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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘China’

Tel Aviv University to Set up Life Sciences Center in China

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Tel Aviv University and China’s Tsinghua University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for strategic cooperation in innovative research and teaching, with an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.

A new research center in China initially will focus on life sciences and nanotechnology but later will include other sciences and high-tech, Globes reported.

The new “XIN” center will recruit researches and students in Israel and China.

Tel Aviv University president Prof. Joseph Klafter said that founding the new center is a sign of how much China looks to Israel for innovation.

Will Israeli Companies be Israeli in the Future?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Are we rapidly approaching the day when most Israeli mega food companies will not even be Israeli? Nestle already owns a sizable share of Osem and PepsiCo holds a major stake in Strauss.

Now comes word that China’s Bright Food Group is in talks to buy Tnuva Food Industries. Could you imagine an Israeli food company owned by a Chinese company?

It may indeed be the days of the Moshiach (Messiah). Bright Food has over 3,300 retail stores across China and is known in the country for its dairy and White Rabbit candy. It is on a global buying spree and has bought majority holdings in Australia’s Manassen Foods and UK cereal maker Weetabix.

Tnuva is Israel’s largest food company and according to controlling shareholder Apax Partners LLP, the company holds 14% of Israel’s food retail shelf space. Apax and investment partner Mivtach Shamir Food Industries Ltd. acquired a 77% stake in Tnuva for more than $1 billion in 2008. I can already see a session between the two companies where the Tnuva people are explaining their different kashrus standards.

But as usual, there are so many ways to look at this possible acquisition. One is that Israeli companies have been so successful in producing and marketing quality food that they have attracted international attention. It is a tribute to the Israelis that some of the largest and most powerful food conglomerates are looking to gain a piece of the action and apply some of the unique Israeli technology and success to their efforts worldwide.

Second is that the Israelis are securing an infusion of capital to further develop their economy.

So much for the positive. My question is how will Israelis feel when they eat the Chinese Leben or drink the milk at breakfast. Maybe they won’t feel anything so long as the products are good and kosher.

We’re Turning Japanese Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s an article of American faith that Japan is an incredibly strange place. The world has been mapped and GPS’ed to death ruining much of the thrill of discovery. There probably aren’t any hidden cities with remnants of lost civilizations lurking in the deserts of Africa or the jungles of South America. That just leaves the land of the rising sun as the X on the map, the strange place that suggests that the world that we know all too well, might still be odder than we can imagine.But Japan isn’t really all that strange. We are.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track.

Japan isn’t really a technocratic wonderland. It has a few robot cafes, but not a lot of ATMs. Its tech companies got by on Western products that initially never caught on in the West, like the Walkman and the tax machine. There’s not much of a digital economy and the computer isn’t all that ubiquitous. Daily life for the Japanese these days is usually lower tech than it is for Americans or Europeans.

It’s not as bad as some Gulf Sheikdom where desert Bedouins fire off assault rifles in view of the glittering new skyscrapers whose waste products have to be manually removed from the building, but the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there, as it is in Russia.

Like Russia, Japan tried to beat us. Unlike Russia it did, only to stop halfway there and wonder what the whole point was.

And that’s the problem. There is no point.

American technocrats talk incessantly of beating China. But what is it that we’re supposed to beat China to? The largest pile of debt? The biggest collection of light rail and solar panel plans? The lowest birth rate and the most homeless farmers? The greatest disastrous government projects?

A country should move toward the future. But it should have a goal that it’s moving toward and a sense of connection with its past values.

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.Marriage and children are more extinct in Japan than they are here. They are more extinct in Europe than they are here. And China is still struggling with a bigger social fallout headed its way.Japanese modernism has made for a conservative society of the elderly. That is what Europe nearly had a few decades ago and it is what it would have had if it hadn’t overfilled its cities with a tide of immigrants. Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion only because of its dislike for immigration. If not for that, Japan really would have no future the way that the European countries which have taken in the most immigrants have traded their past and their future for the present.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It’s far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it’s less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences than the youth-worshiping voting cultures of America and Europe. Japanese political culture may be lunatic, but even they wouldn’t have elected a Barack Obama. The prospect of an American Shinzō Abe backed by a right-wing coalition winning are poor. The last time Americans voted for a conservative message was 1980 and even Reagan’s message was leavened by liberal ideas. A genuinely conservative resurgence in which the type of politician who might have run for office in 1922 could become president on a similar platform is nearly inconceivable.

