SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
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Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  19.12-23.12.05, No. 94  
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Foreign Policy

Japan FM's 'China threat' remarks criticized
2005-12-23 China Daily
China yesterday criticized Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso for making "extremely irresponsible" remarks about the so-called China threat. "As a foreign minister, to incite such groundless rhetoric about China is extremely irresponsible. What is the purpose?" asked Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a regular press conference. Aso said earlier in the day that China poses a "considerable threat" because of what he called its rising military spending and nuclear weapons. ( ) Aso's comments came as the Chinese Government released a white paper reiterating Beijing's commitment to peaceful development. Qin said the document would help the international community better understand China's goal of peaceful development and its stance on global issues. Relations between China and Japan have been badly strained of late, with Beijing angry over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine a symbol of militarism where Class-A criminals of World War II are honoured. ( )

China and OPEC start energy dialogue
2005-12-23 China Daily
China and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) started an energy dialogue aimed at ensuring a steady supply for one of the fastest growing economies, officials said. OPEC president Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah, who is also Kuwait's energy minister, met Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyuan and Mai Kai, head of China's key economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission. In a joint statement, Beijing and OPEC said they had established a future cooperation framework and exchanged views on energy issues -- "in particular, the security of supply and demand, in order to enhance market stability." "China's economic growth requires secure, steady supplies of energy, while OPEC's crude oil reserves and production are expected to continue growing, ensuring that there will be enough oil to meet rising world demand for decades to come," the statement said. OPEC -- which groups Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, Indonesia, Algeria and Qatar -- now faces stronger competition than ever in China from non-OPEC suppliers. Kazakhstan last week launched a new 806-million-dollar oil pipeline to China. ( ) Asked about his view on the competition, Sheikh Ahmad said the purpose of the dialogue with China was not to increase OPEC's market share in China, but to secure supply and to provide an environment for stable oil prices. "We're not looking for a bigger market but we're looking for cooperation (between) OPEC and consumers to secure the supply," he told reporters. "We're happy that China has good relations with Russia and Kazakhstan ... to be their main suppliers for their demand." ( )

Economic rise no threat to anyone, Beijing insists
2005-12-23 SCMP
China yesterday tried to allay fears it was a threat to its neighbours or the US by repeating in a State Council white paper it would remain peaceful. The paper was released by the State Council Information Office against a backdrop of mounting pressure from the US and Japan over the mainland's enormous economy and rising military power, and two days after the mainland revised last year's GDP figures upwards by 16.8 per cent. The document, "White Paper of China's Peaceful Development Road", did not mention military development but went to lengths to argue that China's rapid economic rise benefited the world, especially its neighbours. Beijing started a propaganda campaign for its "peaceful emergence" in late 2003, but changed the phrase to "peaceful development" after criticism the slogan could be seen as provocative. ( ) The paper reiterated Beijing's pledge to avoid becoming a major competitor for energy resources, despite its huge appetite for fuel. Instead, it would meet demands through better efficiency and developing domestic supplies. "Since the 1990s, China has obtained 90 per cent or more of its energy from domestic sources. The potential of its domestic energy supply is still great." It also said China would not become expansionist, because it was a victim of other countries' aggression for nearly a century. It was also too busy with its own domestic problems. "By the end of 2004, 26.1 million rural Chinese still lived under the poverty line, more than 100 million farmers have to be provided with jobs elsewhere, and the government is obliged to create jobs for nearly 24 million urban and rural residents every year," it said.

