«Se i socialisti capissero d’economia, non sarebbero socialisti» von Mises
«Twenty-seven of the 28 national EU ambassadors to Beijing have compiled a report that sharply criticizes China’s “Silk Road” project, denouncing it as designed to hamper free trade and put Chinese companies at an advantage.»
«The report, seen by Handelsblatt, said the plan, unveiled in 2013, “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.”»
«The unusually biting contents, which only Hungary’s ambassador refused to sign, are part of the EU’s preparations for an EU-China summit in July.»
«The new Silk Road will run through some 65 countries in six economic corridors»
«Chinese politicians have been banging the drum for the vast project, officially called “One Belt, One Road”. They’re mobilizing around $1 trillion in what would be the biggest international development program since the US launched the Marshall Plan after World War Two.»
«China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ will be the new World Trade Organization – whether we like it or not»
«We shouldn’t refuse to cooperate but we should politely yet firmly state our terms»
* * * * * * * *
«They warned that European companies could fail to clinch good contracts if China isn’t pushed into adhering to the European principles of transparency in public procurement, as well as environmental and social standards.»
Ventisette dei 28 ambasciatori nazionali dell’UE a Pechino hanno compilato un rapporto che critica aspramente il progetto cinese della “Via della Seta“, denunciandolo come destinato a ostacolare il libero scambio e a mettere le imprese cinesi in una posizione di vantaggio.
Il rapporto dice che Silk & Road va contro l’agenda dell’UE per la liberalizzazione del commercio e spinge l’equilibrio di potere a favore delle società cinesi sovvenzionate
I cinesi stanno investendo in questo progetto circa un trilione di dollari.
Lo hanno fatto senza chiedere il parere dell’Unione Europea, stanno usando denaro proprio, e continueranno iperterriti tenendo l’Unione Europea in non cale.
Chi si fosse illuso che i cinesi investissero mille miliardi di dollari in un progetto per compiacere l’Unione Europea ed i suoi “principi” dovrebbe essere immediatamente ricoverato alla neurodeliri.
Chi poi avesse avuto la allucinazione che i cinesi si sentissero in obbligo di condividere quelli che l’Unione Europea denomina “propri valori” dovrebbe essere avviato alla eutanasia: troppo pericoloso a sé ed agli altri.
Il problema è semplice, semplicissimo.
I cinesi stanno proseguendo il loro programma ignorando persino la esistenza dell’Unione Europea.
«whether we like it or not»
«German government papers seen by Handelsblatt indicate that China isn’t interested in transparency when it comes to procurement. Last May, when former Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries traveled to Beijing for the grand launch of the Silk Road initiative, she and other EU officials were meant to sign a joint declaration with the Chinese government. It didn’t happen. …. The Chinese refused to incorporate any amendments»
L’Ungheria di Mr Orban si è rifiutata di firmare questo documento demenziale.
Speriamo che in un futuro non molto lontano i cinesi ammettano gli europei alla raccolta stagionale dei loro pomodori. Questa volta si prova vergogna ad essere europei.
European firms could miss out on China’s $900 billion infrastructure initiative, warns a leaked report by EU diplomats. It said the New Silk Road trade corridor has the potential to disadvantage and even divide the bloc.
In a report leaked to German business daily Handelsblatt, the diplomats cautioned that the $900 billion (€727 billion) mega infrastructure project “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade, and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.”
Handelsblatt on Monday said the report contained “unusually biting content,” as diplomats detailed their frustration at the lack of opportunities for European firms from the New Silk Road initiative, named after China’s ancient trade route.
Report excludes Hungary
The paper was signed by the Beijing ambassadors of 27 of the 28 EU member states — with Hungary being the only exception.
New Silk Road — which is also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — will enable China to oversee the construction of new roads, ports and pipelines that will run through 65 countries. The initiative is widely seen as helping to cement Beijing’s position as a new global superpower.
China has promised the project will benefit all countries along its route, thanks to the greater connectivity it will allow. But its main trading partners are growing increasingly suspicious over Beijing’s strategic objectives, amid concerns that Chinese state-owned firms are set to reap most of the benefits.
“(At present) European companies have to compete against their Chinese counterparts, who enjoy almost unlimited credit from Chinese state banks,” Thomas Eder, a research associate at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, told DW.
He said, even before plans for the New Silk Road have been finalized, the EU has already witnessed a decline in its share of trade with several developing countries because of large-scale Chinese investment in Asia and Africa.
Backing up the leaked report’s findings, Eder predicted that unless there is a major push for China to boost transparency in the procurement process, European access to the BRI would be “only marginal.”
He said Beijing has never hidden its ambition for the New Silk Road initiative to expand the presence and profits of Chinese firms abroad, who are encouraged to buy Chinese components and raw materials where possible.
Reaffirming the EU’s frustration, the leaked ambassadors’ report urged EU states to remain united as they pressure Beijing to open up the bidding for key infrastructure projects.
“We shouldn’t refuse to cooperate but we should politely yet firmly state our terms,” Handelsblatt cited one high-ranking EU diplomat as saying.
Damien Tobin, a lecturer in Chinese Business and Manager at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) believes the EU — which sits at the opposite end of the three trade corridors that make up the New Silk Road — will still benefit hugely from its completion.
He said many of the bloc’s biggest companies are also well represented in countries along the trade route, and that Beijing has always been “clear on the areas where it sees benefits from the participation of foreign firms.”
“Chinese companies have developed capabilities in areas such as infrastructure construction, but EU companies retain significant advantages in downstream technologies and financing,” Tobin told DW.
Reacting to the leaked report, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement it was vital that trade and investment flow equally in both directions, and again called on Beijing to unlock its markets to foreign players.
“The success of the Belt and Road Initiative will largely be predicated on open markets, balanced trade, transparency and reciprocity,” it wrote in an email to DW.
“The European Chamber expects to see transparent public procurement processes put in place that will allow European and Chinese companies, and especially private companies, to compete on an even playing field with projects going to the strongest bidders.”
“Not doing so would likely result in funds being wasted and projects fail,” the statement said.
European unity at risk
Another concern raised in the ambassadors’ report was the potential of the New Silk Road initiative to sow division among the EU’s 28 member states, many of whom are desperate to attract new Chinese investment to upgrade their crumbling infrastructure.
“China has already succeeded on several occasions in undermining EU cohesion,” warned the Mercator Institute’s Eder.
He said Hungary’s refusal to sign the report was indicative of the benefits it is likely to receive from China’s investment in Eastern Europe, which will see railways, motorways and power plants upgraded.
He also cited Hungary and Greece’s refusal to sign EU statements critical of China’s human rights record, and following the tribunal ruling on the South China Sea dispute.
China is already facing criticism for saddling partner countries in the New Silk Road project with too much debt. Sri Lanka, for example, was forced to offer a 99-year lease on the strategically located and bustling Hambantota Port to pay down debt.
But SOAS’ Tobin believes it is not in China’s long-term interests or those of its large state-owned enterprises to see the EU’s fragile consensus torn apart.
“It is not clear that such (Chinese) investments would benefit from the uncertainty brought about by different rules on investment across different (EU) member states,” he said.
Instead of taking aim solely on Beijing, member states would profit from a more unified position on Chinese inward investment, Tobin suggested.
“(It) would prevent large quantities of perhaps inefficient and speculative investments concentrating in particular regions.”
The EU’s External Action Service, which is in charge of foreign affairs for the bloc, refused to comment on the leaked report.
But in an email to DW, it reiterated the European Council’s support for the infrastructure initiative “on the basis of China fulfilling its declared aim of making it an open platform which adheres to market rules, EU and international requirements and standards, and complements EU policies and projects, in order to deliver benefits for all parties concerned and in all the countries along the planned routes.”
EU ambassadors to Beijing warn that China’s Silk Road project flouts international transparency norms and is aimed at furthering Chinese interests. The paper reflects Beijing’s strategy to divide the bloc.
Twenty-seven of the 28 national EU ambassadors to Beijing have compiled a report that sharply criticizes China’s “Silk Road” project, denouncing it as designed to hamper free trade and put Chinese companies at an advantage.
The report, seen by Handelsblatt, said the plan, unveiled in 2013, “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.”
The unusually biting contents, which only Hungary’s ambassador refused to sign, are part of the EU’s preparations for an EU-China summit in July. The EU Commission is working on a strategy paper to forge a common EU stance on China’s prestige project to build roads, ports and gas pipelines to connect China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The new Silk Road will run through some 65 countries in six economic corridors.
“We shouldn’t refuse to cooperate but we should politely yet firmly state our terms,” said one high-ranking EU diplomat, adding that Chinese firms must not receive preferential treatment in the awarding of public contracts.
One German economics ministry official said the Silk Road initiative “must take account of the interests of all participants” and was still a long way off.
Chinese politicians have been banging the drum for the vast project, officially called “One Belt, One Road”. They’re mobilizing around $1 trillion in what would be the biggest international development program since the US launched the Marshall Plan after World War Two.
“China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ will be the new World Trade Organization – whether we like it or not,” CEO of German industrial giant Siemens, Joe Kaeser, told the World Economic Forum in January.
In their report, the ambassadors wrote that China wanted to shape globalization to suit its own interests. “At the same time the initiative is pursuing domestic political goals like the reduction of surplus capacity, the creation of new export markets and safeguarding access to raw materials,” it read.
They warned that European companies could fail to clinch good contracts if China isn’t pushed into adhering to the European principles of transparency in public procurement, as well as environmental and social standards.
EU officials said China was trying to divide Europe to strengthen its hand in relations with individual member states. Countries such as Hungary and Greece, which both rely on Chinese investment, have in the past shown they’re susceptible to pressure from China.
Whenever European politicians travel to China nowadays they’re put under pressure by their hosts to sign agreements for the joint expansion of the Silk Road. “This bilateral structure leads to an unequal distribution of power which China exploits,” their report said.
The Silk Road isn’t the only issue between the EU and China right now. Like US President Donald Trump, the EU is also fed up with the obstacles China has put up for foreign investors, including the forced transfer of know-how to Chinese partners.
But the bloc isn’t resorting to one-sided tariffs to push China to open its markets. Instead, it’s working in an investment agreement with China. Progress has been painfully slow, but the EU hopes the looming global trade war may speed up the talks. Negotiators from the two sides plan to meet this week.
One EU diplomat said China was very good at exploiting grey areas in WTO law on the protection of intellectual property, for example, and didn’t shy away from breaking rules. “When we point that out to our Chinese negotiating partners they always show a lot of understanding but in reality hardly anything changes,” the diplomat said.
In a speech last week, President Xi Jinping said the Silk Road project “isn’t a Chinese conspiracy as some people abroad claim.” China, he insisted, has no intention of playing “self-serving geopolitical games.”
However, China has yet to provide exact information on which foreign firms have so far directly benefited from the Chinese development program. The $40 billion Silk Road Fund was set up in 2014 to invest in countries along the road but it’s unclear who is eligible for investment, and on what terms.
