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
  1.3-5.3.10, No. 309  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China, Russia get copy of new Iran sanctions plan (Global Times)
2010-03-05
Major Western heavyweights presented China and Russia with a newly framed proposal that further intensifies sanctions against Iran's nuclear scheme, well-informed UN diplomats revealed Thursday. Four powers, the US, the UK, France and Germany, reached a consensus on the US-speared initiative on launching a new round of heightened penalties on Tehran, engineering the sanctions package after convening for negotiations. The draft, devised on the basis of three prior sanction resolutions, specifically targets the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's key military and political force, and further swells the list of financial institutions or individuals involved in funding weapons proliferation and subjected to stringent punitive measures. Tehran's engagement in enriching uranium stockpiles has prompted US authorities to accelerate the process of "developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are," US President Barack Obama stated only hours after Iran's announcement that it would develop uranium enrichment to a higher level […] The Western countries seek to garner collective backing of the five permanent veto-wielding UN Security Council members plus Germany – termed as the "P5 plus 1," to push the new sanctions resolution to be adopted by the end of March, prior to the five-year review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May. Russia fine-tuned this week its previous opposition to mount pressure on Iran, claiming it was "ready" to implement "smart" sanctions, after inking trade deals with France. China reiterated its stance on enhanced talks. "China has always promoted dialogue and negotiation to resolve Iran's nuclear issue, which will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East. This approach is beneficial to all parties," China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday […] "It marks a crucial 'showdown moment,'" said Wang Jisi, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University. "China is subjected to unprecedented intensified international pressure to side with the West. Russia's adjustment concerning Iran's nuclear issue virtually put China in a dilemma, as a sole veto renders China in subsequent isolation," Wang said. "Given the recently frayed Sino-US relations, strained by a succession of spats, China's next move on the US-led new sanctions plan is said by Western analysts to be an indicator of future strategic orientation," said Sun Zhe, a researcher at the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University. "Consequently, a compelled siding with either party will exert enormous losses to China," Sun said, adding that China should continue to promote dialogue. ^ top ^

Navy offers to escort UN food aid (SCMP)
2010-03-05
China has offered to relieve the European Union's naval escorts of UN food shipments to Somalia - an expansion of the People's Liberation Army Navy's historic Indian Ocean deployment that is likely to see it face greater risks. In an unprecedented act, PLA Navy officers offered to ease the EU's escort burden during a monthly meeting in Bahrain this week of international navies involved in fighting pirates plaguing vital Asia-Europe shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa. The EU had not formally requested assistance but had made clear internationally that its naval force was struggling to cope with increasing escort demands and a worsening piracy crisis. Somali pirates now deploy mother ships to range far out into the Indian Ocean. Such raids are expected to become more frequent during monsoonal calms in April and May. The World Food Programme, meanwhile, has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis across the failed state, with more than 3.6 million people - half its population - needing outside help. "China has been very forward leaning on this," said one envoy involved in the meetings. "They made the offer out of the blue without being asked, but it is exactly what is needed - it is a very welcome offer given the strain now being felt by EU naval forces." It is understood both Nato and the US-led Combined Maritime Forces flotillas had made clear they were already stretched with broadening commitments and would not be able to help the EU, which has committed to running escort patrols until the end of this year. It is expected to continue the effort for at least another two years. If successful, the offer will require the PLA to co-operate even more closely with EU counterparts as well as international commercial shipping. It will also mean PLA naval ships must sail much closer to the lawless Somali coast. Beijing has still to comment formally, but it is expected a PLA naval delegation will soon head to Brussels to map out the co-operation in detail. China's involvement could start within a month, another official said. Commander John Harbour, spokesman for the EU's naval forces, confirmed the offer last night. "It is a positive development and we are ready to meet with the Chinese side to work out the finer details," he said. His comments follow a visit on Wednesday by Major General Li Ning, defence counsellor for China's EU mission, to the EU's naval forces headquarters in London. While China's co-operation in anti-piracy and humanitarian work has been praised by regional navies suspicious of Beijing's military build-up, the situation is expected to rattle neighbouring India, which is also involved in anti-piracy work […]. ^ top ^

China's aid materials depart for quake-hit Chile (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-05
Relief materials worth 2 million U.S. dollars left China for quake-hit Chile Thursday, according to sources with the National Defense Ministry. The materials, including 700 tents, 10,000 woollen blankets, 100 portable power generators and two water purification units, were collected by the Chinese military from the cities of Beijing, Nanjing, Shijiazhuang, Suzhou and Weihai. The Chinese government sent 1 million U.S. dollars in financial assistance to Chile Monday. The death toll of the earthquake that shook the south of the country Saturday has risen to 802. ^ top ^

US left guessing over visit by Hu (SCMP)
2010-03-04
Beijing has yet to confirm whether President Hu Jintao will attend a nuclear security summit in Washington next month as two senior American diplomats prepare to leave China today after a fence-mending visit. The decision will send out a strong signal about the direction the bilateral relationship is heading. Persuading Hu to attend the summit - to be chaired by US President Barack Obama - has been at the top of the agenda for US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the National Security Council's Asian affairs director, Jeffrey Bader, since they arrived in Beijing on Tuesday. Experts said Beijing leaders had four options: Hu could attend the summit and follow it with a state visit; he could just attend the summit and leave afterwards; Beijing could send a senior official to the summit; or it could simply refuse to take part. They said the last option was highly unlikely because it would seriously sour China's ties with Western powers. The first option would indicate that the Sino-US relationship is fully back on track. Sending anyone less than Hu to the Washington summit, on the other hand, could affect the delicate bilateral relationship, already plagued by thorny issues ranging from Tibet and Taiwan to a huge trade imbalance […] Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University's school of international studies, said the political environment was not favourable for a state visit. "It is likely that [Hu's state visit to the US] will be postponed," he said. The nuclear summit is scheduled for April 12 and 13. With hawkish views gaining ground in Beijing, Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said a state visit by Hu would be perceived as "undermining China's self-esteem" in some quarters. "[Some believe] China is being bullied by the US and if Hu goes to Washington, Chinese people will not be happy," he said. "On the other hand, it will damage China's international image if Beijing keeps refusing any sanctions on Iran. There is no perfect solution. You have to choose a lesser evil." Meanwhile, World Journal - the largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America - reported on Tuesday that the Pentagon might postpone the release of its annual report to Congress on China's military in order not to upset the relationship further […] the newspaper said the annual report, usually released in March, would be delayed to May because the US hoped Hu could visit Washington in April. It also quoted an unnamed official from the Chinese embassy in Washington as saying the chance of such a visit was slim because the US had failed to rectify its mistakes. China has been the most reluctant permanent member at the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, a move that many foreign observers linked with its oil interest in the Islamic republic. ^ top ^

Egypt, China pledge closer military cooperation (Xinhua)
2010-03-04
The commander-in-chief of Egyptian armed forces met Wednesday in Cairo with visiting Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ma Xiaotian, pledging to strengthen bilateral military ties. Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who is also Egyptian Minister of Defense, said during the meeting that the two countries have seen close cooperation in military, political and economic fields in recent years, which serves both countries' interests as well as regional and world peace and stability […] For his part, Ma said […] "The Chinese side is willing to make joint efforts with the Egyptian side to consolidate the traditional friendship and push forward the in-depth cooperation between the two militaries" […] Ma arrived in Cairo on Tuesday. During his visit, he also presided over the first session of the Chinese-Egyptian Defense Cooperation Commission. ^ top ^

Mainland selection could spark new Vatican rift (SCMP)
2010-03-04
Beijing plans to select a new leader for the controversial body that controls the mainland's official Catholic Church, again raising the issue of mainland bishops being unilaterally ordained without the Pope's consent. Joseph Ma Yinglin, the bishop of Yunnan's Kunming diocese, who was excommunicated by the Holy See in 2006 for being ordained without the Pope's approval, is the top candidate for the job at the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, two people with knowledge of the situation said. Association vice-chairman Liu Bainian said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference yesterday that a conference would be held in the latter half of the year to discuss a range of issues, including the election of the organisation's next leader and its national bishops' conference. The association's leader should be patriotic and devoted to God, he said. "It's not necessary for the next leader to have ratification from the Vatican because our association is not a religious body, it's just an organisation set up by Catholics who are patriotic," Liu said. The association was set up in 1957 to oversee the mainland's government-sanctioned church, including the appointment of bishops. Pope Benedict said in his letter to mainland Catholics in 2007 that the organisation was "incompatible" with church doctrine. But an informed observer based in Hong Kong, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting could risk being delayed again if ongoing but secretive negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican failed to achieve progress on a range of issues, including ratification of Ma and four other mainland bishops. The ordination of bishops on the mainland has long been a stumbling block to the normalisation of diplomatic ties. Beijing began to unilaterally appoint bishops in 1958, after diplomatic ties broke down in 1951, in a move seen as a way to prevent too much Western influence. However, most mainland bishops in the state-sanctioned church have been ratified by the Pope in recent years […]. ^ top ^

