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
  23.11-27.11.09, No. 296  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

Mainland unveils carbon target: Carbon intensity to be cut by 40pc to 45pc (SCMP)
2009-11-27
China unveiled a new target for curbing harmful greenhouse gases yesterday with a plan that signals Beijing's determination not to sacrifice economic growth for a reduction of its carbon footprint. By 2020, China would seek a reduction of 40 to 45 per cent in carbon intensity from 2005 levels, said Xie Zhenhua, the country's top climate negotiator and deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission. Carbon intensity is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of gross domestic product. Beijing also announced that Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the UN climate conference in the Danish capital, ending wide speculation about the likelihood of President Hu Jintao's attendance. The announcement came just a day after Washington said US President Barack Obama would go to Copenhagen with a proposal of a 17 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels. With China and the US, the world's top two carbon polluters, being vilified as key obstacles to the success of the summit, hopes for a binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol have faded. Its binding requirements expire in 2012. Both have been under immense international pressure to accept mandatory carbon caps to rekindle stalled negotiations. The announcement of targets by the US and China on successive days has been seen as a bid by both sides to gain initiative ahead of the key talks - or at least to avoid being blamed for their failure. Instead of accepting a straight-forward carbon reduction target, Hu proposed at a recent UN summit that China would unveil a goal for a "notable" cut in carbon intensity by 2020 from 2005 levels. This option is preferred by developing nations as it allows them to continue their economic growth while achieving greater efficiency […]. ^ top ^

China's top political advisor calls for closer Sino-Latin American cooperation (Xinhua)
2009-11-27
China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin on Thursday called for closer cooperation between China and Latin American countries […] Addressing the Brazilian National Congress, Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said it is a firm and steady foreign policy of the Chinese government to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with Latin American countries. Jia put forward a four-point proposal aimed at elevating the China-Latin America relations […] In his speech, Jia also expressed China's standpoint on the issue of climate changes, a theme he considered as a great challenge to the survival and development of the entire humanity […] Aloizio Mercadante, representative of Brazilian Senate President Jose Sarney, said in his speech that to strengthen the bilateral cooperation will be conducive to the development of two countries, the recovery of the world economy […] Brazil is the last leg of Jia's four-nation visit, which has taken him to the Philippines, Peru and Ecuador. ^ top ^

50m at risk of developing Aids, top UN official warns (SCMP)
2009-11-26
The UNAids chief has said 50 million people are at risk from the disease in China, and the government must do more to reach out and work with vulnerable groups such as homosexuals. China has 319,877 confirmed HIV cases, but it is estimated 740,000 are infected, Michel Sidibe said, citing figures compiled by UNAids, the World Health Organisation and China's Health Ministry. But up to 50 million others were in high-risk groups, such as sex workers, migrant labourers and drug users, he added. The UNAids executive director said he chose China as the place to launch the 2009 Aids epidemic update on Tuesday, partly to push Chinese leaders to work with non-government groups, which often must operate unofficially in China. "I wanted to come here to push a few agendas... I'm pushing them for a civil society... they don't have mechanisms to register them and monitor how they are doing," Sidibe said. With sexual transmission between gay males accounting for 32 per cent of new infections in China last year, Sidibe said more must also be done to engage the homosexual community, which struggles for acceptance in China. Sidibe went to Beijing yesterday for talks with leaders and to launch a public awareness campaign featuring NBA star Yao Ming tomorrow. He said the involvement of such a popular and high-profile star was a positive signal that Chinese society was getting more comfortable discussing Aids. Health Minister Dr Chen Zhu joined Sidibe at the UNAids report's release in Shanghai, and acknowledged China faced "a long march" in Aids prevention and control. Calling Aids "an engine for social change", Sidibe said it was forcing Beijing to openly discuss controversial issues. "When you talk about Aids, you talk about sex, you talk about human rights," he said. Chen had agreed to hold an Aids human rights forum early next year to discuss issues including patient care, women's role in society, sex workers and the homosexual community […] He said the forum would help carve out space for civil society in China's Aids debate. "Like most former communist countries, you have a nascent civil society," he said. "It has never been well organised, it has been characterised by the position of individuals, vocal activists who were able to voice their position a little. I'm seeing major progress" […]. ^ top ^

RMB rate fine-tuning is possible (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-25
The vice-foreign minister said the RMB rate's flexibility may widen, echoing the nation's central bank a month ago. The announcement by Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun comes after the People's Bank of China, which has the power to oversee the yuan and financial institutions, said it was in the process of reforming the exchange rate system. China is also starting to receive more international pressure to let its currency appreciate. The nation adopted the policy of loosely pegging the RMB to the US dollar since the financial recession began. "China will increase the flexibility of the RMB exchange rate at a controllable level in the future," Zhang said, "based on the market demand and with reference to a basket of currencies." […] Foreign exchange rates are expected to be the focus of the 12th China-European Union Summit scheduled next week in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province. The affluent Jiangsu province accounted for 18 percent of the total China-EU trade volume last year. Three EU policymakers are due to hold talks in Nanjing a day before the summit with Premier Wen Jiabao and central bank officials […] The trio are European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet; Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker; and Joaquin Almunia, the EU's commissioner for economic and monetary affairs. The summit, initiated in 1998, will be co-chaired by Wen, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Newly elected EU president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign policy head Catherine Ashton are not coming to the summit as they prepare for their new roles. At the summit, China hopes to forge a common stance with Europe against protectionism, said Sun Yongfu, director of the Department of European Affairs with the Ministry of Commerce […] "The EU is practical in economic ties with China but ideal-oriented in human rights and values," said Zhao Junjie, an expert in European studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. ^ top ^

China denies US espionage allegations (Global Times)
2009-11-24
Less than a week after US President Barack Obama wrapped up his first official visit to China, the two countries have again crossed swords over espionage and currency manipulation, provoked by a report from a US congressional advisory panel. The annual report on China "disregards facts, is full of bias and has an ulterior motive," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on the ministry's website Monday. "We advise the so-called commission not to always look at China through tinted glasses and not to do things that interfere in China's internal affairs and undermine Chi-na-US relations,"Qin added. The 2009 report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan 12-member board appointed by US Congress, said last week that Chinese spying is "growing in scale, intensity and sophistication" and urges Congress to review the US' ability to meet the "rising challenge"of Beijing's espionage. "China's peacetime computer exploitation efforts are primarily focused on intelligence collection against US targets," it said.

