sábado, 15 de agosto de 2015

Noticias de la China

Acá van tres noticias que tienen que ver con China, publicadas recientemente en Asia Times Online. Ilustramos la nota  con una serie de pinturas del reconocido artista plástico chino Yue Minjin, cuyo estilo ha sido designado como "realismo cínico".

Título: Beijing-Vatican ties on the mend?

Epígrafe: The consecration of the new Bishop Joseph Zhang Yinlin in Anyang on August 4 may signal a positive change in Beijing-Vatican ties. / This time, the Catholic Church in China ordained a Bishop approved by the Vatican.

Texto: While the official Catholic Patriotic Association, linked to the party, had elected him a few months ago, Zhang had received the papal approval as early as 2009, Stefania Falasca noted in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops.

So for the first time in many years, the ordination ceremony of a Bishop was held without controversies.  Dozens of noncontroversial bishops and priests attended the ceremony.

In the past, such ceremonies were marred by the presence of some bishops whose selection had created controversy as they were hand-picked by Beijing.

Vatican was not happy with the way such ordinations were conducted as they ran against its religious beliefs while Beijing failed to see or did not care about these ancient sacred practices.

This time, however, no shadow was cast during the ritual in Anyang as Beijing had taken extra care in the religious details of the appointment.

Over the past years, there has been a growing cultural interest in Christianity even among the upper echelons of the Communist Party close to President Xi Jinping

The details of Catholic practice, however, are extremely complicated and it is hard to predict whether they will be respected and followed during every such ceremony to be held in the future.

Many people in Beijing and Vatican are eager to scuttle the ties between China and the Holy See. Against this background, the recent ceremony in Anyang came as a clear sign of “parallel consensus”, as Falasca noted in Avvenire.

This consensus seems to be hinging on a growing mutual recognition of the principles each stands for.

The consecration comes just a month before Xi Jinping and the Pope are likely to be present in New York.

On several occasions, Pope Francis had expressed his willingness to meet Xi Jinping. If such a meeting takes place, the ordination of China’s new Bishop could help in reducing the tension which had begun after Communist China snapped ties with the Vatican.

While nothing can be said about a possible improvement in ties between the two, the extra care taken by Beijing this time might signal a paradigm shift in its approach towards the Catholic Church.

The Vatican’s focus is not on numbers – China’s 12 million Catholics. It is more concerned about the well-being of the faithful and, more importantly, the missed opportunity since the 18th century when it disbanded the very successful Jesuit mission in China.

China, conversely, considers the Catholic Church only from the point of view of numbers.  Christians constitute less than 1 percent of the population and they are not troublemakers. In their priority list, Catholics come way below issues like economic development, ties with the United States and Japan, and unemployment.

 In the past, many Chinese intellectuals had underlined ties with Vatican which, they argued, could help the world, especially the West, understand China better.

The next few months will be very crucial for this extremely important relationship.

Título: Pipelineistan — the Iran-Pak-China connection (por Pepe Escobar)

Texto: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has just been to Islamabad to talk serious business with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. And the serious business had to be Pipelineistan – as in what next for the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline.

Zarif essentially said that IP is a go – again – as soon as sanctions against Iran start to melt, by late 2015 or early 2016. Iran has already invested $2 billion in the Iranian stretch of IP, and China will finance the Pakistani stretch.

This is a major Pipelinestan gambit, as Asia Times has previously reported. And as a side note, as soon as IP goes online, all those years of incessant harassing by successive Bush and Obama administrations will finally come down to nought.

Even before Zarif hit Pakistan something serious was going on in … Karamay. You may have not heard of Karamay, but this town in Xinjiang is right at the center of the Eurasian action; it has just hosted the 2015 China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Forum.

As we all know, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an absolutely key component, worth $46 billion, of the China-driven New Silk Roads. CPEC will link Kashgar in Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar via highways (essentially an upgrade of the fabled Karakoram Highway), railways, industrial parks, fiber optic networks and – eventually – a pipeline.

And that pipeline will be no less than an extension up north of IP.

As part of CPEC, for instance, last month TBEA Xinjiang SunOasis — a Chinese company — finished the biggest solar power plant in Pakistan, for $215 million, in only three months.

At Karamay, China and Pakistan signed 20 CPEC-related cooperation agreements. They even issued a Karamay manifesto, stressing the political/economic importance of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. CPEC is the largest China-Pakistan joint project since the construction of the Karakoram highway in 1979. And CPEC is only one among six economic corridors to be developed as part of the New Silk Roads.

Yet the full impact of CPEC will only be noted by the next decade. That’s when the New Silk Road for the bulk of China’s energy imports from the Middle East will be cut short by no less than 12,000 kilometers.

Ashgabat wakes up

Meanwhile, Turkmengaz — Turkmenistan’s national gas company — has taken a 51% stake in a consortium still seeking to build the perennially troubled TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline, a serious competitor to IP if it ever gets built.

