Four-month-old baby panda named Peanut


Click to enlargeDaily Mail UK

Realized we haven’t had a panda picture here in a spell. This is from the Daily Mail.

China has an Arctic commercial and scientific partner in remote Iceland

In a remote valley near the Arctic Circle where the wind whips the coarse yellow grass, China and Iceland are preparing to look to the sky — and a shared future.

Construction workers are building a research facility to study the Northern Lights, whose spectacular streaks of color light up Iceland’s winter skies. Funded by China’s Polar Research Institute, the facility will house Chinese, Icelandic and international scientists when it opens next year.

This cement shell is a concrete achievement in the burgeoning relationship between the rising Asian superpower, population 1.37 billion, and this tiny North Atlantic island nation of 330,000 people. It may seem a lopsided friendship, but both countries perceive benefits…

“It is better to be a friend to everyone when you are small than be an enemy to anybody,” said Reinhard Reynisson, director of the nonprofit company building the Aurora Observatory.

Reynisson speaks with the confidence of a country that has weathered earthquakes, volcanoes, famine and financial meltdown since it was settled by Vikings in the 9th century…

Iceland was nudged in China’s direction by financial calamity. When the global credit crunch hit in 2008, Iceland’s banks — whose debts had ballooned to more than 10 times the country’s GDP — collapsed. Iceland’s currency nosedived, unemployment soared, and Iceland was forced to go the International Monetary Fund and the European Union for bailouts. It also began looking for new economic partners to help it rebuild — and China was willing.

In 2010, the two countries agreed currency swaps between Iceland’s krona and China’s yuan, and in 2013 they signed a free trade agreement — the first between China and a European country.

With Iceland’s support, China was granted observer status in 2013 at the Arctic Council, whose core members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, the United States and Iceland.

It also attends annual Arctic Circle Assemblies hosted by Iceland — gatherings of politicians, officials, scientists and businesspeople to discuss the future of the region…

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to observe the aurora borealis, or northern lights. The colorful phenomenon is caused when a magnetic solar wind slams into the Earth’s magnetic field.

Scientists hope the observatory will help them learn about the interaction between the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field, which could help predict space weather…

Reynisson said the initial local skepticism about China’s intentions has faded.

Trade in commerce, ideas and science? Seems to me to be an example of the best kind of global cooperation. 21st Century foreign policy between nations with intense respect for long-lived culture.

Trump talks walls – China builds bridges


Presidents and First Ladies of China and Ecuador, this week

❝ An expected U.S. economic retreat from Latin America under Donald Trump is causing the region’s leaders to look halfway around the world, to China, for help weathering the possible financial headwinds.

They’ll have the perfect opportunity to make their appeal this week when Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a Pacific Rim summit as part of a visit to Ecuador, Peru and Chile…

❝ Over the past decade China has displaced the U.S. as the main trading partner in country after country in Latin America as demand for the region’s soybeans, oil and iron ore fueled the fastest growth in decades. But more recently, as China’s demand for raw materials has been slowing, the region’s economies have taken a hit, dampening the once-torrid love affair with the world’s second-biggest economy.

❝ Margaret Myers, a China expert at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said that most South American countries have awoken to the pitfalls of dependence on commodity exports and would prefer closer ties to the U.S., which buys the sort of manufacturing goods that generate more jobs.

“But the question is whether the U.S. will reciprocate,” she says. “Nobody in the region is expecting much from Trump in terms of really productive policy. That leaves room for China to play a much more important role.”…

❝ To be sure, a U.S.-China trade war would have ripple effects across Chinese industry that would also depress demand for Latin America’s raw materials.

But for now Chinese businessmen attending the APEC summit see nothing but potential.

As far as I can see – in the view from Lot 4 – China’s foreign policy is more likely to result in mutual growth. Certainly, a predictable difference between investing nations whose “long-term” view means the next election, if not the next quarter – on one hand – and investing nations and parties concerned with a five to ten-year window of change. Usually, progressive in being focused on stable growth.

