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
  4.1-8.1.10, No. 301  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Japan's ambitions for atolls stir disputes (Global Times)
2010-01-08
Japan's port-building plans on a remote Pacific atoll have been condemned by China as illegal, as Beijing claims the atoll does not qualify as an island. Japan's transport authority appropriated 0.7 billion yen ($51.76 million) of the 2010 fiscal budget to fund the establishment of ports on Japan's easternmost territory, Minami Torishima island, and southernmost territory, Okinotorishima atoll, which will reportedly serve as bases for investigation into the resource reserves in the surrounding waters, Kyodo News reported Thursday. Okinotorishima, also known as Douglas Reef or Parece Vela, is some 1,700 kilometers south of Tokyo. Japan has already built facilities such as a lighthouse there, and poured in concrete to make sure the atoll does not slip totally beneath the waves. "According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the atoll can't have an exclusive economic zone or a continental shelf because of its geographical conditions and building infrastructure cannot change its legal position," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a regular news briefing Thursday. "Japan's claims of large-scale jurisdictional waters around the atoll do not conform to international law and also affect the international community," she added. In December 2008, the Japanese government devised management policies for the atoll, and bill drafts were submitted to parliament. Economic and strategic considerations have driven the Japanese government's moves, as investigations indicate abundant reserves of mineral resources in the surrounding waters of the atoll. Japan may plan to build an exclusive economic zone covering 200 nautical miles (370.4 kilometers). "Atolls could not serve as a base for exclusive economic zones, as is regulated by universally recognized norms," said Wang Shan, assistant researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "Japan brazenly defied the generally accepted standards by engaging in artificial reinforcement to make atolls islands. Such infringement will be castigated by the international community and will exert a negative impact on maritime cooperation in East Asia." Okinotorishima lies strategically about halfway between Guam, site of a large US military base, and China's Taiwan Province. China and Japan have also been involved in a long dispute over a tiny group of islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. ^ top ^

China, Turkey to boost trade ties, mutual investment (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-08
China and Turkey look to trade growth and a larger scale of mutual investment in a bid to forge closer economic ties, the two countries' top trade officials said in Ankara Thursday. "For China, Turkey is an extremely significant strategic trade partner with its location between Europe and Asia," China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming said after a meeting with Turkish State Minister for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan […] China will work with Turkey to improve transportation between the two countries to facilitate economic ties and wants to see the revitalization of the ancient Silk Road, a 2000-year-old ancient trade route linking Asia and Europe, Chen told reporters. The minister said China will take measures to encourage Turkish companies to expand sales network in China, adding that he had discussed with Caglayan on boosting cooperation in such sectors as finance, food, energy, tourism and processing industry […] More than 100 Chinese entrepreneurs came along with Chen to seek purchase and investment opportunities during the minister's four-day visit to Turkey. China and Turkey saw their trade surge from more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 12.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. Turkey's exports stood at only 1.98 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. Caglayan said Turkey's total export volume decreased in 2009 because of the global recession but its exports to China rose significantly, while China's exports to Turkey dipped last year. He rebutted the generalization of Chinese products as "low-quality", saying substandard products happen to every country […] Caglayan said his country hopes a railway be built and more air routes to link China and Turkey. The two sides will set up a team to promote mutual investment, especially in such areas as contract construction, auto, mining, mechanical and chemical industries, he said. Turkey welcomes Chinese companies' participation in building nuclear power plants in Turkey, he noted. Caglayan said he and Chen had also discussed China's interest in the planned construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus Strait in Turkey's largest city Istanbul and a high-speed rail line between the Turkish capital Ankara and western city Izmir. Chinese enterprises' direct investment in Turkey reached 313 million U.S. dollars as of the end of September 2009, with the amount in the first three quarters accounting for more than 90 percent of the total, figures from China's Commerce Ministry show. Meanwhile, actual investment by Turkish companies in China exceeded 100 million U.S. dollars as of the end of October. Chen arrived in Ankara on Wednesday night and will be in Istanbul on Friday before concluding his visit on Saturday. ^ top ^

China, India annual defense dialogue underway (China Daily)
2010-01-07
China and India yesterday resumed its annual high-level bilateral talks on defense issues - the first time ever that the Indian defense secretary has visited Beijing for the military dialogue between the Asian neighbors. The People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff Ma Xiaotian and Indian Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar jointly presided over yesterday's negotiations, which are expected to last through today. Senior defense officials from India have accompanied Kumar on his trip. The neighbors agreed on many issues of mutual concern, including "regional security, and relations between the two militaries", according to a press release issued by the Ministry of National Defense yesterday. The dialogue is a good platform for both sides to "clarify concerns, deepen mutual trust and coordinate stances," the release quoted Ma, while Kumar said India was keen to expand the scope of defense and security cooperation with China […] Chinese defense experts and the Indian media said the annual talks this time round would touch upon the sensitive border issue and India's concerns over the Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. This is the third such annual dialogue between the Asian powers. The first was held in 2008 amid escalating tensions over infrastructure construction along both countries' border. The border issue stretches back to colonial British rule. China and India share a nearly-2,000 km border and disputed areas cover about 125,000 sq km on both sides. A leading Indian economic daily, the Financial Express, this week quoted unnamed sources as saying that the previous dialogues had been exploratory in nature, with both sides not touching upon the boundary question or other controversial claims. "In fact, there was hardly any conversation even on new confidence building measures. The focus, rather, was on maritime cooperation in and around the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy, with the Chinese side using the opportunity to repeat their concerns over Tibetan political activities in India," the newspaper said. Last year was a turning point in military exchanges between the two neighbors - for the first time, Indian military commanders in charge of border defense visited Tibet, as well as the Chengdu Military Command. Following the trip, the Chinese military commander in charge of Tibet visited India and was taken to the Eastern Army Command. Border security is highly likely to figure during the ongoing talks, said Fu Xiaoqiang, a scholar of South Asia studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "It's a good opportunity. Trust building between the two militaries is key to easing border disputes," he said. Indian sources told the Financial Express that the talks have raised hopes about improved coordination along the Line of Actual Control, which will better address differences in perception regarding the border until a permanent solution is reached. The sources also said the annual forum would touch upon India's concern over China's naval presence in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese Navy has sent some ships to waters off Somalia to protect its and foreign merchant vessels from attacks by pirates. During the visit, Kumar is also expected to meet top officials of the PLA. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy rules out new UN sanctions on Iran for now (Global Times)
2010-01-07
China's UN ambassador Tuesday dashed Western hopes for a swift agreement on a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, saying the issue requires more "time and patience." "This is not the right time or right moment for sanctions because the diplomatic efforts are still going on," Chinese envoy Zhang Yesui told reporters. He said senior foreign ministry officials from China, Russia, the US, Britain, France and Germany would meet later this month to discuss Iran's nuclear activities, which Western powers suspect are aimed at developing atomic weapons, not generating electricity. "The efforts aimed at diplomatic negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue still need some time and patience," said Zhang, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council this month. "Trying to bridge differences and finding a settlement through diplomatic efforts – there's still space for such efforts." Tehran already has been hit with three rounds of UN sanctions for refusing to comply with demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities. The US and its allies have said it is time for a fourth round of sanctions, but diplomats in New York say Russia and China are resisting. US State Department spokesman Philip J Crowley, asked by reporters in Washington about Zhang's statement, said, "This is not a static situation," and added that "views can change." China did not schedule a meeting on Iran during its council presidency. A Western diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity that it was unlikely a new sanctions resolution against Iran would be passed in the first two months of 2010. Other council diplomats have said it might take until June at the earliest to come up with a package of sanctions that would be acceptable to Russia and China. ^ top ^

Upmarket tourism plan for disputed archipelago (SCMP)
2010-01-06
China is planning to develop tourism in the disputed Paracel archipelago, in what is being seen as an attempt to solidify its sovereignty claim over the islands. China took tourists to the South China Sea islands last year, an official said yesterday. The State Council announced last week that China planned to turn the Paracels into a tourist destination, prompting protests from Vietnam, which also claims sovereignty. Details of Beijing's plans to transform the islands into a "top class" tourist destination remain sketchy. But an official from the Paracels, Spratlys, and Zhongsha Islands Authority in Hainan, which oversees the three disputed archipelagos, said the plan would go ahead regardless of Vietnam's protest. "It's our territory and we can do whatever we want to," he said. The official said formal tourist visits to the islands could start this year following a trial run involving a group of mainland tourists late last year. That was the first time China had let tourists visit the Paracels, which have no permanent residents. The Paracels, known for their beautiful beaches and crystal clear water, lack tourist facilities. Apart from military facilities, the only structures are some rudimentary "guesthouses" built for temporary workers. The official refused to reveal the size of the first group of tourists or what they thought of the trip. The development of the Paracels is part of the central government's plan to build Hainan into an international tourist destination in the next decade, a document released by the State Council on Thursday said. It made only two references to the Paracels, saying their use would be based on scientific feasibility studies and planning. The Hainan official elaborated on the document yesterday. He said the plan was to develop "high-end" tourism on the islets, which are surrounded by colourful coral reefs. Authority director Tan Xiankun said in 2007 the government planned to develop marinas and facilities for light planes to attract upmarket tour groups. The archipelago has been off limits to most people […] Midway between China and Vietnam, the Paracels have been contested for centuries. The territorial dispute sparked a brief war in 1974, after which China seized the western Paracels from Vietnam. A central government plan to set up a county-level city to govern China's claims in the Spratly and Paracel islands was shelved in 2007 after strong protests from Vietnam. Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said on Monday that the latest plan "seriously violates Vietnam's sovereignty... causes tension and further complicates the situation". But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands. Zhang Mingliang, from Guangzhou's Jinan University, said Beijing's plan to develop the Paracels was a demonstration of sovereignty. "Of course the government would want to improve the local economy and create more jobs by developing tourism on the islands, but at the same time it also wants to show that they are China's territory," he said. But Zhang said developing tourism on the Paracels might be easy, with Vietnam having been forced to suspend tourism programmes on the Spratlys due to pressure from Beijing. Malaysia, which also claims the Spratlys, has developed a resort on one of its atolls. ^ top ^

Sino-US ties top 2010 risks: Eurasia (Global Times)
2010-01-06
China-US ties will significantly deteriorate in 2010 on the expectation of more trade protection, the upcoming mid-term elections in the US, and the divergence between Washington and Beijing on whether to take global leadership, a global political risk research group said in a report published Monday. In response to the report released by New York-based Eurasia, Jiang Yu, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said Tuesday, "China-US relations will face challenges in terms of Taiwan and Tibet issues, in addition to the two countries' economic and trade relations." Jiang, in particular, warned against the US' arms-sales plan to Taiwan, a move that may harm China's "core interest." "We strongly oppose the US selling arms to China's Taiwan … and urge the US to recognize the gravity of this issue … cancel any plans to sell arms to Taiwan so as not to damage China-US cooperation," she added. Eurasia's report listed "China-US relations" as top among the risks in 2010. "We'll see significant deterioration in US-Chinese relations in the coming year," Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group, and David Gordon, head of research, said in the report. "The US is looking for more international leadership … but China has little national interest in taking a lead role." "In 2010, we'll see this trend play out on nuclear proliferation, reform of rules of the road for international trade and commerce, cyber-security, and security in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond," it added. "It exaggerates the risks," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of China-US relations at the Center of American Studies at Renmin University of China. "The general picture of China- US relations will be 'good,' if not 'intimate.'" "(Their relations in) 2010 may be not as good as they were in 2009," Shi said, "but cooperation and consultation will overwhelm confrontation and divergences between the two powers." The report also said that, with the up tick in China's protection of exports, "we are just starting to see a US backlash." A mid-term election this November with high unemployment, US labor and even some industry groups will push the Obama administration to send the message that China's economic policies cannot persist and will lay down the gauntlet with more tariffs on Chinese exports, it added. "The Obama administration will face more domestic pressure this year on arms sales to Taiwan and on a meeting with the Dalai Lama, but it will refrain from further irritating China," Shi said. "And if the US comes up with trade protection policies, China should retaliate reasonably to warn off the US." Meanwhile, Jiang said, "We believe that both China and the US should take a firmer stand on combating trade protectionism and maintain a healthy development of China-US economic relations." Following China-US relations, Eurasia also listed Iran, European fiscal divergence, US financial regulation, as well as India-Pakistan relations, as top risks that may cause instability in the world in 2010. ^ top ^

