Tag Archives: China

The Coming War in the South China Sea

Quite a podcast to listen to over at War is Boring.

Of all the potential powder kegs on earth, none is more precarious than the South China Sea. Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines all have claims there. China builds artificial islands to reinforce its claims and the U.S. Navy patrols nearby.

The various militaries have brushed by each other in the water and in the air. “The Chinese people do not want to have war,” Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin said Thursday. “We will be opposed to [the] U.S. if it stirs up any conflict … if the Korean War or Vietnam War are replayed, then we will have to defend ourselves.”

This week on War College, we talk to U.S. Naval War College professor James Holmes about the South China Sea, China’s artificial islands and the entangling alliances that may lead to war.

There is no such thing as a skyscraper curse

But just in case, Saskatoon leaves Parcel Y undeveloped

Until recently, however, there had been no formal analysis of the skyscraper curse. A new paper by Mr Barr, Bruce Mizrach and Kusum Mundra (all of Rutgers) investigates Mr Lawrence’s musings in detail. They look at the building of 14 world-record-breaking skyscrapers, from New York’s Pulitzer (which opened in 1890) to the Burj Khalifa, and compare them to American GDP growth (which they see as a decent proxy for the world economy).

If, as the skyscraper curse suggests, the decision to build the biggest towers happens near the peak of the business cycle, then you could use record-breaking projects to predict the future path of GDP. However, the range of months between the announcement of the towers and the business-cycle peak is large, varying from zero to 45 months. And only seven of the 14 opened during a downward phase of the business cycle (see chart). In other words, you cannot accurately forecast a recession or financial panic by looking at either the announcement or the completion of the world’s tallest building.

With such a small sample, it is tricky to draw firm conclusions. But the paper expands the sample to 311 by looking at the tallest building completed each year in four countries (America, Canada, China and Hong Kong). The authors then compare building height to GDP per person. They find that in all countries GDP per person and skyscraper height are “cointegrated”, a fancy way of saying that the two things track each other. In other words, developers tend to be profit-maximisers, responding rationally to rising incomes (and thus increased demand for office space) by making buildings bigger. While ego and hubris afflict the skyscraper market, the authors argue, its foundations appear sound.

What is Obama’s Legacy?

New York Magazine asked 53 historians what Barack Obama’s legacy will be

Almost every respondent wrote that the fact of his being the first black president will loom large in the historical narrative — though they disagreed in interesting ways. Many predict that what will last is the symbolism of a nonwhite First Family; others, the antagonism Obama’s blackness provoked; still others, the way his racial self-consciousness constrained him. A few suggested that we will care a great deal less about his race generations from now — just as John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism hardly matters to current students of history. Across the board, Obamacare was recognized as a historic triumph (though one historian predicted that, with its market exchanges, it may in retrospect be seen as illiberal and mark the beginning of the privatization of public health care). A surprising number of respondents argued that his rescue of the economy will be judged more significant than is presently acknowledged, however lackluster the recovery has felt. There was more attention paid to China than isis (Obama’s foreign policy received the most divergent assessments), and considerable credit was given to the absence of a major war or terrorist attack, along with a more negative assessment of its price — the expansion of the security state, drones and all. 

No one wants the 2022 Winter Games

From Dan Wetzel

The IOC has billions of dollars laying around and billions more coming because to most people the Olympics is just a television show and the ratings are so high that the broadcast rights will never go down. The IOC doesn’t pay the athletes. It doesn’t share revenue with host countries. It doesn’t pay for countries to send their athletes. It doesn’t lay out any construction or capital costs. It doesn’t pay taxes.

It basically holds caviar rich meetings in five star hotels in the Alps before calling it a day. That and conduct weak investigations into corruption charges of the bidding process, of course. “No evidence uncovered” is on a win streak.

It’s a heck of a racket. Only FIFA does it better.

The world has caught on, though, which is why the mere mention of the IOC is toxic to all but the most desperate and totalitarian of governments.
The USOC is a non-governmental body, so unlike just about every other nation, it receives no direct public financing. It would love to host another Olympics, but the bid process is so unpredictable that wasting money and political capital on trying is risky. And then there would certainly be a public cost in the construction and hosting.

You want a good host for the 2022 Winter Olympics? Salt Lake City, which held it in 2002 and has all the venues and infrastructure already in place. There’d be some updating at minimal cost and, bang, a great location.

The IOC is too snooty for that, however. They don’t like returning to the same city so soon so they’d prefer either Aspen, Colo., (complete with bullet train from Denver which has no practical use post Olympics) or Reno/Lake Tahoe. That would require billions building all the same stuff Salt Lake City already has in place.
Anyone want to put that up for a vote?

