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

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  11.2-15.2.08, No. 204  
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Foreign Policy

Call for end to 'farcical' US allegations of espionage (SCMP)
2008-02-15
Beijing has strongly rejected the United States' latest espionage allegations, denouncing the claims as "farces" that should come to an end. "The so-called accusations against China are totally fictitious and have ulterior motives," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said yesterday. "I think everyone is weary of these farces, and they should end." US authorities arrested four men on Monday on espionage charges related to the sale of military and commercial secrets to the mainland. Former Boeing engineer Dongfan "Greg" Chung, 72, a naturalised US citizen, allegedly stole trade secrets about several aerospace programmes, including the Space Shuttle, and sold them to the mainland. Individuals in the Chinese aviation industry began sending Chung letters asking for specific information as early as 1979, and Chung responded in a letter indicating his desire to help the "motherland", according to the US Justice Department. In a separate case, Pentagon weapons systems policy analyst Gregg William Bergersen allegedly sold information to a Chinese furniture salesman outlining every planned US sale of weapons or other military technological advancements to Taiwan in the next five years. The salesman, Tai Shen Kuo, a 58-year-old naturalised US citizen, then forwarded the information to Beijing through middleman Kang Yuxin, a 33-year-old Chinese national who is a US resident. The whole operation spanned January 2006 to February this year. On Tuesday, assistant US Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein described the spying activities as "a threat to our national security and to our economic position in the world", and said the mainland's spying efforts were approaching "cold war levels". He said that the mainland was one of the countries "particularly determined and methodical in their espionage efforts", and that charges had been pressed in a half-dozen espionage cases in the past six months in relation to such efforts. Mr Liu denied the mainland was conducting espionage, saying the allegations were "irresponsible" and did no good to Sino-US relations. "We demand the US stop its cold war thinking and stop making groundless accusations and do more to contribute to our mutual trust and the friendship between our two peoples," he said. ^ top ^

Japan admits domestic contamination of dumplings (China Daily)
2008-02-15
Tokyo -- A Japanese local admitted on Thursday that pesticide detected recently on the surface of some Chinese-made dumplings packages are dichlorvos used in the store. At a press conference, Tokushima Prefecture Governor Kamon Iizumi said dichlorvos was also detected on frozen food made in Japan and show cases at the store, but the amount was too small to injure people, Kyodo News reported. The governor denied any relationship between the incident and the recent mysterious poisoning involving Chinese-made dumplings sold in Japan. Analysts said the case in Tokushima indicated the possibility that food products may be contaminated during distribution and retail procedures in Japan. The Japanese health ministry issued a notice in 2004, forbidding the placement of pesticide in room for foods. ^ top ^

Envoy sets forth position on human trafficking (China Daily)
2008-02-15
Vienna -- China attaches importance to the prevention of and crackdown on crimes of human trafficking, the Chinese top envoy in Vienna said Thursday. Addressing a three-day UN conference on human trafficking, Tang Guoqiang, China's permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna, said the cause resulting in international human trafficking involves such complex factors as politics, economy and society. The crime has run rampant since the beginning of the 21st Century, he added. Tang said the Chinese government, which is firmly against human trafficking, has taken measures to fight the crime and protect the legitimate rights and interests of victims, especially women and children. China also actively participates in international cooperation in combating the crime within the framework of the United Nations, said the Chinese envoy. […]. ^ top ^

China calls for banning weapons in space (China Daily)
2008-02-14
Beijing has said it wants positive progress this year on a proposal it has prepared, together with Russia, for a new treaty banning all types of weapons in space. The draft treaty, unveiled on Tuesday at a Conference on Disarmament meeting in Geneva would prohibit the deployment of weapons of any kind in space, or the use or threat of force against space objects. "China hopes the Conference on Disarmament will enter into substantial discussion on the draft as soon as possible in order to reach a common consensus," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in a statement. […] The White House quickly rejected the draft plans by Russia and China, warning that ensuring compliance in any new peace treaty would be "impossible". "The United States opposes the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit access to or use of space," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. ^ top ^