China to further cooperation with Kyrgyzstan
2005-12-22 Xinhua News
Chinese top political advisor Jia Qinglin said here Thursday that China highly values its ties with Kyrgyzstan and will make more efforts to boost China-Kyrgyzstan good-neighborly friendship and cooperation. "To develop the China-Kyrgyzstan cooperative relations is an established policy of China," Jia said in a meeting with Alikbek Jekshenkulov, foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan. Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative. He said China and Kyrgyzstan have settled border disputes, which have laid a solid legal foundation for friendly ties He also expressed his delight with the effective cooperation between the two countries in the economic and trade areas. "We have also maintained close cooperation in the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and made contributions to world peace and stability," Jia said. Jia expressed China's appreciation for Kyrgyzstan's firm support for China on the issues including Taiwan, Tibet and the fight against the East Turkistan pro-independence groups. ( )

China urges parties concerned to foster six-party talks
2005-12-21 People's Daily
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang Tuesday urged all parties concerned to take the overall situation into account and respect each other so as to advance the process of the six-party talks. ( ) Qin also denied that China has proposed to hold an informal meeting for the chairmen of all delegations to the six-party talks in Dandong of northeast China's Liaoning Province. "As the presiding state, China will, as always, advance the process of the six-party talks by negotiating and consulting with the other parties," Qin said. Speaking of the resolution adopted Friday by the United Nations expressing serious concerns about reports of human rights abuses in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Qin said that China has always been in opposition to the practice of putting pressure on other countries and creating political confrontation in defense of human rights.

 

Domestic Policy

Atomic-warning general disciplined
2005-12-23 SCMP
A PLA general has been punished for telling reporters the mainland could use nuclear weapons in the event of a US attack over Taiwan, military sources said yesterday. Major-General Zhu Chenghu received an "administrative demerit" recently from the National Defence University, which bars him from promotion for one year, the sources said. "He misspoke. But the punishment could not be too harsh or we would be seen as too weak towards the United States," one source said. An administrative demerit is the second-lightest punishment on a scale of one to five, but still potentially damaging to his career. "His chances for promotion in the future are extremely slim," another source said. The Defence Ministry declined to comment. In July General Zhu told a group of visiting Hong Kong-based reporters the mainland would have no choice but to resort to nuclear weapons in the event of a US attack over Taiwan. The US criticised General Zhu's comments as irresponsible. China has sought to play down the gaffe, saying General Zhu's remarks were his personal views. General Zhu is not the first People's Liberation Army general to warn the US of possible nuclear conflict. Xiong Guangkai warned Chas Freeman, a former US assistant secretary of defence, in 1995 that the mainland could use nuclear weapons in any conflict over Taiwan.

Focus on hi-tech future in latest PLA reshuffle
2005-12-22 SCMP
The mainland's military has quietly started a new round of personnel reshuffling, with younger officers from the navy and air force taking up important positions. General Xiong Guangkai , the People's Liberation Army's deputy chief of general staff, will retire soon after exceeding the mandatory retirement age of 65 by more than a year, according to the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po. Among the reshuffling of dozens of officers of the rank of commander and deputy commander led by President Hu Jintao , the departure of the 66-year-old general, the most senior officer involved, was highly symbolic, said a PLA specialist in Taiwan. Known as the mainland military's top spy and international strategist in Washington and Taipei, General Xiong was seen as one of the last senior officers to retire who had been promoted by former president Jiang Zemin , said Milton Liao Wen-chung, a defence analyst at the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies. "The US and Taiwan have always attached great importance to General Xiong, who has been in charge of PLA's intelligence for the last decade," said Mr Liao. He said General Xiong, who was a member of Beijing's leading group on Taiwan affairs and liaised with foreign militaries, was best known for advising Mr Jiang and Mr Hu on the cross-strait standoff and his frequent exchanges with the Americans. Fluent in English, he started his military career in the late 1950s with the PLA's general staff headquarters' intelligence department and rose to become the spy service's director in 1988. He was promoted by Mr Jiang to deputy chief of general staff in 1996 and made a full general in 2000. ()

