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World’s largest OTEC power plant planned for China
By Darren Quick
April 18, 2013
Lockheed Martin and Reignwood Group plan to develop a 10 MW prototype OTEC pilot plant off the coast of southern China
Lockheed Martin has been getting its feet wet in the renewable energy game for some time. In the 1970s it helped build the world’s first successful floating Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) system that generated net power, and in 2009 it was awarded a contract to develop an OTEC pilot plant in Hawaii. That project has apparently been canceled but the company has now shifted its OTEC sights westward by teaming up with Hong Kong-based Reignwood Group to co-develop a pilot plant that will be built off the coast of southern China.
OTEC uses the natural difference in temperatures between the cool deep water and warm surface water to produce electricity. There are different cycle types of OTEC systems, but the prototype plant is likely to be a closed-cycle system. This sees warm surface seawater pumped through a heat exchanger to vaporize a fluid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia. This expanding vapor is used to drive a turbine to generate electricity with cold seawater then used to condense the vapor so it can be recycled through the system.
Tropical regions are considered the only viable locations for OTEC plants due to the greater temperature differential between the shallow and deep water. Unlike wind and solar power, OTEC can produce electricity around the clock, 365 days a year to supply base load power. OTEC plants also produce cold water as a by-product that can be used for air conditioning and refrigeration at locations near the plant.
Despite such advantages, and even though demonstration plants were constructed as far back as the 1880s, there are still no large-scale commercial OTEC plants in operation. This is largely due to the costs associated with locating and maintaining the facility off shore and drawing the cold water from the ocean depths. But the time may finally be right.
With the shelving of the Hawaii OTEC pilot plant, the 10 MW prototype offshore plant will be the largest planned OTEC project to date. Like the Hawaii project, which was also to be a 10 MW facility, the China OTEC plant is designed to pave the way for higher capacity plants ranging from 10 to 100 MW.
The plant is to be built off the coast of southern China to supply 100 percent of the power needed for a large-scale green resort community being developed by Reignwood Group. The new resort is planned as Reignwood’s first net-zero community, with the company also currently developing two large-scale low-carbon resorts and others planned for key locations in China.
Lockheed Martin and Reignwood will begin concept design of the sea-based prototype plant this year with construction due to begin next year. Once it is up and running, the two companies plan to use the knowledge and experience gained over the course of the project to improve the design of additional commercial-scale plants.
The companies claim each 100 MW OTEC facility could produce the same amount of energy in a year as 1.3 million barrels of oil and decrease carbon emissions by half a million tons. Assuming oil trading at near US$100 a barrel, they estimate fuel savings from one plant could exceed $130 million a year.
The video below from Lockheed Martin describes the OTEC process.
Update: We heard back from Makai Ocean Engineering, which was involved in the 10 MW pilot plant project planned for Hawaii. While the company believes a 100 MW plant would still be viable for Hawaii and would provide power at a lower rate than is currently available from existing sources, a 5 to 10 MW pilot plant would be a necessary stepping stone to validate the main OTEC systems and give a better idea of the cost projections for a larger-scale commercial plant. Unfortunately, current cost estimates suggested that a 5 to 10 MW plant wouldn’t be cost effective at the time so the U.S. Navy was unwilling to invest the money required to finance the project.
- World’s Largest Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant Planned for China (inhabitat.com)
- World’s largest OTEC power plant planned for China (gizmag.com)
- physorg: Partnership to build world’s largest OTEC plant off China coast (phys.org)
- China to house world’s largest O.T.E.C. plant (ecoseed.org)
- Lockheed Piloting New Source of Ocean Energy With Great Potential (sustainablebusiness.com)
- World’s Largest Ocean Thermal Power Plant Planned For China (Slashdot) (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Lockheed, Reignwood to build ocean thermal power plant for China (eco-business.com)
- China Soon to House World’s Largest Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant (news.softpedia.com)
- Lockheed to build 10-megawatt thermal power plant off southern China (reuters.com)
- New Power Station Will Generate Electricity From Ocean’s Heat, Provide Resort 100 Percent Of Energy Needs [VIDEO] (natureworldnews.com)
CHINESE RESTAURANT OWNER SAYS ROBOT NOODLE MAKER DOING “A GOOD JOB!”
[Source: arkazlive via YouTube]
Noodle peelers should probably start looking for other things to do around the kitchen – there’s just no competing with these robots. Not only are they saving restaurants in China money in wages, they can work rapidly and tirelessly for hours.
We reported on the robots, invented by restaurant owner Cui Runguan, last August. Now, we’re hearing from another restaurant owner who has had one of the robots in his “employ” for a month. How is the indefatigable noodle-maker working out at the Jinhe Noodle Shop in Beijing? The restaurant owner, with the last name Zhao, loves it and tells China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency that “It does a good job!”
Runguan’s robots peel noodle strips from a firm piece of dough and tosses them directly into boiling water “before diners’ eyes can follow the whole process.” To Zhao and a growing number of restaurant owners in China, choosing robots over human noodle cooks is a no-brainer. While a cook doing the same job would make about 40,000 yuan ($6,400) per year, the robot cost him just 10,000 yuan ($1,600). And no human chef can work so tirelessly.
China is expected to be the world’s largest market for robots by 2014 [Source: arkazlive via YouTube]
Its price is already down from $2,000 this past August, which is no doubt a big reason why more than 3,000 restaurants that have already relegated their noodle-making to the robot. As the technology improves and the cost to build and run the robot drops, business will only get better for Runguan, who has received four patents for the technology.
That humans can be replaced by robots that do the job faster and cheaper is an idea that now pervades Chinese employers. “Chinese companies usually start considering robots when the payment for a skilled worker exceeds 50,000 yuan ($8,060) a year,” Tan Xueke, a manager at the Xinsong Robot Automation Company in Shenynang, told Xinhua News Agency.
The repetitive action that goes into preparing certain foods such as noodles makes automation an obvious choice. In Japan robots are already being used to make sushi, and a robot in San Francisco can serve up 340 hamburgers an hour. But while robotic cooks provide restaurants a novelty for customers and savings for owners, other robots are invading China’s workplace on a much grander scale. Most notably is Foxconn who, last November, began replacing 1 million jobs performed by humans with robotic automation. The metamorphosis is advancing quickly. In late February the company announced it put a freeze on hiring new entry-level workers. This was due in part to a high worker retention rate following pay increases, but it’s also a conscious decision to accelerate the automation of their factories.
And as prices for the robots drop, they’ll continue to invade the workplace at increasing an increasing pace. Already China is expected to become the world’s largest robot market next year. And as entry-level jobs become scarce, out-of-the-job workers such as those at Foxconn and Jinhe Noodle Shop will find the new reality hard to swallow.
