Asia

Soil pollution in China 6-10-17

Source: "The bad earth"  

The World Health Organization estimates that smog in China contains ten times more pollution than what would be considered safe. Air pollution is visible but soil pollution, although less visible, is more of a problem. A 2014 soil survey conducted by the Chinese government (and kept secret for years) indicates that almost 20% of all farmland in China is contaminated with heavy metals like cadmium or arsenic, due to unregulated pollution from heavy industry. This is an area the size of all the arable land in Mexico. And this is a problem as soil can remain toxic for decades or even centuries and take years to clean up (it took the US over 20 years to clean up the relatively small Love Canal site in New York State). This is a further problem as China already has 18% of the world's population but only 9% of its arable land.

Human impacts of soil pollution include China's "cancer villages" - these are 450 locations where there are unusually high levels of liver and digestive tract cancers amongst the inhabitants. There is also "cadmium rice" - a recent test conducted in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou found that half the rice tested had high levels of the toxic metal cadmium. 

Aung San Suu Kyi Year One 4/1/17

Article: "Governing in prose"   

 In 2015, Myanmar’s ruling military junta stepped down and relinquished power to the NLD (National League for Democracy) led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The United States lifted sanctions as a result. Economic growth in Myanmar has been increasing at a rate of 6% a year (2016). The capital Yangon (old: Rangoon) is the center of that growth, accounting for 25% of GDP and 50% of all electricity usage. Rural Myanmar is still primitive and the military is still fighting ethnic rebels (the Rohingya) in the hinterlands. A complaint on the NLD - they don’t consult or communicate with the business sector.

China's New Silk Road 7-2-16

Article: "Our Bulldozers - Our Rules  

The article looks at China’s plan to build a new “Silk Road” connecting Europe to Asia overland and to southeast Asia and east Africa by sea. The official policy is known as “OBOR” for “One Belt, One Road” (confusingly the Belt refers to the overland part and the Road refers to the ocean-going part). China is committing itself to $4 trillion in infrastructure projects in OBOR (over an indefinite time frame). But right now, officials say there are 900 deals underway worth $900 billion.

OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.”