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Daily Archives: September 25, 2022

Chart: Lithium Carbonate Prices in China Rose to a Record-high in September 2022

Source : Trading Economics

Chart: Total Debt by Sector of Emerging Markets in Asia

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Business World

Humour: News in Cartoon

Chinese Astronauts Go On Spacewalk from New Station

wrote . . . . . . . . .

Two Chinese astronauts went on a spacewalk recently from a new space station that is due to be completed later this year.

Cai Xuzhe and Chen Dong installed pumps, a handle to open the hatch door from outside in an emergency, and a foot-stop to fix an astronaut’s feet to a robotic arm, state media said.

China is building its own space station after being excluded by the U.S. from the International Space Station because its military runs the country’s space program. American officials see a host of strategic challenges from China’s space ambitions, in an echo of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry that prompted the race to the moon in the 1960s.

The latest spacewalk was the second during a six-month mission that will oversee the completion of the space station. The first of two laboratories, a 23-ton module, was added to the station in July and the other is to be sent up later this year.

The third member of the crew, Liu Yang, supported the other two from inside during the spacewalk. Liu and Chen conducted the first spacewalk about two weeks ago.

They will be joined by three more astronauts near the end of their mission in what will be the first time the station has six people on board.

China became the third nation to send a person into space in 2003, following the former Soviet Union and the United States. It has sent rovers to the moon and Mars and brought lunar samples back to Earth.

Source : AP

Chart: The Growing Global Hunger For Meat

In the past few years, a change in global agriculture could be observed. The production costs of meat became lower due to the increasing production of animal feed such as soy or corn, thus increasing the supply of meat in many countries. Especially in the populous countries of Asia, the demand for different types of meat increased. Asia is the largest meat producing market, with a focus on pork and poultry.

Source: Statista

How Does What We Eat Affect Our Healthspan and Longevity? It’s a Complex Dynamic System

The answer to a relatively concise question – how does what we eat affect how we age — is unavoidably complex, according to a new study at the Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. While most analyses had been concerned with the effects of a single nutrient on a single outcome, a conventional, unidimensional approach to understanding the effects of diet on health and aging no longer provides us with the full picture: healthy diet needs to be considered based on the balance of ensembles of nutrients, rather than by optimizing a series of nutrients one at a time. Until now little was known about how normal variation in dietary patterns in humans affects the aging process. The findings are published online in the journal BMC Biology.

“Our ability to understand the problem has been complicated by the fact that both nutrition and the physiology of aging are highly complex and multidimensional, involving a high number of functional interactions,” said Alan Cohen, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School. “This study therefore provides further support to the importance of looking beyond ‘a single nutrient at a time’ as the one size fits all response to the age-old question of how to live a long and healthy life.” Cohen also points that the results are also concordant with numerous studies highlighting the need for increased protein intake in older people, in particular, to offset sarcopenia and decreased physical performance associated with aging.

Using multidimensional modelling techniques to test the effects of nutrient intake on physiological dysregulation in older adults, the researchers identified key patterns of specific nutrients associated with minimal biological aging. “Our approach presents a roadmap for future studies to explore the full complexity of the nutrition-aging landscape,” observed Cohen, who is also affiliated with the Butler Columbia Aging Center.

The researchers analyzed data from 1560 older men and women, aged 67-84 years selected randomly between November 2003 and June 2005 from the Montreal, Laval, or Sherbrooke areas in Quebec, Canada, who were re-examined annually for 3 years and followed over four years to assess on a large-scale how nutrient intake associates with the aging process.

Aging and age-related loss of homeostasis (physiological dysregulation) were quantified via the integration of blood biomarkers. The effects of diet used the geometric framework for nutrition, applied to macronutrients and 19 micronutrients/nutrient subclasses. Researchers fitted a series of eight models exploring different nutritional predictors and adjusted for income, education level, age, physical activity, number of comorbidities, sex, and current smoking status.

Four broad patterns were observed:

  • The optimal level of nutrient intake was dependent on the aging metric used. Elevated
    protein intake improved/depressed some ageing parameters, whereas elevated carbohydrate levels improved/depressed others;

  • There were cases where intermediate levels of nutrients performed well for many outcomes (i.e. arguing against a simple more/less is better perspective);
  • There is broad tolerance for nutrient intake patterns that don’t deviate too much from norms
    (‘homeostatic plateaus’).

  • Optimal levels of one nutrient often depend on levels of another (e.g. vitamin E and vitamin C). Simpler analytical approaches are insufficient to capture such associations.

The research team also developed an interactive tool to allow users to explore how different combinations of micronutrients affect different aspects of aging.

The results of this study are consistent with earlier experimental work in mice showing that high-protein diets may accelerate aging earlier in life, but are beneficial at older ages.