Japan is a long way from fixing itself. As a country and a society, it’s still peering into the abyss.

The cultural eccentricities that Americans fixate on come from a society of young men unmoored from normal human connections, a decline of national values and an obsession with trivial consumerism– all commonplace elements in postmodern American and European life. The difference is that Japan got there first.

The loonier elements of American pop subcultures were predated by Japan. Indeed the latter are often influenced by the former. The same holds true with petty plastic surgeries, a truly epic plague among Asia’s newly rich, and some of the more ridiculous accessories for living a life with no meaning or human companionship, but we’re all going to the same place. Just not at the exact same speed.

The common problem is that our journey has no meaning. The postmodern world of robots, fast trains and handheld computers is shiny, but not meaningful. It’s less meaningful than the earlier technological achievements that saved lives and made ordinary prosperity possible.

We can go fast, but no matter how fast we go, we seem to keep slowing down. That’s what Japan found out. Its decline was social. And social decline translates into a technological decline, because technological innovation is powered by a society, not some soulless force of modernism. Innovation must have goals. And those goals must be more than mere technology. They must emerge from some deeper purpose.

American innovation hasn’t halted entirely because its tech culture had enough purpose to make the latest set of digital revolutions possible. But each revolution has slowed down, becoming another shopping mall with microprocessors, replicating the Japanese problem. And at some point we’ll run out of revolutions and be left with the skeleton of a digital shopping mall that is no longer anything but a place to buy more things.

A healthy culture transmits values. When it stops doing that, it dies. When the values no longer seem to be applicable, than the culture hunts around for new values, it undergoes a period of confusion while its forward motion slows down. That is where Japan is now. It’s where America has arrived.

The values of the left, that are present in both Japan and America, are a cultural suicide pact.The left pretends to add a spiritual dimension to modernism. It has been peddling that lie for two centuries and it has yet to deliver. In countries where it wielded full control, there was neither modernism nor values. Russia destroyed the economic, technological and spiritual potential of generations of its people. China is trying to use Communist values to avoid turning into another Japan, not realizing that those are little better than the collective obligations with which Japan rushed into the future.

As America gazes at the ruins of Detroit and the insanity spewed forth by a digital frontier that increasingly looks every bit as eccentric and toxic as anything coming out of Japan, it is all too clear that we are Japan. There is no unique insanity in East, only a common disintegration of values in the East and the West.

Asia and Europe have both witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. It isn’t technology that destroys civilizations, but a lack of values.To understand where Japan and Europe are, imagine an America decaying with no new ideas, losing its religion and values, losing its economy and finally its sanity, becoming coldly conformist and inhuman, while its families fall apart and its youth retreats into their own makeshift worlds. That reality is closer to home than we might like to think.America is destroying its values on an industrial scale. In a post-industrial nation, the destruction of values has become one of its chief industries. And while there is value in challenging values, in the conflict and clash of ideas, that requires that values go on existing, or there is no longer anything to challenge. And then there is nothing left but emptiness and madness.

Another stupid product from an infomercial. Another ridiculous politician. Another protest. Another indicator of economic decline. Another day, week, month, year of empty nothingness.

That is the modern abyss. And Japan is waiting for us there.

Walking Up 45 Flights On Shabbat: Being a Jew in Hong Kong

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Last summer I went to Hong Kong for three months – for me that’s home. Although I was born in Belgium and lived in Lexington, Massachusetts while in high school, Hong Kong is my home base.  Now Hong Kong may seem exotic to you, but when it comes to observing kashrut and keeping Shabbat after a climb to the 45th floor, it becomes more difficult than exotic. My parents live there for business, along with my married sister and British brother-in-law. (We accepted him into the family because he made us seem more international.)

