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
  25.1-29.1.10, No. 304  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Switzerland to accept Chinese Guantanamo detainees (Global Times)
2010-01-29
The Swiss regional parliament of Jura canton voted Wednesday by 45 votes in favor and three against to accept two Chinese Uyghur detainees confined at Guantanamo Bay. The decision would put important issues at stake, said Jura's Justice Minister Charles Juillard. "The Jura government does not want to shrink away from its humanitarian tradition," he added, according to AFP. The two Uyghurs, Bahtiyar Mahnut and Arkin Mahmud, were captured in the Afghan mountains in October 2001 by US troops. On January 12, the National Security Commission of Swiss lower house voted 15 to 10 against taking in the two Uyghur prisoners, who are originally from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. China opposes any countries accepting the two men, who it claims are members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a listed terrorist group by UN, according to China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu at a press conference on January 12. ^ top ^

China calls for end to "prejudiced" EU arms embargo (Xinhua)
2010-01-29
China Thursday said the European Union's arms embargo represented political prejudice and called for its early lifting. "The EU's arms embargo, in nature, is political prejudice against China, which runs counter to world tides and China-EU all-round strategic partnership," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press briefing. Ma's comments came after Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Tuesday that his country, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, was weighing the pros and cons of the embargo. France had been one of the main supporters of lifting the embargo and "Spain is following that line," Moratinos said Tuesday. The EU imposed arms embargo on China in 1989. In 2005, European discussions on lifting the embargo were shelved due to pressures from some EU members and other countries. "China's request to scrap the embargo is aimed at removing political prejudices against the country and ensuring its equal rights […] We hope the EU will make an early political decision, lift the arms embargo unconditionally and thoroughly so as to remove the obstacle to the sound growth of the China-EU relationship," Ma said. ^ top ^

China, AL sign MoU on energy cooperation mechanism (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-29
The Arab League (AL) and the Chinese National Energy Administration on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on China-Arab energy cooperation mechanism. The two sides singed the MoU at the end of the 2nd conference of the China-Arab Energy Cooperation of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Khartoum Thursday. Delegates to the conference had discussed the energy issue including nuclear and renewable energy, stressing the importance to develop all sorts of energy to meet the needs. China and the AL reached consensus to conduct cooperation in the energy sector, and the two sides would strengthen cooperation in the fields of petroleum, natural gas, electrical power, renewable energy and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In the meantime, the two sides have agreed to hold the 3rd China-Arab Conference on Energy Cooperation in China in 2012. Representatives of the Arab States' energy ministries, the AL, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), the Arab Atomic Energy Commission, the Chinese National Energy Administration and some Chinese companies took part in the three-day conference. ^ top ^

Chinese foreign minister makes proposals on Afghanistan (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-29
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made four proposals Thursday on the Afghan reconstruction at the London Conference on Afghanistan. "Afghanistan's reconstruction process had gone through twists and turns," Yang said in a speech. "The successful elections held by the Afghan people opened a new chapter in the history of the country." On the next stage of Afghan reconstruction, Yang made the following proposals: The international community should help create enabling conditions for safeguarding the security of the country and its people and help the country achieve economic development. His other two proposals were that the international community should help Afghanistan improve governance and enhance coordination and cooperation in helping Afghanistan. "The international community should continue paying attention to Afghanistan and offer greater support and assistance to that country," he said. "It should help Afghanistan strengthen its sovereignty, ownership and development capacity." Yang emphasized that China will help the Afghan people embark on the path of peace, stability and development as early as possible. ^ top ^

Twitter works on method to foil censors (FT.com)
2010-01-28
Twitter, the internet social network, is developing technology it hopes will prevent the Chinese and Iranian governments being able to censor its users. Evan Williams, the chief executive and co-founder of Twitter, which has been credited with helping anti-government protesters in Iran to organise resistance, said software developers were working on "interesting hacks" to stop any blocking by foreign governments. Mr Williams, speaking at the World Economic Forum, said he admired Google for confronting China over censorship and cyberattacks on its service, but said Twitter was too small to take a similar stand. "We are partially blocked in China and other places and we were in Iran as well. The most productive way to fight that is not by trying to engage China and other governments whose very being is against what we are about. I am hopeful there are technological ways around these barriers," he said. Mr Williams said Twitter had an advantage in evading government censors from operating as a network of internet and mobile applications, rather than as a single website. "Twitter is a network that is accessed in thousands of ways." Mr Williams was among executives of social networks, including MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, who were challenged during a debate in Davos to make a statement against censorship. He gave the clearest account of how his company intended to resist surveillance. Earlier this month Google declared it was ending self-censorship of its Chinese language search engine in protest at what it said were attempts from China to hack into its networks and those of other US technology companies. Mr Williams did not want to give details of the technology being developed in order to avoid giving clues to governments that wanted to block the service. The company said the technology was being worked on by "third party developers" rather than the company itself. ^ top ^

China to lead anti-piracy patrols (SCMP)
2010-01-28
China has won approval to lead the co-ordination of international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia - an unprecedented expansion of its historic deployment of warships to the Indian Ocean. The effort will also see China send its warships to permanently patrol a sector of the special transit corridor through the most dangerous part of the Gulf of Aden. The pledge means that China needs to send more than the three ships it keeps deployed off the Horn of Africa to protect vital trade routes linking Asia to Europe. PLA Navy officials reached agreement last week over its expanded role with major international navies at a meeting of the so-called Shade grouping in Bahrain, officials at the meeting said. Shade, or Shared Awareness and Deconfliction, has been jointly headed by European Union forces and the US-led Combined Maritime Forces. More than two years old, Shade meets monthly to maximise co-ordination and communication among the 40-odd navies now protecting shipping off the Horn of Africa. While some nations operate as part of international flotillas under the banner of Nato, the EU or the CMF, some operate independently, including China, India, Russia, Malaysia and Iran. Currently only Nato, EU and CMF ships patrol inside the corridor. By committing to provide an "enduring" presence in the corridor, China will be eligible to lead as part of a new rotating chairmanship, which will switch every three to four months. It is expected to take charge by the middle of the year. The move is expected to force India and Russia to seek a greater role, as they try to match a growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. Captain Chris Chambers, director of operations for the CMF, confirmed China's new role yesterday at a shipping conference in Singapore. "There has been major progress in communication and co-operation with navies that once didn't really speak to each other […] It will open the door for other independent nations to come in." Other officials at last week's Bahrain meeting said the PLA was reporting back to Beijing for political approval before a formal announcement could be made. Both Western and Asian naval officials are backing the move, knowing they are struggling to deal with a worsening piracy situation off Somalia, a failed state where pirates operate with no fear of law enforcement or other government intervention […] While helping to tackle a worsening international crisis, fighting piracy allows China to quietly develop an Indian Ocean presence - something military analysts believe could be highly strategic to its ambitions to create a navy with wide global reach […] China began pushing for a broader role after the hijacking in October of mainland bulk carrier the De Xin Hai. The ship, steaming to India with a load of South African coal when it was captured northeast of the Seychelles islands, was released late last month after the payment of US$3.5 million in cash […] Chinese officials have repeatedly suggested that individual countries should be given set areas of ocean to take responsibility for - a concept already in operation inside the corridor. ^ top ^

China, Turkey eye stronger political, economic ties (Xinhua)
2010-01-28
China and Turkey said Wednesday the two countries look to stronger political trust and closer economic cooperation in future to benefit the people of both countries. Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China highly values its relationship with Turkey and will continue to handle the relationship from a strategic and long-term perspective during his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Erdogan said the Turkish government has the same political will to cement ties with China […] The two countries should fully tap the potential of cooperation in trade, investment and infrastructure construction and jointly tackle the impact of the global financial crisis, said the prime minister. Yang expressed China's appreciation for Turkey's stance to uphold the one-China policy and respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also extended welcome for Turkey's participation in the World Expo to be held in Shanghai this year. China and Turkey have seen frequent visits by high-level officials in recent years and witnessed their trade surge from more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 12.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. Yang arrived in Turkey on Monday for a two-day visit and attended a regional summit on Afghanistan held in Istanbul as a special representative of Chinese President Hu Jintao. He held talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul on Wednesday and agreed to advance friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries. ^ top ^

China, Switzerland voice opposition against trade protectionism (Xinhua)
2010-01-27
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang met Swiss President Doris Leuthard on Tuesday and both sides voiced their opposition against trade protectionism amid the ongoing global financial crisis. Li, who arrived in Switzerland on Monday for a four-day visit, said the creation of a free trade area between the two countries is under discussion and serves as a concrete action for both sides to combat trade protectionism. "Both sides should push the feasibility study on a free trade area forward, and be well prepared to start negotiations in 2010," Li said. The creation of the free trade area is of great significance to bilateral ties and will be conducive to further promotion of bilateral trade and investment cooperation, the Chinese leader said. He noted that the year 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, saying Switzerland was one of the earliest West European countries that recognized the People's Republic of China. Bilateral ties have been developing in an all-round way since the two sides established diplomatic relations 60 years ago, Li said. He said China attaches great importance to its ties with Switzerland and is ready to join hands with the European country to seek a long-term, healthy and stable development of bilateral ties. "We should stick to the principle of sincerity, mutual trust and friendly consultation, and seek common ground while reserving differences, in order to cement the political basis of bilateral ties," Li said. For her part, Leuthard said Switzerland opposes any form of trade protectionism and expects more Chinese companies to invest in the country, as well as more cooperation between the two countries in such fields as technology and finance. Switzerland treats the Switzerland-China ties from a long-term perspective and highly values its cooperation with China, she said. She hoped that both sides could step up efforts on the feasibility study on a free trade area so as to draw a good result to open a new chapter of bilateral economic and trade ties. Leuthard said she will visit China this year and attend the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The Swiss leader also reaffirmed that her country will firmly stick to the one-China policy. During his stay, Li will also address the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Thursday and hold talks with WEF President Klaus Schwab. ^ top ^

