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
  8.2-12.2.10, No. 306  
Startseite / Homepage   Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

Indian missile capabilities downplayed (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-12
Chinese military strategists shrugged off concerns of India's alleged ambitions to enlarge its missile-striking distance to reach as far as the northernmost tips of China. They also dismissed the claim by some media claiming India is far ahead of China in developing interceptor technology […] India is set to test within a year an Agni-V nuclear-capable missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers, the country's chief military scientist, V.K. Saraswat, said. Its current longest-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the Agni-III, can travel a maximum of 3,500 kilometers and is now ready for use by the military. Both the Agni-III and Agni- V will add muscle to India's "dissuasive deterrence" position on China, India's TNN said. Authorities said the pair would be able to carry 1.5-ton conventional or nuclear warheads, according to the Global Times report. "We feel our accuracy is better than China's DF 21," Saraswat said of the Agni-III, according to India's The Telegraph. The DF-21 is China's mid-range missile that debuted in 1999, along with its intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF- 31, which the army utilizes. Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor at the Chinese National Defense University, said India is still 10 to 15 years behind China in terms of missile technology. "It's still unknown when the Agni-III will be deployed by the Indian army, though they claim the missile is ready for use. And it might take at least another five years to ready the Agni-V," Zhang said. "In developing its military technology, China has never taken India as a strategic rival, and none of its weapons were specifically designed to contain India," the Global Times quoted Zhang as saying. The Agni-III is "a real mobile system, and hence it has a strategic advantage," Saraswat said. India previously said it may seek to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but Saraswat said no efforts are now being put into developing such a project. In the meantime, Saraswat said its ballistic missile defense (BMD) could better defend itself from missile attacks. "This (BMD) is one area where we are ahead of China. … We have been working on this program since 1999" […] But that assertion was downplayed, as Professor Zhang said the BMD accounts for only part of India's interception system, which also encompasses early-warning and guidance. "India's technology for its measurement and control system, which is used to trace launched missiles, remains at a very low level, and they are unable to constitute a complete and reliable missile defense system," Zhang said. Beijing test-fired its first missile interception system last month, and successfully tested its anti-satellite system in 2007 […] Details of China's first ground-based missile-interception system were limited, but the Xinhua News Agency said the test achieved its "expected objective." The United States and Russia are the only two countries that have actually deployed missile-interceptor technology. ^ top ^

China guarantees rights of Rio Tinto suspects: FM (Global Times)
2010-02-12
China said Thursday that the case involving four Rio Tinto employees charged with bribery and violating trade secrets would be handled according to the law […] "China will handle the case according to China-Australia consular agreements and relevant international conventions, and the rights of the defendants will be fully guaranteed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said. A Chinese court has charged the four employees of the mining giant – including China-born Australian national Stern Hu and three Chinese nation-als – with seeking and accepting bribes and with obtaining trade secrets of Chinese steel companies. Both the Australian government and Rio Tinto responded later Thursday by calling for a transparent and speedy trial. "We continue to emphasize to Chinese authorities the need for the case to be handled transparently and expeditiously," said a spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. "We are very concerned about the nature of these charges. However, as this is part of an ongoing legal process, it is inappropriate to comment any further," Rio Tinto's iron ore division chief, Sam Walsh, said in a statement, calling for a "transparent and expeditious" resolution of the case. He Maochun, director of the Economy and Diplomacy Research Center at the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times Thursday that by solving the Rio Tino case, China aims to boost its presence in the world's iron ore market, not targeting any country, company or individual. "The case exposes many loopholes in China's national security and Intellectual Property protection systems," He said. "The world's iron ore market is packed with hidden rules. China is the largest iron ore buyer in the world, but it doesn't have a powerful legal system to handle all the wrongdoings in the market. Chinese steel companies, disunited and stranded in domestic ruinous competitions, become sitting ducks in front of foreign exporters." "By solving the Rio Tinto case, Chinese authorities want to set up a legal benchmark for future litigation. They also need to study all the rules, hidden or not, in the world's iron ore market, and come up with an effective strategy," He added. Meanwhile, a lawyer for one of the accused told AFP that the trial was likely to be held this month or next. AFP quoted an analyst, who has personally investigated the case, as saying that Hu had little chance of being acquitted, and Lee expected him to get five to seven years in prison. "The mere possession of the information that Stern Hu had was illegal. I think there's no chance of finding him innocent," he said. ^ top ^

Decision time for China on Iran (Global Times)
2010-02-11
China remained silent Wednesday as the Iranian nuclear standoff with the West showed no signs of easing, with both sides looking to Beijing for a clear stance. Chinese scholars admitted that, with its growing economic ties with Tehran, the standoff will be a test of Beijing's "diplomatic wisdom." However, China should not simply stand with either side, as it could mean "a huge loss to ourselves," they said. After US President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday of swift international sanctions against Iran, the Islamic republic said Wednesday that it is willing to exchange its self-developed uranium for foreign nuclear fuel for use in a medical reactor facility. "The deal is still on the table," Iranian state television Press TV reported Wednesday, citing Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. Iran, which always claims that its uranium enrichment is only for peaceful use, said its latest step is to meet the demands of the country's cancer patients. But the United States fears that the nuclear enrichment, now up to 20 percent pure, is likely to be used for nuclear weapons. "Despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian use, they in fact continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization," Obama said Tuesday, adding that the US and five other world powers were "moving along fairly quickly" to follow with significant sanctions on Tehran. In what could represent a sharp shift away from previous statements, Russia has stood by the US and is in favor of a tougher stance on Iran, saying Tehran's latest actions raise doubts in other countries, and these doubts are fairly well grounded. Obama said he was pleased by how Russia has been "forward-leaning" lately but was uncertain about China […] Iran was also setting its hopes on China. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Tuesday that if China accepts it, Iran would consider swapping its enriched uranium with nuclear fuel via China. China last month sent a delegation to take part in six-way talks in New York to negotiate the issue as part of its efforts to dissuade Iran from going ahead with its nuclear program. An article carried by Reuters Wednesday, quoting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, said Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi had assured him of China's determination to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons when they talked on the sidelines of a London conference on Afghanistan on January 28. The Chinese foreign ministry refused to comment on the issue Wednesday when asked by the Global Times. But foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday, "We support all parties concerned in reaching an early agreement on the draft deal proposed by the IAEA on the fuel supply of Tehran's research reactor, which will help properly resolve the Iranian nuclear issue." "China is stuck in a dilemma in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue over its growing economic ties with Tehran," said Yin Gang, an associate researcher on Iranian issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Scicences (CASS) […]. ^ top ^

Japan, China discuss food safety (China Daily)
2010-02-11
China and Japan are busy negotiating a new draft food safety agreement, which may allow Japanese officials to enter Chinese factories for safety inspections. In cases where problems with China's exported food to Japan occur, the agreement would allow Japanese government officials to go to the scene to investigate, according to reports from the Japanese media, Sankei Shimbun. China's top quality watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), confirmed the two sides are in talks about a cooperative agreement on food safety. "Such an agreement is to implement the two countries' consensus on establishing a cooperative mechanism on food-safety issues," said a fax from the AQSIQ. The safety of made-in-China food products has caused great concern in Japan after a toxic dumplings incident in 2008. Traces of methamidophos, an insecticide banned in China, were found in some Chinese-made dumplings, which made about 10 people ill in Japan in January 2008. Chinese authorities said the dumplings were unlikely to have been contaminated in China, as no harmful chemicals were tested in the remaining samples and no abnormal operations were found with the producer. But Japanese officials insisted that the Chinese government further investigate the case and offer a clear explanation of the incident. A spokesman from the Japanese Embassy in Beijing told China Daily that the toxic dumpling incident is one of the reasons that the two sides are working on a food-safety agreement. "In a summit last November, leaders from both sides agreed to improve Japan-China food safety situations, which was proposed by our Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Now officials in charge from both countries are carrying out regular consultations to establish a new cooperative framework," the spokesman, who would not give his name, said […] He said the tainted dumplings event in 2008 had effected the food-export business from China to Japan. "In establishing further agreements, our goal is to prevent such safety incidents from happening again," the spokesman said. But no timetable is available yet […] However, experts said if the development becomes reality, it would be the first time that China granted foreign investigation teams permission to enter domestic factories […] Japan was China's largest food-importing country in 2007, according to a white paper on "China's food quality and safety situation" issued by the State Council Information Office the same year […]. ^ top ^

Surprise consent for US ship visit (SCMP)
2010-02-11
Beijing has approved a visit to Hong Kong by the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier battlegroup next week. That has raised many eyebrows given Beijing's recent vow to cut military ties and impose sanctions in protest against Washington's arms sales to Taiwan. The strike group had been given Foreign Ministry clearance to visit Hong Kong next week, Commander Jeff Davis, a public affairs officer with the US Navy's 7th fleet, said yesterday. "Hong Kong is a favourite port of call for US Navy sailors, and the ship's crew is looking forward to the visit," he said. A member of the Servicemen's Guides Association in Hong Kong, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the battle group's 5,000 crew members would spend four days in Hong Kong from February 17. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defence did not respond to requests for confirmation yesterday. The Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of the world's largest warships, is at present in port in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on routine deployment in the region. The Nimitz completed a mission to support coalition troops in Afghanistan on January 25. The Hong Kong visit has surprised many military observers who believed Beijing's approval would have been impossible given the bilateral tensions triggered by two rounds of US arms sales to Taiwan. Beijing retaliated over the sales by suspending planned military exchanges and, for the first time, vowing to impose sanctions on US firms involved in the arms sales. The Defence Ministry said in a strongly worded statement on January 30, a few days after the second arms sale, that Beijing had "decided to suspend planned mutual military visits". To add to Sino-US tensions after a honeymoon period last year, the White House says US President Barack Obama plans to meet the Dalai Lama, despite repeated protests from Beijing. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and exiled Tibetan leader, denounced as a separatist by Beijing, will be in Washington on February 17 and 18, according to the Dalai Lama's office […] Hong Kong-based military attaches said they would watch the USS Nimitz visit closely to see whether Beijing sent People's Liberation Army officers to functions on board. Typically US naval brass host parties aboard during port calls in honour of their host nation as a way to boost informal ties. "Technically a routine ship visit is not really a military exchange... but all the rest of the activities surrounding it could be seen that way," one Asian military attache said. "It will be a good way of detecting how serious China is really pushing this." But the coincidence of the timing of the fleet's arrival in Hong Kong and the Dalai Lama's visit to Washington led many military observers to doubt whether the port call would go ahead. In 2007, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk was denied entry to Hong Kong on a port visit coinciding with the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the US. Observers linked the denial to US president George W. Bush's presentation of a congressional medal to the Dalai Lama in Washington. The aircraft carrier and its battle group was on course for Hong Kong but had to return to its home port Japan after Hong Kong officials said they had not received Beijing's approval for the visit […]. ^ top ^