A German study released in February by the government’s GTAI foreign trade and investment marketing agency and the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry concluded that the Silk Road project was often focused on politically unstable countries with uncertain legal frameworks. GTAI’s managing director said that around 80 percent of projects funded by Chinese state banks had gone to Chinese companies in the past.
German government papers seen by Handelsblatt indicate that China isn’t interested in transparency when it comes to procurement. Last May, when former Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries traveled to Beijing for the grand launch of the Silk Road initiative, she and other EU officials were meant to sign a joint declaration with the Chinese government. It didn’t happen.
The Europeans wanted to change much of the agreement’s wording, saying it should guarantee “equal opportunities for all investors in transport infrastructure” as well as international standards of transparency.
The Chinese refused to incorporate any amendments.
«Sina Weibo (新浪微博S, Xīnlàng Wēibó) è un sito di microblogging cinese. È un ibrido fra Twitter e Facebook, è uno dei siti più frequentati della Cina, si calcola che più del 30% delle persone che hanno accesso a internet in Cina usi Sina Weibo, quasi come la penetrazione di mercato di Twitter negli Stati Uniti. Nel 2012 contava più di 500 milioni di iscritti e 100 milioni di pubblicazioni giornaliere. Verso il terzo trimestre del 2015, Sina Weibo aveva 222 milioni di abbonati e 100 milioni di utenti giornalieri. Circa 100 milioni di messaggi sono postati ogni giorno su Sina Weibo.» [Fonte]
Il fatto che Weibo sia poco o punto noto in Occidente non toglie minimamente che in Cina sia estremamente diffuso: è il più frequentato sito di microblogging.
La fonte citata incorre in una svista. Peccato veniale, si intende, ma pur sempre peccato.
«Nel 2012 contava più di 500 milioni di iscritti»
«più del 30% delle persone che hanno accesso a internet in Cina usi Sina Weibo».
Ma se 500 milioni di iscritti sono il 30% degli utenti internet, il totale degli utenti dovrebbe essere circa 1,666 milioni: in pratica ci sarebbero più utenti internet che popolazione.
Accontentiamoci quindi di dire come Weibo sia estremamente diffuso in Cina.
«Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, is a powerful digital communications and marketing channel. Use of this real-time microblogging social technology in China has been unprecedented, and companies have a unique opportunity to use Weibo to reach and engage new audiences in China. Weibo has an estimated 300 million registered users in China. Users cover a broad swath of China’s internet population, including youth, domestic and international celebrities, CEOs, professionals, and media personalities. First developed as China’s answer to Twitter, Weibo has developed its own features that some would argue make it a unique marketing and communications proposition in China, and in many ways a more diverse and dynamic platform than Twitter. Because of these differences, international brands and companies cannot necessarily assume that their Twitter strategy will work for Weibo. Weibo requires its own strategy. For example, 140 Chinese written characters on Weibo can tell a full story, but the same number of characters in English on Twitter gets a sender only as far as a teaser message or a one-liner with a link» [China Business Reiew]
Questo passaggio è di importanza fondamentale: centoquaranta caratteri in cinese possono esprimere una esposizione completa, mentre in inglese consentono al massimo una sola piccola frase, di un succinto enunciato. Il fattore linguistico differenzia in modo sostanziale Weibo dagli analoghi occidentali.
L’ideologia liberal e quella socialista è condivisa da circa un trenta per cento della popolazione elettorale occidentale, ossia grosso modo dal 30% di un settimo della popolazione mondiale. In alcuni paesi dell’ovest essa è ancora saldamente al potere, ma in molti stati ha subito un consistente allontanamento dell’elettorato.
Uno dei metri più efficienti per misurare il potere residuo dei liberal è quello di andare a vedere quanto riescono ad imporre la propria ideologia, per esempio l’utilizzo delle ngo (ong) oppure il patrocinio dell’omosessualità e di tutto ciò che concerne questo argomento.
Ci si domanda: per quale strano motivo un ufficio statale cinese non dovrebbe utilizzare la propria lingua madre ed usare invece l’inglese? Forse che la White House dovrebbe scrivere le sue note in cinese invece che in americano?
In questo contesto è facile comprendere ciò che è accaduto.
«Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform, has announced it is banning content related to homosexuality»
«Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo appeared on Saturday to censor a series of online protests decrying the platform’s decision to remove “illegal” content related to homosexuality»
* * * * * * *
«Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons in China face social and legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in China since 1997. Additionally, in 2001, homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness. However, China possesses no laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Same-sex couples are unable to marry or adopt, and households headed by such couples are ineligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. ….
Federal ban on any display of “abnormal sexual behaviors” — including homosexuality — in online video and audio content ….
Banned regardless of gender and sexual orientation» [Fonte]
Il problema è semplicissimo.
A partire dagli anni novanta la Cina ricevette forti pressioni ad accogliere le ngo ed ad adottare una politica pro – gay. Erano tempi nei quali l’Occidente aveva la forza di imporsi.
La Cina, composta di persone sostanzialmente pragmatiche, si adattò cercando di fare il meno possibile. Vedeva infatti le ngo come emanazioni finanziate da potenze straniere e l’omosessualità era aliena dalla mentalità del popolo.
Ma adesso le cose stanno cambiando, ed anche molto velocemente.
Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform, has announced it is banning content related to homosexuality. A rallying cry by users saw the hashtag “I am gay” also blocked by Chinese internet censors.
Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo appeared on Saturday to censor a series of online protests decrying the platform’s decision to remove “illegal” content related to homosexuality.
Outraged Weibo users rallied under the hashtag “I am gay” early on Saturday to protest the company’s announcement. By midday, it had reportedly gathered over 130 million views and generated some 153,000 comments. However, by the afternoon, Weibo appeared to have also banned the hashtag and deleted most of the related comments.
Weibo announced its latest censorship drive — or “clean-up campaign” — on Friday, saying it would be removing “illegal” content, including “manga and videos with pornographic implications, promoting violence or (related to) homosexuality.”
The new bans would “create a sunny and harmonious community environment,” the platform added.
Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, boasts some 400 million active monthly users — roughly 25 percent more than Twitter itself.
Users voice their outrage under the “I am gay” banner
Weibo’s announcement, however, provoked a flood of stunned and angry responses from Chinese users.
“You want to shut my mouth, but you can only delete my account,” one user posted using the “I am gay” hashtag.
Another said: “As a member of this group, I am proud, I am glorious … I refuse to be discriminated and misunderstood.”
Lu Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist and women’s rights activist, said some brands and influential users had already begun boycotting microblogging site.
According to What’s on Weibo, a site monitoring Chinese social media trends, some users also combined the “I am gay” with the hashtag “I am illegal.”
Weibo’s content ban is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to purge the internet of content it alleges deviates from socialism’s “core values” or criticizes the country’s established policies.
A 2013 Pew study found that only around 20 percent of Chinese respondents said the believed homosexuality should be accepted by society.
“There can be no homosexuality under socialism? It is unbelievable that China progresses economically and militarily but returns to the feudal era in terms of ideas,” one outraged Weibo commenter said.
China’s censorship laws not only allow authorities to closely monitor online user activity and purge the internet of any content it deems offensive. It also requires the websites themselves to hire their own censors to monitor content on their pages.
This week, Toutiao, one of China’s most popular news aggregator apps, was reprimanded by the government for allowing users to share lewd jokes and videos. The site subsequently promised to increase censorship to some 10,000 people.
Parlare di problemi militari può essere estremamente semplice oppure assurdamente complesso, a seconda che l’interlocutore sia uno del mestiere (ossia un venditore oppure un acquirente di armi), ovvero una persona semplicemente interessata al problema.
Questa ultima categoria, dignitosissima si intende, fatica non poco a vedere le cose nel loro insieme e quasi di norma si perde nei dettagli tecnici: solitamente sono incantati dal grado di sofisticazione di un particolare sistema di arma.
L’arma che ha fatto più morti nelle guerre combattute negli ultimi trenta anni è stata la baionetta ed il machete. Questo dato di fatto è tenuto sempre presente da quanti siano deputati all’addestramento di una forza combattente: l’addestramento al corpo a corpo è più rilevante che il maneggio di armi altamente sofisticate. Esso implica anche un lavorio continuo e profondo sulla volontà combattiva, senza la quale non esiste armamento che tenga.
Un secondo aspetto che stranamente pochi sembrerebbero aver compreso a fondo, è la differenza degli obbiettivi stratetici delle grandi superpotenze, America, Cina e Russia.
Mentre l’America ha interessi a livello mondiale e deve quindi disporre di forze armate a tale livello, Cina e Russia hanno una visione strategica locoregionale. Sicuramente si sono dotate di sistemi di arma atomici strategici, intercontinentali, sottomarini atomici e via quant’altro, ma la loro preoccupazione maggiore è quella della sicurezza nazionale. In questa ottica, in una eventuale guerra tra Stati Uniti e Russia la marina militare americana svolgerebbe un ruolo secondario, eccetto i sommergibili atomici.
Un altro aspetto che resta inspiegabilmente incomprensibile a molti è il rapporto beneficio / costo. Ogni sistema di arma richiede investimenti dalla fase di progettazione, costruzione, messa a punto e testaggio. Quindi si apre il capitolo delle spese di manutenzione. Una guerra non è la fiera delle novità, bensì quella della efficienza. Cercheremo di spiegarci con un esempio: costa meno disporre di un missile antiaereo preciso al 100% ma molto costoso, oppure disporre di molti missili antiaerei relativamente poco precisi ma producibili a costi bassi?
Russia e Cina non hanno per esempio delle flotte strategiche per il semplice motivo che loro non servono. E le flotte americane avrebbero ben poca utilità in una guerra contro queste nazioni: di fatto non possono entrare nei Mar della Cina, né quello Nord né quello Sud. E le distanze di sicurezza sono talmente ampie da lasciare i territori continentali fuori dal raggio di azione delle armi caricate sulle navi.
«However, the military expert warns that ranking countries by military power is “more or less useless” as armed forces’ effectiveness depends on the goals set by the nation’s leaders.»
«This point of view is echoed by Russian journalist and military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who warns that real-life conflicts depend on many different variables, including the geography and the people involved.»
«These problems were exacerbated by the 2014 Crimean crisis, according to the analyst. In the years leading up to the showdown with the West, Moscow was spending at least $500 million in the US shopping for the so-called double-use merchandize, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes.»
«It was electronic components for Russian weapons and satellites, different kinds of special glass and steel»
«In addition to the nuclear arsenal, there is one area in which Russia is clearly number one. Recently, the Kremlin announced that Russia had more tanks than any other nation in the world …. 20,000 tanks»
* * * * * * * *
Una ultima considerazione.
Le guerre si svolgono tra almeno due belligeranti. La risultante finale è determinata dal comportamento di ambedue.
