Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
BEIJING, May 21, 2014 — China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas deal on Wednesday, giving Moscow a megamarket for its leading export and linking two major powers that, despite a rocky history of alliances and rivalries, have drawn closer to counter the clout of the United States and Europe.
The impetus to complete the gas deal, which has been talked about as a game-changing accord for more than a decade, finally came together after the Ukrainian crisis forced Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to urgently seek an alternative to Europe, Moscow’s main energy market. Europe has slapped sanctions on Russia and sought ways to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.
Mr. Putin, on a two-day visit to Shanghai, and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, oversaw the signing of the contract between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation, the biggest natural gas deal Russia has sealed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The contract runs for 30 years and calls for the construction of pipelines and other infrastructure that will require tens of billions of dollars in investment.
Ostensibly on the same side during the Cold War, the Asian neighbors even then competed for global influence with their divergent brands of communism. They fought a brief but explosive border war in 1969, and later took opposite sides in conflicts in Vietnam and Afghanistan.
They have similar views of the United States, however, including opposition to its unilateral military actions in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya, and wanted to take Uncle Sam down a peg or two. Mr. Putin, in particular, wanted to make a point of showing that the United States and its NATO partners were in decline.
The deal offered a lift for the Russian economy, he said, and for Mr. Putin, China’s validation would improve Russia’s world image.
At the same time, Mr. Xi is unhappy with the Obama administration on issues ranging from Washington’s outspoken support of its military alliance with Japan, its criticism of China’s actions in the South China Sea, and its hard line on cybertheft.
Although China had expressed neutrality over the Ukraine crisis because of the take-over of land – the strained relations with Washington in other spheres tip China’s position in favor of Russia.
The final price of the Russian gas, which will flow through a 2,500-mile pipeline from two fields in Siberia, was not disclosed, and energy markets were trying to parse who gained the bigger advantage.
Russia had been holding out for a price close to what European countries pay, and China for a price akin to the cheaper gas it buys from Central Asia, energy experts who tracked the talks said.
With Russia’s economy near recession and the International Monetary Fund projecting 0.2 percent growth this year, Mr. Putin was desperate to get the deal done, energy experts said.
The chief executive of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, said the contract called for Russia to supply 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually over 30 years, making the price about $350 per thousand cubic meters. In 2013, the average price of Gazprom’s gas in Europe was about $380 per thousand cubic meters.
“The pricing appears to be between European Union prices and Turkmenistan prices,” said Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “We will have to wait for the next few months to learn about the details.”
Morena Skalamera, a fellow at the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard, said Mr. Putin was more willing to concede on price than he had been before the Ukraine crisis.
“If the European market was a question mark before the Ukrainian crisis, now with sanctions, Putin needed China even more,” she said.
“Politically, it is important for Putin to show that the ‘Greater Russia’ is back on the international scene and that it has other, non-Western options to restore its rightful place.”
In exchange for a lower price, China offered a loan of about $50 billion that will finance development of the gas fields and the construction of the pipeline by Russia up to the Chinese border, Ms. Skalamera said. The Chinese would build the remaining pipeline, and gas is scheduled to start pumping in 2018, she said.
In remarks after the signing, Mr. Putin stressed that the price of the gas was based on the market price for oil, just as it was for Russia’s gas supplies to European countries. “The gas price formula, as in our other contracts, is pegged to the market of oil and oil products,” Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.
Without the oil price benchmark, Russia would be under pressure to renegotiate European prices, said Kenneth S. Courtis, a founding partner of Thames Investment. The price of Russian gas to Europe is based on fluctuations in oil prices, making it more expensive than gas that China buys from Central Asia, he said.
Even with this new agreement, Europe will remain Russia’s biggest market, but Siberian natural gas does give China a cleaner substitute for the fossil fuels — coal and petroleum — that provide most of its energy needs, and cause much of the pollution smothering China’s cities. China will have diverse suppliers of gas not making it not dependent only on the Russians.
Globally, the newly marketed shale gas technology allows for additional potential gas suppliers to join the international market. The subject of gas supplies becomes thus a main issue of geopolitics and Europe is best advised not to find itself dependent on the goodwill of Russia. So we see no reason for Austria continuing to back the construction of new pipelines for Russian gas – the like of “South Stream” and let Europe use the funds in order to develop indigenous renewable sources of energy instead.
Gas deal more important to Russia than China
Tom Mitchell and Kathrin Hille, The Financial Times
Chinese President Xi Jinping finally granted his Russian counterpart a long-awaited gas supply contract on Wednesday, ending a decade of negotiations during which China’s economic growth tilted the bilateral balance of power in Beijing’s favour.
Russia-China Deal Seen Damping LNG Prices as Output Rises
Robert Tuttle, Anna Shiryaevskaya and Isis Almeida, Bloomberg
China’s deal to buy natural gas from Russia after a decade of talks risks making tanker shipments of the fuel less competitive as new projects target Asian markets.
Russia’s Rosneft gearing up for gas exports to Asia
Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters
Russia could significantly boost its natural gas sales to Asia if companies other than Kremlin-controlled Gazprom secured exporting rights, documents from Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft showed.
PetroChina, Utilities Stand to Gain From Russia Gas Deal
Aibing Guo, Bloomberg
PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, stands to win from Russia’s $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China as it will provide gas at a price lower than had been expected.
Russia may exempt China gas from mineral extraction tax – Ifax
Russia will consider exempting gas sent to China from mineral extraction tax, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday in comments cited by the Interfax news agency.
China’s Global Search for Energy
Clifford Krauss and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times
Whether by diplomacy, investment or in extreme cases, force, China is going to great lengths to satisfy its growing hunger for energy to fuel its expanding car fleet and electrify its swelling cities.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
China Needs Its Own Dream
Published: October 2, 2012, A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 3, 2012, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: China Needs Its Own Dream.
Nov. 8, China is set to hold the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party. We already know who will be the next party leader: Vice President Xi Jinping. What we don’t know is what matters: Does Xi have a “Chinese Dream” that is different from the “American Dream?” Because if Xi’s dream for China’s emerging middle class — 300 million people expected to grow to 800 million by 2025 — is just like the American Dream (a big car, a big house and Big Macs for all) then we need another planet.
Thomas L. Friedman by Josh Haner/OnThe New York Times
Spend a week in China and you’ll see why. Here’s a Shanghai Daily headline from Sept. 7: “City Warned of Water Resource Shortage.” The article said: “Shanghai may face a shortage of water resources if the population continues to soar. … The current capacity of the city’s water supply was about 16 million tons per day, which is able to cover the demand of 26 million people. However, once the population reaches 30 million, the demand would rise to 18 million tons per day, exceeding the current capacity.” Shanghai will hit 30 million in about seven years!