China rebukes spy charges (Global Times)
2010-02-10
China's Foreign Ministry Tuesday brushed aside speculation of state-linked spying activities in the United States, calling the charges fabricated with a hidden agenda. "Some people have always favored making up Chinese spy stories for sensationalism," ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu told reporters in Beijing. The remarks came as a US district judge sentenced Monday a Chinese-born former Boeing engineer to 15 years in prison for keeping classified documents at home and trading data related to aerospace and defense technologies to China, a ruling that the judge described as a signal to China to "stop sending your spies here." Dongfan Greg Chung, a naturalized US citizen and the first person convicted under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act, denied passing sensitive information to China. "I was planning to write a book. Those documents were going to be used for my reference," said the 73-year-old engineer, who was born in China and lived in Taiwan before moving to the US in 1962. US District Judge Cormac Carney said he handed down the sentence even without knowing exactly what information Chung passed to China, the AP reported. "But what I do know is what he did, and what he did hurt our national security, and it hurt Boeing," the judge said. Chung was arrested in September, 2006. He was convicted last year on charges of economic espionage and acting as an agent of the Chinese government for more than 30 years. Investigators said they found 300,000 pages of documents with information on the space shuttle and military hardware such as the Delta IV rocket, the F-15 fighter, the B-52 bomber and the CH-46/47 Chinook helicopter. The FBI claimed that it also discovered letters, lists and journals detailing Chung's contacts with Chinese officials. Chung worked for Rockwell until it was bought by Boeing in 1996 and stayed with the company until he was laid off in 2002, before being rehired a year later as a consultant […] Chung's attorney, Thomas Bienert Jr, said at the trial that his client might have violated Boeing policy, which forbids employees with access to key data from taking documents out of the office, but he didn't break any laws by doing so, and the US government couldn't prove Chung had passed any restricted information to China, the AP reported. Defense attorneys argued that much of the material was already available on the public record, the Los Angeles Times said. The attorney said his client would appeal, the AP said. The sentencing seems to shed light on the overly guarded mentality adopted by the US with respect to China in high-tech issues. Chen Liangyao, an information-engineering scholar at Fudan University, cited his personal frustration at meetings with US academics and complained that the US sets too many limitations on technological exchanges with its Chinese counterparts. "US authorities remain skeptical of our civilian-purpose research," Chen said […] A senior Chinese aerospace expert, who asked to remain anonymous, said academic exchanges with European counterparts are much smoother than those with the US. "The US (side) seems to be very vigilant compared with the Europeans," he said [...] China arrested iron-ore giant Rio Tinto's Shanghai office manager Stern Hu on charges of stealing state secrets last year. ^ top ^

China completes lighthouse construction to demark territorial waters in East China Sea (Global Times)
2010-02-09
China has completed construction of 13 permanent facilities - stone tablets and lighthouses - on islands and reefs in the East China Sea, in an effort to clarify its territorial waters' baseline in the oil-rich area. A naval survey team and civilian engineers have finished building a lighthouse at Waikejiao, 33 00.9' N and 121 38.4' E, the last of 13 permanent facilities built to mark the country's East China Sea territorial baseline, according to an officer with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's East Sea Fleet. Capt. Zou Xingguo, political commissar of the Navy's survey team, said the permanent facilities and data collection at the base points will clarify where China's territorial waters begins and provide substantial legal basis for China's claim. China joined the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1996 and claims 12 nautical-mile wide territorial sea adjacent to the country's mainland, Taiwan and other major islands […] China has settled land boundary disputes with 12 neighboring countries through negotiation, accounting for about 90 percent of its total borderline, according to National Land and Sea Defense Commission. But disagreements with neighboring countries over territorial waters remain unresolved. Japan regards China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea as it territory. The two countries also hold disputes on overlapping claims of their extended continental shelf in the East China Sea where both countries have oil-drilling platforms. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets, an inalienable part of China's territory since ancient times. The ministry opposed Japan's 2008 bid in the UN to extend its continental shelf. China has protested the Philippines' 2009 law that designates China's Huangyan Island and some of the Nansha Islands as Philippine territory. In another dispute, Vietnam still claims sovereignty over China's Xisha Islands, or Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea. ^ top ^

NATO chief eyes closer ties with China, India (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-08
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday that NATO should become "the hub of a network of security partnerships and a center for consultation on international security issues" with closer ties with countries such as China and India. The NATO chief said at the Munich Security Conference that in an age of global insecurity, the threats to Europe and North America, including terrorism, cyber attacks, energy cut-offs, piracy and climate change, come from far beyond NATO borders. In order to tackle these threats effectively, NATO should create "a stronger, more inclusive security coalition, with NATO as the hub," he said […] "Our success in preserving our shared security, including through NATO, increasingly depends on how well we cooperate with others." "We must take NATO's transformation to a new level -- by connecting the Alliance with the broader international system in entirely new ways," Rasmussen said. His idea is to create a permanent network of consultation and cooperation, with NATO as the hub, in which other important international players, such as China, India and Russia, could take part and discuss views, concerns and best practices on security or even joint training and planning […] The NATO chief also noted that a key lesson of the alliance's troubled mission in Afghanistan is that NATO "needs an entirely new compact between all the actors on the security stage." "India has a stake in Afghan stability. China too. And both could help further develop and rebuild Afghanistan. The same goes for Russia. Basically, Russia shares our security concerns," Rasmussen said. He also argued that by turning NATO into a forum for consultation on worldwide security issues does not mean that NATO would be a competitor to the United Nations. "That is not possible, nor is it desirable," he said […] The background for Rasmussen's idea is that NATO is currently debating a new "strategic concept," which is expected to be adopted at a NATO summit in Portugal in November […] Mei Zhaorong, former Chinese ambassador to Germany, reacted cautiously to Rasmussen's ideas. On the one hand, it represents a recognition of China's rising role in dealing with global issues, which is also reflected by the Munich Security Conference for the first time asking a Chinese foreign minister to make an opening speech […] "On the other hand, it is still a very sketchy notion, whose details remain to be seen... Western nations tend to be quite self- centric and when it comes to details, there may be conflict of interests," he said. "What remains to be seen is also whether it would compromise the role of the United Nations," he added […]. ^ top ^

US, China swap more tariffs (Global Times)
2010-02-08
China and the United States cranked up the tension Friday as they exchanged new tariffs, underscoring the increasing sensitivity and fragility of the world's most significant bilateral relations, which have been strained in recent weeks. China's ministry of commerce announced duties on imports of US chicken products Beijing believes are sold at unfairly low prices. In its preliminary ruling, the ministry asked importers of US chicken parts in China to pay deposits at customs – of up to 105.4 percent – starting Saturday, according to an online statement […] Later Friday, the US unveiled its countermeasure by slapping initial anti-dumping duties of up to 231.4 percent on gift boxes and ribbons from China that it said were unfairly priced, Reuters reported, adding that the US slapped much lower duties of up to 4.54 percent on Taiwan. China formally launched anti-subsidy investigations into US chicken products and auto parts in late September. That move came as the US imposed stiff tariffs on imported Chinese tires, adding to a growing list of Chinese exports that face US duties, including electric blankets and steel tubes. As much as $7 billion worth of Chinese exports last year were made subject to Washington's trade protectionist measures, Yao Jian, a spokesman with China's ministry of commerce, said […] China accounted for 19 percent of US imports in the first half of 2009, up from 16 percent in 2008, according to US Census Bureau figures […] The US trade deficit with China in the first 11 months of last year, however, was $209 billion, a 16 percent drop from a year earlier, which was $248 billion, according to statistics from the US Census Bureau. US President Barack Obama made an ambitious pledge to double US exports over the next five years in his recent State of the Union address […] The US has been a complainant in 93 out of the 400 or so disputes registered with the World Trade Organization in its 15-year history, the most of any nation, Reuters said Friday. Through the end of 2009, only India had more active antidumping and countervailing-duty measures than the US, it said. Tensions seem to have mounted between Beijing and Washington due to wrangling over issues including the value of the yuan, US arms sales to Taiwan and a scheduled meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama, who is viewed by Beijing as a Tibetan separatist. The Obama administration drew Beijing's ire last week by threatening a "much tougher" enforcement of existing trade rules. The US and China were also in dispute over the latter's Internet policy, after Google threatened to pull out of the country, accusing Beijing of backing official cyber attacks on the e-mail accounts of Chinese activists […] At the Munich Security Conference Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said a more developed China is an opportunity rather than a threat to the world. "The argument that a strong nation is bound to seek hegemony finds no supporting case in China's history and goes against the will of the Chinese people," he said. The WSJ called "a cheap currency, regulated interest rates and low energy prices" part of China's strategy, and that it is "stoking discontent in fellow developing countries, not just in Western capitals" […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

