Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China aims to be become supercomputer superpower [BBC]

It was only in November 2009 that China joined the supercomputer elite – ‘China joins supercomputer elite’ (November 16, 2009), and was ranked fifth last year. In less than a few months, Nebulae machine at the National Super Computer Center in Shenzhen comes in second fastest.

This list, like many other top lists, has an underlying element of ‘flag-waving’ and can be seen as a nationalist vehicle; I am sure China in no time will endeavour to get the accolade of fastest machine. “Their use of high-performance computers is really systematic of their industrial emergence,” Dr Jon Lockley, manager of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre.

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China aims to be become supercomputer superpower
By Jonathan Fildes, Technology reporter BBC News
Source – BBC, published May 31, 2010

The US owned Jaguar has a top speed of 1.75 petaflops. Photo – BBC

China is ramping up efforts to become the world’s supercomputing superpower.

Its Nebulae machine at the National Super Computer Center in Shenzhen, was ranked second on the biannual Top 500 supercomputer list.

For the first time, a second Chinese supercomputer appears in the list of the top ten fastest machines.

However, the US still dominates the list with more than half the Top 500, including the world’s fastest, known as Jaguar.

The Cray computer, which is owned by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, has a top speed of 1.75 petaflops.

One petaflop is the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

It is used by scientists conducting research in astrophysics, climate science and nuclear energy.

By comparison, China has 24 machines in the list. Its fastest has a top speed of 1.20 petaflops, more than double the speed of its previous top supercomputer. However, it has a theoretical top speed of nearly 3 petaflops, which would make it the fastest in the world.

The fastest machine in the UK – which has 38 supercomputers on the list – is housed at the University of Edinburgh. It has a top speed of 0.27 petaflops.

“The Top 500 list definitely has an element of flag waving,” said Dr Jon Lockley, manager of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre.

Quick thinking
He said China was rapidly becoming a “player” in high performance computing.

Dawning, the company behind the fastest Chinese machine, is reportedly building an even faster machine for the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin. In addition, it is also developing home-grown silicon chips to power the behemoths.

“Their use of high-performance computers is really systematic of their industrial emergence,” Dr Lockley told BBC News.

The machines tend to be used for industrial research, such as aircraft design and petroleum exploration.

Dr Lockley said this was becoming increasingly common around the world.

“Whenever possible, everything is done in a supercomputer,” he said.

“Look at Formula One – it’s getting rid of all of its wind tunnels and replacing them with supercomputers. It’s the same in the aerospace industry as well.

“It means you can all the modelling in the supercomputer and then do just one real world test.”

Many of the US machines, by contrast, are owned by the government and are used to monitor the nuclear weapon stockpile.

The US has one other petaflop machine – owned by the US Department of Energy. Roadrunner, as it is known, held the top spot until Jaguar displaced it in 2009.

All others machines on the list run at so-called teraflop speeds.

A teraflop is the equivalent of one trillion calculations per second.

Spy machines
However, scientists are already thinking about so-called exascale machines which would be able to crunch through one quintillion (one million trillion) calculations per second.

An exascale computer has been proposed to process data from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a series of thousands of telescopes spread over 3,000km. The telescope will be based in either Australia or South Africa.

“At that sort of size the challenge is trying to programme the machines,”” said Dr Lockley.

“It has to be fault tolerant – you can’t have a situation where an entire task falls over if one bit fails.”

The top 500 list was published at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

It ranks machines by speed. However, according to Dr Lockley, determining which machine is the quickest is a difficult issue.

“It’s measured against a theoretical benchmark – if you ran a real-world application you might get a very different answer”.

It is also a voluntary list and therefore does not include all machines, such as those at the Oxford Supercomputing Centre and many classified machines owned by governments.

“The spooks have got some pretty big machines,” said Dr Lockley.

Filed under: BBC, Communications, Domestic Growth, Nationalism, Science, Technology

China faces pressure to act over North Korea at summit [BBC]

With China promising not to protect ‘whoever sunk the South Korean warship’, it will be interesting to see how North Korea will react when it is forced into a corner, this is highly delicate. North Korea has few friends, let alone allies who are major powerbrokers.

China making such an announcement at a summit with Japan (who already have a highly stringent approach to North Korea) and South Korea (who have been at war with the North since 1953) will surely not be taken well by the Pyongyang, but choice do the Chinese have with their new role as a newly minted global stakeholder that has promised to abide by the rules of the status quo?