US-China bridge repairs begin (Global Times)
2010-03-03
High-level US diplomats arrived in Beijing Tuesday in a bid to defuse bilateral tensions stoked by US arms sales to Taiwan and a White House visit by the Dalai Lama, actions seen to have damaged China's "core interests." Fence-mending and talks on international efforts to dismantle North Korea's nuclear facilities and proposed tougher sanctions over Iranian atomic ambitions were to top the agenda of visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who is accompanied by Jeffrey Bader, US President Barack Obama's top Asia adviser on the National Security Council, observers said. The US embassy in Beijing did not announce any details of the three-day trip by Steinberg, the highest-ranking US official to visit China since recent spats between the two countries that include a flurry of trade disputes. An insider said the visit is meant to set the agenda for a series of vital events between the two countries, including a nuclear summit in Washington in April and the next round of China-US strategic and economic dialogue. "We've gone through a bit of a bumpy path here and I think there's an interest, both within the United States and China, to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Monday in Washington. Crowley said the visit offered an opportunity to "refocus on the future" of bilateral relations. "We were not to blame for the current difficult situation," China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday, urging Washington to "take Beijing's interests and concerns seriously" and "properly handle sensitive issues." Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Saturday during a live chat with Internet users that Sino-US "trade should be balanced and sustainable," and that China does not want 2010 to be a year of conflict for trade and economic relations with the US […] China and the US seem to remain apart on Iran, with Beijing calling on nations to intensify their diplomatic efforts and Washington insisting on tough new sanctions against a defiant Tehran over its controversial nuclear program. "China believes there is still room for diplomatic efforts," spokesman Qin said Tuesday […] In a latest development, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday it could take months to secure a UN Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran, extending her timeline on fresh UN punishment […]. ^ top ^

China prepares for benefits of ice-free Arctic (SCMP)
2010-03-03
China is starting to prepare for the commercial and strategic opportunities arising as global warming melts the polar ice cover in the Arctic, an international peace research group says. Researchers expect the North Pole to be ice free during summer months in a matter of decades, opening up shipping lanes and potential resource exploration in an area believed to contain as much as a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Competing sovereignty claims in the region are primarily being discussed by the five nations bordering the Arctic: the US, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark. Though China is keeping a low profile in those disputes, it is showing growing interest in the Arctic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says in a study. "China is slowly but steadily recognising the commercial and strategic opportunities that will arise from an ice-free Arctic," institute researcher Linda Jakobson, who authored the study, said. Jakobson said China "is at a disadvantage as it is not an Arctic state but is still keen to have the right to access natural resources". The institute says China is devoting extra resources to Arctic research, mainly on science but also on the commercial, political and strategic implications of the melting of the ice in the region and opportunities to study the sea floor. Beijing has decided to build a hi-tech icebreaker for polar expeditions, which is expected to be operational near 2013, it says. "A few Chinese researchers already question China's natural sciences approach to Arctic research and encourage the Chinese government to make comprehensive plans," Jakobson says in the report. "These researchers are critical of China's neutral position towards Arctic politics. But the government does not want to alarm the Arctic states and, therefore, is cautious in its Arctic policies." Jakobson says China is seeking a more active role in the Arctic Council - an intergovernmental body that deals with issues faced by Arctic nations and indigenous populations there. China stands to gain from shorter routes to Europe opening up because of the Arctic melt. ^ top ^

Mainland firm denies breaking sanctions on Iran (SCMP)
2010-03-02
A mainland company accused of procuring nuclear-related pressure gauges from Taiwan which ended up in Iran has denied it was responsible for their destination but admitted supplying ordinary products to Iranian oil and gas companies. Associated Press reported that Roc-Master Manufacture & Supply Company placed an order with a Taiwanese agent of a Swiss manufacturer for 108 nuclear-related pressure gauges early last year, initially to be delivered to its base in Shanghai. But the delivery destination was later changed to Iran, the report said. When contacted by the South China Morning Post yesterday, a Roc-Master sales director denied it was responsible for the delivery of the gauges to Tehran. The gauges can be used on centrifuges that enrich uranium for use in nuclear bombs […] He admitted his firm had traded with Iranian companies, but stressed it was only supplying products intended for industrial use […] But Zhang said his company did not consider how its clients intended to use its products. "Now we're aware of this problem we'll give it more thoughts in the future," he said, referring to the accusation in the AP report. He said government officials had also raised concerns recently. Roc-Master also supplies components for the mainland nuclear industry […] The story behind the pressure gauges shows how Iran is apparently finding its way around international sanctions meant to prevent it from getting equipment that can be used to make a nuclear bomb. On at least six occasions in recent years it has tried to use third countries as transshipment points for obtaining controlled, nuclear-related equipment. It's impossible to verify how Iran is using the gauges, which have numerous commercial applications in machines that employ pneumatic or hydraulic pressure. But experts say the large size of the order suggests very strongly that they are for centrifuges to churn out enriched uranium. AP said on January 24, 2009, purchase order shows that Zhang's company originally ordered the gauges for delivery to its Shanghai base. The order - worth US$112,303.72 - was placed with Heli-Ocean Technology, the Taiwanese agent for Swiss manufacturer Inficon Holding. Inficon, together with American company MKS, produces most of the world's supply of this type of gauge, known as a pressure transducer. On February 6, Heli-Ocean received an initial payment from Roc-Master and placed an order with Inficon for the transducers, documents show. But later, Roc-Master issued a revised purchase order, backdated to January 24, instructing Heli-Ocean to ship the transducers not to Shanghai, but to Tehran's airport. The consignee is named as Moshever Sanat Moaser, an Iranian company described on its website as a provider of specialty alloys and industrial parts. The second purchase order also increased the amount to US$145,800, almost US$33,500 more than the original, without explanation. Apparently the change in destination and the nature of the shipment alarmed Heli-Ocean, because in a February 18 e-mail seen by AP, Roc-Master assured the Taiwanese company that the 108 transducers were not for Iran's nuclear industry. It also said that Chinese law barred the shipment of the transducers to Iran. None of this was revealed to the Swiss manufacturer or authorities. Inficon chief executive Lukas Winkler told AP that had his company known the end-user was Moshever Sanat Moaser, it would never have sold the transducers to Heli-Ocean. He said the gauges fell within Swiss sanctions on exports to Iran. "The end-user certificate we got did not say Iran," he said. "The deal was done via a Chinese company. And we have a certificate with the name of a Chinese end-user on it." Winkler said that before the goods were sent, Inficon reported the transaction to Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. "If someone wants one single device it's not delicate. But if someone wants 100 at once, that's very unusual for this type of product," he said […] As for the mainland, the incident will likely fuel suspicions about its commitment to non-proliferation. It is heavily invested in Iran's energy industry and has opposed tougher sanctions on Tehran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said he was unaware of the pressure gauge deal but reaffirmed Beijing's commitment on preventing nuclear arms proliferation […]. ^ top ^

Toyoda says sorry to China (Global Times)
2010-03-02
Toyota's beleaguered president bowed Monday in apology to Chinese consumers, amid huge global safety recalls and days after the Japanese automaker's chief faced a grilling by angry US lawmakers on Capitol Hill over fatal accelerator pedal faults. Despite the latest appeal by Toyota President Akio Toyoda to "win back consumers' confidence" during his short-notice trip to Beijing, people seem to remain highly skeptical of the reliability of Toyota vehicles, while analysts said the 53-year-old president attempted to contain the current crisis in the United States from spilling over into China. China overtook the US in 2009 as the world's biggest car market, with 13 million units sold to 10 million. "I would like to express my sincere apologies to Chinese customers for the impact and worries caused (by this incident)," Toyoda told some 300 reporters at a Beijing hotel […] More than 100 journalists were denied entry into the press conference. "Toyota as an automaker thinks it is important to not cover up... and to put consumer safety first," said Toyoda, who also pledged to improve the quality of Toyota cars. Toyota has recalled more than 75,000 of its RAV4 sport utility vehicles made in China over faulty accelerators. Those were among the company's recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide. China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) also warned drivers of imported Toyotas, including Camry and Corolla models, to check their cars for possible defects […] At least 34 deaths have been blamed on sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, according to complaints filed with US authorities. "We have long seen China as an important market," said Toyoda […] Toyoda had failed to make any speedy public appearance for two weeks after the recalls began in the US, the No. 1 market for the company, but it then held three press conferences in Japan before heading overseas […] Toyota's sales in China surged 53 percent year-on-year in January, but the recalls have already dampened demand, the Tokyo-based Nikkei Business Daily reported […] Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher at the Institute of Sino-US Relations at Tsinghua University, said that Toyoda came to China in an obvious move to appease Chinese customers, as he pays great attention to the Chinese market, which is huge and rapidly growing. Chinese customers still take Toyota's safety crisis as a business issue, instead of another sign of national conflict, which displays a more reasonable and moderate attitude of the public to issues between China and Japan, Zhou said […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Beijing will nudge brakes on spending (SCMP)
2010-03-05
Central government spending is poised to grow more slowly this year - at just half the rate it did last year - as Beijing seeks to wean the economy off the massive stimulus introduced to tackle the effects of the global financial crisis, calculations based on figures released yesterday show. National People's Congress parliamentary spokesman Li Zhaoxing told a news conference yesterday that China's military budget for 2010 would be 532.1 billion yuan, accounting for 6.3 per cent of planned government spending. That points to total central government outlays of 8.45 trillion yuan, up 11.27 per cent from last year's actual spending of 7.59 trillion yuan. The Ministry of Finance will issue the 2010 budget at today's opening session of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress. The central government is keen to cut investment and infrastructure spending because of fears of overcapacity and asset bubbles and wants to return to normal budgetary conditions following last year's robust economic recovery […] Many economists, both inside and outside policymaking circles, have raised doubts about the sustainability of the mainland's growth, saying the "recovery" is not genuine because it was largely fuelled by massive government spending. Since late 2008 has Beijing embarked on an unprecedented 4 trillion yuan spending spree to keep the economy growing. Orlik said a smaller increase in public spending this year might make it difficult to direct adequate funding to health, education and other social services - investment that would help increase the contribution of domestic consumption to economic growth […] In its 2009 budget, the ministry projected a record deficit of 950 billion yuan, compared with 111 billion yuan in 2008. ^ top ^

