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
  2.1-4.1.08, No. 198  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

Indian PM to make trip to China (China Daily)
2008-01-04
[…] Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu announced Thursday that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would make his first official visit to China as prime minister from January 13-15. Singh is scheduled to give a speech at one of the capital's top academic institutions. "China and India are two largest developing countries in the world and both face the same tasks of development. We also work on ensuring regional and world peace and stability," Jiang told the regular news briefing. "We are willing to bring the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries to a new level," she added. It is widely believed that border disputes, economic cooperation, India's bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council and free trade will top the agenda during the visit. According to Jiang, the two sides held three rounds of talks at special representative level last year. "We will make joint efforts to try to find a fair and rational settlement that is acceptable to both countries," she added. […] more than 30 of India's leading businessmen will accompany Singh to visit China this time. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Deadline for Guangdong governor approaches (SCMP)
2008-01-02
Months of rumours that Guangdong governor Huang Huahua is set to be replaced by someone from outside the province will be answered in a week's time as the window closes on alternatives. Mr Huang is seeking a second five-year term as governor, but speculation has been rife for about three months that he will be replaced. If that is to happen, the candidate will have to be made a member of the Guangdong People's Congress before it meets on January 17, effectively giving the authorities a week to bring in a new official. Under the mainland system, all senior officials of the provincial party committee and government must be representatives of the Guangdong People's Congress. "It means that if the new governor is from another province and is not a [Guangdong congress] representative yet, the congress must hold a by-election for him before the coming congress," a source said. A Guangdong publicity office spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the new session of the provincial congress would start in two weeks. The Guangdong congress' website says the new governor and vice-governors would be elected at the meeting. […] The source said Mr Huang was still below the maximum age of 65 for senior appointments, but rumours about possible successors began circulating before the Communist Party's 17th National Congress in October. One report on an overseas Chinese website said Jilin governor and agricultural expert Han Changfu would take over from Mr Huang at the coming congress. Mr Han, 51, started as the head of the youth work department of the Communist Youth League's Central Committee about 20 years ago. Some mainland news sources also said former Heilongjiang governor Zhang Zuoyi was in the running for a transfer to Guangdong. Mr Zhang resigned last week, but it seems his age is a big obstacle. […]. ^ top ^

Hu protege takes over in Shenzhen (SCMP)
2008-01-03
The Communist Party yesterday named a protege of President Hu Jintao as party chief of Shenzhen. Liu Yupu, 58, worked with Mr Hu at the Communist Youth League's Central Committee from 1982 to 1985. The Shandong native was transferred to Guangdong in 2000 to head the party committee's organisation department after holding a similar post in Shaanxi and was elected deputy provincial party secretary in 2004. At the Guangdong party congress in May, Mr Liu was elected to serve a second term as the deputy provincial party secretary and was also put in charge of the province's politics and law committee. He chaired a meeting in Shenzhen more than three weeks ago when it was announced that former Shenzhen party boss Li Hongzhong would be transferred to Hubei province as its deputy party chief. Mr Liu told the city's senior officials that "Shenzhen's reform and development should always remain at the forefront" on the mainland. […]. ^ top ^

China names new central bank vice governor (Xinhua)
2008-01-03
China has appointed Ma Delun vice governor of the central bank, the Shanghai Securities News reported Wednesday. The 58-year-old replaced Xiang Junbo who had been appointed to head the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China in June 2007, said he report. Before the promotion, he was the assistant governor of the central bank. […]. ^ top ^

Chen Deming appointed China's new minister of commerce (People's Daily)
2008-01-03
China's top legislature on Saturday approved a cabinet nomination of Chen Deming, former governor of Shaanxi Province, as the country's new minister of commerce. […]. ^ top ^

