From Volume 38, Issue 6 of EIR Online, Published Feb. 11, 2011
Asia News Digest

Poverty, Caste System Cause of India's Low Productivity

Feb. 2 (EIRNS)—Recent reports indicate that China's labor productivity is surging and is now two or three times that of India. One Indian economist pointed out that, in 1996, India's average productivity for organized labor was higher than China's (Economist Intelligence Unit figures). In 1998, China drew level.

There is no doubt that, during the last ten years, China's productivity rose sharply because Beijing built the infrastructure necessary for growth of labor productivity. That did not happen in India. India's infrastructure lies in tatters, and its GDP growth has centered around the service sector, and a manufacturing sector that cannibalized the existing weak infrastructure. The Manmohan Singh government has not been able to solve any of India's major infrastructure issues: high-speed rail, power, or water.

One principal reason that New Delhi has not focused its attention to develop the infrastructure that could provide power, water, high-speed rail transportation, and education to hundreds of millions of Indians, is that these hundreds of millions are poor, unskilled, and any large-scale investment on them would not raise the growth rate in the short term. It also so happens that the majority of the poor, if not all, do not belong to the upper rung of the Hindu caste system. In other words, the Singh government's clinging to the caste system, and disdain for poor agricultural labor, has perpetuated this low labor productivity.

China To Build Vital Water Projects Over Next Decade

Feb. 1 (EIRNS)—China will invest 4 trillion yuan ($608 billion) in essential water-conservation projects over the next decade, the State Council Information office announced on Jan. 30. The policy is included as a national priority, in the Communist Party's first official (No. 1) document of 2011. This level of investment will double China's average annual spending on water conservation during the next ten years. State enterprises as well as the government will provide some of the investment. This is the first time the No. 1 Document has focused on water conservation. "Floods and drought in recent years have exposed weaknesses in water conservancy infrastructure," the document said. These crises include severe drought in north and southwest China and severe flooding in many areas in 2010. A primary focus will be expanding farmland irrigation, and 10% of local land-transfer revenues will go to expanding irrigated areas.

China will also build effective flood-control and drought-relief systems by the end of 2020, and projects to harness important medium- and small-sized rivers will be completed during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15). All rural areas will have safe drinking water by 2015, and the water situation in western areas, in particular, will improve. Beijing also will try to hold annual water consumption at below 670 billion cubic meters until 2015, an effort which will require much improvement in national infrastructure to eliminate waste.

The country has a serious water shortage: Per-capita water resources are only 2,700 cubic meters a year, just 25% of the world average. The U.S. has over 10,000 cubic meters per person.

A commentary published in the China Daily today, describes neglect of this vital area, especially in the 1980s-90s, which now must be addressed. "About one third of the irrigation facilities for the 53.33 million hectares of irrigated farmland in China have already deteriorated after years of neglect," China Daily quoted Feng Guangzhi, chairman of the China Irrigation Districts Association. "With nearly no input from the central and local governments, the 1980s can be regarded as the low point for agricultural water conservancy in China. It was only in the early 1990s that the central government started constructing farmland irrigation systems again." The China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research reported that investment in water facilities accounted for barely more than 0.4% of GDP, on average, from 2007-09; this amount has to be doubled, the Institute said. The just-announced increase in investment was made after the first drop in the summer grain output in six years, especially as a result of drought.

China Launches Thorium-Fueled Nuclear System

Feb. 3 (EIRNS)—The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) officially launched its project for "the future of advanced nuclear fission energy—the thorium-based molten salt reactor system," at a conference in Shanghai on Jan. 25, reported Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong-based newspaper. The goal of the project is to develop a thorium-cycle-based nuclear energy system in about 20 years. Wen Wei Po quoted CAS Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics researcher Xu Hongjie saying that nuclear is China's future energy pillar, since fossil fuels are being depleted, solar and wind energy are not stable enough, and hydropower development is already over the limit. Nuclear will provide high energy-density, low-carbon emissions, and the potential for sustainable development, Xu said.

The current nuclear fuel, uranium-235, is relatively rare and will eventually be depleted; therefore, Xu said, "We need a better stove that can burn more fuel." China has very large energy needs, but it has sufficient thorium resources (in Inner Mongolia), and if thorium is used for nuclear energy, China will not have to worry about energy security, he said.

China will develop molten salt reactors for the thorium cycle, Xu said. Among the advantages of using thorium, in addition to the much greater abundance of the fuel, is that these reactors can be small and therefore economically adaptable, and they produce very little waste.

China's new program is the largest national thorium-MSR initiative to date. The United States was at the forefront of this technology in the 1950s, developing the first Molten-Salt Breeder prototype at Oak Ridge in 1950, with an operational reactor running from 1965 to 1969, but the project was eventually abandoned. Six heavy-water thorium reactors are planned in India, which has the world's largest thorium deposits.

According to the Wired Science website, the Chinese thorium program is led by Jiang Mianheng, son of former President Jiang Zemin and a vice president of the CAS. Jiang led a Chinese delegation to Oak Ridge last Autumn, where the Chinese thorium plan was discussed.

China To Have Maglev Vacuum Tube Train in Two or Three Years

Jan. 30 (EIRNS)—China has an ongoing project for a magnetically levitated high-speed train to run in a partially evacuated tube, according to today's People's Daily. The Southwest Jiaotong University in China's Sichuan Province is endeavoring to develop the vacuum tube high-speed train with a speed of 375 to 620 mph, and is expected to release the train model in the next two to three years, according to Voice of China, China's national radio, today.

People's Daily explains, "In order to build the higher speed train, scientists proposed a new vacuum tube technology. Its principle is to build up an isolated vacuum tube separated from the outside air to run the maglev train in it. The vacuum maglev train is then capable of running in a higher speed without wheel track friction and with much lower air resistance."

The report states that this technology is expected to be widely adopted around 2030, when the travel time between Beijing and Guangzhou is expected to be cut to as little as 2.5 hours to run the 1,430-mile distance.

Lyndon LaRouche has, on a number of recent occasions, spoken about the desirability of moving to this type of transportation technology.

Military Clash on Thai-Cambodian Border

Feb. 4 (EIRNS)—A serious clash between Thai and Cambodian military forces occurred near the disputed Preah Vihear temple World Heritage site, as yet another explosion point in the global breakdown crisis. Reports indicate that artillery and tanks were deployed, and some causalities were incurred on both sides, although there are no firm numbers.

The immediate events leading to the clash are not clear, but the larger picture is very sharp. Thailand's fascist "Yellow Shirt" grouping, answering directly to the royal houses of Thailand and London in bringing down previous Thai governments, is attempting to build a chauvinistic frenzy within Thailand over the government's supposed weakness toward neighboring Cambodia—a disputed 4.6 square kilometers of territory. The imperial target is the cooperation of the Thai and Cambodian governments, which have both been working closely with China on high-speed rail and water projects to integrate Southeast Asian economies with their biggest customer to the North.

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