- Noodle Robots Replacing Workers In Chinese Restaurants (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Robots joining China businesses, factories (upi.com)
- Robots replace chefs, labourers in Chinese restaurants, farms (rediff.com)
- China sets up robot industry association (wantchinatimes.com)
- Food of the future at Harbin’s first robot restaurant (wantchinatimes.com)
- China sets up group to promote local robot industry (zdnet.com)
- Robots seen as living things (radionz.co.nz)
- Robots joining China businesses, factories (spacedaily.com)
- Humans feel empathy for robots: fMRI scans show similar brain function when robots are treated the same as humans (phys.org)
- Specialized robots join rescue efforts in quake zone (wantchinatimes.com)
We end 2012 besieged by all kinds of huge economic problems – a fiscal cliff, a jobless recovery, a long-term debt crisis, a list that sometimes seems endless. Yet I look forward to 2013 genuinely optimistic about the economic future of the United States.
Perhaps our biggest and most important immediate challenge is to find jobs for millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans. We start the year with an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, but we all know the rate would be higher if it included people who simply have given up looking for work. I don’t think we will bring that rate down to an acceptable rate in the next year, but I do believe we will see real progress.
Pat Bagley / Salt Lake Tribune
Corporate profits hit record numbers in the last few months, and U.S. corporations ended the third quarter with $1.74 trillion in cash and liquid assets. Standard & Poor’s said that the accumulation of cash and the lack of corporate investing is “unsustainable and if left unchecked, underinvestment could lead to loss of competitiveness and in turn, lower profitability, potentially hampering issuers’ access to credit markets in time of need.” I predict that in 2013 corporate America finally will begin investing in their growth again and start generating new jobs.
After past recessions, the housing industry was the leading engine of recovery. We created such a gigantic housing bubble before 2008 that this has not been the case this time. When I talk to those in the industry, they tell me that a major cause of a stalled housing market has been the reluctance of banks to lend money until they see positive signs of recovery. Well, in November, housing sales were up 14.5 percent nationally. There were nearly 900,000 housing permits, the highest level in four years. Prices in all three counties in Delaware were up, reflecting a trend in many other parts of the country. It looks like housing is finally coming back, creating new jobs and boosting the economy.
Beyond these positive signs, I see real reasons for optimism when I look at the future position of the United States in the world economy. Clearly we need to do much more to ensure competitiveness in the areas of job training, education and a major emphasis on all the things that drive innovation. If we do these things reasonably well, I think we will have the best environment in the world for business growth.
Much of that outlook has to do with the decline in the environments of our major competitors. The 17-nation Euro zone is now in recession. Countries like Greece and Spain are falling down a slippery slope in which budget cuts to meet Euro zone (read German) demands for balanced budgets lead to falling GDPs, lower tax revenues, and even larger budget deficits. Germany and the European Central Bank keep saying they will do whatever it takes to keep the Euro zone intact, but if Greek and Spanish slides continue I think the internal political climate in Germany may make that impossible. Yes, it is an unfortunate mess, but for the foreseeable future the U.S. will be a much more attractive place to build plants and businesses.
Our other major competitor, China, has a different but also intractable set of problems. Just as one would expect, the last few years of double-digit annual growth in China’s GDP has led to rapidly increasing costs of labor and real estate. American and European corporations that set up major operations in the country are becoming increasingly disillusioned. Endemic corruption, blatant disregard for intellectual property rights, and an uneven and undependable application of the rule of law are all adding to the real costs of foreign corporations doing business in China.
I think the situation is best summed up by a statement in a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group: “We estimate that the relocation of manufacturing from China, combined with increased exports due to improved U.S. competitiveness compared with Western Europe and other major developed markets, will directly and indirectly create 2 million to 3 million jobs in the U.S., reduce unemployment by 1.5 to 2 percentage points, and lower the non-oil-related merchandise deficit by 25 [percent] to 35 percent. In fact, given the many changes sweeping the global economy, we believe our estimates are conservative.”
A lot of possible pitfalls lie in the way, but right now I would not trade places with any other economy in the world.
Happy New Year.
- Why the Fiscal Cliff is a Threat to the Euro-Zone (live.wsj.com)
- China manufacturing on track for growth revival (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Why the euro zone is the greatest threat to global economic recovery (qz.com)
- Greek deal puts euro zone in slow recovery room (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Picking David Rosenberg’s brain for what to expect in 2013 (theglobeandmail.com)
- You: Yen-negative factors to drive Tokyo stocks in ’13 (japantimes.co.jp)
- Euro Zone Interest Rate Remains Unchanged (nytimes.com)
- Analysis: Greek deal puts euro zone in slow recovery room (news.yahoo.com)
- The euro zone isn’t working (economist.com)
- What’s Wrong with the Economy? (counterpunch.org)
Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China
By KEITH BRADSHER and CHARLES DUHIGG
CHENGDU, China — One day last summer, Pu Xiaolan was halfway through a shift inspecting iPad cases when she received a beige wooden chair with white stripes and a high, sturdy back.
Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times
At first, Ms. Pu wondered if someone had made a mistake. But when her bosses walked by, they just nodded curtly. So Ms. Pu gently sat down and leaned back. Her body relaxed.
The rumors were true.
When Ms. Pu was hired at this Foxconn plant a year earlier, she received a short, green plastic stool that left her unsupported back so sore that she could barely sleep at night. Eventually, she was promoted to a wooden chair, but the backrest was much too small to lean against. The managers of this 164,000-employee factory, she surmised, believed that comfort encouraged sloth.
But in March, unbeknown to Ms. Pu, a critical meeting had occurred between Foxconn’s top executives and a high-ranking Apple official. The companies had committed themselves to a series of wide-ranging reforms. Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, pledged to sharply curtail workers’ hours and significantly increase wages — reforms that, if fully carried out next year as planned, could create a ripple effect that benefits tens of millions of workers across the electronics industry, employment experts say.
Other reforms were more personal. Protective foam sprouted on low stairwell ceilings inside factories. Automatic shut-off devices appeared on whirring machines. Ms. Pu got her chair. This autumn, she even heard that some workers had received cushioned seats.
The changes also extend to California, where Apple is based. Apple, the electronics industry’s behemoth, in the last year has tripled its corporate social responsibility staff, has re-evaluated how it works with manufacturers, has asked competitors to help curb excessive overtime in China and has reached out to advocacy groups it once rebuffed.
Executives at companies like Hewlett-Packard and Intel say those shifts have convinced many electronics companies that they must also overhaul how they interact with foreign plants and workers — often at a cost to their bottom lines, though, analysts say, probably not so much as to affect consumer prices. As Apple and Foxconn became fodder for “Saturday Night Live” and questions during presidential debates, device designers and manufacturers concluded the industry’s reputation was at risk.
“The days of easy globalization are done,” said an Apple executive who, like many people interviewed for this article, requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “We know that we have to get into the muck now.”