China to relax hukou restrictions in small cities, towns (Global Times)
2010-03-05
China will reform its household registration system and relax restrictions on permanent residence registration, or "hukou", in towns, small and medium-sized cities, according to a government work report Premier Wen Jiabao is to deliver Friday. Hukou has long been blamed as a source of widening gap between urban and rural residents. The system also makes it difficult for migrant workers to enjoy welfares in cities. "We will keep to the path of urbanization with Chinese characteristics... and promote positive interaction between urbanization and the building of a new countryside," says the report distributed to the media before the opening of the Third Session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC). The country will solve employment and living problems rural migrant workers face in cities and towns in a "planned and step-by-step" manner, and gradually ensure that they receive the same treatment as urban residents in areas such as pay, children's education, healthcare, housing, and social security, says the report. ^ top ^

Smallest defence budget rise in 2 decades (SCMP)
2010-03-05
China's military spending for this year will rise by 7.5 per cent, the smallest defence budget increase in nearly two decades. "The proposed military budget for 2010 is 532 billion yuan, a 37.1 billion yuan increase, which is 7.5 per cent up from actual defence spending in 2009," Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress, said yesterday. "Compared with the past few years, the increase will drop." The announcement came as a big surprise to overseas commentators. Li said the small defence spending increase was still a "reasonable" figure. "China is committed to peace," Li said. "The sole purpose of China's military strength is to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity." The figure breaks a string of double-digit increases, with the average budget increase over the past decade at nearly 15 per cent. The People's Liberation Army had a 14.9 per cent spending increase last year and 17.6 per cent in 2008. The last time the military budget's growth was so small was 1991, when it was 7.2 per cent. Last year, the PLA also announced a series of ambitious weapons-development projects last year, including a fourth-generation fighter jet named the J-14, a new generation of large destroyers with a displacement of more than 10,000 tonnes and missile defensive systems. Beijing has also shown interest in developing its first aircraft carrier, believed to cost 4.8 billion yuan and of a "medium" size, along the same lines as the Varyag class, a former Soviet carrier type with a displacement of 65,000 tonnes. The PLA Navy's participation in the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and now its leading role in the co-ordination of it also require more money. PLA General Luo Yuan, also a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the military budget had achieved its status because of nearly two decades of double-digit growth. "It's impossible to let it continue to grow without limitations," he said. He added that the global financial crisis was one of the key reasons the defence budget increase had to be cut back this year. It also affected China's own growth in gross domestic product, which was only 8.1 per cent last year. Professor Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said China had also realised its double-digit increase had escalated the arms race and was causing concern among its neighbours and also in the West […] A Shanghai-based PLA expert who requested anonymity agreed that international concern about China's rapid growth in military spending had been the reason behind the smaller increase this year."All the figures involved political considerations," he said […] Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review who predicted the PLA's military spending this year would be more than 15 per cent, questioned the accuracy of the budget figure announced yesterday. "A 7.5 per cent increase is an incredible number. No one would believe such a small figure," he said […]. ^ top ^

Housing prices top agenda at sessions (Global Times)
2010-03-04
Days after soaring property prices prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to vow to tame the "wild-horse" real estate market, housing issues rocketed up the agenda at the annual meeting of China''s top advisory body, amid widespread public complaints. Nearly 50 percent of proposals to this year's Chinese People''s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) session are related to the housing sector, a key economic driving force that has fueled growing concern of a property bubble. The proposals range from the construction of low-income housing to property taxes and controls on mortgage loans, as measures to rein in skyrocketing home prices […] The Third Session of the 11th CPPCC National Committee opened Wednesday afternoon in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Issues concerning people's daily lives, including the inequality of income distribution, food safety and education reform, are hot topics proposed by the CPPCC members, comprising representatives from various walks of life, such as academia, the arts, the entertainment world and religious groups. The CPPCC members' proposals and debates, though not legally binding, are believed to be a democratic effort to push the government into taking action, boosted by their media coverage. Other deputies from across the country will attend the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) tomorrow to convene on major national issues and discuss legally binding motions and laws. CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin said in his report on the work of the CPPCC Wednesday that the CPPCC will focus on issues of common concern, including education, employment, housing and environmental protection, and give full attention to the excessive income gap that could affect social stability, as well as working hard to promote social fairness and justice […] Housing prices surged 9.5 percent from a year earlier in January, the fastest pace of growth in 19 months, the Xinhua News Agency reported, attributing the rise to record bank lending of 9.6 trillion yuan and favorable tax breaks […] In reaction to widespread complaints, Premier Wen Jiabao said last week during an online chat with Netizens that he was determined to tame the "wild-horse" housing market and keep property prices at a reasonable level during his term as premier. The Chinese government will build 5 million affordable houses this year, after building 2 million in 2009, and 2 million shanty houses would be reconstructed this year, according to Wen. Yin Bocheng, director of the Real Estate Research Center of Fudan University, […] suggested reforming the current taxation system to allow local governments to collect more tax revenue so they could have more money to develop affordable housing and encourage the private sector to invest through incentive measures. CPPCC member Mao Yonghong voiced a different option, however, noting that people should change their traditional mindset about purchasing property after they graduate from college or before they get married […]. ^ top ^

China faces food security challenges: legislator (Xinhua)
2010-03-04
China faces potential challenges in maintaining food security despite years of good harvest, a legislator said here Wednesday. In some areas, farmland is often used illegally for non-agricultural purposes or abandoned by farmers who move to work in cities, posing the most serious threat to grain production, said Liu Hui, who is also deputy director of the administration of grain in the eastern Anhui Province. Other challenges include natural disasters, low scienctific and technical level in grain production, backward infrastructure, and low grain prices that dampen the enthusiasm of both farmers and local governments. The deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature, made the remarks two days before the NPC annual session starts. Liu suggested that the government should clear the obstacles in the grain production and circulation and increase financial input in major grain producing areas to prevent possible decline in output. China's grain output reached 530.8 million tonnes in 2009, exceeding 500 million tonnes for the third consecutive year, data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed. ^ top ^

China to launch unmanned space module next year (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-04
China plans to launch an unmanned space module, Tiangong-1, in 2011, which is expected to accomplish the country's first space docking and regarded as an essential step toward building a space station, an expert said on Wednesday. Tiangong, or the heavenly palace, would finally be transformed into a manned space lab after experimental dockings with three Shenzhou spacecraft, which are expected to be put into space within two years following the module's launch, said Qi Faren, former chief designer of Shenzhou spaceships. Qi, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual full session of the top political advisory body that opened Wednesday afternoon. A spokesman of China's space program said in February last year that the country had planned to launch the unmanned module into orbit as early as the end of 2010. Qi said the delay was due to technical reasons. Weighing about 8.5 tons, Tiangong-1 is able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station […] In September 2008, China successfully launched its third manned spacecraft Shenzhou-7, following Shenzhou-5 in 2003 and Shenzhou-6 in 2005. ^ top ^

Migrants in focus as NPC set to open (SCMP)
2010-03-03
Han Shouhai is one of 230 million migrant workers who are second-class citizens in their own country, an injustice high on the agenda as parliament convenes this week. The annual session of the National People's Congress opens on Friday amid mounting concern among China's stability-focused leaders over the huge floating underclass that Han represents – and its potential to sow unrest. Han left his home in eastern Shandong province in 1994 to join the masses of itinerant workers whose sweat has fuelled China's economic miracle. But his modest Beijing tea wholesaling business was shut down in December to make way for a housing development, cutting off his already meagre monthly earnings of about 1,000-2,000 yuan. Han, 37, received no compensation due to rules preventing outsiders gaining residency in their adopted cities, a status that also denies them a range of social services from unemployment and health insurance to free schooling […] “Suddenly, I felt I didn't belong. After more than 10 years here, I felt I had nowhere to go.” While the rubber-stamp congress is essentially powerless, it is used by the ruling Communist Party to outline its priorities for the year. Signs indicate migrants will head the list amid fears over a widening wealth gap and social stability in a country that annually sees tens of thousands of protests – often violent – by those who have missed out on China's boom. In a “Number 1 Document” released annually to underline the nation's top concerns, the government called in January for reform of the system under which people are tied to a resident certificate, or “hukou”, from their hometown. It was used in the 1950s to curb destabilising population movements in a nation recovering from civil war, but eased under economic reforms three decades ago to allow cheap labour to migrate to China's new manufacturing hubs. However, it still denies those workers access to the country's social safety net once they leave their hometowns. “The leaders are concerned because after 30 years of reform, we are seeing class warfare,” said Willy Lam, a China analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “With the migrants, there is increasing evidence of social injustice and the government wants to be seen creating a level playing field.” Of particular concern is a so-called “second-generation” of migrants – web-savvy 20-somethings seen as demanding more pay, opportunities and basic rights than their peasant predecessors, and said to number over 100 million […] In the “Number 1 Document”, the government for the first time singled out this new generation as a concern […] The government earlier this year warned of the appearance of migrant ghettoes and shantytowns in major cities – typically breeding grounds for crime and instability […]. ^ top ^