Lethal injection to be used more (China Daily)
2008-01-03
The use of lethal injection will be expanded to replace gunshot executions, a senior judicial official has said. Jiang Xingchang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), said half of the country's 404 intermediate people's courts - which carry most of the executions - use lethal injections. "It is considered more humane and will eventually be used in all intermediate people's courts," Jiang told China Daily without revealing a timetable. To achieve the goal, the SPC will allocate the toxin used in the injection to local courts under strict supervision, he added. Currently, court officials have to come to Beijing for the toxin. "The SPC will help equip intermediate courts with all required facilities and train more professionals, particularly in the central and western regions," Jiang said. An amendment to the country's Criminal Procedure Law in 1997 made executions by lethal injection an option. […] Jiang said the use of lethal injection has received favorable response from all quarters of society, including those sentenced to death and their families. Though the country retains capital punishment, it should be applied only to "an extremely small number" of serious offenders, said Chief Justice Xiao Yang in a separate interview with China Daily, adding: "Each death sentence has to stand the test of time." Xiao said abolishing the capital punishment or strictly limiting the use of the death sentence are a global trend and "China is also working toward that direction." He, however, stressed that the goal cannot be achieved overnight. […] The chief justice has also said it is unrealistic for China to abolish the capital punishment - even for non-violent criminals - in the short term because of the strong belief among people of the concept "an eye for an eye and a life for a life". ^ top ^

Census data shows the size of family keeps on shrinking (China Daily)
2008-01-04
The size of Chinese family keeps on shrinking; more people moving and settling down in cities; the aging of people accelerating and the sex ratio becoming more balanced, according to census data released by the country's statistics bureau on Wednesday. […] The number of households under coverage was 5,391,013. On average, there were 3.13 persons in each family, compared with 3.44 persons in the previous census in 2000. And the figure in 1990 was 3.92 persons in each family. The sample census results showed that of all the sampled population, 8,585,000 were males and 8,401,000 were female. The sex ratio was about 102.2 males per 100 females in 2005. The situation in 2000 was 106.74 males per 100 females. Urban population, including people living in cities and towns, accounted for 44.8 percent, a growth of 8.7 percentage points over the last census. […] As for age, the 0-14, 15-64 and 65 and above age groups take proportion of 19.55 percent, 71.4 percent and 9.1 percent separately. The census saw a fall of 3.34 percentage points in the population of 0-14 age group and an increase of 2.14 percentage points in that of 65 and above age group. But the sample census did not release the updated population of the country. […]. ^ top ^

CPC lists 'ten taboos' for local officials (China Daily)
2008-01-04
[…] The list was made public at a national video conference jointly held by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee and the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). The "ten taboos" include:

  • using various ways to win support during the reshuffle, including making phone calls, conducting visits, holding banquets and giving gifts;
  • lobbying officials of higher rank to achieve promotion;
  • handing out pamphlets or giving souvenirs without authorization;
  • holding social activities in the name of reunions of classmates, townsmen or fellow soldiers to form cliques;
  • offering bribes in cash, gifts and stocks to buy government jobs;
  • taking bribes or attending banquets staged to drum up support during the reshuffle;
  • covering up or shielding illicit activities during the reshuffle;
  • spreading hearsay or using letters, leaflets, text messages or the Internet to vilify others;
  • using intimidation or deception to hamper and infringe upon the democratic rights of delegates or committee members;
  • arranging jobs for people or making a rush for somebody's promotion. […]. ^ top ^

China to build 1st 3G nuclear plant in March (China Daily)
2008-01-04
The construction of China's first third-generation nuclear plant, the Sanmen power plant, is set to begin in March, the State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC) said Thursday. Wang Binghua, SNPTC's chairman of the board, said the plant in east China's Zhejiang Province was expected to generate power by August 2013. It would also become the world's first AP1000 nuclear plant. […] The construction of the Haiyang nuclear power plant in Shandong province using the same AP1000 technology will also begin later this year. The SNPTC would buy four third-generation PWRs from the Westinghouse, including its technologies, according to a contract signed last July. […] He also urged the company to accelerate the pace of independent development of nuclear power technologies. The SNPTC, established in May last year, was "a strategic step in improving national nuclear power system construction and promote technology independence," he said. Related government departments, program owners and major shareholders are required to step up support to the company, he said. […]. ^ top ^

