Liaoning ends maintenance, leaves shipyard

China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning appears to have left the maintenance bay of the Dalian Shipyard on Sunday, as the country’s second carrier, the Type 001A, is also expected to soon begin a new sea trial, reports said.

Accompanied by a fireworks display, the Liaoning left the shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province with the help of tug boats Sunday morning, according to a report from Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po and photos and video posted on Sina Weibo on Sunday.

The Liaoning reportedly conducted a sea trial in January after more than half a year’s maintenance and modification in the shipyard.

If the maintenance work is done, the ship could be on its way back to its home base in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province and return to normal service in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Otherwise, the voyage might be yet another sea trial to check the results of the maintenance, military observers said.

“Farewell to the Liaoning and wish it all the best on its new journey,” read a banner in the shipyard, indicating that the Liaoning could be resuming PLA service and will not return to the Dalian Shipyard anytime soon, according to the Wen Wei Po report.

No official information has been given as of press time on the Sunday voyage of the Liaoning.

Meanwhile, the Type 001A, China’s second aircraft carrier being tested at the same facility, might follow the Liaoning.

The domestically made warship started its engine and cleaned its deck on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, indicating it will soon set out for its fifth sea trial, Wen Wei Po reported in two separate reports on Saturday and Sunday.

Coincidentally, a military exercise is scheduled from Sunday to March 5 in the northern Huanghai Sea near Dalian, and other ships are prohibited from entering a designated area, according to a notice the Maritime Safety Administration of China released on Friday.

This usually happens when an aircraft carrier conducts a sea trial.

The notice did not mention which ships might be involved in the exercise. It is currently unknown if the exercise area is designated for the Liaoning, the Type 001A, or both.

Many Chinese military observers hope to see both carriers at a naval parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA Navy.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times that it is possible for the two aircraft carriers to conduct easy formation and communication training if they conduct an exercise together in the same area.

If the parade will be held, the Liaoning will surely participate, Wei predicted, noting that the Type 001A’s participation still depends on the vessel’s test results and whether it can join the PLA Navy before the parade.

Although the global capacity of renewable energy

GT: Although the global capacity of renewable energy will increase significantly in the next five years, the proportion of renewable energy in terms of the total global energy is still too low to meet the long-term climate change and sustainable development goals. What do you think are the greatest obstacles to the development of global renewable energy?

Runge-Metzger: We know that we need to have a vast increase in the uptake of renewables and the good thing is that all the investment numbers over the last year showed that there was an overall uptake and there was an increasing uptake of renewable energy particularly in wind power and solar power. Maybe it could happen faster, but there are some intrinsic challenges with renewables. For example, how you integrate them into a grid is not an easy task. If you don’t do it in the right manner, you will have the issue of curtailment, which means you produce energy but these renewables are unable to be utilized well. These are the things that we will have to develop and devote our time to. The second issue is the financing. The cost of finance is, in some countries, very high. We need to find financing models to provide money under the right circumstances to move ahead. Many of the renewables are expensive when it comes to construction even though the running costs are very low. It’s very important to overcome the cash flow problem in the beginning. On the EU side, we are trying to collaborate on renewables with many countries particularly through the use of financial instruments and the European Investment Bank.

China a global leader in hi-tech development

After having taken the global lead in the digitalization of the consumer sector at large, it’s time for China to up the ante in incorporating emerging internet technologies into its manufacturing sector, according to the findings of a Chinese internet trends report released on Friday.

When it comes to digitalizing businesses related to consumption in everyday life ranging from clothing and catering to housing and transportation, China already leads the world, said Li Shu, partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), while announcing the report findings at a media briefing in Beijing.

As an indication, Beijing-based Luckin Coffee, known for its new retail push, took only 10 months, from January 2018 to November that year, to open 1,500 stores, while Starbucks spent 10 years from 2005 to 2015 to hit that number. If Luckin Coffee’s growth continues at its current pace, it is slated to overtake Starbucks as China’s largest coffee chain in the second quarter of this year, per the report.

Over the past four decades since China began its reform and opening-up in 1978, the lives of Chinese people have been rife with change, in terms of policies, roads, among other aspects of daily lives, which has prepared them well for new consumption trends powered by the internet, thereby catapulting the country into the global leader in the digitalization of the consumer sector, said Xiao Ping, a researcher at AliResearch.

It’s now time for the second half – competing on the integration of the internet into the factory sector, he noted.

