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
  13.10-19.10.07, No. 187  
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Table of contents

Beijing Olympics

North Korea- Six-Party Talks

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Foreign Policy

Human rights meeting with Germany scrapped (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Beijing has cancelled an annual German-China human rights meeting scheduled for December, a spokeswoman for Germany's foreign ministry said. She would not comment on a report in Der Spiegel magazine that said the meeting had been scrapped in retaliation for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's September meeting with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The spokeswoman said the two-day meetings had taken place annually for the past decade. Germany's human rights commissioner has traditionally led the delegation. Der Spiegel said in an advance text of an article to appear today that the Chinese government cancelled the talks on Thursday due to Dr Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama three weeks ago. (…). ^ top ^

Ministry denies talks with India, Russia aimed at countering US (SCMP)
2007-10-19
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will meet his counterparts from Russia and India next week to discuss ways to boost economic and political co-operation. The meeting on Wednesday in Harbin will be the third of its kind, fuelling speculation that the consultations are aimed at forming an alliance to counter the influence of the United States in the region. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said yesterday international and regional issues would be discussed, but stressed the talks were "not targeted against any third party". The countries have in the past vehemently denied that they were forming a coalition against US dominance. Energy security figured prominently at talks in February and in June 2005, with the mainland and India eyeing Russia's rich oil and gas reserves. ^ top ^

China halts rail freight to N Korea (FT)
2007-10-18
China suspended key rail freight services into North Korea last week after 1,800 wagons carrying food aid and tradeable goods crossed into Kim Jong-il's hermit state but were never returned. Absconding with Chinese wagons would be a strange move for North Korea because Beijing is Pyongyang's closest political ally and biggest provider of food, goods and oil. Analysts monitoring North Korea said Chinese officials had privately complained to them that the North Koreans were dismantling Chinese wagons and selling them back as scrap metal. The Chinese railway ministry suspended a number of rail freight services into North Korea on October 11, humanitarian agencies operating in North Korea told the Financial Times. The ministry told international aid agencies that it would not send any more wagons into North Korea until Pyongyang returned the 1,800 Chinese wagons. (...) North Korea has a history of not returning vehicles. In 1998, the late Chung Ju-yung, founder of South Korea's Hyundai Group, donated 1,001 cows to North Korea to make amends for stealing a cow as he escaped from the north as a boy. Pyongyang said the cows should be transported on Hyundai trucks. The trucks were never seen again. ^ top ^

US foreign affairs panel calls Yahoo in over journalist's case (SCMP)
2007-10-18
A US congressional panel has summoned top Yahoo officials to a hearing after accusing the internet giant of providing false information about a case in which a journalist was jailed on the mainland. On Tuesday, Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs, asked the company's chief executive officer, Jerry Yang, and its senior vice-president and general counsel, Michael Callahan, to appear at the hearing on November 6 to discuss the circumstances under which mainland journalist Shi Tao was jailed after Yahoo provided user information to the mainland authorities. Shi was convicted in 2005 of divulging state secrets after he posted a central government order forbidding media organizations from marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising on the internet. Shi he was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Yahoo defended its action on the grounds that it had to comply with mainland laws. During a hearing in February last year Yahoo claimed it "knew nothing" about the nature of the investigations into Shi's case. ^ top ^

Telecoms chief rejects cyber-attack claims (SCMP)
2007-10-19
A senior telecommunications official said that computer hackers - not their home countries - should be blamed for rampant cyber-attacks around the globe, and that the mainland's internet security has also been undermined by internet espionage. Information Industry Vice-Minister Lou Qinjian said yesterday on the sidelines of the 17th party congress that the government was paying close attention to its internet security and stood firm along with other countries against all internet crimes. […] Meanwhile, a top intellectual property official criticised the US for lodging a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over Beijing's inability to curb infringements and counterfeiting. "The American government has embarked on a wrong journey to make it a political issue," said Tian Lipu. ^ top ^

Vatican urged to move on ties with mainland, cut Taipei links (SCMP)
2007-10-18
Ye Xiaowen , director-general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, yesterday urged the Vatican to move ahead and make concessions to establish diplomatic ties with China. He prodded the Vatican to cut ties with Taiwan and to promise not to interfere in China's internal affairs in the name of religion - a reference to the power to name bishops on the mainland. "There comes a separating river when the two sides approach nearer to each other. Then you should build a bridge or find a boat to cross," Mr Ye said of the efforts by both Beijing and the Vatican to narrow their differences on the normalisation of ties. ^ top ^

 