That’s a game-changer because the Turkmen will now be in charge of the construction and operation of TAPI Ltd. The cost is a whopping $10 billion (IP will cost three times less); investment to the tune of $4 billion and $6 billion in debt.

Still it all comes back to the same problem; who wants to invest in a steel umbilical cord prone to all sorts of sabotage traversing a war zone — western Afghanistan all the way to Kandahar? In theory, “host countries” should be responsible for TAPI’s security; in the case of Afghanistan, that qualifies as black humor.

For the moment, Turkmengaz can only count on the Manila-based but Japan/US-controlled Asian Development Bank (ADB). That’s not much. The notoriously opaque regime in Ashgabat says it’s seeking other backers — but no one knows where and how.

TAPI is still a pipe dream. Pakistan and India are not seriously considering it viable even in the medium term. So it’s back to IP.

Even after sanctions are lifted, Iran will need to find an ocean of investment — at least $180 billion — to upgrade its energy infrastructure and be able to start exporting natural gas to Europe, in competition with Gazprom.

So Iran’s privileged Pipelineistan play for the near future will be Asia – from Southwest Asia (Iraq and Oman) to South Asia (Pakistan). With China ready to instantly capitalize on every surge of Iran’s natural gas production.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Título: China’s comparative devaluation dabble: The emerging markets impact

Texto: China’s recent 2% renimbi reset against the dollar, while the first formal devaluation in two decades, was nonetheless negligible against emerging market currencies’ 20% drop this year turning  benchmark local debt and equity indices negative, in part due to waning Chinese commodities and funding appetite. The uniform depreciation has been the most severe since the Asian financial crisis, and units in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and the Philippines have again suffered, and even traditional safe havens like the Singapore dollar have retreated while India’s rupee has softened after its post-Modi surge. Frontier markets like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, with more restricted trading, have also felt a combination of greenback strength and weaker growth and reform prospects and debt and political instability pressuring exchange rates. However the region has not been battered as badly as Latin America where China’s pre-devaluation footprint and competitive and fiscal policy missteps wreaked havoc.

China’s foreign reserves have fallen for consecutive quarters, but two dozen other developing economies have stopped accumulating as well due to current and capital account stagnation. In dollar terms the number was flat to negative for most countries in the second quarter, with portfolio investment outflows as tracked by EPFR international fund data. According to the Washington-based Institute for International Finance, all cross-border capital flow components — stocks, bonds, commercial loans and FDI — will be down this year for a $1 trillion total,  reversing improvement from the immediate post-2008 financial crisis through 2014’s initial Federal Reserve rate scare. Over $20 billion fled emerging market equities through July, while dollar and euro-denominated sovereign debt was a positive draw for that asset class offsetting local currency aversion. Reflecting meager trade growth, export credit volume was also off 25% compared with 2014, at $75 billion in the latest quarter, according to Reuters statistics. Asian banks have been big in the space, but standards have tightened in the latest surveys as they grapple with souring corporate and consumer exposure more generally.

Brazil’s real has been the biggest loser with a 30% plunge, and is on track to retest its 2002 low of 4/dollar. One-fifth of exports, especially iron ore, go to China and state oil monopoly Petrobras had to borrow from the Chinese Development Bank when it no longer could tap global bond markets after a downgrade and lingering scandal. President Rousseff’s approval rating is below 10% and recession will last into next year as 9.5% inflation exceeds the central bank target. Another interest rate hike to 14%  has not steadied the currency, and a dollar swap program was pared as a drain on reserves also reeling from a chronic current account deficit and decreased foreign direct investment. Moody’s just lowered the sovereign ratings a notch to near junk, which could lead to billions of dollars in forced selling from debt fund managers, including in Japan with its cultural ties where retail products for the country have long been popular.

China’s sovereign wealth fund reportedly holds Mexican paper, as the peso crashed through 16 to the dollar compelling the central bank to launch a 2-month $50 billion intervention facility. Beijing’s oil companies may be interested in Pemex’s first exploration block auctions, but for now bilateral petroleum deals concentrate on Colombia and Venezuela whose currencies have also plummeted. The latter has amassed $50 billion in Chinese infrastructure project for natural resource debt over the years it can no longer service, as default on sovereign and government petroleum company obligations is widely anticipated in bond and derivative spreads. The bolivar is in free fall at 600 to the dollar in the parallel market, one hundred times the controlled rate, as hyperinflation rages before end-year elections.

Outside the region South Africa and Turkey have also reached exchange rate bottoms amid Asian commodity, construction, and banking linkages exacerbating direction.  Negative commercial and monetary relations between major emerging economies are mutually-reinforcing, and with rumors that yuan internationalization was a factor in the 2% shift as it mirrors previous market openings, the prevailing pattern suggests repeated rather than one-off depreciation.

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