Then there is all the kissing up and glad-handing and who knows what else? Forget just the alleged direct payouts. How petty and ridiculous are these sporting aristocrats? Their actual listed demands are ridiculous, including their own airport entrance, traffic lane and prioritized stoplights. And just providing a five-star hotel suite isn’t enough.

“IOC members will be received with a smile on arrival at hotel,” the IOC demands.

Instead the world is giving them the middle finger.

So China or Kazakhstan it is, the last two suckers on earth willing to step up to this carnival barker.

One lucky nation will win. The other will host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

What is China Building in the South China Sea?

The BBC takes a look

At the beginning of this year, the Chinese presence in the Spratly Islands consisted of a handful of outposts, a collection of concrete blockhouses perched atop coral atolls.

Now it is building substantial new islands on five different reefs.

We are the first Western journalists to have seen some of this construction with our own eyes and to have documented it on camera.

On one of these new islands, perhaps Johnson South Reef, China seems to be preparing to build an air base with a concrete runway long enough for fighter jets to take off and land.
Plans published on the website of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation are thought to show the proposed design.

China’s island building is aimed at addressing a serious deficit.

Other countries that claim large chunks of the South China Sea – Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia – all control real islands.

But China came very late to this party and missed out on all the good real estate.

Beijing only took control of Johnson South Reef in 1988 after a bloody battle with Vietnam that left 70 Vietnamese sailors dead. Hanoi has never forgiven Beijing.
Since then China has shied away from direct military confrontation.

But now Beijing has decided it is time to move, to assert its claim and to back it up by creating new facts on the ground – a string of island bases and an unsinkable aircraft carrier, right in the middle of the South China Sea.

China will create own Christian belief system amid tensions with church, says official

I know some in the west will lose their mind over this but China is creating a version of Christianity that is compatible with Chinese culture.

China will construct a “Chinese Christian theology” suitable for the country, state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and tensions with the authorities are on the rise.

China has between 23 million and 40 million Protestants, accounting for 1.7 to 2.9 per cent of the total population, the state-run China Daily said, citing figures given at a seminar in Shanghai.

About 500,000 people are baptised as Protestants every year, it added.

“Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country’s religious policy,” the paper quoted Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, as saying.

“The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”

China’s ruling Communist Party is officially atheistic and keeps a tight grip on religion for fear it could challenge its grip on power. It requires believers to worship in places approved by the state and under government supervision.

I am not sure why the Chinese government is going through all of this effort.  A look at church history in the west will show that the church itself will create a Christianity compatible it’s surrounding culture all by itself

Dundurn MEGA Mall

CKOM’s Ashley Wills has this

Construction has not begun on a massive trade and exhibition centre South of Saskatoon.

“I think with a project of this magnitude, there are small delays that are along the way and I think they just want to make sure they got all their bases covered,” said Rural Municipality of Dundurn Reeve Fred Wilson on Monday.

The first phase of the Dundurn International Exhibition Centre is expected to start this spring, but repeated requests for an update from Brightenview Development International Inc. have gone unanswered.

Last fall, crews were doing pre-construction work like filling sloughs and clearing brush on the piece of land that was purchased from the rural municipality.

In November, Lorne Nystrom, public affairs with Brightenview, said the project was advancing as planned.

“Different builders are being interviewed over the fall and early winter, that will all be in place in time for starting construction sometime in the spring,” he said back on Nov. 1, 2013.

The first phase of the project is expected to take 18 to 24 months to build at an estimated cost of $120 million. The building will be 300,000 sq. ft., and hold 350 showrooms for businesses from China.

Help me out here.  Saskatoon has a nice looking airport but it is no where near busy enough to be a hub which means we don’t get a lot of flights from major cities where retailers are headquartered.   This is supposed to be a business to business enterprise centre but why build one in a location that would require a layover in Toronto, Calgary, or Edmonton and then an additional drive.  These places are traditionally built near airport hubs and are normally located in China where retailers and companies can liaison with the factories easily.  In fact infrastructure means so much to these deals that Chinese cities are going deep into debt to facilitate them getting built.  

I know land is cheap around Dundurn but this deal makes no sense. This feels like so many of those Devine era ideas that never happened for one reason or another.  

