Offline Until September 8 [UPDATED]

[UPDATED SEPTEMBER 8 : Due to some unexpected events in the US, Shanghai Scrap is going to remain on hiatus for one more week, until the 16th. But believe me - we'll be back. Stay tuned ...]

Mind and body are going to be outside of China for a while, focusing on some long delayed projects and issues, so – rather than bore my readers with commentary on what other people are saying about China (Shanghai Scrap is, and always will be, a reported blog), I’m going offline for a few weeks. I do this with some reluctance: thanks to Twitter (follow me here) and – I hope – some good posts- Shanghai Scrap has enjoyed a significant spike in readership over the first half of 2009. Hopefully, some of it – especially those who subscribe to the RSS feed – will stick around. Believe me, I’ll be back! If you’d like to reach me before then, you can do so via the Contact Form.

In the meantime, there are several other English-language China blogs worthy of your time, and some of the best can be found in the blogroll to the lower right. Click one, click all: they’re good reads and, in several notable cases, good friends, as well.

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See you in September.

Eclipse Eclipsed.

I spent the last 24 hours out in Sheshan, in southwest Shanghai, where I was covering the eclipse for a dispatch that should be out shortly. Below, an image of a few of the several hundred observers who gathered atop the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory (built by the Jesuits in the 1890s, and operated by them until the 1950s). In the background, the Sheshan Basilica. In any case, don’t be fooled by the photo: the crowd enjoyed perhaps 15 minutes of clear skies, at the beginning of the eclipse. By the time we’d become accustomed to watching the event, a downpour started. As one gentleman put it: “The eclipse has been eclipsed.”

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But I’m not complaining!  Rain or not, it was a remarkable sensation, being plunged into darkness for five minutes at mid-morning. And, best of all - experiencing the rapid return of daylight. It felt as if someone had just turned on the overhead lights. I’m hooked – when’s the next one? More shortly …

[UPDATE: "Shortly" is now ... "Eclipse at Sheshan Hill" is now up at the Atlantic.]

Why is this recession (potentially) different from all other recessions?

A small but significant set of data points in the ongoing discussion of how – potentially – China’s economy has altered the global economy, especially as it impacts the current economic downturn.

I received this first one last week from my pal Bob Garino, Director of Commodities at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries [ISRI] in Washington, D.C. It tracks the relationship between (in blue) the US IP Manufacturing Index, a measure of metals intensive US manufacturing; and (in green) the CRB Metal Index, a measure of key scrap metal commodities, including copper, lead, and steel. Note that the two indices were relatively correlative until December 2008 – or right around the time that China began to stockpile key metal commodities (click for enlargement).

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The data is interesting in its own right, but even more so when seen in the context of how the two indices behaved during the prior three recessions. Below, that data, as supplied by the ISRI Broadsheet (click for enlargement). Continue reading

Save the Eclipse: An Open Letter to the Honorable Han Zheng, Mayor of Shanghai

Dear Mr. Mayor:

As you are no doubt aware, the longest eclipse of the century will pass over your city on Wednesday morning. This singular event is not exclusive to Shanghai, of course: the narrow path will wind over much of Asia, into the Pacific. But, needless to say, international media organziations with an interest in covering this singular event aren’t going to station their cameras in, say, backwater Chongqing. No, they want to cover the century’s longest eclipse from the Century’s City; they want to cover it from Shanghai. Thus, whether you planned for it or not, you and your colleagues at City Hall are now faced with an unprecedented opportunity to promote Shanghai’s image to the world.

Unfortunately, it has come to my atttention that forces outside of China are conspiring to spoil this eclipse and Shanghai’s opportunity to shine on the world stage. I am, of course, referring to the jet stream. According to a briefing prepared by your city’s dilligent and devoted metereologists, and posted to the official Shanghai website: “Dense cloud threatens to keep eclipse watchers in the dark.

[UPDATED July 20: The City of Shanghai website appears to have resigned itself to clouds and rain.]

Sir, this is a PR disaster in the making. Do you really want camera crews broadcasting darkening rain clouds over, say, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, when viewers in, say – Minneapolis – expect to see the moon’s disc obscuring the sun’s? Are you willing to tolerate the national humiliation of watching CNN resort to, say, footage of the eclipse taken in Japan (where “maximum eclipse” will actually last longer than in Shanghai), rather than at the Yangshan Deep Water Port? Me. Neither.