Foreign Ministry gets infusion of new blood (SCMP)
2010-01-05
The Foreign Ministry is about to project a younger, softer side. A reshuffle yesterday saw the last of the sixtysomethings moved on, and three diplomats in their fifties promoted to vice-ministers. Ambassador to Japan Cui Tiankai, ambassador to Britain Fu Ying and former ambassador to Libya Zhai Jun are the new faces. They replace current vice-ministers Wu Dawei and He Yafei. The departure of Wu, 63, means all the principal officials in the Foreign Ministry - the minister, seven vice-ministers, two assistant ministers and one disciplinary secretary - are in their fifties. Fu, 57, is the most colourful of the new faces. Of Mongolian ethnic origin, she was the first female ambassador from an ethnic minority and is also only the second woman vice-minister since 1949. Her resume is solid, with wide experience in the Asia-Pacific region - from ambassador to the Philippines and Australia to involvement in multilateral negotiations regarding Cambodia, North Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - before she was made ambassador to Britain in April 2007. It is her signature use of "soft" diplomacy mixed with outspokenness that has set her apart from most other Chinese diplomats. After the Olympic torch relay in London last year was disrupted by thousands of pro-Tibet protesters, Fu wrote an article in The Sunday Telegraph criticising Western media for demonising China - but it was far from the usual Beijing rhetoric. "They were convinced that the people here were against them. One girl remarked she couldn't believe this land nourished Shakespeare and Dickens," Fu wrote of young athletes who flew in from Beijing for the relay. She frequently accepted interviews or wrote for British media, from the BBC to The Guardian - and even tabloid newspaper The Sun. He, 54, who has enjoyed a smooth career progression so far with North American affairs as his major responsibility in the past decade, is likely to take over from Zhou Wenzhong as ambassador to the United States. Cui, 57, was in office when President Hu Jintao paid a visit to Japan in April 2008, the first presidential visit in 10 years. Zhai, 56, who has also been stationed in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, is known for his African experience. ^ top ^

China's development provokes envy in India: report (Global Times)
2010-01-05
Indians living along the border with China are eyeing their neighbor with envy, admiring the fast-paced development in China's southwest region, according to a Financial Times report published Sunday. Mani Shankar Aiyar, a former Indian diplomat and cabinet minister with responsibility for the country's volatile northeast region, described China's development as "simply spectacular," the report said. "What is the mistake we have made by being Indians?" the newspaper quoted him as asking, adding that impoverished local people in India's northeast, bordering China, envy the progress taking place on the Chinese side. Indian visitors to Tibet are struck by the modernization that has taken place in Lhasa, the region's capital, road building projects and a high-altitude railway link to Beijing, according to the report. Over the past six decades, northeastern India has been "transformed from the second-richest part of British India to the laggard region it is today," Aiyar criticized. The newspaper quoted a member of parliament from India's northeastern state of Meghalaya as saying that China made itself felt across the border not with its physical infrastructure or military might, but by a flood of highly competitive consumer goods. He added that cheap Chinese goods were freely available, and imported telephone accessories were being sold at a tenth of their Indian equivalents. However, India does not see China in "antagonistic terms," as it believes that there is enough space for both to develop in a "mutually supportive manner while remaining sensitive to each other's concerns and aspirations," the Indian Express quoted External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna as saying. In a year-end review of foreign policy and India's relations with its neighbors, Krishna said, "India lives in a difficult neighborhood" and national security and terrorism originating from "across our borders" would remain a major challenge in 2010. He expressed India's unhappiness at China's assistance to Pakistan and called Beijing-supported projects on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control in the Kashmir region "illegal." The mistrust with which India views China has also shown in business. As the Times of India reported Sunday, India's fear of China's infiltration has taken a toll on Mumbai's weather prediction mechanism. The administration's hand was forced after the defense ministry vetoed a proposal to allow a team of Chinese officials to visit the high-security Navy Nagar to install a radar system. Officially, the reason was given as a "technical problem.'' […] Meanwhile, Indian defense scientists are readying a weapon system to neutralize enemy satellites operating in low-earth orbit, a top defense scientist said in the city of Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, according to The Hindu newspape. ^ top ^

China extends anti-piracy effort near Somalia (Global Times)
2010-01-04
China's anti-piracy mission in the waters of the Gulf of Aden is related to the country's African strategy, a Chinese scholar told the Global Times Sunday. "The diplomatic success in Africa will subsequently strengthen China's role in multilateral relations in the world arena," Xu Weizhong, deputy director at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said. "Given the potential penetration of major powers' influence in counter-piracy operations in Somalia, China's active engagement will guarantee the maintenance of the current diplomatic advantages in Africa," he added. Xu's words came after China upgraded its anti-piracy mission in the gulf region. According to a statement released on the website of China's Ministry of National Defense, China's naval escort route was further extended 50 nautical miles (92.6 kilometers) eastward starting from January 1. "China's involvement in fighting piracy illustrates the nation's commitment to preserving international maritime security and world peace," Xu said. "Furthermore, participation in anti-piracy in Somali waters serves as a testing opportunity for China's naval forces and its capability to project long-range combat operations," Xu added. The recent days' escalation of pirate acts alerted China's authorities to adopt measures to secure national and international interests. The past week unfolded with four ship hijackings as pirates broke a two-month lull waiting for a ransom delivery to flex their muscles again […] The rising piracy mirrors the deficiency of the international community's heightened naval escorts in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, the busiest shipping lane in the world. China's Ministry of Transport has reissued a notice requiring Chinese shipping enterprises and crews to enhance precautionary efforts against pirates […] In the past two years, over 80 vessels were seized by the undaunted pirates, who now hold 14 vessels and approximately 300 crew. The hijacked ships usually draw multi-million-dollar ransoms [...]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Dozens held as 1,000 police end land-use protest (SCMP)
2010-01-08
Dozens of villagers in Foshan remain behind bars after a dispute over land use turned into a violent clash with armed police. According to residents of Wanshi village, under Shishan township in the Pearl River Delta's manufacturing heartland, more than 300 people formed a human chain in the early hours to protest against the development of a plot of land they believed was communally owned. Witnesses said about 1,000 armed police were sent in, and within an hour more than 70 people were detained. Many protesters suffered injuries, with some requiring hospital treatment. Disputes over land use have increased in the past 12 months as money from last year's four trillion yuan economic stimulus package has been poured into a mass of infrastructure and real estate projects. A villager surnamed Wan, who would not give her full name as she feared retribution for her detained husband and 70-year-old father-in-law, said one elderly villager was in intensive care after police moved to break up the protest. Villagers gathered at 4am to prevent construction workers from breaking ground on the project in the 20 hectare field. Soon after 8am, more than 300 residents were surrounded by over 1,000 police, some of whom were armed with batons and riot shields. Police used tear gas, fire hoses and pepper spray to break up the chain, and many were injured in the process. The field was cleared in an hour. "The police didn't treat us like human beings. They beat us as if we were animals," Wan said. "At least two gunshots were fired across the field to scare us. They arrested mostly young men but they also beat up women, children and old people. They would not even show mercy to a four-year-old child. Many of us suffered head injuries and bruises." Wan, 30, said young men who were not present at the protest were rounded up by police later in the day […] Wanshi villagers claim the field belonged to them, but was sold by the town government to state-owned Poly Real Estate Group for 560 million yuan in August. Villagers received no compensation, and Wan said the worst part was that they only found out about it by reading newspapers. Shishan's town government expressed concern over yesterday's protest, and said 48 villagers were taken away. A statement said more than 100 villagers fought with police using sticks, knives, folding chairs and gas bottles. The town government accused the villagers of being aggressive, and said the police were simply responding to allow the landowner to exercise its lawful rights. The government acknowledged that villagers had petitioned for land ownership, but insisted it belonged to the country. "Prior to this, we have done extensive work to explain the government's policies in-depth, urging them to respect the law and history," the statement said. ^ top ^

Anti-corruption task remains tough (Global Times)
2010-01-08
The number of government officials who embezzled more than 1 million yuan ($146,488) and who were arrested and punished rose by 19 percent during the first 11 months of last year, compared to the same period in 2008, according to figures released by the top discipline watchdog Thursday. Chinese experts attribute the rise to loopholes in both the administrative system and the reinforced anti-corruption drive. During the first 11 months of 2009, the discipline inspection authorities received more than a million tip-offs of alleged corruption cases, in which about 140,000 of the cases led to convictions. More than 106,600 officials were punished by Party or administrative rules, and 4.44 billion yuan was recovered, according to data released by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) […] Some 3,700 officials at county level and above were punished for graft last year, an increase of 10.8 percent over the previous year, while the number of corrupt officials punished for embezzling more than 1 million yuan rose by 19.2 percent. Media reports indicated that at least 15 governor- and ministerial-level officials, a record high in 30 years, were brought down last year, many for allegedly trading their power for money in the country's economic boom […] The disciplinary authority found 13,858 corruption cases related to commercial bribery, involving 329 billion yuan in embezzled funds, and over 10,000 cases related to pollution. The CCDI also made efforts to dig out official malpractice that fueled public anger and triggered violent mass protests. A protest in 2008 by more than 500 residents in Menglian, Yunan Province, in which two protesters were shot dead by police, resulted in the trial last June of two officials who were sentenced to 12 and 13 years respectively for taking bribes of up to 470,000 yuan and 536,000 yuan respectively. "The rise of the figure shows the widespread corruption and that the government still faces significant challenges in containing it," Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times. He envisioned more corruption would result from the large-scale infrastructure projects financed by the government's 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus plan. "Excessive power concentration and lack of an efficient supervision system create room for officials to abuse its power while circumventing the rules," he said. He suggested that the lack of a balance of its power in decision-making and execution is detrimental to curbing corruption. "The supervision organs should be given the independent right to investigate, inquire, issue warnings to officials and freeze financial accounts of suspected officials," he said. However, Wang also suggested the rise in the number of corruption cases also reflects the government's reinforced efforts to curtail potential power abuses […]. ^ top ^

Handling of billions in quake donations criticised (SCMP)
2010-01-07
Two academics have criticised the handling of billions of Sichuan earthquake relief donations, warning the government's credibility will be further undermined by a lack of transparency and supervision. The unusually harsh criticism came after state auditors tried to clear local authorities of any wrongdoing in a report offering a rare glimpse into the use of nearly 80 billion yuan in donations. The National Audit Office said yesterday in its fourth report since the earthquake in May 2008 that donations were 79.7 billion yuan by the end of September, including 10.9 billion yuan in building materials. Nearly 52.8 billion yuan has been allocated for reconstruction. It said no major financial or disciplinary irregularities had been found, but admitted that a dozen cadres in the quake-ravaged Sichuan had been detained by police for various problems such as the distribution of relief supplies. Although the report was a move in the right direction amid widespread scepticism about the government's ability to handle big donations, analysts said it also accentuated their doubts over the effectiveness of the government's spending. "A number of academics have raised the question repeatedly since the earthquake about where the donations are going and how well they have been used," said Yang Tuan, a professor of social studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Regrettably, the report backs our claim that most of the donations have been used by local governments as part of their daily budget and it is simply not possible for the public, including donors, to check where the money has gone," she said. Deng Guosheng, a professor at Tsinghua University's NGO Research Centre, agreed. Based on his research in August, more than 80 per cent of donations were being handled by local governments, which kept donors in the dark about which city or project their donations would benefit. "I haven't seen any positive changes in the past months and the gap remains huge between the public's expectations of knowing more details about how the money is being spent and the government's willingness and ability to explain where the money is going," Deng said. The audit report said Sichuan had received 29.3 billion yuan in donations and that Shaanxi, Gansu, Chongqing and Yunnan had received 10.2 billion yuan between them. The report did not provide details about how the donations were spent. Both professors said the government was still not co-operating with the NGOs. "Donations should have been spent more effectively by NGOs, but in China we have not seen many competent NGOs due to restrictions by the government," Yang said. "We may never know how those donations were used because problems are deep within our system." The National Audit Office said on its website last week that as many as 15 major problem areas had been uncovered in its examination of 195 reconstruction projects in Sichuan, including a failure to implement rebuilding plans and the misuse of relief funds. At least two people had been prosecuted for unlawful activity and 11 others detained, it said […]. ^ top ^

Death toll in central China colliery fire rises to 25 (Xinhua)
2010-01-07
The death toll from Tuesday's coal mine fire in central China's Hunan Province climbed to 25 as rescuers continued their search for more trapped miners Wednesday. At least three more workers were trapped in the pit of Lisheng Coal Mine in Tanjiashan Town of Xiangtan County, a spokesman with the county government said. Underground cables caught fire in the mine at around 2 p.m. Tuesday, when more than 70 miners were working in the shaft. Forty-three managed to escape and at least 28 were trapped. Rescuers retrieved nine bodies late Tuesday and another 16 early Wednesday, the emergency rescue headquarters said in a statement at noon. Rescuers had expected some survivors after the flames were put out and ventilation system was restored on Tuesday. "But rescue work was extremely difficult, with too much toxic gas in the shaft after the fire," said Wang Shuhe, deputy head of State Administration of Coal Mine Safety […] Family members were still waiting for news in a hut near the entry to the pit. Most were pale and too distraught to say anything. "I till hope there's a miracle, that some of them will walk out alive," said a white-haired man whose son was one of the missing. He turned down a lunch box a mine worker offered him. "I have no appetite," he said. Lisheng is a privately-run coal mine with 180 employees. It is undergoing technical upgrading to double annual output to 60,000 tons. ^ top ^

