Geopolitics

Shanghai Auto Show - New Mecca Of The Global Car Industry

The Shanghai Auto Show is now the biggest car exhibition in the world, surpassing Geneva, Frankfurt and Detroit. The show will premiere some 75 new car models including Volkswagen's highly anticipated new Beetle .

The Shanghai Auto Show
The Shanghai Auto Show
Johnny Erling

Some 2,000 exhibitors and suppliers are expected at this week's Shanghai Auto Show. Spread over some 230,000 square meters of exhibition space, it is now the world's largest auto event: the shows of Geneva, Frankfurt and Detroit all pale in comparison to that of Shanghai. The world's biggest car market is finally also home to the largest gathering of the automotive industry.

An indication of just how important the event has become is the fact that 75 new models will be launched on the world stage here between now and April 28, the final day of the show. On Monday, on the eve of the official April 19 opening, several companies already staged debuts. Volkswagen, for example, introduced its new Beetle.

More than 70 years after the debut of the iconic car, Volkswagen is bringing a third edition to the market. The car will be available from the fall, announced VW CEO Martin Winterkorn. No official price has been cited, but behind closed doors, a target price tag of €17,000 ($24,000) has been discussed.

Daimler presented its new A-Class, which Mercedes hopes to pit against the compact class. US auto giant General Motors, on the other hand, unveiled its first car developed solely for the Chinese market. Kevin Wale, president of GM China, presented the Baojun 630, which will cost between € 7,000-10,400 ($9,980-$14,827). Ford is also planning a number of launches this week. Other notable debuts will include Chevrolet's new Malibu and the Audi Q3. From within Chinese ranks, manufacturer SAIC is poised to introduce the Roewe SUV W5.

In the Chinese market, Volkswagen leads the way. The group increased its sales by a fifth in the first quarter of this year to almost 550,000 cars, and now has 18 percent market share. By comparison, Ford - which entered the Chinese market much later - must today be satisfied with a mere two percent market share. Through VW, Audi, Skoda, and Seat, the Volkswagen Group distributes 21 models in China.

On top of that, imports are increasing quickly. By 2013, the Volkswagen Group wants to introduce another 22 new models to the Chinese market and expand its production capacity greatly in the country. "Our factories can't keep up. Today, we're at 135 percent capacity already, despite our nine production sites," says Volkswagen China CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann.

In 2010, VW, with nearly two million cars sold, accounted for at least a third of total group sales. Despite reinvestment of initial gains, the company has contributed significantly to the group's profits. Volkswagen has, in conjunction with its partners SAIC and FAW, invested about ten billion euros ($14 billion) in China since 1984. It has sold some ten million cars, and hopes to expand its commitment to some 10.6 billion euros ($14.8 billion) by 2015. "We can pay off of the cash flow," says Neumann. "We will be able to sell three million cars here in 2015. I'm willing to bet on it.

At the Shanghai show, Volkswagen and GM are the market leaders. Together with their partners, "Shanghai SAIC" and "Changchuns FAW" they occupy two of the 13 exhibition halls.

In total, the show has 20 percent more exhibitors than it did in 2009. Despite the recent earthquake, all the Japanese manufacturers are present. "Anything with rank and reputation in the industry is represented here," says the German organizer of the show, Hans-Joerg Geduhn.

The other German manufacturers and suppliers that maintain 190 car plants, production and assembly sites in China today are also heavily represented at the show. According to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes are poised to grow faster than China's overall market in the first quarter. In the luxury sector, the German manufacturers dominate three quarters of the market.

However, for the Chinese manufacturers themselves, the situation is quite different. They seem to be the biggest losers in their own market. Many small manufacturers of cheap Chinese brands are currently struggling with large sales declines. The Shenzhen-based company BYD dropped 41 percent in sales in March. The company began to slash prices in February – possibly the first sign of a future price war.

In contrast with its foreign competitors, China's car market is fragmented into hundreds of unprofitable auto producers. This is also reflected in the chaos of new model development. In 2011, 72 new models will be introduced to the Chinese market - 50 of these will come from local producers.

