Fliegen und Tiger sind vom Pferde gefallen

“Flies and tigers fell off the horse.”

Both low-ranking and now at least nine high-ranking officials from the government and top executives from the economy have been investigated for corruption in China.

China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping warned in 2012 that corruption “spreads like worms in a cadaver” and that his government was going to go after the tigers in addition to the flies, both low-ranking and high-ranking officials.

In autumn 2013 Spiegel.de reported that corruption cases had been prosecuted against several tigers, including the top overseer of China’s hundred largest companies and former boss of the giant China National Petroleum Company and its subsidiary PetroChina, “the most valuable company in the world after ExxonMobil” (Jiang Jiemin, Sep. 2013), a former deputy C.P. party chief of Szechuan (Lu Chuncheng, Dec. 2012), a manager of the phone company China Mobile (Xu Long, May 2013) and a former railroad minister (Liu Xhijun, Jul. 2013), in addition to Bo Xilai, C.P. party boss of the city-state of Chongqing and former trade minister.
Update on 19 Apr 2014: Song Lin, chief executive officer of the state-owned China Resources Holdings—which owns a large number of companies from different industries, such as energy generation, real estate and retail sales—for laundering money in Hong Kong.
Zhou Yongkang, Politbüro standing committee member, former boss of the giant state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, then Communist Party chief for the province of Sichuan, then head of China’s security apparatus from 2007 to 2012. Zhou Yongkang is under house arrest, and about 300 people from the oil company, the Sichuan government and the Chinese security apparatus have been arrested in this investigation, with ~$14 billion in property and bank accounts frozen.

Update on 05 Jan 2014: Spiegel.de reported that the Xinhua official press agency announced China investigated nearly 37,000 functionaries for >27,000 cases of corruption between January and November 2013.

(FLEAGUE en   oont   TEAGUE ah   zinned   fom   FEAH dah   geh FALL en.)

Eine abschreckende Wirkung

A chilling effect, what Chinese censorship has on news reporting and book publishing.

Australian media have reported that it looks like Chinese authorities will not renew the visas of foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg, set to expire at the end of 2013. This will require those journalists and their families, including children in school, to leave the country very suddenly, while having a chilling effect on all other international writing about China because yet again the authorities have not named their reasons for this move, leaving people guessing and self-censoring while denying they’re self-censoring.

I feel a qualm now when typing the names of journalists whose work I’m citing. Will my attempt to credit their good work create search engine results that imperil their future efforts to help explain a country as important and interesting as China?

Writers talking about not writing about China oscillate between drawing conclusions about censorship causes that they then decide are obvious, and saying you can’t know. But it does seem some officials there dislike reporting about corruption and vast accumulations of family capital. Corruption would also not be a reason you’d want to cite for refusing to renew journalist visas.

Update on 30 Jan 2014: After ten years reporting in China, Austin Ramzy switched from Time Magazine to the NYTimes in April 2013 and was forced to leave the country this month when he was denied a new press card, meaning his journalist’s visa could not be renewed. Spiegel.de reported that NYTimes and Bloomberg are unable to fill empty posts in their China bureaus.

(Eye nah   OB shreck en dah   VEERK oong.)

Staatliche Umerziehungslager erübrigen

Making government re-education camps unnecessary, surplus to requirements, superfluous.

As part of the exciting reform package announced on 15 Nov 2013, China will be eliminating labor camps from its criminal justice system! No time schedule was mentioned though.

Other reforms that were announced, translated from Spiegel.de:

  • Further loosening of the one-child rule.
  • Opening the financial sector to include “smaller and medium-sized banks” in future.
  • More market-driven pricing. “Prices set by the state are to be limited to public institutions and services, be transparent and by checked by the public.”
  • More transparent currency exchange policy.
  • More entrepreneurship that is private, including more private investment and not ruling out foreign private investment.

N.B.: On 19 Nov 2013 Daimler announced it would be the first international auto manufacturer to invest directly in a state-owned Chinese auto manufacturing company, buying 12% of its Chinese co-manufacturing partner, a cars subsidiary of Beijing Automobile Investment Company Limited. The 625-million-euro deal took nearly a year to negotiate. Daimler will get two seats on the supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] of the Chinese company.

