Posts tagged ‘China’

Plastic Recycling Scam


Dirty Business: what really happens to your recycling


Millions of Americans dutifully fill their recycling bins each week, motivated by the knowledge that they’re doing something good for the environment. But little do they know, there’s a recycling crisis unfolding.

Starting as early as 2017, municipalities across the country, from Douglas County, Oregon to Nogales, Arizona to Broadway, Virginia, to Franklin, New Hampshire, began landfilling many recyclables or simply canceling their recycling programs altogether. The impetus for this disconcerting change? China.

For decades, the country was content to accept, process, and transform recycled materials from across the globe, but no longer. In July 2017, the government announced new policies that would effectively ban imports of most recyclables, particularly plastics. They went into effect last March. Considering that China has imported a cumulative 45% of plastic waste since 1992, this is a huge deal.

Where once China offered a market for the world’s plastic bottles, tubs, and other packaging to be turned into – for example – polyester clothing, now, that market is gone. This means that recycling costs have skyrocketed. A few years ago, Franklin, New Hampsire could sell recyclables for $6 per ton. Now, it costs the town $125 per ton to recycle that same stuff!

Municipalities across the country are facing this startling arithmetic, so hundreds are choosing the drastically cheaper option: throw most traditionally recycled materials in the trash, instead.

While that might sound horrifying, Thomas Kinnaman, an environmental economist from Bucknell University, says it’s actually a blessing in disguise.

“China’s ban may actually reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans,” he told NPR’s Planet Money podcast. “China was not very careful about what got into their oceans for a long period of time, and if some of the plastic piles were just too corrupted they could do whatever they wanted with it.”

Moreover, landfilling waste is not the evil many assume it to be. Modern landfills in the developed world are highly regulated, with sophisticated systems to protect groundwater, methods of compacting trash as tightly as possible, and even ways of siphoning off methane gas and burning it to produce electricity. Despite the myth that we’re running out of landfill space, current estimates indicate that the U.S. has about 58 years until we need to build additional facilities.

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While plastic and glass should probably be crushed and buried in a landfill, aluminum, tin, and paper – especially cardboard – should absolutely be recycled.

Why It’s Probably Better for the Planet to Throw Plastic in the Trash,” by Ross Pomeroy, Real Clear Investigations, July 15, 2019


Why your recyclables might have no place to go


See also “China’s Recycling Ban: Surprisingly Helpful for the Environment

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China Continues to Persecute Christians

China’s “utterly disgraceful” human rights record is not just bad, it’s getting worse every year, a new Congressional report has warned.

“The Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Committee on China, which published the report, stated on Thursday.

“The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press.”

. . .

“China – now ranking as the world’s second largest economy – has benefited greatly from the international rules-based system in driving its economic transformation and growth,” the report’s executive summary stated.

However, it added, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has not improved its human rights record and respected the rule of law as it has been expected to by the international community. From suppression of religious freedom to detaining dissidents and human rights activists to forced population control, the Chinese state “has run roughshod over human rights” Rep. Smith stated, and it must be held accountable.

. . .

The Chinese government also cracked down on the rise of non-sanctioned religious groups in 2015, the report said, and on Friday it exerted greater control over the practice of religion through its new regulations of religion.

“In both law and practice, the Chinese government continued to violate the rights of its citizens to religious freedom,” the report said, noting the state has “broad discretion over religious practice, internal affairs, and interpretations of faith, which is often exercised based on Party and government policy interests.”

Party officials warned at April’s National Conference on Religious Work that religious groups must be loyal to the state and signaled that they will exercise tighter control on religion in the future to guard against the supposed infiltration of foreign powers through religion.

When the party released its religious regulations on Friday, Rep. Smith called it “stunning, but not surprising.”

“Religious practice is exploding in China, particularly among Christians, and the religious life of Tibetan Buddhist, Uyghur Muslim, and Falun Gong practitioners persist despite decades of the worst abuses,” he said.

However, religious groups must register with the government, and in China there is a state Catholic Church and an “underground” Catholic Church. Local and national officials have harassed or persecuted Catholics who are not part of the state Catholic Church, destroying churches and detaining or harassing bishops and priests.

China’s ‘disgraceful’ human rights record gets worse every year

And it seems Malaysia is not far behind: “Taking the rap: Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat

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Is China Becoming a Mafia State?