Widow petitioning over her husband's death taken away (SCMP)
2010-01-07
The widow of a deputy mayor who petitioned the Ministry of Public Security over her husband's death was taken away by plain-clothes police in Beijing on Tuesday night, several hours after her third press conference to publicise the case. Liu Yuehong, the wife of Wugang deputy mayor Yang Kuansheng, escaped the watch of authorities in Hunan and held press conferences in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Beijing from December 20 to challenge the police investigation into her husband's death. Yang's body was found lying outside a government dormitory on November 26. Hunan police said he leapt to his death because he was depressed, but Liu, a surgeon in a neighbouring city, insists that he was murdered. The case underscores the murky world of provincial politics and the difficulty and dangers individuals face when taking on the government. Liu's lawyer said they had appealed to the Ministry of Public Security to launch another investigation. Liu, Yang's brother-in-law and a family friend were taken away from their Beijing hotel and placed under arrest on Tuesday night. The brother-in-law told the South China Morning Post yesterday that they would be sent back to Hunan. Liu pointed to 19 suspicious aspects of the police investigation, which she described as "full of contradictions". At Tuesday's press conference, a top physician and a medical lawyer were on hand to testify against the police investigation. Coroner Liu Liang from the Forensic Medicine Association said he found blood leakage that was found in some murder cases. He found different types of fractures in three of Yang's ribs which were caused by external forces, rather than a fall. Zhuo Xiaoqin, a lawyer from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, questioned whether Yang was conscious enough to leap to his death after bleeding heavily from deep knife cuts to his left wrist and neck. Hunan police said Yang jumped to his death after failing to kill himself with scissors, fruit knives and meat cleavers. "Both the investigation report and autopsy didn't mention Yang's blood loss," Zhuo said […] The widow believes Yang was beaten and then thrown from the dormitory. On December 25, Hunan police said they seized more than 210,000 yuan from Yang's dormitory in 48 red envelopes. The family insist the money was planted in an attempt to implicate Yang in wrongdoing. Liu insisted her husband had not committed suicide. He called her a day before his death and said his life was in danger, and he also denied any involvement in corruption. ^ top ^

Cities not ready for harsh winter (Global Times)
2010-01-07
Seven provinces and regions in eastern and central China have reported power rationing and Beijing declared an emergency due to the gas shortage after the new cold snap gripped much of China, resulting in soaring energy demand as coal supplies were already tight in most of the areas struck by the severe winter weather. The China Meteorological Administration issued a cold-snap warning on Tuesday, saying temperatures in northern China had plummeted to minus 20 and 32 degrees Celsius, and the temperature in central China, including Hubei and Jiangxi provinces and the eastern coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, nudged close to minus 8 and minus 5 degrees Celsius respectively. It forecast that the cold weather would continue through the week, with a possible further snowfall in Beijing on Friday. The icy weather has pushed up power and gas demand to new peaks while transport of coal from north to south has been hampered by heavy snowfalls in the north, driving up the already high price of coal. A total of 349 power plants across the country registered more than 2.4 million tons of coal consumption per day, with coal reserves meeting only a 10- day demand and for some plants only a three-day demand […] In eastern China, the maximum power generation capacity in Jiangsu Province has reached 46.78 million kilowatts, setting a new record for power use in winter. As most provinces in southern China have no central heating, residents increasingly rely on air conditioning and electric radiators to keep warm, further pushing up power consumption. The central China power grid for the first time reported a higher power use in winter than in summer […] Coal reserves for power generation dropped to 1 million tons, well below the level required to cope with the winter cold, which is 2.3 million tons. Two 60-megawatt thermal power-generating units at Ezhou Power Plant in Hubei Province tripped on Monday and Tuesday […] In order to prevent blackouts, power authorities in Hubei decided to ration power for industry, with a focus on guaranteeing the power supply to residential areas, hospitals, schools, financial institutions and key transport hubs. Six other provinces and regions including Shanghai, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hebei, Hunan, Jiangxi provinces and Chongqing Municipality have also reported power cuts, resulting in the disruption of production and complaints from residents […] A Jiangsu resident surnamed Zhou, who uses air conditioning to heat her apartment, told the Global Times that she hoped the local government could better learn about the public's needs before rationing power. Her province is mulling the rationing of power, she said, the basic threshold is 80 kilowatt-hours per month […] In Beijing, the heavy snowfall drove the temperature to minus 16 C, a record low in 40 years, straining the gas supply […]. ^ top ^

Travellers warned about drinking water in areas affected by oil spill (SCMP)
2010-01-07
The medical service provider International SOS has issued a health alert to people travelling in northwestern China, where a ruptured diesel pipeline is threatening drinking water in the country's second-longest river. The commercial medical agency warned travellers yesterday to stay alert when drinking water in areas affected by the oil spill. Last Wednesday, an estimated 100 tonnes of diesel fuel spilled into the Wei River, a major tributary of the Yellow River that runs through Shaanxi province. The broken pipelines, owned by state oil giant PetroChina, contaminated the Wei, posing a threat to the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people. The huge leak was discovered in Chishui township, Hua county, which houses a big tourist attraction, Hua Mountain. Xinhua reported that China National Petroleum Corp, PetroChina's parent company, had shut off the pipeline, part of a 1,188-kilometre network carrying oil from Lanzhou in the northwestern province of Gansu to Zhengzhou in the energy-hungry central province of Henan. A channel was dug at the site to divert unaffected water, and barriers were set up to try to control the spill, but contamination reached the Sanmenxia Reservoir and hydropower station, located on the upper reaches of the Yellow River. A week after the leakage, Xinhua said the spill had been "basically contained" in Sanmenxia Reservoir and caused no further contamination of the water in Xiaolangdi Reservoir and the downstream supply of drinking water. It also said part of the diesel fuel that leaked at a site close to the Chishui River had entered the Wei River and that experts were calculating the volume of the spill that had reached the Yellow River from the two tributaries. International SOS warned against drinking tap water in affected areas but said it would generally consider drinking tap water on the mainland to be unsafe even without the contamination alerts. Dr Chris Wong Kong-chu, an associate professor of biology at Baptist University, said drinking water containing a high concentration of diesel fuel could affect the oesophagus and other digestive organs, as it was a corrosive organic compound. However, Wong said human exposure was not common, as water contaminated with diesel usually had a sharp, foul odour that could be easily detected. ^ top ^

China faces new risk: Attacks on pipelines (China Daily)
2010-01-06
As oil and gas pipelines are quickly extended in China to meet soaring fuel demands, the nation will face increasing threats to its environment, territorial safety and energy security, experts said. Efforts were urged recently by energy experts for the nation to protect and strengthen the pipelines in light of the Dec 30 discovery of diesel fuel leakage into a tributary of the Yellow River. The leak has spread downstream into Shanxi and Henan provinces and contaminated the drinking water of many local residents. "It is an accident but the hazards of oil and natural gas leaks exist, including pipe explosions and pollutions to water, air and soil," said Han Xiaoping, chief information officer of China5e.com, a leading energy website in China. China now has around 50,000 km of oil and gas pipelines, and will build 40,000 km of pipelines in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), according to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's largest oil and gas producer. And pipelines will remain a major means of oil transport because they are "safer, more economical and convenient", he said. But new problems have arisen in recent years threatening the safety of pipelines. Rapid urbanization has resulted in the reckless construction of buildings and roads within the pipelines' buffer zones in recent years, said Cao Kangtai, director of Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. Rampant theft of oil and gas through illegal siphoning is also a major threat […] Thieves illegally drilled into the CNPC's pipelines 18,382 times from 2002 to 2006, causing the company a loss of more than 500 million yuan ($72 million), according to CNPC. Oil theft is now a major cause of oil spills, said Liu Zheng, a professor from Tsinghua University […] In China, most oil pipelines are built near farmland where oil spills usually damage land and crops. Toxic substances contained in oil tend to accumulate in plants and animals, which consequentially threaten the health of humans who consume the polluted plants, he said. Moreover, oil pipelines could be a target for terrorists. Li Wei, director of the center for counterterrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that attempts to attack energy production and transportation infrastructure by creating explosions have been previously made in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and South America. "Though terrorists are more likely to aim at causing a large number of casualties instead of attacking pipelines in China, there is still a possibility," Li said. "Protecting oil and gas pipelines should be included in the national contingency plan, and efforts should be strengthened to monitor the safety along pipelines," Li said. A draft law to "protect oil and gas pipelines, maintain transportation safety and public safety and safeguard the national resource supply" was sent to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for a first reading in October […] China is now the world's second largest oil importer and a major consumer of natural gas. Official statistics show that China imported nearly 200 million tons of crude oil last year. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said 64.5 percent of the country's oil consumption was likely to be met by imports in 2020. China also has set a target of raising the proportion of natural gas in its total energy consumption to 5.3 percent in 2010 from 2.8 percent in 2005 […]. ^ top ^

Angry over secret melamine probe (Global Times)
2010-01-06
Questions are being asked about why authorities in Shanghai waited eight months before informing the public that they were investigating a company for selling dairy products tainted with melamine. Several batches of milk powder produced by Shanghai Panda Dairy were found contaminated with melamine, the same ingredient that killed several babies in 2008. Shanghai Food Security Conference Office issued a statement on the last day of 2009 that the company was shut down, adding that three company officials were detained and the products sold in seven provinces were recalled. Shanghai Panda was one of the companies blacklisted by the nation's quality safety watchdog during the scandal in 2008. But the company was allowed to resume production after promises to improve its product safety. However, the recent shutdown attracted complaints instead of support. The unsafe products were discovered on April 23, 2009 by the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision (SBQTS), according to an internal report issued by the General Administration of Quality, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) on April 29 […] "We got the news from insiders in April. And the local bureau said they would investigate the violations," said a man surnamed Peng, an employee at Zhejiang Panda Dairy Products Company, a competitor of the Shanghai company. "We wonder why the authorities broke the news now," he told the Global Times, adding that many consumers have been calling and asking about the safety of dairy products. The public complained also. "They shouldn't have covered it up for so long. What if someone had been using the tainted products?" Li Jian in Fujian Province told the Global Times Tuesday. However, some industry insiders told the Guangdong-based newspaper that they had learned the news before it broke out, but they were asked to keep the information quiet. The insiders did not reveal who made the demand, but noted that the dairy market just recovered from a recession after the severe blow from the Sanlu Milk Powder scandal in 2008, which caused the deaths of six babies and sickened about 300,000 other children. "The supervision department should break the news as soon as possible. Priority should be given to consumers' safety, not the interests of the industry," Ren Lin in Shanghai told the Global Times Tuesday. "The authorities should report the news as soon as possible and track the suspected products closely," Wang Dingmian, former director of the Dairy Association of China, told the Global Times. Wang blamed the latest scandal on tens of thousands of tainted milk products detected during the scandal in 2008 but which were not destroyed. "Some local governments didn't destroy them completely. Some producers recycled and sold them again illegally." Despite this latest scandal, Wang noted that 99 percent of the nation's dairy producers are reliable. ^ top ^

Chongqing party boss set to hand out big lai see (SCMP)
2010-01-06
Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai will hand out 600 million yuan to the municipality's poorest people before the Lunar New Year. A political analyst said the move was aimed at enhancing his case for a top position in the next government reshuffle. More than five million people will receive red envelopes this year, after Bo said Chongqing's cadres needed to improve their relationship with the public. The Year of the Ox has proved a turbulent one for Chongqing, due to the continuing crackdown on organised crime. This has seen the arrests of scores of police and officials and exposed the true grip that triads have on the city. A report in the Chongqing Daily, the mouthpiece of the party committee, stated that authorities would contribute 420 million yuan, while the remainder of the money would come from donations. The amount is double last year's 300 million yuan handout. During a visit to poor rural areas on Friday and Saturday, Bo said officials should not always "hang around" with the wealthy, and "must make a marriage with the poor" through frequent visits to poor families. "We should attract investment, but we definitely should not despise the poor and curry favour with the rich," Bo was quoted as saying, adding that connecting closely with the people was a principle aim of the Communist Party. The plan to distribute the red envelopes and aid was announced in the local press yesterday. More than 5 million people, including disabled soldiers and retired cadres in difficulty, will receive 300 yuan per person or per household. More than 1.9 million people will receive 30 yuan, while another 170,000 struggling households and 70,000 unemployed people will receive 50 to 70 yuan. A further 2 million people who have suffered from natural disasters such as flooding will receive food, clothing, bedding or free heating. A 24-hour hotline will be set up by the Civil Affairs Bureau for local people to report any wrongdoings by officials. Bo Xilai is the son of the late Bo Yibo, one of eight powerful party elders known as the "Eight Immortals". Bo Xilai has launched a series of campaigns since taking over as party chief in December 2007, ranging from the singing of revolutionary songs to text messages praising the work of the party and the government, aimed at emphasising the leading role played by the Communist Party and trying to win the support of local people. Political analysts said these campaigns and the latest display of largesse was an attempt by Bo, the former commerce minister and member of the Politburo, to win promotion at the 17th party congress, which takes place in 2012. Mo Zhixu, a Beijing-based political columnist, said the campaign was aimed more at cadres than low-income people. "He is trying to tell the powerful old cadres in the party that he knows the principles of the party despite his [privileged] family background," Mo said. Mo doubted that the mass campaigns would make much difference as public support was not an important factor in selection of senior cadres. ^ top ^