17th Party Congress

Speech highlights (SCMP)
2007-10-16
On China's economy: "Our economic growth is realised at an excessively high cost in resources and the environment. There remains an imbalance in development between urban and rural areas, among regions and between the economy and society." "We will quadruple the 2000 per capita GDP by 2020 through optimising the economic structure and improving economic returns while reducing consumption of resources and protecting the environment." "We will improve the structure of the capital market and raise the proportion of direct financing through multiple channels." "We will improve the RMB (yuan) exchange rate regime and gradually make the RMB convertible under capital accounts." On political reform: "As an important part of overall reform, political restructuring must be constantly deepened along with economic and social development." "In deepening political restructuring, we must keep to the correct political orientation ... We must uphold the party's role at the core of the leadership." "We will expand intra-party democracy to develop people's democracy." On corruption: "A small number of party cadres are not honest and upright ... Extravagance, waste, corruption and other undesirable behaviour are still serious problems." "Resolutely punishing and effectively preventing corruption has a bearing on popular support for the party and on its very survival, and is therefore a major political task the party must tend to at all times." "We will focus on tightening oversight over leading cadres ... [concerning] the management of personnel, financial and material resources. We will improve the systems of inquiries, accountability, economic responsibility auditing, resignations and sacking." On military development: "China follows a national defence policy that is defensive in nature, and it does not engage in an arms race or pose a military threat to any other country." On the environment: "We will increase spending on energy and environmental conservation, with the focus on intensifying prevention and control of water, air and soil pollution and improving the living environment for urban and rural residents." "We will enhance our capacity to respond to climate change and make new contributions to protecting the global climate." "The discharge of major pollutants will be brought under effective control and ... environmental quality will improve notably." On social welfare: "We will build a sound social security system ... with basic pension, basic medical care and subsistence allowance as its backbone and supplemented by charity and commercial insurance." On foreign policy: "China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development. This is a strategic choice the Chinese government and people have made in light of the development tendencies of the times and their own fundamental interests." "The country will commit itself to a win-win strategy in its opening-up policy." On Taiwan, HK and Macau affairs: "The `one country, two systems' principle is totally correct and full of vigour, and peaceful reunification in accordance with this principle is in the best interests of the Chinese nation." "We will resolutely adhere to the principles of `one country, two systems', `Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and `Macau people ruling Macau', and will strictly follow the Basic Laws for both regions." "We support Hong Kong and Macau in their work with other countries but oppose external interference in their affairs." "We sincerely call for negotiations to officially end hostility across the Taiwan Strait and to reach a peace deal in accordance with the one-China principle." "Any issue in regard to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be decided by all Chinese people, including those living in Taiwan." On education and employment: "We maintain that education is part of social welfare and will make more public funding available, while regulating school fees and giving support to the development of education in poor areas and regions with a high concentration of ethnic minority people." "Job-related training schemes should be fine-tuned to serve all people of working age, and training for [any] redundant rural population should also been strengthened to help them find new jobs." On development: "The scientific outlook on development is based on the fact that our country is still in the primary phase of socialism in combination with what the country has achieved and what we have learned from other countries.". ^ top ^

Delegates not clear on how they came to represent party masses (SCMP)
2007-10-16
Many delegates to the congress are confused by or reluctant to talk about how they rose from the grass roots to represent the 70 million-plus party members nationwide. Several state media reporters said they had received instructions prohibiting them from asking delegates about election details because many had little idea about how they had become representatives. In the run-up to the congress, the party highlighted its drive towards broader internal party democracy, using its publicity arms to celebrate its higher representation of grass-roots members, its "fair and strict" election process and its delegates' improved capacity to discuss - and participate in - political affairs. Hubei delegate and world badminton champion Gao Ling said she was very surprised to have become a delegate. "I joined the party in 2001 and I don't have much experience. So I guess it is because of my achievements in sport that I was chosen as a party delegate. "I didn't take part in any election campaign. I have no idea how delegates are elected or how many candidates compete for a seat. I was told by [the Hubei party organisation] that I had become a party delegate. They told me I had won by a large margin. "That shows the provincial party's concern for my political career." Henan delegate Wang Shengying , a primary school teacher, seemed frightened by questions about her election. After taking a deep breath, she said: "I'm not quite clear. It must be the result of multilevel elections by the ordinary people and cadres. I know that there were 11 more candidates than delegate positions in our province." Hubei delegate Bai Shuitian avoided the question of how he was elected. Instead, he said: "I joined the party in 1936 and experienced the Long March. I was a Red Army soldier. My nomination shows the party and people care about me." Finance sector delegate Xiaba Luosang, of the Agricultural Bank of China (SEHK: 3988)'s operation in Tibet , said he knew how he became a delegate. "Our bank recommended six candidates, out of which five were successfully elected," he said. ^ top ^

Four new faces possible as Zeng to quit: sources - Vice-president said to be leaving Politburo (SCMP)
2007-10-19
Vice-President Zeng Qinghong will retire from the Communist Party's top echelon of power at the 17th party congress, a Japanese news agency reported yesterday. The names of Mr Zeng and fellow Politburo Standing Committee members Wu Guanzheng and Luo Gan do not appear on the list of candidates to be elected to the party's new Central Committee during the congress, Kyodo reported, citing "sources close to the matter". The retirement from the Central Committee of Mr Zeng, 68, one of the most powerful politicians in China for the past decade, means he is also giving up his seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top decision-making body, and will step down as vice-president at the National People's Congress in March. The departure of the trio means there will be four new faces on the Standing Committee if it remains nine-strong, as it was until the death of Huang Ju in June. Mr Wu, 69, and Mr Luo, 72, have been expected to stand down because they have reached retirement age. (…). ^ top ^