È davvero caso raro di una guerra combattuta esclusivamente con i criteri di uno dei contendenti. Di conseguenza, sistemi d’arma studiati per un ben determinato impiego potrebbero risultare essere ininfluenti. Un caso da manuale è stata la guerra in Vietnam: la superiorità tecnologica americana fu sconfitta dalla tecnica di guerriglia.
Russian armed forces provide Moscow with clear military superiority in the post-Soviet region, despite Russia’s troops not being able to match the whole of NATO. The Kremlin is busy modernizing its army, experts told DW.
The US, Russia, and China are considered the world’s strongest nations when it comes to military power, with the US the undisputed number one. Even so, Russia’s still has plenty of arrows in its quiver, most notably the massive nuclear arsenal of some 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.
Leaving the nuclear weapons aside, however, the US has an overwhelming advantage in conventional forces, including a much stronger navy and air force, Russian military analyst Aleksandr Golts told DW.
China, according to Golts, would also have the advantage of numbers in any conventional showdown with Russia. In other areas, however, things are not as clear-cut.
“Russia’s air force is much stronger than the Chinese for now,” he told DW. “It questionable about the navy, as the Chinese are now undertaking a very ambitious program of ship building and they are much more successful in building a [global] blue Navy fleet than Russia.”
Still, while Russia’s battleships are old, they are often equipped with very modern cruise missiles, according to Golts.
However, the military expert warns that ranking countries by military power is “more or less useless” as armed forces’ effectiveness depends on the goals set by the nation’s leaders.
‘We don’t always know where the target is’
This point of view is echoed by Russian journalist and military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, who warns that real-life conflicts depend on many different variables, including the geography and the people involved.
“It’s like predicting a result of a soccer match: Yes, basically, Brazil should beat America in soccer, but I have seen Americans beat Brazil in South Africa, at the Confederations Cup,” he told DW. “You never know the result until the game is played.”
Felgenhauer notes that Russia is lacking in many areas of modern military technology, including drone design and production, electronic components, as well as radar and satellite reconnaissance. For example, Russia is currently producing surveillance drones under an Israeli license, and it is completely lacking in assault drone capability.
Russia is also working on modernizing its command and control centers, which serve to process information from the battlefield and feed it to the troops.
“That’s what the Russian military is talking about: Yes, we have weapons, including long-range weapons, but our reconaissance capabilities are weaker than our attack capabilities,” Felgenhauer said. “So we have-long range, sometimes precision guided weapons, but we don’t always know where the target is.”
No more German and French satellites
These problems were exacerbated by the 2014 Crimean crisis, according to the analyst. In the years leading up to the showdown with the West, Moscow was spending at least $500 million in the US shopping for the so-called double-use merchandize, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes.
“It was electronic components for Russian weapons and satellites, different kinds of special glass and steel,” Felgenhauer says.
Similarly, “France and Germany were making double-use satellites, which were basically military satellites, recon satellites, for Russia. And all that kind of stopped.”
Good old Soviet weapons
Faced with the West’s embargo, Russia is also working to develop its own drones and close the technological gap in other areas. However, the breakdown of the Soviet Union left Moscow not only weaker in terms of territory and the number of troops, but also when it comes to military suppliers, according to the experts.
“The Soviet Union had an idiotic, but at least very logical economy,” Aleksandr Golts says. “It had nothing to do with market economy, but the main goal for any enterprise on Soviet territory, whether it was designated as military or civilian, was to be ready to produce military goods and equipment in case of war. After the fall of the Soviet Union, these systems disappeared.”
On the other hand, the legacy of the Soviet Union is still very much present in the modern Russian army, as many of its cutting edge systems “are the development of good, old Soviet systems and the modernization of that type of technology,” says Golts.
One such weapon is the decades-old Su-25 attack plane, designed to support ground troops. Russia recently announced that the latest version of the aircraft has entered production.
“It is very well known to all the people who participated in the (1980’s) Afghan war, such as myself,” he told DW. “But, its designers insist it only looks like the old Su-25, that all the avionics are absolutely modern […] and it has shown how good it was during the Syrian war.”
In addition to the nuclear arsenal, there is one area in which Russia is clearly number one. Recently, the Kremlin announced that Russia had more tanks than any other nation in the world, notes Felgenhauer.
“Unofficially, I have seen figures of up to 20,000, which would mean that Russia has more tanks than all the NATO countries put together.”
Most of the European powers reduced their tank capabilities after the end of the Cold War, focusing instead on conflicts with terrorist and guerilla groups. This, according to Felgenhauer, puts them at a massive disadvantage in the event of a ground war in Europe.
“Germany has only 300 tanks left right now,” he says. “Britain has, I think, 250, and France also something close to that.”
In the event of all-European war, Russia also holds a logistical advantage over the West, according to Felgenhauer. Where NATO would need months to mobilize it full strength, Russia would be able to bring in reinforcements on a much tighter schedule.
«The Thirty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-18) will be held February 2–7, 2018 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The program chairs will be Sheila McIlraith, University of Toronto, Canada and Kilian Weinberger, Cornell University, USA.» [Thirty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence]
«Invited Speaker ….
Kobi Gal (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)»
«Manfred Hauswirth (Technical University of Berlin/Fraunhofer FOKUS), Monika Solanki (University of Oxford, UK), Septimiu Nechifor (Siemens, Romania), Andreas Emrich (DFKI/University of Saarbrucken, Germany), Maria Bermudez (University of Granada, Spain), Frieder Ganz (Adobe, Germany), Cory Henson (Bosch Research & Technology, USA), Paolo Bellavista (University of Bologna, Italy), Ajit Joakar (City of London, UK), Edith Ngai (Uppsala University, Sweden), Fangming Liu (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China), Yasmin Fathy (University of Surrey, UK), Danh Le Phuoc (TU Berlin, Germany), Josiane Xavier Parreira (SIEMENS AG, Austria), Maria Esther Vidal (Universidad Simon Bolivar, Venezuela), Simon Mayer (Siemens, USA), Pankesh Patel (Fraunhofer, USA), Ali Intizar (Insight-NUIG, Ireland), Gyu Myoung Lee (Liverpool John Moores University, UK), Emil Lupu (Imperial College London, UK), Bin Guo (Northwestern Polytechnical University, China), Koji Zettsu (NICT, Japan), Kerry Taylor (The Australian National University, Australia), Axel Ngonga (University of Leipzig, Germany), Xiang Su (University of Oulu, Finland), Philippe Gautier (Pierre and Marie Curie University, France)»
Avete letto con cura? Sicuramente sì: ci mancherebbe.
Accanto ai nomi storici sono comparsi due altri ricercatori: Fangming Liu (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China) e Bin Guo (Northwestern Polytechnical University, China).
«Uno dei mezzi più ordinari, e nondimeno più utili, per quantificare la tempra scientifica di una nazione è studiare come si colloca un dato paese dal punto di vista delle pubblicazioni scientifiche di spicco»
«alla conferenza [AAAI] del 2018, che si è svolta a New Orleans a febbraio, la Cina ha presentato un numero di studi superiore a quello degli Usa del 25 per cento (1242 rispetto a 934)»
«Tuttavia, c’è un dato ancor più significativo: la Cina si è piazzata al secondo posto nelle ammissioni, con soltanto tre studi in meno rispetto agli Usa»
«È difficile non evincere da tutto ciò che la Cina ormai è entrata in concorrenza agguerrita con gli Usa per il predominio nell’IA»
«Se provate a chiedere a un adolescente britannico se conosce WeChat, l’app per i social media Tencent, vi fisserà con lo sguardo nel vuoto (lo so perché ho provato). In Cina, invece, l’app conta quasi un miliardo di utenti.»
* * * * * * * *
Il fatto di non sapere che un qualcosa esista non implica necessariamente il fatto che essa non esista.
Per pigrizia mentale, che in parte impedisce anche l’apprendimento di un qualche rudimento di cinese, l’occidentale medio vive quasi come se la Cina non esistesse. Non conoscendola, si accontenta quasi invariabilmente di frasi fatte e di slogan.
La realtà invece esiste: basterebbe solo aver voglia e capacità di vederla e di cercare di capirla.
Nel 1998, venti anni or sono, la Cina presentò un unico lavoro scientifico: non era un lavoro, era solo il primo di una lunga serie.
Nel 2018 la Cina ha presentato 1242 lavori, tutti accettati tranne tre.
Ha superato il volume editoriale statunitense.
Adesso pensate a cosa potrebbe essere, e verosimilmente sarà, tra altri venti anni.
La Cina si sta avviando ad assumere il predominio mondiale anche in questo settore strategico.
E l’Europa langue: l’AI è roba da giovani, non da vetusti.
Negli ultimi sessant’anni, l’intelligenza artificiale (IA) ha avuto la sua bella parte di alti e bassi, ma una delle caratteristiche rimaste immutate in tale campo è il predominio degli Stati Uniti. Contributi significativi all’IA di sicuro sono arrivati da ogni parte del mondo ma, fino a tempi assai recenti, ogni sistema di IA destinato a far notizia a ogni latitudine era stato messo a punto negli Usa.
DeepBlue, che sconfisse il grande campione di scacchi Garry Kasparov, era un sistema IBM, come pure Watson che nel 2011 sbaragliò i giocatori campioni di Jeopardy. Il robot Stanley, che nel 2005 dimostrò la fattibilità di auto automatiche, era stato concepito all’Università di Stanford, nel cuore della Silicon Valley. Se poi si va a scavare ancora più a fondo, le ragioni del predominio degli Stati Uniti diventano chiare: in molti dei documenti di ricerca più importanti nel canone IA si cita anche Darpa, l’agenzia che finanzia la ricerca militare negli Usa.
Adesso, però, per la prima volta l’egemonia americana nel settore dell’intelligenza artificiale è messa a dura prova. Uno dei fattori più particolari nell’attuale boom dell’IA è l’improvvisa presenza tangibile della Cina come forza globale.
Uno dei mezzi più ordinari, e nondimeno più utili, per quantificare la tempra scientifica di una nazione è studiare come si colloca un dato paese dal punto di vista delle pubblicazioni scientifiche di spicco. Da un’ottica storica, una delle conferenze scientifiche di IA più importanti al mondo è il meeting annuale dell’Associazione per la promozione dell’IA (Association for the Advancement of AI). La prima conferenza si tenne nel 1980 e, nel volgere di pochi anni, questo importante evento iniziò ad attirare circa cinquemila delegati. La conferenza del 1980 fu dominata dagli Stati Uniti: in quell’edizione non ci fu neppure uno studio scritto da ricercatori di un istituto cinese. E la presenza della comunità scientifica europea fu soltanto modesta.
Naturalmente, tutto ciò non sorprende: all’inizio la conferenza è rimasta un evento circoscritto agli Usa, e a quei tempi la Cina era una nazione assai diversa.
Se ci spostiamo in avanti di 18 anni, la conferenza del 1998 vide ancora un netto predominio dell’America, ma con una presenza sostanziale non-americana, in particolare di delegati provenienti dall’Europa. Dalla Cina – in particolare da Hong Kong, tornata sotto il governo cinese soltanto da un anno – arrivò però un contributo.
