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There’s a Global Race to Control Batteries–and China Is Winning (wsj.com)
51 points by olivermarks 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments


As mentioned in Tom Clancy: Full Force and Effect.

I'm probably not the only one asking myself whether Cobalt is really necessary for competitive batteries: http://www.electronicdesign.com/power/race-cobalt-free-recha...


Looks like someone inserted a smart apostrophe and attempted to escape it leading to a visible /’ in the caption of one of the later pictures.

Mr President, we must not allow a battery gap!

This is a reference to Dr. Strangelove[1]

Whatever the enemy does (there, Russia building mine shafts) we must do to counter. A humorous classic which explains a mindset and was far closer to the truth than people like to admit.

Worth a view. Those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it.

[1] https://www.getyarn.io/yarn-clip/c00b94e5-bbb3-4ea9-a078-7a1...

What’s with HN’s weird obsession with China? Every other day it’s a new sensationalized headline about how China is somehow taking over AI, or startups, or the world. Is China just a easy catalyst for American insecurity or is there some other trend that I’m missing here?

China is the second largest economy in the world and will likely be the largest one in within one or two decades. Is it really that strange that it's often in the news?

In Europe, the USA still makes the news far more often than China, so here we all have a "weird obsession" with the USA.

> China is the second largest economy in the world and will likely be the largest one in within one or two decades.

Based on what data?

Of the 31 provinces, direct-controlled municipalities and autonomous regions in China, three have already admitted falsifying certain economic data. Starting with the northeastern province of Liaoning in January 2017, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the city of Tianjin have said their statistics were wrong.

Of the three, only Tianjing has admitted doctoring the overall provincial gross domestic product figures. Liaoning and Inner Mongolia had padded something else: their fiscal revenues.

In Liaoning Province tax receipts and income from various fees were padded by 20-30% according to counties and cities during the period of 2011-2014. Inner Mongolia has said that a quarter of the fiscal revenue stated for 2016 were actually fake.


fake data makes no sense

based on reports published by news agencies owned and managed by the communist party of China.


> China is the second largest economy in the world and will likely be the largest one in within one or two decades.

No, China is just a poor developing country with a per capita GDP of around $8k USD. That is just a small fraction of what US/EU achieved. Everything is just because of the huge population, but again that is not an advantage when the population is rapidly ageing.

Chinese communist party recently announced the goal to reach $12k USD gdp per capita in 2020, basically they want 1.4 billion people to work damn hard for the next 3-4 years to reach 20% of today's American GDP per capita level! To give you better understanding on this matter - US economy is growing 2.5%-3% annually in the last few quarters, with that kind of growth, in the same 2018-2020 period, US GDP per capita is going to add up to 9% and that new volume expected to be added is comparable to the entire Chinese per capita GDP figure.

Focusing on the total GDP and intentionally downplaying China's extremely poor per capita figure is not even politically correct - what can be individually achieved & enjoyed by those 1.4 billion regular Chinese are clearly far more important than a meaningless national GDP figure.

> Focusing on the total GDP and intentionally downplaying China's extremely poor per capita figure is not even politically correct - what can be individually achieved & enjoyed by those 1.4 billion regular Chinese are clearly far more important than a meaningless national GDP figure.

Depends what you're evaluating. If you're evaluating standard of living, yes. If OTOH you're evaluating the power potential of a country's government, then total GDP is more important than GDP/capita.

power potential of a country's government? what is the point of having/backing it when regular citizens couldn't have a fair share of that power?

telling 1.4 billion Chinese to work their ass off for the next 3-4 years so China's GDP per capita figure can reach 20% of today's US GDP per capita is not impressive at any level. it is a solid proof that China is still damn poor after 40 years of economic reform.

there is no competition whatsoever - when Japan challenged America's economy in the early 80s, the GDP per capita figure of Japan was on par with the American one. We are now talking about an economy that is working day & night trying to reach 20% of America's GDP per capita.

It is certainly impressive.

A market bigger than US governed by a single political entity, that has the ability to control its citizen beyond the imagination of any western governments.

That is enormous power, and it comes in aggregate. US has been the biggest/smartest country to turn its internal market into a weapon. Now that China has it, it will surely use to same, if not greater extent, and that is what makes it intimidating.

Interesting perspective, but they are a growing global power and still growing quickly. They might actually have a more effective government than western style democracies, but I hope that's not the case. It will be interesting to see what this century hold for China compared to India.