Wang Min tipped to get commerce portfolio (SCMP)
2007-10-19
Jilin party chief Wang Min is strongly tipped to succeed Bo Xilai as minister of commerce under sweeping changes to the leadership team responsible for managing the mainland's international trade and economic relations. The reshuffle would see Mr Bo admitted to the Politburo, although it remains to be seen whether he would be confirmed as the new party boss of Chongqing municipality , sources said. Vice-Premier Wu Yi will leave her post as trade policymaker and chief troubleshooter to become a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress, while Vice-Minister of Commerce Ma Xiuhong will become ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, according to the sources. Mr Wang's elevation to the position of trade minister marks a swift ascent for the former engineering professor, who took up the reins as party secretary of the northeastern province of Jilin only last year. The Anhui native, 57, is best remembered for his 10-year stint in Jiangsu province , where he first served as provincial vice-governor and then as party boss of Suzhou, as well as being deputy president of Nanjing Aeronautics and Astronautics University. "Wang Min is currently party secretary in one of the more backward provinces, but he has considerable international experience from his period as deputy governor of Jiangsu province, where he was highly regarded," said Shi Yinhong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. "He is very smart." Under Mr Wang, Suzhou overtook Shanghai as the mainland's top place for foreign direct investment, attracting US$4.8 billion in 2003. "He did an excellent job as party secretary in Suzhou," said Zhao Xijun , a professor of finance at Renmin University. Although Mr Wang's name has not previously been linked with the top post at the Ministry of Commerce, his experience in dealing with foreign investors and promoting foreign trade make him a natural choice for the minister's position. "Wang Min's experience of working in Jiangsu, one of the most economically advanced and open provinces, would be a key reason for this promotion," Professor Shi said. As minister of commerce, Mr Wang would be responsible for upholding the mainland's trading interests and ensuring that the country meets its WTO obligations. The world's second largest exporter, China is expected to pip Germany for the top spot next year. Mr Wang will have a difficult task taking over from Bo Xilai, who managed to combine an urbane persona with a reputation for being a tough negotiator in international trade talks - something to which EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, in particular, can testify. Wu Yi's departure from frontline politics to semi-retirement will also be a considerable loss to the administration of President and party General Secretary Hu Jintao. ^ top ^

Jin 'disqualified from congress' (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Former finance minister Jin Renqing is believed to have been disqualified from the Communist Party's week-long 17th national congress starting today for "serious disciplinary violations". Congress spokesman Li Dongsheng was quoted by Xinhua as saying that one delegate was disqualified, but he did not give any name. However, recent media reports have quoted sources as saying Mr Jin, who is a party Central Committee member, was absent from last week's meeting of the 350-odd members of the committee - its last plenary session to finalize important issues such as the new leadership lineup and key policies to be tabled to party delegates at the congress. The unusual absence follows Mr Jin's recent abrupt replacement and transfer to the Development Research Centre, a State Council think-tank, after a sex scandal snowballed to implicate several senior mainland officials. Reasons have not be given for his transfer, but sources suggested there has been intense speculation about the minister's career after the mainland leadership said it was stepping up an investigation into a corruption case involving Du Shicheng , who was the former party secretary of Qingdao . (…). ^ top ^

More than 1,900 journalists cover China's party congress (People's Daily)
2007-10-14
A spokesman for the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said here Sunday that more than 1,900 journalists have registered for covering the five-yearly event.
A total of 807 domestic journalists and 1,135 journalists from 55 other countries and regions are reporting the congress, which is regarded as the most important political event in China this year, Li said. The congress is scheduled to open on Oct. 15 and will last a week.

Tighter security after pledge of openness - Police presence stepped up on Beijing streets (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Beijing has stepped up security ahead of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress, which opens this morning at the Great Hall of the People, despite its pledges to make the five-yearly conclave more transparent. Security was further tightened yesterday as more than 2,000 delegates, including about 300 members of the ruling elite, held their last preparatory meeting for the congress, with uniformed and plain-clothes police, and police cars and vans seen everywhere around the city centre and along all main roads. Nevertheless, Li Dongsheng, a congress spokesman best known for his role in the crackdown on mainland media to silence dissent ahead of the meeting, unveiled a series of arrangements for overseas media, including interview access to the otherwise secretive closed-door discussions. Mr Li, deputy director of the Communist Party's propaganda department, told a press conference the 17th congress would see unprecedented openness, with regular briefings and more delegates available to take interviews. (…) Of the 38 delegations of party representatives, journalists would have access to 34 groups "during their group discussions at the fixed time" and be allowed to raise questions, he said. (…). ^ top ^

Zeng could retain his top party post - Surprise Congress secretariat lineup (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Vice-President Zeng Qinghong may retain his membership of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, adding a new twist to the intrigue-ridden 17th National Congress which opens today in Beijing. Mr Zeng was elected secretary general of the congress' secretariat by more than 2,200 delegates at a preparatory meeting yesterday afternoon, congress spokesman Li Dongsheng said. The fate of Mr Zeng, ranked fifth in the party hierarchy but arguably the second most powerful man in the elite group after Hu Jintao, the president and party general secretary, has been the talk of the town in the past few weeks. The latest rumour was that the 68-year-old offered to step down to make way for new blood in the party under the condition that his departure would see two allies elevated to the Standing Committee. At the three previous party congresses, dating to 1992, all secretaries general were later elected to the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top decision-making agency. President Hu was secretary general for the 15th and 16th party congresses (…). ^ top ^