Their actions will be in the spotlight, this will be a stern test for the Chinese leaders. Friendship and camaraderie is something the Chinese take seriously, how are they to turn their backs on their ally? Whether they are enlightened enough to ride on this wave and display benevolence and tact all at once will make for an interesting spectacle.

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China faces pressure to act over North Korea at summit
Source – BBC, published May 29, 2010

South Korea wants China to increase pressure on its old ally North Korea. Photo - BBC

China is to face renewed pressure from South Korea to censure North Korea over the sinking of one of the South’s warships, amid rising tensions.

Seoul is hosting a three-way summit with China and Japan as it steps up its diplomatic efforts over what it says was a torpedo attack by the North.

Beijing has so far refused to condemn North Korea, but has said it would assess the evidence objectively.

Pyongyang has fiercely denied the allegations.

South Korea says an investigation involving international teams uncovered indisputable evidence that North Korea fired a torpedo at the ship.

It has announced a package of measures, including a halt to most trade with North Korea, and is also seeking action via the United Nations Security Council.

If such action is to succeed, China’s support is crucial.

Under pressure
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has already held bilateral discussions with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Wen said China “will not protect” whoever sank the warship.

Beijing is under pressure to take a strong stance against North Korea but so far has not accepted the findings of the independent investigation.

Mr Wen said that China would take its position after “objectively and fairly judging” the evidence while “respecting the international probe and responses to it by each nation”.

Early on Saturday, on his way to the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama paid his respects at the graves of the 46 sailors who were killed in the explosion.

The BBC’s John Sudworth in Seoul says the gesture was a demonstration of solidarity with South Korea and its conclusion that the ship was attacked by North Korea.

Japan has already said it is tightening its stringent sanctions against North Korea.

The three leaders will hold two days of talks on the South Korean resort island of Jeju.

Illustration – BBC

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the Korean conflict ended without a peace treaty in 1953.

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Foreign aid, International Relations, Media, North Korea, Public Diplomacy, Sinking of South Korean Warship Cheonan 2010, Strategy

Foxconn suicides: ‘Workers feel quite lonely’ [BBC]

A good and seemingly balanced article that sheds light on the Foxconn suicides from the perspective of employees, both local and foreign. It also works well to provide insights into Chinese working culture.

Apparently the letter sent to employees removing responsibility of suicides by the company has been withdrawn because of the overwhelming media outcry – it shows that the people are not desensitized to such sad news, and that I am glad to hear. Second, there is suspicion that some of the suicides were committed for money – “The math works like this: the average employee earns about 2,000 yuan per month ($295:£200), but the company pays 100,000 yuan compensation to the family of anyone dying on site. To an unstable 20 year-old, the thought of that much money going to their parents could be attractive.”

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Foxconn suicides: ‘Workers feel quite lonely’
Source – BBC, published May 28, 2010

A string of suicides at a factory in China owned by Taiwan firm Foxconn has highlighted what some say is a stressful working environment for migrant workers.

Foxconn says it is employing trained counsellors and installing more leisure facilities at the factory in Shenzhen to help its staff, as well as increasing salaries to boost morale.

Here, people who have worked at or visited the plant describe the working atmosphere which many have blamed for the suicides.


The deaths at Foxconn are being discussed by everyone here and people are keeping a macabre score of how many young people have leapt to their deaths. It’s very sad.

Yesterday Foxconn sent a letter to be signed by all employees, removing liability to the company should an employee die. It immunised them against law suits. There was an outcry in the Chinese media and today Foxconn withdrew the letter.

One chap was interviewed on CCTV [China Central Television] last night outside the Foxconn complex, where he works. He was saying that workers do 100 hours of overtime per month. They don’t do anything but working there. They don’t even talk to the people working next to them.

There is a suspicion being floated that some of the people who committed suicide, did it for money. The math works like this: the average employee earns about 2,000 yuan per month ($295:£200), but the company pays 100,000 yuan compensation to the family of anyone dying on site. To an unstable 20 year-old, the thought of that much money going to their parents could be attractive.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: BBC, Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Foxconn Suicides 2010, Migrant Workers, Social, Taiwan

China ‘won’t protect anyone’ [Straits Times]

This might be off-topic, but amidst all the political implications and security concerns on the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan has yielded much controversy on how it was sunk. Here are a few takes on the matter:

Here is a New Scientist report ‘Deadly bubble jet sank South Korea’s warship (20 May 2010) on how the warship was sunk. A report from Bloomberg’s Businessweek purport that the ‘South Korean Ship [was] Likely Sunk by External Explosion (April 16, 2010)’.

