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
  15.3-19.3.10, No. 311  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China concerned by Iran, yet to back sanctions (Global Times)
2010-03-19
China expressed concern Thursday over the development of Iran's nuclear issue, saying the door of diplomacy is still open while facing mounting demands from Western powers to push for new sanctions on Tehran. "China has concerns about the development of Iran's nuclear issue," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang in a regular press conference Thursday. "Dialogue and negotiation through diplomatic means is the best way to seek a proper solution to the problem." Russia, the United States, France, Britain, China and Germany have been putting pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, amid fears that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Of the six countries, China continues to resist imposing fresh sanctions while Moscow slowly appears to be coming over to the other countries' tougher stance on the issue. However, China is now facing more and more pressure from various sides on pushing the new sanctions. Canada, which chairs the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, called on China on Wednesday to put more pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions. "There comes a point beyond which there needs to be action, there needs to be engagement," Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told Reuters […] "There doesn't seem to be, on behalf of the Iranians, a level of cooperation that would (lead us) to say the diplomatic venue is the correct one to follow. So therefore I would seriously believe that China could play a leadership role here." The US is also pushing "aggressive sanctions" to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon […] US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman also said that the US looks to China to support strong sanctions in a speech at Tsinghua University Thursday. The Times of London reported meanwhile that there is speculation that Iran has been delivering tons of weaponry to the Taliban […] According to He Yafei, China's ambassador to the United Nations Office in Geneva, China has been talking to Iran constantly and urging the country to agree to a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a first step to solving the nuclear issue. But he also emphasized Beijing wants "every avenue" explored before considering sanctions […]. ^ top ^

Pressing China on yuan will hurt U.S. economy: U.S. media (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-19
The efforts by U.S. legislators to pressure China to reform its currency is to make China a scapegoat of the U.S. domestic politics, and may actually hurt the U.S. economy, according to articles published by U.S. well known media in recent two days. The Wall Street Journal said Thursday that U.S. lawmakers "want to make the yuan a scapegoat and risk a trade war with China," referring to the U.S. Senators' bill proposed Tuesday to call for China to appreciate its currency yuan. Under the pressure of the election year and high unemployment, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and four other senators unveiled a legislation to threaten China for punitive duties on goods from China if it does not let yuan appreciate against the U.S. dollar. "China is right to resist these calls, not least because a large revaluation could damage China's growth," the Wall Street Journal said in its Review and Outlook column. "China has helped to lead the global economy out of this recession, and the world needs that to continue." In another article titled "Pressing China on the yuan won't work," which was published by the Time magazine website on Wednesday, Michael Schuman said that the Schumer bill "clearly shows how politicized the yuan has become." The article said that Beijing is "an easy target for Americans worried by high unemployment and an uncertain recovery to blame for the country's economic woes." But "a stronger yuan isn't a panacea to American economic problems." Schuman said that "there is a belief that if China allowed the yuan to appreciate, U.S. industry would become more competitive and the giant trade deficit with China would evaporate. But that could very well be wishful thinking." He pointed out that when the yuan was appreciating against the U.S. dollar, from 2005 to 2008, the U.S. trade deficit with China actually increased. "In fact, a stronger yuan might actually be detrimental to the U.S. economy in certain key ways," he said […] The article also said that the Chinese are highly sensitive to criticism and pressure on this front, and threats from the U.S. Senate only corners Beijing into a position where it becomes politically difficult for the government to take any action. ^ top ^

Top Chinese, ROK diplomats exchange views on Korean Peninsula nuclear issue (Xinhua)
2010-03-19
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Thursday discussed with Yu Myung Hwan, his counterpart from the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the six-party process, according to a press release issued after the talks. The statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said they touched on regional and international issues of common concern during the talks, but it gave no further details on those issues. The two senior officials also voiced their willingness to work together to promote exchanges and cooperation, so as to push forward bilateral ties […] Yu, who arrived in China late Wednesday, visited the Expo garden in Shanghai before heading to Beijing. Yu met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the afternoon, during which they discussed China-ROK relations and issues of common concern. Launched in 2003, the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula involve China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, the ROK, Russia and Japan. ^ top ^

Rights record 'serious cause for concern' (SCMP)
2010-03-19
China's record on civil liberties is a "serious cause for concern", Britain said yesterday in its annual report on human rights as Foreign Secretary David Miliband flew in from Beijing. He said the Foreign Office report ensured that "the most oppressive governments who refuse to be held to account by their own people, they are at least held to account by the international community". "I reject the notion that national sovereignty should be able to shield states from scrutiny," said Miliband, who raised rights issues in Beijing, including the fate of missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. "China's human rights record remained a serious cause for concern in 2009," the report said. While Beijing had made economic and social progress, it had been "far slower on civil and political rights, with a marked deterioration in some areas", it said. The report highlighted three issues: the "increasing harassment of defence lawyers, the treatment of detainees in relation to ethnic unrest and the detention of human rights defenders and political dissidents." "A worrying number of people were imprisoned in 2009 for attempting to exercise their right to freedom of expression," it said. "Officials from the British embassy in Beijing made repeated efforts to attend the trials of individuals in priority cases but were denied access. "Increasingly, the authorities are using criminal charges to shut down the activities of human rights defenders," it said. "Positive trends in 2009 included indications of increased government accountability in some areas. Citizens have better, though still restricted, access to official information. They are starting to take the government to court" […]. ^ top ^

US senators escalate yuan dispute (Global Times)
2010-03-18
Chinese scholars and Internet users Wednesday voiced their overwhelming opposition to legislation proposed by US senators to punish China for its so-called currency manipulation. More than 96 percent of about 7,500 Web users who participated in an online poll by huanqiu.com say China was justified to stand against US pressure and ignore its calls for yuan appreciation. The currency dispute seems to have triggered strong sentiments among the public of both countries. China has a timetable and a pace to follow in foreign exchange reform, and a one-off appreciation of the yuan is not taking place any time soon, analysts said Wednesday, amid escalating foreign pressure on Beijing to revalue its currency. Washington has become increasingly vocal on the issue, locking China and the US in a wrangle over the value of the yuan, in an argument in which confrontational actions seem to be brewing. Taking an apparently tougher line, US senators unveiled Tuesday legislation that threatens heavy penalties if Beijing refuses to act. The bill would punish currency manipulation as an unfair subsidy and could trigger retaliatory actions. "There is no bigger step that we can take to promote job creation here in the US than to confront Chinese currency manipulation," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the 14 senators who backed the bill. US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned Tuesday of a continuing high unemployment rate, currently at 9.7 percent. More than 8 million people in the US are believed to have lost their jobs since the recession began in late 2007. He Weiwen, managing director of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, said the latest US moves were merely due to political concerns and that it is not necessary to strengthen the yuan. "China is by no means in any position to sacrifice its own interests to help the US to boost employment. The US should not look for a solution in the yuan," He said. "The US administration can't simply divert its domestic mess to other countries." He offered that China could take countermeasures if the US ultimately recognizes Beijing as a currency manipulator, citing moves including appealing to the WTO, imposing similar penalties on US imports, and halting large procurements from the US […] The introduction of legislation followed increased pressure by US lawmakers Monday ahead of November mid-term US elections, who urge Geithner to determine that Beijing manipulates its currency in a report due next month […] The International Monetary Fund weighed into the argument Wednesday, saying the yuan is "very much undervalued" and appreciation is part of global economic rebalancing […] The World Bank also joined the debate Wednesday, urging Beijing to let its currency rise to contain inflation and stop the economy overheating […]. ^ top ^

Google expected to keep its key operations going (SCMP)
2010-03-18
Internet search giant Google, despite its much publicised threat to exit China, will probably retain key business operations in the country when its domestic website is shut down, mainland internet analysts say. That development may help reassure what appears to be an anxious group of online advertising resellers, who on Monday asked Google for compensation for mounting losses they claim to have incurred since the company sought to defy Chinese censorship rules after a major online security breach. "We don't believe Google will conduct a 100 per cent pull-out of its operations in China," said Edward Yu, the chief executive at internet market research firm Analysys International in Beijing. "The most likely scenario is that it will retain fewer personnel on the mainland and continue relationships with various local partners. It will probably keep research and development in Beijing and have some sales, marketing and support in its other offices." Google - which started its Chinese-language website, Google.cn, in 2006 - has its domestic headquarters in Beijing and offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou. After it threatened in January to stop the government-mandated filtering of search traffic to Google.cn, the company has been tight-lipped about its plans on the mainland, keeping its local partners and clients in limbo on what would happen if it departed from China […]. ^ top ^