Drought poses a risk to reservoir and people (Global Times)
2010-01-06
A severe drought around the Yangtze River has caused the water level in the Three Gorges Reservoir to stay much lower than the anticipated level of 175 meters and that could complicate plans for farmers and millions of others who rely on the river to survive. The Yangtze, which stretches 6,300 kilometers across most of China, has been feeling the effects of the drought that began in October. The low level has hindered the flow of traffic. "The reservoir started reserving water in advance from September 15 of last year in order to reach the goal, but now the water level has only reached 169 meters," Xu Ming, an ecosystem expert from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told the Global Times Tuesday […] The high level is important for power generation and navigation purposes to ensure that the Three Gorges project fulfill its intended goals. Water is important to ensure smooth water traffic, replenish the lower reaches of the river and to generate electricity […] The water level in the Yangtze River continued to drop because of poor rainfall and the water storage problem of the Three Gorges Reservoir. The water level in Wuhu Lake, in the river's lower stream, reached 0.97 meters on Sunday […] Dongting Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in China located along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, has seen its water level drop by more than 90 percent compared with its average capacity during the flood season, local residents said. "The dry season arrived in early November last year, earlier than in 2008, and will continue till this March. It influences our business and affects our production," Xiang Zaisheng, a fish farm owner in Dongting Lake, told the Global Times Tuesday. Ma Dechao, director of the freshwater project at the World Wide Fund, said last month that the ecosystem in the Yangtze River has experienced significant changes after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. CAS's Xu said measures should be taken to deal with the impact caused by the project. "Experts from the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research are doing research on how to optimize the scheduling of the Three Gorges project to improve water traffic and solve ecosystem problems," he added. ^ top ^

Report highlights corruption of China's SOE executives (Xinhua)
2010-01-06
Thirty-five senior executives of China's large state-owned enterprises (SOE), such as former Sinopec chairman Chen Tonghai, faced corruption charges last year. A report by Faren Magazine, affiliated to the Legal Daily and overseen by the Ministry of Justice, examined 95 serious criminal cases of executives of both state and private companies last year. Thirty-one of the SOE executives were found to be involved in cases involving an average of 110 million yuan (16.18 million US dollars). Of those, 28 were charged with taking bribes, 16 with embezzlement and eight with misappropriation of public funds […] The only case still under investigation was that of Kang Rixin, who was removed in August as party secretary and general manager of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). He also served as a member of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the party's internal anti-graft body. Another prominent case was that of Chen Tonghai, former general manager of China Petrochemical Corporation, who was found to have taken almost 200 million yuan in bribes and given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve in July. The report said two SOE executives were sentenced to death last year for graft. Li Peiying, former president of the Capital Airports Holding Company, was executed in August after he was found guilty of bribery and corruption. An investigation showed Li received about 26.61 million yuan in bribes. Yang Yanming, a former senior trader with a Chinese securities company, was executed last month after being convicted of embezzling and misappropriating 94.52 million yuan of public funds from 1998 to 2003. The report also detailed crimes such as murder and poisoning, committed by some private enterprise heads last year. Billionaire Wang Wenxiang was sentenced to death last month for hiring two people to murder a former business partner […]. ^ top ^

State of war over Henan's claim to have found fabled ruler's tomb (SCMP)
2010-01-05
A war of words has broken out over a provincial government's claim to have uncovered the tomb of legendary ruler Cao Cao, underscoring the heightened scepticism towards mainland officialdom. The Henan provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics announced the discovery of Cao Cao's grave in the village of Xigaoxue in Anyang county at a news conference in Beijing last week. Archaeologists uncovered more than 250 artefacts and three sets of human bones, including those of a male in his sixties thought to be Cao Cao, who died at the age of 66 in 220AD. If substantiated, the find would be a significant archaeological breakthrough and would shed light on the life of Cao Cao, who was popularised in The Romance of Three Kingdoms as a ruthless villain who took a weak emperor hostage. Cao Cao was able to unite much of northern China to form the Wei state, one of the three warring kingdoms at the time. Much like the debate over Cao Cao himself, who was portrayed as a tyrant in the book but was also considered a brilliant military leader, the discovery has generated debate among academics. Online commentators made the comparison with the "South China tiger" uproar in 2008, in which a photo purporting to have been taken in Shaanxi of a member of the critically endangered big-cat subspecies was endorsed by provincial authorities but was later found to have been faked. Thirteen officials were sacked or disciplined over that scandal. Ni Fangliu, a historian based in Nanjing who is a specialist on tomb theft, was among the first scholars to go on record as questioning the Henan team's conclusions, saying he believed their reasoning was flawed. Ni said he was initially a staunch supporter of the work at the tomb because finding Cao Cao's grave would be a great archaeological accomplishment considering the emperor's historic status. However, he said that as a rule of thumb in tomb excavation, archaeologists needed to present items such as the original stone tablets bearing inscriptions identifying the person, seals or books of condolence. "If you can't come up with these hard items, the public has good reason to suspect," said Ni. He said he was not rejecting the Henan team's findings but wanted more done to ensure the bureau was not rushing to conclusions. Cultural officials from the neighbouring town of Handan, in Hebei province, also question the evidence. A major bone of contention is whether inscription tablets were part of burial rituals at the time. Respected archaeologist Liu Qingzhu dismissed some of the scepticism as the result of a feud between regional governments for a slice of Cao Cao's fame. He sees nothing wrong with the Henan bureau's conclusions because inscription tablets were not necessarily part of burial rituals at the time. Liu, a former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Archaeology, said it was strange that most of the questioning came from people outside archaeological circles. The public's scepticism stems from of a lack of faith in archaeological work, which is often under heavy influence from cultural authorities. "Why do people suspect the Henan government is taking advantage of Cao Cao's fame to boost the local economy? Because it was true with many claims before," said Ni. He believes the bureau wanted to announce the find four days before the end of 2009 because it would rank as one of the biggest of the year if substantiated. ^ top ^

Liu Xiaobo appeals against verdict (SCMP)
2010-01-05
Dissident Liu Xiaobo has appealed against his conviction on subversion charges but holds faint hopes that his 11-year prison term will be overturned. "Liu Xiaobo directly handed his appeal over to the court on December 29," his lawyer Shang Baojun said yesterday. "After considering his case he decided to make the appeal effort, but he understands that there is not a big chance that the verdict will be changed." Liu was convicted by a Beijing court on Christmas Day and sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion, prompting condemnation from the US, the European Union and other Western governments. He was detained in December 2008 after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold manifesto calling for the reform of the country's one-party political system and the protection of human rights. Rights groups criticised what they called a toughening of the political climate, given the heavy jail term for Liu, a 54-year-old writer who was previously jailed over the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. Shang, who met Liu yesterday, said that under normal conditions the appeals hearing should be held within one month of the appeal being lodged. The lawyer urged the international community to continue its calls for Liu's release, saying more pressure on Beijing could lead to a successful appeal or at least better prison treatment for the dissident. "We hope that everyone continues to make efforts to seek Liu's release," Shang said. The subversion charge was also related to anti-government articles written by Liu on the internet. ^ top ^

Snow strands thousands of rail passengers (Global Times)
2010-01-05
More than 1,400 passengers, who were stranded in a valley in northern China in the extreme cold for 20 hours after their 15-carriage train was partially buried by snow late Sunday, were rescued Monday with no casualties reported. Another 12 trains were also reportedly stranded by snow in Inner Mongolia, with thousands of passengers trapped and later rescued from the freezing temperatures as low as minus 34 degrees Celsius. The train traveling from Harbin to Baotou was stopped at 6:48 pm Sunday when walls of snow whipped up by strong winds blocked and almost buried the train. Some 1,400 passengers inside the train were forced to spend Sunday night and most of Monday in their carriages before they were rescued at about 3 pm Monday. The local public security and fire departments sent several rescue vehicles and fire engines with clothes, quilts, food and hot water to rescue the passengers and remove the snow. As many roads were also blocked, some officers had to climb mountains to bring food to the stranded passengers. No injuries were reported during the ordeal […] Services were reduced on a total of 30 high-speed trains, three national highways and three provincial highways across Beijing, Tianjin and Inner Mongolia, and roads in six other provinces were blocked Monday because of the heavy snowfall and bad weather conditions. The government was blamed in 2008 for its slow response to one of the largest snow disasters in history, which affected 78 million people and caused losses of more than 50 billion yuan. This year, the public has shown no discontent toward the government's relief efforts. Beijing Capital International Airport reported 690 delayed and 96 canceled flights as of 4 pm Monday after record heavy snow in the city paralyzed the airport on Sunday. The three runways at the airport were all reopened Monday after efforts by more than 300 workers to clear the snow. Airports in Tianjin, Hohhot, Dalian, Weifang, Shenyang, Guilin and other cities were closed on Sunday due to the snow but were reopened Monday […] The 20-hour snowfall on Sunday in Beijing was a 59- year record. The depth of snow reported Sunday was 37.5 centimeters, in the city's Huairou district. Due to the impact of the snow on road traffic, Beijing's subway was inundated with passengers Monday. Beijing Subway Company laid on an extra 20 trains […] The Ministry of Public Security ordered local transport authorities to implement emergency measures and provide assistance to those affected by the snow storm. The National Meteorological Center said the cold weather is likely to slow things down across the country for the next 10 days. Northern China, the Yellow River Basin area and the area between the Yangtze and Huai rivers, as well as the Jianghan area, will experience the lowest temperatures tonight and tomorrow night of this winter. On Sunday night, Shandong Province also experienced a spell of snow, strong winds and a drastic temperature drop. Yan Tai and Weihai have closed all highways, airports and seaports […]. ^ top ^

Plan for extensive cut in military workforce (SCMP)
2010-01-05
The mainland's vast armed forces are in for a "substantial, expansive and focused" shake-up in the coming year, with a senior military official hinting at an extensive cut in non-combatant personnel. The streamlining is to free up resources for the military to upgrade hardware and restructure, a key official at the top military school of the People's Liberation Army told CCTV. "In the new year, we need to develop better weapons, improve the organisational structure of military units, and greatly cut back on bureaucracy and non-combatant personnel to allow military development to proceed in a more focused direction," Ou Jianping, director of the PLA National Defence University's institute of research on military structure, told the state broadcaster. Analysts have been predicting such a move, but Ou's comments are the first clear indication from a senior military official that significant restructuring is imminent. The remarks came as President Hu Jintao called for control over the military to be strengthened through the expansion of party organisations within the PLA. In his first message of the year in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission, Hu called for closer ties between the party and military organisations, and stressed the structural importance of party control in the PLA's modernisation. The directive also made a lengthy appeal for the military leadership to intensify efforts to clamp down on corruption, a persistent problem within the PLA in recent years. The defence ministry last month announced plans to reform the PLA's spending system - accounting for a third of its total budget - in an attempt to stamp out corruption. Acknowledging defects in the current system for buying weaponry, the ministry said it would introduce a standardised bidding process for arms deals, bringing some market mechanisms into the strictly controlled industry. Defence analyst Ma Dingsheng said a significant cutback in non-combatant military personnel had been on the cards as the PLA leadership "long ago realised that just having lots of soldiers is no longer any use". "Some have been predicting [a cut of] 200,000, while others say it will be as many as 300,000," Ma said. He said the military budget was expected to increase this year from about US$70 billion to some US$80 billion, but the restructuring process showed the leadership was not simply throwing money at the problem. "The current level of expenditure puts the mainland on the level of countries like Korea," he said. "But if we want to be on a par with the top nations such as Britain, Japan and the US, then there is still a long way to go. The only way for China to catch up is to rationalise the use of the budget and ensure money is being spent effectively." Ma acknowledged that corruption was a perennial headache for the PLA leadership and was now endemic in the system. "The PLA now has... a lot of money," he said. "It is very easy for top personnel to divert money to enrich themselves, because they can keep details of their expenditure from being made public. In fact, they are expressly forbidden from making it public." However, Ma said efforts to clamp down on the problem were unlikely to have much impact. "There is nothing that can be done about it, due to the complete lack of public scrutiny and the lack of media scrutiny. It is just a case of the army keeping tabs on itself and that simply doesn't work," he said. ^ top ^