Even with these reforms, chronic problems remain. Many laborers still work illegal overtime and some employees’ safety remains at risk, according to interviews and reports published by advocacy organizations.
But the shifts under way in China may prove as transformative to global manufacturing as the iPhone was to consumer technology, say officials at over a dozen electronics companies, worker advocates and even longtime factory critics.
“This is on the front burner for everyone now,” said Gary Niekerk, a director of corporate social responsibility at Intel, which manufactures semiconductors in China. No one inside Intel “wants to end up in a factory that treats people badly, that ends up on the front page.”
The durability of many transformations, however, depends on where Apple, Foxconn and overseas workers go from here. Interviews with more than 70 Foxconn employees in multiple cities indicate a shift among the people on iPad and iPhone assembly lines. The once-anonymous millions assembling the world’s devices are drawing lessons from the changes occurring around them.
As summer turned to autumn and then winter, Ms. Pu began to sign up for Foxconn’s newly offered courses in knitting and sketching. At 25 and unmarried, she already felt old. But she decided that she should view her high-backed chair as a sign. China’s migrant workers are, in a sense, the nation’s boldest risk-takers, transforming entire industries by leaving their villages for far-off factories to power a manufacturing engine that spans the globe.
Ms. Pu had always felt brave, and as this year progressed and conditions inside her factory improved, she became convinced that a better life was within reach. Her parents had told her that she was free to choose any husband, as long as he was from Sichuan. Then she found someone who seemed ideal, except that he came from another province.
Reclining in her new seat, she decided to ignore her family’s demands, she said. The couple are seeing each other.
“There was a change this year,” she said. “I’m realizing my value.”
An Inspector’s Push
“This is a disgrace!” shouted Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and Apple’s most important industrial partner.
It was March of this year and Mr. Gou — seen by activists as a longtime obstacle to improving conditions inside his factories — was meeting with his top deputies in Shenzhen, China. In 2011, The New York Times began sending Apple and Foxconn extensive questions about working conditions in factories manufacturing Apple products.The resulting articles in late January detailed problems ranging from excessive overtime and under-age workers to sometimes deadly hazards, such as workers’ using a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens at another manufacturer, and an explosion in Ms. Pu’s Foxconn plant that killed four workers.
In January, Apple publicly released the names of many of its suppliers for the first time. Additionally, the company made the unusual move of joining the Fair Labor Association, one of the largest workplace monitoring groups. Auditors from that association were soon inspecting Apple’s partners in China, starting with Foxconn.
Now, Mr. Gou was learning the results of those examinations. Foxconn was still failing to stop illegal overtime, the association’s lead inspector told Mr. Gou and his lieutenants, according to multiple people with knowledge of the meeting. The company was failing to keep student interns off night shifts. Foxconn had not put sufficient safety policies into practice and had exposed potentially hundreds of thousands of workers to at least 43 violations of Chinese laws and regulations.
“The world is watching!” Mr. Gou yelled, according to multiple people. “We are going to fix this, right here!”
But the inspector was not done.
He turned to the only Apple executive in the room, the senior vice president for operations, Jeff Williams. Apple needed to change as well, the inspector said. Apple, to its credit, had been working for years to improve conditions in overseas factories, but the company was treating such problems too much like engineering puzzles, the inspector said.
“Long-term solutions require a messier, more human approach,” that inspector, Auret van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association, told Mr. Williams. Instead of concentrating on writing more policies, Apple needed to listen better to workers’ complaints and advocacy groups’ recommendations.
Some of those suggestions surprised Mr. Williams, say people who worked with him. Since 2007, Apple had built one of the most extensive auditing programs in the electronics industry, inspecting over 800 facilities. It was a point of pride for both Mr. Williams and the company’s top leadership.
When Mr. Williams, who declined to comment for this article, returned from that March meeting to California, changes began. Among them, say people with firsthand knowledge, was the hiring of roughly 30 professionals into Apple’s social responsibility unit in the last year, which tripled the size of that division and brought high-profile corporate activists into the company. Two widely respected former Apple executives — Jacky Haynes and Bob Bainbridge — were recruited back to help lead the unit, reporting ultimately to Mr. Williams and the chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.
“Everyone knows Bob and Jacky,” said a former Apple executive. “It sends a message that Jeff and Tim expect everyone to get on board.”
Moreover, the company has reached out to advocates it once rebuffed. In late April, Apple allowed the first in a series of pollution audits by Ma Jun, a Chinese environmental advocate who works closely with dozens of other multinationals but whom Apple had refused to speak with until last year, according to Mr. Ma. In September, the company joined the Sustainable Trade Initiative, an advocacy group based in the Netherlands.
“They know now if they don’t participate, it is the same as saying nothing,” Mr. Ma said.
Foxconn has also shifted. After the meeting with the Fair Labor Association, Foxconn announced that by July 2013, no employee would be allowed to work more than an average of 49 hours a week — the limit set by Chinese law. Previously, some Foxconn employees worked schedules that approached 100 hours a week. No other major manufacturer has pledged to abide by China’s work-hour laws in such a public manner. Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, also promised to increase wages, so employees’ total pay would not decline despite fewer hours — the equivalent of a 50 percent raise for many workers, analysts say.
With 1.4 million employees in China — the most of any private company — Foxconn is setting a bar that all manufacturers will be judged against, say executives at other companies.
“When the largest company raises wages and cuts hours, it forces every other factory to do the same thing whether they want to or not,” said Tony Prophet, a senior vice president at Hewlett-Packard. “A firestorm has started, and these companies are in the glare now. They have to improve to compete. It’s a huge change from just 18 months ago.”
Foxconn, in a statement, said that it was “committed to ensuring that we provide a safe and healthy working environment for all our employees,” and that the company had regularly increased wages over the last three years.
Secrecy and Transparency
Despite those reforms, however, worker advocates inside Apple and with outside groups say the electronics industry’s problems will not genuinely diminish until Apple — the world’s most valuable company — starts filling a public leadership role similar to that of companies in other industries with overseas problems, like Nike in footwear manufacturing and Patagonia in apparel.
Such public leadership and transparency can run counter to a culture of secrecy that pervades Apple. Employees often don’t know what their lunch companions or next-door office mates are working on. This secrecy has helped Apple stay ahead of competitors, but has been a problem when it spills into the broader corporate culture, say past executives.
“It’s remarkable how the paranoia in Silicon Valley prevents companies from cooperating, even on something like corporate social responsibility,” said Mr. van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association, who added that his work with Apple, Foxconn and other companies was confidential.
While Apple is the only electronics company to join Mr. van Heerden’s monitoring group, it has not opened up in some other ways. Apple has declined to release audit reports on the hundreds of facilities the company has inspected. After two factory explosions last year, Apple did not share investigative reports with other companies so they might avoid similar accidents. Apple does not, in general, publicly identify terminated suppliers or factories that have violated Apple’s supplier code of conduct.