Mao Yushi, 2011

Mao Yushi, 2011, from Wikipedia

Biography: Mao Yushi, Recipient of the 2012 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty from the Cato Institute

China is a kleptocracy of a scale never seen before in human history. This post aims to explain how this wave of theft is financed, what makes it sustainable and what will make it fail. There are several China experts I have chatted with – and many of the ideas are not original. The synthesis however is mine. Some sources do not want to be quoted.

The macroeconomic effects of the Chinese kleptocracy and the massive fixed-currency crisis in Europe are the dominant macroeconomic drivers of the global economy.

The Macroeconomics of Chinese kleptocracy,” by John Hempton, Bronte Capital, June 10, 2012

Although the private wealth of the [Chinese Communist] party’s princelings — the well-connected sons and daughters of top officials — is usually well-concealed, they are increasingly dominating the market for blocking and lubricating the arteries of public- and private-sector wealth. Stock exchanges double as vehicles for converting family political capital into cash, which can be re-converted into political power, sometimes by means as blatant as “auctioning” official positions for sale. State-owned enterprises and bureaucracies can be ruled like personal fiefdoms, with contracts allocated to relatives and useful friends, while entrepreneurs shift their profits and loyalties in exchange for regulatory protection.

Some of China’s most respected public intellectuals are warning that society and economy are being held hostage to the wealth-maximizing requirements of the political elite. These warnings echo privately in business circles, too, where entrepreneurs continue to be enthralled by the prospects of short-term profits but increasingly alarmed about their personal and financial security. Officials in developed countries, and even Chinese entrepreneurs themselves, report a steep increase in business people and capital leaving China. “Nine out of ten of my business clients are in the process of applying to emigrate, if they haven’t already,” one of China’s most successful investment bankers told me last week (he is in the process of emigrating to Canada). Executives at state-owned companies have grown incapable of acting in the interests of their companies, he says, and China’s entire system of allocating resources “is malfunctioning.”

A Family Affair: China’s princelings are running amok. And Bo Xilai is just the tip of the iceberg.” by John Garnaut, Foreign Policy, May 30, 2012

Last year, China tested a prototype stealth fighter and launched its maiden aircraft carrier, to augment new destroyers and nuclear submarines. What is unknown, however, is whether the Chinese military, an intensely secretive organisation only nominally accountable to civilian leaders, can develop the human software to effectively operate and integrate its new hardware.

Judging from a recent series of scathing speeches by one of the PLA’s top generals, details of which were obtained by Foreign Policy, it can’t: The institution is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever-greater effort required to impose political control. The speeches, one in late December and the other in mid-February, were given by Gen. Liu Yuan, the son of a former president of China and one of the PLA’s rising stars; the speeches and Liu’s actions suggest that the PLA might be the site of the next major struggle for control of the Communist Party, of the type that recently brought down former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai. Liu is the political commissar and the most powerful official of the PLA’s General Logistics Department, which handles enormous contracts in land, housing, food, finance, and services for China’s 2.3 million-strong military.

“No country can defeat China,” Liu told about 600 officers in his department in unscripted comments to an enlarged party meeting on the afternoon of Dec. 29, according to sources who have verified notes of his speech. “Only our own corruption can destroy us and cause our armed forces to be defeated without fighting.” This searing indictment of the state of China’s armed forces, coming from an acting full three-star general inside the PLA, has no known modern precedent.

Rotting From Within: Investigating the massive corruption of the Chinese military.” by John Garnaut, Foreign Policy, April 16, 2012

Toward the end of 2009, casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp., struggling under $11 billion of debt and strapped for cash as the weak economy ravaged its business, received a surprising offer that could have relieved some of its woes.

The offer came in emails from an outside legal adviser with political connections in China and Macau, the world’s biggest gambling market, where the company’s local unit was going public.

The adviser said he was approached by “someone high ranking in Beijing” who proposed that Las Vegas Sands pay $300 million to win long-awaited government approval to sell a luxury-apartment complex in Macau and to settle a contentious lawsuit, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

These days, Las Vegas Sands is flourishing, buoyed by Asia’s gambling boom. But the emailed offer underscores how high—and dangerous—the stakes are for U.S. companies whose fortunes depend on Macau’s lucrative casino market, which last year raked in more than five times as much gambling revenue as the Las Vegas Strip and is tightly controlled by the government.

