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
  30.11-4.12.09, No. 297  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

US sees bigger role for China in Afghanistan (SCMP)
2009-12-04
US President Barack Obama's decision this week to pour 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan looks set to complicate Sino-US ties, forcing Washington to push Beijing harder to open its strategic border to the country and to co-operate over infrastructure investments. US officials say that Obama's most dramatic military move to date will be accompanied by a diplomatic offensive to draw in greater longer-term regional support for reconstruction efforts that will help stabilise Afghanistan once US forces start to withdraw in 2011. In the near term, China's short but vital border with Afghanistan on the mountainous Wakhan Corridor will get considerable attention as Washington seeks to open supply lines for its surge, which will see its forces expand to 100,000 troops. State Department spokesman Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said that unlike Iraq, the Afghanistan mission was hampered by difficult supply lines that ran up through Pakistani ports. Insurgents have repeatedly attacked convoys. "It remains of great concern to us," […] "We are looking at how to create alternative supply lines. This is something we will be talking to China and neighbouring countries about." Speaking generally, he added: "We are having discussions with China on Afghanistan and we want to see China play a constructive role." The border issue has been raised previously with Beijing, most recently during Obama's first visit to China, but has yet to be approved. Afghan officials have also been pushing China to open the 73-kilometre border and consider building a railway and roads to improve links and trade. The panhandle-shaped corridor is close to territory held by insurgents and proved strategic in the 1980s as Beijing quietly assisted Washington in arming Afghan mujahideen during their fight against the Soviet Union's occupation. When asked about US requests over the corridor, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday that negotiations were continuing but did not say any decisions had been finalised. Referring to the meeting between Obama and President Hu Jintao two weeks ago, Qin said: "The statement made it clear that both sides support anti-terrorism activities in Afghanistan and the promotion of regional peace and stability." […] Speaking privately, however, other US officials warned of difficulties ahead, noting the sensitivities of Beijing over Afghanistan, which borders the restive province of Xinjiang, home to China's Muslim Uygurs. While Beijing would be happy to see the Muslim extremist Taliban movement and its al-Qaeda supporters crushed, it remains wary of the US-led operation in Afghanistan - now in its ninth year - and increasing numbers of foreign troops on its borders. Beijing has also been reluctant to allow US military flights or refuelling missions in Chinese airspace […]. ^ top ^

China, Russia to hold fourth round security talks in Beijing (Global Times)
2009-12-04
China and Russia will hold their fourth round of strategic security talks next week, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman announced on Thursday. "At the invitation of Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev will come to China to attend the fourth round of China-Russia strategic security talks from Dec. 7 to 8," said Qin Gang at a regular news briefing. The security talks, initiated in February, 2005, are a platform for the two nations to enhance political trust and cooperation in various fields, especially in the law-enforcement and security fields. ^ top ^

China, Canada seek 'new era' in relations (SCMP)
2009-12-04
Canada and China agreed to avoid disputes on contentious issues and seek a "significant new era" in relations, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was set for more talks in Beijing on Friday. A joint statement […] issued after separate talks between Harper – on his first official trip to China – and his hosts President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao laid out the aspirations. “The two sides agreed to work together to further promote China-Canada co-operation in all bilateral areas and international affairs, as bilateral relations enter a significant new era,” the statement said. Ties between the two sides have languished in recent years as Harper's government has been outspoken in criticising Beijing over its human rights record and allegations of Chinese spying. The joint statement bound both sides to respecting each other's views on contentious issues such as human rights. “Both sides acknowledged that differing histories and national conditions can create some distinct points of view on issues such as human rights,” it said, adding that they would increase dialogue on the thorny issue. It also said the two sides pledged to respect each other's “sovereignty and territorial integrity, core interests and major concerns” and acknowledged that each country has “the right to choose its own path.” Premier Wen Jiabao appeared to refer to the frosty relations on Thursday, noting that the last visit by a Canadian leader came five years ago. “Five years is too long for a relationship like ours, and that's why there have been comments in the media that this should have taken place earlier,” he told Harper. The trip by Harper, who arrived on Wednesday, has been viewed as motivated at least in part by fears in the Canadian business community that an aloof relationship with China could hurt trade ties. The two sides on Thursday signed a series of agreements on areas including climate change. They would work together in areas such as energy efficiency, environmentally friendly technology and adapting to climate change […] Sino-Canadian trade hit 53.1 billion Canadian dollars (US$50 billion) last year, according to Canadian officials, who said before the trip that commercial relations were at a “historic high.”. ^ top ^

China urged to adapt to climate change (SCMP)
2009-12-03
With temperatures rising rapidly, China should focus on adapting to the new environment rather than trying to slow down global warming, a senior central government climate change scientist recommends. "Global warming is happening now. To China, a huge developing country, it is more realistic and urgent to fit into the new environment than to try to slow down the process," Dr Zheng Guogang, director of the Chinese Meteorological Administration, writes in an article published in the latest issue of Qiushi (Seeking Truth), an important publication of the Communist Party. "Because weather has a direct impact on agriculture, the sector is the most sensitive, least defended and in need of most care," Zheng writes. "Therefore adaptation should be at the top of the government's response to climate change and agriculture should be the first item on the adaptation to-do list." Zheng's call for adaptation over prevention reflects a growing view in mainland scientific and government circles. Zhang is a member of State Council's leading group in charge of the country's climate change response and emissions cuts. But Yang Ailun, a climate change campaigner for Greenpeace China, said the article was surprising, irresponsible and short-sighted. "We have heard from President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that China will take emissions cuts as seriously as adaptation," Yang said. "If China doesn't commit, the global effort to slow down global warming will fail. Emissions cuts will help China move onto the track of sustainable development. If the temperature keeps increasing rapidly, no adaptation measures will save us." Under enormous international pressure, the central government last week made a pledge to cut carbon intensity - the amount of carbon dioxide produced with each unit of gross domestic product - by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020. But even if the economy continues to grow at a moderate pace, this would still mean a considerable increase in total emissions […] In the article, Zheng paints a gloomy picture of the future should the mainland not take immediate action to adapt. Barring new cultivation methods, crop species and agricultural technology, overall output would drop by 5-10 per cent by 2030, he says. Wheat would be the worst hit, with yields falling by up to 31.4 per cent […]. ^ top ^

China urges India to maintain peace in border areas (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-02
China on Tuesday urged India to maintain peace and stability in border areas as commenting on a road construction by the Indian side in disputed area. The two sides should make joint efforts to this end before the border issue gets final settlement, said Foreign Minister spokesman Qin Gang […] It is reported that a road was being built by authorities of Indian Kashmir in a disputed area near the line of control. The construction stopped after objection from the Chinese side. ^ top ^

Aids activist fears return to China after persecution (SCMP)
2009-12-02
Gao Yaojie, a respected Aids whistle-blower who travelled to the United States three months ago, hinted she might not return to the mainland, fearing persecution from authorities. The retired gynaecologist, 81, is an icon of conscience after exposing blood sales and an official cover-up as the main source of HIV/Aids transmissions in Henan in the 1990s. Since then she has faced severe pressure from authorities. In a speech to be delivered in Washington today, Gao was to say she might have to "die on foreign soil", but she was worried she might not be able to finish her book detailing first-hand accounts of Aids patients if she stayed in China. The arrest of Tan Zuoren, a Sichuan-based activist who was charged with inciting subversion for counting the student death toll in the massive earthquake last year, also alarmed Gao. "Considering Tan's case, I have to be more vigilant," Gao said. "I am not afraid of adversity, but I have to publish a book to tell our descendants about the truth of what Aids victims have gone through. "So I decided to leave […] I am aware that this trip could mean that I will be buried on foreign soil. But to tell the truth about China's Aids epidemic, I have no choice." […] In an advance copy of her speech, Gao said that illegal blood sales remained a significant source of transmission of the virus despite pledges by the authorities to clamp down. "Judging from what has happened in Aids-plagued areas over the past three to four years, and based on my experience, I realise that the epidemic is still very severe in the villages, as the blood-collection centres have gone underground," […] Gao said local officials continued to profit from trading blood through the collection centres, while threatening those who dared to speak out. "There are still a lot of unexposed blood-collection centres," she said. "As long as nobody speaks out, no one will know, and the officials can make a fortune and keep their jobs." In 2007, Gao was prevented by officials in Hunan, where she lives, from going to Washington to pick up an award from Vital Voices Global Partnership. The authorities relented under international media pressure. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now US Secretary of State, called then-vice-premier Wu Yi to secure Gao's release from house arrest. In Beijing yesterday, a group of activists protested in an event organised by the Chinese Red Cross, demanding more government help. ^ top ^

