BRIC+ News & comments

Who says China is not innovative?

Oh wait, I have seen something stupider:

"... Aug 20 (Reuters) - For nearly five centuries, the classic image of sugar
production in Brazil has been one of workers setting cane fields on fire and
then descending on the crop with their machetes for harvest. No longer.
More than half of the cane in Brazil's main sugar-producing area of Sao
Paulo state was harvested using machines during the 2009/10 season, a
historic first that portends greater efficiency in coming years. ..."

Billy T notes: They set fire to cane fields before hand cutting to remove the sharp leaves. Now these leaves become potential bio fuel for cellulosic alcohol. Currently, I think most are left in the field by the harvesting machines as small pieces to return fiber and minerals etc. to the soil. Some may be cut off at the alcohol plant and burned for distillation heat and electric power generation as is the crushed cane stocks. (Probably if field is close to the distillation plant, it pays to haul the leaves, still on the cane, there but not if the field is more than ~10 miles from the plant.) With mechanical harvesting, many small settlements near the cane fields no longer suffer a couple of weeks of smoke filled air.

On an annual basis, more than 5% of Brazil's electrical energy comes from burning cane* and that generation is growing as more factories install small steam-driven electric generators. At least 85% of Brazil's electric energy comes from water power. Thus, less than 10% from burning fossil fuels! As more than half of the cars run on pure alcohol (Which is a slight net negative source of CO2 release.) the main source of CO2 released by Brazil is from cows (world's largest herd) and close second is deforestation.

The deforestation is caused by rich people wanting Mahanoy furniture. A single large tree is worth more than a year’s wages at the minimum salary. So they are selectively (and illegally) cut. Then the entire forest is burned to hide the crime. Eventually in the burnt over area, someone will try to farm the poor soil. Sugar cane is never grown there because: (1) The distillation plants are close to the major cities as it is too costly to ship alcohol long distances. (The Amazon is at least 500 miles from where cane can be profitably grown.) (2) It is much too costly to haul the low energy density cane 500+ miles to where the distillation plants are.

Beef, on the other hand, can be shipped 500 miles. So some of the land the illegal loggers burned may be bought by a rich absentee landlord, who can afford to clear it of burnt stumps, fertilize and seed it with grass seed. This is seldom done as there is five times more abandoned pasture, now over grown with shrubs, which is nearer to the markets that can be restored more cheaply as a cattle farm.**

SUMMARY: Rich foreigners who want Mahanoy furniture are the real reason parts of the Amazon are burned. Certainly not sugar cane alcohol production and not even beef production, although a tiny part of Brazil's beef production does come from the criminally burned sections of the Amazon after some one has paid for restoration with fertilizer and grass seed. If you want to know who can stop the burning of the Amazon, look in a mirror. I.e. don’t buy Mahanoy (or other Brazilian wood) furniture.
* It is produced for only a few months each year. During that period, less water is released at the hydroelectric dams. They also serve a "energy storage batteries" for wind and other forms of solar energy.

** It was abandoned because land was so cheap that you could buy new cheaper than maintain the old with fertilizer etc. (Much like was done in the Old South with cotton farms.) When I came to Brazil, 17 years ago, I bought a very run down farm of ~100 acres with two small 2-bedroom houses on it for less than $25,000. It supported only 5 steers at that time, but 10 years later when I sold it, I had 50 fat steers on it. (I put less than $3000 into plowing sections and seeds.) I made a good profit, not even counting my 50 steers, as land prices had doubled. Now they are up about four fold as soy and other crops are more in demand.
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"... Chen said China will gradually reduce the production and exports of rare earths, which are widely used in areas from hybrid cars to electronics, and the amount will be further reduced in the second half of the year. ... “Rare earths exist in land where environment is very fragile, so a large amount of extraction hurts China’s natural environment. Thus, we had to impose limits on production and trade of rare earths,” he said.

China produces about 90 percent of rare earths in the world. He said the slowdown of earth exports may be more significant, as the growth of exports in the first half was very fast. ..."


Billy T comments: This "to protect the environment" is a new, more socially acceptable spin. A decade or so ago China exported a lot at low price to close competitive mines, some in the US.

Rear earths are very difficult to purify / separate and now US no longer has that capacity, even if demand for electric cars batteries and magnets in dozens of motors drove price way up, US will just have to pay what China asks.

