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
  17.7-20.7.06, No. 124  
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Foreign Policy

Hu, Bush discuss Iran and DPRK nuke issues
2006-07-17 China Daily
The presidents of China and the United States yesterday agreed to work together for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. They also agreed to make joint efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear standoff. The two leaders said they would look at and deal with Sino-US relations in a strategic and long-term manner, expanding benefits for both nations. The consensus was reached when President Hu Jintao and his US counterpart George W. Bush met on the sidelines of the ongoing Group of Eight (G8) Summit in St. Petersburg, former capital of Russia. "President Bush and I agreed in the talks that the two nations will commit to promoting the Six-Party Talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula through political dialogue," Hu told reporters at a joint briefing with Bush after their 30-minute closed-door meeting. "We also reached a consensus on joint efforts to promote the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue," said Hu. At the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hu arrived in St. Petersburg yesterday for the outreach session of the annual summit of the world's leading economic powers, which involves the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia. Hu and Bush's summit is the second time the two have met in three months. Their previous meeting was in April, when Hu visited the US. "Given the complicated and volatile international situation, it is of crucial importance for China and the US to have consultations and co-ordination on major international issues."It is in the interest of both sides, as well as for the peace and stability of the world at large," said Hu. Saying he had had a "very good dialogue" with Hu, Bush said he welcomed the resolution on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) missile tests, which was unanimously approved by the UN Security Council on Saturday. However the resolution, which calls for the resumption of the stalled Six-Party Talks, was immediately rejected by the DPRK, which said its army "will go on with missile launch exercises as part of its efforts to bolster deterrents for self-defence in the future." The two leaders also talked about the current Middle East conflict, as well as bilateral economic relations. Their discussions were the continuation of the dialogue that began in Washington, said Bush. Describing the talks as "friendly and candid," Hu said he is "satisfied" with the discussions. "We both believe the two nations should respect and consider each other's concerns and handle sensitive issues in bilateral relations properly," he said. The two leaders are also expected to attend an outreach session of the G8 summit slated for today, when the eight heads of the industrialized countries and other invited leaders from developing nations such as South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and India will hold discussions on global energy security, prevention and control of infectious diseases, education, Africa's development and other topics. At the G8's annual summits economic themes are supposed to prevail, but are often overshadowed by global politics. At this year's session the DPRK's recent missile tests and the nuclear crisis in Iran are expected to be inevitable topics. Besides Bush, Hu also met with presidents of South Africa and the Republic of the Congo yesterday, exchanging views on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern. Meanwhile, Hu and leaders of other five developing countries also met to discuss ways to deepen South-South co-operation. Hu will meet with Russian and Italian leaders today. He will also attend the first trilateral summit meeting of leaders of China, India and Russia, which will be attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Putin today.

Sino-US military relations enter new stage with visit
2006-07-20 People's Daily
The current visit to the US by Guo Boxiong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, indicates that Sino-US military relations have entered a new stage, analysts and army officers have said. General Guo arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday. During the one-week visit, Guo is expected to visit the Pentagon and military institutions. Guo is paying a return visit after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Beijing last October. Guo is the highest-ranking Chinese military officer to visit the United States since 2001, when the two countries cut their military ties after a Chinese fighter jet was hit by a US spy plane over the South China Sea, sending bilateral ties to a low point, noted Zhu Chenghu, a professor with the National Defence University. "The visit shows Beijing is willing to improve military relations with Washington, which serves the fundamental interests of both sides," he told China Daily yesterday. Guo's visit comes at a time when the international community is trying to bring Pyongyang back to nuclear disarmament talks. Zhu said Guo is expected to discuss security issues in Northeast Asia with his US counterparts, especially the missile tests by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea two weeks ago. Qian Lihua, deputy director of the foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defence, said the visit is the most important event in the People's Liberation Army's foreign relations this year. It will help achieve the consensus reached by the two heads of state on developing military relations, Qian said at the weekend on the eve of Guo's visit. In a written statement released upon his arrival, Guo said that China and the United States share extensive mutual strategic interests and a good basis for co-operation. Calling the two countries not only stakeholders but also constructive partners, Guo said a better Sino-US relationship would be strategically important in maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region as well as in the rest of the world. ()