“Success in the ‘American Dream,’ ” notes Peggy Liu, the founder of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, or Juccce, “used to just mean a house, a family of four, and two cars, but now it’s escalated to conspicuous consumption as epitomized by Kim Kardashian. China simply cannot follow that path — or the planet will be stripped bare of natural resources to make all that the Chinese consumers want to consume.”
Liu, an M.I.T. graduate and former McKinsey consultant, argues that Chinese today are yearning to create a new national identity, one that merges traditional Chinese values, like balance, respect and flow, with its modern urban reality. She believes that the creation of a sustainable “Chinese Dream” that breaks the historic link between income growth and rising resource consumption could be a part of that new identity, one that could resonate around the world.
So Juccce has been working with Chinese mayors and social networks, sustainability experts and Western advertising agencies to catalyze sustainable habits in the emergent consuming class by redefining personal prosperity — which so many more Chinese are gaining access to for the first time — as “more access to better products and services, not necessarily by owning them, but also by sharing — so everyone gets a piece of a better pie.”
That means, among other things, better public transportation, better public spaces and better housing that encourages dense vertical buildings, which are more energy efficient and make shared services easier to deliver, and more e-learninig and e-commerce opportunities that reduce commuting. Emphasizing access versus ownership isn’t just more sustainable, it helps ease friction from the differences between rich and poor. Indeed, Juccce translates Chinese Dream as “Harmonious and Happy Dream” in Mandarin. (“Green” doesn’t sell in China.)
Chinese are more open to this than ever. A decade ago, the prevailing attitude was, “Hey, you Americans got to grow dirty for 150 years. Now it is our turn.” A couple of weeks ago, though, I took part in the opening day of Tongji University’s Urban Planning and Design Institute in Shanghai and asked students whether they still felt that way. I got a very different answer. Zhou Lin, a graduate student studying energy systems, stood up and declared, with classmates nodding, “You can politicize this issue as much as you want, but, in the end, it doesn’t do us any good.” It is not about fairness anymore, he said. It is in China’s best interest to find a “cleaner” growth path.
To say China needs its own dream in no way excuses Americans or Europeans from redefining theirs. We all need to be rethinking how we sustain rising middle classes with rising incomes in a warming world, otherwise the convergence of warming, consuming and crowding will mean we grow ourselves to death.
China’s latest five-year plan — 2011-15 — has set impressive sustainability goals for cutting energy and water intensity per unit of G.D.P. All of these goals are critical to the greening of China, but they are not sufficient, argues Liu. With retail sales growing 17 percent a year since 2005 and urban incomes up 150 percent in the last decade, “the government must also have a plan to steer consumer behavior toward a sustainable path,” adds Liu. “But it doesn’t yet.”
So Xi Jinping has two very different challenges from his predecessor. He needs to ensure that the Communist Party continues to rule — despite awakened citizen pressure for reform — and that requires more high growth to keep the population satisfied with party control. But he also needs to manage all the downsides of that growth — from widening income gaps to massive rural-urban migration to choking pollution and environmental destruction. The only way to square all that is with a new Chinese Dream that marries people’s expectations of prosperity with a more sustainable China. Does Xi know that, and, if he does, can he move the system fast enough? So much is riding on the answers to those questions.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A PHOTO FROM CHINA – THIS IS NOT BECAUSE THEY CANNOT TALK – THIS IS BECAUSE THEY CANNOT BREAZE THE AIR!
A woman wears a face mask as she walks along a main road in Beijing June 4, 2012.
Photo: David Gray
Planet Ark from World Environment News:
China Says Only It Has Right To Monitor Air Pollution
Author: Ben Blanchard
A senior Chinese official demanded on Tuesday that foreign embassies stop issuing air pollution readings, saying it was against the law and diplomatic conventions, in pointed criticism of a closely watched U.S. embassy index.
The level of air pollution in China’s heaving capital varies, depending on the wind, but a cocktail of smokestack emissions, vehicle exhaust, dust and aerosols often blankets the city in a pungent, beige shroud for days on end.
Many residents dismiss the common official readings of “slight” pollution in Beijing as grossly under-stated.
The U.S. embassy has installed a monitoring point on its roof which releases hourly air-quality data via a widely followed Twitter feed. The U.S. consulates in Shanghai and the southern city of Guangzhou provide a similar service.
While China tightened air pollution monitoring standards in January, the official reading and the U.S. embassy reading can often be far apart.
Chinese experts have criticized the single U.S. embassy monitoring point as “unscientific”.
Deputy Environment Minister Wu Xiaoqing went a step further, saying such readings were illegal and should stop, though he did not directly name the United States.
“According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations … foreign diplomats are required to respect and follow local laws and cannot interfere in internal affairs,” Wu told a news conference.
“China’s air quality monitoring and information release involve the public interest and are up to the government. Foreign consulates in China taking it on themselves to monitor air quality and release the information online not only goes against the spirit of the Vienna Convention … it also contravenes relevant environmental protection rules.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called on foreign diplomatic missions to respect China’s laws and regulations and to stop issuing the readings, “especially over the Internet”.
“If the foreign embassies want to collect this kind of information for their own staff and diplomats, I think it’s up to them,” Liu told reporters. “They can’t release this information to the outside world.”
The U.S. embassy acknowledges on its website beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn) that its equipment cannot be relied upon for general monitoring, saying “citywide analysis cannot be done … on data from a lone machine”.
Despite his criticism, Wu acknowledged that China’s air quality and overall environmental situation remained precarious, with more than one tenth of monitored rivers rated severely polluted, for example.
“What needs saving is the country’s air quality, not the government’s face,” Zhou Rong, an energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said in emailed comments. “The environmental authorities must stop finger pointing and start taking actions that really address the issue.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 28th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Better Place’s Electric Cars Hit the Roads
Israeli company Better Place celebrates fourth anniversary, officially inaugurates its first fleet of electrical cars.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 1/23/2012, 5:44 AM
Better Place electric car
Israel news photo: Chen Galili
The Israeli company Better Place on Sunday celebrated its fourth anniversary. The company marked this special occasion by officially inaugurating its first fleet of 100 electric cars. A convoy of 70 cars, driven by dozens of the company’s employees, took to the streets of Tel Aviv for their first rides.
The electric car developed by Better Place has no exhaust pipe and no gas cap, but rather a simple electric socket. It runs on a 450-lb. lithium-ion battery and can go as far as 140 miles before the battery needs to be swapped or recharged at the recharging stations. 200 such stations are expected to be available around the country in the future.
Better Place announced that the delivery process of the new cars will take place in stages and will progress as the infrastructure across the country is completed. The company expects that the deliveries to the general public will begin in the second quarter of 2012.
In 2010, Israel’s Ministry of Transportation gave Better Place a permit to import 13 Renault Fluence electric cars for testing. Israel has long been committed to electric cars, and has expressed hope that by the end of this year it will be the world’s first nation to host a national electric car network.