Premier rejects EU calls to let yuan rise (SCMP)
2009-12-01
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday sternly rejected European calls to allow the yuan to rise against the euro, describing the request from EU leaders as an attempt to contain Chinese growth. "At present, some countries are calling on the one hand for the renminbi to increase in value, while on the other hand practising all kinds of trade protectionism against China," the usually mild-mannered Wen said at a summit between the two sides. "This is unfair and is in reality aimed at containing China's development." […] Wen made the strongly worded comments following a one-day summit with European Council President Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu. The remarks poured cold water on European hopes that Beijing would drop the unofficial peg to the US dollar, introduced in June last year. The EU considers the yuan to be undervalued, placing the 27-member bloc's exporters at a disadvantage and effectively reducing the price of Chinese goods. Euro zone finance chiefs had tried to persuade Wen on Sunday that a revaluation of the exchange rate would be good for the Chinese economy. Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker - head of the financial delegation - said afterwards that a policy shift by Beijing would demonstrate that the Chinese economy was robust and "send out a signal of confidence in the recovery" […] The currency issue is a key sticking point in EU-China relations, with the yuan having fallen 2.6 per cent in value against the euro since 2005, when measures were introduced intended to have the opposite effect. However, the issue was not mentioned in the joint statement issued after the summit […] the statement did report agreement on a range of other issues, including climate change, ways to cope with the financial crisis, energy security, the environment and public health. The sides signed five agreements to strengthen co-operation on technology, clean-coal energy production, building sustainable trade and investment, and environmental management. The Nanjing summit was the 12th round of EU-China negotiations since direct talks began in 1998. The EU first established formal diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1975 […] Reinfeldt […] and Barroso travelled to Beijing last night, where they were due to meet President Hu Jintao this morning. ^ top ^

Pirates: Crew will die if China acts (Global Times)
2009-12-01
Somali pirates warned yesterday they would kill the crew of a Chinese bulk carrier if the Chinese Navy attempts to wrest control of the vessel from them […] In a statement, one of the pirates holding the 25 crew members of the coal ship De Xin Hai said the pirates had gotten wind of a Chinese plan to attempt a rescue. "We know they have arrayed their warships in Somalia waters to attack us," pirate Nur said, reading a statement from aboard the ship. "There have been negotiations between us and the Chinese to release the ship, and we are not ignorant about their deception. "We are telling them not to gamble with the lives of the Chinese teenagers in our hands. Honestly, we will kill if we are attacked." Earlier this month, one pirate said his gang and owners of the vessel were discussing a $3.5 million ransom. The Chinese bulk vessel was hijacked with 76,000 tons of coal. The ship is owned by the Qingdao Ocean Shipping Co. […] China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, Liu Zhenmin, expressed support for international efforts against piracy through an integrated approach […] He proposed that the various naval forces deployed in the waters divide up responsibilities in order to improve the efficiency of escort operations. It was crucial to support the return of stability in Somalia, even though political reconciliation had been stagnant. International efforts should, therefore, be increased on the political and security fronts. ^ top ^

China may lift ban on HIV/AIDS foreigners (China Daily)
2009-12-01
China is thinking about lifting its two-decade-old ban on foreigners entering the country with HIV/AIDS. The proposed scrapping of the ban comes as the nation prepares for next year's Shanghai Expo, which will likely attract four million overseas visitors. "I hope China will remove the ban thoroughly and forever by the time of the Shanghai Expo," said Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec 1. He said the Ministry of Health is working with other central government departments to achieve the goal. If it is not worked out by the time expo begins on May 1, the government will likely grant a special waiver allowing people with HIV/AIDS to enter the country for the event, as it did during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he indicated. China is among nearly 70 countries worldwide that deny entry to people with the virus, something experts say is unnecessary and discriminatory. The lifting of the ban will need the cooperation of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. The latest survey from UNAIDS showed that more than 35 percent of government officials in China discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. However, insiders say the reason for a ban on people entering the country with the virus, which cannot be transmitted through casual contact, goes beyond simple discrimination and stigma. Other concerns include potential medical costs for HIV-positive visitors. China imposed the ban in the late 80s. The country reported its first AIDS case in 1985 […]. ^ top ^

Time not right for stimulus policy exit: China, EU (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-30
Political and economic leaders from China and the European Union (EU) appealed in Nanjing Sunday that countries should not take an "early withdraw" from their economic stimulus packages since they are still need to maintain the global economic recovery trend. "An early withdraw would lead to a loss in what we have achieved," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao […] Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Eurogroup and Luxembourg Prime Minister, also revealed during the talk that the European Union has not yet started to withdraw the stimuli. "The moment has not yet arrived for withdrawing the stimulus package for both China and the European Union," he told a press conference after the meeting. The announcement came amid worldwide controversies over a second wave of financial turmoil, as the Dubai debt crisis had given rise to fears and brought shock waves around the world's already brittle stock markets. "For the Euro area, there will be no major withdrawal of stimulus measures in 2010," Juncker said. China also announced on Friday that, after launching a four-trillion-yuan (about 585.6 billion U.S. dollars) economic stimulus package, it will continue its proactive fiscal policy and moderately easy monetary policy next year even with growing concerns over possible asset bubbles […]. ^ top ^

Japan, China agree to enhance defense exchanges (Global Times)
2009-11-30
Japan and China agreed Friday to enhance defense exchanges as part of the efforts to further boost bilateral ties and mutual trust. Visiting Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa said during a joint press conference that Japan and China will "comprehensively promote strategic and mutually beneficial relations of the two countries through continuous and stable defense exchanges." In a joint declaration released after their meeting, the two sides said they will hold a joint naval drill for search and rescue operations for the first time and a meeting of high-level defense officials and uniformed officers regularly. According to Japanese Defense Ministry, the joint drill will be held next year. The two countries also agreed Japan's defense minister will visit China next year and that they will start discussions on mutual cooperation in the areas of disaster relief activities and U.N. peacekeeping operations. In addition, the chief of staff of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces will make a visit to China next year and high-level Chinese military delegation is expected to visit Japan in return […] The two sides also vowed to continue talks and work on the early establishment of a maritime communication mechanism between the defense departments. Before holding talks with his Japanese counterpart, Liang met Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and conveyed greetings from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Liang, who started the five-day visit to Japan on Friday, is the first Chinese defense minister to visit Japan since Cao Gangchuan did so in August 2007. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Uygur leader condemns death sentences (SCMP)
2009-12-04
The leader of exiles from China's Uygur minority on Thursday blasted a trial that condemned five people to death as a sham and called for global pressure on Beijing. A court in the restive Xinjiang region sentenced the five to death and another two to life imprisonment for their roles in deadly unrest in July between Uygurs and members of China's majority Han community. Rebiya Kadeer, the Washington-based leader of the World Uygur Congress who spent six years in a Chinese prison, called the trial “unfair” and “politicised.” “The Chinese government has brazenly ignored all standards of due process of law in a campaign to silence and intimidate the Uygur population through executions and mass detentions,” she said in a statement. “I fear that these five Uygurs will face the same fate of the nine men executed in November if the world remains silent.” China executed the nine men over the ethnic riots days before US President Barack Obama paid his first visit to China. Obama faced criticism at home for not speaking out more forcefully on human rights. The predominantly Muslim Uygur community has long complained of religious, political and cultural oppression by mainland authorities, which Beijing denies. ^ top ^