The report was released Thursday, one day after Obama left China after a four-day visit […] Li Wei, director of the Center for Counterterrorism Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that individuals carried out most of the alleged hacking, and both the US and China are victims. "The US' boasted ‘highest level of Internet security in the world' is attractive to most hackers, who naturally fancy technical challenges," Li said. "But it is groundless to accuse China of being the biggest source of attacks.” […] The wide-ranging report also said that Beijing was building a navy that could block the US military from reaching the region if fighting should break out between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, last week called the commission's suggestion a "Cold War fantasy." More broadly, the 367-page report criticizes China's trade policy, recommending that the US press Beijing to make the yuan more flexible and to turn to the World Trade Organization to fight what it termed predatory trade practices, and blamed China "for the creation of the economic imbalances that helped produce the global financial crisis" […]. ^ top ^

Somali pirates 'agree to US$3.5m ransom' for release of Chinese ship (SCMP)
2009-11-24
The Chinese bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates last month could be released as soon as next week, with the ship's owners agreeing to a ransom of US$3.5 million, one of the pirates said yesterday. "Negotiations between us and the owners to free the Chinese ship are going on now," he said from their stronghold of Haradheere. "We agreed on US$3.5 million to free the ship." Hijacked on October 19 in the Indian Ocean with 25 crew aboard, the De Xin Hai was taken to Hobyo, on the central Somali coast. A video released earlier this month showed the undamaged ship docked at the port. The Ministry of National Defence has stepped up its anti-piracy efforts since the hijacking, but the authorities have been reluctant to reveal information about the negotiations […] A staff member at the UK P&I Club confirmed yesterday that it had insured the De Xin Hai, but refused to comment on the remarks by the Somali pirate. Industry insiders said ransoms for hijacked ships were sometimes paid by insurers and the negotiated package would include the ship and the crew members. Mainland media yesterday highlighted the escape of another ship, owned by Cosco Hong Kong, from a Somali pirate attack two weeks ago. Two injured crew members on board the Fu Qiang received a lavish welcome when they returned to Guangzhou at the weekend […] The Fu Qiang was carrying 70,000 tonnes of cargo from Indonesia to Italy when the attacks took place. Crew members fended off the armed pirates by firing flares, petrol bombs and caustic lime powder, according to state media reports […] The hijacking of the De Xin Hai has prompted China to take a more proactive approach in international piracy co-operation. Beijing hosted an international anti-piracy meeting earlier this month. ^ top ^

US envoy hits out at media for Obama China visit (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-24
U.S. ambassador to China hit out at negative U.S. media coverage of American President Barack Obama's recent visit to Shanghai and Beijing, saying it failed to take into account significant progress on many important issues. Although producing no breakthroughs on key issues, Obama's first state visit to China that ended Wednesday was heralded by both governments as a net success. The trip was the top news story in China, drawing strong interest from the Chinese public who, surveys suggest, are largely positive in their view of President Obama. However, much of the U.S. media coverage was strongly negative, accusing Obama of failing to gain concessions on key issues such as Iran's nuclear program and climate change, as well as being weak on human rights […] Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the reports missed the fact that the visit had yielded important progress on cooperation in areas such as clean energy, military-to-military exchanges and stopping the spread of dangerous weapons. "I attended all those meetings that President Obama had with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao," Huntsman said. "I've got to say some of the reporting I saw afterward was off the mark. I saw sweeping comments about things that apparently weren't talked about, when they were discussed in great detail in the meetings," […] He said criticism about limited Chinese exposure for Obama's remarks at a town hall-style meeting with students in Shanghai failed to consider the ubiquity of the Internet and blogging in China, where 350 million people use the Web […] Huntsman said Washington expects good will earned during the visit will translate into concrete achievements […]. ^ top ^

China not taking sides on Kashmir (Global Times)
2009-11-23
Chinese experts say China isn't interfering in the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, despite a separatist leader of the India-controlled part of the region applying for a visa to visit China. And the experts stress that China criticism of India for extending an invitation to the Dalai Lama has nothing to do with the border dispute. "I believe China is not a party to the Kashmir conflict, but it has a stake as far as peace in the region is concerned," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference, said in astatement late Friday, according to AFP. "China has a direct link with Kashmir, as certain parts of Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, are under its control," he said, adding that he will visit China this Saturday on an invitation from a China-based non-governmental organization. Farooq, who is chief priest at Kashmir's main mosque, also welcomed a joint statement earlier in the week by Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barak Obama, who voiced support for better India-Pakistan relations. Farooq's secretary, Shahidul Islam, was quoted by Rediff News as saying that the leader would be applying for the visa after the Eid festival, and that "he will be highlighting the Kashmir issue during his visit to China, which is now an important player in the region." The statement on China's role in the Kashmir dispute was the first by separatist leaders since a revolt against New Delhi broke out in 1989, and Farooq will be the first among them to visit China if his visa application is approved. A day after his remarks, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, a senior leader of the People's Democratic Party, the main opposition, said China should not be introduced as another stakeholder in Kashmir, but it should be asked to return the territory under its control. […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Leaders of 'house' church jailed for up to seven years (SCMP)
2009-11-27
A court has sentenced five leaders from one of the largest underground churches on the mainland to jail terms ranging from three to seven years, apparently stepping up the prosecution of what the government calls unauthorised religious groups. After a 13-hour trial, the Yaodu District People's Court in Linfen, Shanxi, sentenced Pastor Wang Xiaoguang to three years in prison on Wednesday and his wife, Yang Rongli, to seven years. Others were given terms of between 3-1/2 and 5-1/2 years, lawyer Zhang Kai said. The five were convicted on two charges: illegal occupation of agricultural land and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic, with one church leader also convicted of an additional charge of tax evasion, Zhang said. He said the five insisted on their innocence during the trial, which ended late on Wednesday night […] More than 10 church members, including the convicted five, were arrested shortly after a new church building was raided and damaged by police on September 13. After the incident, military police were sent to occupy the main church building, stopping about 5,000 members of the regular congregation from worshipping there. Including its satellite churches in the countryside, the 31-year-old Linfen "house" church has around 50,000 members. Zhang said the church was targeted by the government because it was getting too big. "This is a very serious breach of religious freedom," he said. "They saw that the [new] church building was so large and impressive and it had 50,000 followers. The government feels pressured." […] Legal scholar Dr Fan Yafeng said the central government had stepped up persecution of unregistered "house churches" and the Christians' jail terms were the harshest imposed on underground church members in recent years. Critics say the central government is increasingly using non-religious charges to prosecute Christians to avoid criticism from the West. The sentencing of the church leaders came just three days after leaders from another large underground church, in Shanghai, were detained and questioned by police over "illegal gathering". "The government is utilising law as a persecution tool," Fan said. "These persecutions are using up its last legitimate resources." Officially atheist, the ruling Communist Party permits worship only in state-approved churches, although millions of Christians continue to worship in such unregistered "house" churches. ^ top ^

China to take next leap in moon probe (China Daily)
2009-11-27
China's second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, will be launched in October 2010, a top space scientist said Thursday. Ye Peijian, chief designer of the nation's first moon probe, told the third International Conference on Space Information Technology in Beijing yesterday that the country's lunar lander and rover, Chang'e-3, is also well on the way toward liftoff -- the project is in the prototype stage and its launch is set for before 2013. Ye said the second lunar orbiter will carry different payloads and orbit the moon in a different way. "It will orbit 100 km closer to the moon and be equipped with better facilities. We expect to acquire more scientific data about the moon with increased accuracy," he told China Daily […] Chang'e-3, China's first lunar lander and rover, is scheduled to be launched from a Long March 3B launch vehicle from the Xichang satellite launch center before 2013 […] The scientific objectives of the project include investigating the lunar landscape and exploring the geological structure of the moon. The mission will also help China study the material composition of the moon and search for usable resources. Scientists also hope the Chang'e-3 project will let them study the internal structure of the moon and, ultimately, they want to build an observatory on the surface […] Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 are part of the second phase of China's lunar exploration program. The third phase will see China send a spacecraft to the moon to collect samples and return. That project is slated for before 2017 […]. ^ top ^

