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
  11.12-15.12.06, No. 145  
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Foreign Policy

Dialogue 'is a chance to clear the air'
2006-12-15 China Daily
China sees the first Sino-US strategic economic dialogue as an opportunity to correct misunderstandings between the two sides, Vice-Premier Wu Yi said yesterday at the start of the talks. "We have had the genuine feeling that some American friends not only have a limited knowledge of, but harbour much misunderstanding about, the reality in China," Wu told US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who led the American delegation. "The dialogue is conducive to enhancing trust and dispelling suspicion to strengthen the dialogue between China and the United States in the economic field," Wu said. Led by Wu and Paulson, more than 20 senior policy makers from Beijing and Washington started the two-day meeting in the Great Hall of the People. In her keynote speech, Wu pledged that China would continue reforms and broaden the level of opening-up by improving the legal and policy system and strengthening protection of intellectual property rights. She elaborated on China's adherence to peaceful development, reform and opening-up. "China's development will not pose any threat; it offers opportunities to the world," Wu said. She said China is rapidly increasing imports to offset the trade surplus with the US and strive for a trade balance. Paulson said he agreed with Wu that the US needs to better understand China's drive to reform its economy. "But having said that, there's certain things that there's plenty of understanding on," he said after the first day of talks. "There's no lack of understanding about currency flexibility or intellectual property and those kinds of issues." While describing the talks as "productive and informative interchanges," he said it was not reasonable to expect that, after only two days of talks, concrete agreements would be announced. "It wouldn't be much of a dialogue if you could come in and, in two days, sit down and announce major breakthroughs," he said. "The kinds of issues we are working on are ones that are very fundamental and very long-term," the US treasury chief said. [...] The dialogue comes at a time when the China-US trade relationship enters a more complicated stage with the five-year interim period after China's WTO accession coming to an end on December 11. That means China would face more intense foreign competition in various fields. [...]

Talks will test sinews of Sino-US relations - This week's forum brings together two world powers whose fates are increasingly intertwined
2006-12-14 SCMP
US concerns about human rights on the mainland and China's annual struggle to secure most-favoured-nation trading status dominated Sino-US relations in the 1990s, with Beijing regularly on the defensive. Nowadays, most analysts agree that the United States, the world's most powerful economy, and China, its fourth largest one, are interdependent, although they are divided on the question of who needs whom most. Susan Shirk, formerly the US State Department's senior diplomat in charge of China affairs, said China still needs the US more, despite its recent rapid rise. Professor Shirk, now director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Co-operation, said: "Economically, China and the US depend on each other, but China needs the US more than the US needs China. In non-proliferation and diplomacy, the US is co-ordinating well with China so that as it expands its influence, it works in concert with American efforts, not at cross purposes with them." However, Jin Canrong, a leading mainland-based expert on American affairs, says the US needs China more than Beijing needs Washington. "The past decade has seen the rising national strength and international status of China and declining US influence due to its mishandling of international affairs such as Iraq," said Professor Jin, vice-dean of Renmin University's School of International Relations. He said the US now increasingly relies on China as an interlocutor with rogue regimes like North Korea. This week's first top-level economic talks between the two powers illustrates the significance of their economic ties to each other and the global economy, analysts said. [...] The new high-level talks, dubbed the Strategic Economic Dialogue, were launched by President Hu Jintao and Mr Bush in September as a forum for the two nations to discuss ways to work together to enhance the bilateral economic relationship. [...] Huang Yiping, chief Asia economist with Citigroup, said both countries had a responsibility to assure healthy and continued global economic growth. "The economic relations between the world's largest economy and its fourth largest, but fastest growing, major one have meaning not only to each other but to the world as well," Mr Huang said. China's rapidly growing trade surplus and foreign reserves and the growing US fiscal and trade deficits represent the most severe imbalances in today's global economy. [...] American critics and manufacturers argue that the yuan is substantially undervalued and a major cause of a bilateral trade deficit on track to surpass last year's US$202 billion. [...]

African ties 'threaten influence of the west' - Report says oil deals with continent could sour Sino-western relations
2006-12-15 SCMP
China's growing investment in Africa's oil and gas resources could eclipse the political influence of the west in the energy-rich continent and sour Sino-western relations, according to an international security journal. Western powers like the US, Britain and France played significant roles in African politics - a legacy of colonial rule and cold war alignment on the continent - but China's "no strings" financial and technical assistance was allowing it to exert wider influence, according to a report by Jane's Intelligence Review coming out next month. Coincidentally, South African President Thabo Mbeki was quoted by the Sapa news agency as saying on Wednesday that Africa must guard against lapsing into a "colonial relationship" with China in which Africa remained a mere supplier of raw materials. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday: "China's co-operation with Africa, including that with South Africa, aims at being mutually beneficial and realising a win-win situation." Human rights groups have also claimed that China's close ties with countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, both ruled by what the west considers to be unsavoury regimes, undermined efforts to improve human rights and promote democracy in Africa. The report in the Review highlights last month's Sino-African summit in Beijing, attended by leaders from 48 African nations, as evidence of China's growing influence on the continent. Sino-African trade rose 34.9 per cent last year to US$39.8 billion according to the central government. And Chinese investment in Africa totalled nearly US$1.6 billion at the end of last year. Although sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for only 7 per cent of global oil production, it is one of the fastest-growing oil and gas suppliers, according to the report. China imports a third of its oil from Africa. Development in most African countries has been hindered by poor infrastructure, and the report sees China's willingness to invest in rail, telecommunications and a range of construction projects across the continent as helping to secure further energy deals. However, He Wenping, director of the African studies section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of West Asian and African Studies, played down the concerns expressed in the report. "There is always a possibility of competition in commercial activities," she said. "However, countries these days can carry out joint exploitation of oil resources and they can also co-operate in other areas to help Africa grow or promote peace." Ms He said China's energy demand might not grow as rapidly as African production because China was trying to curb its energy consumption and lower its dependency on oil imports.

