinese industry because Mexican manufacturing wages have become roughly equivalent to those in many parts of China. By 2015, manufacturing wages in Mexico could be as much as 30% lower than those in China on a productivity-adjusted basis."
"Official accounts of the arrests suggest that Chinese leaders are profoundly dissatisfied with the results of the centralized system of research financing, supercharged in the wake of the 2008 stimulus by Hu Jintao’s indigenous innovation (ziben chuangxin) policy, and reviled by liberal economists for its emphasis on central planning and foreign businesses for encouraging intellectual property theft."
"A Chinese working group submitted a five-year trade and economic planning cooperation plan to the Indian government in the first week of February, offering to finance as much as 30 per cent of the $1trillion targeted investment in infrastructure during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) to the tune of about $300 billion."
"Photo taken on Feb. 18, 2014 shows wild Bactrian camels migrating at a national natural reserve in northwest China's Gansu Province. Living in northwest China, wild Bactrian camel is an endangered species near extinction, with the survival amount of around 420-470 only."
"Nine murder charges have been brought against 36 alleged gang members and many other charges filed, Xianning People's Procuratorate in Hubei Province said on Thursday. Rumors have circulated since last March that well-known plutocrat and mineral tycoon Liu Han had disappeared soon after last year's national political sessions. Famous for his philanthropy, Liu was elected political advisor in Sichuan Province three times in a row, and has over 20 honorary titles. His best known charitable act was the building of a rural elementary school complex which withstood the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake."
"The Taiwanese people desire the peace and prosperity that positive relations with China could bring, yet they do not want to give up their sovereignty or democracy to achieve it. But Beijing’s position is implacable, and its power and influence is inescapable. As it ramps up the pressure on Taiwan in different ways, there is an inevitable drift toward the unification that China craves."
"I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here," he says. "They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It's the same political situation over and over again. I've been here for 30 years and it's always the same."
"Eight terrorists were killed by police and three by their own suicide bomb during a terrorist attack Friday afternoon in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, police said. The terrorists, riding motorbikes and cars, attacked a team of police who were gathering before the gate of a park for routine patrol at around 4 pm in Wushi County in the Aksu Prefecture."
"The 123-km underwater tunnel will house a rail line connecting the port cities of Dalian in Liaoning province and Yantai in Shandong province, according to the plan. Its planned lifespan will be about 100 years. By length, it will surpass the combined length of the world's two longest underwater tunnels — Japan's Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France."
"The Chinese central government has invested 61.8 billion yuan ($10.1 billion) improving schoolhouses and educational facilities in rural areas over the past four years. Since 2010, 39.9 billion yuan from the central budget has been used in schoolhouse renovation and 21.9 billion yuan in educational equipment, said Liu Limin, deputy minister of education, at a press conference on Thursday. Money was also used to build cafeterias at schools in 699 "poor" counties, after media reports exposed that some students in remote villages have to cook for themselves during study time, according to Liu."
"While the Chinese government uses its vast financial resources to secure Beijing’s interests abroad, wealthy private Chinese citizens and corporations are on an international buying frenzy. China’s ever-increasing purchasing power is influencing every region of the globe, with some striking parallels between its overseas acquisitions and Japan’s international investments in the 1980s. However, China’s political system, a foreign policy that is often at odds with Western interests, and (counter-intuitively) its relative poverty mean that China’s global shopping spree may effect the balance of global politics in a way Japan never could."
"Over 8000 people are choosing to live in cheap container-style apartments in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, Chengdu-based wccdaily.scol.com.cn reports. Just like the "Ant Tribes" who reside together in shabby areas in major metropolises, these people also have a nickname of "Cabinet Tribe", which indicates that they live in small spaces resembling cabinets."
"Starbucks China has admitted using azodicarbonamide, a chemical substance often used in making shoe soles and yoga mats, in its cake products, the Beijing Times reported on Tuesday. The global coffee chain responded by claiming that the practice conforms to China's food safety laws."
"New rules for enforcing the country's law on state secrets say government departments "must not label as a state secret any information which by law ought to be public." The changes take effect on March 1 and come in an order signed by Premier Li Keqiang."
"The United States is expected to impose "blockbuster" fines on companies bribing foreign officials this year, with China a likely target of US investigations, lawyers say."
"A resource boom is bringing sweeping change to the region. "Mining is destroying our environment," Tsogjavkhlan, a university student, told me. "Maybe in the future we won't have a place to live like traditional Mongolians. Our nation will vanish - the Mongolians will vanish.""
"India has launched an investigation after a media report alleged that Chinese telecoms company Huawei had hacked into state-run telecoms carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam, a senior government official said."
"North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un’s decision to purge and execute his uncle and quasi-regent Jang Song-thaek and, more significantly, the manner in which he chose to do so have driven dangerous cracks throughout the edifice of North Korean power. The power structure is now more dangerous to its occupants than before, and their behavior is likely to be more threatening to outsiders than in the past."
"A coming conflict between China and Japan in the East China Sea would seem to be a matter of not if but when, should this kind of vicious provocation continue. Knowing what China and Japan really want from the East China Sea dispute is the prerequisite for any meaningful efforts in maintaining peace in the region. The U.S. should help China save face, in order to restore the status quo in the East China Sea, and put a stop to Abe’s agenda of revising the Constitution before it’s too late."
"China on Sunday took a step toward greater openness in its political system, instructing officials to stop invoking the vague and arbitrary excuse of “state secrets” to avoid disclosing information that ought to be public knowledge. The only catch: The government didn’t say what information ought to be public. The nine-page order (in Chinese) carried by Xinhua, the state news agency, was issued by the State Council, or cabinet, and signed by the premier, Li Keqiang, China’s No. 2 leader. It comes into force in March.
