SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

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
  3.4-7.4.06, No. 109  
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Foreign Policy

China, Australia agree on all-round cooperation: Wen
2006-04-03 Xinhuanet
China and Australia have agreed to build a relationship of all-round cooperation for mutual benefit and win-win outcomes in the 21st century, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday in Canberra. "This means that China and Australia should have consultation and dialogue on political, economic and cultural issues, as well as other major international issues," Premier Wen said at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Wen, who held talks with Howard prior to the press conference, described the common understanding reached between them after an in-depth exchange of views in the talks as "very important." Speaking of the specific countenance of this relationship, Wen said there are four major aspects. First, China and Australia should enhance the mutual visits and discussions between the leaders of the two governments, according to the Chinese leader. Second, China and Australia should work together to enhance economic cooperation on all fields. At present, what is more important for the two countries is to expedite the negotiation process for the establishment of a free trade area between the two sides. Third, Wen said, China and Australia shall work together to enhance their cooperation in science, technology, culture, sports, tourism and other fields. Fourth, China and Australia should work together to enhance their consultation and coordination on major issues on the bilateral level with respect to questions of major international organizations. Wen, who is here on an official visit, stressed that China's foreign policy is open. "China does not draw a line on the basis of ideology and China does not enter into alliance with any other country or any other group of countries," he said. China is ready and willing to live in peace with all other nations on this planet, the Chinese leader added. Prime Minister Howard said his talks with Wen covered the whole gamut of the economic and political relationship between Australia and China. "Of all of the relationships that Australia has, major relationships Australia has with other countries, none has been more completely transformed than the relationship with China over the last ten years," he said, describing the transformation of the relationship with China as "remarkable."

Aid package announced for South Pacific states
2006-04-06 China Daily
China announced a wide-ranging package of economic aid to South Pacific island countries yesterday as part of efforts to strengthen relations. Besides 3 billion yuan (US$375 million) in preferential loans over the next three years, Beijing will grant zero-tariff treatment to goods from the islands, cancel their debt that matured at the end of 2005 and make the seven island states with diplomatic ties approved tourist destinations. Premier Wen Jiabao made the announcement at the opening of the inaugural China-Pacific Islands economic development forum in Fiji. This is the first visit by a Chinese premier to the South Pacific. "China is not rich. Still, we are ready to provide assistance without any political strings attached," Wen said in a keynote speech at the forum. The country will also train 2,000 Pacific government officials and provide free anti-malaria medicines for the next three years. ()

Chinese premier favors more exchanges with New Zealand
2006-04-07 People's Daily
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Thursday in Wellington that China and New Zealand should facilitate understanding and friendship between their peoples through cultural and educational exchanges to ensure a steady development of bilateral relationship. Wen, who is here on an official visit, made the remarks at a meeting with New Zealand Governor-General Silvia Cartwright. Wen said the growth of China-New Zealand relations is not only in the interests of the two countries but also conducive to the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, China will handle the bilateral relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective and is willing to increase dialogue and cooperation with New Zealand, he added. Although economic and trade cooperation is indispensable elements in bilateral ties, cultural and educational exchanges are all the more important, the Chinese leader said. If economic and trade cooperation represents the present day, cultural and educational exchanges represent the future, he said. Cultural and educational intercourse, conducted in various forms, could foster understanding and friendship between the two peoples, the young peoples in particular, the premier said. Congratulating Wen on his successful visit to New Zealand, Cartwright echoed the Chinese premier's comments on how to improve bilateral relations. New Zealand and China share many common interests and should learn and draw lessons from each other's experiences, she said, adding that her country is ready to increase exchanges and cooperation with China in such fields as agriculture and animal husbandry, science and technology, culture and education. She said New Zealand welcomes more Chinese students to study here and will encourage more New Zealand students to study in China to learn its splendid history and culture. Wen, who is the first Chinese premier to pay an official visit to the island country, on Thursday also met New Zealand Opposition or National Party leader Don Brash. Premier Wen appreciated the efforts made by the National Party in fostering friendly cooperation with China, saying that it was during the ruling of the National Party that New Zealand became the first developed country to conclude negotiations with China over her entry into the World Treaty Organization (WTO). Wen said China is willing to make joint efforts with all parties in New Zealand, including the Opposition, to further improve the bilateral relationship. Brash said his party adheres to the one-China policy, advocates closer bilateral ties, and supports an earlier agreement on a free trade agreement between the two countries. No matter which party is in power, there will be no change in New Zealand's policy to develop relations with China, he said.