Wal-Mart accused of abusing workers (Global Times)
2009-11-27
Wal-Mart was accused Wednesday of violating its ethical standards and forcing employees of its supplier factories in China to work in sweatshop-like conditions, as the world's largest retailer never loosens its grip on rock-bottom prices from suppliers. New York-based China Labor Watch (CLW) said in its annual investigative report that workers mostly based in the Pearl River Delta of the booming Guangdong Province and who make Christmas lights, tools, shoes, curtains and paper boxes for the retailer, have to endure "illegal and degrading conditions." Wal-Mart China, which operates 147 stores in this country, responded to the Global Times Thursday that the company will investigate the five factories mentioned in the report, and will take prompt action if any violation is found. "We'll be responsibly procuring from China as before, and helping our suppliers to meet our strict ethical standards," the statement said […] "The limited number of factory investigations that CLW is able to conduct in a single year is particularly striking," the report said. The findings included contract violations, severance difficulties, excessive working hours during peak season, excessive fines and poor living conditions. At most of the workshops at Dashing, for instance, during heavy production periods, workers may work 8 hours of overtime from 7:30 am until 1 am or 2 am the next day […] Workers generally rest two days per month, it said. The base salary is around $0.65 per hour, and overtime wages are illegally low at rates of $0.44 per hour for regular overtime, 45 percent of the legal minimum. CLW also found "there was no running water" in Dashing's bathrooms. "If the accusation is true, Wal-Mart should be denounced by the public," Yang Hanping, deputy head of the China Institute of Industrial Relations, told the Global Times Thursday. The accusations came as the US retail giant announced third-quarter profits of $3.23 billion, up 3.2 percent from a year ago, beating market expectations […] Wal-Mart, which opened its first store in Shenzhen in 1996, has more than 50,000 employees in China, according to its website. ^ top ^

Rumours swirl as top TV series blacked out: Smash hit about perils of buying a flat allegedly axed for cutting too close to bone (SCMP)
2009-11-26
Authorities in Beijing have blacked out a daring TV series highlighting rising property prices on the mainland because of the sensitive issue and scripts, according to media reports. Many viewers complained that Beijing Television had stopped broadcasting Snail House (whose name in English is Dwelling Narrowness) from Sunday for no good reason […] The report stated that the TV station said a technical problem had damaged the recording of the episode. But the newspaper also quoted an unnamed station insider as saying the State Administration of Radio Film and Television had ordered the show to be stopped. The insider said two reasons led to the shutdown - the descriptive style of the scripts and the sensitive topic of rocketing property prices. No official from the administrative body was available for comment yesterday […] the TV series, which began in some mainland markets in July, has achieved extremely high viewing figures. It depicts a couple's sad struggle to try to buy an apartment large enough that their son can return to live with them. The series has raised nationwide discussion, with a large number of viewers saying the story mirrors their own lives. It follows two sisters who have borrowed heavily to buy user rights to property, as technically all mainland property is owned by the state. In a desperate attempt to help her elder sister buy a flat, the younger one begins an affair with a wealthy, corrupt official, who gives her the money. The characters live in Jiangzhou, a fictional metropolis. The character who may have helped the series attract such a high audience share is Song Siming, the powerful secretary to Jiangzhou's mayor. He spends freely and lends the sisters money but later falls from grace in a scandal over the diversion of hundreds of millions of yuan from Jiangzhou's pension fund to finance property projects. Song's downfall bears a resemblance to that of Qin Yu, the former head of Shanghai's Baoshan district, who was involved in a scandal over the misuse of pension funds in 2006 […]. ^ top ^

Protesters urge AIDS action (Global Times)
2009-11-26
[…] Gao, a resident of Kaifeng, Henan Province, one of the provinces worst-hit by AIDS, protested Wednesday morning in front of the Ministry of Health in Beijing with 37 other villagers infected with HIV or AIDS, mainly through blood transfusions or from their spouses. The protest came less than a week before World AIDS Day and one day after an international AIDS control meeting in Shanghai, where Minister of Health Chen Zhu said China's HIV-positive population had reached nearly 320,000, prompting health experts to call for stronger efforts to curb the spread of the virus that causes AIDS. After about an hour, the protesters were moved from the ministry compound to a designated petition office several kilometers away, where they said health ministry officials "patiently" listened to them but didn't make any promises […] To earn extra money, Gao's husband started selling plasma to a local blood station for 50 yuan each time in the mid-1990s. In exchange, 400cc of blood was drawn – the maximum that can be collected from one person at one time under Chinese health regulations. The plasma in his blood was removed and frozen for hospital transfusions, and his blood protein was pumped back into his body. In many villages in Henan, villagers contracted HIV after selling blood or plasma to illegal stations that reused needles and pooled blood in tubs […] "If any donor carries the HIV virus and the blood station uses the same container to hold and pump back the contaminated blood protein to donors, the chance of other donors getting infected is 100 percent," Dr. Zhou Lihua, a professor at the AIDS research center at the Henan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, told the Global Times […] HIV infection caused by illegal blood transfusions has become very controversial in China over the past few years. In Henan alone, the number of reported HIV carriers had reached 42,879 by the end of 2008, including 24,484 AIDS patients. About 70 percent of them, mostly farmers, were infected when selling blood or plasma, according to the China News Service […] officials have started responding to the public outcry. Premier Wen Jiabao, for instance, visited several AIDS-hit villages in Henan Province in November of last year. And government funding for AIDS prevention was raised from 390 million yuan in 2003 to more than 1 billion yuan in 2009, and the central government also give another billion yuan to local governments, according to official figures […] But Gao and other protesters said the government isn't doing enough. She and her husband used to earned 3,000 yuan a month. But now she is jobless. No one is willing to offer her a job because of her AIDS, she said […]. ^ top ^

4 dailies 'severely punished for lying': Reports on wealthy get newspapers in trouble (SCMP)
2009-11-26
Lies, damn lies and statistics can get you into hot water - especially if you're in mainland media. Four mainland newspapers have been "severely punished" for publishing reports stating that 70 per cent of the mainland's wealth is in the hands of just 0.4 per cent of the population - and that most of the super-rich have close ties to senior party officials. Mainland censors branded the reports as false and partially based on "figures deliberately created by an overseas anti-China website", People's Daily reported yesterday […] In "using or distributing this false information" the four papers and other unspecified websites had "seriously misled readers, creating an undesirable influence on society", the paper said. The stories date back to an article published in Shanghai Securities News in October 2006, which contained references to the disputed statistics and linked the wealthiest individuals to top officials. People's Daily reported that a "certain expert" quoted the figures at an unspecified public forum in June this year, adding that the "expert" attributed them to "an overseas research organisation". An article followed in the People's Political Consultative Daily which, People's Daily said, "without checking the veracity" changed the source of the information to "relevant Chinese authorities" […] This article was in turn reprinted in Youth Times and a number of news websites. The reports struck a nerve with the mainland's increasingly vocal online community, and they were widely distributed on internet chat rooms. The growing wealth gap between the mainland's haves and have-nots is a source of underlying dissatisfaction - something the government does not want to see encouraged. The General Administration of Press and Publications "recently" issued a severe criticism of the four papers, People's Daily reported, having issued warning letters to their editorial chiefs and called upon them to "deal with those responsible" […]. ^ top ^

Proposal to curb rising prices of medicine, services released (Global Times)
2009-11-25
The Ministry of Health, National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security jointly issued a proposal Monday to reform the pricing system for medicine and medical services. Prices for medical services in clinical diagnosis, nursing, surgery and other technical services should be raised and the price of medicines needs to be lowered, according to the proposal. In the existing medical system, hospitals can benefit from a "commission" they add on to the medicines they sell from drug companies. The commission is calculated based on medicines that are priced less than 500 yuan wholesale, where 15 yuan is charged for every 100 yuan. Any medicines priced more than 500 yuan per unit can only be surcharged an extra 75 yuan. The newly-released proposal encourages reducing the 15 percent "commission" with a more flexible markup policy based on the different prices for medicines. It also says price caps can be introduced on expensive medicines if necessary. However, this proposal has drawn skepticism from Chinese experts.