New China hierarchy may limit president's power (IHT)
2007-10-14
After intensive bargaining, the Communist Party has approved a new leadership lineup that denies President Hu Jintao the decisive consolidation of power that his supporters hoped would allow him to govern more assertively in his final five-year term as China's top leader. Before the party congress, which begins Monday and is held every five years, the Central Committee has agreed to elevate four senior officials to the Politburo Standing Committee, but only one, Li Keqiang, the party secretary of Liaoning Province, clearly traces his rise in the hierarchy to Hu's patronage, people told about the results of a Central Committee meeting said Friday. Xi Jinping, the party boss of Shanghai, will also join the Standing Committee. He will outrank Li and become the most likely successor to Hu as party chief, head of state and top military official in 2012, the people said. […] Two other new members of the Standing Committee, He Guoqiang, a party organization official, and Zhou Yongkang, China's top law enforcement officer, are widely viewed as close allies of Vice President Zeng Qinghong, who will step down from the Standing Committee. Personnel shifts in the party are decided in secret, and the final leadership lineup will not be made public until the conclusion of the party congress. In the past, top leaders have continued to bargain and make changes in the hierarchy even after the Central Committee approves a slate of candidates. On Friday, the committee issued a public statement that offered no information about personnel decisions, but conferred lavish praise on Hu. Under Hu, the party "vanquished all kinds of hardship and dangers and advanced the work of the party and government to achieve major new successes," the statement said. Among these successes, it continued, were raising living standards, improving defense forces, and managing relations with Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as sovereign territory. The committee also said the party would amend its constitution. This suggests that Hu's concept of "scientific development," a catchphrase for his policies to promote more balanced, equitable and sustainable development, will be enshrined in the Constitution alongside the political slogans of Mao, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang. Even so, the coming party congress seems likely to underscore the collective nature of decision making in the ruling party, as well as Hu's clout. Hu will still have to work to build a consensus among the nine members of the Standing Committee, a majority of whom owe their rise more to the support of Jiang or Zeng than to Hu. ^ top ^

China rules out West's democracy (BBC News)
2007-10-15
China will never have Western-style democracy, a senior official said as the country began its most important political meeting in five years. But Li Dongsheng, spokesman for the Communist Party's 17th congress, said China would pursue political reform. Chinese leader Hu Jintao addressed more than 2,200 delegates as the congress opened in the capital on Monday. […] As well as discussing future policies, congress delegates will hear a report from President Hu, who is also the party's general secretary. They will also amend the party's constitution to reflect what Mr Li [ Li Dongsheng – Communist Party Spokesman] described as "theoretical innovations". That probably means President Hu's ideas about "scientific development" will be written into the constitution. […] At the press conference, Mr Li revealed that ex-President Jiang, as well as two former premiers, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji, will attend the congress as special delegates. […] The delegates' main task will be to select the party central committee, which will then in turn select members of the politburo, the country's highest decision-making body. […] Li Keqiang, the current chief of Liaoning Province, and Shanghai boss Xi Jinping have both been tipped to join the standing committee. […] The congress' spokesman, Li Dongsheng, dismissed discontent about problems such as pollution and the illegal taking of farmers' land. […]. ^ top ^

'Petitioners' village' razed (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Amid vows to create a "harmonious society", authorities have razed a ramshackle district in Beijing where thousands once lived while seeking to petition the government over growing injustices. More than 50 police vehicles from all parts of the mainland were parked along alleys into the district, known as "petitioners' village", as uniformed officers checked identification and refused entry to the area's main street at the weekend. Police were seen rounding up petitioners in buildings that were eerily empty and lacking the usual bustle of mostly rural and poor people exchanging stories of rights abuses and government indifference. "They have been slowly demolishing the village for several weeks now, but they had to finish tearing it down before the Communist Party congress opens," said a local shop owner who identified himself as Bao. "What the authorities are saying is that these people are troublemakers because they are bringing petitions to the government and that petitioning is not a harmonious activity." The closure of the village comes after more than 12,000 petitioners signed a daring open letter to the government last week, demanding leaders address their grievances and end persecution against them. The letter also demanded an end to the destruction of the village, which is located near central government petition offices and once had a population of up to 4,000 transient petitioners, staying in crowded and dirty rooms. "Police are rounding up petitioners and taking them away. I don't dare go back there," said Liu Xueli , an organiser of the signature campaign who was in hiding. "The police have name lists from each province and are looking for the petitioners who have repeatedly come to Beijing or who signed the open letter." He was unsure how many of the 12,000 people who put their names on the letter had been rounded up, but many of them signed up while they were staying at the village. According to a recent survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 71 per cent of petitioners surveyed said they had been harassed and intimidated by authorities while trying to seek justice through the petition the system. A further 64 per cent said they had been detained by police while trying to petition. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

«Nous ne pouvons plus sortir de chez nous, ni aller aux toilettes» (Le Temps)
2007-10-13
Le congrès du Parti communiste chinois s'accompagne d'une violente répression contre des avocats des droits de l'homme, des pétitionnaires et des pasteurs à moins d'un an des Jeux. Soucieux d'«harmonie sociale», Hu Jintao, le chef du Parti communiste chinois, a expliqué dans son rapport aux camarades réunis en congrès depuis lundi sa recette pour une «démocratie» appliquée aux «échelons de base»: «En vue d'accroître l'autonomie de la société, il faudra mettre pleinement en jeu l'initiative des groupements sociaux aussi bien dans l'élargissement de la participation des masses populaires à la gestion que dans l'expression de leurs revendications.» Un signe d'ouverture envers la société civile? Hors des murs du Palais du peuple, le quadrillage policier de la capitale chinoise n'a pourtant jamais été aussi fort de mémoire de Pékinois. A l'armée, la police et la police armée, s'ajoutent 800'000 retraités «volontaires» pour surveiller jusqu'à la dernière impasse de la ville afin d'éviter toute surprise. Les arrestations et mises en résidence surveillée d'avocats, d'activistes des droits de l'homme ou de toute forme de dissidence se sont multipliées. Pour les victimes, il s'agit de la répression la plus systématique depuis des années. (...). ^ top ^