No straight line from wealth to freedom (SCMP)
2010-02-12
The trial of high-profile dissident Liu Xiaobo and the rejection of his appeal yesterday have added to doubts about a view long held in the West that as China's economy develops, its human rights situation will improve and democracy will inevitably follow. More than three decades after China opened up, nearly 10 years after it entered the World Trade Organisation and a little over a year after it hosted the Olympic Games, it has yet to show signs of greater tolerance for voices of dissent. In the past year, several high-profile dissidents have been put behind bars: Liu was sentenced on Christmas Day to 11 years' jail on subversion charges for co-drafting the Charter 08 manifesto, which calls for sweeping political reforms. Huang Qi, who helped parents of children killed in the Sichuan earthquake, was jailed in November for three years on a state secrets charge. This week, Tan Zuoren, who blamed shoddy school construction for the deaths of thousands of children in the quake, was given a five-year jail term on subversion charges. Between 1995 and 2005, relatively few high-profile dissidents were jailed, but that has changed significantly in recent years. According to official statistics, the mainland authorities' use of charges of "endangering state security" has risen sharply in recent years. Figures released last year show that more than 1,700 people were arrested on such charges in 2008, a huge jump from 742 the year before and 296 in 2005. A recent report from the Dui Hua Foundation, which lobbies the central government over political prisoners, said "increases on this scale are simply unprecedented in recent memory". An economically stronger and politically more confident China has less need to ask for favours from the West and is showing it has little to fear from international criticism, analysts say. China is the largest foreign holder of US debt, and with the US facing one of its worst economic crises even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played down human rights issues during their visits to China last year. "As China's economic clout has expanded, China has become more impervious to pressure and has certainly pushed back more vigorously," Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. "Beijing is able to do that because it sees through the weak rhetoric of the democratic countries." Is the theory that a richer China will have greater respect for human rights flawed? Analysts say that while it is true the improved living standards of ordinary Chinese and the expansion of a car-owning, mobile-phone-toting middle class have led to a greater demand for rights and freedoms, it does not follow that the government is willing to grant them any time soon. Instead, a government facing a slew of domestic challenges - such as rampant corruption, a yawning rich-poor gap and an estimated 100,000 riots or protests every year - is showing an overriding obsession with social stability and adopting heavy-handed tactics against dissidents […] Although the Chinese leadership is reacting to tensions in society by imposing harsh punishment rather than making institutional changes, some think it can still take the same road as Taiwan and neighbours such as South Korea. "But the jury will be out on this question for decades, perhaps, because of China's unprecedented size and remaining backwardness despite impressive, if uneven, economic and social progress," said New York University law professor Jerome Cohen. ^ top ^

Three stand trial for Inner Mongolian prison break, murder (Xinhua)
2010-02-12
Three prisoners who killed a guard while escaping from an Inner Mongolian jail in October 2009 stood trial in Hohhot Thursday on charges of breaking out of prison, murder, stealing, robbery and kidnapping. A total of four prisoners escaped from the Hohhot No. 2 Prison at around 1 p.m. on Oct. 17, 2009. Police shot dead one of the escapees and apprehended the other three after a 66-hour manhunt. The four were aged 21 to 28. Two of them were serving suspended death sentences while the other two were serving life imprisonment, police said. The trial is estimated to last two days. No exact date was given. ^ top ^

Innocent websites suffer in Beijing's anti-porn push (SCMP)
2010-02-12
More than 130,000 websites have been closed in the mainland's crackdown on internet pornography, although less than 12 per cent of them were actually pornographic. The figures, buried in a Xinhua report meant to hail the success of the anti-porn campaign, prove a long-held suspicion that the central government is using pornography as a pretext to suppress Web freedom. Since December, the Communist Party's Central Committee has ordered the country's state-owned internet service providers, such as China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom, to examine every website on their servers […] The official said the telecommunications operators sniffed through more than 1.8 million websites. By Wednesday, more than 136,000 had been shut down. Among them, "16,000 contained pornographic or sexually explicit contents, and among these, 11,000 were accessible by mobile phones", the official was quoted as saying. Porn-free websites were shut down because they were not "officially registered". Mainland internet regulations require websites to apply for a government certificate before opening to the public. The process is time-consuming and often abused by corrupt government officials. For years, many small websites, especially non-commercial ones built and maintained by individuals, have skipped the registration process. At about the same time that the anti-pornography campaign was launched, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced an amendment to the registration regulation. An individual citizen who did not have a business licence or government approval was no longer eligible to register. More than 100,000 websites were shut down "overnight", according to Xue Maoxin, a commentator on the mainland's information technology industry. Xue wrote in his blog that the government's "bulldozer" methods had angered many website owners […] "If the current campaign is aimed at those few that have pornographic contents, isn't it too hasty to shut down another 100,000 innocent websites overnight?" Mainland authorities have been using widespread fear of online pornography as a moral defence, and many parents do worry about the effects such websites can have on their children. But research by Chengdu Polytechnic University shows that the shame and fear associated with online pornography could be a result of government sex education, which describes sex before marriage as guilty and shameful. Psychiatrists Dr Wang Pei and Dr Zeng Fan interviewed 2,000 students on the campus last year. They found that students who had received formal sex education voiced stronger "resentment" against internet porn and felt more guilty when watching it. However, they were also more addicted to internet porn. The contradiction prompted the researchers to question the quality of sex education on the mainland. The mainland's high school sex education course is called "biological sanitation", and most of its content deals with how to avoid pregnancy and the disastrous consequences of premarital sex. ^ top ^

Sentence of dissident Liu Xiaobo upheld (SCMP)
2010-02-11
A mainland court on Thursday upheld an 11-year prison sentence for prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo for writings that called for multi-party democracy – perceived threats to the Communist Party's monopoly on power. Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, told reporters his client's appeal to the High Court had been rejected with no change in his sentence, which was meted out in December by the Beijing Intermediate People's Court. Liu, 54, was convicted of subversion for helping organise the “Charter 08” manifesto, which called for sweeping political reforms. He was detained shortly before it was released online in December 2008, and tried a year later. Before that, he was prominent in student-led pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing's Tiananmen Square that were crushed by armed troops on June 4, 1989. Diplomats from the United States and the European Union spoke to reporters outside the Beijing High Court and condemned the sentence. It is the second sentencing this week of a Chinese dissident. A Chinese activist who sought to document shoddy construction that contributed to deaths in China's devastating 2008 earthquake was sentenced to five years in prison for subversion, his lawyer said on Tuesday. Tan Zuoren was formally accused of inciting subversion of state power in emailed comments about the bloody crackdown on June 4, 1989, on pro-democracy demonstrators around Tiananmen Square. But Tan's supporters and Amnesty International say he was detained because he planned to issue an independent report on the collapse of school buildings during the Sichuan earthquake, in which more than 80,000 people died. ^ top ^

China to draft new poverty reduction guidelines for next decade (Xinhua)
2010-02-11
China has decided to draft new guidelines for poverty reduction through development for the next ten years, according to a statement of an executive meeting of the State Council held Wednesday. The meeting was chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. Participants of the meeting heard a report on the implementation of China's Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development Program (2001-2010). The statement said that Chinese government has made great efforts to lift the rural poor out of poverty by development in the past decade and has met the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the the proportion of people living on less than one US dollar a day "ahead of schedule". Other strides achieved by China are: noticeable improvement in the economic strength and infrastructure in impoverished regions, ecological degradation being brought under control, according to the statement. The country is also said to have made good progress in construction of a social security network, which has been extended to cover the nation's rural areas with the establishment of a minimum living standard system, the new rural cooperative medical system and the pilot old-age insurance system. The statement said China had been charged with an uphill task in poverty alleviation due to factors such as a large impoverished population, frequent threats of natural disasters, deep-rooted conflicts restraining the development of the poor areas. The poverty reduction departments were told to intensify the relief work by integrating the development of urban and rural areas, and uphold the policy of supporting the poor through economic development. The statement also called for great efforts in the forthcoming decade to ensure the rural per capita net income enjoying a higher growth than the national average. Efforts should also be made to gradually improve the health, the living standard, and capabilities of steady progress for the poor […]. ^ top ^

Judges urged to limit the use of death sentences (SCMP)
2010-02-11
The Supreme People's Court has urged judges to limit the use of death penalty to those convicted of the most serious crimes, under a policy of "justice tempered with mercy". Guidelines sent to courts nationwide still say the death penalty should be "resolutely" handed down when merited, but this applied only to a "tiny minority" of the most serious cases with ample, valid evidence, Xinhua reported yesterday. Mainland courts have sentenced at least 7,000 people to death, with 1,718 of them executed in 2008, according to Amnesty International. The mainland has drawn criticism from rights activists for the high execution rate and the range of crimes carrying the death penalty. It now applies to over 60 offences, including many non-violent and economic crimes. The new guidelines were issued ahead of a world congress against the death penalty this month in Geneva, where China is likely to be a focus for discussions. The rules call for courts to offer reprieves where allowed by law. When courts mete out death sentences with a reprieve, they are usually commuted later to life in jail. Supreme Court spokesman Sun Jungong, quoted by Xinhua, said the guidelines were a new interpretation of the "justice tempered with mercy" policy first approved in 2006. Repeat offenders should be treated with severity, while child and elderly offenders should get a more lenient approach […] Commutations for those convicted of major crimes, like murder, will be limited, and commutations for former officials who abused their positions must be heard in court, the guidelines say. ^ top ^