28 infected with HIV after illegal blood sales
2005-12-22 Xinhua News
A 41-year-old man surnamed Song who was infected with HIV sold his blood 17 times in a one-and-a-half-year period, leading to the infection of 28 people, nine of whom have now died, local officials in the northeast city of Dehui, near Jilin provincial capital Changchun, revealed yesterday. In addition to the blood recipients, two of Song's sex partners and one of their spouses, have been diagnosed with the virus. The scandal came to light when a woman surnamed Wang tested HIV positive in September. She had been suffering from fever throughout the year but doctors could not pinpoint the reason. She was infected by contaminated blood during surgery at Dehui Municipal Hospital in March 2003, and died after investigations started two months ago. ( ) The police also detained Ding Zuofu, director of Dehui Blood Centre and his 10 colleagues for further investigation, according to the Health Bureau of Changchun. We had the facilities to test the blood before donation in 1998, and every donor had to go through two tests before donation, and Song was no exception," said Zhao Xiumei, deputy director of Dehui Blood Centre. ( )

Wealth gap fuelling instability, studies warn
2005-12-22 SCMP
Mainland society is becoming more unstable amid widening wealth disparity, despite strong economic growth, a government think-tank has found. The gap is not only between urban and rural areas, but also between the rich costal cities and the poorer inland provinces, according to a compilation of studies released yesterday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The warning comes as the academy projected a strong 9.3 per cent growth in the gross domestic product for this year, and 9 per cent for next year. The rich-poor divide is fuelling crime and a dramatic rise in land disputes and clashes between the public and government officials over environmental issues. The studies, "Analysis and Forecast on China's Social Development (2006)" or the Blue Book of Chinese Society, said social stability had worsened since 1980, with indicators for the crime rate, extent of corruption and production safety all showing a negative trend. The Gini coefficient, an indicator of income disparities, reached 0.53 last year, far higher than a dangerous level of 0.4. Social scientist Zhu Qingfang, in one of the articles, says 60 to 80 per cent of financial capital and savings are controlled by 20 per cent of the population, while the remainder lack the purchasing power to meet their consumption needs. "The rich-poor disparity has led to the intensification of social disputes, mass protests, and criminal cases," she wrote. The study found that although the net income of farmers grew by 6 per cent, after discounting inflation and the rising cost for fertilisers and other investment for production, in 2005, it still lagged behind the net income increase of 9 per cent for urban residents. In terms of net income, the urban-rural gap has expanded from a ratio of 3.2:1 last year to 3.3:1 this year, according to the study. Sociologist Lu Xueyi writes in the report that the huge income gap between urban residents and 140 million rural migrants working in the cities also gave rise to social conflict and crimes. About 70 per cent of the suspects arrested for criminal offences in cities were migrant workers, he said. One of the editors of the compilation, Li Peilin , said public anger was rising against those who got rich from ill-gotten gains. "Not only is the low income group not satisfied with their income, the middle income group is not satisfied either," he said. The uneven distribution of education and health-care services are identified as the two major causes behind social disparities. Taking into account the government expenditure in education and health services, urban residents were six times better off than rural residents, Dr Li said. The book also highlighted land disputes and pollution as two major sources of conflict. "Land has become the major source for development and government income. There are large conflicts in many areas," Dr Li said. Earlier this month, a riot was triggered by land seizures in the village of Dongzhou, Shanwei in Guangdong. The local government has put the death toll from the riot at three, but villagers fear the real figure could be as high as 20 because many villagers are still missing. Protests caused by environmental issues grew by 11.6 times over the past 10 years, with an annual growth rate of 28.8 per cent. A third of the clashes over pollution this year turned violent, as farmers burned or smashed government property. The study also warns of the rapidly ageing population, the number of elderly is set to reach 140 million this year. One in six of those who are above the age of 60 are classified as poor. Another danger the mainland faces is the mounting debts held by universities. It said tertiary institutions have borrowed a total of 120 billion yuan to 200 billion yuan from banks, while some institutes may be facing debts of up to 2 billion yuan.