Newspaper ordered to sack reporter over rail scandal - Journalist punished for articles on inferior materials (SCMP)
2007-10-15
Propaganda authorities have punished a reporter who tried to raise the alarm over the alleged use of low-quality materials in construction of China's first high-speed railway. The crackdown comes amid efforts to create a harmonious media atmosphere ahead of the Communist Party's 17th National Congress. […] The newspaper was required to "reinforce the education of Marxist ideology to its journalists and enhance its political awareness to avoid such cases in the future". The reporter's punishment follows that of Beijing TV reporter Zi Beijia , who reported a bogus story on steamed pork buns made with cardboard. Zi was later sentenced to one year in prison. Since Zi's case, the media has been reeling under a wave of attacks from the authorities under the guise of cracking down on fake news. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing backs media listings (FT)
2007-10-18
China has fully opened the way for local newspapers, publishing groups and even government and Communist party news websites to issue shares on domestic and overseas exchanges, according to the industry's top regulator. In an interview with the FT, Liu Binjie, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said Beijing was backing listings by a raft of publishers and newspapers as part of its broad reform of the industry. Mr Liu's remarks strongly suggest renewed enthusiasm among Beijing leaders for more rapid commercialisation of the media, following heated internal debate in recent years about how much to open it to private and foreign investment. A long-planned pioneering listing of Liaoning Publishing Group, one of China's largest, is now expected to go ahead within two months. Mr Liu said the publisher would now list all its operations – instead of merely some operations – but soaring local stock prices had prompted it to issue its shares domestically rather than in Hong Kong as originally planned. (…) China has long been keen to commercialise its news media and publishing sectors to transform them from a fiscal burden into a source of economic growth. However, industry observers say the pace of liberalisation slowed markedly in the past few years amid concerns among senior officials about the political risk of easing controls over sectors considered a bulwark of Communist party rule. (…). ^ top ^

Human rights on Sino-EU agenda (SCMP)
2007-10-19
A Sino-European human rights dialogue has been held in Beijing, just a few days after China cancelled its annual human rights meeting with Germany in retaliation against Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama. The 24th round of talks was part of the ongoing dialogue between Beijing and the EU countries that dates to 1997. It is seen as the main platform on which China is willing to discuss various human rights issues, especially as Sino-US dialogue on this front remains deadlocked. (…). ^ top ^

Property tax may go into effect next year (China Daily)
2007-10-15
China is expected to levy a property tax in 10 regions on a trial basis next year, the China Securities Journal reported today quoting what it said was a well-informed source. The State Administration of Taxation has picked 10 provinces and cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen, Dalian, Jiangsu and Chongqing, to levy "virtual property taxes" this year, which means no money will actually be collected. Starting next year, property owners in 10 cities may have to start paying the tax for real. An official with the State Administration of Taxation said on Friday that it is preparing for the introduction of the tax. He said research is needed before enacting the new policy because large gaps exist between regional economies and the management of properties is complicated. "Property tax is an inner stabilizer of real estate market," said Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute China Reform Foundation. "The tax can reduce (the number of) idle properties and will be a stable income resource for the government," Fan said. China has imposed a variety of property taxes on developers, such as a land value-added tax, land-use tax and land-transfer fees. Developers pass on these costs when they sell properties. The proposed property tax is expected to convert this tax levy into annualized tax, which will ideally slash housing prices. Housing prices in 70 major cities in China jumped an average of 8.2 percent in August from a year earlier. ^ top ^

Communist ministers qualified for cabinet posts (Xinhua)
2007-10-17
A senior Party official said Wednesday that Wan Gang and Chen Zhu, both non-communist experts, are qualified for their cabinet posts. Ouyang Song, vice head of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Organization Department, said at a press briefing that to recruit non-communist experts for posts at the cabinet level is an important decision the CPC central leadership has made. Wan, an auto technologist who had worked for Audi for a decade, was appointed earlier this year minister of science and technology. The world-recognized hematologist Chen Zhu was named health minister. Both are from the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body. "Wan and Chen have both solid academic backgrounds, leadership capability and good working style," Ouyang said. "Our Party will continue choosing more qualified experts from outside the CPC to work for the government with their expertise," he said. ^ top ^

Nuclear power is the 'way forward' (China Daily)
2007-10-16
The growth of nuclear power in China and India over the next two decades will outpace other countries, a senior International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official said Monday. "China has developed quite fast in the nuclear power industry in the past 20 years," said Yury Sokolov, IAEA's deputy director-general and head of the department of nuclear energy. "In China, in India, you have very definite plans for increasing the nuclear capacity six to 10 times for 20 years, this is really fast growth. "The growth of the world is not so fast." Sokolov said he remained positive about the future of nuclear power. "Now nuclear power exists in 30 countries," he said. "And 30 to 40 other countries have expressed their willingness to explore nuclear power." He made the remarks on the sidelines of an IAEA symposium on nuclear power plant management, which opened on Monday. China started nuclear power operations in 1991, when Qinshan-I, a 300-megawatt (MW) presurized-water reactor unit, independently developed by China, plugged into the grid. China has fast-tracked development of nuclear power in recent years with a target to take its nuclear power capacity from about 9,000 MW in 2007 to 40,000 MW by 2020, according to China's long-term development plan for the nuclear power industry. The Indian Department of Atomic Energy also had plans to increase the country's installed nuclear power capacity, expected to reach 20,000 MW by 2020. Some Chinese experts said nuclear power was the best choice for China to satisfy its thirst for clean power amid pressure to sustain economic growth. "The needs for energy consumption as well as for environmental protection are both pressed," Zheng Mingguan, vice-president of Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute, said. "Nuclear power is the most suitable choice to meet both needs." Sun Libin, a scholar with the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology of Tsinghua University, said: "Other forms of new energy, such as wind power and solar power, carry energy density much lower than nuclear power, and are unable to meet the tremendous power demand in China". ^ top ^

