Archives for China



FoxConn Is Building an “Empire of Robots”

Chances are, if you’ve heard of the Chinese technology giant FoxConn, it’s because it manufactures the iPhone and iPad. Last year, at an iPhone manufacturing complex in South China, there were a number of worker suicides that made news.

In apparent attempt to fix some of its labor issues, Foxconn’s parent company, Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry, is now making a big push into robots.

From the AFP:

The project, which is initially forecast to cost the Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Tw$6.7 billion ($223 million), was unveiled Saturday when Terry Gou, chairman of the conglomerate, broke ground for the construction of a research and development unit in Taichung, central Taiwan.

“The investment marks the beginning of Hon Hai’s bid to build an empire of robots,” the Central Taiwan Science Park authorities said in a statement.

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The World’s Fastest-Growing Cities: Kabul is No. Five

In honor of the world’s estimated population hitting seven billion next week, Foreign Policy has compiled a list (with beautiful photographs) of the world’s seven fastest-growing cities. China and India dominate the list, but a few of the entries may surprise you. For example, number five is Kabul, Afghanistan.

“One of the oldest cities in the world, it is growing rapidly despite — or perhaps because of — the security concerns that plague Afghanistan,” writes Kedar Pavgi. “The city has 6 million inhabitants, and continues to expand at 4.74 percent a year. But the city faces serious resource shortages. By 2050, the city will need six times the amount of water it currently uses in order to quench the thirst of its inhabitants. Read More »



How I Know I Love My Wife

A year ago, my wife said to me, “I need you to do me a favor.” I knew that was bad news. A charity she is heavily involved with, Half the Sky, was planning an event in Chicago and she had volunteered me to be the speaker.

In principle, this was no big deal. I speak in front of groups all the time. I can talk about Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, and my academic research in my sleep.

I knew immediately, however, that this speech would be completely different. Although I often tell stories about myself and my life, they are never stories about emotions. I am one of the most closed off people you’ll ever find when it comes to emotional topics. I have never learned, or really even tried to learn how to express emotions. I’m not proud of this, it just is the truth.

There was no way, however, that I could speak at a Half the Sky event without opening up my emotions. Half the Sky is an amazing charity – perhaps one of the world’s best – doing incredible work with Chinese orphanages. The only events that ever fully penetrated my emotional wall were the death of my son Andrew and the subsequent, deeply moving process of adopting a daughter (eventually two daughters) from China. More than a decade later, the emotions associated with these two events remain shockingly raw, hiding just below the surface. Read More »



Tiger vs. Dragon: A Demographic Comparison of India and China

One of the biggest story lines of the 21st century is going to be the continued economic rise of China and India. According to the World Bank, both countries grew at a rate of 9.1% in 2009. Here’s a chart of their growth since the 1960s:

While their recent growth has been roughly similar, China and India also boast the two largest populations on the planet. But a new study by RAND shows the giants heading down different demographic paths. From the abstract:

Demographic contrasts between China and India will become more pronounced in the coming decades, and these differences hold implications for the countries’ relative economic prospects. China’s population is larger than India’s, but India’s population is expected to surpass China’s by 2025. China’s population is older than India’s and beginning to age rapidly, which may constrain economic growth, whereas an increasing percentage of India’s population will consist of working-age people through 2030, giving India an important demographic advantage. How much these demographic changes affect economic growth will depend on several other factors, including the infrastructure, education system, and health care systems in each country and how well each country integrates women into its workforce.

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China’s Suicide Rate Among the Highest in the World

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Timely, since our latest podcast is “The Paradox of Suicide.” It focuses on the specter of suicide and how, strangely, it tends to be more prevalent in rich societies than in poor ones.

One country not mentioned in the podcast is China, where suicide is definitely a cultural problem. Yesterday, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that China’s official suicide rate is among the highest in the world. It’s so high, that someone tries to kill themselves every two minutes. Roughly 287,000 people commit suicide each year, out of a population of 1.3 billion. From the AFP: Read More »



Another U.S. Solar Firm Goes Bust

Two weeks ago, Steve Sexton wrote about the bankruptcy of Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts. Today it’s California’s Solyndra that’s shutting down.

From the Washington Post:

The unexpected announcement raised questions about whether taxpayers would be responsible for the entire $535 million in loans that the company used to build a Silicon Valley factory. The wisdom of loan guarantees granted to the company by the Obama administration had already been questioned by government auditors and been the target of a subpoena from House Republicans.

The start-up venture has long been an administration favorite, and its Fremont, Calif., factory received visits from both the president and Energy Secretary Steve Chu. Both used their visits to praise the company for creating jobs and leading the way into a new economy fueled by green energy businesses.

Read More »



Why Are Rhino Horns Twice as Valuable as Gold?

The price of gold has hit all-time highs recently, touching $1,800 an ounce as the stock market swooned last Wednesday. But there’s another commodity that’s enjoying an even bigger bull market these days: rhino horns. According to a recent study by Kenya-based ivory expert Esmond Martin, and his colleague Lucy Vigne, the ivory trade is hotter than ever, fueled by booming demand in China, where it is coveted for its supposed medicinal purposes. The study found that the number of ivory items on sale in southern China has more than doubled since 2004. And most of it is traded illegally. Read More »



The Boss Effect: Study Shows Chinese Recognize Their Boss’s Face Before Their Own

A small study published in the journal PLoS One, titled “Who’s Afraid of the Boss,” reveals key cultural differences in the way people react to their superiors. The study notes a particularly stark difference between Chinese and Americans. Researchers in both countries showed subjects a rapid series of photographs, asking them to press a button either when they recognized themselves or their boss. The abstract states:

Human adults typically respond faster to their own face than to the faces of others. However, in Chinese participants, this self-face advantage is lost in the presence of one’s supervisor, and they respond faster to their supervisor’s face than to their own.

Americans, on the other hand, are predictably different in light of a cultural emphasis on independence rather than collectivism. Read More »