More foreign leaders send sympathies over China's weather disaster (People's Daily Online)
2008-02-14
More foreign leaders have sent messages to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, offering their deep sympathies over the recent weather disaster in China. The foreign leaders who have sent messages recently included Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyoo, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Mauritian Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam. In their messages, the leaders extended deep sympathies to the affected regions, voiced support for the Chinese government's disaster relief efforts and expressed the belief that the Chinese people will overcome the current difficulties so that normalcy will return to the disaster-hit areas at an early date and economic growth will continue. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Isabel Salvado, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and Cypriot Foreign Minister EratoKozakou Marcoullis also sent messages. Prolonged low temperatures, icy rain and heavy snow have been raging in the southern part of China in the past month. A total of 21 provincial-level areas have been affected, with Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang, Sichuan and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region being the worst hit by the severe weather. ^ top ^

Debts of 49 developing countries waived (China Daily)
2008-02-12
China waived 374 debts of 49 developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific by the end of last year, an official with the Ministry of Commerce's foreign aid department has said. The exact amount of the written off debts, however, is not known. China began providing aid to other countries in 1950, one year after the founding of the People's Republic of China, the official said. Since then, it has provided - to the best of its ability - help to more than 160 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the South Pacific through aids, and interest-free and preferential loans. The country has helped recipient countries complete nearly 2,000 projects, ranging from agriculture and industry to communications, health and infrastructure. It has laid great emphasis on foreign aid training since the mid-1950s, especially in the past decade, to help strengthen the recipient countries' independent development. China has hosted thousands of sessions, serving nearly 100,000 officials and talents from various countries, according to a document released on the department's website (yws.mofcom.gov.cn). It has sent medical teams - about 20,000 members - to 65 developing countries and regions in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe since April 1963. Forty-eight Chinese medical teams, comprising about 1,200 doctors and nurses, are still working in 47 countries, the document said. […]. ^ top ^

China-British relations at best ever, says official (Xinhua)
2008-02-12
Gu Xiulian, president of the All-China Women's Federation, said here on Sunday that the relations between China and Britain are the best ever. Gu, also vice chairperson of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress, made the remarks on the eve of the China-UK Women's Cultural Festival to be launched on Monday. In recent years, she said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, the Sino-British comprehensive strategic partnership has maintained a momentum of healthy development, with increasing political dialogues, steady economic cooperation and active cultural exchanges. According to Gu, stronger times between the two countries are not only in the best interests of the two peoples, but also conducive to lasting peace and global harmony. She regarded "China Now," the six-month celebration of the Chinese culture across Britain in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August an "exciting and valuable" event. The president believed that the UK-initiated celebrations, widely deemed as the biggest of its kind in British history, will enhance people's understanding about China, laying a firmer foundation for more unofficial exchanges in every field. […]. ^ top ^

Sunshine diplomacy for China and Australia (SCMP)
2008-02-12
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi […] has got the recently elected government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to withdraw from a US- and Japanese-led four-nation security dialogue, reiterate Australia's opposition to an independent Taiwan and ensure that proposed Chinese government investments in Australia are treated the same way as any private foreign investment. No wonder, as one newspaper in Australia reported last week, that the Japanese feel a little nervous about the direction Mr Rudd and his government are heading at present. […] Given that Stephen Smith, who holds that portfolio for Australia, was so accommodating of Mr Yang, it is clear that Australia intends to ratchet up even further the already close relationship with China. If that means Australia's traditional friend - Japan - has its nose put out of joint, then so be it. For Mr Yang, hearing from Mr Smith that, on a recent visit to Japan, he had told his counterparts there that Australia would not attend any more of the Japan, US and India security talks, was manna from heaven. When officials from Australia, the US, Japan and India met on the sidelines of the Asean regional forum in Manila last May, Beijing was so incensed by what it viewed as the beginnings of a China containment strategy that it sent off a diplomatic "please explain" note to each of those countries. Australia, it appears, has got the message. […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

