828cloud

Data, Info and News of Life and Economy

Daily Archives: August 13, 2022

In Pictures: 1957 Dual-Ghia Convertible

Source : Bring A Trailer

Infographic: 10 Years of Global EV Sales by Country

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

Why Are So Many People Leaving Hong Kong?

Tom Nagorski and Lili Pike wrote . . . . . . . . .

What everyone remembers is the rain. Sheets of rain, thunderclaps with it, nothing unusual for July 1 in Hong Kong but timed almost precisely for the moment when Prince Charles, representing the British crown, formally ceded control of Hong Kong to China after more than 156 years of colonial rule. The cliché of British stoicism and stiff upper lip seemed to fit; Charles stood there, getting soaked as he went through the motions.

For China, the 1997 “huigui” or return, of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty was a moment of immense pride. For others, the arrival that night of thousands of Chinese soldiers and military vehicles suggested that China might bring a heavy hand to its rule, despite Beijing’s repeated pledges to let Hong Kong be Hong Kong under the formula known as “one country, two systems.” In other words, the territory would retain what it was famous for: a freewheeling capitalism, democracy and openness unlike anything available on the mainland.

For many years, that promise held. Hong Kong succeeded wildly by the metrics of economic growth and rising population, as well as the less easily measured index of “it’s a really fun and interesting place.” Skyrocketing growth in China only added fuel to Hong Kong’s success.

Now, however, as Chinese President Xi Jinping leads ceremonies marking the 25-year anniversary of that rain-drenched morning, a trifecta of pro-democracy protests, growing encroachment from the mainland and Hong Kong’s response to the covid-19 pandemic has raised questions not unlike those raised 25 years ago. And 25 years later, people are leaving — voting with their feet, as they say, opting for new lives in other parts of the world.

Grid spoke to several long-standing residents of Hong Kong — some born and raised there, some who came from mainland China, as well as Americans who have lived there for decades. They have made different decisions about whether to stay or go, and they have different answers to a basic question: Why, after all these years, are people leaving Hong Kong?

The exodus

For 60 years, the population of Hong Kong was on a steady trajectory — one that mirrored the island’s economy: up and up. In 1960, 3.1 million people lived there; by 2019, the figure was 7.5 million. The economy suffered immediately after the 1997 handover, but that was due to the global financial crisis later that year. Soon Hong Kong was turning in annual growth in the 5 to 8 percent range.

Then, beginning in 2019, people began to leave — 93,000 in 2019; another 23,000 in 2020. As a percentage of the population, it was little more than a trickle, but this year the trickle has become a steady stream. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, more than 140,000 people left Hong Kong.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China found that 44 percent of its Hong Kong members and 26 percent of companies were considering leaving; roughly half the respondents in a European Chamber of Commerce survey said the same.

Among Hong Kong natives, many have taken advantage of something known as the British National Overseas (BNO) visa — a program that allows Hong Kong citizens born before the 1997 handover to live, work and study in the U.K. for up to five years and offers a path to citizenship. According to the U.K., some 5.4 million people in Hong Kong may be eligible for the BNO visa; between January 2021 and March 2022, 123,400 Hong Kongers applied. More than 90 percent were approved.

The exodus — of locals and expatriates alike — follows a flurry of gut punches that have struck Hong Kong in recent years.

In 2019, large-scale protests broke out in response to a proposed extradition law, which for the first time would have allowed China to bring criminal suspects to the mainland for trial. The law was shelved, but it reignited long-simmering calls for greater democracy. More than 2 million people took to the streets, a minority used violence, and the authorities’ response included a level of police brutality rarely seen in Hong Kong. That in turn sparked an intense debate: on one side, those who felt the protesters were out of line — in their demands and tactics both; on the other, fury at the rough response, the roundups of peaceful demonstrators and the failure of the Hong Kong government to consider the protesters’ demands.

In 2020, China imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong — and that divided residents along similar lines; to some it was a necessary response to ensure stability, to others it was a draconian and open-ended measure that gave China license to impose its will on the population.

