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
  15.5-19.5.06, No. 115  
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Foreign Policy

Russian FM: Russia-China ties reaching "unprecedented high"
2006-05-17 People's Daily
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia-China ties have reached an unprecedented high. "Russia-China cooperation has reached an unprecedented level and the two countries are competent to address all issues between them," Lavrov told a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao in March upgraded the bilateral ties to a new level, Lavrov said, adding that a series of meetings will further spur the Russia-China cooperation in energy, machinery, high tech and transportation. Moreover, he called for the stronger energy cooperation among the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a six-member regional cooperation organization. "A major task of SCO is to step up the economic and trade cooperation in the region," Lavrov acknowledged. SCO still gives priority to tackling new challenges and threats and cracking down on three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism, he said. Lavrov held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Tuesday morning after he attended the SCO foreign ministers' meeting in Shanghai Monday. The two foreign ministers signed several agreements and discussed issues concerning the border demarcation, environmental protection, cooperation at time of emergency and other issues of common concern. They also had a wide-ranging exchange of views on international affairs, including the Iranian nuclear issue and Korean nuclear standoff, pledging to keep up close contact and cooperation on international issues.

German Chancellor to visit China
2006-05-17 Xinhuanet
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pay an official visit to China from May 21 to 23 at the invitation of her Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, announced Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday. This will be the German chancellor's first visit to China since she came to power in November 2005. Liu said that the two sides will exchange views on further developing China-Germany relations and some major international and regional issues of common concern. Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet with Merkel. She will also hold talks with Premier Wen and deliver a joint press briefing after the talks. The two government leaders will also attend the fourth meeting of the China-Germany High-Tech Dialogue Forum, according to Liu. The two sides will sign some cooperation agreements and contracts on cooperation projects during her China visit. Besides Beijing, Merkel will also visit Shanghai. China and Germany have carried out fruitful cooperation in various fields, including politics, economy and trade, culture, sports, technology and environmental protection, Liu said, noting Germany is a major cooperation partner of China in all areas. The bilateral trade volume in 2005 reached 63.2 billion US dollars, accounting for nearly one-third of the trade volume between China and the European Union. Germany is China's biggest EU trading partner. As for bilateral cooperation in developing magnetically levitated trains, Liu said that it is a new area of China-Germany technological cooperation and the two sides have made breakthroughs in the Shanghai magnetically levitated train project. China is willing to continue cooperation in this field with Germany, he said.

Sino-EU ties at prime time: Chinese top legislator
2006-05-19 Xinhuanet
China's relations with the European Union are enjoying their best ever period since diplomatic ties were forged in 1975, China's top legislator Wu Bangguo said on Thursday in Bucharest. Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress, made the remarks in a speech at the Romanian parliament. He said China and the European Union have a wide range of common interests in terms of peace and development of the world. Thanks to their joint efforts, bilateral relations have withstood the test of time and have been moving forward smoothly, particularly since the mid-1990s. Wu said the achievement was credited to a series of factors, including the deepening of mutual trust, enlargement of cooperation and communication in trade and other fields. He said mutual trust has served as the political foundation of the Sino-EU relationship. The two sides have maintained close high-level contacts. In 2005 alone, nine Chinese leaders visited EU countries as well as its headquarters in Belgium, while 18 leaders from EU member states or institutions traveled to China. Both sides champion multi-polarization and democratization in international relations, the respect of the United Nations' authority and its leading role, and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means, he noted. Wu said economic and trade cooperation forms the economic foundation of the Sino-EU relationship. With deepening of political ties, bilateral economic and trade cooperation has grown rapidly, Wu said, noting that the EU has been China's top trade partner for two consecutive years and China is the EU's second largest trade partner. Moreover, cooperation in investment and technology is being enhanced and the mechanism of trade and economic consultation is improving, he said. Wu said exchanges in sectors like science, education, culture and tourism have formed the social basis of bilateral relationship. China has become the first non-EU country to participate in the Galileo satellite navigation project, while the EU is involved in a number of China's high-tech projects. Wu said China supports the EU's integration process, and has put the Sino-EU relationship in a critical position in China foreign policy. The relationship has made it evident that countries with different social systems are absolutely able to develop cooperation and ties further, as long as they comply with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, consistently pursue common interests and properly solve their differences. Romania is the first leg of Wu's four-nation tour, which will also take him to Moldova, Greece and Russia.