Hu calls for deepening administrative reform
2005-12-21 Xinhua News
Hu Jintao, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has called for actively and smoothly deepening administrative reform so as to accelerate the functional shift of the government and improve its efficiency. Hu, concurrently state president, made the above remarks Tuesday afternoon at a lecture attended by the members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. In his speech, Hu said administrative reform is necessary for implementing sustainable development, improving the socialist market economy, and building a socialist country ruled by law. China's existing administrative system remains incompatible with the country's economic and social development, he said. Under the circumstances of a socialist market economy, Hu said, the main functions of the government are economic readjustment, market supervision, social affairs management, and public service. Administrative reform will be focused on changing the functions of the government and continuing to push forward the separation of government from enterprises, capital, institutions, and intermediate market organs. ( )

S. China cities to deal with possible water crisis
2005-12-21 Xinhua News
The southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Foshan were ordered Wednesday by local provincial government to soon start emergency plans to ensure safe drinking water supplies to their residents as a toxic slick approaches. The river pollution was caused by an excessive discharge of cadmium from a state-owned smeltery in the Beijiang River, a majorsource of drinking water for cities in the northern part of south China's Guangdong Province. ( ) It is the second major water pollution incident in China in recent days. A chemical plant blast on Nov. 13 in Jilin City of northeast China's Jilin Province resulted in a serious leakage of poisonous substances of cancer-causing benzene and nitrobenzene into the Songhua River, which forced a four-day water cut-off to Harbin, capital of neighboring Heilongjiang Province. Chinese workers successfully dammed a waterway in the Heilongjiang River Wednesday morning before the chemical spill arriving at the Russian city downstream.

65.7% Chinese have no medical insurance: survey
2005-12-21 Xinhua News
About 65.7 percent of China's population have no medical insurance, according to a blue paper here Wednesday. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) issued a blue paper, titled "Analysis and predictions of China's social situation 2006". By the end of Sept., 133.41 million urban workers were insured for medical insurance and 5.038 billion yuan (672.5 million U.S. dollars) was been distributed to 119 million Chinese peasant farmers who participated in the rural cooperative medical insurance system. Ordinary Chinese people find it too expensive to go to hospital and about 48.9 percent choose not to seek medical attention when they have an illness, according to China's third survey of health care services earlier this month. A medical bill scandal involving treatment costs as high as 10 million yuan (1.23 million US dollars) for a patient in a northeast China's Harbin hospital has drawn a lot of attention and criticism from the public recently. ( )

China remains developing nation despite GDP increase
2005-12-21 People's Daily
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday in Beijing that China remains a developing country although the official size of economy has risen after taking into account emerging service industries. China on Tuesday raised the official size of its economy, saying its GDP last year was 15.9878 trillion yuan (1.981 trillion US dollars) following a survey that to gather more accurate data on restaurants, retailers and other service businesses, which were previously underreported. China will not change its diplomatic policies, and will remain dedicated to economic development, raising living standards and safeguarding a peaceful and stable environment, Qin said. Noting that China's per capita GDP ranks after 100th in the world, Qin said, "Our current task is to concentrate on construction and development." He said China would remain a "positive force" in safeguarding world peace and development no matter how developed China is in the future.

Revision sure to refuel debate on developing-nation label
2005-12-21 SCMP
The adjustment announced yesterday will likely give rise to renewed debate on whether China can still fairly be labelled a developing nation. Li Deshui , head of the National Bureau of Statistics, tried to dispel the idea that it should not by emphasising that the mainland was still a developing nation, with more than 120 million people in poverty or the low-income bracket - earning less than 1,000 yuan a year. He noted that the country's per capita gross domestic product still ranked below 100th in the world. China's economic status was called into question during the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference last week when the European Union called China, India and Brazil "advanced developing countries. ( ) "This is purely a political bargain," said Tsui Kai-yuen, economics professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong. "It depends on whether the US gives it to you. If the Americans and European Union don't give it to you, then you don't have it." The size of the economy was secondary in the negotiation equation and were merely references. As a socialist economy, China has for decades used the "material product system" to calculate its economy. It was not until the late 1980s that the mainland implemented the "system of national accounts", an international standard endorsed by the United Nations and used by most countries and territories, including Hong Kong. Under this method, businesses have to report to the government its output in goods and services. But since much of the service sector is privately owned, Professor Tsui said much it went unreported and it was hard to tell its value.