He Yafei expounds China's human rights policy (Xinhua)
2010-03-18
China respected the universality of human rights and believed all human rights were "universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated," He Yafei, China's new ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva, said on Wednesday. "The principle of universality has been included in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments," He told Xinhua in an interview. "China has ratified more than 20 international human rights instruments, including seven of the eight core human rights instruments. This demonstrates clearly China's affirmation of the universality of human rights," said the ambassador, who was China's vice foreign minister before taking his new position in Geneva earlier this month. While acknowledging the universality of human rights, He also stressed that countries might have different understandings about human rights and different ways and means of promoting and protecting human rights because of the "diversity of culture, history, religion and the difference of social systems and development levels" […] According to the Chinese ambassador, the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva and comprises 47 member states, is an agency aimed at promoting and protecting human rights through dialogue and cooperation. Nearly four years after its creation, the Council "has basically accomplished its work and is on the right track," he said […] In the interview, He also highlighted China's increasing contribution to the United Nations and its deeper integration into the international system. "From the start of this year, China becomes the 8th largest contributor to the UN regular budget, just following the seven industrialized countries" […] He added China was by far the largest troop-contributing country among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council […] The ambassador stressed China would never shirk from international roles, and that it would continue to meet its global obligations. ^ top ^

Abducted Chinese nationals in Cameroon released (China Daily)
2010-03-18
The seven Chinese nationals kidnapped in Cameroon days ago were released on Wednesday, Chinese diplomats said. The released Chinese nationals arrived in Cameroon's port city Limbe late on Wednesday and the seven are all in good condition. The Chinese nationals left the Bakassi peninsula by boat where they were released. Limbe is the port city of Cameroon in the Atlantic Ocean. The Seven Chinese nationals on board two fishing boats owned by China's Dalian Beihai Fishing Company were abducted early Friday morning by gunmen off the Bakassi peninsula. An "Africa Marine Commando", which had been unknown, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The two fishing vessels returned to the port of Limbe hours later with two sailors on board slightly injured. Chinese Ambassador Xue Jinwei told Xinhua that the Chinese and Cameroonian authorities had worked hard to save them. Negotiations went on for days during which the captives had no risk of lives and were provided with water and food […]. ^ top ^

Hu expected at summit in US despite friction (SCMP)
2010-03-17
President Hu Jintao is very likely to attend next month's nuclear summit in the US despite renewed friction with Washington over its criticism of Beijing's currency settings. Beijing has been tight-lipped amid speculation about whether Chinese leaders will attend the two-day summit, called by US President Barack Obama. But analysts say Beijing will not miss such an important meeting and information released by state media shows that Hu is the person most likely to represent the country at the talks. A Brazilian diplomat said that his government expected Hu to attend the second BRIC summit in Brasilia on April 15 or 16. "President Hu is also expected to be paying a state visit to Brazil, probably before the BRIC summit." The summit in Brazil - between the four emerging powers, China, Brazil, Russia and India - will take place immediately after the April 12 to 13 nuclear security summit in the United States, adding to the likelihood of Hu's attendance. Media reports have also suggested that other Chinese leaders will be occupied by official visits elsewhere late this month and early next month. Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said last week that Premier Wen Jiabao would make his first trip to the Southeast Asian country around the third week of April. Xinhua reported yesterday that Vice-President Xi Jinping would be visiting Russia and four European countries between March 20 and 30. This would reduce the chances of Xi going to Washington because it is rare for state leaders to make two major trips in the space of just two weeks. Despite recent tensions in Sino-US relations, mainland analysts said China was likely to attend the nuclear summit, where world leaders will discuss steps to prevent nuclear expansion and terrorism. However, some said it would undermine China's self-esteem if a leader went to Washington after the US administration sold arms to Taiwan and hosted Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House […] Hu agreed to pay a state visit to the US during Obama's visit to China in November. But Sun Zhe, from Tsinghua University, said that even if Hu did attend the nuclear summit, a state visit to the US would not take place in the first half of the year. China is under increasing pressure to help pass a fresh round of sanctions on Iran. But officials have repeatedly said that sanctions would not settle the nuclear issue in Iran fundamentally, and suggested diplomatic negotiation. The timing of the nuclear summit is tricky for China because Hu would be likely to leave Washington with renewed criticism of currency policy. The US Treasury Department will release its semi-annual report to Congress on international currency policies on April 15. A group of 130 American lawmakers sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Monday, urging the US government to single out the Chinese currency issue in the report. Commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian said yesterday the valuation of the yuan was not the reason for China's trade surplus […]. ^ top ^

Miliband pays visit to discuss Iran and put end to bitterness (SCMP)
2010-03-16
Britain's foreign secretary is visiting China to lobby for further nuclear sanctions on Iran and will seek to smooth rancour with Beijing over climate change talks and the execution of a British drug smuggler thought to be mentally ill. David Miliband's visit is another step in the push by Britain, the US and others to persuade China to drop its opposition to a fourth round of sanctions to pressure Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. With Russia appearing to move closer to supporting new sanctions, China - which depends on Iran for much of its energy needs - would be the only one of five veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council members opposed to the measures. During a stop yesterday in the country's financial hub of Shanghai, Miliband inaugurated the US$38 million British pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and made a speech to students that called for progress on a global warming agreement. He also referred to investor complaints of new barriers to trade in emerging economies […] His speech made no mention of Iran or the continuing friction between London and Beijing that has played out in duelling accusations, diplomatic protests and statements in the media. Miliband was to visit a training base for Chinese UN peacekeepers outside Beijing before meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday and delivering a talk at Beijing's Foreign Affairs University before leaving tomorrow. Britain-China ties bottomed out last December after China ignored personal appeals from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to execute 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh for drug smuggling. Shaikh's family said he was mentally unstable and was lured to China from a life on the street in Poland by men playing on his dreams to record a pop song for world peace. Brown said he was "appalled" by the execution - China's first of a European citizen in nearly 60 years - prompting a warning from Beijing that such comments threatened to damage ties. Even before that exchange, the two had clashed over December's UN-sponsored Copenhagen climate talks that ended without a binding agreement on emissions reductions. In the aftermath, Britain's climate change minister, Edward Miliband - David Miliband's brother - published an editorial singling out China as the culprit behind the talks' near collapse. China has been emboldened by its rising global clout and economic influence, analysts say, and the tough line it has taken signals the communist government's growing willingness to confront those who challenge it. ^ top ^

Arms race threatens region (Global Times)
2010-03-16
Weapons sales to Southeast Asia have surged in the past five years, piling up concerns that an arms race could threaten regional stability, a leading security institute said Monday. The huge rise is partly a consequence of profit-driven military dealers stoking fears over the fast development of China, analysts said. Arms deliveries to the region almost doubled between 2005 and 2009 compared with the previous five years, as imports in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia increased 722 percent, 146 percent and 84 percent respectively by volume, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report. "The current wave of Southeast Asian acquisitions could destabilize the region, jeopardizing decades of peace," Siemon Wezeman, SIPRI's Asia expert, said. Military expert Liu Jiangping said defence against China may not be the main reason Southeast Asian nations are making arms purchases. "Conflicts within the region are the major reason for the current military buildup there," Liu said. The remarkable rise in purchases of combat aircraft and warships by the three countries prompted some neighboring countries to follow these acquisitions with orders of their own, according to the report. Last year, Vietnam joined its regional counterparts, becoming the latest Southeast Asian country to order long-range combat aircraft and submarines. Singapore is the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member to be among the top 10 arms importers by SIPRI since the end of the Vietnam war. Global arms transfers during the five-year period grew 22 percent, with Asia and Oceania the biggest recipients accounting for 41 percent of the total, the Swedish institute said. Europe followed with 24 percent, then the Middle East with 17 percent. The United States remained the world's biggest weaponry seller, accounting for 30 percent of overseas arms sales during the period. Almost 40 percent of its deliveries went to Asia and Oceania and a similar proportion to the Middle East, the report said. Shannon Kile, a Senior Researcher with SIPRI, said the US is the only beneficiary of an arms race in the region. Many Asian nations believed that China and the US might become competitors in the future, even opponents fighting a war, Kile said, adding that standing with the US means turning into China's enemy and therefore it'd be natural for these Asian countries to take immediate action to arm themselves. But it's a shortsighted decision for the Southeast Asian nations to expand their arsenals, for it would in return anger China, leading to an arms race in the whole of Asia, Kile said. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia this month beefed up patrols at sea in the Strait of Malacca, after Singapore's navy claimed it had been informed of planned terrorist attacks on oil tankers. Apart from terror concerns, Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor at the Chinese National Defense University, said Southeast Asian countries, especially Singapore and Malaysia, felt unease with the rise of China. "They are concerned that China would dramatically strengthen its role in the Malacca Strait," Zhang said. Meanwhile, in an attempt to counter China's presence in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea, over which China had repeatedly affirmed sovereignty, Southeast Asian nations strengthened their military build-up by increasing arms purchases and seeking support from the US. India's increasing military presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, which is near Malacca Strait, also aroused concern from Singapore and Malaysia, Zhang said […] Transfers of major conventional weapon systems to China have dropped significantly in the past three years, the report finds. With the exception of a handful of helicopters from France and Russia, no major conventional weapons were delivered to China in 2009 […] The report finds that the volume of arms transferred to China and India, the two largest importers, for both periods, decreased by 20 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively […]. ^ top ^