And then there was covid-19. Hong Kong imposed severe travel restrictions and quarantines and — much like the mainland — rode out the first year of the pandemic relatively well. Then omicron arrived. Hong Kong stuck to a China-like zero-covid approach, and the results were not only a rise in caseloads but also an extended shutdown of travel, even as other Asian hubs reopened.

Now, the majority of travelers are headed in one direction — out.

Kay Kutt, CEO of the Hong-Kong based relocation company Silk Relo, told CNBC that the past three years have been the busiest in her company’s 40-year existence.

“We cannot keep up with the capacity,” she said. “We don’t have enough people to serve what’s going on in the marketplace.”

And Sassy, a publication typically devoted to Hong Kong culture, spas and nightlife, has a new feature: a “leaving Hong Kong” checklist.

Why are they leaving?

From this side of the world, a common view is that people are leaving Hong Kong in pursuit of greater freedoms. But when you ask Hong Kong residents why people are leaving, you’ll get a range of answers. And a debate.

“It’s the pandemic — and Hong Kong’s draconian response.”

“It’s the National Security Law.”

“It’s unease about China’s encroaching on Hong Kong” — a distant cousin of that feeling from a quarter-century ago.

The answer depends to some extent on which professional group you are asking; it also depends on a person’s view of China.

“It happened because many people can no longer put up with Hong Kong’s restrictive quarantine policies after the rest of the world has opened up,” Weijian Shan, chairman and CEO of the global investment firm PAG, told Grid. “Finance people can’t really function without being able to travel frequently. The longer Hong Kong is semi-locked up, the more likely the temporary moves will become permanent. Hong Kong is in real danger of losing its talents if it doesn’t open up fully soon — like now.”

Shan is a highly successful businessman with an unusual background. Born in China in the 1950s, he was subject to a harrowing exile during the Cultural Revolution. He wrote a memoir about the experience — “Out of the Gobi” — in which he pulled no punches about the horrors imposed by China during that time. Today, he defends the mainland’s actions in Hong Kong, and he doesn’t buy the idea that a loss of freedoms is driving people away.

“The Western media would want you to believe it is a reaction to the National Security Law,” Shan said. “There’s no evidence of it. There is no reason for businesses to run afoul of the law. In fact, the National Security Law brought back social stability from the unrest of 2019, which was very disruptive for businesses.”

Michael Leonard, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and is using a pseudonym, is an American banker who was first lured to Hong Kong decades ago — before the 1997 handover. He and his wife raised children in Hong Kong, thrived and enjoyed life there. This year, they moved to California.

“For me it was purely related to the pandemic,” Leonard told Grid. “Now if you talked to my wife, she’d tell you how upset she is because of the National Security Law and the political changes, and there’s truth to that. But there’s no banker I know that’s leaving because of the National Security Law.”

The fact that Leonard won’t share his name — his company wants no unnecessary friction with China — tells you something about sensitivities vis-à-vis the mainland in Hong Kong. But others Grid spoke with agreed: For Hong Kong’s expats, it’s the covid-19 restrictions that have sent them packing.

Those restrictions included a mandatory 21-day isolation period for most visitors or returning residents, quarantine periods spent locked inside hotel rooms, at their own expense. Bills could run in the thousands of dollars. It was an inconvenience for most, but it was all but untenable for people with children or parents in other countries or for international bankers whose livelihoods depend on travel.

It’s not just covid — it’s China’s heavy hand

Mark Clifford has had a long and varied career in Hong Kong. He served as editor for two of its most prominent English-language publications — the now-defunct Hong Kong Standard and the still-running South China Morning Post — and as executive director of the Asian Business Council. He says he loves Hong Kong. But last year, he decided it was time to leave.

Clifford speaks for another category of expatriates in Hong Kong — journalists and those who work for civil-society organizations, many of whom “feel they can no longer do their jobs from Hong Kong. Or at least they can’t do their jobs the way they want to.”