Deaths from coal mine gas explosions drop in China, but still too many (Xinhua)
2009-12-04
China still faces "arduous" and "complicated" task of preventing coal mine gas explosions although the national death toll fell by a quarter in the first ten months. Coal mine gas explosion deaths dropped 22 percent year on year to 551 between January and October, but severe accidents had not been under effective control, a national meeting was told on Wednesday. The meeting ordered coal mine owners and local authorities to attach greater importance to tightening safety measures as the winter peak season for coal consumption was approaching. Over the past five years, the government has earmarked more than 100 billion yuan (14.71 billion U.S. dollars) to contain coalmine gas explosions. Annual deaths were 2,173 from 2001 to 2005. Last year the number dropped to 778. The latest tragedy took place at the state-owned Xinxing Coal Mine in the northeastern Heilongjiang Province which claimed 108 lives on Nov. 21. ^ top ^

Resident's death over demolition stirs furore (SCMP)
2009-12-04
A Sichuan woman who set herself alight to protest against the forced demolition of her house has died after fighting for her life for two weeks, prompting outrage among ordinary people across the internet. About 30 uniformed police officers went to Tang Fuzhen's house in Chengdu early on November 13, using bulldozers to pull down her front gate. They barged in, smashing her belongings and beating her relatives, said Wei Jiao, the wife of her nephew, who was in the house at the time. Tang, 47, went to the roof of her three-storey house and told police she was willing to negotiate with them, but would set herself on fire unless they left her house, Wei said. But instead of listening to her plea, Wei said, the men sawed down several steel doors to get up to the top floor, where more than 10 of her relatives were hiding. They kicked and beat them with sticks. Wei's one-year-old baby was snatched from her while they kicked her. "She saw that her house was broken into and all of her relatives were beaten up, so she got desperate," Wei said. "So she kept pouring petrol on herself, hoping to get their attention. She was trying to get them to go away." Wei, who has gone into hiding for fear of being arrested, said Tang had pleaded with them for 20 minutes before she set herself on fire. Tang died in hospital on Sunday, 16 days after the incident […] "The worst thing about my sister's death was that she was in hospital on her own for more than two weeks and nobody was allowed to see her," Tang Fuming said. "If we had been there, she probably would have got better." There was an outpouring of sympathy for Tang in internet forums across the mainland […] At a press conference on Tuesday in Chengdu, officials told state media that Tang's house was in the way of a road project, and although the local government had offered compensation for its demolition, she had refused to accept it […]. ^ top ^

Police seize 44 tons of drug material (Global Times)
2009-12-03
The nation's drug watchdog Wednesday urged a restriction on the circulation of compound preparations containing ephedrine – a drug often used for curing the flu – as it could also be used to produce narcotics. Mao Zhenbin, of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), made the call in Yibin, southwest Sichuan Province, where local anti-drug authorities said they confiscated a record 44 tons of the substance. This amount could be processed into 10 tons of methamphetamine, or crystal meth, worth 2.17 billion yuan ($318 million), according to China News Service. Preventing the use of medical drugs containing ephedrine for illegal-drug production is a major part of China's anti-drug obligations, Mao said […] the National Narcotics Control Commission (CNNCC) and the SFDA said Yibin police also busted five drug-making gangs, arrested 85 suspects and dismantled eight illegal drug-processing laboratories. Police confiscated 415 kilograms of ephedrine, 955 grams of methamphetamine and 18.20 million yuan in cash, the government agencies said. A police spokesman was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying that the arrests were made in early October. Compound preparations containing ephedrine are not listed as precursor chemicals in the country, but the SDFA has now put a cap on their usage […] The amount of precursor chemicals flowing into underground drug-processing factories in China has increased alarmingly. Drug dealers from the "Golden Triangle," the second-largest heroin-producing area in the world – located between Thailand, Myanmar and Laos – smuggle chemicals across the Chinese boarder and process them into methamphetamine hydrochloride, the type of drug known as "ice." Precursor chemicals smuggled from China into Southeast Asian nations have also been on the rise. Drug dealers have begun trafficking precursor chemicals to countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines, and to build drug-processing laboratories there. The precursor chemicals are the major materials and the chemical agents that can be used for producing narcotics or psychotropic substances […] According to the China Anti-Drug Report 2009, released in April by the Anti-Drug Bureau, affiliated to the Ministry of Public Security, 1,113 tons of precursor chemicals were seized in 2008. ^ top ^

Police extend crackdown on sports betting (SCMP)
2009-12-03
The crackdown on corruption in mainland sport has deepened with the exposure of two major gambling rings and a report that police are extending the investigation from soccer to basketball. Oriental Outlook, a Xinhua magazine, reported that the biggest online gambling ring on the mainland had been exposed in Xianning, Hubei province. The group had taken 50 billion yuan worth of bets on soccer, horse racing and even Hong Kong's Mark Six. The magazine revealed details of an underground gambling case involving three gangs in Hunan's city of Xiangtan. The ring was busted in July, with 600 million yuan seized and 22 people arrested. Yang Xinghai, a senior officer in Xiangtan's Public Security Bureau, said the gambling gangs had a pyramid structure, generally with foreign gangs at the top. A series of tiers then followed, often in different cities. Yang said the gangs were sophisticated. There was a clear division of labour, such as website maintenance, member services and banking. "It is impossible for the international and local agents to know each other," another Hunan police officer said. "They would contact each other using all kinds of communications facilities and transfer money using credit cards." The second officer said agents were paid a commission for each gambler they recruited, usually 0.75 to 1.25 per cent of total bets. A widely quoted estimate by Wang Xuehong, director of Peking University's China Centre for Lottery Studies, puts the size of the underground betting industry on the mainland at up to one trillion yuan each year […] Meanwhile, Nanjing's Yangtze Evening News said the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) would launch a joint action with police authorities this month aimed at addressing the sport's worsening problems. The report said foreign gambling rings - potentially including the people behind a 2006 scandal in Italian soccer and more than 200 match fixing cases in Europe this year - had targeted the CBA. Basketball is one of the most popular sports on the mainland, thanks in part to Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming. The league has seen an influx of money that has enabled teams to sign big-name former NBA players. However, problems over fulfilment of contracts, sub-standard play and poor organisation continue to trouble the league […]. ^ top ^

Reshuffle hints at future leadership (Global Times)
2009-12-02
Younger officials' accession to provincial-level Party secretaries, especially the emergence of the two youngest Party chiefs in history, could be the initial move for future senior leadership selections, and some nominees could rise to the country's top positions, analysts said, following a major official reshuffle Monday. The reshuffle came three years ahead of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Congress, when incumbent Party leader Hu Jintao, 67, finishes his second five-year term in 2012, the maximum tenure according to Party rules, and the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau will have a new make-up […] Monday's Party-secretary appointment in five provinces involved officials all born after the founding of the New China in 1949, with an average age of 54. The oldest are new Henan Party chief Lu Zhangong, 57, and Liaoning Party chief Wang Min, 59. Another highlight is Sun Chunlan, 59, who became the first female provincial Party secretary in more than two decades. She replaced Lu Zhangong as secretary of the Fujian Provincial Party Committee. "The reshuffle could be seen as a preparation for the rejuvenation of the party's leadership in the run-up to the 18th Party Congress in 2012, "Zhang Liangui, professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told […] According to the Party's latest policy, leaders of provincial and ministry-level departments should have an average age of around 55, and at least one to four top officials should be younger than 48. What impressed the public most is the appointment of Hu Chunhua and Sun Zhengcai, both 46. The two have now been crowned the youngest provincial party chiefs following their nomination as Party chief of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Jilin Province, respectively. As minister-level offcials can work until the age of 65, the two are believed to have ample time and space to rise up. Hu rose to stardom after he was appointed the youngest provincial governor of northern Hebei Province last year […] his tackling of the high-profile tainted-milk scandal that caused illness in nearly 300,000 children and killed six others last year won wide applause from the public. Just days ago, two people involved in the case were executed for selling tainted food. The other rising star, Sun, was appointed minister of agriculture in 2006 at the age of 43, a surprisingly young age for a ministerial-level official. Both Hu and Sun received much publicity in State media as young examples of officials born in the 1960s […]. ^ top ^