"This proposal was under discussion half a year ago. But it does not make any difference compared to the original plan, because the medicine price system remains unchanged. What's even worse is the new markup policy. We already have a lot of problems on implementing the 15 percent commission rule across the board, not to mention a fluctuating markup policy for different medicines," explained Zhu Hengpeng, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The price markup on drugs has been a key issue in China's medical reform. The interests of many stakeholders will be involved, including public hospitals, doctors, drug manufacturers and patients […]. ^ top ^

Two executed in China over tainted milk scandal (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-25
Two people were executed in China Tuesday for their involvement in the country's contaminated milk scandal, in which at least six infants died and more than 300,000 became ill. Zhang Yujun was executed for the crime of endangering public safety by dangerous means, and Geng Jinping was put to death after being convicted of producing and selling toxic food, the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court said in a statement. Zhang was found guilty of producing more than 770 tonnes and selling more than 600 tonnes of melamine-laced protein powder from July 2007 to August 2008. Geng was convicted of selling more than 900 tonnes of milk tainted with 434 kg of protein powder to the now-defunct Sanlu Group, which was at the heart of the scandal, from October 2007 to August 2008 […] The death sentences and the executions were approved by the Supreme People's Court, the Shijiazhuang court statement said. Sanlu Group, which was based in Shijiazhuang, capital of northern Hebei Province, had been China's leading seller of milk powder for 15 years until the melamine scandal broke in September last year. The company's tainted baby milk powder was found to have caused the deaths of at least six children and sickened more than 300,000 others […] Altogether 21 people were tried and sentenced in January for their roles in the scandal at different courts in Shijiazhuang. Among them, two were sentenced to death, one received a suspended death sentence, three were jailed for life, and the other 15 imprisoned for terms ranging from two to 15 years […]. ^ top ^

Police admit torturing student for confession before his death (SCMP)
2009-11-25
A county police chief in Shaanxi and his three deputies admitted yesterday they had used violence to force a confession from a high school student who died while in detention, state media reported. Yan Yaofeng, head of Danfeng county's Public Security Bureau, said violent abuse led to the death of Xu Gengrong, 19, on the seventh day of his detention, China News Service reported. The deputy chiefs, who were involved in interrogating Xu in a murder case, also admitted extracting the confession by torture, it said. Xu was to take the university entrance examination in June, but police detained him on March 1 over a schoolmate's murder. Officers claimed that at 10.30am on March 8 Xu's face suddenly turned yellow, his breathing became rapid and his pulse was weak. He was confirmed dead half an hour after being sent to hospital. The death prompted a protest outside the county government office building, as Xu's parents and relatives insisted he had been tortured after finding black and blue marks on his body. Under public pressure, medical experts from the provincial People's Procuratorate conducted a postmortem examination the next day […] On March 28, the county government announced that Xu had died of a heart problem, trauma and fatigue. But Xu's family begged to differ as he had been a top sportsman at school. They dug up his body, put it into a refrigerated coffin and pushed for a further investigation. Local media quoted a medical practitioner who took part in the autopsy as saying Xu had abrasions, swollen wrists and bleeding inside the skull. The expert believed Xu had not received food or drink for a long while […] A debate over abuse of police power ensued and the provincial government decided to investigate. At least six officers at the county police station have been charged. The case is the latest in a run of suspicious deaths in custody - 15 people have died between January and March. Seven were beaten to death, three committed suicide and two died in accidents, Xinhua said. The other three are being probed. ^ top ^

Safety failures found in pit (Global Times)
2009-11-24
A dozen more deaths were confirmed Monday from a coal mine blast over the weekend, and government officials determined that negligence was to blame, vowing to punishing those responsible. The additional deaths raised the toll to 104, and hope remained slim late last night for the remaining four miners trapped in Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China. At the first meeting of the State Council Monday to investigate the cause of the explosion, Luo Lin, director of the State Administration of Work Safety and head of the investigation team, said the disaster occurred in the absence of proper safety protocols – namely the designation of someone to oversee safety […] "The mine has not carried out serious and thorough inspections to clear up any potential hazards," he said, adding that the management had failed to evacuate the workers promptly after high gas intensity was detected in the pit. The explosion occurred at around 2:30 am Saturday at the Xinxing Coal Mine, operated under a subsidiary of the State-owned Longmei Mining Holding Group in Hegang. Among the 528 miners who were working in the pit when the blast occurred, 420 escaped […] Further complicating the investigation is the fact that it came just three days after provincial coal mine safety authorities sent a task force to examine the safety of the mine and no problems were reported. Last month, in a special inspection by State work-safety authorities, the Hegang subsidiary was found to be using more than 4,200 pieces of uncertified equipment. Neither inspection resulted in the mine owners rectifying their faulty operations. The country's supreme prosecutors are already in Hegang to probe any power abuse or official misconduct behind the blast. Three executives of the mine were removed from their posts Sunday. The government did not indicate if more officials would be held responsible. Based on the preliminary investigation following the blast, Luo cited an inappropriate mining layout, poor management and organization in the shaft, and overloaded operation of the mine as being to blame for the blast […] In addition to the deaths, 65 people were hurt and many remained hospitalized Monday with injuries ranging from gas poisoning and burns to fractures and bruises […] China reported a decline in mining incidents in recent years, as it has shut down or merged many smaller and private mines into State-owned operations, which are considered generally safer. However, the mergers don't necessarily address safety issues if the owners compromise safety measures for profit. In a separate colliery blast Sunday in central China's Hunan Province, the death toll had risen to 11 Monday, and three people were still missing […]. ^ top ^

Activist jailed after helping quake victims (SCMP)
2009-11-24
Mainland dissident Huang Qi was sentenced to three years' jail yesterday on charges of illegally possessing state secrets, his wife said, decrying the verdict as revenge for his activism after last year's huge quake. Huang was sentenced by a court in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, where the earthquake on May 12 last year killed at least 86,000 people, including children crushed in schools that collapsed. Huang, a veteran human rights campaigner, was detained in June last year after offering help to parents protesting that schools that crumpled during the earthquake were made vulnerable by shoddy and corrupt building practices. The government has said that 5,335 schoolchildren died in the earthquake. Huang's wife, Zeng Li, who attended the hearing, said he received the maximum sentence for charges of illegally possessing state secrets, but the court and prosecutors had never said what secrets he was accused of holding […] "I think it was revenge for the earthquake and his other work. But the court would not even give me a copy of the verdict." […] US President Barack Obama last week raised general hopes for improved human rights while in China. But the sentencing of Huang, and other recent actions, suggest the party is unlikely to make concessions to dissidents and human rights critics, even with pressure from the West. Last week, Zhou Yongjun, a student leader of the 1989 prodemocracy movement who has long lived in the United States, went on trial in Sichuan on fraud charges, which his family said were made up. Huang, 46, embraced many causes that riled party officials. He ran his own Tianwang Human Rights Centre and a website critical of the party's restrictions on political rights. He was convicted in 2003 of inciting subversion and released from jail in 2005. His supporters were kept out of the courtroom for the verdict yesterday, and he was prevented from saying anything after a judge announced the sentence […]. ^ top ^