US oil industry targeted in cyber-attacks (SCMP)
2010-01-27
At least three US oil companies were the target of a series of previously undisclosed cyber-attacks that may have originated on the mainland and that experts say highlight a new level of sophistication in the growing global war of internet espionage. The oil and gas industry breaches were focused on one of the sector's crown jewels: valuable "bid data" detailing the quantity, value and location of oil discoveries worldwide, sources familiar with the attacks say. The companies - Marathon Oil, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips - did not realise the full extent of the attacks, which occurred in 2008, until the FBI alerted them that year and in early 2009. Federal officials told the companies that proprietary information had been flowing out, including to computers overseas […] The data included e-mail passwords, messages and other information tied to executives with access to proprietary exploration and discovery information, the sources said. While China's involvement in the attacks is far from certain, at least some data was detected flowing from one oil company computer to a computer on the mainland. Another oil company's security personnel privately referred to the breaches in one document as the "China virus". "What these guys [corporate officials] don't realise, because nobody tells them, is that a major foreign intelligence agency has taken control of major portions of their network," said a source familiar with the attacks. "You can't get rid of this attacker very easily. It doesn't work like a normal virus. We've never seen anything this clever, this tenacious." When asked, the central government yesterday said it had "never heard about these cases". Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said: "First, hacking is a global problem. Second, the Chinese government firmly opposes any form of hacking, and Chinese law forbids hacking. Third, we have always supported and positively participated in international co-operatives against hacking." […] Until the recent exposure by search-engine Google, cyber-espionage was little publicised and often went undetected. Such attackers represent the elite - a dark army of cyber-spies targeting the heart of corporations around the world where trade secrets, proprietary data, and cutting-edge technologies lie locked away in digital fortresses. While most major nations, including the United States, are conducting internet espionage, experts say China and Russia are among the most aggressive and adept at carrying out such attacks. "China, more so than Russia, has a large number of hacker clubs watched closely by the government," said Sami Saydjari, a former US Department of Defence employee who runs Cyber Defence Agency, a security firm. "These talent pools are all potential recruits for China's professional cyber-warfare units. We strongly suspect they encourage their hacker groups to go out and attack foreign entities and get practice." Google has said it found evidence of at least 20 companies in an array of US industries that had been infiltrated by attacks from the mainland. Beijing denies the claims. "We've seen across many industries in recent months a very targeted type of attack," says Rob Lee, a computer forensics expert and director at Mandiant, a US cyber-security company. "These are professionals [working in teams], not people doing this at night." A key target appeared to be bid data potentially valuable to "state-owned energy companies", according to a written summary of a FBI meeting with US oil executives […] China would certainly be interested in this kind of data, experts say. With the country's economy consuming huge amounts of energy, state-owned firms have been among the most aggressive in going after available leases around the world, particularly in Nigeria and Angola […]. ^ top ^

China vows to continue support to Afghanistan's reconstruction (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-27
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who attends a regional summit on Afghanistan in Istanbul as the special representative of Chinese President Hu Jintao, pledged that China, as a neighbor that shares friendship dated back to antiquity, will continue to support Afghanistan's reconstruction. "China has actively supported, promoted and participated in Afghanistan's post-war peace and reconstruction effort. Look ahead, China will continue to give support to Afghanistan within its capacity," Yang said in his remarks at the Istanbul Summit on Friendship and Cooperation […] Yang noted that since 2002, China has cancelled all mature debts owed by the Afghan government and provided a total of more than 900 million yuan (about 132 million U.S. dollars) grant assistance. He said China has launched a large number of assistance programs in Afghanistan to help improve people's lives, including a series of big projects such as the Jomhuri Hospital (Republican Hospital) and the Parwan irrigation project, which have made a positive impact in the country's reconstruction process. China has also trained more than 500 Afghan government officials in a broad range of areas, including diplomacy, economy and trade, medical and health care, finance, tourism, agriculture and counternarcotics […] China announced last year it will turn all its previously committed 75-million-U.S. dollar concessional loans into grant assistance, to be provided to Afghanistan over a five-year period. Yang said the first tranche of funds was already delivered in 2009, and the remaining 60 million U.S. dollars will be made available in the coming four years. "In addition, we will keep on assisting Afghanistan in such areas as vocational training and human resources development," Yang added. Hosted by Turkey, the Istanbul summit was also attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and Tajikistan Foreign Minister Hamrohon Zarifi. Yang said China highly appreciates Turkey's efforts in addressing the issue of Afghanistan and supports the tripartite cooperation among Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan […] Yang also stressed the need to always remember to fully respect the independence of Afghanistan and the imperativeness to respect the leading role of the United Nations in coordinating international efforts […] Tuesday's summit issued a statement in which Afghanistan's neighboring countries said they back the war-torn country's plan to reconcile with moderate Taliban forces as Karzai is seeking international support for the program […]. ^ top ^

Stranded activist hopes to go home soon (SCMP)
2010-01-27
A Chinese human rights activist stuck at Tokyo's Narita International Airport for nearly three months hopes he can finally return home to Shanghai after a visit by Chinese officials. Feng Zhenghu, who has lived in the restricted area of the airport for 84 days as he is barred from re-entering the mainland, said two officials from the Chinese embassy visited him on Monday. "It's the first time the Chinese government responded to my request to go home after having sent them at least 53 letters and the Japanese government's notice asking me to leave," he said. "I am confident my request will soon be met because the two officials were obviously sent by Beijing." Feng, 54, said the two officials - a counsellor surnamed Zhao and his secretary - spoke to him for 30 minutes and expressed concern about his living and physical conditions. "The atmosphere was good. We respected each other's views even though we have different perspectives," he said. Feng said he believed his problem would not be solved immediately, but will wait for the central government to "correct its mistake". He was referring to the eight rejections for his application to return home. "It's easy for the Chinese government to let me go home - just don't block the entrance door," he said. "Monday's meeting was a good beginning because it at least reflected Beijing's positive attitude to my problem." Feng was detained for 41 days by Shanghai authorities last year after he planned to complain to Beijing about the Press and Publication Bureau of Shanghai's handling of a case. In order to avoid the sensitive 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, he went on a private visit to Japan on April 1 last year and returned on June 7. However, on touching down in Shanghai, he was refused entry and sent back to Japan. Since then, he has been barred from entering Shanghai three more times and was stopped four times in Tokyo from boarding airlines bound for the mainland […]. ^ top ^

Beijing turns tables on US in Google dispute (SCMP)
2010-01-25
Top mainland internet security experts had rejected Google's allegation that China should be held responsible for cyber-attacks on the company's e-mail system, state media reported, amid an escalating row between Beijing and Washington over internet freedom, state media reported. But Google has said it will no longer censor search results on its Web search engine in China following the cyber-attacks which the internet company said originated in China and targeted the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists around the world.

An official at the country's top government-controlled internet security agency, citing statistics, said China's cyberspace security faced grave threats from hacking and other attacks originating from the United States and other countries. In the face of mounting criticism over its sweeping control of the internet and heightened censorship in the Google dispute, mainland officials and state media have repeatedly claimed China was the largest victim of internet hacking and other security problems. But it was the first time mainland authorities had released data to substantiate such a defence. Analysts warned the spat between Beijing and Washington over Google, which has strained bilateral ties, was likely to snowball. In an interview with Xinhua published during the weekend, Zhou Yonglin, a deputy director of the operational department at the national computer network emergency response technical team and co-ordination centre (CNCERT), said Google had failed to prove its claim. "We are very concerned by Google's claims, but regrettably, we haven't got any detailed report, substantial leads or other proof about those alleged attacks from the company, apart from its own announcement and media reports," Zhou said. "People with basic knowledge of internet technology would know that you can't say Chinese hackers launched those attacks only because their IP [internet protocol] addresses are from China." His remarks appeared to be a direct response to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's demand to China last week for a thorough and transparent investigation of the Google incident. Dr Fang Binxing of the Chinese Academy of Engineering - best known for his role in building the infamous "Great Firewall", said it was weird for the US, the world's biggest producer of internet filters and censorship products, to point the finger at other countries over internet freedom. "What Clinton has said about the free flow of information and what her country has been doing are self-contradictory," Fang told Xinhua. According to CNCERT, 262,000 IP addresses on the mainland were hacked by Trojan horse programs, which infiltrate the target computer without being noticed, and another 837,000 IP addresses breached by computer networks controlled by hackers, called botnets. Zhou said more than 60 per cent of the Trojan horse attacks were launched from outside China, with those from the US at the top of the list. An average of 42,000 domestically hosted websites were hacked each month last year, including 2,765 local government websites, he added. However, Liu Deliang, an internet law professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said: "It is fair to say that the government's control over the internet and the flow of information is way too strict, and the way authorities regulate cyberspace will have a negative impact on the people's confidence in the political and legal systems.". ^ top ^

China hands over security scanners to Pakistan (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-25
China handed over the first gadget of security scanners to the Pakistani government on Saturday in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. Addressing the handover ceremony of the two scanning systems to Pakistani authorities, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Lou Zhaohui said that he is happy to give security scanners to enhance capacity building of Pakistani security forces […] Luo said the Chinese government is willing to provide the scanners with the state-of-the-art technology to Pakistan. He appreciated the efforts the Pakistani government made in providing security protection to over 10,000 Chinese engineers working in Pakistan on 122 different projects. The ambassador told Xinhua that the new system will enhance the capacity of Pakistani law enforcers in order to ensure the protection of civilians including foreigners, and it will also help in maintaining a peaceful and favorable environment for trade. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik on the occasion said that Pakistani government is highly thankful to the Chinese government for providing security scanners as it will help in thwarting terror attempts, adding that the security situation across the country is getting better as the international community including China and America helped Pakistan in security sector. He maintained that in the first phase the two scanners will be installed in Islamabad and Rawalpindi as a part of the joint Safe City program and in the second phase the four provincial capital cities of Pakistan will also get such scanners. ^ top ^

Haiti to get 18m yuan of new aid (SCMP)
2010-01-25
The Ministry of Commerce said yesterday that China would provide medical supplies worth 18 million yuan in additional aid to quake-ravaged Haiti. That announcement came as a 40-member Chinese medical care and epidemic prevention team left for Haiti from Beijing yesterday with medical supplies on board the flight, the ministry said on its website. However, Beijing's continued participation in the effort is a delicate diplomatic issue. It must take place within the United Nations quake-recovery framework, as Haiti still recognises Taiwan and not Beijing as the seat of the Chinese government. Taiwan, which has 23 such allies, has rejected any joint effort with Beijing, which virtually restricts the latter from doing more. Taipei and Beijing have adopted a truce policy so that "chequebook diplomacy" does not become an issue in the Caribbean and Latin America, where 12 of Taiwan's remaining allies are located. Also aboard the flight are four peacekeeping officers, replacing four who were killed in the earthquake. Beijing maintains a 125-member peacekeeping force in Haiti, also through the auspices of the UN, which has announced it is adding 3,500 people to its mission. The plane, which the ministry said was also carrying 20 tonnes of medical supplies including medicines, hygiene equipment, medical devices and camping equipment, is expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince this afternoon. The 40 members of the medical team come from the mainland's military medical system, and 70 per cent of them had taken part in previous UN peacekeeping missions, the ministry's statement said. With the 18 million yuan of additional aid, Beijing has so far provided humanitarian aid worth 48 million yuan in materials and other supplies to Haiti, plus US$3.6 million in cash. The death toll in the 7.3-magnitude earthquake on January 12 is more than 110,000 to date. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China to adopt new rules to regulate expropriation of houses (Xinhua)
2010-01-29
China's Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, or cabinet, is going to release the full text of the draft on its website, www.chinalaw.gov.cn. The draft spells out the conditions, due process and compensation of expropriation intended for public interest, such as national defense, key national projects of energy, transportation and education. The draft says local government should, by holding hearings or adopting other opinion soliciting methods, ensure that the public opinions can be heard. The draft also provides that compensation to the house owners should not be less than the market price of similar houses. The draft stresses that no violence, coercion, or other illegal means, such as cutting off the water or power supply of the houses, can be employed in demolition procedures. Demolition for the need to upgrade the quality of dangerous and old buildings should not be carried out without the approval of 90 percent of the house owners, the draft says. The public is invited to comment on the draft regulation any time before Feb. 12 via online postings, email or letters. ^ top ^

