Posts Tagged ‘China’

Chinese economic crash could create big bang

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Anyone who stands in the middle of Guangzhou’s high-rise district and looks up is liable to suffer dizziness.

The 600m Canton Tower, China’s tallest structure, sits across the Pearl River from several other newly-constructed giants, including the 103-storey International Finance Centre. The sensation is akin to strolling through a forest of enormous metal trees.

If the Chinese economy – represented by these vertiginous monuments – does fall to earth, one cannot help thinking that it would create a very large bang indeed; one that would be felt in every corner of the earth.

And fears have been spreading in recent months that China might be heading for precisely such a scenario. Economic indicators have been flashing red in recent months. There has been a sharp drop in residential property prices and a succession of disappointing car and retail sales figures.

But the most alarming news came at the weekend with the revelation by the customs department that China experienced a dramatic fall in exports in February.

Much of this was attributable to the Chinese New Year holiday, when factories traditionally shut down.

But concerns have also grown that China – the world’s workshop – is beginning to suffer from falling demand from Europe and America. China’s gigantic export sector is simultaneously the source of China’s strength and also its great weakness. Even the most prosperous of shops cannot remain in business if its customers decide to stop buying.

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China Cadmium Spill Threatens Drinking Water for Millions

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

A cancer-causing cadmium discharge from a mining company has polluted a long stretch of two rivers in southern China, and officials warned some 3.7 million people of Liuzhou in the Guangxi region to avoid drinking water from the river, state media reported on Friday.

BEIJING (Reuters) – A cancer-causing cadmium discharge from a mining company has polluted a long stretch of two rivers in southern China, and officials warned some 3.7 million people of Liuzhou in the Guangxi region to avoid drinking water from the river, state media reported on Friday.

Pollution of waterways by toxic run-offs from factories and farms is a pressing issue in China, prompting authorities to call for policy tightening, though the problem shows no sign of going away.

Officials opened sluices at four upstream hydrological stations on the Longjiang River, a tributary to the Liujiang that runs through Liuzhou, hoping to dilute the pollutants after the toxic metal cadmium was first detected nearly two weeks ago in Hechi, Xinhua state news agency said.

Many fish died despite efforts by local fire officials to dissolve the cadmium by pouring hundreds of tonnes of neutralizers into the river, and authorities reported panic buying of bottled water by local residents.

Xinhua said officials blamed the Guangxi Jinhe Mining Co. for the January 15 spill, but it was not clear how long the company had been discharging the chemical into the river or how much had had been released.

As of Friday, elevated levels of cadmium were being detected in Liuzhou, more than 130 km downstream from the plant, according to the report.

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The Lesson of the Chinese Invasion

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

– Isn’t this how America took over much of Central and South America 50 to 100 years ago?   Selling them things they didn’t have, gaining control of their markets and buying up control of their natural resources?

– And then, eventually, as the Americans moved behind the scenes, right wing dictatorships friendly to American interests were installed so that the money from the local resources could keep flowing to the US and so that any local political unrest was kept in check?

– Many left-wing students of American foreign policy over the last 2 or 3 decades will recognize these patterns.   Allende, Copper & Chile and Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and Contras are just two arch-typical stories of this genre. 

– So, the wheel of history turns and the Chinese nw are only doing what rising economic powers do; which is to seek more of the same.    And the greed of the naive and unsuspecting for lower prices in their target markets makes it all quite easy for them.   And all the money returns home to China and the standard of living of the Chinese people rise each year and their military is rapidly advancing from third-world quality to first-wolrd.

– What part of this “writing on the wall” can students of history not see?

– But amazingly, the short terms benefits always drive us like lemmings bound for their cliff jumps, to stock our stores with cheap Chinese gee-gaws.  And while the cheaply manufactured stuff pours into our countries, our cash goes the other way and day by day we deliver increasing power over us to them.