Infrastructure? China trumps Trump!


Click to enlargeShutterstock

❝ President-elect Donald Trump has proposed spending up to $1 trillion over a decade to make America’s infrastructure “second to none.”

Except for China that is.

❝ The world’s second-largest economy has already topped that this year alone, with $1.4 trillion splurged on roads, railways, bridges, telecom networks and other infrastructure in the ten months through October.

❝ Trump’s plan for an “America’s Infrastructure First” policy mirrors China’s build-it-and-they-will-come model, except on a much smaller scale. China has spent about $11 trillion on infrastructure in the last decade — more than 10 times what Trump is proposing…

That building binge has transformed China’s continent-sized economy. Its 20,000 kilometers of high-speed railways account for more than 60 percent of the world’s total, and it’s not done yet, with plans to boost that distance to 30,000 kilometers by 2020. The U.S.? Don’t ask.

To be sure, as a developing nation, China still has much potential for more building compared with an advanced economy such as the U.S…

Not if we’re talking infrastructure. We haven’t been serious about interstate highways since the Eisenhower Administration. That was 60 years ago. The last major new U.S. airport was completed in 1995.

❝ Trump’s plan “does offer the potential of supporting job creation in the short run, more importantly supporting and expanding the economy’s capacity in the medium run,” said Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary…economic adviser to President Barack Obama…

But when it comes to infrastructure, “America First” is actually a distant second.

Trump’s Congressional troops, establishment, tea party or otherwise, probably aren’t likely to temper their contempt for folks who’ve paid up for Social Security and Medicare. They will ignore the salient fact that these so-called entitlements are insurance programs that taxpayers have already paid for. I have no doubt the sleaze patrol from Paul Ryan to Stephen Bannon will ignore any attempt to bring the tax base for corporate barons back to something approaching responsible. They will try to tax the working class to pay for safer transport of profit-making goods and services.

Examples of China’s commitment to combating climate change


Click to enlargeReuters/Jason Lee

❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”

❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.

If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.

❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.

RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.

Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.

China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Teleportation — the next generation moves closer

❝ Chinese and Canadian scientists say they have successfully carried out a form of teleportation across an entire city.

The two teams working independently have teleported near-identical versions of tiny particles called photons through cables across Calgary in Canada and Hefei in Anhui province.

The forms of teleported photons were destroyed in one laboratory and recreated in another more than 8km apart in the two cities through optical fibre.

Similar experiments have been carried out before, but only within the same laboratory.

❝ A physicist not involved in either of the studies said the research was a step forward in the development of a “quantum internet”, a futuristic particle-based information system that could be much more secure than existing forms of digital data.

Quantum networks make eavesdropping almost impossible because the particles used cannot be observed without being altered…

❝ Teleportation, the foundation for such a network, has largely been the realm of science fiction, and other scientists say the research is still a very long way from teleporting people or objects.

But in his commentary on the research in the scientific journal Nature Photonics, French physicist Frederic Grosshans said the two experiments clearly showed that teleportation across metropolitan distances was technologically feasible.

❝ The research was carried out by scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Calgary and their papers were published in the journal on Monday, 19 September.

There are differences in approach between the two groups of researchers. RTFA for details – and a pleasant nudge to your imagination, eh?

The world’s largest radio telescope begins operations in China


Liu Xu/Xinhua

❝ The world’s largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige…

Measuring 500 meters in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize.

❝ The official Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang.

Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life…

Installation of the 4,450-panel structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was completed in July…

❝ The radio telescope has double the sensitivity of the Arecibo Observatory, and five to 10 times the surveying speed…

China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain…Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — the one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each year.

There is something I’d love to visit. Wish I could drive there in my old pickup truck. I will not countenance the TSA crappola.