230m yuan of quake reconstruction funding misused, auditors report (SCMP)
2010-01-29
Mainland officials diverted 230 million yuan in funding for reconstruction after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to other building projects and loan repayments, a government auditing agency said. The misused funds accounted for a fraction of the 37.2 billion yuan spent out of a 76.8 billion yuan planned investment in quake reconstruction, a report from the National Audit Office said. In recent years Beijing has sought to tighten government budgets to rein in spending and eliminate waste while increasing assistance for victims of floods, earthquakes and other disasters. But such emergency funds are not always carefully accounted for, making them susceptible to misuse or embezzlement. In Sichuan, 140 million yuan meant for the reconstruction of a main road was used instead to build a new city district, the audit office report said. An additional 83 million yuan was used to decorate the exteriors of buildings and build low-rent homes, while in Gansu province more than 7 million yuan was diverted to pay off bank loans borrowed before the earthquake struck. The office said 14 people were being investigated in relation to the cases. It said that despite the problems, most of the reconstruction work had proceeded smoothly, with 11 of 72 major projects completed and 480 of 753 schools rebuilt. The magnitude-8 quake ravaged the southwest, leaving almost 90,000 people dead and five million homeless. The Communist Party says corruption is a major threat to social stability and a serious challenge to its continuing grip on power. The leadership has attempted to rein in graft through periodic crackdowns although it has baulked at subjecting party officials to outside supervision. ^ top ^

China sets up special office to ensure social security (Global Times)
2010-01-29
China has set up a special office to guide public security checks -- especially in areas found with major security problems. The information was revealed Thursday at a meeting held by the Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security, the organizer of the office. While the office consists of personnel from about 14 central Party and governmental organizations, its daily work will be conducted by the committee and the Ministry of Public Security. The office's main functions include researching on patterns of criminal activities, directing crackdown campaigns in key areas and punishing violators. Other functions include coordinating various organizations and supervise security check work among others. According to the committee, detailed measures are being mapped out on the assessment of the security check work. On Tuesday, the country's minister of public security Meng Jianzhu reaffirmed the need to continue cracking down on robberies, burglaries, swindling, prostitution, underground forces, and human and drug trafficking. Meng voiced security concerns for certain areas, such as urban-rural intersection areas and "villages in the city," a term for poor residential areas within cities. ^ top ^

Wen heads 'super ministry' for energy (China Daily)
2010-01-28
An overarching government agency has been set up to take charge of the country's energy policy for better coordination in formulating strategy and planning development. Premier Wen Jiabao will head the agency, called the National Energy Commission (NEC), and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang will be the deputy, the State Council, or the Cabinet, announced yesterday. The commission will be responsible for drafting national energy development plans, reviewing energy security and coordinating international cooperation […] The NEC has 21 members, including ministers from various organizations such as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the Ministry of Finance, as well as a representative from the central bank. Industry insiders said the move means energy has been identified as key to the future development of the country, which is now the world's second-largest energy consumer. "The establishment of the NEC shows the government has raised energy issues to an unprecedented level," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University. "Such a super ministry, which centralizes the powers of different ministries, can help China make better use of its energy resources." Energy has become a complex issue and cannot be managed by one single ministry, said Lin, citing domestic energy companies' overseas development as an example. Chinese oil companies have stepped up their overseas profile in recent years but the issue has to be dealt with by different ministries such as the NDRC and foreign affairs […] The setting up of the NEC is part of continuous efforts in administrative reform, which are aimed at orienting various functions of different departments toward higher efficiency, said analysts. A Ministry of Energy was established in 1988 but it was disbanded five years later because its administrative functions overlapped with other departments. Facing increasing energy shortages, the government set up an Energy Bureau under the NDRC during administrative reforms in 2003. The National Energy Administration (NEA) was set up in 2008 but it lacks the power to carry out many of its assigned tasks as responsibility for the energy sector is currently spread among a number of departments. For instance, prices of petroleum products and electricity are still decided by the NDRC. ^ top ^

Tomb fight spreads to warlord's arch-rival (SCMP)
2010-01-28
No sooner has the dust settled on a claim by Henan authorities to have found the tomb of fabled ancient warlord Cao Cao than a new controversy has flared. This one concerns a claim surrounding the tomb of Liu Bei, who established a rival state. More than a dozen villagers in Lianhuaba, in Pengshan county, Sichuan, have written to heritage authorities calling for excavation of a royal tomb in the village. They hope the work will verify the site is that of Liu's tomb […] Liu (AD161-223) established the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Period, which conquered a large swathe of present-day China - including Sichuan, Guizhou and Hunan, as well as part of Hubei and Gansu in rival Cao's Han state. The classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms portrays Liu as an idealistic, benevolent and humane ruler who cared for his people and selected good advisers for his government. The petition by the villagers to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics revived a feud among historians from Chengdu and Fengjie county in Chongqing, who have been locked in a protracted battle over Liu's grave. Rival claims on sites of historic significance, including the tombs of legendary figures, have become a phenomenon in recent years as regional authorities try to cash in on the fame of such sites. With government investment in infrastructure, they can generate high tourist income […]. ^ top ^

Rise in sea level reaches three-decade high (China Daily)
2010-01-28
The sea level in China late last year hit a record high for the past three decades, threatening the safety of thousands of people in the coastal areas, the national ocean agency said yesterday. The average rise in sea level for the past three decades occurred at a rate of 2.6 mm a year, much higher than the average rate of 1.7 mm annually across the world, a report on the sea-level rise in China for 2009 released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) showed. "Last year, the sea level was 8 mm higher than 2008 with the rise in sea level in Hainan province reaching 113 mm, the highest across the country," Lin Shanqing, director of forecast and disaster relief department of the SOA, said yesterday. Extreme weather like high temperatures and monsoons play an important role in the rise in sea level, Lin said. In mid August last year, high temperatures hit most parts of southern China, causing the sea level in September to become about 180 mm higher than the previous year and pushing the oceanic temperature to 28.5 C, the second highest record in the past three decades […] Experts estimate that the sea level, along the country's coastal areas, will keep rising and a maximum of 130 mm a year is very possible in the next three decades. In order to avoid the possible damage caused by the rise in sea level such as storm tides, coastal erosion, seawater encroachment and soil salinization, officials from the SOA suggested authorities of coastal cities improve sea level monitoring systems and take the impact of the rise in sea level into account when making plans for economic development. "The Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, the Yellow River Delta and coastal areas of Tianjin are the county's most economically developed regions and are potential areas that could suffer from the impact of the rise in sea level," Xu Sheng, director of the National Marine Data and Information Service, told China Daily. "Local authorities of the coastal areas should build higher dams and take environmental protection measures to slow down the rise of the sea level," Xu said […]. ^ top ^

More Chinese women duped to be drug mules (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-28
Foreign drug traffickers are duping an increasing number of Chinese women, especially young victims, into carrying drugs into China, the General Administration of Customs (GAC) has said. "A rising number of foreign drug traffickers are using the Internet as a tool to recruit or trick Chinese women to transport and receive drugs in China," a statement from the GAC said late on Tuesday. A number of the women met African men online and later agreed to be the recipients of the packages sent by their "boyfriends", but what they did not know was that the packages contained illegal substances such as cannabis and heroin […] China customs recently detected two packages sent to the country from overseas, each containing about 4 kg of cannabis. They were sent to two Chinese women who said the senders were their "online boyfriends" and they did not know what was in the packages […] China customs cracked more than 150 cases of transporting drugs via post and special delivery last year, almost triple the number in 2008. More than 250 kg of drugs were seized in mail and 80 suspects were detained, the GAC said. Young women are especially being targeted by foreign drug traffickers both online and offline. The customs in Guangzhou, Haikou and Shenzhen cities have busted a series of drug smuggling cases carried out by women who are born after 1980 and it has become a trend, the authorities said. Young women are seen as easily manipulated or tricked into transporting drugs, especially when money and relationships are involved. The drug traffickers also believe they are not obvious targets of the customs officials […] Chinese customs nabbed more than 2,110 kg of drugs during its crackdown on drug trafficking last year, a rise of 150 percent year on year […]. ^ top ^

Heavyweight task force named to tackle soccer corruption (SCMP)
2010-01-27
Liu Peng thinks he knows what's wrong with soccer on the mainland - and as the minister for sport, he hopes he has the cure. A vicious cycle had developed between the low quality of play and repeated scandals involving match-fixing, gambling and corruption, he reportedly said yesterday. The result was an angry public and a bottleneck that restricted the development of the sports industry and the establishment of China as a world-class sports power, the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News quoted Liu, minister in charge of the General Administration of Sports […] Liu named a task force of unprecedented strength - involving three ministries, his agency and three others - to crack down on corruption in the game by streamlining the supervision of professional soccer. The other task force members are from the Public Security Ministry, the Civil Affairs Ministry, the Justice Ministry, People's Bank of China, the State Administration of Taxation and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. Liu pledged four measures to tackle the problems. First, his agency would spare no effort to support and co-operate with the police in curbing match-rigging and soccer gambling. Recent events have shown the magnitude of the problems. A report by a Shandong television station cited industry insiders as saying that Nan Yong, sacked last week as vice-chairman of the Chinese Football Association after police took him in for questioning about corruption, had accepted 500,000 yuan to bribe referees in the country's top league. In a blog for the Guangzhou-based Information Times, Li Chengpeng, one of the mainland's best-known soccer columnists, predicted Nan would not be the highest-level official brought down by the campaign. "I don't believe Xie Yalong and Yan Shiduo [two former Chinese Football Association presidents] are clean. I dare say they used their power for improper purposes." Liu said the administration would also explore new policies and measures for managing professional clubs, and improve the quality of national teams at all levels by introducing a new event for teenage boys and girls at the National Games and by allocating 40 million yuan to set up and promote national soccer leagues in primary and middle schools. Liu said more than 2,200 primary and middle schools in 42 cities had been selected for a pilot scheme for the teenage soccer league to train potential talent. Liu Xiaoxin, chief editor of Guangzhou-based Soccer News, said he was optimistic about the sweeping campaign […] "For me, there is at least a possibility that the soccer industry in our country can be revived after the crackdown, or it may remain gloomy forever" […]. ^ top ^

Sichuan to complete 90% of reconstruction in 2010: governor (Xinhua)
2010-01-27
The quake-stricken Sichuan province will accomplish more than 90 percent of its reconstruction projects in 2010, Sichuan governor Jiang Jufeng said Tuesday. The most ravaged counties, including Beichuan, Qingchuan and Wenchuan, would finish nearly all the reconstruction targets in 2010, Jiang said at the annual session of the Provincial People's Congress. The government promised to complete construction of residential houses in rural areas before the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb.14, and those in urban areas before May. The government will build a quake museum in Beichuan County, where about 21,000 people, or two-thirds of the population in the county seat, were dead or missing. Commemorative sites will also be built in Yingxiu Township, the epicenter, as well as the destroyed industrial base in Hanwang Township, and the Dujiangyan, home to one of the world's oldest irrigation systems. Sichuan would strengthen the cooperation with supporting provinces and cities in the fields of investment, trade, tourism and personnel services, Jiang said. ^ top ^