PLA streamlines arms purchases to stamp out waste and corruption (SCMP)
2009-12-02
The People's Liberation Army is to reform its procurement system in a bid to stem widespread wastage and corruption. The change in procurements, which involve a third of the military budget, is also intended to push the fast-growing defence industry in a more market-oriented direction. The Ministry of National Defence said it would establish a new system for purchasing weapons that would ensure all deals were transparent and provided value for money, a directive posted on the ministry's website said. It would also be introducing a bidding system for weapons procurement, bringing some market mechanisms into the strictly controlled defence industry. The directive acknowledged flaws in the old system of procurement, including monopolies, price gouging and arbitrary price changes. The ministry said the reform would lead to standardised management of PLA equipment, strengthened maintenance and less waste […] The PLA will spend up to 160 billion yuan on weapons procurement this year, a third of the official defence budget of 480.6 billion yuan. This figure does not include logistical costs. Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA general and board member of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the reform would save the PLA money and root out corruption in weapons deals […] While the reform was welcomed, corruption remains deeply rooted in the PLA, helped by a lack of transparency, checks and balances. ^ top ^

NGOs hope to be released from legal 'grey area' (SCMP)
2009-12-02
Activists have cautiously welcomed news that NGOs may soon get legal status on the mainland but they have doubts over whether it will go ahead. They said the change in the law was necessary to save NGOs from operating in a "legal grey area" and that the organisations played an important role in society. The comments follow reports in state media that stringent regulations on operating and registering such social groups would soon be relaxed significantly. The current law was out of date and was being revised, the China Daily quoted an official in charge of NGO registration […] Sun Weilin, director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' Bureau of Social Organisation Registration, said legal status would allow NGOs to have better working environments and the ability to develop in a sustainable manner. The head of a government-backed Aids organisation said the change would be introduced imminently for groups helping people who were HIV-positive, the English-language paper reported […] The status of NGOs on the mainland received a significant boost in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake in Sichuan. However, they largely continue to operate on an unofficial basis, with most organisations being registered only as a commercial company, raising legal difficulties in a number of areas such as fund-raising. The current law requires all NGOs to be attached to a government department or organisation, but many are worried they cannot operate independently if they are under an official supervisor […]. ^ top ^

Trial of Chongqing triad kingpin and 25 cohorts begins (SMCP)
2009-12-02
A Chongqing triad boss and 25 of his supporters went on trial yesterday on charges ranging from murder and money-laundering to running illegal casinos and loan-sharking. The crime syndicate headed by Chen Zhiyi, aged in his 40s, is one that had allegedly killed the most people. He is the first boss facing trial for involvement in money-laundering, reports […] said. Apart from killing three people from 2004 to last year, the reports said the criminal group had laundered more than 60 million yuan and ran casinos that had handled 1 billion yuan. Chongqing Municipal No 2 Intermediate People's Court heard yesterday Chen had formed the triad group with more than 20 of his followers in 2004, the reports said […] Early last year, Chen allegedly started to run several casinos at high-end hotels in Yubei district with Deng Yuping, a former official in the district taxation bureau and later Chen's right-hand man […] As regular patrons of Chen's casinos, Liu Xinyong, former deputy head of the Yubei district government, and Zhang Zili, another official whose exact post was not specified, were reportedly the "protective umbrella" of Chen's group. This marked the beginning of a new round of trials for organised crime syndicates after triad kingpins such as Yang Tianqing, Liu Zhongyong, Xie Caiping, Li Yi and Zhang Bo had been sentenced in the past few months. Xinhua reported yesterday that three other gangs totalling 79 people would soon be tried separately at the No 1, No 2 and No 5 intermediate courts this month. Nearly 3,000 suspects, including government and police officials, have been held since the beginning of the sweeping crackdown on the city's rampant underworld activities in late June. ^ top ^

Dismay over bankruptcy decision in Sanlu case (SCMP)
2009-12-01
Parents whose babies died in last year's milk contamination scandal are dismayed that a court has ended bankruptcy proceedings against the company at the centre of the affair, Sanlu Group. The decision, which was made on November 20 by Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court and reported in state media yesterday, means Sanlu will not compensate claimants, almost all of whom suffered more than a year of delaying tactics that prevented them from taking the dairy company to court. At least six babies died and more than 300,000 became ill last year when excessive amounts of melamine, an industrial powder, were found in dairy products. At least 22 dairy companies were involved, including national leaders Sanlu, Mengniu and Yili. Food safety regulators turned a blind eye. Sanlu has been in bankruptcy proceedings since February, and repayment of creditors, including banks and employees, was given priority. According to mainland law, repayment of common claims comes last. The Shijiazhuang court's decision became known during the first hearing of the first lawsuit to be accepted against Sanlu from the family of a victim […] In that lawsuit, a Beijing man is seeking damages from both Sanlu and a supermarket chain. Now legally insolvent, Sanlu is not liable to pay compensation. Hou Rongbo, whose one-year-old son Hou Haiqi died in Qingzhou, Shandong province, in January after drinking Sanlu's melamine-tainted baby formula, said he was dismayed and saw no justice. "The authorities should be responsible for failing to allow us to seek compensation in time," he said. "Hundreds of parents have been trying their best to file lawsuits against Sanlu for compensation over their sick or dead babies. But no court, local or provincial, has accepted the cases until recently. They [the authorities] pressed the courts to drop compensation lawsuits. The obstacles set by the authorities made us miss the best time." Peng Jian, a lawyer acting for some of the families, said parents would not stop seeking justice […]. ^ top ^

HIV spreads among elderly as lonely head to prostitutes (SCMP)
2009-12-01
A growing number of elderly people on the mainland are contracting HIV, mostly through unsafe sex with prostitutes, officials say. The Ministry of Health and UNAids estimate that the country has between 97,000 and 112,000 people infected with Aids. Mainland media has reported that one to two in 10 HIV carriers were aged 50 or over. Many of them were infected because of unprotected sex, including some in their 70s and 80s. In Guangxi, health authorities had found more than one-fifth of the reported 51,877 HIV carriers were over 50, and that an average of 12 new cases were reported every day, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday, ahead of World Aids Day today. Officials there warned that more than 60 per cent of HIV infections were transmitted through unprotected sex, and migrant workers and the elderly were the highest risk group. "We have seen so many Aids patients aged in their 60s," a doctor at the No4 People's Hospital in Nanning said. "That's also because a growing number of elderly people have received Aids tests after unprotected sex, as Aids education has raised public awareness." A similar situation was reported in Guangzhou, where the number of HIV carriers in this year's survey rose 1,449 in one year and many of the new carriers were elderly. Dr Wang Ming, director of the Guangzhou Disease Control Centre, attributed the increase to the low awareness of safe sex among old people when visiting sex workers. "Many elderly patients we have talked to live empty lives after retirement and visit cheap brothels due to limited budgets. Very few of them are willing to wear condoms [believing they were already over the age of potency]," […] Wang said it was an urgent challenge to identify infected elderly people and prevent them transmitting the virus to other family members […] He said family members, especially the younger generation, should provide more support to the elderly and encourage them to get involved in community activities so they did not feel abandoned. ^ top ^