Critics decry quake activist's jailing (SCMP)
2010-02-10
The prosecution of Sichuan quake activist Tan Zuoren was clearly political and intended to silence whistle-blowers, critics said yesterday after he was jailed for five years. It also showed Beijing's unease with dissent, they said. Tan carried out an investigation of the shoddy school construction blamed by many for the deaths of thousands of children in the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008. In November another dissident who helped quake victims, Huang Qi, was jailed for three years on charges of illegal possession of state secrets and recently lost his appeal. Prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo, jailed for 11 years on subversion charges, will learn the result of his appeal tomorrow. "It's hard to observe this string of cases and not walk away with a sense that a very hard line has been taken against activists and those who have expressed a view and are being critical," said Joshua Rosenzweig, a senior researcher at the Dui Hua Foundation, which lobbies the central government over political prisoners. Tan was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" for having participated in a commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown by donating blood on its anniversary, publishing a commemorative essay online and exchanging e-mails with Wang Dan, a leader of student protests 21 years ago who is in exile. The court verdict said Tan's essay had "wantonly distorted, smeared and discredited the government's lawful handling of the June 4 incident" and incited people to take a confrontational stance towards the government. Although the indictment also accused him of talking to foreign media after the earthquake, "seriously smearing the image of the party and the government", the court verdict did not mention the quake. But his lawyer and other observers believe he was implicated because of his independent investigation into the collapse of school buildings in the earthquake, in which more than 80,000 people died. "The timing of his arrest and conditions of his trial clearly indicated... it was because he was a whistle-blower of the earthquake," Bequelin said. Tan's lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, called his jailing "a shame on the judiciary system". Outspoken artist Ai Weiwei, who compiled a list of the children who died in the earthquake, echoed him, decrying it as a "step backwards for the Chinese judiciary". "It also dashes the hope of members of the public who were hoping for the rule of law," he said. Pu said there was no law that suggested commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown was a crime. Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "It seems like the government itself is not confident in the legitimacy of the verdict. Five years for a state security crime is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut." The central government said 5,335 schoolchildren were killed in the disaster - a number that many say is a huge underestimate - and denied that substandard construction contributed to their deaths […] Tan's wife, Wang Qinghua, who was not allowed into the court, said the fact her husband received the maximum sentence possible was the worst outcome. "I am really disappointed," she said […] The atmosphere outside the court was tense, with a heavy police presence. Although a handful of Tan's supporters had been warned by the authorities to stay away, dozens still turned up to show their solidarity. Some tied yellow ribbons to crowd control barriers; police promptly removed them. Tan, an activist whose fight for an open and free society has inspired many, […] spent nearly two months investigating in the disaster zone, and said that out of about 2,000 school buildings damaged in the earthquake, fewer than 20 had fallen but the casualties at those schools made up more than 80 per cent of the total of children killed. "Construction quality is bound to be the reason," he concluded. ^ top ^

Beijing trains elite journalists to boost media clout (SCMP)
2010-02-09
In a bid to raise China's voice on the world stage and compete with Western media, Beijing is planning to assign an elite team of 100 specially trained journalists to the staff of leading state-run media outlets. Under a programme that began last year, Beijing Foreign Studies University, the capital's Tsinghua University, Communication University of China and Renmin University, and Shanghai's Fudan University have each enrolled about 20 hand-picked postgraduate students in two-year master of journalism courses that will provide talent for the likes of Xinhua news agency, China Central Television and China Daily. A recruiter at Beijing Foreign Studies University's department of international journalism and communications said the students were the first batch to receive multidisciplinary training specifically aimed at extending the international reach of state-run news outlets. "The Communist Party's Central Committee has required agencies in charge of international communications to work more closely with the designated schools and, in return, the universities will get extra funding," he said. Fudan University's journalism school is believed to have persuaded some postgraduate students to alter their fields of study to meet the quota. As part of a tailor-made curriculum, the university has invited editors from the English-language Shanghai Daily and municipal propaganda officials in charge of international communications to give lectures to the students. The training programme comes on top of a plan to spend between 35 billion yuan and 45 billion yuan to expand state-run news outlets. Xinhua, which is directly controlled by the party's Publicity Department and is expected to receive a major share of the windfall, launched a TV network last month, taking it a step closer to its ambition of becoming a global media empire to rival the likes of CNN and BBC. The 24-hour satellite news network, China Xinhua News Network, is running a world news service in Chinese and will introduce an English-language service in July. French, Russian and Spanish channels are also planned, meaning it will have to recruit a significant number of multi-talented journalists. China Daily, the only national English-language newspaper on the mainland, is planning to launch a US edition, although a staff member said no time frame had been set. It sent its first correspondents to New York and Washington last year. The paper launched a Hong Kong edition in October 1997, which now has around 30 staff in the city […]. ^ top ^

Chiang's book to be published on mainland (SCMP)
2010-02-09
A book penned by the man whose life embodied a large part of China's 20th century history, only to be dubbed the "No.1 public enemy of the Chinese people" by the Communists, will be published on the mainland. The Selected Family Letters and Diaries of Chiang Kai-shek will be the first volume of its kind to be available in mainland bookstores since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 […] Chiang was the Kuomintang leader who succeeded the founding father of China's first modern republic, Sun Yat-sen, to rule the country between 1925 and 1949 and then led a "government in exile" in Taiwan until his death in 1975. The book includes mostly family letters written by the Generalissimo of the Nationalist forces to his wife, children and grandchildren. It contains letters of historic value between Chiang and his wife, Soong Mei-ling, when the then first lady visited the United States to champion China's resistance to Japanese invasion. For five months in 1943, Soong seemed to be everywhere in the United States, speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York, travelling to San Francisco, talking on the radio and addressing Congress in Washington. Many historians say Soong's trip helped increase Chiang's international prestige, ensuring him a place among the Big Four allied powers during the second world war. Chiang's diaries also include content of historic events like the famous "Xian Incident" which historians have described as a milestone in the rise of the Communist-led armed forces. In 1936, General Chang Hsueh-liang seized Chiang at Xian, to force him to terminate the civil war against the Communists in order to establish a united front against the Japanese. Chiang ruled Taiwan under martial law, with democratisation introduced by his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, in the 1980s. From the civil war until the late 1980s, when mainland began to open up to Taiwanese investors, the mainland propaganda machine called Chiang the "No.1 public enemy of the whole Chinese people and nation", making Chiang a taboo and a most politically sensitive topic. ^ top ^

More tainted milk found in latest crackdown (China Daily)
2010-02-08
More than 170 tons of milk powder have been recalled amid a 10-day nationwide crackdown on melamine-tainted dairy products, authorities have said. The recall is the latest of dairy products to resurface from a 2008 contamination scandal that hit the country. Two dairy companies in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region were closed for selling tainted milk powder on Saturday, while candies made with tainted milk powder were found in Jilin province yesterday. The two affected companies are the Ningxia Tiantian Dairy Co Ltd and Ningxia Panda Dairy Co Ltd, Ningxia's regional government said […] Ningxia police also found that another company outside the region paid the Ningxia Tiantian Dairy Co Ltd last July about 170 tons of milk powder - melamine-tainted products left over from the 2008 scandal that should have been destroyed - as debt payment. From July to November last year, the company repacked 164.75 tons of the affected powder in their own packages and sold it to five factories in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Fujian and Guangdong provinces, police investigations showed. About 72 tons of the milk powder have been recalled and seized and the authorities are tracking the rest of the tainted products. However, the Ningxia Panda Dairy Co Ltd was shut down because it was related to the Shanghai Panda Dairy Co Ltd, a company that was earlier closed for selling tainted milk last year. Zhao Shuming, secretary-general of the Ningxia Dairy Industry Association, said: "Many small companies lack the technology to test melamine, an industrial chemical added to milk to boost false protein readings in quality tests." "As a small company, the Tiantian dairy company doesn't have a machine to test melamine. Such a machine can cost up to 1 million yuan ($147,000). So many companies are just not able to check if the milk powder they buy is safe or not. But their repacking of the products is illegal," Zhao told China Daily yesterday […] "Flaws in the previous system led to the current chaos. What if companies with tainted milk also hold back their stocks for this round of checkups and reuse them later, just like what's happening now?" he asked. He said the association has issued an emergency warning to all companies in the region to conduct strict checks on milk products they buy. The latest discoveries marked the second batch of tainted milk products found in the 10-day inspection that was launched on Monday last week. The first batch of affected milk products found in the latest crackdown was identified in Shaanxi province last week, with three suspects subsequently detained. A portion of the Shaanxi batch of tainted products had been sold to a company in Fujian, where candies were made with the milk under the brand name "Little White Mice". The candies have been taken off shelves, local media reported yesterday […]. ^ top ^

Trial ends for Chongqing crackdown's biggest catch (SCMP)
2010-02-08
The trial of a former top mainland official accused of gangster links, rape and taking bribes ended yesterday, bringing to a close the highest-profile case yet in a huge organised crime crackdown. A verdict in the case of Wen Qiang, former justice department director in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, would be announced at an undisclosed, later date, the No 5 Intermediate People's Court said in a statement. Wen, 54, is the highest-ranking official to appear in the dock in a string of prosecutions over corruption and organised crime that has gripped the nation with lurid details of sex and violence. At least nine people have been reported executed or sentenced to death in the trials, which have shocked the public by exposing the impunity enjoyed by crime kingpins as they terrorised Chongqing and lived debauched lifestyles. Wen, who was also once a top police official in Chongqing, has been charged with accepting more than 16 million yuan in bribes, protecting crime rings and four counts of rape, a previous court statement said. According to the Beijing News, Wen "pleaded guilty to some of the crime charges" brought against him, but countered certain details of the charges. In his last testimony, he argued the lai see he received from his subordinates for traditional festivals and his birthdays did not constitute taking bribes. He also denied providing any help to organised crime groups […] Wen's lawyer has said a verdict would be announced after the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on February 13 and ends six days later. The trial began on Tuesday and ended in the early hours of yesterday morning after hours of legal sparring. Evidence and testimony related to the allegations of bribery and protection were heard in open court, but the section devoted to the rape charges took place behind closed doors […] Wen was on trial with four other people, including his wife. A report by Xinhua said Wen's lawyer rejected a lot of the evidence pertaining to alleged bribe-taking, and had pleaded not guilty to his client protecting organised crime rings. In November, Wen's sister-in-law, Xie Caiping, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of running illegal gambling dens and drug dealing […] The trials have exposed a web of links between government officials and police officers who sought to provide cover for the crime syndicates. Up to 2,900 suspects, including 14 high-ranking government and police officials, have been detained. ^ top ^