One-child 'changes' spark confusion (SCMP)
2010-01-26
Confusion reigned yesterday over the possibility of Beijing changing the one-child policy when a family planning official's reported comments were quickly contradicted by the agency for which he works. The Beijing News quoted Peng Yuhua, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Population and Family Planning, in a report yesterday as saying the commission was assessing the possibility of allowing couples to have a second child if one of the spouses was a single child. The report also said the commission was considering abolishing the four-year waiting period between the first and second births currently required of couples eligible to have a second child. Late in the afternoon, Xinhua released a report quoting an unnamed cadre from the same commission as saying that The Beijing News' article was "inaccurate" and that the relevant reporter had apologised to Peng […] Under current regulations, couples under various circumstances are exempted from the one-child policy and entitled to have more than one child. Examples include if both were single children, or hold doctorates, or are from an ethnic minority group, or disabled, or rural residents whose first child was a girl. The circumstances differ between provinces. While 30 provinces, regions and municipalities are already implementing the "both-parents-are-single-child" exception, only 11 provinces are implementing a less restricted version of the "one-parent-is-a-single-child" exception - if one spouse of a rural couple is a single child, they may have two children. An expert close to the National Population and Family Planning Commission, who refused to be named, said the topic was still too sensitive and that it was unlikely the "one-parent-is-a-single-child" condition would be applied to urban areas anytime soon. But the exemption might be expanded to rural couples in other provinces. Four provinces - Guangdong, Jiangxi, Shanxi and Hubei - scrapped the four-year waiting period between two births last year. But contrary to previous reports, Shanghai will not follow suit immediately, according to an article on China Net yesterday. Calls for the one-child policy to be scrapped or modified have been growing as problems such as an ageing population and a gender imbalance have intensified. In 2005 the male-female ratio was 119 boys for every 100 girls. In some areas it was as high as 130 to 100. By 2020, 24 million men of marrying age could find themselves without spouses, a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found. ^ top ^

New pollution reduction targets listed (China Daily)
2010-01-26
China published new targets for the reduction of major pollutants yesterday as it ran into the final year to realize its green goals. The country will meet its binding targets to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), the major cause of air pollution, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) - the main indicator of water pollution - by 10 percent from 2005 levels in 2010, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said yesterday. The authorities also aim to reduce another 400,000 tons of SO2 and 200,000 tons of COD beyond the targets, which were set in its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). In order to achieve that, the ministry will strive to increase urban wastewater treatment capacity by 10 million cu m, and install sulfur removers for power generators with a total capacity of 50 million kw this year. Preliminary calculations show that China had already realized its SO2 reduction goal by the end of 2009, one year ahead of the schedule, the ministry said […] By the end of 2008, total emissions of sulfur dioxide and COD had dropped by 8.95 percent and 6.61 percent, respectively, from 2005 levels. The ministry also said it will intensify the fight against heavy-metal pollution and an overall plan for heavy-metal pollution prevention will be released by the end of June. China has been faced with an increasing number of major heavy-metal pollution incidents. Several lead poisoning cases involving thousands of children across the country sparked protests last year. As the country is poised to meet its 11th Five-Year Plan targets, a number of policymakers and academics have also started planning for the next five-year period. The ministry said two new pollution indicators - nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is discharged from vehicles and power plants and causes acid rain; and ammonia nitrogen, another major measure of water quality - were introduced into the emission control list during the 12th five-year plan (2011-15). The authorities will also need to find new mechanisms to reduce pollutants, as current projects-based measures to curb pollution have reached their limits, reducing the future capacity for emission reduction, said Zhao Hualin, director of the total emission control department from the ministry. For instance, China required all its coal-fired power plants to install sulfur scrubbers to reduce SO2 emissions. By the end of 2008, more than 60 percent of China's thermal power generating units had been equipped with such facilities, compared with 12 percent in 2005. "The remaining capacity is lessening, forcing us to find new battlegrounds for emission reduction. For instance, the sintering process at steel mills is also a major SO2 emitter," Zhao said. ^ top ^

Ministry orders Net filters for schools (SCMP)
2010-01-26
The Ministry of Education has ordered mainland primary and secondary school authorities to install filtering software on school Web servers amid heightened concerns over internet policing. A ministry directive made public yesterday said the schools should have "green" filtering software installed to block vulgar and pornographic content as well as information deemed to vilify authorities. Regional education authorities should also inspect campus internet access on a regular basis. The move, which is part of a push for internet "moral education" among minors, came just months after fallout over botched efforts to force computer manufacturers to install Chinese-developed "Green Dam" filters on all computers to be sold on the mainland. But an outcry over the apparent attempt to stifle the free flow of information forced the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to scrap the plan. Prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said that on one hand, it was reasonable for authorities to filter content for young people because they were less capable of telling right from wrong. But Ai, a staunch campaigner against internet censorship, said it could not be justified as pupils were bombarded with "absurd political doctrine" that is miles from the truth. "If you put it in a broader context under which the internet has been subjected to systematic policing, the initiative is problematic," he said. "It's not just [internet facilities] at primary and secondary schools, the whole internet as well as the mobile communications network is targeted for an intense clampdown." He added that the public had good reason to interpret the move as a new Green Dam offensive. Dr Zhou Ze, a Beijing-based media law specialist, took issue with the decision to install the filters coming from the ministry. He said any decision should be based on a consensus of teachers, who know better what kind of protection pupils needed. Zhou added that if the development of such a programme was necessary, then the ministry should introduce a transparent bidding process for the selection of the filtering software to be used. ^ top ^

Four senior cadres call for review of Liu Xiaobo verdict (SCMP)
2010-01-25
Four senior Communist Party officials known for their liberal views are pushing for the release of Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced in December to 11 years in prison after being convicted of subversion charges. The four have signed a strongly worded letter, addressed to "incumbent party and government leaders", urging authorities to reconsider the verdict against Liu. "These four are senior cadres that have been quite an open-minded force within the party for many years," said Patrick Poon, vice-president of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre, which posted the letter on its website. "They have been always very supportive for pushing forward political reforms while the economic reform has been going well in China." While the letter did not call specifically for Liu's release, He Fang, a cadre who signed the letter and is an honorary member of the academic committee at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was direct when asked what its purpose was. "To reverse the verdict and to find that Liu is not guilty and to release him," he said in a phone interview. "Also, to safeguard the constitution and the rights of freedom of speech." Liu was the co-author of an unusually direct appeal for political liberalisation on the mainland called Charter 08, which was signed by more than 300 people, including some top intellectuals. Rights groups have said the harshness of Liu's sentence was a warning to others who challenge the country's one-party rule. The party officials' open letter was written by Hu Jiwei, a former chief of the People's Daily newspaper. The signatories are all in their 80s and 90s, according to the letter; their ages could provide them with a certain degree of protection from harassment. It said the main evidence against Liu was that he had called for the establishment of a "federal republic". But Hu and other signers contend that term was a "correct slogan" that had been used in the early days of the Chinese Communist Party. "If the judge violates the constitution and has no knowledge of the history of the party... and makes false and incorrect accusations that will seriously tarnish the image of the country and the party, then it's difficult to prove that China is a country ruled by law and a harmonious society," said the letter […] The other signers were Li Pu, a former deputy chief of the official Xinhua News Agency, and Dai Huang, a former Xinhua senior reporter […] Liu, a former Beijing Normal University professor, spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square. Liu has been the only person arrested over the charter. ^ top ^

Melamine discovered in new milk products (China Daily)
2010-01-25
Three companies have been found selling milk products tainted with melamine, the industrial chemical responsible for the deaths of six children and injuring 300,000 in 2008. Three batches of milk products have been ordered off shelves by the health department in Guizhou province because they contain melamine, local media reported. These products are: A batch of products produced by the Shandong Zibo Lusaier Dairy Company Ltd on April 25, 2009; a batch of popsicles produced by the Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food Company Ltd on April 9, 2009; and a batch of popsicles produced by the Laoting Kaida Refrigeration Plant at Tangshan, Hebei province on March 19, 2009. It follows the country's most notorious food scandal in Sept 2008, when the chemical melamine was found in the milk products of 22 dairy companies around the country. The industrial chemical causes kidney stones and kidney failure among children. The National Business Daily reported that melamine-tainted products were found and banned in Sichuan province and Jiangsu province last December. An official who participated in the investigation in Mianyang of Sichuan said a government body in Beijing ordered the investigation. Wang Dingmian, former chairman of the Guangdong Provincial Dairy Association, said the products likely contained tainted milk recalled after the 2008 scandal but which somehow made its way back into the market […] According to local media reports, the three companies said their products contain melamine because they bought milk powder as a raw material to use in their products. "The companies were just shirking their responsibilities. The companies should have been required to test each and every batch of milk powder they bought," Wang said. Wang said the latest scandal exposed weak government regulation of the market because it involved leftover tainted milk. "The government should be more responsible and avoid bureaucracy. You can't just assume that everything is fine," he said. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing mulls staggered hours to cut traffic jams (SCMP)
2010-01-29
Beijing is considering changing office hours for businesses and public organisations and raising parking fees in the capital's central districts in its efforts to deal with the traffic headaches caused by private cars. Vice-mayor Huang Wei said the municipal government was considering a plan to stagger working hours, as had been done during the 2008 Olympics, the Beijing Times reported. "There are too many cars on the streets, and everyone is complaining about gridlocked roads even though we have yet to see a complete traffic breakdown," he said on the sidelines of the city's annual legislative session. Huang said soaring car ownership has not only created traffic jams and put a strain on transportation management but also causes thousands of traffic accidents every day. The number of private cars in the city reached four million last month. More than 1,500 more cars hit the road in Beijing every day. According to Huang, flexible working hours is one of three measures the government is considering in the face of mounting pressure to ease the gridlock. Most government bodies, enterprises and shops in the capital changed their hours to ease congestion during peak times for two months during the Olympics. Huang said that experiment had achieved results but admitted that research on the proposal to stagger working hours remained at an early stage. "There's a huge amount of work ahead before we can come up with a comprehensive plan that takes various government and business institutions into account," he said. Beijing had studied similar plans last year, local media said, but Huang did not explain why they fell flat. He said the city was also considering a shuttle bus service for students, to reduce congestion near schools. A plan to raise parking fees in the downtown and the main business districts would be released soon, Huang said. Professor Shi Qixin, a former head of the Institute of Transportation Engineering at Tsinghua University, said restrictions and other traffic control measures might be necessary, but "for a highly populated metropolis like Beijing, the ultimate solution to traffic woes is to develop a comprehensive and convenient public transport system.". ^ top ^

