After Canada dismantled its ‘investor visa program’ when it got some 46,000 Chinese applicants, it was only a matter of time before China’s wealthy and footloose found a new country where the air is clean, the visa laws lax, and the economy eager for injections of foreign cash. Chinese millionaires, meet Portugal and the “Golden Visa.”
Portugal has rolled out a fancy new visa program, offering residence to any international investor who can buy 500,000 euros worth of real estate, invest one million euros into a Portugese corporation, or create 30 jobs. So far 542 “Golden Visas” have been issued, with Chinese investors taking up 433 of those slots, or about 80%.
If you think this story is irrelevant, or just another example of government overreach, I invite you to visit Beijing before we continue here, even if only on a virtual tour.
The air pollution there is now so dense that the sun is blocked to the degree we would find in the aftermath of a nuclear winter.
Small toxic airborne particles are 24 times levels considered safe.
Tall buildings are obscured by toxic clouds of smog.
The atmosphere is so bad that it exceeds the world’s scale for air pollution toxicity. Breathing has become risky behavior for children, who are exposed to pollutants at levels 40 times recommended limits.
Exposed children are at higher risk for cancer, anxiety, depression, attention-deficit disorders, respiratory problems and permanent lung damage. Adults too suffer a myriad of pollution-caused ailments, including an epidemic of cancers. The countryside is no escape. Chinese farmers are “almost four times more likely to die of liver cancer and twice as likely to die of stomach cancer than the global average…”
Beijing air is what happens when the environment is forsaken on the altar of economic growth. The strategy is shortsighted, unless you manufacture face masks. Beijing air is what happens when we oppose reasonable government regulation — such as removing sulfur from gasoline.
The Chinese sheng is a free-reed instrument dating back to 1100 BC. The girl in the video is playing a keyed sheng, which makes playing it easier. It’s a bit like a miniature pipe organ. en.wikipedia.org
China spends more than $230 billion on research and development, second only to the US, but it doesn’t have much to show for it.
But it turns out a good chunk of that has been lining the pockets of the most prominent science officials, at least in wealthy Guangdong province. More than 50 of the leading scientists have been implicated in a scheme to embezzle as much as hundreds of millions of yuan from state R&D projects.
It’s a scandal that goes all the way to the top of Guangdong’s government. In January, the Communist Party sacked Li Xinghua, director of the provincial Communist Party science and technology department. Then on Feb. 14, news broke that Wang Kewei, former deputy director of that same department, was accused of skimming funds off the province’s light-emitting diode (LED) industry development project, to which Guangdong had allocated 450 million yuan ($74 million), reports the South China Morning Post (paywall).
Chinese news commentators say the damndest things. Military expert Zhang Zhaozhang was pleased to tell a news anchor on state-run TV that fog and smog can eliminate laser weapons’ effectiveness.
So, there’s a bright side to the excessive air pollution in Beijing — air so thick you can barely see 100 feet ahead. The USA can’t blast the Chinese capital with our laser cannons!
Zhang explained that the metallic particles in smog can obstruct laser, and when the air’s PM2.5 count reaches 600 microgram per cubic meter (which, as we’ve seen in the past, is not uncommon) it’s “almost impossible” for the laser to get through.
Zhang, a frequent commenter on CCTV, is known for his far-reaching predictions and commentary. He once claimed that “knowledge is not the most important thing” when it comes to being a good TV commentator.
On that last point, he’s absolutely right. We have ample proof right here in the USA.
Last week, the South China Morning Post published an exclusive, reporting that the vast majority of applicants for Canada’s special residence visa program for investors were from the Chinese mainland.
Perhaps this news did not sit well with Canadian immigration authorities, who pulled the plug in the fast-track program earlier this week.
Canada has long offered a program similar to Australia’s ‘investor visa’ scheme, in which overseas applicants (mainly from China and Hong Kong) can apply for residency after investing a few million bucks in the nation’s economy. On Tuesday, however, the country’s finance minister announced that 46,000 Chinese applicants will get their visas denied and their application fees refunded.
So, it’s true. Money can’t buy you everything.
Like many countries, Canada has a “fast-track” method to gain residency, open only to those with enough resources to invest in the Canadian economy.
Mainland Chinese are far and away the majority of applicants. So many wealthy Chinese applied in recent years that the Canadian government had to suspend the program until it could catch up with the backlog.
The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong had a backlog of more than 53,000 applications last year, according to the South China Morning Post.
Analysis of arrival data suggests that about 99 per cent of applications in Hong Kong were lodged by mainlanders. Under the scheme’s current limits, applicants worth at least C$1.6 million (HK$11.2 million) receive residency if they “invest” C$800,000 in the form of a five-year interest-free loan to Canada.
The applications in the Hong Kong consulate’s queue in January last year represented potential “investment” of C$7.5 billion.
The queue was revealed when Ottawa halted new applications to deal with the backlog in 2012.