I was raised in a very traditional and cultural Jewish home in Asia. My parents were proud Israelis who made sure that we always had a connection to the Land of Israel and to being Jews no matter where we lived. While others may have had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall, we merged these two cultures with our Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations at the Great Wall of China.  My twin brother Orrel and me had our first exposure to Torah observant Judaism at Lexington High School, where the OU’s Jewish Student Union offered free pizza on Monday afternoons.  (Jewish Student Union is a program that enhances Jewish culture at public high schools.)

Initially, Orrel and I were attending for two slices of pizza a week; but eventually, we became interested and started attending NCSY Shabbatons in our senior year. As a result, we spent a year learning in Eretz Yisrael. We now attend Yeshiva University; Orrel is at Yeshiva College and I am at Stern College. As upcoming seniors, we cannot wait for another amazing year!

Since we became shomer Shabbat, we had not been home to Hong Kong for more than a few days at a time and during those occasions, I always had my brother with me for support. This all changed in the summer of 2012 when I had to be in Hong Kong for personal reasons, while my brother was in Israel learning in yeshiva and doing medical research.  I felt that I was being left to fend for myself in Hong Kong.

On one hand, I was really excited to be with my family, but on the other hand I was scared. I was scared because since I became religious I had been immersed in Jewish communities – at seminary in Israel then in Stern College.  In addition, I had a strong support comprised of New England NCSY rabbis and my seminary Aim Bayit to answer my questions and to further my growth as a Torah observant Jew. When acquaintances from high school were placing bets on how long I would stay “religious” after NCSY, my support group was instrumental in keeping me on the “derech.”

In Hong Kong, I was entering three months in which my only social chevra would be myself. My connection to my Judaism would be up to me, and I feared I would lose everything that I had worked so hard to build in the past two years. This was not a dramatic exaggeration but a heartfelt declaration.

Within the first weeks, I felt myself losing my desire to daven and to learn Torah.  Recorded shiurim that used to excite me seemed no longer applicable to the struggles I was facing. I remember calling a friend from Stern College and telling her, “There is no way I am coming out religious after this summer.” But through phone calls of guidance from my support groups in America and in Israel, I slowly learned that the key to surviving the summer would not be the growth I had planned for myself; I had to modify my plans.

Initially, I had strongly believed that just as my twin brother was growing every day in Israel, I had to be growing and firming my roots as an Orthodox Jew.  Instead, I had to learn to tread water in order not to drown. I couldn’t simply focus on listening to shiurim; instead my focus had to be just making it day-by-day. For example, I would try and have one meaningful davening – Shacharit or Minchah  - in Hong Kong. I couldn’t hold myself to the high religious standards that I had set for myself at Stern.

Obama on Syria: Low-Quality ‘Jaw-Jaw’

Monday, August 26th, 2013

It being the silly season in Washington, there had to be a rumor of war.  Well, a rumor of a cruise missile strike.  Well, OK, a rumor that U.S. Navy warships were ordered to “close their ranges” with Syria in case Obama gets permission from the UN to mount an attack, if there’s clear evidence that the Syrian regime gassed its people.

That last point is actually an exact characterization of Obama’s posture, which he expressed in the interview with CNN aired on Friday:

“There are rules of international law,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.”

So cool your jets, people.  All we’re doing right now is talking about naval force.  Suddenly we’re talking about it a lot, but it’s not clear there’s any big point to it.

A few discussion items.  One, the deepest point of Syria is about 380 statute miles (600km) from the coast, but almost everything we might want to attack, to affect the Assad regime’s prosecution of the war, is less than 100 miles (160km) from the coast.  The Tomahawk cruise missile, in the variant likely to be used (TLAM-C Block III), has a range of 1000 statute miles (1,600km).  The less-likely TLAM-D has a range of 800 statute miles (1,250km).  So U.S. Navy warships don’t have to get closer to Syria than the open waters of the central or east-central Mediterranean Sea.

This, in turn, means that no public explanations would ever be necessary – our warships are often in the central Mediterranean – and that the explanations are therefore being given, as verbosely as possible, for a reason.  Presumably, it is to highlight, with fanfare, the fact that Obama is contemplating using cruise missiles against Assad.  And that, presumably, is meant to warn and/or deter Assad.

