Happy birthday to us!

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That’s right, your source for all things France, America and the world beyond has just turned two years old! Check out the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique, online now.

In this issue, our editor-in-chief Paul Weinberg recounts his experiences in “invading” Europe as an American. Check it out here!

“We of the Western World came. And, before long, we of the Western World took. Elgin took his marbles. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art took their pharaohs, Astors, their chateau. Morgan, his paneled English country library. Rockefeller, countless art.

Not content to just ‘invade,’ not content to just ‘loot’ as invading armies are wont to do, we did the next best thing: having discovered Swiss chocolates and English biscuits, and Jaguar, Saab, Volvo–No longer content to ship away marbles and chateau, tapestries, art, libraries, and cars, we consumed the very companies themselves that made the chocolates and biscuits and cars.

Of course, well before that, when North Americas was but thirteen disputatious swampy colonies, the Brits went on their own shopping spree, never thee mind trifles such as marbles, collecting whole colonies and spheres of influence from the Cape to Cairo, India to Indonesia, China to Canada. Not to be outdone: Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Holland, among others, set up vertical industries called ‘colonialism,’ dispatching pioneers, armies, missionaries, fur-traders, spice-traders, slave-traders, ran the shipping infrastructure that moved raw materials across vast oceans continent to continent, shipped finished goods back across vast oceans and ultimately converted it all into middle-classes and democracy. On both sides of the transaction: initially giving birth to middle classes in the colonial power; subsequently, in the societies they seduced and violated.”

Read more on France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique, online now!

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Happy New Year to the Hanlong Group!

hanlong

In today’s Big Business news, we bring you China’s Hanlong Group, which has just acquired one of the largest iron ore mines in West Africa. Horraaaay!

China Daily reports that the deal is worth a fair chunk of change:

“The acquisition will start on February 26 and end on March 1, 2013 after documents are submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, officials with the privately-held Hanlong Group said Friday.

Hanlong will pay A$0.45 per share to buy Sundance shares — a price agreed upon in August 2012. The offer will save Hanlong 2 billion yuan ($315 million) for the deal, which was originally valued at A$1.7 billion ($1.76 billion).

Sundance controls the Mbalam Iron Ore Mine in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. Hanlong executives have disclosed that the company is in talks with leading state firms to jointly develop the mine.

Hanlong is investing $5 billion to develop its first mining project in Mbalam, as well as build a 550-km railway and a shipping port. It is slated to start operating in 2014, the company officials said.”

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So it’s worth more than a billion dollars, but why exactly is this news making headlines around the world?

The Economic Times dropped a very brief line about it:

“The mine holds 865 million to 925 million tonnes of iron ore … unnamed observers said Hanlong’s control of the mine would give China more influence in setting international iron ore prices.

Major investments and acquisitions by China in natural resources projects overseas, including Africa, have helped fuel its rise to become the world’s second-largest economy.

Xinhua said that Hanlong Group has combined assets of 36 billion yuan ($5.7 billion) with ownership or stakes in more than 30 firms.”

It’s not only iron ore–for more insight into China’s growing influence on the world’s mineral markets, we turn to Mining.com, which recently published an article about China’s rise to prominence in silver markets:

“China has transformed from a ‘relatively small player’ on the silver market as recently as the 1990’s into the world’s second largest silver fabricator with a burgeoning share of both global supply and demand.

China’s share of global silver demand and supply currently stands at 17% and 14% respectively, while the country is expected to soon become the world’s second-largest producer of the precious metal.

Total silver demand in China increased more than two-fold during the period from 2002 to 2011, rising from 67.1 million ounces to 170.7 million, with gains driven by both vigorous economic growth and liberalization of the country’s silver market.

Demand for silver has seen especially strong gains in China’s jewelry and investment markets. During the period from 2002 – 2011 the country’s silver jewelery market grew by 211% to reach 54.4 million ounces.”

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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It’s almost here! Join us in celebrating our 2nd anniversary with the very first issue of Carnet Atlantique in 2013! Featuring more on international politics, China, currency and coalitions, the latest edition goes live in just a few days. Keep your eyes on this space!!

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China launched longest (and fastest) high-speed rail line in the world. Hold on to your butts!

high speed rail

If you’re travelling by train from Beijing to Guangzhou, the journey will now take eight hours instead of twenty. God bless us, everyone!

Yes, Al Jazeera has reported that China just launched a 2,000+ km rail line connecting the capital to Guangzhou, a major economic hub:

“The rail line includes 35 stops in major cities such as Zhenghzhou, Wuhan on the Yangze River and Gangsha. 

State media have reported that December 26 was chosen as the date to open the Beijing-Guangzhou line to commemorate the birth of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1893. 

Railway is an essential part in China’s transportation system, and its government plans to build a grid of high-speed railways with four east-west lines and four north-south lines by 2020.

China’s high-speed rail network was established in 2007, but has fast become the world’s largest with 8,358 kilometres of track at the end of 2010. That is expected to almost double to 16,000km by 2020.”