When comparing standard of living, GDP PPP is far more important than nominal GDP. By that measure, China’s GDP PPP is around Brazil’s and Mexico’s. That is middle income, not poor (very far off from extremely poor).

By the way, American GDP per capita has been high because of many fortunate factors in addition to the quality of its people: abundant resources and huge productive landmass relative to population size; mostly intact from WW II; tech, talent, and institution transfer from Europe; etc. It is a great country but also a very lucky country.

I start to wonder why there is quite a bit of cynicism (it goes beyond skepticism at this point) by some commenters on China’s progress or likely progress, despite so much tangible evidence?

If, in the future, China actually takes over many of the key industries as mentioned in the news, there will be some significant changes in economic and geopolitical landscape that affect everyone's life. That is worth knowing and preparing for.

On a practical note, it might be useful to know whether to encourage your kids to take mandarin classes for their future or to learn one yourself in the next 1-2 decades, like most people in the world need to learn English for a chance of getting many good careers now. ;)

Note that I am not pro-China nor any country. I observe the world and comment on what I see.

Just like you had to learn Japanese in the 1980s?

Just imagine a country about as rich as Japan (or even just half as rich on the per capita basis) but with 10 times more people. How would that change the power balance in the world?

How can China become as rich as Japan? What makes China so different that it can escape the middle income trap?

Their economic data is so doctored we aren't even sure how rich they are now.

Science and math education results based on several international tests, real-world results in technologies and innovation, manufacturing prowess, ability to catch up to the best in the world in many technologies in a few short decades.

Any countries with such characteristics that are still in middle-income trap after a couple generations of focused development?

Possible example of a leapfrog: https://www.insidescience.org/news/china-leader-quantum-comm...

Note that I am not pro-China nor any country. I observe the world and comment on what I see.

education system? It is a system systemically failed generations of Chinese. Some figures they didn't tell you -

1. 6 out of the 45 classmates in my primary school ever had the chance to finish university level education. 2. those 39 kids who didn't get the chance to study in uni were not stupid or lazy - many of them studied until mid night every day. 3. not talking about some random poor areas in China, talking about tier 1 primary school in Shanghai.

not enough fun? sure - now you need to own a $2-3 million apartment in that area so the kids can go to that fancy school to enjoy that mentioned science education. If she/he is lucky to finish master level education, his/her starting salary will be $1.5k per month before tax. what a good start of career!

you are right one thing - you are not pro-China, you are China bashing by promoting its most ugly & brutal part.

We've warned you before about not using HN for national flamewar, yet most of your posts to HN—in this thread and elsewhere—are making this sort of aggrieved comment about China. That comes across as an agenda, and we don't want agendas here. They're mechanical, make for bad conversation, and provoke worse from others. HN is for intellectual curiosity, about as far from agendas as can be.

I'm sure you have legit reasons for this grievance, but you're abusing HN by taking it out in the threads here. We ban accounts that do this kind of thing, so please stop it if you want to keep commenting here.


According to this news article, there are over 7+ million[1] college grads last year from China, while the enrollment of primary school is between 15-20 millions[2]. So overall, 30%-50% of students made from primary school to college in China.



Chinese government figures are not a reliable source, given their extensive and documented history of fudging the numbers.

It's slightly better than an anecdote, I suppose.

They have no reason to play math here, it can be proved by other statistics too, like the total population born that year, and the one participate in the college entrance exam 4 years ago.

Which years were your classmates in school? I recognize that there were quite a few lost decades for the Chinese.

From the figures I see the situation is getting much better now in terms of access but yes the atmosphere is still very competitive and resources and opportunities still need to be expanded.

> Their economic data is so doctored

Yes it is. However, there clearly has been very significant economic change there in recent decades.

I'm certainly not denying that. I would just argue caution in jumping to far fetched conclusions, like China will become a superpower so we should all learn Mandarin.

China is already a super power.

I don’t know why it escapes attention, but China has the power to regularly bully their neighbors, have pretty much annexed territory, their ships raid protected regions for fish, they have massive diplomatic programs and trillions they spend on funding it - none of which has any challengers in the diplomatic space.

Do note they also have their own space stations.

In essence China has learnt from the western lessons and converted the parts that work for it.

I don’t understand why HN is unwilling to countenance this, but let me put it this way - Can America afford to antagonize China ?

As for the Japan comparison - Japan is tiny compared to China. Chinese surplus production destroys industries in other nations.

