Friday, April 03, 2009

The G-20 and the Future of Capitalism – Part III

In the third part of our series on the G-20 and the Future of Capitalism, Berkeley economics professor Pranab Bardhan suggests perhaps much to the chagrin of its naysayers, capitalism is here to stay. But chastened by the crisis, it is likely to take on a much milder form. Financial asset growth will slow; producers rather than traders will resume precedence; and financial regulation will increase, though only marginally. What will remain unchanged are the advances of technology and the bargaining power of capital over labor. Being more mobile – and hence better able to exploit global opportunities – capital retains the credible threat of withdrawal. But protectionism is likely to abate as all members of the supply chain realize how long that chain is and how it is in their self-interest not to let it be broken. Social protection could improve as a form of competitive advantage, potentially resolving the battle between technology and demography. China and India, which, he maintains, are wrongly trumpeted as export nations in the press, will maintain their growth at albeit lower levels precisely because such growth has been fueled domestically. In the end, capitalism remains surprisingly resilient despite its sullied reputation. And that resilience should allow capitalism to persevere provided government’s visible hand tames its excesses. – YaleGlobal

The G-20 and the Future of Capitalism – Part III

For all its inequity, instability and immorality, a chastened capitalism is here to stay

Capital test: Demonstrators in London know where the blame lies and they will have none of it

BERKELEY: As the signs of a deep global recession proliferate, the tone of public commentators and editorial writers on the state of global capitalism is turning apocalyptic. As some question, are we witnessing the end of capitalism as we knew it?

The speed and depth of the damage done in terms of loss of capital value, homes, and jobs as well as the magnitude of capital infusions and government stimuli boggles the mind. Some bemoan the possible demise of a system that in the last few decades produced unprecedented amounts of wealth and lifted many out of poverty in the far corners of the world. Others feel vindicated that after many years, their dire warnings of the risks associated with global capital concentrated in a few hands rang true. These dissenting voices hope that an alternative system, more just and less unstable and community-disrupting, will rise from the ashes.

While the search for such an alternative system that can combine justice and stability with sustained incentives for innovation and respect for individual human rights has eluded mankind for the better part of the last two centuries, one may be on firmer ground in predicting the emergence of only a somewhat modified form of global capitalism in the years to come. My crystal ball is just as cloudy as anybody else’s: No one knows if it will be a “lost decade” or a lost couple of years, but looking beyond the current storm in at least the medium run, certain features of change and in some cases lack of much change are likely to draw attention.

Many people believe that the explosive growth of financial capitalism, way ahead of the real economy – global financial assets were more than three times the value of world output in recent years – will be somewhat tamed now. In the constant search of leverage and undervaluation, the introduction of a whole range of complex financial products and investment vehicles that enhanced the opacity of risk packages in the name of financial innovation will be slowed. There is a general outcry that for too many years the system has been hijacked by an overweening financial oligarchy that got away with compliant monetary policy, lax credit standards and crony credit-rating agencies. It is likely that there will now be a discernible movement back to producers from traders and arbitrageurs.

Despite widespread calls for greater international financial regulation, I do not, however, expect more than marginal tinkering, except some enhancement of resources at the disposal of the International Monetary Fund, some minor coordination in the case of banks owning foreign assets and some mild harmonization of taxes. Most regulatory tightening is likely to be at the national level. At that level, the national diversity in the balance of power between industrial and financial capital, between management and large shareholders, and that between capital and labor will shape the variations in regulation.

The ramifications of the spectacular technological advance in communications and 24-hour trading in the financial world will linger; but most policymakers, not just the “born-again Keyenesians,” will be wary in assuming that the market is sufficiently self-correcting in coping with those ramifications.

After the current panicky withdrawals of international capital subside, the basic asymmetry in international flows of capital and labor will persist – with substantially more constraints, cultural as well as legal, on labor. Hence, capital’s threat of exit will remain more credible. This asymmetry will continue to weaken the bargaining power of labor, notwithstanding the muscle-flexing by American trade unions under a more friendly administration in Washington or the street demonstrations in Paris. The conflicting interests of skilled and unskilled workers will continue to weaken the union movement, whereas the recession may actually bring about more consolidation of capital, strengthening it further. The labor share in national income in most countries may not thus show much improvement, and this will particularly be the case if the nature of technological progress continues to be skill-biased.

As in all deep recessions the pressure for economic nationalism and trade protection will mount, but compared to the past it cannot go very far now: In the global production process with a long and complex international supply chain, there is no truly indigenous product left to protect, and with components coming from all over the world labels like “made in USA” have lost much of their meaning. Even unskilled workers may soon see that protectionism is like shooting oneself in the foot – if you restrict free trade, you may no longer have the components and materials on which to ply your own trade.

However, the demands for social protection of workers will strengthen, backed in many cases by domestic business interests competing with businesses in other countries that have more state-funded worker protection. We already see this happening in the changing support base for universal health care. The main structural constraint on the increased provision of social protection will be the battle of demography against technology – the ever-growing needs of an aging population against the surplus generated from the innovation capabilities of the young.

Capitalism (not necessarily in its Anglo-American form) will keep on thriving in China and India, though at a less frenzied pace in the immediate future. In any case, contrary to repeated assertions in the financial press, much of their high growth in the last quarter century has been driven by mainly domestic factors. Even at the height of global expansion of trade in the period 2002-07, the increase in net exports contributed only about 15 percent of total real GDP growth in China in that period. Over the last year Chinese exports have fallen from their dizzying heights, and this has caused sizeable job losses in some coastal provinces. But much of the exports from China, as well as India, involve processing of imported materials, and so the net loss in value added is not as large as the gross export figures suggest; in value added terms the high Chinese export to GDP ratio in recent years was about half of the usually reported gross ratio.

Also, the jobs in the export sector have been relatively small in terms of the total size of the labor force in both countries, more so in China than in India. China also has lot more financial resources to boost consumer demand in the short run and strengthen the social safety net for workers and peasants in the long run. The near-universal healthcare announced as part of the stimulus program, if implemented, will serve both of these goals. High savings in both China and India, not just their stringent regulations and government ownership of banks, have given them relative insulation from external financial contagion.

Smaller developing countries, more dependent on exports, foreign capital and remittances, will suffer much more. There may be increased political instability in some of these countries, as has been the case in earlier large macroeconomic shocks, but this will not make much of a dent in the global capitalist system.

Over more than a century, capitalism, with all its inequity, instability and immorality, has shown a remarkable resilience. Such resilience is likely to continue, but only if politics at the national level can tame capitalism’s excesses and mobilize its surplus to strengthen social protection.

Pranab Bardhan is professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-chair of the Network on the Effects of Inequality on Economic Performance, funded by the MacArthur Foundation. He was the editor of the “Journal of Development Economics” for many years.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Studie: Kurzfristige Lageroptimierung hat Priorität

Studie: Kurzfristige Lageroptimierung hat Priorität

Berlin. Zwei von drei Supply Chain Managern sehen ihre Arbeit zurzeit am stärksten durch die Wirtschaftskrise beeinflusst – weit mehr als etwa durch die Kundenanforderungen (46 Prozent) oder das Streben nach Nachhaltigkeit (37 Prozent). Dies hat eine internationale Studie des Beratungsunternehmens Capgemini Consulting zur aktuellen Situation im Supply Chain Management (SCM) ergeben, für die 300 Unternehmen befragt wurden.