China to focus on adjustments in energy structure in 2010: energy official (Xinhua)
2010-03-03
China would put more emphasis on adjusting its energy structure this year with focus on renewable energy and nuclear power, director of China's National Energy Administration (NEA) said in Beijing Tuesday. Zhang Guobao, also vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Xinhua before he attends CPPCC's annual session. Adjusting the energy development pattern would be the top priority in NEA's blueprint for this year to fulfill China's promise at last year's Copenhagen climate summit, and more efforts would be made in scientific research and development in the field, he said. "I'm proud to say that China is at the world's advanced level in new energy development, but there is still much room for improvement," he said. Zhang took wind power as an example. "Compared with wind power reserves of 2.6 billion kilowatts (KW), China's installed wind power capacity stood at only 22 million KW." Zhang also highlighted China's determination in developing nuclear power projects, 21 of which are under construction in the country. Currently China has 11 nuclear power projects in operation […]. ^ top ^

Artist sues government over right to know (SCMP)
2010-03-03
A prominent Beijing artist has lodged a lawsuit accusing the government of refusing to comply with rules on transparency over the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, state press said on Wednesday. Ai Weiwei this week filed the suit against the Civil Affairs Ministry for refusing to release information on its handling of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing, the Global Times said. Ai has accused the ministry of failing to respond to his request for information within 15 business days as stipulated by regulations on disclosing government information. It was also not immediately clear if the lawsuit was the first-ever lodged against the government since regulations on government disclosure went into effect on May 1, 2008 – less than two weeks before the quake. The artist has led a group of volunteers investigating the collapse of poorly built schools in the massive earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan. According to the paper, Ai made a formal request in November last year for the government investigation report on the earthquake and a detailed account of the distribution of donated funds and goods used in the rescue and recovery effort. A Beijing court accepted the lawsuit but has seven days to decide if it will hear the case or throw it out, the paper said. ^ top ^

Petitioners eyed during national meetings (Global Times)
2010-03-02
As influential figures get ready to convene for the annual sessions of the NPC and NPPCC in Beijing, some local governments are trying hard to keep regional petitioners from visiting the capital to prevent possible disturbances at the gathering. Sanhe in Hebei Province ordered local authorities to examine important petition cases and mediate disputes to prevent petitioners from visiting Beijing during the two sessions […] A district government in Yongzhou, Hunan Province issued similar other guidelines. The government demanded related authorities maintain a record of people considered possible petitioners who might go to Beijing during the two sessions and try to solve their problems in their hometown, according to a document re-leased Monday on the local government website. The authorities were also required to keep an eye on veteran petitioners around the clock to prevent them from going to Beijing. However, some petitioners managed to show up in Beijing. Some of them realized that local police were watching them carefully. Chen Wenlong, 61, said he arrived at the Beijing South Railway Station on Saturday, along with six others petitioners from Hubei Province, to push their case. He told the Global Times by phone that the minute they stepped inside their hotel they were under watch. "Workers at the hotels would report our ID number to the police, so that the police could block our action and pretend nothing ever happened." The Jujiayuan hostel near the railway station confirmed the claim Monday […] Thousands of petitioners gather in Beijing every year during the sessions. Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times that police should protect petitioners' lawful rights, instead of keeping them quiet. ^ top ^

Editorial calls for abolition of hukou system (SCMP)
2010-03-02
A joint editorial in 13 mainland newspapers has called on the nation's top legislative body to abolish the hukou system - strict population controls that have split the country into rural and urban areas for decades. The editorial appeared in metropolitan newspapers from 11 provinces and areas yesterday on the eve of the annual meetings of the National People's Congress, beginning on Friday, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, beginning tomorrow. The papers include The Economic Observer in Beijing, the Chongqing Times, The Southern Metropolitan News in Guangdong, the Inner Mongolia Morning News, the Dahe Daily in Henan and the Southeast Express in Fujian. Media watchers said such joint efforts by newspapers were voluntary but infrequent. "Most of these 13 newspapers have a semi-official background but they do enjoy free will, to some degree, concerning social topics and supervision by public opinion," Liu Jinsong, a journalism professor from Shenzhen University, said. "The joint editorial looks like a co-operative act by the newspapers, not something instigated by the government. "Its publication at this sensitive moment does show the soaring appeal among the public for abolition of the population policy." Jin said it was likely the media would co-operate more frequently along similar lines in the future to increase their influence on hot social issues. The joint editorial said the hukou regulation was unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of human rights. "China's people have been suffering from the hukou system for a long time," it said. "We believe people are born to freedom and... the right to migrate... We jointly release this editorial, asking all representatives of the NPC and CPPCC to make good use of your political power to urge the authorities to launch a reform with the aim of doing away with the ossified hukou system." The hukou system was introduced in 1958 when the central government issued the first set of resident-registration regulations since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. It put a lid on free migration flow, particularly from rural areas to cities. But as the mainland has developed in recent decades, concerns have been expressed that the system may be doing more harm than good, with the divide between the urban and rural populations growing into a chasm. The editorial said the hukou system had led to unfair competition between urban and rural people and was a breeding ground for the corrupt sale of urban residence permits […] Mainlanders, especially those born in rural areas, complain that the hukou system has blocked family reunions and impeded education opportunities for children and job opportunities for their parents. People without a hukou are often treated like second-class citizens in cities where they have worked for years. In recent years, some municipal governments, such as Shanghai, have made temporary rules to reform their hukou systems. The Shanghai rules are designed mostly to attract talented professionals […]. ^ top ^

China' green energy program drafted (China Daily)
2010-03-02
The government has formulated a 10-year program under which clean energy will account for 15 percent of the total consumption mix by 2020, a top official has revealed. To realize the goal, the government will invest billions in the construction of nuclear power stations, wind farms, solar power plants and research of renewable energy technologies, said Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Administration […] He also said the National Energy Commission, the apex body set up in January to coordinate energy policy and headed by Premier Wen Jiabao, will hold its first meeting soon. Zhang forecast a boom in the building of renewable energy infrastructure in the coming five years to meet the goal, which Wen pledged to global leaders at the Copenhagen climate change summit in December. The premier also pledged that the country will reduce its carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. "Power projects take a long time to be up and running, and we are basically allowed five years to complete them although it is a 10-year program," said Zhang. "Otherwise, the facilities cannot be put into use by 2020." Official figures show that renewable energy accounted for 9.9 percent of total energy consumption last year, compared to 8.5 percent in 2008. Amid the global financial crisis, the government has decided to develop renewable energy as part of a stimulus package to keep the economy on the fast track The National People's Congress, the top legislature, recently passed an amendment to the renewable energy law to require power grid companies to buy all the electricity produced by renewable energy generators. All these efforts reflect the strategic importance of the renewable energy industry, said Zhang, adding the policy will offer more opportunities for global partners. "China and the United States have already strengthened cooperation in the regard by launching joint projects and research centers," said Zhang […] However, Zhang is concerned about some disturbing trends. Last year, China's total energy consumption reached 3.1 billion tons of standard coal equivalent, up 6.3 percent from 2008. This was in contrast with a previous downward trend when total energy consumption growth declined from 9.5 percent in 2005 to 4 percent in 2008. But last year, China's economic growth, which stood at 8.7 percent, was the lowest during the past five years. "It appears that some local governments approved energy-guzzling projects during economic crisis," said Zhang […]. ^ top ^

