A Few Notes on China

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  • China Daily recently carried an Op--Ed asserting that "Giant leap" in education spurs nasty slump in academics.  (Oddly, the piece appears to be badged as an article, but the URL suggests it is an opinion piece.)  The piece asserts that "According to the education bureau, the number of university applicants in Beijing this year has decreased by 20%, and Shanghai has failed to meet its recruitment demand for three consecutive years."  Those are numbers I will have to dig into.  Another story from China Daily reports that, due to reduced enrollments and accumulated debt, "Universities face bankruptcy".
  • Slashdot has a brief blurb on how "China's Research Ambitions Hurt By Faked Results".  For those who haven't been following this story, while China has been climbing the world rankings of published scientific papers, so has the number of fraudulent papers.  I have to wonder what the real numbers are, though.  The Slashdot story links to a specific example of 70 crystal structures shown last year to be completely fabricated, but other accounts are mostly "just so" stories.
  • China's economic growth jumped to 11.9% in the first quarter of 2010.  The NYT also reports that Beijing raised fuel prices to help keep inflation in check.  Exports rose 46% in March, year on year, while imports rose 45%.
  • According to the NYT, China's Premier Wen Jiabao recently said that "China would pour money into strategic industries, boosting research and development and infrastructure spending to "capture the economic, scientific and technological high ground." Among the areas he singled out were biomedicine, energy conservation, information technology and high-end manufacturing."
  • Earlier this year, for the first time, Chinese oil imports from Saudi Arabia surpassed US imports.  As a result, China ran a trade deficit in March for the first time in years, and is buying up oil production in Canada.  Re-reporting a story from the China Securities Journal, China Daily asserts the sudden drop in the trade deficit is "a result of China's strive for a trade balance by taking measures to encourage imports and stabilize exports".
  • Here is the full text of China's recently published "Report on the Implementation of the 2009 Plan for National Economic and Social Development and on the 2010 Draft Plan for National Economic and Social Development" (via Xinhua).
  • Xinhua asserts that "China's trade surplus with US misread".  Among other revelations, it is apparently all our fault for refusing to export high tech items to China.
  • China has been blocking release of monetary data to the IMF since 2007, which makes it hard for the international organization to make any judgements about currency manipulation: "China allowed the release of its reports until the monetary fund's executive board decided in June 2007 that reports should pay more attention to currency policies. China has quietly blocked release of reports on its policies ever since, without providing its specific reasons to the I.M.F.

    A person who has seen copies of the most recent report last summer said that the monetary fund staff concluded the renminbi was "substantially undervalued."

    The monetary fund regards a currency as substantially undervalued if it is more than 20 percent below its fair market value
    ."
  • Genetically Modified rice has been given a safety certificate by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, but the strain has to clear further hurdles before hitting the shelves.  Here are some interesting numbers: "China now yields around 500 million tons of grain annually. With the population expected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2020, 630 million tons of grain will be needed, experts said."  Wow -- that's a 25% increase in 10 years.
  • China has announced "A big plan to wipe out overcapacity".  According to China Daily, "The China Banking Regulatory Commission, China's watchdog on banks, has asked banks to retain strict controls on loans to industries with high energy consumption, high emissions or overcapacity. For instance, no loans are now allowed for any new projects in six industries with overcapacity and ship making unless these projects have approval from the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner. The six industries are steel and iron, cement, glass sheet, chemical processing of coal, polysilicon and wind power equipment."  Hmmm...the government of a centrally-planned economy proclaiming a drive for efficiency.  Best of luck with that.

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I can venture a guess about the declining enrollment in China's universities. My understanding is that China's universities graduate way more graduates than there are jobs available. Young people may finally have tripped to this fact and are now applying in fewer numbers. The other explanation is that the birthrate in China declined further than official statistics indicate starting about 18 years ago and there are simply fewer 18 year old kids than there were a few short years ago. Government bureaucracy and statistics are usually behind the times, you know.

Fake research papers are a problem everywhere, even in Europe. This is a known problem. I think conservatively 40% of the papers showing up in peer-review journals are fake or at least inaccurate.

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