Why a Pacific War is Possible: Japan and China’s hatred for each other

As Time explains

From the long-distance perspective of an American, Asia looks like one of the world’s most peaceful places. And it is — for the moment. But when Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Tokyo on Monday, he stepped into what has suddenly become a dangerous diplomatic crisis between China and Japan. On the surface, it’s a dull dispute over a string of uninhabited Pacific islands. Underneath, as I realized on a recent visit to China, it’s a story reaching back some 75 years that involves war, brutality, rape and historical reckoning. And now threatens to drag in the U.S.
The immediate cause of the crisis is Beijing’s recent declaration of an air-defense zone over the disputed islands, a string of rocks about 200 miles southeast of China’s coast, not far from Taiwan. No one will ever vacation on the islands, but there’s a good incentive to claim them, given that they sit in an area of the Pacific that may contain enough oil to fuel China for 45 years.

Far more than a story about energy, however, this is a story about national pride and historical grievance. The showdown over the islands — whose very name the two countries disagree about: China calls them the Diaoyu and Japan the Senkaku — touches one of the most sensitive nerves in Chinese culture: the Japanese occupation of China from 1937 to ’45.

“It may be hard for you to understand,” an expert at Beijing’s Academy of Military Science told me in October, echoing several others to whom I spoke. “The nationalist feeling, the emotion toward Japan, is very strong.”

Japan doesn’t seem to like China either

Japan’s recent militarization is driven, in part, because the feeling is mutual: polling shows that the animus in Japan toward China runs about as high as it does on the other side of the East China Sea. The “unfavorable feelings” of each side toward the other runs poisonously above 90%. It’s certainly hard to argue that China has done anything to Japan comparable to the 1937–45 occupation. But one scholar on Sino-Japanese relations argues the animus is about envy and anxiety toward the roaring Chinese dragon.

China’s latest debt filled adventure: Regional Transportation Hubs

50 cities in China are all racing to become regional transportation hubs.

More than 50 mainland cities have answered Beijing’s call for cleaner economic growth with plans for aviation hubs – airports clustered with industrial zones.

They hope the projects will attract investment in the logistics, high-technology and finance sectors, the sort of businesses Beijing is encouraging as it seeks to move the economy away from an over-reliance on smoke-stack industries.

But critics argue the projects will exacerbate the problem of debt-fuelled construction, which local authorities have used for years to boost their economies.

Such “plans often start high key, but end poorly”, government researcher Wang Jun said.

“It is not necessarily a good thing for the whole nation, as so much investment will often lead to overcapacity and increase local government debts,” said Wang, who works at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges. “There are already signs of redundant investment, as some regions in China have too many airports, which are not in full operation.”

Wang Xiaohua, an aviation consultant at Kent Ridge Consulting in Fujian, said developing an aviation hub involved more than simply building an airport.

It first of all required minimum annual passenger flows of 10 million and cargo volume of 200,000 tonnes, she said. Only Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen and Kunming met that criteria last year.

The mainland will need more airports as the economy grows, but profits are elusive. Of the mainland’s 183 airports, 143 lose money, data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China shows. That suggests that more than 60 of the 80 new airports envisioned in the latest five-year plan to 2015 will end up in the red.

More then one economist has said that the country whose debt we all should be working about is China and articles like this do little to convince people otherwise.

How Canada neighbor became a rogue, reckless petrostate.

From Foreign Policy of all places 

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For decades, the world has thought of Canada as America’s friendly northern neighbor — a responsible, earnest, if somewhat boring, land of hockey fans and single-payer health care. On the big issues, it has long played the global Boy Scout, reliably providing moral leadership on everything from ozone protection to land-mine eradication to gay rights. The late novelist Douglas Adams once quipped that if the United States often behaved like a belligerent teenage boy, Canada was an intelligent woman in her mid-30s. Basically, Canada has been the United States — not as it is, but as it should be.

But a dark secret lurks in the northern forests. Over the last decade, Canada has not so quietly become an international mining center and a rogue petrostate. It’s no longer America’s better half, but a dystopian vision of the continent’s energy-soaked future.

That’s right: The good neighbor has banked its economy on the cursed elixir of political dysfunction — oil. Flush with visions of becoming a global energy superpower, Canada’s government has taken up with pipeline evangelists, petroleum bullies, and climate change skeptics. Turns out the Boy Scout’s not just hooked on junk crude — he’s become a pusher. And that’s not even the worst of it.

With oil and gas now accounting for approximately a quarter of its export revenue, Canada has lost its famous politeness. Since the Conservative Party won a majority in Parliament in 2011, the federal government has eviscerated conservationists, indigenous nations, European commissioners, and just about anyone opposing unfettered oil production as unpatriotic radicals. It has muzzled climate change scientists, killed funding for environmental science of every stripe, and in a recent pair of unprecedented omnibus bills, systematically dismantled the country’s most significant long-cherished environmental laws.