One of the innovations of the electric cars is that its motor is silent, eliminating the loud exhaust noises in regular cars.
“You hear a noise that lets you know the car is on,” Zohar Beit’or of Better Place told Arutz Sheva. “It’s exactly like the noise that an electric camera makes.”
“The car is so silent that you can actually speak quietly and have a nice conversation without the need to shout,” he said. “It really makes you relax.”
Beit’or noted that he was very excited about the official launch of the new cars, adding he has worked for three years on this project.
“When I started, we only had plans on PowerPoint and we shared many ideas on how this day would look,” he said. “And it’s happening now. For me, it’s a piece of history.”
The company’s Oren Kassif explained that while the Renault company makes the cars, the infrastructure is Israeli and developed by Better Place. This includes charging spots, battery swap stations, and the command and control software.
“This is the first time you can say, at a country-wide level, that you can drive an electric car anywhere in the country,” he said. “What we’ve shown today is that we can deliver the cars, we can sell them, we can have customers driving on the road anywhere they wish.”
He added, “It’s a very exciting day. For the past four years we’ve been developing the systems and the infrastructure, recruiting people and bringing in more investors and customers.”
Photos by Chen Galili
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 17th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Revolt Begins Like Others, but Its End Is Less Certain.
By MICHAEL WINES, in Print The New York Times: December 17, 2011 – published on the web December 16, 2011.
The New York Times, A developer planned to buy 134 acres of land in Wukan.
WUKAN, China — Each day begins with a morning rally in the banner-bedecked square, where village leaders address a packed crowd about their seizure of the village and plans for its future. Friday’s session was followed by a daylong mock funeral for a fallen comrade, whose body lies somewhere outside the village in government custody.
It has been nearly a week since the 13,000 residents of this seacoast village, a warren of cramped alleys and courtyard homes, became so angry that their deeply resented officials — and even the police — fled rather than face them. Now, there is a striking vacuum of authority, and the villagers are not entirely sure what to make of their fleeting freedom.
“We will defend our farmland to the death!” a handmade banner proclaims, referring to a possible land deal they fear will strip them of almost all their farmland. “Is it a crime,” another muses, “to ask for the return of our land and for democracy and transparency?”
How long they will last is another matter. As the days pass, the cordons of police officers surrounding the village grow larger. Armored trucks and troop carriers have been reported nearby. On local television, a 24-hour channel denounces the villagers as “a handful of people” dedicated to sabotaging public order, with the names of protesters flashing on a blue screen, warning that they will be prosecuted. Many here fear this will all end badly. “The SWAT teams and the police here are acting like they’re crime organizations, not police forces,” said Chen Dequan, a 50-year-old farmer and fisherman. “The entire village is worried.”
The dispute that emptied Wukan of its government officials is, on its face, like hundreds — if not thousands — of others that inspire protests here each year: villagers who believe their land was taken illegally take to the streets when their concerns are ignored.
But the suspicious death of a well-liked villager, who was selected to negotiate on the citizens’ behalf, appears to have turned this long-simmering grievance into a last-straw standoff with the authorities.
The land deal inspiring the protests involved one of China’s largest property developers, a Hong-Kong listed company called Country Garden that prides itself on fast-paced construction in mostly suburban areas. Yang Huiyuan, described by analysts as the company’s chairwoman, is often listed as one of the richest women in China.
The company has faced controversy before. Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said this year that it had bought Anhui Province land to build a golf course in a deal that smacked of “the typical collusion of real estate business and local government.” The agency’s signed commentary said more than 10 government officials had been punished after that transaction and other cases of illegal purchases and use of land there.
Here in Wukan, many residents believed that the national government had not yet intervened to resolve matters simply because it had been misled by nefarious local officials to believe that all was well.
So far, however, it seems from inside this locked-down village that government leaders at all levels are flummoxed at their blue-moon, if temporary, loss of control.
Lin Zuluan, 67, a retired businessman who is now the village’s de facto leader, said that officials had approached him to negotiate an end to the protest, but that talks had gone nowhere, in part because the officials would not meet villagers’ demands to return all their land.
“I do have concerns” over the lack of progress, he said. “But I do believe this country is ruled by law, so I do believe the central government will do whatever it has to do to help us.”
In the meantime, life here goes on in an aura of unreality as much as uncertainty, a mixture of grief and optimism and somewhat willful ignorance of the hints of trouble at every police roadblock and on every news broadcast.
Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Relatives carried a picture of Xue Jinbo, who died in police custody after villagers chose him to negotiate a solution to a land deal in Wukan, China.
.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Inside the village, citizens hail foreign journalists as visiting saviors, bombarding them with endless cigarettes, bowls of rice-and-seafood porridge and free rides on the backs of scooters. The villagers bristle at the government’s suggestion that they are being financed by unnamed foreigners, but are convinced that only reporting outside the state-run press will bring word of their plight to leaders in Beijing.
Corruption accusations against Country Garden, the developer, go back for years. In 2007, the Southern Weekly newspaper alleged irregularities in a hotel construction contract awarded to the company by a district government in Zhangjiajie, in Hunan Province. The paper suggested that the government heavily discounted the project’s land cost because most of Country Garden’s payment was secretly diverted to a company in which two Country Garden officials had invested.
In a faxed statement Friday, Country Garden said both the other projects in Anhui and Hunan were wholly aboveboard. The firm said the Anhui deal was free of corruption and the Zhangjiajie contract was awarded through open, transparent bidding. Officials have contended that the money supposedly diverted was in fact spent for legitimate public purposes related to the project.
In Wukan, two people familiar with the Country Garden proposal said the company planned to buy at least 134 acres of land for villa homes and shopping centers here. About half of that land is controlled by Fengtian Livestock, a pig-raising firm that holds a 50-year lease issued by the government; the rest is apparently in villagers’ hands.
Chen Wenqing, the livestock firm’s owner, said Country Garden was negotiating directly with the local authorities last spring when the deal fell through over a difference on price. Country Garden said it had intended to build a project but has signed no agreements.
But Mr. Lin, the retired businessman, said villagers became angry in September when they saw construction work at the pig-farm site. Officials of Lufeng city, a district that controls Wukan, ordered the building stopped, he said, and asked villagers to select a committee of locals to settle the controversy.
Negotiations to return the land to villagers produced little, however. On Dec. 9, unidentified men abducted one of the negotiators, a 42-year-old leather worker named Xue Jinbo, and four other men from a local restaurant.
The other four soon turned up in nearby jails, accused of inciting villagers to subvert the government. Mr. Xue was seen only on the night of Dec. 11, when local government officials summoned relatives to view his body at a mortuary.
They said that he had died of a heart attack in a hospital and that medical records of his care would be provided.