U.S. hails upcoming visit by Chinese president
2006-04-06 People's Daily
The upcoming visit to the United States by Chinese President Hu Jintao will represent a key milestone in efforts that the two countries work together to contribute to international growth and stability, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said at a briefing on Thursday. "This visit will represent one of the key milestones" in the "broad and complex undertaking" that both countries work together " to contribute to international growth and stability in ways that benefit both our countries," Ereli said at the National Press Center briefing. "This is an opportunity for the leaders of these two great nations to once again meet, to once again reaffirm their strong commitment to a healthy relationship, one in which there are many convergent interests," Ereli said when answering questions from Xinhua. The visit will also offer the United States an opportunity to raise the Chinese side issues that "we feel strong about," Ereli said. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has pointed out, China is an important player on the international stage and the United States wants to work together with China in ways that help China meet its own development challenge as well as contribute to the growth and stability worldwide that benefits both countries, Ereli said. "That is going to be the fundamental nature of the discussions between the two leaders," Ereli said, noting that the United States regards its relationship with China as a "critical" one both for the United States and for the world. Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to visit the United States later this month and U.S. President George W. Bush will meet with him at the White House on April 20.

China pledges closer trade ties with Yemen
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
Chinese President Hu Jintao said here on Thursday China will further its trade and energy cooperation with Yemen in an effort to lift bilateral relations to a new height. "China supports and welcomes the enterprises to increase their investment in the two countries, and is willing to expand cooperation with Yemen in such areas as energy, infrastructure and fishery," said Hu while meeting with visiting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh arrived in Beijing Wednesday, kicking off his six-day state visit to China. In reply to Hu's call for further economic and trade cooperation, Saleh said the Yemeni government is pleased with the sound development of bilateral relations and trade ties. The friendly cooperation between Yemen and China has seen stable development and trade cooperation has achieved much progress since the two countries forged diplomatic ties 50 years ago, said Saleh, adding that trade volume hit 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2005. Hu urged the two countries to continue to step up exchanges at various levels and strengthen coordination in international and regional affairs. On the situations in the Middle East and Gulf region, Hu said China has always engaged itself in easing and stabilizing the situations in the region, and opposes any move to intensify regional tension. China insists that parties concerned increase dialogue, conduct consultations equally and solve disputes through peaceful negotiation in line with relevant UN resolutions, said Hu. "China will work with the Arab nations, including Yemen, and the international community to further development and peace in the Middle East and Gulf region," Hu added. "China and Yemen have become reliable 'all-weather' friends," Hu said. Saleh appreciated China's just stance on the Middle East issue and the important role China has played in promoting peace in the Middle East. Yemen and China share identical views in terms of Iraq's reconstruction and the peace process in the Middle East, Saleh said. Saleh extended his thanks for China's long-term assistance, saying Yemen will firmly adhere to the one-China policy. Saleh said his six-day visit is aimed at cementing Yemen-China's traditional friendship and further develop bilateral cooperation, hoping the two countries will reinforce their mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, energy, investment and infrastructure. After their talks, Hu and Saleh attended the signing ceremony of eight cooperative agreements on such fields as trade and telecommunication.