China to raise bar for civil servant management (Xinhua)
2010-02-08
Chinese who dream of securing a lifetime "iron rice bowl" civil service job might have to think again, as the country mulls expanding a system that could sack civil servants with poor job performances. Yang Shiqiu, vice head of China's State Administration of Civil Service, told Xinhua Friday the administration would promote this year a system piloted in southern China's Shenzhen city, to classify civil servants into different categories for the sake of differentiated management, and to sack those with poor performances. Civil servants would be classified into three categories: general management, law enforcement and technical professionals […] Yang's words came days after Shenzhen city in the southern Province of Guangdong announced its plan to reform its employment system for the city's civil servants. "We planned to expand the pilot reform to more places across the country this year,... in order to deepen and perfect the reform," Yang said. Civil service has long been considered an "iron rice bowl" job in China, a term indicating stable employment and steady incomes. The country registers about five million civil servants, and sees more than one million people applying for government posts every year. But China has already been considering to replace the "iron rice bowls" with more fragile ones, to turn civil service into an incentive-oriented, performance-driven career option. On Wednesday, Shenzhen city announced its plan to reform the employment system for the city's civil servants. According to Wang Min, director of Shenzhen's Human Resources and Social Security Department, nearly 70 percent of its civil servants will be classified under the categories of law enforcement and technical professionals after the reform. Salaries of civil servants in these two categories would be unhooked from their ranks, but linked to years of service, job performances, and professional skills. According to Wang, the current civil servant management system in which officials were appointed by their superiors has proven to be inadequate in fostering talents and training promising workers, as only a handful of people could be promoted. The new system would offer chances for civil servants to improve their abilities and increase their incomes based on job performances and profession skills, he said. Meanwhile, all new civil servants to be recruited by Shenzhen starting from March this year will no longer enjoy a lifelong employment, but could be fired for poor performances. ^ top ^

China publishes Chairman Mao's manuscripts on military (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-08
China has published Chairman Mao Zedong's manuscripts on military theory and strategies and national defense, part of which were made public for the first time. The book, in three volumes, were distributed across China Sunday. The 821 manuscripts included Chairman Mao's telegraphs, instructions, speeches, talks, letters and inscriptions on military topics, among which 91 had not been released before. Compiled by the Party Literature Research Center of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Sciences, the book reflected Chairman Mao's thoughts on modernizing national defense and building the military after the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

City to raise retirement age to relieve pension fund (SCMP)
2010-02-10
Shanghai officials will raise the city's retirement age to relieve pressure on the pension fund as they struggle to cope with an ageing population and falling birth rates, state media said yesterday. Vice-Mayor Hu Yanzhao said the city's pension fund had fallen into a deficit because more than a fifth of the population had reached the end of their working lives, the Shanghai Daily reported […] "We will put off the retirement age of citizens, especially for female professionals," Hu was quoted as telling a government meeting on Monday. The retirement age is 60 for men and 50 or 55 for women, depending on the job, the report said. Hu did not say by how many years the retirement age would be raised, but experts have recommended five years. The number of people 60 and older in the city was expected to rise to 3.12 million this year, the report said. Shanghai's head of family planning made headlines last year by encouraging couples to have two children if they qualified under exceptions to the one-child policy. If both members of a couple are single children, they are allowed to have more than one child under the rules. The attention given to the announcement highlighted the struggle between demographers alarmed by a shrinking workforce and greying population, and officials convinced the mainland has too many people, experts said. Shanghai's former Communist Party boss Chen Liangyu is serving an 18-year prison sentence for his role in a massive pension scandal that rocked the city and the country when it came to light in 2006. Dozens of senior Shanghai officials were convicted in connection with the scandal. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Building stormed by angry villagers: Five held in clash over water diversion (SCMP)
2010-02-09
More than 300 villagers from Hengshishui in Guangdong stormed the town government's building, demanding the release of five people detained last week after a clash with police over a water diversion project. A water shortage in the province, where drought and widespread pollution have long been a problem, triggered the protest on Sunday. At least six people were injured and two police vehicles damaged, according to the Yingde city government, which has jurisdiction over the town. The residents - from the villages of Hengling, Xibei and Hengshi - had protested after being incited by troublemakers, a government statement said. Windows and office equipment were also broken. "At first, the villagers just wanted to submit a petition to have the detainees freed," Hua Shengzhou, one of the villagers from Hengshi, said. "It went out of control when the people became angry over the officials' bad attitude." The five detainees were among 100 representatives the three villages sent to a reservoir on Saturday to stop Hengshishui's water from being transferred to neighbouring Qiaotou town, where the river has been severely polluted by smelting factories upriver. "Many residents of Hengshishui worry that the water transfer project will worsen the water shortage problem," Hua said. "Our villages have been in drought for years and the situation gets worse year by year. The villagers feel that water should not be shared if their own farmland and livestock are already dying of thirst." No one from the Hengshishui or Yingde governments was available for comment. Many Guangdong cities, including Meizhou, Shaoguan, Shantou, Chaozhou and Qingyuan, have reported serious water shortages in recent years, especially in the northern part of the province. Each summer, the Beijiang, one of the three tributaries of the Pearl River near Yingde, dries up […] In November 2005, Yingde had to stop drawing water from the Beijiang as the effluent from a smelter in Shaoguan pushed up the level of cadmium, a heavy metal, to 10 times the acceptable limit. Thirty-four people suffered stomach pain and vomited after drinking water from the river. They were taken to hospital. Xinhua reported that government workers once poured iron and aluminium chemicals into the river. Officials said they hoped the additional chemicals would force the cadmium to sink to the bottom instead of flowing downstream. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Government may boycott by-elections (SCMP)
2010-02-09
Signs of a government boycott of the forthcoming Legislative Council by-elections are emerging, with ministers shying away from saying if they will vote. Their reluctance to state their position comes after Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he might not vote in the by-elections as they had been "deliberately engineered". The government's stance drew criticism from pan-democrats yesterday, while the Beijing-friendly camp said it had always been a matter of individual choice when it came to officials deciding whether to vote. In an interview with the South China Morning Post published yesterday Tsang said: "On this occasion, I have to think hard on what I need to do. I have not made up my mind yet." Separate inquiries were sent by the Post to the three policy secretaries and 12 ministers yesterday, asking for their stance on the by-elections and on whether they would vote. A collective reply was given. In a statement, a government spokesman said: "As explained by the [chief executive], the Basic Law does not provide for any 'referendum' mechanism. Conducing any form of so-called referendum in Hong Kong will not be recognised by the [Hong Kong] government. Nonetheless, the government will arrange the by-elections according to the law, so as to ensure that Hong Kong people will still be fully represented in the [Legislative Council] after resignation of the five [legislators] […] As to whether the [ministers] will vote at the by-election, individual colleagues will take their own view at a later stage." Asked about Tsang's hesitation yesterday, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said: "Whether government colleagues will vote, or how to vote, we shall have a decision when the election is near." Five legislators from two pro-democracy parties resigned last month to force by-elections, which they see as a de facto referendum on the pace of democratization […] Beijing-friendly parties and groups have said they will boycott the by-elections, which are expected to be held in the second half of May. The latest poll by the University of Hong Kong showed that 58 per cent of 940 respondents said they opposed the de facto referendum, compared to 50 per cent in a similar poll last month. Some 27 per cent supported it, up from 24 per cent last month. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Somali pirates release fishing vessel from Taiwan, China (People's Daily Online)
2010-02-12
Somali pirates have released a fishing boat from Taiwan, China, and all of its crew held since April, a regional maritime official said Thursday. "The Taiwanese ship was released this morning. The fishing vessel which has a crew of 30 from various Asian nationalities was seized in April last year," Andrew Mwangura, East Africa's coordinator of the Africa Seafarers Assistance Program, told Xinhua. The Win Far 161 was seized last April 4 near an island in the Seychelles, more than 1,100 kilometers off the coast of Somalia. The ship carried a crew of 30 -- 17 Filipinos, six Indonesians, five from the Chinese Mainland and two from Taiwan, China. Mwangura said 27 crew members were said to be safe, though a Chinese sailor and two from Indonesia died in captivity. The coordinator could not confirm whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the 700-ton ship and crew […] Somali pirates now hold at least seven ships and more than 160 crew members. The hijackings have prompted the international community to deploy security forces in the area to deter the pirates. ^ top ^

Beijing urges Taipei to allow agency bureaus (SCMP)
2010-02-11
Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office has urged Taipei to allow semi-official mainland agencies to set up permanent bureaus on the island to enhance cross-strait ties, just weeks after expressing its anger at US arms sales to Taiwan. Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing said yesterday that two travel agencies under the top quasi-official bodies handling ties - Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats) and the island's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) - were to be set up in Taipei and Beijing under 2006 deals. They also plan to let news agencies set up bureaus. "It's necessary and important to set up permanent bureaus because we have had more cross-strait issues to deal with since the implementation of the `three direct links'," Fan said in Beijing. "The two travel bureau agencies... also named `mini-Arats and mini-SEF' will help the development of cross-strait tourism and other areas." The "three direct links" - direct postal services, flights and trade - were established in December 2008. Fan said both Arats and SEF had submitted applications to officials on the other side of the strait last year seeking permission to establish the bureaus. "Opening dates for mini-Arats and mini-SEF are still being negotiated," she said. Fan also highlighted Beijing's strong disapproval of US arms sales to Taiwan, but said Beijing still regarded Taiwan as "a family member" […] Fan, a native of Nanan, Fujian, where people speak the same Minnanhua dialect as many Taiwanese, used the language to send a Lunar New Year greeting to the Taiwanese people. It was the first time a TAO spokesperson had spoken the Taiwanese dialect in 10 years of regular press conferences […] Beijing last week announced a halt to some scheduled military exchanges with the United States and threatened to impose sanctions on US firms participating in the arms sales to Taiwan. Zhang Tongxin, honorary director of Renmin University's Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Research Centre, said Beijing did not want rapidly improving cross-strait relations to be affected by the arms sales issue. "We look at Taiwan as our brother. This is totally different from the Sino-US relationship," Zhang said. "Cross-strait ties are our domestic issue, which shouldn't be ruined or be sown with discord by outsiders" […]. ^ top ^