China appeals for Japan's cooperation to overcome political obstacles
2006-07-20 Xinhuanet
China on Wednesday called on Japan to cooperate in overcoming the political obstacles to their relations. "We hope Japan will make joint efforts with China to overcome the political obstacles in our relations as soon as possible and push China-Japan relations back on the track of healthy, stable development," China's Vice President Zeng Qinghong said in a meeting with Makoto Koga, former secretary-general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Sino-Japanese relations have been soured by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead, including 14 convicted class A war criminals in World War II, are honored. The shrine also hosts a museum defending Japan's past militarism. But in recent months there has been increasing dialogue between party and government officials of the two countries. Describing China and Japan as "countries with significant influence in Asia and the world", Zeng said developing "long-term, stable good-neighborly friendly ties" serves the basic interests of the two countries and peoples, and also helps promote peace, stability and the development of Asia and the world. He stressed that the Chinese party and government remain committed to dealing with relations with Japan from a strategic level and long-term perspective. Calling Makoto "an old friend of the Chinese people and myself", Zeng thanked him for his contribution to the China-Japan friendship. He also expressed his condolences over the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. As one of the leaders of seven Japan-China friendship organizations Hashimoto paid a goodwill visit to China and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in March this year. Makoto said the friendship between Japan and China, which was established by the old generations of leaders, should be cherished and the younger generation of politicians should shoulder the historical responsibility to deepen and develop such ties. Relations between Japan and China are at a crucial period, Makoto said, adding that "we should bear history in mind...to make new contributions to the continuous development of Japan-China friendly ties." Makoto is visiting China at the invitation of the International Department of the Communist Party of China.

Chinese, Swedish FMs talk on Middle East, UN and bilateral ties
2006-07-20 People's Daily
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Wednesday talked with his Swedish counterpart Jan Eliasson, on promoting bilateral ties and exchanging views on Middle East. Both Li and Eliasson were "seriously concerned" about the Middle East situation and demanded the parties concerned keep restraint and cease fire immediately, said a foreign ministry statement. They supported the UN Secretary General's mediation and favored the UN security council to take necessary actions. Li and Eliasson emphasized that all countries should be committed to increasing the role of multi-lateralism. Li hailed Eliasson's work as the President of the UN General Assembly since 2006. "China will continuously support you and facilitate your work," Li told Eliasson. Li and Eliasson also vowed to boost trust and promote China-Sweden ties. Eliasson said the government of Sweden will continuously abide by the one-China policy. They also exchanged views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the Iran nuclear issue. Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia are in China for a six-day state visit, with a replica of the 18th century Swedish merchant ship Gotheborg arriving in south China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday.

Roundup: China evacuates 82 citizens from Lebanon
2006-07-19 Xinhuanet
A total of 82 Chinese citizens have been evacuated from Lebanon to Syria by Tuesday and most are on their way back home, Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday evening. The evacuees included seven compatriots from Hong Kong, a foreign ministry statement said. Some embassy officials have also been evacuated, but others will stay behind to pay close attention to the safety of those Chinese citizens who remain in Lebanon, the statement said. Chinese Foreign Ministry and the embassy officials are working on measures to evacuate the rest Chinese citizens in case of emergency. Israel has intensified its air raids on Lebanese targets since launching a massive assault on July 12 when Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in cross-border attacks. The Chinese government has been highly concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens in Lebanon. Closely following the development, the Chinese Foreign Ministry launched the emergency response mechanism last week. The ministry also issued two advisories warning Chinese citizens against traveling to Lebanon. Since last Friday, the Chinese embassy in Lebanon has started to evacuated Chinese citizens. Before the evacuation, Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei talked via telephone with ambassadors from related countries, informing them of the Chinese government's decision to evacuate the citizens and seeking cooperation from their countries to safeguard the security of Chinese nationals. Thanks to the coordinating efforts with the Syrian border departments, the Chinese Embassy in Syria helped the Chinese evacuees' resettle in the country. The Chinese Embassy in Israel also launched its emergency response mechanism and issued advisory warning Chinese citizens against traveling to the raid-plagued region. The Chinese Embassy in Israel even facilitated Chinese citizens to leave the raid-torn north region of Israel. Governments around the world have been scrambling to evacuate their nationals from Lebanon as the intense Israeli offensive in the country entered its seventh day on Tuesday in the worst fighting across the border in more than two decades. In April and May this year, China evacuated some 243 and 325 Chinese nationals, including Hong Kong compatriots, respectively from the unrest-hit Solomon Islands and East Timor.

