Friday, November 9, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chinese protest petrochemical plant

Photo by AP

Residents in eastern Chinese city clash with police in protest over chemical factory expansion

BEIJING — Thousands of people in an eastern Chinese city clashed with police during a protest over the proposed expansion of a petrochemical factory that they fear would spew pollution and damage public health, townspeople said Saturday.
It was the latest in a string of protests in China this year over fears of health risks from industrial projects, as members of the rising middle class become more outspoken against environmentally risky projects in their areas.
Past protests have targeted a coal-fired power plant in southern China, a waste-water pipeline in eastern China, and a copper plant in west-central China.
The Zhenhai district government in Zhejiang province’s Ningbo city said in a statement Saturday that “a few” people disrupted public order by staging sit-ins, unfurling banners, distributing fliers and obstructing roads. It said the proposed project is under evaluation and the public has opportunities to offer its input.

Video: Chinese rally against petrochemical plant

Also in the news: Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Between a rock and a fallen star

China, between a rocket and a hard place on North Korea
"China does not want to see this because Beijing and Shanghai are within range" of North Korean ballistic missiles, he said, referring to China's political and financial capitals and providing further evidence that Beijing does not have fully warm and friendly ties with its unpredictable neighbor.

China braces for next act in leadership drama

Revelations about the former Chongqing party chief issued by the government on Tuesday, and above all that his wife Gu Kailai is suspected of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, have upset China's carefully staged power succession,
 Chinese politician Bo Xilai's wife suspected of murdering Neil Heywood
 The scandal erupted after Britain announced it had asked for the circumstances of Heywood's death to be reinvestigated. The 41-year-old businessman died last November in the south-western city of Chongqing, where Bo was party secretary until his dismissal last month. Heywood's family have dismissed suggestions of foul play and said they believe he died of a heart attack.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Electric Cars

Forbes Conrad for The New York Times

 GUANGZHOU, China — Three years ago, as part of its green-energy policy, the Chinese government set an ambitious goal: by the end of 2011, the nation would be able to produce at least 500,000 hybrid or all-electric cars and buses a year.

With only about a week to go, it is clear China will fall far short of that target. Despite dozens of electric-vehicle demonstration projects around the country, analysts put China’s actual annual production capacity at only several thousand hybrid and all-electric cars and buses.

“It’s pretty trivial at this stage — they hardly sell any,” said Lin Huaibin, the manager of China vehicle sales forecasts at IHS Automotive, a global consulting firm.

Obstacles include continued technological hurdles, disputes over technology transfers by multinational automakers, and a broad wariness by the Chinese public regarding alternative-technology cars.

Unlike in other nations, where automakers are leading the push for electric vehicles, in China the effort is being led largely by one of the country’s most powerful industries — the state-run electric companies that operate the national power grid.

This month in this sprawling southern industrial city, for example, the giant China Southern Power Grid company opened a sales and service center for electric cars.

The new three-story building, resembling a giant lizard egg of lime-green glass, is a showcase for technology supplied by Better Place, a start-up based in Palo Alto, Calif. Under the Better Place business model, customers do not recharge their electric cars but instead periodically stop at an electric filling station to swap their nearly depleted batteries for freshly charged ones.

Though automakers in other countries have supplied charging equipment to be installed at homes and parking lots, China’s power industry has already made it clear that it wants to dictate when and how plug-in gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric cars are charged, by owning the charging equipment and setting technical standards.

Some of the obstacles that have slowed deployment of all-electric cars in China also exist in other markets. The cars’ range, less than 200 miles even under ideal conditions, falls steeply in cold weather, if the air-conditioner is turned on or if the car was not fully charged overnight.

“I’m not interested in them — I worry I’d run out of electricity and get stuck,” said Mu Zhongbao, a 31-year-old businessman who paid the equivalent of $130,000 for an Audi Q7 minivan on a recent afternoon here at one of the many dealerships near the Better Place site.
Some executives say that China has fallen behind its schedule for hybrid and all-electric cars because it has put heavy pressure on multinationals to transfer technology to their Chinese partners to be eligible for generous subsidies for the sale of alternative-energy vehicles in China.

But the betting in China is that China Southern Grid and another big grid operator, the State Grid Corporation, and their allies among the country’s five main electricity generation companies have much more influence in Beijing than the auto industry.

But what is not clear is which of three experimental approaches to recharging will eventually dominate the field: the so-called fast charging of vehicle batteries at recharging centers; overnight charging options at homes and parking lots; or battery swapping à la Better Place.
The government wants to build an electric car industry that can export vehicles all over the world. But it does not want to someday face W.T.O. trade complaints from other countries that might accuse China of violating free-trade export rules by subsidizing the industry’s development.
The most promising trade strategy for China to avoid legal pitfalls might be for the government first to subsidize the development of a network of charging stations for electric buses and other municipal vehicles, the Chinese official said. Mass transit subsidies are hard to challenge at the W.T.O. because they involve an almost purely domestic government service.
The bus recharging stations, and the lessons learned in building them, might then be used in a more extensive network of electric car recharging stations. Subsidizing the charging stations could help make electric cars more affordable, and in turn help Chinese automakers achieve economies of scale in their home market that would help them build up an export business.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Forever Young

The studio version. Times they are changing.

Dylan gigs are famously variable: songs are often transformed beyond recognition. Tonight, however, he was singing to the culture ministry's tune: the concert was performed "strictly according to an approved programme", a sign of official nervousness that has persisted since Björk's 2008 Shanghai concert, when she chanted "Tibet! Tibet!" while singing her song Declare Independence.

Why the change of heart? One former culture ministry official, Shi Baojun, told the Guardian it may be something as simple as fresh thinking at the Chinese embassy in Washington, where officials pore over the record of any artist hoping to play in China, examining their biography, opinions and – above all – previous comments on China. "As personnel change all the time, changes in decisions often only reflect who is in charge. Some are bold, some are cautious," Shi said.

That doesn't entirely explain why now, though: "You have to understand, the government's always balancing the need to look liberal with the need to keep control," said Shi. "They have so many audiences, and there's often no point in looking for logic because there isn't much, or any."