Chinese students flock to Harvard (China Daily)
2008-01-04
The Chinese mainland has been the second largest source of foreign students at Harvard University for the past seven years, said the prestigious US university. […] The number of Chinese mainland students at Harvard has increased 81.8 percent in the past 16 years. More than half of Chinese students there are studying at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAC), while others are scattered across various schools ranging from business to design. The Chinese mainland once topped the international origin countries at Harvard during academic year 1991-92. But it was dethroned the following year and ranked between second and fourth until academic year 1999-2000, after which it maintained second place, according to Harvard's International Office. Yongwook Ryu, a South Korean PhD candidate at the Department of Government under GSAC, said he has met a lot of Chinese students on campus. "They impress me deeply by their hard working and efforts to learn Western civilization," said Ryu, who majored in international politics. Most Chinese students at Harvard are taking postgraduate courses and focusing on research work, he added. […] The number of Chinese mainland students studying in the United States hit a record high in 2007. About 51,500 student and exchange visitor visas were issued to mainland Chinese in the fiscal year, up 40 percent from 2006 and double the figure in 2004, according to the US Embassy in China. […] Asian countries take up three seats among the five top foreign student sources of Harvard, with South Korea and India ranking third and fourth respectively. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

New energy rules planned for government buildings (China Daily)
2008-01-04
Government office buildings and large public structures will face energy quotas, higher utility rates for overuse and public releases of their efficiency ratings this year, the Beijing News quoted officials with the Construction Ministry as saying Thursday. The measures are just a few of the new energy-saving programs in the pipeline. Data suggests that government offices and large public buildings use 22 percent of the total electricity consumed in cities every year. In Beijing, State buildings use 85.4 kWh of electricity per square meter of space every year. That is 10 to 20 times what residential buildings use, according to a release by the Beijing municipal committee of construction and the Beijing development and reform committee. […]Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan called on State bodies to take the lead in reducing their energy use during a national work conference on Party- and State-level energy-saving initiatives last week. Zeng said this year the central government will cap the construction of State office buildings and employ more energy-saving technologies. The central government will also introduce a contract system for energy-use and push for reform in the fees charged for air conditioning. In October, the Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Finance jointly released a notice calling for the establishment of an appraisal system to reward or punish State office buildings and other large structures according to how efficiently they use energy. […] Kang Xiaoguang, a public management professor at Renmin University of China, said State bodies should set an example when it comes to saving energy. "As energy pressures grow, the government should demonstrate its willingness to restrict use so other sectors, especially industry, which is hungry for energy, follow suit," he said. New measures, especially economic tools such as pricing, will help fix the situation, he said. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai port continues to rank first in the world in cargo throughput in 2007 (People's Daily)
2008-01-02
The cargo throughput of Shanghai port reached 560 million tonnes in 2007, ranking the first in the world for the third straight year, the Shanghai Port and Shipping Bureau said Monday. […] The municipal government authorities have been striving to build the Shanghai port into an international shipping center. ^ top ^