Chinese premier responds to 'arrogance' charge (Xinhua)
2010-03-15
The attitude of China and its people towards foreign countries and how China acts on the international stage were a hot topic at a press conference Sunday when Premier Wen Jiabao met the press. China remains a developing county despite its achievements, Wen said. The country pursues peaceful development and advocates international cooperation, however, it would never hesitate to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity […] A Singaporean reporter also said that some Chinese people may make extreme reactions to some issues concerning China's foreign policy as they feel the country has been more powerful now. In recent reports of some foreign media, China has been described as being full of self-confidence, even nearly arrogant. They contributed the change of attitude to China's good performance during the global financial crisis. On March 7, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was also asked for comments on China's "tough stance" in recent diplomatic issues, including the reaction to the U.S. arm sale to Taiwan. Yang said that China was misunderstood and he called for the abandonment of "colored spectacles" about China. "We stick to our principals, which is totally different from being tough," he said […]. ^ top ^

Wen offers his personal account of Copenhagen climate summit snub (SCMP)
2010-03-15
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday fended off criticism that Beijing acted arrogantly at last year's climate summit in Copenhagen and was a main culprit for its limited success, saying he had been the target of a diplomatic snub at the outset. Offering his first account of the chaotic situation four months after the widely ridiculed conference, the premier - who was criticised for skipping a key meeting of world leaders at the summit - said he had not received an invitation to a similar meeting the previous night. Wen's counter-snub was seen not only as part of his efforts to straighten out what he perceived as false allegations in the West, but also showed China's increasing assertiveness in handling global issues such as climate change, analysts said. His remarks came after the country's top climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said last week that the world should learn from procedural problems that plagued the Copenhagen talks. The final accord was produced by only a small number of countries. Analysts say Wen's remarks indicate Beijing is unlikely to make any major concessions before or during the next UN climate talks in Mexico this year. When pressed by foreign media at yesterday's news conference, Wen appeared well prepared, saying he was glad to have the chance to clear up what happened in the final hours in Copenhagen. "It baffles me why some people still try to take issue with China," he said. "As the Chinese proverb goes, my conscience is untainted despite rumours and slanders from outside." But his well-scripted response failed to address the question of why he boycotted the summit meeting on December 18 attended by US President Barack Obama and 19 other heads of state, instead sending Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei on his behalf. The move was read by many, the most vocal being French President Nicolas Sarkozy, as a breach of diplomatic protocol and indicative of China's "go-it-alone approach". Instead of giving a straightforward explanation for this, Wen gave a long account of why he boycotted another meeting which was scheduled on December 17, the eve of Obama's arrival. He said he was not even invited to it in the first place. "I heard about the late-night meeting of only a selected number of nations, including China, at a dinner of world leaders. I felt shocked that I had not received any notification of China being invited," he said. After checking with his delegation, he sent He to the meeting to register China's protest. "Why was China not notified of this meeting? So far no one has given us any explanation about this, and it is still a mystery to me," he said. This episode was read as a conspiracy theory against Beijing among the Chinese delegation, which left Wen infuriated, according to several climate negotiators. Analysts said those sentiments could also partly explain Wen's boycotting of the summit with Obama the next day. Wen also vigorously defended the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding, face-saving political deal that was widely seen as a failure, saying it was "the best possible outcome that could be achieved on an issue that concerns the major interests of all countries". Despite the prolonged blame game following the Copenhagen talks, Wen reiterated China's commitment on pushing ahead with stalled international climate negotiations. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Lack of investment worsens crisis in drought-hit regions (SCMP)
2010-03-19
A lack of investment in basic drinking water and irrigation infrastructure has made the worst drought in decades in western China more deadly than it should be, mainland agricultural experts say. The once-in-a-century drought that has hit Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Guangxi and Chongqing since autumn last year has left more than 20 million people without enough drinking water and has affected almost 6.5 million hectares of farmland. The National Meteorological Centre expects the drought to continue for at least two more months. Zheng Fengtian, a vice-dean of the school of agricultural economics and rural development at Renmin University, attributed the prolonged drought to short-sighted regional governments seeking financial gains from large-scale flood control and hydro-electric power generation projects at the expense of unprofitable rural drinking water projects and irrigation facilities. He said that for tens of thousands of farmers living in mountainous areas in Yunnan and Guizhou, water tanks and artificial ponds provided lifesaving water, not huge reservoirs. But the government had not invested in such projects in 30 years. "The drought isn't a natural disaster but a man-made calamity," Zheng wrote in his blog yesterday. "A lack of investment on drinking water and irrigation systems puts farmers in a plight whenever drought hits the area. "The country invests heavily on hydro-electric power in major rivers and builds huge reservoirs, but the distant water can't quench the thirst in mountainous areas." Zheng criticised profit-oriented regional governments for ignoring the livelihood of farmers, saying they ignored the fact that farmers would go hungry when drought hit. Tang Jian, the deputy chief of the water resource bureau in Weining county, Guizhou, said a 30 cubic metre water tank would enable a household to have enough drinking water during a drought lasting from October to May. He said the central government paid a subsidy of about 2,000 yuan for each water tank and farmers were eager to have them. "In mountainous areas, a household needs at least two small water tanks to store drinking and irrigation water," yesterday's edition of Economic Information Daily quoted Tang as saying. The newspaper said more than 60 per cent of the country's small and medium-sized irrigation systems were out of order because of insufficient investment and maintenance, meaning that more than half the farmlands lacked protection from drought. Mainland media have reported that regional governments have been forced to tap underground water sources and use cloud seeding to produce rain for agricultural production […]. ^ top ^

Old oil used in '1 in 10 meals' (China Daily)
2010-03-19
Immediately after a leading food expert revealed that one in every 10 meals in the country may be cooked with dirty oil, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) on Thursday issued an emergency notice to restaurants nationwide warning them against recycling oil. Food service providers will be punished if they use illegal cooking oil or oil of an unknown origin. In severe cases, their licenses could be revoked, the notice said. He Dongping, a food science professor at the Wuhan Polytechnic University (WHPU), told the China Youth Daily on Thursday that people in China consume "about 2 to 3 million tons" of illegal cooking oil every year. "And the Chinese people's annual oil consumption is about 22.5 million tons, which means a ratio of 1:10," he told the newspaper. The "illegal cooking oil" is usually made from discarded kitchen waste that has been refined, the report said, adding that the oil, which contains a highly toxic and carcinogenic substance called "aflatoxin", can cause cancer. He's revelation was a result of a research project he is conducting, along with nine of his students, with the aim of finding an effective way to detect and identify illegal oil used in food production. So far, no such method has been found, the report said. According to He's research, the illegal cooking oil business is extremely profitable. "One ton of cooking oil made from kitchen waste costs only 300 yuan ($44). A barrel of oil makes a profit of 70 to 80 yuan. On average, one person collects four barrels. Even if the oil is sold at half the price of ordinary oil, you could make over 10,000 yuan a month. Even a chore man in the business gets a monthly wage of 2,500 yuan," […] All efforts to contact He for a comment on Thursday failed. Wang Chunsheng, who also teaches at WHPU, said "pressure from higher authorities and personal threats" were reasons for the researchers to refuse further interviews […]. ^ top ^

Officials silent but brother says Gao well (SCMP)
2010-03-19
China yesterday insisted that it had handled the case of a missing human rights lawyer properly and told Western countries to mind their own business. When asked about the latest status regarding Gao Zhisheng - a rights lawyer who had gone missing for months - foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang refused to disclose any detail, only saying that China handled the case in accordance with its laws. This came as Gao's elder brother yesterday told the BBC that the two spoke by phone recently and the rights lawyer was "fine". It was the first time his family confirmed Gao was safe, even though his whereabouts remain a mystery. The fate of Gao, a former Communist Party member who angered authorities by taking on rights cases targeting the government, has became a topic of international concern since police took him from his home more than a year ago. Britain became the latest country to press China on the issue, with Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying he raised Gao's case in talks this week with Chinese leaders on a visit here. Gao Zhiyi told the BBC his brother called him about three weeks ago to tell his family he was fine, but that the lawyer did not reveal where he was during the brief conversation. "He said he's quite well, everything's fine, and told the family not to worry," Gao Zhiyi was quoted saying at the family home in northern Shaanxi province. Gao said he was sure it was his brother's voice. Gao has been an outspoken rights defender in cases against the government involving alleged police corruption, land seizures and religious freedom. He was convicted of subversion in 2006, sentenced to a three-year jail term, which was suspended, and placed on five years' probation. Gao was taken away by security personnel on February 4, 2009, according to rights groups. Prior to the BBC report, he had not been heard from since […]. ^ top ^