China enters new era in opening to outside world
2006-12-12 Xinhuanet
Beijing - China entered a new period of its opening up policy on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. Over the past five years, China has dropped its tariffs, canceled its non-tariffs measures and opened up its markets in accordance with the pledge it made when joining the WTO. Overall, China has dropped its tariffs from 15.3 percent in 2001 to 9.9 percent in 2006. It has canceled non-tariff measures, some of which have lasted for more than 50 years. In addition, China has opened its service industry, a highly sensitive issue five years ago. In its latest efforts, China opened its financial markets to foreign banks on Monday and will allow qualified firms to wholesale crude and refined oil from Jan. 1, breaking the state monopoly. [...] Yi Xiaozhun, vice-minister of commerce, said on Monday that China's accession to the WTO over the past five years had led to three major changes in China's opening to the outside world. China's opening has moved from regional and partial opening to an overall opening. The opened area extends from goods trade to the service trade. The opening of the market is taking place under increasingly transparent laws and regulations, he said. It took China 15 years of talks to join the WTO. When China was finally accepted as a WTO member, it was granted a three to five year "transitional period" for certain sectors to prepare for outside competition. Over the past five years, China has set about fulfilling the WTO criteria. It has amended and drafted thousands of laws and regulations. The Central Government opened its official Website on Jan. 1 this year and 86 percent of central and local government departments have established official websites over the past few years. China has quickened its steps to reform its banking sector. Three of China's four major state-owned commercial banks have been listed home and abroad since last year. By September this year, a total of 25 Chinese cities have allowed foreign banks to run RMB business and 111 foreign banking institutions were allowed to do so. The EU and the United States have urged China to do more to protect intellectual property rights and open up its markets. China has also faced a rising number of trade disputes. In 2001, China was the subject of 15 percent of the world's anti-dumping cases. In 2005, the percentage had risen to 30. "China may also face challenges in the new round of multi-lateral trade talks - the Doha Talks - regarding its agricultural safety, financial safety and energy safety," said Sun Zhenyu, China's chief representative to the WTO. [...]

China urges U.S. to abandon double standards on human rights
2006-12-13 People's Daily Online
China on Tuesday urged the United States to abandon its double standards on human rights and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks in response to the U.S. State Department spokesman's statement on International Human Rights Day, in which the U.S. side criticized China and other countries' human rights records. Qin said China had made remarkable achievements on human rights protection. "The achievements are there for all to see," the spokesman said. "The United States is not qualified to label itself as a human rights guard," Qin added. He said that the Chinese government suggested the United States should examine its own human rights problems.

EU boosts status of links, but arms sale ban stays
2006-12-13 SCMP
The European Union has elevated its "maturing" relations with the mainland to the status of a strategic partnership, but signalled there would be no early lifting of a ban of arms sales imposed after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. Officials said that at a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels there was still no unanimity on ending the ban - an issue that has hobbled relations for years. "A number of member states say they are not prepared to lift the arms embargo against China," Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said. Despite that, the foreign ministers issued a lengthy declaration raising relations with Beijing to a "strategic partnership" that recognises China's growing role in global economic, security and other areas. The seven-page statement said the mainland's phenomenal economic growth was driving a revamp of trade and other relations. It also said Europe's relations with the mainland increasingly touched on global issues. "The EU and China have important international commitments and responsibilities and must both work hard to deliver them in the interest of wider international security and stability," the declaration said. That work cut across economic, trade, security, environmental, sustainable development and other issues, it said. The declaration touched on the arms embargo only in a brief sentence in which the EU expressed "its willingness to carry forward work toward lifting the arms embargo". France has long favoured lifting the ban, eager to cash in on China's fast-growing military spending and agrees with Beijing that the ban is outdated and hinders Europe's ambition to build closer ties.

Sino-Japanese ties slowly on the mend
2006-12-13 China Daily
Strained relations over the war-related Yasukuni Shrine issue between China and Japan have eased, but tensions resulting from China's rise still remain, China's Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said in a report published by the Xinhua News Agency yesterday. After serious and repeated consultations, China and Japan "have finally agreed to overcome this political impediment damaging bilateral relations," Wang said of the Yasukuni Shrine issue. The shrine in Tokyo honours 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II, with other war dead, and is considered by China and some other Asian nations as Japan's past militarism. "Many of the conflicts and friction in Sino-Japanese relations in recent years have surfaced over the Yasukuni Shrine issue, but the broader background is that the national strength of both countries has risen to different degrees," the ambassador said. He suggested that some Japanese were having trouble accepting China's rise. "A senior Japanese official told me that China's development and rise is a fact we must face up to. But just as the United States in the 1980s could not adjust to Japan's rise, now many in Japan are not mentally prepared to accept China's development," Wang said. "Truly smoothing China-Japan relations needs time and constant efforts from both sides." Wang highlighted the importance of China-Japan relations, saying "be it in history, reality or geopolitics, Japan has a unique and important position in China's diplomacy". He said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Beijing in October "broke the political stalemate in bilateral relations and offered a window of hope for future China-Japan relations". A month later, Abe met with President Hu Jintao for the second time on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi, Viet Nam. The two top-level meetings in two months had significantly promoted bilateral ties and were widely regarded in Japan as a positive turn in the bilateral relationship [...] Wang said to maintain the sound momentum for improving relations between the two countries, both should consolidate the political basis in bilateral relations, that is, properly handle such sensitive issues as the wartime history and Taiwan. It is reported the two countries are mulling a high-level visit by President Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao to Japan.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao postpones visit to Philippines
2006-12-11 People's Daily Online
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has postponed an official visit to the Philippines which was originally scheduled for Dec. 13-14, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang announced Sunday. As the Dec. 11-13 summit for east Asian leaders has been postponed to next January due to a strong typhoon, the Chinese and Philippine sides have decided through negotiations to put off Wen's visit, said Qin. The organizing committee of the 12th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced last Friday that the date of the summit, originally slated for Dec. 10-14, was postponed because of "a possible major weather disturbance." Typhoon Utor ripped through the island country causing widespread devastation. According to an ASEAN official announcement Sunday morning, the summit has been moved to Jan. 8-13 next year.

China, Pakistan to launch joint anti-terror military exercise
2006-12-11 People's Daily Online
China and Pakistan will launch a joint anti-terror military exercise from Dec. 11 to Dec. 18 in Pakistan, military sources said in Beijing Sunday. The military exercise, code-named "Friendship-2006", is aimed to fight terrorism, strengthen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in the field of non-traditional security and safeguard the peace and stability of the region. The military exercise is carried out under an agreement between the defense ministries of China and Pakistan. It is not targeting any third party and shall not impair interests of other countries, said the Defense Ministry of China.

FM spokesman reiterates one-China policy on Taiwan official's visit to Gambia
2006-12-13 People's Daily Online
China hopes certain countries adhere to the one-China policy which is recognized and observed by the international community, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday. Qin made the remarks at a regular press conference when commenting on an upcoming visit to Gambia of Su Tseng-chang, head of the Taiwan "Executive Yuan". Qin said China firmly opposes any separatist activities in any name and form and under any excuse, which aim at "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan". Qin also rebuffed the rumor saying China used money diplomacy to make Chad sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It's the Taiwan authorities that conduct money diplomacy in recent years in the international community to achieve the goal of "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan", Qin said. He said the Chinese government will carry out friendly cooperation with other countries on the basis of one-China policy, as well as equality and reciprocity.