Palestinian FM to visit China
2006-05-18 Xinhuanet
Palestinian foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar will attend the Arab-Chinese Forum of Cooperation due to be held in Beijing on May 31 and June 1, sources in the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs said on Wednesday. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that al- Zahar would visit China at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing. He is the first senior Hamas official to visit China since the Hamas-led government took office in late March. The second ministerial meeting of the Arab-Chinese Forum of Cooperation will get together foreign ministers or their representatives from 22 Arab countries as well as Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa. The first ministerial meeting of the forum was held in Cairo in 2004.

China, Mexico foreign ministers open second bilateral meeting
2006-05-19 Xinhuanet
The foreign ministers of China and Mexico opened on Thursday the second meeting of the China- Mexico Permanent Bi-national Commission, a two day meeting analyzing the two nations' progress in diplomacy and trade over the last five years. Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said that the meeting would examine "the great progress made in the last five years" and how to press forward in new challenges and opportunities. Derbez welcomed the Chinese delegation to the event, which runs from Thursday to Friday in Mexico's Foreign Ministry, then spoke of the importance of collaboration between the two nations, and called for continued fruitful dialog. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that the two nations had become "great trading partners" and added that the Chinese government had always given relations with Mexico great priority. After the opening ceremony, Mexican and Chinese delegates split into working groups covering agriculture, energy, transport, social development and tourism. The Chinese delegation including representatives from 15 ministries and government agencies, split into four commissions: politics; economics and trade; technology; and education. This week's meeting will focus on pushing forward the agreements signed by Fox and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, in 2005, and will also review progress since the 2004 Commission meeting. The two country's agreed to set up a Bilateral Strategic Partnership in 2003. The commission held its first meeting in Beijing in 2004. On Wednesday, Mexican President Vicente Fox met visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in Mexico city.

U.S. invitation for China to watch military exercise a positive sign: expert
2006-05-19 Xinhuanet
A Chinese military expert said Thursday that it is a positive sign that the United States has invited China to watch a military exercise at Guam. "This is a positive signal worthy of attention for the military relations between China and the United States," said Yang Yi, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, National Defense University of China. "China and the United States need to conduct military exchanges on a basis of equality and mutual benefit as they both have great influence and shoulder great responsibility for world peace and prosperity," said Yang, acknowledging that military relations have been the most unsteady aspect in China-U.S. ties. The bilateral relations were broken off in 2001 when a Chinese fighter aircraft was rammed and damaged by a U.S. surveillance plane over the South China Sea. It was not until recent years and through the efforts of the heads of the two countries that the military exchanges were gradually resumed and expanded, Yang said in an article in the People's Daily, China's official leading newspaper. The invitation for China to view a military exercise at Guam was officially made by the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command William Fallon during his recent trip in China. China is actively considering the invitation, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. "China welcomes the efforts by the U.S. side to promote mutual understanding of the two countries and relations between the two armed forces," Liu said at a regular press conference Tuesday. However, some nations including the United States have played up "China's military threat", saying that China's military development has lacked transparency. Yang said "military transparency" should not only include transparency of military expenditure, scale of armed forces and weapons and equipment, but more important the transparency of strategic intentions. The United States has deliberately made its strategic intentions vague and ambiguous in many major issues, such as its interference in the Taiwan issue and the scope of the U.S.-Japan military alliance, he noted. On the other hand, Yang said, China's strategic intentions are moral and just. China was the first nation in the world to announce that it will never use nuclear weapons before any other country in a war situation and never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any other country with no nuclear weapons. China has also undertaken to destroy all its nuclear weapons in the end, said Yang. Yang held that China and the United States should make candid exchanges of views during their military exchanges, not avoiding differences and reducing doubts of each other's strategic intentions, so as to safeguard the healthy and steady growth of bilateral relations.

Chinese company or individual allowed to engage in WMD proliferation, says FM spokesman
2006-05-17 Xinhuanet
China strongly opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and does not allow any Chinese company or individual to engage in such activities, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday. It is reported that the U.S. government is considering imposing sanctions on several small Chinese banks, which have business with companies of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) involved in the proliferation of WMD. When asked to make comments on this issue, Liu told a regular press conference that the Chinese government holds a firm and definite stance over the non-proliferation issue. China strongly opposes any Chinese company or individual engaging in activities concerning proliferation of WMD, said the spokesman. China also maintains that problems in this field should be solved through dialogue not sanctions, Liu noted.