The country is still playing catchup in the digitalization of its manufacturing sector, according to the report. It will be some time before China is on par with countries like the US in four core parts of manufacturing digitalization – smart interconnectedness, information integration, data strategies and human-machine collaboration.

“As demographic dividends diminish, China’s traditional industries in the pursuit of new growth engines have intrinsic motivation to embrace new technologies,” Zhao Cheng, vice president of Baidu, told reporters.

The availability of 5G technologies is set to give a big boost to the digitalization of the factory sector at large, he went on to say.

China will issue temporary 5G licenses in a number of cities this year to allow for large-scale 5G networks to be built in select cities and regions and ramp up efforts to push for the development of 5G devices, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said on Thursday.

The report, jointly authored and published by BCG and the research arms of Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Baidu, is the second of its kind that tends to create a Chinese equivalent of the much-anticipated annual Internet trends report by US venture capitalist Mary Meeker.

The first report was published in September 2017 by BCG and the research units of Alibaba, Baidu and Didi Chuxing, saying that China and the US have become the twin engines of global Internet development, and the Chinese engine is apparently younger and more vibrant than its US counterpart.

Dilemma of fair play in NY school admissions

Last week, New York City released the admission results for this year’s high school application. Among the 27,521 students who took the SHSAT, an entrance test providing scores used as the sole criterion to make admission decisions by eight top schools known as specialized high schools, Asian students made up about 30 percent but took more than half the seats. Black and Latino students made up more than 40 percent of the test takers, but only gained 10 percent of the spots. For Stuyvesant, the most competitive school that requires the highest scores to make the cut, only seven black students made it, among the 895 admitted.

The results do not vary significantly from the previous year and the year before. Indeed, 74 percent of current students at Stuyvesant are Asian. But the results once again stoked an already inflammatory debate about specialized high school reform, in which, New York’s ultra liberal mayor and some state legislators representing black and Hispanic neighborhoods vowed to scrap the entrance test and force schools to accept more black and Latino students.

The debate, essentially challenging the concept of fairness, has already been a thorny one in a multiracial society where people from different cultures have different understanding of an issue. With limited resources, ensuring egalitarianism so that all children get the same starting point and the same courses is not an easy choice. Add in the complications created by people’s skin colors and it is going to be a toxic argument whatever the result.

Earlier in the week, Charles Barron, a black state assemblyman and the initiator of the call for abandoning SHSAT, concentrated his attacks on John Liu, chair of the New York City Education Committee of the state Senate who happens to be a Chinese American. Liu blocked a bill aimed at shooting down the test.

“John Liu should shame himself. We supported him on some Asian issues. He should support us,” Barron blasted at a rally while Liu, a few hours later at a press conference, emphasized that it is not a racial issue. “It is a New York City issue,” he said.

It is not only a New York City issue. In the pending case of Asian applicants suing Harvard University for admission discrimination, the plaintiff argued that the Ivy League college gives more weight to Black and Latino applicants in order to make the student body more diverse and, therefore, unfairly sacrifices the interests of Asian applicants. The case raises the same question about what fairness is in a multiracial and immigrant society where people start with different handicaps.

But it is not only a racial issue; it is about class and connections. This has also been shown by the scandal that broke out just a week before, in which a college admission counselor is accused of helping rich parents bribe test proctors and college officials to secure their children a university position. Eleven universities were involved. Fifty people were indicted. And some children who had been admitted were thrown out.

Favorable factors

The academic appeal of London is thought to be the biggest motivating factor for Chinese students.

Lalage Clay, Director of Education & Talent at London & Partners, told the Global Times, “They choose London because they will have access to quality teaching and can achieve an internationally recognised degree at a reputable, world-leading university.

“The vast and varied choice of over 10,000 courses here means that Chinese students are more likely to get a place on their chosen course.”

Graduate student Linda He told the Global Times she came to Imperial College London as it is a label of high quality education, which means graduates are in a better place for opportunities in China’s competitive job market.

According to “Measuring Our Cultural Dividends”, a report by the British Council published in 2017, Chinese people have a high level of interest in UK culture and there is a strong and direct link between Chinese students’ interest in overseas culture and their attitudes towards studying overseas.

In return, a spokeswoman for the British Council said that international students are “an immense source of long-term influence and soft power for the UK.”

A deflated British Pound due to uncertainties over Brexit is another encouraging factor because it results in lower tuition bills. According to a study by the Oxford Migration Observatory, Chinese students experienced a 13 percent cut in fees between the Brexit referendum in June 2016 and December that year.