 

Domestic Policy

Plans ensure adequate grain supply
2006-12-15 China Daily
The central government agencies will take strong measures to ensure the adequate distribution and supply of grain. The move is to stabilize market prices which have been rising rapidly recently. In an emergency circular issued on Wednesday by the State Council, grain storage authorities were asked to respond rationally to the market prices, and to guarantee the timely provision of grains and edible oils. Inspections and law-enforcement will be strengthened at the main marketplaces to prevent manipulation and speculation in prices, the State Council circular said. Since the beginning of last month, the central government has released in four batches a total of 3.8 million tons of grain reserves to stabilize market prices. Sources from the National Grain Administration said an auction of the fifth batch is underway. In another development, the Ministry of Communications ordered that major highways, railways and ports ensure the quick delivery of grain and related food products across the country. In an emergency notice, the ministry said all transportation companies should give priority to the distribution of grain, edible oils, and poultry products, and upgrade their work efficiency. Green passageways should be set up for grain and food transportation. Lengthy inspections and fee charges should be prohibited, it said. The measures are the latest taken by China to stabilize grain and other food prices. According to figures released on Tuesday by the People's Bank of China, grains had seen a price rise of 1.6 per cent in November, annualised, edible oil 7.6 per cent, and oil-bearing crops 2 per cent. The State Council circular also reported that China had three consecutive years of good harvests - 2004, 2005 and this year. The current price rises in grain should generate greater incentives for farmers. But if prices go up too rapidly, they will affect the livelihood of many low-income people, and social stability, it said. Generally welcoming the policies listed in the circular, economists and food market specialists called for their effective implementation. [...]

Ageing population tests social security
2006-12-13 China Daily
China is facing an increasing social security burden with the rapid growth of its ageing population, a senior official said on Tuesday in Beijing. The ratio between active employees and the retired will reach 2.5 to 1 by 2020, said Li Bengong, executive deputy director of the China National Committee on Ageing. In 1990, it was 10:1 and rose to 3:1 in 2003, posing a "great challenge" to the social welfare system, Li told a press conference. A white paper issued on Tuesday by the State Council Information Office said that at the end of last year, China had nearly 144 million people aged over 60, accounting for 11 per cent of its population; and the number is rising by 3 per cent every year. In 1982, the number of elderly people accounted for 5 per cent of the total population; but in 1999, the figure reached 10 per cent of the total. Li said the number of elderly people is expected to reach 248 million by 2020, and 437 million by 2051. The ageing population at the end of the first half of the century will account for a fifth of the world's total, according to estimates by the United Nations. "The demographic change from an 'adult society' to an ageing society took only 18 years in China, compared to decades or even hundreds of years in developed countries," he said. [...] The white paper said the number of people participating in the basic old-age insurance scheme across the country last year reached 175 million, 43.67 million of whom were retirees. But millions more, especially in rural areas, have no welfare guarantees. The soaring number of senior citizens has also brought challenges to the health and medical system Li said medical resources consumed by the aged were three to five times higher than other age groups. "As the number of the aged increases, the expenditure on basic medical care is also growing rapidly." Li said China has 16 million people aged over 80, many of them living without children nearby. "The demands for efficient social care for this group are great." The current life expectancy is 72 years, compared with 49 years in 1950. A survey showed 5 per cent of 144 million aged people, or about 7 million, wish to live in nursing homes. However, at the end of 2005, only 1.5 million beds were available at various care centres. The government said it will add 2.2 million extra beds for the aged in rural areas and 800,000 for urban residents within the next four years. [...]

Gov't to start pollution investigation in 2008
2006-12-15 Xinhuanet
Beijing - China will launch its first nationwide investigation into the sources of environmental pollution beginning in 2008, according to the top environmental official. "It will take three years to ascertain how much pollution is discharged all over the country," Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told the first national work conference on environmental policies and the legal system, which was held on Wednesday in Beijing. A list of products likely to cause heavy pollution is being drafted. The list is expected to provide a reference for the government to exclude certain items from export rebates, levy higher customs duties on them or set limits on imports. Zhou said the number of complaints and protests from the public over pollution accidents had increased at an annual rate of 30 per cent in recent years mainly due to slack law enforcement. Ministry figures show that pollution caused losses of 511.8 billion yuan (64 billion U.S.dollars) in 2004, which was 3.05 per cent of the 16 trillion yuan (2 trillion dollars) gross domestic product (GDP) that year. The victims, government and society had to endure most of the losses because of inadequate compensation. To better protect the interests of environmental victims and help enterprises share the risks, SEPA plans to promote environmental insurance in co-operation with the China Insurance Regulatory Commission. "We will monitor industries of high risk and heavy pollution or factories located in environmentally fragile areas," said Bie Tao from the department of policies, laws and regulations of SEPA. "Enterprises of hazardous chemical products will be obliged to buy insurance." [...]

Sacked Beijing vice mayor expelled from Party
2006-12-13 People's Daily Online
Beijing's former vice mayor Liu Zhihua, who was sacked in June for corruption, has been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC). Liu has also been dismissed from all administrative posts, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC announced Tuesday. Judicial departments will also launch criminal proceedings against Liu. "As a senior cadre, Liu completely ignored the Party spirit and caused a vile social and political impact and major economic losses through his wrongdoing, which must be seriously punished," the commission said. The investigation of Liu, conducted by the commission, found he had taken advantage of his posts as vice mayor and secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government to take several million yuan in bribes. The investigation also found that Liu's lifestyle was corrupt and depraved and he abused his power in order to contract projects for his mistress and sought large illegal profits. "Hard evidence has showed that Liu seriously violated the discipline of the CPC and the government, and issues such as bribery have violated the law," the commission said. The Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress published in a bulletin last Friday that Liu had been dismissed as deputy to the local legislature. Liu, 57, comes from Liaoning, northeast China. He joined the CPC in 1984. His former posts include head of the Beijing Municipal Labor Bureau, secretary of CPC Committee of Xicheng District in Beijing and the secretary-general of Beijing Municipal People's Government. He was elected vice mayor in 1999 that oversaw construction, real estate, sports and traffic projects in the capital. Liu is yet another high-ranking official who has fallen from grace in China's fight against corruption. The sacking of Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu in September for alleged involvement in a social security fund scandal, has become the country's highest-ranking official to fall in the latest anti-corruption campaign. Later, Qiu Xiaohua, former statistics chief, was removed from the National Bureau of Statistics for his suspected involvement in the 10 billion-yuan (1.25 billion U.S. dollars) Shanghai social security fund fraud. China has always taken a hard stand against corruption and allows no exception in punishing discovered corrupt officials, said Ouyang Song, deputy head of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. He said that China's anti-corruption drive has made some achievements during recent years, as the CPC treats corruption by looking into its root cause. [...]

