Chinese Values

In 1960’s, chairman Mao Tse-Tung seeked to end with religious and superstitious traces through The Cultural Revolution, criticizing deeply rooted Confucian values. Though this might have tempered devotees, values from ancient traditions persist somehow in nowadays’ culture and behavior of the chinese people.

The Chinese-Buddhist religion is greatly stained by Confucianism and Daoism. Both of these ancient currents with more than 2500 years of influence share many of the same ideas about man, society, the ruler, heaven and the universe as they stem from a common prior tradition: Shenism.

chinos

In terms of global values, we find Asia shares an ancient core philosophy based on ‘pantheism’ which is reflected also in the hindu vedas, meaning there is an infinite energy (God) surrounding us and within us, and the focus is being able to find it. This is a much more contemplative attitude than in the west and middle-east, where polytheism preaches about a God who judges our actions from the heavens through an established code of conduct we should obey. So the main different values between Asian and Western ancient philosophies are contemplation and inner exploration versus logical discourse that justify a morale involving guilt. A metaphysical basis (flows of energy) given through gurus and oriental philosophers versus a rationalistic basis (mathematical, rigid structures) mainly developed by ancient greek philosophers.

Shenism

Grassroots ethnic religious traditions of the Han Chinese. Meaning “worship of the shen”, ‘energies that generate things and make them thrive’.

Common core concepts:

Two traditional concepts of fate and meaning:  ming yun (命运), the personal destiny or burgeoning; and yuan fen(缘分), “fateful coincidence”

I Ching

(11th century before Christ) Divination manual that provides guidance for moral decision making.

Feng Shui

IMG-20150318-WA0006Metaphysical system when manipulating the environment and space so as to bring good fortune and enhance health, wealth, business and professional development. It is still crucial for architectural design in China, mostly indoor arrangements. Regarding urban landscape, each city should also preserve its fengshui.

Shanghai’s feng shui was hopefully healed a few years ago thanks to a practitioner who calculated the location of the fengshui center point. He found it was in the junction of several roads, and this would suppose a fatal problem for the city’s holistic health, so a copper cylinder that allows the flow of energy from the earth to the heavens was built to restore this powerful site.

Superstitions

ascensotStrongly remaining nowadays. For example, pursue of good luck through different rites, being red the lucky color and 8 the lucky number. The avoidance of bad omens such as number 4 (which is a pronounced similar to ‘death’) and number 13, till the extent that airplane seats with these numbers won’t be taken by chinese and building floors are skipped.
 

Daoism

Philosopher: Lao-zi . Fifth century before christ. Focuses on personal and metaphysical preoccupations.
Pursues naturalness, simplicity and spontaneity. Active attitude towards the occult and metaphysical. Interweaves with superstitions, chinese alchemy-neidan, chinese astrology, martial arts, Zen Buddhism, traditional chinese medicine, feng shui, qigong.

“Wu-wei”

Action through non-action. The universe works harmoniously according to its own ways, so when someone exerts their will against the world they disrupt that harmony. One must place their will in harmony with the natural universe avoiding potential harmful disturbances, allowing to achievement of goals effortlessly. Ancient Shamanic beliefs considered the king as being the axle between the sky, human beings, and the Earth. There was the belief that the less the king does, the more gets done, as his figure was considered the “calm center” around which the kingdom turns.

Three Treasures (basic virtues)

Compassion, Moderation and Humility ‘not daring to act first under the heavens’   -This can relate to the chinese employee’s attitude of not speaking up, not changing things so fast, and going the long way round, that surprises western businessmen.

Confucianism

confuciusPhilosopher: Confucius 551–479 BC. (Became the ideology of state from 136 B.C till the early twentieth century) Focus on the creation of a moral and political system that structured society during the Han dynasties, establishing hierarchies. It emphasizes the importance of the family, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics.

Ren, Yi

Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals. Yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good. Confucianism holds one in contempt, either passively or actively, for failure to uphold the cardinal moral values of ren and yi. – Probably a good explanation for why chinese do not like accepting gifts or tips in exchange of having helped you. It’s better to make a gift at some other moment, showing in the same way an altruistic attitude.