Chongqing blitz on triad crime ends with 3,348 snared (SCMP)
2010-03-02
The southwestern municipality of Chongqing has wrapped up an eight-month crackdown on triad-related crime that led to the detention of thousands of suspects. At a meeting on Sunday, Liu Guanglei, the city's top party official overseeing law enforcement, said 3,348 people were snared for "connections with underground activities" and "63 criminal syndicates and a number of their protectors were crushed", the Chongqing Evening News reported. Six prominent individuals, including Chongqing Public Security Bureau chief Wang Lijun, were named Heroes of the Chongqing People for their contributions to the crackdown, while another 455 received merits for their efforts in the campaign. Giving no details, the report said the meeting marked the end of the campaign and beginning of preparations for what to do next. Expressing his gratitude to the "heroes", Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai said that up to 14 major triad groups had been smashed, clearing the way for better development of the municipality. However, some observers have criticised Bo for seeking fame and political advancement at the expense of the rule of law in the campaign to wipe out local crime syndicates. Former People's Daily deputy editor Zhou Ruijin wrote in an article […] that Beijing-based lawyer Li Zhuang might have erred but the Chongqing authorities' violation of the principle of procedural justice was even more serious. Li was jailed for 18 months early last month for falsifying evidence for his client, triad boss Gong Gangmo, during a pre-trial meeting in custody. Li was one of a handful of Beijing lawyers who rushed to Chongqing to defend triad bosses or fallen officials after most of the municipality's lawyers succumbed to political pressure and excused themselves from giving legal advice to the defendants […] In an apparent attempt to defend himself and the operation he initiated, Bo praised subordinates involved in the crackdown for avoiding injustice and any excessive political implications while ensuring that no suspects were let go and that the tone of the campaign was just right […] Bo also rejected criticism that the campaign had meant sacrificing prosperity, stressing that the eradication of local triad societies had made a great contribution to the city's economic development. According to official municipality figures, Chongqing achieved economic growth of 14.9 per cent last year, the third highest in the nation. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Tightened security for leaders' meetings sees flights grounded (SCMP)
2010-03-02
Beijing has strengthened air security ahead of the annual sessions of the top advisory body, which starts tomorrow, and the National People's Congress, which starts on Friday. All non-commuter flights are forbidden within 200 kilometres of Tiananmen Square, where the sessions are being held until March 15, Xinhua reports. The ban covers not only aircraft used for entertainment or sports activities but also model planes and balloons. All runway or take-off and landing points at Beijing's flying clubs have been closed. A visit to an aircraft model shop found the models had been sealed and their motors removed. Customers who bought models within the period of the ban would have their identities registered, the report said. In a meeting last week to ensure security during the Third Session of 11th National People's Congress and the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, vice-minister of public security Huang Ming ordered police to strengthen the supervision of hazardous materials and "large-scale events" - a euphemism for protests - and tighten security checks on traffic going into Beijing. Police were also asked to visit communities to check on potential problems, help authorities settle disputes and crack down on illegal activities. Traffic control will be tightened for the next two weeks. Drivers of cars registered outside Beijing municipality who need to go inside the Fifth Ring Road will have to apply for a permit. Vehicles transporting dangerous items and chemicals cannot enter. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Bans no big deal yet for Shanghai smokers (SCMP)
2010-03-03
Shanghai's partial smoking ban has produced a lacklustre response, with widespread confusion over how far it extends and who should enforce it. The new restrictions, which came into force on Monday, ban smoking outright in schools and kindergartens, hospitals, supermarkets and in lifts. Larger restaurants, dance halls, internet cafes and karaoke bars are required to set aside designated non-smoking areas. Fines of between 50 yuan and 200 yuan are to be imposed - but first-time offenders are to be let off with a warning. Away from the city's upmarket shopping districts, there seems little enthusiasm for the ban. "If customers insist on smoking, we can't force them to stop," a waiter in a large restaurant north of People's Square said. Most establishments have paid only lip service to the regulations, with designated non-smoking seating often situated alongside tables for smokers. Questions also remain about how the rules are to be enforced. The city has recruited an army of 20,000 volunteer smoke monitors, but they have not been given the legal power to issues fines or to prevent offenders from leaving before the proper authorities arrive. The clampdown on smoking in public places has been rushed through ahead of the Shanghai World Expo - which starts on May 1 - as the city strives to project its image as a world-class metropolis. In doing so, Shanghai is following a growing trend across Asia. In recent years, strict regulations on smoking in most public places have been introduced in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India and Malaysia, though the extent of the restrictions varies. Shanghai is also one of the first big mainland cities to implement a ban. Guangzhou and Jiangmen, both in Guangdong province, introduced trial bans in 2007, but little effort was made to enforce the rules. Awareness of the health risks of smoking remains in its relative infancy across most of the mainland, particularly the dangers attributed to passive smoking. The largely state-run tobacco industry remains a powerful lobby that resists efforts to curb smoking. There are 350 million smokers on the mainland, accounting for a third of global cigarette consumption. Smoking and related diseases are estimated to cost the mainland more than 252 billion yuan a year in medical costs. According to World Health Organisation statistics, about 3,000 people die on the mainland due to smoking-related illnesses every day […]. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Officials slaughter 8,000 pigs to halt disease (Global Times)
2010-03-03
Authorities in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province said a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak among pigs was under control after authorities slaughtered more than 8,000 pigs. "We have taken comprehensive measures to control the situation and have disinfected the areas affected," Yu Yedong, deputy chief of the bureau of animal husbandry in Guangdong Province, told the Global Times Tuesday. Several local pig farmers first reported on February 22 that sudden widespread lameness were observed among their pigs and many had vesicles or blisters on the snout and tongue. The experts later confirmed that it was foot-and-mouth disease. According to Yu, of those pigs killed, 1,474 were infected with the disease and others were from nearby sites. All of them belonged to private farmers. "We haven't received any reports on the reoccurrence of such disease nor a case of human infection," Yu said. Yu explained that it is not known why the disease suddenly broke out but added that it has been raining constantly in the area and bad weather may have contributed to the outbreak […] The local farmers received a standard compensation of 300 to 600 yuan ($43-$87) for each pig. Wu Qingming, a professor at China Agricultural University, told the Global Times that there is only a small chance humans would be infected […]. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Senior Chinese leader indicates measures on way for Xinjiang development (Xinhua)
2010-03-02
Senior Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang has revealed that the government is preparing measures to boost the economic and social development of the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Zhou, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks during a four-day inspection to the region that ended on Sunday. Zhou mingled with local cadres, teachers and residents when visiting Kashi Prefecture, Urumqi, the regional capital, and Shihezi City. He stressed the issues of housing, education and employment should be appropriately resolved to ensure social harmony. He told two separate symposiums in Kashi and Urumqi that the CPC Central Committee would hold a meeting in the first half of this year, at which major decisions would be made to boost Xinjiang's development and enhance its stability. Zhou said development should benefit people of all ethnic groups in the region. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

No change to Legco voting system for 2012 as government holds firm (SCMP)
2010-03-04
The government yesterday stood firm against reform of the current voting system in the legislature, which has been criticised as giving the functional constituencies disproportionate veto power. Lawmakers urged Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung to consider reforming the system of voting, which needs a majority from both the geographical and functional constituencies for motions and amendments raised by lawmakers to be passed. The "split-voting" system has often been criticised for its inequality. Only 15 functional constituency lawmakers returned by the privileged can effectively vote down anything raised by all 30 lawmakers returned by the general voting population. At present, the 30 trade-based functional constituencies have an electoral base of 220,000 voters. Another 30 seats are returned by 3.3 million voters on a geographical basis. Since the smallest 15 functional constituencies comprise only 10,197 voters, in theory they hold veto power - even if amendments or bills raised by geographically elected members have the support of 3.3 million. But government motions require a simple majority from the whole legislature, and records from the Legislative Council show that all government motions and bills stretching back to 2006 have been passed. When these inequalities were pointed out to Lam in a Legco question-and-answer session yesterday, he replied: "The decision of the Standing Committee of the NPC on December 29, 2007, has made it clear that the procedures for voting on bills and motions in Legco shall remain unchanged for the Legco formed in 2012. The HKSAR government will not consider any change to the mechanism." He later said the response was given in the context of reform in 2012, but he stressed that this system of voting was key to preserving an "executive-led system" and ensuring "balanced participation" as required by the Basic Law. A motion by Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of the Civic Party, urging the public to vote in the upcoming Legco by-election, was voted down yesterday after being unable to secure a majority in both chambers. The party and the League of Social Democrats hope to turn the ballot into a referendum on democracy […] Before the motion debate, the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats mocked the disproportionate power of the two chambers with a "rich and poor banquet" outside Legco. During the debate, pro-establishment lawmakers called the "de facto referendum" plan a waste of public funds and a political show. Lam said views advocating legislation to prevent unnecessary resignations would have been submitted in the consultation on reform and would be studied. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Presidential race shaken up by Su's mayoral bid (SCMP)
2010-03-05
Former Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang's announcement that he plans to run in Taipei's mayoral election at the end of the year has been seen as a smart opening gambit for the 2012 presidential election. Analysts said that while Su had emerged as a big threat to the ruling Kuomintang in terms of both the mayoral and presidential polls, he had also left other heavyweights in the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party pondering their next move. Ignoring a plan by DPP chairwoman Dr Tsai Ing-wen to field him as the party's mayoral candidate in the city of Xinbei - a special municipality formed by upgrading Taipei county - Su declared on Wednesday he would run for Taipei mayor. He said he had been Taipei county magistrate for two terms and felt it was time to run in the island's capital, a KMT stronghold. Su vowed in front of a Taipei temple that he would serve out his four-year term if elected mayor and stay clear of the 2012 presidential campaign. But he also said he was willing to "make even greater contributions to the county to return its generous support", in a veiled reference to a possible presidential bid. Su's announcement would turn the Taipei mayoral poll into a showdown between the 62-year-old DPP politician and his KMT opponent, incumbent Mayor Hau Lung-bin, and threaten the KMT's grip on the capital, analysts said. Chen Chao-chien, an assistant professor of public affairs at Ming Chuan University, said even though support for the KMT in Taipei regularly hit more than 60 per cent, "there is a chance Su might win". Voters' disappointment in Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's government and some defective construction projects in the city - including a new section of subway and a suburban cable-car system, both started by Ma when he was mayor - had eroded Hau's popularity since his election in 2006, Chen said […] Analysts said Su's bid had totally disrupted Tsai's nomination plans, because she had hoped to keep Su in Xinbei to secure the DPP's victory in the majority of the five special municipality elections. If Su was elected in Xinbei it would give the DPP three municipalities, as it had full control of Kaohsiung and Tainan in the south, said George Tsai Wei, political science professor at Chinese Taipei University in Taipei. "This would consolidate Tsai's unchallenged party leadership status and increase her chance in the 2012 presidential bid," he said, adding Su's latest move had put a damper on Tsai's presidential prospects […]. ^ top ^