China executes two former bank employees for fraud
2006-12-15 SCMP
Two ex-employees of China's third-largest bank have been put to death by lethal injection for defrauding customers of millions of dollars, state media reported on Friday. Zhou Limin, a former branch manager at the China Construction Bank in the northwest city of Xian, was executed Thursday with Liu Yibing, a woman who worked as an accountant in the same branch, the Beijing Morning Post said. The paper said that over a five-year period in the late 1990s, the duo stole over 400 million yuan (51 million dollars) from customers, offering bogus high-interest accounts, according to the report. It was the worst case of economic crime in the area in decades, the paper said. After the Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentences, the two were taken to a special mobile execution chamber for the lethal injections. The two had fled abroad but were later caught and extradited - Zhou from Hong Kong and Liu from Indonesia, the paper reported. China metes out the death penalty for an array of crimes, including non-violent ones, and executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined, making it a frequent target of foreign criticism.

Chinese vice-president calls for energetic organizational work of CPC
2006-12-13 People's Daily Online
Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong has urged the organizational departments of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at all levels to vitalize their work in a bid to open up a new prospect in Party building. It is important for creating a harmonious social environment for the Party's 17th National Congress which will be held in Beijing in the second half of 2007, Zeng said. Zeng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks at a national conference on the Party's organizational work which concluded here Wednesday. In his speech, Zeng analyzed the new situation and new tasks in the Party's building and organizational work. CPC committees at various levels must go all out to equip the masses of Party members and educate all Party officials with Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of "Three Represents," and the scientific concept of development, Zeng said. Zeng asked the Party's organizational departments to train officials on a large scale and improve the competence of Party officials.

Lawyers: more abuse of court process
2006-12-12 China Daily
Kunshan, Jiangsu - China should be vigilant about the growing abuse of process in court cases both at home and abroad, and actively look for judicial counter-measures, experts said yesterday. The abuse of process refers to one party in a civil case who, out of an illegal motive or purpose, makes use of the lawful right to bring a malicious case. Such cases are on the rise in and out of China, Gao Zongze, executive member of the board of China Law Society, said at the International Conference on Abuse of Process which opened yesterday in Kunshan, East China's Jiangsu Province. Abuse of the right of action, the right of withdrawing an action, malicious application for the maintenance of property, and action to deceit, are all considered as process abuses, according to experts. One case in point is the Foxconn lawsuit which occurred in early July, in which two reporters from the China Business News were sued for 30 million yuan (US$3.8 million) for libel. The plaintiff, the Hongfujin Precision Industry Co, petitioned for the preservation of property and the court in Shenzhen sealed the land, cars and savings of the defendants. The parties settled the case in September. Experts argued that in the case, not only was the wrong party sued, the amount claimed excessive, but also the preservation measures, which caused difficulties to the lives of the defendants, were beyond the purpose of the system of litigant preservation. Wu Zhaoxiang, a judge from the Supreme People's Court of China, and also a member of the 17 Chinese participants, said that with rapid economic growth and better protection of human rights, more Chinese have learnt how to protect their rights legally. But at the same time, abuse of process had become more prominent as well. "Such abuse wastes limited judicial resources and is also detrimental to the rights of the other party," he said. "It violates the principle that the court should protect legitimate rights of all." However, the abuse exists not only in domestic civil proceedings, but also in international civil proceedings. Some of these international cases are highly politically sensitive. A large number of cases have been filed in US courts against foreign governments and their officials for the political purpose of swaying public opinion rather than for actually obtaining redress, said Thomas Peele, senior partner of the US Baker and McKenzie law firm, one of the eight foreign experts at the meeting. He recalled a case in which a member of Falun Gong sued a Chinese government official in 2004. In the case, still pending in court, plaintiffs have indicated that they would not even pursue their claims for damages if the court would just issue a default declaratory judgment against the defendant for the alleged wrongs. [...] To cope with the growing abuse, experts suggested that China should take judicial counter-measures such as strengthening reviews for initiation proceedings and burden the party that abuses the process with litigation fees, attorney fees and other costs. "Such measures will better protect the rights of all parties instead of restraining them," Gao said. More international exchanges and co-operation are also needed for the development of a common standard for "the abuse of process", experts said.

Fees waived for 150 million rural kids
2006-12-13 China Daily
A total of 150 million rural students in China will be exempted from paying tuition and incidental fees for their nine-year compulsory education when the second phase of the programme is implemented in the spring semester of 2007, a senior official at the Ministry of Education said yesterday. The move is expected to cost 15 billion yuan (US$1.88 billion) per year, Wang Xuming, spokesman of the Ministry of Education, told China Daily. But children of migrant workers, who are from the rural areas and studying in the cities, are not included, Wang said. The exemption was announced by Premier Wen Jiabao in a speech in March 2005. It is part of a major move to relieve the financial burden of farmers and to develop a new countryside. Exemption of agricultural taxes across the country is also announced this year. Starting from next year, every primary school pupil in the rural areas will save 140 yuan (US$17.5) and every secondary school student 180 yuan (US$22.5). Students at boarding schools in poverty-stricken areas will be able to save as much as 550 yuan (US$68.8). "It may not be a big sum of money for an urban family, but it can be something important for a rural one, especially one in poverty-stricken areas" said Liu Shangxi, deputy director of the Financial Science Research Institution under the Ministry of Finance, which has allocated funds for the move. The average net income of rural residents was 2,936 yuan (US$367) in 2004, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. In the first phase of the programme, which started in the spring semester of 2006, more than 50 million rural students in China's western provinces were exempted from paying tuition and incidental fees, according to Wang. To implement the exemption decision, governments in the provinces involved have already drafted or published regulations concerning the issue, said a Xinhua News Agency report yesterday. [...] "Governments of different places have different policies - some may cover their fees and others may not," Wang told China Daily. There are more than 370,000 such children in Beijing, according to statistics from the Beijing municipal government. Nearly 40 per cent of them are not admitted by local public schools and have to study at schools set up by migrant workers, most of which are illegal. [...]

Court rejects lawsuit by victims of fatal antibiotic
2006-12-13 SCMP
A Shanghai court has rejected a lawsuit by 10 victims of a fatal antibiotic drug that resulted in at least 10 deaths across the nation. The victims - four of whom have already died and are represented by family members - filed a lawsuit in the Shanghai Pudong New District People's Court on November 4 against the drugmaker, Anhui Huayuan Worldbest Biopharmaceutical. The company had sold more than 3 million bottles of contaminated clindamycin phosphate glucose, marketed as Xinfu, in 26 provinces before a recall was ordered in August. Two related Shanghai-based companies, China Worldbest Group and the listed Shanghai Worldbest, were also named in the lawsuit. Parent company China Worldbest is a state-owned drug and textile conglomerate. The victims' lawyer, Chen Yongfei, said the court rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that Anhui Huayuan did not fall within Shanghai's jurisdiction, and that Shanghai Worldbest and China Worldbest did not directly produce the drug. But under legislation that came into effect in 2002, a company is considered a manufacturer if its logo appears on a product, Mr Chen said. "They [the court] do not have the right to make the decision at this initial [case-vetting] stage," he said, arguing that whether the two companies were manufacturers should be decided by a judge at a proper court hearing. The victims intend to appeal against the decision to a higher court in Shanghai.