Middle class in big cities feels least happiness (China Daily)
2010-03-18
Middle class families in the most prosperous regions in China are finding the least happiness in life because of the high stress of daily life, a survey has found. Despite good health, better education and higher incomes, the middle class is discovering that economic pressures and little time to spend with family members are major sources of annoyance, according to a recent survey by insurance company Manulife-Sinochem. "The middle class is a 'sandwiched class', being worse off than some and better off than many," said Yan Ye, a professor with the North China Institute of Science and Technology. "The government should expand coverage of social security, promote low-income housing projects and adjust income distribution to help them," Yan said. Around 200 million to 300 million people belong to the middle class in China, accounting for 23 percent to 25 percent of the total population and increasing by one percent every year, Yan said. The survey polled more than 70,000 people aged 20 to 40 in 35 cities across the country. All respondents had a yearly income above 50,000 yuan ($7,300). In 2009, the per capita GNP of China was $3,678. The survey results reveal that those with annual household incomes from 110,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan were the happiest. People aged 30 to 35 years old are generally happier than other age groups. And those living in second tier cities experience more happiness than those in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Residents of Jiangsu, Sichuan, Fujian and Chongqing rank tops in terms of happiness, with about 50 percent of people satisfied with their present situation […] According to Yan, people usually have a higher expectation of income in big cities. So they are more likely to lack a sense of security and to feel injustice. According to the survey, the major pressures of living in a big city lie in roaring housing prices, competition at work, traffic congestion and increasing education costs […]. ^ top ^

Smelter victims still dying as cadres turn blind eye (SCMP)
2010-03-18
People are still dying of cadmium poisoning in Zhentou, Hunan, despite the nationwide attention the town attracted last year when thousands of residents protested against heavy-metal pollution from a nearby chemical plant. Now they are accusing the local authorities of turning a deaf ear to their plight, isolating the town and telling outsiders that the problem has been solved. Officials say five people have died from cadmium poisoning but villagers say the death toll is more than 12. "At least three more people in Zhentou - two from Shuangqiao village and one from Puhua village - have died since the Lunar New Year in February," Luo Jinzhi, a Shuangqiao villager, said yesterday. "The town government has completely ignored our suffering for months as though it never existed. No medical treatment, no compensation and no payouts for farmland rendered toxic. "Now the officials only show up in villages when another villager dies. They come to leave one-off compensation of 48,000 yuan for the dead and close the case. That's our fate." Villagers in Zhentou have taken to the streets and clashed with the authorities at least seven times since the problem first surfaced in July last year. Hundreds have unsuccessfully petitioned the provincial government in Changsha for help. "Now officials are forcing villagers to farm the polluted land," Luo said. "They just call in bulldozers and excavation machines to dig the farmland. We don't believe it can reduce the level of toxic metals. The situation is more and more hopeless. Every time we try to fight, we only face detention and beatings from the police." As the truth emerges in Zhentou, another heavy metal pollution scandal has erupted in Hunan, with at least 250 children suffering from lead poisoning in Jiahe county, the industrial hub of the province […] One of the worst polluters in Jiahe, Tengda Metal Recycling Company, is still operating despite having been ordered to shut down at least three times since it opened in 2007 […] Reports of lead poisoning have emerged across the mainland in the past year, usually in rural areas where large, highly polluting factories have been set up amid farms at the behest of local governments whose performance assessments are based on their ability to deliver economic growth. Last year, more than 2,000 children were affected in areas such as Fengxiang in Shaanxi, Wugang in Hunan and Kunming in Yunnan […] Excessive levels of lead can cause stunted growth in children and even mental retardation. ^ top ^

Organ trafficking ring to go on trial (China Daily)
2010-03-17
An upcoming trial for four Chinese men on charges of organ trafficking has ignited a public outcry, prompting authorities to enforce laws regarding organ transplants. Led by a former organ donor surnamed Liu, the suspects allegedly organized four liver and kidney donations. Their new business foundered, however, when they were taken to court in December by a "donor" claiming back pay, according to the Haidian District Procuratorate in Beijing, which is handling the case. "The trial, which might begin in April, is the country's first one on human organ trafficking," Qiu Zhiying, the procurator in charge, told China Daily on Tuesday. If convicted, the suspects face at least five years in prison. Illegal businesses in the organ trade ran rampant for years, expanding along with the rise in living organ transplants - that is, transplants using organs donated by living individuals. Of the approximately 10,000 organ transplants performed in China last year, more than 3,000 were from living donors, almost six times that in 2008, official statistics showed. "A considerable number of them were done with fake identities from hired donors," said vice health minister Huang Jiefu, also a leading liver transplant expert. "Without intervention, China will become the biggest black market for living human organs, which will seriously affect the country's reputation and threaten patients' health," he told China Daily. Under current regulations on human organ transplants, which banned organ trade in May 2007, living organ donations are restricted to spouses, blood relatives or people sharing family bonds through mutual support. However, by keying in words like organ and agency, search engines lead to online brokers who recruit paid donors and help them find matching recipients. They then arrange operations at hospitals by making them "relatives" through forging documents in collaboration with lawyers and medical workers, industry insiders said. At such an agency, a kidney is sold for about 150,000 yuan ($22,000), with roughly one-third going to the donor, who allegedly has to be young and healthy, reports said […] To address the issue, the Ministry of Health is now revising regulations to help eliminate illegal organ trading and lay the foundation for the establishment of an organ donation system, which would help ease the shortage […] Ten designated Chinese cities, including Tianjin and Wuhan, will begin pilot organ donation projects in April, said Hao Linna, deputy director of the Red Cross Society of China. ^ top ^

Police detain three soccer referees (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-17
Now Chinese soccer fans get at least a clue as to why their beloved sport has barely made any progress in the past 20 or so years. It's because of rampant corruption. Two months after three leading officials in charge of China's national soccer federation were detained, now another group of whistlers have been caught by police. Three referees, including the once-renowned "golden whistler" Lu Jun from Beijing, have been arrested on charges of accepting bribes in the home league, the news was confirmed by the country's newly appointed president of the soccer association, Mr. Wei Di. Sources disclosed that the arrest of the three celebrated referees is an indication that the authorities have solid evidence of their involvement in match fixing and asking for benefits from the vested soccer clubs […] "I was really shocked and hurt when Lu's name appeared in the scandal. He is undoubtedly a first-rate referee in terms of working ability, but his morals are a far cry from his 'golden whistler' reputation," Mr. Wei said, wearily. Lu, 51, who has umpired more than 200 matches in the domestic league between 1991 and 2005, and was once deemed as the most fair referee on courts. He became the first Chinese to supervise the renowned World Cup games when he umpired two matches at the 2002 Cup tournaments held in Japan and South Korea. He has also been conferred with the "Referee of the Year" award by the Asian Football Confederation twice. Zhou, another former referee in the domestic league, was handed an eight-match suspension due to a misjudgment in 2004, after which he resigned from refereeing […] Huang, the only one of the three who was still active, was nominated for the "best referee" award for last season's Chinese Super League. Wei also said the new season, which kicks off on Mar 27, will have 20 percent new referees. In early January this year, three Chinese Football Association officials, including Nan Yong, a former head of soccer, were arrested facing criminal charges for accepting bribery and engaging in soccer gambling […]. ^ top ^

Zhang Ziyi denies charity fraud (China Daily)
2010-03-16
Zhang Ziyi has vehemently denied accusations that she committed fraud in the name of charity, but admitted to inexperience when organizing a donation drive for the relief of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims. In an interview with China Daily, the internationally-celebrated Chinese actress - for the first time - answered some 100 questions, most of which involve details about the money she gave to charity or collected for her own foundation. Ever since an advertisement featuring her was defaced with paint in December, Zhang has been embroiled in a series of allegations. The most serious of the accusations - mostly from netizens - are about discrepancies in the sums that surfaced in various reports. Shortly after the earthquake struck Sichuan on May 12, 2008, killing some 80,000 and dislocating millions, she decided to donate 1 million yuan ($147,000) to the China Red Cross. As she was in the United States at the time, she asked her representative in China to transfer the money. But due to what she claimed to be a "communication glitch", only 840,000 yuan was sent. She said she took "primary responsibility" for it and had already made up for the shortfall. The other contentious figure was $1 million, which she said she had "hoped" to raise, but had never claimed to have "already" raised. The actual amount pledged for the Zhang Ziyi Foundation is slightly less than $500,000, most of which has not been paid. The event in the eye of the storm was a fund-raising drive on May 21, 2008, at the Cannes Film Festival. During the one-hour "hastily arranged" initiative, only $1,392 in cash was collected, far less than the previously reported $50,000. The rest were informal pledges. The total adds up to about $500,000, which is the amount she said she had always referred to when answering the media. Since then, she said she had been making efforts to pressure the donors to honor their pledges, but her efforts have not been very successful. So far, only $15,050 has been collected […] Tears welled in her eyes when she talked about the incident's impact on her and her family, and again when she recounted the solace and support she got from friends. She said she wants to give back to society because she had got so much from it, using her heavily-subsidized tuition in the drama academy and the dance school as an example. ^ top ^

