Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dreaming in Chinese - Book

Character Building
The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, September 26, 2010, p. BR16

DREAMING IN CHINESE: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language
By Deborah Fallows
Illustrated. 205 pp. Walker & Company. $22

When I used to ask my mother about her family village in China, she always said it was three hours from Canton by bus. A hundred years ago, when my great-grandfather left China for good, that couldn’t have been far, but it was certainly no help in locating it. So I was pleased — though still mystified — to read in Deborah Fallows’s charming and witty little book that in China, “if you ask someone where their hometown is, they’ll say it is seven hours by bus. Or four hours by train. They won’t tell you where it is.”

Fallows spent three years living in China with her husband, the journalist James Fallows. Since she’s a linguist by training, her method of getting under the skin of the country was to immerse herself in its language. In “Dreaming in Chinese,” she uses key phrases and concepts to unlock aspects of the society that interested or surprised her, casting light along the way on many idiosyncrasies of the Chinese view of the world.

Fallows doesn’t arrive with many preconceptions. Instead, she takes the Chinese as they see and present themselves. And she soon discovers that what the Chinese think is important isn’t always what we think is important. One thing they’re interested in is ensuring good luck. This explains why the Beijing Olympics began on Aug. 8, 2008, at 8:08 p.m. Eight, ba, rhymes with fa, “as in fa cai, which means ‘to become wealthy,’ ” making it a very auspicious number. And even though Aug. 8 was well into the rainy season, it didn’t rain.

Auspiciousness also enters into the choosing of names, an art in itself. Most Chinese have three names: surname (there are just 100 common surnames in a population of 1.3 billion people), middle name (to identify your generation and connect you with your cousins) and personal name. Which yields the realization that — in a country where most people are allowed only one child — future generations will have no cousins.

On matters that Westerners make a fuss about, like human rights, Fallows presents the common Chinese viewpoint. At a conference on censorship, technology and commerce, she recalls that “one exasperated Chinese participant finally blurted out that people, the laobaixing, aren’t as preoccupied as Westerners about free speech and an uncensored Internet: what laobaixing really want, he said, is . . . a flush toilet, a refrigerator and a color TV.” For ordinary Chinese, material concerns come first.

Fallows has an endearing affection for these laobaixing, these common folk. Unlike conventional journalists, she’s not very interested in press conferences, in listening to what the politicians say. Little by little, she finds herself becoming more like the laobaixing: learning to deal with the plethora of rules as the Chinese do — by finding ways around them.

“Dreaming in Chinese” is chatty and colloquial, with helpful photographs and drawings, as well as a pronunciation guide. The eager student will learn a fair bit about the history of the language and how its array of characters and tones were systematized, all the while gathering insights into the country’s customs and culture. Rather than draw sweeping conclusions, Fallows sticks to her own experiences and observations, which makes her book all the more valuable. China hands will have many moments of recognition. For others, “Dreaming in Chinese” will be a fascinating introduction to a foreign culture.

Lesley Downer is the author of “On the Narrow Road to the Deep North” and other nonfiction books on Asia. Her most recent book is a novel, “The Courtesan and the Samurai.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is China making a rare earth power play?

Is China making a rare earth power play?
Blake Hounshell
Foreign Affairs Blog, Thursday, September 23, 2010

At one point in Diamonds Are Forever, the 1971 James Bond thriller, Agent 007 asks the villain, who has covertly amassed a stockpile of valuable gems: "What do you intend to do with those diamonds?"

"An excellent question," the evil criminal mastermind, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, replies with a diabolical grin. "And one which will be hanging on the lips of the world quite soon." Bond gets his answer soon enough: a satellite-rigged laser powerful enough to hold the world hostage.

Hu Jintao is no Blofeld, but if Chinese leaders are trying to provide a readymade plot for the next Bond film, they may have succeeded with today's news that China has quietly begun blocking Japan's supply of rare earth elements, used in everything from Priuses and iPads to wind turbines, oil refineries, and smart bomb

Such a move, which Chinese officials have denied, would represent a sharp, sudden escalation in the ongoing diplomatic dispute between China and Japan over an island chain in the East China Sea. Real or imagined, the threat is credible, and it's been a long time coming.