Perhaps more controversially, here is an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a Korean maritime engineer that reveals there was no explosion and no torpedo, that the ship had simply run aground. Check it out here – Letter to Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of state (May 26, 2010), it has plenty of photos that seem to substantiate its case.

The Center for Research on Globalization also offers an analysis here, bringing up the poignant political implications – ‘Who Sank the South Korean Warship Cheonan? Destabilization of the Korean Peninsula‘ (May 27, 2010)

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China ‘won’t protect anyone’
Pyongyang not named, but Wen’s remarks seen as a shift in position
Source – Straits Times, published May 29, 2010

Mr Wen's three-day visit to Seoul comes at a time of intense diplomatic pressure on Beijing to take sides in a deepening standoff between the two Koreas over the sinking of the Cheonan on March 26. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL – CHINA will not protect those who sank a South Korean warship, Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted saying Friday, as he came under pressure in Seoul to join an international push to punish North Korea.

Japan slapped new sanctions on the North over the March 26 sinking, which international investigators say was caused by a North Korean torpedo, and left 46 sailors dead.

Regional tensions have risen sharply since they announced the findings of their investigation last week, with South Korea announcing reprisals that have sparked threats of war from the North. Wen made the comments at a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, according to Mr Lee’s spokesman.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Foreign aid, International Relations, Media, North Korea, Public Diplomacy, Sinking of South Korean Warship Cheonan 2010, Straits Times, Strategy

Honda Strike Becomes a Rallying Point in China [New York Times]

It certainly looks like this strike is becoming emblem-ic of the wealth divide struggles in rising China.

The broader issue is this – Foshan is an interesting place as it was home to many Chinese kungfu masters who during the century of China’s humiliation at the hands of the West and Japan stood up and fought back (Think Wong Feihong, Huo Yuanjia and Ip Man, to name a few, and yes China has paid homage to them with recent films to stir up nationalism).

These southerners are renown for their resilience historically. Compounded to that is the fact that these southerners would identify themselves as a different stock to the Han majority as they speak a different language altogether (Yue/Cantonese) and consider themselves forerunners to the Mandarin dominance; my friends from that region claim the Yue language existed way before Mandarin ever came about.

This will be make an interesting social and economic implication, and above all, a clash of civilisations, even – That hostility toward Japan has periodically surfaced in large public rallies, including in Guangzhou, near Foshan, several years ago. The Chinese authorities have sought to discourage such rallies, as Chinese nationalism has historically tended to morph into criticism against officials in Beijing for failing to stand up to foreign powers.

“In terms of shutting down a multinational’s entire operations, I think this is the first” in China, said Geoffrey Crothall, the spokesman for China Labor Bulletin, a labor advocacy group based in Hong Kong.

This is going to be a major spectacle.

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Honda Strike Becomes a Rallying Point in China
Source – New York Times, published May 27, 2010

A security guard on Friday at a Honda manufacturing plant in Foshan, Guangdong Province, that was shut due to a labor dispute at a parts facility. Photo - New York Times

FOSHAN, CHINA — A strike at an auto-parts factory owned by Honda in southern China has unexpectedly become a cause célèbre in the nation’s struggle with income inequality, with Chinese media reporting extensively on the workers’ demands and calling on the government to do more to increase wages nationwide.

Strikes have occurred before at Chinese-owned factories and on rare occasions at foreign-owned plants. But the authorities have typically hushed them up and either sought a quick deal or sent in the police.

The 1,900 workers at the Honda factory here have been on strike to demand higher pay since early last week, and on Friday there was no resolution in sight. The resulting shortage of transmissions and engine parts has forced Honda to halt production this week at all four of its assembly plants in China, with one closing on Monday and the other three on Wednesday.

The work stoppage is the clearest sign yet of growing labor unrest in a country that is now the cornerstone of many companies’ global supply chains.

Zheng Qiao, the associate director of the department of employment relations at the China Institute of Industrial Relations in Beijing, said that the strike was a significant development in China’s labor relations history because the workers appeared to be well organized and united.