In the wake of the National Security Law, hundreds of protestors, journalists, academics and pro-democracy lawmakers have been arrested. More than 50 nongovernmental organizations have disbanded; others have prepared risk assessment plans in the event of crackdowns on their operations.

While Clifford acknowledged that the pandemic restrictions have been a “last straw” for many, he believes the exodus is being driven largely by fear and uncertainty about mainland China.

“People just started to wonder,” Clifford said. He cited the arrests, limits on protest, self-censorship at news organizations and other factors as having contributed to a general uncertainty. “You have a lot of people wondering, ‘What’s next?’”

Ying Cheung said the unease is palpable. She was born in Hong Kong in 1981, studied medicine in the U.K. and is now a doctor at a public hospital in Hong Kong.

“For Hong Kong people, leaving is mostly political,” Cheung told Grid. “It makes you a little uneasy when you go around talking to people these days, because you’re either pro-China or you’re totally anti-China. There’s no in-between. You can’t talk to each other without arguments.” She added that “the worst thing is not just between friends, it’s between families and generations.”

She described the medical field as generally more “pro-West” and said many of her colleagues have chosen to leave. “You lose a lot of really resourceful manpower in a very short period of time. All they want to do is leave this place because they think there’s no future.” The loss of skilled workers will take years to replenish, Cheung said.

Cheung said she plans to stay — “I was never up at the front line or protesting” — but she understands those who feel differently. “I think for them, the reason to leave is obvious — it’s the political situation that they can’t bear, and fair enough to them. I think if you’re not happy living in a city, then going abroad is always an option.”

Younger residents of Hong Kong, graduates of local schools and universities, are more likely to have been on those “front lines” of the 2019 protests. They tend to have less allegiance toward the mainland — and sometimes veer closer to outright hostility. For them, the U.K.’s BNO visas hold an obvious allure.

Deborah Kan, a journalist and entrepreneur who has spent more than 25 years in Hong Kong, told Grid she hired eight summer interns from local universities last year. All eight came to her asking her for recommendations for study or work in other countries.

“The student population has basically been silenced by the government,” Kan said. “You can’t speak out now because of the impact of the National Security Law, so I think you have a group of young people in Hong Kong who are looking for ways out. And that’s tragic.”

For Shan, the CEO of PAG, these concerns are overwrought.

“If you insist on advocating or engaging in secession, independence, subversion, regime change or colluding with foreign sources,” he said, “you are likely to run afoul of the National Security Law.” If not, he said, Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech, publication, trade and the free movement of people “continue to make Hong Kong one of the most open societies in the world.”

That assessment — expressed often in Hong Kong — doesn’t assuage those worried about Beijing’s motives. As Clifford noted, the authorities might well use one of those charges — the ill-defined “colluding with foreign sources,” for example — as a means to pursue its enemies.

The entrepreneur Deborah Kan — daughter of a Hong Kong-born father and American-born mother — believes that at the end of the day, the covid response and the overall Chinese encroachment in Hong Kong are intertwined.

“Hong Kong cannot make its own decisions independent of China — covid is just an example of that, the way they followed the covid-zero approach,” she told Grid. Asked to name the primary reason for the exodus, Kan said, “I think a lot of people are just on edge. It’s very hard to go from a free society to one that’s less free.”

Last year, Kan made her decision. She, too, left Hong Kong for the U.S.

The impact

Even before the current upheaval and departures, there were questions about Hong Kong’s future. A perennial one was whether the city might lose out to Shanghai as Asia’s leading financial capital.

Now, Hong Kong is fighting to retain its global reputation and standing, and to calm the concerns.

At this week’s anniversary ceremony, Xi spoke of a “brighter future” for Hong Kong, adding that the territory “is entering a new stage — moving from the transition from chaos to governance, toward the transition from governance to prosperity.” Earlier this month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam assured a television audience that “Hong Kong is as free as ever, whether it’s in the freedom of expression, in the freedom of assembly, in the media, and so on.”