HK submits theme statement report to Shanghai World Expo (Xinhua)
2008-01-04
[…] The exhibition theme, entitled "Hong Kong: A City With Unlimited Potential," will fully demonstrate the distinctive characteristics and status of Hong Kong among Chinese and world cities through highlighting the financial center's high quality of urban life and pioneering spirit in creativity, said Patrick Chan Chi-king, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Shanghai of the HKSAR Government. […]. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Flour export ban threatens HK supplies - Mainland suspension triggers concern from bakers, producers (SCMP)
2008-01-04
Supplies of bakery products and noodles are under threat in Hong Kong after the mainland temporarily suspended flour exports under a new trading regime. Bakers and flour-product producers yesterday voiced serious concern over supplies after mainland customs officials froze flour exports on Tuesday until details of new quotas became available. The new regime restricts the amount of flour to be sold to Hong Kong and other markets and levies export tariffs on wheat flour, corn flour and rice flour. It threatens to disrupt supplies to Hong Kong, which sources 75 per cent of its flour from the mainland. A spokesman for Hong Kong's Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said yesterday the bureau had reflected its concern over the uncertainty of flour supplies to the mainland's Ministry of Commerce and would continue monitoring developments. Industry sources said the move was likely to trigger price increases for consumer favourites such as egg tarts, pineapple buns and noodles as bakers sought to pass on higher raw material costs to customers. They said major flour suppliers such as Lam Soon Hong Kong Group and Hong Kong's dominant bakery supplier Garden had stockpiles but the likelihood of a flour shortage was intensifying in view of the indefinite suspension in exports. […] Federation of Hong Kong Industries director general Dennis Yau Tat-wang said they had relayed the industry's concern to the Hong Kong and central governments, and Beijing was working on the situation. "My understanding is that Chinese customs are still sorting out details of the quota system," Mr Yau said. "Until then, no flour exports are allowed." […] Hong Kong Food Council member Lee Kwong-lam, who also runs the flour wholesale business Tung Tai Hong, said supplies were tight even though the price had surged by 30 per cent. He said the new price for flour was between HK$70 and HK$120 a catty, depending on quality. "We have no idea when flour can be exported again, maybe not until the Chinese customs come back from holidays and sort out the details on export tariffs," he said. Mr Lee said they would have to sell flour imported from Japan, Canada and Australia when mainland stocks ran out. "The price of food is mostly affected by inflation," he said. "But we are selling according to the price we imported at." In a move to stabilise supplies and prices of flour and edible oil, the mainland brought in the new rule restricting exports, with the country's inflation hitting an 11-year peak of 6.9 per cent in November. Tight supplies of flour in Hong Kong have led many smaller bakeries to raise prices in recent months. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Chen blasts US for not backing UN vote (SCMP)
2008-01-02
[…] In his New Year's Day address, Mr Chen said Washington and other members of the international community should take note of the unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by the mainland, rather than the island's planned referendum. […] Mr Chen said democratic countries like the US should note that Taiwan's democracy was a precious asset to the global community and should not have "weighed their national interests against democratic values by opposing the referendum". "The efforts of Taiwan's 23 million people to protect their basic human rights cannot be characterised as `provocative' or misconstrued as attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait merely because of China's objections," Mr Chen said. He said excluding Taiwan from the global body just because of "pressure from China" amounted to "political apartheid". "We find it extremely regrettable that, under tremendous pressure from China, the United States and the European Union have expressed varying degrees of opposition to Taiwan's referendum on joining the United Nations," he said. […] Mr Chen stressed that the referendum was a basic right guaranteed by law, and "cannot be opposed or cancelled by anyone, not even the president". He bluntly told the US "Taiwan is a sovereign country" and only its people had the right to decide its future and relationship with Beijing. But critics and opposition politicians in Taiwan have said Mr Chen and his ruling, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party merely want to use the controversial referendum to increase the DPP's chances in the March presidential election. […] However, Mr Chen argued that the mainland, rather than Taiwan, was to blame for "unilaterally changing the cross-strait status quo". He said the number of tactical ballistic missiles deployed by the mainland had increased from 200 in 2000 to 1,328 by the end of last month. He said that, in addition to setting in motion a three-stage plan to attack Taiwan, Beijing was "poised to designate an air defence identification zone" in the Taiwan Strait and open a new civil air route along the centre of the Taiwan Strait. Mr Chen called on the mainland to sign an unconditional peace accord with the island. Meanwhile, the opposition Kuomintang criticised Mr Chen for trying to use the referendum issue to cover up his poor performance. ^ top ^