But family members say officials confiscated their mobile telephones before allowing them into the funeral home, apparently to prevent them from taking photographs. Mr. Xue’s nose was caked with blood, his body was black with bruises and his left thumb was broken, apparently pulled backward to the breaking point, one of them, a nephew named Xue Ruiqiang, said on Friday in an interview.
Word of Mr. Xue’s death brought the villagers into the streets and sent members of the village committee that was involved in the land negotiations fleeing.
Shi Da contributed research from Wukan, and Mia Li from Beijing. Sharon LaFraniere and Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting from Beijing.
Mr. Xue’s 21-year-old daughter, Xue Jianwan, said before the service that her father “was a straightforward man who always stood up for people.”
“Mom said that if he hadn’t been such a straightforward person, he probably wouldn’t have ended up like this,” she added.
BEIJING — Officials announced new rules on Friday aimed at controlling the way Chinese Internet users post messages on social networking sites that have posed challenges to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machinery.
Beijing Imposes New Rules on Social Networking Sites.
By EDWARD WONG, Published – The New York Times: December 16, 2011
For many users, the most striking of the new rules requires people using the sites, called microblogs, or weibo in Chinese, to register with their real names and biographical information. They will still be able to post under aliases, according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency.
Some analysts say the real-name registration could dampen some of the freewheeling conversations that take place online, and that sometimes result in a large number of users criticizing officials and government policy.
The rule on real-name registration had been expected for several months now by industry watchers, and Internet companies in China had already experimented in 2009 with some forms of this. It was the ninth of 17 new microblog regulations issued on Friday by Beijing government officials, who have been charged by central authorities with reining in the way microblogs are used.
The regulations also include a licensing requirement for companies that want to host microblogs and prohibitions on content, including posts aimed at “spreading rumors, disturbing social order or undermining social stability.” But officials have long put pressure on microblog companies to self-censor, and the lists of limits on content are more an articulation of the boundaries already in place.
The regulation announced by the Beijing officials applies only to companies based in the capital, where several of the largest microblog platforms, including Sina and Sohu, are located.
One large rival, Tencent, is based in Shenzhen, a special economic zone in the south, and an editor there said Friday that the authorities had yet to issue any new regulations that would affect the company. But analysts expect that that city and others across China will soon put in place rules similar to the ones announced by Beijing.
“It’s just a further sign of the way things are going,” said Bill Bishop, an analyst and businessman based in Beijing who writes about the Internet industry on a blog, Digicha. Some Internet users, he added, may now ask themselves, “ ‘Why bother to say something? You never know.’ ”
There were many comments of outrage on Friday from those posting on microblogs. “Society is going backwards,” wrote one user by the name of Cheng Yang. “Where is China’s path?”
Many prominent commentators and writers with influence over public opinion already post under their real names. For example, Pan Shiyi, a wealthy real estate developer who posts regularly, has more than seven million followers. He recently used his platform to advocate stricter air pollution reports from the Beijing government.
“In fact, serious weibo users have already opted to use their real names out of their own interests,” said another editor at Tencent who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of talking about government policy.
Internet companies hosting microblogs have been told to comply with the new rules within three months. Sina and Tencent have more than 200 million registered users each; it is unclear how the companies will go about ensuring that each user has registered with real data.
But Mr. Bishop said the technology was already in place and had been used by one large Internet company, Baidu, when it ran its own version of a microblog, which no longer exists. The registration information that users enter online can be matched up against a police database, he said.
Leaders here have long discussed how to better control the Chinese Internet, which has about 485 million users, the most of any country. Most vexing for officials has been the speed with which information can spread on microblogs. This year, several episodes highlighted the reach of microblogs, including posts that ignited mass anger over both the Wenzhou high-speed train crash and the hit-and-run death of a 2-year-old toddler, Yueyue.
China has for years blocked Twitter and Facebook, and officials here carefully monitored the rebellions this year in the Middle East to see how they were organized and what role social networking sites played.
But Chinese officials also see the microblogs as useful. The sites allow people to vent anger, and officials can track posts to see the direction of public opinion. More and more officials are also being encouraged to use microblogs for propaganda and to mold discussions. Talk within the party about controlling the Internet accelerated after a policy meeting of the party’s Central Committee in October that focused on culture and ideology.
In the announcement Friday, Beijing officials said microblogs should “actively spread the core values of the socialist system, disseminate socialist advanced culture and build a socialist harmonious society.”
NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST
Will China Break?
By PAUL KRUGMAN, Published: December 18, 2011
Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.
I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.
Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.
The most striking thing about the Chinese economy over the past decade was the way household consumption, although rising, lagged behind overall growth. At this point consumer spending is only about 35 percent of G.D.P., about half the level in the United States.
So who’s buying the goods and services China produces? Part of the answer is, well, we are: as the consumer share of the economy declined, China increasingly relied on trade surpluses to keep manufacturing afloat. But the bigger story from China’s point of view is investment spending, which has soared to almost half of G.D.P.
The obvious question is, with consumer demand relatively weak, what motivated all that investment? And the answer, to an important extent, is that it depended on an ever-inflating real estate bubble. Real estate investment has roughly doubled as a share of G.D.P. since 2000, accounting directly for more than half of the overall rise in investment. And surely much of the rest of the increase was from firms expanding to sell to the burgeoning construction industry.
Do we actually know that real estate was a bubble? It exhibited all the signs: not just rising prices, but also the kind of speculative fever all too familiar from our own experiences just a few years back — think coastal Florida.
And there was another parallel with U.S. experience: as credit boomed, much of it came not from banks but from an unsupervised, unprotected shadow banking system. There were huge differences in detail: shadow banking American style tended to involve prestigious Wall Street firms and complex financial instruments, while the Chinese version tends to run through underground banks and even pawnshops. Yet the consequences were similar: in China as in America a few years ago, the financial system may be much more vulnerable than data on conventional banking reveal.
Now the bubble is visibly bursting. How much damage will it do to the Chinese economy — and the world?
Some commentators say not to worry, that China has strong, smart leaders who will do whatever is necessary to cope with a downturn. Implied though not often stated is the thought that China can do what it takes because it doesn’t have to worry about democratic niceties.
To me, however, these sound like famous last words. After all, I remember very well getting similar assurances about Japan in the 1980s, where the brilliant bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance supposedly had everything under control. And later, there were assurances that America would never, ever, repeat the mistakes that led to Japan’s lost decade — when we are, in reality, doing even worse than Japan did.
For what it’s worth, statements about economic policy from Chinese officials don’t strike me as being especially clear-headed. In particular, the way China has been lashing out at foreigners — among other things, imposing a punitive tariff on imports of U.S.-made autos that will do nothing to help its economy but will help poison trade relations — does not sound like a mature government that knows what it’s doing.