China appeals for Japan's positive response to mend ties
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
China on Thursday said it hoped Japan will respond in kind to its positive messages which were delivered with sincerity and goodwill. "The Chinese government has conveyed a clear message to Japan. We hope China's sincerity, goodwill and positive messages will be well received and result in a reciprocal response from Japan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular press briefing. Last Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao had a rare meeting with the heads of seven Japan-China friendship organizations, led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. At the meeting Hu reiterated China's stance on promoting China-Japan friendship and the Yasukuni Shrine issue. Hu told the Japanese visitors that he was ready to hold talks with Japanese leaders as soon they made a clear-cut decision not to pay further visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 convicted class-A war criminals from World War II. So far no positive response has come from the Japanese leaders. Liu said Japanese leaders' repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine damaged the political foundation of China-Japan ties. "To clear up this obstacle and thus improve bilateral ties is the common aspiration of the two countries' people and serves their basic interests." Liu reviewed the history of China-Japan relations, saying that people of the two countries, for the most part, are friendly to each other and got along well. "We don't think it is the Japanese people who should be blamed (for the strained relations), because most Japanese favor China-Japan friendship," he said. Liu said the Chinese and Japanese governments are obligated to respect the common wishes of their peoples and take positive measures to improve relations for their benefit. He said the development of ties between China-Japan has a direct impact on the interests of the region and the world. "The Chinese government highly values ties between China and Japan and has made consistent efforts to improve them." He also described the history issue as "an important political cornerstone" for China-Japan relations, saying that it is not onlyfound in China-Japan political documents such as the Sino-JapaneseJoint Statement, the Peace and Friendship Treaty, and the Sino-Japanese Joint Declaration, but also in the feelings of the Chinese and Japanese peoples. Liu referred to Hu's meeting with leaders of the seven Japanesefriendship organizations, saying that Hu had reiterated that Chinawill continue to follow the principles of the three political documents and to handle the problems between the two countries through consultations on an equal footing to maintain China-Japan friendship. The leaders of the two countries have not held an exchange visit in four years, ever since Koizumi began paying homage at theYasukuni Shrine soon after he took office in 2001.

DPRK top legislator meets Chinese DM
2006-04-06 People's Daily
Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), met visiting Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan on Thursday in Pyongyang. They had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral ties and international and regional issues of common concern. Kim spoke highly of the traditional DPRK-China friendship, saying the DPRK is willing to work with China to further deepen relations between their countries and military forces. Cao, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of China and a state councilor, expressed that China is happy to see the sound development of bilateral ties in the new century. The military ties are important components of overall bilateral relations and the Chinese armed forces are ready to further enhance exchanges with the DPRK armed forces, Cao said. On Tuesday, Cao held talks with Kim Il-chol, minister of the People's Armed Forces of the DPRK. Then he met with Jo Myong-rok, first vice chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK on Wednesday. Cao arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day official goodwill visit.

Vatican positive on Beijing's reaction, but much to solve
2006-04-04 SCMP
Beijing's reaction to the Holy See's efforts to re-establish diplomatic ties is "positive", but outstanding issues still need to be resolved through negotiations, which are at an early stage, a Vatican official said yesterday. The official was responding to remarks by Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, who suggested there could be some flexibility on how Catholic bishops on the mainland were appointed. While saying Mr Ye was still stressing Beijing's position that diplomatic relations could not be renewed before the Holy See cut ties with Taipei and that it would insist on appointing mainland bishops, the official acknowledged the statement was positive. "It is a bit optimistic, and the statement [yesterday] is positive, given that it is the first published remarks from Beijing. In any case, he leaves some room for negotiation," the official said. But the official called for caution because formal "systematic" contacts between Beijing and the Holy See, which started after Pope Benedict succeeded the late Pope John Paul II, were still at an early stage. "There are contacts now, as Ye has mentioned. That is the forum now and that has to go ahead," he said. Mr Ye confirmed on Sunday there had been contacts between the mainland and the Holy See on forging diplomatic relations. But he admitted gaps remained on major issues, the China Daily reported yesterday. "The contact between us has been continuing all along, but it is hard to set a timetable," Mr Ye said. While insisting the mainland should keep its practice of appointing its own bishops, Mr Ye showed an unusually conciliatory approach, saying the issue "may be open to consultation". It was the first time a mainland official openly echoed a Vatican proposal that an appointment mechanism agreeable to both sides could be discussed. Mr Ye's remarks, although positive, were unlikely to herald real progress in relations, an expert on religious affairs from Shanghai's Fudan University said. Xu Yihua welcomed Mr Ye's words, saying they showed China's sincerity in holding talks. "However, such gestures must be built on mutual trust," he said, noting that the two sides had so far failed to bridge their differences on key issues. "It is unlikely for the two sides to reach a consensus or achieve major breakthroughs any time soon, as both sides have their own bottom line and feel it is hard to make compromises," he said. "The two sides are locked in a see-saw struggle, but the Vatican is seizing the initiative." Meanwhile, Mr Ye said Beijing might consider allowing a visit by the Dalai Lama if he gave up his pursuit of independence for Tibet, the newspaper said. "As long as the Dalai Lama makes it clear that he has completely abandoned Tibetan `independence', it is not impossible for us to consider his visit," Mr Ye said.