Ex-KMT chief's son struck in poll flare-up (SCMP)
2008-01-04
Lien Sheng-wen, the son of former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, has been punched in the eye by a man while campaigning for a KMT candidate in Taipei. The punch yesterday marked the first case of violence in campaigning for the January 12 legislative election, already dogged by reports of the island's biggest vote-buying scandal - involving as many as 1,400 people. The junior Mr Lien, who was slightly hurt, said the man approached him and suddenly punched him in the right eye. The man, identified by police by his family name Chao, was overpowered by KMT supporters and arrested. The motive for the attack is not known. Prosecutors are probing allegations that a KMT candidate offered NT$1.15 million (HK$277,000) to buy votes in the southwestern county of Yunlin. They have arrested 32 people, and a local district chief has admitted helping the candidate pay 1,400 people NT$500 per vote. ^ top ^

DPP replaces poll chiefs, but scandal forces one to resign (SCMP)
2008-01-04
Taiwan's cabinet has replaced two opposition election committee chiefs with members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in what the Kuomintang claims is an attempt to reduce its chances in the upcoming legislative elections. But one of the replacements was forced to resign yesterday - just one day after his appointment as the election committee chief of the central city of Taichung. It was revealed that Hsueh Chiu-fa has been charged with running an illegal gambling operation. Mr Hsueh has denied any wrongdoing but his indictment makes him ineligible to serve on the election committee. "I don't want to fuel the ongoing fight and hope to maintain peace," he said. The KMT has accused the cabinet of trying to use its own people to sabotage the opposition's chances in the January 12 poll. The DPP government has also sacked Taipei election committee chief Wu Hsiu-kuang and replaced him with DPP member Tsai Tien-chi, who has been convicted of violating securities law. Yesterday, a group of KMT legislators accused the government of trying to undermine the elections by appointing people with legal problems. […] The KMT claims that by appointing its own people to big KMT-controlled constituencies like Taichung and Taipei, the government aims to manipulate voting procedure in favour of DPP candidates. The government has pushed through a one-step voting procedure in which people will be asked to receive and cast ballots for the elections and two referendums at the same time, despite KMT attempts to separate the plebiscites. […] Pundits say holding the referendum alongside the legislative elections will encourage voters dissatisfied with the corruption of the former KMT government to vote, thereby increasing the DPP's election chances. They say replacing the election committee chiefs and holding the referendums are just strategies to increase the DPP's chances in the legislative race, seen as a prelude to the more important presidential election in March. Other gimmicks include branding late KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek, a dictator and murderer of tens of thousands of people in Taiwan. It is part of a campaign to remind voters of the ugly record of the KMT. […] Political commentator Shen Fu-hsiung, a former DPP legislator, said some DPP supporters had been frustrated by the Chen government and were not willing to vote. He said the High Court's recent acquittal of KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou on graft charges had given the opposition a strong boost, allowing the KMT to take a strong lead in the polls. The DPP hopes to win more than 50 of the 113 legislative seats, but media reports, quoting DPP surveys, say that target is far too optimistic. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Investment growth set to slow (China Daily)
2008-01-02
Fixed-asset investment growth is expected to slow this year under tighter macro controls, but it won't be easily achieved, according to analysts. Central authorities pledged further tightening measures to prevent the economy from overheating and rising prices from evolving into entrenched inflation at its annual Central Economic Work Conference in early December. […] The central government has vowed to take measures like strengthening control of new construction projects. In November, it ordered that new projects must be authorized and abide by the rules. It also called for improved management of investment projects worth more than 50 million yuan. Credit is also widely expected to be tightened this year. The banking regulator reportedly asked commercial banks to cut their lending plans for 2008. […] Industrial policies like reining in investment projects that endanger the local environment may also be increasingly used this year, [Liu Xiahui, an economist from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences] said. "The National Development and Reform Commission may take a more active role in this process," he said. According to Fan Jianping, head of the economic forecast department at the State Information Center, growth of overall fixed-asset investment could be 23.5 percent this year, about 2 percentage points lower than in 2007. Despite the forecast investment slowdown, analysts warned it will not be easily achieved. China will continue to face the problem of excess liquidity, which will put pressure on investment growth, Anbound's Chen said. "Construction of new projects would in turn bring in more capital, as they may take more than a year," he said. This "unhealthy" cycle would have an impact on policymakers' efforts to cool investment growth, he said. […]. ^ top ^