60pc of Yellow River's water unfit to drink
2006-12-14 SCMP
The health of China's second-longest river is worsening, with 60 per cent of the Yellow River's water now unfit to drink. The rate of its deterioration is alarming, an expert said yesterday. Only 40 per cent of the 5,464km-long river can be categorised as level three in a five-level evaluation system for water quality, says an annual report by the Yellow River Water Resources Commission. "Level three means the water is tolerable for drinking, which means it's still safe to drink after certain treatment" said Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing. More than 36 per cent of the river was categorised as level five - the lowest grade - the report said. The river runs through nine northern provinces and provides water to 155 million people and 15 per cent of the country's farmland. Last year it had to absorb the discharge of 4.35 billion tonnes of waste water. Discharges, 70 per cent of them from factories, rose by 88 million tonnes year on year. "This is an alarmingly high rate of deterioration in water quality, and demands a high degree of attention from the central authorities," said Mr Ma, the country's top water expert. Apart from its worsening pollution, the Yellow River, known as the cradle of Chinese civilisation, is drying up despite efforts to conserve water use and increase its flow. Only 20.4 billion cubic metres of the river's water reached the sea last year, almost the same as the previous year, despite efforts to divert water into the Yellow River and higher water prices for consumers. Waste water containing dye from a paper plant in Lanzhou , Gansu province, turned part of the river red last month. Provincial authorities said on Tuesday the paper plant had been dumping 2,500 tonnes of waste water a day into the river.

Lack of support puts green GDP audit at risk
2006-12-11 SCMP
The compiler of the mainland's first "Green GDP" report said the lack of provincial support had compromised its data's integrity, underlining a major challenge facing China's attempts to clean up its environment. The working group for the pilot "Green GDP" audit research report also said the withdrawal of provincial and local governments from taking part in its research had made its work difficult. According to the Beijing News, on Saturday the group won a special prize at the "People of the Green China Year 2006" awards for finding that pollution had cost the mainland 3.05 per cent of its gross domestic product, or 511.8 billion yuan. This finding was announced in September at the end of a study by the State Environmental Pollution Administration (Sepa) and the National Bureau of Statistics. Hosted by the National People's Congress, the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee and other government bodies since last year, the awards are given to individuals or entities that have made significant contributions to environmental work on the mainland. "We are receiving this award with a rather heavy heart, because up till now `Green GDP' has still not garnered consensus from the various local governments," an unidentified spokesman said. "Just in the past two days, some of the provincial governments had pulled out from [our work]." Other members of the group, such as deputy director of Sepa, Pan Yue, were adamant that their "Green GDP" audit report could still be completed despite the lack of provincial support. "Even if there is only one province left, we are still going to complete the audit [for 2005]," he said. China - which is both the world's second biggest consumer of energy and emitter of greenhouse gases - is aiming to cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 per cent by 2010, and air pollution emissions by 10 per cent over the next five years. But with economic growth expected at below 10 per cent next year, even Premier Wen Jiabao has warned that this could thwart efforts to cut pollution. Officials' collusion with business stakeholders is also diluting the government's effort to achieve its green goal. Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told a reform conference on Saturday that the green goal was challenged by the fact that the secondary industry, which consumes more power and was therefore more polluting, was still growing faster than the tertiary sector.

Number of NGOs growing at steady 10pc a year
2006-12-11 SCMP
The number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in China has increased steadily over the past several years to nearly 320,000, Xinhua reported. The annual growth rate of "people's organisations" or mass organisations, the name often used by the Ministry of Civil Affairs to refer to NGOs, had reached around 10 per cent, it said. About 3 million people worked for NGOs, 0.2 per cent of the population, Dou Yupei, vice-minister of the ministry was quoted as saying. The ministry would launch a series of programmes aimed at implementing and enforcing regulations on NGOs' registration and administration, in order to set up a comprehensive system to manage the NGOs, Mr Dou said.

Crackdown proposed on smoking in public
2006-12-13 SCMP
The Ministry of Health plans to ban smoking in public areas, on public transport and at workplaces to bring the country in line with international practice. Ministry spokesman Mao Qunan said it was drafting changes to 1987 regulations to cover smoking. "The key is to protect people in public areas, public transport and indoor workplaces from coming into contact with tobacco smoke. And we will give priority to tobacco control measures in education, health and children's services to lower the risk of second-hand smoke," Mr Mao said in comments posted on the ministry's website. "It will provide policy support and create an environment for a non-smoking 2008 Olympics." The National People's Congress ratified the WHO's convention on tobacco control last year and it took effect on the mainland this year. The proposed law changes are part of the government's effort to meet the convention's requirements. The mainland is due to report to the World Health Organisation in 2008 on its commitments to the convention. Jiang Yuan, deputy head of the Ministry of Health's national tobacco control office, said the revisions were mainly designed to prevent second-hand smoke. "In terms of public transport, buses in Beijing, for example, have met the goal of becoming non-smoking areas, but the situation is serious in taxis," Ms Jiang said. She said authorities were still considering how to ban smoking in public areas such as hotels, restaurants and nightclubs, but there was the example of the Marriott hotel chain in Canada and the US, which had a blanket non-smoking policy. While the authorities said they were still working on the revision, both smokers and non-smokers doubted its feasibility. [...] The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration estimates that the mainland has more than 350 million smokers, about a third of the world's puffing population. Each year, about 1 million people die on the mainland from smoking-related diseases, and the figure is expected to reach 3 million by 2050.

Senior leader stresses legal awareness in W China
2006-12-13 Xinhuanet
Beijing: Senior Chinese leader has recently asked to further promote the campaign of "100 lectures by 100 law experts" in the country's vast western region next year. Luo Gan, member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, expressed his appreciation to the law experts who had participated in this year's campaign in an instruction letter. "The campaign has helped improve the legal awareness of the cadres and public in West China region and played an important role of reinforcing the concept of rule by law," Luo said. The campaign, aiming to spread the knowledge of laws, is put onstage in 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in West China. It's jointly held by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, CPC Central Committee for Political and Legislative Affairs, Ministry of Justice and China Law Society.

