Archive for December, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

winter reed

Winter Reed, December 24

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Glimpse at China’s Social Security Programs

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee reviewed the State Council’s Report on the Promotion of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, measures for creating employment, and rural social insurance today, reports China National Radio (CNR). According to a report given by Li Yizhong (李毅中), minister of Industry and Information Technology, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that finished products and service value accounted for 60 per cent of China’s GDP, and for almost 80 per cent of jobs in cities and townships. The NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee’s vice chairman Sun Wensheng (孙文盛) explained on the same meeting that generally, the level of social security in rural areas remained low, and some were merely in their experimental phase. The agricultural affairs committee suggested that appropriate adjustments to the arrangement of social insurance testing work and its acceleraton should be made, that a stable funding mechanism for rural social security should be established, and that in accordance with city and countryside overall planning, systems of  rural social security systems should be strengthened, and that this policy which benefitted the countryside should be effectively implemented.

According to China Radio International (CRI English), the State Council report says that 320 counties, or 11.6 percent of the country’s total, had been or would be approved to try a new rural social pension insurance system, which would benefit more than 15 million rural residents.

Social security in rural China usually means that the government will subsidize individuals’ insurance premiums. According to an article by Katie Lewis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal of June this year, such subsidies will amount to some 15 Yuan RMB per person, per year. This would provide 90% of China’s population with some sort of health insurance. But that will hardly put low-income families (by Chinese standards) into the position of buying social insurance. Despite central insurance programs, China seems to be a patchwork of different local  approaches and solutions to the problem. Depending on individual incomes and the treatment that is needed, social security is still looking unaffordable for many.

850 billion yuan will be allocated for medical and healthcare reforms over the next three years, according to a Brookings commentary of April this year. This would amount to some 283 billion Yuan for 2009, if equally allocated over the budgets of three years including 2009. This would be  4.28 per cent of China’s projected 6.623 trillion total national revenue of 2009, or 3.74 per cent of its 7.6 trillion budget (including a 950 billion deficit) as projected in March this year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mark Lynas: “How China wrecked the Copenhagen Deal”

Mark Lynas, correspondent with the Guardian, gives his account on the defining hours of the Copenhagen Accord on December 18th. According to his report, China only agreed to the Accord on the condition that the OECD countries would not commit to any binding target, not even unilaterally. If true, the rift wasn’t really between developed and developing countries – while India at times backed China’s positions, the Maldives certainly didn’t, and “Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position”. If true, this was apparently a point where the Four-Non-Negotiables coaliton dissociate, but that didn’t keep the Chinese delegation from seeing their policy through.

Lynas was attached to one of the delegations in the room.

Hat tip to The View from Taiwan‘s Daily Links.

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Related:

Two Reactions to Mark Lynas’ Account, The Atlantic, Dec 23, 2009
“Developed Countries’ Copenhagen Positions Inconsistent…”, Dec 23, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hu Jia: Two Years in Prison

Hu Jia (胡佳) will have served two years of his prison sentence on December 27. When his wife Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕) told a Vietnamese friend some time ago that Hu would probably be released on June 26, 2011, her friend sincerely congratulated her. Her enthusiasm sort of grabbed Zeng, and encouraged her to be patient, Zeng wrote on her blog on Tuesday.

She also writes that neither Hu nor she have illusions about Hu’s health (hepathitis HB5), which hadn’t shown much improvement, and that what she hopes for is that Hu feels peace of mind.

Zeng Jinyan visited Hu Jia in prison yesterday, with Baobao (宝宝, her and Hu’s daughter).

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Related:
Posts tagged Hu Jia
Hu Jia, China’s Enemy Within, The Independent, April 4, 2008

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CRI: Developed Countries’ Copenhagen Positions Inconsistent with Previous Agreements

The Copenhagen Accord is not the end, and the whole world should take responsibilities on a long road to come, writes Chen Tian (陈天), a commenter with China Radio International (CRI). Although all countries acknowledged the existence of climate change and the urgency of reacting to it, the duties of burden-sharing had remained an unbridged gap between developed and developing countries. In that sense, Copenhagen should be seen as a starting point. Chen points out that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had called on the developed countries to take the lead, while developing countries should follow in taking appropriate action (“我呼吁出席本次会议的所有发达国家领导人率先采取行动,这样的话,其他国家也将随之采取相应的行动”).