China puts quota on grain powder exports (China Daily)
2008-01-03
China started a temporary quota policy on the export of wheat, corn and rice powder on Tuesday, in order to guarantee an adequate domestic supply. The adjustment aims to curb grain exports boosted by climbing international prices, and stabilize domestic food prices, said an announcement on the Ministry of Commerce website on Tuesday. The details of the quota are unspecified, but it will be implemented through a permit policy. The period of the policy will be decided by the demand and supply situation of related domestic markets, the announcement said. The step added to a string of government measures to rein in food price inflation driven by shortages of items such as pork, edible oil and grain. China's Ministry of Finance announced on Sunday that it would levy export taxes on wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and various processed grains in 2008, just a week after China scrapped tax rebates for grain exports. […]. ^ top ^

Yuan rises to 7.2775 against dollar (China Daily)
2008-01-04
China's yuan rose sharply against the US dollar on Thursday as the central bank set the medium price at 7.2775 against the greenback, a stunning rise of 221 basic points from a day ago. The yuan, also called renminbi (people's money), gained as much as 0.37 percent from the close Wednesday to 7.2725 as of 11:30 am Thursday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System in Shanghai. The appreciation of the yuan is also made possible as the market weakness of the dollar never ends. A report on Wednesday showed manufacturing in the US shrank the most in December in five years, increasing bets the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again in January to avoid a recession.

The dollar fell against the euro on Wednesday as the market awaited publication of the minutes from the US central bank's last interest rate meeting for a lead on the direction of American monetary policy. In midday European trade, the euro rose to 1.4658 dollars from 1.4585 dollars. Analysts predict a faster pace of yuan appreciation in the coming days. Last week, a report by the New York Times quoted Yao Jingyuan, chief economist with the National Bureau of Statistics, as saying Chinese economists were debating more appreciation moves. […] Economists and market pundits say the Chinese government has seen rising domestic inflation as a positive climate for a stronger yuan. It is believed that a rising yuan could also help the country cut cost in exporting fossil fuel like oil and raw materials like iron ore and copper. However, opposing voices in the labor market said they were concerned that faster appreciation of the yuan would hurt domestic employment, and hurt exports as a stronger currency cuts into profit margins. That worry was offset as Chinese exports rose 22.8 percent in November compared with 2006 levels. […]. ^ top ^

'Iron Lady' bids public farewell (China Daily)
2008-01-04
[…] As the country's only woman vice-premier, dubbed internationally "China's Iron Lady" for her tenacity in international trade talks, Wu Yi Thursday bid another public farewell before she leaves office in March. […] "This is the last time I'll speak to all of you, and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting my work all along," Wu told a work conference on quality control, a sector that she has been overseeing since 2001. "We've been walking together on an uneven road and enduring numerous hardships," she told more than 200 quality officials from across the country. "All of you have been working hard and I'm very satisfied." In response she received thunderous applause and was later presented flowers and a photo album recording her quality control efforts in the past few years. However, this is not the first time the Iron Lady has bid goodbye. In late November, when she attended a reciprocal banquet held by the China Chamber of Commerce in the United States, Wu expressed her wish to leave her job - the first time she mentioned it in public. In mid-December, when the third round of the Sino-US Strategic Economic Dialogue concluded in Beijing, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson bid farewell, commending Wu as "an outstanding representative of the Chinese people". Later that month, Wu made her intentions even clearer while attending a business conference in Beijing. "I will retire after the NPC (the top legislature) and CPPCC (the top advisory body) meetings conclude next year." "In my resignation to the central government, I have made it clear that I will not take any post after retirement or serve in any organization. “I hope you can forget about me completely after my retirement," she said. […] She had final words of advice to the quality control officials Thursday: "Quality problems will last for a long time I'll be looking forward to hearing more good news from you (even after my retirement)." […]. ^ top ^