Harmony important to human rights
2006-12-11 China Daily
China is emphasizing "harmony" as an important concept for the development of human rights as it marks International Human Rights Day. In the past two years, China's top leaders have called for the building of a "harmonious society" at home, a "harmonious Asia" and a "harmonious world." Chinese human rights experts believe that peace and security are invariably interlinked with human rights, and the close relationship between a harmonious world and human rights can be a virtuous circle or a vicious spiral. As Dong Yunhu, vice-president and secretary-general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, puts it: "Harmony requires peace, security and a happy co-existence between different people, communities and nations" in the era of globalization. Social harmony relies on justice and the right to development because both poverty and injustice are the roots of disharmony in the world, Dong says. All disparities between nations, urban and rural areas, and the rich and the poor can be attributed to neglect or ignorance of human rights. The value of human rights is universal, but the dynamics of its implementation varies in different countries. "A country's human rights cause must be built upon the harmony of its internal social environment, whereas the universal realization of human rights is impossible without the harmonious co-existence of all nations with different cultural, political and religious beliefs," Dong says. Although the United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 40 years ago, Dong points out that uneven global development during the past 40 years has resulted in more uncertainties affecting world peace, development and harmony. Not all people, however, see eye to eye with Dong and other Chinese human rights experts. James Oliver Williams, a US professor of political science at the North Carolina State University believes that the concept of harmony reflects "different ideas of rights". For most western countries, he argues, the principles embodied in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are considered the minimum rights that all individuals desire and deserve, regardless of their different political, cultural and religious backgrounds. However, citing Asian values as contradictory to the western notion of universality, Williams says in Asian countries at large, "governments are keen to advocate cultural factors as playing a role in universal rights, acting on the principle that an individual's rights can conflict with the wider social harmony and stability". [...] But Dong disagrees. "If human rights were a vehicle, then political liberties and socio-economic development are like the two wheels. The vehicle will overturn if they are unbalanced. "A nation should not be engaged in the development of political power or liberties without considering its socio-economic development. If you go ahead, there will be social chaos and more human rights will be damaged as harmony is ruined," Dong says. "Human rights is abstract like the concept of fruit, which is a collective notion of an apple, pear or banana. But the United States just wants to push its ideal of human rights to the whole world as the standard of human rights fulfilment. It's like saying only a banana is a fruit, the apple and pear are not." [...] Government officials must know clearly that the power in their hands comes from the people, who are the main body of power. Therefore their duty is to safeguard the people's rights rather than take it as privilege and abuse that power. Whatever differences Dong and Williams hold, dialogue, however, is essential in mutual understanding about what human rights really means to different people. [...]

 

Taiwan

Taiwan leader's wife on graft trial
2006-12-15 China Daily
Taipei - The wife of Taiwan's embattled leader Chen Shui-bian has gone on trial accused of corruption and forgery in a landmark case that could end his leadership. Chen has promised to resign if his wife Wu Shu-chen is found guilty by the court in Taipei of illegally claiming 14.8 million Taiwan dollars (US$450,000) in personal expenses from government funds. Prosecutors indicted wheelchair-bound Wu, 54, and three aides last month, but Chen escaped immediate prosecution because of "presidential immunity." The corruption charge carries a minimum seven-year prison term and forgery at least one year. Chen has denied any wrongdoing and said the embezzlement allegations were unacceptable. Wu, the first wife of a Taiwanese leader ever to be prosecuted and in poor health, showed up at the tightly-guarded courthouse in front of a large crowd of reporters and cameramen. Her indictment sent political shockwaves throughout the island and prompted the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to suspend her membership for 18 months. Chen's DPP filed a petition Thursday with the "Council of Grand Justice" in a last-ditch bid to stop the trial going ahead, but it usually takes months for the body to make a decision.

 

Economy

Foreign banks' applications get nod
2006-12-11 China Daily
China's banking regulator will accept the application of eight foreign banks for local incorporation today, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said yesterday on its website. Following the issuance of the new Regulations on Administration of Foreign-funded Banks, HSBC, Citigroup, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of East Asia, Hang Seng Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank, DBS Bank and ABN AMRO have applied to turn their operations in China to locally registered corporations, CBRC said. The new rules, in line with China's commitment to the World Trade Organization, allow foreign-funded banks to deal in the renminbi retail business across the country from today. With a prudential supervision principle, the rules are encouraging foreign banks to incorporate locally when doing renminbi retail business. China encourages foreign banks to invest in regions where financial services are relatively weak, said CBRC officials. "The CBRC has adopted some preferential policies, encouraging foreign banking institutions to set up operations in the central, western and northeastern regions," said Deng Zhiyi, deputy director of the CBRC department that oversees State-owned commercial banks. "We may further adjust the policies, to expand into other regions with insufficient financial resources," Deng said on Friday. [...] Duan Jining, deputy director of the CBRC department that oversees foreign banks, said starting two years ago, the regulator gave priority in terms of approval to foreign banks applying to set up operations in the central, western and northeastern regions. Such a "green pass" is applicable in the Binhai New Area in Tianjin, North China, in line with the central government's decision to promote the area as a new engine of growth. There is also a preferential policy for the approval of a foreign bank's renminbi business operations in the above mentioned areas. The general requirement for foreign outlets to conduct renminbi business is that they have to be in operation for at least three years and have made profits in the past two consecutive years. "We look at the bank's overall performance in China, rather than the individual outlet in the city where it applies for," said Duan. It is believed that due to the relative underdevelopment of these regions, it is much more difficult for banks to turn a profit in a short period. The CBRC in recent months has organized study tours for foreign banks to the central, western and northeast cities like Wuhan, Xi'an, Chengdu and Shenyang. "Through the study tours, foreign banks found there were business opportunities in these less developed regions and showed their willingness to expand to these regions," said Duan.

Major deals signed on eve of key talks
2006-12-14 China Daily
US companies yesterday signed major deals with Chinese firms ahead of a high-level Sino-US strategic economic dialogue that starts today in Beijing. The agreements, ranging from high-tech products to retail, are expected to boost US exports to China, which grew 23 per cent year-on-year in the first 11 months. The deals were signed at a ceremony attended by US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. They include: US retailer Home Depot Inc will buy a chain of 12 Chinese home- improvement stores. The value of Atlanta-based company's purchase of The Home Way was not announced, but earlier reports put it at US$100 million. GE Aviation will provide engines and maintenance services worth US$550 million to Shanghai Airlines. The engines are for nine Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft ordered by the airline. The engines are valued at US$300 million and the additional follow-on service contract is worth US$250 million. Oshkosh Truck Corp will sell US-made airport rescue and firefighting equipment to Quzhou Airport in East China's Zhejiang Province. [...] VeriSign and China Netcom Group and the Ministry of Information and Industry will set up a system to help create domain names. [...] "Commercial engagement built on fair, effective rules is the foundation of the healthy, strong and continually growing trade relationship that we envision between China and the United States," Gutierrez said. Yi Xiaozhun, vice-minister of commerce, said: "The scope of Sino-US economic exchanges has expanded to every sector of the economy from only trade." For the United States, he added, China has become one of the fastest-growing export destinations and one of the largest destinations of foreign investment.

