Sep 02

China Watch Blog has learnt that flight 370 conspiracy theories are everywhere on the internet, almost six months since it went missing without a trace. The southern Indian Ocean is being called the Boeing 777’s “final resting place”, but no evidence has been found.

One conspiracy theory suggests the plane was shot down by military ops, specifically US-Thai strike fighters, by mistake.

Another theory is that the plane was taken to the highly secretive Diego Garcia Island as part of a US military plan. There is enough room to land such a large plane, but could there have been something on board the US military wanted? A dismantled drone with sensitive information was on board, according to some reports.

Some theories point to a hijacking, for the plane to be used for a greater plan at a later time. How did it fly off radar? By “hiding behind” another aircraft, such as Singapore Airlines’ Flight 68 if the planes were within a thousand metres of each other, through Indian and Afghanistan airspace.

Other conspiracy theories include a life insurance scam, the “Asian Bermuda Triangle” and alien abduction. However, the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, remains the prime suspect for many. Could he have had a breakdown, killing everyone on board, re-pressurizing the cabin and flying for four hours to the middle of nowhere?

The Inquisitr / The Mirror UK / The Telegraph

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Aug 03

China Watch Blog reports that organizations are like Rubik’s Cubes. Multifaceted, sometimes frustrating, with many possible moves leading to a single desired outcome. A leader cannot twist one side of the cube without affecting the others. Mastering the Cube: Overcoming Stumbling Blocks and Building an Organization that Works (AlignOrg Solutions) is by Reed Deshler and Kreig Smith. A leader’s guide to orchestrating complex organizational change, it’s a practical approach to a topic that is usually academic, too technical or overly complex.

Changing a large business to maximize opportunity in the marketplace is a process of aligning a multifaceted organization. Following the metaphor of an organization as a Rubik’s Cube, Deshler and Smith have identified eight common but misguided moves of organizational change.  These are Stumbling Blocks. But for each of these they offer an alternate move, or Building Block. These are solid principles or methods for leading organization alignment.

Reed Deshler is a principal with AlignOrg Solutions and a leading organization design and change practice leader with extensive corporate and consulting experience. He has worked with leaders at some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Deshler’s expertise is in the science of organization design and change coupled with a talent for diagnosing organization misalignments. This facilitates the insights needed to drive business change and growth. Deshler is a regular presenter at industry conferences and a noted educator of organization design and change management skills with business executives around the world.

Kreig Smith is the founder of AlignOrg Solutions and a principal with the firm. He has consulted with a wide range of organizations—from Fortune 50 corporations to small businesses, for profit and nonprofit organizations, and domestic and international enterprises—for nearly thirty years. His expertise centers in the alignment of organizations to marketplace positions. Kreig focuses on large-scale change efforts, strategy clarification, organization design, and education.

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May 27

 

China Watch Blog reports that Asia’s biggest wine and spirits fair opened in Hong Kong on Tuesday, drawing the world’s top producers from France to Chile despite China reporting the first decline in wine consumption for a decade.
According to a survey by Vinexpo Asia Pacific, mainland China’s wine consumption fell by 2.5 percent last year, after ten years of uninterrupted growth at a rate of 25 percent per year, AFP reports.
The drop comes as Beijng reins in luxury spending and extravagant banquets, against the backdrop of a slower economy, and an anti-graft campaign backed by President Xi Jinping to root out official corruption.
However, show organizers, who expanded the trade fair by 50 percent in floor space from its last edition in 2012, are adamant there are still strong opportunities for the wine and spirits markets in the region, because of increased demand from a growing middle class.
Winemakers and industry executives also say that the economic slowdown will not prevent people from drinking, but the focus may now shift to mid-range wine and spirits.”This is the largest Vinexpo Asia Pacific ever. The markets of South East Asia and China are still booming,” Vinexpo chief executive officer Guillaume Deglise said.
“There are many markets in Asia where the middle class is expanding and this represents a great potential for the wine and spirits industry,” he said.
Xavier de Eizaguirre, chairman of Vinexpo, added: “Little did we know two decades ago Asia led by China and Japan would reach 63 percent of world’s spirits consumption.”

In 2013, China overtook France as the world’s largest consumer of red wine, guzzling more than 155 million 9-litre cases or 1.865 billion bottles that year, according to Vinexpo.

But the official austerity drive in China has meant that people are increasingly turning to cheaper wines.

“Cheaper wines are selling better because of the anti-corruption campaign. the government did not say you shouldn’t drink,” said Angel Lee, director of Hong Kong-based wine trading company MBL.

