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

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  15.12-21.12.07, No. 196  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

China, U. S. sign first MOU addressing illegal logging, timber trade (People's Daily)
2007-12-17
[…] Under a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed after the 3rd Strategic Economic Dialogue, the two countries would start immediately to share information on shipments of timber, step up law enforcement against illegal activity and encourage private-sector partnerships to promote sustainable forest management. […] A detailed bilateral agreement would be negotiated on the basis of the MOU, said the Chinese statement. Describing environmental protection and promoting clean energy "a shared priority" for both sides, the U.S. statement said, "Illegal logging contributes significantly to the high rates of deforestation currently occurring worldwide." […] This pact was one of several timber-protection agreements signed by China recently. […] China and the United States also agreed to establish a national sulfur dioxide emissions trading program in China, with the U.S. side providing technical assistance to support the development of the necessary infrastructure and institutional capacity for the successful implementation of the program. ^ top ^

China National Democratic Construction Association convenes national congress (Xinhua)
2007-12-17
The China National Democratic Construction Association (CNDCA), one of the country's eight non-communist parties, opened its 9th national congress here on Sunday. […] The members of the association are mainly business people. The message also called on the association to take its advantage of close connection with the business circle to boost a development with both quality and speed for China's economy. The association should also enhance its relation with business circles in Hong Kong and Macao to continuously promote the two regions' prosperity and stability, it said. The delegates of the congress will deliberate a report of the party's 8th central committee, adopt the revised party constitution and elect its 9th central committee. […]. ^ top ^

Egyptian top official hails Egypt-China co-op in telecom, IT sectors (People's Daily)
2007-12-18
Egyptian Minister of Communication and Information Technology Tarek Kamel Sunday hailed the cooperation between Egypt and China in the sectors of information technology (IT) and telecommunications. "Egypt and China have very good cooperation in the sectors of information technology and telecommunications," […]. Kamel noted that the future bilateral cooperation in the IT and telecommunications will be focused on the contents, value-added technologies and more services. In addition, the Egyptian top official also mentioned his trip last year to some Chinese cities, including Beijing and Tianjin, saying he was impressed on China's economic and social development. […]. ^ top ^

China, Japan in talks over Fukuda's visit (China Daily)
2007-12-19
China and Japan are actively making preparations for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's upcoming visit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday without confirming media reports that the four-day trip is set to start on December 27. ^ top ^

Plan to designate islands a city denied - Sino-Vietnamese row takes a new turn (SCMP)
2007-12-19
The diplomatic row with Vietnam over the designation of disputed islands at China's southern tip as a city took another turn yesterday when a Hainan official denied such a plan was on the agenda. […] Another official from the Hainan provincial government said the authorities had not received any documentation from the central government on redesignating the area as a city. News that Beijing ratified a plan last month to create Sansha was first reported by Vietnamese media and followed up overseas. In sharp contrast to the attention outside China, no mainstream mainland media have covered the issue, which would otherwise be a source of pride. But the reports have been discussed in many internet chat rooms and widely circulated through personal blogs. […] the Foreign Ministry gave a rather vague response yesterday when asked to confirm such a plan, with spokesman Qin Gang saying it was normal for China to conduct activities in its own territory. […]. ^ top ^

Asia's giants join for military exercise (SCMP)
2007-12-19
[…] The exercise in mountains near Kunming, Yunnan province, will be a small one, involving only about 100 troops from each side, and will continue until December 28. […] India and China signed an agreement on defence co-operation in May last year during a visit to the mainland by India's defence minister at the time, Pranab Mukherjee. According to another source in the Indian Defence Ministry, the exercise beginning tomorrow will be a special anti-terrorism drill. […]. ^ top ^

China, EU officials meets on Myanmar issue (People's Daily)
2007-12-20
Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC), met here on Wednesday with Piero Fassino, the EU Special Envoy for Myanmar. According to a press release, the two exchanged views on the current Myanmar situation and briefed each other's standpoint on the issue. Wang said China wanted to see stability, democracy, development and reconcilement achieved in Myanmar. It was willing to continuously make constructive efforts for the issue. He also urged the international community to make efforts to enhance mutual trust and push forward dialogue with Myanmar. Fassino said the EU appreciated China's contribution to maintaining a stable situation in Myanmar. He hoped to keep close communication and collaboration with China and other Asian countries. […]. ^ top ^