Independent ordination of bishops right for China
2006-05-16 China Daily
A leading Chinese Catholic has defended independent selection and ordination of bishops as the only right path for the spreading of Gospel in China. "The current prosperous development of the Chinese Catholic church owes totally to China's long-term practice of selecting and ordaining its own bishops and independently managing the churches, " said Liu Bainian, vice-president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association, during an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday. "This is the arrangement of the Christ." China now has a total of 5 million followers nationwide, in sharp comparison with 2.7 million in 1958, according to statistics released by the association. "The development of the Chinese Catholic church in the past 20 years has greatly exceeded that of the 300 years before," said Liu. In the history of the Catholic Church, he said, a bishop can be selected by believers, appointed by an emperor and consecrated by the neighboring diocese. "The practice for the pope to install a bishop started just about two centuries ago," he said. In 1980, China had only 33 bishops for all its 97 dioceses, which rendered the church in a grave situation. According to Catholic traditions, a diocese without a bishop means there isn't a church at all. The same year, a national congress of Chinese Catholics decided to continue the principle of selecting and ordaining bishops independently, which was fixed in 1958 as a dominant rule, so as to restore and develop the church as rapidly as possible. China has ordained more than 110 bishops accordingly since 1979. Liu said of all the 1,100 priests China had in 1980, no more than 100 are still alive. "But as their successors, more than 1,800 young priests are now serving at over 6,000 church areas," he said. "All of them were installed in accordance with the principle." To date, China has sent more than 200 priests overseas to get better knowledge and religious training, with around 100 already back home, he said. "The reality has proved the bishops we have selected and ordained are qualified," he said. "We hope this may help promote the improvement of China-Vatican relationship." Chinese priests should be pious and patriotic; otherwise, "the Chinese church will suffer." "China will never allow the Chinese church to re-become one similar to that in the era of semi-colonial and semi-feudal society or subject to any foreign domination," he said. A Chinese Catholic church that is not patriotic will by no means be a promising church, he said. "It will be doomed to fail if the bishops it appoints go against China's socialist system." "That the bishops should be patriotic is the requirement of both the Chinese church and the Chinese people," he said. "Judging from the fact that the Catholics in other countries subject to their governments, it's reasonable for the Chinese Catholics to cooperate with their government," he said. "As a Catholic saying goes, 'what's Cesar's belongs to Cesar, what's the God's belongs to the God'," he said.

 

Domestic Policy

21 killed as typhoon hits S. China
2006-05-19 China Daily
Typhoon Chanchu slammed into China's southeastern coast, killing at least 21 people and forcing the evacuation of more than 1 million residents, as torrential rains and winds caused landslides and flooding. Eight people, including two children, were killed when their houses collapsed in a landslide in Guangdong province's Shantou city, where the strongest storm recorded in the region this season hit, an official at the local flood control center told AFP. And in the neighboring Fujian province in southeast China, 13 people were killed and four were reported missing. Preliminary estimates show direct economic losses caused to this province amounted to 3.802 billion yuan. The typhoon had already killed 41 people and left thousands homeless when it tore through the Philippines last week. It is the strongest on record to have entered the South China Sea in May, the Hong Kong Observatory said. A total of 1.04 million people were evacuated from their homes in mainland China as the typhoon brought gale force winds and heavy rainstorms, the official Xinhua news reported. In Guangdong, 327,000 people were forced to flee their homes, Xinhua said, while another 709,000 were evacuated in Fujian. There were conflicting reports as to the whereabouts of the crew of 11 Vietnamese fishing vessels hit by the storm on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Most of the 100 or so crew appeared to be safe but Vietnamese rescue officials and state media said 27 fishermen could not be reached by late Thursday. Chanchu, which means "pearl," struck the coastal areas between Shantou in Guangdong province and Zhangzhou city, in Fujian province, at 2:15 am Thursday (1815 GMT Wednesday), the China Meteorological Station said. In Shantou, nearly all roads were flooded and there were several blackouts. One village, unnamed in media reports, but home to some 6,400 people, was cut off by flood waters and 500 soldiers had to be deployed to rescue the residents, another Shantou official said. However nearly 200 houses in the village collapsed. State television showed soldiers pulling residents by boat through flooded streets. ()