Powerful quake hits south Taiwan, injuring 64 (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-05
A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked southern Taiwan early Thursday, terrifying residents, disrupting communications and triggering at least one large fire. Sixty-four people were injured in the chaos, the Associated Press reported quoting local emergency department sources. No tsunami alert was issued. The quake was centered in the same mountainous region of rural Kaosiung county that endured the brunt of the damage from Typhoon Morakot, a devastating storm that killed about 700 people last August […] Rail service in southern and central Taiwan was suspended, as was the subway system in Kaohsiung city, Taiwan's second largest city with a population of 1.5 million […] Kuo Kai-wen, director of Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau's Seismology Center, said the quake was not geologically related to the massive temblor that hit Chile, in other side of the Pacific, last Saturday, but its intensity was unusual for the area. "This is the biggest quake to hit this region in more than a century," he said. The quake's epicenter was near the town of Jiashian, especially hard hit by last year's typhoon. A Kaohsiung county official said that some temporary housing built for typhoon survivors collapsed in the shaking. The fire agency said 64 people had been injured […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China sets 2010 economic growth rate at 8%, stressing quality of growth (Xinhua)
2010-03-05
China expects its economy to grow around 8 percent in 2010 from a year earlier, says a report to be delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual parliament session Friday. Setting the 8-percent target mainly "aims at ensuring the quality of economic growth, focusing on transformation of economic development pattern and adjustment of economic structure," says the report distributed to media before the opening of the 3rd Session of the 11th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature. The increase of consumer price index, a main gauge of the country's inflation, will be held around 3 percent, it says. Although the development environment this year may be better than 2009, China "will still face a complicated situation," […] The year of 2010 will be a "crucial but complicated" year for China's economic development as the country will continue fighting against the global financial crisis while maintaining a stable and comparatively fast economic growth and the accelerating transformation of growth pattern, according to the report. As the first country emerging from the global economic downturn, China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose 8.7 percent in 2009 from a year earlier, above the 8-percent target the government set at the beginning of last year. China's quarterly economic growth accelerated as the government's economic stimulus package started to pay off. The national economy rose 6.2 percent in the first quarter last year, 7.9 percent in the second quarter, 9.1 percent in the third and 10.7 percent in the fourth. ^ top ^

Unemployment rate targeted within 4.6% in 2010 (China Daily)
2010-03-05
China plans to keep the urban registered unemployment rate no higher than 4.6 percent and create over 9 million new jobs in urban areas this year, according to a government work report to be delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing Friday. China created 11.02 million new jobs in urban areas in 2009 amid the lingering financial crisis, while the country's urban unemployment rate stood at 4.3 percent, with 9.21 million people being registered to be unemployed. ^ top ^

China to ban sales of energy-wasting air conditioners (China Daily)
2010-03-04
China's top economic planner said Wednesday it would ban sales of energy-wasting air conditioners from June 1 by raising the market threshold based on their energy efficiency. New standards will evaluate each model according to their coefficient of performance (COP), the efficiency ratio of the amount of heating or cooling provided by a heating or cooling unit to the energy consumed by the system. The higher the COP, the more efficient the system. For air conditioners with a rated power output of up to 4.5 kilowatts, the most common model for household use, the lowest COP for market entry would be raised to 3.2 from the current 2.6, said the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) […] The standards vary in accordance with an air conditioner's rated power output. The statement said the average COP level would be raised by 23 percent with the advent of the new standards […] China is the world's biggest producer and market for air conditioners, which consume 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year, and more than a third of the total power used in the peak summer time, according to the statement. The new standards would result in 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity saved each year, said the NDRC. At present, more than half of air conditioners in the Chinese market are deemed energy efficient, which the NDRC attributed to government efforts to promote energy efficient home appliances through subsidies […] The standards were formulated by the NDRC in cooperation with China's quality control and standardization authorities as well as major home appliance producers. ^ top ^

[New] environmental tax [discussed] (Global Times)
2010-03-04
China is studying whether to introduce a new environmental tax, vice environment minister Pan Yue said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the opening session of the annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Pan said existing environment-related taxes would be scrapped. ^ top ^

Four biggest banks lend only 300 billion in February (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-03
Lending by China's four largest state-owned banks withered to less than 300 billion yuan in February, amid Chinese central regulators' strengthening macro-control measures to rein in credit and prevent inflation. Chinese newspapers reported Wednesday that the four lenders, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China, the China Construction Bank and the China Agriculture Bank, approved a total of 294 billion yuan of loans in February, dipping more than 34 percent from January. China's financial organizations approved 1.39 trillion yuan of loans in January, triggering the People's Bank of China, the central bank, to raise the reserve requirement ratio by 50 basic points in February, to curb asset bubbles and price rises. Another regulator, China's banking regulatory commission under the State Council, also meted out an array of measures to control lending and prevent bad loans from forming. Experts estimate the amount of loans approved by banks in February at less than 600 billion yuan. The regulators are reportedly planning 2010 total lending at 7.5 trillion yuan, as compared with last year's 9.6 trillion yuan. On Wednesday, Chinese stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen traded lower, as investors are unnerved by the news, which is diluting liquidity. ^ top ^

Chinese govt to reign in provincial debts (Global Times)
2010-03-03
The central government is expected to overhaul nearly 4,000 local government fund-raising firms and authorize provinces to issue bonds in an attempt to reign in localized debt amid growing concerns over financial troubles, the 21st Century Business Herald reported Tuesday. Although the central government has been investing heavily to boost the economy nationwide – most notably with a 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package implemented in late 2008 – local governments have had to borrow a significant amount of cash from local banks to meet massive demand from infrastructure building and social security programs. A massive Ministry of Finance-led cleanup of local debts will be carried out soon […] The State Council is expected to authorize provincial bonds within a central-government-approved amount, the article said. Under China's existing budget act issued in 1994, local governments are prohibited from financing through bond issuance and from incurring a budget deficit. Last year, 200-billion-yuan worth of bonds were issued by the central government on behalf of local governments. Local governments used to get money solely from the central government. That was until 1988, when they could get only part of what they needed and had to set up investment firms to raise the rest of money from local banks. But over-borrowing from the banks has worsened the debt crisis. Updated official figures aren't available, but the central bank revealed that local governments had 5 trillion yuan in debt by the end of May last year, accounting for one sixth of China's GDP aggregate for 2008 […] China's current economic development phase determines that local governments need to invest heavily in an extensive range of infrastructure projects, including roads and sewage-treatment plants that cannot generate immediate cash flow to pay off debts. However, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, local governments still haven't put in place 45 percent of money needed to go along with the central government's investment to fulfill its promised 4-trillion-yuan stimulus. According to an expert with the price and taxation research office at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences […] massive debts incurred by local government reflect the conflicts between the current budget system and the breakneck development of China's economy in recent years […]. ^ top ^

High-speed rail doesn't add up, planner says (SCMP)
2010-03-03
A researcher with the powerful National Development and Reform Commission has openly questioned China's ambitious high-speed rail plan, saying it is not economic. Liu Bin, a transport researcher at the government's top planning body, was quoted by Xinhua's Economy and Nation Weekly yesterday as saying the network - with trains running at up to 350km/h - faced major problems in recouping its construction costs. "At this pricing level, high-speed rail is being put into competition with domestic airlines," he said. "The civil aviation market is a very limited one, and high-speed rail might not be able to achieve its minimum passenger loads to break even." Xinhua also reported yesterday that the aggressive plan to build 18,000 kilometres of high-speed railway, the world's longest such network, would raise the Ministry of Railways' total debt to 3 trillion yuan by 2020. Earlier reports have said investment in the network in the next six years is expected to total 3.7 trillion yuan. Many experts have queried the high-speed railway project, launched in 2008. In January, Weng Zhensong, a professor at the ministry's economic and planning research institute, said there were problems with pricing high-speed rail services. "If the price is too high, nobody will take them. If the price is too low, there will be financing difficulties," Weng said. The economic costs and benefits of high-speed rail lines have also featured prominently in the debate over Hong Kong's plans to link to the national network. At HK$66.9 billion, the 26 kilometres of track to the mainland border, linking up with a line to Guangzhou, will cost about HK$2.57 billion a kilometre, making it the world's most expensive railway for its length. Because high-speed railways are so expensive, analysts say they really compete with airlines, not conventional rail networks. And they say they only compete effectively with airlines on journeys between cities less than 1,000 kilometres apart. Economy and Nation Weekly put passenger loads for the high-speed line from Beijing to Tianjin at about 50,000 a day, or 18 million a year, far below forecasts of 38 million. Liu said he was concerned the high-speed railway network would result in huge maintenance, operating and energy costs. However, his concerns were brushed aside by Ministry of Railways spokesman Wang Yongping, who said the investment in high-speed railways was far lower than other countries' because local governments provided the land needed, labour was cheap and construction costs and materials were centrally co-ordinated […]. ^ top ^