Moreover, Apple’s growing team of safety and corporate responsibility experts are typically prohibited from sharing their findings at conferences, in academic journals or other forums where their insights could be absorbed by other companies, according to former members of that team.
“Apple is scared that if we open the kimono too wide, it will ruin what has made Apple special,” said one former company official. “But that’s the only way to really improve things. If you don’t share what you know, then no one else gets a chance to learn from your mistakes and discoveries.”
Apple declined requests for interviews. In a statement, it said the company embraced its “unique position to lead” and had taken working conditions very seriously for a long time. “No one in our industry is doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people as we do. Through years of hard work and steadfast commitment, we have set workplace, dormitory and safety standards, sought help from the world’s leading experts, and established groundbreaking educational programs for workers.”
“We have been upfront about the challenges we face and are attacking issues aggressively,” the statement continues. “We believe deeply in transparency and have demonstrated this through reporting our shortcomings and exposing violations.”
At a conference in May, Mr. Cook, the chief executive, said that the company was “going to double down on secrecy on products.”
He added, however, that “there’s going to be other things that we do that we’re going to be the most transparent company in the world on. Like social change. Supplier responsibility. On what we’re doing for the environment. We’re going to be the most transparent, because we think that transparency is so important in these areas, and that if we are, other people will copy what we’re doing.”
This year, Apple began publishing monthly summaries of suppliers’ compliance with overtime standards. In October, Apple hosted other technology companies for a private discussion on responses to excessive work hours overseas. While Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports do not contain details on specific factories, they are still among the most thorough in the electronics business.
But Apple has not sought the high-profile leadership opportunities that have set off transformations in other industries. Nike, for instance, has convened public meetings of labor, human rights, environmental and business leaders to discuss how to improve overseas factories. The clothing retailer Gap Inc. has invited outside organizations to critique its purchasing practices and publish their findings. Patagonia shares its factory audits with competitors and has been a vocal supporter of a centralized audit report clearinghouse that lets companies share information.
“That’s the standard Apple has to meet,” said a former Apple executive. “That’s how a leader transforms an industry.”
A More Human Touch
Almost 200 miles southeast of the factory where Ms. Pu received her new chair is another plant that is experimenting with improving workers’ quality of life — and shows the trade-offs of such gains.
The factory, in Chongqing, makes computers for Hewlett-Packard, a company with little of Apple’s glamour. It is operated by Quanta, a little-known Taiwanese manufacturer.
Inside the plant, amid thousands of workers in bright white uniforms, are occasional flashes of pink worn by people like Zhang Xuemei, a bubbly 19-year-old with glinting earrings whose sole job is to chat with co-workers.
For eight hours a day, Ms. Zhang collects complaints about the factory’s free meals and dorms. She listens to workers who are divorcing, homesick or arguing with managers. When she finds someone suffering, she refers them to the company’s full-time doctor or professional counselors.
Quanta’s 10-story dormitories feel like a college campus. There is a free movie theater, television rooms, a large martial arts gym, two spacious karaoke bars, a huge cafeteria and an aerobics hall playing a Chinese remix of “Gangnam Style.”
Neither Quanta nor Hewlett-Packard claims it has solved every labor woe. And the amenities are partly selfish: one of the biggest problems for Chinese factories is that workers are constantly leaving. Hewlett-Packard hopes that by improving living conditions, turnover and training costs will fall.
“You can tweak the line and get one second out of the process, but if the people turn over every three months, think what that does to your quality,” said Mr. Prophet, the Hewlett-Packard executive.
Last year, a worker advocacy group criticized another Quanta plant, in Shanghai, for harsh working conditions found at many factories, including extensive overtime and poor food. In Chongqing, Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay slightly higher prices initially so that Quanta can offer workers a better quality of life. Such payments are the price all companies should bear for more humane factories, say Hewlett-Packard executives.
There are costs for workers, too. Quanta’s employees earn slightly less than their peers at Foxconn. What’s more, Quanta’s emphasis on hours that are easier on employees means they are prohibited from overtime shifts that advocates say are abusive, but which some workers insist they want.
Zhang Jiang, a slim 21-year-old, previously assembled laptop computers at another company in Shanghai. Each week, he sent the bulk of his pay home so his younger brother could stay in school. Overtime was like a blessing, he said.
But last summer, fed up with the 25-hour train trip to see his family, Mr. Zhang moved to Chongqing and joined Quanta. He enjoys the better facilities and dorms. He frequently visits his parents’ home. But his take-home pay has fallen by nearly a third and the thought that his brother may have to drop out of school so he can help the family gnaws at Mr. Zhang. Instead of working in the factory each night, he spends hours playing an online game, Dungeon Fighter.
“I’d like to work 80 hours a week,” he said.
Change Is Hard
Hewlett-Packard also makes products at Foxconn factories, as does almost every major electronics firm. Foxconn, more than any other company, has proved that Chinese plants can deliver obsessive attention to quality. The company has helped make China into a manufacturing juggernaut through strict discipline that is visible everywhere, even in the salutes managers give visiting executives.
That discipline, say former Apple executives, is one reason every iPhone is put together so well.
It is also one reason the reforms enjoyed by employees like Ms. Pu — who received the new chair — have not spread quickly. Though Foxconn has trained managers to treat employees more gently, foremen still use profanity and intimidation, workers say.
“The managers speak in a manner that often feels like a threat,” said Mou Kezhang, who works in iPad quality assurance at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu.
Foxconn, in a statement, said it had “always been among the fastest to adopt change and reform.” Its policy, the company said, is “to treat employees with respect and if we find any transgressions, they are immediately investigated and addressed.”
In the last two years, Hewlett-Packard has increasingly moved its manufacturing to Quanta. Foxconn has not fought particularly hard to win that business back, according to Hewlett-Packard officials. Often, the quality-of-life improvements requested by Western electronics executives come at the cost of a supplier’s bottom line. Even within Apple, tensions erupt because executives often believe improvements should be financed by suppliers, whereas suppliers say changes are not feasible unless Apple pays more.
And ultimately, some workers themselves resist reforms. In March, when Foxconn announced that workers’ hours would be reduced to China’s legal limits, employees began complaining. “Absolutely I’d like to do overtime to work more than 60 hours, but now there’s a ceiling on it,” said Ma Changqiao, a 23-year-old at Foxconn’s Chongqing factory.
Change is hard, say officials at multiple companies. Reforming labor conditions in a country as large as China will probably take decades, and labor abuses are an ever-evolving problem without just one right answer.
In September, six months after Foxconn agreed to a Fair Labor Association request for new internship rules, two worker advocacy groups found that students in nonmanufacturing courses were being improperly forced to work at a Foxconn plant in north central China. One student studying preschool education said she was prohibited from quitting her internship and was compelled to work night shifts. Afterward, Mr. Gou of Foxconn issued apologies to wronged interns and the responsible official was fired.