Not to mention it has an actual army and navy which is constantly being upgraded.

Something which it uses to enforce its geo political will and aims.

In contrast - the backbone of American international ability, it’s state department, is unstaffed and seen as the enemy by an administration which thinks that only MBAs can do a job effectively, while everyone else working in the govt must be a leech of resources.

Not to mention how many bizarre steps the govt has taken to ensure people look for more stable patrons than the current administration.

China has monstrous momentum.

edit: I would ideally like a solid and non-wonkish rebuttal of China's ascendance.

For example people can highlight debt/finance issues and over capacity in China - and then address how China won't be able to solve it by just exporting to everyone and everywhere.

> I don’t understand why HN is unwilling to countenance this, but let me put it this way - Can America afford to antagonize China ?

It's antagonising all year round - US military presence in Japan and Korea, continuous arm sales and pushing the envelope on unofficial relations with Taiwan, support of Japans claim to the Senkakus, "Freedom of Navigation" exercises in defiance of chinas maritime claims, opening up military relations with Vietnam.

Again, China is not the USSR. There's no "Korean missile crisis" where China can provoke an international crisis if the US decides to park ballistic missiles in its near abroad. There's no equivalent of a Warsaw block. The US has an entanglement of military alliances and relations all around Chinas backyard.

China is not a superpower.

China just basically bought itself a base in Sri Lanka.

They built islands to increase their territory in the South China sea.

They just bullied Bhutan and India over Doklam.

They're worse than the USSR, they just aren't competing with America in a directly military stand off?

China is already a superpower.

The USA was a superpower. The USSR was a superpower. The British Empire was a super power. China is nowhere near those levels.

Again, people want to buy into the narrative.

What’s with HN’s weird obsession with the United States? Every other day there's some article about a business in the US and how it's taking over AI, or startups, or the world.

I'm not American, but it's very easy to see that US is the centre of the tech world. You may not like but that's indisputable.

And where are all of our tech things made?

China is very much the center as well. Just in different verticals. You may not like that, but that's indisputable.

It is today but things like lower-skilled manufacturing have a way of moving quickly to the lowest cost locale. Anecdotally from relationships with a few hardware companies (US & EU) there has been an increasing shift out of China for as wages have gone up on the mainland

Article on wage increase in China (2017): https://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/27/chinese-wages-rise-made-in-c...

edit: defined type of manufacturing (lower-skilled)

> And where are all of our tech things made?

Oh, overwhelming China. It perhaps would have been less confusing had I said "the software world".

Anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States has a long tradition that continues on to this day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Chinese_sentiment_in_the_...

I know right? China is the new Japan. Industrialized East Asian machine that designed to steal the crown of economy from US.

One thing I feel very funny is the entitlement, such as one from this article, that US is destined to be NO.1 in anything that is phrased as race/competition, is rarely being questioned. Why would that be the case by default anyway? With the recent domestic developments, maybe US should consider to resolve the conflict within other than step in other country's business.

> One thing I feel very funny is the entitlement, such as one from this article, that US is destined to be NO.1 in anything that is phrased as race/competition, is rarely being questioned.

For much of the 20th century, and certainly from 1945, USA was #1. If wanting to stay that way helps them to up their game (which certainly needs upping, politically), then good luck to them.

Articles of the sort "<country> is taking over AI, or startups, or the world" would be interesting to HN regardless of the actual <country> in question.

China just happens to be the <country> in question, in a number of current cases.

I think people desperately want a bipolar world, because the unipolar reality bores them. Hence their eagerness to crown China a "superpower".

China has certainly come along way in the past few decades - transitioning from a low income country to a middle income one. But people for whatever reason want to make it out into a bigger deal than it actually is.

> I think people desperately want a bipolar world, because the unipolar reality bores them. Hence their eagerness to crown China a "superpower".

I desperately want the West to win because it's the best hope for a good society, worldwide. China is a threat to that because China is (1) an autocracy, (2) competently governed, and (3) big.

If China wins, the future might be an eternal dictatorship more all-encompassing than anything we've seen in the past.

You must not have lived through the Opium Wars.

That's not a rebuttal to what cabalamat was saying.

Yes it is, it just requires critical thinking. What I'm saying is that you wouldn't be all about the West if you experienced colonialism as China has in their past. It makes sense that many people may not hold the same viewpoint, if they're from a former colony or just have a strong knowledge of history.

> Every other day it’s a new sensationalized headline ...