Official denies 'disaster' caused by gigantic dam (China Daily)
2007-10-15
The Three Gorges project has not deteriorated environment in Chongqing, a sprawling metropolis next to the project, Mayor Wang Hongju said Monday. Water in the Chongqing section of the Yangtze River is clean and drinkable, "and the water quality is the best in Chinese cities at current," Wang, who is also a delegate to the ongoing 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said on the sidelines of the congress. The city also enjoys good air. It recorded 200 days with good air quality last year and may have more than 300 days this year, according to Wang. The saying that the Three Gorges project has caused environmental disasters could not stand scrutiny, Wang added. The Three Gorges dam has served as a barrier against seasonal floods threatening the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the electricity generated by hydropower each year leads to a decrease of 100 million tons of carbon emissions. Hu Jintao said Monday at the opening of the CPC congress that China's economic growth is realized at an excessively high cost of resources and the environment, before listing other difficulties and problems that hinder China's development. China will promote conservation culture while moving to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, said Hu while delivering a keynote political report. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

China offers Taiwan peace pact talks (SCMP)
2007-10-15
President Hu Jintao offered on Monday to enter into negotiations with Taiwan to reach a peace agreement in an overture to the self-ruled island which China claims as its own. Addressing the opening of the Communist Party's 17th Congress, President Hu warned the democratic island against formally declaring independence, but did not take the opportunity to threaten force as predecessors have in the past. “We would like to make a solemn appeal: on the basis of the one-China principle let us discuss a formal end to the state of hostility between the two sides [and] reach a peace agreement,” Mr Hu said, reading from a prepared statement. Mainland China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan as a province since their split in 1949 when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's defeated Nationalists fled to the island. The country has offered in the past to resume talks with Taiwan, frozen since 1999 when then-Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui insisted that bilateral relations be described as “special state to state”. Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party cautiously welcomed the overture. “We would like to talk about everything. Our consistent position is to talk without any preconditions ... We want to wait to see more. [Hu's] actions speak louder than words,” Lai I-Chung, the DPP's director of China affairs, told reporters. […]. ^ top ^

Taiwan leader dismisses Hu overture (IHT)
2007-10-18
President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan on Thursday denounced a peace overture from President Hu Jintao of China that has received a cautious welcome here from both candidates for the presidential election next March. "It is very clear now that if we were to sign such a peace treaty under the framework of the 'one China' principle, then I think this would mean, for the 23 million people of Taiwan, a treaty of surrender," Chen said in a 90-minute interview at the presidential palace here. On Monday, Hu suggested during his speech at the opening of the Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing that the mainland and Taiwan conclude a peace agreement ending the formal state of hostility that has endured since Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists lost China's civil war in 1949 and retreated to Taiwan. But the offer carried a longstanding mainland Chinese condition rejected by most Taiwanese politicians: that negotiations can proceed only under the principle that there is one China, with Taiwan and the mainland representing indivisible components of a single nation ruled from Beijing. That condition makes it unlikely that Hu's somewhat vague proposal, which included eventual reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, could serve as a basis for negotiations. But Hu's tone contrasted sharply with the mainland's more confrontational position during previous election campaigns in Taiwan (…). ^ top ^

Taipei to stage own version of torch rally to trumpet UN bid (SCMP)
2007-10-16
Taiwan is to launch its own torch relay next week to rally support for its controversial United Nations membership bid, despite its rejection by the global body. The 11-day "UN for Taiwan" torch relay will kick off in Taipei next Wednesday and return on November 3 after covering 25 cities and counties, government spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey said yesterday. "President Chen Shui-bian will be responsible for the first baton change, passing the torch from its starting point on the boulevard in front of the Presidential Office." […] The island decided to stage the event after talks with Beijing over the passage of the Olympic flame to Taipei broke down last month, resulting in the International Olympic Committee announcing that the torch would skip Taiwan before the Beijing Olympics next year. Taipei refused to host the torch relay, blaming the mainland for adding a controversial demand the day before the two sides were scheduled to sign an agreement early last month. It was the only place to have rejected the Olympic flame since the Games were revived in 1896. Beijing had demanded that Taiwan bar the display of national flags or the playing of the island's anthem during the torch relay. […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