„Die Gesamtzahl der für 2009 geplanten SCM-Projekte ist durch die Krise zwar nicht reduziert worden,“ erklärt Martin Raab, Leiter SCM bei Capgemini Consulting, „doch sind Veränderungen in der Zielsetzung erkennbar.“ So konzentrieren sich die Verantwortlichen seit Beginn der Krise wieder stärker auf Projekte, die schnelle Einsparungen oder Vertragsverbesserungen mit sich bringen. Die Top-10 der aktuellen SCM-Projekte werden durch Maßnahmen zur Optimierung des Lagerbestands (48 Prozent) angeführt, dicht gefolgt von strategischen SCM-Projekten (45 Prozent) und von Projekten zur Verbesserung der Langzeitprognose und -planung (44 Prozent).

„Die Studie macht aber deutlich“, so Raab, „dass der kurzfristige Erfolg, etwa durch Lageroptimierung oder Vertragsnachverhandlung, für die Manager Vorrang hat vor SCM-Projekten mit Langzeitwirkung“. Mit einem Minus von 14 Prozentpunkten sind zum Beispiel strategische SCM-Projekte ein klarer Verlierer der Krise. Diese Reaktion der SCM-Verantwortlichen ist für Martin Raab zwar wenig überraschend, aber sie birgt nach seiner Überzeugung ein beträchtliches Risiko: „Gerade jetzt muss Kostensenkung mit Innovation und Optimierung von Prozessen einhergehen. Nur so lassen sich Wettbewerbsvorteile schaffen, die nach der Rezession sofort genutzt werden können.“ (sv)

Duisburger Hafen erzielt Rekordumsatz

Duisburger Hafen erzielt Rekordumsatz

Duisburg. Der Duisburger Hafen hat das Geschäftsjahr 2008 mit einem Rekordumsatz von 139 Millionen Euro abgeschlossen. Im größten europäischen Binnenhafen wurden mit 54,5 Millionen Tonnen knapp weniger Güter umgeschlagen als im Vorjahr (55,1 Millionen).

Während der Umsatz um neun Prozent stieg, kletterte das Vorsteuerergebnis von 7,4 auf 8,8 Millionen Euro. Insgesamt investierte die Duisport-Gruppe 48 Millionen Euro. Schwerpunkte waren der weitere Ausbau der Hafen- und Schieneninfrastruktur.

Hafenchef Erich Staake äußerte sich zufrieden mit der Entwicklung. Trotz des zunehmend schwierigeren wirtschaftlichen Umfeldes sei es gelungen, das herausragende Ergebnis des Vorjahres auszubauen, sagte Staake am heutigen Donnerstag in Duisburg.

Wichtigste Gütergruppe im Schiffs- und Bahnumschlag war der Containerverkehr. „In den vergangenen sieben Jahren sind wir im Kombinierten Bahnverkehr jedes Jahr deutlich zweistellig gewachsen“, sagte Staake. Im Kombinierten Verkehr von Schiff und Bahn wurden neue Verbindungen aufgebaut. Neben der Erweiterung bereits eingerichteter Bahnshuttle-Verbindungen wie des Ost-Westfalen-Xpress (OWX) trage der neueingerichtete Glückauf-Express zu einer weiteren Vernetzung des Ruhrgebietes bei. Er verbindet die Häfen Duisburg und Dortmund mit Zwischenstopp in Gelsenkirchen. (dpa/sv

China's role at G20

China Vies to Be World’s Leader in Electric Cars

April 2, 2009

China Vies to Be World’s Leader in Electric Cars

TIANJIN, China — Chinese leaders have adopted a plan aimed at turning the country into one of the leading producers of hybrid and all-electric vehicles within three years, and making it the world leader in electric cars and buses after that.

The goal, which radiates from the very top of the Chinese government, suggests that Detroit’s Big Three, already struggling to stay alive, will face even stiffer foreign competition on the next field of automotive technology than they do today.

“China is well positioned to lead in this,” said David Tulauskas, director of China government policy at General Motors.

To some extent, China is making a virtue of a liability. It is behind the United States, Japan and other countries when it comes to making gas-powered vehicles, but by skipping the current technology, China hopes to get a jump on the next.

Japan is the market leader in hybrids today, which run on both electricity and gasoline, with cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. The United States has been a laggard in alternative vehicles. G.M.’s plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt is scheduled to go on sale next year, and will be assembled in Michigan using rechargeable batteries imported from LG in South Korea.

China’s intention, in addition to creating a world-leading industry that will produce jobs and exports, is to reduce urban pollution and decrease its dependence on oil, which comes from the Mideast and travels over sea routes controlled by the United States Navy.

But electric vehicles may do little to clear the country’s smog-darkened sky or curb its rapidly rising emissions of global warming gases. China gets three-fourths of its electricity from coal, which produces more soot and more greenhouse gases than other fuels.

A report by McKinsey & Company last autumn estimated that replacing a gasoline-powered car with a similar-size electric car in China would reduce greenhouse emissions by only 19 percent. It would reduce urban pollution, however, by shifting the source of smog from car exhaust pipes to power plants, which are often located outside cities.

Beyond manufacturing, subsidies of up to $8,800 are being offered to taxi fleets and local government agencies in 13 Chinese cities for each hybrid or all-electric vehicle they purchase. The state electricity grid has been ordered to set up electric car charging stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Government research subsidies for electric car designs are increasing rapidly. And an interagency panel is planning tax credits for consumers who buy alternative energy vehicles.

China wants to raise its annual production capacity to 500,000 hybrid or all-electric cars and buses by the end of 2011, from 2,100 last year, government officials and Chinese auto executives said. By comparison, CSM Worldwide, a consulting firm that does forecasts for automakers, predicts that Japan and South Korea together will be producing 1.1 million hybrid or all-electric light vehicles by then and North America will be making 267,000.

The United States Department of Energy has its own $25 billion program to develop electric-powered cars and improve battery technology, and will receive another $2 billion for battery development as part of the economic stimulus program enacted by Congress.

Premier Wen Jiabao highlighted the importance of electric cars two years ago with his unlikely choice to become minister of science and technology: Wan Gang, a Shanghai-born former Audi auto engineer in Germany who later became the chief scientist for the Chinese government’s research panel on electric vehicles.

Mr. Wan is the first minister in at least three decades who is not a member of the Communist Party.

And Premier Wen has his own connection to the electric car industry. He was born and grew up here in Tianjin, the longtime capital of China’s battery industry, 70 miles southeast of Beijing.

Tianjin has thrived in the six years since Mr. Wen became premier. It now has China’s first bullet train service (to Beijing), a new Airbus factory and an immaculate new airport. Tianjin has also received a surge of research subsidies for enterprises like the Tianjin-Qingyuan Electric Vehicle Company.

Electric cars have several practical advantages in China. Intercity driving is rare. Commutes are fairly short and frequently at low speeds because of traffic jams. So the limitations of all-electric cars — the latest models in China have a top speed of 60 miles an hour and a range of 120 miles between charges — are less of a problem.

First-time car buyers also make up four-fifths of the Chinese market, and these buyers have not yet grown accustomed to the greater power and range of gasoline-powered cars.

But the electric car industry faces several obstacles here too. Most urban Chinese live in apartments, and cannot install recharging devices in driveways, so more public charging centers need to be set up.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries also have a poor reputation in China. Counterfeit lithium-ion batteries in cellphones occasionally explode, causing injuries. And Sony had to recall genuine lithium-ion batteries in laptops in 2006 and 2008 after some overheated and caught fire or exploded.

These safety problems have been associated with lithium-ion cobalt batteries, however, not the more chemically stable lithium-ion phosphate batteries now being adapted to automotive use.

The tougher challenge is that all lithium-ion batteries are expensive, whether made with cobalt or phosphate. That will be a hurdle for thrifty Chinese consumers, especially if gas prices stay relatively low compared to their highs last summer.

China is tackling the challenges with the same tools that helped it speed industrialization and put on the Olympics: immense amounts of energy, money and people.