“The strike at Honda is the largest strike that has ever happened at a single global company in China,” he said, adding that, “such a large-scale, organized strike will force China’s labor union system to change, to adapt to the market economy.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Automotive, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Honda Strike in Foshan 2010, International Relations, japan, New York Times, Politics, Social

Strike hits Honda China plants [China Daily]

China’s low wages for its massive internal migrant workforce was never going to be sustainable, and I am not far from a little surprised to see action of this magnitude happen take place in Communist 2.0 China (Authorian Capitalism). For more coverage from outside of China, see the Wall Street Journal article ‘Transmission-Factory Strike Shuts Honda’s Chinese Plants’ here, and the Financial Times (Strike forces Honda to shut Chinese plants) coverage here. China as the world’s factory is seriously under scrutiny of late – with the Foxconn suicides and this Honda strike as exemplars of the issues at hand.
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Strike hits Honda China plants
By Lan Lan and Zheng Caixiong
Source – China Daily, published May 28, 2010

Workers at a Honda parts maker in Foshan, Guangdong province, go on a strike on Wednesday after their demand for higher pay was rejected. The strike continued on Thursday. Photo - Chen Zhigang/For China Daily

GUANGZHOU – Honda’s four auto assembly plants in China have ground to a halt after workers at the company’s parts maker went on strike demanding better wages.

The strike, the largest industrial action ever reported in China, was continuing on Thursday after negotiations broke down between the management of Honda’s supplier factory in China and its 1,900 workers, according to an executive in Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Co in Fo- shan, Guangdong province.

As a result, the entire China operations of Honda Motor, Japan’s second-largest automaker, have been at a standstill this week.

Besides Guangqi Honda’s two factories in Guangdong, which make the Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan, the other two affected plants are Honda Automobile China, also in Guangdong, and Dongfeng Honda in Hubei province. One of the Guangqi factories is responsible for shipments to a dozen European countries.

The strike follows Honda’s announcement earlier this week of an aggressive plan to boost production in China, raising annual production capacity at its Guangqi Honda joint venture from 360,000 units to 480,000 vehicles by the latter half of 2011.

The supplier factory’s workers walked out on May 17, complaining about low wages. After resuming work temporarily, they have been on strike since May 21. Negotiations with the management have been on and off since then, company sources said.

“So far, Honda does not have a timetable for resuming production,” Zhu Linjie, a Beijing-based spokesperson for Honda Motor (China), told China Daily on Thursday. He also said that there is no change in the company’s plan to expand its production capacity in China by 28 percent in 2012 to 830,000 units, up from 650,000 units now.

Industry experts said the strike serves as a warning for other auto companies in China.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Automotive, China Daily, Culture, Domestic Growth, Honda Strike in Foshan 2010, Migrant Workers, Migration (Internal), Politics, Social

Ip Man 2 – post film thoughts [Opinion]

Ip Man Poster. Source - Wikipedia

I am a huge fan of the Ip Man films, and over the course of the two films, I will be honest to admit the stirrings of my ethnicity rang strongly. My ongoing research on the diasporic Chinese has made me at once proud that I belong to a long line of people continuing over 5000 years of recorded history, and second, intrigued by the values this culture that has been taught to be mine, has given me. Naturally films like Ip Man have been appealing to me. To a large extent, films like that have an effect on shaping my imagination of China. The connotative and semiotic meanings of such films replace the lack of immediate experience I have of life in the mainland, the ancestral home.

The recent wave of Chinese films to flood the popular culture market have been smacking clearly of China’s global charm offensive (yes, many of them are state sponsored and nationalistic, and not different to American films that regularly show the powers of the American flag and dreams – Independence Day is quite emblem-ic), a projection of Chinese soft power centered around nobility, humility, and above all, a rejection of China’s previous victimhood complex after being bullied by both Japan and the West for a good century during the tail end of the Qing dynasty and during China’s civil wars. For a sampling, think Red Cliff 1 and 2, Confucius, Fearless, the list is quite long.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Charm Offensive, Culture, Education, Ethnicity, Greater China, Influence, Media, Nationalism, Opinion

Foxconn suicides trouble China [Straits Times]

More deaths – again what price for capitalist gain? 12 attempted suicides, with 10 dead, and counting, this new economy model of outsourcing production work to countries with cheap-er labour is saddening. The cynic might say 12 is a small number amongst tens of millions of China’s internal migrant factory workers (and 800,000 Foxconn employees with 420,000 alone work in Shenzhen is a massive factory complex), but I beseech all to think – that’s 12 lines of families and future descendants wiped off the face of this planet for capitalist gains, big (cheap products made with low margins for the global economy) and small (a few hundred RMB of wages to feed families).