The author of this transformation is Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a right-wing policy wonk and evangelical Christian with a power base in Alberta, ground zero of Canada’s oil boom. Just as Margaret Thatcher funded her political makeover of Britain on revenue from North Sea oil, Harper intends to methodically rewire the entire Canadian experience with petrodollars sucked from the ground. In the process he has concentrated power in the prime minister’s office and reoriented Canada’s foreign priorities. Harper, who took office in 2006, increased defense spending by nearly $1 billion annually in his first four years, and he has committed $2 billion to prison expansion with a “tough on crime” policy that ignores the country’s falling crime rate. Meanwhile, Canada has amassed a huge federal debt — its highest in history at some $600 billion and counting.

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Liberal critics like to say that Harper’s political revolution caught many Canadians, generally a fat and apathetic people, by surprise — a combination of self-delusion and strategic deception. That may be true, but though Canadians live in high latitudes, they’re not above baser human instincts — like greed. Harper is aggressively pushing an economic gamble on oil, the world’s most volatile resource, and promising a new national wealth based on untapped riches far from where most Canadians live that will fill their pocketbooks, and those of their children, for generations. With nearly three-quarters of Canadians supporting oil sands development in a recent poll, Harper seems to be selling them on the idea.

It gets better

THE SINGLE-MINDED PURSUIT of this petroproject has stunned global analysts. The Economist, no left-wing shill, characterized Harper, the son of an Imperial Oil senior accountant, as a bully “intolerant of criticism and dissent” with a determined habit of rule-breaking. Lawrence Martin, one of Canada’s most influential political commentators, says that Harper’s “billy-club governance” has broken “new ground in the subverting of the democratic process.” Conservative pollster Allan Gregg has described Harper’s agenda as an ideological assault on evidence, facts, and reason.

To be fair, Harper’s government does have a plan for climate change — pumping the problem to the United States and/or China. Oil sands crude transported to the United States by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, for example, could over a 50-year period increase carbon emissions by as much as 935 million metric tons relative to other crudes. And the planned $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean would result in up to 100 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, from extraction and production in Canada to combustion in China — more than British Columbia’s total emissions in 2009. The 2012 National Inventory Report by Environment Canada, the country’s environmental department, actually boasts that Canada has partly reduced overall emission intensity in the oil sands “by exporting more crude bitumen.”

All this underscores Canada’s new reality: Just about any kind of rational evidence has now come under assault by a government that believes that markets — and only markets — hold the answers. Any act that industry regards as an obstacle to rapid mineral extraction or pipeline building has been rewritten with a Saudi-like flourish. One massive omnibus budget bill alone changed 70 pieces of legislation, gutting, for example, the Fisheries Act, which directly prohibited the destruction of aquatic-life habitats but stood in the way of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which must cross 1,000 waterways en route to the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, funding for Canada’s iconic park system has been cut by 20 percent in what critics have called a “lobotomy.” The CBC, the respected state broadcaster long scorned by Harper as an independent check on power, has suffered a series of cutbacks. The Health Council of Canada, which once ensured national health standards and innovation across Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, also got the ax. Furthermore, with the élan of a Middle Eastern petroprince, Harper appointed the head of his security detail to be ambassador to Jordan. And he did it all with nary a peep from your average Canadian.

More than a decade ago, American political scientist Terry Lynn Karl crudely summed up the dysfunction of petrostates: Countries that become too dependent on oil and gas riches behave like plantation economies that rely on “an unsustainable development trajectory fueled by an exhaustible resource” whose revenue streams form “an implacable barrier to change.” And that’s what happened to Canada while you weren’t looking. Shackled to the hubris of a leader who dreams of building a new global energy superpower, the Boy Scout is now slave to his own greed.

I would argue some of these points.  Canadian’s have risen up through Idle No More and we have protested much of what is going on.  The issue seems to be that neither oppositon party seems to be able to get any traction on these issues and articulate them in a way where it hurts the Conservatives until recently.

Going underground (and belly up)

From the Economist

NOT many global cities of nearly 9m people lack an underground line, but until the end of last year the eastern city of Hangzhou was one of them. Now city slickers and rural migrants squeeze together inside shiny new carriages, checking their smartphones and reading free newspapers like commuters the world over. There is standing-room only in the rush hour and, with tickets at less than a dollar, the metro is revolutionising the way people travel across town.

Two other Chinese cities—Suzhou and Kunming—have also opened their first underground lines in the past year, and the north-eastern city of Harbin is preparing to open one too. Four more cities have just added a new line to their existing systems. At least seven others have begun building their first lines.