And anecdotal evidence suggests that while China’s government may not be constrained by rule of law, it is constrained by pervasive corruption, which means that what actually happens at the local level may bear little resemblance to what is ordered in Beijing.
I hope that I’m being needlessly alarmist here. But it’s impossible not to be worried: China’s story just sounds too much like the crack-ups we’ve already seen elsewhere. And a world economy already suffering from the mess in Europe really, really doesn’t need a new epicenter of crisis.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on December 19, 2011, on page A29 of the New York edition with the headline: Will China Break?.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
New-Energy Vehicles Take Spotlight At Shanghai Auto-Motive Show .
Japan’s Honda Motor Co plans to start producing electric cars in China as early as next year, the boldest step so far by a global automaker to tap as yet unproven demand for green cars in the world’s largest auto market.
Honda, Japanese rival Toyota Motor Co, Ford Motor Co and their local partners in China are all looking to electric and low emission vehicles as a way to tackle stricter emissions standards being introduced around the world.
While car makers are bullish about the future of the “green” vehicles in China, questions remain over the country’s use of coal to generate the majority of its electricity, consumer perceptions about the safety and convenience of electric cars and not least, the Beijing’s plans and policies for the electric-hybrid industry.
Honda wants to produce electric cars in China in 2012, Chief Executive Takanobu Ito said at the Shanghai Auto Show on Tuesday, adding that the car maker has reached a deal with the city of Guangzhou and the Guangzhou Automobile Group Co to conduct demonstration testing of EVs.
“This (test) will verify how practical and convenient the EVs Honda is currently developing will be within the city of Guangzhou and the ideal infrastructure for society toward achieving the widespread use of EVs,” Ito told a news conference.
At a roundtable discussion at the Shanghai show, Honda’s China chief, Seiji Kuraishi, was asked about the significance of introducing an electric car in China.
“For Honda, as a company that is promoting low-CO2 emission vehicles and green technology, we want to build a brand around that in China,” he said. “The CO2 issue is a very serious one in China and we think electric cars will be one solution.”
But, he added, “Whether or not it will work as a proper business is a separate matter right now.”
No foreign mass automaker sells pure electric vehicles in China, where sales of new-energy cars are estimated to be in the hundreds or thousands.
Ito, speaking alongside Kuraishi, said Honda did not have a specific target for EV sales in China and Kuraishi added that he wanted to produce EVs, albeit in small volumes, with both of Honda’s joint venture partners, Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd.
Kuraishi said it was not clear how the Chinese government’s incentives policy on EVs will evolve. While the government had at one point been seen as likely to aggressively promote pure, battery-run EVs, it was gradually warming up to hybrid technology, Kuraishi said.
“I think the government has concerns over the quality of motors, durability, and safety issues when it comes to EVs,” Kuraishi said.
Those safety issues were highlighted last week when a Zotye Langyue EV taxi caught fire in Hangzhou.
Guangzhou Automobile, China’s No.6 domestic automaker, plans to sell 200,000 new energy cars by 2015, the company said in a statement issued at the Shanghai Auto show.
Guangzhou Auto, which is also a partner of Toyota Motor Co and Fiat SpA, is seeking a listing on the Shanghai stock exchange through a merger with its unit, GAC Changfeng Motor Co Ltd.
It plans to convert Changfeng, which makes vehicles with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp and other brand names and provides automobile components, into a 50/50 joint venture with Mitsubishi.
Dongfeng Motor Group, China’s No.2 automaker, plans to launch its first electric cars in China next year, targeting sales of 100,000 by 2015, president Zhu Fushou told Reuters.
Both Toyota and Ford Motor Co are also stepping up their green car businesses in China. Ford said on Monday that it was bringing a test fleet of electric vehicles to China later this year, including its Fusion hybrid. Toyota is planning to develop and produce energy efficient cars and components in the country.
Other moves in the green car field include German automaker Daimler, which is talking to partners and Nissan Motor about working together on fuel cell technology, its head of R&D told Reuters in an interview.
“We are in a concrete product development phase, so therefore we are discussing concrete projects on the fuel cell side, bundling resources so that we could come faster to the market,” Thomas Weber, board member for research and development at the maker of Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars, said at the show.
The partners could work together on the “stacks” where energy is produced inside the fuel cell, Weber said, adding fuel-cell cars could become a reality for the mass market by 2015. “The technology is there — in 2015 latest we will start volume production.”
As global car makers rush to tout their green credentials by introducing hybrid and electric vehicles at venues like the Shanghai Auto Show, one topic often overlooked is the source of electricity that powers those vehicles. And in China, that source is almost invariably coal, one of the most polluting fuels used in the world.
Another challenge facing the industry in China is setting up the infrastructure to allow consumers to easily charge their vehicles.
A recent survey by the Synovate market research group showed green cars continue to fight an uphill battle in consumer perceptions.
“The major barriers that prevent Chinese car consumers from opting for this new energy proposition refer to concerns regarding the battery, costs and product experience,” the survey showed.
Still, auto makers remain upbeat about the outlook for China’s EV market.
“We see the new-energy vehicle opportunity here is probably greater than in many other countries,” said BMW’s sales chief, Ian Robertson. “There is a clear agenda that is a desire on the part of the government to develop technology, component suppliers with the expertise and volume capability with which to be successful.”
“The consumer will be attracted by incentives, by tax opportunities in which to take on board new energy vehicles. We see China as playing a very active role in this respect, so much so that China could be a game changer in this regard,” Robertson said.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
At UN, Bedbugs Now In Press Briefing Room & Al Jazeera, Fleas in Basement.
By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive of The Inner City Press.
UNITED NATIONS, November 16, updated: following report of fleas in UN basement by Inner City Press and questions, UN has confirmed the fleas. On bedbugs in the briefing room and Al Jazeera, the fumigation will not happen until November 20.
With the UN still refusing to disclose the results of the bedbug tests in did after the pests’ presence was exposed, first by Inner City Press, on the evening of November 15 a bedbug sniffing dog inspected the press briefing room in the Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium.
Inner City Press witnessed it, including meeting and petting the dog, a Jack Russell named Jack. He found bedbugs on chairs in the briefing room, which the UN now says “have been cordoned off.” Bedbugs were also discovered in the studios of Al Jazeera on the second floor, AFTER the studios of BBC and NHK had been fumigated. The press corps is in an uproar. But the fumigation planned as of 6:50 pm on November 16 is only of the briefing room and Al Jazeera (not the whole second floor), and not until Nov. 20.