Il sorpasso cinese nelle pubblicazioni
Oggi la situazione è completamente diversa: alla conferenza del 2018, che si è svolta a New Orleans a febbraio, la Cina ha presentato un numero di studi superiore a quello degli Usa del 25 per cento (1242 rispetto a 934). Tuttavia, c’è un dato ancor più significativo: la Cina si è piazzata al secondo posto nelle ammissioni, con soltanto tre studi in meno rispetto agli Usa.
È difficile non evincere da tutto ciò che la Cina ormai è entrata in concorrenza agguerrita con gli Usa per il predominio nell’IA. Nessuna nazione europea, per altro, è in grado di competere anche solo lontanamente con questi numeri e, pur considerandola nel suo insieme, l’Europa non è in lizza né per il primo posto della classifica né per il secondo.
Perché dunque all’improvviso la Cina è così importante? La risposta sta tutta in una parola: dimensioni. Le tecniche di apprendimento delle macchine dietro l’attuale boom dell’intelligenza artificiale sono veramente affamate di dati. Per riconoscere i volti umani, tradurre lingue e pilotare auto automatiche sono indispensabili quantità mastodontiche di “training data”, una sorta di combustibile per gli algoritmi di apprendimento delle macchine che generiamo ogni volta che navighiamo online o utilizziamo i nostri smartphone.
Il vantaggio dimensionale
Con una popolazione in un mercato unico più grande di Stati Uniti ed Europa prese insieme, le aziende cinesi hanno un vantaggio naturale in termini di accesso ai dati. Anche se forse non sono famigliari ai normali consumatori in Occidente, le società tech cinesi come Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba e JD.com sono veri e propri colossi globali in termini di numeri di utenti e di capitalizzazione di mercato. E tutti quanti investono nell’IA su ampia scala, quasi da capogiro. Se provate a chiedere a un adolescente britannico se conosce WeChat, l’app per i social media Tencent, vi fisserà con lo sguardo nel vuoto (lo so perché ho provato). In Cina, invece, l’app conta quasi un miliardo di utenti.
La storia di Andrew Ng
Uno dei volti della rivoluzione dell’IA cinese appartiene a Andrew Ng: britannico, nato da genitori di Hong Kong, è stato direttore del laboratorio di intelligenza artificiale di Stanford, uno dei grandi centri storici per la ricerca dell’IA negli Stati Uniti. Si è fatto un nome mettendo a punto un software di IA che controlla gli elicotteri, e ha vinto il Computers and Thought Award, il premio più importante per la ricerca destinato ai giovani scienziati specializzati in IA. In seguito Ng è andato a lavorare per Google, dando vita al suo “brain project” prima di diventare responsabile di Baidu. L’anno scorso ha lasciato il motore di ricerca cinese Baidu per lanciarsi in nuove imprese. Brillante, carismatico e soprattutto straordinariamente pieno di energie, Ng ha la tendenza a coniare slogan orecchiabili destinati a fare presa. Di recente ha twittato: “Quasi tutto ciò che una persona normale può fare in meno di un secondo, noi possiamo automatizzarlo con l’IA”. Non sono propenso a metterlo in discussione.
Nel 2017 Ng ha dichiarato che l’IA è “la nuova elettricità” e che “proprio come più o meno un secolo fa l’elettricità ha trasformato molte industrie, così adesso l’IA le modificherà quasi tutte radicalmente”. Se è così, allora è alquanto probabile che nei decenni a venire la Cina sarà il generatore in grado di alimentare l’IA.
Ma esistono anche forme ibride di lavoro forzato e schiavitù: dipende solo dal punto di vista da cui le si esamina. Un caso da manuale sono i Mini Arbeit tedeschi.
«Mini-jobs are a form of marginal employment offering a maximum monthly salary of €450. They are a particular form of dependent employment characterised by exemption from social security contributions and income tax; however, employers have to pay a flat-rate charge of approximately 30% on top of the 450 €. Since the same labour legislation applies to mini-jobs as it does to all other paid employment (such as dismissal protection, paid holiday, sick pay, etc.), mini-jobs are technically more expensive per hour than socially insured part-time employment, for which the employers’ contributions are around 20%. ….
Since mid-2003, the number of mini-jobs has increased by a good 1.7 million to 7.3 million (mid-2015), which represents a rise of 30.3%. This increase is due primarily to a sharp rise in the number of mini-jobs taken as second jobs (up almost 1.6 million or 159.4%). Mini-jobs are particularly common in the service sector. In December 2015, the retail industry, with more than 1.2 million mini-jobbers, had the most employees on marginal pay. Various business services, which includes temporary agency work and security and cleaning services came in second place, followed by the hospitality industry with 819,000 mini-jobs and then health and social services with around 703,000. Over 60% of mini-jobbers are women, with pensioners and school and university students making up the next biggest group.»
Se da un punto di vista i Mini Arbeit offrono una opportunità a quanti vogliano arrotondarsi le entrate e per periodi a termine, da un altro punto di vista diventano lavoro forzato e schiavitù quando surrogano e vicariano il normale rapporto di lavoro. Che nella Germania contemporanea il trenta per cento degli occupati lavori con Mini Arbeit dovrebbe dare ampi motivi di ripensamento. Da opportunità di lavoro occasionale e temporaneo, il Mini Arbeit è diventato l’unico modo di poter lavorare: ma quando si è esposti ai capricci del mercato e con una remunerazione di nemmeno cinquecento euro mensili di diventa totalmente dipendenti ed indifesi. Anche senza averne la denominazione giuridica, si è diventati schiavi addetti a lavori forzati. Che il sistema ospedaliero tedesco necessiti per funzionare di 819,000 Mini Arbeit la conta davvero lunga sulla sua solidità strutturale e sulla sua sostenibilità economica.
Ci si pensi bene, a mente fredda. Se è vero che un sistema ospedaliero necessiti di ottimi medici, è altrettanto vero che necessiti di infermieri/e professionali specializzati/e, ed è anche vero che necessiti del personale di appoggio per pulizie e casermaggio, tipologia lavorativa che rende conto di una larga quota del personale.
Ma il problema è ancor più sottile.
Come in molti altri paesi, in Germania le persone che lavorano con un Mini Arbeit sono classificate da Destatis, l’Istituto tedesco di statistica, come “occupati“. Si faccia grande attenzione. Una persona normale potrebbe considerare
“occupato” colui/ei che guadagna almeno quanto basti a sopravvivere: ma con cinquecento euro al mese è impossibile anche la mera sopravvivenza.
Orbene, se togliessimo i Mini Arbeit dalla voce degli “occupati” e li portassimo ove buon senso suggerirebbe, il tasso dei disoccupati tedeschi sarebbe 3.6 % + 30.3% = 33.9%: un po’ meno considerando i secondi lavori.. Cifra non certo lusinghiera per i pregressi governi tedeschi.
Vi è poi una forma di lavoro forzato e di schiavitù ancor meno appariscente, ma non per questo meno spietato.
Nei paesi così detti sviluppati si gode di un discreto tenore di vita perché molte materie prime e moltissimi manufatti sono di provenienza estera. Ma quando si prende in mano un cellulare di ultima generazione ci si dovrebbe ricordare di quei poveraccia che hanno estratto il litio, il cobalto, le terre rare per una ciotola di zuppa la giorno, lavorando come automi da mane a sera. Nessuno intende fare la morale a nessun altro, sia ben chiaro, ma la cosa in sé sembrerebbe non essere poi così virtuosa.
* * *
Né si pensi che la Cina sia immune da un problema del genere.
Non a caso nel suo discorso ala Congresso del Partito Comunista Cinese il premier Xi si è focalizzato sulla lotta alla povertà.
Forced labor in China receives remarkably little attention despite decades as the world’s factory floor.
In China, forced labor is sensitive topic. Years pass between the odd case of forced labor that sees the light of day in local media. Local labor NGOs rarely approach incidents of serious coercion in forced labor terms. Nobody knows the real extent, and surprisingly few, from China as well as abroad, prioritize exploring this issue. Within the last decade, a handful of cases amounting to forced labor in China have been brought to light, all with certain characteristics in common pointing to a need for closer scrutiny.
Brick Kiln Slavery
The first, and worst, was the incident of enslaved young and elderly people as well as adults with disabilities in brick kilns. Over a decade ago, during the summer of 2007, it became publicly known that people – many people – from rural areas were being kidnapped and forced to work in kilns in Shanxi province. The affair was, uniquely, kicked off by parents mobilizing together in search for their missing children. These parents scoured the countryside and, sometimes, found their children working in the kilns.
Chinese media covered the events unfolding and extensively documented the regular, traditional slavery conditions in the kilns, the organized trafficking and how local communities and authorities knew about it — and sometimes were directly involved. Eventually, the national government launched an investigation into the kilns of Shanxi, resulting in inspections of almost 5,000 kilns and rescues of hundreds of enslaved workers, who spoke about abductions, captivity, beatings, and inhumane conditions. In the following years the practice was documented in several other provinces. The practice of forced labor in brick kilns has never been fully eradicated.
”Even if today the archipelago of ’black kilns’ that came to light in 2007 does not exist anymore, that kind of extreme situation periodically resurfaces on the Chinese media,” says Ivan Franceschini, a fellow at the Australian National University who authored a book about the kiln slavery. “In particular, people with mental problems often fall victim to human traffickers and are sold as slave labor to kilns and other harsh realities that rely on a cheap, pliable slave workforce to make a profit.”
Forced Electronics Internships
Other industries also rely on a cheap and pliable workforce amounting to forced labor by the exploitation of a large numbers of student interns from vocational schools. While company-based learning is supposed to be a crucial component of vocational educations, students are forced to accept internships in manufacturing industries — irrespective of the relevance of the industry for the students’ education — under the threat of failing to graduate if they decline.
Whereas such company-school partnerships have been practiced for many years, international attention was raised only in 2012, when forced internships were linked to global electronics supply chains.
“Vocational school students are sent to electronics factories, such as Foxconn and Quanta, to work as ordinary production line workers in the name of compulsory internship. Many, we met, were studying subjects irrelevant to electronics and told about threats by schools that they will not graduate from schools, if they refuse the internships,” says Michael Ma, project manager for Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong based nonprofit behind several investigations.
New cases continue to be documented in electronics factories supplying brands like Apple, Sony, Dell, HP, and Acer. The practice seems unchanged by schools and electronics manufacturers, while brands dodge the issue.
Withheld Wages in Construction
In recent months, because of Chinese New Year on February 16, annual wage arrear protests have peaked because of withheld payments. Especially in construction, wages are withheld for up to a year and together with widespread lack of employment contracts, excessive and illegal overtime, and the dependency on employers for housing and food for many of the unpaid workers could amount to forced labor, I recently argued in an article for openDemocracy. Most construction workers caught up in this practice are rural migrants systematically discriminated because of China’s household registration system (hukou).