China-Peru Free Trade Agreement enters into force (Global Times)
2010-03-02
China-Peru Free Trade Agreement entered into force on March 1, 2010 […] The Free Trade Agreement will include provisions for the trade in goods, investments and services. Current imported goods from Peru to China include bovine fiber and seafood products, jewels and fruits. After the agreement takes effect, more goods imported from Peru, such as juice, are likely to be seen in the Chinese market. Alan Garcia, the president of Peru, expects the export volume from Peru to China to reach $15 billion in 2015 after the China-Peru Free Trade Agreement enters into force […] Currently, China is Peru's second largest trading partner worldwide, and Peru is China's seventh largest trade partner in South America. In 2008, the total volume of exports of the two countries reached $7.4 billion. The total volume of exports in 2009 had not been calculated yet, but it "should be more or less similar to the numbers in 2008, despite the global financial crisis", according to Jorge Chian, Economic and Commercial Counselor in the Embassy of Peru in Beijing. The Free Trade Agreement between China and Peru was first brought into picture in 2007 APEC competition. It was signed after only six rounds of negotiation, making it the most expeditious free trade agreement signed by China […] Currently, China signed Free Trade Agreement with five countries and three regions, namely Chile, Pakistan, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, ASEAN, Hong Kong and Macau (CEPA). ^ top ^

China allocates 28.6 bln yuan to support farmers (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-02
China's central government has allocated 28.6 billion yuan (4.2 billion U.S. dollars) to support farmers, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement Monday. The bulk of the funding -- 18.6 billion yuan -- would be used to subsidize farmers in growing improved varieties of crops such as rice, corn, and cotton. The other 10 billion yuan would subsidize purchases of farm machinery such as sowers and reapers, said the statement issued to Xinhua. The funding aimed to improve motivation in agricultural production, and stabilize the country's grain production […] Farmers across the country would be eligible for the subsidies. The funding was on top of 86.7 billion yuan of subsidy funding to grain-growing farmers nationwide in February. The financial support for agriculture came as severe drought continued in the nation's west and south. The National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued a drought alert on Sunday warning the severe drought would continue over the next three days. The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said Saturday the drought, which started at the beginning of February, had affected 69.6 million mu (4.64 million hectares) of arable land and left 12.7 million people and 8.4 million heads of livestock short of drinking water. ^ top ^

Four provinces' GDP top G20 states (Global Times)
2010-03-02
Four of the mainland's most affluent provinces were individually wealthier than some Group of Twenty (G20) countries in 2008, China's top think tank said in its annual blue paper published Sunday. The GDP of Guangdong Province, an economic powerhouse near Hong Kong, well eclipsed not only other Chinese provinces and cities in 2008, but also the largest economy in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. Joining Guangdong on the list are East China's Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, according to the Economic Competitiveness Report of China's Provinces and Regions (2008-2009), published by China's Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on Sunday. The blue paper reported that Guangdong's overall GDP, which the National Bureau of Statistics put at 3.6 trillion yuan ($527 billion) for 2008, stood at 16th among the G20 community, also exceeding G20 members Indonesia, Argentina and South Africa […] A first-time comparison between the top 10 most affluent provinces and cities, in terms of overall GDP figures, and 18 G20 members excluding China and the EU, could reflect the vitality and competitiveness of Chinese regions in the face of the worldwide financial crisis, People's Daily Monday cited the CASS report as saying. The blue paper said Shanghai was 12th among the G20 countries in terms of per capita GDP, surpassing Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and India. Tianjin was 15th, followed by Beijing […] The blue paper said the national economy showed a V-type rebound during the period of 2008-2009, which was conducive to the sound and stable domestic economic development and has contributed tremendously to helping other world powers overcome the impact of the economic recession. Guangdong, a province with significant focus on exports, registered much slower growth in 2008 as exports plunged […] In contrast to the high-flying coastal provinces, some inner regions such as Tibet and Qinghai are far away at the bottom of the economic lineup, with their 2008 GDP at 39.6 billion and 96.1 billion yuan, respectively […]. ^ top ^

Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway to raise up to 50 bln yuan (China Daily)
2010-03-02
Railroad operator Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Co Ltd is planning to raise 30 to 50 billion yuan ($4.4-$7.3 billion) through an initial public offering (IPO) this year, a source with the Ministry of Railways told China Daily on Monday. The ministry is preparing the IPO proposal and has submitted it to key government departments including the Ministry of Finance, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission for further review […] The IPO plan has to be approved by the State Council as the project is still under construction and the company does not have the regulatory requirement of a three-year profit record […] China Railway Investment Corp (CRIC), owned by the Ministry of Railways, is the largest shareholder of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Co Ltd, set up in 2007. CRIC holds a 56.2 percent stake in the project and said it intends to shed 4.5 percent stake to raise about 6 billion yuan for more construction projects […] Railway projects in the country are largely financed through national funds and railway construction bonds issued by the Ministry of Railways. But the ministry is now exploring alternate channels to raise capital […] Work on the 1,318-km high-speed railway project started in April 2008 with a planned investment of 220.9 billion yuan. It is expected to be operational by 2012. So far, nearly 122.4 billion yuan has been invested on the project […] China is aggressively expanding its railway network with over 2.1 trillion yuan worth of construction projects currently under way. By the end of 2012, the country's high-speed railway is expected to account for half of the world's total length. Shares of domestic railway firms rose sharply last year, after US investment guru Warren Buffett bought a 77 percent stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, indicating that golden days are ahead for shareholders. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

A/H1N1 passes peak in flu season: Health Ministry (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-03
The A/H1N1 influenza outbreak, which has killed nearly 800 people on the Chinese mainland, has passed its peak in the autumn-winter flu season, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday. The mainland saw a sharp drop in the proportion of A/H1N1 in all flu cases, down from 36.6 percent in January to 11.1 percent last month, the ministry said in a report posted on its website. The disease had killed 793 people by Feb. 28, including 18 last month […] Experts spotted no mutations in the virus and an estimated 30 percent of the population had immunity against the strain, the report said. The ministry, however, warned that though a pandemic was unlikely to occur in the near future, localized spreading of the disease could not yet be ruled out, especially in crowded public venues such as schools. The ministry said flu prevention measures should not be eased as the population still had limited access to immunization against the A/H1N1 flu strain. As of Feb. 28, more than 82 million Chinese people had been inoculated with the A/H1N1 flu vaccine, according to the report. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Beijing expects Six-Party Talks before July (China Daily)
2010-03-05
Beijing is expecting the stalled nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang to resume before July, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs told China Daily on Thursday. It was the first occasion on which China openly talked about its time frame to thaw the Six-Party Talks that have been frozen since April last year. "China's goal is to restart the Six-Party Talks in the first half of this year. That's our expectation, but it is difficult to say if this will be realized," Wu Dawei said on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The Six-Party Talks involve the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), China, Japan and Russia. Beijing and Pyongyang held three rounds of high-level meetings in February. The US embassy in China told China Daily on Thursday it has yet to confirm the latest information, while the embassies of the ROK and Japan did not comment on the issue […] Pyongyang has set two conditions for it to return to the talks - lifting UN sanctions against it and holding peace talks aimed at formally ending the 1950-1953 Korean War. But the US, ROK and Japan said Pyongyang must first return to the talks and show notable progress before its conditions can be met. "China is thinking about raising its own suggestions on the issue," Wu said. Wu has served as vice-foreign minister and China's chief negotiator on the DPRK nuclear issue. He was named the special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs last month and is in charge of the Six-Party Talks […]. ^ top ^

No information about Kim Jong Il's visit, Chinese FM (Xinhua)
2010-03-05
China's Foreign Ministry said it had received no information that the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Il intended to soon visit China. Spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks Thursday in response to a question regarding media reports in Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) saying Kim would visit China in late March. Qin told a regular press conference that the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) have traditionally enjoyed high-level visits. "We believe this tradition can be maintained," he said. Kim Yong Il, director of the International Affairs Department of the WPK Central Committee, visited China in February. This was viewed by some in the overseas media as paving the way for Kim's visit to China. […]. ^ top ^

