Changing China

Giant on the move

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from Summit Notebook:

Apple’s iPhone takes slow boat to China

In China, Apple's iPhone commands a strange presence. Perenially "coming out", already widely available on the black market, viewed with trepidation by local telecom players but with undisguised lust by affluent consumers.

Sanford C. Bernstein Toni Sacconaghi thinks the wildly popular device will arrive in the Middle Kingdom before the end of the year, after a long haul of negotiations with state-run telecom carriers keen to control the content to be sold over the gadget.

Some sticking points thus far: Sacconaghi says Chinese typically spend $10-$15 per month on data services -- everything from stock quotes to weather forecasts -- wheareas your typical iPhone user in the developed world now spends $70. That limits the Chinese carriers' ability to subsidize the iPhone. But the analyst thinks that in one to two months Apple may unveil a cheaper version of the device that can lower the cost of the phone to lower-paying Chinese customers.

"You're struggling with how to monetize the iPhone", he told the Reuters Global Technology Summit. "It could be used to let carriers pay less."

Cooling period for Taiwan, China

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Chronically isolated Taiwan found a powerful new friend over the past year – its once bitter adversary China. But as Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, a leading figure behind that friendship, reaches his first anniversary in office on May 20, the two sides have shown they’re ready to back away from each other again.

Ma’s first year saw what few could have imagined even two years ago, never mind 60, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan from China after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists. China still claims sovereignty over democratic, self-ruled Taiwan and has threatened to take it by force if necessary. It has said the two sides must ultimately be united.

China is powerful. Now what?

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What exactly is China’s grand strategy? Diplomats, academics and, yes, journalists have spent countless hours, pulled out innumerable hairs and spilled endless ink trying to figure out where the fast-rising power is headed and what it will want when it gets there.

But China itself sometimes seems much less sure of its political and economic goals than outside experts believe. Great power can breed great uncertainty about what to do. A vivid illustration of that came in a speech on Friday by Zhou Xiaochuan, China’s central bank governor.

“You flu bigot!”

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    Flu bigotry is not a term one usually encounters, but that was the charge hurled at China this week when it quarantined 43 Mexicans, despite none showing symptoms of the H1N1 virus. It was not just an anti-Mexican bias, because China followed up by quarantining 22 Canadian students who were likewise free of symptoms. Many of the Mexicans had at least been on a plane with a person found to have H1N1; there was no apparent direct risk for the Canadians, other than their being from a vast country with only one serious flu case.

But before accusing China of over-reaction, let alone discrimination, it is worth stepping back to consider the quarantines from Beijing’s perspective. Just last week, the World Health Organisation said that a pandemic was imminent.  Some have criticised the WHO for panicking, but governments do not have the luxury to second-guess such an authority when it rings the alarm bell.This is all the more true for China. Beijing’s laggardly response to SARS in 2003 let the disease spread to the point that authorities had to effectively shut the country down. Excessive caution this time around has been far preferable. The Chinese medical system is still rickety, rural areas lack basic hygiene and buses and trains are overcrowded – together combining to make China fertile ground for disease.A week-long quarantine is undoubtedly a deprivation of liberty. Yet if that is what it takes to prevent a global pandemic, surely the precaution is proportionate to the threat. Photo: A passenger walks past a temperature detection point for the control of H1N1 flu on arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee

‘Swine’ flu in world pig center

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By Niu Shuping and Ken Wills

Nevermind that the H1N1 “swine” flu, which has killed more than 150 people in Mexico, is not directly caused by pigs and has so far not led to any outbreaks among pigs.

Nevermind that the World Health Organization has ruled out any risk of infection to humans from eating pork.

Can China save the world?

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China has long said that its biggest contribution to a world racked by financial turmoil would be to ensure that its own economy grows strongly, implying that a rising Chinese tide will lift all boats. The latest data show that Beijing has delivered on one part of the bargain; its economy, the toast of the world over the past five years, is once again ahead, far ahead, of the pack. 

 

Many investors and companies are confident that the second part of the bargain will follow – that China’s recovery will be just the cure for markets still woozy from the financial battering. Such faith is not yet justified.

Nihao Presidente

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The normally dull routine of presidential arrivals at Beijing’s airport turned into a mini-scuffle when Hugo Chavez arrived in Beijing for a “working visit” that he sprung on the Chinese about a month ago. The Chinese Foreign Ministry wasn’t eager for Chavez to mar the ceremony with a long-winded speech to the press, even though the Venezuelan embassy had invited journalists to the airport.
 
As we gathered on bleachers set up about 30 yards from the waiting staircases, the television crews decided to call Chavez over for an inpromptu question-and-answer session. Immediately, the staircases were wheeled away to another spot, more than double the distance from the journalists and certainly well out of earshot.

As the plane slowly approached, the large Chinese and Venezuelan welcoming delegation began walking towards the red carpet, far, far away from us. But then a Venezuelan doubled back and gestered to the press. A break! Journalists sprinted towards the plane, dodging the airport security guards.
 
A furious argument ensued, as security guards tried to shove reporters back while maintaining some decorum with the embassy representatives. Chavez descended the stairs, grinning amidst the chaos. At the end of the carpet, he turned and began to talk to reporters, while the Chinese guards tried to edge him towards the cars. A few minutes of talking, with no end in sight, made them more impatient. Amid a new round of pushing, Chavez himself got bumped.

from Left field:

World Games bring spotlight to southern Taiwan

2008 was undoubtedly China's year in the limelight, thanks to the Beijing Olympics. But this year, China's longtime political and diplomatic rival Taiwan gets the World Games

And it's not Taiwan's frenetic, fashionable capital Taipei which will be hosting the event. Instead, the island's second largest city and one of the world's busiest ports, Kaohsiung, will be home to the 16-26 July extravaganza.

from Africa News blog:

Did Dalai Lama ban make sense?

Organisers have postponed a conference of Nobel peace laureates in South Africa after the government denied a visa to Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989 - five years after South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu won his and four years before Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk won theirs for their roles in ending the racist apartheid regime.

Although local media said the visa ban followed pressure from China, an increasingly important investor and trade partner, the government said it had not been influenced by Beijing and that the Dalai Lama's presence was just not in South Africa's best interest at the moment.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

In Afghanistan, China extends its reach

Afghanistan sits on one of the largest mineral deposits in the region, the country's mines minister told Reuters in an interview this month.

And the Chinese are already there, braving the Taliban upsurge and a slowing economy at home to invest in the vast Aynak copper field south of Kabul, reputed to hold one of the largest deposits of the metal in the world.

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