Cabinet signals moves to cool housing market
2006-05-18 People's Daily
The cabinet yesterday declared its readiness to use a combination of tax, credit and land policies to ensure the healthy development of the real-estate industry, which many economists say is showing signs of overheating. An executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to take necessary measures to improve the property market and curb price rises in major cities. After earlier macro-economic policies brought "the momentum of high investment growth and house price rises basically under control," the meeting zeroed in on remaining problems. But "housing prices are still rising too fast in some major cities," the meeting warned. "And order is yet to be restored in the property market." So tax, credit and land supply policies should be allowed to play a bigger role in guiding the market, according to the meeting. While it is yet to be seen what tax measures will be introduced, the People's Bank of China (PBOC), or central bank, raised its one-year benchmark lending rate by 27 base points to 5.85 per cent in April. Many economists expect the PBOC to take further measures to cool the sizzling economy, which grew 10.2 per cent in the first quarter. "A moderately tight monetary policy, as seen from the central bank's rate hike, serves as a timely dampener on the housing market; so would any new tax and land supply policies," said Han Meng, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Property prices in 70 large- and medium-sized Chinese cities witnessed an average 5.5 per cent increase in the first quarter from the same period in 2005, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Other measures that the State Council has vowed to pursue include a housing supply structure more skewed to low-income households and a better information disclosure mechanism. The emphasis on housing development, the meeting pledged, will be on small- and medium-sized affordable and rental units. At the end of April, 40 major cities reported 1 million units in the market with a floorage of 120 million square metres; but of those, only 12,000 units were smaller than 60 square metres each, according to Ministry of Construction. The development of the real-estate sector and housing construction, the State Council circular said, "should take into full consideration the country's basic conditions, such as its large population and small land mass on a per capita basis." Demolition of old urban housing should be properly paced to reduce the demand for housing, the meeting added, stressing the importance of a healthy housing sector as "a pillar industry" of the economy. "The policies that the government has promised to introduce have long been debated. This is a strong signal that Beijing will not let the housing market go astray," said Yi Xianrong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a long-time critic of land developers.

Missing chemical affects 60,000 in Gansu
2006-05-19 Xinhuanet
Two barrels of toxic chemicals missing in a river in northwest China's Gansu Province, after an upriver traffic accident on Sunday, have affected the water supply of 60,000 people, official sources said on Thursday. A truck carrying ten barrels of TDI overturned in the county of Jiuzhaigou on the southern border with Sichuan Province early on Sunday morning, dumping all the containers into the adjacent Tangzhu River, which joins the trunk stream of Baishui River and flows northward into Wenxian County of Gansu, the environmental protection bureau of Wenxian said. The Sichuan government informed Gansu of the accident in time and Wenxian immediately suspended the water supply from the river. Eight barrels have been retrieved as of Thursday afternoon after joint operations by the two neighboring provinces, Wenxian government said. Searches are underway to recover the two missing barrels. TDI, a toluene-like chemical usually used as an ingredient of industrial paint, is harmful to people's respiration system, eyes and skin. There has been no report of casualties due to the accident. The county, which has a population of 243,000, had partially resumed its water supply by Thursday noon as monitoring results on five sections of the Baishui River did not show any sign of pollution, but the lower reaches of the river are under strict observation. About 60,000 residents living along the river section in the county have turned to mountain springs for the past four days, but the water supply to the rest of the population was not affected. The State Environmental Protection Administration has sent a team of officials to the county to deal with the accident.

One in seven Chinese living on under US$1 daily
2006-05-15 China Daily
There are now at least 200 million Chinese living below the United Nations definition of the poverty line. In other words, nearly one in seven Chinese nationals live in extremely reduced circumstances, earning less than US$1 per person daily. This figure is ten times worse than the current Chinese official estimate of 20 million people earning subsistence level incomes of below 683 yuan yearly. The vast underprivileged population is in striking contrast to China's overall economic advancement, concluded the first Beijing University forum on sustainable development of poverty-stricken areas. In 1985, the poverty line was 200 yuan per annum - half the national average wage. Over the following two decades, this ratio dwindled. The current subsistence level income standard is now only 20 per cent of the rural population's average yearly income of 3,255 yuan. The forum also highlighted poverty elimination in China, now at a critical stage after 20 years of constant effort. Most impoverished people are scattered in regions with largely underdeveloped production capabilities, harsh natural environments, and a low quality labor force. They are economically marginalized and highly vulnerable to any possible misfortune. Reputed Beijing University economics scholar Li Yi'ning attended the forum and says urbanization which shifts masses of surplus rural laborers into towns and cities is a feasible way to tackle the poverty problem. Currently 37 per cent of China's 100 most cash-strapped villages still suffer from starvation. The basic necessity of food is yet to be secured in some areas plummeting below the poverty line. ()