Unfortunately, according to Al Jazeera, the railway network has been plagued by graft and safety scandals, most notably a deadly bullet train collision in July 2011 that killed 40 people and led to public outrage.

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For a marvellous look at the intricacies and flaws of rail advancements in China, check out this piece in Vanity Fair by Simon Winchester. Although it was published in 2011, it’s definitely still worth checking out, especially for the prose:

“Shanghai’s Rainbow Bridge Station is sited next to the city’s old (but newly rebuilt) domestic airport and in a fast-growing nexus of skyscrapers, restaurants, and subway lines (the city had no subway lines until 1995 and now has 11, each one built deeper than the last).

The station is run by a woman, Bao Zhenghong. She is a little under 40, pretty, brisk, friendly, with a blue diamond-shaped badge of authority (over dozens of men, at least) on the sleeve of her no-nonsense uniform blouse. As she paced down the concourse marble she remarked, between shy grins and blushes, that she had started work as a menial at a suburban station 20 years ago, on graduation from technical school. She could not in her wildest dreams, she said, have imagined being so swiftly promoted to take total control of this $2.3 billion glass monument (built in only two years) to China’s newness. Hers is the largest station in Asia, with 60 platforms: it sees 250,000 passengers a day, is made of 80,000 tons of steel, is home to countless stores and restaurants and viewing galleries, and is powered by the biggest solar-panel array in creation.”

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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Our two-year anniversary is fast approaching! We’ll be talking currency, coalitions and all things China in just under a week. Keep your eyes on this space!!

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Only three Chinese CEOs make Harvard’s Top 100 list

CEO

Surprising new announcement courtesy of Harvard Business Review. The publication’s list of the world’s top 100 CEOs only included three executives from China.

According to the Economic Times of India:

“The number was small in contrast to China’s economic influence in the world.

Li Jiaxiang, ex-CEO of Air China, was ranked 17th, Wang Dongming, CEO of CITIC Securities ranked 83rd and Dong Mingzhu of Gree Electric Appliances rated 98th, the China Daily reported Saturday.

The best-performing CEO list was compiled by the Harvard Business Review, according to a company’s shareholder return and market capitalization growth during the CEO’s term.

‘China has been the growth miracle of the past decade, so you might expect CEOs there to have done very well, but we find that the opposite is true,’ wrote the authors who compiled the list.”

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So why such low numbers? CNBC didn’t really know either. But said that things certainly will change in the future. Of course:

“Chinese business leaders told the study’s authors – Morten Hansen of University of California, Berkeley and Herminia Ibarra and Urs Peyer of Insead – that ‘as the country’s companies become more innovation-focused, their performance will improve’.

US companies’ chief executives take six of the top 10 spots, but also generally punched below their weight. Their average position among the 3,143 chief executives analysed was lower than that of counterparts from Latin America, India and the UK. ‘US CEOs have not been as competitive on a global scale as one might think,’ the authors said.

What do you think? Why do Chinese CEOs lag behind the rest of the world?

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Happy end of the world everyone! Except you, Chinese cult members. You are under arrest.

doomsday

Yes, though midnight has already come and gone for many of our readers, and it is now December 21, 2012 in over half of the world, it would appear that the apocalypse has not, in fact, occurred.

So not only do members of a doomsday cult in China look like idiots, it would appear they are also under arrest for spreading rumours about the end of the world. According to Al Jazeera:

“More than 400 members of the ‘Almighty God’ sect were detained in the northwest province of Qinghai, the China Daily reported on Thursday. Another 350 people were also arrested in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

A few hundreds more were arrested in five other provinces. 

Members of the group believe Friday, December 21, marks the end of the world as the Mayan “Long Count” calendar finishes a 5,200-year cycle.

Beyond that, little was known about the group until the arrests of its members, which has attracted international media attention, Timothy Hildebrandt, a lecturer in Chinese Politics at King’s College London, told Al Jazeera.

‘It’s interesting because a lot of people have sort of been laughing about it because it does seem rather silly that you have the government cracking down on these folks who are doomsdayers,’ Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt said the crackdown might be a reflection of a larger concern by Chinese authorities because it happened in Qinghai, where there are large Muslim and Tibetan populations.”

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For more on the cult, we turn to The Guardian (and Reuters), who revealed a little more about the group’s recent activities:

“In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the group have clashed with police, sometimes outside government buildings, in Henan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, according to photos on popular microblogs.

The government says it is a cult calling for a “decisive battle” to slay the “Red Dragon” Communist party, and has been spreading doomsday alerts related an old Mayan calendar, seen by some as predicting the end of the world on 21 December.

The sect’s followers have been distributing leaflets saying that the world will end in 2012, state media said. The Communist party accepts no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability.

It has taken particular aim at cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years. Demonstrations have been stopped with force and some sect leaders executed.”

For a more personal look at Eastern Lightning’s impact, we turn to the Financial Times, which told the story of one Shi Xinwang, who discovered his wife was a member of this “dangerous cult” after she asked him to withdraw all of the family’s money and prepare to beg forgiveness in front of God. Shi did what any good husband would do:

In desperation he has secretly informed on her to the Chinese authorities. A nationwide crackdown has so far led to the arrest of about 1,000 followers of the quasi-Christian group, which also calls itself the Church of Almighty God.