Shenyang zoo 'starved tigers to get funds' (SCMP)
2010-03-16
A northeastern Chinese zoo, where 11 Siberian tigers died from malnutrition, reportedly starved the endangered animals to obtain financial subsidies from the local government. A senior employee with the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo in the capital city of northeast Liaoning province was yesterday quoted by the Nanfang Daily as saying the zoo, which was deeply in debt, mistreated tigers so that it could apply for emergency funds. The trick seems to have paid off as the city government said it would give the zoo a cash boost of seven million yuan, the paper reported. The employees for the zoo were yesterday finally paid after a 18-month delay. Also, the zoo manager told Xinhua yesterday that the bodies of Siberian tigers had been frozen for further investigation. "After they died, we invited vets and experts from Shenyang Agricultural University to conduct an autopsy and report the results to the animal protection authorities," Wu Xi said. "The tiger meat, skins and bones are still kept in freezers." Previous reports said the tiger bones were used to make a liquor. "The liquor was used to serve important guests," a zoo worker was quoted as saying by Xinhua. It is illegal to sell tiger parts in China but sales continue because of the belief in the aphrodisiac or curative powers of tiger bones, penises and other parts. Besides the tigers, 22 other animals have died in the zoo including rare species that are protected in China including a red-crowned crane, four stump-tailed macaques, and one brown bear […] The Shenyang municipal government has a 15 per cent share in the zoo, which is privately owned. The number of animals in the zoo has dropped by half in a decade, from 1,020 of 61 species in 2000 to 518 of 49 species in 2010. Conditions at the Shenyang zoo are believed to offer a glimpse of the abysmal state of most of zoos in the mainland. According to state media, 90 per cent are in financial trouble. ^ top ^

China's parliament adopts amendment to Electoral Law (Global Times)
2010-03-15
China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), adopted Sunday the amendment to the Electoral Law, which grants equal representation in legislative bodies to rural and urban people. Lawmakers applauded after NPC Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo announced that the amendment was approved with 2,747 votes from the 2,909 NPC deputies present at the closing meeting. The amendment is regarded as part of China's efforts to narrow the urban-rural gap. It requires "both rural and urban areas adopt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of people's congress deputies." Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said the law provides legal guarantees for elections of deputies to people's congresses, the country's fundamental political system, as well as citizens' right to vote and the right to stand for election. After the last amendment in 1995, the law stipulated that each rural deputy represented a population four times that of an urban deputy. Critics said this could be interpreted as "farmers only enjoy a quarter of the suffrage of their urban counterparts." Before the amendment in 1995, the difference was eight times. "Such stipulations were absolutely necessary and conformed with China's political system and the particular situation at that time," Wang said […] The number of deputies to the NPC is limited within 3,000, and the distribution of the NPC deputies is decided by the NPC Standing Committee, according to the law. ^ top ^

Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway to open next year (China Daily)
2010-03-15
The highly anticipated Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway will begin operation next year, and is expected to cut travel time to four hours, railway officials said. The high-speed railway between China's two most important metropolises was scheduled to open in 2012 but will now open one year ahead of time, said Zheng Jian, chief planner with the Ministry of Railways. Wang Zhiguo, vice-minister of railways, said that it would be a four-hour journey from Beijing to Shanghai, and only three hours from Beijing to Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province. At present, it takes about 10 hours to travel from Beijing to Shanghai and Nanjing by train. A new-generation bullet train that will travel up to 380 kilometers per hour (kph) is now under development for the high-speed rail link […] Vice-Minister Wang Zhiguo said it was expected that high-speed trains would one day take passengers from Beijing to most capital cities within eight hours, except for Haikou, Urumqi, Lhasa and Taipei. It is expected that an 110,000-km railway network will be completed by 2012, including 13,000 km of high-speed rail, he said. China already has 6,552 km of rail track in operation - the longest amount of high-speed rail track in the world. The ministry wants to export China's high-speed railway technology to North America, Europe and Latin America […]. ^ top ^

Poor customer service, fake goods threaten rural program (China Daily)
2010-03-15
Fake electrical appliances and poor customer service are hurting a multi-billion dollar initiative designed to promote consumption among rural households, a report has found. The report, released on Sunday ahead of International Consumer Rights Day on Monday, found problems with the program, known as "home appliances going to the countryside", under which the government subsidizes 13 percent of the cost of the appliance for rural families. The China Association of Quality Promotion (CAQP) said an investigation conducted in 10 provinces and municipalities between July 2009 and February this year revealed problems with fake goods and customer service, including service shops being too far away, expensive accessories and poor service quality […] Chen Chuanyi, secretary-general of CAQP said: "Some companies put fake labels on their defective products and try to sell them in rural areas. Some take the program as a chance for stock disposal and they sell low-efficiency products at a cheap price and lie to rural consumers that such a promotion is under governmental subsidy. Because of the remoteness and the vastness of rural areas, residents usually need to travel a long way before they can reach a service shop, which is usually located in more populated areas." The report found 58 telephone calls made to 150 service shops went unanswered, representing 39 percent of calls. In addition, 17 out of 100 households were dissatisfied when questioned about customer service in rural areas in Sichuan and Hebei provinces and Beijing. The report also found 231 out of 1,000 service staff were unfamiliar with relevant policies and service promises […] By December last year, about 37.7 million sets of household electronic appliances had been sold under the program, with sales passing 69.3 billion yuan ($10.2 billion). The first pilot experiments were held in 2007 […]. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang to receive massive input (China Daily)
2010-03-15
A detailed and massive investment plan will be introduced in a bid to boost Xinjiang's economy during the upcoming central government's working conference on issues affecting Xinjiang this May, though the region's development will not entirely rely on it, a senior official said on Saturday. "Xinjiang needs to be self-reliant in its development, because it is the key to maintaining Xinjiang's social stability. We welcome the central government's aid, but we cannot just rely on it," Wang Lequan, Party secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, told China Daily during an exclusive interview. The region's development should not simply rely on a "blood transfusion" from the central government. It must use this assistance to create a "blood-producing system" of its own, he said [...] Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier that the central government would formulate and implement policies for the economic and social development of Xinjiang, Tibet and Tibetan ethnic areas during his annual work report at the National People's Congress. "We can see the central government's determination to help Xinjiang - a region that has recently been under attacks by separatists - maintain long-term stability through economic development and improving people's living standards," he added. The social situation can only become stable when the problem of people's livelihood is solved and economic development is the solution, the Party chief emphasized […] Wang said it is not about how much money will be invested in Xinjiang. What is really important is that the plan can boost people's confidence and clear their doubts about investing in the region. He predicted that investment in fixed assets will "jump sharply" after the plan is released as a result of initial investment from the central government and from State-owned enterprises, which are encouraged to engage in business in Xinjiang to "realize fast-paced economic development". The central government has already paired up a number of municipalities and provinces with different parts of Xinjiang to provide the latter with large sums of capital, technology and talent. These have played an important role in the region's development, according to Wang […] The central government's plan is also designed to help the local economy catch up with the eastern coastal provinces. Wang said that although Xinjiang is the most distant region from the east coast, it has the advantages of opening up to the west. The far west autonomous region shares borders with Russia, Mongolia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan […] If an ethnic minority region like Xinjiang is underdeveloped compared to other areas, it could easily be used by separatists to instigate unrest, he added. ^ top ^

 

Macau

Triads thrive in Ho's casinos, US report says (SCMP)
2010-03-19
Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun is an associate of known and suspected triads who has permitted "organised crime to operate and thrive within his casinos", according to a report by the New Jersey state attorney general's Division of Gaming Enforcement. The 88-year-old billionaire, who headed Macau's casino monopoly for over four decades, has counted alleged members of the 14K and Sun Yee On triad societies among his associates, the 74-page report, made public on Wednesday, says […] The private VIP gambling rooms Ho introduced to his casinos beginning in the 1980s "provided organised crime the entry into the Macau gaming market that it had previously lacked", it says. The report was filed by the DGE in May last year, and classed as confidential. It followed a four-year investigation into the suitability of casino operator MGM Mirage's Macau joint venture with Ho's daughter Pansy Ho Chiu-king […] For years, law enforcement and regulatory officials in Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and the US have suspected or alleged ties between criminal syndicates and Stanley Ho's Macau casino business. But the New Jersey regulators' report contains the most high-profile allegations to have emerged publicly. Stanley Ho has repeatedly denied links to organised crime and has never been arrested or convicted. He remains under medical supervision after being discharged from hospital this month following a seven-month stay after an operation to remove a blood clot in his brain. "Dr Ho has not seen the report and does not want to speculate on what it contains," a spokeswoman said yesterday. "This is an issue for the regulatory authorities and MGM. But his position on the record is clear that there is absolutely no foundation in any suggestion that he is associated with organised crime or triads." New Jersey's finding of "unsuitability" against Stanley Ho, Pansy Ho and MGM's Macau venture has not been shared by other US regulators. Gaming industry officials in the states of Nevada and Mississippi previously ruled that the partnership between Pansy Ho and MGM was suitable but did not consider Stanley Ho to have influence over their joint venture. Wednesday's announcement marked MGM's exit from New Jersey, a market battered by competition from casinos in nearby Pennsylvani […] MGM retains its presence in Macau, the world's largest casino market, where the firm and Pansy Ho opened the US$1.25 billion MGM Grand Macau in December 2007 […]. ^ top ^