– Even here in my new country, New Zealand, the big box stores are jammed with cheap gee-gaws.   And the currently ascendant National Party (a rough analog of the US’s Republican Party) is busy passing laws to allow the country to sell off chucks of it essential infrastructure; Electric power generation, rail systems, etc.   The say that they believe not more than 10 to 20% will be sold so we will still retain control.  But, significantly, they’ve put no legal limits on how much can be sold – so they don’t offend or scare off the buyers.  (right!).

– They are saying that we need to do this to raise capital to fund other infrastructure projects that the nation needs.   As a first-order argument, that sounds, perhaps, reasonable.   But turn the crank one more round, and those new infrastructures will also need to be sold to fund the next round.  And so on.

– How sweet for the offshore buyers; an entire country building itself up very nicely and selling itself off as it does so.   Eventually, we’ll have a very nice country with lots of excellent infrastructure here.   And all owned by someone else.

– Going down this path, either here or in the US, how long will it be before the Chinese’s unlimited money is controlling who is winning elections?   And how long before they’ve installed a majority of people in the government who are deeply sympathetic to Chinese interests?   After that, it’s a single inevitable step to a nation becoming a Banana Republic to the Chinese juggernaut – much like many nations in Central and South America were when the American hegemony was at its apex.

– To my Chinese friends and readers  this is not an anti-Chinese flame I’ve written.   I fully believe that if it was Brazil, or India or any of a dozen other countries, the results would be the same.    This is all driven by human greed for power and control.  And the fact that it is the Chinese who are just now sitting in the global power spot, is just a coincidence of history and not an indictment of them as a people.

– dennis

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Many economic Nostradamuses have long predicted that the epitaph on America’s tombstone will ultimately read, “Made In China.” But casual observers probably didn’t think the funeral procession would happen this fast. In the last year, though, most have wised up. Thanks to a spate of mind-blowing headlines, we are learning that the Chinese invasion isn’t just a distant possibility — it’s happening right now.

First, in February, ABC News reported that almost every Americana-themed trinket sold in the Smithsonian Institute is made in China. Then news hit that San Francisco is importing its new bay bridge from China. Then came the New York Times dispatch about the Big Apple awarding Chinese state-subsidized firms huge taxpayer-funded contracts to “renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium.”

Astounding as all of that is, it was quickly topped by news last week reminding us that the new Martin Luther King monument in Washington was designed by a Chinese government sculptor and assembled by low-wage Chinese workers.

The trend is enough to trouble any American. After all, when a memorial for a civil rights leader who deplored “starvation wages” and died supporting a sanitation union’s strike is built by non-union serfs from China, it’s a good sign there’s a big problem.

But then, what exactly is that problem?

Xenophobes will say China’s ascendance threatens America’s global cultural hegemony and promises to create a dystopia forcing us all to endure the supposed horrors of speaking Mandarin and using chopsticks.

Such misguided and bigoted demagoguery, though, distracts from the real crisis staring at us in our own mirror — a crisis not of other, but of self. Indeed, for all the fears of external assault, the Chinese invasion tells us the true problem is that America is no longer willing or able to invest in its own future.

– To read more…


As pollution soars, cancer is now the leading cause of death in China

Monday, May 30th, 2011

The Earth Policy Institute reported on figures today showing that cancer is now the leading cause of death in China, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in the country. The most common type? Lung cancer – caused in large part by increasingly foul air due to a heavy reliance on coal:

Deaths from this typically fatal disease have shot up nearly fivefold since the 1970s. In China’s rapidly growing cities, like Shanghai and Beijing, where particulates in the air are often four times higher than in New York City, nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths are from lung cancer.

The figures, which were compiled from the Chinese Ministry of Health, show the other side of China’s rush to develop new sources of energy.  In the case of lung cancer, the bad air is compounded by soaring tobacco use.