In 1992, Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese leader, reportedly declared, "There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China." His comment spawned a crash program to develop and exploit China's vast reserves of the metals, estimated at 57 percent of the world total. It wasn't easy: Though most of the 17 elements known as rare earth minerals (numbers 57 through 71, as well as a couple others, on the periodic table) are not actually all that rare, they are difficult and costly to extract. Seven years after Deng's remarks, his successor Jiang Zemin ordered the Chinese state to go a step further. "Improve the development and applications of rare earth," he instructed, "and change the resource advantage into economic superiority."

If anything, Deng was too generous to the Middle East, which today pumps less than half the world's oil and still relies heavily on Western expertise. Today, China has become dominant in rare earths in ways the Saudi royal family could only dream, driving others out of the business, and now controls as much as 97 percent of the global market. According to a recent paper by Cindy Hurst, an analyst for the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Studies Office, that figure may even understate China's supremacy: Beijing has also poured untold millions into basic and applied research on rare earth elements, and runs two state laboratories employing hundreds of scientists devoted exclusively to the subject. The world's only two journals dedicated to rare earth metals are in Chinese.

This isn't the first time rare earths have been big news. Last year, Britain's Daily Telegraphreported that Beijing was considering altogether banning its exports of the stuff -- a story that provoked alarm among high-tech manufacturers and Pentagon planners. Any such ban has yet to be imposed, but China has actually been tightening its chokehold over the strategic commodities for several years now, preferring to use the minerals in its own factories in the hopes of moving up the supply value chain. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao hinted at the thinking in a forum Wednesday with American business leaders. "An iPod is sold at $299, and China in the manufacturing link will only get $6 for it," he complained. As of 2008, China was consuming more than half of the rare earth elements it produced, while smugglers also absconded with a significant chunk.

Initiatives are now underway to revitalize the industry outside China -- a business once dominated by the United States. In April, Molycorp Minerals, a U.S. firm based in Colorado, announced a $500 million plan to refurbish Mountain Pass, a California mine that, before closing in 2002 due to low-cost Chinese competition and environmental concerns, had once been the world's leading producer of rare earth metals (ironically, China nearly acquired Mountain Pass in 2005 as part of its failed bid for Unocal, the U.S. energy company that then owned the mine).

South African, Canadian, and Australian companies are all racing to develop their own mines, though as the New York Times' Keith Bradsher notes, these plans are fraught with risk and questionable economic rewards. "One potential threat," Hurst warns, "is that, while China's reduction in export quotas is currently causing prices to go up, if China were to turn that around and bring prices back down, this could potentially put these and other companies out of business even before they become fully operational."

There is also talk of setting up a U.S. stockpile for rare earth elements, as South Korea and Japan have already done, but any such plans for an American "strategic metals reserve" remain embryonic. It may be time to get cracking: According to the latest projections by Dudley Kingsnorth, an industry consultant, China could be consuming nearly its entire annual production of rare earth elements by as early as 2014.

Some rare earth elements matter more than others. Among the most important is dysprosium, a silky, silvery metal used to make hybrid motors, lasers, nuclear reactors, and computer hard drives. Ninety-nine percent of it is produced in China through a laborious, expensive process (appropriately enough, the element's name is derived from a Greek word meaning "difficult to get at"). Mountain Pass doesn't contain significant amounts of dysprosium, which is critical for the so-called permanent magnets used in many critical components of American defense systems, such as precision-guided munitions -- and Chinese officials have warned that their supplies are running low.

All this has many in the U.S. government and the defense industry worried. An April 2010 report by the U.S. General Accountability Office estimated that it will take as many as 15 years before the United States can rebuild its domestic rare earths industry -- assuming a number of legal, technical, and financial hurdles can be overcome. The Pentagon is studying the military's vulnerability, and is expected to come out with its initial findings later this month -- but the GAO has already found "a wide variety of defense systems and components," including the M1 A2 Abrams tank, "that are dependent on rare earth materials for functionality and are provided by lower-tier subcontractors in the supply chain." The Department of Energy is working on its own plan, and the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue.

In the meantime, Hu Jintao may not have a space laser pointed at our heads, but if you see him fighting the urge to pet a white cat or curl his pinkie finger to his lips, you'll know why.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Critiquer le pouvoir en Chine (mais de forme "harmonieuse"...)