Moving from Globalization 2.0 to 3.0

While seemingly elegant in theory, globalization suffers in practice. That is the lesson of Brexit and of the rise of Donald Trump in the United States. And it also underpins the increasingly virulent anti-China backlash now sweeping the world. Those who worship at the altar of free trade – including me – must come to grips with this glaring disconnect.

Truth be known, there is no rigorous theory of globalization. The best that economists can offer is David Ricardo’s early nineteenth-century framework: if a country simply produces in accordance with its comparative advantage (in terms of resource endowments and workers’ skills), presto, it will gain through increased cross-border trade. Trade liberalization – the elixir of globalization – promises benefits for all…

In the US, Trump’s ascendancy and the political traction gained by Senator Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign reflect many of the same sentiments that led to Brexit. From immigration to trade liberalization, economic pressures on a beleaguered middle class contradict the core promises of globalization…

In short, globalization has lost its political support – unsurprising in a world that bears little resemblance to the one inhabited by Ricardo two centuries ago. Ricardo’s arguments, couched in terms of England’s and Portugal’s comparative advantages in cloth and wine, respectively, hardly seem relevant for today’s hyper-connected, knowledge-based world. The Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson, who led the way in translating Ricardian foundations into modern economics, reached a similar conclusion late in his life, when he pointed out how a disruptive low-wage technology imitator like China could turn the theory of comparative advantage inside out…

Of course, this isn’t the first time that globalization has run into trouble. Globalization 1.0 – the surge in global trade and international capital flows that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – met its demise between World War I and the Great Depression. Global trade fell by some 60% from 1929 to 1932, as major economies turned inward and embraced protectionist trade policies…

Similarly, the means of Globalization 2.0 are far more sophisticated than those of its antecedent. The connectivity of Globalization 1.0 occurred via ships and eventually railroads and motor vehicles. Today, these transportation systems are far more advanced – augmented by the Internet and its enhancement of global supply chains. The Internet has also enabled instantaneous cross-border dissemination of knowledge-based services such as software programming, engineering and design, medical screening, and accounting, legal, and consulting work.

The sharpest contrast between the two waves of globalization is in the speed of technology absorption and disruption. New information technologies have been adopted at an unusually rapid rate. It took only five years for 50 million US households to begin surfing the Internet, whereas it took 38 years for a similar number to gain access to radios…

Unfortunately, safety-net programs to help trade-displaced or trade-pressured workers are just as obsolete as theories of comparative advantage…

The design of more enlightened policies must account for the powerful pressures now bearing down on a much broader array of workers. The hyper-speed of Globalization 2.0 suggests the need for quicker triggers and wider coverage for worker retraining, relocation allowances, job-search assistance, wage insurance for older workers, and longer-duration unemployment benefits.

Stephen Roach cautions, “the alternative – whether it is Brexit or America’s new isolationism – is an accident waiting to happen.” Globalization is not only inevitable, the most recent wave is complete. The backwash is populated with opportunist capitalists jumping ship this time for a 10% wage advantage instead of greater – some fleeing China to Mexico for the second time. Replicating the short lurch that followed the passage of NAFTA in the Clinton years.

What comes next in emerging markets, newly-developed and developing economies will be friendly competition and cooperation. That already is a central point of advocacy in China and ASEAN nations. Obama and President Hillary [probably] are stuck with the stereotypical American political solution of playing the blame game to unemployed and underemployed constituents – while Congressional know-nothings continue their death spiral-dance with religious conservatives hoping to retain their seat-of-the-pants veto of any legislation that might aid American workers. We’re faced with the potential of nothing changing in Washington until the elections of 2022 and 2024.

OTOH — If Americans are bright enough to remove bigots-pretending-to-be-conservatives from Congressional power in the November election, there may be an opportunity to implement the sort of safety net Dr. Roach suggests. We’ll see. Part of being both an optimist and cynic is my confidence in science and knowledge aiding our species in solving the problems we create. Just not in my lifetime.