China vows to boost bilateral ties with Micronesia (Xinhua)
2007-12-21
China on Thursday vowed to boost bilateral relations with Micronesia, proposing to cement two-way cooperation in areas such as trade, fisheries, public health, sports and tourism. […] Mori said Micronesia-China relations were founded on the basis of mutual respect. Micronesia would continue its efforts to work closer with China in the areas of transport, clean energy, fisheries and private business. […] The two heads of the states also attended a signing ceremony of a bilateral agreement on economic and technological cooperation. Mori arrived in China on Dec. 16 at the invitation of Hu. ^ top ^

Stop anti-China protests, Vietnam tells its people (SCMP)
2007-12-21
The Vietnamese government called on its people to end anti-China protests over the countries' rival claims in the South China Sea. Several hundred people marched in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday for the second consecutive weekend in the long-simmering dispute over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos. The protests triggered an angry rebuke from Beijing. China said on Tuesday it was "highly concerned" and called on the Vietnamese government to "take a responsible attitude and effective measures to stop this and prevent bilateral ties from being hurt". Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said his government had asked people to "end this kind of action". "Vietnam also pursues the policy to settle all disputes through negotiations," he said. However, he also reiterated Hanoi's "sovereignty" over the islands. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Elderly becoming increasingly isolated (China Daily)
2007-12-18
[…] The latest survey on the aging population released by the China National Committee on Aging (CNCA) found that 23 percent of the elderly in urban areas and 29.8 percent of those in rural areas shun other people - both figures are about 3 percentage points higher than in 2000. […] The survey gave no details of the backgrounds of those surveyed who refused to socialize, but found that about 18 percent of the urban elderly and 31 percent of their rural counterparts are frequently haunted by "loneliness". More ominously, the survey found that about 2.6 percent of elderly people in urban areas and 4.9 percent in rural areas had thought about committing suicide. Yan Qingchun, deputy director of the CNCA office said Monday: "The figures show that old people are in dire need of care and consultation for their psychological problems." Society should help them participate in social activities and forge a harmonious relationship with different generations, he said. Li Bengong, deputy director of the CNCA office, said inadequate social security is the main factor hindering the happiness of the aged population. […] Just 4.8 percent of elderly people in rural areas get pensions, while less than half of them are covered by medical insurance, he said. Zhang Kaidi, director of the China Research Center on Aging, said: "With China's aging population, the government should allocate more funds to build a comprehensive and efficient system of support for the elderly." He said such social security and care for the elderly are "especially" important for those who do not have children. ^ top ^

Firms warned against mass layoffs (SCMP)
2007-12-18
Guangzhou businesses will have to continue paying into social insurance schemes for laid-off workers if they embark on mass staff layoffs ahead of the introduction of the new Labour Contract Law next month, mainland media reported yesterday. The measure is part of the Guangzhou authorities' hardline efforts to deter employers from shedding veteran employees before January 1, when the new law takes effect. […] In an attempt to protect workers' rights, the Guangzhou Labour and Social Security Bureau has ordered all businesses to first seek municipal permission before laying off at least 20 workers or more than 10 per cent of their workforce. […] A labour activist at a Shenzhen-based non-governmental organisation said the new rules would have a limited effect. "According to our past experience, if our fellow workers tried to file a lawsuit against being laid off, it was usually in vain. Local authorities will interpret the rule as a circular, but not a law," the activist said. […]. ^ top ^

1.35m people, crops and cattle in south suffer in severe drought (SCMP)
2007-12-18
More than 1.35 million people are lacking drinking water as Guangdong and Guangxi face a severe shortage of rain. The Guangdong Water Resources Bureau estimated that at least 249,000 people and 73,300 hectares of farmland in Guangdong had been affected by drought by last Thursday, Xinhua reported yesterday. […]. ^ top ^