A day later by edit, now that bloomberg has picked up the story and added a few more facts, especially:

"... China cut its export quotas for rare earth by 72 percent for the second half of this year, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce on July 8. Shipments will be capped at 7,976 metric tons, down from 28,417 tons for the same period a year ago. Japanese officials told their counterparts that the lower quotas could have a major affect on global industry, and demanded early action on easing them, said Satoru Sato, press secretary for visiting Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. ..."

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"... China will complete building 5,000 kilometers of high-speed railways in the mainland's southern region by 2012 to accelerate its economic integration with the business vibrant Hong Kong and Macao, a senior industry official said Saturday. The rail tracks ... will account for nearly 40 percent of the country' total in the coming three years.

Another 5,000 kilometers will be completed in the region from 2012 to 2015, said Liu Dongfu, vice minister of the Ministry of Railways, ... Liu said the railway system played a key role in the region's economic boom, transporting 386 million passengers and 521 million tons of goods in 2009, up 28.7 percent and 7.4 percent respectively from the figures in 2004.

China is investing heavily in the railway system to meet the demands of an increasing number of rush travelers. Authorities vow to cut the travel time between provincial capitals of neighboring provinces to less than two hours. ..."


Billy T comments:
IMHO this is the type of stimulus the US needs - makes jobs and increases the country's efficiency. US has zero kilometers of high-speed railways, but is stimulating by "cash for clunkers," $8,000 for new home buyers, flooding banks with "created out of thin air" money, which they do not lend as buying government bonds seems safer, etc. - I.e. only things with no or even adverse* lasting benefits.

There is so much the US could learn from China, but it is too arrogant to do so. US badly needs longer term infrastructure development (and repair of existing), but if benefits come only after the next election, - forget about that happening.

*Adverse as artificial price reduction for cars or homes via government rebates only moves expected future sales to the present, and thus weakens the future economy, while adding to the debt.
I don't know if this is anything, but a Japanese friend of mine who LOVES Twittering said something interesting: China is going to pop soon (by China she meant Shanghai). Why? Because that's all the gossip on Japanese businessmen Twittering about business in China.

They said: the coast is going to pop, just like Japan did.

Now, that could all just be Japanese Twitter chatter, but I thought it was interesting anyway.
Foot Massage Doubles and Chinese Doubt Official Price Data

"Lydia Wang, a 28-year-old marketing manager in Shanghai, gripes that the shoes and clothing she normally buys are at least 50 percent pricier than in 2009. Wu Sengyun, a 54-year-old retiree in the coastal city of Ningbo, Zhejiang, says prices of fruit and fish are up more than 20 percent in the past year.

Willy Lin has cut back on free drumsticks in the canteen of his Jiangxi clothing factory as meat and vegetables grow dear. “The workers suffer,” he says. “Everybody is crying.”

Officially, China’s consumer price inflation topped out at 3.3 percent in July compared to a year before, a 21-month high. Officials say the spike is a one-off caused by crop damage from recent flooding. Other costs, they say, such as cars, mobile phone bills, and clothing, are falling, and pressure on prices should ease as the economy cools. At an Aug. 12 press conference, Pan Jiancheng, a deputy director in the statistics bureau, said the inflationary threat was “overhyped.”

Consumers, investors, analysts and academics interviewed by Bloomberg BusinessWeek in its Aug. 30 issue beg to differ.

“There has been a jump in prices that isn’t reflected in the numbers,” said Chinese Academy of Social Sciences economist Yu Yongding, a former adviser to China’s central bank..."


Remember that the Renminbi has a dollar peg. The US administration and The Feds stimulus' has now reached in China's economy. Last month our trade deficit rose ''unexpectedly''. Well, here's where the money went. Is it any surprise that China is diversifying out of our currency?
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To Esoteric:

You can not legally quote an entire Bloomberg article as you did. That can get Sciforums in trouble with copy right laws. Please return and edit it to be less than half of the full text and make some editorial comments on what you do quote.

If you don't do this by time I get up tomorrow, I will delete half of it, but give you the chance to determine what you wish to remain.

By Edit, Next AM:
Thanks, good job. I often quote Bloomberg and, as you have now, give link to the original article after the quote. Then typically I put in bold: Billy T comments: .....
Your last paragraph has your comments. You don't need to label them as I do. I think some people may jump to my comments, with only a skim of the article, so that bold text identifying start of my comments helps those who do.