107 dead, $15.4b lost due to snow (China Daily)
2008-02-14
The back-to-back blizzards and icy rains that struck southern China in the past month have killed at least 107 people and left eight missing, as of Tuesday, a senior official said Wednesday. The disaster has also caused direct economic losses of about 111 billion yuan ($15.4 billion), Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju said. He said 21 provincial-level areas had been affected, with Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region the worst hit. About 1.5 million people have been evacuated and more than 1.9 million travelers were stranded at some point. The extreme weather affected close to 24.4 million hectares of farmland, with crop failure in 168 hectares of farmland, and led to the destruction of more than 350,000 homes. Also, 18.6 million hectares of forest have been damaged in 19 snow-afflicted regions including Hunan and Hubei provinces. The snowstorms, the worst in five decades and up to a century in some areas, caused deaths, building collapses, blackouts, accidents, transport problems and livestock and crop loss in the country's eastern, central and southern regions for about a month. Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday chaired an executive meeting of the State Council and warned of "arduous tasks" for the hardest-hit areas to recover. "Some major power grids have yet to be repaired. The straining of coal supplies for electricity plants has not been fundamentally resolved," Wen said at the meeting. […] The disaster is also testing insurance firms, which have paid out more than 1 billion yuan on claims stemming from the severe weather in south and central China, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said Wednesday. More than 855 million yuan were on property claims and more than 56 million yuan on health and life policies. The power sector received about 254 million yuan and the farming sector 40 million yuan, the CIRC said in a bulletin. Meteorologists forecast a warm-up for most areas south of the Yangtze River in the coming days, which could help the thawing of piled snow and ice. ^ top ^

Millions on the move at post-Festival travel peak (China Daily)
2008-02-13
The start of China's post-Spring Festival travel peak proved a relatively smooth affair as no major traffic problems were reported on Tuesday at a time when millions were returning to their place of work. […] The Ministry of Railways said snow and ice storms in south China had prolonged this year's post-Spring Festival travel peak, which may last to Saturday. Another travel peak is expected on February 21 as most migrant workers will return to work after the Lantern Festival. Post-Spring Festival railway traffic peak saw more than 5 million passengers on the last day of last year's holiday and more were expected this year, a Ministry of Railways spokesperson said on Monday. […]. ^ top ^

Govt plans safer roads, waterways by 2010 (China Daily)
2008-02-13
[…] The system is expected to help cut the death rate per 10,000 commercial vehicles by 40 percent and reduce the rate of major accidents per 10,000 vessels by 10 percent, compared to the figures for 2005, the Ministry of Communications (MOC) said. The measures will include improving highway design, setting up more injury-prevention facilities and keeping overloaded vehicles off the roads. Efforts will also be made to improve maritime rescue and salvage operations. […] The search range of the maritime rescue helicopter fleet will be expanded from 110 to 130 nautical miles in 2010. […]. ^ top ^

Mao wanted to send 10 million women to US (SCMP)
2008-02-13
Mao Zedong proposed sending 10 million Chinese women to the United States, in talks with top envoy Henry Kissinger in 1973, according to documents released Tuesday. The powerful chairman of the Chinese Communist Party said he believed such emigration could kick-start bilateral trade but could also “harm” the United States with a population explosion similar to China, according to documents released Tuesday by the State Department on US-China ties between 1973 to 1976. […]. ^ top ^

