Charting Chinese HALs, Let Women Work, Less Democratic Countries

You may think you did not receive* your regular dose of INTN last week because we had our third knee surgery in three months. But surely you know we are made of sterner stuff than that. No, what prevented delivery of edifying, informative and important international news and data was the continuing technical problems we were having with our previous email delivery service. Yes, this week we have dipped our toes into the clean waters of a new company, Mailchimp, which you have probably heard advertise on what seems like every podcast ever. So far so good. We have taken the opportunity of this change to institute the slightest of redesigns. More changes may be coming. If you have any suggestions for additional redesign, or for that matter, content, or anything else, feel free to let us know. So, even as we eye fonts, colors and backgrounds, we chart the HALs of China, proclaim “let the women work” and revisit authoritarian views of democracy. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, the Southern District of New York of international information, raiding wherever and whomever we must to bring you our strange, fun and ever changing world.

*Actually about 10 of you received last week’s newsletter–now dubbed The Lucky Ten–T-shirts and other accoutrements are in the mail (delivered by our previous email service)

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Charting the HALs of China

As China continues to emerge on the world stage, and the U.S. vacillates between acting the star and stalking off stage to harangue the woman selling popcorn, there is increasingly an urge in some quarters to pit the two countries in a competition in every single sphere (we will discuss in future issues the trade and investment sphere). Perhaps no more than in progress in artificial intelligence. There is a fear among many that whoever achieves true AI first will rule the world. We expect it won’t work out that way, that science will progress differently than as depicted in a two-hour super hero movie, that multiple countries researching AI is a good thing, not a bad one. But nonetheless, we are gratified to present, via the former Mexico Ambassador to China, a comparison of the two countries AI progress in the table below. The only place China leads the U.S. currently is in collected data, which thanks to government efforts, companies such as Tencent, and a huge population, is enormous. BTW, Ambassador Guojardo’s twitter feed is full of informative and surprising information, presumably curated by the Ambassador himself and not by some AI bot. A second BTW, charting AI progress is particularly apt this week on the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s remarkable 2001, A Space Odyssey. It is not our favorite movie of all time (though it ranks in our top twelve), but it’s probably one of the most important, prescient and impactful.

2001: A Space Odyssey Official Re-Release Trailer (2014) – Stanley Kubrick Movie HD

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Let Women Work

In too many parts of the world, it’s difficult or illegal for women to be part of the workforce, or at least in certain sectors. In fact, the World Bank reports that 104 countries continue to have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs. The two regions where this is most common (see chart below), are the Middle East and South Asia. Sectors such as mining and construction are often targeted by countries for limitations on women working. This seems especially silly to us since last summer we used a series of instructional videos posted to Youtube by a woman in Australia that guided us to changing a door into a wall and window. In a recentinterview in The Atlantic with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, he indicated he will continue to improve women’s rights in his country. Let’s hope he does and that such thinking spreads throughout the region and elsewhere around the world. In the meantime, we’re leaving low hanging economic growth on the vine by not utilizing female talent. If I had a hammer, I would hand it to the woman in Australia to finish up my home construction project.

The View from Down There

>Following up on our story a few weeks ago that in countries where the population has less political party affiliation there is less allegiance to democracy, Pew Global also finds that people in less democratic countries have more favorable opinions of China and Russia. For example, 5 percent of Swedes agree that China “respects the personal freedom of its people,” but 56 percent of Tunisians do. Only 14 percent of Germans believe Russia respects the personal freedoms of its people, but 85 percent of Vietnamese believe such a thing. Pew also asked these countries their opinions of France and the U.S.  Authoritarian countries rank the U.S. higher for respecting personal freedoms (61 percent) than France (51 percent). Beauty, or freedom, is in the eye of the beholder, and if you live in a country where you are more beholden to an authoritarian government, your views are colored in that direction.

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