Apart from the new models on display, the major theme of the exhibition in Shanghai is the growing field of electrical mobility. Everyone is waiting to hear the Beijing State Council decision regarding a new 10-year plan. China hopes to be the world market leader for hybrid and electric cars by 2020. The first step would be to set up production facilities for one-million energy saving cars by 2015. Beijing would support this development with the equivalent of eleven billion Euros ($15.6 billion).

Volkswagen, in a race with the Daimler Group, has adapted a three-phase strategy by which it hopes to be the Chinese market leader in electric vehicles by 2018. With its two joint ventures in Shanghai and Changchun, VW wants to build two types of electric cars that could be ready for series production as soon as 2013. "We're keeping a few options open," says VW CEO Neumann, in order to be ready when China takes off with its electric market. In Shanghai, VW will also introduce its first electric scooter. The market for battery-powered bicycles and scooters in China has "grown phenomenally," in recent years, says Neumann.

Amidst all of the hype in Shanghai, however, critics in China are raising their voices. "Do we really need the biggest automotive exhibition in the world?" ask commentators in the Beijing newspaper XinJingBao. Shanghai is bigger than Detroit, Paris, Frankfurt and ten times as large as Tokyo or Geneva. "But the real innovations in the automotive technology, the trends, the fashions - they're all coming from these other cities." Even in the automotive industry, they argue, China is a victim of the maxim of growth at any price.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - Marc van der Chijs

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January 22-23

  • Navalny saga & Putin’s intentions
  • COVID’s toll on teenage girls
  • A 50-year-old book fee finally gets paid
  • … and much more!

🎲 BUT FIRST, A NEWS QUIZ!

What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Which two words did U.S. President Joe Biden use about possible scenarios in the Russia-Ukraine standoff that upset authorities in Kyiv?

2. What started to mysteriously appear on signs, statues and monuments across Adelaide, Australia?

3. What cult movie did U.S. rocker Meat Loaf, who died Friday at age 74, star in?

4. What news story have we summed up here in emoji form? 🇬🇧 👱 💬 💼 ❌ 🥳 🦠

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]

⬇️  STARTER

Toxic geopolitics: More than ever, we need more women world leaders

The world is watching the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening an invasion finds an ally in Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi, united against their common enemy: the United States. Back in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden — marking his first year in power with painfully low approval rates (higher only than Donald Trump’s) — sends his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Kyiv to reassure President Volodymyr Zelensky who worries that France’s Emmanuel Macron might undermine Ukraine. And we haven’t even mentioned Xi Jinping!

It’s an endless theater of world leaders beating their respective chests — and they have exactly one thing in common: they’re all men. It’s by now a decades-old question, but worth asking again: What would happen if women, and not men, were running the world? Would there be less conflict, more prosperity? More humanity?

In 2018, the World Economic Forum released a study that showed that “only 4% of signatories to peace agreements between 1992 and 2011 were women, and only 9% of the negotiators.” The report shows that in several conflict zones in the world in recent decades, citing Liberia, Northern Ireland and Colombia, women have been instrumental in achieving peace.

In Colombia, where 20% of peace negotiators for the 2016 peace treaty were women, Ingrid Betancourt, herself a victim of the 50-year conflict, has announced her candidacy for the May presidential elections. Differently from previous bids, where she focused on fighting environmental abuses and corruption, Betancourt now is putting gender issues at the center of her political agenda. Bogota daily El Espectador questions whether the former hostage will be able to ride this important political wave, with feminist movements flexing their muscle around the region demanding more rights.

In Italy, next week’s elections for the head of state are monopolized by infamously misogynous former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is hoping to be elected for the seven-year, honorary function. There is no official candidacy, but Berlusconi’s name and that of current Prime Minister Mario Draghi are the two getting the most attention. Italian feminist writer and intellectual Dacia Maraini writes in La Stampa that, yes, the very fact of electing a female president will be progress for the country — and by the way, there are plenty of women qualifed for the job.

There was also a woman politician making the news this week for actually getting elected: Maltese conservative politician Roberta Metsola, became the new European Parliament President after the death of Italy’s David Sassoli. And yet the election of the first female president of the EU’s legislature since Nicole Fontaine in 2001 has been widely criticized by female politicians — primarily for Metsola’s stance against abortion rights. "I think it is a terrible sign for women's rights everywhere in Europe," French left-wing member of the European Parliament Manon Aubry told Deutsche Welle.