La Chine lance un site où critiquer le pouvoir est possible
Nouvelobs avec AFP, 13.09.2010

Pékin a mis en ligne un site internet permettant aux Chinois d'exprimer leur opinion sur la marche de leur pays. Des internautes ont aussitôt saisi l'occasion de manifester leur opposition au régime.

Dans un geste d'ouverture inhabituel, le gouvernement chinois vient de lancer un site web offrant à la population la possibilité d'exprimer franchement son opinion sur la marche du pays.

Depuis l'ouverture du site la semaine dernière, des dizaines de milliers de messages ont abordé de façon directe les problèmes de liberté d'expression, de collusion ou de corruption en Chine, même si d'autres messages chantent les louanges du parti communiste au pouvoir.

"Si vous vous préoccupez des conditions de vie de la population, alors soyez solidaires : tuez les responsables corrompus et les tyrans locaux", conseillait par exemple un message adressé au président Hu Jintao.

Liberté inédite...
Le site, baptisé "ligne directe sur Zhongnanhai", le siège du pouvoir au coeur de Pékin, offre une faculté pratiquement jamais accordée à la population chinoise et dépend du Quotidien du peuple, journal officiel du Parti communiste chinois.

La censure très active en Chine interdit généralement aux internautes de déposer des opinions critiquant le gouvernement ou évoquant la question des droits de l'Homme. Mais en l'espèce la règle ne semblait plus s'appliquer pour de nombreux commentaires.

Toutefois, affirmait un internaute dans une contribution en ligne, la censure était toujours en vigueur sur le nouveau site, malgré la fenêtre de libre expression apparemment ouverte.

... et limitée
"Camarade Hu, n'est-il pas intéressant de constater que j'ai laissé tant de messages et que tous ont été harmonisés ? Ne pouvez-vous donc pas nous laisser dire la vérité?", a-t-il écrit à l'adresse du président Hu.

Les cybercitoyens chinois ont pris l'habitude d'utiliser le verbe "harmoniser" dans le sens de "censurer", en référence ironique aux coupes sur l'internet exercées par le pouvoir au nom de "l'harmonie sociale".

Mais c'est la hausse des prix de l'immobilier qui semblait beaucoup préoccuper les Chinois qui étaient nombreux à dénoncer la collusion de responsables locaux corrompus et de promoteurs immobiliers avides.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Competitive index ranks China 27th

Competitive index ranks China 27th
By Wang Yanlin
China Daily, September, 10, 2010

CHINA is inching higher on a list of the world's most competitive economies - to 27th place, up from 29th last year.

"China continues to lead the way among large developing economies, improving by two more places this year, and solidifying its place among the top 30," said the Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, released yesterday by the World Economic Forum.

Switzerland remained in top spot, followed by Sweden and Singapore.

The United States, the world's biggest economy, fell two places to 4th due to macroeconomic imbalances, a weakening of its public and private institutions, and lingering concerns about its financial markets.

Several Asian economies also performed strongly. Japan moved up to 6th place from last year's 8th, and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region remained as number 11.

China outpaced the three other BRIC economies. Brazil ranked 58th, Russia 63rd and India 51st.

Li Jing, an economist and managing director of JPMorgan, said yesterday in Shanghai that the world's emerging markets, upon which the global economic advance hinges, have diverged from the growth path of developed countries.

"While the United States is now concerned about deflation, China pays close attention to the risk of inflation," Li said. "When the US encourages people to reduce debt and save, China is pushing hard for more consumption. Such sharp differences reflect huge potential of future growth in emerging markets, as well as the challenges that different countries should face."

China's economy eclipsed Japan during the April-June period to become the world's second-largest. But under a tightening policy stance, the country's gross domestic product has moderated to 10.3 percent growth in the second quarter from an 11.9 percent surge in the first three months.

Last year, China overtook Germany to become the world's biggest exporter and then nudged the US aside as it became the world's largest automobile market.

The latest Fortune Global 500, unveiled in July, listed a record 54 Chinese companies with three in the top 10.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

China-US relations: shifts in global power

Detecting subtle shifts in the balance of power
Daniel Blumenthal - Shadow Government
Foreign Policy, Friday, September 3, 2010

Subtle shifts in the balance of power are difficult to detect yet of foremost importance to peace and stability. And even if detected in a timely fashion, policymakers can be slow to react. But maintaining a balance of power favorable to one's interests is one of a president's key tasks. On that score, our leaders have been negligent for over a decade.

