China Military Trump Vacationers as Drills Ground Flights

By Clement Tan and Jing Jin

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) — Shen Zhihong arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport looking forward to a vacation at the beach only to find his flight delayed indefinitely and his holiday plans at the mercy of the People’s Liberation Army.

The 64-year-old retired professor was among thousands to have their travel obstructed last week when more than 900 flights at Shanghai’s two airports were canceled as the Chinese military staged exercises in the East China Sea. That was the most of any city in the world and more than those of the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, according to Flightstats, a website that compiles airline data.

“We understand and support the needs of national defense,” Shen said as he waited to fly to the port city of Dalian with a group of former colleagues from Fudan University, where he used to teach. “But we hope there will be less and less impact on civilian flights.”

Delays at Chinese airports, ranked the world’s worst, highlight the tensions in a nation home to a swelling middle class and a ruling party with a 65-year monopoly on power that’s intent on strengthening its military. At stake is the growth of a commercial aviation market that trails only the U.S. in size and needs the PLA to cede airspace to China Southern Airlines Co. (1055) and other carriers to increase routes.

“The Western world’s been following a different model where civilians take priority,”said Geoffrey Cheng, head of transportation research at BOCOM International. “The aviation market has been developing in China at the discretion of the military releasing airspace.”

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Chinese Plant in Fatal Blast Described as Dusty Deathtrap

By Clement Tan and Alexandra Ho

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) — The metal dust produced from polishing wheels at Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co.’s factory was so intense it seeped through Lu Qingmei’s face mask and coated her nose and mouth. After two days, she quit.

“When you go onto the production floor, you’re covered in gray dust in less than half a day,” the 25-year-old said of her stint in February at the Chinese factory, which finishes rims that end up in vehicles made by General Motors Co. (GM) and other carmakers. “It was dirty and tiring to work there.”

The decision to quit may have saved her life. Last week, a fireball ripped through the workshop, killing at least 75 workers and injuring 185 in China’s deadliest industrial disaster in more than a year. Not everyone’s been identified, including Lu’s sister-in-law.

The blast — state media said it was triggered by tiny aluminum and magnesium flakes that caught fire — has prompted China to announce a nationwide overhaul of safety practices, and reignited concern about occupational hazards in the world’s second-largest economy. Combustible dust, which has long bedeviled factories worldwide, was cited in at least four previous explosions that killed 26 people at Chinese industrial sites since 2009.

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