Li

Li is a system of ritual norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act in everyday life. Zhi is the ability to see what is right and fair, or the converse, in the behaviors exhibited by others.

Guanxi

The central idea of connections and relationships within society, a dynamic of reciprocal obligation in personalized networks of influence. It establishes a reliable inner circle that is treated well and an outer circle of strangers that aren’t taken much into consideration. Strangers interconnected with members of the inner circle automatically become part of it. This applies to business: TRUST must be built before negotiating (gifts, meals), customers may follow their salesperson to any organization he goes to. Guanxi is long-lasting but not inexhaustible as once an obligatory debt is paid it may not work as well unless a strong relationship persists.  Differs from western terms of utilitarian ethics, which establish courteous and contractual networks when doing business.

Mianzi

The idea of ‘face’(one’s perception in the eyes of others), the combination of social status, propriety and prestige. You can give face to others (praise) or make them loose face (humiliate). Once face is lost it may be impossible to recover, only maybe through public apologies. Face can be extended to a company organization or nation. Hierarchies must be carried in mind when interacting. Avoid explicitness and accountability through indirect approaches: ask for resignation instead of firing, refuse through excuses, no straightforward criticism. An example of a possible misunderstood between West and China: If you give someone a gift more expensive than the one they gave you, you are making them loose face as your expensive gift implies they haven’t been generous enough.

Zhong jian ren

Intermediaries or guanxi to intercede in communications. In this indirect-approach system they are very helpful as a back channel for negotiations. This way difficult messages can be communicated discursively.

Lije

Preserving the superficial harmony through politeness and courtesy. It is crucial for preserving face. Controlling emotions without making public and loud displays (shouting, laughter, anger), negative feelings shouldn’t be aired out so silence and deference are important but do not equal agreement acceptance or acquiescence. Through this concept, obligation more than emotion should drive relationships.

 

Chinese Culture through Hofstede’s Cultural Profile:

.hofsteed

–Large Power Distance (vs. western small power distance). Ancient divinization of kings, as well as the Confucian precept of obedience and utmost respect towards elders and superiors, can explain the strong hierarchical system: the difference and reverence towards managers from employees .

-Collectivistic Culture (vs. western Individualistic cultures) What was mentioned before  along with the communal Confucian concept sets a framework for acceptance of totalitarian/overprotective governance; people belong to groups that are supposed to look after them in exchange of loyalty, a dependence on ‘the state’

-Masculinity. This stands for a society driven by competition, achievement and success, opposed to the feminine dimension whose dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life.

-Low Uncertainty Avoidance: The Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity as the Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings that can be difficult for Western people to follow. Chinese are adaptable and entrepreneurial.

-High Long Term Orientation (vs western less pragmatic, more attached to time-honoured traditions and norms) Chinese adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and pragmatism is a fact of life, the way in which the government is adapting to be competitive, creating a unique chinese model of socialism is an example of this.

-Restraint Society (vs. western induglence) Following the Li and Lije Confucian rules, people try to control theis desires and impulses. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism, not putting much emphasis on leisure time and controlling the gratification of their desires.

 


Oceans of Motion

Waves and rivers are thScenery - Crashing Wavese most continuous motions we can find naturally on earth. Never ceasing in their flow, in their back and forth… Research on marine technologies seems a solid energy promise, as the main weakness of renewables is the insecurity of supply due to the uncertainty of its ‘natural happening’ but the ocean has an ongoing motion. Even on the calmest days, currents and waves linger on their action.
Oceans store unbearable power and cover great part of the planet. As a fast thought, turbines at wave-crashing sites or rooted pendulums that are swayed resembling algae should be able to gather energy. Imagine entire fields of these ‘algae pendulums’ generating constant energy from the ocean’s ground!


The con to this renewable would be the possible ecological impact on marine ecosystems that should be thoroughly avoided. Maintenance could also be challenging, due to its underwater location and the corrosiveness of sea water.