Occasionally, presidents detect shifts in the military balance when it is too late and then compound the problem by responding with questionable policy choices. For example, President Eisenhower's policy of massive retaliation was, in part, a response to what seemed to be a loss of the U.S nuclear monopoly and Soviet conventional supremacy in continental Europe. (Eisenhower also wanted to maintain U.S superiority on the cheap -- by cutting Truman's conventional defense build-up).

A policy of responding with a nuclear attack to Soviet aggression anywhere did not seem very prudent to many at the time, but at least the president took the perceived shift in the balance of power seriously. Some of President Nixon and Carter's questionable arms control ideas were a response to a shift in the strategic balance in favor of the Soviets. Unfortunately, most of the time, policymakers do not react to an adversary's growing capabilities until met with disaster (e.g. Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 9/11).

Today the balance of power in Asia is shifting. Since the end of World War II, Washington has kept the peace in Asia through its forward presence of military forces and its uncontested ability to project force into the region. Take an example from just 14 years ago. Realizing how destabilizing were China's missile tests conducted in the waters around Taiwan, President Clinton sent carrier battle groups near the Taiwan Strait. The missile tests stopped, Taiwan held its elections, and conflict was avoided.

Today, any president would think twice about doing the same. Why? China has arguably gained conventional supremacy around its periphery. Without remediation this could become a hard fact. China's growing short-range missile arsenal (maybe up to 1,500) and fleet of modern aircraft could not only be used to destroy much of Taiwan, but could also be used to strike devastating blows against U.S. forces in Japan. Together with its fast-growing submarine fleet, the Chinese missile force will, within the next decade, be able to cause serious harm to U.S. carriers steaming into the region.

Beijing has been focused like a laser beam on how to coerce and intimidate Taiwan while deterring U.S. and Japanese intervention. Washington has not given the same attention to defense. Our shipbuilding program has atrophied, our ability to protect the bases from which our aircraft fly is non-existent, and there is nothing in the current navy or air force programs of record that demonstrate our attentiveness to this problem.

As a country, we have become so accustomed to projecting air and sea power with impunity anywhere in the world that the idea that our aircraft could be shot down or surface ships sunk seems like science fiction. But China has been studying how to undermine the way we do battle for decades, and its efforts are bearing fruit.

A president choosing to respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan would now face a host of bad options, most of which are dangerously escalatory. If U.S. forces or those of an ally were attacked, Washington could eventually bring its superior power to bear from other theaters of conflict, but it would take time, and, as shown both in the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment's AirSea Battle and in RAND's A Question of Balance, would probably require hitting military targets in China itself. Considering China's growing conventional superiority, a president's response to a devastating blow by the Chinese against U.S., Japanese, and Taiwanese assets may, by necessity, be highly escalatory.

The good news is that it is not too late to restore some stability to the equation. The United States is a far richer and more stable nation than China. With marginal adjustments in how we spend our finite tax-payer dollars, we can restore a favorable conventional balance in the Pacific that would lessen Chinese temptations to use force and provide us with more strategically stable defensive options should Beijing succumb to those temptations. We seek a cooperative relationship with China, which makes it difficult to think about the unthinkable -- a conflict with China. But a conflict with the United States is just about all the PLA thinks about, and for the sake of peace we must take them seriously.


Dan Blumenthal is a current commissioner and former vice chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, where he directs efforts to monitor, investigate, and provide recommendations on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the two countries. Previously, he was senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the Secretary of Defense's Office of International Security Affairs and practiced law in New York prior to his government service. At AEI, in addition to his work on the national security implications of U.S.-Sino relations, he coordinates the Tocqueville on China project, which examines the underlying civic culture of post-Mao China. Mr. Blumenthal also contributes to AEI's Asian Outlook series and is a research associate with the National Asia Research Program.


Shadow Government is a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition and curated by Peter D. Feaver and William Inboden.

So, Shadow Government has three goals: 1) to provide you, our readers, with a respectful and nuanced assessment of the Obama administration's foreign policy; 2) to offer, where we find points or policies to disagree with, what we think is a responsible alternative course of action; and 3) to defend the Obama administration, as fellow foreign-policy professionals, when good decisions they make are misunderstood or unfairly criticized.