Beijing takes aim at pollution in quest to become 'world city' (SCMP)
2010-01-26
Beijing aims to build itself into a "world city" on a par with Hong Kong, upgrading its status from an "international city", its mayor says. "Currently the national capital has entered into a new historic stage of building an all-round modernised international metropolis, Guo Jinlong said yesterday in a keynote speech to the city's annual legislature session. "Now we should have our eyes on building a world city." In a global commercial campaign in recent years, Hong Kong has claimed to be "Asia's world city". Guo would not elaborate on Beijing's objectives or put forward an agenda, but Huang Yan, the director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning, told Xinhua yesterday the government hoped to achieve the transformation into a "world city" by 2050. The international community generally regarded a world city as having a per capita gross domestic product exceeding US$15,000 a year while Beijing had just surpassed the US$10,000 mark last year, she said. Huang said a world city usually had a global influence on politics, economy and culture. It would be a favourite destination for headquarters of influential international organisations. Guo promised his government would "vigorously entice multinational corporations to set up their regional headquarters in Beijing". In his speech Guo said the capital faced an "extremely serious" pollution problem despite the improvement two years ago when the country invested massively in the city's environment to stage a "green" Olympics. He unveiled a target for "blue-sky days" this year of 73 per cent, or 266, on which air quality will be judged excellent or fairly good. That compares with the 285 such days achieved last year, which exceeded the target of 260. The capital spent 140 billion yuan to combat chronic pollution and create a clean, green Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics, which included moving many high-polluting plants out of the city. Partly as a result of the clean-air initiatives Beijing has made the top 10 list of the most liveable cities in China in a popular annual housing market report by the China Academy of Social Sciences. However the average monthly pollution index has been rising since the Olympics, mostly because of a boom in private cars in the past two years and the reopening of some polluting industries that had been closed before the Games. "We will control the total quantity of pollutants generated and undertake trial reforms in the trading of pollution discharge rights," Guo said, without elaborating. ^ top ^

Liaison offices face closure in anti-graft drive (SCMP)
2010-01-25
Mainland authorities are moving to close thousands of liaison offices set up by regional governments in Beijing as they are increasingly viewed as a hotbed for official corruption. Quoting a directive from an unnamed central government agency, the Outlook Weekly, a magazine affiliated with Xinhua, reported that the central government had set a six-month deadline for the closure of liaison offices set up in Beijing by low-level government agencies. The liaison offices, which started out as a hometown networking place, have quickly taken on the role of a lobby group currying favour from central government agencies on behalf of regional governments. Guest houses with lavish accommodation and fine local cuisine are at the disposal of visiting regional officials […] Official media reports have put the number of liaison offices in Beijing at 10,000, and they have been under intense public scrutiny after several highly publicised corruption scandals involving some of them […] Several government officials were indicted in corruption scandals involving liaison offices in Beijing, including Wang Fuyou, former director of the liaison office for the Hebei government, who was sentenced to life in jail in 2002 for taking bribes and embezzlement. Under the new directive, the six-month deadline applies to liaison offices set up by county-level government agencies, lower-level governments and state-run companies. Those that are allowed to continue will be strictly supervised to better serve the public and help the Beijing municipal government keep petitioners at bay. Professor Li Chengyan from Peking University, who specialises in governance studies, noted that the order would be likely to come from the Government Offices Administration, a State Council agency overseeing expenditures and assets of government offices. Li said the crackdown was necessary because it demonstrated the central government's determination to fight corruption. It should help in tackling corruption associated with those offices but it would have only a limited effect. Li said the woes the liaison offices faced were not an inherent problem but part of the broader problem facing the political system […] The reason the number of liaison offices in Beijing is excessive is that government decision-making is so centralised at the top, he said. Regional governments have no choice but to use such offices to lobby higher authorities and even cut illicit deals. Professor Ren Jianming, deputy director of Tsinghua University's Anti-corruption and Governance Research Centre, said the initiative would be a short-term solution unless the government decision-making structure was overhauled. Ren said regional governments had an incentive to have such an office in Beijing because the central government had far too great a say in the distribution of resources. "In a democratic country there is a fairly transparent regime in place to decide where a government project goes and how much expenditure it will receive, even with some lobbying, but in China it often comes down to networking and even some shady ways to court higher authorities," Ren said. "So the liaison offices are indispensable in this sense" […]. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

World Expo sells 20 million tickets (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-25
Visitors to the World Expo are expected to far exceed 70 million judging by the way tickets are selling, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said Friday. Some 70 million visitors from home and overseas were expected to visit the Expo in Shanghai between May to October, a number that would surpass the 64 million record set at the Osaka Expo in 1970. "It seems that our 70 million visitors' projection is rather conservative," Han said when meeting Heinz Fischer, the Austrian federal president, in Shanghai Friday. "The real figure may go far beyond that projection as 20 million tickets have already been sold but the fair is still about three months away." There are several kinds of tickets to meet the needs of most people. Sales of ordinary tickets, peak-day tickets, three-day and seven-day tickets have already begun. Cheaper night tickets will be available from May […] Austria would go all out to support the Shanghai World Expo, an event sure to be a splendid occasion for the city to remember, Fischer said. Many heads of state have already visited the Expo site to check their countries' preparations. More than 50 heads of state or government have said they will visit Shanghai during the Expo. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Registration system for gay couples proposed (SCMP)
2010-01-29
In the mainland's first official look at whether same-sex couples could formalise their relationships, a lawmaker has proposed that Guangdong adopt a registration system. He says it would help the government handle gay issues better. Zhu Lieyu, a director and partner of Guangdong law firm Guoding, is a delegate of the provincial People's Congress, whose five-day annual meeting opens today. He said he would submit the proposal while the congress was in session. He said there was a void in government management for homosexuals, and a registration system for couples who wanted to live together could help solve social problems connected with same-sex relationships. "For example, how should we deal with those same-sex couples who have property disputes?" Zhu asked. "Can one of the couple inherit the partner's property after he or she passes away?" Authorities should also consider gay couples' rights and obligations to support the elderly and adopt children. "Once we have a registration system, we can tell the couples what they may do and what they may not," he said. He denied his purpose was to legalise same-sex marriage, and uses the phrase "same-sex couple relationships", since "marriage refers only to the relationship between a man and a woman on the mainland". Zhu said the idea came to him following a recent news article about two gay men who celebrated their illegal "wedding" in a bar in Chengdu, Sichuan, early this month. In his research on the issue, he learned that at least 2 to 3 per cent of people on the mainland are gay - the government figure - and some of his university-teacher friends told him that more and more young people were in same-sex relationships. "The gay community is there, and we cannot ignore its existence," Zhu said. "I also want to make an appeal that society should not discriminate against them." Members of the gay community generally welcomed Zhu's proposal, which they said would draw public attention to the issues they face. But they suggested authorities should first serve the community rather than "manage" or even monitor it […]. ^ top ^

Two more rallies against building of trash incinerators (SCMP)
2010-01-26
The tug of war between government and residents over controversial incinerator projects in Guangdong is showing no signs of easing, with protests in two cities in the past two days. Residents of Guangzhou's Likeng village said nearly a thousand took to the streets in two groups yesterday morning, with one group gathering outside the city government's urban management headquarters and another outside the city government headquarters. They demanded that construction of a second incinerator near their neighbourhood be scrapped because of fears that it would cause more cancer cases. A day earlier, more than 400 residents from Foshan's Gaoming district wearing surgical masks, mobilised by an internet forum posting, demonstrated against construction of the Jiangnan sludge incinerator in Nanhai district […] Guangzhou's garbage problem is a sensitive issue, with the Asian Games host's main urban landfill in Xinfeng bursting at the seams and facing closure by 2012. The site handles most of urban Guangzhou's 8,000 tonnes of rubbish a day. If no other viable solution is found by then, Guangzhou's trash will be literally on the streets. To deal with the problem, the government has been building and planning incinerators across the city. However, the programme has been met by fierce local demonstrations, forcing many plans to be put on hold. Yesterday, residents of Likeng village chanted slogans to demand that plans for a second incinerator be scrapped immediately. They were forbidden from waving placards. One demonstrator said requests to meet officials at the city government headquarters were not met and they were greeted by 80 police instead. "And there are about another 50 armed police officers standing by," he said. "We were going to march to the provincial government office but were blocked and told to leave." In the village, he said, grandmothers in their 70s and 80s tried to block construction each day, but the authorities did not seem to care about their plight. Some reporters had their cameras confiscated and others were taken away for questioning. The crowds dispersed peacefully in the afternoon. Professor He Guowei of Guangzhou University's environmental science and engineering faculty said the authorities would go ahead with construction of incinerators despite strong public opposition […] Likeng village residents say the number of cancer cases rose sharply after the city's first rubbish-fired power station was built in nearby Baiyun district in 2005. Guangzhou's Health Bureau says their claim is groundless and all emissions from the incinerator met national safety standards. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Security to remain top of agenda for Xinjiang (SCMP)
2010-01-29
Policies for the restive Xinjiang region will for the first time be sketched out at a top-level meeting in Beijing this year. Information revealed by state media indicates that security will remain at the top of Beijing's agenda. The issue of ethnic equality is likely to be addressed but little meaningful progress is expected. Zhou Yongkang, the Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of security and law enforcement, announced at a preparatory meeting on Tuesday that a Xinjiang Work Symposium would be convened to plan for the region's "faster development and long-running stability" […] It will be the first high-level conference called by the central government to set out policy for the Uygur-populated region, rocked by the nation's biggest and deadliest ethnic clashes in decades in July. Five rounds of similar conferences have been held to frame policy for equally restive Tibet since the early 1980s, with the latest round taking place in Beijing last week. The absence at the preparatory meeting of Wang Lequan, Xinjiang's hardline party secretary for 15 years, renewed speculation he could soon step down. "There was a rumour that he is on his way out, so this work symposium will probably coincide with a new regional leadership," Nicholas Bequelin, Human Rights Watch researcher, said. Wang was criticised by members of both the Han and Uygur communities during the July unrest. Zhou told Tuesday's meeting that authorities from all fronts should work to enhance the autonomous region's reform and improve living standards. Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission and energy companies presented investment plans for resource-rich Xinjiang. Observers said Beijing was likely to adopt a pump-priming approach similar to the one it has used in Tibet, but that security concerns in Xinjiang would take centre stage. Tibet issues have been handled by the United Front Work Department, which oversees ethnic minority and religious affairs. But the composition of the Xinjiang Work Symposium preparation task force indicates that regional affairs are being co-ordinated by the security authorities. Aside from Zhou, Tuesday's meeting was attended by Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, State Councillor Ma Kai and United Front Work Department head Du Qinglin. CCTV footage of the meeting did not show any Uygur members. Ilham Tohti, a professor of economics at the Minorities University in Beijing, said the absence of ethnic and religious affairs researchers and experts from the task force suggested issues such as tight security that are a major source of Uygur complaints would not play a significant role in future policy making. "Without the participation of Uygurs, Han officials' plans and research will definitely be one-sided," he said […]. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Quitters denied a parting shot by walkout: 'Referendum' farce takes new twist (SCMP)
2010-01-28
Beijing loyalists yesterday spoiled the goodbyes of five pan-democrats who have quit Legco - by walking out to stop them giving speeches justifying their actions. If the five want to deliver their speeches so they form part of the official record of Legislative Council proceedings, they will have to put off resigning until next week. That will mean amending the letters of resignation they submitted on Tuesday stating their resignations take effect tomorrow. The five quit to trigger by-elections - one in each of the geographical constituencies - an exercise they see as a de facto referendum on the pace and scope of democratisation. The walkout meant there were too few lawmakers in the chamber for the sitting to continue. Government supporters used the same tactic five years ago to stop tributes being paid to late Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang following his death. Pan-democrats condemned yesterday's move as a gag on freedom of speech. Legco President Tsang Yok-sing had approved the 15-minute speeches the five - Tanya Chan and Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party, and Wong Yuk-man, Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip of the League of Social Democrats - intended to give. But when their turn to speak came at 1.15pm, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, rose to object […] Members of the DAB, Federation of Trade Unions, Economic Synergy and several independent lawmakers then walked out of the chamber in unison. Before leaving, unionist Wong Kwok-hing shouted: "Shame on those pushing for Hong Kong independence through a referendum." […] with only 21 pan-democrat lawmakers and four government allies remaining in the chamber - short of the 30 required - Tsang suspended the meeting until next Wednesday. The five had intended their farewell speeches to be a prelude to a rally of supporters outside the Legco building last night. In a show of unity, all 23 pan-democrats held a news conference to condemn their opponents' action as an assault on the integrity and the spirit of the legislature and open democracy […] One politician close to Beijing lamented the walkout and said it had provided ammunition for the pan-democrats […]. ^ top ^