BTW The Renminbi now is pegged to a basket of currencies, but the Chinese have never told exactly which or the weight of each in the basket. I strongly suspect this is because there is no constraining formula - they just adjust the value as they see fit.
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" {Chinese} auto sales surged 55.7% in August to 1.21 million vehicles, in part because of the stimulus measure, but Beijing didn't act purely in the interest of boosting sales. China is more interested in promoting hybrid and electric cars than it is in boosting sales. ... To that end, many local governments also offer clean car incentives in addition to the central government subsidies. {which is 3,000 yuan for vehicles that save 20% on fuel consumption.} Shanghai, for instance, offers an extra $2,946 (20,000 yuan) to customers who buy a plug-in hybrid and $7,465 (50,000 yuan) to those buying electric cars.

Shanghai aims to produce 100,000 green vehicles a year by 2012, as part of its initiative said Liu Jianhua, head of the city's new-energy promotion. The city will build 400 charging stations for electric cars this year.

Tactics like these have been effective in getting China's freshly minted drivers to go green. A survey of 606 auto buyers in Shanghai found that 75% of respondents intended to buy a green car within three years, according to a report from research firm Ipsos. ..."

Billy T comment: Not sure but think the US is offering $8000 subsidy to buyers of Chevy's Volt but it is not yet on the market. The BYD electric hybrid, first marketed in 2008, cost half as much as the Volt and goes significantly farther on battery alone (before the gasoline motor kicks in).

Also important to note is China currently produces about 94% of all the rare earths available in the world. They are essential for strong light weight magnets in the many car motors (some are small for windows, etc) in a modern car, even if it is not an electric hybrid. China has announced that exports will be cut ~75% (from memory) in second half of 2010. Claiming that is an environmental measure to avoid pollution in the mining area. IMHO, China knows how and is "playing hard ball" to keep the electric car market for itself. Japan has already, when the 75% cut was announced, filed an official protest (with WTO, I think, but I forget.)
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To Kmguru:

Thanks for the link. Unfortunately it is accurate and fair picture of one of Brazil's greatest problems. It does note that education is more rapidly improving than most other economically important developing countries, but Brazil is far behind with a long way to catch up.

Briefly mentioned is Bolsa Familia, a program which is very important means of improving lower level education - It pays parents* if they send their less than 19 year old children to school (and requires them to get their free vaccinations). Prior to it, simple economics of the rural poor sent the typically child to work in the fields with little if any education.

Article notes that there is such a shortage of skilled labor that many industries are giving months of education, including even basic reading. This problem is bound to grow worse as now, by law, manual cutting of sugar cane is being phased out. (More than half is now mechanically harvested and most out of work cutters are ill educated).

A huge and continuing problem, not mentioned in the article, is that in many cases the elementary school teachers themselves are poorly educated - barely literate- and their pay is so low that better education people will not teach as they can get more pay in Brazil's booming domestic economy, which is an exceptionally large part of GDP. (Exports, contrary to what most believe, are less than 10% of GDP)
* Many rural families are now part of the cash economy. - I.e. go to local town to buy shoes** etc. instead of do without or get free handout at the church, etc. The "multiplier effect" of Bolsa Familia is huge and probably the taxation on this increased economic activity at least pays for the cost of Bolsa Familia. In the long run, like the post WWII GI bill, it is a great investment - hard to fine one with a better rate of return as some of these now educated kids will get big salaries in the cities.

** Article mentioned that President Lula left school in the fourth grade. It did not mention that both his parents were illiterate or that he got his first pair of used shoes at age 12. President Lincoln had many advantages President Lula never had, the most important being a well educated step mother. If ever there was a "self-made-man" it is Lula.
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"...Globally, foreign investment decreased by almost 40 percent last year amid the financial downturn and is expected to show only marginal growth this year. China bucked international trends in both outbound and inward investment, official figures have revealed.

China now ranks as the fifth largest global investor in outbound direct investment (ODI) with a total volume of $56.5 billion, compared to a ranking of 12th in 2008 ... The growth in both outbound investment from, and inbound investment to, China reflects the nation's rising economic power and attractiveness as an investment destination. ...

Last year was the eighth consecutive year that the nation's ODI had grown. In this period the average annual growth rate stood at more than 50 percent.
... "The growth rate (for ODI) in the next few years will be much higher than previous years," Shen said, without elaborating. ... From January to June, the ODI in financial sectors was up by 43.9 percent to $17.84 billion, and in July alone, the ODI recorded $8.91 billion, the highest this year. ...