Taiwan denies it dropped request for US subs (SCMP)
2010-02-10
Taiwan's Defence Ministry has denied reports that the island has effectively dropped a request for US submarines to help shore up the balance of power with the mainland. Reuters said yesterday the island was not asking for the submarines anymore, quoting an unnamed military source, adding that the biggest consideration was "the warming of relations with mainland China". Defence officials on the island, which has fallen behind in the military balance of power with the mainland, agreed with Washington in 2008 to a study on upgrading its ageing submarine fleet, but will stop pushing the item to keep peace with Beijing, the news agency said. Ministry spokesman Yu Sy-tue countered the reports by saying: "Absolutely there is nothing like that. We have continued to seek purchases of the F16C/D fighter jets and the submarines from the US according to our plan and also in line with the Taiwan Relations Act. Reports about this are totally groundless." Beijing has blasted Washington over a planned US$6.4 billion arms package for Taipei, saying it would place sanctions on US firms that sell weapons to the island. The package would include Patriot missiles and Black Hawk transport helicopters, also part of the 2008 agreement. The report also said Taiwan still hoped to get advanced US-made F-16 jets to boost its existing fleet to deal with the mainland's growing number of Russian-designed Su-30 and Su-27 fighters. A submarine sale would further ignite Beijing's anger towards Washington and could turn it against Taiwan, which has avoided the mainland's wrath over the recent arms proposal. Taiwan's navy included four submarines, two dating from the second world war, GlobalSecurity.org said. The mainland has more than 60 submarines, some capable of carrying nuclear ballistic missiles. Taiwan has sought peace since its Beijing-friendly president, Ma Ying-jeou, took office in 2008, brokering a series of trade and tourism deals. ^ top ^

Taiwan vows to seek more arms (SCMP)
2010-02-08
Taiwan's defence minister has vowed to seek more weaponry from the US, which he said would give the island greater confidence in pushing for rapprochement talks with Beijing. The remarks come as Beijing and Washington are locked in an escalating row over a US arms sale to Taiwan. Beijing has responded with a raft of reprisals, saying it would suspend military and security contacts with Washington, and impose sanctions on American firms involved in the US$6.4 billion deal. Taiwanese Defence Minister General Kao Hua-chu said on Saturday the arms sale would help stabilise the Taiwan Strait. "The United States has kept providing Taiwan with defensive weapons according to the Taiwan Relations Act, enabling Taiwan to be more confident in pressing for reconciliation with the Chinese mainland," he said […] "In the future, Taiwan will continue purchasing more weaponry from the United States... so as to build a smaller and leaner deterrent force." Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allow in more mainland tourists. Still, Beijing has not renounced its use of force against Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949. Also, since 1989, mainland defence budgets have grown by double-digit percentages each year, while those of Taiwan have dwindled to single-digit growth. At the opening of a security conference in Munich on Friday, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said US arms sales to Taiwan violated standards in international relations and would provoke a reaction. Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih dismissed Yang's allegations, saying Beijing's continued missile build-up along the coastline facing the island had prompted Taiwan to seek more self-defensive weaponry […] Taiwan's latest package of US weaponry includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and communication equipment for its F-16 fighter jets, but not the submarines and fighter aircraft it had requested. Analysts say the United States is unlikely to provide Taiwan with more sophisticated arms or further increase its defence commitment to the island, and that US arms sales to Taiwan will not stop the cross-strait military balance tilting further towards the mainland. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China urges US to withdraw decision on Obama-Dalai meeting (Global Times)
2010-02-12
China urges the United States to immediately withdraw a decision of arranging US President Barack Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Friday. China has lodged solemn representation with the United States over such a decision, Ma said in a statement when responding to relevant questions. "China firmly opposes the Dalai Lama visiting the United States and US leaders' contacting with him," Ma said, adding China's position on the issue has been "consistent and clear." Ma said China has made repeated solemn representations with the US side over Obama's possible meeting with the Dalai Lama recently. "We urge the US side to fully understand the high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, honor its commitment to recognizing Tibet as part of China and opposing 'Tibet independence,'" Ma said. According to reports, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday afternoon local time that the meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama was slated for Feb. 18 at the White House. Ma also called on the Unites States to refrain from offering the Dalai Lama venue and convenience for his engagement in anti-China splitting activities, and undermining the stability of Tibet and interfering in China's internal affairs, so as to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China, Kazakhstan companies ink deal on hydropower station (Xinhua)
2010-02-12
China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd (CGGC), a leading State-owned enterprise of infrastructure construction in the country, has signed a 4.97 billion yuan (727.78 million U.S. dollars) contract with a Kazakhstan company on a hydropower project, said CGGC Thursday. In a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, CGGC said the contract with Kazakhstan Natural Gas Technology Co., Ltd. will allow it to construct a hydropower station, with an installed capacity of 254 megawatts, on the Chilik river in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. The project will last 57 months. Given that the contract is a long-term one, CGGC predicts little influence on its net profit in 2010. According to the statement, the contract is yet to be approved by either government. Shares of the CGGC opened slightly lower at 13.41 yuan per share, up 1.13 percent compared with Wednesday's close. ^ top ^

CCOIC: More trade frictions ahead (Global Times)
2010-02-12
Although China has become the world's largest exporter, a senior official of the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC) is not optimistic on the outlook for exports this year and warned of trade frictions, saying Chinese enterprises should prepare to protect their rights. "Trade frictions will become normal, but are not likely to escalate into a full-blown trade war," said Wan Jifei, chairman of the CCOIC […] "Not only are Chinese enterprises badly affected by trade frictions, but consumers around the world also get hurt, especially those used to enjoying highly cost-effective Chinese goods who now have to pay more in the economic recession," Wan said. There were about 116 trade protectionism cases against Chinese exports in 2009, involving a total value of $12.7 billion, which accounts for 1 percent of China's total export values, according to figures from the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs. Wan said trade frictions and disputes now have extended from developed countries to emerging economies such as Brazil and India, which have initiated investigations against Chinese exports. "It is because Chinese products are popular around the world," he said. China surpassed Germany last year to become the world's largest exporter. Analysts say this will make China the main target of rising protectionism. Wan said expectations for exports this year are down due to "the weak demand of the international market" and "the increasing trade frictions." However, he said China's "export structure and quality are more important than export values," adding that the country's exports mainly focus on labor-intensive and low value-added products. This year China is aiming to maintain its current market share and develop high value-added products, he said. This might not be easy for China, as more countries have come to depend on exports to solve unemployment problems and stimulate their domestic economies. US President Barack Obama promised last month to double the US's exports over the next five years, which could create two million jobs […] Costs of Chinese-made products are now higher than those made in Mexico, India, Vietnam, Russia and Romania, due to increasing exchange rates, raw-material, transportation and inventory costs, according to a report released recently by AplixPartners, a US consulting firm. "China will face competition with developed countries in high-end products, and challenges from developing countries in traditionally dominant products," Wan said. He said the CCOIC will provide legal counseling to Chinese enterprises against trade protectionism, and offer advice on preferred investments and trade destinations […]. ^ top ^

Trade increase continues in January (Global Times)
2010-02-11
China, now the world's largest exporter, reported further improvement in trade growth in January, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) Wednesday. Imports surged 85.5 percent from a year earlier to total $95.31 billion in January, the highest growth rate since 1993, while exports rose 21.0 percent to record $109.48 billion, falling short of market expectations for a 30 percent increase. The total trade in January rose 44.4 percent to reach $204.78 billion, said the GAC. Analysts said the figures are not as exciting as they look, however. "Don't take the January trade data too seriously," Lu Ting, an economist with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, said […] The different timing of the Chinese New Year festival, which was in January last year and in February this year, makes the year-on-year comparisons "almost meaningless," Lu said. The January figures declined from December, with exports down 16.3 percent and imports down 15.1 percent. The growth in both exports and imports is mostly due to a low base in January 2009, said Lu Zhengwei, a senior economist with Industrial Bank. Exports totaled $90.45 billion in January 2009, while imports reached only $51.34 billion, the lowest level since June 2005 […] The faster growth in imports, which shrank China's trade surplus, is also noteworthy. The trade surplus in January was $14.17 billion, compared with $39.11 billion in January last year. China's booming domestic demand drove higher import growth, Sun Mingchun, chief China economist at Nomura Securities in Hong Kong, said […] Ultimate consumption contributed 4.6 points to the 8.7 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2009, while net exports subtracted 3.9 points, the National Bureau of Statistics said February 2. "The global economic recovery, particularly in emerging markets, is buoying China's exports, which have a high import content," Sun added. Imports are expected to grow 20 percent this year, while exports will likely grow 11 percent, with imports growth being "almost twice as fast as exports this year," Sun predicted. The country's exports will generally continue on a recovery track, but it won't be smooth, given the protectionism haunting global trade, Lu of Industrial Bank said. Export growth year-on-year is likely to slow down, as the low base effect will gradually fade away, he added. Both Sun and Wang Tao, head of China Economic Research at UBS Securities, also said an appreciation of the yuan is expected to happen sometime in the second quarter of this year. Wang wrote in a report yesterday that "the government has been seriously studying the issue of the exchange rate and [is] increasingly concerned about rising protectionism from abroad." The appreciation of the yuan is expected to happen gradually, with $1 equaling 6.40-6.50 yuan by year's end, Wang said. ^ top ^

Rate of inflation 'still low' (China Daily)
2010-02-10
Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said yesterday China's inflation rate remains "relatively low", amid ongoing debate among officials and economists on when policymakers should raise interest rates to rein in rising inflation and asset prices. The inflation rate still needs to be "closely watched", Zhou told reporters in Sydney after a meeting with other central bankers. China's consumer price index (CPI), a major measure of inflation, rose by 1.9 percent in December from 0.6 percent in November, due to the country's ample liquidity. The country initiated its economic stimulus plan to keep economic growth stable in late 2008. Chinese banks extended 9.6 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) in new yuan loans in 2009, almost double that of 2008, while the lending in January is forecast to reach 1.3 trillion yuan. The rapidly rising inflation, together with surging house prices, has led to expectations of imminent interest rate hikes. The stock market has also been declining in recent trading days as investors expected more tightening policies following the country's move to raise the reserve requirement ratio of commercial banks and tighten real estate deals. But Dai Xianglong, chairman of the influential National Social Security Fund, said in a speech in India on Monday that China was unlikely to raise interest rates in the first half of 2010 as the economic recovery was still not on solid ground. Dai, a former central bank governor, said that despite possible policy adjustments to combat inflation and asset bubbles, money and lending supply will remain relatively loose over the course of the year. "Interest rate hikes are not the most appropriate tool if policymakers want to control inflation," said Zuo Xiaolei, chief economist of China Galaxy Securities. China's recent inflation rise, in essence, stems from increasing liquidity in the financial system. The best way to curb inflation is to raise banks' reserve requirement rate or conduct open market operations, she said. China announced the raising of banks' reserve requirement ratio, or the proportion of money commercial banks must keep in reserve, on Jan 12. It has also resorted to a number of open market operations to mop up liquidity as banks rushed to lend to pre-empt a possible tightening of policy. China may continue to raise the requirement ratio this year, possibly increasing it three or four times to 18 percent from the current 16 percent, said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist of HSBC […]. ^ top ^