Politburo meets to clarify party line on religion - 'Spiritual socialism' to be tolerated (SCMP)
2007-12-20
The powerful Politburo held a rare meeting dedicated to the governance of China's religious affairs in Beijing yesterday, state media reported. Speaking to members of the decision making body and leading religious affairs academics, President Hu Jintao called on the atheist government to stick to the Marxist view of religion while recognising religion's power to unite society. "Under new historical circumstances, we should hold fast to Marxism's point of view and to realise the fact that religions are going to exist in a socialist society for a long time," Mr Hu said. […] Observers have noted a religious revival in China, with numbers of followers of various beliefs - state-sanctioned or illegal - increasing over the past few years. The resurgence of faith has been linked to a stronger desire for spiritual fulfilment to fill the void left by almost three decades of obsession with economic growth. The government has also sought help from religions, particularly Buddhism and Taoism, to smooth the social tensions and conflicts brought about by rampant corruption and a widening income gap. […] At the same time, however, the government is also facing thorny issues such as the mainland Catholic Church's bumpy relationship with the Vatican, and the repeated calls by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, for greater autonomy in the Himalayan region. Without direct reference to the two issues, Mr Hu reiterated that religious organisations should be independent from foreign influence. […] Beijing has insisted on the right to appoint Catholic bishops, a major source of tension between the mainland and the Vatican. Mr Hu told the study session that the mainland should build a team of religious teachers who were "politically trustworthy". ^ top ^

Anti-corruption website crashes on first day (China Daily)
2007-12-20
The website of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP) crashed on Tuesday, just hours after its launch, as droves of people logged on to complain about corruption among officials. […] "Repairs were carried out soon after the website broke down and normal service has now been resumed, he told the Xinhua News Agency. […] While many of them referred to report specific cases of official corruption, these were redirected by the webmaster to other sites, such as that of the Ministry of Supervision. Other visitors made calls for the strengthening of the government's anti-corruption efforts, and comments about the need for special attention to be given to cases involving institutes of higher education and grassroots governments. […]. ^ top ^

Tianwan to become key power station (People's Daily)
2007-12-21
China plans to build eight nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 8,000 megawatts (MW) at Tianwan nuclear power station, in a move to make the plant one of the nation's primary power bases.[…] Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corp is responsible for the operation of the project. The State-owned China National Nuclear Corp has a 50 percent stake in the company. […] Plans for the other four reactors are still in the preliminary stage. Decisions have not yet been made about what technology will be used, said a source close to the project. China is now developing third-generation nuclear power technology. In July the country finalized an agreement with US-based Westinghouse to use AP1000 technology to build four nuclear reactors, two in Zhejiang and another two in Shandong. […]. ^ top ^

New rules strengthen work safety (China Daily)
2007-12-21
The Communist Party of China's (CPC) disciplinary watchdog will punish more severely those who fail to maintain safety in production to prevent accidents in workplaces. Officials will be demoted, sacked or even expelled from the CPC if they take advantage of their posts to influence purchase, public biddings or accident probes, according to the new 10-point rules released by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) Thursday. Those who try to save people responsible for the accidents, too, face severe punishment. […] People also face punishment for:

- Granting approval to companies that fail to meet work safety standards, certifying unqualified units and/or people, and lifting the ban on firms breaking work safety regulations;

- Failing to take effective steps to clear hidden dangers, forcing employees to work overtime, taking risks at work, or allowing unqualified people to work;

- Providing dangerous materials including poisons and explosives to unregistered or unqualified companies.

[…] The new rules, along with the legal and administrative penalties, will make it "feasible" to haul up anyone suspected of being responsible for an accident. […] State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) Director Li Yizhong said nepotism at the local level has hindered bringing "people responsible for workplace accidents to justice". […]. ^ top ^

Ex-prosecutor given death sentence (SCMP)
2007-12-21
A mainland court has handed down a suspended death sentence to a former top prosecutor in Tianjin for taking bribes and embezzlement, Xinhua said yesterday. A suspended death sentence is normally commuted to life imprisonment on condition of good behaviour. Li Baojin was convicted of receiving 5.62 million yuan in bribes between 1996 and last year in exchange for official favours granted to companies and individuals, the report said. The Cangzhou Intermediate People's Court in the neighbouring province of Hebei also found him guilty of embezzling 14 million yuan of public funds, it said. Li deserved a harsh sentence because he sought bribes, but his "good attitude" in confessing and the recovery of the money won him a two-year reprieve from the death penalty, Xinhua said. […]. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