BYD has 5,000 auto engineers and an equal number of battery engineers, most of them living at its headquarters in Shenzhen in a cluster of 15 yellow apartment buildings, each 18 stories high. Young engineers earn less than $600 a month, including benefits.

When Tianjin-Qingyuan puts its entirely battery-powered Saibao midsize sedan on sale this autumn, the body will come from a sedan that normally sells for $14,600 when equipped with a gasoline engine. But the engine and gas tank will be replaced with a $14,000 battery pack and electric motor, said Wu Zhixin, the company’s general manager.

That means the retail price will nearly double, to almost $30,000. Even if the government awards the maximum subsidy of $8,800 to buyers, that is a hefty premium.

Large-scale production could drive down the cost of the battery pack and electric motor by 30 or 40 percent, still leaving electric cars more expensive than gasoline-powered ones, Mr. Wu said.

But Mr. Wu has plenty of money to pursue improvements. He interrupted an interview at his company’s headquarters on Thursday to take a call on his cellphone, politely declined an offer from the caller, and hung up.

The general manager of a state-controlled bank had called to ask if he needed a loan, he explained.

One Number to Rule Them All

Thursday, April 02, 2009

One Number to Rule Them All

Google Voice routes calls from multiple lines, transcribes voice mail, and gives you one phone number for life.

By John Brandon

Message me: Google Voice is a unified messaging service--use one number for all of your phones.
Credit: Google
video Watch a demo of Google Voice on the iPhone.
video See how Google Voice works on G1.

Call it the "one number to rule them all" service. Google Voice, which goes live in a few weeks, is supposed to let friends, relatives, and business contacts find you whether you're at your desk, on a business trip, or vacationing in Peru. Tests carried out over the past few days suggest that, despite a few glitches, it could well live up to this promise.

Users will soon be able to register, sign up for a phone number in a local area code, and add multiple landline and cell-phone numbers to an account. When someone calls a Google Voice phone number, all the registered phones ring at the same time.

The service takes several telephony technologies--voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), voice transcription, and call routing--and connects them to the Web. Other Internet phone services let you play voice-mail messages on a computer or record calls, but Google Voice is a step towards unified communication. It's the voice equivalent of an e-mail address. Once you register a number, the idea is that you never have to worry about which phone you are using, even if you switch offices, homes, or cell phones.

Google Voice doesn't actually host phone calls. Instead, when you make a call, the service calls your own phone, and then dials the number you want. Like other Google services, it taps a vast cluster of computers to offer extra services, such as voice mail and call recording. Because it is entirely IP-based, the service is always "on the line," meaning you can access it at any time, for example, by pressing 4 to record a current call.

"The extra piece of equipment is a VoIP gateway, which interconnects the PSTN [a standard telephone line] and SIP [the digital line] services. I would expect their data centers will have large racks of these," says Rob Enderle, founder of the research company Enderle Group. "Google Voice translates an SIP address into a phone line, converting the digital data stream to an analog stream and then allowing the line to connect."

Time delays, also known as latency, remain a serious problem with VoIP, but if any company can handle tremendous call volumes, expand computer clusters quickly, and reduce latency issues, it is Google.

Google Voice is also largely about unification. No matter which phone you use, there is one portal for all voice-mail messages. You can play them on the Web, save them as MP3 files, and even post a voice-mail message on a website using an HTML embed feature. Conference calls are also easy: just answer an incoming call to add it to the current one.

Options, options: Google Voice users can quickly enable or disable any of their phones.
Credit: Google

Phone number availability is very good, even in remote areas. During Technology Review's test period, there were never any connection problems, even with Google Voice originating calls from Google data centers. Enderle says there may be issues with reliability in the future, noting that Gmail does not have a great reputation for being available at all times.

When a caller leaves a voice mail, Google Voice automatically records and transcribes the message, then sends the transcription to you via e-mail. The transcription service uses technology developed originally for voice search. Enderle notes that the voice-recognition service has a hard time with accents and ambient noise, and does not interpret local vernacular--words not found in the dictionary--accurately. In our tests, most transcriptions were about 50 percent accurate--the service missed common phrases such as "checking in with you" and failed to understand some city names and more-technical words, such as "convergence." The speech-to-text engines employed will likely improve over time. One complaint: you can record incoming calls, but not placed calls. And recorded calls cannot be transcribed--transcription only works for voice mail.

Google Voice lets you send and receive text messages--again, by routing them between existing carriers. You can view a list of every SMS message you have ever sent, which is a highly useful feature. It's easy to review a history of placed, missed, and recorded calls. You can also import contacts from various address books. And you can easily disable one or more phones using a feature called Do Not Disturb.

Google Voice has room for improvement, of course. You can't "daisy chain" phone numbers so that the service tries one number, then another. Security is another potential issue. Recently, hackers showed that a caller could use Google Voice to tap into the services on a cell phone by spoofing the codes used to identify calls and messages sent over the Internet. Sara Jew-Lim, a Google spokesperson, says the company plans to add a default PIN to Google Voice; currently, a PIN is available only as an option.

Overall, Google Voice is worth considering for anyone who wants to view call transactions on the Web, uses multiple phones during the day, or needs to record phone conversations. It's a handy way to unify all voice communication, while trusting that the number you pick today will be yours for years to come.

Implantable Telescope for the Eye

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Implantable Telescope for the Eye

A new device may help restore sight for people with severe macular degeneration.

By Emily Singer

Fighting blindness: A miniature telescope (show above) implanted into the eye improves vision in people with macular degeneration. The four-millimeter-long implant contains two wide-angle glass lenses, which magnify images onto the retina.
Credit: VisionCare

A miniature telescope implanted into the eye could soon help people with vision loss from end-stage macular degeneration. Last week, an advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended that the agency approve the implant. Clinical trials of the device, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, suggest it can improve vision by about three and a half lines on an eye chart.

"This is one of the few options for people with end-stage macular degeneration," says Kathryn Colby, an eye surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, in Boston, who helped develop the surgical procedure used to implant the device.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and older, affecting more than 10 million Americans. The disease strikes the center of the retina, called the macula, which is especially important for reading, watching television, and recognizing faces. While some treatments exist to slow progression of the disease, no treatments are currently available for those in the latest stages of the disease, who have irreversible damage to the macula. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people per year fall into this category.

The implant, developed by VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies, a start-up based in Saratoga, CA, consists of two lenses within a small glass tube. Once inside the eye, it works like a fixed telephoto lens, acting in conjunction with the cornea to project a magnified image of whatever the wearer is looking at over a large part of the retina. Because only the central parts of the retina are damaged in the disease, magnifying the image on the eye allows the retinal cells outside the macula to detect the object and send that information to the brain. (These cells are normally involved in peripheral vision and normally generate low-resolution visual information compared to the macula cells--you can't read a sign in your periphery, for example. But magnifying the image also has the advantage of making it easier for the cells to interpret.)

"This change in vision is significant to patients," says Allen Hill, PCEO of VisionCare. In addition to improving vision, it "provides the ability to have normal eye contact, which is a crucial part of social interaction," says Eli Peli, a scientist at The Schepens Eye Research Institute, who has consulted for the company.

During the implant procedure, surgeons first remove cataracts from the eye. (Because both macular degeneration and cataracts are age related, most patients with end-stage macular degeneration also have cataracts.) They then insert the telescope, which is held in place by the resident tissue.

The device is implanted in only one eye--patients use this eye for detailed vision and the untreated eye for peripheral vision. That takes some getting used to, says Peli. "Instead of using two parts of the same eye, they must switch between two eyes; if they see someone coming but can't tell who it is, they need to switch to other eye."