Sky-high ambitions in the race to have clean energy (SCMP)
2009-11-23
In the mountains above the southwestern city of Dali, Yunnan province, dozens of new wind turbines dot the landscape - a symbol of the country's lofty ambitions for clean, green energy. At an altitude of 3,000 metres, Dali Zhemoshan is the highest wind farm in China, where renewable energy has become a priority for a government keen to reduce its carbon emissions and which has taken full advantage of the global trade in carbon credits. "Wind resources in Yunnan province are not the best in the country," Zhai Cheng, a project manager at the farm for the Sinohydro Corporation, says. "But at altitude, it becomes more interesting," he added, gesturing at the line of 48 metre-high turbines. China, which relies on coal for more than 70 per cent of its energy, is also the world's largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But it has set a target of generating 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources - mainly wind and water - by 2020. "China is redoubling its efforts, with the 2020 target for wind power generation rising from 30 to 100 gigawatts," Zhai said. The rapid boom in wind farming in China - where installed capacity doubled last year for the fourth year in a row and now sits at 12.2GW - places it behind only the United States, Germany and Spain. […]. ^ top ^

Healthy virtual world for Chinese minors (Xinhua)
2009-11-23
With the Internet in reach to all who have access to computers, never has pornography posed such a great harm to the healthy growth of minors. The news that another 41 Internet portals transmitting pornographic information have been closed not only points to what we have achieved in this year's campaign against Internet pornographic content. It also sends the message that continuous efforts must be in place to guard against their comeback. As early as in 2004, national regulations were released to prohibit Internet portals from providing pornographic content. The action that started in October this year has already closed hundreds of portals and deleted thousands of Internet pages that carry pornographic contents. […] Statistics show that the number of Internet users reached 360 million in China by October this year, accounting for 27 percent of the total population. There are as many as more than 3 million Internet portals in the country. Doubtless, the Internet has increasingly become one of the most important ways of communication and information transmission. But at the same time, it has become the easiest way of transmitting pornographic information including photos and videos, and online sex trade. And through this media, pornographic content can reach an unimaginably large number of Internet users, many of whom are minors. There are instances of minors committing such crimes as rape after viewing online pornography. And some minors just cannot concentrate on their studies after repeatedly viewing pornographic photos or videos online. […] Of the 41 Internet portals closed most recently, 13 did not even register before they provided service online. And some Internet access service providers do not check the uploaded content to which they provide Internet access, and some have received money to provide access even when they know they are dealing with pornography. We cannot rule out the possibility of pornographic portals staging a comeback when the crackdown efforts slacken unless we find ways to make it impossible for these portals and content providers to make money by uploading unhealthy content on the Internet. That is where our efforts in the crackdown should be. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Expansion of Shanghai's mini-Disney site ruled out (SCMP)
2009-11-27
Shanghai authorities, already in a tailspin following confirmation that the city's Shanghai Disneyland is to be the smallest of the entertainment giant's six theme parks worldwide, have received a fresh blow, with the National Development and Reform Commission appearing to rule out any hope of future expansion. The city government is remaining tight-lipped over the size of the site reserved for the theme park after the project was confirmed this week to be less than a third of its expected size. The NDRC announced on Monday that the project would be allotted a 116-hectare site. That first official confirmation put the size of the project at less than 30 per cent of the 400-plus-hectare plot the Shanghai government has set aside in Chuansha, a semi-rural suburb close to Pudong International Airport. There has been speculation that the reduced size in the NDRC announcement refers only to the first phase of the project. A Pudong government official told the South China Morning Post this week that there would be two further phases, with the park ultimately being larger than the one in Hong Kong. However, Shanghai's Oriental Morning Post quoted an NDRC official as saying: "I'm not clear what you mean by first phase, second phase or third phase. This [116 hectares] is the area of the site for the project." The project has been on the negotiating table for more than a decade, and the announcement three weeks ago that it had finally been given the go-ahead was heralded as a triumph by local media. But then came the news that the site is actually 10 hectares smaller than Hong Kong Disneyland - currently the smallest - which turned a public relations coup into a major embarrassment. No official explanation has been offered as to the massive discrepancy between the two sizes - or how the rest of the set-aside land will be used […] A Walt Disney spokesman said final details of the project - including size, facilities and its completion date - were still being negotiated with the Shanghai government […]. ^ top ^

Shanghai first to offer social net to expatriates (SCMP)
2009-11-24
Shanghai has become the first mainland city to extend its social security network to foreign residents. The move means expatriates living and working in the city can receive coverage equal to that for locals over sick pay and bills for workplace injuries - so long as they pay into the system. Previously, the only option for companies with foreign employees was to take out commercial insurance [...] Overseas Chinese and people from Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau are also eligible to be covered by the scheme. Workers from overseas will also qualify for the city's pension when they reach retirement age - 55 for women, 60 for men - if they have been making payments for a "specified period". However, the notice did not indicate how many years' payments would be necessary to qualify. […] Sun Hande, director of the bureau's overseas workers' employment office, said the scheme would not be compulsory […] The scheme showed "great equality" to foreign workers if they "pay the same and get the same as their Shanghai-native counterparts", he added. According to the bureau's website, employers would pay up to an additional 37 per cent of wages in social security charges - for pension, medical, unemployment and other programmes - while employees' contributions would go up to 11 per cent of wages, and would start from 1,975 yuan a year and be capped at 9,876 yuan. For migrant workers who come from other regions and in the municipality's rural suburbs, contributions are a flat rate of 1,975 yuan […] According to the human resources bureau's statistics, there are about 68,000 expatriate workers in Shanghai, plus 25,000 from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The figure is considerably higher when dependents are included - a total of 147,826 at the end of last year […]. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Hundreds protest over planned incinerator (SCMP)
2009-11-24
Hundreds of Guangzhou residents took to the street yesterday, demanding that the government scrap its plan to build a waste incinerator in Panyu district, near their homes, witnesses and protesters said. Chanting slogans and singing, about 400 people gathered early outside a city management committee office. They later moved to city government headquarters. Some of them shouted: "Come out, mayor!" Others yelled: "We'll defend our homes with our lives […] Among the crowd were dozens of residents of Likeng village, who alleged that cancer cases and deaths in their area rose sharply after an incinerator was built there in 2005. Protesters were surrounded by hundreds of police officers, who ordered the crowd to leave. By mid-afternoon, police used crowd control barriers to separate the protesters, who dispersed peacefully. A protester who lives near the site of the planned incinerator said residents' complaints for months had gone unheeded […] A recent survey by the Guangdong Provincial Social Research and Study Centre cited by China Daily showed 97 per cent of respondents opposed the construction, and 92 per cent of respondents said the project would seriously harm the environment and their health. City officials said at a press conference on Sunday that construction of the incinerator would not start until environmental assessments were approved, although they insisted that it was still "the right option for us". The new waste incinerator is expected to replace two overflowing landfills in the district, whose population of 2.5 million produces an average 1,650 tonnes of rubbish a day […] Environmental awareness among mainlanders has been growing as living standards improved in recent years. Protests over environmental concerns have also increased. Just last week, more than 200 residents in Guangzhou's Xintang town protested and blocked a main road over the construction of a sludge- incineration plant. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Reform proposal to be tabled on time: minister (SCMP)
2009-11-27
The final political reform proposal would be tabled as scheduled without the government waiting for the pan-democrats to trigger a de facto referendum through mass resignations, the constitutional affairs chief said yesterday. The warning by Stephen Lam Sui-lung came as Beijing loyalists vowed to block funding for any by-elections to be held should lawmakers from the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats resign, calling it a waste of taxpayers' money. The groups have proposed that one lawmaker from the five geographical constituencies resign, triggering by-elections to create the de facto referendum. Lam had promised not to "take advantage" of the fact that after the resignations and before the by-elections, the total number of pan-democrats would be fewer than the required majority to block the government reform proposal when it is put to a vote in the legislature. But when pushed by government allies on the subject at a constitutional affairs panel meeting yesterday, he said not taking advantage did not mean the government would wait indefinitely […] Under the government plan, a final proposal will be put to a vote in the legislature next year, after the three-month consultation ends in February. It plans to start local legislation finalising the details of the 2012 chief executive and Legco elections by the end of next year. But the 23-strong pan-democratic camp will lose its power to veto the proposal if the government tables it for a vote before by-elections are held and contested by the five lawmakers who resign. The Basic Law requires a two-thirds majority in the 60-member legislature for it to pass. Lam said the time required to run the by-elections after the resignations could be longer than four months, at a cost of HK$150 million […]. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Macau audit chief set to lose her job - Official 'won't be in new team' (SCMP)
2009-11-23
Macau's commissioner of audit, who has investigated major misspending cases, is set to be the only top official missing out on reappointment when the new government takes over next month. Fatima Choi Mei-lei, 51, will cease to head the audit commission under Macau's new chief executive, Fernando Chui Sai-on, according to insiders in the Macau government. She would be succeeded by Ho Veng-on, director of the outgoing chief executive's office, said officials familiar with Chui's appointment plan. Analysts said such arrangements would send the wrong message to the public - that hard-working and responsible officials get punished. "Choi has done a great job, being responsible to Macau people, and having the guts to offend those in power," Jose Coutinho, a legislator and head of the Macau Civil Servants Association, said. […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Beijing decries US spin on communiqué (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-27
The Foreign Ministry returned fire in a war of words with the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan over an interpretation of a joint statement issued after last week's meeting between US President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. "Taiwan is an inseparable part of China," said ministry spokesman Qin Gang. "Respecting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity certainly applies to Taiwan." Qin was responding to Raymond Burghardt's remarks on Tuesday that the US government admits that the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet are parts of the mainland, but that the island of Taiwan is not mentioned in the communiqué. Burghardt also said, with respect to the joint communiqués signed by the US and China in 1972 and 1979, that simply because US "acknowledges" that Taiwan is part of China, it does not mean that the US "recognizes or accepts" that the island is one with the mainland. The language in the documents from the 1970s state that the US "acknowledges there is only one China, and Taiwan is part of China". Burghardt's controversial remarks are an indirect explanation for his statement earlier this week that the US will sell jetfighters to Taiwan. Mainland officials expressed strong dissatisfaction on Wednesday of the announcement of the arms sale […]. ^ top ^