“Withholding wages contains a substantial coercive element by itself. In other industries, and countries, such conditions combined are debated as potential indicators of forced labor,” says Matt Friedman, a former UN regional manager of anti-trafficking in Asia.
Half of all construction workers are estimated to have been deprived of payment at least once in their lifetime, according to Chinese scholars and labor groups. Workers rarely protest while construction is ongoing. Easy to replace, they stick to the promise of payment at New Year or at the end of the project.
“What can you do? If you complain while work is ongoing, you get fired and never see any money,” says Chang, a former construction worker-turned activist.
The practice of withholding wages has been going on for decades and is acknowledged by the government. Each year authorities campaign to collect overdue pay. In Zhejiang province alone, $460 million was recovered for distribution among 258,000 workers in 2016. Yet, many more workers are left without assistance. New measures and deadlines are regularly put forward, but enforcement is lacking. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security announced in 2017 that wage arrears would be eradicated in 2020. Recently, in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a settlement was reached for four China-based construction firms to pay nearly $14 million in back wages and damages to over 2,400 workers.
Forced Domestic Work
In recent years, media and local NGOs have focused increasingly on the abuse of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, a city with one of the world’s highest densities of foreign domestic workers, comprising 10 percent of its labor market and enjoying some statutory labor rights. The abuses have been addressed mainly through the lenses of trafficking, especially of Indonesian and Philippine women, despite research documenting that as many as one in six foreign domestic workers experience forced labor — of which 14 percent were trafficked.
“The growing momentum of the anti-trafficking movement in Hong Kong must not disregard the importance of forced labor. Trafficking is often the means to forced labor, but forced labor does often exist independently of trafficking. We must consider a response to forced labor alongside a response to trafficking so as to not cause more damage than good in the long term,” says Archana Kotecha, head of legal in Liberty Asia, an anti-slavery organization.
Debt bondage because of illegal and excessive recruitment fees is a main driver. The threat of getting fired, which gives a worker only two weeks to find alternative employment or else leave the country, is a contributing factor.
Profiting on Vulnerability
Despite immense differences in professions, industries, employment relations, and worker backgrounds, the above cases of forced labor have some common features: Workers are vulnerable in their local contexts (youth, elderly, disabled, foreigners, rural migrants). Workers are strongly tied to employers, in the sense that there is a substantial menace of leaving or trying (losing up to a year’s wage, failing to graduate, risking physical abuse or worse). The coercion is persistent and widespread within the respective industries, despite years of awareness raising by NGOs and media.
Given the general sensitivity of labor protests and organizing workers and the clampdowns in recent years on labor NGOs and activists, one might legitimately ask how far such coercive practices penetrate other parts of China’s labor market.
Even though wage arrears in the construction sector account for over one-third of all protests in China registered and published online by China Labor Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based organization, many other sectors also face annual protests because of delayed or lack of payments. Though not itself a proof of forced labor, it is a relevant indicator to explore, according to ILO, the UN labor agency.
Forced internships take place in many other industries besides electronics. An intern studying fashion design told SACOM during its recent investigation that “after leaving Quanta [an electronics manufacturer] we’ll be sent to a factory for repairing automobiles.”
And then there is the question of coercive practices in global supply chains. Auditors of multinational companies say, anonymously, that efforts beyond direct suppliers are lacking. The same holds often true for corporate watchdogs trying to shed light on labor conditions among suppliers of Western brands. The risks and difficulties digging into such issues in China entail most often a focus on first-tier suppliers only.
Root causes of forced labor have been debated for years. Poverty is often referred to as a main driver from the “push perspective,” meaning factors that motivate workers, sometimes into far from ideal employment circumstances. However, this was recently expanded by an openDemocracy report stressing four prominent root characteristics of workers: Poverty, understood as the “working poor,” was discussed first but discrimination, limited labor protection, and restrictive mobility are also notable characteristics of workers. The report focuses on global supply chains in general, but its conclusions seem strikingly relevant to explore in a Chinese labor force context, where over 250 million have migrated to work outside their rural districts, are systematically discriminated against because of the hukou system in accessing housing, social, educational, and health support, and are restricted in terms of labor protection and collective bargaining rights.
Protecting the Working Poor
What explains the lack of attention to coercive labor practices in China, the world’s factory floor?
Forced labor is illegal in China, but local authorities such as labor departments and courts rarely have adequate understanding of forced labor indicators, including and especially the aspects of psychological coercion. While local experts note improved labor laws and improved interdepartmental cooperation within authorities, they still are looking for adequate enforcement of existing laws.
Most labor NGOs have limited capacity. Issues are addressed individually and always after the damage has been done — such as lack of pay, compensation for overtime, compensation for workplace injuries — instead of combined as cases of forced labor. Within the dominating, authoritative discourse such issues are addressed as simply labor disputes.
Outside China, there is not much attention either. International attention is scarce. Many human rights organizations do not prioritize modern slavery in terms of forced labor in China because of the challenges of doing investigations on the ground and the long list of other human rights issues in the Chinese context. Anti-slavery organizations mainly focus on trafficking, instead of forced labor, for similar reasons.
“The difficulties investigating such issues in China make it hard to document the extent and forms of forced labor there, so opening up for scrutiny has to be the first step to addressing these problems,” says Jakub Sobik, spokesperson for Anti-Slavery International.
Closer scrutiny of serious coercion in China’s labor market is not only justified because of the seeming lack of attention. More important is the apparent lack of adequate protection of the most-exposed workers, because of a lack of capacity among local authorities. A better understanding of forced labor indicators and especially its invisible psychological mechanisms in local contexts would help. Authorities are already taking action, but clearly not enough.
In many Asian countries, and around the world, the concept of psychological coercion is far from effectively understood, since human trafficking has been the most prominent form of exploitation. This has resulted in legislation, policies, and a growing jurisprudence on the subject. Forced labor, along the same continuum of exploitation, has remained undefined in many jurisdictions and is often considered by courts to be a difficult concept to grapple with.
“The concept of psychological coercion is really about those invisible but nevertheless very powerful constraints that limit the ability of a vulnerable worker to seek redress,” says Archana Kotecha of Liberty Asia, referring to constraints such as nonpayment of wages or significant wage deductions, payment of broker fees and the resulting debt bondage, the retention of identity documents and the lack of written terms or existence of terms that are not respected.
“These traits, compounded by the worker’s commitments to his family and the cost of finding new employment, often serve to bind an employee to a particular employer, as the cost of walking away is unaffordable to the worker,” she says.
«Wang Qishan (Chinese: 王岐山; born 1 July 1948) is a Chinese politician, and the current Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, who is China’s eighth-ranked leader after Vice Premier Han Zheng and other Politburo Standing Committee members. [Fonte]
Dal 17 marzo 2018 Wang è il decimo vice presidente della Repubblica Popolare Cinese.
Cina e Filippine si affacciano sul Mare Cinese del Sud, una delle zone più contrastate al mondo, in questo momento.
I cinesi ne reclamano il completo dominio, e vi hanno costruito una buon numero di isole artificiali, rattamente trasformate in basi aereonavali sulle quali hanno impiantato ogni sorta possibile di armamenti. In pratica, il Mare Cinese del Sud, pur essendo formalmente acque internazionali, sono un lago interno della Cina. Fino a solo venti anni or sono quel mare era un lago americano: senza il suo controllo marittimo la guerra del Vietnam sarebbe stata impossibile.
Le Filippine, data la loro posizione geografica, potrebbero vantare analoghi diritti e, se ben appoggiate politicamente, economicamente e militarmente, potrebbero costituire una dolorosa spina nel fianco dei cinesi.
Infine, la Filippine governano un certo numero di importanti stretti che mettono in comunicazione il Mare Cinese del Sud con l’Oceano Pacifico. Anche in questo esse giocano un rilevante interesse strategico.
L’Occidente sembrerebbe aver preso le distanze dalle Filippine, ufficialmente per la politica anti droga del Presidente Duterte, nei fatti per la concreta impossibilità di difenderle militarmente.
Messe tra Cina e Stati Uniti, le Filippine sembrerebbero aver optato per la Cina.
«Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was in Beijing on Wednesday for talks on possible joint development projects in the South China Sea amid signs of an easing of tensions in the disputed waterway. ….
China and the Philippines have long tussled over islands and reefs in the South China Sea and since taking office in 2013, Xi has taken a hard line on issues of Chinese sovereignty.
Kicking off his second five-year term on Tuesday, Xi declared in a fervently nationalistic address to the ceremonial legislature that China would never cede “one inch” of its territory.
Cayetano said the two sides would discuss “broad areas of collaboration” ….
He said the territorial dispute would be discussed “in the context of how we can improve the situation”, and that the sides were trying to find a legal framework acceptable to both that would allow joint exploration even as they continued to disagree.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterto has pushed for closer relations with Beijing, downplaying the dispute over territory claimed by both sides and courting Chinese aid and investment. ….
to avoid frictions while operating in the area where an estimated US$5 trillion in international trade passes annually»
* * * * * * *
«Wang said China saw the country as a good neighbour, and that the two sides should view their relations from a “strategic and long-term perspective”.»
«But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has since set aside the long-standing dispute and has instead been courting Beijing in exchange for billions of dollars in trade and investment.»
In sintesi finale.
Il Presidente Duterte sembrerebbe aver offerto alla Cina la chiusura del contenzioso, accettando di fatto che il Mare Cinese del Sud sia militarmente della Cina, ricavandone come contraccambio un incremento dell’interscambio economico e, soprattutto, di cospicui investimenti cinesi nelle Filippine.
Difficile dire se Mr Duterte abbia o meno avvisato la White House di quanto si accingeva a fare.
China’s new vice-president meets Philippine foreign secretary in Beijing.
Xi Jinping’s trusted ally Wang Qishan made his diplomatic debut as vice-president on Friday, calling for a “strategic” approach to relations during a meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Beijing.
It was his first meeting with a foreign dignitary since he returned to the political spotlight during China’s annual legislative sessions that finished on Tuesday. Lawmakers endorsed him as vice-president during the meetings, and controversially revised the constitution to remove term limits on the presidency and vice-presidency.
Wang’s meeting with Cateyano confirmed a South China Morning Post report that Wang, who is known for his “firefighting” skills and ability to handle tough tasks, will take charge of foreign relations.
The 69-year-old former anti-graft tsar stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee in October, in line with the Communist Party’s unwritten rule on the retirement age.
Analysts have said Wang was likely to play an important role in diplomacy, a departure from the usually ceremonial role of Chinese vice-presidents in the past.
Meeting the top Philippine diplomat on Friday, Wang said China saw the country as a good neighbour, and that the two sides should view their relations from a “strategic and long-term perspective”.
“We should comprehensively implement the consensus of our two countries’ presidents, step up communication between our senior officials, deepen our pragmatic cooperation, deal with our disagreements appropriately to enhance our friendship, and build a closer China-Asean community with a common destiny,” Wang was quoted as saying by state broadcaster CCTV.