Vying for a govt job (Global Times)
2009-11-30
A record nearly 1 million people took the annual civil service exam Sunday in 44 cities across the country, underscoring the impact of the financial crisis, as well as the desire by the populace to work for the government. "More than 1.35 million candidates had passed the qualification evaluation, and nearly 1 million took the exam," Peng Zhongbao, a senior official with the State Administration of Civil Service, was quoted Sunday by China National Radio (CNR) as saying. The figure far exceeded the approximately 700,000 people who took the exam last year, among 1.05 million applicants. More than 130 central government departments and subordinate agencies will recruit 15,000 civil servants this year, Zhang added, putting the admission rate chances at one in 66 – nearly the same as last year, thanks to 1,500 newly add-ed posts. Both students and workers with existing jobs took Sunday's written exam. Some said they even took classes to prepare, and others quit existing jobs so they'd have more time to study […] a 23-year-old graduate student surnamed Zhou […] said that, "overall, national civil servant positions are of high social status, higher stability and relatively good pay. And the selection mechanism may be more equitable than other means. Against the backdrop of the financial crisis, where job opportunities are so scarce, civil service is a good choice for graduates" […]. ^ top ^

Experts weigh up China's legal moves towards transparency (Global Times)
2009-11-30
When 26-year-old Li Detao filed applications for the disclosure of budgets on Oct. 9 to the governments of Shanghai and Guangzhou, he got two surprisingly different results. Eight days later, the Guangzhou municipal government published its budget online, whereas Shanghai refused, claiming the budget was a state secret. Under new legal guidelines, however, Li might be able to take the Shanghai municipal government to court to force the publication. "Local policies" and "local interests" can no longer be used as excuses for courts to throw out suits against local governments, and governments must prove that information is "secret". A guiding opinion issued by the Supreme People's Court on Nov. 15 prohibits judges from dismissing a case before a hearing because they have predetermined whether the plaintiff will be successful or not. Courts are legally bound to observe the opinion, which stresses that the people's right to bring suits against governments, including claims for information disclosure, are protected and free from excessive conditions on which the judiciary decides whether to accept them […] It lays out the policy for cases where uncertainty exists over whether courts should accept a case: they should accept first and let superior courts decide, rather than rejecting them. The Supreme People's Court also published a draft judicial interpretation on Nov. 2, clarifying details on the procedure of government information disclosure cases. The grounds for acceptability are clearly listed, law experts say. "That means some complaints that might have been previously rejected by courts can be accepted in the future," says Beijing lawyer Zhang Gang. The draft makes it clear that people are entitled to sue governments for denial of information disclosure. The regulation on open government information took effect in May 2008, ensuring access of the public to administrative and regulatory information. The central and local governments must publish, at their own initiative, information such as economic statistics and progress of infrastructure construction projects. Members of the public can also apply for access to other government information they claim is necessary for their business, life or research […] If the government insists that certain information is a "state secret," they will have to present convincing evidence in court, the draft says. The government cannot use "state secrets" as a pretext to refuse information disclosure arbitrarily, Tan says. However, the unclear definition of "state secret" is still an obstacle to achieving government transparency […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

'Green card' to replace Beijing residence permit (SCMP)
2009-12-04
Beijing's municipal government is set to replace the controversial temporary residence permit scheme with a "green card" system to improve management and monitoring of its swelling migrant population. The move is also a step towards the long-term goal to gradually phase out the household registration, or hukou, system. Quoting Miao Lin, deputy director of the office in charge of urban administration, the Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday that legislators would try to set the legal foundation for the new residential permit by the end of next year. The permit will include a computer chip containing basic personal data such as a person's job and family status, as well as property ownership information. As an incentive to register, it will give holders access to social welfare for the first time […] Beijing has lagged behind many other mainland cities, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, in reforming the hukou system, an element of the planned economy. It was designed to prevent people migrating from rural areas to cities by denying them services available to urban dwellers, such as higher levels of medical care and education […] Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou, a specialist in the hukou system, noted that the goal of introducing the green card system was to have a better grasp of the overall population, particularly the migrant population. Because of constraints on natural resources, especially water, Beijing planners predict the city can support a maximum of 18 million people. By the end of last year, the population had reached 17.6 million and is still growing by 600,000 a year […]. ^ top ^

Beijing plans to raise water price by 24% amid shortages (Xinhua)
2009-12-03
Beijing is planning to raise water price by about 24 percent to discourage residents from wasting water and ease shortages. The price of water for residential use will rise from 3.7 yuan to 4.6 yuan, according to a proposed plan by the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission. The government would offer subsidies to low-income families to ensure their living standard not to be affected by the hike, a commission spokesman said Wednesday. A public hearing would be held on Dec. 16 to solicit opinions from the citizens, the spokesman said. Beijing, a city of 17 million, has been grappling with water shortage over recent years. The city has been plagued by droughts in nine consecutive years in the past decade. Government data show that the per capita water availability is only 300 cubic meters, far less than the internationally recognized warning line of 1,000 cubic meters. Over the past five years, Beijing has invested more than 4 billion yuan in the conservation of water resources and construction of water supply projects. Last month, the city raised the price of water for non-residential use by up to 48.6 percent. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Free passage for rail link as 'no' vote nullified (SCMP)
2009-12-03
Opponents of the government's plan to build a HK$65.2 billion high-speed railway to Guangzhou yesterday forced a lawmaker who supports the project to step down temporarily as chairman of the subcommittee that will decide if the project receives funding - but the move ultimately backfired on them. Subcommittee vice-chairman Alan Leong Ka-kit, a Civic Party legislator and one of nine lawmakers who oppose the plan, had to step in to replace Raymond Ho Chung-tai as chairman. This effectively nullified Leong's opposing vote, as the chairman can only vote in a tie-breaker. With 12 of the 23 subcommittee members eligible to vote supporting the project, it is now almost certain that the funding will be approved in today's vote. Two members, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Leung Ka-lau, have yet to declare their positions. Ho said he would not vote and stepped down from his position as chairman after James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party challenged his role as a non-executive director of a company that will be bidding for the project's contracts […] Independent lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan then demanded that another lawmaker who supports the railway, New Territories landowner Lau Wong-fat, declare whether he and his companies stood to gain from the project. Lau refused. The remainder of the lawmakers on the sub-committee all declared they had no conflict of interest. The voting, originally scheduled for yesterday, was postponed to 2.30pm today because lawmakers raised many questions concerning the railway's impact on Tai Kok Tsui residents and the area's redevelopment potential. Philip Yung Wai-hung, deputy secretary for transport and housing, said the residents could claim losses in relation to redevelopment values a year after the place had been redeveloped […]. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Green light for Macau expansion (SCMP)
2009-12-01
Beijing has endorsed a plan for Macau to gain 12 per cent more land through reclamation. The central government's approval is considered timely to ease the land shortage in the former Portuguese enclave, where property prices now stand as high as HK$6,000 a square foot. At the centre of the scheme is a housing development that will eventually house more than 100,000 residents and support the city's growth over the next two decades. Major reclamation will be carried out off the northeast of Macau and along the northern coast of Taipa island. There will be smaller reclamation in the south of Macau, off Nam Van Lake and the outer harbour. In all, 362 hectares of land will be reclaimed - nine times the size of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Residents have been promised green belts, low-rise housing estates, shopping complexes and public housing - but no casinos. Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah has promised a comprehensive consultation over the land use. Beijing gave the green light at the weekend after nearly four years of consideration. When the Macau government outlined the plan in 2006 it wanted to reclaim 400 hectares. This was revised to 500 hectares last year. Ho thanked Beijing for its "full support" and said Beijing had asked the city to "reinforce protection of the surrounding environment" […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan's DPP seeks comeback in election (SCMP)
2009-12-04
Taiwan's pro-independence opposition is hoping to claw its way back from the brink in Saturday's county and municipal poll, after suffering crushing defeats last year's legislative and presidential elections. The Democratic Progressive Party is counting on widespread voter unhappiness with President Ma Ying-jeou's China-friendly government to allow it to hold on to the three mayoral and county magistrate posts it now controls and wrestle one or two others away from Ma's nationalists. In all 17 seats are up for grabs, along with hundreds of positions in local assemblies and townships. The DPP's losses last year reflected popular disgust over perceptions that the party's first ever president – Chen Shui-bian – was responsible for systematic corruption and that his confrontational policies toward China were undermining the island's economy and threatening its security. Chen is now serving a life sentence after his conviction on graft charges earlier this year, but Ma is facing pressure of his own on the economic front and over his government's bungling of its response to a deadly typhoon over the summer. The president's approval rating has now dropped to about 40 per cent, 30 points below the level when he took office 18 months ago. Late last week DPP Spokesman Tsai Chi-chang lambasted Ma over his record. “The GDP growth is expected be a historical record low of negative 2.53 per cent this year, while we are seeing record high unemployment rate,” he said. “The Ma administration has delivered the worst governance in Taiwan's history.” The DPP is particularly critical of Ma's push for a free trade pact with China, which it believes will undermine Taiwan's sovereignty and cost its workers thousands of jobs amid a flood of cheap mainland imports […] Key races to watch on Saturday include the magistracy of Yilan County, where the DPP is given a good chance of beating the Nationalist incumbent, and the magistracies of Hualien and Hsinchu counties, where Nationalist rebels could defeat official Nationalist candidates. The DPP is expected to retain the three magistracies it currently holds – in Chiayi, Pingtung and Yunlin counties – and is given an outside shot at taking Hsinchu because of the expected split in the Nationalist vote. ^ top ^