Backdoor Macau Deal Was Proposed to Sands,” by Kate O’Keefe, WSJ, June 7, 2012

The House Intelligence Committee is conducting a remarkably detailed and bipartisan investigation of ties between the Chinese government and two Chinese telecom equipment giants, Huawei and ZTE. These companies have been the objects of widespread security fears that their equipment would enable Chinese interception of US telephone calls, expanding American cybervulnerabilities from computer networks to all communications.

House Intelligence Committee investigates Chinese telecom firms,” by Stewart Baker, June 13, 2012

Also see Data Points and Article Links” by Patrick Chovanec, June 10, 2012

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Henry Kissinger - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: World Economic Forum

[Ezra] Vogel ends his new account of the Paramount Leader [Deng Xiaoping] by asking: ‘Did any other leader in the 20th century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other 20th-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?’ Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China is an exercise in unabashed adulation, sprinkled with a few pro forma qualifications for domestic effect. ‘The closest I ever came to Deng was a few feet away at a reception -‘ captures the general tone. Fortunately, Deng’s family and friends were able to make good the missing encounter, with many a gracious interview illuminating the patriarch’s life. Supplemented by much official – properly respectful – documentation from the Party, and a host of conversations with bureaucrats on both sides of the Pacific, the outcome is a special kind of apologia, where the standard of merit is less Deng’s record as a politician in China than his contribution to peace of mind in America.
. . .

Deng threw 11 Chinese armies or 450,000 troops, the size of the force that routed the US on the Yalu in 1950, against Vietnam, a country with a population a twentieth that of China. As the chief military historian of the campaign, Edward O’Dowd, has noted, ‘in the Korean War a similar-sized PLA force had moved further in 24 hours against a larger defending force than it moved in two weeks against fewer Vietnamese.’ So disastrous was the Chinese performance that all Deng’s wartime pep talks were expunged from his collected works, the commander of the air force excised any reference to the campaign from his memoirs, and it became effectively a taboo topic thereafter. Politically, as an attempt to force Vietnam out of Cambodia and restore Pol Pot to power, it was a complete failure. Deng, who regretted not having persisted with his onslaught on Vietnam, despite the thrashing his troops had endured, tried to save face by funnelling arms to Pol Pot through successive Thai military dictators.
. . .
Hysteria, calculation or a mixture of the two, Deng’s motives at the time are one thing. Endorsement of the claims he pressed on his interlocutors – South-East Asian and American – to justify his aggression, in works supposedly of scholarship thirty years after the event, are another. [Henry] Kissinger, for whom the history of the period is little more than a grab-bag for his own self-glorification as an actor in it, can be forgiven for maintaining that China’s war on Vietnam was a vital blow against the Soviet Union and a stepping-stone to victory in the Cold War. That the Sino-American alliance he negotiated, and Deng escalated, had scant bearing on the dissolution of the USSR hardly matters. Whatever his other gifts, truth is not one that can reasonably be expected of him.
. . .
Kissinger’s description of [U.S. President Jimmy] Carter’s actions in assisting the perpetrators of one of the few true genocides of the last half-century – not killings on a far smaller scale, blown up as genocide to decorate ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya or elsewhere – can stand for Vogel’s treatment: informal collusion, in academic dress.
. . .
Deng, a far more uneven, explosive and complex figure, at once more radical and more traditional than the now standard images of him, awaits his biographer. That book will not be written as another page in US self-satisfaction.
. . .
The historical reality was that no outstanding leaders emerged from the confused morass of the [Kuomintang] KMT in the Republican period. The contrast between Nationalists and Communists was not just ideological. It was one of sheer talent. The CCP produced not simply one leader of remarkable gifts, but an entire, formidable cohort, of which Deng was one among several. By comparison, the KMT was a kingdom of the blind. Chiang’s one eye was a function of two accidental advantages. The first was his regimental training in Japan, which made him the only younger associate of Sun Yat-sen with a military background, and so at the Whampoa Academy commanding at the start of his career means of violence that his rivals in Guangzhou lacked. The second, and more important, was his regional background. Coming from the hinterland of Ningbo, with whose accent he always spoke, his political roots were in the ganglands of nearby Shanghai, with its large community of Ningbo merchants. It was this base in Shanghai and Zhejiang, and the surrounding Yangtze delta region, where he cultivated connections in both criminal and business worlds, in what was by far the richest and most industrialised zone in China, that gave him his edge over his peers.

