The medium, not the message

Former TV news anchor Chai Jing doesn’t tell us anything very new about pollution in China — what she has done is push the issue to the top of the political agenda ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session starting on 5 March.

Chai’s documentary Under the Dome, which takes the form of a TED talk, has been viewed an estimated 150mn times since being aired online on 1 March. The science is simply conveyed, often via cartoons. But it is the footage of Tangshan’s steel mills — like scenes from a latter-day Inferno — and footage of children playing basketball in dense, urban smog, that resonates most. Chai’s own child was born with a tumour, which she ascribes to living in coal-mining province Shanxi.

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Chinese dream

Beijing’s response to tumbling oil prices may be to merge its state-owned oil giants, CNPC and Sinopec, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. It is hard to imagine such a crazy plan ever coming to fruition. At most, it is the subject of research deep within China’s vast state bureaucracy. Even the newspapers running the story of “possible mergers” admit that the idea is merely something that is being “considered” and that the companies and authorities will not comment, could not be reached, or have “not heard of a plan to merge the two companies”.

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Zombie economics

Cheaper oil is a shot in the arm for the global economy, the IMF says in today’s updated World Economic Outlook (WEO). But as in zombie movies, “a shot in the arm is not always enough,” IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard notes.

In particular, the IMF is worried about China — slashing its outlook for the country’s GDP growth this year by more than any other major economy except Italy (faint praise, indeed). Even the eurozone, as a whole, should fare better than China in 2015, relatively speaking, the IMF reckons. It has downgraded the euro group’s GDP forecast by a mere 0.2 percentage points, compared with GDP forecasts in October’s WEO. China’s GDP will grow 0.3 percentage points more slowly than expected, at 6.8pc this year.

Data out today showed Chinese GDP grew at 7.4pc last year, its slowest pace since 1990, Standard Chartered bank says. This was also, for the first time, lower than the government’s own guidance of 7.5pc.

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Posted in Oil