Geopolitics

Turkey's Mining Toll, Dirge Of A Tragedy Deepened By Its Leaders

More than 300 dead in last week's mining disaster in Soma, rage from the people, and utter insensitivity from an Erdogan government interested only in its own fate.

People rescue the trapped miners in Soma
People rescue the trapped miners in Soma
Ahmet Hakan

SOMA — This stairs were just in front of me, a corridor of soldiers standing guard.

Ambulances were waiting at the end of the corridor, while I waited in front of the stairs.

The sirens grew louder.

Then, a stretcher appears, carried by a search-and-rescue team: on it is the body of a miner in a black body bag. Into the ambulance.

Eight bodies were brought down from this stairs in the two hours I waited there.

The same routine each time: the same siren, same stretcher, same body bag. And after eight bodies, I did not have the strength to stand there anymore. I could not bear to watch anymore, and so I left the entrance of the mine.

Hello Mr. Minister

Not long after, not far from the mine, I would wind up running into Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

The atmosphere was tense, the minister was facing minor acts of protest. We spoke, and in his words, one could hear the psychology of someone wrongfully accused despite his best efforts.

He said there was no worker at the age of 15 in the mine, as rumored. He declared that he would resign if that would be proven to be the case, and warned against trying to create a symbol like the "Berkin of Gezi," referring to the innocent teen who became the martyr of last year's Istanbul clashes.

He complained to me about false information being spread. But soon, the situation was getting too tense. "Let us leave Mr. Minister," his bodyguard said.

And we said our goodbyes.

Erdogan fiasco

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan"s statement regarding the disaster at Soma was one of the worst moments of his political career.

Why?

I can list some reasons:

1. Instead of strongly stating "those who are responsible of negligence in this matter will answer in court," he said: "there is something called work-related accidents in the literature" and tried to downplay the incident.

2. He went as far as England of the 1860s to create the perception of "such accidents happen everywhere."

3. He said "this is in the nature of this business."

On nature

If dying this kind of death is in the very nature of being a miner...

Being protested against is in the nature of being prime minister.

If disasters are part of mining...

Understanding for the protester is what is required of a prime minister.

If workplace accidents go along with the nature of labor...

Manhandling the protester cannot be accepted of political leaders.

If worker deaths are inevitable...

Negligence is not.

If mine accidents with major death tolls are part of the history of the 1860s...

Even mine accidents with lower death tolls should not be part off 2010s.

Not another Gezi

More than three hundred workers are dead.

And in such a situation, you, Mr. Prime Minister, think: "What if our enemies would hurt our government by using this event? What would we do?...What if something like the Gezi Events or the death of someone like Berkin Elvan would occur? What would we do?"

"What if the people's perception of the government would be manipulated? What would we do?"

Gentlemen!

Does it not look inhuman to you that in the middle of all this pain, death and mourning the only thing you care about is your precious government?

If you want the focus only to be the future of your government, then you must do nothing but focus on the deaths, the mourning, finding those who are responsible, exposing the negligence, going after the guilty.

In doing so, you would also be focusing on the future of your government; and your precious government would be fine in the end.


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Future

How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

SIPA Asia/ZUMA
Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.


For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.

https://www.lesechos.fr/idees-debats/editos-analyses/la-chine-est-desormais-une-fenetre-sur-notre-futur-1347064
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