One safety concern associated with the implant is loss of the endothelial cells that are responsible for keeping the cornea transparent. While cell loss occurs with any eye surgery, implantation of the telescope requires a larger incision than typical cataract surgery and thus destroys more endothelial cells. However, scientists have found that cell loss stabilizes over time. Patients with the implant lose about 3 percent of their endothelial cells per year, compared to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent for patients undergoing traditional cataract surgery. Because endothelial cells replicate, substantial loss of these cells can worsen vision.

The FDA is expected to approve the telescope, as the agency usually follows the advice of its advisory panels. VisionCare plans to market the device following FDA approval, estimated for late 2009. The device has already been approved for use in Europe, though the company plans to launch the product first in the United States.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

China's "Peaceful Ascendancy"

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, some international observers have predicted that China would be the next major counter-balance to US power and the only country with the potential to challenge American hegemony on a global scale. But, Chinese officials are now at pains to deny that they have any ambition to reign supreme again in Asia or destabilize the world economically, politically, or militarily. Veteran China watcher Yoichi Funabashi says that although Beijing does hope to quadruple its GDP by 2020, Chinese scholars and government officials are studying the lessons of history to avoid repeating the mistakes that led the USSR and the US into a protracted, dangerous Cold War. Choosing a path of 'peaceful ascendancy', Funabashi says, China's leaders are trying to wisely steer their country to greatness, not planning to make a brash play for power as some critics fear. Whether the government in Beijing is successful in this venture, however, will depend on how well it is able to manage the sentiments and aspirations of its people. - YaleGlobal

China's "Peaceful Ascendancy"

Despite its new found economic and military muscle, China promises to be a good neighbor and global citizen, not a threat

A booming Shanghai (top); Chinese navy ship visits Pearl Harbor: China assures its emergence is peaceful.

TOKYO: There was a time when Chinese leaders described their country as a poor, developing country. It was no false modesty. But in the past two decades China has witnessed prodigious economic growth, with an increase in its military might and attendant political clout. There is no doubt about "the rise of China", but will it, like many a rising power before, disturb the neighborhood and destabilize the world? Beijing now acknowledges that it is a rising power but says China will pursue a "peaceful ascendancy". The future of peace in Asia will to a large extent hang on that promise.

The rise - or rather reemergence - of China promises to be a historic undertaking comparable to or even greater than that of postwar Japan. Beijing's target is to increase its per capita gross domestic product fourfold by 2020, to attain what it calls a state of "relative comfort" (xiaokang). However, its future outlook on the world and foreign policy is uncertain. In what ways China will rise is also unclear.

In international politics, how a country rises often has more drastic consequences for the world than the rise itself. The speed, velocity, ideology, and most significantly, the impact it has on the international balance of power, cause other countries to harbor suspicion, caution, jealousy, and fear, and trigger antipathy among other reactions. The way Germany in the late 19th century and Japan at the beginning of the 20th century made remarkable advances sparked considerable reactions from established powers.

"The rise of China" could also trigger all of the above. Many things in China are regarded as potential forces that could change the status quo and provoke anxiety: the size of its population; low wages; the "great leap forward" in economic growth; environmental destruction; Beijing's insistence on maintaining a one-party system; exclusionary nationalism; and eventual confrontation with the United States.

However, I recently took part in an international conference alongside several Chinese diplomats and researchers and learned that China itself is more aware of these dangers than anyone else. A researcher at a Beijing-based government-affiliated think tank commented: "China aims to grow and advance without upsetting existing orders. We are trying to rise in a way that benefits our neighbors." I was also told that China is pursuing a process of "peaceful ascendancy" (heping jueqi).

As for US relations, China has been faithfully following Deng Xiaoping's advice to Jiang Zemin to "never act haughtily". For now, China is concentrating on domestic economic construction and refraining from projecting its power externally. However, this is because it is still in the development phase. The question is, once it surpasses a state of "relative comfort", will it become "haughty"?

The concept of "peaceful ascendancy" appears to imply a long-term strategy. A member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said: "How did historic empires and major powers rise and what reactions did they trigger? What should we do so as not to cause excessive wariness? This is what we are currently studying internally".

A researcher at an influential Chinese think tank responded: "We are studying the origin of the US-Soviet Cold War. Why did it happen? Was there no way to prevent it? Some see that a US-China cold war is inevitable, but what can we do to prevent it?"

In addition to containing the "China threat" theory popular in some US political circles, it appears China's "peaceful ascendancy" concept is also aimed at laying the groundwork for its "major power diplomacy", as can be seen in the hosting of the six-party talks over the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.

The November-December issue of Foreign Affairs magazine contains an article by Evan S. Medeiros and M. Taylor Fravel entitled "China's New Diplomacy". It presents the views of experts on Chinese foreign policy that China should overcome its long-held "victim mentality" and adopt a "great power mentality" instead. These experts must be aware that there is no greater threat to the world than the emergence of a major power in possession of a victim mentality

Still, can China readily dispel the humiliation and victim mentality it has harbored since the mid-19th century? The semi-colonization and construction of foreign settlements at Canton, Shanghai, and Qingdao, and the Japanese invasion and establishment of Manchukuo are still sources of acute sensitivity. Against the background of the glorious Tang dynasty, even after 150 years these deep wounds to China's pride may yet need time to heal.

Today, the Internet is so flooded with Chinese public opinion obsessed with xenophobic vengeful thoughts and Sino-centrism that a Chinese intellectual likened it to "Dazibao" (big wall newspaper) during the Cultural Revolution. When I pointed this out, the leader of a Beijing think tank remarked: "China's mainstream is more calm and analyzes the situation objectively. Please don't accept Internet public opinion without question". I certainly hope that's true.

Chinese people give vent to their anti-US sentiments, whereas they tend to keep their antipathy to Japan bottled up. A veteran Chinese diplomat who made reference to such "warped reality" cited an example of business negotiations over the bullet train.

"Even though placing an international order for the construction of a high-speed railway that links Beijing and Shanghai is a purely technical and economic matter that has to do with introducing what kind of technology from which country, when it involves Japan, (in China) the problem tends to become a complex political and emotional issue. It is making a wall that stands between China and Japan".

Similar problems also appear in Sino-US relations and there is particular concern about the Internet, where Anti-American sentiments run high. Anti-US expressions have become a source of considerable unease. For instance, a recent opinion poll reported that 90% of Chinese people believed the CIA planted SARS in China. This and similar conspiratory theories toward the US are now the rule of the day.

Although the Chinese leadership appears to be faithfully enacting Deng Xiaoping's maxim of never acting haughtily towards the US, there are some that suspect they are also sitting pretty according to Mao Tse-tung's "protracted strategy" - waiting patiently for the US to burn out. Even Deng Xiaoping's directive of 1991 advised that China should "hide our capacities and bide our time" (taoguang yanghu).

For China there are two formidable challenges ahead. First, as part of its peaceful ascendancy strategy China must learn to respect and observe the rule of law on the international stage. China also needs to accustom itself to treating others as equals, particularly other Asian countries. These are no longer the days of the Middle Kingdom, to which all others pay obeisance and send gifts.

Second, China needs to tread a careful path in its policy towards the US. China should not present a threat to America, but at the same time Washington also has to accept China's new directive and "peaceful ascendancy strategy".

On these and other matters, China has already begun to take large strides forward. The fact that Chinese intellectuals have come to voice such views so frankly is in itself a major change and an important step in the right direction. Is this not also part of the "peaceful ascendancy" process?

Yoichi Funabashi is a columnist and chief diplomatic correspondent for the Asahi Shimbun. He served as a correspondent in Beijing and Washington.

© 2003 Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

Moving on up

Vertical integration

Moving on up

Mar 27th 2009

Is the recession heralding a return to Henry Ford's model?

THE early part of the 20th century was not an easy time for the Ford Motor Company. Economic downturns were frequent and deep. Shortages of raw materials on the back of the first world war stalled assembly lines. And the motor industry’s supplier network was too small to keep pace with demand, making it hard to ensure that all of a car’s parts were ready for assembly at the right time.