 

Domestic Policy

Bilis kills 198 people in China
2006-07-20 People's Daily
Tropical storm Bilis has killed 198 people and a further 140 remained missing on Tuesday. The storm triggered heavy rainfall and serious floods in the provinces and regions of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi. It has affected 20.167 million people and necessitated the emergency relocation of 2.203 million residents. It has affected 0.91 million hectares of crop growing areas and 0.16 million hectares of other land. There are 0.113 million collapsed houses and 0.175 million broken houses. Economic losses from the disaster amount to 11.87 billion Yuan. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has successively activated Grade-4 and Grade-3 emergency response mechanisms since July 15. Joint work groups from the State Council arrived at the disaster zone at 11 am on July 15. The work groups have been organized by the Civil Affairs Ministry, Water Resources Ministry, Finance Ministry, Communications Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, Health Ministry, Land and Resources Ministry, China Meteorological Administration and the headquarters of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Rivers run black in Shanxi
2006-07-17 China Daily
Li Yonggang has spent his whole life near the Sushui River in North China's Shanxi Province. He knows how it has changed. "When I was a child, the Sushui River was clean and fresh," he said. "There were many fish in it. The river carries a lot of sweet memories for us boys." But today, Li, a farmer in his mid 30s, has trouble finding clean water near the banks of the Sushui. "In the past, I dug 60 metres to get clean drinking water," said Li, who lives in Yangma Village of Yongji County. "But now, as you see, my well is 180 metres deep." Today the Sushui is black and smelly. It looks more like a sewage ditch than a river. Samples show the water quality is even worse than Grade V the lowest level in the five-grade water quality system. And the Sushui is not unique among the 26 rivers in Shanxi, China's major coal producing base, nearly 81 per cent were rated Grade V or lower last year. The province has the worst water in China, and it's getting even worse. The dire situation is what brought members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) to Shanxi for an eight-day examination tour last month. They were in the province to ensure the Law on the Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Solid Waste and the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution were being properly implemented. "Environmental problems have become a restraint on Shanxi's economic and social development," said Sheng Huaren, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. The condition of the Sushui River began to deteriorate in the 1980s, when huge amounts of chemicals from print works, dye factories and other industries began pouring into it. Today 13 million cubic metres of wastewater is injected into the river every year and no parts of the 197-kilometre river are clean. Air pollution in Shanxi is also serious. According to statistics from the State Environmental Protection Administration, the country's 10 worst polluted cities are all in Shanxi. Emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) in the province reached 1.5 million tons last year, double the goal the provincial government had set. As for solid waste, coal slag reached 1 billion tons and covered more than 20,000 hectares last year. And more than 40 million more tons of slag is produced every year. As a result, Shanxi failed to fulfill its environmental promises during the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) period. "The huge amount of coal slag is a big problem. It not only occupies the land, but also seriously pollutes the air and water," Sheng told local officials. Shanxi's problems, said Sheng, can be attributed to two main causes the lack of a pollution control scheme for decades, and the unsustainable approach of local economic development. For example, 3 million tons of wastewater is produced every day in the province with two-thirds of it discharged directly into local rivers without any treatment. And the situation is apparently not changing. The NPC passed legislation in March mandating that the amount of sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide discharged in the country must drop by 10 per cent by the end of 2010 compared with the levels at the end of last year. "But for Shanxi, pollution will possibly continue to worsen in the coming five years," Sheng said. Part of the problem rests with the province's blind pursuit of high economic growth, he said. For example, in the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-10) period, Shanxi has vowed to achieve an annual growth of 10 per cent for its gross domestic product (GDP), much higher than the country's overall target of 7.5 per cent. The province's Jinzhong, Linfen and Yunchen cities have even set GDP growth targets of 16 per cent, 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. "As Shanxi's major industries are thermal power generation, metallurgy and chemical industries, I am really worried about the environment if such a high goal for economic development is to be realized in the coming years," said Sheng. The GDP of Taiyuan, Shanxi's capital, grew by 13 per cent during 2001-05. However, the city's leaders have set the growth rate at less than 10 per cent between now and 2010. "I hope Shanxi's other regions can learn from Taiyuan," Sheng said, urging local governments to pursue economic development that is friendlier to the environment. A local official in Datong of Shanxi, who only gave his surname as Li, suggested that part of the solution lies in changing the way officials' are evaluated. "Currently, the judgment of an official's achievement mainly depends on GDP growth rate, rather than environmental improvement," said Liu. "Environmental protection needs big investments, but if it won't benefit an officials' career, then who will do this?" he added. In the nation's 10th Five-Year Plan, only two environmental goals were set. Neither was achieved. The National Development and Reform Commission blamed the failure on the government's neglect of environmental protection. In response, the NPC Standing Committee sent five inspection teams, with Sheng as the overall head, to examine the implementation of China's environmental laws. The teams went to Beijing, Shanxi, Central China's Hubei Province, Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Northwest China's Shaanxi Province in May and June. In addition, the NPC Standing Committee has demanded local people's congresses in 10 other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions do the same within their jurisdictions. In late August, Sheng will report the findings at a regular session of the NPC Standing Committee. Hopefully China will take more steps to return the Sushui to the beautiful river Li Yonggang once knew.