"China's ODI will go up to $100 billion in 2013, and the Chinese accumulative overseas investment will reach $500 billion by then," said Fan. According to the ministry, by the end of 2009, 13,000 Chinese enterprises had invested in 177 nations and regions worldwide, and the largest volume of funds went to the Asia-Pacific region. Europe and Africa ranked second and third in absorbing Chinese investment. ... {See graph at end}

As for FDI, Shen predicted it would reach a record high of $100 billion this year as China's consumption capacity gradually picked up and the nation's efforts on creating an open and transparent investment environment paid off.
... During the first seven months, China's FDI increased by 20.7 percent to $58.35 billion, and FDI in July surged by 29 percent. ..."

71.4% Not only Western investors, but China too invests in Asia. (Where the future is.)


Billy T comment:
Note that in 2010 about 100 billion of FDI {investment $ into China} is expected but 100 billion of ODI is not expected until 2013. Thus for a long time, more investment dollars will be flowing into China than leaving. This adds to China's currency problems that already exist due to chronic trade surpluses. Yet China's holding of US Treasury paper has been decreasing (about 100 billion in last 5 or 6 months as I recall). That means that China has been buying more than 100 billion of the raw materials, energy supplies it will need in the futures (as well as importing more pork, foreign cars, French wine, etc. for the increasing higher living standards of its populations). In contrast, Joe American is tightening his belt and trying to pay off his debts.
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“… In the first seven months of this year, Chinese net purchases of JGB*s were about Y2,300bn ($27.4bn), according to the Japanese finance ministry. … "I do not know what their true objectives are, but we would like to clarify their objectives," Mr. Noda said. His comments come as the Japanese government faces mounting pressure to counter the yen's rise, which is hurting the competitiveness of Japanese exporters and undermining their profits. The yen this week hit another 15-year high against the U.S. dollar.

Although China's net purchases of Japanese bonds are at a record, some analysts say they have a negligible effect on the currency market. … But other analysts disagreed. "I think Chinese buying [of JGBs] is putting upward pressure on the yen," said Tohru Sasaki, foreign exchange strategist at JPMorgan. …

Mr. Noda's remarks also follow a period of renewed speculation about China's management of its massive stock of foreign exchange reserves. As well as increased purchases of Japanese bonds, traders say China has also been a buyer of South Korean, Canadian and Australian debt. …”


Billy T comment: But as I predicted some years ago, China is now buying less US treasury paper – About 100 billion dollar reduction in the last 6 months in China’s holding of dollar paper in its reserves.
* JGB = Japanese Government Bonds
"... {China's August} Production gained 13.9 percent from a year earlier ... Consumer prices jumped 3.5 percent, the most in 22 months, as food costs climbed. Retail sales increased 18.4 percent. {Despite} curbs on bank lending and government crackdowns to cool the property market and meet energy and pollution targets. ...

“Domestic demand is robust and the Chinese economy is heading for a smoother and softer landing than people had feared,” said Lu Ting, a Hong Kong-based economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. ...

Inflation is 1.25 percentage points above the benchmark one-year deposit rate*, encouraging savers to shift money into assets such as real-estate and adding to public concern about rising prices. ... China is poised to replace Japan as the world’s second- biggest economy this year after reporting a larger GDP in the second quarter. {by some accounts it already has.}

... Producer price inflation slowed to an annual 4.3 percent pace from 4.8 percent. “This is a positive set of data which shows the economy has ended its deceleration,” said Stephen Green, Shanghai-based head of China research for Standard Chartered Plc.

In a separate statement, the central bank reported August new loans of 545.2 billion yuan ($80 billion) and a 19.2 percent increase in M2, the broadest measure of money supply. Both numbers were above economists’ estimates. The rebound in M2 growth was the first in nine months.

Trade data released yesterday signaled strength in Chinese demand, with imports jumping 35 percent from a year earlier in August, more than economists forecast. Last month also saw gains in property transactions and auto sales, led by SAIC Motor Corp. and FAW Car Co.

The economy expanded 10.3 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier after an 11.9 percent gain in the first three months of the year. Industrial output rose 13.4 percent in July. ...