China had, as the world’s largest developing country and emerging economy, made practical contributions, he writes. China’s state and party chairman Hu Jintao (胡锦涛), during the UN Climate Summit, had said that China took responsibility to its own people and the people of the world to make concrete efforts. Chen quotes the chairman: “China has defined a national climate program and has clearly stated that it would reduce energy consumption and emissions per GDP unit, and that it would increase forest cover, and the share of renewable energy, as binding national targets. In the future, China will, step by step, include measures against climate change into its economic and social development plans, and continue to take effective measures.” On November 26, China’s government had also declared that by 2020 the national carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP than in 2005 dropped 40% to 45%. These efforts had earned international acclaim, writes Chen –  Danish prime minister Lars Rasmussen had expressed his admiration.

Chen on the other hand expresses disappointment that the developed countries had been lacking sincerity in reducing emissions, even though they were mainly responsible for climate change:

America announced ahead of Copenhagen that until 2020, it would reduce greenhouse emissions by 17 per cent, compared with 2005, compared with 1990s, this would only be a reduction of four per cent. Although Japan had announced a reduction by 25 per cent, it demanded that all major emitting countries should take part in the reduction, which was clearly not in line with The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and with the Kyoto Protocol, which had established common, but differentiated, responsibilities*), and even the European Union, which was most active in the negotiations, only committed to a 20 per cent or 30 per cent reduction target – while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that developed countries would need to reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 per cent, based on 1990 as a reference year to avoid a devastating global impact.

Chen ends his article by quoting some words of encouragement, from a statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after the conclusion of the Copenhagen Summit. In short: a success, and a beginning.

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*) The paragraph about differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities can be found on the UNFCCC’s website, within the Framework Convention’s prelude:

Acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible  cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate  international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated   responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions, […]

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Related:
Copenhagen Summit: Make it, or Fuck it Up, but Stop Bitching, December 18, 2009
International Law Traded in for Big-Power politics”, Earth Institute, Dec 22, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Becoming Yourself Again

mask off

mask off

Somewhere, I read this year that teaching minors in a comprehensive school is as demanding as an air traffic controller’s job. I can’t judge that, because I’ve never been an air traffic controller, and I don’t remember if the author of the article was himself a teacher or an air traffic controller, but it’s true that permanent readiness of mind is an essential. Given that a lot of parents are very opinionated and very defensive when it comes to their childrens’ ratings and discipline, and given that politics has highly empasized parents volition (Elternwille) in recent years, a teacher needs to be both tough and diplomatic. As students’ performance levels are generally going down rather than up, many parents fear for their childrens’ future, and at the same time, not just a few of them seem to think of good ratings as some kind of human right, with or without their childrens’ own endeavors. Teachers can be easy lightning arresters. Parents’ volition applies in every classroom situation, too – can I sell my decisions, statements and conduct if they lead to conflicts with parents?

Sometimes, after having performed one hour after another, I’m sitting down in a pub, just on my own, have a coffee and a cigarette, try to relax and to become myself again.

Anyway, the christmas holidays are here now.

It’s nice to take that chronically optimistic educationalist mask off for a while. I’ve been teaching for more than five years now, and I’m usually enjoying it – but I do still know what stage-fright is.

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Related:
What it takes to learn and to teach, Febr 3, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Commodities: Chinese Custom Duties

China is going to lower import customs duties on some 600 products next year, as agreed with the WTO, reports Liechtenstein‘s Volksblatt, among them naphta and coal. Currently reduced rates on gasoline and diesel, and windmill components will go back up, thus leaving public revenue basically unchanged. After completion of a number of new refineries, China is now probably a net exporter of gasoline and diesel. Export duties on natural resources such as crude oil, cellulose, ferrous alloys and some steel products, so far said to be temporary, are to remain in effect.

Meantime, China’s steel industry is reportedly calling for unified global opposition against a proposal by Rio Tinto Ltd. and BHP Billiton Ltd. to combine their iron ore operations, writes the Wall Street Journal.

Coal is to be given priority over iron ore, as a seasonal jump in heating is expected, according to The Australian.

Iron ore also remains in high demand. Being substantial iron ore exporters, BHP Billiton Ltd’s and Rio Tinto’s operation plans are subject to EU and possibly Chinese anti-trust procedures.

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Update:
China raises customs duties on American, Russian technical steel, VoR, December 21, 2009
Remark:
Technical steel (technischer Stahl) or transformer sheets are apparently used in production processes which involve high temperatures and – normally – fatigue of material, according to SSAB, a Swedish company’s website, as technical steel keeps its form and qualities during use.

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Related:
China’s Steel Industry: The Grey Area, July 18, 2009
Negotiations unfinished, July 18, 2009
Mr Premier, are you ready, December 20, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Searchwords of the Day

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