Sunday, January 31, 2016
China factory output shrinks most in three years; Drone schools spread in China; 'World's best chef' dies at 44
1 China factory output shrinks fastest in three years (The Guardian) Activity in China’s manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace in almost three-and-a-half years in January, missing market expectations, an official survey has shown.
The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) stood at 49.4 in January, compared with the previous month’s reading of 49.7 and below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. It is the weakest index reading since August 2012.
The PMI marks the sixth consecutive month of factory activity contraction, underlining a weak start for the year for a manufacturing complex under severe pressure from falling prices and overcapacity in key sectors including steel and energy.
Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank, said: “The electricity production remained sluggish and the crude steel output continued the weak trend in January, reflecting an ongoing deleveraging process in the industrial sectors. In the meantime, China has started an aggressive capacity reduction in many sectors, which could add downward pressure on the bulk commodity prices over time.”
The slowdown was underlined by figures showing that South Korea’s exports suffered their worst downturn in January since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009. The trade ministry in Seoul said sluggish demand from China helped exports to fall to a worse-than-expected 18.5% from a year earlier, extending December’s slump of 14.1% and marking the 13th straight month of declines. It was the biggest drop since August 2009 when shipments tumbled 20.9%.
2 Drone schools spread in China (San Francisco Chronicle) Joysticks at their fingertips, the mostly male students packing the classroom lift their virtual helicopters into the air, part of a new cottage industry that's sprung up in China: drone pilot schools.
China is already the world's biggest drone manufacturer, churning out remote-controlled flying machines that range from 3-D urban mappers to tear-gas spraying models for police. But it lacks qualified pilots to fly them. Young men in particular are flocking to drone schools such as TT Aviation Technology Co., one of more than 40 in China, hoping to land a potentially lucrative job in an exciting new field.
TT Aviation offers a two-week intensive course for $1,200 where students learn regulations and how to pilot using simulators and real drones. At the end of the course, they can try to earn the license required by China's Civil Aviation Administration to operate drones that are heavier than 7 kilograms (15 pounds) and fly higher than 120 meters (400 feet).
The opportunities appear promising. More than 10,000 new pilots are needed this year across all industries in China, but only 1,000 pilots now hold licenses, said Yang Yi, the general manager of TT Aviation, which also manufactures and sells drones to private and public sector customers. Drones are touted as game-changers in a range of industries, including agriculture, logistics, film production and law enforcement.
Baidu, the Beijing-based search engine, is developing a self-driving car while DJI, a Shenzhen-based drone maker valued by US investors at $8 billion, has cornered more than half the world consumer drone market.
So far, more than half of TT Aviation's products are used in agriculture. China has vast farmlands, and there is a high demand for drones to be used in pesticide spraying because the labor force is shrinking even as labor costs rise. The company said police will use drones for patrols, while utilities use them for maintaining electricity infrastructure or mapping pipelines.
3 ‘World’s best chef’ dies at 44 (BBC) Chef Benoit Violier, whose Swiss restaurant was named the best in the world in December, has been found dead at his home. Mr Violier, 44, ran the Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville in Crissier, near the city of Lausanne.
It earned three Michelin stars and came top in France's La Liste ranking of the world's 1,000 best eateries. Swiss police said Mr Violier, who was born in France, is believed to have killed himself.
The Swiss news website 24 Heures said (in French) that Mr Violier had been due to attend the launch of the new Michelin guide in Paris on Monday. His death comes some six months after that of Philippe Rochat, his mentor and predecessor at the Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville.
Having worked at the restaurant since 1996, Mr Violier took it over along with his wife Brigitte in 2012, before obtaining Swiss nationality. A keen hunter, he was known for signature dishes including game and produced a weighty book on game meat last year.
Swiss chef Fredy Girardet, who also received three Michelin stars, told 24 Heures that he was "dumbfounded" by the news. "He was a brilliant man," he said. "Such talent, and an amazing capacity for work. He was so kind, with so many qualities. He gave the impression of being perfect."