U.S. draws rebuke from China for honoring Dalai Lama (IHT)
2007-10-18
The United States has "gravely undermined" relations with China by giving the Dalai Lama an award, the Chinese government said Thursday. On Wednesday, President George W. Bush presented the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader with the highest civilian honor of Congress and urged Chinese leaders to welcome him to Beijing. "The move of the United States is a blatant interference with China's internal affairs which has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and gravely undermined the relations between China and the United States," the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said at a news conference. Liu said that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had summoned the U.S. ambassador, Clark Randt, to express "strong protest to the U.S. government." China had warned that giving the award to a person it believes is trying to split the country would have serious consequences for relations, but has not said what it would do. With the Dalai Lama by his side, Bush praised a man he called a "universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people." "Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away," Bush said at the Capitol building, where he personally presented the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal. The Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority. But China reviles him as a Tibetan separatist and for the past week has vehemently protested the public ceremony. The 72-year-old monk, who is the 1989 Nobel peace laureate, says he wants "real autonomy" for Tibet, not independence. He is immensely popular in the Himalayan region, which China has ruled with a heavy hand since its forces invaded in 1951. He has lived with followers in exile in India since fleeing Chinese soldiers in Tibet in 1959. Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage relations with China. "I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. I want to honor this man," Bush said at the White House. "I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest." On Tuesday, however, the Bush administration took pains to keep a private meeting with the president and the Dalai Lama from further infuriating China: there was no media access nor handout photo. Bush wants to ease anger in China, an economic and military powerhouse that the United States needs to manage nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Market to determine exchange rate – PBOC (China Daily)
2007-10-19
China will let the market play a bigger role in determining the exchange rate of the yuan and eventually make the renminbi fully convertible, the country's top banker said Thursday. "Supply and demand forces in the market will play a bigger role in setting the yuan's rate," Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of People's Bank of China (PBOC) said on the sidelines of the Party congress. Talking about recent complaints from European countries over the renminbi exchange rate, Zhou said worries may arise from the rapid increase in China's trade surplus with EU. He also cited the weakening dollar, which has exerted upward pressure on the euro's value, before expressing his sympathy for those affected. A vice-governor of PBOC will meet EU's central bankers to discuss their concerns at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington next week, he said. (...). ^ top ^

China investment fund goes global (BBC)
2007-10-16
(...) Speaking at the Communist Party congress, where the China Investment Corporation was launched, Lou Jiwei said it would have a global reach. The body currently has about $200bn (£98bn) at its disposal to spend. So-called sovereign wealth funds have been criticised for straying into politically sensitive areas. The investment arms of Singapore, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi have all used their huge wealth to buy foreign assets and some governments are concerned that deals could be struck to gain political advantage. The Canadian government said last month it was reviewing its foreign takeover rules and may insert a "national security test" for would-be foreign buyers. The US, meanwhile, wants clearer guidelines and disclosure rules applied to such funds. But Mr Lou said his fund's activities would be transparent and its investments would be dictated by commercial not political factors. "Sovereign wealth funds are a stabilising force in the international market," he said. "The pressure on us is very great and so is the responsibility." China has the world's largest horde of foreign exchange reserves, totalling about $1.43 trillion in value. About 70% of these funds are estimated to be in dollar-denominated assets. Mr Lou said there were "no restrictions" on where the fund would invest But he denied reports that it had already built a stake in the operator of the Hong Kong stock exchange, including Taiwan and Hong Kong. (...) But it warned of the risk of a "protectionist backlash" against such funds unless clearer rules were put in place governing their activities. ^ top ^

PetroChina could soon be world's top company (FT)
2007-10-19
There is a new runner-up for the title of the world's biggest company. Soon, there may be a new winner too. PetroChina, the state-controlled Chinese oil and gas group, this week overtook General Electric to become the world's second-biggest company by market capitalisation. After it lists on the Shanghai stock exchange, which it is expected to do next month, it could even surpass ExxonMobil to become the world's most valuable quoted business. (...) PetroChina's reserves could be revised up significantly following its discovery in May of the Nanpu field in Bohai Bay, which is thought to hold about 7.3bn barrels of oil equivalent. In Europe and the US, PetroChina is still little known. Perceptions tend to centre on its activities overseas, in countries such as Angola and Kazakhstan where it has been seeking access to new sources of supply. Much of the publicity it has attracted has come as a result of an intermittently successful campaign to persuade US shareholders to sell their stakes – because of its parent China National Petroleum Corporation's presence in Sudan. CNPC owns about 88 per cent of PetroChina. Yet PetroChina is still very largely a domestic company. (...). ^ top ^

Largest groups by market cap

Rank

Group

Market cap

1

ExxonMobil

US$526bn

2

PetroChina

$433bn

3

General Electric

$420bn

4

China Mobile

$382bn

5

ICBC

$338bn

6

Altria

$331bn

7

Microsoft

$291bn

8

Gazprom

$278bn

9

Royal Dutch Shell 

$273bn

10

Sinopec

$270bn

11

AT&T

$256bn

12

China Life Insurance 

$241bn

13

BP

$240bn

14

HSBC

$232bn

15

BHP Billiton

$224bn

FDI in China up 10.87% in first 9 months (People's Daily)
2007-10-12
China's actual use of foreign direct investment (FDI) reached 47.2 billion U.S. dollars in the first nine months, up 10.87 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Friday. The country approved the establishment of 28,206 foreign-funded companies in the same period, down 6.05 percent from a year earlier. In September alone, China actually used 5.27 billion dollars in FDI, down 2.36 percent, and approved the establishment of 3,358 foreign-funded companies, down 11.49 percent. The top ten investors accounted for 86.73 percent of the total FDI in the nine months. Among them, the United States recorded a decrease of 16.41 percent in the number of enterprises it established in China, and a drop of 2.88 percent in FDI. ^ top ^

