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Why Congo prefers Chinese investment over Western aid | 

The Chinese are gaining ground in Africa while Western powers, and corporations, struggle to catch up. Last week, China’s official news service reported on the success of a joint effort of the Chinese and Congolese governments: A new $8.7 million, 40-mile long electricity line linking two towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The line will also supply power to a new hydroelectric dam. But an even larger dam – the largest in the world, in fact – to be built by Chinese contractors could also be in the works. And the United States is considering whether to contribute its own humanitarian funds to the project.

Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
Workers in a mine near Goma, eastern DR Congo. 2012
AP

In today’s podcast, Nairobi-based reporter Jacob Kushner puts that news in context and explains why America should be open to collaborating with Chinese investments in the Congo. After reporting on Western mining operations in Haiti, Kushner visited similar Chinese mining operations in the Congo, but noticed that many Congolese respect and appreciate the presence of Chinese companies even as they extract the country’s resources without any “do-gooder” pretensions.

He published an e-book last fall called “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Kushner joins us to explain what China’s influence in the Congo looks like on the ground, why many Congolese respect Chinese profit motives over Western humanitarian ones, and how China’s massive investments in Central Africa might hold up over the long term.

And I ask him an obvious but little-asked question: what should Western humanitarians learn from Chinese contractors? The answer might surprise you.

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US financial policy to cause short term problems for emerging economies | 

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The recovery of the United States is not great news for emerging economies. The tide of investments that increased over the past few years is heading back out.

The news is great for people living in the US and the Euro zone. A much discussed recovery is actually happening. As a result, governments are making changes to financial polices that were meant to help deal with slow economic growth. Some of the policies, such as quantitative easing, were a boon for emerging economies.

Public discussions about the end of quantitative easing were enough to alter billions of dollars worth of investment portfolios. An estimated $64 billion in mutual fund investments was taken out of emerging markets between June and August last year. Much of the rise and fall of the investments can be tied to the policy of quantitative easing carried out by the US Federal Reserve (Fed).

“Five years of unconventional monetary policies in developed countries to address the impact of the global financial crisis led to increased capital flows to developing countries as investors searched for yields as developed countries’ interest rates were kept at historic lows,” explains a new report by the Overseas Development Institute.

“The potential for the unwinding of these unconventional policies caused global instability from May 2013, especially in emerging economies such as India (initially), Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil.”
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Visualizing tobacco’s impact on children in China | 

Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

January 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the US Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, hailed as the first report to establish a definitive link between smoking and cancer and heart disease. Many academic journals, advocacy groups, and government officials around the United States are seizing the opportunity of the anniversary to assess progress made in curbing tobacco use globally and determine how much more work must be done.

This week, researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published a study tracking smokers and cigarettes consumed from 1980 to 2012. They also launched an interactive data visualization tool, shown below, and a 5-minute video tutorial that allows you to explore the study’s findings at the global, regional, and country level.

China Tobacco

This week, we’ll focus on a major political and economic powerhouse who is also a key driver of global smoking rates – China. In 2012, the Chinese accounted for 29% of the world’s smokers. Watch the short video below to see how China stacks up in comparison to other countries in the world.

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BRICS rapid growth slowing down, may have been unique | 

The main feature of the new issue of The Economist is on the emerging economies. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up the group better known as the BRICS. In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis the economies of the BRICS managed to roar onward and upward. Analysts thought this was a crucial moment for the countries and a sign that the Western standard bearers had some company that would change the global economic landscape.

Five years later the BRICS are not looking so great. All are growing, but things are leveling off for most. Economics correspondent Ryan Avent says (see video) that the booming growth may have been a unique set of circumstances as opposed to a new trend. He says that China took advantage of existing global trade to achieve massive growth. That was held back by high poverty levels and poor policies. Changes helped propel China forward in a way that benefited many other countries around the world.

Now that China has caught up so much to the world’s leading economies there is less room to continue growth at a rapid pace. That has impacts on fellow BRICS and other emerging economies. Most of all, what China did is not necessarily something that other nations can replicate. So that leaves us with wondering what will come next.

Splash founder explains why he wants to kill off his charity | 

Eric Stowe wants to kill off his charity. The founder of Splash, a Seattle-based organization that brings clean water to communities, defines the success of his work as reaching a point where everyone has access to clean water.

His TEDxSeattle talk this June explains how Splash is working to spread clean water in countries like Nepal, China and India.

Stowe says that Splash will soon provide clean water in every orphanage in China. The organization’s community based approach means that they will collaborate with local schools and community leaders to ensure that clean water coverage extends to every person. A map illustrates the way he hopes clean water spreads across China in a way that looks almost like the outbreak of an infectious disease.

Quoting Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Stowe says that aid work is rooted in justice. That means working with communities to find solutions that not only work, but can bring an end to Splash.

“Cause keeping myself in a job and keeping whole communities dependent on us for their own solutions are dying models of self importance. They are at their core unjust. Because our work is not about us,” he says in his concluding remarks.

Is the US now a legitimate player in Africa? | 

President Obama wrapped up his tour of sub-Saharan Africa. His $7 billion initiative to increase electricity access in the region called Power Africa was the biggest news from the visit. Some saw the move as a rebuff to China who has been spending more and more money on building roads, bridges and ports in sub-Saharan Africa.

Harvard professor Calestous Juma disagrees. The Kenyan agriculture academic says the trip is about asserting the US as a legitimate player in the region.

African leaders have set their own development priorities, and Obama’s messages were aligned with their aspirations. The challenge is to bring all of Africa in the spirit of the African Union around the table with President Obama to chart an equally practical way forward.

Africa’s global interests are shifting from relief programs and relations on raw material exports to domestic capability, development and trade. U.S. government programs such as the Feed the Future which emphasize the need for Africa to feed itself offer new cooperation models.

In this spirit, perhaps aid programs such as PEPFAR (the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) should include joint venture initiatives that involve the shift of pharmaceutical production to Africa. The continent’s next frontier of engagement with the rest of the world will increasingly involve such joint ventures.

 

Emerging markets turn into a pumpkin for investors | 

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WSJ

When the global economy took a massive hit in late 2008 it was the emerging markets, countries like India, China and Brazil, that picked up the slack for the older Western powers. These countries managed to maintain strong growth and attack plenty of attention from investment and development experts.

Nearly five years later the same countries are showing continued growth while the United States, UK, France and more trudge along. One would suspect that investors would look to the strong growth of emerging markets for financial gains.

Turns out the opposite is happening. As the US begins to get back in order money is rushing out of emerging markets, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“It feels like the party is ending,” said Howard Wong, managing director at Doric Capital Corp. in Hong Kong.

Facing the loss of foreign capital, central banks in these emerging markets have attempted to prop up their home currencies. Continue reading

China’s Great Leap towards Rapid Urbanization | 

Here’s the plan. China wants to move 250,000,000 people out of its rural areas and into cities within the next 15 years.

There are 316 million people in the United States. China’s plan is to move nearly as many people as the world’s third most populous country.

To do so, China is undertaking a massive construction effort to expand, improve and build new urban centers. Reporting from the New York Times reveals that the effort to transform the country has the potential to rapidly propel China or saddle it with long term and harmful problems.

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