We are critical at times, but we always seek to be civil and constructive. We occasionally find fault, but we always do so in good faith. And we do all of this with the goal of elevating the discourse on U.S. foreign policy, as much as one blog can. We hope you find it interesting.
—Peter Feaver & William Inboden

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Xinjiang, restive province of China - New York Times

Resentment Simmers in Western Chinese Region
The New York Times, September 4, 2010

URUMQI, China — The five-star hotels are full, bulldozers are making quick work of dreary slums and billboards for “French-style villas” call out to the nouveau riche. In the year since rioting between the Han and Uighur ethnic groups killed nearly 200 people in this city in far western China, life appears to be returning to normal.

“Don’t worry, everything is peaceful now,” said the perky bellhop at a hotel in the city’s predominantly Han Chinese quarter.

But before turning away, he had second thoughts. “You’d better not go to the Uighur part of town at night,” he said.

Beneath the gloss and mercantile buzz of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, there is a palpable unease that neither tens of thousands of surveillance cameras nor the patrolling squads of black-shirted police officers can completely assuage.

Since July 2009, when rampaging Uighur mobs set upon Han Chinese with iron bars and bricks — a scene that was reversed for several days when Han vigilantes sought revenge — the Chinese authorities have arrested hundreds and tried to soothe frayed nerves with a $1.5 billion spending package, a change in local leadership and a barrage of uplifting slogans strung across public buses and highway overpasses.

But the feel-good propaganda and revved-up economy have so far done little to repair the mutual distrust. And experts say the government’s “strike hard” campaign, which has led to the secret detention of perceived troublemakers and the execution of at least nine people accused of having a hand in the bloodshed, has worsened tensions.

“I don’t think a single Uighur is convinced that the government is acting in their interests,” said Dru C. Gladney, a professor of Asian studies at Pomona College in California who studies the region. “In fact, the hostile environment is making people feel embattled and resentful.”

Given the heightened surveillance here, it is not always easy to tease out unvarnished sentiments from either the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, or the Han, who make up 96 percent of China’s population. But with patience and the promise of anonymity, raw resentments emerge.

Take the Han Chinese owner of a small restaurant who initially described Uighurs as “part of our family” but later allowed that he found the vast majority of them frightening, untrustworthy and “savage.”

The man, who would give only his surname, Zhou, said he stopped riding buses in Urumqi last fall after the city was swept by tales of Uighurs jabbing Han with H.I.V.-infected hypodermic needles. The police initially detained more than a dozen people in the attacks but later dismissed suggestions that the needles were contaminated.

Like the hundreds of thousands of Han who migrate to Xinjiang each year, Mr. Zhou, who left Sichuan Province in 2004, said he was partly inspired by the notion that he was helping to “open up” western China. Although he grew up learning that the Uighurs were Chinese and part of the country’s happy kaleidoscope of 56 ethnicities, he said he quickly discovered otherwise.

“We just don’t have much in common,” he said with a wary glance around him. “And what’s worse is they don’t appreciate what we’ve done for them.”

Much as it did in Tibet, in an effort to pacify another restive ethnic region, the government has spent huge sums of money to try to help Xinjiang’s economy catch up to eastern China, where income and production are on average twice as high. In May, the Communist Party announced the first leg of its “Love the Great Motherland, Build a Beautiful Homeland” initiative, which will include six new airports and 5,000 more miles of rail line linking the far-flung cities in this Alaska-size region of desert and mountains.

Bowing to popular discontent, Beijing also replaced the region’s leader, Wang Lequan, whose 15-year tenure was marked by a hard-line approach that alienated many Uighurs and in the end failed to forestall the riots, prompting street protests by Han residents demanding his resignation.

The Uighurs, who make up just under half of Xinjiang’s 22 million people — down from more than 90 percent in 1949 — harbor their own deeply felt animosities. Beijing is determined to dilute Uighur culture, they say, while Han migrants often end up with the best jobs, especially in government bureaucracies or in the factories of the prosperous “bingtuan,” the largely segregated Han outposts carved out of the desert by the People’s Liberation Army in the 1950s.

While an inability to speak Mandarin shuts some Uighurs out of Han-run companies, many say the larger force behind their economic marginalization is naked discrimination. “It used to be that state-owned enterprises had Han-only hiring policies, but these days they are more subtle,” said Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economist who studies the job market in Xinjiang. “They reject you after you’ve gone in for the interview and they’ve seen your face.”