  • Introduction of a standardized and transparent budget and tax system. Reform and simplification of value-added tax (a sales tax). Consumption taxes [Verbrauchssteuer] to be expanded to high-electricity-consumption industries, environmentally unfriendly industries and luxury goods.
  • Land reform, including relaxing limitations on dealing with land in collective ownership (this could be good, could be bad!).
  • Better systems for fighting corruption, on all levels.

Spiegel.de wrote that German industry and economics leaders welcomed these changes, expecting good results from them and from other reforms such as improvements in social welfare services.

Update on 28 Dec 2013: China implemented the announced reforms.

(SHTOT lichh eh   OOM eah TSEE oongs LOG eah   er-r-r ÜÜ brig en.)

“Gerüchte verbreitend”

“Rumormongering,” for which Chinese bloggers are being sent to prison in new ways. China’s new internet rules permit the arrest of people who use blogs or Weibo microblogging (Twitter has been blocked in China) to e.g. comment on the obvious and deadly air pollution or support Bürger-Bewegungen, burgher movements, such as the one that dared to demand party functionaries publish how rich they are.

Tagesschau.de reporter Christine Adelhardt said,

“What’s a rumor is of course defined by the Party. And thus the new rules are becoming a free pass to gag critics. The Communist Party is worried about its opinion superiority [Meinungshoheit] in the internet and its power monopoly in the country.”

Her report is so well-written that it’s difficult-in-a-good-way to translate:

Was ein Gerücht ist, das bestimmt selbstverständlich die Partei. So werden die neuen Regeln zu einem Freibrief1, um Kritiker mundtot2 zu machen. Die Kommunistische Partei furchtet um ihre Meinungshoheit3 im Netz und ihre Machtmonopol im Land.”

(Geh R-R-R-Ü chh teh   furb RYE tend. )

1  Charter, get-out-of-jail-free card, free pass, but not a letter of marque which is a Kaperbrief or ship-capturing permit

2  “Mouth-dead”; gagged, muzzled

3  Opinion superiority, high ground that allows those controlling it to be the ones who define opinion

Autonome Tötungsroboter

Autonomous killer robots.

A Süddeutsche.de article said for years now billions have invested annually in research and development of these types of weapons by the U.S.A., United Kingdom, Israel and soon China as well. The U.S. Navy for example is working on unmanned killer submarines. The U.S. Air Force notoriously has its drones. Companies like iRobot Corp. have been delivering land-based battle robots for years, on wheels, caterpillar treads, four legs and they’re working on bipedal. Post-mounted or mobile Samsung sentries (“SGR-1”) have been erected along the North Korean border that can now be set to automatically shoot anything detectable by motion, heat or, presumably, video-analyzing software.

Opponents of the technology say it’s only a question of time until remotely operated killing machines become autonomous decision-makers. The time for people to decide on an international framework for these types of weapons is now, said a United Nations expert on extralegal killing.

Sweden, wrote Süddeutsche.de, has called for an international test ban [Testverbot] on L.A.R.’s, lethal autonomous robots, asking each country’s government to announce a national moratorium on them and to unilaterally decline to manufacture and test autonomous killer robots.

(Ow! toe NOME ah   TƏ TOONGS roe BOT ah.)

Spotmarkt

Spot market, where financial instruments or commodities are sold for immediate delivery, unlike the futures market where they are sold for delivery at a later date. Wikipedia said a spot market can be an organized market, an exchange or over-the-counter (O.T.C.).

Regarding the spot market price of aluminum: Goldman Sachs was accused of bottlenecking aluminum at Goldman’s Metro International aluminum warehouses outside Detroit, increasing customers’ delivery wait times since purchasing M.I. in 2010 from six weeks to sixteen months by first lowering prices to attract a stockpile (“50,000 tons in 2008” to “~1.5 million currently”) and then, actually, trucking a minimum daily regulatory-defined shipment amount of 3000 tons back and forth among the 27 warehouses. There were also accusations of understaffing, reduced shifts and prioritizing putting aluminum into storage over taking it out. The shuttle-shuffled delays raised a premium added to the price of all aluminum, driving up the spot market price “according to an arcane formula” even for metals bought directly from mines or refineries to bypass these warehouses. While delaying delivery the warehouses also continued charging rent on the stored metal. Perfectly legal according to current international regulations, apparently set by the London Metal Exchange.