The Philippines won a landmark case against China in 2016, when an international tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has since set aside the long-standing dispute and has instead been courting Beijing in exchange for billions of dollars in trade and investment.
Wang’s return to the top hierarchy comes as Beijing looks to shift gear on diplomacy to cope with a more hawkish US administration under President Donald Trump and also as Beijing is becoming more assertive.
«Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s highly-anticipated interview on CBS’s 60 minutes aired on Sunday night in which the young royal spoke on a wide-range of topics, including the link between al-Qaeda and Iran.
The television interview, the first in which he is addressing an American audience, was broadcast two days before the crown prince’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington.
Co-host of CBS This Morning Norah O’Donnell bagged the exclusive interview, in which the crown prince said the son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is being supported by Iran.
“Unfortunately, Iran is playing a harmful role. The Iranian regime is based on pure ideology. Many of the Al-Qaeda operatives are protected in Iran and it refuses to surrender them to justice, and continues to refuse to extradite them to the United States. This includes the son of Osama bin Laden, the new leader of Al-Qaeda. He lives in Iran and works out of Iran. He is supported by Iran,” Prince Mohammed said.
He also said that Saudi Arabia would build its own nuclear capabilities “immediately” if Iran develops a bomb.»
Allo stato attuale della scienza e della tecnica, qualsiasi paese che abbia qualche ragionevole disponibilità economica è in grado di progettare e costruire un ordigno nucleare.
Se entrare nel novero delle superpotenze atomiche richiederebbe molto tempo ed investimenti mastodontici, perché ordigni atomici senza adeguati vettori e tutto il relativo supporto logistico sarebbero virtualmente inutili, arrivare ad avere un qualche armamento atomico ad uso locoregionale è diventato accessibile a molti.
Nel Medio Oriente l’Iran sta cercando di sviluppare una sua bomba atomica. Si dice, ma non esiste al momento alcuna conferma ufficiale, che Israele abbia da tempo simili armi.
L’iniziativa iraniana è comprensibile, ma occorre prendere atto che altera i già labili equilibri locoregionali.
Sono quasi millequattrocento anni che gli arabi odiano gli iraniani e tutti i loro vicini, adeguatamente ricambiati.
Sunniti, sciiti e wahabiti si odiano cordialmente ed al di là delle buone maniere diplomatiche, se potessero si sterminerebbero dal primo all’ultimo.
Poi, quasi che non fosse sufficiente, oltre a detestarsi per motivi politici e religiosi, è in corso una lotta all’ultimo sangue per il controllo dei bacini idrici e dei campi petroliferi.
Studiare il Medio Oriente è cosa desolante: ma siccome al peggio non c’è mai limite, si dovrebbero anche considerare le ambizioni politiche, economiche e militari delle superpotenze, che di fatto si stanno fronteggiando in quella regione in una lotta all’ultimo sangue.
«Saudi Arabia held talks with China around six months ago to establish a nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes»
Se un cinico constatasse come solo una guerra distruttiva e massacrante potrebbe, forse, risolvere la situazione attuale, verosimilmente direbbe un qualcosa non molto lontano dalla verità.
Sotto queste considerazioni risulta chiaro il messaggio lanciato dal Principe Ereditario Mohammed bin Salman:
«Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Iran builds a nuclear bomb».
Sempre una persona cinica ma raziocinante arriverebbe a concludere che l’unico modo di conservare uno straccetto di pace, nome pomposo per una realtà ove la gente non si ammazzi su scala industriale, sarebbe quella di cercare di mantenere equilibri politici e militari in termini ragionevolmente accettabili.
Infine, cinico o disincantato, si dovrebbe ammettere come i trattati siano meri pezzi di carta, che valgono solo ed esclusivamente se supportati a garantiti da eserciti pronti, agguerriti, e soprattutto in equilibrio.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman dropped a bombshell when he said Saudi Arabia will develop nuclear weapons if Iran builds a nuclear bomb. Before this week, Saudi Arabia’s strategy was either based on not letting Iran develop nuclear weapons, via international negotiations and pressure, or depending on the international community – which we know is not reliable – to deter it.
Saudi policy has now changed. Prince Mohammed bin Salman chose CBS to announce the kingdom’s new policy before meeting with US President Donald Trump. His statements had tangible consequences in Washington whose stances are usually divided. The crown prince’s task to convince legislators in the Congress and the different political powers in Washington will be difficult.
Washington’s approval to let Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons is almost impossible especially that some countries, like Israel, oppose this. However, the prince linked this to Iran’s attempt to build its own nuclear weapons. This resembles the Pakistani scenario with India.
The new Saudi policy conveys to the Europeans and the Americans, particularly those who seem lenient towards Iran, that they must understand that Riyadh will not settle with any guarantees if Iran develops its nuclear weapons and that it will do the same within the context of balance of deterrence.
First of all, we must ask, is Saudi Arabia capable of building a nuclear bomb?
No one can confirm that. However, the kingdom does have scientific competencies. This year, it will set up projects related to reactors, factories and infrastructure to develop its nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes. What distinguishes Saudi Arabia from Iran here is that it has uranium in its desert. Therefore, the kingdom does not need to buy it, and it has actually adopted a plan to extract it for development projects that are part of Vision 2030.
The second question is how will Saudi Arabia confront international opposition and possible political risks?
I do not think Riyadh will take this step to develop nuclear weapons without the approval of the concerned superpowers which cannot ignore the fact that Iran targets Saudi Arabia and that the former has reached an advanced stage of readiness to build nuclear weapons. If Tehran decided to enrich uranium and resume its nuclear project for military purposes, the crown prince’s statement will thus be justified.
Those who oppose the crown prince are not just in Iran but also in Washington itself. US Senator Ed Markey, also member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, immediately responded to the prince’s statements and said: “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has confirmed what many have long suspected—nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia is about more than just electrical power, it’s about geopolitical power,” adding: “The United States must not compromise on nonproliferation standards in any 123 agreement it concludes with Saudi Arabia.” Opponents have noted that Saudi Arabia refuses to sign the “gold standard” or the “123 agreement” which guarantees that it does not enrich uranium and does not reproduce plutonium.
It’s worth noting that a week before the crown prince kicked off his tour in the US, the kingdom announced that it approved its national policy of the atomic energy program and confirmed its commitment to international agreements and the principle of transparency while emphasizing the program aims to serve peaceful purposes. The prince’s recent statements ahead of his travel to Washington prepared everyone there to understand that keeping silent and being lenient with Iran, thus allowing it to produce nuclear weapons, will mean that Saudi Arabia will do the same and possess a nuclear bomb. His statements may be looked at from two angles. The first one is that Saudi Arabia does not intend to develop nuclear weapons if Iran commits not to, and the second one is that the prince is warning of being lenient with Tehran because he will thus develop nuclear weapons to defend his country and create “a balance of terror.” Everyone takes Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statements seriously. In addition to announcing its national policy of the atomic energy program, Saudi Arabia held talks with China around six months ago to establish a nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes. This will probably be among the topics he will address in Washington. Discussing these matters will not be easy due to all those skeptics who doubt Saudi Arabia’s aims and intentions. These skeptics have two choices, to either work seriously to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons – in this case Saudi Arabia and the world will not sense nuclear threats – or approve Saudi Arabia’s right of readiness to possess weapons like Iran’s. Iran is headed by an extremist fascist and religious regime which may use any nuclear weapons it builds to attack its rivals. Even if it does not directly use these weapons, it will exploit them to blackmail the region and the world and it will threaten to use them to achieve its expansive activities it’s currently endeavoring.
L’Occidente assiste ancora incredulo alla vertiginosa crescita sociale, culturale ed economica cinese, e si lambicca il cervello a capire come facciano. Sembrerebbe impossibile, eppure esiste.
Quando agli inizi degli anni novanta dissero a Deng Xiaoping se non fosse stato necessario passare dall’alfabeto cinese a quello latino, Deng si oppose vivamente.
Se un bambino non sa mandare a memoria seimila caratteri in due anni non serve fargli proseguire gli studi: vada pure a zappare la terra.
Poi, l’anno seguente, Deng chiamò il capo della polizia e gli chiese un elenco di tutti gli insegnati delle scuole inferiori e superiori entrati nell’organico docente grazie alla rivoluzione culturale. Dopo un mese aveva sulla scrivania un elenco di seicentomila nomi. Convocò nuovamente il capo della polizia e gli chiese in quanto tempo li avrebbe trasferiti nei Laogai. Una o due notti, fu la risposta. E così fu.
Da quel giorno la scuola cinese funzionò esclusivamente su basi meritocratiche e nessuno lì si sogna di edulcorarla. Una scuola che non selezione e non boccia serve a nulla.
Classi diffferenziate? Sicuramente sì: ma per metterci i più intelligenti ed impegnati. Questi saranno la punta di diamante.
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Le nostre scuole sono ricettacolo di handicappati di ogni tipo ed i programmi sono quindi abbassati al loro livello.
Sia ben chiaro. A nessuno interessano gli handicappati: interessano i posti di insegnanti di sostegno, che sono assunti direttamente dai presidi. Sono uno sterminato esercito di parassiti.
Le scuole occidentali non bocciano, per non ‘traumatizzare‘ il bambino. Le scuole occidentali non insegnano, ‘formano‘. Lo studio mnemonico è bandito e vilipeso, esattamente il contrario di quanto accade in Cina.
Se un insegnante da un brutto voto, l’indomani si trova a dover fronteggiare genitori furenti. “Dare un brutto voto a quel genio di mio figlio!“.
Nelle nostre scuole la disciplina è inesistente, e le bocciature sono rarità geologiche. Già. Disciplina. In Giappone ed in Cina si va a scuola in divisa, da noi occidentali ci si va sbracati come ad una festa in maschera.
Ma una scuola che non boccia è utile quanto uno scarafaggio spiaccicato a terra.
Ed il danno si riverbera poi su tutta la società.
* * * * * * *
In Cina, per passare dalla prima alla seconda elementare i bambini devono rispondere correttamente a venti test in venti minuti primi. Un errore e via dalla scuola. Dalla prima alla seconda elementare la popolazione diminuisce del 30%. Senza rimpianto alcuno.
La scuola è fatta per gli intelligenti che si applicano: tutti debbono e possono iniziarla, ma solo i meritevoli possono finirla. Non esistono ‘quote rosa‘ né di altro tipo.
Uno dei test usati in Cina per il passaggio dalla prima alla seconda elementare è stato proposto nelle scuole superiori germaniche ed il 90% degli alunni lo ha fallito miseramente. Studenti ed anche insegnanti: non hanno superato il test, anche se è irritantemente banale.
Lo proponiamo quindi ai nostri Lettori.
«Dire il numero del parcheggio in cui è stata lasciata la macchina rossa.»
