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Obama and Hu aim to agree greenhouse gas targets

Jonathan Watts and Tania Branigan in Beijing, the Guardian
The US and China, the world’s two biggest polluters, today said they aimed to set targets for easing greenhouse gas emissions next month, potentially breathing new life into the flagging Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Days after the US president, Barack Obama, said time to secure a legally binding agreement had run out, he and the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, agreed at a summit that they would continue to press for a comprehensive deal at Copenhagen that would “rally the world”.

“Our aim there, in support of what the prime minister [Lars L√łkke] Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations and one that has immediate operational effect,” Obama said after holding talks with Hu in Beijing.

In a joint communique, the leaders said an accord in Denmark should include emission reduction targets for rich nations and a declaration of action plans to ease greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

Countering concerns that a non-legal deal could evade many key issues, the communique said the climate talks should also increase financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, help poor communities to adapt and enhance forest protection….
(17 Nov 2009)

China’s empty city
Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera
China’s economy is continuing to grow despite the global recession, helped by a massive government stimulus package of $585bn.

But doubts remain whether such strong growth can be sustained by public spending alone.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports from Inner Mongolia, where a whole town built with government money is standing empty.
(10 Nov 2009)
related: Is China headed toward collapse?

China’s Blunt Talk for Obama

Jonathan Weisman, Aaron Back and Andrew Browne, Wall Street Journal
China’s top banking regulator issued a sharp critique of U.S. financial management only hours before President Barack Obama commenced his first visit to the Asian giant, highlighting economic and trade tensions that threaten to overshadow the trip.

Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said that a weak U.S. dollar and low U.S. interest rates had led to “massive speculation” that was inflating asset bubbles around the world. It has created “unavoidable risks for the recovery of the global economy, especially emerging economies,” Mr. Liu said. The situation is “seriously impacting global asset prices and encouraging speculation in stock and property markets.”

Early Monday, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce added further criticism of the Obama administration, targeting recent measures by Washington against Chinese exports. “We’ve always known the U.S. and the West as free market economies. But now we’re seeing a protectionist side,” the spokesman, Yao Jian, told a monthly press briefing. Mr. Yao also rejected criticism of China’s currency policy, saying the yuan’s exchange rate has little to do with trade imbalances with the U.S. and that China should keep the exchange rate stable.

The Chinese comments signaled that Mr. Obama — on the third leg of a four-country Asian tour — can expect blunt talk from Chinese leaders on the economy. The issue could complicate his broad agenda in China that also includes efforts to extract new commitments on climate change and to encourage them to take a more active role to defuse nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea…
(16 Nov 2009)

Market cornered for rare minerals

The Standard
As resource-hungry China scours the world for crude oil and natural gas supplies, it has managed to corner the global market for a group of obscure metals used to make iPods, wind farms and electric cars.

The mainland supplies at least 95 percent of the world’s rare earths – 17 chemical elements with names such as praseodymium and yttrium – essential for a wide range of high-tech devices and green technologies.

China, which has long recognized the value of these metals, is tightly controlling the supply of these vital natural resources.

“China’s goal is to create jobs in China and create goods in China,” said Jack Lifton, a US- based independent rare earths analyst.

“We need to start producing these metals [in the United States] as we did in the past. If we don’t do that, China will be the only country manufacturing devices using rare earths by the year 2015.”…
(16 Nov 2009)

Chinese credit card debt mounts
The world economy is placing a bet on its future with China, but some Chinese are placing bets on their future with plastic.

In rebalancing the world economy, analysts have said U.S. citizens should take cues from the Chinese, where 40 cents of every dollar of disposable income is saved, compared to 3 cents of every dollar in the U.S.

But there are worrying signs in China that some young consumers are starting to emulate the worst habits of U.S. consumers — like 27-year-old Yuan Shuai in Beijing, whose credit card bets on his future have turned into overwhelming debts. In the last two years, he got seven cards from seven banks and wracked up $29,000 in debts.

“I spent money on eating and having fun,” he said. “That’s all.”

Unemployed and studying to be a taxi driver, Yuan now has debt collectors from banks turning to his father, Yuan Yizhong, for bill payment. “The banks told me they could lend to him because he’s an adult,” his father says. “Now they hold me responsible and threatened me.”…
(11 Nov 2009)