Sunday, November 8, 2015

China imports fall 19% in Oct; Why Bihar state rejected India PM Modi; Privacy seems a 20th century anomaly

1 China imports fall 19% in Oct (BBC) China saw imports drop for the twelfth month in a row in October giving further cause for concern over the Chinese economy. Imports by the world's biggest trader of goods fell 18.8% from a year earlier to $130.8bn, a slight improvement on September's 20.4% decline.

Exports dropped 6.9% to $192.4bn, the fourth consecutive monthly fall, as foreign demand waned. That left China with its highest trade surplus on record at $61.6bn. Chinese authorities have been trying to make the economy more consumer-led and less reliant on exports, but the continuing fall in imports suggests domestic demand is not as strong as Beijing would like.

The ruling Communist party set a target of 6% trade growth at the start of the year, but total trade for the world's second largest economy has now fallen by 8% in the first ten months. Last week Chinese President Xi Jinping signalled that policymakers would accept slower economic growth than the current 7% target. Last month China revealed its economy slipped to 6.9% growth in the third quarter, the weakest rate since the global financial crisis.

2 Why Bihar state rejected India PM Modi (Lata Rani in Gulf News) India’s Bihar state has awarded the performer. And punished negativity and needless aggression. This is the dominant feeling of most political analysts and voters from the state.

The stunning victory of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance is widely viewed as a vote for his good governance, his innately soft nature and the “social engineering” he achieved with friend-turned-foe-turned-ally Lalu Prasad. Joining hands with Lalu Prasad was obviously a risky decision, but Nitish Kumar went ahead calculating that the caste combinations it would bring about would deliver the results. It did.

Many also felt that the personal attacks mounted on the soft-spoken Nitish Kumar by prime minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah had backfired. Nitish Kumar used all the jibes directed at him to remind voters about Bihari pride — just the way Modi used to do during his tenure as Gujarat chief minister.

Many voters both during the campaign and after the results came out on Sunday made it clear that they did not approve of the language and style of the prime minister. Observers cite three major reasons for the defeat of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in Bihar.

The first is the observation by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat to review country’s reservation process right in the middle of the poll process. The Grand Secular Alliance went to the masses, extensively raising the matter in every election rally, telling them how the BJP’s ideological head was conspiring to scrap reservation of the socially poor castes.

The second factor was the “negative campaigning” by Modi and his allies. Instead of focusing on his “development agenda” and his plan for the state, the Prime Minister went too aggressive against the rival alliance at every rally. The third factor was Modi’s failure to fulfil the promises he made to the voters during last year’s Lok Sabha poll campaign. One of them was bringing back black money stashed in foreign banks and crediting Rs1.5 million in the bank account of every Indians.

3 Privacy seems a 20th century anomaly (David Shariatmadari in The Guardian) Medieval villagers couldn’t afford to be too proud. In Montaillou, home to some 200 souls, people would often sleep several to a bed. That meant that they were constantly picking up lice. No matter: in 14th-century France, delousing was a just another opportunity to socialise.

A world without privacy still seems alien to us. I say still, because there are growing parallels between the medieval village and its modern, global counterpart. This week, the government published a draft bill to enable it to track citizens’ internet use.

This is not quite the “global village” of Marshall McLuhan’s imagination: “These new media of ours,” he said in 1964, “have made our world into a single unit. The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message all the time.

In 2015, the villagers answer back to communication. The result is arguably a more censorious environment, one in which your movements and behaviour are more strictly policed, officially and unofficially. And it replaces a period of “privacy” that is beginning to look like a bit of an anomaly.

If privacy had a golden age, it was after moral strictures had loosened, but before the age of mass chronicling and surveillance: the time when cities in the west offered the opportunity to start again, to disappear and re-emerge transformed, stretching perhaps from the 1960s to the end of the century.

Now we live with a different kind of anonymity. If you know someone’s real name, it doesn’t take much to find out where they live, who they like to sleep with and what their sister’s name is. On the other hand, legions of internet users adopt false identities. The freedom this affords them is sometimes the wonderful freedom of the city, to leave old things behind and connect with other like-minded souls. But it’s often the freedom to intimidate or threaten, with no cost to the real self.

The new normal, is where everyone knows your business. But as we tramp back to the village, it’s worth mourning that golden age of privacy, and the city that allowed people to reinvent themselves like the characters in Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Life may never be as mysterious again.

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