Henry Ford tried stockpiling parts and materials, but found that the inventory costs were too high. The answer, he decided, was total control: owning the whole supply chain. By the 1920s his company ran coal and iron ore mines, timberlands, rubber plantations, a railroad, freighters, sawmills, blast furnaces, a glassworks, and more. Capping it all was a giant factory at River Rouge, Michigan (pictured), which built the parts and assembled the cars.

Library of Congress Against the flow

Ford's “vertical integration” solution was wildly successful. But the top-heaviness, complacency and stifling of competition that came to typify vertically integrated models eventually pushed them out of fashion. Today, supply chains have become global and complex. Yet the current recession has shown that they too are dangerously vulnerable to economic downturns.

Mark Gottfredson of Bain & Company, a consultancy, argues that many company chiefs have overestimated the ability of their supply chains to cope. Those that have chosen partners on cost basis alone are suffering especially—in the past year, thousands of low-cost Chinese manufacturers have folded. Some big Western suppliers have failed, too, such as Smurfit-Stone Container, a cardboard producer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January.

So, as companies battle to survive, has the time come to revisit Ford's solution? Some firms are already moving in a vertical direction. General Motors, a company in trouble if there ever was one, is seeking to buy back operations run by Delphi, a bankrupt car-parts supplier it spun off in 1999. Chinese steel-makers, having endured soaring commodity prices, are buying up Australian mining companies. And investment bankers in Asia report discussions with clients seeking to purchase struggling suppliers.

But vertical integration's fans have a struggle ahead to overcome its poor image. Almost any MBA graduate (some of them are still worth listening to) will declare that companies should do best when they focus on the part of the business where they have an advantage, rather than expending money and time on the dozens of steps required to deliver the final product.

However, managers who want a greater degree of control may find vertical integration has its advantages. Some are unsavoury—as the early steel and oil barons discovered, owning raw-material sources can be a useful way of squeezing competitors. Yet expanding upstream or downstream can boost profits. In the apparel business, for instance, the owners of brands reap higher returns than those that produce the outfits. And in digital photography, it is not the camera-makers that have the widest profit margins, but companies like SanDisk, which makes camera memory cards.

When a company expands down the chain closer to the ultimate customer, it also reaps learning benefits, says Tom Osegowitsch, a lecturer in management at the University of Melbourne. For instance, Zara, a Spanish clothing company, finds that owning shops gives it insights into what its customers really want, helping make its manufacturing operations more nimble.

Still, the trend of the last few decades to focus on “core competencies” is no mere fad. Although reliance on supply chains has risks, owning parts of the chain can be riskier—for example, few clothing-makers want to own textile factories, with their pollution risks and slim profits. Big, complicated businesses are hardly agile, and when new technology emerges, the owners of factories bear the costs of upgrading. And the lack of competition in vertical operations can cause a certain bureaucratic stiffness to set in among company divisions.

For managers, vertical integration carries the uninviting prospect of forcing them to operate outside their comfort zones. Mr Gottfredson points to research by Bain arguing that when a company moves two or more steps away from its main business, it fails two-thirds of the time. (For example, a shoemaker that decides to sell directly to end customers will not only have to distribute its wares but operate shops, too—and running a factory doesn’t prepare a manager to do either one.) “There is a lot working against you,” says Mr Gottfredson. “You will be competing with your customers and selling to a new customer base through a distribution channel you don’t understand.”

Looking sideways

There may be a third way. A company can gain some of the benefits of vertical integration without full ownership. Consider Toyota, a motor company that has been a byword for decent management in a way that General Motors has not been. Toyota rigorously screens its suppliers for quality and financial health, and then spends time and money to ensure their efficiency and survival, sometimes taking minority stakes.

In the 1980s, when Toyota chose Johnson Controls to supply seats, it blocked the supplier from expanding its facility, fearing that the additional cost would harm Johnson's profits and effectiveness. Instead, Toyota’s engineers worked with Johnson to streamline production, rearrange the factory floor, and cut inventories, ultimately showing that expansion wasn’t needed after all.

To follow Toyota's example, argues Joel Sutherland, now of Lehigh University and once head of operations at one of Toyota's suppliers, is to create a supply chain with the stability and efficiency of vertical integration but with some of the flexibility of looser networks of suppliers. The approach is also far cheaper than the traditional vertical method of owning suppliers outright, a virtue at a time when cash and credit are rare.

Like the duration of the downturn itself, how well supply chains will endure is anyone's guess. But the return of deep economic cycles may cause many managers to discover that there’s comfort in keeping suppliers close. Recalling the days when Henry Ford ruled, vertical integration—in adapted form at least—may emerge from disgrace as an innovative solution in an era when innovation is sorely required.

Vertical integration

Vertical integration

Mar 30th 2009

Vertical integration is the merging together of two businesses that are at different stages of production—for example, a food manufacturer and a chain of supermarkets. Merging in this way with something further on in the production process (and thus closer to the final consumer) is known as forward integration.

Vertical integration can be contrasted to horizontal integration, the merging together of businesses that are at the same stage of production, such as two supermarkets, or two food manufacturers. Merging with something further back in the process (if a food manufacturer were to merge with a farm, say) is known as backward integration. The integration of two organisations that are in completely different lines of business is sometimes referred to as conglomerate integration.

Businesses are downstream or upstream of each other depending on whether they are nearer to or further away from the final consumer (the “sea”, as it were, to which the river of production flows).

The benefits of vertical integration come from the greater capacity it gives organisations to control access to inputs (and to control the cost, quality and delivery times of those inputs). In line with the changing organisational structure of the late 20th century, however, this logic became less compelling. In the late 1990s, consultants McKinsey & Company wrote:

Whereas historically firms have vertically integrated in order to control access to scarce physical resources, modern firms are internally and externally disaggregated, participating in a variety of alliances and joint ventures and outsourcing even those activities normally regarded as core.

Some of the best known examples of vertical integration have been in the oil industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, many companies that were primarily engaged in exploration and the extraction of crude petroleum decided to acquire downstream refineries and distribution networks. Companies such as Shell and BP came to control every step involved in bringing a drop of oil from its North Sea or Alaskan origins to a vehicle’s fuel tank.

The idea of vertical integration was taken a step further by Dell Computer, one of the most successful companies of the 1990s. Michael Dell, its founder, said that he combined the traditional vertical integration of the supply chain with the special characteristics of the virtual organisation to create something that he called “virtual integration”. Dell assembles computers from other firms’ parts, but it has relationships with those firms that are more binding than the traditional links between buyer and supplier. It does not own them in the way of the vertically integrated firm, but through exchanges of information and a variety of loose associations it achieves much the same aim—what Michael Dell calls “a tightly co-ordinated supply chain”.

Vertical integration is a difficult strategy for companies to implement successfully. It is often expensive and hard to reverse. Upstream producers frequently integrate with downstream distributors to secure a market for their output. This is fine when times are good. But many firms have found themselves cutting prices sharply to their downstream distributors when demand has fallen just so they can maintain targeted levels of plant utilisation.

The vertically integrated giants of the computer industry, firms such as IBM, Digital and Burroughs, were felled like young saplings when at the end of the 1970s Apple formed a network of independent specialists that produced machines far more efficiently than the do-it-all giants.