Meanwhile other vermin have been found in the UN. In the publications area, for example, the talk has been of fleas. On November 15, Inner City Press asked New York City Mayor Bloomberg a question about the UN’s refusal to comply with NYC laws, including on bedbugs and even food safety. This last was an inquiry begun on November 1, when Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky:
Inner City Press: in New York now, the Health Department has a system under which the representing letter grades for health. They inspect restaurants and any other food facility. And apparently they have… they do inspect… I wasn’t aware of this, but they inspect the UNICEF cafeteria and the DC-One cafeteria, and both have received grades that would be B or in one case C. What I am wondering is whether the facility here in UN Headquarters, does the UN consider this to be outside of that system of health inspections, and if so what can it say about the… given, across the street what the grades are? And also, not to say that the two are related, but what interface has there been with the city government on this bedbug issue and what update can you provide as to the tests that you said last week were being performed in various locations, some here, some out, including one that was supposedly going to be done and or may soon be done on the 2nd floor? So it’s the food issue, and then the bedbug issue.
Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the second, I don’t have an update, and let’s see if we can get one. I don’t have an update. But I do know, as you yourself have said, you’ve been in direct touch with the relevant people from Facilities Management Service. I am sure that if you wanted to, you could do the same again. But for the benefit of others, of course, and for you as well, we’ll see if there is an update. On the first part, health inspections, I would defer to my colleagues who liaise with the city authorities. I don’t know the answer to that.
Inner City Press: Should I follow up with them or can you [inaudible]?
Spokesperson Nesirky: As I said, I will see what we can find out.
[The Spokesperson later added that Aramark said that the cafeteria at United Nations Headquarters was not being inspected.]
This bracketed response, which was never directly provided to Inner City Press but only read out over a speaker system that is not audible in the areas Inner City Press covers in the day, gives rise to these questions, among others:
On what basis are the UN’s cafeteria facility at UNICEF and the UN’s cafeteria in the DC building inspected, but the UN cafeteria not inspected? Is it a legal basis?
Is the UN’s main cafeteria not being inspected because the UN is forbidding the inspection?
Does the SG have an objection to NYC inspectors visiting the UN cafeteria? Doesn’t the UN allow inspections from the Fire Department of the UN premises?
* * *
In Ban’s UN, Korean Press Wars & Bed Bugs in BBC & NHK, No Q&A With Ban in Seoul
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, November 9 — The UN’s relations with the Press range from bugs to snubs to turf wars. Since the middle of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to China, the UN press corps has been full of questions why Ban didn’t mention the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Major media outlets asked Ban’s spokesman about the omission day after day.
When Ban returned, he did not hold any regular press conference. Rather he appeared one morning at 9 am to speak about climate change. When nevertheless a China and human rights question was asked — albeit one that did not mention Liu Xiaobo — Ban read from prepared notes that he had mentioned human rights three times in China.
In the days after that, still no press Q&A with Mr. Ban Ki-moon. Then after holding a press availability only for the Korean media he left for the G-20 meeting in his native South Korea. On November 9 his acting Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq announced that Ban would be holding a press conference — in Seoul.
Amid the groans in the press area of UN headquarters, on the second floor of the Dag Hammarskjold Library, there was also on the night of November 8 a belated test for bed bugs. Inner City Press broke the bed bugs story, last year about the UN’s “swing space” on 46th Street and last month in the basement of the Library and then elsewhere.
Tests were conducted on the Library’s first floor and third floor — where UN Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane is based — but not on the second, where the Press offices are. Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky explained to Inner City Press that tests are based on requests. So a request was made.
On November 8, some 90% of the cubicles of UN-based media organizations including this one were subject to a canine test, “no cameras allowed.” On November 9 the results were released: two offices were infected, those of BBC and NHK Broadcasting. We’ll leave readers to draw their own conclusions.
As in Seoul Ban Ki-moon prepared for the press conference he didn’t hold in New York, on the same second floor of the Dag Hammarskjold Libary a turf war was breaking out. In what was previously in the Secretariat called the J or Japanese Room, the “K” or Korean wing is said to often sit empty.
Ban at Republic of Korean pavillion in Shanghai, bugs not shown.
At least one reporter for Japanese media moved in to fill the void, due to limited space for her media. A few verbal altercations ensued, until the UN’s Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit was called in. MALU has a rule that media must be at the UN three days a week to have an office.
Of some of the Korean media it is alleged — and even admitted — that the three day test is not met. The perception among numerous correspondents is that the Korean media is protected, by Ban Ki-moon and his senior adviser Kim Won-soo. (In fact, a story is told of Mr. Kim proffering a deal to UN reporters, to get Korean outlets space.)
With Ban seemingly avoiding the UN press corps, any attempt to question the status or presence of Korean media organizations will inevitably be seen as more than bureaucratic. And so a fight impends.
Footnote: for those who question this piece’s focus on Seoul then the Korean media, it is worth noting that this year’s UN Day concerts was even more Korea heavy that previously reported. A Korean symphony played, sponsored by Korean Broadcasting, begun by a video touting the wonders of Korea. Afterward, Inner City Press got a text message that Ban surfaced at a reception at the Korean Mission just across from the UN. Amid the bed bugs and unanswered questions, there is more and more grumbling. Watch the Inner City Press site – you can follow it also on Twitter @InnerCityPress.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Frank Lavin is now Chairman, Public Affairs, Asia Pacific, at Edelman – the largest PR company in the Asia-Pacific region. He previously was Under Secretary for International Trade at the US Department of Commerce and Ambassador to Singapore. In those capacities he was responsible for Trade agreements with China, India, Singapore – among his other imprint on US Asian commerce policy. Now he lives in Hong Kong.
When the US was in a position that there might not have been a US pavilion at this year’s - six months long – May 1 to Oct 31, 2010 – World Fair in Shanghai, he volunteered to organize one with the help of business companies, and the friendly assistance of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Now he can look and say – we did it! It took him a mere one year to put up a respectable “Great Hall of the American People” pavilion.
This fair will have three times as many visitors as the New York World Fair and will be the largest ever in every respect – in size – number of countries exhibiting – 189, number of heads of State visiting 100. There are 240 pavilions that include 57 that are not by governments – such as IOs, NGOs, and businesses. 40 million visitors have already seen it by August 14th. It is expected that 60 million Chinese and 10 million foreigners, will have seen the Fair by the time it closes.
I found it extremely interesting that the Fair includes pavilions for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao – very nice and non-controversial - and the Chinese go and see them. Also interesting that in their statistics these lands are counted as foreign. I wonder how are displayed the Chinese provinces and how the competition between them is handled? Is a decentralized vuew of China allowed in the Chinese huge and very beautiful red and white Chinese pavilion?
The main item in the US pavilion is a film that shows a girl that sees through her window the need to plant a tree in order to beautify the neighborhood. This is a subtle way to tell the visitors – mainly Chinese – that with initiative and cooperation, one can change the world for the better. It is not a government, but the individual human spirit that does it. You learn that you are responsible for the environment and your actions count. The overall theme of this year’s Fair is “Better City , Better Life, so there is nothing revolutionary in the US story here except this interpretation that it calls for an individual response to environmental needs.