Industrial-output growth may average 10 percent in the second half as the government chases energy-efficiency targets in a five-year plan, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Sept. 7. The ministry also cited risks to export demand, efforts to cool the property market and a limit to growth due to comparisons with higher year-earlier bases.

In China’s north, Hebei, the nation’s largest steelmaking province, is demanding that producers such as Tangshan Iron & Steel Group and Shougang Corp. curb output to save energy, according to a local-government website. Crude steel output fell to a six-month low last month, the statistics bureau said today. {But China is importing steel also as many steel intensive projects exist like new high speed rail lines.}


*This is like Japan. The saving habit is so strong that the people put money in the banks even when the real rate of return is negative! Billy T expects the Chinese will increasingly buy and hoard silver. It is the official CCP policy that they should do so for about a year now. This helps the government convert dollars into real assets without any reduction in government funds.
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"... Suzlon Energy Ltd., India’s biggest maker of wind-turbine generators, said it plans to expand capacity at its plant in China....

“In the long term, the epicenter of our industry and our business will move to China,” he said. “China will remain the largest market for the next 10 years.”

Suzlon joins General Electric Co. and European rivals that are introducing newer technology and opening factories in China, the world’s fastest-growing green energy market, as they compete for orders. The country plans to add 18 gigawatts of wind capacity this year, which Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates is double what’s expected in the U.S., the No. 2 market. ..."


Billy T comment: In photo-voltaics the picture is the same or worse. China is going green much faster than the US, especially if one counts the new nuclear power plants as "green."
China has found a new way to convert dollars into real assets:

"China can offer a “complete package,” including financing, as it competes to build a high-speed railway in California costing more than $40 billion ... California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this week rode on bullet trains in China, Japan and South Korea as the state seeks contractors and financing to build the planned network linking Los Angeles and San Francisco. ...

“The deal would be of great symbolic significance to China as it allows the nation to export technological knowhow to a country as developed as the U.S.,” said Wang Sheng, an analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities Co. from Shanghai. “China is fully able to afford the financing.” ..."


Billy T comment;
China has difficulty in buying critical assets in the US, but if it finances them and they don't make enough to cover the interest cost, China ends up the owner. Clever is it not?
"... China added to its holdings of US Treasury debt in July after it reduced the holdings by $55.6 billion in May and June, according to US Treasury Department's report released on Thursday. In July, China increased its holdings of US bonds by $3 billion to $846.7 billion, still the largest holder of US Treasury debt. Japan, the second-largest holder of US Treasury bonds and notes, increased its holdings by 2.2 percent to $821 billion. Britain, the third, saw a 3.3 percent increase in holdings to $374.3 billion. Hong Kong reduced its holdings by $5.8 billion. ..."


Billy T comment:
Thus in last three months, China has cut its holding of US paper by 52.6 billion or a little more than 17.5 billion per month. July was an increase in holdings by only 0.35% - nothing to get excited about and not an indication that China has reversed the recent 6 months policy of getting out of dollar assets, which are down about 100 billion dollars in those 6 months. Dropping at average rate of 17.5B/month for 6 months is 105 billion. Thus until there is a significant increase (0.35% is not) one should conclude that China is on a "steady" reduction of dollars in reserves path.

As noted in just prior post, 295, China wants to 100% finance projects to spend dollars, 40 billion for the California high speed rail project. Mainly, until now China has been using dollars to buy future delivery of raw materials and energy supplies. Financing project in the developed world is a new approach made possible by fact the developed world does not have adequate funds for many new projects (and often not even enough to keep existing infrastructure repaired).
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Perhaps I'm the only idiot who had no idea what BRIC meant (and maybe you defined it at some point in this thread), but just in case, I thought I'd share the info I recently came across in an article. It's
India, and
"... "The United States' administrations must recognize that Iran is a big power,"* he said. "Having said that, we consider ourselves to be a human force and a cultural power and hence a friend of other nations. We have never sought to dominate others or to violate the rights of any other country.
"Those who insist on having hostilities with us, kill and destroy the option of friendship with us in the future, which is unfortunate because it is clear the future belongs to Iran and that enmities will be fruitless." ..."

Billy T comment:True, so long as China backs it for its oil and increasingly its natural gas (assuming China's new pipeline into the "Xistans" of the Mid East gets a spur into NE Iran's gas fields.)
Guess where this two year old bridge is. This design because roads on the far side could not go straight. They had to immediately be curved along the river's shore.