China pavilion for Expo 2010 revealed (China Daily)
2007-12-19
With an estimated cost of 1.5 billion yuan, its design features a traditional style red architecture called "oriental crown". Organizers said the project is a significant milestone in the countdown to the 2010 event, signaling the beginning of full-scale construction of the Expo's core projects. […] Located at the crossing of two horizontal and vertical axes in the Pudong part of Expo garden, the China Pavilion comprises of three parts. The first is the national hall, which is 20,000-sq-m, 30,000-sq-m for provinces and regions, and 3,000-sq-m shared between Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The oriental crown, standing 63 meters in height, uses traditional dougong brackets and features wooden brackets fixed layer upon layer between the top of a column and a crossbeam. As a permanent landmark in the inner part of Pudong New Area, the structure will adopt ecological sound technologies and energy-saving measures. These include the sun-shading design, exterior of the domestic pavilion is a buffer zone for heat or cold, as well as ecological landscaping on the roof could lower energy demands effectively. During the Expo, the main structure will be used for an exhibition based on the theme of "Chinese wisdom in urban development" by explaining the values of harmony, nature and spirit. The domestic hall will provide provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and other areas a platform to display their urban achievements, designers said. But officials suggested that there might be some complexities of having Taiwan participate in the event. "Negotiations with the Taiwan side has lagged behind our talks with other provinces or regions, including Hong Kong and Macao," said Dai Liu, China World Expo (Group) Co Ltd Managing Director. China will have a back-up plan if they fail to persuade the island, he added. "If we can include Taiwan in the Shanghai Expo, the world will see the status of Chinese people is escalating in the global arena," he said. Organizers are still searching for exhibition ideas for the pavilion, whose construction will be completed in two years. ^ top ^

Court gives harshest penalty in Shanghai pension fund case (SCMP)
2007-12-21
A mainland court handed out the harshest known punishment yesterday in the Shanghai pension fund case, giving a suspended death sentence to former Shanghai Electric Group (SEHK: 2727) chairman Wang Chengming. The Changchun Intermediate People's Court in Jilin province found the former head of the state-owned company guilty of corruption for reaping more than 300 million yuan from a land deal and taking 210,000 yuan in bribes, Caijing magazine said on its website. […]. ^ top ^

Crossing the line - A fiery rally over a Shanghai project highlights the growing voice of middle-class protesters (SCMP)
2007-12-20
Days after Shanghai crushed a massive protest against the installation of high-voltage power lines near a housing complex in the suburb of Minhang, residents remain stunned and angry over how police broke up the demonstration using a new weapon. In a rare escalation of tactics for the mainland's commercial capital, police used pepper spray against protesters on November 26 after the crowd swelled to nearly 1,000, some of whom clashed with officers. Whether the incident marked a tougher stance against protesters under the leadership of Shanghai's new Communist Party chief, Yu Zhengsheng, or was an over-reaction by zealous police, is unclear. But what made the protest a landmark was the participation of the middle class in a large-scale demonstration in Shanghai, smashing the traditional compact between the government and citizens, who are expected to remain complacent in return for rising incomes. "We had a property owner covered in pepper spray," said one resident who, like others interviewed, declined to be named. "We couldn't believe this was how the police 'protected' us. We were very disappointed." […]. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Beijing to keep 2017 hopes alive - NPC Standing Committee to decide on pace of HK democracy; positive signal expected (SCMP)
2007-12-18
[…] Sources said the Standing Committee was likely to approve changes in methods for electing the chief executive and legislature in 2012, but would rule out universal suffrage for 2012 on the grounds that it was not in line with the Basic Law principle of gradual and orderly progress. But the committee was expected to leave open the possibility of universal suffrage for the chief executive election as early as 2017, they said. […] Sources said that after making a decision on universal suffrage in 2012, officials from the committee's Legislative Affairs Commission would next month explain its stance to Hong Kong representatives. The Hong Kong government would later table a proposal for the 2012 elections that would be modelled on the package for the 2007-08 elections it put forward in 2005. The legislature will vote on the 2012 package before the summer recess. Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen […] would not speculate on the meeting's outcome. […] At the Legco meeting, lawmakers from the pan-democrat camp criticised the government for conveying a wrong impression that Beijing would promise universal suffrage in 2017 if people gave up the 2012 target. […] Mr Tang said 2012 had not been ruled out, but stressed that the report merely reflected public aspirations. He would not comment on whether the electoral package rejected by Legco in 2005 would be revived. Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung said the chief executive had to take into account the "actual situation" and had therefore given his assessment on the 2017 option. The panel passed a non-binding motion calling for another meeting with Mr Tang before the Standing Committee convenes. […]. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Upset organisers end protest early (SCMP)
2007-12-17
A poorly attended but noisy march in Macau against alleged government corruption ended early yesterday and largely without incident, despite changes to the route and a heavy police presence. Fewer than 100 people turned up for the protest, which organisers had initially hoped would attract between 800 and 1,000. The march included more than 20 slow-riding motorcyclists. […] On Thursday, which is the eighth anniversary of Macau's handover to China, unionists are predicting a turnout of between 10,000 to 20,000 people for what is expected to be Macau's largest demonstration in years. ^ top ^