Beijing planning traffic contingencies for Olympics
2006-05-19 China Daily
Beijing is drafting contingency plans to alleviate the city's smothering traffic and smog during the 2008 Olympics. Jiang Xiaoyu, a vice-president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said Thursday that partial traffic bans and special lanes for Olympic traffic on some roadways are already being planned. He said other measures are under consideration. Jiang did not elaborate, but committee officials have privately said possible contingencies include an extended holiday for the Chinese capital's huge government work force and limiting city residents to driving their cars every other day. "We're striving to achieve better air quality by the 2008 Games to welcome the athletes and the Olympic family," Jiang told a news conference at the end of a three-day inspection visit by the International Olympic Committee. In contrast to the smooth construction of Olympic venues, traffic and pollution have emerged as key problems for Beijing as it prepares for the Games two years from now. With soaring car ownership and other trickle-down effects of economic growth, the city is regularly choked in brown haze and jammed traffic, lengthening commutes and frustrating citizens and officials. The IOC inspectors' visit occurred as a sandstorm raked the city in yellow grit, fouling the air. For much of Tuesday and Wednesday, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau recorded severely polluted air in the capital. City and Beijing Olympic officials insist the situation is improving. Jiang said nearly two out of three days last year had air quality ranked as good or better. He ticked off a list of measures being taken to improve traffic, from adding more highways to lengthening the subway system. In reviewing Beijing's progress toward the Olympics, the IOC delegation expressed confidence in the city, said it was meeting its targets and praised the construction of the sports venues, especially a futuristic swimming centre and a national stadium, known as the Bird's Nest because of its lattice steel exterior. "You can't think of any other word than 'stunning,'" said Hein Verbruggen, the head of the IOC's coordination committee. Verbruggen also acknowledged the challenge that traffic and pollution pose for the city. Beijingers purchased about 1,000 new cars a day last year, giving the city 2.6 million vehicles, half of them private. "Staggering figures like that give an idea of the problems they have to solve," Verbruggen said at the news conference. Afterward he said, "It's an uphill battle for them." Beijing dropped from fourth to 15th place in a Chinese survey of livable cities this year, in part because of pollution and traffic. The city has 7,000 building sites, many of them being rushed to completion ahead of the Olympics. A relay marathon went ahead last month despite hazardous smog. Beijing's mayor regularly cites air pollution, traffic and water shortages as among his gravest problems. ()

Four former journalists arrested for extortion
2006-05-16 China Daily
Four newspaper staff reporters previously working for local branches of different Beijing-based newspapers have been arrested for extortion. In a circular issued by the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP), the reporters, Wang Qiming, Meng Huaihu, Bu Jun and Chen Jinliang from the China Food Quality Newspaper and three other newspapers were blamed for damaging the reputation of the country's press and publication sector. The circular calls on government departments concerned and all media to check pitfalls in the management of local reporters' stations. According to the circular, they racketeered from institutions or companies, after they learned about their irregularities. Some of these media branches were set up without official approval. The SAPP has also criticized some newspapers for flaws in their management. Some newspapers have adopted a "quota system", asking staff reporters of their local branches to make money by any means. All four have had been detained and their reporter's ID cancelled by the SAPP.

 

Tibet

American generals visit Tibet
2006-05-16 Xinhuanet
A group of 19 US Army generals wound up a two-day visit in the Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China, and left on Monday aboard a special flight, heading for Beijing, the Chinese national capital. The delegation, which arrived in Lhasa, the autonomous regional capital, on Sunday afternoon, is headed by retired General Morgan Thomas, who is senior advisor of the National Defense University of the United States. These generals are attending an academic course at the US National Defense University. During their stay, the American visitors were informed of political, economic and cultural progress in Tibet, by local government officials and officers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). The visitors were surprised at what they witnessed in Tibet. Retired General Morgan Thomas said Tibet was not as poor as they had thought before the visit. Tibet had developed as fast as elsewhere in China and, meanwhile, its unique history and civilization are so attractive to them, said the retired general.