Let us hope the company learns quickly in preventing such future incidents.“The deaths have raised questions about conditions at Foxconn, where labour activists say long hours, low pay and high psychological pressure are the norm.”

In other news, read how Apple is now making Foxconn employees sign contracts where they promise not to kill themselves (just hours before this recent suicide). How preposterous. Read about it here in Google News (AFP). This is a true example of how the East and West should not be meeting.

For more, visit the Foxconn website and have a read what their business model is all about – “Speed, Quality, Engineering Services, Flexibility and Monetary Cost Saving.” Also, check out China Daily’s four-page reportage on the matter – it is big big news in China.
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Foxconn suicides trouble China
Source – Straits Times, published May 27, 2010

Beijing working with the firm on measures to tackle problem at plant

BEIJING: China yesterday expressed concern over a string of employee suicides this year at a massive electronics plant in the southern city of Shenzhen run by Taiwanese group Foxconn.

The company itself is taking extraordinary measures to safeguard its business and workers following the suicides. Measures taken include getting workers to sign letters promising not to kill themselves at its sprawling plant.

The Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said Beijing was working with the company to implement ‘effective measures’ after the apparent suicides of 12 Foxconn workers this year, 11 of them in Shenzhen and one in a northern plant. Ten of them have died.

‘We are deeply sorry for the Foxconn employees who jumped to their deaths,’ TAO spokesman Yang Yi told a news conference.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Foxconn Suicides 2010, Google News, Migrant Workers, Social, Straits Times, Taiwan

More grads willing to work for free: Poll [AsiaOne]

More grads willing to work for free: Poll
China Daily
Source – AsiaOne, published May 26, 2010

BEIJING – About 18 percent of college graduates in the country said they will accept a job without pay for up to six months, a survey released by the Beijing Youth Stress Management Service Center on Sunday showed.

“College graduates are more realistic toward employment this year,” Xiong Hanzhong, the center director, told China Daily on Monday.

“Only 1.3 percent of them made the same decision last year and the change indicates that college graduates are able to cope with pressure better,” he said.

The 20-day online and telephone survey polled 4,903 college graduates nationwide from April this year.

“Based on our research, people who will accept jobs without pay display less pressure in their temperament, physical condition and behavior,” Xiong said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: AsiaOne, China Daily, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education

China, US reach consensus on currency rate reform [China Daily]

The question arises – despite this seeming good news for China as the U.S. ‘seem’ to be happy to let China decide on the fate of the Yuan – does the U.S. now believe that China will do what is best for first, itself, and second as a consquence, the right thing as to not upset the global economy? China is now inextricably linked to the rest of the world. As much as China might say it wants to make its own choices, today, it can hardly make that many unilateral decisions without upsetting the status quo. China now needs the stable status quo as much as anyone else does. So, such an announcement, could very well just be nationalist rhetoric.

– – –

China, US reach consensus on currency rate reform
By Ding Qingfen and Wang Bo
Source – China Daily, published May 26, 2010

President Hu Jintao is introduced to members of the US delegation by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner watches at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo - Wu Zhiyi/China Daily

BEIJING – China will chart its own course on currency reform based on its needs, and external pressure will only delay the reform, Assistant Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said on Tuesday.

“China and the US have reached consensus that the US understands that China will independently decide on the specific steps of its exchange rate reforms, based on its own interests, taking into account world economic conditions and China’s own development trends,” he said.

Zhu made the remarks after the closing ceremony of the second round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing.

In his closing remarks, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner welcomed a pledge by China’s top leaders to pursue currency reform as part of a broader agenda aimed at boosting domestic consumption and helping rebalance global growth.

“This is, of course, China’s choice,” he said.

Geithner said he was “as confident as I’ve ever been” that China will see that it is in its own interest to let the yuan resume appreciating – for example, to help curb inflation.

President Hu Jintao said on Monday, during the opening ceremony of the dialogue, that China will continue to “steadily push forward the reform of the foreign exchange rate mechanism, under the principles of independent decision-making, controllability and gradual progress.”

The remarks sparked market speculation that the government will let the currency rise in the near future.

“Thanks to the global economic situation, China is facing less global pressure on currency revaluation, and now is the opportune time to widen the band of currency flotation and to make the yuan more flexible against the dollar,” said Zhang Ming, economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, China Daily, Chinese Model, Culture, Economics, Influence, International Relations, Nationalism, Politics, U.S., Yuan

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