"China has succeeded in neutering the country’s most free-flowing and important source of news and opinion according to new research which shows a dramatic drop in activity on the online phenomenon Sina Weibo. Research commissioned by the Telegraph shows that the number of posts on the hugely successful Twitter-like microblog may have fallen by as much as 70 per cent in the wake of an aggressive campaign by the Communist party to intimidate influential users."
"Chinese government officials have offered a technical reason on why Mr Ramzy was not granted a journalist visa following his appointment to the NYT bureau in the middle of last year. However Mr Ramzy’s colleagues and an NYT senior staff member have made clear they believe the real reason is a vendetta by the government against the newspaper for its coverage of corruption in the top echelons of the Communist Party."
"The policy's pitfalls are common knowledge: it has engendered an economically perilous demographic crunch and human rights abuses such as forced late-term abortions, abducted infants and the use of violence to collect fines. Yet "resistance against the policy has never really been that strong", said Wang Feng, an expert on China's demographics at the University of California, Irvine. "That's why I think this top-down change – when the government says 'now the policy has outlived its use and needs to be changed' – that actually triggers a change in thinking.""
"Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Singapore had the speediest broadband, in that order, according to the study that looked at traffic flowing through Akamai's global network from July through September. With Taiwan ranking No. 8, regions or countries in Asia made up half of the top 10....India is the only major market in Asia that came in behind Indonesia, with an average peak speed of 9 Mbps. China's 11.3 Mbps average wasn't enough to break into the top 100, either."
"China continues to dominate global pig production and will for many years to come – close to 50% of all pigs are grown and consumed in China. As demand for higher quality pork rises in China, the need to upgrade the domestic supply chain will go hand in hand with increased imports, rising to US$2.5 billion in 2013 from $1 billion in 2010."
China’s growing ability to counter U.S. technologies and capabilities in space poses a real danger to America’s military superiority in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Testimony to the House Armed Services Subcommittees on Strategic Forces and Seapower and Projection Forces, 28 January 2014 by Ashley J Tellis, senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Though China's association with the sport can be traced back more than a millennium, it fell out of favor for centuries, and there were no polo venues on the mainland a decade ago. As the country's capitalist economy has soared and the nation has cast off Mao-era proscriptions against bourgeois pursuits, about half a dozen polo clubs have opened in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. After taking up hobbies like golf and sports cars, China's 1%-ers are looking for new exotic diversions, and places like the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club are happy to oblige — for a price. Basic memberships to the club — where "the new nobility gathers," according to the brochure — start at $165,000. Or, if you've got plenty to spare, just buy a mansion in the luxury community next door (built by the same developer) and you'll be invited into the elite ranks gratis."
"Tensions in the East China Sea: Papers presented at an international workshop organised by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, June 2013." "In June 2013 the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute convened an international workshop with the aim of gaining a more nuanced understanding of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute and the factors driving the actions of key stakeholders. Attended by 25 experts from China, Japan, the United States and Australia, the workshop explored developments in the months following the nationalisation by Japan’s central government of the islands and prospects for moving past the current impasse. The following set of papers, written in advance of the workshop, provide assessments of the tensions viewed from Beijing, Tokyo, Washington DC and Taipei. They also try to identify policy options available to respective governments."
"Hong Kong-based wildlife conservation NGO WildLifeRisk has revealed that at least one factory in China's Zhejiang Province is killing over 600 whale sharks annually, in what appears to be the world's largest wholesale slaughter of an internationally-protected endangered species. Investigators believe that the PuQi factory is only one of many engaged in the trade of endangered sharks and their products throughout coastal China."
"To put the issue simply, the large build-up in debt levels in China – total debt including the central government and its ministries, local governments and corporate debt (both state owned and private) is now over 200 percent of GDP – combined with falling growth rates, mean that the economy is on an unsustainable path. The increasing amounts of credit required to deliver GDP growth suggest that, indeed, investment has been too high for too long, and has been increasingly misallocated as the projects with strong returns have been depleted as targets."
"Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China's largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa's resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in."
H7N9 bird flu has killed 19 in China this year already, and the total number of human infections has reached 96, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
China has only 300 doctors to treat more than nine million people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, according to medical journal The Lancet. The disease is rapidly becoming a major issue, with the country facing a severe lack of carers.
"The correspondent, Austin Ramzy, 39, has been based in China for more than six years. He was granted a month-long visa to remain in China at the end of December, but the government has indicated that he will be required to leave when that visa expires on Thursday."
"Xinjiang police yesterday revealed details of a terrorist attack that took place on Friday in the northwestern region, involving 17 terrorist suspects. Police investigation showed that the explosions which happened on Friday in the seat of Xinhe county, under Aksu Prefecture were organized, premeditated terrorist attacks."
"Beijing had a population of 21.15 million at the end of last year, and municipal authorities said that changes to the capital's industrial structure would help curb population growth. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday that permanent residents in the capital had increased by 455,000 in 2013, making the total population about 2.2 percent higher than it had been in 2012, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Xia Qinfang, deputy head of the bureau, declared that Beijing's population now includes 8.03 million migrants who have been in the city for over half a year."
"China's police have investigated 1,527 gambling cases and detained more than 5,300 suspects since the beginning of this year, according to the Ministry of Public Security on Sunday."
"China’s market for new passenger cars is maturing, but the overall outlook for car fleet expansion remains bright for at least 5-7 more years. Even in a pessimistic scenario, Chinese are likely to buy more than 18 million passenger cars in 2020—a nearly 30% increase over the number of cars likely to be sold in 2013."
China's Jade Rabbit Moon rover is in trouble after experiencing a "mechanical control abnormality", state media report. "The Moon exploration vehicle ran into problems due to the moon's "complicated lunar surface environment", Xinhua news agency said, citing science officials."
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