 


Solar energy – as good as it seems?

energia solar

 

 Solar energy is an increasingly used renewable energy source that comes from the radiated heat and light from the sun. While it has earned a good reputation due to being “green”, all of its aspects may not be that positive. In this post I will give a brief insight of its pros and cons.

Pros:

Cons:

In my opinion it is a good alternative to traditional sources of energy, although it is best adapted to small-scale situations.


China’s policies on Foreign Investment

http://www.thirdyearabroad.com

http://www.thirdyearabroad.com

The (Western) new year 2015 opens with the news of China being the world leading recipient of Foreign Direct  Investment, leaving the United States behind for the first time in history. Lately China is becoming more services oriented instead of delivering manufacturing oriented activities. But is it possible that this trend might be changing in the next couple of years?

www.economist.com

www.economist.com

According to UNCTAD  this might be the case, as wages in China are rising and manufacturers look for cheaper production elsewhere, lowering the inbound investment. But besides the lowering of the inbound investment, China is doing some important investment outside of China; outbound investment.

 

It is acquiring properties around the globe. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, since 2007, China’s outbound investments have grown with more than 70 billion U.S.$. Among these investments there is the Beijing Anbang Insurance, which bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York just last month (February 2015), for $1.95 billion. The Dalian Wanda, China’s bigger private property developer and the largest cinema chain owner in the world is becoming a strong figure in the world business, buying among others 20% of the Spanish football club Atlético de Madrid, and having properties in London, Chicago, Los Angeles and Sydney.

Now zooming back into inbound investment, it is interesting to note that it is becoming more difficult for companies to invest in China. Unlike some 10 years ago, now the policies for accepting foreign direct investment have been sharpened by the Chinese government. Guided among others by the Five Year Plan and the Preferred Industries List (preferred industries that China wants its companies to pursue), the government screens all applications for investment in China.

http://cdn.theatlantic.com

http://cdn.theatlantic.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just to put a very simple example: Is your business a high- tech one? Is it zero polluting? Then you’re most likely in. On the other hand, are you a automobile manufacturer? Then your investment will most likely not be approved. So a concluding tip for companies wanting to establish their business in China: Study the current Five Year Plan (2011- 2015) and the Preferred Industries List. This will help on the way of making an accurate decision into investing in China.

 

References:

– BBC News, “China overtakes US for foreign direct investment” (2015), available here.

– Insurance journal, “Hilton closes $1.95B Waldorf Astoria sale to Anbang Insurance (2015), available here.

– The economist, “It’s a Wanda- ful life.- China’s biggest property tycoon wants to become an entertainment colossus”(2015), available here.

– Wikipedia, ” Five year plans of the People’s Republic of China”, available here.

– United Nations UNCTAD, “Global FDI flows declines in 2014. China becomes the world’s top FDI recipient, available here.


The Dirty face of Hydro Power

Water is one of the main natural resources used for electricity production around the world. Humans have been using water as a source of energy for more than 2000 years, and today hydro power represent 15 % of the total electricity generated in the globe.

Energy is vital for our societies because it is behind every economic and productive activity. Our current civilization is totally dependent on energy, for transportation, electricity (households, industries, health, etc.) and agriculture. Furthermore, if any country wants to grow its economy and increase its gross domestic product (GDP), they must consume more energy, as well as increase its energy efficiency (in both the generation and the demand side).

In the current global context where Climate Change is such a relevant issue when talking about Sustainable Development, Renewable Energies are gaining relevance, as they are considered to be clean, renewable, and have no emissions of green house gases (GHG). Renewables are a very interesting option to contribute to Climate Change mitigation, especially considering the increasing demand of energy from developing countries.

But… Is Hydro power really a “clean” and environmentally friendly option??

According to many nonprofit organizations around the world, such as AIDA (Environmental Laws for the Americas), International Rivers, or the Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC) which includes 150 groups concerned about the impact of dams, “Large Dams are not clean energy”.

Dams have a highly negative impact on the environment, destroying natural habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity, “from their headwaters in the mountains, to their mouths at the ocean and beyond”. Dams are responsible for 37% of the decline of fresh water species, which in the case of tropical areas, increases up to 70%[1].