China Power to build 7b yuan hydro project
2006-12-15 SCMP
China Power Investment, the ultimate parent of Hong Kong-listed China Power International Development, has received approval to build a 7.39 billion yuan hydro project in Guangxi province as part of a plan to more than double hydro-power generation capacity by 2010. The company, one of the mainland's five state-owned power groups that together own about 35 per cent of the country's generation capacity, will build the project through its Guangxi Changzhou Hydropower Development unit. It will have generation capacity of 630 megawatts and can generate 3.09 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, according to a statement by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. The first generation unit will be come on stream next year and the entire project in 2009. China Power Investment president Wang Binghua told an industry conference last month that the group planned to raise its hydro-power capacity to 17,000MW by 2010 from 8,000MW last year. Hydros account for 25 per cent of the group's generation capacity. Listed China Power International has no hydro project. To curb soaring emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause acid rain, the central government has targeted to raise the contribution of clean or renewable energy to total energy consumption to 10 per cent by 2010 and 16 per cent by 2020, from 6 per cent this year. It also plans to require the five power groups to generate at least 5 per cent of its output from clean and renewable sources by 2010 and 10 per cent by 2020. The efficiency of hydro projects is highly dependent on the climate. Dry weather this year, especially in the water-rich southwestern region, saw average utilisation of hydros fall 5.2 per cent year on year to 2,665 hours in the first nine months of this year. This compares with a 4.43 per cent decline in the utilisation of all power plants in the same period. China has 401,790MW of economically exploitable hydro-power capacity, according to the China Society for Hydropower Engineering. The country's generation capacity is expected to increase to about 590,000MW by the end of the month, from 513,000MW at the end of last year - of which 22.8 per cent was hydro-power capacity.

Exporters face more technical barriers
2006-12-14 China Daily
Chinese exports will encounter increasing technical barriers among major trading partners like the United States and the European Union in the coming years because of strict new rules on energy use and chemical content in those markets, a top official warned. Although it is still too early to say what kind of impact such barriers would have on exports, they could be serious, said Li Changjiang, minister of the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ). The growing number of foreign regulations has caused Chinese exporters to suffer huge losses, and it is conceivable that such growth will continue in the future, Li said. Consumer goods generally have to conform to technical regulations and standards that set out specific characteristics for a product, such as its size, shape, design, function and performance. These rules can also cover labelling and packaging. Export products that fail to meet the standards in the markets they are destined for will be denied entry to those markets. Such regulations impose costs on manufacturers and exporters, which have to adjust their production facilities to comply with the requirements and pay for testing and certification to prove that their products meet the foreign regulations. Even translations and explanations of the regulations can raise costs. A Xinhua report said about 90 per cent of Chinese agriculture and food import and export enterprises are affected by foreign technical regulations, costing the country approximately US$9 billion every year. Official figures also show that the Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, which the European Union adopted on July 1, affected more than US$60 billion worth of electronic and electrical products exported from China. China received 895 notifications of similar technical barriers from WTO members last year, up 50 per cent from 2002. The number of notifications involving sanitary and phytosanitary measures reached 853, up 30 per cent over 2002. Phytosanitary refers to the health of plants and covers such issues as plant diseases and pests. The majority of these notifications came from China's major trade partners, such as the United States, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and Israel. GAQSIQ has taken steps to address trade issues involving automobile exhaust, food components, chemical residues and animal diseases. These areas will continue to be key issues for exporters in coming years. Li said most technical standards are adopted and applied in an effort to protect human safety or health, animal and plant health, and the environment. However, there is a risk that some countries could use technical regulations and standards to protect favoured domestic industries. Li said China would actively take on inappropriate regulations through the World Trade Organization's dispute-resolution mechanisms. [...]

China's GDP to grow by 10.5 percent this year
2006-12-11 People's Daily Online
China's gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to exceed 20 trillion yuan (about 2.56 trillion U.S. dollars) this year, up 10.5 percent over 2005, said Ma Kai, minister of the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC), in Beijing on Saturday. Addressing the national development and reform working conference, Ma said that the country's economy has been developing fast this year with good efficiency and low inflation. Stable economic operation has benefited the people and will power future development. He said that the Chinese people have benefited well from the steady and fast economic development. The SDRC projects that newly increased job opportunities could pass 10.5 million for the whole year, exceeding the 9 million planned figure at the beginning of the year. The per capita net income for farmers and urban residents is expected to grow by 6 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The consumer price index will rise by 1.3 percent. [...] However, he warned that the basis for economic development is not solid enough, the GDP growth rate is still too fast, and the cost is too much. "It's necessary to keep clear-headed," Ma said. Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2005 China's GDP hit 18 trillion yuan. The SDRC will continue to change the country's pattern of growth from pursuing scale and output to stressing quality and efficiency next year, by further reducing energy consumption and pollution, said Ma. China has planned to cut its energy consumption for unit GDP from 1.22 tons of coal last year to 0.98 by 2010. Meanwhile, Ma said the government will go on reining in fixed-asset investment and boosting consumption, which was also pledged at the 2006 Central Economic Work Conference. The conference delegates proposed to boost the income levels and consumption of rural people and the urban poor, calling for greater attention to creating employment opportunities. The allocation of public resources must bring people more direct benefits, and problems involving people's immediate interests must be carefully solved, said Ma. "We should promote social justice and stability by letting the people share the achievements of reforms," said Ma.

Bo warns of overseas investment risks
2006-12-12 China Daily
Chinese Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai yesterday urged Chinese enterprises to take precautions against economic, political and personal risks as they step up their investments in overseas markets. Noting that global conditions have grown more complicated in recent years, Bo said: "I expect them (Chinese enterprises) to avoid disorderly competition while studying the global marketplace to sharpen their competitive edge," he said. "In addition, they should pay attention to personal security problems," he said, referring to cases where Chinese people living and working overseas have been robbed or murdered. The minister said the Chinese Government will spare no effort to help Chinese enterprises invest safely abroad by facilitating agreements and working with local governments. "On the policy level, we should create a stable environment for Chinese investors to ensure their security and to support them in terms of taxation, financing and insurance," Bo said. He added that China's embassies in investment destination countries must provide information and ensure the personal safety of Chinese investors' staff. After years of growth, many Chinese enterprises have accumulated resources and expertise for overseas expansion in such areas as construction, telecommunications, tourism and commerce. This year, 19 Chinese enterprises made the top 500 for global multinationals, and 49 civil engineering firms made it to the list of the world's top 250 constructors. Significant strides have been made in China in the past 20 years in the areas of technology, human resources and equipment. Many Chinese enterprises are qualified to win more engineering projects abroad, he said. "I believe that in around 5 to 10 years we will see some symbolic landmarks built by Chinese contractors," Bo said. Up to now, China's overseas investment has remained small: China's total outbound investment only accounts for 1.57 per cent of overall global foreign direct investment. [...] Outbound investment is seen as an effective way to reduce the country's growing trade surplus, which has raised concern among China's major trade partners. According to figures from the General Administration of Customs, China's trade surplus hit US$22.9 billion last month, the second-largest ever for the country, boosting total surplus for the first 11 months to US$156.5 billion.