 

 

Taiwan

Indonesia: Chen abused refuelling permission
2006-05-13 People's Daily
Indonesia on Friday accused Taiwan's leader Chen Shui-bian of abusing permission to allow him to stop off to refuel his aircraft on his way home from a foreign visit. The incident also led to Beijing making "solemn representations" to Jakarta. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Friday the country was gravely concerned about the move. "We express deep regret over the event. We demand Indonesia honour its commitment to the one-China policy with practical action so as to maintain Sino-Indonesian ties," Liu said. Chen landed late on Thursday on the Indonesian island of Batam on his way back from a Latin American visit. He met an Indonesian lawmaker and toured local factories before returning to Taiwan on Friday afternoon, according to Taiwan media reports. But Indonesian officials denounced Chen for abusing permission that only allowed him to land to refuel. "The permit that was given was for a technical landing," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said on Friday. "We regret the fact that Chen left the airport and travelled around the island," he added. "That was an abuse of the permit given." Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Thamrin said: "We regret the fact that there were activities outside that technical fuelling." Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, Widodo Adi Suscipto, said Chen's move prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately send a verbal warning to the governor of Riau Islands province, where Batam is located. "The president called the Riau Islands governor to ask him to report about activities beyond the technical needs of (Chen's) plane's arrival in Batam," he said. "Our foreign policy sticks to the one-China policy. This principle must be fully understood by all government officials at central and regional levels," he added. Chen's surprise stop in Libya on Wednesday and Indonesia came after his four-day visit to Paraguay and Costa Rica. Chen had turned down Washington's offer of a refuelling stop in Alaska, after the US refused his request for stopovers in San Francisco or New York. But his so-called "transit diplomacy" has drawn words of caution from Washington. And American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young on Thursday warned Taiwan against addressing the "independence" issue in its "constitutional reforms."

Cross-Straits talks on farm imports urged
2006-05-18 People's Daily
Beijing yesterday renewed its call for cross-Straits talks to facilitate tariff-free imports of the island's agricultural and aquatic products. "There is an urgent need for consultation between non-governmental bodies across the Straits for direct shipment of agricultural goods from Taiwan to the mainland at an early date," said Liu Junchuan, deputy director of the Economic Affairs Bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Taipei has been reluctant to co-operate with the mainland in regard to preferential policies towards Taiwan farmers. The official told a press conference that Beijing's call for such talks shows its "kindness," and "sincerity" to improve bilateral ties, given the fact that it could have unilaterally implemented the policies. On April 15, Beijing announced that it would allow tariff-free imports of 11 Taiwan-grown vegetables and eight varieties of aquatic products from Taiwan. Starting from August 1 last year, the mainland also offered the same treatment to 15 Taiwan-grown fruits including pineapples, lychees, papayas, starfruit and mangos. These goodwill gestures, however, have been billed by the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration as a "united front" strategy aimed at wooing the farmers in rural southern Taiwan, a key support base for the pro-independence party. The DPP administration has yet to authorize non-government organizations from the island to talk to their mainland counterparts on how to implement the preferential policies. As a sign of the DPP's unwillingness to develop closer ties with the mainland, its lawmakers on Tuesday blocked an opposition attempt to vote on a bill to establish direct transport links across the Straits. The bill proposed by the Kuomintang and People First Party called for removal of the ban on direct cross-Straits transport links, imposed by Taipei since 1949. The lack of direct air and shipping links between Taiwan and the mainland incurs an estimated economic loss of more than US$1 billion annually to the island and has contributed a lot to its economic woes. Customs figures show that the mainland imported more than 2,310 tons of fruit worth US$2.9 million from Taiwan between August 1 last year and April 30, 2006, with more than 3.9 million yuan (US$488,000) in tariffs exempted. Also yesterday, Li Weiyi, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, asked Taipei to facilitate early visits of mainland tourist groups.

 