China to plan Mars probes in 5 years
2006-07-20 China Daily
How far Chinese scientists will advance in deep space is not immediately known. But one thing is certain: They will conduct exploration of Mars besides the ongoing lunar mission. "In the coming five years, China will, on the basis of its moon probes, plan deep-space exploration, focusing on lunar and Martian exploration," Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, said yesterday. Sun's remarks at the 36th Scientific Assembly of Committee on Space Research in Beijing appeared to be the first time a Chinese official has announced that the nation's space programme would include Martian probes. Sun did not elaborate on that part of the mission plan, however. Long Lehao, a senior space scientist with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said yesterday that Chinese rockets were capable of sending a satellite to orbit any planet, including Mars. "If the government makes up its mind to start the mission to Mars now, I think we could send an orbiter to Mars in three to five years," Long, also director of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told China Daily. China's Long March rocket is capable of catapulting a 2.8-ton probe into orbit around Mars, Long said. By comparison, Chang'e 1, a probe that weighs 2.3 tons, will be launched next year to circle the moon for 12 months. Long said that what China has achieved in space exploration so far can be combined with the expertise and experience to be accumulated in lunar missions to help push the Martian programme. But he added: "It is unnecessary to wait until after we have completed the lunar mission to initiate the Martian programme. We could begin during the lunar mission." Following the launch of Chang'e 1 next year, China plans to send a vehicle to soft-land on the moon and cruise around its surface around 2012. Space administration officials had announced earlier that China would send another soft-landing probe to fetch lunar samples around 2017. ()

CPC officials punished for selling, buying gov't positions
2006-07-20 China Daily
Eight Communist Party of China (CPC) officials have been punished, some with long jail terms, for buying or selling government jobs, said an official at a CPC news conference yesterday. The news was revealed at a joint press conference by CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the Organization Department of CPC Central Committee. The official confirmed that Cao Yongbao, former deputy secretary of Liangshan Prefectural Committee of the CPC in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, has been removed from his post, expelled from the Party and sentenced to 13 years in jail. He had taken advantage of his posts to help other officials get promotions and job transfers from 1994 to 2004. He took bribes worth more than 1.5 million yuan (US$180,000). He was also unable to explain the source of his other assets worth of 1.074 million yuan (US$120,000) and US$11,800. In another case, Zhang Gaiping, the former Party chief of Shangzhou District in Shaanxi Province, was said to have accepted bribes of 1.069 million (US$131,800) to help others seek promotion or redeployment. Zhang was also accused of seeking profits for her relatives by intruding in construction projects, said Gan Yisheng, secretary general of CCDI. Zhang has been stripped of her position and Party membership, said Gan, adding that "the case has been transferred to legal departments." Wang Fuyuan, Party committee member in Shiwan Township in Hepu County, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, had his Party membership removed for giving 100-300 yuan (US$12-36) each to voters during a reshuffling election in April. The other officials, from Hunan, Anhui, Henan and Guangdong provinces, were punished for taking bribes, interfering in elections and organizing premature promotions of cadres. "Disciplinary supervision and inspection is to be enhanced during the upcoming reshuffles of Party committees at all levels," said Liu Xirong, vice-secretary of the CDDI According to the CPC's constitution, Party committees from provincial to township level will be reshuffled across this country in the next year.