Paradoxically, it has also been proven that among other negative effects (land use, degraded water quality, and even human rights) dams causes the accumulation of organic materials, that end up decomposing and emitting green houses gases, not only CO2 but especially Methane, which is 28 times stronger that CO2. Methane emissions from Dams contribute to 4% of global GHG emissions, which equivalents to all global emissions of aviation.[2]

Many articles about these issues can be found in prestigious magazines such as Harvard Review, Scientific American or National Geographic. Personally I think that it is very hard to categorize any type of energy as “good or bad”; they all have pros and cons. However, policy makers must have all the information on the table and consider the mentioned issues when designing their national energy plans and deciding in what source of energy they will invest to meet their future demand.

Imagen 1

Image extracted from Scientific American (www.scientificamerica.com)

Imagen 2

Image extracted from AIDA (www.aida-americas.org)

 

 

 

[1] Information published by International Rivers and AIDA on Info graph which was distributed in the 2014 Lima COP20 meeting.

[2] IDEM


Urban Planning, Partnerships and Water access

“Agua va!” (Water falling!)

A couple of months ago I was reading a book about the story of Madrid, and I discovered a tremendously shocking fact: Back in the 17th Century, the city of Madrid, recently turned into the capital of Spain by Philippe II, lacked access to household water and sanitation.

A common phrase that a typical pedestrian from Madrid would listen was “Water falling!”, meaning that someone was throwing urine or excrement out the window into the streets. This was such a problem, that there are literary references about the pestilence of the city by famous writers such as Quevedo or Gongora.

Fortunately, King Charles III asked Marques de Esquilache to elaborate a Plan for paving, drainage, lightning and street cleaning and to establish a rigid municipal ordinance to forbid throwing garbage and human disposals out the window. He is considered to be “the first Mayor of Madrid”.

Today, the city of Madrid, and every other city of Spain, have 100% access to water and sanitation in the household.

Nowadays, many centuries after, there are many cities in the world where people don’t have access to these basic services: According to UN Habitat, 1.1 billion people don’t have access to water and 2.6 billion don’t have access to toilets.

Imagen2

Personal Elaboration

 

Lima: no Plan, no Access

In Lima (Peru), where I come from out of the 8.6 million people, 1.5 million still lack access to water and sanitation.

During the 20th Century, after World War II, the city received a large number of migrants: Lima´s population went from 0,6 million in 1940, to 1,9 million in 1960, 4,8 million in 1980, 7,2 million in 1990 and 8,2 million in 2010, more than 30% of the total population of the country.

But, did this expansion occur under any kind of urban planning? The answer is no. The city expansion was mainly through illegal “barriadas” or slums, which now are home to more than 3 million people.

 

Water scarcity

Lima has only 2.2% of the water resources of the country, and has to provide drinking water to a third of the countries’ population.

After el Cairo, Lima is the second largest city located in a desert, and it mostly depends on the water of the Rimac River (75%)[1], which compared to the Nilo River, only carries 1% of water. Not only population, households and industry depend on the Rimac flow, but also the energy sector, since 59% of the electricity is hydroelectric.

Since the city has grown without any planning, the access of water for the city is now threatened. One of the main threats has been the expansion of unplanned urbanization which has made the Rimac River an urbanized river through 95% of its natural path. The newly impermeable surfaces are a huge threat to the natural underground aquifer.

 

Solution: Plan and Partner

An interesting solution to the problem of water is to establish partnerships between municipalities, NGOs, and especially large private industrial companies, which are very interested and sensitive about water scarcity, and want to ensure the availability of the resource in the future in order to still have a business to run in the coming years.

In the case of Lima, there is an interesting experience to highlight in the district of Ate, which includes the participation of the Municipality, WWF, GIZ and Backus, the largest beer company that has its bigger production plant in Ate.

The objective of this multi stakeholder Partnership is to recover old irrigation canals, and secondary connection to parks, in order to irrigate the parks with cheaper water[2] and contribute to the recharge of the aquifer in areas that are now impermeable and full of trash. Project would benefits 15 hectares, of land and 15 parks.