Pro-democracy coalition to seek talks with Beijing, HK (SCMP)
2010-01-25
Eleven pro-democracy groups have formed a coalition to seek dialogue with Beijing and the Hong Kong government, vowing to fight for universal suffrage with a "rational and pragmatic" strategy. The establishment of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage comes as the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party are facing pressure from their allies and the government to drop their plan for a de facto referendum on universal suffrage for 2012. Pressure mounted after the pro-business Liberal Party said it would boycott the forthcoming Legislative Council by-elections. Under the resignations plan, one lawmaker from each of the five geographical constituencies will resign to force the by-elections. Pan-democrats' ally legislator Leung Yiu-chung, who represents the Neighbourhood and Workers' Service Centre in the alliance, urged the two groups to drop their plan. He said the validity of the "referendum" was in question […] He said that if there was no candidate from the pro-government camp standing in opposition, the meaning of the by-elections would be reduced. Speaking before a constitutional reform forum held by a government-friendly coalition, Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung made a similar appeal. "The two parties should rein in the horse at the edge of the cliff... If they want to push forward Hong Kong's democratic development, they can stay on the legislature and do so." Pressure has been mounting for the Beijing-friendly camp to boycott the by-elections after the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a statement on January 16 describing any referendum in Hong Kong as a blatant challenge to the Basic Law. Two major Beijing-friendly groups, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions, have yet to announce whether they will field candidates. But Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the de facto referendum campaign would not be affected by moves made by other parties. The newly formed alliance, consisting of pan-democrat political and professional groups and labour unions who have not joined the referendum campaign, said it hoped to present a detailed constitutional reform road map leading to universal suffrage for the chief executive in 2017 and for the legislature in 2020. To do so, it has set up a constitutional reform group led by Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok to study possible election methods for the city. It also has a working group mobilising public support and another such group to communicate with various sectors […] Meanwhile, the Civil Human Rights' Front issued a statement criticising the Beijing-friendly camp's mounting attacks as suppression of dissenting voices. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Mainland, Taiwan experts conclude first talks on economic pact with common understandings (Xinhua)
2010-01-27
Experts from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan reached "broad consensus" on a long-awaited cross-Strait economic pact during their first round of talks here Tuesday. According to a statement released after the meeting, experts from both sides agreed that the basic content of the pact would include market access for commodity trade and service trade, Rules of Origin, early harvest program, trade remedy, dispute settlement, investment and economic cooperation. The two sides also exchanged tax regulations and economic and trade regulations and statistics. The experts' meeting would prepare for formal discussions on the proposed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) at the next round of talks between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in the first half of this year. The experts agreed to push forward the negotiation process in accordance with the principles of "tackling easy things first, difficult things later; seeking consensus and shelving differences; progressing in proper sequence and step by step; and holding a positive and prudent attitude." According to the statement, both sides agreed that the pact would play an important role in helping mainland and Taiwan jointly cope with the financial crisis and fierce competitions in international trade. The framework would help mainland and Taiwan build a cross-Strait economic cooperation mechanism and benefit people of the two sides, the statement said. The mainland delegation was led by ARATS executive vice president Zheng Lizhong. SEF vice chairman and secretary general Kao Kung-lian headed the Taiwan delegation. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Beijing's talks with Dalai Lama's special envoys to last two days (SCMP)
2010-01-28
The meeting between the central government and the Dalai Lama's special envoys will be held in Beijing over two days, the Tibetan government-in-exile says. Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, said the envoys would arrive in Beijing today after being taken to Hunan to visit "important places". The two-day meeting, which comes after a 15-month deadlock, will start on Saturday. Resumption of talks between the two sides was widely welcomed by Western governments. But delegates from both sides showed little public sign of compromise ahead of the negotiations. The exiled government said it hoped Beijing would reconsider a proposal to give Tibet and other Tibetan communities greater autonomy. Central government and party officials wavered little, saying Beijing's policy on the Dalai Lama had been consistent and clear and that it hoped the Tibetan spiritual leader would respond positively to its requests. At the previous talks, the Dalai Lama's envoys proposed a way for Tibetans to achieve more autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution - a key demand of the minority community. But Beijing apparently rejected the plan, saying it would not allow Tibet the kind of latitude granted to Hong Kong and Macau. It was not clear why the discussions would resume, but the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, said yesterday it hoped the two sides would be able to revisit the proposal for greater autonomy. "There is a very sincere hope that the Chinese government would base the discussions on the memorandum for genuine autonomy for all Tibetans, which we presented to the Chinese side in 2008," spokesman Thubten Samphel said. "If they wish to resolve the issue of Tibet, I think that's the only way to go about it." Beijing told the Dalai Lama on Tuesday to make the best of the talks, but publicly showed no sign of easing its hardline stance. "We hope the Dalai Lama will cherish the opportunity and make a positive response to the central government's requests," the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party, the office that handled past talks, said in a statement […]. ^ top ^

Tibet to achieve leapfrog development, lasting stability (Global Times)
2010-01-25
China has made plans to achieve leapfrog development and lasting stability in Tibet Autonomous Region in a bid to ensure China's development as a whole, according to a high-level meeting held this week. Chinese President Hu Jintao and other senior leaders attending the fifth meeting on the work of Tibet, from Jan. 18 to 20, agreed that more efforts must be made to greatly improve living standards of the people in Tibet, as well as ethnic unity and stability. In his speech, Hu attached great importance to the work of Tibet, saying it was a pressing task in carrying out the Scientific Outlook on Development, building a well-off society in an all-round way, establishing a national ecological protective screen and realizing sustainable development. The work was also vital to ethnic unity, social stability and national security, as well as a favorable international environment, he added […] During the meeting, senior leaders also meted out plans to develop Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee's policies towards Tibet in the new era were totally correct, suiting to national condition, Tibet's actual conditions and the fundamental interests of people of all ethnic groups in Tibet […] Hu said the principal contradiction for Tibet, as for the country as a whole, remained to be between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backwardness of social production. However, Tibet faces a "special contradiction" between people of all ethnic groups and the separatist forces led by the Dalai clique, he said. These contradictions had made leapfrog development and lasting stability major themes of the work of Tibet, he said. Hu said China would unswervingly adhere to and improve the Party's theories and policies towards nationalities, as well as the system of regional autonomy of ethnic groups in Tibet. While vowing to take substantial measures to ensure "normal order of Tibetan Buddhism", Hu said the awareness of being part of the Chinese nation and being law-abiding citizens must be constantly enhanced among cadre and the masses in Tibet. Hu asked to substantially prevent and strike "penetration and sabotage" by "Tibet independence" separatists, in order to safeguard social stability, socialist legal system, the fundamental interests of the public, national unity, and ethnic solidarity. At the conference, Hu outlined the guidelines for social and economic development of Tibet in the next decade. He said by 2020 the per capita net income of farmers and herds people in Tibet should be close to the national level. Tibet's capacity to provide public service and infrastructure must also be comparable to the nation's average by 2020, through more government investment and better management. Hu said greater emphasis must be put on the improvement of the livelihood of Tibetan farmers and herdsmen, a better coordination of social-economic development, Tibet's capacity of self development, and environmental protection […] He stressed Tibet's significance in ensuring China's national security, and efforts in building the region into a strategic reserve of natural resources, an agricultural production base, a land with unique culture and a world-class tourism destination. Hu said agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism, handicraft industry, and resource development would enjoy more support. In order to further improve the livelihood of Tibetan people, more government budget will go to public services, such as education, medical services, telecommunication, and social security network that covers both urban and rural residents. Other senior leaders attending the meeting included Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang. Premier Wen Jiabao said priorities should be given to people's livelihood, social services, infrastructure, industries with regional features and environmental protection. Speaking of education, he said free education would be offered for all the children of farmers and herdsmen in primary schools and junior and senior high schools […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Yuan comes under pressure (Global Times)
2010-01-29
Calls for appreciation of the Chinese currency were renewed Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, despite Beijing's explicit resolve to keep the yuan stable and allow it to float at its own schedule and pace. At the annual gathering in the mountainside village in Switzerland, political leaders, bankers and financiers also seemed to share mounting concern over whether China was able to tackle an overheating economy. Financier George Soros told reporters Thursday that the renminbi should "appreciate for the benefit of China and the world," the Wall Street Journal reported. "The case for revaluing the renminbi is getting stronger and stronger," he was quoted as saying. Soros also expressed scepticism about whether China would beat asset bubbles building up in its economy. "The jury is out," he said of China's efforts to contain high property prices and credit. The campaign will be "a major test for the Chinese government" […] Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said Thursday that Beijing was ready to adapt its monetary policies to changing circumstances, and that it was confident of maintaining its rapid growth […] "We will maintain continuity and the stability of our macro-economic policies, continue to follow a proactive fiscal policy and moderately easy monetary policy and make our policies better targeted and more flexible in response to new circumstances," Li said at the Davos forum. He was also upbeat that China's economy would continue its rapid growth. "We are confident that we can... maintain the steady and fast growth of the Chinese economy," he added. At an earlier panel, the deputy governor of China's central bank, Zhu Min, defended the country's currency policy, emphasizing the importance of the stability of the renminbi. "It's very important to have a stable yuan, particularly in this very volatile market," he said, adding it is "good for China (and) also good for the world." A fellow panelist, Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, followed by saying that the yuan can be stable just a bit higher in value […] In a speech on the first day of the forum Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a veiled attack against China […] "Currency is central to these imbalances," he said, adding, "Exchange-rate instability and the undervaluation of certain currencies militate against fair trade and honest competition," AFP quoted Sarkozy as saying. Jeremy Jurgens, senior director of the Center for Global Growth Companies at the World Economic Forum, said, "The world is very much looking to China to better understand how China can stimulate domestic consumption without overheating. At the same time, China can only benefit from a sustainable recovery in the global economy." China is blamed for artificially keeping the yuan weak against the US dollar. A stronger yuan is thought to likely spur a massive inflow of speculative money, making liquidity management more difficult […]. ^ top ^