The Chinese are, rightfully, seen as aggressively pursuing leadership in clean energy, while America falls behind.  (I’ve used it to frame the debate too – and given how fast China is building projects and growing its manufacturing base, Americans better pay attention.)

But that comparison often ignores the broader picture in the country. Sure, China is beating us in wind installations and has a leg up in solar manufacturing; but in a country building a new coal plant every other week, any environmental and health impact of developing renewable energy is being negated by such a heavy reliance on dirty energy. Or, as the Earth Policy Institute so bluntly puts it: “China is sacrificing the health of its people, ultimately risking future prosperity” (and that’s on top of the devastation that awaits China from unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases).

While official rhetoric recognizes the importance of preserving the environment and the health of its people, the Chinese government still has a long way to go in bolstering transparency and enforcement of even the existing environmental regulations, not to mention strengthening protection. If it does not do so, the country’s toxic burden threatens to stall or even reverse the dramatic health gains of the last 60 years, which raised average life expectancy from 45 to 74 years and slashed infant mortality from 122 deaths per 1,000 births down to 20. Economic gains could be lost as productivity wanes and massive health bills come due. Ultimately, a sick country can prosper only so long.

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China faces growing gender imbalance

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

– No single drop thinks it’s responsible for the flood.

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More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses by 2020, says the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The gender imbalance among newborns is the most serious demographic problem for the country’s population of 1.3 billion, says the academy.

It cites sex-specific abortions as a major factor, due to China’s traditional bias towards male children.

The academy says gender selection abortions are “extremely common”.

This is especially true in rural areas, and ultra-sound scans, first introduced in the late 1980s, have increased the practice.


The China Bubble’s Coming — But Not the One You Think

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Forget about a Shanghai stock bubble. The whole Chinese economy’s getting ready to burst.

Financial commentators are obsessively debating whether the recent rise in the Chinese stock market means there’s a bubble — and if so, when it’s going to burst.

My take? Who cares! What happens to the broader Chinese economy is what we should really be watching. It will have a far-reaching impact on the rest of the world — much more far-reaching than a decline in stocks.

Despite everything, the Chinese economy has shown incredible resilience recently. Although its biggest customers — the United States and Europe — are struggling (to say the least) and its exports are down more than 20 percent, China is still spitting out economic growth numbers as if there weren’t a worry in the world. The most recent estimate put annual growth at nearly 8 percent.

Is the Chinese economy operating in a different economic reality?  Will it continue to grow, no matter what the global economy is doing?

The answer to both questions is no. China’s fortunes over the past decade are reminiscent of Lucent Technologies in the 1990s. Lucent sold computer equipment to dot-coms. At first, its growth was natural, the result of selling goods to traditional, cash-generating companies. After opportunities with cash-generating customers dried out, it moved to start-ups — and its growth became slightly artificial. These dot-coms were able to buy Lucent’s equipment only by raising money through private equity and equity markets, since their business models didn’t factor in the necessity of cash-flow generation.

Funds to buy Lucent’s equipment quickly dried up, and its growth should have decelerated or declined. Instead, Lucent offered its own financing to dot-coms by borrowing and lending money on the cheap to finance the purchase of its own equipment. This worked well enough, until it came time to pay back the loans.

The United States, of course, isn’t a dot-com. But a great portion of its growth came from borrowing Chinese money to buy Chinese goods, which means that Chinese growth was dependent on that very same borrowing.

Now the United States and the rest of the world is retrenching, corporations are slashing their spending, and consumers are closing their pocket books. This means that the consumption of Chinese goods is on the decline. And this is where the dot-com analogy breaks down. Unlike Lucent, China has nuclear weapons. It can print money at will and can simply order its banks to lend. It is a communist command economy, after all. Lucent is now a $2 stock. China won’t go down that easily.