The Project has finalized recently and it is being evaluated, but it will definitely have a large impact and it can be a replicable solution to warrantee the recharge of the aquifer and to reduce the risk and threat of urbanization and impermeability.

In places where Urban Planning haven’t been done since the beginning and urbanization threatens the river flow, the aquifer and the access to water, this can be a very interesting a posteriori solution to the problem. This pilot project can become a model for most of developing countries which suffer from similar issues.

Imagen1

Personal Elaboration

 

 

[1] Rivers Chillon (13%) and Lurin (12%) also provide Lima with water, but mainly for agriculture.

[2] Water from SEDAPAL connections: €1.30/m3.  Water from Canals: €0.02/m3.  Water from tunker truck: €2.3/m3.

 

References:

 


Solar Photovoltaic: Pros and Cons

The Sun, considered as life initiator since ancient times, it is the source of energy that creates everything around us. The sunlight that reaches Earth every day dwarfs all the planet’s other energy sources, and solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are what comes to our mind when we talk about solar energy.

Some of its well known advantages are: it is environmentally friendly as solar PV panels do not produce greenhouse-gases during electricity production, the energy source is free and abundant, solar PV panels costs are reducing year after year, and operating and maintenance costs for PV panels are considered to be low compared to costs of other renewable energy systems.

However, this technology is still behind in capturing this naturally free vast amount of energy provided by nature. Some of the most important disadvantages are: solar energy is intermittent (not available at night or during cloudy weather) making solar PV panels less reliable, solar panels efficiency levels are relatively low (around 17%-40%) compared to the efficiency levels of other renewable energy systems, relativelly high installation costs (especially with storage) and solar PV panels installation require relatively large areas for deployment.


The Power of Water

The history of human being utilizing water to produce energy could be chased back to thousands of years earlier, in today’s definition however the hydropower is mostly referred to hydroelectricity power only. It harnesses the energy when water flowing from high to low level then produces electricity for household, industry usage.

Hydropower is one of the “clean energy” that many counties are trying to promote due to its predictable constant output, low production cost, and incredible low emission of GHG gases since no fossil fuel is required or burned during production process. Despite of all those advantages, we are also seeing a list of negative impacts hydropower plant brought to the ecosystems and human society: loss of biodiversity and disturbance of livelihood due to dam and reservoir construction; the alter of water route and possible manmade disaster due to constant high low water flow and a depletion of natural vegetation, last but not least the high amount of construction cost and long duration of construction stage.

Hydro likes many other renewable energies are considered as clean ones with pros outweigh cons and may contribute to sustainable development. A proper evaluation and assessment before implementing any energy expansion plan should definitely benefit further.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 16.45.05


Offshore Wind

US-offshore-wind-projectsSince the first wind farm built in Vindeby (Denmark, 1991) until Beatrice project (Scotland 2007) offshore wind technology has suffered a notable development. Nowadays we can observe how the sector is moving towards larger turbines and bigger wind farm projects, as well as to higher distance to shore and an increasing size of wind farms. This is translated into a better perspectives for investors and can solve one of the main disadvantages of this kind of technology. Construction costs can be compensated faster with a high efficiency, for instance some recent studies have calculated that that return on investments for offshore developments can be higher than 18 percent. In conclusion, offshore technology still growing, companies and governments are investing and announcing new turbine models and economic support. Unless current trends change, offshore wind will be able to double its capacity by 2020.

Source: AWEA


 

HYDROPOWER

 

Hydropower is the world`s most widely used renewable energy source. The raw material is not only constantly available but can even be used to store energy. What makes hydro very competitive is the low-cost while releasing no harmful emissions. However,  even if the construction of hydro plants is expensive and time consuming,  the generation of hydro energy pays off, due to their long lifespan and the source that is free of charge.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.29.33 PM

What is concerning is that the construction of dams and large hydroelectric plants can change the nature of strong and dry whole landscapes. This can endanger the existence of both animals and humans who lose their habitat or their economic base. In addition, if the run of rivers is changed, fish species are also at risk, since they can no longer reach their spawning grounds.

 

 

 



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