Economy

Yuan appreciates to below 8 against greenback
2006-05-16 China Daily
The Chinese currency Monday strengthened to below 8 against the US dollar for the first time since last July's revaluation. Shanghai-based China Foreign Exchange Trade System reported that the daily benchmark, or the central parity rate for the US dollar, stood at 7.9982 yuan, falling below 8 yuan for the first time in 12 years. The rate was 8.0082 on Friday. The currency traded at a low of 7.9972 per US dollar Monday but ended at 8.003 at 5:30 pm, according to the system. The United States welcomed the rise in China's currency. "Greater flexibility in China's exchange rate is something we've long advocated," US Treasury Department spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday in response to the appreciation in China's currency. Traders said the market movements show the renminbi exchange rate is more flexible despite some international criticism that the currency should further appreciate. Finance expert Tan Yaling with Bank of China said the breaching of the 8-yuan barrier is "actually not a surprise. There were intense market expectations (for the dollar-yuan exchange rate) to fall below 8," she said. "Although the central bank expects a stable exchange rate, the hopes (for yuan appreciation) of overseas and domestic institutions are high." She said China's robust economic growth, hefty bank lending and the world's largest foreign exchange reserves combined to push the yuan higher. A State Administration of Foreign Exchange official said yesterday that market forces should be given full play in determining the currency's value. A Standard Chartered prediction is that the yuan would rise to 7.8 against the dollar by the end of this year; and Wang Zhihao, an economist at the bank, said he believes the yuan's value would stay on the upside in the short run. Han Fuling, a finance research fellow with Central University of Finance and Economics, said he believes that the appreciation of the yuan would attract more overseas funds to China's stock market. In a statement published Monday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, pledged that the country would further improve the renminbi exchange rate regime. It will try hard to bring down the trade surplus and achieve a trade balance. The authorities will also expand channels for outbound capital investment and gradually realize the full convertibility of the yuan under the capital account. China last July unexpectedly reformed its decade-old foreign exchange rate mechanism, allowing the yuan to appreciate by 2 per cent against the US dollar to 8.11 and pegging the yuan to a basket of currencies instead of the greenback alone. But it still faces international pressure to let its currency appreciate further, given the mounting trade surplus with major countries like the United States. Some US lawmakers have been pushing for faster yuan gains to narrow their country's trade deficit with China. But top Chinese officials have been reiterating that instead of a one-off revaluation, the exchange rate regime will be made more flexible gradually. In a May 10 report to the Senate, the US Treasury Department decided against accusing China of tampering with its exchange rate, acknowledging the positive measures adopted by the Chinese Government to open up the financial market and promises to allow the currency to trade more freely. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on May 11 that the government would continue to push for the reform of further exchange rate flexibility. ()

 

Mongolia

New minister appointed
2006-05-18 Mongol Messenger
The May 12 plenary session of parliament appointed MP S. Otgonbayar as Minister for Emergencies. Otgonbayar was elected to parliament to represent the Motherland Party in 2004. The Motherland Party had previously nominated MP Ts. Jargal, but he did not receive general support. MPs asked the prime minister whether Otgonbayar was supported by the Motherland Party, to which he answered that Otgonbayar's nomination had been put forward after discussion with the Motherland Party head and with the president. MPs B. Erdenebat and Ts. Jargal were absent from the plenary meeting. Otgonbayar was elected to the ministry with a unanimous vote of the 43 MPs present in the 76-seat parliament. Otgonbayar, 44, graduated from the Moscow Press Institute in 1988 as a printing engineer, from the Russian Politics-Economics Academy in 1998 as an economist and from Stanford University, USA, in 2001 with an MBA. He has worked in vocational training in Nalaikh and at a printing company, and has been Oyunii Undraa company director, Civil Will-Republican Party deputy head, and Ulaanbaatar City Council member.

So near, yet so far
2006-05-18 Mongol Messenger
To climb a mountain is a glorious achievement; to come close and have to turn back is a bitter one. A Mongolian women's team last week came extremely close to scaling Mt Everest and stand higher than anyone else in the world - but had to turn back within sight of their goal. Erdene-Togtokh is a smallish Mongolian woman with a charming smile. Everest is a towering giant with a grim face, the highest mountain in the world; they would seem to have little in common. But they have been in intimate contact, because Erdene-Togtokh is one of Mongolia's best mountaineers, man or woman, given the title Master of Sport. She spent most of September in Tibet with three others in a Mongolian women's team, training for the 8,850m Everest ascent by climbing up and down the 7,117m My Tangla mountain - several times. Back from Tibet, they went to Russia to practice on more mountains. The team was led by B. Gangaamaa and included Ch. Terbish and P. Sarantuya. All members, aged 31-38, have each been climbing for over 15 years. Erdene-Togtokh comes from Dalanzadgad, in the south Gobi, where the local people are better known as cameleers than as sherpas. Sponsored by Ivanhoe Mines, she was hoping to have her photo taken standing where Tiger Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were the first to pose for a photo, over 50 years ago, on top of the world. Last year the first-ever Mongolian conquest of Everest was achieved by a male team. One of the successful climbers, G. Osokhbayar, was there to advise and help the women. Three of the women started the last stage at 8.30am May 15, leaving Sarantuya at the last camp. Frustratingly, the team was forced to turn back at various stages. Gangaamaa reached 6,400m, Terbish made it to 7,900m and only 148m from the top, Erdene-Togtokh was forced to turn back suffering from snow blindness. Osokhbayar went on with a Sherpa and reached the top for his second time at noon Mongolian time. S. Zaya said, "Our team left Lhasa, at 3,250 metres, and went up to 6,200 metres to acclimatize on March 29- 30." "They were all fit and psychologically prepared. The team was the third generation of Mongolian mountaineers. However, this was their first attempt on Everest." The team has now started back down the mountain and are expected home in about two weeks.

