Economist 1/15/16

  1. a 2010 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found the largest proportion of classical concert-goers are aged between 65 and 74, and the same problem is bemoaned far beyond Australia. So promoters and classical-music venues are keen to do anything that will lure in 2015, more than 37,500 people bought their first tickets for the BBC Proms, a concert series held in London’s Victoria & Albert Hall every summer since 1895.This may not be enough. There is scant evidence that a student attracted by cheap and cheerful Prom tickets morphs into a paid-up attendee of full-fare concerts. Bringing in a new generation will be hard without shaking off classical music’s reputation for being elitist and uncool.Once a popular art form with its own proverbial rock-stars, the medium now mostly consists of recycling the same canonical works by European men from centuries past. The name “classical” implies a historical past, yet it is much broader than this label, and recognising that is a first step to broadening the audience.
  2. Contemporary artists like Maya Beiser, who transforms our expectations of the soloist by using technology to layer her own playing of different parts on the cello, and Max Richter, who merges violin, orchestra and synthesiser, should be considered no different to the Stravinskys and Schuberts of eras past. Such artists create a valuable entry point for new listeners, whatever their age.Such novel work would, at best, be seen live: even the most high-tech speakers are no match, and one of classical music’s advantages over its genre rivals is the joy of watching the astonishing virtuosity of its best musicians.Many theatres and artists have recognised this: they offer last-minute tickets (appealing to impulsive young folks), shorter concerts, later start times, unusual venues and “taster” experiences, where people can drop in and out at their leisure.
  3. TAIWAN’S voters go the polls on January 16th to elect a new president and parliament (called the Legislative Yuan).China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province. In 1992, it and the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party on Taiwan signed a so-called consensus in which they agreed there was only one China but agreed to disagree about what that means in practice. Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has never accepted this 1992 consensus and some members of the DPP want to declare independence, which China says would provoke it to take over the island by force.Tsai Ing-wen, the current leader of the DPP is far ahead of the KMT’s Eric Chu and odds-on favourite to become president.But a DPP victory would again raise questions about the island’s relations with the mainland.
  4. DESPITE the anaemic state of the global economy, companies from mainland China are investing abroad like never before.ChemChina is now emerging as the most dynamic globaliser among China’s state enterprises. Already, it has a string of foreign acquisitions under its belt (see table). Most notable among these is its $7.7 billion deal last year to buy Pirelli, an Italian tyremaker, which will be completed shortly. That was the largest Chinese purchase yet seen in Italy, and the KraussMaffei deal will be the biggest foray by a mainland Chinese firm into Germany. ChemChina is also in a bidding war with Monsanto, an American agribusiness firm, for control of Syngenta, a big Swiss rival.Why are Chinese firms so keen to go abroad? Some pundits suspect that the firms’ bosses, afraid of getting caught up in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption purge, are parking assets abroad.Others think investment opportunities are drying up on the mainland.The main reason for Chinese firms’ buying spree is to get the brands, technologies and talent they lack, to capitalise on future waves of growth at home.
  5. The steady advance of home-grown supermarket chains has so far done little to dim the kiranas’ prospects.. With more than 200m Indians now able to access the internet on their mobile devices, e-commerce might appear a bigger threat. Rather than supplying all their goods from central warehouses, however, most have struck partnerships with kiranas and other physical retailers. They employ an army of young workers to collect orders from kiranas and other local shops, and deliver them to the customer, often within the hour.Grofers, and other firms trying this labour-intensive model, reckon that by linking with the myriad small shops in Indian cities, they will be spared having to spend heavily on warehousing in a country where urban land is scarce.Grofers has pulled out of nine cities, blaming “low acceptance of its service in these areas”. LocalBanya, another online sht down. Amazon, whose KiranaNow service has a slightly different model, letting kiranas set up virtual stalls and take orders by smartphone app, to be delivered either by the kirana’s own workers or by Amazon’s delivery service. BigBasket, currently the largest among India’s online grocers, offers two levels of service: for a household’s big monthly shop it fulfils orders from a central warehouse. But it also has tie-ups with kiranas so that consumers can order daily top-ups from themgrocer that sourced products from local shops, ceased operations in October.

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