Mainland may pull some missiles: Expert (China Daily)
2009-11-26
Beijing might consider removing a portion of its missile arsenal in South China, a long-held precondition by Taiwan officials for peaceful cross-Straits ties, a mainland expert said Wednesday. The possibility of the mainland's missile removal should not be excluded, according to Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, ahead of new round of talks next month between the two sides. "(Removing the missiles) would be a goodwill gesture by the mainland toward Taiwan," Li said. But he emphasized that the missiles are not targeting Taiwan and are positioned at their current location to safeguard national safety. It is thus impossible for the mainland to remove them all […] According to the island's defense officials, the mainland has nearly 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan. Li's remarks come after two key instances in the past days. Yang Yi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, gave a positive response to the mainland's reported plan to remove regional missiles at a press conference yesterday. On Tuesday, Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the Washington-based American Institute in Taiwan, said the United States plans to resume arms sales to Taiwan. Yang expressed firm opposition to US arms sales to Taiwan. "We strongly oppose US arms sales to Taiwan and our stance is consistent, clear and resolute," Yang said […] At the press conference, Yang did not attempt to deny the media that the mainland plans to remove "one-third of the missiles targeting Taiwan" before next March or April and said: "We hope both sides can make joint efforts to get prepared for addressing political difficulties in the future." The mainland has recently expressed a strong desire to open political talks as soon as possible, but Taipei has backed off from discussions and has said "the time is not ripe". "The mainland could accept the present cross-Straits status quo, but if it remains so in the long term, it will divide China," said Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences. He added that it seems that Ma is delaying political and military talks indefinitely in a compromise with the opposition pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to stabilize his power on the island. "So there is a possibility that the mainland is making some concessions, including removing some missiles, to show its sincerity of pushing forward peaceful negotiations," […] Li said removing the missiles could also serve as a signal to the US, which is pushing with its plan to resume arms sales to Taiwan. ^ top ^

Taipei concedes waters around frontline islets (SCMP)
2009-11-24
The Taiwanese government said yesterday it was not claiming the territorial waters around two small islands that have long been part of its frontline defence against the mainland. Taiwan retained control over the tiny island chains of Quemoy and Matsu but was forgoing claims to the ocean around them, the government said in a notice stating its position for the first time amid warming ties with Beijing […] "It's all linked, improving relations with China, and then China helps Taiwan improve its economy, which will help Ma Ying-jeou get re-elected," said Professor Lin Chong-pin of Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies […] This year, Taiwan began removing anti-ship barricades in Quemoy as part of a broader effort to demilitarise the islands. They are rows of spikes rooted on cement bases to stop warships from landing troops. Mainland and Taiwanese outlying islands were as close as two kilometres apart in the Taiwan Strait and had been patrolled by both sides without incident for decades […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Dalai Lama's meeting with Obama put back (SCMP)
2009-11-26
A meeting between the Dalai Lama and US President Barack Obama will be postponed to early next year, a spokesman for the Tibetan spiritual leader has revealed. The move could help in smoothing relations between the US and China over Tibet. The meeting, which Obama had pushed back from October until after his maiden trip to China last week, was delayed again because the Tibetan spiritual leader was too busy, Tenzin Taklha said from the Tibetan government-in-exile's seat in Dharamsala, India. "Because of his very hectic schedule, this year will be difficult" for the Dalai Lama to go again to Washington, he said, adding that the trip would probably take place early next year and the Dalai Lama would talk with Obama then. Obama did not meet the Dalai Lama when he visited Washington in early October, prompting speculation the US president was trying to avoid annoying Beijing before his trip to China […] Obama has been under fire for being the first US president not to welcome the religious leader to the White House since the Dalai Lama began visits to Washington in 1991. According to the Dalai Lama's internet homepage, he will be in Australia and New Zealand on December 1-10 for public teaching. No schedule for the rest of December is listed […] After his summit with President Hu Jintao, Obama called on Beijing to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama's representatives. While Obama was criticised at home for not doing enough to press Beijing on the Tibet issue during his trip, the Dalai Lama told India's New Delhi Television that he thought the US president was not being soft but "just has a different style". No dialogue has taken place since July last year. Those talks were seen as an effort by Beijing to fend off international criticism of its crackdown on Tibetans after deadly rioting early last year as China prepared to impress the world with its staging of the Olympic Games. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Efforts underway to cool hot money flow (China Daily)
2009-11-27
After a string of emerging countries - including India, Indonesia, Thailand and Brazil - began to target the flow of short-term speculative capital, many experts believe China will step up its efforts to control the flow of so-called hot money. The deputy governor of China's central bank, Yi Gang, said on Wednesday Chinese authorities will increase surveillance on flows of speculative money. And on the same day, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange tightened rules on individuals transferring yuan and foreign exchange between bank accounts. Many analysts interpreted the rules as a way to control cross-border transfers, an important channel for hot money flowing into China. Under the rules, individuals and companies from overseas can no longer send foreign currency to five or more Chinese individuals for conversion into yuan on a single day or on consecutive days. In addition to more scrutiny of cross-border fund flows, China's policymakers are "likely to increase support for outbound investments", said Jing Ulrich, chairman of China Equities and Commodities at JPMorgan […] Although there is no official data on how much hot money flows into China, […] economists believe it is substantial […] Hot money has already helped fuel bubbles in the equity and property markets and added inflationary pressures […] Chinese authorities will soon find themselves in a trap. Once the country starts to see inflation in 2010, the obvious response will be to appreciate the currency or raise interest rates, both of which will attract more hot money and fuel inflation. The dilemma is deepened by recent indications that the US Federal Reserve may hold its rates steady until 2011. ^ top ^