I tesori minerari racchiusi nell’Artico sono ben protetti dai ghiacci, ma quanto mai appetibili: assomma quasi la metà delle scorte di idrocarburi mondiali.
Se è vero che i costi estrattivi attuali sono alti, visto in un’ottica strategica l’investimento è attrattivo.
Se è vero che al momento almeno la Russia non dispone dei capitali necessari, è altrettanto vero che la Cina è più che disposta a finanziare questi investimenti, sotto la condizione di tagliarne i dividendi ed essere considerata l’acquirente di elezione. Si cerca, in poche parole, di ripetere lo schema seguito per Yamal.
Il capitale occidentale è inutile quanto non richiesto.
Le conseguenze potrebbero rovesciare la situazione energetica mondiale attuale. Il blocco sino – russo diventerebbe energeticamente indipendente e senza avere vie di rifornimento esposte ad eventuali operazioni ostili.
Questo sarebbe uno scenario del tutto nuovo, sulla cui portata meditare profondamente ed a lungo.
«The Arctic Circle may hold more than a fifth of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, most of it offshore»
«However, with oil around $60 a barrel, not all will be worth pursuing»
«Gold mines, roads and a full spectrum of energy projects dot the horizon—with Russia leading the way and other Arctic countries scrambling to catch up»
«There’s much to do, and not enough capital to go around»
«That means countries with deep pockets, deep ambition and no Arctic coastline—namely China—can get a seat at the table, too»
* * *
«So far, Russia’s oil-and-gas money has underwritten a lot of the work, giving President Vladimir Putin a leg up as changing conditions grant access to new riches»
«Russia has an overwhelming lead over its neighbors with nearly 250 potential projects»
«President Vladimir Putin has presided over financially and technically ambitious energy exploration goals. He officially opened a $27 billion liquefied natural gas plant, called Yamal LNG, the first week of December on northwestern Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula»
«Russia’s Arctic list is heavily populated with hydrocarbon projects, from new or expanded gas fields to refineries and the ports, pipelines and rail needed to move the product»
«There’s even a floating Russian nuclear power generator for Bilibino, an eastern town that is shuttering aging reactors—the world’s most northern»
«Miners have long desired to extract Arctic gold, silver, graphite, nickel, copper, titanium, iron, lead, coal, diamond, uranium and the rare earth metals critical to high-tech devices»
«The sea lanes above Russia cut as much as 40 percent off the distance between east-west routes through the Suez Canal. Russia already maintains at least 16 ports along the 3,000-mile route»
«As recently as mid-November, Putin endorsed allowing only Russian-flagged vessels to carry and store hydrocarbons along the Northern Sea Route»
«Other countries aren’t ready to cede all of the Arctic’s potential riches to Russia and its Arctic neighbors»
Si può disporre delle cose perché le si hanno oppure perché le si compartecipa con rapporti bilaterali paritetici: ecco perché si può iniziare a parlare di
As the Arctic Circle’s ice melts away, people of the High North feel their top-of-the-world economy heating up. Gold mines, roads and a full spectrum of energy projects dot the horizon—with Russia leading the way and other Arctic countries scrambling to catch up. There’s much to do, and not enough capital to go around. That means countries with deep pockets, deep ambition and no Arctic coastline—namely China—can get a seat at the table, too.
Investing at the top of the world isn’t easy. The remoteness of the region, and a lack of basic infrastructure means the Arctic is simply not wired into the rest of the global trade system. Arctic financial data are scarce. But the global asset manager Guggenheim Partners has shed some light on what’s likely to come next in the Arctic. They’ve spent the last seven years studying the region and the last three amassing a database of 900 planned, in-process, finished, cancelled and desired Arctic infrastructure projects.
Some of the projects reflect grand ambitions to upgrade national, industrial and social systems. Others are smaller scale and meant to connect remote places into larger patterns of trade. Taken together, they would require as much as $1 trillion in investments.
So far, Russia’s oil-and-gas money has underwritten a lot of the work, giving President Vladimir Putin a leg up as changing conditions grant access to new riches. Russia has an overwhelming lead over its neighbors with nearly 250 potential projects. Finland, the U.S. and Canada follow in the number of wish-list items. Underscoring many of these initiatives is careful maneuvering by China—whether through Arctic trade deals or strategic financing.
Who can build their projects first, and who funds them, will go a long way in determining which countries are best positioned to exert economic dominance in the region over the coming decades.
Mining, road-building, renewable energy and service businesses make up the greatest number of individual projects in the infrastructure inventory by sector, at least in part because most of those are smaller-scale items that all communities need.
Oil and gas production projects require the biggest overall potential investment—as much as $200 billion—or more than the next three categories combined (mining, renewable energy and railroads). The Arctic Circle may hold more than a fifth of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, most of it offshore. However, with oil around $60 a barrel, not all will be worth pursuing.
There’s at least one big reason why Russia is poised to remain a dominant player in the region: the country is rich in natural resources, a disproportionate amount of which lie in the Arctic. That’s why the north already makes up about 20 percent of the Russian gross domestic product, and Russia contributes about two-thirds to the overall Arctic economy. President Vladimir Putin has presided over financially and technically ambitious energy exploration goals. He officially opened a $27 billion liquefied natural gas plant, called Yamal LNG, the first week of December on northwestern Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula.
Russia’s Arctic list is heavily populated with hydrocarbon projects, from new or expanded gas fields to refineries and the ports, pipelines and rail needed to move the product.
Drilling opportunities are expanding in the U.S. The Trump administration is preparing to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge along with the Chukchi and Beaufort seas to drilling. The administration in November issued the Italian company Eni SpA in November an exploratory-drilling permit, the first since Royal Dutch Shell pulled out of its $7 billion Chukchi Sea venture in 2015.
Developing Arctic hydrocarbons is not universally considered a safe or moral decision, given the treacherous working conditions and the overdetermined dangers of further carbon dioxide pollution. Norway is out ahead of its northern neighbors in thinking through this complexity. Amidst public concern about climate change, its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund—built by oil profits—may divest from fossil fuels. However, its state oil company has been moving ahead on new exploration despite obstacles.
The Arctic also offers hydropower, wind, geothermal, tidal and solar energy. There’s even a floating Russian nuclear power generator for Bilibino, an eastern town that is shuttering aging reactors—the world’s most northern. Miners have long desired to extract Arctic gold, silver, graphite, nickel, copper, titanium, iron, lead, coal, diamond, uranium and the rare earth metals critical to high-tech devices. And there are Arctic power grids, railroads, highways, subsea telecom fiber, satellites and aviation corridors to pin down so that everyone and everything can get anywhere anytime.
The energy and minerals that feed industry are paralleled by a volume of fish that can potentially feed people for decades, or, if caught sustainably, forever. Some species are already following warmer waters northward. It’s a complex picture, though: Changing temperature, salinity, sea-ice behavior and ocean acidification all have an effect on fish populations, and scientists have yet to draw firm conclusions about what future Arctic fisheries may look like. Accordingly, nine countries and the European Union decided in November to leave international waters at the top of the world in its under-fished state for at least 16 years. The pause is intended to allow scientists to better understand the regions fisheries and how they may change as sea ice vanishes.
Building the Arctic Infrastructure Inventory has led Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partners’ global chief investment officer, to a counterintuitive conclusion: The firm is looking past its Arctic inventory, as much as it’s looking at it.
“It’s a slow-go but it’s definitely accelerating,” Minerd said of northern investment. Updating the inventory is keeping his thought “ahead of the curve relative to most investment firms,” he said. “Most investment firms don’t even have the Arctic on their radar. Eventually they will.”
Instead of energy, bellwethers for Arctic development may include Finland’s Hotel Santa Claus, Norway’s Kolos data center, which is aiming to be the world’s largest, Sweden’s NorthVolt battery plant and Finland’s North European BioTech Oy, which will make advanced ethanol and other products from forestry-industry waste, like recycled wood, sawdust.
Most tantalizing, however, for Minerd and many others, is the oft-promised, and yet never quite present, opening of ice-free shipping lanes.
A New Ocean at the Top of the World
Marine transportation may take most direct advantage of the unique geophysical calamity of melting Arctic sea ice. Just not quite yet.
The expanse of ice in September 2017 was 25 percent lower than the 1981-2010 end-of-summer average, putting the 10 lowest sea-ice area measurements all in the last 11 years. “There are many strong signals that continue to indicate that the Arctic environmental system has reached a ‘new normal,’” scientists concluded in their annual Arctic Report Card in December.
The ice is diminishing but may not disappear entirely in summers for another 25 years, which makes affordable and safe Arctic shipping a slow boil.
It’s also among the most difficult economic challenges. Even without ice, it’s colder up there than people might prefer, costlier to insure vessels and the region lacks adequate maritime services. Sparse satellite coverage makes navigation and tracking more difficult. There were just 19 trips between Europe and Asia through the Northern Sea Route in 2016, according to the Centre for High North Logistics, lower than average since Russia opened it to other nations in 2009.
The promise is real, which is why the world’s largest nation is upgrading its ports and its overwhelming fleet of icebreakers.
The sea lanes above Russia cut as much as 40 percent off the distance between east-west routes through the Suez Canal. Russia already maintains at least 16 ports along the 3,000-mile route.
A commercially viable trade route is an attractive proposition for a country that’s hungry for income and power status. As recently as mid-November, Putin endorsed allowing only Russian-flagged vessels to carry and store hydrocarbons along the Northern Sea Route, signaling a strong interest in developing his own northern shipping companies and generating revenue to upgrade infrastructure along the coast.
The Northwest Passage, which weaves from the Davis Strait between Canada and Greenland to the Bering Strait, will likely remain essentially unpassable for regular commercial shipping for even longer. Its ice is more dangerous and the route itself, while about 30 percent shorter than existing routes, is underdeveloped even compared with the facilities north of Russia.
British researchers in 2016 used climate models to gain insight about how disappearing ice may enable Arctic shipping to evolve.
The same British authors in July published analysis showing advances in predicting months beforehand how passable Arctic routes will be in the summer, which will be an increasingly useful skill.
Other countries aren’t ready to cede all of the Arctic’s potential riches to Russia and its Arctic neighbors. For China, which may be playing the shrewdest and longest-term hand in the Arctic, avoiding Russian tolls and territory may be less a pie-in-the-sky dream than an eventuality, as a third shipping channel—the Transpolar Sea Route—opens traffic straight over the North Pole, the fastest and shortest route.
It’s a real option, but in a future that only Chinese leaders appear to be contemplating.
The World, Turned on Its Side
China’s Arctic vision stretches out past 2049, the centennial of its revolution. The nation is playing an incredibly slow, cautious and high-stakes strategy to build itself up as a leading Arctic (and Antarctic) power, according to Anne-Marie Brady, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Polar Initiative, executive editor of The Polar Journal and author of a 2017 book, China as a Polar Great Power.