Mainland, Taiwan to negotiate schedule for cross-Strait talks (Xinhua)
2009-12-03
Senior leaders of the Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) will hold a preparatory discussion to decide the schedule for an upcoming cross-Strait talks. Zheng Lizhong, standing vice president of the ARATS, will meet Kao Kung-lian, vice chairman and secretary general of the SEF, on Dec. 10 […] They are going to exchange views on the agenda, topics and content of agreement for the talks between the ARATS and the SEF, which are authorized by authorities in the mainland and Taiwan to handle cross-Strait issues. According to a preliminary agreement, ARATS President Chen Yunlin and SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung will meet later this month in the island's Taichung, for the fourth round of talks since they resumed negotiations in June last year following a 10-year suspension. ^ top ^

Cross-Strait joint crackdown on crimes fruitful: report (Xinhua)
2009-12-01
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan had jointly tracked down four cases of swindling via phones since the agreement on cross-Strait crime combat and judicial assistance took effect in June, according to a report released by Taiwan on Monday. Police at the two sides arrested 76 suspects from Taiwan and more than 10 from the mainland who were involved in the four cases, said the report, issued by the cross-Strait affairs department of Taiwan authorities. The mainland and Taiwan had also filed up to 4,199 claims concerning wanted criminals and the exchange of information, the report showed. The joint agreement was signed in April at the third round of talks between the mainland-based Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). The ARATS and SEF are authorized by the mainland and Taiwan to handle cross-Strait issues. ^ top ^

 

Economy

State firms lose ¥11.4b (Global Times)
2009-12-04
Sixty-eight central State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) have suffered a net floating loss of 11.4 billion yuan ($1.67 billion) in the past decade, especially in recent years, due to their reckless investments in international financial derivatives, a new report by the State asset-management authority said […] According to the report, 68 SOEs were engaged in financial derivative products, including commodities futures, swap rates, interest-rate swaps, options and structured deposits. By the end of October 2008, the total market value of the derivative products that the SOEs had invested in reached 125 billion yuan, while the net floating loss reached 11.4 billion yuan, including 13 million yuan in losses from investment in domestic derivatives and 11.27 billion yuan in overseas markets. The report suggested that among the 68 SOEs, 26 were ones that were trading in derivatives abroad without government approval, and they arbitrarily signed nonstandard contracts with foreign banks, which involved huge risks and lacked transparency. The most notorious case emerged in January when several high-profile SOEs such as Air China, China Eastern and China COSCO reported massive losses on options contracts offered by foreign banks such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. With the burst of the oil bubble last year, the three companies announced losses totaling 6.2 billion yuan (for China Eastern) 6.8 billion yuan (for Air China) and 3.1 billion yuan (for COSCO). However, experts said the case probably represents only the tip of the iceberg. An unnamed source at a major SOE told Caijing magazine in September that most State-owned companies with import-export and foreign exchange businesses are more or less involved in derivatives trading. The report attributed speculative motives, lack of risk control, a flawed corporate governance structure, illegal practice in derivative trading and an absence of cutting-edge financial professionals in SOEs to their massive losses in the dealings […]. ^ top ^

Govt money to flood Yellow River Delta (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-04
The State Council has approved a plan to develop the Yellow River Delta (YRD) in East China's Shandong Province into an efficient and environmentally-friendly economic zone, State-run media reported Wednesday. The development of the country's last underdeveloped river delta will be raised to a nationally strategic level […] The region includes such major cities as Dongying and Binzhou and takes up about one sixth of the size of the province. "The Yellow River Basin is facing a historic opportunity to develop," Zhang Jianhua, the mayor of Dongying, said in the city Friday […] Zhang said the development of the region will be led by the service industry like tourism while agriculture and industry will also be given a boost. Shandong is expected to invest 1.5 trillion yuan ($219.6 billion) during the Eleventh Five-year Plan period (2006- 2010) to develop the delta, which will support sustainable development of the provincial economy, according to the local government. The development plan, released by the local government in March 2008, aims for regional growth of 15 percent annually during the five-year plan period. At the same time, it aims to lower the aggregate per-GDP energy consumption by 24 percent. Some experts doubt the practicability of such a plan and stated the ecological development of such an area could be just a political campaign […] However, the plan excited investors who pushed up the prices of stocks of companies expected to benefit from the plan Wednesday, according to Hua Le, an analyst at Hengtai Securities. A group of six delta-located companies' yuan-denominated A shares closed up by 10 percent Wednesday. ^ top ^

Cleaner: China to remove outdated industry (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-03
China is planning "rare" and "heavy-handed" steps to phase out outdated and mostly dirty industry, local media said Wednesday, days after Beijing pledged to slow the growth in its fast-rising carbon emissions. Beijing is to launch a "rare nationwide campaign" to eliminate inefficient and excess industrial capacity […] It will include austerity measures that will be imposed on heavily polluting sectors including coal, steel, cement, printing, and dyeing, according to an AFP report on Wednesday. The move came after China last week unveiled the emissions-curbing proposal it will take to next week's UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. However, it also appears to be part of a drive launched this year by authorities to rein in excess capacity amid fears that a government economic stimulus package has fuelled over-investment in some sectors. Key measures listed by the Shanghai Securities News include halting the supply of land needed for the expansion of outdated capacity and equipment, curbing demand for high-emission products, and strictly limiting exports. China said last week that by 2020 it planned to cut the amount of carbon dioxide it emits per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent compared to 2005 levels -- essentially a pledge of greater energy efficiency. ^ top ^