New taxes for employee benefits introduced (Global Times)
2009-11-27
Employees across the country are concerned about a notice published by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) that said cash subsidies for travel and other work benefits will be taxed. The notice, issued on the ministry's website November 12, said that cash subsidies to employees for transportation, housing, communication, meals, and car allowance must be counted as part of their total salary, not as welfare. Presently, workers pay a personal income tax on their salary if they earn more 2,000 yuan ($292) a month, but needn't pay any tax on their welfare, according to the revised Individual Income Tax Law of the People's Republic of China, which took effect in March 2008. Welfare fees, which vary at different companies, usually cover housing, transportation, food and communication. Some enterprises even award employees with allowances to buy clothes. And it has been a tradition to offer employee subsidies for items such as moon cakes and rice dumplings during respective traditional holidays. Economic analysts said that most company employees may have to pay more personal in-come tax because their salaries will increase after taking those subsidies into account […] An article published Thursday on the website of the Economic Observer newspaper suggested that imposing the tax on welfare fees should start first with civil servants. ^ top ^

Beijing unveils made-in-China global branding promotion (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-27
A 30-second commercial promoting Chinese-made products debuted on the Cable News Network (CNN) earlier this week, the media monitoring website www.media.com reported on Wednesday. The report says the ad is Chinese government's first ever branding campaign. The ad is expected to be run on CNN in major overseas markets, including North America. With the tagline 'Made in China. Made with the world' and highlighting the way Chinese companies co-operate with overseas firms to produce high-quality goods, the commercial shows a series of products, including an IPod-like MP3 player, a fashion shoot, and a refrigerator bearing the text 'Made in China with European styling'. The ad was created by DDB Guoan in Beijing […]. ^ top ^

China tells enterprises to be prepared for upcoming FTA (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-26
China has told its enterprises to be prepared for competitions while the establishment of the Free Trade Area between the country and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is only a month ahead. "Chinese enterprises should make full preparations for competitions brought by zero-tariff products imports from the ASEAN," Xu Ningning, executive secretary general of China-ASEAN Business Council (CABC), said on Wednesday […] The upcoming FTA, scheduled to be established on Jan. 1, allows zero-tariff on 90 percent of products traded between China and the ASEAN. Xu also urged Chinese enterprises to conduct adequate market research and pay close attention to the latest policies in different ASEAN countries to improve the quality and efficiency of bilateral trade […] The establishment of the FTA will create massive business opportunities for Chinese enterprises as it will provide an access to the ASEAN market with 600 million population, according to Xu. The FTA will boast a combined population of 1.9 billion and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) close to 6 trillion U.S. dollars, making it the third largest free trade area following the North American Free Trade Area and the European Free Trade Area […]. ^ top ^

U.S. government sets countervailing duties on tubular goods from China (Xinhua)
2009-11-25
The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday announced its decision to set final countervailing duties (CVD) on imports of the 2.6 billion dollar oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from China, the biggest U.S. trade action against China. The department said in its final determination that it found Chinese producers/exporters of OCTG have received net countervailable subsidies ranging from 10.36 to 15.78 percent, which means that the Chinese companies involved in this case will receive CVD in this range respectively. As a result of this final determination, the Commerce Department will also instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect a cash deposit or bond based on these final rates. The antidumping and countervailing petition case was filed in April this year […] Under that preliminary determination, the Commerce Department set a 36.53 percent antidumping levy on OCTG from 37 Chinese companies, while some other Chinese companies will receive a preliminary dumping rate of 99.14 percent. According to the case calendar, the U.S. International Trade Commission will make its final determination on the CVD case on Jan. 7, 2010 […] China's Ministry of Commerce has expressed strong opposition to the U.S. decision, saying it is a protectionist move that hurts Chinese companies' interests […]. ^ top ^

New 500-million-ton coalfield discovered in Henan (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-25
A report on discovering a new coalfield with reserves of more than 500 million tons has passed the judgment of experts. It is estimated that the coalfield is worth more than 1,000 billion yuan, according to the Fourth geological prospecting team of Henan Geology and Mineral Resources Bureau […] Located at the junction areas of Fengquan, Muye Area of Henan's Xinxiang City, Xinxiang County and Hui County, the coalfield belongs to Jiaozuo coalfield in Kuaicunying village. If estimated by the recovery rate of 70 percent, the coalfield can mine for more than 76 years […] According to the exploration, there are two layers of the coalfield that are worth mining: the first layer has a maximum thickness of 7.10 meters and annual thickness of 5.39 meters and the coal is high-quality anthracite III with characters of low sulfur, low phosphorus, medium ash and high heat. The second layer has annual thickness of 2.2 meters and the coal is anthracite II with low ash, high sulfur, low phosphorus and high-melting ash. ^ top ^

Companies deny plot behind gas shortages: Energy giants accused of restricting supply (SCMP)
2009-11-24
The mainland's energy giants have come in for unusual criticism from state media for the natural gas shortages that have plagued northern and eastern provinces recently. A report on China Central Television at the weekend accused China National Petroleum Corporation (CNCP) and Sinopec of exploiting the shortages to achieve higher profits. The early cold snap in the past three weeks had caused severe natural gas shortage in several provinces, including Hebei, Henan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Many businesses in major cities […] had their supplies cut temporarily to ensure supply to residential buildings, but the tactic did not always work. Nanjing, which has a population of 7.6 million, was one of the hardest-hit cities. Last week, at the peak of the crisis, Jiangsu's provincial capital had only five days of natural gas reserves. Industry insiders told the 21st Century Business Herald […] that rumours about a secret plan by the energy giants to reap higher profits by using the supply problem as a bargaining chip had spread widely in business circles. And a China Central Television report criticised the companies for playing down public frustration, citing their failure to provide any updates on the situation on their official websites. The companies rejected the criticism. A CNPC manager told The Beijing News that the company had increased daily supplies by 10 per cent since early this month to meet rising demand caused by cold weather […] A Sinopec spokesman told CCTV that supplies were at a historic high, and accusations that it was attempting to force a price increase were untrue. However, industry watchers said the low price of natural gas meant the two biggest suppliers lacked motivation to increase supply. Lin Boqiang, director of Xiamen University's China Centre for Energy Economics Research, said that low, government-set prices hit the suppliers' revenue and increased demand. Lin estimated that the mainland's annual natural gas shortage would increase from 20 billion cubic metres next year to 90 billion by 2020 […] Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Administration, said winter demand this year would exceed supply by more than a billion cubic metres. "I think the basic cause [of this round of fuel shortage] is the imbalance of supply and demand," […] "We used much more coal than natural gas in the past. But now people have stopped using coal [and chosen gas], which has caused the problem." But mainland internet users said monopolistic practices were to blame and more competition would help ease the problem. ^ top ^