Hundreds clash with police in bid to halt spread of chemical (SCMP)
2010-01-05
Hundreds of villagers clashed with police in Zhentou, Hunan province, in an attempt to stop local authorities covering fields with a pollution-reducing chemical, which villagers fear will prevent them from claiming compensation. The protest was the sixth in the past five months over metal poisoning caused by a factory that has led to the deaths of at least seven people and left hundreds sick. Five villagers were detained. On the morning of December 31, dozens of trucks carrying calcium oxide arrived under police escort, a resident from hardest-hit Shuangqiao village said yesterday. "The township government officials said the calcium oxide was to rid the farmland of toxicity and help the area move on from the pollution case," the villager said. "Actually, they just want to cover it over and remove all traces of our suffering. They wanted to dump the chemical in the fields [around the factory]. Villagers gathered and started protesting. We are angry, so we threw bricks and stones at them." The trucks were forced to leave in the afternoon, but police returned and detained five people […] Zhentou attracted nationwide attention five months ago when thousands of villagers protested after a spate of cases of cadmium and indium poisoning. Dozens have been detained in ongoing disturbances. The factory was shut down, but villagers have prevented local authorities from removing it and reclaiming polluted farmland. They fear that once all traces of pollution have been removed, their chances of receiving compensation will be severely reduced. Environmental experts said the soil around the factory would not be suitable for growing crops for 60 years. In August, authorities offered a one-off payment of 500 yuan to those poisoned by one of the metals, and 1,000 yuan if traces of both were found. Since then, free medical treatment has ceased, with no more compensation offered. ^ top ^

Top Beijing judge faces trial in high-profile corruption case (SCMP)
2010-01-04
In the highest profile judicial corruption case since the founding of the People's Republic, a top Beijing judge accused of abusing his power by accepting bribes is due to stand trial after a year-long internal investigation. Huang Songyou, former vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, will face charges of taking more than four million yuan in bribes, the China Business Journal reported yesterday. Citing an informant, the Journal said the investigation into Huang's case had entered its final stage, and would move to a judicial hearing no later than the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March. Huang, 52, worked in Guangdong's top court for almost 20 years before being promoted to Beijing in 2002. He is the highest ranking Supreme Court judge to be investigated by the party's top anti-graft watchdog, causing a major shake-up in the mainland's judiciary sector. His downfall casts unprecedented doubt on the authority and credibility of the mainland's judicial system. The internal investigation generated an anti-corruption storm in the judiciary last year, when corruption cases involving judiciary officials increased by 51 per cent from 2008. According to the 2009 working report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, more than 13,000 corrupt officials were found nationwide. Of them, 2,620 were from the judicial sector - about 32 per cent of them judges and 10 per cent prosecutors. Last June, a major judicial reshuffle was launched in a bid to combat rampant corruption and injustices following a raft of scandals that began last year. Huang has been under shuanggui - a Communist Party internal disciplinary procedure under which party members are detained and interrogated - since October 2008 for allegedly severely violating party discipline. He was removed from his positions and expelled from the party in the same month. In October last year, his case was passed on to the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Mainland media reported that Huang led a lavish lifestyle, abused his power and accepted large bribes. Four other senior Supreme Court judges were involved in Huang's case, with one placed under shuanggui and the other three pending further investigation. One, senior Supreme People's Court judge Li Jun, received a three-year sentence for taking 100,000 yuan in bribes, according to the Journal […] Huang also had a role in a land-sale corruption case in Guangdong that brought down several of the province's top court officials. It also led to the detention of the province's top enforcement court official, Yang Xiancai, last July. In October 2008, former Beijing district court president Guo Shenggui was sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve, for bribery and embezzlement. He illicitly amassed 7.97 million yuan between 1998 and 2008. Huang formally supervised the civil cases division and the Office of Enforcement of Supreme Court Decisions before he was removed from the post. ^ top ^

Seven dead after overpass under construction collapses in SW China (Xinhua)
2010-01-04
Seven people were killed Sunday after an overpass under construction collapsed in southwest China's Yunnan Province, local officials said. The accident also left eight people seriously injured and 26 others with light injures. It happened at 2:20 p.m., when an overpass under construction collapsed in an uncompleted airport in Kunming, the provincial capital, said a spokesman with the municipal government. Among the 41 workers at the site, six workers were killed at the scene, while another one was found dead after his body was retrieved in the debris, the spokesman said. The collapsed section was 38 meters long and 13 meters wide […] With an investment of 23 billion yuan (3.37 billion U.S. dollars), the airport is designed to put through 38 million passengers every year, he said. The cause of the accident is under investigation. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Shenzhen plans sharp increase in water rates (SCMP)
2010-01-08
Shenzhen will raise water prices in a bid to ease shortages, with households facing a rise of 30 per cent and businesses more than 60 per cent if the proposal is approved this month. The increase is bound to face strong opposition in the city, where many Hongkongers live or have businesses. Li Yuet-leong, chairman of the Hong Kong Electroplating Merchants' Association, said his industry would suffer. "It will only hurt our business," he said. "The water price generally is about 8 per cent of our operating cost. Now the authorities ask for a 60 per cent increase. It will just eat up our slender profit." A public hearing on the proposed price rise will be held by the Municipal Development and Reform Commission on January 21, The Southern Metropolis News reported. Guangdong is struggling with its worst drought in decades. There have been reports that the severe drought that began in the summer slashed the province's rice harvest and cut farmers' incomes by one-third. Reservoirs, ponds and wells across the province, which provide drinking water to millions of residents, have dried up. The price for industrial water use would rise 64.4 per cent from 2.25 yuan to 3.70 yuan per cubic metre. The price for residential use would rise almost 32 per cent from 2.85 yuan to about 3.75 yuan, but families would pay more for greater consumption. The unit price would rise to 5.20 yuan for amounts exceeding 30 cubic metres a month. Shenzhen officials decided the price rise was necessary to ensure profits of at least 6 per cent for water supply groups. The Shenzhen Water Affairs Group said an increase was needed due to equipment investments and internal administrative costs. Li, of the merchants association, doubted whether the rises could be stopped, but said he hoped the increases could be introduced in phases over the next few months so small and medium-sized enterprises could adjust […] The city's water price - even after the increases - would still be reasonable compared with other urban cities, officials said. The average water price for 35 large cities on the mainland is about 3.77 yuan per cubic metre. Beijing held a hearing last month, planning to raise water prices for residential use by about 24 per cent, from 3.7 yuan per cubic metre to 4.6 yuan. Since June, Shanghai has raised the water price for residents by at least 40 per cent on average to about 2.3 yuan. The city will raise the price to 2.8 yuan in November. A number of other cities are also planning to or have raised water prices, such as Tianjin, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Chongqing. Over the past 12 months, all public hearings on residential water price increases have ended with rises, generating public controversy. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang to safeguard social stability (Xinhua)
2010-01-07
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is to implement amended public security provisions as of Feb. 1 to crack down on crimes that threaten the national security. The revised Regulations on Comprehensive Management of Social Security of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were expected to strengthen comprehensive treatment of social security in Xinjiang and give hard strike on the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and other crimes threatening the national security, said Eligen Imibakhi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the regional People's Congress. The revised regulations put the crackdown on the "three evil forces" and other crimes threatening the national security as the top task to maintain public order, in a bid to safeguard national unity, ethnic solidarity and social stability. According to Imibakhi, the occurrence of separatist and terrorist activities, especially the July 5 riot in Urumqi last year, in Xinjiang in recent years exposed the true nature of the "three evil forces" as being violent and terror. At the same time, they also reflected loopholes in the measures to maintain public order. The regional People's Congress revised relevant regulations to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people, he said. The new amendment to the local public security regulations was made on the basis of the revised version in 1997. The regulations were first approved by the regional People's Congress in 1994. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Beijing warning over HK protests: Don't be too radical, young activists told (SCMP)
2010-01-07
Days after young activists clashed with police outside the central government's liaison office, and with fears of similar clashes over a rail project tomorrow, Beijing's top official in Hong Kong made a rare appeal for protests to remain peaceful. The city would not tolerate radical demonstrations, Peng Qinghua warned. Beijing loyalist Cheng Yiu-tong went further, saying the activists' tactics had shocked the central government. But this may be the face of the future, whatever Cheng or Peng say. A generation galvanised by a sense of powerlessness is determined to stand up for the downtrodden and against the rich, who they see as the chief beneficiaries of projects such as the railway. They meet and organise online, and some of their leaders had their first taste of protest in the demonstrations three years ago against the demolition of the Star Ferry clock tower and Queen's Pier in Central. Tomorrow thousands are expected to rally outside the Legislative Council while, inside, lawmakers resume consideration of the government's application for HK$66.9 billion to build an express rail line to Guangzhou. In internet postings, some activists have warned they are ready for bloodshed outside Legco. Among those expected to take part are some of the same people who spearheaded the New Year's Day rally, in which around 10,000 demonstrators ringed the liaison office in Sheung Wan and some breached a cordon of 1,000 police and charged towards the office. Two policemen and a protester were slightly injured in the ensuing melee. Organisers of tomorrow's protest in support of New Territories villagers who will lose their homes to the rail project hope to mobilise 10,000 supporters. Police will have 800 officers on standby. "While we respect citizens' expression of various views and demands, we hope these expressions can take place in a rational and peaceful atmosphere. If some actions which are too radical arise in the process, this is against the expectation of citizens," Peng said yesterday. "We hope in the future, rational discussion can be conducted on major political, economic and livelihood issues in Hong Kong." Cheng, a trade unionist who sits on the Executive Council and is a National People's Congress delegate, said such protests could make Beijing doubt Hongkongers' readiness for universal suffrage. Addressing his comments to activists, Cheng said: "The status of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong is like an embassy of the Foreign Ministry. You clashed with the office in this manner. This was very shocking to Beijing." He noted that radical protesters were in the minority. "If the majority of people are like that, Beijing will have to send troops here," he said. Yang Kuang, who took part in the New Year's Day march from Causeway Bay to the liaison office, said activists had not targeted the central government. "We barged through solely in response to the police's deprivation of our human rights with their huge forces," he said. Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said Hong Kong people had always been reasonable and rational, but "even the Buddha gets angry". Peaceful protests should be matched by a willingness by the central authorities to listen to protesters' views […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

US-Taiwan missile deal irks Beijing (Global Times)
2010-01-08
China made stern representations to the US Thursday after the Obama administration approved a sale of upgraded Patriot air-defense missile equipment to Taiwan. The decision was denounced by Chinese military scholars as a representation of US-style pragmatism and its long-term containment policy toward China. The US defense department announced the contract late on Wednesday, allowing Lockheed Martin Corp to sell an unspecified number of Patriots, said the American Institute in Taiwan […] Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief of Defense News, told Reuters that the sale rounds out a $6.5 billion arms package approved in late 2008, which included 330 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles worth up to $3.1 billion. "This is the last piece that Taiwan has been waiting on," Minnick said. Late last month, Raytheon, the world's largest missile maker, won contracts totaling $1.1 billion to produce the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System for Taiwan, including ground-system hardware and spare parts. According to a Wednesday press release by the US Department of Defense on its website, the contract with Lockheed, awarded December 30, included "basic missile tooling upgrades, command and launch control tooling, spares and ground support equipment." The completion date of the work is estimated to be October 31, 2012. In a regular press conference in Beijing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said China has urged the US to cancel any planned arms sales to Taiwan to avoid damaging its ties with Beijing. The PAC-3 missile is the world's "most advanced, capable and powerful theater air defense missile," which defeats tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and fixed and rotary winged aircraft, and significantly increases the Patriot system's firepower, Lockheed said on its website. The hardware could shoot down Chinese short-range and mid-range missiles, US defense analysts were quoted by Reuters as saying. Yang Chengjun, a senior military strategist, told the Global Times that the arms sale would only pile up hostility but can't alter the contrast of military strength across the Taiwan Straits. The latest contract didn't include design work on diesel-electric submarines, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and the "Po Sheng" (Broad Victory) command and control program, which White House officials said last month were in discussion. Xu Guangyu, a member of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, noticed the "compromise" and argued Beijing's pressure on the Obama administration worked. To suspend communication or postpone some cooperative projects are among the countermeasures available for China in the military domain, Xu suggested. Some military experts urged stronger actions. Yang Yi, a rear admiral of the navy, suggested some US companies that sell weapons to Taiwan also want to sell aircraft and other goods to China. "Why don't we take defensive countermeasures against them? Apart from just protesting to the US government and taking necessary steps, why don't we put sanctions on these troublemakers?" Yang told the China New Service. An online poll on huanqiu.com showed that 95.7 percent of more than 16,000 participants favored the idea of sanctioning companies related to arms sales to Taiwan. Shi Yinhong, a professor at the Center of American Studies at Renmin University of China, noted that China should work out a detailed strategic plan in the long run […] Shi predicted the Obama administration would divide the weapons sale package into separate contracts and seek to approve them one by one during his current tenure and next tenure, which may include upgraded F-16 fighter jets and armed helicopters, which could further harm China-US ties […] The US is the only country in the world that still sells arms to Taiwan publicly. The Netherlands and France promised to stop deals with the island after their sales provoked strong actions from China. ^ top ^

