Category Archives: East Asia

The Top Four CO2 Emitters: China, U.S. Europe, and India

The Global Carbon Project’s 2014 Report shows that in 2013 China’s CO2 emissions were twice that of the second largest carbon emitter, the United States. Third largest were the 28 European countries of the European Union (EU); India was in fourth place. Important to note is not just the rapid rise of China’s emissions but also that they grew at 4.2% last year. This contrasts with the downward trend of both the U.S. (with a small uptick in 2013 because of increase in coal usage) and Europe. India’s emissions showed the highest year gain and will continue to do so, particularly because according to a recent statement by an Indian official the  country has no plans to limit the CO2 emissions. (Read that article here). You’ll find the Global Carbon Project report here.


A recent report from the Global Carbon Project shows China’s soaring trajectory for heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Credit Global Carbon Project


Tensions in the South China Sea

A fabulous multi-media report by the NY Times over geopolitical tensions in the South China over the Spratly Islands (found here). It’s titled “A Game of Shark and Minnow” and here’s the first paragraph:

“Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.”


China, Vietnam, The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all claim the Spratly Islands


This handout photo taken on July 17, 2012 and released by Philippine military western command shows newly-constructed radar dome on Chinese-controlled Subi Reef, around 15 nautical miles northwest of the Philippine-controlled Pag-asa islands on the disputed Spratly islands


Turmoil in Southwest Asia Sends China Looking for Oil Sources Elsewhere

Oil pump, Baku

Oil pump outside of Baku, Azerbajain (photo source:

A very interesting article in Aljazeera America on the topic of China’s unease with unrest in Southwest Asia’s oil countries (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran), an unease that has sent China looking elsewhere for global oil supplies. The whole article can be read here. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Aljazeera America story:

“Beijing is digging deeper inroads into alternative oil markets as turmoil in the Middle East threatens a key source of China’s international energy supply, industry analysts told Al Jazeera amid President Xi Jinping’s whirlwind tour of Central Asia, where he has already penned several multi-billion-dollar energy deals.

Xi agreed Wednesday to disburse $3 billion in credits for energy projects in Kyrgyzstan on his visit to the nation across China’s northwestern border. The deal came days after Xi’s visit to neighboring Kazakhstan, where he bought 8.33 percent of an offshore oilfield for a whopping $5 billion — just one in a series of energy deals signed on the trip.

Since the Arab Spring prompted a loss of Chinese investments in the Middle East and North Africa, China has further penetrated markets in Canada — where a Chinese state-owned company recently purchased a local oil giant — Latin America and beyond.

Oil from the Middle East and North Africa accounts for roughly 60 percent of China’s global imports, as it perpetually endeavors to literally and figuratively fuel its economy. But with smoldering conflict in Syria threatening to boil over into neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran — two of China’s major regional suppliers – China seems to have doubled efforts to look elsewhere.”


China’s New Train System Transforms the Country

A very interesting story in this morning’s New York Times about how China’s new train system is transforming the country. Read the complete story here, and read some of the story’s choice paragraphs down below.

from NY Times

Nearly every train from Changsha station, leaving minutes apart for cities across China, is sold out, and a big expansion is already planned. (Photo: Timothy O’Rourke for The New York Times)

“CHANGSHA, China — The cavernous rail station here for China’s new high-speed trains was nearly deserted when it opened less than four years ago. Not anymore. Practically every train is sold out, although they leave for cities all over the country every several minutes. Just five years after China’s high-speed rail system opened, it is carrying nearly twice as many passengers each month as the country’s domestic airline industry. With traffic growing 28 percent a year for the last several years, China’s high-speed rail network will handle more passengers by early next year than the 54 million people a month who board domestic flights in the United States.

Li Xiaohung, a shoe factory worker, rides the 430-mile route from Guangzhou home to Changsha once a month to visit her daughter. Ms. Li used to see her daughter just once a year because the trip took a full day. Now she comes back in 2 hours 19 minutes. Business executives like Zhen Qinan, a founder of the stock market in coastal Shenzhen, ride bullet trains to meetings all over China to avoid airport delays. The trains hurtle along at 186 miles an hour and are smooth, well-lighted, comfortable and almost invariably punctual, if not early.