Wen's to-do list (SCMP)
2008-02-12
Good things in China come in eights, especially at this time of year. As everyone tries to guess what changes will take place ahead of the National People's Congress meeting next month - during which top state and government leaders will be elected - the Communist Party Central Committee has already assigned eight tasks for Premier Wen Jiabao for 2008. The first calls for "high-speed, stable growth", which means the central government remains glued to the mandate left by the previous administration: high growth will solve all problems. With high growth, people will see the chance of economic self-improvement, with "luxury" being the ultimate goal. And social stability will be assured, with everyone buying into this ultimate endgame. Declaring this to be one of Mr Wen's tasks is merely domestic, politically correct posturing. But then how do you control inflation? The second task is to "promote rural economic development". Unlike the first objective - a leftover from the Jiang Zemin era - this represents a change in tone from the 17th National Party Congress. Other post-Mao-Zedong policies have largely ignored the rural poor, leaving them to either forage or migrate to large cities. There was a time when the only way the rural poor could migrate to cities was to join the People's Liberation Army or gain a place at university. Today, the young rural poor are moving to the cities in droves. The central government now has a handle on this problem and has been inspired by the example of Sri Lanka, where investment in rural village industries roots populations in their indigenous communities. This approach places social stability on a par with economic development. China plans similar programmes in its own rural sector this year. It may prove to be one of the most important decisions yet in assuring social stability. Mr Wen's third task calls for "upgrading industry". China's vast industrial infrastructure has multiple levels, starting with rural processing and graduating upwards to simple motors, vehicles and now aircraft. So far, China's leaders admit they lag behind the world in terms of quality in everything except aerospace. While China has put a man in orbit, the reality is that it bought the technology and equipment from Russia, so China actually has a long way to go before it can really claim to have caught up in that area. All local industry remains problematic. How can it be upgraded? Expect a spending spree on new technology this year. The fourth goal concerns national energy conservation and pollution control. Unsurprisingly, few of the engineer-trained industrial-advocate cadres in the central government care much about pollution. The reality is that China's choking energy needs must be fed to sustain the high gross domestic product growth goals. With oil touching US$100 a barrel, the technocrats will just have to work out how to conserve energy, which admittedly is better for the environment then just wasting it. The fifth task, to "promote urbanisation", may conjure up images of Tokyo in planners' minds. But with the rural hordes descending on the cities, the reality could be more like much of Latin America. In sixth spot, "social harmony" has given way to the "concept of scientific development". For the leadership, this means spirituality cannot, and should not, keep up with GDP growth. Seventh, there are calls to "refine the opening of China's economy". The period of simply luring foreign investment is over. China now has excess manufacturing capacity. It now needs to redefine what "open" means. There are some in government who are calling for everything to be opened. This could lead to a new boom in foreign investment; one that could raise China's service and financial sectors to globally competitive levels. Finally, the government is mandated to "improve people's livelihood." But, frankly, it should have been doing that all along. ^ top ^

Green plan falls behind expectations (China Daily)
2008-02-14
A scheme aimed at curbing pollution by tightening loans to polluters has not fared well, the country's top environmental agency acknowledged Wednesday. "Implementation of the green credit policy has yielded initial achievements in the past half year, but it still falls far behind our expectations," vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) Pan Yue said. "There are institutional and technical difficulties in promoting it across the country," he said. Pan said SEPA will deepen cooperation with the financial sector to develop an effective green credit mechanism as financial regulators and institutions play a key role in promoting green credit. In July, SEPA, the central bank and banking regulators jointly issued the green credit policy requiring SEPA to hand over the names of heavy polluters to the central bank and the banking regulatory commission. Companies on the list that fail to meet environmental standards or implement environmental protection measures are disqualified from receiving loans. Those that have already secured loans but are later found to have violated environmental protection regulations will have their loans recalled. The government has vowed to cut the discharge of major pollutants by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010, while improving energy efficiency by cutting energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP. Since the policy was launched, companies on the list of heavy polluters have had key bank loans recalled, suspended or rejected. By linking firms' environmental performance with their creditworthiness, the green credit policy is aimed at curbing pollution as well as lowering financial risk, officials have said. But it has been difficult to substantially cut bank loans for high energy-consuming but profitable polluters at the local level, Pan said. Technical difficulties include inadequate exchange of information between environmental agencies and financial regulators, and the lack of detailed guidelines for green loans, Pan said. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan opens ports to tourists from mainland (SCMP)
2008-02-12
[…] The 790 tourists arrived at the port of Keelung in northern Taiwan on a luxury ocean liner that set out from Hong Kong. They walked on a red carpet onto a fleet of buses for sightseeing in nearby Taipei, local media and a port official said. "It's a new arrangement for Chinese people to come by ocean liner," a spokeswoman for the Taiwanese government's Mainland Affairs Council said. "We changed the rule before the Lunar New Year, and this is the first group that applied." Granted double-entry visas for the first time, the tourists were scheduled to leave Keelung last night and reach the southern port of Kaohsiung today for a jewellery exhibition before heading back to Hong Kong later today. Taipei blocks most travellers from the mainland for security reasons or fear of visitors overstaying their visas on the island. But Taiwan's cabinet passed a rule this month allowing mainland tourists to arrive via ship from ports outside the mainland. The mainland and Taiwan have negotiated the technical aspects of a broader agreement that would allow as many as 1,000 mainland tourists a day and open direct weekend charter flights, a boon to the island's flagging service sector. […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Panchen Lama pick tipped to join NPC (SCMP)
2008-02-14
A Tibetan youth, anointed by Beijing as the 11th Panchen Lama, is tipped to become the mainland's youngest ministerial-rank official. In 1995, China and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule, chose rival reincarnations of the 10th Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama's choice, who was then six years old, disappeared from public view, leading human rights watchdogs to call him the world's youngest political prisoner. Beijing's choice, Gyaltsen Norbu, turned 18 yesterday. "He is now an adult. He can vote and be voted for," a source familiar with government policy towards religion and ethnic minorities said, requesting anonymity. A second source with knowledge of government policy on Tibet said: "He is likely to become a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress as early as next month." The National People's Congress is due to convene its annual session on March 5. Members of its elite Standing Committee hold a rank equivalent to that of a minister. An NPC spokesman declined to comment. If confirmed, Gyaltsen Norbu's appointment is almost certain to draw western condemnation. "That won't go down well," said Robbie Barnett, an expert on Tibet at Columbia University in New York. "That will look like over-management unless they allow the child space to develop his own character and political style to indicate that he has the real interests of Tibetans at heart ... not the ones that China decides are Tibetan interests." In a sign that China is grooming Gyaltsen Norbu for higher office, he met NPC chairman Wu Bangguo last month. Mr Wu told him to "uphold patriotic Tibetan Buddhism ... and safeguard the unity of the motherland and national unity". "The 11th [Panchen Lama] will eventually become a vice-chairman [of the NPC]," a third source with ties to the leadership said. […] Beijing denies accusations that it has placed the boy appointed by the Dalai Lama under house arrest, saying he and his family merely do not want to be disturbed by the western media. Tibetans regard Beijing's choice, who made his debut on the world stage at a Buddhist conference in 2006, as a sham. ^ top ^