In one very obvious sense, it’s not true. The 1997 handover was one of the most widely covered events of that year; for the 25th anniversary, journalists from Reuters and a half-dozen other news organizations were barred from covering the ceremony.

“I think long term the city will be fine,” said Leonard, the banker who left recently. “But the city will be different. Hong Kong historically was both an entry point to China and a global Asia hub. Now the global city piece will decline a bit; the entry point for China will survive. And to flourish, it will become much more Chinese.”

Clifford, whose new book is called “Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow the World,” sees “a danger that Hong Kong becomes just another big Chinese city. I’m certainly not predicting the end of Hong Kong by any stretch, but the idea that it’s going to become a global financial center on a par with New York and London — which it was well on the way to being — I think that is gone.”

Recently, the South China Morning Post ran an op-ed under the heading, “Why this 25-year-old is not leaving Hong Kong.” The author was Brian Y.S. Wong, a Hong Kong native born in the year of the handover.

Wong wrote that “much of Hong Kong’s shine has dulled in recent years” and that “we have a deluge of problems to tackle — ranging from youth disillusionment to our faltering status as an international nexus.” But he went on to praise the city’s vibrancy, its blend of East and West, and the fact “you can commute between lush, green forests and swanky skyscrapers in minutes.” And then he finished with a flourish:

“There are some who assert that Hong Kong is dead — that it’s high time to leave. Here’s my rejoinder: this is my home, and it’s not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere.”

It was a powerful sentiment, at once a ringing endorsement for his city and an example of the problem: The fact that he or anyone else had to defend Hong Kong as a place to live suggested something profound had changed.


Source : GRID


Read also at HK01

香港人口陷下降軌 政府如何「博反彈」? . . . . .

In Pictures: Fire Destroys 900-Year-Old Bridge in China

Located in East China’s Fujian province, Wan’an Bridge, built during the Song Dynasty, was the longest wooden arch bridge in China until it caught fire over the last weekend.

Selected as a national cultural relic for preservation in 2006, the bridge takes its name from a dictum: “Peace and serenity for thousands of generations, good and prosperous life for all people.”

Source : Caixin

The U.S. Made a Breakthrough Battery Discovery — Then Gave the Technology to China

Courtney Flatt and Laura Sullivan wrote . . . . . . . . .

When a group of engineers and researchers gathered in a warehouse in Mukilteo, Wash., 10 years ago, they knew they were onto something big. They scrounged up tables and chairs, cleared out space in the parking lot for experiments and got to work.

They were building a battery — a vanadium redox flow battery — based on a design created by two dozen U.S. scientists at a government lab. The batteries were about the size of a refrigerator, held enough energy to power a house, and could be used for decades. The engineers pictured people plunking them down next to their air conditioners, attaching solar panels to them, and everyone living happily ever after off the grid.

“It was beyond promise,” said Chris Howard, one of the engineers who worked there for a U.S. company called UniEnergy. “We were seeing it functioning as designed, as expected.”

But that’s not what happened. Instead of the batteries becoming the next great American success story, the warehouse is now shuttered and empty. All the employees who worked there were laid off. And more than 5,200 miles away, a Chinese company is hard at work making the batteries in Dalian, China.

The Chinese company didn’t steal this technology. It was given to them — by the U.S. Department of Energy. First in 2017, as part of a sublicense, and later, in 2021, as part of a license transfer. An investigation by NPR and the Northwest News Network found the federal agency allowed the technology and jobs to move overseas, violating its own licensing rules while failing to intervene on behalf of U.S. workers in multiple instances.

Now, China has forged ahead, investing millions into the cutting-edge green technology that was supposed to help keep the U.S. and its economy out front.

Department of Energy officials declined NPR’s request for an interview to explain how the technology that cost U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars ended up in China. After NPR sent department officials written questions outlining the timeline of events, the federal agency terminated the license with the Chinese company, Dalian Rongke Power Co. Ltd.

