“GAOSHAN, China — The first earthquake struck this small farming village in Sichuan Province before dawn on Feb. 24. There were two more the next day.
Sichuan is naturally prone to earthquakes, including a major one in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people, but to the rattled villagers of Gaoshan, the cause of these tremors was human-made.
“The drilling,” Yu Zhenghua said as she tearfully surveyed her damaged home, still officially uninhabitable five days later.
The drilling Ms. Yu referred to was hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The technology, which has revolutionized the production of natural gas and oil in the United States, has created a boom in China, too, and with it many of the controversies that have dogged the practice elsewhere.
In the hours after the quakes, thousands of residents converged outside the main government building in Rong County to protest widespread fracking in the rolling hills and valleys here now yellowing with the flowering of rapeseed.A shale gas drilling station in Rong County. In the last decade, the China National Petroleum Corporation alone has invested $4 billion in fracking shale gas in the Sichuan Basin.CreditGilles Sabrie for The New York TimesImage
The protesters jostled with security guards along a sliding metal gate and dispersed only after officials announced they had suspended fracking operations of a regional subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil and gas producer.”
“This is the way the trade war ends. Not with a bang but with empty bombast.
According to multiple news organizations, the U.S. and China are close to a deal that would effectively end trade hostilities. Under the reported deal, America would remove most of the tariffs it imposed last year. China, for its part, would end its retaliatory tariffs, make some changes to its investment and competition policies and direct state enterprises to buy specified amounts of U.S. agricultural and energy products.
The Trump administration will, of course, trumpet the deal as a triumph. In reality, however, it’s much ado about nothing much.
As described, the deal would do little to address real complaints about Chinese policy, which mainly involve China’s systematic expropriation of intellectual property. Nor would it do much to address Donald Trump’s pet although misguided peeve, the imbalance in U.S.-China trade. Basically, Trump will have backed down.
If this is the story, it will repeat what we saw on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump denounced as the “worst trade deal ever made.” In the end, what Trump negotiated — the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A. — was very similar to the previous status quo. Trade experts I know, when not referring to it as the Village People agreement, call it “Nafta 0.8”: fundamentally the same as Nafta, but a bit worse.”
“President Trump was right to walk away from his summit with Kim Jong-un rather than accept a bad nuclear agreement, but the outcome underscores that he was bamboozled last year at his first summit with Kim. Whatever genius Trump sees in the mirror, “the art of the deal” is not his thing.
At this meeting, Kim apparently sought a full end to sanctions on North Korea in exchange for closing only some nuclear sites. That was not a good deal, and Trump was right to walk rather than accept it.
“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that,” Trump said, adding: “Sometimes you have to walk.”
President Reagan famously marched out of a 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, rather than accept an arms control agreement with Russia that he regarded as flawed. A year later the Russians returned with better terms and a deal was made — and we can all hope that something similar will happen this time.”
Trump Undermines Top Trade Adviser as He Pushes for China Deal – By Ana Swanson – The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump has signaled that he is moving toward peace with China in a trade standoff that has rattled markets and businesses globally. But as he backs off his threat to impose higher tariffs, the president’s relationship with his own trade negotiator is now showing signs of strain.
The situation has left Mr. Trump’s trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, who is both an ardent supporter of the president and a longtime China critic, in an uncomfortable bind. While broad tariffs on Chinese imports brought Beijing to the negotiating table, Mr. Trump has grown impatient with the talks, and a consensus is growing in Washington that Mr. Trump will ultimately accept a weak deal.
And despite the lack of a transformative arrangement he once promised, the president has begun dangling the idea of a “signing summit” with President Xi Jinping of China at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida resort. As a result, the president is undermining Mr. Lighthizer as he tries to pressure China to make big concessions.
“Trump is certainly doing his negotiating team no favors by undercutting them in public,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade expert and the former head of the China division of the International Monetary Fund. The president’s actions, he said, “weakens rather than fortifies Lighthizer’s leverage.””
Image. CreditAndy Wong/Associated Press
“Fewer babies were born in China last year than in 2017, and already fewer had been born in 2017 than in 2016. There were 15.23 million new births in 2018, down by more than 11 percent from the year before. The authorities had predicted that easing and then abolishing the one-child policy in the mid-2010s would trigger a baby boom; it’s been more like a baby bust.
No, these figures don’t mean that China’s population itself has started to decline. But they do mean that the population overall is aging, and fast. And they mean that the Chinese government can no longer manipulate fertility with blunt pro-natal policies; the reasons for the drop run too deep. Instead of futile, retrograde statist intervention in people’s reproductive choices, the authorities should undertake broad economic and social reforms to address the deep causes of the decline while mitigating the burdens of its worst effects.”
David Lindsay: The writers do well, but they do not connect to climate change and the sixth extinction, which makes their work very anthropocentric.
