Category Banking

Dwindling numbers, tough challenges

Chinese exams losing sheen as more parents prefer Western college education for childrenGrowing demand for overseas college education has led to fewer students taking the national college entrance examination in China, or gaokao, says a recent report from China National Radio.According to the Ministry of Education, only 9.15 million students attended this year's gaokao held on June 7, a 2 percent fall from the student numbers in 2011. More significantly, it was the fourth consecutive year in which the student numbers had fallen and the biggest decline till date.In 2009, the first year of the decline, 10.2 million students took the gaokao, while in 2010 it fell to 9.57 million. Last year, the numbers fell to 9.33 million.Though the CNR report attributes lower population as the main reason for the dwindling student numbers, it also said that more high school students are now skipping the gaokao.Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, says that some students are giving up on the gaokao, as it is proving to be too stiff a challenge."Many Chinese parents have come to realize that they do not want their children to face undue pressure or hardship due to the gaokao. In some cases, the average academic levels of students also act as a deterrent from taking the examinations. So some parents choose the option of education in overseas colleges," Xiong says.Liu Fengjie, the UK project director at Chivast Education International, an education consultancy for Chinese students overseas, says that the number of Chinese students seeking admissions in overseas universities, particularly in the UK, has risen sharply in the past few years."The increase has also come about due to the differing admission standards in both nations. In China, the universities base their admission decisions on the gaokao score, whereas in the UK it is on the overall scores achieved by a student during the last three years of high school. In other words, the UK admission system seems to be fairer on the students unable to achieve success in the gaokao," Liu says.According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, there were 339,700 Chinese students studying abroad last year, a 19 percent increase from 2010.Like the UK, the number of Chinese students seeking admission to US colleges has also grown. The number of Chinese applicants at US universities rose by 18 percent this year to 76,830, the seventh straight year of double-digit growth, says a report from the Council of Graduate Schools, which tallies admissions at more than 500 universities and colleges in the US and Canada.Jiayu Li, founder of USAdaxue.com, a consultancy for Chinese students in the US, says that the number of Chinese students taking the standardized test for college admissions has seen annual growth rates in excess of 30 percent.

Energy company moving into solar

The Chinese energy group Hanergy Holding Group Ltd agreed on Tuesday in Beijing to acquire all of the shares that Q-Cells SE, a German maker of solar panels, holds in its subsidiary Solibro, a maker of thin-film solar panels.The purchase comes as the latest evidence of Chinese energy companies' interest in the European market during the current debt crisis.After the completion of the acquisition, Solibro will increase its yearly production capacity to 100 megawatts in order to supply power to Hanergy customers in Europe. The companies declined to release information about the value of the deal."Hanergy has taken many big steps in recent years and the latest acquisition will help the company improve its technology used in manufacturing thin-film solar panels, which still lags behind what is used internationally," said Gao Hongling, deputy secretary-general of the China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance.China is the world's largest maker of solar panels, mainly producing what are known as polysilicon panels. Manufacturers that want to make thin-film panels are faced with technical obstacles.Gao said the thin-film solar industry has developed slowly in the past few years. He said producers of polysilicon solar panels have worked to make their products more efficient and to reduce the cost of making them on a large scale, causing the demand for thin-film solar panels to decline and affecting investors' enthusiasm for thin-film cells."In recent years, some solar companies have already cut or planned to cut their thin-film solar panel businesses," she said. "Even so, Hanergy has been a leading company in thin-film solar projects in the country and is a company that has long-term strategies and investment plans."Following the acquisition, Hanergy's chief competitor will be the US-based First Solar Inc, the world's largest manufacturer of thin-film panels.The company said it has explored various opportunities for investing in thin-film production and has decided to put money into a specific technology, called copper indium gallium diselenide co-evaporation, which Solibro has developed over the past 25 years."Solibro has a proven track record in thin-film technologies," said Jason Chow, senior vice-president of Hanergy Industrial Photovoltaics Group."Hanergy will provide the extensive network, the strong production capacity and the long-term research and development investment. We are confident that the acquisition will enhance Solibro's performance and capacity despite the industry's current downturn."Hanergy Chairman Li Hejun said the acquisition will consolidate the company's position in the global market.The company said it will not reduce the size of Solibro's workforce nor change the leadership at the company and that Solibro's operations will remain unaffected.Nedim Cen, CEO of Q-Cells, said Solibro's thin-film technology and existing production capacity can be fully taken advantage of following the acquisition.To expand more at home and abroad, Hanergy received a credit line worth 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) from China Development Bank in [email protected] full article here.