Although the uneducated and unskilled have been hardest hit by unemployment, even bilingual Uighurs who graduated from Chinese universities say they have a hard time finding good jobs.

The frustration many Uighurs have is compounded by a sense that they are trapped, prevented by bigotry and strict residency rules from moving to more affluent coastal cities, and by tight passport restrictions from leaving China.

The policy, partly shaped by government fears that Uighurs who travel abroad might become radicalized and return as terrorists, cuts them off from overseas jobs, academic opportunities and family reunification. It also frustrates Uighur business owners who seek a bigger slice of China’s trade with its Central Asian neighbors. “How can we compete with the Han if we can’t meet our customers in their own countries?” asked a textile trader in Kashgar, a southern oasis city. “Just because we are Muslims doesn’t mean we’re all interested in becoming terrorists.”

Government concerns about the radicalizing influence of Islam play out through a raft of religious restrictions, including strict limits on the number of Uighurs who can travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual pilgrimage and rules that force students and government workers to eat during the monthlong fast of Ramadan.

Fear also governs secular life. Cellphones and e-mail exchanges are frequently monitored, and even mild criticism of Chinese policies posted online can have dire consequences. In July, four Uighurs — three Web site managers and a journalist — accused of endangering state security were sentenced to long prison terms during closed trials.

A graduate student from the city of Khotan said he did not dare click on Web sites run by Uighur exile groups that can be reached only by evading government Internet restrictions, known as the Great Firewall. “They will find you,” he said of the government. “Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a giant prison.”

Anu Kultalahti, a researcher at Amnesty International in London who interviewed witnesses of last July’s violence, said the fear extended to those now living in Europe and the United States. “It borders on paranoia,” she said. “If you promise them confidentiality, they laugh and say: ‘That’s what you think. The government already knows we’re talking.’ ”

Xiyun Yang contributed research.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Brasil-China: much ado about almost everything

A culpa pode até ser do Estado brasileiro, mas não pelas razões apontadas por esses pretensos especialistas em China.
Contrariamente ao que diz Delfim Neto, vários outros países já reconheceram a China como economia de mercado, mas o ponto não está aí. Quer se reconheça, ou não, a China como economia de mercado, seus produtos continuam e continuarão a ser imbatíveis no plano da competitividade internacional. O não reconhecimento funciona apenas para medidas de defesa comercial, ou seja, disfarçar a própria falta de competitividade colocando barreiras protecionistas discriminatórias contra os produtos chineses, que entram nos países porque simplesmente são mais baratos, não porque um país reconhece ou deixa de reconhecer a China como economia de mercado. De toda forma, se não for agora, será dentro de 3 ou 4 anos, quando a China terminar o período de transição regulado em seu protocolo de acesso e tiver de cumprir todas as regras da OMC, e aí os parceiros só poderão reconhecê-la como economia de mercado. Pode-se até argumentar que até lá ela vai continuar conquistando poições de mercado, o que é seu direito.
Quanto ao câmbio, simplesmente não é verdade que o câmbio está fixo em 7 yuans há cinco anos, não é verdade. Nesse período, o moeda chinesa já passou por duas fases de revalorização, o que implicou um movimento de quase 20%. Correto é dizer que a taxa está estável atualmente em torno de 6,7 yuans por dólar, mas já depois de uma valorização que a trouxe, justamente, de mais de 7 no ano passado (sendo que era mais de oito até 2006).
E não é pela nossa suposta valorização cambial que os produtos brasileiros não são competitivos. Os industriais, exportadores e economistas precisam parar de chorar e pedir desvalorização para passar a atuar nas verdadeiras causas da falta de competitividade do Brasil, começando por uma carga tributária extorsiva.
Por que é que os industriais não lutam contra o governo por causa disso? Só porque querem o dinheiro do BNDES? Querem créditos fiscais e isenções tributárias setoriais? Querem tarifas altas e mais proteção? Poltrões: deveriam atuar nas causas certas, não pedir políticas erradas e distorsivas.
Não é verdade, tampouco, que as empresas chinesas que estão exportando para o Brasil sejam estatais. Apenas algumas o são, e são as que importam, não as que exportam. É verdade que os chineses trabalham com pequenas margens de lucro, ganhando na quantidade, mas isso é um direito deles, e uma estratégia inteligente. É patético ver brasileiros reclamando de uma estratégia comercial legítima.
Os industriais brasileiros precisam parar de reclamar da China e atacar as causas corretas, que estão, sim, no Estado brasileiro, mas não pelas razões apontadas por eles...
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Para analistas, invasão chinesa é culpa do Estado brasileiro
João Villaverde, de São Paulo
Valor Econômico, 01/09/2010