Further reading

Dell, M., Magretta, J. and Rollins, K., “The power of virtual integration: an interview with Dell Computer’s Michael Dell”, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1998

Harrigan, K.R., “Vertical Integration, Outsourcing and Corporate Strategy”, Beard Books, 2003

Stuckey, J. and White, D., “When and When Not to Vertically Integrate”, McKinsey Quarterly, No. 3, 1993

India in a changing world

India in a changing world
Managing volatile neighbours and the fallout of emerging US-China ties are challenges for the country
Sanjaya Baru
Foreign policy has never been a major electoral issue in India because a vast majority of the electorate has more pressing domestic economic and social concerns. And while events in the subcontinent may have some impact on domestic politics, they have so far proved to be marginal.
Click here to participate in the debate: What should India choose: A muscular foreign policy or coercive diplomacy?
While some political parties and politicians, and some in India’s foreign policy establishment, remain stuck in the groove of an outdated Cold War mindset, Indian foreign policy has moved on. It has adjusted itself to the end of the Cold War and is trying to grapple with the complexities of an emerging multipolar world, as well as the strategic consequences of India’s economic rise and her growing integration into Asia and the global economy.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The broad contours of Indian foreign policy are, therefore, unlikely to be altered by the outcome of the general election. As in the field of economic policy, so also in foreign policy there has been continuity in policy since the end of the Cold War, despite several changes of government. Various political parties have been in office in New Delhi since 1990, but the broad direction of Indian foreign policy has not been radically altered with each change of government.
Even when a new political formation has taken a new initiative in government, successive governments have gone along and not reversed any major policy decision. Based on this experience, the world concludes that India is a “predictable player” with enduring national interests. It is unlikely that India’s approach to any contemporary foreign policy challenge will alter radically with a change in government.
That is not to say that politics does not impose constraints on a government’s ability to take foreign policy initiatives. Indeed, if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had yielded to myopic political pressure, he may well have failed to conclude the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. To be sure, domestic politics has restrained governments in the past—and continues to do so— from taking important foreign policy initiatives. Hence, while continuity in policy is predictable, change is less certain, and depends on leadership and opportunity.
What then are the foreign policy challenges and priorities facing the next government in New Delhi? The most important foreign policy priority for India, from the time of our independence, has been to secure for ourselves a global environment that is conducive, and if possible supportive, of our developmental aspirations. Improving the well-being of the Indian people and modernizing India’s economy are our highest national policy priorities. Jawaharlal Nehru told the Constituent Assembly in December 1947: “Talking about foreign policies, the House must remember that these are not just empty struggles on a chessboard. Behind them lie all manner of things. Ultimately, foreign policy is the outcome of economic policy.” Hence, the key challenge and priority will be to build relationships around the world with big and small countries that enable us to push our development process forward and sustain a higher rate of economic growth in these turbulent and difficult times.
Continuity in foreign policy is predictable, change less so: it depends on leadership and opportunity
Indeed, the salience of the economic dimension to foreign policy will be even greater in the near term as the world grapples with a global economic slowdown, threats of protectionism, reduced capital flows and the challenge of environmental degradation and global warming. To sustain our growth process, we will have to ensure our energy security, food security, macroeconomic and financial stability, and market access for the goods and services we export. In other words, we will need to bring in new investment.
Each of these objectives has important foreign policy implications and will shape our relations with all major powers. How we are able to tackle each of these challenges will be influenced by the rapidly changing geopolitics and geo-economics of a world gripped by an economic slowdown.
Will the US and China arrive at a new condominium—dubbed by some as Chimerica—to deal with their respective economic problems? The lesson China has learnt from the collapse of the Soviet Union is that it must not waste its resources in a confrontation with the West. Rather, it must build itself up by working with the West. China has worked with the US on many fronts, reserving its anger for only key national security issues such as Taiwan and Tibet. On most multilateral economic and security issues, including terrorism and climate change, and in most multilateral organizations, including the UN Security Council and the International Monetary Fund, China has been happy to work with the US rather than against it.
The global economic crisis has once again made allies out of two potential adversaries. China will use the economic crisis to increase its global influence in a manner that will not threaten the US in the medium term. In turn, the Bush-Rice doctrine of containing China is being replaced by the Obama-Clinton doctrine of co-opting China to deal with the economic crisis. It will always remain a love-hate relationship, but that is what most affairs are anyway.
Such a US-China condominium would worry Japan, Russia, India, and even the Europeans. It would pose a major challenge for Indian foreign policy, and require creative thinking rather than a retreat into old dogmas. India must continue to seek good relations with the US, even as it nurtures old friendships with Russia, Europe and Japan, and manage China’s rise.
Our second foreign policy priority has been, and will remain, our need to ensure peace and stability in our neighbourhood, and meaningful relations with our neighbours. We are surrounded by countries that are at war with themselves. Internal civil conflict and terrorism plague our region. India cannot sustain high and stable growth in a chronically troubled neighbourhood.
Winning the fight against terrorism and defeating the forces of extremism and religious fundamentalism in our region is an important foreign policy and national security priority. The conflicts in our subcontinent have drawn in all major powers, including the US, Russia, China, European Union, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Japan. Fighting terrorism and extremism in the region in the context of this complex power play will remain a major challenge for Indian foreign policy.
In the past two decades, India has been increasingly engaged with Asia: South-East, East, West, and Central Asia and the Indian Ocean region, including Africa. Both our own growth process and shifts in global dynamics will require us to nurture this new relationship we have developed with our wider Asian and African neighbourhood. Here again, dealing with China’s rising influence and creating new relationships through greater economic engagement will be a key challenge.
Finally, as a new multipolar world emerges and India grows into being one of the “poles”, expected to take up global security responsibilities, Indian foreign policy will have to grow up, leaving behind its days of innocence and adolescence. India will have to learn to take sides, offer security to others (especially in our region) and address new challenges in the field of nuclear diplomacy. As a maritime power, India will have to bring its foreign policy in line with its national security policy: winning new friends without losing old ones.
Sanjaya Baru is a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. He earlier served as media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Comments are welcome at

Stacker Crane - Standing Application

Stacker Crane - Standing Application

LTW's Curve Going Stacker Crane with a Standing Operator

Automated warehouse for pallets

Automated warehouse for pallets


Activity: Production and exporting of tomatoes Installation: automated warehouse for pallets

Tugger AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle by Egemin

Tugger AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle by Egemin

Tugger AGV by Egemin Automation. This robotic vehicle is used to tow trailers in manufacturing and distribution environments. Egemin AGVs use laser and inertial (magnet) guidance systems.

Packmobile® AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle by Egemin

Packmobile® AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle by Egemin

Packmobile® AGV by Egemin Automation. This light-duty robotic vehicle offers flexible and affordable transport of blood specimens, prescription optics, packages, poxes, and parts. It is optically guided by means of an invisible ultra-violet path that can be applied to wood, concrete, carpet and tile flooring surfaces. It has the ability to travel from floor to floor by elevator without human intervention. Egemin has manufactured the Packmobile® for over 25 years.

Fork Lift Over Straddle AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Fork Lift Over Straddle AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Fork Lift Over Straddle AGV by Egemin Automation. This automatic guided robotic vehicle uses forks to transport palletized loads in manufacturing and distribution environments. The fork lift AGV can pick and place loads at most any elevation. Egemin AGVs use laser and inertial (magnet) guidance systems.

Roll Delivery Fork Lift AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Roll Delivery Fork Lift AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Roll Delivery Fork Lift AGV by Egemin Automation. This automatic guided robotic vehicle uses forks to transport rolls of paper products. The fork lift AGV can pick and place loads at most any elevation. Egemin AGVs use laser and inertial (magnet) guidance systems.

Counter Balanced Fork Lift AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Counter Balanced Fork Lift AGV - Automated Guided Vehicle

Counter Balanced Fork Lift AGV by Egemin Automation. This robotic vehicle uses forks to transport palletized loads in manufacturing and distribution environments. The fork lift AGV can pick and place loads at most any elevation. Egemin AGVs use laser and inertial (magnet) guidance systems.