Assuming Assad has the means to view clips from the CNN interview, or read transcripts like the bit from Politico excerpted above, he will of course be clear that action by Obama is contingent on permission from the UN.  (If his power blinks out, the Iranians or Russians can keep him updated on matters of this kind.)  Assad has good reason to assume Obama won’t get that permission.  Russia and China have blocked UN Security Council resolutions against Syria on multiple occasions, and continue to defang or veto them.

Of course, making transparently worthless threats to long-time despots has been a pattern with Team Obama.

I’m skeptical that we have any intention of taking action against Syria – even punitive action, with no view to an outcome or end-state.  Maybe Team Obama imagines itself to be in a “dialogue” with Assad; i.e., the ball is now in Assad’s court, to send some signal that he’d rather not be hit with cruise missiles, and maybe we can work something out here.

Or perhaps the verbal gambit is intended for Russia, which has way more warships sitting off Syria’s coast than we do.  (Note: from the count at the unofficial Turkish Navy website, Bosphorus Naval News, it appears that there are currently 5-6 Russian navy ships in or near Syria, with one of those being an intelligence collector.)   Hey, Russkiy dudes, we might just think even harder about hitting your boy, if you don’t take some order to him.  Don’t make us escalate this gradually.

That would be the 1960s-era, Robert S. McNamara/Brain Trust frame of reference.  All we need is some evidence-of-our-determination patrols off the coast by intelligence ships – if we still had any – to complete the retro picture.

But there is every possibility I’m overthinking this, and the only thing that’s going on is that the Obama administration is making tough-sounding noises to get the media off its back about Syria.

In other naval notes:

1.  USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), which finally deployed from Norfolk in July, nearly six months after her originally scheduled departure date, has been in the Central Command area of responsibility since 18 August, when she went through the Suez Canal (video).  So there is no carrier or carrier air wing positioning itself off Syria.  Speculation about using Truman in a strike on Syria is invalid.

Archaeologists Find Israel Was Land of Milk, Honey – and Cinnamon

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Cinnamon, once thought to have been carried on trade routes in ancient Israel, may have been made along the northern Israeli coast and not just in Africa and India, as previously thought, Israeli researchers told LiveScience.

They analyzed 27 flasks from archaeological sites in Israel dating back 3,000 years and found that the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor was in 10 of the containers.

Cinnamon bark is found in southern India, and another form of the spice is found in China and southeast Asia. It is now yet known the source of the cinnamon in the flasks found in Israel, but the discovery that it probably was made in Israel “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” the Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute researchers wrote in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.

“We don’t think they sailed directly [to the Far East]; it was a very hard task even in the 16th century A.D.” Dvory Namdar, a researcher with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University, told LiveScience in an interview.

Namdar and research colleague Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa said the flasks, which at that time were in area that was part of ancient Phoenicia, feature a narrow opening with thick walls, indicating their contents were highly prized. Flasks with similar shapes previously have been found in temple storerooms and treasuries of ancient kingdoms, the researches added.

They think that the cinnamon bark was brought from the Far East to ancient Israel and mixed with liquids before it was placed in the flasks prior to shipping the spice elsewhere.

Namdar and Gilboa speculate that people of the time mixed the cinnamon in with wine. “If you mix it with a bigger [container of wine], then you get flavored wine,” they said.

Latin American Trading Moving Up on Israeli Agenda

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to improve economic ties with politically friendly Latin American countries in order to compensate for the crippled economy of Israel’s main trading continent, Europe.

The new effort to increase Latin American trading, particularly with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, will compliment Netanyahu’s simultaneous effort to increase economic ties with China and other East Asian countries. These four Latin American countries formed the free-trade Pacific Alliance last year and account for about 36 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). They all trade significantly with North America.

Currently in Latin America, Brazil is Israel’s main trading partner, taking in Israeli exports at about $1.1 billion per year and importing to Israel at about $400 million per year. In June, Israeli President Shimon Peres signed a free-trade agreement with Colombia.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/latin-american-trading-moving-up-on-israeli-agenda/2013/08/20/

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