Chui keeps cash handouts flowing in play-it-safe address (SCMP)
2010-03-17
As governments around the world consider how to roll back stimulus measures, Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on yesterday announced cash bonuses totalling three billion patacas for residents in his first policy address. Chui, 53, extended many of the policies outlined by his predecessor, Edmund Ho Hau-wah. These included the construction of public housing flats, limiting excessive casino growth and studying the licensing of card dealers. "The cash-sharing scheme, backed by the government's fiscal surplus, helps people share the fruits of economic growth," Chui, who became Macau's top leader in December, said after the policy address. "A surplus of 23.8 billion patacas for the last fiscal year makes it possible for us to continue to dole out cash." He announced a continuation of Ho's cash bonus scheme, with 6,000 patacas given to each permanent resident and 3,600 patacas for each non-permanent resident. He also repeated Ho's policy of giving each permanent resident medical vouchers worth 500 patacas. In November, when Ho delivered his last policy address, he announced a 3.3 billion-pataca injection into residents' accounts under the central provident fund system. Some 330,000 residents over the age of 22 received 10,000 patacas in their accounts in January. Chui said his government may continue to pump cash from its surpluses into residents' central provident accounts in the future […] The cash bonus scheme, launched by Ho in 2008, is seen as necessary to appease residents embittered by their inability to benefit from the casino boom. The scheme left some Hong Kong residents envious and sparked a rush of Hongkongers applying for Macau residency. Casinos will be banned from some 350 hectares of land being reclaimed in a scheme approved by Beijing in November, Chui said. He said his government would complete planning for the development on the five reclaimed sites this year. At least 50 per cent of the reclaimed land would be used for public facilities, green space, squares, transport and infrastructure […] Macau is considering cracking down on the hoarding of land by seizing sites that have remained undeveloped for a long time, Chui said. Political commentator Professor Larry So Man-yum of Macau Polytechnic Institute said the policy address reflected Chui's cautious style. "This is a play-it-safe policy address with no surprises," So said. "Chui carefully follows in the footsteps of his predecessor." Chui also pledged to boost ties with Taiwan […] Elderly residents in the city will continue to get a subsidy of 5,000 patacas, he said. Macau's gross domestic product rose annually by 8.2 per cent in the third quarter of last year. Casino revenue surged 9.7 per cent last year from that in 2008 to a record 119.4 billion patacas. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan wants to help global warming fight (SCMP)
2010-03-19
Taiwan aims to engage in international carbon trading despite its diplomatic isolation by helping its allies in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region develop clean energy projects, an official said yesterday. "It is an international trend, and Taiwan wants to help reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases to ease the effects of global warming," the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) official said. Taiwan, which is recognised as a state by only 23 countries and is not a member of the UN, plans to set up an offshore company so it can take part in carbon trading, the official said. The UN's Clean Development Mechanism allows rich countries to fulfil part of their greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol by investing in projects that help reduce emissions in developing countries. Since it is excluded from the UN, Taiwan is under no formal obligation to rein in greenhouse gases, but the initiative signals its intention to act in a responsible manner nonetheless. It intends to obtain carbon credits by promoting "green" technology, including solar energy or biofuel power plants, among nations in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region that recognise it diplomatically, the official said. The arrangement is one of the key features of the Kyoto pact on global warming, which expires in 2012. The countries that gathered in Copenhagen in December failed to negotiate a successor treaty. Taiwan is not a Kyoto signatory as it is not a UN member but will abide by the treaty. Taipei pledged this week to sharply cut growth of the island's carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from all sources island-wide should drop by 2020 to 2005 levels of about 257 million tonnes, or at least 30 per cent below the "business-as-usual" total, the EPA said. "If we reach our maximum, that would be the most stringent goal in Asia," EPA executive secretary Hsiao Hui-chuan said. ^ top ^

Beijing's new missiles cover Taiwan airspace (SCMP)
2010-03-18
The mainland has completed deployment of a new type of surface-to-air missile capable of covering the entire airspace of northern Taiwan, despite warming cross-strait ties. Tsai Teh-sheng, director of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, confirmed yesterday that the mainland had deployed Russian-made S300PMU2 long-range surface-to-air missiles in Fujian. "Intelligence obtained by us and military authorities has shown the mainland has recently deployed such missiles in Fujian," Tsai said, responding to questions from Democratic Progressive Party legislators on the mainland missile threat. Citing a report by Toronto-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly that the People's Liberation Army had recently deployed eight missile batteries at Longtian military airport in Fujian, DPP legislator Chen Ying said the belief of the island's government, headed by the mainland-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, that the PLA would not attack Taiwan was merely wishful thinking. "The latest deployment has already posed a serious threat to Taiwan," she said. Tsai said the missiles were chiefly defensive and that if Beijing really wanted to attack, there were many other options available. "Actually, the number of missiles deployed by the Chinese Communists has grown each year, and there is nothing different this year," he said. The PLA routinely replaced its missiles each year. "After all, the military deployments by the Chinese Communists are not just targeting Taiwan, as they have their own regional and global strategic considerations," Tsai said […] The Kanwa report said the missiles had a range of 200 kilometres, far enough to bring down any aircraft entering the island's northern airspace, and sophisticated radar functions. Taiwanese media said this would mean that fighter jet squadrons based in Taipei, Taoyuan and Hsinchu could be at risk. Taiwanese Defence Ministry spokesman Yu Sy-tue appealed for calm, saying the military had closely monitored the PLA's latest move and the situation was "fully under control." Ruling Kuomintang legislator Lin Yu-fang, who is on the legislature's defence committee, said there was no need to be too nervous because Taiwan's anti-missile Patriot systems could cover mainland fighters manoeuvring in the Taiwan Strait. Lin said the military had also deployed Hsiung Feng missiles on the outlying island of Matsu, placing mainland warships within range. The latest threat was used by pro-independence DPP legislators to question the Ma government's push for cross-strait military confidence building measures […]. ^ top ^

Cross-Straits military talks to march forward (China Daily)
2010-03-18
The mainland agreed on Wednesday to discuss the issue of military security and mutual trust across the Taiwan Straits. "We maintain that (both sides) can contact and make exchanges on military issues and discuss the establishment of military security and a mutual trust mechanism at a proper time," Yang Yi, spokesman of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press conference. "Related work should be done step by step, starting from the easy ones." Yang made the remarks one day after Taiwan raised two "preconditions" for the discussion. On Tuesday, Wu Den-yih, head of Taiwan's "executive yuan", said two premises should be guaranteed before both sides enter negotiations, referring to "guaranteeing Taiwan safety" and "step by step negotiation". Yang said the exchange of retired servicemen, as well as relevant experts and scholars, would be a good way to begin the work. The symposium held by the mainland and Taiwan on 60 years of cross-Straits relations in Taipei in November 2009 was a good start, Yang said. The event was attended by more than 110 scholars from the two sides, and touched upon a string of issues covering politics, the economy, culture and military affairs. Major General Luo Yuan, a senior researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army, told China Daily on Wednesday that since cross-Straits relations experienced major progress last year and are enjoying good momentum and peaceful development, servicemen from both sides should seize the opportunity to adopt a broad view of this issue […] However, Taiwan's "deputy defense minister", Andrew Yang, told Reuters that Taiwan would not pursue military talks anytime soon, since it is focused on a free trade-style deal and building more overall trust with Beijing. Military talks are unlikely next year as the island ramps up for the 2012 "presidential" elections, he added. At the press conference, Yang also said the mainland and Taiwan should work together toward the goal of signing the cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) as soon as possible. In response to a question on whether the pact will be signed in June, Yang said the two sides should work together "towards this target." But exactly when the pact would be signed depends on the progress of talks between the two sides, he said […]. ^ top ^

Taiwan gets bigger voice (China Daily)
2010-03-16
Taiwan people in Fujian province will gradually be given more say in local political life, a senior local official has said. Since 2007, some Taiwan people, mostly entrepreneurs in the province, have been invited to attend local committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference as non-voting delegates to make their voices heard by decision-makers, Deng Benyuan, head of the Taiwan affairs office of Fujian, told China Daily on the sidelines of the National People's Congress session. The practice has been introduced in Fuzhou, Zhangzhou, and Xiamen. "The practice, highly welcomed by Taiwan people here as a platform to communicate with local decision-makers, will be expanded into more cities in Fujian," said Deng. More than 100,000 Taiwan people are living and working in Fujian […] "We should work creatively to help meet their needs step by step and also protect them from harm back in Taiwan." Deng's words refer to the laws and regulations of Taiwan, which ban Taiwan people from involvement in politics in the mainland. Some local governments in Fujian, facing Taiwan across the Straits, have initiated ways to let Taiwan people be a part of local politics. On Feb 11, Taiwan people attended the annual sessions of the local people's congress, or local legislature, in Fuzhou and Zhangzhou for the first time […]. ^ top ^