The women who have risen to power in history (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?) don’t necessarily make the case that gender is the silver bullet to fix politics. Still, after watching all the toxic masculinity on the world stage this past week, we can rightfully demand fewer men.

Irene Caselli

🎭  5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW

• Record-breaking online concert of Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand”: More than 100 musicians from around the world will take part today in a performance of Mahler’s epic 8th symphony consisting of 1,200 elements, including a double chorus, children’s choir, a full orchestra and an organ. The event is a culmination of a year of work; all artists recorded their parts in isolation besides the children’s choir. Tickets can be purchased here.

Yearly Japanese festival will set a mountain on fire: Today, the grassy hillside of Mount Wakakusayama in Japan will go up in flames as fireworks go off in the background as part of celebrations for Wakakusa Yamayak. The origin of the festival isn’t totally clear, but might relate to border conflicts between the great temples in the region or to ward off wild boars.

• New insights into antiquities taken by the Nazis: Scholars are looking into how German forces during World War II looted artifacts such as on the Greek island of Crete. Nazi officials pillaged these valuables for their own personal gain, but many were also destroyed, which is why researchers around the world are hoping to gain greater insight into this often overlooked aspect of German occupation.

Exhibition of Beirut’s restored artwork: The Beirut Museum of Art has inaugurated the exhibition “Lift” featuring 17 paintings by Lebanese artists that had been damaged by the port explosion in 2020, and have since been restored as a result of a UNESCO initiative.

The world’s first vegan violin tunes up: Berries, pears and spring water are just some of the natural ingredients relied on for the construction of the instrument by English violin-maker Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh. Traditionally, animal parts like horsehair, hooves, horns and bones are used, especially to glue pieces together. The £8,000 instrument is sure to be music to some animal lover’s ears.

🇷🇺  NAVALNY SAGA & PUTIN’S INTENTIONS


One year ago anti-corruption lawyer and politician Alexei Navalny was detained in Russia, marking the effective end of domestic opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin. In the time since, more than half of the former coordinators of Navalny's headquarters fled Russia. Even Navalny's name is forbidden: Putin never says his name, calling him "this citizen."

At the same time, Navalny’s imprisonment and the de facto end of the opposition have changed Russia. The fear of persecution, the lack of alternatives and the total censorship and propaganda have caused Putin's ratings consistently downward.

An aging leader with no successors, no enemies and dwindling popular support is finding it increasingly difficult to explain why he must continue to rule forever. In such a situation, there’s nothing quite like an external threat to fuel the raison d’être of the authoritarian regime. In Putin’s eyes, the perfect threat right now is NATO expansion, and the perfect enemy is its neighbor Ukraine and its attempts to join the military alliance. Whether Russia's president is ready to engage in a real war is the great unknown, but its aggressive and uncompromising foreign policy — like his disposing of Alexei Navalny — is the latest legitimization of his increasingly absolutist rule now into its third decade.

Read the full story: What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

🇨🇴  FROM HOSTAGE TO POTENTIAL HEAD OF STATE


Íngrid Betancourt spent more than six years as a prisoner of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terror group in Colombia, an experience that is sure to play a role in her recently announced presidential campaign. Betancourt, who is 60, is running as part of the Verde Oxígeno and is the only woman in the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), a centrist alliance.

Betancourt could be a boost for the coalition and embody its goals of transforming, overcoming polarization and, as its name indicates, giving hope to Colombia. In particular, the centrist candidate who in the past has been largely focused on anti-corruption and environmental protection, has said she will make women’s rights a cornerstone of her campaign.

Read the full story: Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

♀️ 😔  YOUNG WOMEN FACE THE BRUNT OF THE COVID-19 MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS


A growing number of studies around the world show that COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions have prompted a disproportionate increase in mental health illness among teen girls. These include rising suicide rates among adolescent females in the United States, Germany and Spain and a higher prevalence of anxiety and eating disorders in Israel. But why are women being disproportionately impacted?