Tributes for 10th Panchen Lama (SCMP)
2008-02-12
Thousands of monks and villagers lit yak butter candles and chanted mantras as they packed monasteries in the country's northwest at the weekend to commemorate the birthday of the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989, was a giant in modern Tibet and the most senior religious figure after the 14th Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule. […] "The 10th Panchen Lama was the most skilful user of that little space that exists in China's Tibet policy for moderation, for real negotiation," Robbie Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University in New York, said. "He was the ultimate achiever in finding ways to encourage the Chinese state to compromise with Tibetan collective interests, particularly about culture, religion and the economy." Hundreds of monks prayed while villagers spun prayer wheels and prostrated at Kumbum monastery - known in Chinese as Taer - in Qinghai province on Sunday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 10th Panchen Lama's birth. On Saturday thousands of villagers and monks lined the roads from the 10th Panchen Lama's birthplace to the temple in Wendu village to catch a glimpse of his daughter, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo. "These prayers demonstrate that my father still lives in the people's hearts," Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, wearing a bright yellow traditional Tibetan dress, or chupa, said. "Time has not dimmed his legacy." After the Dalai Lama fled, the Panchen Lama spent more than a decade either in prison or under house arrest for attacking Beijing in a 1962 petition over mass jailings, starvation and efforts to wipe out Buddhism in his pious homeland. It was revealed in the late 1990s that Mao Zedong dismissed the 70,000-word petition as a "poisoned arrow shot at the party by reactionary feudal overlords". The Panchen Lama was freed in 1977, one year after Mao's death, and politically rehabilitated the following year. Physically and psychologically worn down after years of solitary confinement, the Panchen Lama married a Han Chinese woman in 1979. […] The government prefers to encourage loyalty to the 11th Panchen Lama to prop up his legitimacy, but it tolerates the memory of the 10th. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Top IMF official sees 10% growth for China (China Daily)
2008-02-15
Beijing -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Friday that although there was some impact from US subprime mortgage crisis on China, IMF still expected the Chinese economy to expand by 10 percent this year. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with Dominique Strauss-Kahn Thursday afternoon in Beijing, and the two sides exchanged views on the Chinese economy and other issues of common concern. This was the first time Strauss-Kahn visited China as managing director of the IMF. ^ top ^

