Would it surprise you to discover that China is planning to add 800 miles to its subway system over the next two years? That's the distance equivalent to building a network from Dallas to Chicago in less time than the U.S. Congress can resolve a budget!
In 2015, when the infrastructure build-out is complete, China's subway track alone will be a mind-boggling 1,900 miles, according to JP Morgan.
The Asian giant has been in the midst of constructing the world's largest transportation system, laying mile after mile of high-speed rail and subway track. According to the World Metro Database, Beijing and Shanghai currently have the longest metro and subway systems, with about 275 miles each. The city of Guangzhou in China also falls in the top 10, with 144 miles of rail, beating Paris' network length of 135 miles.
A few months ago, I talked about how a financial transactions tax can have significant unintended consequences. Using Hungary as an example, I said that when the government implemented a levy of 0.5 percent on banks' assets, bank credit growth rates plummeted. As a result, Hungary's household and corporate sector credit growth rates became anemic compared to other Eastern European countries.
Now it appears that Italy is going "Hungary" by introducing a financial transaction tax that became effective in March. For shares of Italian companies, investors are taxed an additional 0.12 percent of the value of the shares purchased in a regulated market or trading platform. For over-the-counter transactions, the tax is even more costly, at 0.22 percent, according to Reuters.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Bank of Scotland have been pillars of Scotland's economy and culture for over three centuries. So when the RBS was nationalized by the London-based UK government following the 2008 banking crisis, and the Bank of Scotland was acquired by the London-based Lloyds Bank, it came as a shock to the Scots. They no longer owned their oldest and most venerable banks.
Another surprise turn of events was the triumph of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election. Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, but it has had its own parliament since 1999, similar to U.S. states. The SNP has rallied around the call for independence from the UK since its founding in 1934, but it was a minority party until the 2011 victory, which gave it an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish independence is now on the table. A bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament with the intention of holding a referendum on the issue in 2014.
During this Chinese New Year, more than a billion people will be welcoming in the Year of the Black Water Snake, celebrating with family and friends all week long. The previous Year of the Black Water Snake was in 1953, which was when China launched its first Five-Year Plan and the average annual income for a family in the U.S. was about $4,000.
As the Dragon took its last breath of the year, it exhaled plenty of fire into China: Looking at year-over-year data as of the end of January, new bank loans, passenger car sales and exports all rose while inflation was slightly lower. Imports of key commodities we track, crude oil, aluminum and copper, were also exceptional, with month-over-month increases of 6 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
China celebrated another achievement last week, as Mo Yan became the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel Prize for literature. The selection of Mo was praised by a Chinese nationalist tabloid as a sign that mainstream China could "no longer be refused by the West for long."
Mo grew up in Shandong province in northeastern China, and during the Cultural Revolution, he left school to work in the fields, finishing his education in the army, according to The Guardian. The author draws upon his rural upbringing in his novels, mixing historical perspective with mythical elements. His real name is Guan Moye, but he chose "Mo Yan" as a pen name meaning "don't speak," to reflect the culture in which he grew up.
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