In addition, the British government has made changes to its immigration rules in order to attract more international students. After reducing documentary requirements for Tier 4 student visa applicants from China in July 2018, the Department of Education announced last week that international students will be given visa extensions of up to a year to look for work in the UK.

Alongside the extended visas, the Department of Education and the Department for International Trade are to unveil an international education strategy for a 30 percent increase in overseas students in UK higher education during the next decade.

The policy change aims to boost the numbers of overseas students after Brexit. Education Secretary Damian Hinds said, “As we prepare to leave the EU, it is more important than ever to reach out to our global partners and maximize the potential of our best assets – that includes our education and the international students this attracts.”

It is also believed to be a bid to catch up in the race for a growing slice of the lucrative overseas student market.

China’s economy is regaining traction, thanks to stimulus, technology investment, BRI

Following careful and substantive fiscal and monetary pump-priming, China’s economy is regaining traction, as the country’s newest statistics reported cozy 6.4 percent GDP growth for the first three months of 2019. A massive stimulus package, increasing investment and output of high-tech industrial lines have fired up the once sputtering engine.

With Beijing’s growth-boosting policy portfolio taking time to kick in over the coming months, Chinese officials and economists have confidence that the world’s second largest economy is likely to accelerate at a rate higher than 6.4 percent in the next three quarters. In early March, the State Council, China’s cabinet, set a growth target for this year of 6-6.5 percent in its government work report to the people. That target is within easy reach. The upbeat growth data for China will buoy up global markets, but it won’t cheer everybody up. Over the weekend, a rare telephone talk between US President Donald Trump and former president Jimmy Carter revealed that the sitting president is worried about China “getting ahead of” America. According to US media reports, Carter told Trump that the US government needs to slash defense spending to save more of its budget for its civilian sectors. Trump ought to heed this piece of advice.

Here is another recommendation for the Trump administration: for the good of the US economy and the world at large, the US should dismiss unilateralism and end its protectionist economic policy. Over the past 12 months, the tariff war with China and other major economies – including the EU, Japan, India and Russia – has not only crippled other economies, but also seriously bruised the US economy.

Most economists would agree that with Trump’s “America First” policy poised to linger on, global uncertainties are here to stay. To ward off the distress, Chinese policymakers must not slacken but must keep calm, vigilant and agile to extend its toolbox and deliver the best remedy to keep China’s economy on a relatively fast track.

According to mainstream economics, a stimulus plan is indispensable for jumpstarting a sudden slowdown or recession, as the world witnessed with the colossal quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Luckily, there are rising signs that the governments of the US and China are inching closer to a trade deal. However, if the US remains stuck in its protectionist trench or escalates the tariff war, China should be ready to scale up the current stimulus.

The times call for a successful BRI

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) on Friday. He introduced measures China will take to further expand its opening-up. Apart from widening access to capital markets and strengthening protection of intellectual property rights, China will not seek a trade surplus, will import more agricultural products and services and will not pursue currency devaluation that harms others.

President Xi put forward the high-standard and high-quality development of the Belt and Road, emphasizing the importance of sticking to a green and clean approach. This shows the construction of the Belt and Road will be upgraded.

The BRF is the largest event in the world that focuses on development. It responds to the development needs of countries and confronts various issues in international economic cooperation. Both the forum and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are becoming more attractive.

All major powers in history, guided by geopolitics, realized national expansion through expanding spheres of influence. Based on their own experiences, the US and some other Western countries believe the BRI carries China’s geopolitical ambitions as the Marshall Plan did. They believe obstructing the BRI could be an effective way to contain China’s rise.

China is rising in a way different from that of other powers. China’s approach is to continuously expand its opening-up to the world and share its quality resources, such as the market, with the world, so as to build win-win cooperation.

Italy and Switzerland recently participated in the BRI. A NATO member state and a country surrounded by US allies, can they become China’s “sphere of influence?”

There are shortcomings in the construction of the Belt and Road, and adjustments and improvements are needed. This is a normal process that such a grand and large-scale international cooperation project has to undergo.

The BRI will establish an effective platform to meet the development needs of the world. It’s not a place for empty talk, showcasing values or playing political games. Putting one construction project after another into practice, bringing benefits to all parties involved and promoting the economic development of participating countries are the value orientation of the BRI.

One of the reasons why the US doesn’t support the BRI is it spends too much on defense, and its ability to build bridges and roads and develop industries has been weakened.

The BRI has no purpose to confront others. Its openness is unprecedented in the history of international multilateral cooperation. Even if there is some confusion and criticism with it, China doesn’t respond with confrontation.