Bubble fear grows after Dubai crisis (Global Times)
2009-12-03
Anxiety over Dubai's debt crisis may be easing on Wall Street and bourses throughout the world, but it's just starting to swell in China, as some analysts say the nation's economy is similarly dependent on booming real estate and infrastructure. Dubai has fallen about $80 billion in the red, primarily from Dubai World, a state-run property conglomerate that accounts for about $59 billion of the debt, much of it from its real estate developer, Nakheel, creator of the Palm Islands. Dubai World plans to postpone repayments for at least six months […] Analysts and economists are split over whether today's Dubai foreshadows tomorrow's China. Some are attempting to ease fears on the growth while others warn of dire consequences if action isn't taken now. "As China's real estate bubble continues to grow in size, a crisis similar to that in Dubai is likely to take place in China, and the impact could be much more devastating," warned Yi Xianrong, a researcher at the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Science. "The shocking news sets off a big alarm in China – that any economy that's excessively reliant on real estate will collapse like Dubai," said Shi Hanbing, director of Shanghai Security News' opinion desk […] According to statistics from the central bank, Chinese banks have lent 6.21 trillion yuan ($909 billion) to the real estate sectors. The figure would be larger if private financing were taken into account. "Chinese scholars believe that the local government's debt will be more than 13 trillion yuan," Shi said. "This does not include the debt of the State government." Together with the government's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package, "China will become a country with the craziest infrastructure investment, which would almost certainly result in huge amounts of bad loans, like what happened in the 1990s," Shi said […] Housing prices in Beijing have topped 70,000 yuan a square meter in urban areas, with the average price standing at 16,000 yuan by the end of October, up more than 50 percent, year-on-year […] The prices are comparable with those in Dubai, where the record high was nearly 30,000 yuan, up from 8,000 yuan in 2001, media reports said […]. ^ top ^

Govt stimulus spurs domestic consumption (Global Times)
2009-12-02
The Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced at a press conference Tuesday that consumer spending has made major strides this year due to favorable policies especially in the auto and home appliance markets. Consumption contributed 4 percentage points to the 7.7 GDP growth in the first three quarters, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Spurring consumption has become one of the government's top priorities, and now it is paying more attention to the quality and structure of economic growth, said Lu Zhengwei, a senior economist at Industrial Bank. Lu said the portion consumption makes up of GDP should further rise next year, as the country will foster spending rather than put money into infrastructure, as this year's stimulus package did. One of the main drivers of the recent uptick in consumer spending has been auto sales. The country's auto market, which passed the US this year to become the world's largest, was boosted by a series of policies aimed particularly at increasing sales of low-emission vehicles. The rapid growth of the domestic auto market is expected to extend into next year, as the stimulus measures are likely to continue, stated Chang Xiaocun, director of the Department of Market System Development of MOFCOM […] There are still about 18 million high-emission vehicles in China that need to be replaced by fuel-efficient automobiles, which means demand will stay strong for the next several years, said Chang. At a global level, about 130 people out of every 1,000 own cars, while in China the figure only reaches 37. In the US, the number is over 700 and, in Japan, more than 500, according to Chang. Consumer goods purchases have also been a major factor contributing to the rise in domestic demand. Retail sales are expected to increase by 15.6 percent this year. The "old-for-new" program aimed at boosting home appliance sales has been effective, said Di Jiankai, director of the Department of Commercial Services Administration of MOFCOM. A total of over 2.5 million new home appliances were sold as of Tuesday morning, while 2.89 million old ones were exchanged for discounts on newer models. The sales value of new home appliances is predicted to exceed 11 billion yuan ($1.61 billion) this year, according to Di. But Industrial Bank's Lu warned that the growth in sales of consumer goods, especially automobiles, may prove temporary if the policies are rescinded. "The best way to boost domestic demand is to raise residents' incomes," he said. ^ top ^

China lifts bans on pork imports from U.S., Canada, Mexico (People's Daily Online)
2009-12-02
China had lifted import bans on pork products from the United States, Canada and Mexico, the country's top quarantine authorities said Tuesday. The bans were lifted on the basis of risk assessment, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement on its website. In April and May, China imposed bans on pigs and pork imports from Mexico, Canada's Alberta Province and some regions of the United States, as an emergency response to the A/H1N1 flu. ^ top ^

China, Switzerland launch joint feasibility study for bilateral FTA (Xinhua)
2009-12-01
China and Switzerland on Monday launched a joint study to examine the feasibility of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The joint study will examine the topics covered by free trade agreements, such as trade in goods and services, investment and other possible areas of cooperation, said a joint statement issued by visiting Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard. The results of the study will serve as a basis for the two governments to take a decision on opening negotiations on such a free trade agreement, Leuthard said at a launching ceremony in Geneva. She expressed hope that the two countries would be able to take such a decision in 2010, the year of the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. "It is our common understanding that a comprehensive Switzerland-China Free Trade Agreement will open new business opportunities," she said. She added that a FTA would be an important step for the two countries and strengthen the bonds of long standing friendship between both nations. Addressing the ceremony, Chen said the bilateral trade between the two countries reached 11.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. He expressed hope that the FTA study would be conducted in an active, objective and practical way so that both governments would have a good basis for taking a decision on future negotiations. ^ top ^

Doubts over 'Made in China' ad campaign (SCMP)
2009-12-01
From running shoes to refrigerators, the mainland's manufacturing sector has long been plagued by a negative "Made in China" label. Now, an international advertising campaign aims to improve the reputation caused by low-cost, low-quality products and a spate of safety scandals by cultivating an image of the essential role Chinese products play in daily lives. However, even with the help of an international advertising house, critics say the 30-second TV advertisement says more about China's lack of creativity than the quality of its manufacturing. Furthermore, doubts have been raised over how the propagandistic tone will wash with a sophisticated global audience. The advertisement, which has been broadcast on CNN International since last Monday, was commissioned by the Ministry of Commerce. It opens with a Western man tying the shoelaces of his made-in-China running shoes before a morning jog. Then the camera pans to a kitchen where a woman takes breakfast out of a made-in-China refrigerator, young people waiting for bus listening to music on their made-in-China music players, a model wearing a stylish made-in-China dress, and suited man boarding a made-in-China aeroplane. "When it says made in China, it really means made in China, made with the world," the voice-over declares. An employee at DDB Guoan Beijing […] said yesterday that the company was approached by the ministry before the Olympic Games last year and spent more than a year working on the commercial […] A CNN spokesman said the commercial was run in the United States and across the Asia Pacific region with an estimated audience of 135 million. Eyebrows were raised in the mainland's internet community by some of the details of the advert, especially a close-up of the evening gown's label, which proclaimed "made in China with French designers". "They really gave a lot of thought about telling the world that China has no designers and only coolies," said an internet user […] Toni Piech, managing director of PAE Media, said […] changing the Western perception of China would require subtler means of communication and concrete actions such as cracking down on piracy […] Mainland cultural critic Zhu Dake said the commercial would only serve as a political propaganda tool for the Chinese government, and not effectively restore international confidence in Chinese-made products. "The government is using the same approach that it uses to promote its political propaganda. It will only be a waste of taxpayers' money," Zhu said. ^ top ^

Mainland credit card debt surges: Unpaid bills jump 126pc (SCMP)
2009-12-01
Unpaid credit card debt on the mainland has surged 126.5 per cent this year, prompting Beijing to warn banks to ease back on aggressive marketing tactics that encourage people to sign up for new cards. By the end of September, 7.43 billion yuan of credit card debt was at least six months overdue, the People's Bank of China said yesterday, adding "bad-debt problems should be closely watched". Mainland banks started to aggressively market high-profit credit-cards in the early 2000s as they sought to diversify income. Beijing initially encouraged banks to expand the business amid a belief that it would boost retail sales. That strategy appears to have backfired, with the credit card binge by mainland consumers now reminiscent of similar problems in developed countries. The overdue amount represents 3.4 per cent of the total outstanding credit card debt, 0.3 percentage points higher than at the end of the second quarter this year […]. ^ top ^