“DOE takes America’s manufacturing obligations within its contracts extremely seriously,” the department said in a written statement. “If DOE determines that a contractor who owns a DOE-funded patent or downstream licensee is in violation of its U.S. manufacturing obligations, DOE will explore all legal remedies.”

Several U.S. companies have tried to get a license to make the batteries

The department is now conducting an internal review of the licensing of vanadium battery technology and whether this license — and others — have violated U.S. manufacturing requirements, the statement said.

Forever Energy, a Bellevue, Wash., based company, is one of several U.S. companies that have been trying to get a license from the Department of Energy to make the batteries. Joanne Skievaski, Forever Energy’s chief financial officer, has been trying to get hold of a license for more than a year and called the department’s decision to allow foreign manufacturing “mind boggling.”

“This is technology made from taxpayer dollars,” Skievaski said. “It was invented in a national lab. (Now) it’s deployed in China, and it’s held in China. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.”

The idea for this vanadium redox battery began in the basement of a government lab, three hours southeast of Seattle, called Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It was 2006, and more than two dozen scientists began to suspect that a special mix of acid and electrolyte could hold unusual amounts of energy without degrading. They turned out to be right.

It took six years and more than 15 million taxpayer dollars for the scientists to uncover what they believed was the perfect vanadium battery recipe. Others had made similar batteries with vanadium, but this mix was twice as powerful and did not appear to degrade the way cellphone batteries or even car batteries do. The researchers found the batteries capable of charging and recharging for as long as 30 years.

Gary Yang, the lead scientist on the project, said he was excited to see if he could make the batteries outside the lab. The lab encourages scientists to do just that, in an effort to bring critical new technology into the marketplace. The lab and the U.S. government still hold the patents, because U.S. taxpayers paid for the research.

In 2012, Yang applied to the Department of Energy for a license to manufacture and sell the batteries.

The agency issued the license, and Yang launched UniEnergy Technologies. He hired engineers and researchers. But he soon ran into trouble. He said he couldn’t persuade any U.S. investors to come aboard.

“I talked to almost all major investment banks; none of them (wanted to) invest in batteries,” Yang said in an interview, adding that the banks wanted a return on their investments faster than the batteries would turn a profit.

He said a fellow scientist connected him with a Chinese businessman named Yanhui Liu and a company called Dalian Rongke Power Co. Ltd., along with its parent company, and he jumped at the chance to have them invest and even help manufacture the batteries.

At first, UniEnergy Technologies did the bulk of the battery assembly in the warehouse. But over the course of the next few years, more and more of the manufacturing and assembling began to shift to Rongke Power, Chris Howard said. In 2017, Yang formalized the relationship and granted Dalian Rongke Power Co. Ltd. an official sublicense, allowing the company to make the batteries in China.

Any company can choose to manufacture in China. But in this case, the rules are pretty clear. Yang’s original license requires him to sell a certain number of batteries in the U.S., and it says those batteries must be “substantially manufactured” here.

In an interview, Yang acknowledged that he did not do that. UniEnergy Technologies sold a few batteries in the U.S., but not enough to meet its requirements. The ones it did sell, including in one instance to the U.S. Navy, were made in China. But Yang said in all those years, neither the lab nor the department questioned him or raised any issues.

Then in 2019, Howard said, UniEnergy Technologies officials gathered all the engineers in a meeting room. He said supervisors told them they would have to work in China at Rongke Power Co. for four months at a time.

“It was unclear, certainly to myself and other engineers, what the plan was,” said Howard, who now works for Forever Energy.

Yang acknowledges that he wanted his U.S. engineers to work in China. But he says it was because he thought Rongke Power could help teach them critical skills.

Yang was born in China but is a U.S. citizen and got his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. He said he wanted to manufacture the entire battery in the U.S., but that the U.S. does not have the supply chain he required. He said China is more advanced when it comes to manufacturing and engineering utility-scale batteries.