“As China and the United States engage in high-level negotiations over a possible trade deal, it’s puzzling to see what’s been left off the table: the Chinese internet market. China blocks or hinders nearly every important foreign competitor online, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia in Chinese, Pinterest, Line (the major Japanese messaging company), Reddit and The New York Times. Even Peppa Pig, a British cartoon character and internet video sensation, has been censored on and off; an editorial in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper once warned that she could “destroy children’s youth.”
China has long defended its censorship as a political matter, a legitimate attempt to protect citizens from what the government regards as “harmful information,” including material that “spreads unhealthy lifestyles and pop culture.” But you don’t need to be a trade theorist to realize that the censorship is also an extremely effective barrier to international trade. The global internet economy is worth at least $8 trillion and growing, yet the Trump administration has focused chiefly on manufacturing, technology transfers and agriculture, and does not seem to have pressed for concessions on this issue.
Sheltered from American, Japanese and European competition, Chinese internet businesses have grown enormously over the past decade. Nine of the world’s 20 largest internet firms, by market value, are now Chinese. Some of this growth reflects the skill and innovation of Chinese engineers, a vibrant start-up culture and the success of Chinese business in catering to local tastes. But it’s hard to believe that this has been unaided by censorship.
And the barriers to foreign competition have more than just economic effects. Without any better options, Chinese users are forced to put up with companies like Tencent, which owns the private messaging app WeChat, and the online payment company Ant Financial, whose privacy violations are, amazingly, even more troubling than those of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. By tolerating Chinese censorship, the United States encourages other countries to do the same.”
India’s Leader Is Accused of Hiding Unemployment Data Before Vote – By Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar – The New York Times
NEW DELHI — When voters swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi into power five years ago, it was in no small part because of his vows to create millions of jobs and vault India into an era of prosperity.
But now, just months before the next general election, Mr. Modi is facing a potentially troublesome challenge on the jobs promises that may be partly of his own making.
His government was accused on Thursday of suppressing an official report on the national unemployment rate that apparently showed it had reached a 45-year high in 2017.
The Business Standard, a respected Indian financial newspaper, published leaked findings from the unemployment report, which is based on a survey and produced by the National Sample Survey Office, a government agency.
Officials in Mr. Modi’s government scrambled on Thursday to blunt the impact of what amounted to withholding information that discredits the core of his economic record. The chairman of NITI Aayog, a government research organization, said the unemployment report was still in draft form, was not ready for dissemination and would be released in March. The response raised the possibility that the data could be revised.
But economists said the findings, if verified, were problematic for Mr. Modi, the dynamic prime minister whose popularity has always rested on his Hindu nationalism and promises to make India an economic powerhouse rivaling China.
“The Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility is a striking name for an absence. It is the point farthest from a sea or ocean on the planet. Located in China just east of the border with Kazakhstan, the pole gets you a good distance from harbors and coastlines — at least 1,550 miles in any direction — into an expanse of white steppe and blue-beige mountain that is among the least populated places on earth. Here, among some of the last surviving pastoral nomads in Central Asia, nestled between two branches of the Tian Shan range on the edge of Kazakhstan, the largest infrastructure project in the history of the world is growing.
About 80 miles from the Pole of Inaccessibility, just across the border in Kazakhstan, is a village called Khorgos. It has spent most of its existence on the obscure periphery of international affairs, and its official population is just 908. But over the last few years, it has become an important node of the global economy. It is part of an initiative known informally as the new Silk Road, a China-led effort to build a vast cephalopodic network of highways, railroads and overseas shipping routes, supported by hundreds of new plants, pipelines and company towns in dozens of countries. Ultimately, the Belt and Road Initiative, or B.R.I., as the project is more formally known, will link China’s coastal factories and rising consumer class with Central, Southeast and South Asia; with the Gulf States and the Middle East; with Africa; and with Russia and all of Europe, all by way of a lattice of land and sea routes whose collective ambition boggles the mind.
Khorgos is a flagship project of this work in progress, an international shipping hub and free-trade zone that its promoters say is poised to become the next Dubai. Thanks to its location at the junction of the world’s soon-to-be-largest national economy and its largest landlocked country, Khorgos has become an unlikely harbinger of the interconnected planet: a zone fully enclosed by the logic of globalization, where goods flow freely across sovereign borders, following corridors designed to locate every human being on the planet within a totalizing network of producers and consumers, buyers and sellers.”
“SAN FRANCISCO — Despite a trade war between the United States and China and past admonishments from President Trump “to start building their damn computers and things in this country,” Apple is unlikely to bring its manufacturing closer to home.
A tiny screw illustrates why.
In 2012, Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, went on prime-time television to announce that Apple would make a Mac computer in the United States. It would be the first Apple product in years to be manufactured by American workers, and the top-of-the-line Mac Pro would come with an unusual inscription: “Assembled in USA.”
But when Apple began making the $3,000 computer in Austin, Tex., it struggled to find enough screws, according to three people who worked on the project and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.
In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not.”