Mainland may hit brakes on rail network (SCMP)
2010-01-29
The mainland's ambition to build a rail network rivalling the United States' could run out of steam as Beijing tightens lending to cash-hungry infrastructure projects. There are now concerns that, having built enough rail lines last year to stretch from Beijing to Moscow, it will have to scale back the mammoth building effort. Weng Zhensong, a professor at the Economic and Planning Research Institute of the Ministry of Railways, warned that some railway projects were having financing problems as funds become scarcer. "There are some projects whose economic prospects are low," Weng said. "Rail lines to western China will find it hard to get bank loans." Despite being the centrepiece of Beijing's four trillion yuan stimulus package, funding for rail projects is falling victim to government efforts to put the brakes on lax lending, which has been blamed for creating asset bubbles. Under particular pressure will be operators of high-speed rail lines. Building a fast railway, on which trains can reach speeds of 350km/h, can cost three times more than a standard line of the same length. To cover the funding shortfall, operators of high-speed trains may have to set higher ticket prices. While some railway projects ran into financing problems last year, the situation would worsen this year with more funds needed, Weng said. That would put pressure on local government funding for lines in their regions. Work on the 30 billion yuan Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed passenger railway was threatened with delays last year as its builders sought more capital. Last year, spending on railway construction soared 78 per cent to 600 billion yuan. Spending will rise a further 17 per cent to 700 billion yuan this year, according to the ministry. Macquarie Research Equities says spending on railway construction will peak at 750 billion yuan in 2011 and 2012. The scale of the new network being rolled out is impressive. A record 9,524 kilometres of railway was laid last year and 6,840 kilometres will be built this year. That would bring the national network to 90,000 kilometres by the end of this year, the ministry said. China has the world's second most extensive rail network behind the US […] With Beijing tightening lending, banks are getting more selective about the projects they lend to. Ironically, the lending spree was sparked by Beijing's stimulus package, launched in late 2008 to combat the financial crisis. The rail network was the focus, accounting for most of the 1.5 trillion yuan earmarked for infrastructure […] According to Macquarie, 33,000 kilometres of lines are under construction, requiring a total investment of 2.1 trillion yuan […]. ^ top ^

Chinese vice-premier meets UBS, CISCO leaders (Xinhua)
2010-01-28
Visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang held talks on Wednesday with Swiss Bank Corporation (UBS) Chairman Kaspar Villiger and CISCO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Chambers on international economic situation and cooperation. During the talks, Li briefed Villiger and Chambers on the economic situation in China, particularly China's adoption of measures to deal with the global financial crisis, China's achievements in tackling the crisis and China's socioeconomic development strategies in a next period of time. Li said that promotion of mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation between Chinese enterprises and investors from all countries, including transnational companies, is a major part of China's basic national policy of opening up. Along with in-depth development of the process of economic globalization, China's competitive advantages in attracting and taking foreign investment will continue to remain and will keep strengthening. The Chinese government will continue to provide a better investment and development environment for enterprises from all countries in China […] Villiger and Chambers expressed the opinion that in the face of the global financial crisis, the Chinese government adopted a package of active and effectual economic stimulus plans in a timely manner, which swiftly brought about obvious results, and which enabled China to take the lead in tiding over the global financial crisis. They said that foreign companies doing business in China are optimistic about the prospect of China's economic development and are willing to participate in China's process of economic development on a long-term and sustainable basis, to realize mutual benefit and a win-win situation. Li arrived in Zurich earlier Monday for a four-day visit to Switzerland, during which he will also attend this year's World Economic Forum annual meeting in the Alpine ski resort of Davos. ^ top ^

Google in talks to keep mainland cash drivers (SCMP)
2010-01-27
Google hopes to maintain key operations on the mainland, the world's most populous internet market, even if its stand against censorship leads it to close its search engine there. Google is negotiating to keep its research centre on the mainland, an advertising sales team that generates most of the company's revenue in the country and a fledgling mobile phone business as it navigates the delicate talks with the government. Both sides are torn by conflicting objectives. Even if Google.cn is shut down, Google wants to keep its Beijing development centre and sales offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to a person familiar with its thinking. But that will not happen if management believes its decision to stop censoring search results will jeopardise employees on the mainland, according to the person. Mainland leaders are determined to control the flow of information, but realise they need rich and innovative companies such as Google to achieve their goal of establishing the country as a technology leader. Even some state media that rarely deviate from the party line have warned that Google's departure could slow technology development and hurt the mainland economy. Analysts are split on how the impasse will be resolved, with some resigned to Google departing for the foreseeable future, while others envision a face-saving compromise that preserves a toehold for the company. Robert Broadfoot, the managing director of Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong, is among the camp that expects the central government to bend its rules to retain Google. "They're hardly going to close the door on the innovator. They are very interested in what [Google is] innovating, because they may want it for themselves," said Broadfoot, who has advised companies on the mainland since the 1970s. David Drummond, Google's top lawyer, said on Monday that the global search giant's dispute with Beijing over internet censorship would probably be resolved in weeks, but it could take months […] Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told analysts last week that the company planned to make changes on the mainland in "a reasonably short time" while raising hope for a compromise. "We made a strong decision that we wish to remain in China," Schmidt said. "We like the business opportunities there. We'd like to do that on somewhat different terms than we have." The dispute prompted Google to postpone the mainland release last week of its latest mobile phones - a market with more than 700 million accounts. But the company said it still hoped to sell the phones on the mainland. Google will not say how many employees it has in China, but industry analysts estimate its work force at 700. The company is based in California and employs about 20,000 people worldwide. The Chinese sales force is important to Google because most of the company's revenue on the mainland comes from online ads sold on Google's US website, Google.com. The company also runs an ad network that places marketing messages on other mainland-based websites besides its own. Google could go back to trying to reach Chinese internet users with the Chinese-language portion of Google. com. That was Google's strategy before 2006, when it opened its censored search engine to better reach the Chinese population. Google chose a mainland-based search engine because the government used filters to restrict access to the US site. There is still a chance that mainland leaders may be more conciliatory behind closed doors. Google has been more circumspect publicly since confronting Beijing in a blunt posting on its website. ^ top ^

IMF: No serious asset bubble in China (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-27
The International Monetary Fund does not see a serious risk of a market bubble in China, a senior IMF official said Tuesday. "Asset prices in some specific sectors in some specific regions of China may be frothy but there is certainly no widespread asset bubble," Jorg Decressin, chief of the IMF's world economic studies division, told a news conference in Washington DC. ^ top ^

Chinese vice premier calls for closer economic ties with Switzerland (Xinhua)
2010-01-26
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Monday called for closer economic and trade ties with Switzerland, highlighting priorities for future cooperation. "China and Switzerland are major economic partners to each other. The economic and trade cooperation serves as an important basis for the development of bilateral ties," Li said when meeting with a group of Switzerland's leading entrepreneurs. China has a huge market demand and potential for further development, while Switzerland has a competitive edge in scientific research and certain industries and is home to many world-class companies, Li noted. Li said the economic and trade cooperation between China and Switzerland remained stable despite the adverse impact of the global financial crisis. "The two sides worked together in their fight against protectionism. This contributed to the steady growth of bilateral trade," he said. Li proposed that the two countries should deepen their economic ties through further liberalizing trade and investment, standing firmly against all forms of protectionism and pushing for an early conclusion of the Doha Round of global trade talks with a more balanced and fair result. China and Switzerland launched a feasibility study on a free trade agreement in November last year. Li said the two sides should press ahead with the feasibility study and get ready to launch negotiations as soon as possible. The Chinese leader called for a deepened financial cooperation in order to contribute to the world's financial system reform and a comprehensive recovery of the world economy. Cooperation on energy conservation and environment protection should be further strengthened to make it one of the shining points of the trade and economic ties between China and Europe […] Cooperation in the field of high and new technology and that between small and medium-sized enterprises of the two countries should also be further deepened, he said. Li said the trade and economic cooperation between China and Switzerland is embraced with a new starting point after 60 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. He called on both sides to take the chance to bring an even better prospect for Sino-Swiss trade and economic cooperation. Li arrived here on Monday for a four-day visit to Switzerland. He will also address the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Thursday. ^ top ^

Mainland banks look to raise 400b yuan (SCMP)
2010-01-26
The big mainland banks are planning to tap the market for a combined 400 billion yuan as they follow Beijing's orders to shore up their capital and pay for a profligate lending spree over the past year. Bank of China's announcement on Friday that it would issue convertible bonds worth 40 billion yuan is expected to open the floodgates for other mainland lenders that need to boost capital bases. "The BOC's fund-raising plan was just a curtain-raiser," Orient Securities analyst Jin Lin said. "It will be a kind of political task for banks to raise funds as the regulator places them under closer scrutiny." The aggressive fund-raising could be a fresh sign Beijing is concerned that the loose lending policies of the past two years could come back to haunt banks in the form of bad loans, putting a dampener on the mainland's buoyant economy. The fund-raising plan came as Beijing increased pressure on lenders to boost their capital adequacy ratio as fears of an asset bubble in the property market, and inflation, grow, analysts say. Mainland banks extended total loans of 9.6 trillion yuan last year, nearly double the minimum target of 5 trillion yuan. Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said last week that the government had to step in to rein in wild credit growth. In addition to the mainland fund- raising, BOC, China's largest foreign exchange lender, is expected to raise about HK$50 billion through a refinancing plan on the Hong Kong stock exchange. It told analysts yesterday the plan had not been finalised. ICBC and China Construction Bank, among the mainland's big four lenders, are expected to raise 100 billion yuan each via the capital market or bond market, according to Li Yamin, an analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities. Bank of Communications, the mainland's fifth-largest lender, will raise at least 30 billion yuan to shore up its capital base, analysts predict. Agricultural Bank of China, the only non-listed lender among the big four, is tipped to net 100 billion yuan on the Shanghai A-share market through an initial public offering. "The BOC and the BoCom are in bad need of fresh capital to ensure their financial health," Wang Yifeng, an analyst at TX Investment Consulting, said. "The impact to the stock and property market will be huge based on the massive fund-raising plans." The banking regulator requires the mainland's big lenders to have a capital adequacy ratio of 11 per cent, up from the previous 8 per cent. Capital adequacy refers to ratio of capital banks have put aside to cover their lending. The CBRC originally planned to raise the ratio to 13 per cent but decided to take the middle road in an apparent effort to allay concerns that a flood of new fundraising deals would lead to a stock market collapse. Analysts predicted the banks would grant combined loans of 7.5 trillion yuan this year as Beijing ensures the economy keeps growing. ^ top ^