AGV navigation system

AGV navigation system

GV vehicles are available in many versions and are based on a standardised component.

The AGV’s are controlled by the unique multi-mode navigation system. The system is constructed in accordance with a transparent structure that allows the integration of all existing and future guidance technologies. Flexible techniques enable modifications to the layout to be achieved in a moment of time.

Leclerc - Motorola Case Study

Leclerc - Motorola Case Study



Meachers chooses Quartix for satellite vehicle tracking

Meachers chooses Quartix for satellite vehicle tracking
March 27, 2009

Meachers Group has installed internet satellite tracking throughout its transport fleet, continuing its policy of using leading edge technology to improve customer service.

The award-winning Quartix vehicle tracking system ensures the company has real-time information about its vehicles accessible online – with a full log of vehicle activity delivered by email each morning, enabling the company to quickly monitor its service to customers.

Information provided by the Quartix technology is helping Meachers reduce fuel costs, improve operating efficiency and safeguard vehicles and drivers. It is also providing information on fuel efficiency, vehicle speeds, loading and unloading times and on-time collection/delivery performance.

“The Quartix system gives us an instant, online snapshot of where any one of our vehicles is at any given time. It provides an accurate breakdown of the miles covered, the average speed, and whether or not they’re using the direct route”, said Stuart Terris, Deputy Managing Director of Meachers Group. “It is working really well, enabling us to identify any problems that may arise on the driver’s route and resolving them with the driver or the customer.”

Over the past nine months, having won a number of new contracts in a cross section of industries including aggregates, packaging, chemicals and plastics, Meachers has invested more than £2.5 million in new vehicles and equipment.

As well as investing in satellite tracking the company has installed reversing cameras, and updated its warehouse management information system at its Southampton and Derby warehouse facilities to provide staff and customers with greater control of stock levels and transactions.

Meachers’ continuing investment in new technology demonstrates its commitment to IT in providing customers with leading edge solutions.

Truckprotect's innovative anti-fuel theft device highlighted in report to Prime Minister

Truckprotect's innovative anti-fuel theft device highlighted in report to Prime Minister
March 30, 2009

An invention designed to prevent thieves stealing diesel from trucks has been praised for its road safety features in a report to the Prime Minister.

TruckProtect’s InstantFit NECK-IT! was created by Richard Fowler four years ago as an improvement on existing anti-siphon devices which were then available. From this a new company was started and huge worldwide success followed.

Although not designed as a road safety item, one feature of the innovative product has huge benefits for preventing accidents: unlike floating ball anti-siphon devices, InstantFit Neck-It! allows very high speed fuel filling without splashback and spillage and, additionally, forms a baffle to minimise diesel fuel spills should a fuel cap be left off a tank. Even small fuel spills leave treacherous slippery patches on roads.

It has so impressed the road safety campaign group KillSpills that InstantFit NECK-IT has been highlighted in the group’s annual campaign report to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

When diesel spills on roads, it does not evaporate, and leaves lethal slippery patches on roads, as well as seeping into the road surface and damaging it, which over time creates potholes.

Motorcyclists in particular are at risk when they encounter diesel spills on bends, and as a group they are 19 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured as a result of an oil or diesel spill than any other type of road user.

In 2007, 132 people were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in crashes caused by oil or diesel spills, at an estimated total cost to society of £38 million.

KillSpills has been campaigning since 2003 when it was set up to reduce the number of these accidents by a group of concerned motorcyclists. It is backed by the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the British Motorcycle Federation.

In their report, they have told the Prime Minister that TruckProtect’s anti-siphon devices ability to prevent diesel spills has been a “real bonus for operators.”

The report continues: “But it is no accident. TruckProtect consulted at great length with truck dealers, operators and government safety departments such as VOSA before design commenced, to make sure the units were fully fit for purpose.

“The result of taking this approach is that TruckProtect units now make a contribution to killing spills; one that increases with every new unit fitted.”

Russell Fowler, Chief Executive of TruckProtect, said: “We were determined to make sure the InstantFit NECK-IT did the job it was supposed to do, leaving no weak spots for thieves to exploit, and that it was the very best for our customers in every respect.

“We are delighted that it is helping to reduce road accidents, and honoured by the recognition of this in KillSpills’ annual report.”

As well as helping to prevent spills on the road, InstantFit NECK-IT prevents spills on forecourts, as it can, unlike some other anti-fuel theft devices, cope with fast-filling speeds of up to 120 litres a minute without splashbacks.

The device can be securely fixed without any drilling or gluing, which can damage the tank, and its unique protect grub screw means that rivets are not used – in hot weather when diesel expands in the tank, fuel can seep through rivets.

TNT Fashion Case Study

TNT Fashion Case Study

TNT Fashion Group is one of the leading fashion logistics operators in Europe. In this video clip, Terry Norman, logistics development director at TNT Fashion Group, explains how Manhattan Associates' Warehouse Management solution facilitates a controlled warehouse environment that provides TNT Fashion Group clients with visibility of their goods through the entire order-to-delivery cycle.

TNT Fashion Group has proved that the system can give a 20% productivity saving just by controlling the flow of product. He also explains that the company has many clients who have appointed TNT Fashion Group to bring the Manhattan Associates solution into their environment and who have subsequently gone on to replicate the operating system environment in other DCs across the world.

Unser Marsch in die chinesische Welt

Vor dem Gipfel

Unser Marsch in die chinesische Welt

Von Mark Siemons, Peking

Börse in Schanghai: Ist China besser für die Tücken des Kapitalismus gerüstet?

Börse in Schanghai: Ist China besser für die Tücken des Kapitalismus gerüstet?

01. April 2009 Die Idee, nicht länger den Dollar als internationale Reservewährung zu verwenden, sondern eine universelle, vom Internationalen Währungsfonds gesteuerte Leitwährung, ist nicht neu. Zuletzt hatte sie der Wirtschaftsnobelpreisträger Joseph Stiglitz 2004 in seinem Buch „Making Globalisation Work“ vertreten. Eine solche Initiative, schrieb er, „würde die Probleme der Entwicklungsländer zwar nicht beseitigen, wäre jedoch ein großer Schritt nach vorn, sowohl im Sinne weltwirtschaftlicher Stabilität als auch im Sinne globaler Gerechtigkeit“. Was aber bedeutet es, wenn sich inmitten der Weltwirtschaftskrise und kurz vor dem morgen stattfindenden G-20-Treffen nun China diesen Vorschlag zu eigen macht?

Offensichtlich läge die Einführung einer solchen Weltwährung im chinesischen Interesse. Unmittelbar, weil Peking eine Abwertung seiner vornehmlich in Dollar angelegten Währungsreserven fürchtet, wenn Amerika aus innenpolitischen Gründen nun mehr Geld druckt. Und langfristig insofern, als mit der Relativierung des Einflusses, den Amerika bisher über den Dollar auf die Welt ausübt, eine stärkere Gewichtung von Brasilien, Russland, Indien und vor allem China, den nach ihren Initialen so genannten Bric-Staaten, einherginge. Peking hat angekündigt, sich auf dem Londoner Gipfel vor allem für eine stärkere Berücksichtigung der Schwellen- und Entwicklungsländer in den globalen Institutionen einsetzen zu wollen. Manche Beobachter haben das schon als erste machtvolle Äußerung eines latenten chinesischen Wirtschaftsnationalismus interpretiert, der sich von Deng Xiaopings früherer Mahnung, den Kopf nicht zu weit aus dem Fenster zu strecken, zunehmend entferne.