Eastern Lightning, one of China’s most aggressive millenarian sects, believes that Christ has been reincarnated as a woman in central China and is on a mission to lead the faithful in a decisive battle to slay the ‘great red dragon’ of the Communist party.

Current and former Eastern Lightning adherents told the Financial Times this week that the group had adopted a theory popularised in the Hollywood film 2012, which says an ancient Mayan calendar has predicted that doomsday will fall on Friday, December 21 2012.

Believers expect three days of darkness followed by 72 days of natural disasters, starting on January 1, that will devastate the earth and wipe out all non-believers, whom they refer to among themselves as snakes and demons.”

In a word: Ridiculous.

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China: Steady as she goes

China-economy

Hold on to your hats! A prudent monetary policy is, apparently, on the agenda for China in 2013. This courtesy of newly-elected leader Xi Jinping, at a recent two-day conference in the country.

According to state-run Xinhua, by way of AP, by way of the Montreal Gazette, the country is in a slump and planning to move ahead cautiously. Riveting.

“A statement quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency after an annual planning conference pledged more market-opening reforms in 2013.

The world’s second-largest economy is gradually pulling out of its deepest slump since the 2008 global crisis, but weaker-than-expected November trade data prompted suggestions the rebound might be faltering.

The leadership under party General Secretary Xi Jinping pledged a “proactive fiscal policy” and “prudent monetary policy,” Xinhua said, referring to willingness to boost spending if needed and keep credit easy so long as inflation stays low.

The conference is the first opportunity for the new leaders to announce their own plans for China’s economic course. Most analysts expect them to stick largely to the goals of the party’s current five-year development plan, which runs through 2015.”

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In the past three months, economic growth fell to a three-and-a-half-year low of 7.4 per cent in, although factory output, consumer spending and other indicators are improving in the current quarter. Still the recovery will be slow and steady, much to the dismay of the world economy–something this slow and steady will likely not cause anything in Europe or the US to rebound.

The New York Times had more information on the conference, and the details of Xi’s plan:

“The statement endorsed tax cuts, continued curbs on real estate speculation and a broader effort to increase domestic consumption and wean the economy from its dependence on exports and investment.

‘The opportunities facing us are no longer the traditional ones of simply entering the international division of labor, expanding exports and accelerating investments, but rather new opportunities forcing us to expand domestic demand, improve innovative capacities and promoting the transformation of the mode of development,’ the statement said.

Held in December each year, the Central Economic Work Conference in theory is jointly run by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and by the government’s cabinet of ministers. In reality, the Standing Committee of the Politburo has the power, and all seven of its members attended the conference, together with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who left the standing committee last month but remains in office as prime minister until the National People’s Congress next March.

While China has many economic opportunities, ‘we must soberly recognize that there are still many risks and challenges confronting our national development,’ the overview released by Xinhua said. “Problems with imbalances, ill-coordination and lack of sustainability remain pronounced.'”

Wins the race, right?

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China #1!

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It hasn’t happened since 1850, but China has just climbed back to the number one spot on the “manufacturing giants of the world” list.

The Atlantic reports that, although the US and China are neck-in-neck, China’s neck is just a little bit further ahead:

“The United Nations has updated its national accounts data to capture 2011, and thanks to China’s breakneck growth, its manufacturing output is now leaving ours in a cloud of coal dust, as shown in this graph from AEI’s Mark Perry. China’s trend line is practically an asymptote.”

The ten dollar words continue…

“As a point of pride, this might all be a bit of a blow for the United States. As an economic issue, though, it’s not really so terrible.Yes, we envy China’s factory and export engine, but we still build plenty here. In fact, we’re building more than ever, and much of our output consists of extraordinarily profitable, technologically advanced products like aircraft that China has yet to master. And, though it’s sometimes easy to forget with all the talk of China rising, we’re also, well, richer. America’s household consumption alone generated $10.7 trillion of economic activity in 2011 — $3.5 trillion more than China’s entire gross domestic product. This, despite the fact that our population is one quarter the size. We might not be the world’s top builders anymore, but our economy’s bias towards spending does insulate it a bit from the rest world’s economic problems, something China’s policy makers almost certainly envy themselves.”

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And it’s not just the economy that is being affected by China’s increasing power. Reports surfaced today that Japan was left scrambling and furious after China flew its jets over a disputed territory.

“A Chinese government plane entered for the first time what Japan considers its airspace over disputed islets in the East China Sea, escalating tension between Asia’s two biggest economies.

Japan protested to China over the incident but China brushed that off saying the flight by the Chinese aircraft was ‘completely normal.’

Sino-Japanese relations took a tumble in September after Japan bought the tiny islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a private Japanese owner.

Patrol ships from the two countries have been shadowing each other since then in a standoff that has raised concern that a collision could escalate into a clash. Thursday’s incident was the first time both sides used aircraft in the dispute.”

What do you think? Is it time we all started learning Mandarin?

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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