Report: 2010 bank lending planned at 7 trillion yuan (People's Daily Online)
2009-11-30
China may have 6-7 trillion yuan of new bank lending next year, the Shanghai-based China Business News reported Monday. The nation may have 9.7 trillion yuan of new loans in 2009, according to the newspaper. The central government is requiring large banks to increase capital adequacy ratios to 11 percent from 8 percent and asking smaller banks to raise their ratios to 10 percent. A Politiburo meeting presided by Chinese President Hu Jintao last week in Beijing ruled that in 2010, China will continue its proactive fiscal spending and a relatively loose monetary policy, in the hope of keeping a rather high growth of China's economy. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

China reports fast rise of A/H1N1 flu deaths (Xinhua)
2009-12-03
The Chinese mainland saw a faster increase of deaths from the A/H1N1 influenza in the past weeks, according to the Ministry of Health. A total of 74 deaths were reported in the week from Nov. 23 to 29, said a notice issued on the ministry's website Wednesday. Reported deaths in the previous two weeks were 28 and 51 respectively. About 91 percent of all the flu cases reported last week were of the A/H1N1 strain, compared with 89.8 percent in the previous week, the notice said […] As of Monday, more than 27 million people nationwide had been inoculated with China-made A/H1N1 vaccine, according to the ministry. Four deaths had been reported after vaccination and three had been confirmed irrelevant to the vaccines, while cause of the other is not clear yet, the ministry said. ^ top ^

First cases of dogs with swine flu on mainland (SCMP)
2009-11-30
Two dogs have been confirmed to be infected with swine flu, in the first such discoveries on the mainland. The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday confirmed a report by China Agriculture University that, of 52 dogs reported on Wednesday to have contracted flu viruses, two had tested positive for a swine flu virus 99 per cent identical to the one in humans. Four pigs in Heilongjiang were also confirmed to have been infected with the virus on November 19. Authorities said the pigs had been infected either while being transported or in slaughterhouses. The ministry would not give the locations of the infected dogs, saying only that they had probably contracted the virus from human sufferers who were in close contact with them. "Dogs can infect nearby dogs after they catch swine flu," the Beijing Times quoted a ministry official as saying. But Zu Shuxian, an epidemiology professor at Anhui Medical University, said dogs catching swine flu from contact with people was rare and was no real cause for public concern. "There is only a small chance that the dogs contracted the virus from humans or passed it on to humans or other dogs," he said. "It will not accelerate the swine flu outbreak on the mainland." Most animals could catch flu but it was rare for it to cross the species barrier, Zu said […] But Dr Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, warned people should be alert to possible mutation of the swine flu virus, especially since the H5N1 bird flu virus had existed on the mainland for a while. He said that because the swine and bird flu viruses existed on the mainland at the same time, they could combine to form another, more fatal and contagious virus. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

N Korea won swap 'sparks panic' (SCMP)
2009-12-04
North Korean authorities have threatened "merciless punishment" for citizens defying new currency rules that have reportedly wiped out their savings and sparked panic among merchants left with piles of worthless bills. The regime informed citizens and foreign embassies on Monday that it would redenominate its national currency, the won, and that people had until Sunday to exchange a limited amount of the old bills. Media reports and embassies in Pyongyang said people could exchange money at the rate of 100 old won for one new won, with authorities initially limiting the total sum to 100,000 won per person. That was later raised to 150,000 won in cash and 300,000 won in bank savings. The news sent Pyongyang residents rushing to the black market to convert hoarded bills into US dollars and yuan, Yonhap reported, citing unidentified North Korean traders operating in China. Activists said the North had tightened security against possible agitation, with a curfew reportedly imposed in a border region and shops closed across the country during the changeover period. "Anyone who's holding a lot of money there will become poor overnight," said a Chinese resident who travels to North Korea several times a year, adding that most North Koreans who did large amounts of trade with China were well connected […] The overhaul of the won, the most drastic in 50 years, appears aimed at curbing runaway inflation and clamping down on the street markets that have sprung up in the tightly controlled nation, analysts said. Unable to feed its 24 million people, the regime began allowing some markets in 2002. The markets may have encouraged trade but they also brought in banned goods such as films and soap operas from South Korea. The country's largest wholesale market, in Pyongyang, was reportedly shut in mid-June. Jeong Kwang-min, a research fellow at Seoul's Institute for National Security Strategy, said the move had a broader goal: to pave the way for Kim Jong-il to turn over power to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, and ensure he inherited a stable economy […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

State of Emergency eased (MONTSAME)
2009-12-03
The government made a decision at Wednesday's regular meeting to lower the heightened state of emergency. It concerns all state organizations, local administrations and enterprisers only. From Thursday, this state is to transfer to a level of every day preparedness for protection from disasters. The Minister of Health S.Lambaa was ordered to continue swine flu virus preventive measures while maintaining the heightened emergency state in the health sector, provide a population with vaccines, promptly organize immunization, and to give a report every week to the governmental working group on the virus spread. In addition to it, all levels' governors and mayors and heads of emergency commissions were ordered to control over the virus spread nationwide, and to make organizations, entities and families strictly keep sanitation and disinfection rules. The death toll of the A/H1N1 flu virus rose to 24 by Wednesday 10.00 a.m in Mongolia. A number of infected with the A/H1N1 virus rose to 1,165 overall, of which 793 in Ulaanbaatar city and 372 in provinces, the press and information service of the Ministry of Health reports. ^ top ^

Parliament adopts New Budget Plan (UB Post)
2009-12-01
Last Friday, within its legal deadline, Parliament adopted 2010 government budget plan with a deficit of 358 billion MNT, equal to 5% of the country's gross domestic product. The total budget income is estimated at 2.4 trillion for the next year while expenditures are projected at 2.7 trillion. Along with the budget plan, 69 public work projects that need investments of over 229 billion MNT has been approved. Over the upcoming year 2010, the Government is expecting to collect 6.9 billion MNT in the form of corporate income taxes, 68 billion MNT as windfall profits tax, projecting copper prices at the world market US$5,800 per ton, and 3.7 billion MNT as minerals royalty tax for the Human Development Fund. The Human Development Fund will consolidate 346 billion MNT from a number of sources. ^ top ^

State bank to begin operation, abolishing Zoos and Anod (News.mn)
2009-11-30
Vice Minister for Finance T.Ochirkhuu and Mongol Bank President L.Purevdorj officially announced that Zoos Bank was abolished and State Bank was established. The State Bank is based on actives of Zoos Bank and began operation. This means more than 40 branches of Zoos will serve the people by the name of State Bank. L.Purevdorj called the citizens to have faith and reconsider to take back their deposits in the new bank because Finance Ministry and Mongol Bank are behind its operations. Mongol Bank is now working to ensure stable operations and find the bad loans of MNT 60 billion. Zoos Bank's loss reached MNT 87.9 billion in total. Foreign experts will take over the operations of the Government Bank.
The Central Bank is also planning to abolish Anod Bank this week and transfer the actives to the State Bank. The director of the bank is yet to be clear. Mongol Bank is blamed for taking wrong policies for the troubled commercial bank by injecting MNT 150 billion but only earning MNT 40 million. Announcing a bankruptcy for commercial banks is made by court organization. Thus the Central Bank decided to abolish the banks. Even though the Mongol Bank is saying the problems in the banking sector is being solved, huge amount of bad loans are still there. National Statistics Bureau said bad loans in the banking sector reached MNT 406.1 billion which accounts for 15.5 percent of total loan payments in October, up by 2.1 percent compared to the previous month and by 4.9 times from same period of last year. ^ 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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