Protest, pop concert in Macau mark handover anniversary (SCMP)
2007-12-21
Thousands marched against graft, labour woes and a lack of democracy in Macau yesterday, while others gathered to celebrate the 8th anniversary of its handover to China - an echo of the city's tourism slogan: a world of difference. About 6,000 people joined the rally for universal suffrage and clean government - far fewer than the 16,000 who attended a pop concert around the same time. More young people and professionals took part in the rally than in previous protests, although the biggest component was still poor middle-aged workers angry over imported and illegal labourers. Teachers, students, heritage activists, social workers and right-of-abode seekers also took part. […]Organisers said the turnout was 7,000, but police put it at 1,500. University student Mike Tam, 23, protested with a group of friends against a lack of public housing and the government's plan to bring in the "Article 23" national security law. "There are many problems the government tries to brush under the carpet, and it keeps testing Macau people with bad policies," he said. Other festive activities staged throughout the day included a football match and community fairs. […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

DPP accused of spying (SCMP)
2007-12-17
Taiwan's main opposition has accused the government of bugging its offices to learn its campaign strategy ahead of legislative elections. Yesterday's allegations followed media disclosures about a secret meeting between a senior US official and the Kuomintang's vice-presidential candidate. The opposition alleged the Democratic Progressive Party leaked details of the December 8 meeting to the media after illegally obtaining them. KMT spokesman Su Jun-pin declined to confirm or deny the reports. The DPP's legislative caucus leader, Ko Chien-ming, said they were unfounded. KMT lawmaker Su Chi said several opposition offices had been bugged, although he provided no evidence. Papers reported last week that US envoy Ray Burghardt had asked the KMT's Vincent Siew about rumours that President Chen Shui-bian could seek to derail the January 12 legislative elections. One suggestion was he might instigate a conflict with Beijing by attacking its fishing boats. Mr Burghardt reportedly also inquired if the KMT campaign office had maintained secret channels of communications with Beijing. ^ top ^

DPP presidential candidate to meet governor, ex-PM in Japan (SCMP)
2007-12-17
Taiwan's former premier and presidential hopeful Frank Hsieh Chang-ting left yesterday for Japan, his aides said, in a trip likely to irk Beijing. Mr Hsieh, of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is to meet Tokyo's city governor, Shintaro Ishihara, today. Mr Ishihara is known for his support of Taiwan. Mr Hsieh is also going to meet Japan's former prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, and address the Foreign Correspondents' Club tomorrow. Mr Hsieh's trip includes a speech on strengthening Japan's ties with Taiwan at his alma mater, Kyoto University. Tokyo switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1972 and has barred any official contacts with Taiwan. ^ top ^

Taiwan criticises Beijing over air route near air force training zone (SCMP)
2007-12-18
Taiwan has criticised the mainland for creating new tension across the Taiwan Strait by unilaterally creating a new air route close to the island's air force training space. It is seeking help from the International Civil Aviation Organisation and other countries in voicing opposition to the new route, said to have been approved by the mainland's Central Military Commission on December 5, Taiwanese officials said yesterday. […] Military officials said the new route could also create misunderstanding if mainland planes strayed to the Taiwanese side as the air force and other military units would be forced to react. […] He said mainland civilian planes had previously strayed "slightly" into the Taiwanese zone or flown close to the line, and the military had standard operating procedures to deal with any situation according to the risk levels and perceived intentions. Questioning the motive behind Beijing's designation of the new route, Taiwan's foreign ministry said it had appealed to the international community to express concern about the unilateral move, which not only violated international aviation practices but also created flight safety and cross-strait stability problems. "We have obtained support from some countries in voicing their concern about the case," foreign ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh Fei-bi said. The International Civil Aviation Organisation had been asked by certain countries to look into the issue and take possible action, she added. Ms Yeh did not identify the countries, but Taiwanese media reported that they included Japan, Singapore and Canada. […]. ^ top ^