China's yuan breaks 7.18 mark against US dollar (China Daily)
2008-02-15
China's currency, the yuan, climbed 127 basis points to a central parity of 7.1763 yuan to one US dollar on Friday, breaking the 7.18 mark for the first time. It was the 14th new high against the dollar this year. The yuan, also known as the Renminbi, set a new record four trading days in a row in mid-January. On January 31, it broke the 7.19 mark to a central parity of 7.1853 yuan to one dollar, following a bold half-percentage point rate cut by US Federal Reserve. On Thursday, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, pledged to tackle the credit crunch that was threatening America's growth by acting "as needed" to bolster its flagging economy. Market observers believed Bernanke's words signaled new interest rate cut, which helped pushing the US currency further down. The Chinese currency has appreciated against the dollar by about 12 percent since a new currency regime was imposed in July 2005 to unpeg it from the dollar. It climbed 6.9 percent against the dollar last year. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing suffers first defeat at WTO (SCMP)
2008-02-14
The United States has won a preliminary ruling in a World Trade Organisation case over Beijing's tax policies that restrict imports of foreign auto parts, a US trade official said on Wednesday. “We can confirm that, in all major respects, the panel has agreed with the United States that China has acted inconsistently with its WTO commitments,” the US trade official said in response to press reports on a confidential interim report released in Geneva. The final report in the case is expected to be made public by the second or third quarter of this year. The case would be China's first loss at the WTO. The United States and the European Union filed the case in March 2006 and were later joined by Canada. They complained that China's tax treatment of foreign auto imports discouraged Chinese automobile manufacturers from using them. China's WTO commitments require it to set a much lower tariff on imported auto parts than it does on finished vehicles, the US Trade Representative's office said at the time it filed the case. But in fact, China taxes imported auto parts equal to the tariff on complete automobiles if the finished vehicles made from the parts fail to meet certain local content requirements, USTR said. Once a final report is issued, China would have the opportunity to appeal the decision. […]. ^ top ^

China retail sales rise 16% during holiday (China Daily)
2008-02-13
China's retail sales, the country's key gauge of consumer spending, surged 16 percent during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday despite the worst winter storms in half a century. […] The ministry attributed the surge to the country's efforts to increase market supply and stabilize prices. China promised before the holiday it would maintain a stable market and that commodities necessary to the lives of common people would not be out of stock due to the heavy snow that blanketed much of the country. The government released part of its meat reserves to the market and redistributed 400,000 tons of vegetables between the different regions. It also exempted vehicles carrying fresh farm products from all road tolls and wholesale suppliers of such products from "as many charges as possible". Such moves were made following inflation in China rising at its fastest pace in a decade last year, with the consumer price index (CPI) increasing 4.8 percent. […] High-end household appliances, digital products, jewelry and thick overcoats became hot sellers in major cities. China has tried various measures, such as pay rises and "golden week" holidays, to increase domestic consumption which it says is too weak. […]. ^ top ^

A third more patents approved (SCMP)
2008-02-12
Authorities approved more than 351,000 patents last year, 30 per cent more than in 2006, the State Intellectual Property Office said. Xinhua reports there were 67,948 patent applications for new inventions and 150,036 for new technology.

 