UNDP releases China Human Development Report 2005
2006-04-03 Xinhuanet
China's Human Development Index (HDI) ranks 85th among 177 countries, rising up by 20 percent, according to a report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released here Monday. The UNDP and the Chinese University of Hong Kong coorganized a seminar here Monday on the report, which names "China Human Development Report 2005". The report analyzed China's income and wealth distribution, employment opportunities, social security, and public expenditure. It said that China has made remarkable progress in social and human development since its reform and opening up. According to the report, China's HDI in 2003 was 0.755, ranking 85th among 177 countries, which represents a medium level of human development. China's ranking has risen up by 20 percent since 1990, the biggest progress ever, largely due to income growth. However, the report also argued that China still faces many challenges despite such progress. Statistics at the macro level cannot disguise the gaps in development between regions, urban andrural areas, genders and social groups. To due with these problems as well as promote equal human development in China, the report makes some policy recommendations in the end. Lu Mai, secretary-general of China Development Research Foundation, Renaud Meyer, deputy resident representative of UNDP China, and Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, director of Center for Peace and Human Security, introduced the background, content, recommendations and global significance of the report. The report was commissioned by UNDP China and coordinated by the China Development Research Foundation. It was written by 13 eminent scholars and experts.

 

Domestic Policy

Medical system to cover all residents
2006-04-03 China Daily
China is expected to be able to build a nationwide medical insurance system by 2020 for all its residents, 75 per cent of whom are still not covered by the umbrella, experts said. Chen Zhu, vice-president of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said the system should be provided by the government for all people in both urban and rural areas. The average per capita gross domestic product is expected to reach US$4,000 or even higher by then. Now, only 130 million of the 550 million urban residents have medical insurance. Most farmers have no medical insurance at all. Many people in the country cannot afford any medical services because of their high costs. At least 80 per cent of such services are available in cities. In the rural areas of central and western China, a co-operative medical system is implemented, which pools money from the governments and farmers to cover their medical costs. Starting this year, the central government is increasing the amount of money given to every farmer from 20 yuan (US$2.5) to 40 yuan (US$5). The system, which can only provide limited support to farmers, should be replaced by a medical insurance system, experts said. The central government is going the right direction by devoting more money to disease prevention and public health improvement at the grass-roots level, Chen said. He attended a launching ceremony for three books. An important theme of these books is to help governments improve the health of poor people in developing countries, and make the most efficient use of scarce healthcare resources. In the past years, China devoted too much attention to economic development while ignoring building the health care system, especially in rural areas, Chen said. Fortunately, the central government has realized this problem. In the next five years, it will invest 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) to improve medical services in rural areas, said She Jing, vice-minister of the Ministry of Health.