It is hoped that this will be appreciated by the average person in the region – the fact that the US did not come to toot its horn by showing off achievements of the past – the US makes rather attempts at cooperation with the Chinese in many areas of common interest. That reminded me of the G2 approach that President Obama initiated ahead of going to Copenhagen – now we see that it could also be a people’s action if people are ready to do what is right for their communities. Maybe we should recommend that Americans also go to see this US pavilion in Shanghai.
Asked what else he could have done for the pavilion, Frank Lavin said that besides the content for the 30 minutes he planed for there are several minutes of waiting time in line that could have been used. For the people in lines outside – there is entertainment that changes – visiting bands – so on. Several people in the Asia Society audience have already been to see the pavilion, quite a few more said that they are scheduled to go. Michael Roberts, Executive Director, New York Public Programs at Asia Society chaired the event.
Above we posted on August 27, 2010, but now we got the posting that was done by The Asia Society and a bit of the actual tape – so we include these in the UPDATE.
The Shanghai Expo:
Inside ‘The World’s Largest Event.’
Frank Lavin explains how the US Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo emphasizes what Americans and Chinese have in common. (1 min., 48 sec.)
NEW YORK, August 26, 2010 – “The Shanghai Expo, at an annualized rate about 150 million people a year, would be something like eight or nine times what the number one theme park in the world does, which is Disney World,” said ambassador Frank Lavin, Chairman of the USA Pavilion’s Steering Committee, referring to the number of people who will visit the 2010 Expo. “In fact, it is not just the largest World’s Fair in history, but this is the largest event in human history.”
Speaking at Asia Society’s New York Headquarters, the former US Ambassador to Singapore was sharing his insider’s perspective on the Shanghai Expo, the latest incarnation of the World’s Fair that runs from May 1 to October 31, 2010.
Lavin helped organize this year’s United States Pavilion. He explained that since the average Expo attendee spends only 30 minutes in each pavilion, early decisions were made not to treat the American exhibit as a “college seminar course in US history,” but to present a “show, don’t tell” narrative of American society and culture.
By exposing millions of Chinese to unfamiliar countries and cultures, Lavin said the Expo is an important opportunity to educate the country’s citizens about the rest of the world. Although 47 million Chinese will travel abroad this year, more than 50 percent will only visit the semi-autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macao. With over 90 percent of the 70 million fairgoers Chinese, the Expo is accessible to a much larger population of Chinese citizens who want to experience foreign cultures.
Asked about how the United States pavilion’s message will help its public diplomacy with China, he responded, “Of course there are many issues where the United States and China have different points of view.” But at the American Pavilion, “The average Chinese fairgoer is going to see that he or she has a lot in common with the same American in a similar position.” He concluded that the media tends to only focus our few disagreements, rather than our many points of commonality.
Although the 2010 Expo will be the most attended event in human history, American attendance is quite low. Lavin noted, however, that this isn’t because Americans aren’t interested in foreign cultures; rather, “When an American goes to visit China, he is not going to go to the Expo. He is going to go to the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and see the sights of Beijing and Shanghai.”
Reported by Zachary Raske
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 31st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From: Mary Ling
Date: Sun, Aug 29, 2010
Subject: RE: follow up on the Asia Society.
Thank you for the email. One of the climate-related initiatives that the
USA Pavilion is focused on is our carbon neutral commitment:
The USA Pavilion will be carbon neutral for the entire six-month duration of
There are three parts to our Carbon Neutral Commitment:
1. Reduce emissions – building design, green features, and energy
efficiency operations and maintenance measures will reduce emissions.
2. Carbon footprint – USA Pavilion will calculate its greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions according to the principles of the leading international GHG
3. Offset remaining emissions – the remaining GHGs will be offset or
“neutralized” by purchasing carbon credits from projects in China.
An important goal of the commitment is to demonstrate the USA Pavilion’s
support for sustainability.
We will be purchasing credits from renewable energy, energy
efficiency, and/or carbon sequestration projects in China to meet our
carbon neutral commitment.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
China seeks to reduce Internet users’ anonymity.
By ANITA CHANG
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
BEIJING — A leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for new rules to require people to use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online, according to a human rights group.
In an address to the national legislature in April, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the extensive system of censorship the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet, according to a text of the speech obtained by New York-based Human Rights in China.
China’s regime has a complicated relationship with the freewheeling Internet, reflected in its recent standoff with Google over censorship of search results. China this week confirmed it had renewed Google’s license to operate, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to China’s online censorship.
The Internet is China’s most open and lively forum for discussion, despite already pervasive censorship, but stricter controls could constrain users. The country’s online population has surged past 400 million, making it the world’s largest.
Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s website. But the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its push for tighter information control might prove unpopular.
Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in the group’s magazine China Rights Forum.
“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.
As part of that Internet “real name system,” forum moderators would have to use their real names as would users of online bulletin boards, and anonymous comments on news stories would be removed, Wang is quoted as saying.
The State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request asking whether certain sections of Wang’s address to the legislature were altered in the official transcript.
Wang’s comments are in line with recent government statements that indicate a growing uneasiness toward the multitude of opinions found online. A Beijing-backed think tank this month accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social-networking sites such as Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny.
China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 – Stop the presses — foreign media pulling out of Japan.
With China rising and revenues falling, priorities have changed.
By MARIKO KATO
Staff writer, The Japan Times online
Major foreign media outlets are leaving Japan in droves, a sign of financial difficulties at home as the news industry struggles with falling advertising revenue. But observers note that Japan is also losing its appeal as the most newsworthy country in Asia, with China now the hot spot.
Read all about it: U.S. news magazines Time and Newsweek are among the major foreign media companies that have recently closed or scaled down their presence in Tokyo.
In the latest withdrawal from Japan, the news magazine Time closed its editorial branch in Tokyo earlier this month. Last year, Newsweek shut down its editorial section in Tokyo while the editorial staff of BusinessWeek merged with Bloomberg after the financial news service announced it would buy the magazine last October.
Among newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have been reported to have drastically reduced their forces in Japan.
“When I heard about Time I thought foreign media coverage in Japan has really finished,” Takashi Uesugi, a freelance journalist and expert on journalism who used to be a reporter at the Tokyo branch of The New York Times, told The Japan Times.
Observers agree that a big reason for the force reduction here is the decrease in ad revenue at home, due partly to the effects of the global financial crisis and partly to consumers increasingly turning to the Internet for news.
But Uesugi said there are other reasons for the foreign media’s flight that are rooted in Japan.
“The financial situation of the companies in their own countries is a big factor,” he said. “But the second reason is (the decrease in) Japan’s national power. Foreign media are becoming increasingly more interested in China and setting up offices there, while they withdraw from Japan.”