What was not revealed was that the vast majority were applications by mainland Chinese which swamped a single consular office in Hong Kong.
Applications from Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong made up the remaining 1% of applications from China.
It says a lot about a country when its richest citizens want to bail out.
Of all the recent hostage-takings and betrayals of working people by Washington, the most profound corporate power grab to date takes the form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a so-called “trade agreement” negotiated in secret, and heir to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992 memorably and presciently predicted that the passage of NAFTA would be accompanied by the “giant sucking sound” of American companies fleeing the United States for Mexico, where employees would work for less pay, without benefits. Indeed, the history of such trade deals has been continuous U.S. jobs deficits rather than promised jobs growth.
Fast-track trade authority legislation — called The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 — has been introduced in the Senate and House, and would permit the administration to pass the TPP without congressional input or oversight. The press release by bill sponsors, House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), names the legislation that greases passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “critical… to boosting U.S. exports and creating jobs” — a misrepresentation of a deal negotiated in secret over three years with 600 corporate “advisors,” and designed to accelerate the offshoring of good-paying jobs.
Even as President Obama chooses to highlight growing income inequality in his State of the Union address, his administration seeks to “fast track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is certain to widen the wealth inequity gap, while negatively impacting environmental and food protections, health, labor, patents, natural resources and telecommunications, and generally bypassing the democratic process. The White House Press Release calling for bipartisan support for Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority is equally Orwellian.
Corporate tribunals sanctioned by the deal would trump the sovereignty of U.S. courts, permitting corporations to sue any signing country for any perceived loss of profits due to laws or regulations they don’t like. Similar cases have previously been brought against sovereign countries by corporations under the banner of NAFTA.
This is a must-see documentary about the hard lives of the Chinese workers who make the stuff Americans buy at WalMart. It is streaming online for free until Feb. 11. Go here. pbs.org
Lixin Fan, a Chinese-Canadian film maker, has captured the essence of what it is like to be a migrant worker in China. For this documentary, he focused on just one family, and the parents’ one and only chance to see their child and her grandparents — the Chinese New Year.
Among those millions are husband and wife Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin who, 16 years earlier, left their village in Sichuan Province — and left their children in the care of grandparents — to work in the city of Guangzhou, 1,300 miles away. Their contact with their children was reduced largely to telephone calls and the annual New Year’s reunion. While the great spaces of China, alternately empty or crowded with anxious tides of people, are always present, Last Train Home is most intimately the story of the Zhang family, who are fated to reach for the promise of the new China and discover its wrenching cost.
Last Train Home catches the Zhang family at a critical juncture in their struggle to better their lives — or more accurately, the lives of their children. The parents left their village of Huilong when their first child, a daughter, Qin, was only a year old (a son, Yang, would follow). The children were left in capable and caring hands, but the Zhangs’ decision to go was a heartbreaking one made by millions of Chinese parents who felt they had, as Suqin puts it, “no choice.” Like the Zhangs, many have traded a poor but perhaps psychologically secure life of subsistence farming for long, relentless hours of work in city factories and residence in rudimentary dorm-like structures.
More: Film Description
China’s official bank system, which is controlled by the state, is very conservative, much as American banks were before 1980. Interest rates on bank accounts are very low, just barely above the CPI.
Rich investors seeking better returns on their money have turned to wealth management products (WMPs) created by independent firms, which promise high yields to the buyers. Paradoxically, it’s the banks which market and distribute these products to their major account holders.
Normally, the banks have stepped in when those promises fall short, but the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has indicated that it may not support a WMP that was scheduled to begin payouts on Jan. 31, the last day of the Chinese lunar calendar this year.
Experts are worried that a default could tip the credit-dependent Chinese economy into chaos.
Most wealth management products are sold with some form of bank guarantee, leading many investors to believe that the products are effectively risk-free, despite the often high promised yield.
But, in an unprecedented move, ICBC has said it will not stand behind the Rmb3bn ($495m) investment product it distributed through its branches in 2010, according to people familiar with the situation. The fund matures at the end of this month.
Zhang Zhiwei, China economist at Nomura, said that a default in the shadow banking sector could trigger a ripple effect across the whole financial system.
According to the Financial Times, the “shadow banking” sector accounts for one-third of China’s credit economy, which in total amounts to 17.3 trillion RMB (about $3 trillion). The fund in jeopardy is only worth about $495 million, a mere drop in the bucket, but a default would threaten public trust in the banking and investment sector.
ICBC marketed a product optimistically called “2010 China Credit / Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product,” the funds of which were to finance a coal company that is now facing bankruptcy. The first payouts were to begin at the end of this month.
The creator of the WMP, China Credit Trust Co., has promised to make partial payments to investors, but those investors will also expect some redress from ICBC.
While not specifically mentioned in the FT article, I’ve read elsewhere that the government will pressure ICBC to pay investors, to avoid a possible economic meltdown. forbes.com
Economists disagree on how much a credit crunch in China would affect the global economy.