Today, Foxconn’s internship program continues — a testament, executives say, to Foxconn’s commitment to a program that can benefit thousands of students, even when making improvements is hard and stumbles are inevitable. Changing the company’s culture is slow going. But the needed reforms, executives at Apple and Foxconn hope and believe, are falling into place.
- Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China – NYTimes.com (mikedaisey.blogspot.com)
- Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China (adafruit.com)
- Working Conditions in China: Supply and Demand (marginalrevolution.com)
- Conditions at Apple suppliers’ factories in China improving (macdailynews.com)
- Can the N.Y. Times ride Apple all the way to a Pulitzer? (tech.fortune.cnn.com)
- News Summary: Factory fire kills 14 in China (miamiherald.com)
- Improvements at Foxconn’s China factory (tuaw.com)
- The Learning Network Blog: Lesson Plan | Ten Ways to Investigate Transition in China (learning.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Foxconn’s Apple factories start to show signs of improved working conditions (theverge.com)
- Jaguar to build factory in China in joint venture (miamiherald.com)
China economy shows signs of strength
China released a series of figures on Sunday showing continued economic strength as it prepares for new leaders tasked with sustaining the country’s dramatic growth.
Production statistics and other figures released by China – including retail sales, fixed asset investment and inflation – all showed an improvement. Photo: EPA
12:47PM GMT 09 Dec 2012
The 10.1pc November increase follows rises of 9.6pc the previous month, 9.2pc in September and a three-year low of 8.9pc in August.
Overall growth has slowed for seven straight quarters in China. It hit 7.4pc in the three months through September, the weakest performance in more than three years.
But the production statistics and other figures released by the bureau – including retail sales, fixed asset investment and inflation – all showed an improvement.
The statistics – the first major economic figures to be released since the Communist Party held its pivotal congress last month – will be welcomed by the political elite as it prepares to usher in new leaders in March.
“Overall it’s a quite strong set of numbers, supporting our view of rebounding GDP growth,” said Lu Ting, China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
President Hu Jintao has called for efforts to strengthen domestic consumption in a bid to create a new growth model, echoing mounting calls for change to stabilise growth amid the slowdown.
Economists say the country faces mounting pressure to restructure its economy to ensure long-term growth, such as reducing its reliance on exports and boosting domestic consumption.
HSBC China economist Sun Junwei said Sunday’s figures have created favourable conditions to implement reforms under Beijing’s new leaders.
Xi Jinping replaced Hu as party chief last month and is strongly expected to succeed him as national president next March. The party’s new number two Li Keqiang is set to assume the premiership at the same time.
“The leaders will step up the reform efforts gradually in the coming quarters,” Sun said.
“There will not be drastic changes that will happen overnight, but the current recovery will create favourable conditions to accelerate these reforms next year.”
Other figures released on Sunday include retail sales, the main measure of consumer spending, which rose 14.9pc year-on-year in November from 14.5pc in October.
Fixed-asset investment, a key gauge of infrastructure spending, was up 20.72pc year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2012, from 20.7pc in January-October.
The consumer price index, the main measure of inflation, increased to an annual 2pc from a near three-year-low of 1.7pc in October, which will give lawmakers less room to loosen monetary policy.
Premier Wen Jiabao and Commerce Minister Chen Deming have both said in recent months that they expect China to achieve its targeted growth rate of 7.5pc this year despite the impact of the global slowdown.
China cut interest rates twice this year and has reduced the amount of funds banks must keep in reserve three times since last December, to encourage lending.
But it has avoided the kind of huge stimulus package it announced after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, which sent inflation soaring.
- China pledges rural reforms to boost incomes, consumption (chinadailymail.com)
- China reports strong economy data (bbc.co.uk)
- China’s economy shows pick-up amid leadership transition (rappler.com)
- China Is Now In A Sweet Spot For Economic Growth (businessinsider.com)
- China economy shows signs of strength (telegraph.co.uk)
- China’s logistics industry picks up (nzweek.com)
- China: Diggers pile up unsold after Caterpillar adds capacity (chinadailymail.com)
- China’s recent trade statistics have been artificially inflated (chinadailymail.com)
- China’s non-manufacturing industries expand at a faster pace (chinadailymail.com)
- Quality, efficiency to feature in China’s economy (nzweek.com)
Dec 10, 2012 6:31pm
U.S. Intelligence: China Economy to Surpass U.S. by 2030
A report on global trends prepared by the U.S. intelligence community notes that by 2030 China is likely to have surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy. The report suggests the United States would likely serve as “the first among equals” in a multi-polar world.
“China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030,” The report “Alternative Worlds” prepared by the National Intelligence Council notes in their findings released Monday at the National Press Club.
“In terms of the indices of overall power in gross domestic product, population size, military spending and technological investment, Asia will surpass North America and Europe combined,” said Christopher Kojm, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the press conference.
But a lot could happen in the next seventeen years. And there is uncertainty about how China will evolve.
“China is…the wild card. I mean, its actions itself can be its worst enemy, particularly if it becomes, as we’ve seen in a couple — starting a couple of years back, a lot more aggressive in the neighborhood, then actually is sowing a lot more support for continued U.S. — a continued U.S. role in the region.” Said Dr. Matthew Burrows, counselor to the National Intelligence Council at a press conference Monday morning.
Despite the findings about China’s economy, the report notes that the United States will remain a dominant power militarily with a strong economy as the boom in domestic natural gas production possibly helps lower costs for manufacturing and reduces unemployment.
“When you broaden your definition of power beyond just the basic ones of GDP [Gross Domestic Product], military spending, R&D [Research and Development] and GDP, and you look broader at what a lot of the other — what a lot of people would call more softer powers, the U.S. still in 2030 stands head and shoulders above China, India and actually all other powers in the world.” Burrows said.
“The U.S. most likely will remain ‘first among equals’ among the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership role. More important than just its economic weight, the United States’ dominant role in international politics has derived from its preponderance across the board in both hard and soft power. Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of other countries, the ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana—the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945—is fast winding down,” The assessment noted.
Noting the abundant shale gas reserves in the United States the NIC report notes, “With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come. Increased oil production from difficult-to-access oil deposits would result in a substantial reduction in the US net trade balance and faster economic expansion.”
Among the reports other major trends and concerns noted are the growing demand for food and water with climate change exacerbating the need for these resources as the world’s population is expected to approach 8.3 billion people in 2030. The report also notes that the Middle East and South Asia could face increased instability as 2030 approaches.
“The Middle East’s trajectory will depend on its political landscape. On the one hand, if the Islamic Republic maintains power in Iran and is able to develop nuclear weapons, the Middle East will face a highly unstable future. On the other hand, the emergence of moderate, democratic governments or a breakthrough agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have enormously positive consequences.” The report noted.