Mainland, Taiwan to add 88 cross-Strait flights for Spring Festival (Xinhua)
2010-01-07
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan will add another 88 cross-Strait flights during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday to better deal with the travel rush, the island's top negotiator Chiang Pin-kun said Wednesday. Chiang, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and vice chairman of the ruling party Kuomintang (KMT), said at a party meeting that four more regular cross-Strait terminals would be added in the mainland, bringing the total number of mainland terminals to 31. The four terminals would be opened in mainland cities of Taiyuan, Changchun, Nanning and Yantai, Chiang said. He did not reveal detailed schedule. The mainland and Taiwan currently have 270 flights weekly. It was necessary to increase cross-Strait flights, Chiang said, adding that he hoped to add one more terminal in Shanghai Hongqiao Airport as well as simplify entry and exit procedures of flight crews. Earlier last week, Fan Liqing, spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, also said that at least 44 flights would be added weekly between the four mainland terminals of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Taiwan terminals from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28. The Spring Festival, or the Chinese Lunar New Year, falls on Feb. 14. The mainland and Taiwan began direct air and sea transport links and postal services on Dec. 15, 2008. Previously, air and sea connections, including mail, were routed through a third location, usually Hong Kong. On Nov. 4, 2008, the mainland and Taiwan agreed to launch regular passenger charter flights across the Taiwan Strait. Before that, flights were offered on weekends and during the four major Chinese traditional festivals -- the Spring Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Chiang also said that his talks with Chen Yunlin, president of the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), had won much of public support, citing results of polls conducted by the local authorities. Up to 69 percent of respondents believed the institutionalized consultation system would benefit cross-Strait peace and stability, 65 percent supported continued negotiations, and nearly 60 percent said they were satisfied with the new agreements reached in the latest round of talks, Chiang said. Earlier last December, SEF and ARATS held their fourth round of talks in Taichung and signed three agreements on farm produce quarantine, cooperation in standards measuring, inspection and certification, and on cross-Strait employment of fishermen. In the previous three rounds of talks, the two sides had reached nine agreements concerning transport, trade, tourism, cooperation in finance and fighting crime among other issues. ^ top ^

Taiwan backflip on beef import bans triggers Washington anger (SCMP)
2010-01-06
Taiwan has reversed a food safety law and banned some US beef imports, sparking an angry response from Washington, which said the move undermined the island's credibility as a trading partner. The United States government "deeply regrets" the legislature's decision to reinstate the ban over fears of mad cow disease, Washington's representative in Taipei said in a statement, hinting at a chill in US support for Taiwan's World Trade Organisation role. Taiwan's handling of the issue has confused US exporters in their sixth-largest market by value, worth US$114 million at the end of October. Overall US export value to the island came to US$14.5 billion for the first 10 months of last year. The decision to re-impose the ban presents Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou with his biggest crisis since the widespread destruction caused by an August typhoon in which many criticised him as being too slow to act. The US remains the island's closest informal ally and biggest arms supplier. On October 22, Taiwan said it would reopen its markets to US products such as T-bone steaks as well as ground beef and offal, which includes parts such as cow brain. Under the bill given final approval in the legislature yesterday, imports of ground beef and cow offal will now not be allowed. "This action also undermines Taiwan's credibility as a responsible trading partner and will make it more difficult for us to conclude future agreements to expand and strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties going forward," the US statement said. Ma said he recognised the US as Taiwan's "security ally" but said the island could not ignore people's health. "We will do our utmost to settle the dispute. Our international trade reputation may be impacted, but that's something we've got to deal with," Ma said. "This is limited to trade and won't spill over into other areas." A meeting between the two sides set for this month to discuss a trade and investment framework agreement had been postponed over the beef dispute, Taiwan media reported. The agreement, signed in 1994, allows either side to discuss trade issues of the moment. Raymond Wu, the managing director of e-telligence, a Taipei-based political risk consultancy, asked: "How does he [Ma] restore trust with Washington?" Pressured by US officials, Taiwan lifted the beef bans before it had gauged public opinion, analysts said. A backlash from voter-conscious senior members of the Kuomintang led to an official apology followed by the bipartisan legislative bill. "To protect the health of the people is a huge responsibility of ours," KMT caucus whip Lu Hsueh-chang told the legislature after the vote. There were hardly any opposition voices." Taiwan first banned US beef in December 2003, after Washington acknowledged its first case of mad cow disease. In 2006, Taiwan opened its markets to boneless US beef from cattle aged 30 months or younger. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetan filmmaker jailed for six years (SCMP)
2010-01-08
A mainland court has jailed a filmmaker for six years after he made a documentary in which Tibetans praised the Dalai Lama and complained their culture had been trampled upon, campaigners said. Leaving Fear Behind features interviews with Tibetans who speak of how they love the exiled spiritual leader, and say the Beijing Olympics did little to improve their lives. Dhondup Wangchen and monk friend Golog Jigme were detained after finishing the film, but managed to smuggle tapes out of the country. Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced on December 28 in Xining, capital of Qinghai, according to a website promoting the film that is also campaigning for his release. It said he had no access to outside legal help, and the government had barred a lawyer hired by his family from representing him. "I appeal to the court in Xining to allow my husband to have a legal representative of his own choosing," his wife, Lhamo Tso, said in a statement. "My children and I feel desperate about the prospect of not being able to see him for so many years. We call on the Chinese authorities to show humanity by releasing him. My husband is not a criminal, he just tried to show the truth." Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she had not heard of the case. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China central bank surprises with yield hike (Global Times)
2010-01-08
China's central bank surprised markets Tuesday by raising the interest rate on its three-month bills for the first time since mid-August, intensifying its grip on liquidity a day after it promised to keep credit growth in check. The move, which was accompanied by the biggest weekly net drain from money markets in 11 weeks, prompted concerns that the central bank could be getting ready to use more forceful measures to cool growth and fight inflation, such as raising benchmark lending rates. That prospect sent offshore non-deliverable interest rate swaps (NDIRS) up across the board and hit a range of commodities, as investors feared a tougher policy stance from Beijing could weaken the appetite of the world's third-largest economy for steel, copper and other resources needed to fuel it. But analysts said the move should be seen more as an effort by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) to even out the flow of liquidity into the system, in particular to press banks not to repeat the start-of-the-year rush to lend that marked 2009. "We don't read much into this as this is a one-off case," said Chris Leung, an economist with DBS in Hong Kong. "It is still too early to talk about a withdrawal." The PBOC sold Tuesday three-month bills at a yield of 1.3684 percent, up 4.04 basis points from 1.3280 percent last week, the level it has kept over the past four months, sparking worries about a possible imminent interest rate hike. The prospect sent offshore one-year NDIRS to a 16-month intraday high of 2.19 percent, up 14 basis points from 2.05 percent at Tuesday's close and the 10-year NDIRS up as much as 14 bps to 4.39 percent. ^ top ^

China's tourism revenue to grow 13% in 2010 (Xinhua)
2010-01-08
Total revenue in China's tourism industry is expected to grow 13 percent to hit 1.4 trillion yuan (205 billion U.S. dollars) in 2010, as the country rolls out favorable policies to back the industry, said the China Tourism Academy in a report released Thursday. Chinese tourists are forecast to make 2.1 billion domestic trips in the new year, up 12 percent from 2009, which would generate 1.1 trillion yuan of revenue for the industry, a rise of 14 percent year on year, according to the report. The number of inbound trips by overseas tourists would stand at 136 million, up 8 percent from a year earlier, while outbound trips by Chinese tourists would advance 15 percent to 5.4 billion. The Chinese government posted guidelines last December to promote the development of the tourism industry, vowing to lower market threshold and simplify approval procedures for tourism enterprises, and encourage local authorities to attract overseas investment, opening the domestic tourism market to foreign companies. ^ top ^

China mute on $2.2b Green Dam piracy suit (Global Times)
2010-01-07
Chinese defendants were mute Wednesday on a US $2.2 billion piracy lawsuit filed by Los Angeles-based web software filtering vendor Cybersitter, which alleges the defendants stole some of its code for use in the controversial Green Dam Youth Escort filtering program. Cybersitter filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles against the Chinese government, two Chinese software makers and seven computer makers – Sony, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, ASUSTeK, BenQ and Haier […] The suit claims the defendants stole trade secrets and engaged in unfair competition, copyright infringement and civil conspiracy when they installed Green Dam Youth Escort on personal computers. The software is a web-filtering program that the Chinese government had mandated last June be installed on computers before they could be sold in China. The government said the program would block "pornographic" texts and images and was aimed at protecting young people from "harmful" content. Some manufacturers expressed concern that the software could cause operating problems on their computers, while critics feared Green Dam would be used to block certain ideological contents. Cybersitter said the two Chinese software developers copied more than 3,000 lines of code from its software and the seven PC makers distributed more than 56 million copies of the software to customers in China and Chinese speakers worldwide […] While the government has since said it wouldn't mandate that the program be installed on computers before they are sold, Green Dam continues to be distributed in China and is promoted by the authorities, Cybersitter said in the complaint […] According to CNET News, Cybersitter also said "numerous unlawful attempts to gain access to its servers" had been made from China. In addition, the company said e-mails containing Trojan programs used to steal data had been targeted at its employees. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology didn't reply to an enquiry fax sent by the Global Times […] Cybersitter asked some computer makers including Hewlett-Packard to stop shipping computers to China due to privacy concerns in June, and sued CBS Interactive's ZDNet China for distributing the software. Zhang said in June that Jinhui didn't steal Cybersitter's software codes, though he said there were some similarities between the two products […] Wei Yanliang, a former researcher with the Research and Development Center of the State Intellectual Property Bureau and now a researcher with China University of Political Science and Law, said that software developers should scan their codes before they sell them to avoid legal risks to themselves and downstream firms […] Wei said computer makers accused of distributing pirated code may file claims with software developers if they signed immunity agreements with them stating that all compensation and lawsuit fees should be born by the software firms in the event of an intellectual property rights lawsuit. The situation is even harder to control if a software firm outsources its business to a third-party developer. In December, Microsoft apologized for the theft of software codes used in MSN China's microblog service Juku from Twitter's rival Plurk in Asia, saying an outside firm it hired copied the codes. ^ top ^

China's foreign debt rises in first 3Qs (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-07
China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) announced on Wednesday that by the end of September, the outstanding amount of China's foreign debt stood at 386.77 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 12.11 billion U.S. dollars, or 3.23 percent from the end of 2008. China's foreign debt rebounded for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2008. The outstanding amount of foreign debt stood at 360.58 billion U.S. dollars by the end of June. The SAFE said that China's mid- and long-term foreign debt outstanding reached 164.79 billion U.S. dollars by the end of September, taking up 42.61 percent of the total. It was up 0.56 percent, or 917 million U.S. dollars from the end of the last year. Short-term debt rose 5.31 percent, or 11.19 billion U.S. dollars. to 221.98 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 57.39 percent of the total. During January and September, new mid- and long-term debts totaled at 13.85 billion U.S. dollars, down 13.54 billion U.S. dollars, or 49.43 percent. ^ top ^