It's not just China. There's just too much of this political/policy content pushed on HN by various publications craving for the traffic IMHO. NY times, Wired, FT, Forbes etc. all seem to have such clickbaity submissions to HN daily.

>Is China just a easy catalyst for American insecurity or is there some other trend that I’m missing here?

Both, since China is a rapidly developing superpower with 1.5 billion internal market + all the world's manufacturing doing quite well in tech, and the US is not feeling very well lately...

> What’s with HN’s weird obsession with China?

China is the country with the largest or 2nd largest economy (depending on whether you measure by PPP or CXR). So it shouldn't be surprising if there are lots of articles about it.

That has been a common trope for over 20 years. It was Japan before that.


Please stop using this site for political battle, that's absolutely not what it's for and we ban accounts that continue on like this.


I most certainly do not use my account "primarily for political or ideological battle" so I am very clearly not violating the guidelines.

I answered someone's question with the most accurate and factual answer I could. That you find the answer controversial does not change the fact that I'm acting in good faith.

My personal political beliefs aren't even relevant or expressed in the the reply. I'm stating an opinion based on the facts as I see them. I provided many citations, to a trusted source, which supports my comment.

And the opinion expressed is the same one expressed by most of the world's military experts from all political backgrounds.

You should be warning the users that abused the flagging system to censor my comment. Instead, you're helping the abusive mob by threatening to ban me.

IMHO should unflag my comment, warn those users that flagged it, and apologize to me.

Users likely flagged your post because they felt that it was relatively uninformative political boilerplate with grains of unsubstantive flamebait: “People are starting to realize that the Cold War never ended.” and an offshoot of a tangent to boot.

Political discussions on Hacker News need to be civil and substantive, like the guidelines ask. Even more so because the flamewar risk is much higher and this is not a flamewar site.

My comment was civil, informed, and substantive. It includes an answer to the question, and seven supporting citations. It also refrains from any unnecessarily controversial aspects of the argument.

The comment very well could've been upvoted as the most useful reply. The other replies were terribly uniformed.

We'll never know because it was censored by a small number of users that didn't agree with the argument. An abuse of the flagging system that you've chosen to support and reinforce.

As an exercise, set aside temporarily your judgement of whether the flagging was abuse or otherwise. What are some reasons members may have flagged the comment? Take an additional step: assume they’re reasonable people. Are any of the reasons you came up with consistent with that view? What are some reasons that are consistent with them being reasonable? Are there potential readings of your comment that may lead to their action, even if it wasn’t what you intended?

This isn’t meant as a defense of their actions. It’s only to aid in more effective communication. Clearly people acted in a manner you believe is unfair or unjustified. Communication involves both the commenter and the reader. As you can only control one of those ends, what can you do to improve the probability of successful communication?

I don’t expect answers to these questions. I just find them useful when communication that I’m a part of breaks down, and offer them here in the hope that you may find them useful, too.


We've already asked you to please post civilly and substantively, like the guidelines ask, so we've banned the account. We're happy to unban accounts if you email us at hn@ycombinator.com and we believe you'll start doing so.


Think about it: you still need batteries for when you run out of coal.

the article is pay walled.

Welcome to Hacker News. Initiation ritual: Find a way to read this WSJ article.

Second step, find out how to get notified about replies.

It would be really interesting to know how the community at large deals with this, but I suspect something akin to the Observer Effect makes it a a catch-22.

There is also a third initiation step involving the commenting system, but I'm not going to say what it is, because the rule is: if you must ask, you're not ready for it :).

Are you suggesting there's actually a way?

I'm suggesting that there are numerous ways around some of the limitations of this site, such as the lack of reply notification or inability to reply quickly in a chain of many quick replies in a thread. Sometimes it's an escape hatch built into the site, other times someone has already decided to solve the problem and share. If all else fails, you can try to design your own solution.

The hacker ethos invites careful observation and exploration mixed with out of the box thinking. Whether this site purposefully aims for that or accidentally encourages it is irrelevant.

Try using your preferred web search engine for hn replies.

http://www.hnreplies.com/ - maintained by user https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=dangrossman

Click on the web link at the top of this page then the article

Doesn't help me read more than the first two paragraphs

Open it in an "anonymous browsing" window.

None of the google links escape the paywall.

There are a couple of fully scraped options there.

"read wsj journal paywall"

The method explained in the first link works wonderfully, and it took a total of 0,51 seconds to find it (according to google).

The "facebook referer" thing worked for me.

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