Oasis town offers link to glories of the past

It has been inextricably linked with the history of China, a name synonymous with the ancient Silk Road that connected the Chinese imperial East with the Roman Empire of the West. Many who know little about the precious oases that watered the caravans crossing the treacherous sand dunes will at least have heard about the greatest one of them all, Dunhuang.In Northwest China's Gansu province, Dunhuang has been a religious and cultural crossroad.

Student’s food safety website fuels his fame

SHANGHAI - Driven by a sense of social responsibility, Wu Heng created a website to track China's food safety problems, a move that has propelled him to Internet stardom as people from across the country have found their way to the site.Wu, 26, is a graduate student majoring in history at Shanghai's Fudan University. In June 2011,Wu and 34 volunteers launched Zhichuchuangwai (www.zccw.info), which translates to "throw it out the window."The website, which has recorded over 190,000 hits since being launched, has a databasecontaining about 3,000 news articles on food safety and a map pinpointing the locations ofChina's food safety incidents.In recent years, food safety has become a growing concern in China, as various deadly scandals such as toxic milk, tainted pork and dyed buns have been exposed by the country's media, sparking widespread fear.A recent headline-grabbing case revolves around some vendors in eastern Shandong province spraying a formaldehyde solution on cabbage to keep the produce fresh during shipment.On the homepage of the website, the food safety map, which was drawn by Wu himself, reveals the results of an investigation into China's food safety situation from 2004 to 2011.

Constructive partnership will build foundations

How Chinese can help reshape US infrastructure, Zhang Yuwei reports from New York.For the past few years, China has been rapidly building its infrastructure. The pace has been so fast, in fact, that many people say the United States could learn a thing or two.And they say it for a reason.High-speed rail lines, airports and train stations are springing up nationwide, while in Beijing alone four new subway lines will start operation this year, taking the city's network past the 450-kilometer mark.By contrast, US infrastructure is crumbling.Two years ago, New Jersey canceled a project to build a tunnel between the state and New York's Manhattan district because of short-term budgetary gaps. Commuters instead take trains that share a tunnel under the Hudson River with Amtrak, the national rail carrier, running on tracks built in 1910.Nearly one-third of roads in the US are in poor or mediocre condition, and one-fourth of its bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which rated the US transit system "D" in its annual infrastructure report.The World Economic Forum's economic competitiveness ranking showed the overall US infrastructure rating has fallen from 8th place to 16th in the past three years, while China rose from 46th to 44th.US President Barack Obama has on many occasions stressed the need to rebuild his country's infrastructure.In the 2013 budget he sent to Congress on Feb13, he proposed more than $350 billion in short-term measures for job growth, including aninvestment of $50 billion toward the surface transportation re-authorization bill for roads, rails and runways.Last year, in his speech on a job creation plan, Obama proposed spending $80 billion on infrastructure, $30 billion of which is for repairing and renovating schools.Yet, even that amount cannot compare with what China has committed to infrastructure construction.China's Ministry of Railways said it will spend about $300 billion on building transport systems through 2020, while the US Federal Railroad Administration plans to commit about $8 billion in similar projects in 2012.Industrial experts point out what the US government lacks most is funding and this iswhere Chinese companies can step in and helprebuild the US infrastructure.Yuan Ning, president of China Construction America, a wholly owned subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corp, said the perfect way for China and the US to collaborate is through a public-private partnership. PPPs are government services or private-business ventures funded and operated through a partnership of the government and one or more private-sector firms.Chinese companies can bring expertise and capital and can work with the US government on various infrastructure projects, Yuan said. "It's a win-win solution."Robert Hormats, US under secretary for economic growth, energy and the environment, agreed that PPPs are a good way to work with Chinese companies in infrastructure projects."Chinese investment can be really helpful," hetold China Daily after the Bloomberg China Conference in New York on Feb 1