$40b Australia LNG deal lapses (China Daily)
2010-01-06
Energy giant PetroChina Co Ltd has pulled out of a $40 billion deal to buy natural gas from a project off Australia, but Chinese analysts and officials yesterday tried to play down the impact on the Chinese market or bilateral relations. Australia's second largest oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd informed Australia's stock exchange on Monday that an early stage agreement for the Browse Basin liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off Western Australia state had not been settled by a Dec 31 deadline and had now lapsed. Under the September 2007 agreement, PetroChina would have potentially bought up to 3.3 million tons of LNG per year for up to 20 years. At the time, it was one of Australia's largest export deals worth an estimated A$45 billion ($40 billion). "I don't think it will hurt the domestic market. The growth momentum in China's natural gas market will continue," Dong Xiucheng, professor at China University of Petroleum, said yesterday […] PetroChina said last night that a delay in the development of the Browse project was the major reason behind the lapse of the deal. Some analysts also said it was probably because PetroChina had become dissatisfied with the cost in the two years since the deal was signed. The lapse of the deal means that the terms, including price, for a large chunk of Browse Basin gas are once again fully open to negotiation. "The deal was good at the time, but in the past two years, things have been changing rapidly," said Peter Kopetz, energy analyst with Western Australia-based State One Stockbroking. Natural gas prices peaked in the middle of 2008, but have been on a decline since then, tumbling more than 50 percent. PetroChina would probably look for other sources of gas, said Yang Wei, an oil industry analyst at Guotai Junan Securities in Shanghai […] Woodside and PetroChina "have agreed to keep each other informed of progress in their respective LNG export and import projects," Yvonne Ball, the Australian company's spokeswoman, told China Daily yesterday. China is a leading LNG importer, but the country should diversify its import sources to find more sustainable supplies, analysts said […] As a source of clean energy, natural gas accounts for only about 3 percent of China's total energy consumption. Globally, the figure is about 25 percent. China's natural gas production will hit 120 billion cu m in 2011, a target set by the National Energy Administration (NEA) last year. According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), China could be dependent on imports for more than one-third of its total natural gas consumption by 2030. The country, which received its first LNG cargo in May 2006, plans to build more than 10 terminals on the east coast to meet a government target of doubling the use of natural gas in the five years to 2010. The country hopes to clinch more deals on LNG imports and speed up construction of LNG terminals, gas pipelines and storage facilities this year, NEA head Zhang Guobao was quoted as saying […]. ^ top ^

China to continue promoting inbound, outbound investment (Xinhua)
2010-01-06
The Chinese government will continue encouraging outbound investment while attracting foreign investment in 2010 for "stable and relatively fast" growth of the country's economy, a government official has said. Outbound investment, or "go-global" strategy, should aim at making use of overseas resources, market and advanced technologies, so as to help facilitate development of China's domestic economy, Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission, said […] The remarks were made at a conference held in Beijing on foreign investment on Dec. 11, but was not released until Tuesday. In the first three quarters of 2009, China saw its investment overseas at 32.87 billion U.S. dollars, up 0.5 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce (MOC). The country would also continue to attract foreign investment, he said. "Social stability, huge potential market and low cost of productive resources are still advantages for foreign investment," he said. The country would see more advanced technologies and talents from foreign countries and foreign investment would better serve the structural reform of the country's economy […] China's foreign direct investment shrank 14.26 percent from the same period last year to 63.77 billion U.S. dollars in the first nine months as foreign companies cut spending amid the global economic downturn, according to the MOC […] Zhang also said China's currency was facing renewed pressure to appreciate because of the quantitative easing monetary policy in developed countries, a weakening dollar and recovery of China's economy. The pressure would likely spur massive inflow of speculative money, making liquidity management more difficult […]. ^ top ^

China reveals plan to develop Hainan into global tourism destination (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-05
The Chinese government said on Monday that it aims to build the southern island of Hainan into a top international tourism destination by 2020. The country also plans to develop the only tropical island province to be a platform for international economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, according to a statement of the State Council, or the Cabinet […] The island will also become a base of agricultural production and a base for developing resources and services in the South China Sea, said the statement. The government said it would maintain the healthy development of the island's property sector and encourage developers to build premium hotels and resorts. It also supports family-run hotels and property-rental services. Efforts should also go to the financial sector in the island by pushing forward the trial program of cross-border trade RMB settlement and backing qualified tourism firms to get listed in the stock market. The plan also includes measures to promote modern tropical agriculture in Hainan, including tropical fruits, aquatic products and others, and expand its agricultural cooperation with Taiwan. The government will further extend its favorable visa-free policy to five other nations including Finland, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine and Kazakhstan from the previous 21 nations including the United States, Japan and Canada. The statement also said the government would boost the island's development by expanding oil and gas exploration, offering more duty free services, improving transportation networks, developing logistics, reducing pollution, building more information networks and infrastructure. The government plans to lift the value-added output of tourism in Hainan to more than 8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015 and more than 12 percent by 2020, the statement said […] Hainan's preliminary GDP stood at 145.9 billion yuan (21.36 billion U.S. dollars) in 2008, up 9.8 percent year on year. ^ top ^

China imposes anti-dumping measures on imported food additives (Xinhua)
2010-01-05
China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC)announced Monday that it is to impose temporary anti-dumping measures on food additives imported from Thailand and Indonesia. The preliminary ruling required importers of disodium 5'-inosinate, disodium 5'-guanylate and disodium 5'-ribonucleotide to place deposits starting Tuesday, said a statement on the MOC website. The statement said companies from the two countries had dumped the additives on the Chinese market and this had caused substantial damage to the domestic industry. The statement also listed deposit rates for products imported from the two Indonesian companies of PT. Cheil Jedang Indonesia and PT. Kirin Miwon Foods at 16.9 percent and 8.1 percent respectively, and a 6.5-percent rate for the Ajinomoto Co., (Thailand) Ltd. For all the other food additives companies from the two countries, a temporary 29.7 percent deposit rate would be implemented, the statement said, but it gave no details on when a final ruling would come. The ministry had launched an anti-dumping investigation into imported additives from Indonesia and Thailand in March last year. The additives are mainly used in monosodium glutamate, soy sauce and other condiments to enhance flavor. ^ top ^

China domestic IPOs likely to raise 320 bln yuan in 2010 (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-05
Chinese companies are likely to raise more than 320 billion yuan (46.87 billion U.S. dollars) from initial public offerings this year on the domestic stock market, up from 185.6 billion yuan in 2009, Price waterwatch Coopers (PwC) said in a report released Monday. China's IPO market would see 145 new listings in 2010, with 15 listings in Shanghai and the rest on the Shenzhen bourse's Small and Medium Enterprise board and ChiNext, the country's Nasdaq-style board established in October […] Whole year IPOs in 2009 reached 97, up 26 percent from that in 2008, as the securities regulator resumed IPOs after a nine-month ban in June. China became the world's second largest listing market in 2009,as a combined market value from both Shanghai and Shenzhen stood at 23.6 trillion yuan, said the report. Financial service, infrastructures, industrial products, consumer goods and retail sectors will continue to be key driving forces to the country's IPO market in 2010, Frank Y.C. Lyn, PwC's China Markets Leader, was quoted in the report as saying. ^ top ^

China-ASEAN free trade area starts operation (Global Times)
2010-01-04
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicked off the world's largest free trade area (FTA) embracing developing countries Friday as businessmen and trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits thronged border markets. Dozens of trucks, mostly carrying dragonfruit from Vietnam, were waiting to be unloaded Friday morning at the Tianyuan Fruit Trade Market, one of China's largest market for fruit import, at the Pingxiang Port in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. "The establishment of the free trade area is really good news for me," said Liu Yuzhen, who has been trading fruits for 16 years. She now sells more than 10 tonnes of apples, pears, oranges and other fruits to southeast Asia every day, and hopes her business will expand as the FTA will facilitate the customs clearance and reduce the logistics cost. The China-ASEAN FTA covers a population of 1.9 billion and involves about $450 million of trade volume. The average tariff on goods from the ASEAN countries is cut down to 0.1 percent from 9.8 percent. The six original ASEAN members, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, will slash the average tariff on Chinese goods from 12.8 percent to 0.6 percent. By 2015, the policy of zero-tariff rate for 90 percent of traded goods is expected to extend between China and four new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. "China's efforts to establish the FTA aim not only at expanding overseas markets, but also promoting trade and investment liberalization, especially amid the global trade protectionism," said Zhang Monan, an economist with the State Information Center. China and ASEAN members could cooperate in wider fields, from natural resources to high technologies […] "The further economic integration between the two sides could be very competitive in the global economy." The FTA would also facilitate more cross-border yuan trade settlements and currency swap agreements between China and ASEAN members […] The cooperation will help ASEAN members become less dependent on the US dollar, which has become highly volatile as a result of the global financial crisis, she said. Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said earlier the establishment of the FTA will promote the regional economic integration, benefiting companies and consumers. China and the ASEAN launched their cooperation dialogue in 1991 and signed the China-ASEAN Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Cooperation in 2002. ^ top ^

Counterfeiting thrives despite crackdown (SCMP)
2010-01-04
While the mainland has talked up its recent progress in stamping out copyright piracy, the market for fake iPhones and bootleg DVDs still flourishes, and its trading partners say it could do better. Late last month, the United States - consistently critical of Beijing's failure to stop the illicit production of US brands - issued an annual report saying piracy in the Asian giant remained at "unacceptably high levels". Analysts say that despite official crackdowns and successful prosecutions, graft and weak policing means factories continue to churn out fake goods, costing foreign and domestic firms billions of dollars in lost revenue. "Local protectionism and government corruption are the real issue," said Daniel Chow, a professor at the Ohio State University college of law. "The central government is probably sincere, but enforcement occurs at the local level, and local governments have a direct and indirect interest in protecting counterfeiting, which is important to the local economy." The mainland's counterfeit and piracy market is the biggest in the world and employs millions of factory workers, distributors and shop assistants […] "In China, you can get enforcement but no deterrence," said Chow. "You can easily get a raid but there are no consequences to the counterfeiter, who usually pays a light fine and is back in business in two weeks." In his annual report to Congress before Christmas, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk was damning. "Despite repeated anti-piracy campaigns in China and an increasing number of civil IPR cases in Chinese courts, counterfeiting and piracy remain at unacceptably high levels and continue to cause serious harm to US businesses across many sectors of the economy," Kirk said. But Beijing says it has made "notable progress" in the war on internet piracy and copyright infringement, state media reported last month […] Since August, Beijing has investigated more than 500 internet copyright infringements, closed hundreds of websites and fined those involved in online piracy 1.28 million yuan, China Daily said. Foreign companies have also been targeted. A Chinese firm successfully sued Microsoft Corp for infringing its intellectual property rights by including certain fonts in its operating systems. But many more cases of piracy and counterfeiting go undetected, said Victor Ho, a Shanghai-based lawyer with Allen and Overy, with understaffed enforcement agencies overwhelmed by the scale of the illicit industry. A major hurdle facing Beijing in its battle against counterfeits is local government officials, who are determined to protect jobs and maintain fast economic growth - seen as crucial for their own career advancement. But as Beijing demonstrated in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in 2008, it has the power to stop the illegal reproduction of merchandise when it is truly motivated, Ho said […]. ^ top ^

China encourages private investment in publishing business (Xinhua)
2010-01-04
China will encourage private enterprises to play a bigger role in the publishing business, according to guidelines to be released by the industry watchdog. Private enterprises will be allowed to publish books on science and technology, finance and economy, supplementary materials to textbooks, music and arts, and children's books, says a document to be issued by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). They can be involved in the publication of these books by supplying content, with project cooperation or being a unit of state-run publishers […] The document will be officially released Monday, said Jiang Jianguo, deputy director of the GAPP, at a media briefing last week. The guidelines also support the private players in exploring the overseas publishing market. Previous guidelines issued early April last year asked the market-oriented news organizations and publishers to turn into full-fledged commercial players in one to two years. They also pledged policy support to media giants which publish newspapers and magazines overseas, and acknowledged the status of private publishers for the first time. The object of nurturing six or seven press and publishing giants with annual revenues of more than 10 billion yuan (about 1.46 billion U.S. dollars) in three to five years is reiterated in the to-be-released document. As of 2009, the country has 958 publishers of books and electronic products and boasts 9,549 magazines and 1,943 newspapers. The output of the press and publishing industry is expected to hit 1 trillion yuan in 2009, the document said. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