If all the metros approved by central officials are built, 38 cities will have at least one line by the end of the decade, with more than 6,200km (3,850 miles) of track (London has nearly 400km.) As with many infrastructure projects in China, including the high-speed rail network above ground, questions abound about the wisdom and potential wastefulness of such ambitions. Many of the underground systems are needed, but some are being built in cities that are too small to justify the exorbitant expense. By some estimates the total bill could approach $1 trillion, not including the cost of operation.

Zhao Jian of Beijing Jiaotong University reckons that metros in fewer than 20 of the 38 designated cities make sense. He says that perhaps ten of those could be replaced with cheaper light rail, which runs above ground. The minimum core urban population that can qualify a city for an underground system is 3m people, but even a place that big may find the operating costs crippling. Mr Zhao says the systems in Harbin and Kunming are unnecessary.

Shi Nan of the Academy of Urban Planning and Design in Beijing says it is obvious that “we cannot count on private cars” to get around the big cities. But the metro projects mostly rely on government subsidies, and operating them will be a “bottomless pit”, says Mr Zhao. He says city officials tend to pursue grand projects that may not even make money because they will not be around to bear the burden. The performance of local officials is evaluated on how much they increase local GDP, not on whether projects they build are needed. Today’s leaders get credit for spending money. Tomorrow’s must foot the bill.

Even megacities long overdue for more underground tracks—like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou—are building and operating them at a cost that worries planners. Operating the metro lines of Beijing, now up to 442km of track, has cost about $1.6 billion over the past two years, but passengers pay just 30 cents a ride. The metro has helped to alleviate traffic and pollution, yet Beijing remains one of the world’s most jammed and polluted cities; it needs more investment in public transport of all sorts.

I have read a bunch of stuff lately on the debt that China is incurring at all levels of government.  Some have said it could be the next economy to go bad.  After reading more and more about infrastructure projects like this, I am starting to agree.

Japan’s PM kind of denies invading China and Korea

I don’t know how you hold this view and be considered credible anywhere.

“The definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established in academia or in the international community,” Mr. Abe said on Tuesday, according to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “Things that happened between nations will look differently depending on which side you view them from.”

In some translations, the hawkish Mr. Abe was quoted wondering about “what constitutes invasion.” Japanese language experts said “invasion” and “aggression” were both valid translations of what Mr. Abe said.

Mr. Abe, whose right-wing Liberal Democratic Party won a landslide election in December, also questioned his country’s pacifist post-war constitution, saying it had been drafted by “occupying forces.” Japan was under U.S. administration in 1947 when two American military officers drafted the constitution, which prohibits acts of war and limits the scope of the Japanese military.

“It’s like saying Hitler’s invasion of Poland wasn’t really an invasion. If a German chancellor had said the same thing, he or she would have had to resign,” South Korean political scientist Ko Sang-tu told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

An estimated 20 million people were killed in China between the outbreak of war in 1937 and Japan’s surrender to Allied forces in 1945. In Korea, which was first annexed by Japan in 1910, hundreds of thousands of men were used by Japanese troops as slave labourers during the Second World War, while hundreds of thousands of women were forced to become “comfort women” for the Japanese army.

Mr. Abe made his remarks in response to a question in parliament about his government’s position toward a 1995 apology issued by Japan’s then-prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama, for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” in Korea.

Mr. Abe isn’t alone in his revisionism. He spoke the same day that a record 168 Japanese lawmakers visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine – where 14 Class A war criminals are among the honoured soldiers – drawing howls of protest from Beijing and Seoul, where visits to Yasukuni are seen as symbolic of Japan’s refusal to atone for its crimes against its neighbours. Former prime minister Taro Aso, now Mr. Abe’s Deputy Prime Minister, visited, while Mr. Abe – who visited last year while opposition leader – sent a ritual offering.

Don’t hit the kill switch

Turning off the entire internet is a nuclear option best not exercised

The Great Firewall could easily block the foreign internet for most users in China; an unexplained glitch actually made this happen by accident one day last year for a couple of hours. Some large enterprises, banks and foreign companies have leased their own lines out of China, which might need to be shut down separately. As for the domestic internet, which would be of most concern to the party, shutting down the country’s home-based internet service providers, and with them access to microblogs, video sites, bulletin boards and the rest, should be within its capabilities.

But would the party dare? In the Arab spring flipping the kill switch was no help to the dictators of Egypt, Libya and Syria. For China, even if its big cities were torn by riots, turning off the internet would seem to run counter to its operating logic: adjust the machinery, intensify filtering, round up far more than the usual suspects, but do not give the people added reason to go out into the streets. The kill switch may be necessary as a last resort, but using it would be an admission of system failure.