The World Today for May 18, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

House of Cards

Ordinary Chinese people know that the children of Communist Party leaders amass wealth via familial connections. They encounter bankers seeking bribes in exchange for loans. If they can’t afford the bribes, they go to loan sharks. They understand they can do little to change their situation. They’ve seen police batter protesters who complain.

But seeing those snippets of daily life depicted on television is still a thrill in a country where government censors hold sway. That explains the success of “In the Name of the People,” a wildly popular Chinese television series about a politician battling graft.

“Such high-level dirt has been the source of much gossip in China, but has never been so vividly depicted,” wrote the Conversation.

The show, which aired in March, features Li Dakang, the Communist Party boss of Jingzhou, a fictional city. Like real-life Chinese officials, Li must create jobs without further ruining the environment or undermining Beijing’s rule, a tough balancing act.

“The most consistent economic storyline is Li’s relentless pursuit of growth and the problems this narrow focus brings,” the Economist noted.

The success of the show is a sign of China’s preoccupation with corruption these days.

China’s national prosecutor’s office is funding the show as part of President Xi Jinping’s push to crack down on corruption, according to the News.com.au.

As part of that campaign, Chinese officials convicted of corruption have been forced to confess to their crimes publicly on television. Xi is also reorganizing the country’s sprawling internal security apparatus to refocus on the problem, wrote HuffPost.

Sometimes that push appears to stall. Beijing is now calling for the arrest of a Chinese billionaire living abroad because the man accused relatives of high-ranking party officials of corruption, for example.

But “In the Name of the People” has been a success in transmitting Xi’s goals to mass audiences. Another 11 anti-graft shows are in production. In some cities, party members are required to write 1,500-word essays on the show.

Corruption costs China around $86 billion a year, HuffPost reported. That figure furthers drags down Chinese economic performance, which has been slowing after years of skyrocketing growth.

But, perhaps more importantly, corruption is a problem that China needs to tackle if it intends to live up to expectations that it will lead a so-called Post-Western world in the coming years.

There’s a moral imperative to reduce corruption, of course. But it’s also a practical goal.

As the South China Morning Post opined, China is investing massively in the developing world. Beijing will be squandering its money if corrupt officials in regions like Central Asia line their own pockets rather than build new roads to deliver China goods to foreign markets.

WANT TO KNOW

On their Own

The number of children fleeing their countries unaccompanied by parents or other adults has risen fivefold since 2010-11 – escalating worries about slavery and prostitution.

Some 300,000 minors fled their home countries alone over the most recent two-year period documented, including some 170,000 who sought asylum in Europe in 2015-16, the Associated Press quoted the UN children’s agency as saying.

Nearly 92 percent of the boys and girls arriving by boat in Italy in 2016 and early 2017 came unaccompanied or had been separated from their relatives along the way. Most hailed from Eritrea, Gambia, Nigeria, Egypt and Guinea.

But getting to Europe or the US hardly means escape. “Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are … helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said.

Another third of the children covered in the report – 100,000 boys and girls – were counted at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Boots on the Ground

Venezuela will send 2,600 soldiers into the restive Tachira region to put down anti-government protests that have spiraled into rioting and looting.

Three people, including two teenagers, were killed in Tachira this week, bringing the national death toll to 43 people from the nationwide rallies calling for President Nicolas Maduro to hold fresh elections, the BBC reported.

Maduro has blamed the opposition for inciting the violence, while opposition leaders have blamed the government crackdown for the deaths.

The deployment of troops is part of a plan to end the demonstrations called “Plan Zamora,” about which the government has yet to release any details. However, the BBC noted that a similar scheme to stop protests in Carabobo state involved an increased presence of heavily armed troops and riot police – as well as large-scale arrests of anti-government protesters and the use of military courts to try them, according to civil rights groups.

Never Mind Fukushima

India’s cabinet approved plans to build 10 indigenous nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 7,000 megawatts (MW), more than the country’s entire current capacity, forging ahead with the plans despite safety and environmental concerns that have prompted other nations to slow or stop their nuclear power programs.

“This project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximize cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution,” Reuters quoted a government statement as saying. “It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step toward strengthening India’s credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse.”

With US reactor-maker Westinghouse in bankruptcy proceedings, it’s not clear if it can complete six reactors it was in talks to deliver. Rather than a foreign supplier, government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will set up these 10 reactors – which are considerably larger than the 220 MWe and 540 MWe it has built in the past, noted the Indian Express.

DISCOVERIES

Carried Away

It’s no secret that the world’s oceans are brimming with loose trash that can harm ecosystems in the waves and onshore.

But it may come as a surprise that a little-known, uninhabited island in the middle of the South Pacific takes the cake for the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world.

According to scientists’ reports about Henderson Island, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, more than 37 million pieces of plastic debris have accumulated on its white-sand beaches. The trash weighs around 17 tons.

Add the lack of people on the island to the fact that civilization is around 3,100 miles away and a startling conclusion can be made about the “exceptional” accumulation of plastic on the island, NPR reported.

“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” said Jennifer Lavers, lead author of the study and a research scientist at the University of Tasmania. “Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.”

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