Nation's Internet users exceed 123 million
2006-07-20 China Daily
The number of Internet users in China is impressive, according to the latest figures, but one official says the industry has no time to rest. "The number 123 million seems to be quite a big number, but the penetration of the Internet in China is still just 9.4 per cent, so there is still plenty of room to develop," Wang Enhai, information service director for the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), said yesterday. The CNNIC, based in Beijing, released the latest figures, which represent a 19.4 per cent growth since June 2005. It's an increase from the previous year-on-year growth rate of 18.4 per cent. Another reason for optimism in the industry is that the number of broadband users in China reached 77 million at the end of June, an increase of 45 per cent over June 2005. Lu Bowang, CNNIC senior consultant, said the increase of broadband users is encouraging news to providers of such online services as games and broadcasting, which require high bandwidth. Nusports, an authorized broadcaster of the FIFA World Cup match highlights on the Internet, earned almost 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) in advertisements in the past month. It was the service's first appearance on a large scale in China. The results were based on an online and telephone survey of almost 40,000 people in June. Although the Chinese Internet population is second in the world to that of the United States, it has the largest young Internet user population. The CNNIC survey showed 82.3 per cent of people using the Internet in China are below 35 years old and almost 40 per cent of the netizens are aged 18 to 24. The ratio of senior middle school students is even higher, at 50 per cent. "It may be a worrying phenomenon that the ratio of Internet users above 30 years old is dropping because the Internet economy is too much focused on entertainment and young users," Lu said. According to the Internet market research company Shanghai iResearch Co Ltd, the revenue from new economy-related businesses, mainly Internet and mobile value-added services, was 24.8 billion yuan (US$3.1 billion), but only 7.1 billion yuan (US$900 million) was generated from enterprise services. Mainland users spent an average of 16.5 hours a week on the Internet, more than those in Hong Kong and many other developed regions. This year's survey showed more than 30 million people shopped on the Internet, compared with 20 million one year ago. As many as 25 million people also used the Internet to find jobs, the CNNIC said, and 15 million people took online classes.

Nationwide drive starts to destroy fake milk - Substandard powder produced by farmer contains cancer-causing arsenic
2006-07-17 SCMP
A nationwide campaign has been launched to destroy all stocks of fake milk powder that has been found to contain excessive traces of arsenic and virtually no protein. In April, the Inner Mongolia Food and Drug Administration found samples of Dongfang and Baoyuan milk powder contained less than 0.5 per cent protein, far below the required level of 21 per cent. It also contained 10 times the legal limit of the poison arsenic, increasing the risk of developing cancer of the skin, stomach and other organs, as well as leukaemia. This latest case is potentially the most serious of its kind since the 2004 milk products scandal in Anhui that killed 12 infants and left at least 200 babies with deformed limbs and swollen heads due to malnutrition. The latest substandard milk powder was made by a Shandong farmer in Guangrao county in his own home by mixing a cheap complex carbohydrate, amylum, with a small amount of milk powder. Sun Jinran began his business in 2003, sometimes producing 200 boxes a day. He sold the product for 6,500 yuan a tonne, while formula that did comply with regulations cost at least 14,000 yuan a tonne. Sun sold his products to an unlicensed wholesaler in Hebei , which then distributed them to Inner Mongolia , Xinjiang , Heilongjiang and within Hebei itself. Officials later found that the companies marked on the milk powder bags did not exist. The fake products made by Sun had been marketed as health foods for middle-aged and elderly people. But one 50-year-old from Qingshuihe county told China Central Television that she vomited and got diarrhoea after consuming the Dongfang milk powder and that it tasted like swill. Sun readily admitted his products were below standard but sought to justify his actions by saying the people his products were aimed at would not be harmed as it would form only a small part of their diet. "I know my milk powder does not meet regulations and is not good for kids to drink. But middle-aged and elderly people do not totally depend on it," he told CCTV. Last month, the National Food and Drug Administration ordered an immediate investigation into Dongfang and Baoyuan formula nationwide. So far, more than 20,000 bags have been confiscated, according to CCTV. National and provincial authorities could not be reached for comment yesterday. Xia Xueluan, a sociologist from Peking University, said the case showed manufacturers and retailers were only interested in profits, ignoring people's interests and well-being. "All of us, not only rural residents, no longer feel safe when we eat anything," Professor Xia said.

 

Taiwan

CPPCC leader meets Taiwan delegation
2006-07-20 Xinhuanet
Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), had a meeting with a Taiwan delegation to study economic and trade issues on the mainland. Jia welcomed the visiting delegation led by Kuo Tai-qiang, chairman of Taiwan's council for industrial and commercial development and spoke highly of the council's long-term efforts to promote cross-strait economic and trade relations. Chinese compatriots living on the two banks belong to the one family and thus they should join hands to safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, said the CPPCC leader. He recalled past year's efforts by the mainland to seek benefits for Taiwan people and push forward personnel, economic and cultural exchanges across the strait. It is in favor of the fundamental interests of Chinese compatriots living on the two banks to develop cross-strait economic ties with great efforts and realize direct links of mail, trade and transport services across the strait as early as possible, Jia said. Chen Yunlin, director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, was present at the meeting.