A competição comercial entre Brasil e China, que envolve importados chineses mais baratos que os equivalentes nacionais, e a conquista de outros mercados pelos chineses, não é culpa da China. O responsável pela sequência de derrotas entre os dois países nas relações mercantis é o Estado brasileiro. Essa é a avaliação de economistas e especialistas em comércio exterior presentes ontem no 7º Fórum de Economia, realizado pela Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) em São Paulo.

"Apenas dois países, no mundo inteiro, acreditam que a China é uma economia de mercado. Um acredita com alguma dúvida: a China. O outro, de maneira convicta: o Brasil", afirma Antônio Delfim Netto, ex-ministro da Fazenda, do Planejamento e da Agricultura entre os anos de 1967 a 1985. Para Delfim, a política industrial, cambial e comercial chinesa não está errada. "Eles fazem o que qualquer país que quer crescer faz. O erro está aqui", diz o ex-ministro.

As críticas à estratégia adotada pelo Estado brasileiro, consensuais entre os analistas, estão centradas nas políticas econômica e comercial adotadas. Para eles, é preciso reduzir as taxas de juros brasileiras e permitir maior desvalorização cambial, que serviriam por tornar o crédito às empresas mais barato e ampliaria a remuneração oriunda das exportações. O câmbio chinês é fixo em torno de 7 yuans por dólar há cinco anos, enquanto o dólar oscila próximo ao patamar de R$ 1,70. As taxas de juros chinesas são de 2,47% ao ano, enquanto a Selic está fixada em 10,75% ao ano - hoje, o Banco Central anuncia a nova taxa.

Além disso, dizem os especialistas, o governo é "tímido" em fiscalizar a entrada de mercadorias subfaturadas provenientes da China. Segundo números apresentados por Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, diretor da Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo (Fiesp), o saldo entre vendas e compras internacionais de bens manufaturados saiu de superávit de US$ 5,1 bilhões, em 2006, para um déficit projetado de US$ 60 bilhões neste ano.

"Do jeito que está, o déficit da indústria de transformação atingirá US$ 100 bilhões em um ou dois anos. Não só a indústria precisa reverter sua produção para o mercado interno, porque o importado chinês chega mais barato e o câmbio para exportar está ruim, como também estamos perdendo mercado no exterior para os chineses", diz Giannetti da Fonseca.

Para Renato Amorim, ex-secretário-executivo do Conselho Empresarial Brasil-China e atualmente sócio-diretor da Strategus, o governo brasileiro tem olhado para o alvo errado. Amorim, que chegou ontem de viagem à China, avalia que a disputa se dá em terreno onde os chineses "obviamente" têm vantagens. "As empresas chinesas contratam ótimos engenheiros a US$ 400 por mês. Não temos como competir com isso", afirma Amorim, para quem a disputa não se dá entre empresas, mas entre companhias brasileiras e o Estado chinês.

"As empresas chinesas trabalham com margens muito apertadas, uma vez que não remuneram acionistas e não precisam dar lucro. Por quê? Simplesmente porque são estatais", diz Amorim.

O empresário Antônio Maciel Neto, presidente da Suzano, afirmou ao Valor que a desigualdade de condições se dá também na comparação entre custos para investimentos fixos. A planta da Suzano em Mucuri, no sul da Bahia, a maior unidade produtora de celulose da companhia, teve custo total de US$ 2 bilhões. "O mesmo projeto teria custo de capital US$ 70 milhões menor, por ano, se fosse feito na China", diz Maciel.

Para Vera Thorstensen, que acaba de retornar ao Brasil depois de 15 anos na assessoria econômica do governo brasileiro na Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC), em Genebra, os chineses "não respeitam regra alguma". "Eles não respeitam o artigo 4 do FMI, que veta a manipulação cambial, além de terem pendurados uma série de ações antidumping e pedidos de salvaguardas comerciais", diz ela. Para Giannetti da Fonseca, o Brasil "ainda não sabe usar medidas antidumping ou de salvaguardas".