Police shooting of resisting suspects sparks hot debate
2006-04-06 China Daily
Whether police should shoot at criminal suspects if they are resisting arrest has become a hot topic in the capital city of South China's Guangdong Province, as it attempts to curb its high crime rate. Three police officers were recently awarded 10,000 yuan (US$1,250) each after they shot dead a robbery suspect and caught two others. The three defied police warnings to stop and attempted to run away after they robbed a woman on a busy street. Zhang Guifang, deputy Party secretary of Guangzhou in charge of public security, praised the police and encouraged other officers to take aim when criminal suspects resist arrest. Most local residents believe the wider use of firearms would be a deterrent to potential criminals and would subsequently help to reduce the city's high crime rate. But legal experts and lawyers worry police might abuse their power while on duty. Liu Jianfu, an associate professor of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said police should be told clearly under what conditions they are to shoot, and be made aware they would have to accept any legal responsibility if they acted outside those boundaries. "Before they shoot they should also give a clear warning to the suspects," Liu said. He said in many foreign countries police can shoot when suspects have resisted arrest and have threatened people's lives and property. But Liu admitted allowing police to shoot more often might deter other suspects and help ensure a better social order. Wu Shenda, a local lawyer, hoped detailed guidelines and regulations would be released to guide the use of weapons. To help curb the high crime rate, Zhang Guifang has urged the police to take effective measures to fight crime, particularly robberies on the street. He also urged all of the public security departments in Guangzhou to establish plainclothes taskforces to stop robberies. "Police should use every means, including implementing a shooting policy, to fight crime," Zhang told a work conference on Tuesday. According to statistics from Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Public Security, two suspects have been shot dead by police, while another three were wounded when they resisted police arrest in Guangzhou since the start of the year. Zhang earlier promised Guangzhou's number of street robberies would be reduced this year. Guangzhou's crime rate has so far dropped by 1.8 per cent in the first three months, and in the same period, police handled 6,780 robberies and 12,000 pickpocket cases.

131 students poisoned by ricin in Shaanxi
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
Altogether 131 primary and middle school students in the county of Jingyang, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, were reported poisoned by ricin on early Thursday. The source with Xi'an Xijing hospital said they have received on Wednesday night the first student among the group, who was poisoned after mistakenly eating the castor bean. Li Xiaojing, magistrate of the county, said all the poisoned students had taken part in a ricinus planting activity organized by the provincial youth working commission and a local company in late March. By press time, all the poisoned students are receiving the medical inspections in the hospital. All the other students who took part in the activity have received the checkup but no more ricinism cases have been detected.

Flu hits over 2,200 students in Zhejiang
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
Some 2,292 primary and middle school students in East China's Zhejiang Province were hit by flu in the first quarter of this year, local government sources said on Thursday. The provincial health department has issued a warning against a possible flu outbreak, calling for local residents to keep alert. According to statistics of the health department, the 2,292 flu cases were reported between January 1 and March 27, with a rate of 4.86 per 100,000 people, up 493.78 and 498.68 percent, respectively, over the same period of last year. Of all the flu-hit patients, 98.43 percent are students, with half living in rural areas, local health care experts said. Most of the cases are B-type flu, which spreads fast among people with low flu resistibility.

Chinese police confirm 121 buried skulls are human
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
Chinese police on Wednesday confirmed that the 121 skulls found in the western Gansu Province were human and had been hacked from their bodies after death. The skulls, wrapped in a plastic bag, were found on March 26 by a herdsman in a ravine in an outlying mountain area of Tianzhu Tibetan autonomous county, a source with the Ministry of Public Security said. Local police initially suspected that the skulls belonged to monkeys, after a preliminary analysis of fur, hair attached to the skulls and their shape. But forensic experts from prestigious Lanzhou University, in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, said the skulls were human after they examined 13 samples. On April 2, the Ministry of Public Security sent a team of forensic scientists, DNA specialists, and anthropologists to Gansu Province to investigate, according to the police source. The skulls were both male and female and belonged to people of all ages, old and young, said Professor Chen Shixian, a forensic expert hired by the police, but he dismissed rumors that the skulls were dumped by hospitals after doctors had removed the brains for medical purposes. Investigations showed no signs of medical expertise in the decapitations, Chen said, adding that they found no signs of fatal injuries. He declined to comment any further on the continuing investigation. Police said they were still probing the origins of the skulls, where and how the decapitations had taken place.