N.Korea's Kim rumored to be planning China visit (Global Times)
2010-03-04
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will visit China later this month, according to the Tokyo-based Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. Kim will meet with China's top leadership and hold talks concerning financial aid and Pyongyang's nuclear program, the report said. Kim has paid four visits to China since 2000, two of which were initiated at the beginning of each year, and this presumed visit would mark his first overseas trip for four years. Meanwhile, another high-level North Korean official's lengthy visit to China's northeastern border cities that began in late February has fueled speculation that preparatory arrangements for Kim's visit are under way, Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported. Kim Yong-il, the chief of the North Korean Workers' Party's International Department, began his visit February 23 by meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Jiarui and Chinese President Hu Jintao. He then traveled to some major northeastern Chinese cities. "Some of the cities Kim Yong-il has visited may be included in the itinerary of Kim Jong-il," the South Korean paper claimed […] According to Chosun Ilbo, Kim Yong-il visited the regional development belts of Changchun, Jilin and the Tumen River area – a border development region launched by the Chinese government in November, which is linked to North Korea's Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone. ^ top ^

Pyongyang may send top nuke envoy to US (China Daily)
2010-03-04
Pyongyang's chief nuclear envoy is likely to visit the United States early this month to discuss the resumption of the stalled nuclear disarmament talks, Seoul's top diplomat said on Wednesday. Chinese experts tracking the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue said positive signals regarding the rare visit, if it takes place, was an indication that Pyongyang was softening its stance, and that the stalled Six-Party Talks could see a breakthrough soon. The foreign minister of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Yu Myung-hwan told reporters in Seoul that the top nuclear negotiator of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Kye-gwan has been invited to attend an academic meet in the US. US officials, however, are reluctant to sit down for direct talks unless there is a clear indication that such a dialogue would quickly lead to a resumption of wider nuclear disarmament discussions […] The DPRK, on the other hand, said at the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament held in Geneva on Tuesday that it would like to directly talk with the US on the nuclear issue, but that Washington must drop its "hostile policies". "This is a signal of Pyongyang's softened stance on the nuclear disarmament talks," said Fu Mengzi, a senior researcher on American studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "Washington has been sticking to a tough line on conditions to restart the talks, and now Pyongyang is seeking to ease the tension," […] Pyongyang has insisted on two conditions for returning to the talks frozen since April last year - lifting UN sanctions and holding peace talks aimed at formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War. At the same time, it has suffered heavily from UN sanctions and a failed currency reform. The US, ROK and Japan however have said Pyongyang must first return to the talks and show notable progress before its conditions can be met […] An unnamed high-level ROK official said earlier this week that the Six-Party Talks, which also involves Russia, would resume as early as in "March or April", following similar expectations raised days earlier by the US. ^ top ^

Pyongyang bemoans S.Korea-US military drill (Global Times)
2010-03-03
North Korea warned Tuesday that South Korean-US war games this month will torpedo efforts to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons, and vowed to strengthen its atomic arsenal if necessary. The March 8-18 exercise comes "at a time when the international community is growing more vocal than ever before, calling for a settlement of the nuclear issue," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a commentary. "Obviously, this is a deliberate attempt to disturb peace on the peninsula and torpedo the denuclearization process." Last week the military accused South Korean and US troops of planning a surprise attack under the pretext of the exercise and warned that it could respond with atomic weapons. North Korea routinely criticizes such war games as a rehearsal for invasion, while Seoul and its ally Washington say they are purely defensive. The Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise will draw 10,000 US troops stationed in South Korea plus 8,000 from abroad, and an undisclosed number of South Korean soldiers. KCNA said such exercises would drive "the process for the denuclearization of the peninsula to a collapse." Lü Chao, a researcher of Korean Peninsula studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that the military drill would have a limited impact on the nuclear talks. "In the past, the drill has taken place many times, and Pyongyang has complained many times, which has become one of the regular dramas on the peninsula," Lü said. "It may add some fuel to the tight situation, but won't cause great damage to this year's progress in resuming the Six-Party Talks." Despite tensions, the two Koreas went ahead with talks on ways to ease business at their jointly run Kaesong industrial park, a valuable revenue source for sanctions-hit North Korea. ^ top ^

Two Koreas start talks over joint industrial park (Xinhua)
2010-03-02
South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) started talks Tuesday to resolve problems hampering operations at their joint industrial park, the government said. A group of South Korean officials crossed the border into the neighboring DPRK to reach the border town of Kaesong where the factories park is located. "We will do our best to draw concrete and visible results from the talks to solve problems of the transportation, communications and customs systems there," Lee Kang-woo, head of the South Korean delegation, told reporters, referring to the three major issues that have hampered operations at the joint park. The working-level contact came after weeks of exchanges over the venue and the date of the talks. Currently, some 110 South Korean companies are running factories in the park, employing about 42,000 workers from the DPRK mostly producing labor-intensive goods. The joint park is a long-standing but fragile symbol of inter- Korean cooperation whose operations have occasionally been threatened due to worsening ties. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Baganuur district under quarantine for influenza (News.mn)
2010-03-04
Baganuur district of Ulaanbaatar has been put under quarantine because of the spread of influenza. Five kindergartens and Bolovsrol school complex have been closed until March 9. Billiards, tennis and PC game centers will also be shut until then. The Governor of Baganuur, Ts.Sandag-Ochir, has said since February 19, 90 percent of the ambulance calls and 70 percent of ambulatory inspections were for influenza patients. Only 60 percent of students are coming to schools and kindergartens. Most of the infected are children under four, and many are developing pneumonia. Doctors at the district hospital are working without break. ^ top ^

Air pollution in UB is 7 times greater than European limits (Mongol Messenger)
2010-03-03
Ulaanbaatar is already the coldest capital of the world, but it need not be its most polluted. When Ulaanbaatar's one million citizens breath, their lungs act like air filters, catching and storing harmful dust. Scientists call this dust “particulate matter” (PM). If PM is smaller than 10 microns or PM10, it can cause respiratory illnesses. This illnesses can lead to increased absence from school and work and even premature death. Based on a recent World Bank joint study with National University of Mongolia and the Public Health Institute, PM10 measurements over the past three years in UB are two-five times higher than Mongolia's Air Quality Standards. Five to ten times higher than the WHO guidelines and three to seven times Mongolian standards, four times the most flexible WHO targets for developing countries and 14 times higher than WHO global guidelines. ^ top ^

Hospital Seeks Volunteers To Aid Flu Patients (UB Post)
2010-03-02
Volunteers and university students started stretching their helping hands to the central hospitals of Ulaanbaatar as those hospitals have become overloaded with seasonal flu-sickened patients. At the Bayanzurkh District Hospital alone, a number of visitors have reached 3,000 a day in recent days due to a highly acute respiratory disease is rapidly increasing. Most of the patients being treated at the hospital are children aged under five. Forty graduate-level students from the State University of Medical Sciences are working at the Bayanzurkh District Hospital as assistant workers at the request of the Bayanzurkh District government. More than 400 children, together with same number of adult guardians, are being accommodated on 250 available beds at the Bayanzurkh District Hospital. Half of them had to receive service on corridors. ^ top ^

Cold winter and snow storms kill three million livestock (Montsame)
2010-03-02
Due to severe winter, about 3 million head of livestock have perished in Mongolia as of first of March, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry said. According to a report by the ministry, a total of 3 million 10.235 heads of animals have died nationwide due to the winter. Of them, 287.606 were big animals (cattle, horse and camel) and 2 million 722.629 were small animals (sheep and goat). ^ top ^

Rio Tinto to lift stake in Ivanhoe mines (Montsame)
2010-03-01
Rio Tinto has agreed to acquire 15 million shares in Ivanhoe Mines Ltd at a subscription price of CDN$16.31 per share, increasing its ownership in Ivanhoe Mines by 2.7 per cent to 22.4 per cent. The total consideration for this acquisition is CDN$244.7 million. Andrew Harding, chief executive, Copper, Rio Tinto said "Our further investment in Ivanhoe Mines underlines our confidence in the quality of the world class Oyu Tolgoi deposit and its priority in our project portfolio. We are working with Ivanhoe Mines on finalising the conditions precedent for completion of the Investment Agreement with the Government of Mongolia and are looking forward to moving into the development phase of the project." The shares are being issued to Rio Tinto in satisfaction of an arrangement with Ivanhoe Mines in 2008 to finance equipment for the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold complex in Mongolia's South Gobi region. By financing the equipment at that time, Rio Tinto provided Ivanhoe Mines with the funds necessary for the ongoing development of the Oyu Tolgoi project and maintained the critical long lead manufacturing time for the equipment. Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines are development partners for the Oyu Tolgoi project. Production is expected to commence in 2013, with a five year ramp up to full expected production of 450,000 tonnes of copper per year and 330,000 ounces of gold. After the completion of the acquisition, Rio Tinto will own 98.6 million shares of Ivanhoe Mines. If Rio Tinto were to exercise all of its share purchase warrants and convert its US$350 million loan into shares it would own approximately 267.6 million shares of Ivanhoe Mines representing 44.0 per cent of Ivanhoe Mines. Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. ^ top ^

 

Manuel Muehlebach
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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