While terrorism has been the main national security concern for the United States for over a decade the NIC report notes that Islamist terrorism is likely to decline but not completely disappear.
“The current Islamist phase of terrorism might end by 2030, but terrorism is unlikely to die completely. Many states might continue to use terrorist group out of a strong sense of insecurity, although the costs to a regime of directly supporting terrorists looks set to become even greater as international cooperation increases. With more widespread access to lethal and disruptive technologies, individuals who are experts in such niche areas as cyber systems might sell their services to the highest bidder, including terrorists who would focus less on causing mass casualties and more on creating widespread economic and financial disruptions.”
The report also notes that technology will help shape global-security, social and economic developments with increased productivity, automated technologies, precision agriculture and advancements in health care.
Noting the potential for major crisis the report notes the possibility of a severe pandemic as well as weapons of mass destruction and cyber attacks being carried out by non-state actors.
“Our work is invaluable to the administrations past and present. It helps to inform the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. It has helped to inform the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. And the policy planning staffs across the national security agencies are keenly interested in our work, and we know that senior policymakers are as well,” NIC Chairman Kojm said at the press conference.
- U.S. won’t be alone at the top by 2030, says new report (tv.msnbc.com)
- Report: U.S. Will Lose Superpower Status By 2030 (personalliberty.com)
- Intelligence community: U.S. out as sole superpower by 2030 (politico.com)
- China Economy to Surpass US by 2030 (abcnews.go.com)
- New Study: Africa, Asia to Overshadow USA, Europe by 2030 (atlantablackstar.com)
- U.S. Intelligence Agencies See a Different World in 2030 (whitenewsnow.com)
- Asia ‘set to eclipse’ US by 2030 (bbc.co.uk)
- US National Intelligence Council says China’s global power more than EU and USA combined by 2030 (chinadailymail.com)
- U.S. Intel Report: China to Overtake U.S. Economy by 2030 (foxbusiness.com)
- China’s economy likely to surpass U.S. before 2030, analysts predict (denverpost.com)
Coal resurgence calls undermine
clean energy commitments
Chinese coal production is rising despite a massive renewable energy drive
Coal, the dirtiest and most polluting of all the major fossil fuels, is making a comeback.
Despite stringent carbon emissions targets in Europe designed to slow global warming and massive investment in renewable energy in China, demand for this most ancient source of energy is greater than ever.
In fact, coal was the fastest growing form of energy in the world outside renewables last year, with production up 6% on 2010, twice the rate of increase of gas and more than four times that of oil. Consumption data paints a similar picture, while figures for this year are set to tell the same story.
There are a number of drivers behind coal’s renaissance, many of which may be short lived. Others will push demand ever higher for decades to come.
Coal consumption in Europe, where governments have been at the forefront of the push to curb carbon dioxide emissions, has risen sharply in recent years.
· Coal is responsible for about 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fuels
· Coal generates almost a half of the total amount of electricity produced in the US
· Coal emits almost a third more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than oil, and 70% more than natural gas
· Coal provides about a quarter of the world’s energy needs and it generates almost 40% of the world’s electricity
· Almost 70% of total global steel production is also dependent on burning coal.
Why? Because it’s cheap, and getting cheaper all the time. Due to the economic downturn, there has been what Paul McConnell, senior analyst at energy research group Wood Mackenzie, calls a “collapse in industrial demand for energy”. This has led to an oversupply of coal, pushing the price down.
It has also led to a massive surfeit of CO2 emissions permits, pushing the price of carbon, and therefore the cost of coal production, sharply lower.
Equally important, there has been a huge influx of cheap coal from the US, where the discovery of shale gas has provided an even cheaper alternative energy source. The coal has to go somewhere, so it’s exported to Europe.
Finally, higher non-shale, natural gas prices are making coal an attractive alternative.
As Laszlo Varro, head of gas, coal and power markets at the International Energy Agency (IEA), says: “All parameters favour coal.”
So much so that “coal is [now] being burned as the baseload fuel across most of Europe,” says Gareth Carpenter, associate editor at global energy information provider Platts.
Germany’s decision to scrap all nuclear power and build more coal-fired power stations can only boost production further.
Just how long coal’s resurgence lasts depends to some extent on the global economic recovery and the ability of governments to implement a system that finally delivers a meaningful carbon price.
But, in the meantime, legislation passed more than a decade ago will severely curb coal production over the coming years, according to Mr Varro.
The full impact of the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, which is designed to reduce local air pollutants, but not in fact carbon dioxide, is about to be felt, meaning a number of inefficient coal plants will be decommissioned.
As a result, in five years, coal production capacity “will be considerably lower than today”, says Mr Varro. The directive will do nothing, of course, to restrict cheap US imports.
But whatever happens to coal production and consumption in Europe, spiralling demand for energy in Asia, in particular China, will ensure that coal production continues to rise significantly over the coming decades.
1,652.6 billion barrels
208.4 trillion cubic metres
860,938 million tonnes
Source: BP. Reserves calculated at current price using current technologies
Population growth and the exploding middle classes will see to that – in China alone, demand for energy will triple by 2030, according to Wood Mackenzie.
China in particular is spending massive amounts of money on a renewable energy drive the likes of which the world has never seen – plans are in place to build almost 10 times the wind capacity of Germany, for example.
But even this will not be able to keep up with demand, meaning fossil fuels will continue to make up the majority of the overall energy mix for the foreseeable future.
And when it comes to fossil fuels, coal is the easy winner – it is generally easier and cheaper to mine, and easier to transport using existing infrastructure such as roads and rail, than oil or gas.
Its price is also relatively stable because, as Mr Carpenter points out: “Coal mines on the whole are located in relatively stable countries free from major geopolitical tensions.”
For all these reasons, Wood Mackenzie forecasts coal production in Indonesia, currently the world’s fourth-biggest coal producer, to rise by 60% by 2020, while China will import more than a billion tonnes by 2030, almost five times currents levels.
By this date, it expects global demand for imported coal to more than double, helping to push the fossil fuel’s proportion of the overall energy mix even higher than it is today.
Cheap energy is, of course, a vital ingredient in the continued economic growth of developing countries, but the implications of rising coal production for CO2 emissions and global warming are profound.
While China is currently running half a dozen carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects – which aim to capture CO2 emissions from coal plants and bury it underground – the technology is nowhere near commercial viability.
Demand for energy in China will more than triple by 2030, analysts forecast
As Mr Carpenter says, despite all the hype “it looks extremely unlikely that CCS technology is going to be deployed widely in the next 10 years or so”.
The inevitable end result is rising CO2 emissions. According to the IEA, emissions from fossil fuels hit a record level last year, while total energy-related emissions and are due to rise by more than 20% by 2035.