There’s a range of reasons. In India, for example, young women had increased difficulty accessing education resources when schools went online and shared a disproportionate burden of household tasks as opposed to their male peers. Around the world, social media also played a significant role; without access to in-person socialization and hobbies, young people spent more time online, often comparing themselves to others, impacting feelings of self-worth. The situation is particularly dire given the challenges of accessing mental health support resources during the pandemic.

Read the full story: Why The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis Is Hitting Teenage Girls The Hardest

💡  BRIGHT IDEA


Norwegian mobility company Podbike has announced that Frikar, its four-wheeled enclosed electric bike, will soon hit bike lanes on home turf. The futuristic-looking vehicle does require the user to pedal, which powers a generator and drive-by-wire system that keep the Frikar running — with a speed limited to 25 km/h.

#️⃣ TRENDING

“Mãe De Bolsonaro” is the top query on Twitter in Brazil, after news that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s mother Olinda Bonturi Bolsonaro had died at age 94.

😄📚 SMILE OF THE WEEK

Photo of the new President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

New President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

Philipp Von Ditfurth/ZUMA


London’s legendary bookshop Waterstones Gower Street tweeted a photo of a letter from an anonymous user confessing to having forgotten to pay for their books some 48 years ago. Owing approximately £100 ($136), adjusted for inflation, they had sent through £120 ($163) to make up for their tardiness. Touched by the kind gesture, the bookshop reciprocated by donating the money to the largest children’s reading charity in the United Kingdom.

👉   OTHERWISE ...

Dottoré! is a weekly column on Worldcrunch.com by Mariateresa Fichele, a psychiatrist and writer based in Naples, Italy. Read more about the series here.

Bucket of tears

I’ve been thinking and thinking about a patient of mine since yesterday. His name is Giovanni.

Psychiatrists, you might not know, are quite often asked the same unanswerable question: "Why does one become insane?”

When I was younger, I searched and searched for an answer, losing myself in scientific explanations about synapses, neurons and neurotransmitters.

By the end of my studies, I’d realized that the only thing that was clear was that I’d been clutching at straws to justify my work and give it a semblance of scientific dignity. In the years since, I’ve forced myself, in defiance of the authority of my position, to reply with a laconic but honest: "Sorry, but I don't know."

So when Giovanni asked me that same question, he was not happy at all with my answer. “Dottoré, how’s it possible that you don't understand why I became crazy?”

When he tried to ask me again one day, I tried a different response:

"Giová, do you cry?"

"No. Why?"

"Imagine that the tears that you don't shed, that you force yourself not to shed, because that's what you've been taught to do, all end up inside your heart. The heart is an organ that pumps blood, which brings nourishment and oxygen to the whole body. But over time those diverted tears accumulate to the point that the heart begins to pump them instead of your blood. Slowly your body becomes sick, but the part that suffers the most is your brain. Because tears don't contain oxygen and nourishment, just sadness."

I expected a reaction to this fanciful explanation, but instead Giovanni kept quiet and eventually left.

The next time I saw him, he said: "Dottoré, I've thought about it. I know you told me about the tears to make me feel better, but maybe you’re right. Because sometimes I feel that I have a lake, more than a heart. But it takes a very powerful pump to pump out all that water, and my heart alone cannot do it. And now that you've explained to me how I became crazy, can you also tell me if I'll ever get better?"

"Do you want another story or do you want the truth?”

"This time, I’d rather have the truth!”

"The answer is always the same then. I'm sorry, Giová, but I don't know this either. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I'll help you slowly, slowly with just a bucket. Because the truth is, not even I have that pump."

⏩  LOOKING AHEAD

• Italy's parliament will convene Monday to begin the process of voting for a new president to succeed Sergio Mattarella for a seven-year term.

• Qualification games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 for South, North and Central America as well as Asia. Argentina’s national team will not be able to rely on superstar Lionel Messi, still recovering from COVID-19.

• Next Thursday will mark 100 years since Nellie Bly died. The American journalist is known for her record-breaking 72-day trip around the world in 1889, inspired by Jules Vernes’ book Around the World in Eighty Days


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