Pier Luigi Calcagnile, marketing director of Italian winemaker Caviro, said: “We consider good value for money very important for Asia. Premium wines are important to promote quality but if you want to expand, you need to approach also the middle class.”

Some 1,300 exhibitors from 31 countries attended the event packed with wine tasting sessions as well as discussion forums for sommeliers, distributors and importers.
This year Chinese wine tastings are also a feature, along with a bar showcasing innovative cocktails for the first time, organizers say.

French exhibitors make up more than 500 booths, while producers from Italy to New World countries such as the United States are also vying to gain market share.

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May 15

China Watch Blog reports the amount of money stolen from Internet bank accounts in Japan so far this year has already exceeded the annual record marked last year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

Jiji Press reported that the amount in a four-month period through Friday stood at some 1,417 million yen, compared with 1,406 million yen in 2013. A total of 58 banks were hit by illegal money transfers this year, up from 32.

A growing number of regional and “shinkin” banks, as well as “shinyo kumiai” credit cooperatives, reported illegal transfers, while corporate bank accounts were hit by a surge in theft.
“Thieves are widening their targets and stolen amounts may grow in size,” an NPA official said. The police urged nine financial industry groups, such as the Japanese Bankers Association, on Thursday to strengthen preventive measures.

A total of 873 cases of illegal money transfers were confirmed by Friday, with victims in all Japan’s 47 prefectures except Tottori.

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May 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that there was renewed criticism of the oversight and management of the HK$250 million Mega Events Fund at a public hearing of the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee on Monday.

An Audit Report had earlier revealed potential conflicts of interest and irregularities in its accounts and records. Civic Party legislator, Alan Leong Kah-kit, questioned why the Council had not been informed of a recommendation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption that the Fund should not continue beyond 2012 as it had fulfilled its ‘historical mission’.

The Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Andrew Wong Ho-yuen, said the Fund — which was set up in 2009 — aimed to attract overseas visitors back to Hong Kong and to provide short-term employment for a period of three years.

He said it was decided to continue with the Fund so that Hong Kong could compete for tourists with regional neighbors.

Wong said the Fund would aim to rectify the current situation.

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May 12

China Watch Blog reports that the Hong Kong government is about to burn 28 tonnes of confiscated ivory – the largest stockpile ever burned in history. WWF-Hong Kong and TRAFFIC will be holding a press conference this Wednesday to reveal new figures regarding seized ivory, showing that Hong Kong ranks fifth in terms of the quantity of ivory seized and highlighting Hong Kong’s importance as a major transit country and an end-use market.

WWF-Hong Kong and TRAFFIC appreciate the strong statement the government is making with this ivory burn and their prioritization of this issue, and we hope that the momentum will not stop here. WWF and TRAFFIC now call on the government to strengthen monitoring and control over ivory being currently sold on the market, and to strengthen the regulation of the domestic ivory market.

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May 08

China Watch Blog has learnt that a Japanese man suspected of possessing guns made with a 3-D printer has been arrested, reports said Thursday, in what was said to be the country’s first such detention.

Officers who raided the home of Yoshitomo Imura, a 27-year-old college employee, confiscated five weapons, two of which had the potential to fire lethal bullets, broadcaster NHK said.

Japan Today reported that they also recovered a 3-D printer from the home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, but did not find any ammunition for the guns, Jiji Press reported.

It is the first time Japan’s firearm control law has been applied to the possession of guns produced by 3-D printers, Jiji reported.

The police investigation began after the suspect allegedly posted video footage on the Internet showing him shooting the guns, the Mainichi Shimbun said on its website.

Officers suspect that he downloaded blueprints for making the guns with 3-D printers from websites hosted overseas, the newspaper said.

The daily said the suspect largely admitted the allegations, saying: “It is true that I made them, but I did not think it was illegal.”

The police refused to confirm the reports, although broadcasters showed footage of Imura being taken in for questioning.  The rapid development of 3-D printing technology, which allows relatively cheap machines to construct complex physical objects by building up layers of polymer, has proved a challenge for legislators around the world.

Weapons assembled from parts produced by the printers are not detectable with regular security equipment, like that found at airports, leading to fears that they may be used in hijackings.

The debate about home-made guns took off last year in the United States when a Texas-based group, Defense Distributed, posted blueprints for a fully functional, 3-D-printed firearm, a single-shot pistol made almost entirely out of hard polymer plastic.

In December, the U.S. Congress renewed a ban on guns that contain no metal.

While Japanese police are armed, Japan has very strict firearms control laws and few people possess guns or have ever come into contact with them, AFP reported.