So, with humility, I offer a solution. Continue reading

Shovel Girls and Sandboxes: The US Pavilion Groundbreaking, at last!

Two things I want to make clear from the outset. First, despite appearances, Shanghai Scrap is not becoming all US Expo 2010 Pavilion, all of the time. It just seems that way. Rest assured: I’ll be back with some quality iron ore/Rio Tinto blogging next week (for the record: I was blogging Rio Tinto and price-fixing in China back in 2007 [ie, before it was cool, ed.]). And second, nobody was more pleased to see the United States break ground on an Expo 2010 pavilion than me. I was there, and I clapped.

Now, for some reason, the pavilion groundbreaking – and other Expo-related news – just doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of the US media. So, in the interest of bringing Expo to the world, Shanghai Scrap offers the following images with limited commentary (orders from above: commentary and reporting must be saved for a future publication). First, the actual “groundbreaking.” From left to right, Beatrice Camp, US Consul General in Shanghai; Jose Villarreal, Commissioner General of the US Pavilion; Gary Locke, US Secretary of Commerce; Yang Xiong, Vice Mayor of Shanghai; Ma Xiuhong, Vice-Minister of Commerce; and Hong Hao, Director General of the Shanghai Expo Organizing Committee.

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No, that sandbox is not the future location of a budget-rate US Expo pavilion. But it is a sandbox, no doubt about it. In fact, the actual pavilion site, not more than 10 meters away, has had construction crews working on it for some time, already (not sure how long – but clearly, the Shanghai organizers were determined that the site be used by someone, US or otherwise), and wouldn’t have made for a very attractive setting. But whatever. See after the jump for three images of the actual site. Continue reading

A US Expo 2010 pavilion, after all.

Coming at the end of a tumultuous week in China marked by earthquakes, riots, and continued economic uncertainty, the news that the US had finally confirmed its participation in Expo 2010 (a/k/a, next year’s world fair) didn’t seem particularly significant. And, with much of Shanghai’s foreign correspondent corps preoccupied with more pressing news elsewhere in China, it didn’t receive much coverage. Fair enough, I think. However, insofar as the US pavilion – or lack thereof – had become an increasingly thorny diplomatic issue between China and the United States, the signing ceremony was an important signal that some kind of resolution was finally at hand. Continue reading

Experience Urumqi as a journalist would.

From a media standpoint, Urumqi riots seem to signal a shift in the manner in which reporters are allowed to cover “sensitive” events in China. Unlike, say, last year’s riots in Tibet, the relevant authorities in and out of Xinjiang very quickly made the decision to allow foreign and domestic media wide leverage in covering a very chaotic, very sensitive situation. They’ve even organized group reporting trips into the riot zones (for a needlessly snarky, but eminently useful compendium of stories from one such trip, see this Robert Mackey post at the New York Times Lede blog). Though some might view the new openness as an outgrowth of the darker side of the Control 2.0 theory put forth by the excellent David Bandurski at China Media Project (h/t this very good post from Evan Osnos), I’ve been here long enough to believe that (almost) all access is good access.

In that spirit – below, a very interesting email sent out to at least some registered foreign correspondents in China by a self-described non-profit in Beijing that specializes in facilitating media coverage (and which clearly has good relations with high and relevant quarters of the CPC). I’ll refrain from posting the organization’s name, though I’m some of my China-based readers will know who it is. Regardless, it’s a revealing and supremely confident example of just how the CPC – and its authorized, er, tour operators – are approaching this very fluid, very new moment.

Dear Journalists,

There was a terrorist attack happened in the capitol city Urumqi of Xinjiang Uygher Autonomous Region in Northwest China on July 5th, 2009, leaving 156 people dead, 1080 others injured and more than 200 vehicles broken. According to the facts that Chinese government has found, the terrorist attack was organized and prepared. This incident attracted more attention of the foreign and domestic media. Up to now, more than 60 overseas media have sent journalists to Urumqi, capital of China’s Northwest Xingjiang Region, after a riot broke out in the city on July 5th. Continue reading