“Why we aren’t developing CCS for all we’re worth is a mystery to me,” says Prof Myles Allen at the school of geography and the environment at the University of Oxford.
“It is viewed as just one of a basket of solutions, but it’s not – it’s pivotal. Without it, nothing else follows.”
And CCS lends itself perfectly to coal, precisely because it is such a cheap energy source.
Renewed urgency in developing CCS globally, alongside greater strides in increasing renewable energy capacity, is desperately needed, but Europe’s increasing reliance on coal without capturing emissions is undermining its status as a leader in clean energy, and therefore global efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
- Coal resurgence calls undermines clean energy commitments (bbc.co.uk)
- Coal resurgence calls undermines clean energy commitments (oddonion.com)
- The World Falls Back In Love With Coal (hardware.slashdot.org)
- Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets (guardian.co.uk)
- First European Country To Stop Coal Use May Be… (huffingtonpost.com)
- More than 1,000 new coal plants planned worldwide, figures show (guardian.co.uk)
- Nearly 1,200 Coal Plants Proposed Worldwide: Report (theepochtimes.com)
- Group targets hundreds of coal plants for closure (wvgazette.com)
- Big Coal Is Putting Climate Targets Hopelessly Out Of Reach (businessinsider.com)
- Why Have U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Plummeted? (blogs.cfr.org)
India to Build Export T-50 Stealth Fighter by 2020
India will begin production of an export variant of Russian plane-maker Sukhoi’s T-50 stealth fighter from 2020, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Wednesday during a visit to Delhi.
“The technical characteristics have been confirmed to our (Russia and India) defense ministries. We propose serial production of the plane should start by 2020,” he said, following the meeting of an Indian-Russian intergovernmental commission.
T-50 is a prototype of a multirole stealth fighter jet currently undergoing flight testing by the Russian Air Force. The plane will feature an electronically-scanned active-array radar, supercruise capability, high maneuverability and low radar and infrared signatures. Sukhoi claims it will have significantly better performance than the US-designed Lockheed F-22 Raptor which is now in service.
Russia also hopes to sign a deal with India by the end of this year for an additional batch of 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft of an improved standard to those already in service in India, he said.
“Russia has presented India with a contract for delivery of another 42 Su-30MKI aircraft. I hope it will be signed by year-end,” he said.
The new Su-30MKI will feature an advanced active electronically-scanned array radar system as well as modified electronic warfare systems and the ability to fire the land-attack variant of the BrahMos Russian-Indian supersonic cruise missile, according to Defence Industry Daily.
Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace is expected to supply the Indian Armed Forces with about 1,000 BrahMos missiles.
India already has around 130 of the advanced Su-30MKI’s in service, as part of a major reequipment program for the service, including purchase of 126 French Dassault Rafale fighters.
- Taking Off: Implications of China’s Second Stealth Fighter Test Flight – China Real Time Report – WSJ (mbcalyn.com)
- Stealth fighter jet dubbed as the J-31 reportedly tested in China (ubergizmo.com)
- India to build export version of Sukhoi T-50 Stealth Fighter (theaviationist.com)
- China’s Newest Stealth Fighter The J-31 (Updated) (warnewsupdates.blogspot.com)
- J-31 Chinese Stealth Fighter completes successful maiden flight (americanlivewire.com)
- India to build export T-50 stealth fighter by 2020 (indrus.in)
- New China stealth fighter in test flight (nation.com.pk)
- Second China stealth fighter prototype has test flight (foxnews.com)
- China ‘makes first test flight’ of new stealth fighter jet (telegraph.co.uk)
- The secret flight of China’s new stealth fighter (killerapps.foreignpolicy.com)
Taking Off: Implications of China’s Second Stealth Fighter Test Flight – China Real Time Report – WSJ
Taking Off: Implications of China’s Second Stealth Fighter Test Flight
By Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins
China’s fighter aircraft development efforts appeared to take another leap forward after local media reported that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) had successfully tested its J-31 stealth fighter prototype this week. Following the test flight of a Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) J-20 prototype less than two years ago, the test of the J-31 suggests China could eventually become only the second country behind the U.S. to develop two stealth fighter programs – an important development with serious potential implications for the tactical aircraft export market and well as the U.S. military.
Video and photos posted online Thursday show the J-31 prototype conducting an initial high speed taxi run and 10-minute flight test accompanied by a pair of SAC J-11BS fighters. The J-31’s maiden flight represents the second “unveiling” of a significant new fighter aircraft by SAC in less than a year, the other being the J-16, a two seat multi-role variant of the J-11B, similar to the US F-15E and the Russian Su-30MKK.
China’s defense industry can now sustain multiple overlapping advanced programs. SAC alone is currently working on four major fighter aircraft – the J-31 and the J-16 as well as the J-16’s single seat parent the J-11B and the carrier-based J-15, also based on the J-11B.
Like most modern fighter aircraft, the J-31 will likely be a multi-role combat aircraft capable of employing modern precision munitions in both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles. Despite apparent rapid advancement, however, it will take time for the fighter to reach full operational status. As Xu Guangyu of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association explains, “there is still a huge gap between China and the US’ fighter jet technologies because we are still testing both the J-20 and the J-31. It might take another couple of years before we can put them on the production line.”
Mr. Xu’s observation raises an interesting question because it is not yet clear if the J-20 and J-31 are intended to complement each other or be competitors. Some Chinese analysts like former Aviation World deputy editor Bai Wei share the view of Western counterparts that they may be complementary as part of a “high-low” mix, with the larger J-20 akin to the F-22 and the smaller J-31 akin to the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
One factor that suggests the J-20 and J-31 could complement one another is that the J-31 could be modified for use on aircraft carriers in a way the larger J-20 is unlikely to be. Sr. Capt. Li Jie of the PLA Navy (PLAN)’s strategic think tank has been quoted in Western media as stating the J-31 prototype “might become a carrier-based fighter jet” because it is smaller and slimmer than the J-20.
The prospect of the J-20 and J-31 becoming China’s mainstay tactical strike fighters during the next decade stands to influence regional defense planning and tactical aircraft export markets. Unveiling the J-31 affirms that, save for jet engines, China’s aerospace sector is now in many ways nearly as advanced as Russia’s and suggests that Russian manufacturers will soon be unable to compete with China’s own fighter manufacturers. Beijing is already the world’s sixth-largest arms exporter, and Chinese aircraft export growth would come largely at Moscow’s expense.
This means Russia will need to shift its weapons exports from China to Chinese neighbors such as Vietnam and India. However, given the defense spending cutbacks in the U.S. and Western Europe, Russian firms will have to compete with the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and BAE in a way they never had to when China (which Western defense firms are largely prohibited from selling to by an embargo) was essentially a captive market for Russian weapons exporters. Chinese e increasingly Therefore, the parallel development of the J-20 and J-31 will provide further impetus for China’s aviation industry to master mass-production of modern high-performance jet engines – its last major obstacle to being able to export tactical aircraft.