China’s high-speed rail system has emerged as an unexpected success story. Economists and transportation experts cite it as one reason for China’s continued economic growth when other emerging economies are faltering. But it has not been without costs — high debt, many people relocated and a deadly accident. The corruption trials this summer of two former senior rail ministry officials have cast an unfavorable light on the bidding process for the rail lines.

The high-speed rail lines have, without a doubt, transformed China, often in unexpected ways. For example, Chinese workers are now more productive. A paper for the World Bank by three consultants this year found that Chinese cities connected to the high-speed rail network, as more than 100 are already, are likely to experience broad growth in worker productivity. The productivity gains occur when companies find themselves within a couple of hours’ train ride of tens of millions of potential customers, employees and rivals.

“What we see very clearly is a change in the way a lot of companies are doing business,” said Gerald Ollivier, a World Bank senior transport specialist in Beijing. Productivity gains to the economy appear to be of the same order as the combined economic gains from the usual arguments given for high-speed trains, including time savings for travelers, reduced noise, less air pollution and fuel savings, the World Bank consultants calculated.

China relocated large numbers of families whose homes lay in the path of the tracks and quickly built new residential and commercial districts around high-speed train stations. The new districts, typically located in inner suburbs, not downtown areas, have rapidly attracted large numbers of residents, partly because of China’s rapid urbanization. Enough farm families become city dwellers each year to fill New York City, part of a trend visible during a series of visits to the Changsha high-speed train station over the last four years.

Another impact: air travel. Train ridership has soared partly because China has set fares on high- speed rail lines at a little less than half of comparable airfares and then refrained from raising them. On routes that are four or five years old, prices have stayed the same as blue-collar wages have more than doubled. That has resulted in many workers, as well as business executives, switching to high-speed trains.”


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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in East Asia


China’s New Plan to Limit Air Pollution

China recently announced a program to reduce its notoriously bad air pollution by limiting industrial emissions and outlawing older vehicles from its streets and highways. Air pollution, as was noted in a recent study (see blog entry for April 2, 2013) was responsible for 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, and these new air pollution measures are a response to the public outcry for reducing urban air pollution. Read the New York Times story heremasked bike riders in China. Major points from that article follow:

“The Chinese government announced an ambitious plan on Thursday to curb air pollution across the nation, including setting some limits on burning coal and taking high-polluting vehicles off the roads to ensure a drop in the concentration of particulate matter in cities.

The plan, released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, filled in a broad outline that the government had issued this year. It represents the most concrete response yet by the Communist Party and the government to growing criticism over allowing the country’s air, soil and water to degrade to abysmal levels because of corruption and unchecked economic growth.

The criticism has been especially pronounced in some of China’s largest cities, where anxious residents grapple with choking smog that can persist for days and even weeks. In January, the concentration of fine particulate matter in Beijing reached 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization. Environmental advocates, including some at Greenpeace East Asia, said the plan did not go far enough, while others praised it for at least acknowledging some of the basic causes of the country’s chronic air pollution. But there was wide agreement that the ultimate test would come in how it is carried out and enforced.

“The plan successfully identifies the root cause of air pollution in China: China’s industrial structure,” said Ma Jun, a prominent environmental advocate. “Industrialization determines the structure of energy consumption. If China does not upgrade its coal-dependent industries, coal consumption can never be curbed.” he said. “The key to preventing air pollution is to curb coal burning — China burns half of all the coal consumed in the world.”