EU light bulb duties face court challenge (Xinhua)
2007-10-15
The European Commission is facing a court challenge to its controversial anti-dumping duties on imports of energy-saving light bulbs from China, a lawyer said Saturday. A decision by the European Union (EU) executive to extend the duties by one year, after a long dispute, is set to be rubber-stamped by EU ministers today. But an Italian lighting firm, Targetti Sankey, has now filed a challenge arguing that an investigation of the issue by the commission was flawed and the dumping decision should be annulled. Targetti was also readying to file a damages case, once the ministers approve the one-year extension, Maurizio Gambardella, a lawyer for Targetti, said. The move could reopen an issue which has led to criticism of EU executives by environmentalists, EU governments, trade lawyers and companies. The duties push up the price of energy-saving bulbs from China by as much as 66 percent, at time when the EU is chasing ambitious energy savings targets to fight climate change. (...). ^ top ^

Unionising foreign-invested firms a priority (SCMP)
2007-10-19
China will step up efforts to unionise foreign-invested enterprises as a top union official has said that mainland workers' right to join a union should not be undermined by their bosses. About 60 per cent of foreign-invested companies, or more than 51,000, have already set up union branches on the mainland, according to Sun Chunlan , a vice-chairwoman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. […]The government-controlled union is aiming to push coverage to 70 per cent by next autumn, when a national congress of the federation is scheduled. "Another goal, probably more aggressive, will be set by the delegates at the congress," she said on the sidelines of the 17th National Congress. The task of unionising the remaining foreign-invested companies would be at the top of the agenda, she said. […] Critics have said that China's aggressive approach to unionising foreign-invested companies was an attempt to counter the influence of the ever-increasing private business sector. But Ms Sun said their ambition was spurred by an increase in the number of disputes involving foreign companies as they hire more people in China. Labour groups have criticised China's unions, which are not allowed to be independent from the federation, for favouring businessmen rather than protecting the rights of workers, who sometimes fall prey to late payments and a lack of proper social security. Ms Sun boasted of the federation's success in pushing retail giant Wal-Mart, which does not recognise unions, to unionise its mainland branches. She said the federation would follow the same strategy to unionise the rest of the mainland's foreign-invested companies. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Biggest-ever team for Games (People's Daily)
2007-10-18
The largest-ever Chinese Olympic contingent of 570 athletes will participate in next year's Beijing Games, sports chief Liu Peng said yesterday. y September, about 500 athletes had already qualified, said Liu, minister of the State General Administration of Sport. With some Olympic qualification events yet to be completed, he predicted that another 70 athletes will make the cut. "This surely will be the largest Chinese team in history, given that the number for the Athens Games was 397," Liu told a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. (…). ^ top ^

Olympic budget raised to $2 billion (China Daily)
2007-10-19
Beijing has increased the budget for the 2008 Games to US$2 billion from the previous estimate of US$1.6 billion, a top official revealed in Beijing on Friday. Part of the strengthened budget will be used to better protect the event, said Liu Jingmin, vice-mayor of Beijing and executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). The rise in the value of China's currency is another factor, he told reporters on the sideline of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing. ^ top ^

 

North Korea

Bush warns North Korea against reneging on nuclear agreement (SCMP)
2007-10-19
US President George W. Bush said North Korea would face consequences should it renege on its agreement to lay bare and then destroy its nuclear weapons programme. Mr Bush did not specify any consequences but restated elements of an agreement the North Koreans made with five negotiating partners, including the United States, which would eventually eliminate the communist-led country's nuclear arms. "North Korea has said that they will stop proliferating, just like they have said they will fully disclose and disable any weapons programmes," Mr Bush said. Kim Jong-il's government has made good its first commitment, to disable the plutonium reactor at Yongbyon north of the capital, Pyongyang. "Step two will be full declaration of any plutonium that has been manufactured and-or the construction of bombs, along with a full declaration of any proliferation activities," Mr Bush said. The way to ensure the North Koreans kept their word, he said, was to continue dealing with the situation through the six-nation formula that has obtained the agreement: North Korea on one side; China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US on the other. "The reason why," Mr Bush said, "is that diplomacy only works if there are consequences when diplomacy breaks down". Both China and South Korea provided substantial aid to North Korea, Mr Bush said. "If they don't fulfil that which they've said, we are now in a position to make sure that they understand that there will be consequences. "If the North Koreans renege, there will be consequences to the North Koreans." Mr Bush's comments were in response to a question about allegations that Syria had a nascent nuclear programme under way with North Korea's help. In his response, he neglected the Syrian part of the question. Then he cut off the reporter when he tried to pursue the subject. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolian PM vows to boost co-op with China in trade, economy (Xinhua)
2007-10-15
Mongolian Prime Minister M. Enkhbold said on Monday that Mongolia will strengthen trade and economic cooperation with China when meeting with Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce Chen Jian. M. Enkhbold said in recent years high-level visits have been frequent between Mongolia and China, and bilateral trade and economic cooperation has been boosted continuously. He expected large-scale enterprises with advanced technology from China to invest in Mongolia. Chen said China will boost cooperation with Mongolia in the fields of mining, transport and make efforts to implement the agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries. Chen arrived here on Sunday for a three-day visit. He attended the 10th meeting of China-Mongolia joint committee of trade and economy on Monday. ^ top ^

 

Joel Baumgartner
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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