China asks banks to avoid big fluctuations in lending (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-24
China's banking regulator on Monday asked the country's commercial banks to better manage risks and avoid year-end volatility in lending. Commercial banks should ensure that lending increase was kept in a stable and sustainable pace, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said. Financial institutions with low capital adequacy ratio and no practical remedy plans would face restrictions in various sectors such as overseas investment, branch increase and business expansion […] The CBRC called for enhanced inspections in financial system to detect problems after surging loan extends between the fourth quarter last year and the second quarter this year. In October, new yuan-denominated loans in October were down 51 percent from September, according to statistics from the People's Bank of China […] China's yuan-denominated loans in the first 10 months this year totaled 8.92 trillion yuan (1.31 trillion U.S. dollars), far exceeding the government's target of 5 trillion yuan for this entire year. The CBRC denied media reports which claimed that the banking regulator would impose lending controls on commercial banks and require big lenders to increase the capital adequacy ratio to 13 percent, compared with the current 11 percent on average […]. ^ top ^

Steamy side of a cool economy (SCMP)
2009-11-23
Sex still sells in Asia, despite the economic downturn. Despite the perception of relatively conservative attitudes towards sex among Asians, growth in the mainland sex market has surprised manufacturers and suppliers. Simon Nan, managing director of Nanma Manufacturing Company, a major manufacturer and distributor of adult novelties, said mainland sales had risen 40 per cent this year. The mainland accounted for 2 per cent to 3 per cent of Nanma's business but the growth was surprising, he said. Nanma is doubling the size of its presence at next month's Asia Adult Expo, a three-day trade fair at The Venetian in Macau. Kenny Lo Yuk-wa, chief executive of expo organiser Vertical Expo Services, said this year's fair from December 4-6 would be 80 per cent bigger than last year. The US market for adult novelties and entertainment is saturated and more American exhibitors are looking for new markets in Asia […]. ^ top ^

Foreign PE investors back yuan as reserve currency (Global Times)
2009-11-23
The yuan should become an international reserve currency in five to 10 years to prevent the country from paying for the mistakes of US economic policies, a London-based private equity (PE) manager said in an interview Sunday in Beijing. In the short term, Derek Han, chief executive officer of the Blue Oak Capital (BOC), said the country, under international pressure, will gradually allow its currency to rise 2 to 3 percent in value. But the country will ensure that it does not greatly affect export industries, Han said. Following US President Barack Obama's trip to China, two US senators, Charles Schumer, and Lindsey Graham, asked the Commerce Department Thursday to investigate alleged manipulation of the yuan, saying that the currency is undervalued to give Chinese exporters a global price advantage but costs US jobs. The request was declined by the department. Han also believed the accusation was unfounded since China has been financing US borrowing and over-consumption for the past decades, while the Chinese people saved. US politicians should stop pointing fingers at China instead of addressing their own inability to clean up their balance sheets, Han said. China is the largest foreign holder of US debt with $798.9 billion of US Treasuries as of September, while the US federal deficit hit a record $176.4 billion in October, according to the data released by the US Treasury Department […]. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

China reports eight cases of mutated swine flu (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-26
Eight people in China have been detected with mutated versions of swine flu, but doctors claim drugs are still effective against the new strains. Shu Yuelong, director of the Chinese National Influenza Centre, said the first mutated strain of the (A)H1N1 virus was detected in June in a case imported from Britain and a similar strain was detected three months later in the eastern province of Zhejiang. Scientists fear that mutations in swine flu viruses could cause more virulent and deadly pandemic flu. "This kind of mutant virus has been found in patients with slight and heavy symptoms as well as those who have recovered. The virus has not widely spread so far," Yu Hongjie, an expert from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Xinhua News Agency. The World Health Organization said Friday that a mutation had been found in samples of the swine flu virus taken following the first two deaths from the pandemic in Norway. It said a similar mutation had been observed in Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, and the United States, AFP quoted the WHO source as saying. However, it stressed that the mutation did not appear to cause a more contagious or more dangerous form of A(H1N1) influenza. Hong Kong's health department has reported one case of the Norwegian mutation, in a young boy. China has reported 53 deaths out of nearly 70,000 confirmed swine flu cases […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Fans won't see World Cup live in N.Korea (Global Times)
2009-11-20
After 44 years off the World Cup pitch, North Korean soccer fans may be deprived of the chance to see their national team playing in South Africa next year. Kim Jong-il, the supreme leader of the country, has ordered state-run television not to broadcast live games, and to screen only highlights of North Korea's victories, the Telegraph newspaper reported Wednesday. Quoting Mike Breen, author of Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader, the newspaper explained that the country, not entitled to live television, is more likely to get footage from its neighbor to edit as appropriate. "The majority of the population will have to make do with very one-sided highlights packaged hours, and possibly even days, after the game. Any loss will either be ignored or given the smallest of mentions," Breen was quoted as saying. Moreover, the emphatic order also included the blurring out of adverts and opposition fans in the stadium. Even if North Korea does win, TV stations have been told to edit the footage to make them look like a far superior team, according to the asylum.co.uk website. "Once North Korea are knocked out, I would be amazed if there were any mention of the World Cup at all," Breen added […]. ^ top ^

Kim Jong-il: Friendship with China 'unbreakable' (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-26
Visiting Defense Minister Liang Guanglie yesterday met Kim Jong-il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Kim welcomed Liang and spoke highly of the relationship between the DPRK and China. He described the friendship between the countries as a "treasure inherited from the older generations" of leaders and said it had "stood the test of history and was unbreakable". He also said links between the two nations' armies were an important part of that friendship. China and the DPRK have described 2009 as Friendship Year […] President Hu recently invited Kim to visit China […] Liang arrived in Pyongyang on Sunday for a five-day official visit. On Tuesday, he met his DPRK counterpart, Kim Yong-chun. "China and the DPRK established relations 60 years ago, and, no matter how stormy the international changes, the traditional friendship between us has always advanced," said Liang. "Under new conditions, China is willing to have closer military contacts with the DPRK," said Liang. He "reiterated the Chinese government's principles and positions on issues concerning the Korean Peninsula", a Xinhua report said, without directly mentioning the nuclear issue. But Yang Xiyu, a senior expert on the DPRK at the China Institute of International Studies, said China will discuss the nuclear issue with the DPRK during meetings […] Yang said the visit of the defense chief suggests that the Sino-DPRK relationship is heading in a "positive direction". "China will use all opportunities to dissuade the DPRK from possessing nuclear weapons," he said. Liu Jiangyong, a senior analyst on Asia Pacific studies at Tsinghua University, said the DPRK needs China's support to avoid being isolated in the international community […] He noted that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was "relatively stable", paving the way for the reopening of the Six-Party Talks. ^ top ^

Top DPRK legislator vows to strengthen ties with Russia (Xinhua)
2009-11-26
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will continue to boost its ties with Russia, the official KCNA news quoted its top legislator as saying on Wednesday. The friendly and cooperative relations between the DPRK and Russia had long historical traditions, said Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly. Kim made the remarks during a "friendly talk" with Sergei Mikhailovich Mironov, visiting chairman of Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, the KCNA said. Mironov said Russia would strengthen relations with the DPRK […]. ^ top ^

 

Manuel Muehlebach
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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