Under the new plan, concentrations of fine particulate matter must be reduced by 25 percent in the Beijing-Tianjian-Hebei area in the north, 20 percent in the Yangtze River Delta in the east and 15 percent in the Pearl River Delta in the south, compared with 2012 levels.All other cities must reduce the levels of larger particulate matter, known as PM 10, by 10 percent. It is unclear why the plan calls for a looser standard for other cities, since the fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, is considered deadlier than PM 10 because it can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream

For years, Chinese officials kept measurements of PM 2.5 from the public. But many Chinese in Beijing turned to a Twitter feed from the United States Embassy to see the hourly PM 2.5 reading from a monitoring machine on the embassy rooftop. That, in turn, put pressure on the government to have cities start releasing their PM 2.5 measurements. Beijing began reporting PM 2.5 levels in January 2012, and the official Xinhua news agency has reported that 74 cities are supposed to be releasing their PM 2.5 data this year. On Thursday, pollution climbed to levels that the embassy rated “very unhealthy,” with a PM 2.5 concentration at 10 p.m. at 213 micrograms per cubic meter. Much of the city’s downtown skyline was obscured by a thick haze.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERACoal consumption has grown rapidly in China, and the plan places only modest limits on consumption, with coal to account for no more than 65 percent of energy use in 2017, compared with around 67 percent last year. Some of the plan’s critics said they were disappointed that there were no specific limits on coal consumption by region. The plan allows local governments to set those limits on their own.”

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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in East Asia


More Than Half the World’s Population Lives Within the Circle

In a Washington Post article titled “40 Maps That Explain the World” (which, in my mind, don’t, but nevertheless is sill work a look here) the writer posted this rather striking illustration of the Asian-centered population cluster. What do you think—is it an accurate portrayal? Here are the data from the US Census Bureau included in the circle, which when added up constitute 51.4% of the world’s population:population-map

China: 1,349,585,838

India: 1,220,800,359

Indonesia: 251,160,124

Bangladesh: 163,654,860

Japan: 127,253,075

Philippines: 105,720,644

Vietnam: 92,477,857

Thailand: 67,448,120

Burma: 55,167,330

South Korea: 48,955,203

Nepal: 30,430,267

Malaysia: 29,628,392

North Korea: 24,720,407

Taiwan: 23,299,716

Sri Lanka: 21,675,648

Cambodia: 15,205,539

Laos: 6,695,166

Mongolia: 3,226,516

Bhutan: 725,296


China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million into Cities

In today’s New York Times there’s an extraordinarily important feature story on China’s plans to move 250 million people into either existing or brand new cities around the country. This program will take place over the next 12 years, You’ll find the whole article here. More about this topic later, but until then here are some of the important points extracted directly from the article:China's uprooting

This will decisively change the character of China, where the Communist Party insisted for decades that most peasants, even those working in cities, remain tied to their tiny plots of land to ensure political and economic stability. Now, the party has shifted priorities, mainly to find a new source of growth for a slowing economy that depends increasingly on a consuming class of city dwellers.

The shift is occurring so quickly, and the potential costs are so high, that some fear rural China is once again the site of radical social engineering. Over the past decades, the Communist Party has flip-flopped on peasants’ rights to use land: giving small plots to farm during 1950s land reform, collectivizing a few years later, restoring rights at the start of the reform era and now trying to obliterate small landholders.

China has long been home to both some of the world’s tiniest villages and its most congested, polluted examples of urban sprawl. The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.

Across China, bulldozers are leveling villages that date to long-ago dynasties. Towers now sprout skyward from dusty plains and verdant hillsides. New urban schools and hospitals offer modern services, but often at the expense of the torn-down temples and open-air theaters of the countryside.

China has long been home to both some of the world’s tiniest villages and its most congested, polluted examples of urban sprawl. The ultimate goal of the government’s modernization plan is to fully integrate 70 percent of the country’s population, or roughly 900 million people, into city living by 2025. Currently, only half that number are.

Top-down efforts to quickly transform entire societies have often come to grief, and urbanization has already proven one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic transition. Land disputes account for thousands of protests each year, including dozens of cases in recent years in which people have set themselves aflame rather than relocate.

The primary motivation for the urbanization push is to change China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of relying so much on export. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction companies, public transportation, utilities and appliance makers, and a break from the cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce. “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”

Skeptics say the government’s headlong rush to urbanize is driven by a vision of modernity that has failed elsewhere. In Brazil and Mexico, urbanization was also seen as a way to bolster economic growth. But among the results were the expansion of slums and of a stubborn unemployed underclass, according to experts.

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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in East Asia