“In this field — manufacturing, engineering — China is ahead of the U.S.,” Yang said. “Many wouldn’t believe [it].”

He said he didn’t send the battery and his engineers abroad to help China. He said the engineers in that country were helping his UniEnergy Technologies employees and helping him get his batteries built.

But news reports at the time show the moves were helping China. The Chinese government launched several large demonstration projects and announced millions of dollars in funding for large-scale vanadium batteries.

As battery work took off in China, Yang was facing more financial trouble in the U.S. So he made a decision that would again keep the technology from staying in the U.S.

The EU has strict rules about where companies manufacture products

In 2021, Yang transferred the battery license to a European company based in the Netherlands. The company, Vanadis Power, told NPR it initially planned to continue making the batteries in China and then would set up a factory in Germany, eventually hoping to manufacture in the U.S., said Roelof Platenkamp, the company’s founding partner.

Vanadis Power needed to manufacture batteries in Europe because the European Union has strict rules about where companies manufacture products, Platenkamp said.

“I have to be a European company, certainly a non-Chinese company, in Europe,” Platenkamp said in an interview with NPR.

But the U.S. has these types of rules, too. Any transfer of a U.S. government license requires U.S. government approval so that manufacturing doesn’t move overseas. The U.S. has lost significant jobs in recent years in areas where it first forged ahead, such as solar panels, drones and telecom equipment. Still, when UniEnergy requested approval, it apparently had no trouble getting it.

On July 7, 2021, a top official at UniEnergy Technologies emailed a government manager at the lab where the battery was created. The UniEnergy official said they were making a deal with Vanadis, according to emails reviewed by NPR, and were going to transfer the license to Vanadis.

“We’re working to finalize a deal with Vanadis Power and believe they have the right blend of technical expertise,” the email from UniEnergy Technologies said. “Our transaction with Vanadis is ready to go pending your approval …”

The government manager responded that he needed confirmation before transferring the license and emailed a second employee at UniEnergy. The second employee responded an hour and a half later, and the license was transferred to Vanadis Power.

Whether the manager or anyone else at the lab or Department of Energy thought to check during that hour and a half or thereafter whether Vanadis Power was an American company, or whether it intended to manufacture in the U.S., is unclear. Vanadis’ own website said it planned to make the batteries in China.

In response, department officials said they review each transfer for compliance and said that new rules put in place last summer by the Biden administration will close loopholes and keep more manufacturing here.

But agency officials acknowledged that its reviews often rely on “good faith disclosures” by the companies, which means if companies such as UniEnergy Technologies don’t say anything, the U.S. government may never know.

That’s a problem that has plagued the department for years, according to government investigators.

In 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Energy lacked resources to properly monitor its licenses, relied on antiquated computer systems, and didn’t have consistent policies across its labs.

In this case, it was an American company, Forever Energy, that raised concerns about the license with UniEnergy more than a year ago. Joanne Skievaski said she and others from the company repeatedly warned department officials that the UniEnergy license was not in compliance. In emails NPR has reviewed, department officials told them it was.

“How is it that the national lab did not require U.S. manufacturing?” Skievaski asked. “Not only is it a violation of the license, it’s a violation to our country.”

Now that the Department of Energy has revoked the license, Skievaski said she hopes Forever Energy will be able to acquire it or obtain a similar license. The company plans to open a factory in Louisiana next year and begin manufacturing. She bristles at the idea that U.S. engineers aren’t up to the challenge.

“That’s hogwash,” she said. “We are ready to go with this technology.”

Still, she says it will be difficult for any American company at this point to catch up. Industry trade reports currently list Dalian Rongke Power Co. Ltd. as the top manufacturer of vanadium redox flow batteries worldwide. Skievaski also worries about whether China will stop making the batteries once an American company is granted the right to start making them.

That may be unlikely. Chinese news reports say the country is about to bring online one of the largest battery farms the world has ever seen. The reports say the entire farm is made up of vanadium redox flow batteries.


Source : npr