 

Taiwan

Hu to meet Lien and KMT delegation
2006-04-07 China Daily
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Hu Jintao will hold discussions in Beijing with Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang party, on April 16, after a KMT delegation attends the first cross-strait economic and trade forum, according to KMT policy committee convener Tseng Yung-chuan, China News Service reported today. About 60 KMT representatives will attend the discussions. Hu will appear before the discussions for official photographs to be taken, Tseng said. The two parties are also scheduling a confidential talk between Hu and Lien on April 15. Details concerning the talk have not been settled, according to the report. It will be the second meet between the two after their historic meeting in April 2005. During his visit to the mainland, Lien will also visit a cenotaph of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Beijing's Xiangshan. He will go to his hometown of Zhangzhou in Fujian Province to worship his ancestors after visiting Shanghai, Hangzhou, Fuzhou and Xiamen. An estimated 300 participants, including officials from both parties and representatives of enterprises, academic and research organizations from both sides will be present at the first cross-strait economic and trade forum, beginning April 14 in Beijing, the report said. In April last year, a KMT delegation led by Lien paid a visit to the mainland. It was the first in 56 years since the People's Republic of China was established.

 

 

Economy

Yuan rate against dollar hit record high
2006-04-07 Xinhuanet
The exchange rate of the Chinese yuan to the U.S. dollar reached a 12-year high to hit 8.0116 on Wednesday, according to Thursday's China Securities News. The Chinese currency, also known as renminbi or RMB, chalked up its biggest ever weekly appreciation last week, up more than 3 percent since China's exchange rate reform last July when the value of the yuan started to be linked with a basket of currencies rather than being pegged to the U.S. dollar. The yuan's recent appreciation shows the market welcomes the news that President Hu Jintao is to visit the United States and that China's foreign exchange reserves are now the biggest in the world, said Cao Honghui, a finance research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Hu will visit the United States this month, a trip "aimed at enhancing mutual trust and expanding common understanding", according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Last July, China raised the value of the yuan by 2 percent and scrapped its decade-old peg to the U.S. dollar. But the United States said the rise is too small. American manufacturers contend that the RMB was undervalued by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese exporters an "unfair" price advantage and hurting the U.S. labor market. U.S. pressure built up as China's trade surplus with the United States hit a new high in 2005. Statistics provided by China and the United States differ significantly. China said the Sino-U.S. trade hit 212 billion U.S. dollars last year. China's foreign currency reserves are being boosted as the country buys dollars and other foreign currencies that come into the economy, amid booming foreign trade, and stockpiles them in U.S. Treasury bonds and other assets as means of foreign exchange controls and to guard against possible inflation, analysts say. Central banker Zhou Xiaochuan said it is "not reliable" to achieve a Sino-U.S. trade balance only by adjusting exchange rates. China will not have another one-off revaluation of yuan, said Premier Wen Jiabao last month. But the yuan is allowed to move 0.3 percent up or down from the benchmark value against the dollar per day.

China's GDP to grow 9 percent this year: senior official
2006-04-06 Xinhuanet
China's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to remain on a stable but fast track or grow nine percent this year, according to Qiu Xiaohua, head of the National Bureau of Statistics. The anticipated GDP growth is one percent higher than the 8 percent prediction made in the Government Work Report delivered in March by Premier Wen Jiabao at the latest session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature. Qiu told an economic forum held in Hefei, capital city of East China's Anhui Province, that China has maintained a 10-percent GDP growth for three consecutive years. However, the economy is challenged by a string of problems. He cited short supply of energy, environmental protection, sub-standard medical care services, high education charges and price hikes for housing. China's GDP reached 18 trillion yuan in 2005, or 2.23 trillion U.S. dollars, the fourth largest in the world.