The J-31 also stands to meaningfully impact decisions on U.S. defense spending, especially if it ends up being produced in conjunction with the J-20 and they end up being complementary to one another. If the J-31 and J-20 both end up in mass production, China could ultimately achieve parity or perhaps even numerical superiority in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of late-generation fighters deployed. There is a rising probability that China’s rapid advancement in indigenous tactical aircraft design will spark a renewed debate in the U.S. over restarting production of the highly advanced but also highly expensive F-22 Raptor.
Bottom Line: China’s Military Aerospace Industry Nearing Critical Mass
It is extremely significant that China may soon join the U.S. as the only other nation to develop two “low-observable” aircraft simultaneously. China’s defense aerospace sector overall may be moving toward an architectural model in which several distinct poles of expertise develop in Shenyang, Xi’an, and Chengdu and then compete with each other on key big ticket projects. Multiple aviation industry bases with significant development and production capacity, including SAC, allow for domestic competition for key aircraft programs. This can minimize the chances of single-point failures jeopardizing development targets, increase efficiency, and maximize the chances of useful breakthroughs.
It is thus not too early to consider the possibility that China’s aviation industry, despite enduring limitations, may already enjoy some key advantages over Western counterparts. As a latecomer, China can draw on knowledge gleaned from industrial espionage, reverse engineering, and study of foreign systems, standards, and specifications, allowing it to save costs by leapfrogging rather than developing every component itself. Meanwhile, it may benefit from lack of legal obstacles to subsidization and technical diffusion through civil-military integration—a lack that Western contractors arguably benefitted from during their Cold War heyday before stricter regulations emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. China’s military aerospace industry is rapidly approaching critical mass. Continuing to add investment to this growing foundation will allow China’s aviation industry to fully harness the flashes of technical prowess shown when new aircraft like the J-31 take flight.
- Second China stealth fighter prototype has test flight (foxnews.com)
- China’s Newest Stealth Fighter The J-31 (Updated) (warnewsupdates.blogspot.com)
- China’s Newest Stealth Fighter The J-31 Has It’s Maiden Flight (warnewsupdates.blogspot.com)
- Stealth fighter jet dubbed as the J-31 reportedly tested in China (ubergizmo.com)
- J-31 Chinese Stealth Fighter completes successful maiden flight (americanlivewire.com)
- The secret flight of China’s new stealth fighter (killerapps.foreignpolicy.com)
- New pictures show second Chinese stealth fighter being test flown (security.blogs.cnn.com)
- China ‘makes first test flight’ of new stealth fighter jet (telegraph.co.uk)
- J-31 (thing) (everything2.com)
- Second Chinese stealth fighter makes test flight (guardian.co.uk)
Mitt Romney’s campaign insults voters
By Editorial Board, Updated: Friday, November 2, 11:34 AM
How else to explain his refusal to disclose essential information? Defying recent bipartisan tradition, he failed to release the names of his bundlers — the high rollers who collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. He never provided sufficient tax returns to show voters how he became rich.
How, other than an assumption that voters are too dim to remember what Mr. Romney has said across the years and months, to account for his breathtaking ideological shifts? He was a friend of immigrants, then a scourge of immigrants, then again a friend. He was a Kissingerian foreign policy realist, then a McCain-like hawk, then a purveyor of peace. He pioneered Obamacare, he detested Obamacare, then he found elements in it to cherish. Assault weapons were bad, then good. Abortion was okay, then bad. Climate change was an urgent problem; then, not so much. Hurricane cleanup was a job for the states, until it was once again a job for the feds.
The same presumption of gullibility has infused his misleading commercials (see:Jeep jobs to China) and his refusal to lay out an agenda. Mr. Romney promised to replace the Affordable Care Act but never said with what. He promised an alternative to President Obama’s lifeline to young undocumented immigrants but never deigned to describe it.
And then there has been his chronic, baldly dishonest defense of mathematically impossible budget proposals. He promised to cut income tax rates without exploding the deficit or tilting the tax code toward the rich — but he refused to say how he could bring that off. When challenged, he cited “studies” that he maintained proved him right. But the studies were a mix of rhetoric, unrealistic growth projections and more serious economics that actually proved him wrong.
This last is important — maybe the crux of the next four years. History has shown that it’s a lot easier to cut taxes than to reduce spending. Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush promised to do both, managed to do only the first and (with plenty of help from Congress) greatly increased the national debt.
Now Mr. Romney promises to reduce income tax rates by one-fifth — for the rich, that means from 35 percent to 28 percent — and to raise defense spending while balancing the budget. To do so, he would reduce other spending — unspecified — and take away deductions — unspecified. One of the studies he cited, by Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, said Mr. Romney could make the tax math work by depriving every household earning $100,000 or more of all of its charitable deductions, mortgage-interest deductions and deductions for state and local income taxes.
Does Mr. Romney favor ending those popular tax breaks? He won’t say. But he did take issue with Mr. Feldstein’s definition of the middle class: Mr. Romney said he would protect households earning $250,000 or less. In which case the Feldstein study did not vindicate the Romney arithmetic — it refuted it. Yet the candidate has continued to cite the study.
Within limits, all candidates say and do what they have to say and do to win. Mr. Obama also has dodged serious interviews and news conferences. He has offered few specifics for a second-term agenda. He, too, aired commercials that distorted his opponent’s statements.
But Mr. Obama has a record; voters know his priorities. His budget plan is inadequate, but it wouldn’t make things worse.
Mr. Romney, by contrast, seems to be betting that voters have no memories, poor arithmetic skills and a general inability to look behind the curtain. We hope the results Tuesday prove him wrong.
- Wow. The Washington Post flat-out savages Romney today – says his only consistency is “contempt for the electorate” (thedemocraticstrategist.org)
- Mitt Romney faces the wrath of the Washington Post (jaypinho.com)
- WaPo eds: Romney insults voters (politico.com)
- Many Americans Believe There Is No Discernible Real Difference Between Romney and Obama (21stcenturyscreenshots.wordpress.com)
- Mitt Romney’s Latest Lie: Tells Audience Seniors Won’t Get To See Doctors (alan.com)
- Presidential election: Mitt Romney may win the race because he ignored conservatives’ advice. – Slate Magazine (mbcalyn.com)
- Boston Globe endorses Barack Obama over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (boston.com)
- Well, Mitt Romney’s got at least one new endorsement…. (updates.jezebel.com)
- Harry Reid Dismisses Mitt Romney’s ‘Fantasy’ of Bipartisanship (rollcall.com)
- Gay Radio Host Suggests Gay Mitt Romney Supporter Would Be Better Off Killing Himself (mediaite.com)