Tuesday, September 02, 2014

State Grid Rolls Out Expansion in Europe

From Tianjin to Tuscany
Winston Churchill memorably described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. In WiC’s view the same quote might equally be applied to China’s electricity behemoth, the State Grid.

Not surprisingly, State Grid invokes strong feelings among Chinese decisionmakers. Reformers see it as an overly-powerful beast that controls 90% of China’s power distribution, monopolistically supplying electricity to 1.1 billion people. On the other hand, corporatist types – who have favoured an alternative ideology known as ‘state-led capitalism’ – view the company as a national champion.

The ‘enigma’ for WiC is the often contradictory messages that come from the corridors of power as to which wing is in the ascendant – and is therefore shaping the influential company’s future. In May the statists seemed to score a landmark victory when the firm finally (after much delay and many arguments) got the go ahead to begin work on 10 UHV lines at a cost of Rmb381.5 billion . This set in motion what is likely to be one of the world’s biggest infrastructure investments, with analysts reckoning State Grid would now get its way on a national rollout of UHV at cost of $250 billion by 2020. That looked a defeat for reformers, who’d argued against the controversial plan, citing technological concerns and worries it would lead to State Grid exercising an even greater control over the power industry
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On the other hand, massive graft purges in the electricity sector – starting at the Three Gorges Dam in late March – seemed to be sending a message that the reformers had the upper hand and were readying to pare back the overmighty company’s influence. Indeed in June, the State Grid even made market-friendly noises for the first time, suggesting it would welcome private capital to help build a national vehicle-charging network for electric cars – thereby sharing the fruits of this growing business with entrepreneurs. It also said it would allow private-sector operators to feed new energy power sources (such as solar) into its nationwide system. CBN called both moves “an icebreaker”.

More recently the political pendulum looks to have swung the other way again, with State Grid expanding aggressively abroad. Back in the ‘national champion’ mode it has now unveiled a bold European strategy. Last month it bought a 35% stake in Italy’s grid operator, which is the sixth biggest in the world, according to the People’s Daily. That $2.8 billion deal may swiftly be followed by another. State Grid has joined a consortium with the Belgian grid operator Elia to bid for a 66% stake in the Greek electricity transmission firm ADMIE.

A top executive at State Grid told the Chinese press that it would make further investments in Europe, bringing its UHV and smart grid technologies to the continent.

Its timing is savvy. People’s Daily also comments that the EU is concerned that its target of linking member states with a ‘Eurogrid’ by 2015 is lagging – with many local governments and indebted firms unable to make good on grid commitments in the aftermath of the euro crisis. An EU energy commissioner has even told reporters that the EU welcomes State Grid’s participation in grid construction – so long as it abides by the relevant laws.

Read the whole story at Week in China.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fairy Tale Ending

A case of taking the mickey? Or just a prudent attempt to remain anonymous? Anyway the winner of Shandong’s lottery turned up at a press conference in a Mickey Mouse mask, to collect his cheque for Rmb497 million ($80 million) – the third largest win in Chinese lottery history. All that is known of the winner is that he owns a shoe shop, and post-tax will have Rmb398 million to spend. Or to be more exact Rmb378 million. In what Apple Daily punned was a “Disney ending” the individual in question donated Rmb20 million of his haul to a charity fund to help people in the community. Shandong’s Sports Lottery described the act as voluntary and said it showed he had “a good heart”.

At the press event – where the winner spoke through a voice-changing device – he told media he’d been buying lottery tickets for five years and purchased his winning ticket on August 11, the same day the result was announced. The biggest ever lottery win previously occurred in the capital Beijing, where an individual won Rmb570 million last year according to Sina Finance.

Read more from Week in China.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shaolin Cultural Festival Scheduled for October in Britain

Founder of Shaolin Temple UK, Photo: China Daily
The 2014 Shaolin Culture Festival is to be held in Britain this fall.

The festival is organized by Shaolin Temple China and the European Shaolin Association and co-organized by Shaolin Temple UK.

The event will include Kungfu competitions and an exhibition on Shaolin culture and 12 Zodiac animal relics.

Visitors will also have the chance to experience Chinese meditation, medicine, tea and an incense ceremony.

The seven-day festival is scheduled to take place in London and the University of Oxford starting on October 8, 2014. Read more at gbtimes.

Chinese Health Authorities Echo "Ice Bucket Challenge"

Zhang Quanling takes on the ice bucket challenge
China's national health authorities are showing support for the "ice bucket challenge" to raise funds for the care of patients with rare diseases in the country.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China said on its microblog account on Wednesday that it sided with the "ice bucket" campaign and called on the public to donate more, following a nomination by CCTV presenter Zhang Quanling, who also invited her broadcasting company and entertainment program host He Jiong to take part.

Mao Qun'an, spokesperson for the commission said he has donated to the Beijing-based China-Dolls Centre for Rare Disorders, a charity focusing on illnesses such as amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative brain disease.

More than 4,700 people have donated 1.4 million yuan to the charity since the challenge was launched in China earlier this week, according to the Beijing News.

Wang Yiou, head of China-Dolls Centre, said they never thought they could receive funds so quickly. It said the ice bucket campaign raised people's awareness about rare diseases.

"It's difficult for us to raise funds. Although some people joined the [ice bucket] challenge for fun, most people have come to know ALS and other rare disorders."

The ice bucket challenge was introduced by the US-based ALS Association. Read more, please go to gbtimes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Amazon sets up office in Shanghai FTZ

Amazon's logo in Chinese. (Source: China.org)
Global e-commerce giant Amazon has set up an office in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

The move is set to allow Chinese online shoppers to purchase cheap products directly from overseas, and boost Amazon's entry into the lucrative Chinese market which have been largely dominiated by domestic giants Alibaba and JD.com.

Diego Piacentini, senior vice president at Amazon.com said "Chinese consumers will be able to go to the Amazon global website and have access to the products in Chinese, so that's gonna be one opportunity. We are gonna have lower shipping charges, faster delivery, coming into this free trade zone, so there are gonna be many, many benefits."

The company is also establishing a logistics center in the zone, which Amazon said will reduce the cost and time of distributing goods in the country.

Amazon suggested Chinese consumers will get their orders in seven to ten days. The company has already been trialing its mailing system since the beginning of June.