South Korean President in Mongolia
2006-05-10 Mongol Messenger
On Sunday evening, May 7, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and his wife Kwon Yang-Suk, with around 200 journalists and business leaders, landed at Chinggis Khaan international airport for a May 7-10 state visit. On the morning of May 8 a welcoming ceremony was scheduled in Sukhbaatar Square, but the heavy snow forced a move into Parliament House. Diplomatic relations were established on March 26, 1990, and then- President Kim Dae-Jung paid a state visit in 1999, when they signed a cooperation statement. Sixteen documents were signed during the visit, including one on social welfare by the Mongolian Social Welfare and Labour Minister and the Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister. Under this, Mongolians in South Korea under a labour agreement will be exempted from pension and employment insurance installments, while Koreans in Mongolia will be similarly exempted. Mongolians in Korea will be covered under health and work accident insurance and receive Korean compensation, pensions and services. Mongolians working in South Korea under a management structure agreement will have to pay retirement insurance under Mongolian law, with exemption from retirement and employment insurance payments. After talks, Enkhbayar said, "Under the 1999 statement, cooperation has been developing. The social welfare agreement will bring concrete achievements." Roh Moo-Hyun said that they had discussed bilateral relations and development, the north-east Asian situation and cooperation in UN and the world. He added that there will be cooperation in IT, agriculture and the environment and that Korea will send an expert to help Mongolia to draw up mid-term and long-term national development strategies up to 2021 and look at soft loans. He also invited President N. Enkhbayar to visit South Korea. Roh Moo-Hyun said that there were 2,000 Koreans in Mongolia and ten times as many Mongolians in South Korea. Bilateral trade was worth $100 million and over 900 Korean companies had invested $150 million in Mongolia. He said that if the two governments had not acted, the relationship, cooperation and investment would be worse. Asked about the 25,000 Mongolians in South Korea, the Mongolian president said that Mongolia was Sh. Erdenechimeg grateful to the Korean government for taking care of them and taking steps to improve their lives. "We talked about how Korean businesses hire Mongùolians and Mongolia has asked them to try to create more jobs. Presently, there is a quota of 9,000." Later, Roh Moo-Hyun addressed a business forum in the Chinggis Hotel and visited the Ulaanbaatar Institute to meet students of Korean studies. On May 9, he met Parliamentary Speaker Ts. Nyamdorj and Prime Minister M. Enkhbold and visited the Korean- Mongolian traditional hospital. The South Korean president's visit will finish on May 10 and his next stop is Azerbaijan.

The plans are laid, but is Ulaanbaatar ready?
2006-05-11 UB Post
The celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Mongolian State is set to culminate at this summer's Naadam Festival, and Mongolia is getting ready. The national tourist industry has made great efforts to take advantage of the occasion, but after speaking to representatives of local tour companies, it seems to me that it will be years before they get to reap the benefits from the expected surge. Planning the tourist season around the event has not been easy, and international companies have to design their operations far in advance. As Jan Wigsten, marketing director of Nomadic Journeys, explains, "First we must tell our foreign partners to prepare advertising space and create their publications. The customers need time to read these and, afterwards, even more time to save their money and prepare." Companies like his have to work one to two years in advance; and despite the relevant information having been presented this winter, this gave them insufficient time to substantially alter their products. In addition to this, the intense seasonal nature of the population influx means that even during a normal Naadam, Mongolia's tourism, guesthouse and transport infrastructure is usually stretched to capacity. International flights and trains into Ulaanbaatar are usually fully booked for the days before and after the event. No matter how many extra tourists try to enter, their numbers will always be constrained by the availability of flights and hotel rooms. Luckily, this has not yet become a major cause for concern, tourism in Mongolia has recently been growing at about 15- 20% per year, and there are few doubts that it will do so again this year. In any case, perhaps the greatest benefit of the anniversary will be the increased foreign media coverage the spectacle will achieve. For every individual who watches the Three Manly Sports in person, thousands more will view reports of it over the television and internet. And then they too can start planning and saving for their visit to Mongolia. Finally, as Rik Idema of Tseren tours knows, the celebrations are not supposed to cater only to foreigners. He feels, "The celebration is good for the people of Mongolia, they are obviously working hard for it, and the end result will be an event they can all be proud of."

 

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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