shortformblog

ROMNEY: “We have an enormous trade imbalance with China, and it’s worse this year than last year and it’s worse last year than the year before.”

THE FACTS: That’s true as far as it goes but the imbalance is far from unique to the Obama years. The U.S. has run a trade deficit with China since 1985 and the gap has widened nearly every year since. According to Chinese customs data, Beijing reported a $181.3 billion trade surplus with the United States in 2010. That grew to $202.3 billion last year. The surplus for the first nine months of this year was $161.9 billion, well ahead of the level at this point in 2011.

So here’s my question for all of you China skeptics that insist they are building way too much housing, infrastructure, heavy industry, etc. What precisely do you want them to build more of? And what are the 100s of millions of Chinese living in tiny ramshackle homes to do? Sit tight for a few more decades while resources pour into nice urban services for the pampered elite?

I want them to start building leaf blowers, so we don’t have so many Chinese people in the low productivity position of sweeping streets. I want them to start building farm equipment, so we don’t have so many Chinese farmers tending the fields. I want them to build more laundry machines, to free the rural Chinese from scrubbing clothes on washboards. I want them to build electric stoves, so my Grandpa can put away the coal fired outside oven. I want them to build computers that can deliver cheaper education to the masses.

Instead of just focusing on “building,” I want them to invest in human capital, so productivity can be at a level that we don’t need “make work” jobs. I want them to build more schools and hire better teachers, so classes aren’t as large and you’re not damned if you can’t make it in a top elementary school. I want productivity to be high enough that high end stores don’t need more clerks than actual customers.

Besides “Shanghai Composite Index,” the Chinese characters for “today,” “tomorrow” and “yesterday” were also blocked today. “Candle” a symbol of mourning, is blocked, as is the word “mourn.”

The censors also block searches for numbers that are components of the date of the crackdown — “six,” “four,” “eight,” “nine,” and “23.” They block “35,” because bloggers used to use “May 35” as a code to get around blocks on “June 4.”

theatlantic
theatlantic:

China Takes Aim at the Profitable Heart of U.S. Manufacturing

For a long time, Americans have channeled their fear about China’s factories into an exasperated, four-word refrain: They’re stealing our jobs! By offering low-wage competition to U.S. workers, the Chinese picked off low-end manufacturing work for multinational corporations, whether it was stitching shoes for Nike or assembling iPads for Apple.
In the last few years, though, the anxiety has shifted a bit. Instead of worrying we’ll be undercut on the price of manual labor, the concern is we could actually be out-competed in higher-end markets. You hear it when Democrats like President Obama talk about China winning the race on green jobs. And it came to my mind this week, thanks to a piece in Bloomberg Businessweek on China’s growing prowess in heavy industry.
While China transformed itself into the world’s top exporter by building light goods and electronics, the biggest chunk of its exports are now large, high-margin goods such as ships, locomotives, and construction equipment, as illustrated in the Businessweek graph above.
Not only are China’s capitalists moving in this direction, but they’re getting a hand from the government. As Businessweek reports, “Equipment manufacturing, shipbuilding, and cars are among the industries slated to receive $2.5 billion from the government this year to improve technology and product quality.”  
This should be of some concern to U.S. policy makers. Heavy machinery and transportation equipment are at the heart of the U.S. industrial base. They’re part of our Big Six manufacturing sectors, along with food, chemicals, electronics, and metal products. These are businesses where labor is a relatively small part of the overall cost of making the product, and where America’s technologically advanced factories have traditionally given us an edge. If they founder, there’s not much left to replace them. 
Read more. [Image: Bloomberg Businessweek]

theatlantic:

China Takes Aim at the Profitable Heart of U.S. Manufacturing

For a long time, Americans have channeled their fear about China’s factories into an exasperated, four-word refrain: They’re stealing our jobs! By offering low-wage competition to U.S. workers, the Chinese picked off low-end manufacturing work for multinational corporations, whether it was stitching shoes for Nike or assembling iPads for Apple.