Chinese firms accused of tariff evasion (Global Times)
2010-02-10
The accusation by a US industry group that Chinese manufacturers of steel wire products evade anti-dumping duties via third countries is connected to gloomy economic prospects in the US, and even if confirmed as true, however, should be taken on a case-by-case basis, analysts said Tuesday. The US Coalition for Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Orders said it had gathered "compelling evidence of how certain manufacturers (in China) are evading duties," the AFP reported Tuesday. Citing "transshipment" or "inconsequential modification" in third-party economies, the coalition, comprising six companies manufacturing steel wire products, claimed the resulting duty evasion costs the US "at least $84 million annually" and "threatens jobs." Exporting semi-manufactured goods to a third economy for further production is a normal business code in international trade, Yao Xinchao, a professor of international trade at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), said Tuesday, while pointing out that differences in the case may involve various interpretations over rules of origin, which usually stipulate the proportion of added-value produced in the third economy. The duty-evasion charge comes at a time when the US is beefing up its protection for domestic steel industries with high-profile anti-dumping and countervailing duties amid its gloomy business prospects in order to curb any possible competition. The austere US economy, still plagued with unemployment as high as around 10 percent, casts a shadow on the industry, pushing lobbyist groups to pressure Washington to reduce possible impact from competition, Yao added, while pointing out that the increasingly close US-China business development makes more frictions possible, a normal phenomenon in international trade. Therefore, trade frictions in the steel industry may turn more serious than in 2009, Xu Xiangchun, information director of mysteel.com, told the 21st Century Business Herald in January. However, the tariff evasion via third economies, despite being a familiar approach for businesses in order to break tariff or non-tariff barriers, is not a long-term measure, since the final importer can easily fight back by seeking policy adjustments to offset the trade distortion brought by evasions and to achieve protectionist purposes, said Lu Jinyong, professor at the China Research Center for Foreign Direct Investment, UIBE. In contrast, direct investment, another way to break barriers, is welcome for the host country, according to Lu. The so-called tariff evasion of Chinese steel wire manufacturers, even if confirmed, falls into the category of individual cases, and is not encouraged by the Chinese government, Lu noted. ^ top ^

Google knockoff defiant (Global Times)
2010-02-09
The founder of a Chinese knockoff of Google is denying allegations of copyright infringement, and vowed Monday not to bow to pressure from the Internet search engine giant. The relatively new search engine and social networking site, called Goojje, is growing in popularity. As a result, Google lawyers sent the site a cease-and-desist letter, received Sunday, claiming that Goojje infringes on Google's rights and trademark by imitating the latter's logo, which could mislead users into thinking the sites are related. Goojje's chief founder, who goes by the pseudonym Xiao Xuan, told the Global Times Monday that Google's allegations are "unimaginable," because people who understand Chinese know of the difference between the two sites. Xiao has refused to give his real name, but he said his site will resort to legal action if necessary to protect its so-called rights. Xiao is a 2008 university graduate who studied media and printing. His site's name is a play on words. "Goo" represents the name, while "jje" sounds similar to "elder sis-ter" in Chinese, or "jiejie." Put together, they mean "sister Goo." Whereas the Chinese name for Google sounds like "brother Goo." Goojje launched on January 14 – one day after Google threatened to pull out of China after claiming that hacking attempts were launched against its e-mail servers. Goojje has been criticized as a knockoff of both Google and Baidu, as Goojje's logo is sort of a hybrid of the two biggest search engines in China. When Goojje launched, it ran a message under its logo saying, "The brother is leaving … but the sister will be missing him." But after Google decided to stay, Goojje changed its message to "The brother stayed for the sister." Wu Mengyi, a legal specialist with Baidu, told the Global Times Monday that Baidu is aware of goojje.com and its logo's resemblance to Baidu's. But she said the company had no intention to take action against Goojje. It's short lifespan notwithstanding, Goojje's popularity as a website, according to ratings by the Alexa Web information company, put it at 11,073rd worldwide and 496th domestically. The site boasted 60,000 registered users as of Thursday, when Xiao said hackers started trying to access goojje.com. "Since February 4, sophisticated unidentified hackers have been trying to attack the site over three days, and users couldn't register any more," Xiao told the Global Times. The team has reported the hacking to the police. Xiao wouldn't speculate on the source […] Goojje is independently financed and run by eight college students, including Xiao […] Google had no comment Monday […]. ^ top ^

Hu ramps up pressure for shift to smart economy (SCMP)
2010-02-08
President Hu Jintao's latest call for adjustment of the mainland's development pattern highlights the serious growth challenge facing the world's third-largest economy and the central leadership's frustration over its failure to bring local officials to heel, analysts say. In a speech at the opening of a seminar for provincial- and ministerial-level officials on Wednesday, Hu urged the country to speed up the transformation of its economic development to rely more on domestic consumption and innovative new industries. "The speech shows that the senior leaders are serious about changing the growth model, and are trying to gather consensus and support for some tough structural reforms to come," said Tao Wang, head of UBS Securities' China economic research. Analysts said the president was just reiterating what had been policy for years, but his calls for economic restructuring were among the strongest yet from the Chinese leadership, indicating it has become a more urgent priority. "The fact that the speech was made at an occasion that almost all the Politburo members, central and regional economic leaders were called to attend suggests the top leadership's frustration at the poor implementation of a policy that has been in place for years," said Hu Xingdou, a political commentator with Beijing University of Technology […] Ma Guoxian, director of the Public Policy Research Centre at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said a skewed appraisal system had abetted the blind pursuit of economic growth and, in turn, overcapacity and environmental damage. "For many years, GDP growth has been the top criterion to evaluate local officials. As a result, they spent massively to build white-elephant projects, paper mills or small coal-fired power plants without considering economic efficiency or the pollution and energy costs," Ma said. Chinese leaders have called for the shutting down or revamping of outmoded, inefficient and pollution-prone plants to be speeded up, as overcapacity undermines future growth. Steel, cement and flat-glass industries are among those with the most serious overcapacity problems. The excess capacity in the steel industry has reached 200 million tonnes with another 58 million tonnes under construction. The excess capacity in cement was 470 million tonnes by the end of 2008, but another 600 million tonnes of capacity were put to use or under construction last year. The spending spree last year has made the problem worse […] "The robust growth last year does not solve, but worsens the problem, which, if not dealt with properly and in a timely manner, will produce not only economic problems, but social and political consequences," Ma said […] In a speech at the same occasion, Premier Wen Jiabao said the mainland's growth model should be reformed so that it was based on technology and human innovation. ^ top ^

China plans more LNG imports (Global Times)
2010-02-08
China plans to import more liquefied natural gas (LNG) to relieve its fuel shortfall, according to a report Sunday by the Xinhua News Agency citing Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Administration. Zhang said that domestic gas companies should seek more long-term LNG contracts to take advantage of a global surplus of the fuel. The country's gas companies, including PetroChina and China Petroleum & Chemical, known as Sinopec, have been marking up gas output and imports to ease a supply shortage since January. China imported about 3.5 million metric tons of LNG last year, or about 6 percent of its total demand […] From 2010, China will build more LNG terminals in Guangdong and Shandong provinces, Zhang said. The country plans to speed up construction of natural gas pipelines and storage facilities on the coast, according to the report. China State Shipbuilding, the country's biggest shipyard, launched three self-developed liquefied natural gas ships Sunday. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

S Korea proposes to hold working-level military talks with DPRK on Feb. 23 (Xinhua)
2010-02-12
South Korea on Friday suggested holding working-level military talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on improving logistics at their joint industrial park in the border town of Kaesong on Feb. 23, the government said. South Korea sent a message earlier Friday to the DPRK to suggest meeting in the village of Panmunjum, and the DPRK is expected to accept the proposal, Seoul's defense ministry said. The move came after South Korea and the DPRK wrapped up two rounds of separate working-level talks on improving operations at the industrial park, which failed to narrow their differences on pending issues. The DPRK in late January proposed to immediately hold military talks on improving transportation, communications and customs systems there, but the South Korean defense ministry rejected the request, opting to wait for the second round of a working-level meeting that came on Feb. 1. The Kaesong industrial park has been one of the key symbols of economic cooperation between the two sides, though worsening ties between the two sides have occasionally put operations there in danger. Currently, some 110 South Korean companies are based in the complex, employing about 42,000 workers from the DPRK mostly producing labor-intensive goods. ^ top ^