Beijing Olympics

Beijing breaks silence to express regret at Spielberg's Games snub (SCMP)
2008-02-15
Beijing broke its silence yesterday at the loss of one of its Olympic celebrities by describing Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's pullout over the Darfur crisis as "regrettable". Both the Foreign Ministry and the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games remained defiant, however, saying the event should remain free of politics, and would open and close without Spielberg's artistic input. "We feel regret about his remarks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said after a two-day media blackout following Spielberg's decision to quit his post as artistic adviser to the ceremonies. The director claimed China was failing to pressure the Sudanese government to resolve the humanitarian crisis in its western region of Darfur. Bocog, which employed Spielberg nearly two years ago amid much celebration, said: "Mr Spielberg expressed his wish to make a contribution to the Beijing Olympic Games, and was given a certificate of appointment ... We express our regret over his recent personal statement." The remorse was quickly replaced by defiance and suspicion, however. Mr Liu listed China's positive influences in Sudan, including investment in infrastructure such as power stations and water supply systems, and financial and military support for the African Union and the UN. "It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur, but I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, [such as] political purposes, and this we cannot accept," he said. "Simply waving banners and shouting slogans will not resolve the problem in Darfur. We hope that those who are concerned can look at China's position on, and its constructive function in Darfur with an objective and fair mind." Nevertheless, various activists - as well as Tibet pressure groups - are celebrating Spielberg's snub as a coup. Darfur campaigners hope the director's withdrawal will create a domino effect and persuade other stars linked to the Games to pull out. Jill Savitt, director of Dream For Darfur, an activist group that boasts actress Mia Farrow among its ranks, said: "Now that [Spielberg] has performed this act of courage, we will be reaching out to the other artistic advisers and to all stakeholders in the Olympics." Director Ang Lee was recruited as Spielberg's fellow artistic director, and American singer-songwriter Quincy Jones is to write a theme tune. A spokesman for Jones said he "supports Mr Spielberg's decision" and was considering whether to follow suit. A Bocog source described the atmosphere inside government offices as "radioactive" following Spielberg's bombshell on Tuesday. Andrew Griffin, managing director of international crisis management consultancy Regester Larkin, said the 48-hour delay before the government's reaction was counterproductive. He said Chinese officials should go on the offensive and offer "substance". "They should not fight such actions, but offer meaningful words and actions to counter what is in reality the view of a few NGOs and one Hollywood director," he said. It was left for ordinary Beijingers to vent anger at what many on the mainland see as an act of hypocrisy and insensitivity by the director. Liu Rong, 30, was among many "infuriated" by Spielberg's decision. "It's improper for him to have accepted the offer and later turned it down. He should have said no at the beginning," the secretary said. ^ top ^

Newspaper admits error in Rogge's inclusion in protest letter (SCMP)
2008-02-15
A British newspaper has blamed an editing error for the inclusion of the International Olympic Committee chief's name in a letter urging China to intervene in Sudan's Darfur crisis. The news editor of The Independent, Julian Coman, said the error, which appeared on the paper's front page, was made by an editor. "The original letter sent to us by e-mail from the pressure group that compiled it had `cc to Jacques Rogge, IOC President' at the bottom. During the production of the paper, the cc was mistakenly taken out and Dr Rogge's name mistakenly left in," he said last night. Dr Rogge's name was included in the first edition of the newspaper, but withdrawn from subsequent editions. "We're printing a clarification and apology," Coman said. The Independent, published the letter on Wednesday. It was signed by eight Nobel laureates and high-ranking, influential dignitaries, including Dr Rogge. ^ top ^

Lawmakers Urge China to Help in Darfur (Associated Press)
2008-02-13
[…] A letter Tuesday signed by 120 lawmakers called on President Hu Jintao of China to use his "significant influence" with the government of Sudan to help advance peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts in Darfur. "Without a much stronger effort from the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to convince the government of Sudan to end its obstruction, the real-though-limited progress made during the past year will be undone, and the possibility of an expanded regional crisis beyond Darfur's borders will continue to grow," the lawmakers wrote. […] Human rights activists have accused China of being partly responsible for Darfur's chaos because of its staunch diplomatic backing of the Sudanese government. […] In a separate letter to the Chinese president, Darfur activists Tuesday cited the Olympics and condemned Beijing's support for Sudan's government. "As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games approach, we will continue to call on the Chinese government for action," said the letter, signed by eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 13 Olympic athletes and 46 parliamentarians, along with celebrities including actress Mia Farrow and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. "We are aware of the tremendous potential for China to help bring an end to the conflict in Darfur," said in the letter, which criticized Beijing's support for Sudan at the United Nations and said China's robust trade with the country was underwriting abuses in Darfur. […] Energy-hungry China is Sudan's key political and economic ally, investing in the country and importing over two-thirds of its oil output. China has sold weapons to the Sudanese government. Since fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003, it repeatedly used its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to prevent tough measures against Sudan. China says it plays a constructive role in seeking to resolve the Darfur conflict. […]. ^ top ^

 

Gautier Chiarini
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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