Amerika könnte profitieren

Doch eine solche Deutung verkehrt die antihegemoniale Pointe des Leitwährungsvorschlags in ihr Gegenteil. Die Idee besteht ja gerade darin, das globale Finanzsystem dadurch zu stabilisieren, dass es von den inneren Konflikten und Widersprüchen einer einzelnen Macht unabhängiger wird. Das könnte sogar Amerika selbst zugutekommen. Denn bisher erleichterte ihm die Fülle an eigenen Währungsreserven das Schuldenmachen, die Finanzierung immer neuer Blasen, was es aber schwerer machte, die eigene Währung noch zu kontrollieren.

Die besondere Eigenart des chinesischen Vorstoßes besteht also nicht darin, dass da eine Macht willkürlich ihre Interessen gegen die von anderen in Stellung brächte, sondern dass Peking sich zum Sprecher eines ökonomischen Universalismus macht, der im Finanzwesen von vornherein angelegt war, sich bislang aber immer bloß unter der Dominanz einzelner Staaten und Kulturkreise entfaltete. „Für den absoluten Bewegungscharakter der Welt gibt es sicher kein deutlicheres Symbol als das Geld“, schrieb der deutsche Soziologe Georg Simmel zur vorletzten Jahrhundertwende. In der „Unbestimmtheit und inneren Direktionslosigkeit“ des Geldes sah Simmel die Folie, vor der die vielfältigen neuen Bindungen der modernen Kultur stattfinden und erst erkennbar werden.

China, Amerika, Indien und Japan

Doch den realsymbolischen Rahmen dieser Kultur bildeten bislang die Währungen der vorherrschenden westlichen Mächte, zuerst der Kolonialmacht Großbritannien und seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg Amerikas. Erst im jetzigen Zustand der Globalisierung und Krise scheint der „absolute Bewegungscharakter der Welt“ in reiner Form hervorzutreten. Er ist eine andere Umschreibung für das Schlüsselwort der gegenwärtigen Lage: „systemisch“. Die wechselseitige Abhängigkeit von Nationen, Banken und zahllosen anderen Faktoren im Hinblick auf das Funktionieren des Ganzen war zwar auch vorher schon bekannt, doch erst die Krise macht die Kosten bewusst, wenn man gegen diese Erkenntnis verstößt.

Dass sich gerade China an die Spitze dieser Entwicklung stellt, ist nun seinerseits von großem symbolischem Interesse. Einerseits liegt es in der Logik der globalen Kräfteverschiebungen, die durch die gegenwärtige Krise möglicherweise noch beschleunigt werden. Laut jüngsten Berechnungen von Goldman Sachs wird das Bruttoinlandsprodukt der Bric-Staaten schon 2027 dasjenige der G 7 überholt haben, also zehn Jahre früher, als die Beratungsgesellschaft ursprünglich angenommen hatte. Die vier stärksten Ökonomien der Welt würden dann China, Amerika, Indien und Japan sein.

Die Frage der Leitwährung

Mit einer solchen Aussicht erwartet die Pekinger Regierung offenbar so wenig wie andere Regierungen, dass sich der Währungsvorschlag rasch realisieren lässt. Er scheint eher ein Versuchsballon zu sein, um Zeit zu gewinnen. Bisher reagierte Peking zögerlich auf westliche Forderungen, die eigene Währung freizugeben und mehr Geld für den Internationalen Währungsfonds zur Unterstützung notleidender Länder einzuzahlen - und dies nicht nur, weil es notleidende Regionen im eigenen Land genug hat.

Der Historiker Harold James von der Princeton University glaubt, dass China sich heute in einer ähnlichen Situation wie Amerika in den dreißiger Jahren befinde. Damals zögerten die Vereinigten Staaten, von der ausgelaugten Kolonialmacht Großbritannien eine finanzielle und politische Führungsrolle zu übernehmen, da ihnen die Institutionen der Zwischenkriegszeit noch zu sehr mit den Interessen des früheren Hegemonen verknüpft erschienen. Was China jetzt vorzubereiten scheint, ist eine Weltordnung, deren Institutionen nicht länger amerikanisch und westlich dominiert werden.

Chinesisches Denken will Vielfalt

Darüber hinaus könnte es sein, dass sich in dem Vorstoß auch die ersten kulturellen Umrisse einer chinesischer werdenden Welt zeigen. Auf frappierende Weise scheinen die absolute Bewegung und der systemische Charakter des globalen Kapitalismus ältesten Mustern der chinesischen Kultur zu entsprechen. Während das europäische Denken traditionell versucht, feststehende Größen zu ermitteln, und dabei von einem Ende zum anderen kommen will, gingen chinesische Denker von vornherein von einer vielpoligen Gesamtheit aus, die sie im Wesentlichen als Bewegung, Veränderung verstanden. Ihr Modell war also immer schon das „Rhizom“, das anfang- und endlose Beziehungsgeflecht, das Theoretiker wie die Franzosen Deleuze und Guattari für das entscheidende Kennzeichen der „Decodierung“ in der modernen Marktkultur halten.

Ist die chinesische Tradition für die Tücken des Kapitalismus also womöglich besser gerüstet als die westliche, die angesichts seiner Zentrifugalkräfte bis heute von Schwundgefühlen befallen wird? Manche chinesische Philosophen begründen ihre Vorbehalte gegenüber den westlich bestimmten globalen Institutionen jedenfalls neuerdings damit, dass diese über ein partikulares Nationendenken nicht hinausgekommen seien, und empfehlen stattdessen die alte chinesische Kategorie „tian xia“ - alles unter dem Himmel -, die China in seiner bisherigen Geschichte allerdings nur innerhalb seiner eigenen Grenzen ausprobiert hat; an den Rändern dieses Kosmos vermochte es früher nur irrelevante „Barbaren“ wahrzunehmen.

Charakteristischer Kontrast

Auch Zeit und Umstände, unter denen China den bisher markantesten Vorstoß zur Dokumentierung seiner neuen Stellung unternimmt, weisen einen so charakteristischen Kontrast zu westlichen Erwartungen auf, als folgten sie einem traditionellen Weisheitsbuch. Dem alten chinesischen Prinzip des „Wu wei“, des Nichthandelns, zufolge wartet man mit dem Handeln so lange, bis die erwünschte Entwicklung ganz logisch aus einer gegebenen Situation hervorgeht. Und so wirkt in der jetzigen Krisensituation der Vorschlag des chinesischen Volksbankpräsidenten so organisch und plausibel, dass nur die wenigsten ihn als Anmaßung einer konkurrierenden Macht zurückweisen, nicht einmal der amerikanische Präsident und sein Finanzminister. Während im europäischen Sinn derjenige als stark gilt, der anderen seinen Willen aufzwingen kann und sich aufgrund eines ingeniösen Plans durch sein Handeln möglichst auffällig profiliert, wurde im alten China derjenige für fähiger gehalten, der auf große Pläne verzichtet und stattdessen gegebene Konstellationen so ausnutzen kann, als ergäben sich die Wirkungen daraus von allein.

Schon das zeigt, dass sich aus kulturellen Mustern dieser Art keine Zukunftsvoraussagen ableiten lassen: Ob und in welcher Weise zum Beispiel das Land demokratisch wird, hängt auch von vielen anderen Faktoren ab, genauso wie die Frage, ob sich seine zunehmenden inneren Widersprüche eines Tages nach außen hin entladen werden. Der chinesischen Kultur entspräche es jedoch, ihre Wirkmacht daran zu messen, dass sie sich auch losgelöst von ihrem Ursprung zeigt. Alle Teilnehmer des Londoner Gipfels werden morgen willkürliche Einzelentscheidungen zu meiden haben, sie werden von vielen Enden zugleich, systemisch und vom Ganzen des Erdballs her denken müssen, und sie werden inmitten von Bewegungen handeln, deren Bedingungen sie nur zum Teil kennen. Möglicherweise ist die Welt schon jetzt etwas chinesischer geworden.

Text: F.A.Z.
Bildmaterial: AP