According to Uesugi, The New York Times office in Tokyo had 13 full-time employees covering much of Asia and Russia when he worked there from 1999 to 2002. Now there are only three, while the newspaper has opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, he said.
The Washington Post office in Tokyo has only one reporter left and the Los Angeles Times branch has closed, according to Uesugi.
Numbers reflect the trend. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, its foreign members numbered around 250 during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the booming economy provided both interesting news and an attractive home for overseas correspondents. The count was more than 300 if Japanese staff employed by foreign media companies were included.
However, the ranks have since been decreasing steadily, with only 144 foreign members registered as of March 2009.
“This means that news about Japan becomes more dependent on news wires. Even if (those media that have left Japan) hire temporary staff here, only correspondents are actually eligible to write stories, which would lead to lack of depth or analysis,” Uesugi said.
For correspondents elsewhere in Asia to visit Japan and report news, the event would need to be as big as Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system or the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which both happened in 1995, or last year’s Lower House election that led to the first major change in government since the 1950s, he added.
But others say it is not all bad news. According to Hiroshi Kakiyama, regional director of the Tokyo sales office for BusinessWeek, the magazine is stronger now that Bloomberg reporters can contribute articles.
“It’s been reported that the U.S. media (are) disappearing, but that image doesn’t apply to us,” he said.
BusinessWeek used to have two correspondents and one reporter in Tokyo, of which only one correspondent remained to join forces with Bloomberg.
“When there were only three members of staff, the articles they could write on Japan were very limited, but from now on we will be able to cover a wider range,” Kakiyama said, adding that four Bloomberg reporters in Tokyo contributed to the New Year’s issue.
BusinessWeek’s main target is businessmen, according to Kakiyama, while Bloomberg staff have the experience of accommodating a slightly different audience that includes investors and government financial officials.
While financial difficulties are a key reason for the foreign media’s retreat, the government is also at fault for not extensively opening up news conferences to foreign reporters, according to Uesugi.
Major news organizations that are members of press clubs attached to government offices and industries have easy and quick access to breaking news and off-the-record information. This has been a long-term problem for foreign journalists as well as local free-lancers and magazine writers who, as nonmembers, are refused entry into news conferences and briefings.
Uesugi said the hostile setup has served to encourage foreign correspondents to move elsewhere in Asia.
“Japanese tend to think it’s only the West that has open news conferences, but it’s the whole world except Japan,” he said, giving as examples South Korea, India, Brazil and China, although Beijing places other restrictions on the press.
There was a glimmer of light for journalists locked out of the press club system when the Democratic Party of Japan won the August election. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, now prime minister, had said he would open up news conferences if his party took power.
But while some Cabinet members — including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Shizuka Kamei, the state minister for financial and postal issues — have taken the initiative to even the playing field, the change has not been extensive throughout government.
“The current government has the desire to communicate more with the outside world, but it needs to do more,” Uesugi said.
He acknowledged it is already too late to woo the foreign press back to Japan, except for the unlikely event that Japan’s national power increases or China’s politics becomes too unstable to remain there.
“But opening up press conferences is a start, and the only way forward. If you’re switched off at the source, then there’s no point in wondering why the telephone doesn’t connect,” Uesugi said.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 4th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From London – UN chief damps climate treaty hopes – No more Hopenhagen?
As reported by Ed Crooks for The Financial Times November 3, 2009,
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, acknowledged – “A new international climate change treaty is very unlikely to be signed at the Copenhagen talks next month.” He said “people had to be “realistic” about what could be achieved.
He said he hoped for a “very strong binding political commitment” that could be turned into a treaty in the first half of next year.
THIS IS THE NEW HOPENHAGEN!
This article can be found at:
The FT today – November 4, 2009 – has its page 4 – WORLD NEWS – covered with articles on US national, and international – mainly China – activities relating to climate change.
The National activities are about the US Right organized in a body called “Americans for Prosperity” that is all out to fight the US Administration of President Obama on all his forward looking attempts to straighten out US policy in areas like health care and climate change. The folks at AFP seem to be mainly oil industry financed individuals with an 8,000 registered membership spreading the NO TAX message that fly hot-air balloons to spread their hot air message about a hot air administration. They can be very effective in the US political jungle.
The Beijing activities are reported by Geoff Dyer who is afraid that China might relax now its policies on energy efficiency. There are here many China – India and US – China questions. One point well taken by the Administration is the need to make sure that there is an official US presence at the 2010 Shanghai World Trade Fair. The up to now US missing announcement that it will indeed back such a presence will be redressed by Secretary of State Clinton, in her trip to smooth out the President’s November trip to Beijing. The article explains how the US government is by law not allowed to put money into establishing a presence at such a fair, but can only aid in finding private groups or companies that will be ready to put up the money needed to fund such a presence.
The above tells us that much the US is doing in public, has to be initiated by the private sector – it is really hard to have a US lead if there is no enthusiasm from the business sector. In these conditions much of the business sector does its own without coordinating with the Administration – so single companies, like Cisco and Coca Cola have their own booths established at the fair – now Chevron, GE, and PepsiCo. are going hopefullly to agree to exhibit and atart funding in a joint US booth.
All of this is important if a US-China agreement has to be reached so it helps the Climate Change issue as well. Washington will have its hands full in order to connect between these different target areas while having to watch its back so it does not get stabbed from behind.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
NEW UNEP REPORT DETAILS SHANGHAI’S ‘GREEN’ EFFORTS AHEAD OF EXPO 2010.
Shanghai has made strides in ‘greening’ itself ahead of the Expo 2010,
according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which also called on the Chinese city to continue efforts to decrease its reliance on coal.
“Like many rapidly developing cities, Shanghai faces enormous challenges in
ensuring fresh air, clean water, sustainable energy, efficient transport
and waste reduction for its population,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive
The agency launched a new assessment of actions taken by Shanghai, with a population of 20 million, to organize an environmentally-friendly Expo 2010, expected to be attended by 70 million people.
China’s largest city has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, scaling up investment in environmental protection measures since preparations for the 2010 world fair kicked off in 2000.
Shanghai has developed a green transport system, constructing a world-class 400-kilometre rapid transit network. It is also experimenting with new energy vehicles, including electric buses, hydrogen fuel-cell buses and hybrid buses.
But the UNEP report also expressed concern over Shanghai’s high level of
dependency on coal for electricity, calling for the city to boost the use
of renewable energies, such as solar and wind power.
Additionally, the safe disposal of waste continues to be a challenge, the
assessment pointed out. A more comprehensive strategy is needed for both
the city and the Expo, whose theme will be “Better City, Better Life.”
Event though progress has been made in ensuring safe drinking water, UNEP
said that nitrification of river systems continues to be an obstacle.
“Shanghai is clearly determined to turn its modernization into a green
example for urban development of the future,” Mr. Steiner noted.
UNEP will produce a follow-up report after the city’s Expo ends on 31