China leads Asia in outbound tourism
2006-12-14 China Daily
China is consolidating its status as Asia's largest outbound tourism market as 28.55 million people travelled abroad in the first 10 months of this year. The State Tourism Administration said on its website that the number is 10.8 per cent more than for the same period last year. Shao Qiwei, head of the administration, said it is a result of the tourism industry's opening up since China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. Mainland travellers can now visit 132 countries and regions, up from 18 in 2001, including the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions. In 2001, 12.13 million Chinese travelled overseas. Last year, the number soared to 31 million. In the past five years, China has overtaken Japan to become the largest source of outbound travellers in Asia. The administration, however, has not provided figures on the expenditure of Chinese outbound travellers. [...] China is also gaining appeal as a top tourist destination. Official statistics show that China received 46.8 million tourists last year, ranking fourth globally. The tourists spent a total of US$29.3 billion, placing China sixth globally. In the past five years, China has been fulfilling or has fulfilled, its tourism sector promises in accordance with WTO requirements. They include allowing foreign capital to open wholly-owned hotels and restaurants, allowing foreign capital to hold major shares in travel agencies, and open wholly-funded travel agencies. There are now 49 overseas hotel brands and 25 foreign-funded travel agencies in China. Foreign-funded travel agencies are allowed to run inbound tours, but are not permitted to organize outbound tours yet. Next year, China will allow foreign-funded travel agencies to set up branches and lower the registry capital demand for foreign travel agencies to the same level as domestic ones. The administration also mentioned on the website that China has a huge domestic travel market. At least 1.21 billion person-times of Chinese travelled within the country last year, an increase of 53 per cent over 2001.

 

North Korea

Pyongyang 'agrees to shut reactor'
2006-12-15 China Daily
Positive pronouncements attributed to Pyongyang and Washington have generated optimism just days before the resumption of the Six-Party Talks in Beijing. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has told the United States it is willing to shut down a key nuclear reactor and accept UN inspections if certain conditions are met, a news report from Washington said yesterday. The DPRK said it could close the five-megawatt reactor in its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon and accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Republic of Korea (ROK) newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported from the US capital, citing an unidentified State Department official. The conditions include Pyongyang's long-standing call for Washington to lift financial restrictions for its alleged currency counterfeiting and money laundering and a demand for energy aid, the newspaper said. Meanwhile, Yonhap news agency reported that the United States has said it is willing to give written security guarantees to the DPRK if it agrees to take initial steps towards denuclearization. Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, the ROK agency said the United States conveyed its stance to the DPRK last month when diplomats of the two sides met in Beijing, adding that the security guarantees would be signed by the top US leadership, including President George W. Bush. In Washington, US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said he did not "want to get into specific things that we'll be proposing," when asked if the DPRK should shut down its nuclear reactor as a token of good faith. He said Washington will discuss easing restrictions on financial sanctions on the DPRK when the two countries meet in the talks set to resume on Monday. China's Foreign Ministry yesterday called on all parties to show "cool-headedness and patience" in the upcoming talks.

Six-party talks on Korean nuclear issue to resume from Dec. 18
2006-12-11 People's Daily Online
The six-party talks on the Korean peninsular nuclear issue will be resumed in Beijing on Dec.18, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman announced on Monday. "As a result of the consultations of the parties concerned, the second phase of the fifth round of the six-party talks on the Korean peninsular nuclear issue will be resumed in Beijing on Dec.18," spokesman Qin Gang said. This will be the first talks since the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted an underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, triggering protests from the international community and complicating the Korean nuclear issue. "At this discussion, we expect that the parties will discuss ways to implement the September 2005 joint statement," the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said. Launched in 2003, the six-party talks, involving China, the DPRK, the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and Japan, are aimed at finding a solution to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. However, the talks have been stalled since last November as the DPRK refused to return to the talks because of U.S. sanctions against it. Over the past 13 months, the parties concerned have been engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activities to restart the talks. In late November, chief negotiators of the DPRK, the United States, the ROK and Japan came to Beijing, aiming at laying the groundwork for the resumption of the talks.

 

Mongolia

Japanese buy Gobi cashmere
2006-12-14 Mongol Messenger
The international open tender to privatise Gobi Cashmere Company, the biggest national cashmere producer of Mongolia, was won by a consortium of Japanese 'Toshisooken Invest Bank' and 'HS Securities' LLC. Two tenderers submitted proposals to privatise the state-owned 73.47 percent or 5730198 shares were unsealed on December 7, the consortium offered $13,850,000, which was higher by over $300,000 than its only competitor 'BIJ' consortium /$13,500,080/ and it has had a right to get the company.

State visit to Russia
2006-12-14 Mongol Messenger
President N. Enkhbayar visited Russia December 2-9, first visiting the Buryat capital of Ulan-Ude, then Novosibirsk, Elista (Kalmykia) before arriving in Moscow. On December 8, Enkhbayar met State Duma chairman Boris Gryzlov and a business meeting was held at the President Hotel. After the Mongolians laid a wreath at the monument to the Unknown Soldier, the president went to the Kremlin, where he met President Putin one-on-one before being joined by their delegations. On the agenda were trade, economic and investment cooperation. In 2005, bilateral trade turnover totalled $466 million, with a 70 percent increase in the last five years. Noting that Mongolian exports to Russia have risen 80 percent, while Russian exports to Mongolia have risen 8 percent, Putin called for measures to correct this trade imbalance. Talks concluded with the signing of the Moscow Declaration and an agreement on common border procedures. The presidents witnessed the signing of agreements on deeper cooperation in trade and economic relations, transport, humanitarian measures and information.

Democratic movement turns 17
2006-12-14 Mongol Messenger
December 6 was the 17th anniversary of Mongolia's democratic movement and the sixth anniversary of the Democratic Party, when in 2000, five parties merged. The DP issued a statement that read, "The democratic movement 17 years ago was Mongolia's second revolution for independence, working towards peaceful development."

 

Chung Vay-Luy
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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