Income gap to widen, think-tank predicts - Growth for farmers minimal, report says (SCMP)
2008-01-04
The income gap on the mainland will continue to widen despite efforts over the past two years to boost farmers' incomes, according to a report released yesterday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a central government think-tank. The academy's 2008 Blue Book on Social Development said the average disposable income of urban residents, taking inflation into account, jumped by 13.2 per cent year-on-year in the first three quarters of last year to 10,346 yuan, compared with farmers' average cash income of 3,321 yuan in the same period. The co-editor of the report, Chen Guangjin, from the National Development and Reform Commission, said both rural and urban incomes rose last year. But the growth for farmers continued to lag behind that for city dwellers and, as a result, "the income gap will continue to widen, though at a slower pace". The report predicted that, for the full calendar year, farmers' average net incomes would have grown by about 8 per cent in 2007 - the highest growth rate in years - thanks in part to raging inflation, which is at its highest level in a decade. The mainland's consumer price index surged 4.1 per cent year on year in the first nine months of last year, as food prices soared by 10 per cent. Prices for staples, including cooking oil and pork, rose by 30 per cent to 70 per cent last year, compounding the hardship for many low-income families. Li Peilin, from the academy, said a flurry of policies on compulsory education, medical care and tax breaks aimed at helping the rural population had boosted morale among farmers. But satisfaction among urban residents declined last year due to rising prices, he noted. […] "Reining in food prices to keep them stable is the foundation of social stability," Professor Li said. The report also pointed out a sharp increase in housing prices on the mainland last year, with cities including Beijing and Shenzhen recording double-digit growth that undermined consumer confidence. Professor Li said many families would like to own their own homes, but rising housing prices spurred anxiety about a further upsurge in the cost of property, suppressing desire to spend on other items. The rate of consumption as a proportion of gross domestic product touched 36 per cent last year, the lowest in decades, the report added. The figure is unlikely to sit well with officials who have been trying to boost consumption for years. ^ top ^

Shenzhen should think bigger, says new party chief (SCMP)
2008-01-04
Shenzhen's newly appointed party secretary has called on the city's government to think outside the box and develop the special economic zone into a world-class city. "[We] should dare to take on world class standards, dare to compete with world-class cities and build Shenzhen into a cosmopolitan centre with Chinese characteristics," Liu Yupu said. The remarks were made on Wednesday as Mr Liu, a protege of President Hu Jintao , was sworn into his new job. […] Mr Liu said Shenzhen should strive to become "a pioneer of reforms" and continue to play a role as both a window and model for the country's development. "[We] should be open-minded and not be bound by convention," he said. […] Mr Liu also pledged to further advance co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau. In a separate report by Southern Metropolis News, Guangdong's new party secretary, Wang Yang, was quoted as saying that Shenzhen should be prepared for adversity. "[Shenzhen] should refrain from complacency, raise its guard against any potential risks and overcome narrow-mindedness," he said. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing Olympics