The Chinese central bank has a significant advantage over the U.S. Federal Reserve. Chairman Ben Bernanke and his cohort may print a lot of money (and they did), but there’s almost nothing they can do to speed the velocity of money. They simply cannot force banks to lend without nationalizing them (and only the government-sponsored enterprises have been nationalized). They also cannot force corporations and consumers to spend. Since China isn’t a democracy, it doesn’t suffer these problems.

China’s communist government owns a large part of the money-creation and money-spending apparatus. Money supply therefore shot up 28.5 percent in June. Since it controls the banks, it can force them to lend, which it has also done.

Finally, China can force government-owned corporate entities to borrow and spend, and spend quickly itself. This isn’t some slow-moving, touchy-feely democracy. If the Chinese government decides to build a highway, it simply draws a straight line on the map. Any obstacle — like a hospital, a school, or a Politburo member’s house — can become a casualty of the greater good. (Okay — maybe not the Politburo member’s house).

Although China can’t control consumer spending, the consumer is a comparatively small part of its economy. Plus, currency control diminishes the consumer’s buying power. All of this makes the United States’ TARP plans look like child’s play. If China wants to stimulate the economy, it does so — and fast. That’s why the country is producing such robust economic numbers.

Why is China doing this? It doesn’t have the kind of social safety net one sees in the developed world, so it needs to keep its economy going at any cost. Millions of people have migrated to its cities, and now they’re hungry and unemployed. People without food or work tend to riot. To keep that from happening, the government is more than willing to artificially stimulate the economy, in the hopes of buying time until the global system stabilizes. It’s literally forcing banks to lend — which will create a huge pile of horrible loans on top of the ones they’ve originated over the last decade.

But don’t confuse fast growth with sustainable growth. Much of China’s growth over the past decade has come from lending to the United States. The country suffers from real overcapacity. And now growth comes from borrowing — and hundreds of billion-dollar decisions made on the fly don’t inspire a lot of confidence. For example, a nearly completed, 13-story building in Shanghai collapsed in June due to the poor quality of its construction.

This growth will result in a huge pile of bad debt — as forced lending is bad lending. The list of negative consequences is very long, but the bottom line is simple: There is no miracle in the Chinese miracle growth, and China will pay a price. The only question is when and how much.


Is China Making Its Bird-Flu Outbreak Worse?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

– Scary stuff.  here’s a quote from within this story:

 Dr. Lo Wing-Lok, an adviser to the Hong Kong government on communicable diseases, said the mainland had not been forthright about the spread of bird flu in poultry. “There’s no doubt of an outbreak of bird flu in China, though the government hasn’t admitted it,” he told Bloomberg.

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One thing is certain about avian influenza: it’s deadly. All three people who contracted the H5N1 strain of the virus in China last year died. In the first six weeks of 2009, eight people have come down with bird flu, and five have died. Another thing is that while the disease has yet to go pandemic, as many doctors fear it could, it remains worrisomely persistent. Every year since 2003, about 100 people in Asia, the Middle East and Africa contract the disease. Last year, in a rare exception, the number dropped below 50.

But bird flu, it seems, is back. Last month’s five deaths — one of the highest tallies of bird-flu deaths China has ever recorded in a month — were in locations as far removed from one another as Beijing in the north, Xinjiang in the west, Guangxi in the south, Hunan in the center and Shandong in the east. “From a disease-control perspective, the increase in cases in China is notable, as is the wide geographic spread,” says Dr. Hans Troedsson, the World Health Organization’s representative in China. There is still no evidence that the virus has mutated to spread easily between humans, he says. But while such a nightmare scenario, which could set off a global flu pandemic that could kill millions, has shown no signs of being an immediate threat, serious concerns remain. “The fact that this is the highest number for a single month in China reminds us that the virus is entrenched and circulating in the environment,” Troedsson says. (See pictures of the resurgence of bird flu.)