Swiss set to take action over luxury watch tax
2006-04-06 SCMP
The Swiss government is preparing to take action against China in a trade dispute over a surprise move by Beijing to slap a 20 per cent tax on luxury watch imports that has Swiss watchmakers up in arms. Beijing imposed the tax on pricey watch imports - a specialist industry in Switzerland - on April 1. Swiss watchmakers say it will hurt their business on the mainland. "We will intervene because we believe it is discrimination against Switzerland. In the luxury watch segment, 99.6 per cent of the watches imported into China come from Switzerland," said Christophe Hans, spokesman for the Swiss Economic Affairs Department. Mr Hans declined to say what action was being contemplated, but said Switzerland would not take the matter up with the World Trade Organisation. China imported 351 million Swiss francs ($2 billion) worth of Swiss watches last year, ranking 10th among the leading importing countries and comprising about 3 per cent of Switzerland's record 12.3 billion francs in watch exports last year. Beijing's "luxury tax", which will be levied on watches with a price tag of more than 10,000 yuan, is expected to curtail sales of Swiss watches in a key growth market that is rapidly developing a taste for conspicuous consumption. "Of course we tried to intervene politically," said Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swatch Group, the world's biggest watchmaker and owner of the Omega, Longines and Rado brands, which sells up to 8 per cent of its products in China. "It is counterproductive for China and we think it is nonsense." The head of Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer, which is owned by French luxury house LVMH, said the tax would lead to a slowdown in sales. "If prices would have to be corrected downwards, this means less margin which hurts the bottom line," TAG Heuer chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin said.

 

Mongolia

Ex-PM elected to lead DP
2006-04-05 Mongol Messenger
The Democratic Party held a March 30-April 1 National Forum, now called the National Congress, to consider a draft party platform, changes to party rules and to appoint a leader. Over 1,400 delegates and 80 observer delegates attended. The party platform places the DP at the centre right. DP chairman R. Gonchigdorj told the opening, "This forum is being held as DP popularity is growing. People expect more from us, asking for unity and accountability." Consultative committee member MP S. Lambaa gave a report entitled Mongolian Democracy and the DP and ex-Prime Minister Ts. Elbegdorj gave another called Government Action and the DP. Both stressed the need for a more democratic and unified party unity, despite their achievements over the past 16 years. Elbegdorj claimed that it was not time to talk about what has been done, but what has not been done. "Otherwise, success may turn into failure and what we think we have done may disappear. What do you think about what we have not been able to do?" "We have no long-term policy for development, so our programme has been unsuitable. The programme has turned into empty promises, a hole filled by limited political interest and activity." "We started to rid Mongolia of bad things, but we need to do much more. Before cleaning the country, we need to clean government." "For this, we need to inform the public about current conditions and prove we can work for them." "We need to understand why people are unhappy and show them how to be happier. In return, they will support us." "A party, an individual or a politician supported by the people is powerful. There is no need to search for power. People have the power." "We need to change ourselves and work differently to get the people's confidence. A party of oligarchs and factions should become a people's party, a members' party, a supporters' party." "We can do this, our members and representatives at the forum can do this. The party itself should rise above political dirt, but the other parties will not help." The ex-PM stressed, "We have not been listening to the public or our members. In the election, we thought about the electors and what they wanted." "They looked to us, waiting for us to deliver what we promised. People criticised our mistakes...and voted for someone else." On the second day, delegates discussed the rule changes, which were given a 70 percent approval vote. The DP officially dissolved its factions, but the national consultative committee membership fee remained at Tg1 million. Under the old rules, MPs and ministers were automatically on the NCC, but now local party members will elect a committee and these committees will elect the NCC. Under new rules, all DP members shall pay a membership fee, set by each local branch. Acting DP chairman R. Gonchigdorj said, "One year ago I was elected DP chairman with 76 percent. I led the party to break the plan of then- DP leader M. Enkhsaikhan and Motherland Party leader B. Erdenebat to split the coalition government." "The Elbegdorj government lasted several more months. I accepted that being called a betrayer was the price to be paid for this." He then asked the forum to accept his resignation, and MPs E. Bat-Uul and S. Bayartsogt, ex-PM Ts. Elbegdorj and ex-MP D. Enkhtaivan nominated for the position. On the first ballot, of the 1,400 votes, Elbegdorj received 46 percent, Bat-Uul 40 percent, and Bayartsogt 13 percent. D. Enkhtaivan won four votes. As no one received over 50 percent of the 1,400 votes, there was a run-off on the third day between the two leading candidates, Elbegdorj and Bat-Uul. Voting ended about 1pm and ballots were counted openly, with Elbegdorj receiving 57.2 percent of the 1,362 votes cast, with no invalid votes. Outgoing chairman R. Gonchigdorj then handed over the party seal to Elbegdorj. At the end of three-day congress, new DP leader held a media conference.