UN adviser in North Korea for talks (Global Times)
2010-02-11
A high-ranking UN adviser is in North Korea this week to discuss issues ranging from the country's nuclear program to humanitarian aid. Lynn Pascoe, adviser to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, left Tuesday for a four-day visit to make progress in stalled talks, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Also Tuesday, North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, arrived in China to begin a series of talks deemed conducive to restarting the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization that have been stalled since April. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has reaffirmed "the country's persistent stance to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," and his intension to resume disarmament dialogues. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this week that Wu Dawei, former vice foreign minister, has been appointed as the special representative of the Chinese government on Korean peninsular affairs. Wu would represent China in the Six-Party Talks and related issues, according to a ministry press release. Wu has served as China's ambassador to North Korea and Japan, and he has participated in the previous Six-Party Talks as head of the Chinese delegation, according to Xinhua. The US, while applauding North Korea for "saying the right things," further urged the country to adopt concrete steps to honor its statement on resuming "the six-party process" and remaining "committed to denuclearization," according to US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. Washington reiterated that the North is obliged to commit to previous agreements prior to negotiations on other issues. "North Korea's internal issues have driven the country to cease hostilities with the international community," Sun Zhe, a professor with the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University noted. North Korea's economy has been crippled by tighter UN sanctions, namely by stopping the country's weapons exports – its principal source of finance. "The country has been further mired in a spiraling deterioration, as a foiled currency reform sent commodity prices skyrocketing and a marginally dwindling food supply is affecting its people," Sun said. South Korea's Unification Ministry said Wednesday that North Korea's food production last year fell far short of demand, estimated at about 5.2 million tons by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and think tanks, Reuters reported. The UN's World Food Program noted in September that a third of women and young children in the North are malnourished, AFP reported […] North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il has apologized for a bungled currency revaluation that sent food prices skyrocketing and sparked public unrest, a South Korean welfare group said in a newsletter. The Good Friends group said Kim expressed regret for the "confusion and instability" caused by wrongly fixed prices at state-run shops, during a recent meeting of senior members of the Pyongyang Municipal People's Committee […] The revaluation, announced November 30, involved a 100-for-one swap of old won banknotes for the new currency. But restrictions on the total amount that could be changed wiped out savings in many cases. Uncertainty and confusion sent prices soaring and worsened food shortages. A top finance official, Pak Nam-ki, has been blamed for the chaos and fired, according to South Korean media reports. The currency change was widely seen as the regime's attempt to crack down on a burgeoning free-market economy. The North is now relaxing some curbs on the markets because of mounting public anger, South Korea's spy agency said last week. Good Friends said the North's Ministry of Foreign Trade has ordered trading companies to "import food unconditionally," and illegal money changers arrested in mid-January have been freed. ^ top ^

Eased Korean Peninsula tensions bring opportunity for six-party talks' revival: FM spokesman (Xinhua)
2010-02-10
The Korean Peninsula nuclear situation has eased recently, providing an opportunity for resuming six-party talks and denuclearizing the peninsula, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said here Tuesday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu made the remarks following questions on whether a Chinese official's visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and a UN envoy's trip to China meant the resumption of the talks. Ma confirmed that a special envoy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Beijing. "Lynn Pascoe, under-secretary-general of the UN for political affairs had exchanges with China's Foreign Minster Yang Jiechi on the Korean Peninsula situation and other issues of mutual concern earlier Tuesday." The DPRK nuclear issue is complex and sensitive, involving interests of various parties, and can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. Peaceful solutions through political and diplomatic means are the right choices that serve interests of all parties, Ma said. The stalled six-party talks involve the DPRK, the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Kim Jong Il, top leader of the DPRK, reiterated on Monday the country's stance of realizing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula during a meeting with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. Ma urged the relevant parties to make concerted efforts and to continue contact and dialogue and to show flexibility to create the conditions necessary for the revival of the nuclear talks. The Chinese side has made continuous efforts toward this goal and will work with the international community to achieve the denuclearization of the Peninsula, normalized diplomatic relations between the relevant states and lasting peace in northeast Asia, Ma said. Pascoe arrived in Pyongyang as the first high-level UN official to visit the country since 2004. He is expected to meet with DPRK's high-level officials to discuss issues ranging from Pyongyang's nuclear program to humanitarian aid issues. ^ top ^

DPRK top leader reiterates denuclearization of Korean Peninsula (Xinhua)
2010-02-09
Kim Jong Il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), reiterated on Monday the country's persistent stance to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The sincerity of relevant parties to resume the six-party talks is very important, Kim said during a meeting with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. The DPRK is willing to make efforts with China to further strengthen the communication and coordination, Kim said. The stalled six-party talks involve the DPRK, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Kim highly commended China's achievements in economic and social development, and believed that his country's relationship with China would further develop in the future. Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries as well as the "Year of the DPRK-China Friendship," during which series of activities demonstrated the dynamism of the bilateral friendship, said Kim. He also wished the exchanges between the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the CPC be intensified. Wang delivered to Kim a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao, who extended Spring Festival greetings to the WPK and the DPRK government and people […] Hu said in the letter that China highly treasures its relations with the DPRK and is ready to deepen traditional friendship, enhance cooperation, and make joint efforts with the DPKR to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese president also invited Kim to visit China once again. The Chinese delegation led by Wang arrived Saturday for a goodwill visit. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Economic forum a success (News.mn)
2010-02-10
The Mongolia Economic Forum, inaugurated by President Ts.Elbegdorj on Monday and marked by a presentation from Hernando De Soto, ended yesterday, after discussing budgetary reform, development of the mining sector, problems facing the environment, adoption of a green economy, reforms in the registration system, overhaul of the financial market, and Improving competiveness. Some important issues were discussed in detail at special meetings where participants included officials, researchers, and representatives of the private sector and the civil society. These meetings were closed to journalists. Prime Minister S.Batbold explained that this was the practice followed at international conferences and was only to help participants express their views freely. Some attendees agreed, saying many in decision-making and responsible positions feel inhibited at such open discussions if media people are present to report what they say. Most of them also expressed satisfaction that both the contents and the quality of the discussions were profitable. An NGO called Mongolia's Economic Forum will now be set up with responsibility to hold this meeting every year. A strategic policy council will monitor implementation of suggestions thrown up at the conference. Minister Bayartsogt has said, “This does not necessarily mean that all the suggestions will be accepted for implementation. But they will be carefully evaluated.” The consensus was that the Forum had succeeded in bringing together decision makers, government officials, the civil society and the private sector to emphasize “Together we can”. ^ top ^

Mongolia likely to sell shares of mineral assets companies (News.mn)
2010-02-09
Prime Minister S.Batbold has said Mongolia may transfer its gold, copper and coal reserves into companies that would then sell shares to global investors. The country will start the process toward listing this year and plans to sell shares first on the Mongolian Stock Exchange. International investment banks are likely to be hired to help it sell shares abroad. “Parliament has given the approval for the Government to start the preparation” for the share sales, Batbold said. “This is a demand and a necessity for Mongolia, to make best use of these resources to develop Mongolia.” The share sales will potentially transform the country's economy. Mongolia is seeking $25 billion in overseas investment over five years to develop metal and coal resources. “I think it makes sense as long as Mongolia puts sizeable assets into these companies,” said Alisher Djumanov, Beijing-based chief executive officer of Eurasia Capital Management. He estimates the country could raise as much as $3 billion in three years selling equity stakes in resource companies. Mongolia has not yet decided whether to group all asset classes into three companies, or to create smaller companies around specific commodities, Batbold said. “It would also make it much easier to market these companies if they were only dealing with one resource, such as copper, uranium or coal,” Djumanov said. Earlier yesterday, Batbold said that while he does not rule out foreign ownership of the $2-billion Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit, state ownership is preferred. “We have not ruled out foreign mining companies having a stake, but our preferred option is complete state control,” Batbold said at a press conference, where he is hosting an investment conference. “Ownership and investment of all the big projects will be decided on a case by case basis.”. ^ top ^

Zud Losses Amount to US$ 62 Million (UB Post)
2010-02-09
For the record; Livestock dependent households have suffered serious losses due to the Dzud. Food security, especially in the rural population, is adversely affected due to the Dzud weather conditions. According to the recent FAO rapid needs assessment Mission, the ongoing Dzud has killed 1.7 million heads of livestock, causing the estimated economic losses of about US$ 62 million, and threatening the livelihoods of livestock dependent households. Livestock raising is the most significant agricultural activity in Mongolia, and one of the country's key economic sectors. The Mission estimated that some 21,000 families, or about 12 percent of the total herder households have lost more than 50 percent of their animals. There is urgent need for assistance for vulnerable households to prevent further losses to their assets, and cash income. ^ top ^

Livestock loss reaches two million (MONTSAME)
2010-02-08
As of February 6, 2009, a total of two million and 349 heads of livestock have perished nationwide due to severe winter, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry reports. According to the ministry, 65 soums of 12 provinces are declared as the disaster area, 68 soums of 11 provinces have suffered from the dzud and 119 soums of 17 of provinces are prone to the harsh winter. ^ top ^

EU offers dzud aid worth USD 210,000 (News.mn)
2010-02-05
The European Union has pledged USD210,000 as help to Mongolia in its present winter weather. After talks with visiting Mongolian President Ts. Elbegdorj in Brussels, the European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told the press EU aid would fund 57 per cent of relief operations managed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Barroso also said the EU plans to increase assistance "by 40 per cent to USD7 million per year in support of the Mongolian national development plan", and applauded the country's democratic progress, including a decision on November 1 to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. The two presidents stated that the EU and Mongolia plan to conclude a Partnership and cooperation agreement during the course of 2010. ^ top ^

Vice-President of Bank of Mongolia appointed (MONTSAME)
2010-02-05
First Deputy Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mongolia have recently been approved by parliament. They are Bold Javkhlan and Naidansuren Zoljargal. Mr Javkhlan appointed the First Deputy Governor, had worked as a supervisor in the Supervision Department at Bank of Mongolia, authorised representative and receiver of the Bank of Mongolia in Khan Bank, senior supervisor at Supervision Office, Director at Trade and development Bank liable for operations, and vice president of TDB. He served in bank and financial sector for 13 years and has been studying at the University of Indiana, the USA, for Masters Degree in finance. Mr Zoljargal appointed the Deputy Governor, had worked as accountant and economist at Foreign Settlement Office of then State Bank, director of Foreign Relations and Investment Department at TDB, executive director of Mongolian Stock Exchange, advisor at Harvard University, advisor to Mongolia's Prime Minister, business management advisor to KPMG and the World Bank, and at Business Consulting LLC in Munich. ^ 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.
 
Page created and hosted by SinOptic Back to the top of the page To SinOptic - Services and Studies on the Chinese World's Homepage