Free-trade pact keeps in mind Taiwan's interests (SCMP)
2010-03-15
Premier Wen Jiabao told Taiwan's small businesses and farmers they have nothing to fear about a cross-strait free trade deal currently being discussed by Beijing and Taipei. Speaking at the annual news conference at the NPC, Wen said Beijing would take these people's interests to heart when proposing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) to Taipei. He said the free trade pact would not result in cheap mainland imports flooding Taiwan's market. "I believe that in negotiating this agreement, we need to consider the size of the economy and trade conditions as well as the interests of both sides," Wen said. "We need to keep in mind Taiwan's small businesses and ordinary people, and the interests of farmers in Taiwan […] We will let the people of Taiwan benefit from tariff conditions and early harvest programmes […] Relevant arrangements will also be made to help reassure farmers in Taiwan," he said. His speech was to dissipate fears from Taiwan's powerful farming groups over the proposed deal. Taiwanese farmers have become the island's key force in opposing a free trade pact with the mainland, saying they are worried that such a deal could bring a flood of cheap mainland agriculture products to the otherwise insulated domestic market. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has been playing this worry to their favour and used it to criticise Taiwanese President and Kuomintang leader Ma Ying-jeou, who prefers to engage rather than antagonise Beijing. Over the past weeks, the KMT and the DPP had exchanged sharp words over the ECFA deal […] Dr Lai Shin-yuan chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees cross-strait policy in Taiwan, immediately responded to Wen's speech yesterday, saying that she is "optimistic" about the trade agreement. "We are glad that the mainland side has taken notice of our special relations and the big economic disparities between the mainland and Taiwan," she told China News Service. "It would help advance the cross-strait economic and trade exchanges" […]. ^ top ^

Defector hopes for a return to Taiwan (SCMP)
2010-03-15
Justin Lin Yifu, chief economist and senior vice-president of the World Bank, still hopes he will be allowed to visit Taiwan, the island he defected from three decades ago and which bans his return, his wife said yesterday. Lin defected to the mainland in 1979. At the time, the island was under martial law and ruled by the Kuomintang. Lin's father died almost eight years ago and the Taiwanese government refused to let him return for the funeral. But his wife, Chen Yunying, who later joined him and is now a member of the National People's Congress, said she was optimistic that warming cross-strait ties meant Taiwan would finally let him return. "Last year was the 30th anniversary [of his defection] and everyone thought that he would be able to go back then. We all know that road has yet to open," she said in Beijing on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the parliament. "Following the peaceful progress in cross-strait relations, we hope that the day will come when I can accompany him back." Chen has been allowed to visit Taiwan. The two sides have signed trade and tourism deals since Taiwan's election of the Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, although there have been no direct political talks and military suspicions remain deep on both sides. The reasons for Lin's defection have never been clear. At that time, most defectors fled the mainland for the relative freedom of Taiwan […]. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibetans take to the streets to mark uprising (SCMP)
2010-03-19
Protests broke out in at least two Tibetan-populated towns in Gansu this week as middle-school students took to the streets on the anniversary of deadly rioting two years ago. The protests took place despite tight security in Tibetan-populated areas ahead of the March 14 anniversary. At least 20 slogan-chanting students from Machu county's Machu Tibetan Secondary School marched to the county government headquarters on Sunday, a witness said yesterday. He said the students waved snow lion flags as they protested. The flag is used by the Tibetan government in exile in India but is outlawed by mainland authorities […] He said the student protest, which started out from the school at about 1pm, drew the attention of crowds on the streets and left many non-Tibetan vendors and businessmen scrambling to close their shops. "The students were tailed by police cars. But the police just followed, they didn't do anything," he said. "Many shops are still closed today as some people are still worried by the protests." Radio Free Asia quoted Machu residents as saying the student shouted slogans decrying the lack of freedom and calling for Tibetan independence. It said the protest was joined by 500 to 600 other Tibetans. The report said at least 40 people were detained by police on Sunday, prompting a fresh round of protest as hundreds of Tibetans demanded the release of the detainees. The man who witnessed the protest said security had tightened up since, with almost all the county's police officers patrolling the streets. "I heard that officials have been sent to rural areas and schools to talk to the people as a preventive measure," he said […] A similar protest led by teenagers broke out in nearby Hezuo on Sunday, Reuters reported yesterday. The report quoted a hotel employee as saying that at least 20 teenagers were taken in custody by police on Wednesday. March has become a sensitive period for the central government after the pro-independence unrest in 2008 claimed hundreds of lives and prompted international criticism of China's Tibet policies that later turned into calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics […] The unrest was sparked by a protest on March 10 that year to mark the anniversary of the failed uprising in 1959 that resulted in the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his administration fleeing to India. A Tibetan tour guide in Lhasa said yesterday that foreign tourists had been barred from entering Tibet this month and security in the city had been boosted for the anniversary. Beijing has adopted a pump-priming approach in the Himalayan region in an attempt to stifle criticism of a lack of religious freedom and freedom of speech and other human rights violations. But critics say the unrest in 2008 showed that central government policies had failed to address Tibetans' concerns and needs. At a high-level meeting this year to discuss Beijing's development plan for Tibet in the next decade, the central government renewed its pledge of more investment in the autonomous region and other Tibetan-populated areas. ^ top ^

Beijing's Panchen Lama misses out on vice-chairman post (SCMP)
2010-03-15
China's pick as the 11th Panchen Lama is at least a year away from receiving the honorific title of CPPCC deputy chairman, with the advisory group set to select another candidate for the top job today. But he still has the central government's blessing and support as China's face of Tibetan Buddhism. His portrait is rarely hung in Tibetan homes, however, unlike the show of respect paid to his predecessor and the 14th Dalai Lama. After years of careful training and grooming, the Panchen Lama was appointed a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference this year. It had been speculated that, at the age of 20, the CPPCC's youngest delegate could become one of the advisory group's more than 20 vice-chairmen, with state leadership rank, to replace the late Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme. But according to Liu Bainian, vice-chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and a CPPCC delegate, former Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah is the only candidate on the list […] The Panchen Lama has been in demand this year, with journalists keen to glimpse the saffron-robed Living Buddha, who has been attending the plenum for years as a guest. But catching the Panchen Lama is a tall order, not to mention getting him to talk in front of overseas media. On the opening day of the CPPCC plenum last week, the Panchen Lama, swamped by foreign journalists, sealed his lips and walked through the Great Hall of the People without uttering a word. And group discussions by CPPCC religious delegates, the category which the Panchen Lama falls into, were for the first time in years closed for overseas media this year. Previously, the religious group would be open to overseas media for at least one panel discussion. A rare glimpse of the Panchen Lama's maiden foray into political circles came in an interview with Xinhua in which he said that he would carry forward the tradition of the 10th Panchen Lama in "loving the country, the religion and the people". "I have shouldered the mission of safeguarding national unity and ethnic solidarity since I was enthroned. Now, such a sense of responsibility is becoming even stronger," he said. Even fellow delegates were careful about their comments on the Panchen Lama, with most Tibetan delegates turning away at the question […] Gyaincain Norbu was made the 11th Panchen Lama by Beijing without the consent of the 14th Dalai Lama. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's choice for the position, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, disappeared shortly after his nomination was rejected by Beijing, prompting concern over his safety. The new Tibetan government chairman, Padma Choling, said earlier this week that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was being kept out of public view at his own request. It has been tradition to enrol religious figureheads in the CPPCC as part of Beijing's strategy to tighten its control on the influence of religions. Gyaincain Norbu's predecessor, the 10th Panchen Lama, was a CPPCC delegate and made a vice-chairman in 1954, at the age of 16 […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

SOEs barred from realty (Global Times)
2010-03-19
More than 70 State-owned enterprises will be withdrawn from the real estate sector once their current development projects are complete, China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Com-mission said Thursday. The latest attempt to cool the red-hot real estate sector would be of little use, analysts say. The super-wealthy centrally administered enterprises are blamed for a land-acquisition frenzy that is seen as having further pushed up soaring housing prices. The latest such lavish purchases were made in Beijing at a record price of around 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) by three State enterprises Monday, a day after Chinese lawmakers closed their annual assembly, which intensively discussed how to contain property prices. One tract of the land, located in Wangjing, inside the northeast fifth ring road, sold for 27,000 yuan ($3,970) per square meter, even higher than the price of finished apartments in the area. It reportedly instantly drove up the resale prices of homes nearby. Average wage earners in the nation complain that home prices have been rising out of their reach, despite a set of government policies meant to rein in speculation and asset bubbles. The National Bureau of Statistics said housing prices increased by 10.7 percent last month from a year earlier. Without specifying a date, the commission, the governing body of more than 100 enterprises run by the central government, said 78 state companies, whose main businesses were not property development, will be put under "adjustment and restructuring as soon as projects including developments on land in their possession and on existing commercial developments are complete," said commission spokesman Du Yuanquan at a press conference Thursday. A total of 16 enterprises approved by the commission in 2003 to mainly operate in the real estate sector, will remain in the business, Du said. The 16 companies' net profit was 18.8 billion yuan in 2009, accounting for 94 percent of the real estate earnings of all central government enterprises. Property sales by State-owned enterprises last year totaled 220 billion yuan, accounting for 5 percent of the national total, while the total area of property sold by those enterprises was 28 million square meters, 3 percent of the entire commercial space sold in China […] A rise in property prices has fueled concerns that an asset bubble is building that could eventually burst and hurt the wider economy. Governments unveiled a series of measures to dampen the overheated property market, including re-imposing a sales tax on homes sold within five years of their purchase and raising the down payment for a second house or more with bank loans […]. ^ top ^