 

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May 01

China Watch Blog has learnt that WWF-Hong Kong welcomes a recent decision by China’s legislators to jail people who eat protected wild animals.

This can be a first step to mitigate deterioration of the population of 420 threatened species, including pangolin, tiger, golden coin turtle and Asian elephants, WWF said.

Under a new interpretation of existing Chinese criminal law (Article 341 and 312), the Standing Committee last week decided that consuming an animal protected by the national wildlife protection law as “rare or endangered” could be punished by imprisonment of 10 or more years. Those who knowingly buy wild illegally hunted animals could also face a sentence of up to three years.

Cheryl Lo, Conservation Specialist at WWF, comments that “We welcome the new decision to further protect threatened species. The penalty on consumption of wild animals and their products is a strong message sent by the Chinese government to drive down consumer demand and illegal poaching. Populations of species such as the Chinese pangolin, which is categorized as endangered by the IUCN, may have a chance to recover.”

In response to the growing environmental awareness among the general public, governments have strengthened their protection over threatened species in recent years. For example, in early this year, China has destroyed illegal ivory it confiscated while Hong Kong will begin burning 28 tonnes of ivory stockpile a few weeks later.”

WWF strives to conserve wildlife species. It is crucial to protect both individual species and the habitats upon which they depend. Ongoing research and programmes are needed to successfully achieve this goal, as greater knowledge of the status of various species will enhance our ability to act and greater awareness is a key building block of nature conservation.

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Apr 25

China Watch Blog reports that just three days before International Workers’ Memorial Day, honoring workers around the world who have died as a result of their jobs, two groups — Green America and China Labor Watch (CLW) — will hold a demonstration at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City to protest worker poisoning in the factories that supply Apple’s iPhones and iPads.  The event will take place at 12:30 p.m. on April 25, 2014.

The planned protest stems from the “Bad Apple Campaign,” launched jointly by Green America and CLW on March 12, 2014. To date, the campaign has collected nearly seventeen thousand signatures urging Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to remove dangerous chemicals in an effort to protect the young Chinese workers who manufacture Apple’s products. See http://www.greenamerica.org/bad-apple/ for more information.

The protests’ location at Apple’s “Cube” store, near Central Park, is significant in that the store is one of Apple’s most profitable retail locations, grossing more than $350 million per year.  Industry experts estimate that Apple could remove benzene and other dangerous chemicals from production for as little as $1 dollar per device.

Smartphones and other electronics are made with thousands of chemicals, many of which are known to be harmful to human health such as benzene or n-hexane.  Occupational exposure to benzene can lead to leukemia.  Apple is profiting at the expense of the workers who assemble their iconic products in China, even though safer chemical alternatives are available.  The campaign is calling on Apple to lead the way in protecting worker health and safety.

In April 2012, Greenpeace hosted an action at this store to call attention to Apple’s wasteful energy practices. As a result, one year later, Apple announced a plan to use 100% renewable energy at its data centers.

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Apr 24

China Watch Blog reports a growing number of Shanghai couples are choosing to live together before marriage, according to the results of a survey released by Fudan University on April 21.

In the poll of 2,330 people aged between 25 and 34, 43 percent of the married respondents said they had cohabited before getting wed, according to a Shanghai Daily report.

“Cohabitation no longer has the negative connotations it once had in China,” said Chen Binbin, a psychology lecturer at the university who helped to compile the study.

Almost 70 percent of the married respondents said they began living with their partners after less than a year of dating, while 82 percent said they lived together for less than a year before tying the knot.

More and more people are choosing to cohabit as they want to see what life will really be like and whether they can cope with living with someone else, Chen said.

“In China, it’s seen as a trial marriage,” he said.

Almost 95 percent of the married respondents said they were already engaged or had a clear plan to get married before moving in together.

The survey also found that people who had cohabited for more than 18 months prior to marriage were generally happier after getting wed then than those who had not had such an experience.

Of all the respondents, 44 percent were single and 1 percent were divorced. Just 8 percent of the single respondents said they had no plans to get married.

Almost 96 percent of the people polled said they hoped to have one or two babies, while 2 percent said they wanted more than three and the remainder said they didn’t want any.

The study was carried out as part of the Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey, which aims to map changes in Chinese society by tracing the lives of people born in the 1980s through their education, marriages and jobs.

The 1980s generation represents a special group of people in China as they are considered to have been born and lived during a period of great social and economic change.

Academics at Fudan University hope the results of the study will be of use to future governments in developing social and economic policies.

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