Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

Posts Tagged ‘China’

January 8, 2014

“An absolute wake-up call” for US education

According to the recent PISA study of educational accomplishment, 10th grade students in China are 2 1/2 years ahead of their American counterparts. Two and a half years, for chrissakes! This and other shortcomings of our K-12 system are explored on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS segment entitled “An absolute wake-up call for America.”

Fareed’s panel included the Superintendent of the NY City schools system, the founder of Teach for America, and Sal Khan of the Khan Academy.  A few of the major differences they noted between school systems that are at the top of the list (Germany and Finland along with China) and ours. The top-performers:

  • Place high societal respect and provide competitive compensation for the teaching profession
  • Furnish ample resources for teacher training
  • Are open to adopting the best practices from other countries
  • Foster active parental involvement
  • Have no school-based sports programming, spending the time instead on academics.

These “best practices” would be great enhancements to the US system, difficult but not impossible to achieve over a generation (though the elimination of school sports would most likely be dead on arrival as a suggestion).

But to me the most telling and readily actionable difference the panel discussed was that students in China attend school an average 50 days a year longer than their American counterparts. Over ten years, that is 500 days, or curiously enough about 2 1/2 years. Our kids just don’t spend enough time in class and a simple fix thus might be to start gradually extending the K-12 school year.

We continue to work off an educational calendar based on the needs of our agricultural economy during the 19th century. Overhaul is way past overdue and our failure to invest in and to modernize K-12 educational delivery to meet the needs of the 21st century is jeopardizing our children’s economic futures.


August 31, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words



A remarkable visual from the equally remarkable “40 Maps…” demonstrates the shift of economic power and wealth eastward, a trend that began in 1950 reversing 2000 years of movement to the west.

June 22, 2012

A Quirky Look at the World’s Economic History

While the time scale is not equal, with the first 1000 years occupying the same amount of X-axis space as the most recent 8 years of history, this one chart conveys a remarkable amount of information. What mostly astonished me was that global economic output until 1700 was dominated totally by two nations, China and India. If the time scale were treated equally, the era of the rise of the US (green area beginning in 1700) would occupy only a small sliver of the right hand end of the chart.

Chart by Micahel Cembalest of JP Morgan.  h/t Donald Marron

June 14, 2012

China Turns

Historically, China’s reserves have been managed very conservatively with the bulk invested in US Treasury securities …  and other highly-rated debt. Now that is changing. The Chinese government “thinks there is no sense in putting money in Treasuries or European government bonds, and financing western deficits” says one former Hong Kong financial official.

Money flowing out of China, through its state-financed investment arms, is becoming China’s largest export according to the article quoted above in the Financial Times.  Says Gerald Lyons, Standard Chartered’s chief economist,

We are going from made in China to bought by China.

UPDATE:  Barry Ritholz points to this from the Economist, claiming that a majority of the world’s nations already believe that China is the most important economy in the world. Perception, while perhaps not everything, plays a critical role in decision-making, for nations as well as individuals.


April 18, 2012

The Ka-Ching Dynasty!

Wealth accumulation in today’s China in this YouTube video. Aside from the striking ostentation of their great new wealth, what strikes me most forcefully was the abundant ambition amongst the business entrepreneurs.

March 20, 2012

The Apple Factory – a Retraction

In a March 3 post, I discussed in some detail a This American Life podcast entitled “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”  This podcast, criticizing what were presented as widespread worker abuses at Apple manufacturing plans in China, has been withdrawn for what appears to be serious factual errors.  My March 3 blog post has been taken down.  This American Life posts a retraction of the original story here.

November 8, 2011

China investment like 19th century US railroads?

Dr. Faber pointed to virtually all U.S. canal and railroad companies going bust in the 19th century, ruining many a foreign investor but leaving North America with an enviable set of infrastructure. He said the Chinese don’t issue shares in companies to “enrich foreigners” but to “impoverish foreigners.” If a foreigner wants to make money in China, Faber said, they should go work there.

The WSJ blog quoting Marc Faber

September 8, 2011

Most important words of past decade not ‘war on terror’ but ‘made in China’

On the morning of September 11, 2001, America’s prospects appeared as bright as the clear blue sky over Lower Manhattan. The price of Brent crude oil was $28 a barrel, the Federal government was running a budget surplus, the US economy was turning (albeit imperceptibly) after the dotcom crash. The most powerful nation on earth was at peace.

Ten years on, the oil price hovers around $115 a barrel, the US is projected to run a budget deficit for 2011 of $1,580bn, the largest in its history; the economy remains deeply troubled after the financial crash of 2008; and America’s military and intelligence services remain at war, battling insurgency and radical Islamic terrorism, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Niger and Yemen.

From the Financial Times’ “The end of US hegemony”.  In a sweeping and quite cogent analysis, the author traces the political and economic events of the first decade of the 21st century as regards the diminishing power of the US. Well worth a read, the article concludes,

Gerard Lyons, chief economist of Standard Chartered Bank, says the three most important words in the past decade were not “war on terror” but “made in China”. On present trends, he adds, the three most important words of this decade will be “owned by China”.

September 7, 2011

Country Driving

I read four entire books during my August getaway. Perhaps the most interesting was Country Driving, the story of one journalist’s exploration of today’s China. Chapter Three – “The Factory” – tracks the genesis and growth of a brand new development zone – from rural to urban in five years. It is a view I don’t think many Americans have of this country that is expected to build more than 100 new cities of at least 500K population in the next 10 years.

I can also say that I found Barnes and Noble’s Nook an excellent substitute for reading print books while on vacation.

August 30, 2011

Signs of our changing world

A Chinese tycoon plans to buy a vast tract of Icelandic land for a $100m tourism project which critics fear could give Beijing a strategic foothold in the North Atlantic. Huang Nubo, a real estate investor and former Chinese government official, has struck a provisional deal to acquire 300 square kilometres of wilderness in north-east Iceland where he plans to build an eco-tourism resort and golf course.

Opponents have questioned why such a large amount of land – equal to about 0.3 per cent of Iceland’s total area – is needed to build a hotel. They warned that the project could provide cover for China’s geopolitical interests in the Atlantic island nation and Nato member.

From the Financial Times.

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