Taiwan kicks off first cargo flight to Chinese mainland
2006-07-19 Xinhuanet
The first direct cargo charter flight between Taiwan and Chinese mainland took off on Wednesday evening, a breakthrough since 1949. A Boeing 747-400 from China Airlines, Taiwan's largest air carrier, left Taipei at around 10:20 p.m. for Shanghai, carrying some 70 tons of chip equipment to the eastern Chinese metropolis. The charter flight is expected to arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport at about 1:00 a.m. Thursday after a nearly three hours' trip and then make a return flight two hours later. The mainland-based Cross-Strait Aviation Transport Exchange Council and the Taipei Airlines Association agreed on a framework for chartered flights for festivals and special cases on June 14. Five chartered cargo flights will carry equipment, parts and components to be used in factories on the mainland that owned by Taiwan business people. Chartered flights will run during Qingming, or the tomb-sweeping festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, in addition to the Chinese lunar new year season, according to the agreement. The two sides also agree to open chartered flights for emergency medical rescue, first aid for the handicapped and chartered cargo flights. Direct transportation links have been cut since 1949. Under Taipei's current ban on direct links across the Taiwan Strait, all merchandise and passengers transit via third ports, normally Hong Kong or Macao. ()

 

Economy

China's GDP up 10.9% in first half
2006-07-19 China Daily
China's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 10.9 per cent in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period of last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced yesterday. After posting a rate of 10.3 per cent in the first quarter, growth of the economy, now the fourth largest in the world, jumped to a higher gear of 11.3 per cent during the April-June period, the most rapid in more than a decade. The last time China recorded a growth of more than 11 per cent was 1994-95. Despite the blistering rate of growth, the economy appears to be in good shape, said Bert Hofman, the World Bank's leading economist for China. "From a short-term point of view, there still seems little cause for concerns," Hofman said yesterday. "Inflation remains low; China is running comfortable current account surpluses, and supply seems to hold up with demand." The consumer price index, the key barometer for inflation, climbed a mild 1.3 per cent from January to June. Trade surplus totalled US$61.4 billion during the same period. However, "there are some concerns on the efficiency of such a high, investment-driving growth rate," Hofman said. Indeed, fixed asset investment, supported by banks awash with funds, was the leading force buoying current economic growth. During the first six months, fixed asset investment surged 29.8 per cent. "We understand that this kind of growth is not sustainable," NBS spokesman Zheng Jingping said at a press conference hosted by the State Information Office. "An excessive investment growth will result in overcapacity and accumulating financial risks." The government has been taking measures to address the problem, and he did not rule out new tightening measures. During the past three months, the central bank raised the benchmark one-year lending rate by 27 basis points. It also increased the proportion of banks' deposits required to put into reserves to reduce the amount of money available to be lent out. Authorities also introduced a series of measures to curb speculative investment in the real estate sector. However, major driving forces for the economy have showed few signs of abating, except a small dip in money supply at the end of June. Premier Wen Jiabao said last week that adjustment measures should be strengthened, fuelling speculation that new cooling moves are in the pipeline. The second-quarter growth figure, which is even higher than most observers expected, reinforced many economists' prediction that those tightening steps could come very soon. "The economy is not overheated, but it is moving closer towards overheating," said Niu Li, a senior economist with the State Information Centre, a think tank under the National Development and Reform Commission. "If necessary adjustments are taken soon enough, that danger could be avoided."

 

North Korea

DPRK cancels meeting of separated families
2006-07-19 Xinhuanet
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday decided to cancel a video meeting between separated families next month and stop talks on humanitarian issues with the South Korean Red Cross. The DPRK accused South Korea of abusing "the humanitarian issue for meeting its sinister purpose to serve the outsiders" in a letter from Jang Jae-on, chairman of the Central Committee of the DPRK Red Cross Society, to his South Korean counterpart Han Wan-sang, which is quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency. "It has become impossible to hold any discussion related to humanitarian issues, to say nothing of arranging any reunion between separated families and relatives between the two sides," Jang said. The DPRK also said South Korea had unilaterally refused to provide rice and fertilizer at the 19th north-south ministerial talks last week. "This is an act of treachery little short of sacrificing the humanitarian work between fellow countrymen to serve the U.S. and Japan, (which are) keen on applying sanctions against the DPRK with bitterness toward it," he said. At the seventh inter-Korean Red Cross talks in February, the DPRK and South Korea agreed to arrange a special video meeting on Aug. 15 for families and relatives separated by the north-south divide.

 

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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