Jade from Qinghai to make Olympic medals (China Daily)
2008-01-03
[…] Qinghai vice governor Jidi Majia announced to a group of reporters that the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games (BOCOG) had formally confirmed Qinghai jade will be used on Olympic medals. BOCOG unveiled a unique medal design in March last year that the gold, silver and bronze medals incorporate a distinctive band of jade. It is the first time in Olympic history that medals are made of material besides metal. […] "Qinghai has abundant reserve of jade. We will select the best manufacturer to ensure the quality," he added. Jidi Majia said several thousand of jade bands will be handed over to the BOCOG by the end of March. According to BOCOG's design, gold medal will see the lighter finer jade set in its back while the silver has the white-greenish jade, the bronze, the greenish jade. Jade represents honor and virtue in traditional Chinese culture and the medal design is regarded to well combine Olympic spirit and Chinese culture. […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

U.S., South Korea committe aerial espionage over 2,250 times in 2007 (People's Daily)
2008-01-02
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday accused the United States and South Korea of committing aerial espionage against it over 2,250 times in 2007, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. In December alone, U.S. forces perpetrated at least 110 aerial espionage missions against the DPRK, and South Korean forces more than 70, KCNA quoted a military source as saying. DPRK announces the number of aerial espionage cases against it every month to prove that the United States and South Korea maintain hostilities against it. […]. ^ top ^

US: DPRK misses nuclear declaration deadline (China Daily)
2008-01-02
The United States said on Monday that it will have consultations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) after the latter missed a year-end deadline to disclose fully its nuclear program. […] Christopher Hill, top US envoy to the six-party talks on the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula, will have telephone talks with his counterparts from China, South Korea, Japan and Russia in the coming days. State Department spokesman Rob McInturff told reporters on Sunday that the United States has been expecting the DPRK to provide a full account of its nuclear weapons program under a disarmament-for-aid deal. […]. ^ top ^

North Korea executes labour hero for using private farm to get rich (SCMP)
2008-01-04
A co-operative farm chief once honoured by North Korea's founding president has been publicly executed for starting a private farm to support his luxurious lifestyle, a South Korean aid group said yesterday. The unidentified man - said to be a member of the national legislature - and two colleagues were shot by firing squad on December 5 in Pyongsong, 30km north of Pyongyang, sources told the Good Friends group. The farm chief, his accountant and the local county's party secretary were accused of selling produce from an unauthorised farming operation to live in luxury, the aid group said in a newsletter. Four others were sentenced to life imprisonment, and the families of those executed were taken to concentration camps. […] Good Friends said the ringleader, who headed a co-operative farm in Mundok county 50km north of Pyongyang, had been awarded the coveted title of labour hero. […] The farm chief was accused of failing to register 79 hectares of farmland that had been cultivated over the past decade. He allegedly fed retired soldiers with the produce and used them as his private bodyguards. […] The man "acted like a king" in the county and had been deemed untouchable because of his status and the gang of retired soldiers who followed him everywhere. […] Following the executions, Good Friends said each province summoned co-operative farm chiefs and local party secretaries and warned them of harsh punishment for diverting produce. […]. ^ top ^

S. Korea exports up less than expected (People's Daily)
2008-01-04
South Korean exports in December rose less than expected, data showed yesterday, and the government forecast overseas sales this year would slow on weakening demand from the United States. The slowing exports mean Asia's fourth-largest economy will have to rely more on domestic demand for growth, and this will make it more difficult for the central bank to raise interest rates even as inflation gathers pace, analysts said. The Commerce Ministry said exports in December rose 15.5 percent from a year earlier, which came below market expectations for a 16.6 percent annual rise in a Reuters poll. Imports grew 24.0 percent, above expectations for a 17.2 percent gain. Exports in all of 2007 rose 14.2 percent, faster than the ministry's target of 12.8 percent growth, but growth in sales abroad would drop to 11.6 percent in 2008 because of a slowing US economy, the ministry said in a statement. […] Stock prices fell and the won pared its earlier gains against the dollar on the trade figures, although treasury bond futures prices dipped as bond investors shrugged off the data. Commerce Ministry figures for the first 20 days of December showed exports to the United States dropped 0.8 percent from a year earlier while shipments to Europe jumped 35.5 percent. ^ 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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