The London Metal Exchange might need more disentanglement from the entities it is supposed to regulate. According to the NYTimes.com article, it still receives 1% of the rents collected by the ~700 warehouses it regulates around the world. Until 2012 it was owned by its member regulees, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and Citigroup. Many of its metals warehousing regulations were written by a board populated by executives from banks, trading companies and storage companies. In July 2012 the L.M.E. was sold to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, part-owned by the Hong Kong government, for ~$2 billion. A NYTimes.com description of the 2012 sale said it “will allow the Asian company to control the world’s largest futures trading exchange for metals like aluminum, copper and zinc, as emerging market demand for commodities remains strong.” In 2012 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing was supposedly hoping to get an exemption from Chinese laws preventing foreign companies from owning these sorts of metals warehouses in China.

The U.S.’s Federal Reserve Board could, said NYTimes.com, quit extending exemptions that allow banks like Goldman Sachs to invest in nonfinancial enterprises. Though the Fed’s stated conditions in allowing banks to diversify into commodities investment were “only if there was no risk to the banking system” and if the deals “could ‘reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public, such as greater convenience, increased competition, or gains in efficiency, that outweigh possible adverse effects, such as undue concentration of resources, decreased or unfair competition, conflicts of interests, or unsound banking practices,'” yet many people would say its deregulation achieves the opposite effects, that big “diversified” banks’ risk management still appears to endanger U.S. and world economies and now banks’ having bought up important infrastructure might be presenting them with irresistable temptations such as artificial bottlenecking or even information advantages not all traders always refrain from using.

Update on 25 Jul 2013: The U.S. Senate’s banking committee has criticized that the Federal Reserve is not communicating well with them. However, wrote the F.A.Z., the U.S. Congress could pass its own banking reregulation rules without waiting for the Federal Reserve.

It’s unclear whether shadow trades are involved here, but it’s also unclear why everyone hasn’t gone broke if this is how they’re doing business:

“Industry analysts and company insiders say that the vast majority of the aluminum being moved around Metro’s warehouses is owned not by manufacturers or wholesalers, but by banks, hedge funds and traders. They buy caches of aluminum in financing deals. Once those deals end and their metal makes it through the queue, the owners can choose to renew them, a process known as rewarranting.”

If Goldman is indeed paying aluminum owners, fellow speculators, to rewarrant their metal and leave it in the warehouses piling up rent owed to Goldman, that might indicate some creative profits or at least useful losses are being made.

Aluminum is economically important enough that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been giving aluminum refineries, notoriously high-volume electricity consumers, various electricity rebates that must be paid for by individual consumers or “ratepayers” in their home electricity bills because, Germany’s government said, the preservation of the aluminium supply was that significant for their economy as a whole.

(SHPOTT mocked.)

Wahlrecht

“Voting law.” The Bundestag is debating an overhaul of Germany’s electoral system. On 17 Oct 2012, Spiegel reported one issue was that the reforms currently under discussion might increase the size of the Bundestag to 700 M.P.’s (Spiegel-Online, “Bigger Than North Korea,” saying Germany would have the world’s second-largest parliament after China). Electoral reforms were necessitated by the Federal Constitutional Court’s decision in July 2012 that parts of the current law were unconstitutional, particularly with regard to Überhangmandate (which will be balanced out by proportional extra seats for the other parties). If a final agreement is reached rapidly, the new law could be in effect by Christmas 2012.

Update on 21 Feb 2013: The Bundestag reached an agreement on the new election rules. Überhangmandat seats will be canceled out by Ausgleichsmandat, compensation mandate, seats.

(VALL wrecked.)

Der Elefant im Porzellanladen

“The elephant in the porcelain store,” German equivalent of the bull in the china shop.

(Derrr eh lay FONT im por tsell ON lodd en.)

totschlagen

“To hit until dead.” To beat to death, batter to death, smite, strike dead.

(TOTE shlog en.)

Blog at WordPress.com.