Sino-Americana,” by Perry Anderson, London Review of Books, February 2012

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Chinese Restaurants

Restaurants have a very long history in China. At a time when fine food in western Europe was confined to a handful of great monasteries, the Song Dynasty capital, Kaifeng, supported hundreds of commercial food businesses and a rich gourmet culture….

Ju Xiang Yuan Restaurant - 641 Somerset st. W, Ottawa
Creative Commons License photo credit: C John Thompson

Some of the city’s restaurants were so renowned that the emperor himself ordered out for their specialties; they could also cater the most elaborate banquets, in their own halls or at the homes of the wealthy. Kaifeng’s many eateries also included teahouses where men could sip tea, gossip, and order snacks or full meals, as well as wineshops, which were more popular at night….

China’s vibrant restaurant culture continued unabated through the end of the Qing Dynasty. The English clergyman John Henry Gray [in China: A History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People, (London: Macmillan, 1878), Volume II, Chapter 19, page 64], one of the few Europeans with a serious interest in Chinese food, summed up the typical nineteenth-century urban eatery thus:

The restaurants are generally very large establishments, consisting of a public dining-room and several private rooms. Unlike most other buildings, they consist of two or three stories. The kitchen alone occupies the ground floor; the public hall, which is the resort of persons in the humbler walks of life, is on the first floor, and the more select apartments are on the second and third floors. These are, of course, resorted to by the wealthier citizens, but they are open to persons in all classes of society, and it is not unusual to see in them persons of limited means. At the entrance-door there is a table or counter at which the proprietor sits, and where each customer on leaving pays for his repast. The public room is immediately at the head of the first staircase, and is resorted to by all who require a cheap meal. It is furnished, like a cafe, with tables and chairs, a private room having only one table and a few chairs in it.

… All guests, rich and poor, entered the restaurant through the ground-floor kitchen, where they could judge for themselves the skill of the chefs, the quality of the roasted ducks, chickens, and pigs hanging from the ceiling…and the facility’s cleanliness. When the Chinese immigrated to the United States, they carried this style of restaurant intact to their new homeland.

Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States,” by Andrew Coe (Oxford University Press 2009), pages 94-96, ISBN 0195331079.

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We Don’t Want Your Clunkers

SNL Parody of Obama & Jintao Press Conference in Beijing
“You are not allowed to pay us back in clunkers.”

Economists are full of bad ideas. Terrible ideas seem to emerge when the gurus get together to talk about coordinating their bad ideas. Last week’s public letter from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to the G-20 finance ministers is a great example.

. . .

Since when is every trade surplus or deficit an “external imbalance” in need of correction? It makes sense for a country that has good investment prospects to import a lot of goods, run trade deficits, and borrow money. Years later, the country puts the resulting products on boats to pay the lenders back. The U.S. borrowed abroad to finance our railroads in the 19th century and ran surpluses when Europe was rebuilding after World War II. Were these “imbalances”?

Circus Aros
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mario Spann

Do these and similar stories exactly account for current trade patterns? I don’t know. But nobody else does, either. In particular, the army of economists in the basements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has no clue exactly how much each country should be saving, or where the best untapped global investment opportunities are around the world—including whether trade patterns are “normal” or “imbalanced.”

. . .

How does anyone know if a currency is “undervalued” or not? The economists hidden away in the sub-basements of the IMF may try to decide what currencies “should be” worth across vastly different countries, but this is a hopeless task. Is $2 a day the “right” wage in China, or should that be $2.20 per day because the currency is “undervalued?” Good luck.

. . .

Yet Mr. Geithner thinks that the Chinese somehow hurt us. There is at work here a strange marriage of Keynesianism and mercantilism—the view that U.S. consumers supported the world economy by spending beyond our means, so that other people could have the pleasure of sending things in exchange for pieces of paper.

Geithner’s Global Central Planning,” by John H. Cochrane, The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2010 (subscription required)

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