'Great Firewall' may violate WTO pact, US group says (SCMP)
2010-01-25
Some groups are calling on the United States to challenge China's "firewall" before the World Trade Organisation, as a bilateral row over cyber-attacks on Google adds to trade tensions. As President Barack Obama awaits answers from Beijing on the cyber strikes, Washington is being asked to contest China's internet censorship as a breach of global trade rules to which the Asian giant, as a WTO member, is subject. "The US can argue that China's 'Great Firewall' - a system of filters and bottlenecks that effectively shutters the country within its own intranet - is an illegal restraint on international trade because it bars foreign companies from competing, via the internet, in the vast Chinese market," argues Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The nonprofit US-based free speech group has petitioned US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk, Obama's top trade official, to invoke World Trade Organisation treaties to curtail China's censorship of the internet. The mainland's action to halt internet commerce at its "borders" is akin to a government regulation requiring perishable agricultural exports from the US to sit for days on China's docks prior to shipment to internal distribution facilities, Scheer said. Kirk's office confirmed it was discussing the issue with the coalition and other groups. "This is a very complex area that we continue to think through, in consultation with interested groups including the First Amendment Coalition and have not made any decisions one way or another," USTR spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh said […] The mainland has the highest number of online users at nearly 400 million, surpassing even the United States, making it among the most appealing markets for foreign technology companies. When China acceded to the WTO in 2001, it agreed to give unlimited access and equal treatment to foreign-based or foreign-owned businesses in many categories of services, including online services, according to a recent report of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels. "These services count as imports to which China is supposed to be opening itself, even if they are delivered over a wire instead of in a shipping crate," it said. "The online market in China is simply too big for Europe and the US to let trade-distorting regulations pass without action. Victories at the WTO on this front would be wins both for commerce and for civil rights," the report said. The United States and China are also locked in other trade disputes ranging from tyres, steel and poultry to patents, Hollywood films and currency. The WTO has ruled against China in several cases that were brought before the Geneva-based global trade watchdog. In the latest case, the Appellate Body, the final authority of WTO dispute settlement, turned down last month an appeal by China in a dispute over its restrictions on the distribution of US printed books, films and music. Beijing must either open that market or face retaliatory tariffs. Scheer underlined the "considerable" advantages of a WTO strategy over the internet censorship issue following the cyber attacks on Google. He said that China in other recent trade disputes had shown it would abide by WTO rulings it disagreed with, reserving its right to request WTO rulings, to China's benefit, in other matters. "For the US government, playing the WTO card also demonstrates seriousness about curbing Chinese censorship, while... avoiding a direct confrontation with China," he said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

N.Korea holds American citizen for illegal entry (Global Times)
2010-01-29
North Korea said Thursday that it had detained an American for illegally entering its territory, the second time in a month it has reported doing so. The report by the official Korean Central News Agency said the man entered the country from China on Monday and "is now under investigation," but neither his name nor his motive was given. "His entry is not likely linked to the US government," Shi Yuanhua, the director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times. Shi cited the two previous cases: The detention of two American journalists in March and the arrest of US missionary Robert Park in December. It was unclear if the latest detention had any connection with Park, who was arrested for illegal entry […] Park, 28, crossed a frozen border river from China on Christmas Day to make a one-man protest against the North Korean government. He was reportedly shouting, "I came here to proclaim God's love." Washington has been seeking access to him through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which represents its interests. North Korea has detained a few Americans in recent decades. They were eventually freed, in most cases after high-level mediation. TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp after crossing the border and reportedly filming inside the country. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il pardoned them in August after a visit to Pyongyang by former US president Bill Clinton. "The North will use these hostages as bargain chips," Shi said, adding that Pyongyang is irritated by the US cold response to its prerequisites set for its return to the Six-Party Talks. North Korea is demanding that sanctions be lifted before it comes back to the talks. It also calls for early discussions with Washington on a pact to formally end the Korean War (1950-53). But the US and South Korea say Pyongyang must first return to the nuclear talks and demonstrate a commitment to scrapping its atomic programs […].. ^ top ^

U.S. calls for restraint in Korean peninsula (Xinhua)
2010-01-28
U.S. officials called Wednesday for restraint in the Korean peninsula, the same day as media reports in Republic of Korea indicated the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired artillery into waters of "no sail" zones it declared a day earlier. Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the DPRK's declaration of no sail zones and live firing of artillery were "provocative actions and as such as not helpful." Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called for restraint, saying although it is a bilateral issue between Pyongyang and Seoul, the United States "want to see everybody exercise restraint as they deal with this issue," and is "discouraging of any further acts of aggression." Earlier Wednesday, the DPRK fired some 30 artillery shells for more than an hour into waters north of the disputed sea border called Northern Limit Line (NLL), within the range of no-sail zones designated by Pyongyang a day ago. Seoul's Yonhap News Agency reported later the DPRK fired again, hours after the first firing. ^ top ^

DPRK accuses S.Korea of worsening inter-Korean relations (Xinhua)
2010-01-25
The Fatherland Peaceful Reunification Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) issued a statement on Saturday blaming South Korea for deliberately worsening inter-Korean relations, according to the official KCNA news. The DPRK emphatically condemned the remarks of South Korean officials that the South could make a "preemptive attack" against the DPRK and was working on a contingency plan in the event of leadership troubles in the north. Inducing confrontation in inter-Korean relations showed their "formidable minds", the statement said. If the South deliberately aroused conflict and war, the DPRK would beat them back with no hesitation, it added. The South Korean Defense Minister on Wednesday said if there were obvious signs that the DPRK was going to launch a nuclear attack on the South, it would make a preemptive attack against the DPRK. And a South Korean newspaper said the South Korean government was sketching a contingency plan for what it would do if Pyongyang's leadership collapsed.. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

China to send humanitarian aid to Mongolia (People's Daily Online)
2010-01-28
China has decided to send relief supplies to Mongolia to help it tide over the difficulties caused by the unprecedented snowfalls, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday in a statement on the website. This batch of supplies, including rice, food, portable power generators and quilts, will arrive in Mongolia's capital Ulan Bator in recent days, the statement said. Fu Ziying, vice commerce minister, said he hoped the relief materials could be help the Mongolian government cope with the blizzard when he met with Mongolian ambassador Tsedenjaviin Sukhbaatar Tuesday, according to the statement. China was the first country offering aid to Mongolia after it made requests for international aid, Tsedenjaviin Sukhbaatar said. ^ top ^

MPRP accepts resignation of two Mongolbank vice-presidents (News.mn)
2010-01-27
Meeting twice on Tuesday, both times behind closed doors, the MPRP group in Parliament finally decided to accept the resignation offers of Central Bank Vice Presidents B.Enkhkhuyag and D.Enkhjargal. Their likely successors are M.Zoljargal and B.Javkhlan. It is believed the former will be acceptable to the DP and the latter to the MPRP. Zoljargal is reputed to be close to Kh.Battulga, Minister for Road, Transportation and Urban Development, and has experience of banking. There is not much information about Javkhlan. The outgoing Vice Presidents are believed to have been asked to resign because of their “failure” to save Anod and Zoos Banks from going into liquidation. B.Enkhkhuyag, however, told newsmen he had resigned on health grounds and there had been no pressure on him. D.Enkhjargal, on the other hand, refused to say anything until Parliament took a decision on his request. He had given his reasons to the MPRP group but Standing Committees and Parliament were yet to discuss the matter. ^ top ^

Infection leaves four dead, 12 under intensive care (News.mn)
2010-01-27
The klepsiella virus infection which broke out in the First Maternity Hospital on January 18 has caused the death of four babies while 20 more are still suffering. The hospital has been closed down and patients transferred to other places. Sh.Enkhtur, director of the internal department of the Mother and Child Research Centre, has said they received the infected babies last week and 12 of them are still under intensive care. Some of those transferred to the Child Clinic when their condition improved are being brought back after their complaints recurred. The virus affects the lungs and most of the babies have symptoms of pneumonia and meningitis. “Babies born healthy are recovering quicker than others. The baby who is in an incubator has both pneumonia and meningitis. Survival chances are low,” said Sh.Enkhtur. ^ top ^

Zud Donations Mount to Help the Continuing Plight of Herders (UB Post)
2010-01-26
Totally 1,071,121 heads of livestock nationwide have frozen to death as of January 19, 2010 as a result of the severe cold wave that continues ravaging 19 of the country's 21 provinces, according to the State Emergency Commission. Around 90 percent of the country's territory is covered with snow, due to strong blizzards. Livestock in the worst hit western areas are running out of food and many have died of cold, hunger, or illness. The Mongolian government will spend more than Tg5 billion (about $3.5 million) to buy forage and medicine from neighbouring China and Russia. To date, Tg314 million has been donated by local organizations, companies and individuals to help herders experiencing hard times. In response to the Mongolian government's world-wide appeal to help the country overcome the continuing dzud disaster, more aid and pledges are coming from the international community. ^ top ^

Mongolia to grow faster in 2010, EBRD says (MONTSAME)
2010-01-24
Eastern European and Central Asian economies will grow faster than expected in 2010, but recovery from recession remains fragile, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Friday. Compared to October's forecasts, which predicted a 2.5 per cent expansion of gross domestic product (GDP) in the area, the EBRD now banks on 3.3 per cent growth in the current year. In 2011 it expects a further increase of 3.8 per cent of regional GDP. The upwards revision was driven 'by stronger than expected performance in four large economies in the region: Poland, Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan, on the back of stronger commodity prices and a resumption of capital flows to large emerging market countries,' a press release explained. However, the recovery is expected to be slower in 'smaller countries that do not export commodities,' while the Baltic economies and Hungary are set to remain in recession. 'The recovery in the region remains fragile, with large variations across countries,' the EBRD's chief economist, Erik Berglof, commented. The star performer are set to be Turkmenistan (+13 per cent), Azerbaijan (+9 per cent) and Mongolia (+7.2 per cent). Russia is predicted to grow by 4.2 per cent, Turkey by 4.2 per cent, Poland by 3 per cent. As a result of the global economic crisis, the economies of the region suffered a 6.1 per cent drop in GDP in 2009, after years of sustained growth. ^ top ^

About Mongolia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (MONTSAME)
2010-01-22
The first round talks ran Thursday in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish a partnership and cooperation agreement between Mongolia and the European Union (EU). The sides expressed their satisfaction with active development of the Mongolia-EU relations, and noted they are attaching great importance to these talks, which will widen the bilateral cooperation in all spheres and enrich it with new contents. The sides agreed to host the next round of the talks in Brussels, Belgium, and to bring it to an end in the short run. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) of the EU, which is made with states, covers all the spheres for bilateral collaboration as for the structure. However, the EU established the PCA with many countries with a variety of contents depending on countries' characters and interests. The EU established the PCA with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in late 1990s. Main purposes of these PCAs are to conduct political talks, create mechanism for the talks, enhance the democracy and system of human rights, to back efforts for developing the market economy. The PCA were also established with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. These agreements focus directions on supporting free trade, issue on intellectual property, reducing difficulties in commerce and on regulation on origin of products. In addition, it includes issues on immigration, human trafficking, and trade of drugs. Mongolia put forward its proposal on establishment of the PCA in 2006. Official talks started September 2009, the first round of the talks was conducted January 21, 2010. ^ 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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