Taiwan battles over balloting procedure - Split over combining poll, referendums (SCMP)
2007-12-21
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin has insisted on adopting a "two-step" voting procedure for Taiwan's legislative elections next month in a move many fear could plunge the island into chaos. "The city government will handle the election affairs according to the two-step procedure, and there is no way we will back away," Dr Hau said yesterday. He said the former chairman of the opposition Kuomintang, Lien Chan, supported his decision in a meeting yesterday morning, adding that asking voters to cast their votes separately was the best way to avoid confusion and unnecessary disputes. "As far as I know, all other pan-blue [opposition-controlled] cities and counties will do the same," Dr Hau said. The opposition controls 18 local governments. The government of President Chen Shui-bian is insisting on the use of a "one-step" voting method in which voters would receive at the same time the ballots for the January 12 legislative elections and the voting papers for the referendums to be held alongside the elections. The Chen administration has warned that failure to follow the one-step procedure could result in the votes being ruled void. But with most of Taiwan's 25 cities and counties controlled by the opposition, analysts have warned that disputes over the validity of votes cast under different voting procedures could result in bloodshed. […] One-step voting: Taiwan's new voting procedure: What is required? A voter is asked to collect a ballot and two referendum papers at the same time and cast the ballot and papers in three different boxes / Why the dispute? The opposition camp wants the ballot and referendum papers collected separately in a two-step procedure, where voters first cast ballots for the legislative elections and then vote on the referendums / What's the problem? Eighteen of the 25 city and county governments controlled by the opposition are opposed to the one-step process, saying it will create confusion. ^ top ^

Taiwan braces for US warning on UN poll (SCMP)
2007-12-21
Taiwan is bracing for another stern warning from the United States against the island's plan to hold a controversial referendum on joining the United Nations in the name of "Taiwan". This time the warning is expected to be issued by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to Taiwanese media reports quoting unnamed sources from the island's foreign ministry. The Taipei-based China Times said it has been tipped off that a US official with a level "higher than that of the deputy secretary of state", would issue a stern statement against the referendum before Christmas. The government plans to hold the referendum alongside the presidential election on March 22. […]. ^ top ^

Approval for Patriot missile package (SCMP)
2007-12-21
Taiwan's legislature approved the island's 2008 defence budget yesterday, including a long-delayed allocation for three sets of US-made Patriot III missiles, a lawmaker said. Also included was a NT$2 billion (HK$479.8 million) allocation for a study to evaluate the feasibility of acquiring US-made diesel submarines, said Lin Yu-fang of the main opposition Kuomintang. Legislative officials put the total value of the defence budget at NT$341.4 billion - a 12 per cent increase from this year. Approval of the Patriot-missile acquisition and the feasibility study was held up for more than two years by the KMT, which argued the expenditure could consign Taipei to a no-win arms race with Beijing. The party indicated a change of heart at a preliminary hearing on the defence budget last week, but did not give a reason for it. Mr Lin said the KMT could support the allocation of another three sets of Patriot III missiles after presidential elections in March. Details of the cost of the Patriot systems were not made public, but when the government first proposed their acquisition, it cited a figure of NT$145 billion for six systems. The Patriot systems and submarines are part of a US$16 billion US arms package that President Chen Shui-bian's administration wants to acquire to counter an ambitious arms buildup by Beijing that began more than 10 years ago. The Legislative Yuan this year approved the purchase of 12 American-made P-3 submarine-hunting aircraft, the third element in the US package. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's housing price up 10.5% in November (People's Daily)
2007-12-17
Housing price in 70 major Chinese cities jumped by 10.5 percent in November, according to an official with the country's top economic planning body. […] The skyrocketing housing price, driven up by speculation and growing demand, has become a major concern of common Chinese citizens. "Despite falling sales, housing prices in parts of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen still remain high," he said. Housing price is expected to remain stable as the macro-control policies are starting to yield results, Cao said. […]. ^ top ^

US: China not manipulating currency (China Daily)
2007-12-20
[…] "Treasury concluded that neither China nor any other major trading partner of the US met the requirements for designation" as a manipulator of their currency, the report said. However, the report said the Chinese yuan remains severely undervalued against the US dollar, claiming the recent movement of the yuan had been "too limited and modest." […]. ^ top ^

Tax threshold may be raised to 2,500 yuan (China Daily)
2007-12-20
A draft amendment to the individual income tax law will be submitted to the national legislature for its first review next week, and experts suggest the starting point should be raised to 2000 yuan ($270.91) or 2,500 yuan, according to today's Guangzhou Daily. The draft will be first read at the 31st session of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee to be held from Sunday to December 29, said the paper. […]. ^ top ^