Direct investment up
2006-04-05 Mongol Messenger
On March 23, FIFTA (Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency) chairman B. Ganzorig reported on his recent attendance at the World Investment Conference (WIC). Run by the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) in Geneva, Switzerland, the meeting agenda included investment in 140 developing countries. Ganzorig said that Mongolia was one of the top 30 countries for size of foreign investment, with $1.4 billion from 4,800 companies from 88 countries since 1990, 80 percent of which came in 2000-05. He said in 1995-6, foreign investment was worth around $40 million, but was now flowing at about $200million a year. FIFTA began life ten years ago as the Foreign Investment Office, later renamed, and in February 2002 began issuing reference letters for investors' multi-entry visas and residence registration through the Internet, with a 24- hour hotline. Ganzorig said that there is to be an investors' forum in Ulaanbaatar, September 14-15. The prime minister has set up a commission to run this conference, which first met February 17 with Mongolian diplomats responsible for trade and economic issues. Ganzorig said, "One difference this year is that we will send out information on prepared national and private projects beforehand to potential investors." "We are hoping to attract big investors with information in the foreign media. We are aiming at quality rather than quantity, so there may be fewer attendees this year, but we believe that it will bring more big investment."

Throat singing in the US
2006-04-05 Mongol Messenger
Perhaps central Asia's best known art is throat singing, which received massive publicity from a 1999 American film with worldwide distribution called Genghis Blues. The US Library of Congress Open World Cultural programme recently took a throat singing group called Alash, all in their early 20s, to Connecticut to stage concerts and record a CD. Throat singers are probably better seen in concert than heard on a recording. It seems impossible for one person to sing in two or three widely separated keys simultaneously; seeing is believing. "It's not a strain on your vocal chords," said American Sean Quirk, who was the group's manager and interpreter, himself learning throat singing. "It's learning to use muscles in your throat you don't normally use. It's like learning to wiggle your ears." While still a student, Quirk heard a throat singing CD. "I couldn't stop listening. I decided I was going to learn how to do it.'" He learned well enough to get a 2003 Fulbright grant to go to Tuva to study its music, and has lived there ever since. Accompanying the group was Kongar-Ool Ondar, star of the Genghis Blues film. "He is their elder and spiritual leader,'" said Quirk. He explained that the members of the group also know and love rock 'n roll, and have added guitars and accordion to the traditional instruments. Quirk confided, "One of the group is even wearing Jimi Hendrix boxer shorts." Folklorist Judith Cook Tucker said it was exciting to see and hear the young musicians take their throat-singing tradition and expand it, saying that this was what folk music was all about. "It's a living tradition. You can totally assimilate in a culture and lose what you have, or you can hold on to what you have and never let it grow. But the best way is to continue, to listen to all the music around you, but keep your own traditions." "That way, the tradition never dies. It lives on.'" Musicologists argue over where throat singing originated, Tuva or Mongolia. The truth is, it began when both were part of the Mongolian empire, and as such is a unique truly Mongolian art form.

 

Julie Kong
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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