“These results are not experimental and will need to be validated in other contexts. Specific findings, such as the salience of the combination of vitamin E and vitamin C, may well not replicate in other studies. But the qualitative finding that there are no simple answers to optimal nutrition is likely to hold up: it was evident in nearly all our analyses, from a wide variety of approaches, and is consistent with evolutionary principles and much previous work,” said Cohen.

Source: Columbia University

China’s Property Sector Must Downsize If There Aren’t Enough Marriages to Save It

Andy Xie wrote . . . . . . . . .

China’s property bubble is deflating quickly. The vast industry and local governments are trying to revive it. But it won’t work. The sector is beset by developers’ financing woes and a massive supply overhang amid high household debt, a property affordability crisis and, crucially, a collapse in the rate of marriage.

The government can ease developers’ financial pressure and cut debt costs for households. But it cannot revive the marriage rate. The property industry must downsize by at least half if it is to attain any stability at all.

The industry has enjoyed an incredible combination of huge volumes and high prices for so long partly due to the unique dynamics of China’s modern marriage market – men looking to marry were expected to own property, preferably debt-free.

The man’s parents and grandparents tended to pitch in, often exhausting their savings. The prospective bride’s family, free of financial pressure, would often push for purchase regardless of the price. Debt was sometimes used to plug the cash shortfall, borrowed under the names of the groom’s parents. Such demand has been a pillar of the property market.

But marriages plunged to a record low of 7.6 million last year, roughly half of the peak of 13.5 million in 2013. That year, 1.3 billion square metres of new residential properties – roughly 13 million flats – were sold, household debt was low at 16.6 trillion yuan (US$2.4 trillion), and grandparents were rich in savings. By last year, household debt had ballooned to 71.1 trillion yuan, over 140 per cent of disposable household income, and the grandparents had been bled dry.

In China, grooms historically bear the financial burden of the wedding and the matrimonial home. This is tied to the all-importance of the family name and the expectation that men carry it on at any cost. Chinese society has emphasised the importance of the family name for thousands of years; emperors used to bestow the imperial family name on their subjects as a reward, making it all the more precious.

The family name has also been a most powerful force for social order. No matter how hard life was, a man was motivated to try his best, find a woman and sire sons. For a wealthy man, this used to mean finding several women so as to have many sons – also a sure way of dissipating the wealth eventually.

This stacks the cards against men and reduces women to essential tools in the enterprise of continuing the family name. But it also gives the prospective bride’s parents the right to seek compensation – the caili or bride price. In the 21st century, this demand has morphed into a matrimonial flat. The belief that a marriage mainly benefits the man’s family also shifts the financial burden of acquiring a matrimonial home to his family.

The Chinese property market has been riding on this phenomenon for a decade and a half. But when even the grandparents have turned out their pockets, one simply cannot go further.

As marriage became more expensive, demand plummeted. Bachelors began to proliferate and this triggered social change. People started to challenge the established ideas of marriage, masculinity and financial responsibility. Why does being born with a Y-chromosome have to doom men to massive mortgages that often yoke three generations to debt?

From 2013-2021, 14 billion square metres of property was snapped up, worth 116 trillion yuan and averaging 15 per cent of gross domestic product. The urban home ownership rate is already at about 90 per cent. As the economy stagnates and the yuan weakens, investment demand is also evaporating.

Marriage is the only significant driver of demand for property. With about 7 billion square metres in residential property under construction and unsold, if every marriage leads to a property purchase and the number of marriages doesn’t fall further, it would still take about 10 years to digest the inventory. Given that both assumptions are wildly optimistic, and that land banks, meanwhile, will only add to the inventory, it will be a long slog before the market returns to stability.

Yet neither the industry nor local governments seem willing to give up on the bubble. Land sales and property taxes have averaged close to 10 per cent of gross domestic product in recent years. The financing cost of mortgages and the construction of residential property is probably worth 7-8 per cent of GDP, and paid mostly to the state-owned financial system, with some leftovers for shadow banks. With so many mouths at the property trough, there must be many powerful interests lobbying the central government to revive it.

There will be many efforts in this direction, but none will have lasting impact. Most developers and small cities are simply not viable. The property industry is becoming a zombie. So are many local governments.

While the potential cost of allowing the property bubble to naturally deflate would be huge, China’s economy can come back through restructuring to generate even more productivity gains. Non-governmental consumption can be boosted by 10 percentage points – or more – to 50 per cent of GDP. Investment will shrink but can be deployed more efficiently.
Urbanisation efforts, for example, should be concentrated on developing megacities. Most small cities are not viable in the long run anyway. Future generations will not want to live there.

Unfortunately, China is unlikely to restructure its economy. A consumption and megacity-led economy is not compatible with the political system. The economy is defaulting to an export-led model for now.

As long as the global economy remains standing, so will China. Only a total collapse of the global economy will trigger real reform in China.

Source : SCMP