Prudent fiscal policy pledged (China Daily)
2007-12-20
The Ministry of Finance has pledged to adopt a prudent fiscal policy to help cool the economy and prevent excessive price rises. The authorities will also make efforts to improve people's well-being by supporting such sectors as social security, health, education and housing, Xie Xuren, minister of finance, told a meeting Wednesday in Beijing. The country will "properly" reduce the budget deficit, he said. […] Xie vowed to further use fiscal policy to stabilize rising prices. "(We) will actively support production of agricultural products such as grain, edible oil and meat, and ensure the supply of basic daily necessities to curb excessive price rises." Subsidies will be extended to those hit hard by rising prices timely, he added. […] Xie said more funds would be pumped into the health sector, and the rural cooperative medical insurance system, which now covers 730 million farmers in 86 percent of all counties nationwide, would be expanded. […]. ^ top ^

China raises interest rates for 6th time this year (China Daily)
2007-21-21
China will raise the one-year deposit interest rate by 27 basis points to 4.14 percent and the lending rate by 18 basis points to 7.47 percent as of December 21, the central bank said Thursday. […] Different from the five previous rate hikes, the central bank lowered the interest rate for sight deposits by nine basis points to encourage people to put more money in the bank for a fixed period, rather than having it readily available for stock or property investment. The move is to "prevent the economy from overheating and the structural price rises from evolving into evident inflation", the central bank said in a statement posted on its website. With the country still facing inflationary pressure, the central bank lifted the rates to stabilize the public's expectations for inflation, a spokesman with the central bank said. […] To keep the rising living costs in check and prevent the economy from overheating, the top leaders pledged earlier this month to shift to a "tight" monetary policy from a decade-old "prudent" one. Following the policy change, the central bank announced a one percent hike in the bank reserve requirement ratio. That compared with the 0.5 percent increase in the previous nine rises so far this year. […] And the special deposit targets rural credit cooperatives and city commercial banks excluding primary dealers in the open market. The central bank also says the special deposit adopts voluntary declaration of quotas. […] The central bank has also demanded commercial banks to cap their outstanding loans before the end of the year. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

More Olympic press events promised (China Daily)
2007-12-19
From the start of next year, foreign reporters covering the Olympics will be able to attend more press conferences and be given more interview opportunities, the spokeswoman for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) said Tuesday. "Starting from January, we will have two news conferences every week compared with just one now," Wang Hui told China Daily. […] "[Reporters] come with various demands regarding coverage not only of the Games, but also China's economic and social issues," […]"I am relieved to see that as more overseas reporters come to Beijing and learn more about our country, their reports are getting more objective," Wang said. […] Cao Qingyao, a spokesman for the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said it too will arrange more on-the-spot interviews for foreign media next year. […] The administration will provide timely information on breaking issues via press conferences and news releases, he said. […] Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the ministry will continue to present "a civilized and progressing" China in a more confident, open and cooperative way. […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

China's chief nuclear envoy visits DPRK (Xinhua)
2007-12-19
[…] "The U.S. hard-line conservatives are blocking the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and insisting on a policy to stifle the DPRK by force," said the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun. "The U.S. bellicose forces' constant hostile policy toward the DPRK is intensively manifested by the fact that they are speeding up the arms buildup against the DPRK," it added. "The U.S. bellicose forces' arms buildup and military moves for a second Korean war are undoubtedly prompted by their sinister intention to hamstring and frustrate the progress of the six-party talks," the newspaper said. According to a six-party talks joint document released in Beijing on Oct. 3, the DPRK agreed to disable all the existing nuclear facilities and provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs by the end of this year. ^ top ^

Lee Myung-bak officially elected as next president (China Daily)
2007-12-20
South Korea's National Election Commission announced on Wednesday that Lee Myung-bak of the conservative Grand National Party won the presidential elections. […] Earlier in the evening, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun issued a message congratulating Lee Myung-bak on his election as South Korea's 17th president. "We deliver words of congratulations to Lee Myung-bak. We also send words of consolation to the defeated candidates. We respect the will of the people displayed in the presidential election," said a message issued in the name of Roh's spokesperson, Cheon Ho-seon. "The presidential office evaluates the fact that the presidential election was conducted fairly. The Participatory Government will faithfully try to hand over the administration to the next president. We will also try our best the last moment to take care of state affairs," said the message. Lee will take over the position of president from current President Roh Moo-hyun on February 25, 2008. ^ top ^

 

Novella Bellonia
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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