Yuan versus Dollar: the fight of the century

A self-denominated "currency capitalist", Evaldo Albuquerque, who seems to be a Brazilian, has some interesting things to say about this exchange struggle:

Why the Yuan Could Replace the Dollar By 2015
By Evaldo Albuquerque

Dear Paulo Roberto,

Do you know anyone who speaks “Esperanto?”

If not, don’t worry. I never heard of the language until my recent trip to Brazil. Over the summer, I spent a couple weeks traveling around South America on a research mission.

While I was traveling, I met with the heads of major companies and important government leaders in Latin America. As a currency guy, I wanted to know how these major players in Latin America feel about the U.S. dollar.

Of all the business leaders I met with, Maria Ramos, head of investor relations at Brazilian oil-giant Petrobras, had the most interesting opinion on the dollar.

Instead of answering right away, Ms. Ramos told me a story about Esperanto. It was designed in the 19th century to serve as a universal second language.

“Trying to come up with an alternative to the dollar today is like trying to impose Esperanto as an international language. It doesn’t work like that,” she said.

“The same way English has evolved naturally to become the international language, the dollar has become the world’s reserve currency. The dollar is the currency everyone has access to!”

Of course she’s right.

At the moment, there is no alternative to replace the dollar as a world reserve currency.

But there is something happening right now that can easily change that.

A couple of weeks ago, McDonald’s became the first foreign non-financial company to sell yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong. Wal-Mart has already revealed its intention to do the same. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest developments of our time.

The Only Real Threat to the Dollar's Supremacy

Empires don’t suddenly end. There are always warning signs that can sometimes last for years leading up to an empire’s collapse.

Out-of-control debt levels have historically been a major red flag. This debt can signal an empire’s end.

Look at what happened with the Spanish Empire in the 17th century or the British Empire in the 20th. Excessive debt effectively crumbled both empires. Given its massive deficits, America may soon become another good example.

And there’s a viable threat to the dollar’s supremacy in Asia. It’s the rise of the Asian market and the internationalization of China’s currency, the yuan.

China is Planting the Seeds of a Powerful Reserve Currency

Right now, Chinese leaders are making strides toward effectively capturing the dollar’s place as a reserve currency.

In the past two months, China’s leaders allowed the yuan to trade offshore in Hong Kong. They announced opening their bond market to foreign banks.

The yuan also started trading in the domestic Forex market vs. the Malaysia’s ringgit. Soon the yuan will be trading against other currencies, including the Russian ruble and the Korean won.

Hong Kong's securities regulator also just approved a new fund of yuan-denominated fixed-income products, such as bonds and commercial paper.

Chinese financial officials are also planning to introduce “junk” bonds to provide smaller private companies with new funding channels.

As other companies follow McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s lead in tapping into China’s bond market, the yuan will play a significant role in global commerce.

Big banks around the globe such as HSBC, BBVA, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup are all doing road shows in Latin America to encourage the use of the yuan in trade with China.

Do you see the pattern? The development of China’s currency is here to stay.

U.S. Dollar Crisis in the Making

What does that all mean for the U.S. dollar? One word: crisis!

One important reason the U.S. dollar remains the reserve currency is the U.S. bond market. Our bond market is the most-liquid of its kind.

But a well-developed Chinese capital market will provide strong support to the yuan. And the faster this process advances, the faster the dollar will lose status in the international market.

I agree with Ms. Ramos that the U.S. dollar won’t lose its reserve status tomorrow. It may take five years or more.

But China is planting the seeds of a powerful international currency that may become this alternative to the dollar. Without any serious fiscal reform in the U.S., the buck is looking more and more like a disaster waiting to happen.

Personally, I’m not waiting. I have already diversified part of my savings into stronger foreign currencies for my family. You can buy yuan through an exchange-traded fund (NYSE: CYB). Or you can even hold yuan (aka, renminbi) in a WorldCurrency Access Deposit Account at EverBank*. Learn more here.

It’s best to do diversify your currency holdings now while the dollar is still strong to get the most for your money. I’m grabbing all the foreign currency I can at a discount and I urge you to do the same.

Best Regards,
Evaldo Albuquerque
Editor, Exotic FX Alert
Contributor, Currency Capitalist

P.S. I’ll be talking more about the yuan and about exotic currencies at the Offshore Advantage Academy in November. Thought you might be interested in learning more. For event details, click here.