Anti-pandemic effort shifts to rural areas (China Daily)
2010-01-04
The nation is confronted with a new front in the battle to contain the H1N1 flu outbreak as the virus spreads into the vast countryside where medical facilities lag far behind cities, health officials and experts warned yesterday. As the pandemic appears to be declining in cities where a nationwide H1N1 vaccination program has started, the Ministry of Health pledged to concentrate more on rural areas, particularly schools, for prevention and control. Students, pregnant women and the chronically ill are at particularly high risk, and so special attention will be paid to them, said an online statement issued by the ministry over the weekend. The risk of outbreaks in the countryside will increase as hundreds of millions of migrant workers in cities go back to their rural homes for the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 14. "They might take the virus back to their hometowns," Feng Zijian, who heads the emergency response department of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said yesterday. In response, the government is rushing medical equipment such as respirators to 17 central and western provinces, particularly rural areas […] By the end of last year, the nation had reported 120,000 lab-confirmed H1N1 cases, including 648 deaths, official figures showed. Nearly 50 million had been vaccinated against the flu by Dec 31, falling short of the 65 million target announced by Health Minister Chen Zhu. In many parts of the country, vaccinations are first given to the high-risk population with local permanent residency permits, or hukou, largely due to limited vaccine supplies, according to previous reports. Health experts estimate that 15 percent of the population have thus far developed immunity to the virus, the statement said. In other words, H1N1 vaccine recipients and those who have contracted the virus - without their cases being officially reported - could amount to about 195 million, Zeng Guang, CDC's chief epidemiologist, explained yesterday. "The immunity level will increase as the virus keeps spreading," he added. The higher the proportion of individuals who are immune, the more unlikely the virus would spread, health studies show. However, "as long as susceptible individuals and the virus exist, the battle against H1N1 cannot stop, especially in rural areas", he said. Meanwhile, the ministry called for a rational attitude toward the disease among the public. "There is no need to panic. Passengers who display flu-like symptoms should not be driven out of the public transport. A facial mask would work well to prevent infection," it said. Media reports said some migrant workers traveling by public transport during the New Year holiday were thrown out by other passengers for showing flu-like symptoms. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Speculation high over Kim's China visit (China Daily)
2010-01-07
Media speculation is on the up in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan over whether Kim Jong-il, the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is likely to visit China soon. China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, however, did not confirm the visit when asked at a recent press briefing. "I haven't heard of any such news," she said. Security has been tightened on the China-DPRK border, signaling that Kim's trip to the nation is likely sooner than later, media outlets in both the ROK and Japan said. Special security has been arranged since Tuesday at Dandong, which borders the DPRK, to prepare for Kim's visit, the ROK's major newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, claimed yesterday. The DPRK shut down a customs house in the northwest area bordering Dandong the same day, and policemen were sent to secure the rail link, Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported. "It's the usual practice of the DPRK to keep its leader's visit a secret. The nation only makes it public when Kim is back," said Zhang Liangui, an expert on the DPRK at the Central Party School in Beijing. "The speculation may very likely turn out to be true considering the DPRK's diplomatic direction in the past year," Zhang said. The DPRK's nuclear tests last year enraged the world, but the country made a diplomatic turnaround after that by trying to ease tensions with the US, ROK and Japan. "The DPRK's aim is to establish normal relations with other countries under the condition that it be recognized as a nuclear power," Zhang said. "It has already demonstrated its nuclear ability, and is now on a path to make friends," Zhang said. "The DPRK has a very clear diplomatic plan." After he became the leader of the DPRK, Kim has paid four unofficial visits to China in the past 10 years. Kim's last two visits, in 2004 and 2006, led to a consensus between the two countries on proceeding with the Six-Party Talks and a peaceful solution to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Following Kim's visit to China in January 2001, the then Chinese president Jiang Zemin returned the courtesy by visiting Pyongyang the same year. If Kim were to come, "he will bring a big list asking for money, equipment and arms from China," Zhang said. "The DPRK will put friendship as the most important topic on the negotiating table with China. That will make China feel embarrassed about urging it to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," Zhang said. ^ top ^

Signs point to Kim Jong-il's China visit (Asia News Network)
2010-01-06
Speculation is mounting that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will visit China early this year, following a series of signals from the North that it is reaching out to its neighbours. "This could be a possibility of course, because the invitation from China is already out," said one foreign ministry official on Tuesday (January 5) declining to be identified. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao reportedly extended an invitation to Kim Jong-il in March last year. In October, Wen visited Pyongyang to personally meet with the North Korean leader. Adding to the speculation, a number of high-ranking Chinese officials visited the North last year, according to Japanese news reports. These trips were noted as laying the groundwork for a subsequent visit by Kim. Reports also pointed out that two of the past four visits by the North Korean leader to China occurred in January. The Chinese government for now is denying such reports. Critics point out that Kim Yang-gon, the North's Korean Workers' Party department director on inter-Korean relations who is considered Pyongyang's point man on China, has yet to visit Beijing to coordinate a definite schedule. If Kim did visit Beijing, it would most likely be to discuss plans for the next round of the stalled six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programmes, those close to the matter said. "There seem to be no other pressing issues, although visiting China could help emphasise North Korea's wishes to make better friends with the rest of the world for the sake of its economy," said another ministry official requesting anonymity. The North in November carried out a currency revaluation to help ease its financial difficulties and at the same time tighten Kim Jong-il's control over the nation. Kim is currently seeking to bequeath his authority to his youngest son Jong-eun. Going to China may be a plea for Beijing's assistance in all of these political and economic issues, experts said Tuesday. Pyongyang has already conveyed to Washington that it understands the need for another round of denuclearisation talks through US special envoy Stephen Bosworth who visited the North between December 8-10 […] But the two sides failed to set a date for the next round of denuclearisation negotiations. ^ top ^

China urges US and Pyongyang to resume nuclear talks (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-06
China is urging the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to seize the moment and take positive steps so that six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program can resume quickly. China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Yesui called last month's talks between senior U.S. and DPRK officials a positive development. China is assuming the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month. At a news conference Tuesday, Zhang said the most important thing now is for the key parties to "meet each other halfway so that... the six-party talks will start as soon as possible." Washington and Pyongyang agreed on the need to resume the stalled talks. But DPRK cited unspecified differences and did not make a firm commitment on when it would rejoin the six-party negotiations, said analysts. ^ top ^

S.Korea seeks 'turning point' in ties with North (Global Times)
2010-01-05
South Korea said Monday it was seeking "a turning point" in relations with North Korea and again urged its neighbor to return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks. President Lee Myung-bak's remarks followed a call by Pyongyang on Friday for an end to hostile relations with South Korea's key ally, the US, and a nuclear-free peninsula. "This year, South Korea and North Korea should create a turning point in their relations," Lee said in a New Year's address, suggesting the establishment of an inter-Korean dialogue body. The president also repeated his call for North Korea to return "as soon as possible" to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks that Pyongyang quit nine months ago, so that the two neighbors may improve their relationship. "For this, there needs to be a standing dialogue organization between the South and the North," Lee said. "I wish North Korea can sincerely open its heart and walk on the path of dialogue and cooperation." Lee also proposed a humanitarian project with North Korea, under which the two states would cooperate in repatriating the remains of tens of thousands of soldiers killed during the Korean War. Meanwhile, in a policy-setting editorial in the state media on New Year's Day, Pyongyang called for an end to hostile relations with the US and vowed to work toward a nuclear-free peninsula. "The fundamental task for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia is to put an end to the hostile relationship between the DPRK (North Korea) and the USA," the editorial said. "It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations.". ^ top ^

DPRK calls for end of hostile relations with US (Xinhua)
2010-01-01
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) called on Friday for an end to the hostile relationship between Pyongyang and Washington while reiterating its pursue for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. In a joint New Year editorial released by KCNA, the DPRK said "the fundamental task for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia is to put an end to the hostile relationship between the DPRK and the USA." "It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations," the editorial said. "The Workers' Party of Korea and the government of the DPRK will strive to develop relations of good-neighborliness and friendship with other countries and achieve global independence under the unfurled banner of independence, peace and friendship," it said. The call came as Washington was trying to get the state to return to the stalled six-party talks. The DPRK shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in 2007 under a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal. However, Pyongyang quit the multilateral talks last year in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket test. It conducted an underground nuclear test in May and declared it was in the final phase of an experimental, highly enriched uranium program -- another way to make an atomic bomb. However, tensions began to thaw recently, and the DPRK has expressed willingness to return to the six-party talks involving itself, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, if it had satisfactory talks with Washington. In early December, the two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations during President Barack Obama's envoy's trip to Pyongyang. As for inter-Korean relations, the joint editorial called for accelerating national reunification and encouraging cooperation on exchanges between the two peoples. It urged the South Korean government to stop aggravating the confrontation and tension, vowing to "frustrate all challenges of the anti-reunification forces." The top priority of the new year was to "conduct a sweeping campaign to bring about a drastic turn in improving the people's standard of living," the joint editorial said. ^ top ^

S. Korea to link humanitarian aid to DPRK with POWs (Global Times)
2010-01-01
South Korea plans to link its humanitarian assistance to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) with issues of South Korean prisoners of war and civilians presumably kidnapped by the DPRK, Seoul's Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said Thursday. "Cooperation on our humanitarian issues is crucial," said Hyun In-taek in a press conference following policy brief to President Lee Myung-bak. "If the two Koreas cooperate on the issues of prisoners of war and civilian abductees together with humanitarian aid to an equal degree, there will be a way to resolve such issues," the minister told reporters. Currently, there are 560 South Korean prisoners of war in the DPRK, and 505 civilians abductees, mainly fishermen, are believed to held in the DPRK, the ministry said. Seoul plans to draw up detailed measures concerning the issues and will discuss them with the DPRK if possible, Hyun said. Hyun did not rule out the possibility of a summit between the two countries, reiterating his position that Seoul is willing to engage in talks at all levels, including the possible summit between the president Lee Myung-bak and the DPRK's leader Kim Jong-il […] Huyn said the next year will face a turning in terms of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the development of the inter-Korean ties. South Korea will seek a new relationship with the DPRK, Hyun said, adding that his ministry put forward a three-point strategy -- developing principled inter-Korean ties, achieving constructive humanitarianism, and strengthening future power for the reunification. President Lee Myung-bak said […] that there's been no progress in South Korea-DPRK relations in 2009, but he believed" we are successfully laying the foundation for better ties.". ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

One more Thermal Power Plant to be built (MONTSAME)
2010-01-07
One more coal-fired Thermal Power Plant will be set up in Mongolia in the near future. Mongolia's Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy has signed an Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Management contract (EPCM) with Mongolia-China joint venture Yuanda Group and its partner New Asia Mining Group. According to the contract, a 60MW coal-fired Power Plant is to be erected based on Mogoin gol Coal Mine in northwestern Khovsgol province in order to provide with energy two provinces of Zavkhan and Gobi-Altai in western Mongolia. It is first ever Mongolian EPCM Contract to build a Thermal Power Plant with private investment in BOO terms in country's energy industry. In collaboration with its Chinese partner, the project company will construct an eco-friendly Power Plant with minimum capacity of 60 MW and up-to-date technology within 20 months, and it is expected be commissioned in the end of 2011. Commercial operation of the Power Plant is expected to begin early 2012. Estimated investment for the project is USD110 million. The electricity, generated by the Power Plant, will be mainly utilized by customers in two provinces as Zavkhan and Gobi-Altai and then customers in western region of Mongolia in future. ^ top ^

Mongolia To Become Petroleum Exploring State (UB Post)
2010-01-05
Mongolia is to join the list of world petroleum explorers, and Mongolia is going to make this declaration to the rest of the world in February, 2010. This was announced by the Petroleum Authority at a press conference last week. Presently, petroleum is being explored in Zuunbayan, Dornogobi Province and in Tamsagbulag, Dornod Province, and between 600-1000 barrels of oil is explored per day. The national petroleum reserve will also be announced when the country officially announces its status as a petroleum explorer. ^ top ^

Parliament approves draft protocol of giving allowances to citizens (News.mn)
2010-01-01
Afternoon session of the Parliament meeting on Wednesday began at 6pm after being postponed for two hours. The Parliament made the discussion of fixing the size of allowances from Human Development Law in year 2010 as well as the draft protocol to make civil registration. 37 of 45 MPs who attended the meeting approved the draft to give treasure proportions to citizens. The law will take effect starting January 1st of 2010. Elders, children and disabled citizens will be provided MNT 70 thousand before Tsagaan Sar. Remaining MNT 50 thousand will be given within 2010. As for citizens above 18, the MNT 60 thousand will be given twice after the civil registration is over. ^ top ^

Year 2010 – Business environment reform year (News.mn)
2010-01-01
Last meeting of the Government of this year took place on 30th of December. During the 86th meeting of this year the Government announced the next year “Year to Reform Business environment”. According to the protocol, the year will aim to develop a draft law, protocols regarding business environment innovation; implement the innovation procedures approved by the Government and related officials in participation with private sectors; develop a related action plan; give orders to regional officials to make action plan within the region. Prime Minister will head the council to monitor, supervise and organize the works of business environment innovation. The deputy director of the council will be First vice PM. Members will be representatives from Ministries, Central Bank, Financial Regulation Bureau, Stock Exchange, Customs Authority, General Authority for Intelligence and others. Prime Minister ordered the related officials to make regular reports to the public. ^ top ^

2009 Lifestock Census Report (UB Post)
2009-12-29
Mongolia counted 43.6 million head o f livestock, which is 38,600 animals more compared to the same period for last year, according to the latest preliminary results of the annual livestock census taken in December 2009. The only animal population that decreased was goats. 19.5 million goats have been counted, which means 500,000 less than that of last year, the first-ever recorded decrease in their population since 2002. Even the population of camels, which has seen notable decreases in the last few years, has actually increase over 8,600, jumping to 275,100 this year. 2.2 million horses, 2.6 million cattle and 19.1 million sheep were also counted in the census. ^ 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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