On Feb. 10, authorities in the far-Western region of Xinjiang culled more than 13,000 chickens in the city of Hotan after 519 died in a bird-flu outbreak. But until this week, China had reported no widespread outbreaks of the virus among bird populations, prompting concerns among some public-health experts that mainland health and veterinary authorities could be missing — or even concealing — the spread of the disease through poultry and wild birds. Hong Kong, where the first human cases of H5N1 infection were found in 1997, reported finding a dozen birds with the deadly strain of the virus earlier this year — a strong indication that the virus is very likely present in adjacent Guangdong province. But so far, Guangdong has reported no bird cases. Equally unusual is that after such a busy month of infections in China, reports of human cases have gone silent. “It’s a surprise for me, since in January, the human cases, you have so many, but in February it suddenly stops,” says Dr. Guan Yi, a virologist from the University of Hong Kong. (Read “Is Hong Kong’s Bird-Flu Vaccine Failing?”)


Glaciers In China And Tibet Fading Fast

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Glaciers that serve as water sources to one of the most ecologically diverse alpine communities on earth are melting at an alarming rate, according to a recent report.

A three-year study, to be used by the China Geological Survey Institute, shows that glaciers in the Yangtze source area, central to the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in south-western China, have receded 196 square kilometres over the past 40 years.

Glaciers at the headwaters of the Yangtze, China’s longest river, now cover 1,051 square kilometres compared to 1,247 square kilometres in 1971, a loss of nearly a billion cubic metres of water, while the tongue of the Yuzhu glacier, the highest in the Kunlun Mountains fell by 1,500 metres over the same period.

Melting glacier water will replenish rivers in the short term, but as the resource diminishes drought will dominate the river reaches in the long term. Several major rivers including the Yangtze, Mekong and Indus begin their journeys to the sea from the Tibetan Plateau Steppe, one of the largest land-based wilderness areas left in the world.


China cull amid bird flu outbreak

Friday, December 19th, 2008

More than 370,000 chickens have been culled in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu after an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, say officials.

The outbreak is thought to be the first in mainland China since June.

Meanwhile, a man has reportedly contracted the virus in Cambodia, while Taiwan is investigating suspected infection among birds.

The death of a teenage girl from H5N1 was announced in Egypt on Tuesday, and a bird cull is also under way in India.

More than 200 people in a dozen countries have died of the virus since it resurfaced in Asia in 2003, say global health authorities.

Experts fear that the virus could mutate into one that is easily transmissible from human to human.

Migrating birds blamed

China’s Ministry of Agriculture said it received notification that the H5N1 virus had been found in two areas of Jiangsu on Monday.

The usual precautions have been imposed: birds have been slaughtered in the surrounding area, farms quarantined and disinfected, and the transport of fowl banned.

But no information has been released about the scale of the outbreak – how many birds were found to be carrying the H5N1 strain of the virus and how many of them died.

Officials say they think migrating birds might have been the source of the disease.

They are currently testing samples of the virus to check it has not mutated into a form that would pose a risk to human health, reports the BBC’s Chris Hogg in Shanghai.


US ‘import alert’ on China food

Friday, November 21st, 2008

US authorities have issued a nationwide “import alert” for Chinese-made food products in the wake of the melamine contamination scandal.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already issued an alert warning Americans not to consume Chinese products containing milk.

Thousands of Chinese have been poisoned this year.

The latest alert goes beyond dairy products to such items as drinks, sweets, and baby and pet food.

It also allows US inspectors to seize any Chinese products suspected of being contaminated.

Safety issues

The earlier restrictions were put in place on dairy products after four Chinese children died from kidney failure and thousands more people fell ill after consuming dairy products laced with melamine – which is normally used in making plastics and fertiliser.

The FDA has now added more than a dozen other goods imported from China, including biscuits, instant coffee and tea products.

In addition, US officials will be travelling to China next week for consultations with the Chinese about safety issues.

The FDA is also planning to open three new offices in China to check products intended for the US market.

– To the original…

– Earlier posts here on Samahisoft regarding China and food safety:  , and