In the last few years, though, the anxiety has shifted a bit. Instead of worrying we’ll be undercut on the price of manual labor, the concern is we could actually be out-competed in higher-end markets. You hear it when Democrats like President Obama talk about China winning the race on green jobs. And it came to my mind this week, thanks to a piece in Bloomberg Businessweek on China’s growing prowess in heavy industry.

While China transformed itself into the world’s top exporter by building light goods and electronics, the biggest chunk of its exports are now large, high-margin goods such as ships, locomotives, and construction equipment, as illustrated in the Businessweek graph above.

Not only are China’s capitalists moving in this direction, but they’re getting a hand from the government. As Businessweek reports, “Equipment manufacturing, shipbuilding, and cars are among the industries slated to receive $2.5 billion from the government this year to improve technology and product quality.”  

This should be of some concern to U.S. policy makers. Heavy machinery and transportation equipment are at the heart of the U.S. industrial base. They’re part of our Big Six manufacturing sectors, along with food, chemicals, electronics, and metal products. These are businesses where labor is a relatively small part of the overall cost of making the product, and where America’s technologically advanced factories have traditionally given us an edge. If they founder, there’s not much left to replace them. 

Read more. [Image: Bloomberg Businessweek]

kiplinger
kiplinger:


A gorgeous — and haunting — photo essay.
bostonreview:

A local billionaire built it, and they did not come. The South China Mall was the most ambitious and largest retail space every conceived in China, if not the world, when it opened in 2005. 
Constructed smack in the middle of the Pearl River Delta between Shenzhen and Guangzhou, about 4 million people live within six miles of it, 9 million within twelve miles and 40 million within sixty miles. Nonetheless, six years later, the South China Mall only maintains a 1% occupancy rate at best. 
This unabatedly empty temple to consumerism remains unfinished on top floors and is only sporadically visited thanks to the attached amusement park, Amazing World. For the time being dust and dismembered mannequins reign over the 6.5 million square foot venture. Although China might be the fastest growing consumer market in the world, the South China Mall reveals the vulnerability of this burgeoning economic giant.

kiplinger:

A gorgeous — and haunting — photo essay.

bostonreview:

A local billionaire built it, and they did not come. The South China Mall was the most ambitious and largest retail space every conceived in China, if not the world, when it opened in 2005.

Constructed smack in the middle of the Pearl River Delta between Shenzhen and Guangzhou, about 4 million people live within six miles of it, 9 million within twelve miles and 40 million within sixty miles. Nonetheless, six years later, the South China Mall only maintains a 1% occupancy rate at best.

This unabatedly empty temple to consumerism remains unfinished on top floors and is only sporadically visited thanks to the attached amusement park, Amazing World. For the time being dust and dismembered mannequins reign over the 6.5 million square foot venture. Although China might be the fastest growing consumer market in the world, the South China Mall reveals the vulnerability of this burgeoning economic giant.

futurejournalismproject

futurejournalismproject:

If only we’d thought of this:

Via the New York Times:

SHANGHAI — China is notorious for censoring politically delicate news coverage. But it is more than willing to let flattering news about Western and Asian businesses appear in print and broadcast media — if the price is right.

Want a profile of your chief executive to appear in the Chinese version of Esquire? That will be about $20,000 a page, according to the advertising department of the magazine, which has a licensing agreement with the Hearst Corporation in the United States.

Need to get your top executive on a news program by state-run China Central Television? Pay $4,000 a minute, says a network consultant who arranges such appearances.

A flattering article about your company in Workers’ Daily, the Communist Party’s propaganda newspaper? About $1 per Chinese character, the paper’s advertising agent said.

Though Chinese laws and regulations ban paid promotional material that is not labeled as such, the practice is so widespread that many publications and broadcasters even have rate cards listing news-for-sale prices.

For years, investors have endorsed Yum’s strategy of selling ever more fried chicken in China while reducing investment at home. This has allowed the fast-food giant to increase earnings per share by 13 percent for 10 straight years—a record it expects to maintain until at least 2020—and led to a quadrupling of the stock price. But failing on the home front carries other costs, from frustrated franchisees who are skeptical about a promised turnaround to consumers who are choosing to eat chicken elsewhere. And it’s all happening with a brand Ghanaians and millions of others worldwide are supposed to associate with high-end, American-style chicken.