China’s ambitions in these regions have not received due attention, in part, Brady says, because so few Western journalists speak and read Chinese. The country has deployed what she calls “two-track messaging,” sending alternative signals to domestic and international audiences. President Xi Jingping in November 2014, for example, spoke in Hobart, Australia, where for the first time he stated that his country will be “joining the ranks of the Polar great powers,” which Western media largely missed.
In June, the government broadened its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative for trade to include the Arctic.
China cannot physically claim Arctic territory, but it can buy stakes and influence wherever it seems wise.
“China’s thinking on the polar regions and global oceans demonstrates a level of ambition and forward planning that few, if any, modern industrial states can achieve,” Brady writes.
China has undertaken a soft-power campaign, first focused on scientific collaboration, with financial interests not too far behind. The nation struck a free-trade pact with Iceland in 2013, and it has held free-trade discussions with Norway since 2008. Finland has jointly called for greater cooperation with China, in the context of European Union trade policy. Canada and China in December extended exploratory free-trade talks after being unable to launch a formal round.
Chinese agencies are already common financiers of Arctic projects, including several Russian initiatives. They have placed early bets on resources in Greenland, which have yet to pan out. And when President Donald Trump visited China in November, the oil giant Sinopec, China Investment Corp., and Bank of China Ltd. pledged to help finance Alaska LNG, a $43 billion gas-export project.
Along with finance, Chinese executives and tourists are beating a path to Scandinavia. Passengers can now fly direct to Stockholm from Beijing and Hong Kong. From Helsinki, travelers can get back and forth between at least four additional eastern Chinese cities, too.
The returns on an Arctic strategy are not only financial.
Before Russia’s Yamal LNG opened in December, officials made a big show of dispatching the first shipment to China, whose $12 billion financing made the facility possible after the U.S. imposed sanctions in 2014. As fate would have it, a logistical complication forced them to reroute the shipment, and it was redirected to the U.K.
The symbolism of the first shipment’s intended destination raises thought-provoking questions about how relationships among Arctic and other nations may evolve. How much power does financing Arctic business give China? Russia is grateful to Chinese investors who helped make Yamal LNG possible. But that also gives its southeastern neighbor leverage that’s difficult to quantify. And throwing too much money at Russia may sour China’s Western trade partners who are less amenable to the Putin regime.
If the Alaskan LNG infrastructure will eventually be built with Chinese help, would Americans be similarly beholden to Chinese soft power? To what extent might the Russian Arctic, the Greenland Arctic or the American Arctic actually become the Chinese Arctic when it comes to writing checks? What are the national security implications of China cultivating financial and maritime influence on shores and in seas that belong to other nations?
Free trade earns participants soft power. Militarization is hard power. As the U.S. and other nations have reversed long-standing free-trade ideas, that may put more onus on hard power, Minerd said.
The melting of the Arctic itself is so disorienting, and China’s ambition is so palpable that it requires a different worldview—literally. A map developed by a Chinese geophysicist, and used for more than a decade by scientists and military, Brady writes, shows both the scope of the nation’s ambitions and just how concentrated this seemingly far-flung part of the world really is. The map was first made public in 2014.
The Arctic makes up only six percent of the Earth’s surface, and yet neighbors feel like they live on the other side of the world from each other. China’s vertical map projects a view of the world few westerners have considered. But it’s a world that has China squarely at its center and is marked conspicuously by a lack of ice at the North Pole.
With China rising, just how much power Russia retains over Arctic affairs is a future much harder to project than even how fast the temperature is rising.
I grafici riportati dall’Economist si riferiscono al 2010 – 2011: in termini medi dovrebbero essere triplicati (vide infra).
Definire quale sia il livello di povertà in un paese a dimensione continentale è cosa ardua. In Cina, le zone orientali costiere sono ragionevolmente sviluppate dal punto di vista economico, ed ivi il costo della vita è molto maggiore rispetto alle zone rurali interne.
Non solo. Quando un paese vede crescere la propria economia al ritmo del 6% – 8% l’anno, dovrebbe andare di conserva come il livello reddituale minimo per poter parlare di povertà vari anche esso.
Questa situazione oggettiva spiega il perché al momento sia disponibile una ridda di dati relativi alla soglia di povertà in Cina: spesso sono riportati senza indicare le condizioni al contorno e sono quindi ripresi come se fossero di validità generale, generando così ulteriore confusione in un quadro che proprio non ne avrebbe bisogno.
Un criterio ragionevole è quello di considerare sotto la soglia di povertà coloro che nella provincia in cui vivono non percepiscano quanto serva per gestire una abitazione confacente, procurarsi un vitto decente, potersi permettere i servizi fondamentali alla vita, quali l’accesso alla corrente elettrica, all’acqua, ad un minimo di riscaldamento durante il periodo invernale.
«- Per Capita Disposable Income Nationwide, Accumulated(yuan) 25,973.8
– Median of Per Capita Disposable Income Nationwide, Accumulated(yuan) 22,408.0
– Per Capita Disposable Wages Nationwide, Accumulated(yuan) 14,620.3
– Per Capita Food&Tobacco Expenditure Nationwide, Accumulated(yuan) 5,373.6
– Per Capita Residence Expenditure Nationwide, Accumulated(yuan) 4,106.9»
Alcune considerazioni emergono spontanee.
– Il reddito medio procapite è solo di poco superiore a quello mediano, segno di una minima sperequazione della ricchezza;
– La spesa media per alimentari e sigarette incide per il 20.69% delle entrate;
– La spesa media per l’abitazione incide per il 15.81% delle entrate.
Questi dati indicherebbero come sia stato raggiunto un soddisfacente livello di prosperità: punto di partenza, non certo di arrivo. Come detto, in una società in rapido sviluppo economico, la soglia di povertà si innalza di conserva con l’aumento delle entrate procapite mediane: è tempo-variante.
Per la dottrina economica cinese, il problema non consiste nel ridurre la fascia dei ricchi, quanto piuttosto nell’innalzare il reddito dei poveri, dando loro un dignitoso lavoro.
Lo stato non ha nulla da equiripartire, da ridistribuire. Compito dello stato è mettere in essere le infrastrutture necessarie a far generare posti di lavoro nel comparto produttivo. Poi, quando la gente ha lavoro e guadagna, provvederà essa stessa al proprio welfare.
«China has long spoken of a ‘war on poverty,’ but recent signs suggest it might be even more of a focus in 2018»
«For the sixth year in a row, Xi’s Lunar New Year inspection tour has taken him to the front lines of China’s war against poverty»
«This year, the “front lines” were in Sichuan province, a mountainous inland province bordering the provinces of Tibet to the west and Yunnan to the south»
«Xi visited members of the Yi ethnic group, where he vowed to exorcise “the evils of ignorance, backwardness and poverty.”»
* * * * * * * *
Nel suo pragmatismo, la dottrina economica cinese punta tutti i suoi sforzi a traslare la curva di Pareto verso destra, senza curarsi del dove arrivi la lunga coda. L’obbiettivo è che tutti stiano bene: se alcuni stanno meglio, ben per loro.
«Xi’s pledge to eliminate poverty by 2020 is also not new; that’s been part of China’s definition of the goal of attaining a “moderately prosperous society” since the Hu Jintao era»
Poi, una volta raggiunto codesto obiettivo, si vedrà il da farsi.
China has long spoken of a ‘war on poverty,’ but recent signs suggest it might be even more of a focus in 2018.
As has become his tradition, Chinese President Xi Jinping used this week’s New Year inspection tour (meaning the Lunar New Year, rather than January 1) to demonstrate the government’s focus on combatting poverty. “For the sixth year in a row, Xi’s Lunar New Year inspection tour has taken him to the front lines of China’s war against poverty,” Xinhua, China’s state news agency declared.
This year, the “front lines” were in Sichuan province, a mountainous inland province bordering the provinces of Tibet to the west and Yunnan to the south. Xi visited members of the Yi ethnic group, where he vowed to exorcise “the evils of ignorance, backwardness and poverty.”
“To lead the people to a better life is our goal. Not a single ethnic group, family or person should be left behind,” Xi told villagers during his New Year inspection tour.
This year’s inspection tour was fairly routine. Chinese media coverage even borrowed liberally from descriptions of Xi’s trips to other impoverished villages in previous years. After all, China has been waging its “war on poverty” since at least Xi Jinping came to power – if not for decades. Xi’s pledge to eliminate poverty by 2020 is also not new; that’s been part of China’s definition of the goal of attaining a “moderately prosperous society” since the Hu Jintao era.
Yet there are other signs that this year’s emphasis on poverty reduction, while not unique, may bring more tangible results than in years past.
Xi’s visit to Sichuan, and the resulting emphasis on “people-centered development” and poverty reduction, is in line with a major rhetorical shift in Xi’s remarks at the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2017. In his work report, Xi said that the “principal contradiction facing Chinese society” had evolved, from a contradiction between “the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production” to today’s “contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.”
In plain English, that means the Party’s goal in guiding development is no longer to boost “production” but to address economic and social imbalances in order to provide “a better life” for China’s people. And that “better life,” according to Xi, is defined broadly, not only in terms of access to material goods but intangibles like “democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and a better environment.”
Though this change made fewer headlines than “Xi Jinping Thought,” also introduced in the work report, Xi was not exaggerating (at least not much) when he said the new “contradiction” was a “historic shift that affects the whole landscape and that creates many new demands for the work of the Party and the country.” In essence, Xi acknowledged that China’s previous growth-at-all-costs model was no longer meeting the expectations of the Chinese people; the time has come for a shift to growth that actively considers the all-around well-being of the population (For more on the importance of this change, see Evan Feigenbaum’s article for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).
This is the necessary context behind Xi’s visit to rural Sichuan, and the recent government statement outlining a “rural rejuvenation” policy. China’s developmental imbalances are best embodied in the tension between the prosperous cities of the east coast and its impoverished rural inland regions. In 2011, the Economist created a map comparing different provinces of China to countries around the world in terms of GDP. The eastern coastal provinces have GDPs comparable to western European economies like Switzerland and Austria; further inland, provinces merit less enviable comparisons to Libya and Bolivia. While the numbers are outdated, the general trend remains true.
The government has long recognized the issue this imbalanced development creates. The high incidence of rural poverty makes it the most urgent area of focus in China’s “war on poverty”; according to the Chinese government’s definition of poverty, as of 2015 there were 55 million rural poor out of a total of 70 million Chinese living in poverty. As part of its coverage of Xi’s New Year tour, Xinhua said that China had reduced the number of rural poor by 10 million in 2017, without providing exact figures (Xinhua claimed the same 10 million figure for poverty reduction in 2016).
Ending rural poverty, however, is far easier said than done. Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, also made addressing China’s developmental imbalances a major theme of his time in office; that was a key part of Hu’s signature “scientific development” catchphrase. Yet, according to Kerry Brown, “the best that can be said” for Hu’s efforts is that he was able to “stabilize” inequality during his final three years in power.
Whether Xi will have better luck might be the biggest question facing China today.