Road toll falls, but 90,000 killed
2005-12-21 SCMP
The mainland's roads are still the deadliest in the world, with nearly 90,000 people killed in around 417,000 traffic accidents in the first 11 months of the year, according to Ministry of Public Security data released yesterday. But ministry spokesman Wu Heping said the death toll had declined by 7,351, or 7.6 per cent, and the number of road traffic accidents was down by 11.3 per cent from the 470,000 registered for the same period last year. Bao Hongxia , assistant inspector from the Ministry of Public Security's Legal Affairs Department, yesterday said the frequency of accidents should be blamed on poor traffic management and low road safety awareness. She said another reason for the accidents was "the conflict between the meteoric growth in the number of vehicles and drivers, and the lagged management [of the traffic system]". The number of vehicles reached 107 million last year, 13 times the number more than two decades ago. The number of drivers had increased 10-fold to 116 million. But in contrast, the police force had only doubled in size.

China opposes dual standards in combating terrorism: FM spokesman
2005-12-21 People's Daily
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing Tuesday it is imperative to abide by the UN charter and the international law in fighting against terrorism. China is opposed to dual standards in combating terrorism and to linking terrorism with any specific religions, said Qin. Qin made the remarks in response to a question about a statement made by U.S. President George Bush on December 18 that he will continue to authorize intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on international phone calls without court approval as long as the country remains threatened by terrorism. Qin said China's stance on fighting terrorism has always been firm and clear. China opposes terrorism in any form but believes that fight against terrorism should be "conducive to safeguarding the peace and security of humankind and promoting the civilization and prosperity of the society".

Politburo discusses rural development, fighting corruption
2005-12-20 Xinhua News
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the issues of building a new socialist countryside, improving Party-style, and fighting corruption. Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting. The meeting discussed a series of major policies the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have adopted to promote rural development which have resulted in successive, large-scale increases in grain output in the past two years. Also discussed were further adjustments in agricultural structure, growth in farmers' income, major progress in rural tax reform, and the further development of social undertakings in the countryside. While noting that China is facing sound opportunities in economic and social development in the countryside, the meeting called for hard, strenuous efforts as the country's agricultural infrastructure is still vulnerable, culturally backward, and it is increasingly difficult to increase the incomes of farmers. At the meeting, the participants heard a report on the work of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which analyzed the current situation regarding Party-style and establishing a clean government by eliminating corruption. ()

Beijing sets up special police unit to tighten Olympics security
2005-12-20 Xinhua News
The Beijing Public Security Bureau on Tuesday set up a special police unit to reinforce the city's security maintenance capability for the pending 2008 Olympics. The unit responsible for counter-terrorism missions will become a major force of armed police in the national capital, said Ma Zhenchuan, director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. The Ministry of Public Security decided in March to set up special police forces in 36 major cities across the country. Ma said the founding of the Beijing Special Police unit would be an example in the country, and improve the city's emergency response ability to deal with possible emergencies in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. Enditem

3 villagers killed during riot at power plant
2005-12-19 Xinhua News
Three villagers were killed and eight others injured by police during a riot on December 6 when hundreds of people, instigated by a few, attacked a wind-power plant in South China's Guangdong Province. The serious incident of violence was orchestrated by a few suspects with the aim of burning and destroying the power plant as well attacking police at the site, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, quoting a spokesman for the Shanwei government in Guangdong. An investigation into the cause and the aftermath of the incident is under way, said the spokesman, who was not identified. The three men killed by police were Lin Yidui, 26; Jiang Guangge, 35 and Wei Jin, 31, the report said, adding that eight people were hospitalized during the riot. The cause of the incident can be traced back to June, when a few people in Dongzhoukeng Village in the city of Shanwei incited some villagers to seek more compensation for the land taken by the government for construction of the power plant, said the spokesman. ( ) The violence was one of the deadliest clashes in recent years between local governments and villagers over the compensation for land, reports said.

 

Patrick Dreher
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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