China to reopen pork market to US exports (China Daily)
2010-03-19
China agreed to reopen its market to imports of US pork, ending a ban that went in place after the outbreak of the H1N1 flu last year, the US trade representative's office said. "This agreement is a win for America's pork producers, whose safe and high-quality exports can now flow freely into China," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement announcing the agreement. "We look forward to working cooperatively to resolve additional issues, including a resumption of trade in beef." China, the world's largest producer and consumer of pork, blocked shipments from 49 US states after the outbreak of the H1N1 flu that began last April. Concern about the H1N1 virus cut consumer demand and curbed US exports to major markets including China, resulting in losses among US producers. Before China's decision to prohibit imports from the US because of concerns about the H1N1 flu, US pork and pork variety exports to China were about $275 million in 2008, making it the seventh-largest US export market, according to the US trade representative's office. At a meeting between the two governments last October, China agreed to remove its ban on pork products. Since then the US and China have worked to implement this commitment. There is no risk to humans from consuming properly prepared pork and pork products, the US says. ^ top ^

World Bank sees China GDP up 9.5% in 2010 (China Daily)
2010-03-18
The World Bank has raised its economic growth forecast for China from 8.7 percent to 9.5 percent, citing a boost in exports, strong growth in real estate and robust domestic spending. Building on the momentum shown in the first months of 2010, growth is likely to remain strong in China this year, the World Bank said in a quarterly report Wednesday, adding that the fastest-growing economy should take measures to mitigate risks of a property bubble and avoid strains on local government finances […] The growth in 2010 would rely less on government stimulus spending, the main force driving the 8.7 percent growth in 2009. China would continue to bolster its economy through government-led investment, but on a much smaller scale, the report said. Thanks to an impressive recovery early this year and a pickup in the global economy, exports are likely to grow for the whole year and contribute to the economic growth. However, uncertainties remain for later this year. Another major boost for China's economy this year comes from the real estate sector, which is likely to add significantly more to growth than in 2009 as it begins to rebound. Consumer sentiment remains strong for now and domestic consumption will remain robust as Chinese are expected to earn more in a favorable labor market. The World Bank advised the Chinese government to tighten monetary and other policies and to have a stronger yuan to manage inflation expectations and contain the risk of an asset-price bubble. Inflation will reach 3.5‐4 percent on average in 2010, largely due to rising food prices, but prices are not likely to continue to increase as rapidly as they did at the end of 2009 because the factors behind food price increases are not likely to persist. Property prices may well continue to rise significantly this year, particularly in the first half […] It also suggested that China should try to avoid strains on local government debt, but said local finance problems are unlikely to cause systemic stress given China's solid macroeconomic position […]. ^ top ^

China to build new port to boost Inner Mongolia's coal output (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-18
The landlocked coal-rich Inner Mongolia in north China will soon have an open access to ship its coal from a port in its neighboring province to fuel-thirsty customers in eastern and southern regions. A port terminal to be built in Huludao, Liaoning Province, will support an annual throughput of 50 million tonnes of coal when the first phase of the project becomes operational by 2012, Zhao Rongqing, the chief of port affairs in Huludao City, said on Wednesday. The annual throughput would be eventually expanded to 230 million tones […] He said a 300-km railway will be built to link the port directly with Xilingol, a major coal production base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Inner Mongolia is China's coal heartland. Its verified coal deposit of 732 billion tonnes is much greater than the 250 billion tonnes in Shanxi Province, which is currently China's biggest producer of the fossil fuel. The region's coal output has been quickly catching up, reaching 600 million tonnes last year, compared with 615 million tonnes in Shanxi. However, transport bottlenecks have been hindering Inner Mongolia from sending the resource to end users in coastal and southern regions, where coal-fired electricity plants suffer severe fuel shortages every year, especially in winter and summer. "The landlocked northern region has 60 percent of the country's coal reserve. However, southern and coastal regions consume 70 percent of the country's electricity. Current road and railway transport for coal cannot meet the demand," said Zhao Yonghua, deputy mayor of Ulanqab City, Inner Mongolia. He said the traffic problem in the region was so serious that Inner Mongolia in January introduced an odd-even license plate policy for cargo trucks to ease traffic congestion. Shipping the coal by sea is expected to get some of trucks off the road […] He said the prefecture with a verified coal reserve of 150 billion tonnes of coal would see its output of coal reach 100 million tonnes this year and 350 million tonnes by 2015 […]. ^ top ^

Chinalco makes fresh overtures to Rio Tinto (China Daily)
2010-03-17
Aluminum Corp of China (Chinalco), the nation's largest aluminum producer, is in talks with Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Group on potential projects amid reports that they will jointly develop a $12 billion iron-ore project. "We are in talks with Rio Tinto on potential projects, and we are talking with many partners on investment projects. Rio is one of them," said Lu Youqing, vice-president of Chinalco, the top shareholder in Rio with a 9.3 percent stake. However, he declined to specify the project. The Sydney Morning Herald had earlier reported that the two companies are in talks to develop the Simandou iron-ore project in the West African nation of Guinea. A tie-up with Chinalco could help Rio offset some of the continuing costs of the projected $6 billion Guinea mine project. Rio is spending about $10 million a month to explore the mine in anticipation of selling the ore commercially, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said on Tuesday […] The negotiations are also centered on whether the Chinalco funds could be invested in offsetting the future development costs of the mine, the US newspaper said. Simandou has 2.25 billion metric tons of resources, with annual production capacity of 70 million tons of iron ore, Rio said. The Anglo-Australian miner is trying to repair relations with China, its biggest customer, after the soured last year. It ended talks with Chinalco on a proposed $19.5 billion alliance and formed an iron ore joint venture with rival BHP Billiton last year. Relations with China worsened after four Rio employees in Shanghai were accused of bribery and commercial espionage during the annual iron ore price talks. Rio CEO Tom Albanese will attend the China Development Forum in Beijing this weekend, alongside chief executives of other foreign companies, Bloomberg News said on Monday […] Chinese companies spent more than $30 billion buying up mines and oil deposits globally last year, taking advantage of the global recession to add resources to feed domestic economic growth. Rio is also in talks with Chinalco on the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project in Mongolia, iron-ore exploration in China, and bauxite and alumina refining in Australia […]. ^ top ^

Geely faces hurdles in quest for Volvo (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-17
Financing and technology issues could delay Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, the parent of Geely Automobile, in its plan to acquire the Volvo brand from US automaker Ford Motor Co, said sources familiar with the matter on Tuesday. According to the sources the chances of a short-term deal now looks bleak, unless the two sides make major concessions. "The two parties are yet to reach a definitive agreement due to unsolved obstacles and uncertainties," the sources said, without elaborating. In December, the two companies had said a definitive agreement would be signed by the end of March and the whole deal would be completed by June 30 this year. Geely was immediately unavailable for comment, but its President Li Shufu had last week told Reuters that the agreement with Ford would be signed as planned. The deal, when completed, would be the largest overseas purchase by a Chinese car company. A major problem that is compounding the deal is the relatively weak position that Geely is in now compared to last year. "Last year Ford had cash flow problems. But the situation has changed now and Ford is on a strong wicket," he said. The US automaker had lost $30 billion in the three years starting from 2006 and put Volvo up for sale in late 2008 to help pay off its debts. Sales of Ford vehicles, however, increased 43 percent in February and its shares jumped to $13.34 on Monday from $2.1 a year back. Another bone of contention between the two sides is the technology transfer issue. "It is hard to say whether Ford will transfer the platform technologies to Geely along with the deal," said John Zeng, an analyst with Shanghai-based Global Insight. Ford's reluctance primarily stems from the fact that its platform technologies are closely aligned with that of Volvo […] The third stumbling block for the whole deal is whether Geely would be able to secure the funds required to complete the deal. Geely has so far managed to secure $2.1 billion worth of financing. Most of the funds have been raised from unidentified financial institutions and local governments, said reports. Analysts say therein lies the problem for Geely. The funds from local governments may take some time to materialize and that could delay the deal […] After acquiring the brand from Ford, Geely would have to spend at least $1.4 billion to finance car development, marketing, production and distribution next year, said Bloomberg reports [...] Last month, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co withdrew its bid for GM's Hummer brand after the deal failed to get government approval within the stipulated time. ^ top ^

Uneasy about tightening, China stocks sink (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-16
China's stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen sank on Monday, as investors remained worried about uncertainties in Beijing's financial policy, and continuous weakness in overseas markets including the Wall Street. The Shanghai composite stock index declined 36.47 points at the closing, or 1.21 percent, while the Shenzhen stock index dived by 265.78 points, or 2.18 percent. Trading was very light, as the two markets witnessed transaction volume of only 134 billion yuan. After China's official statistics reported last week an unexpected jump of 2.7 percent inflation rate for February, investors have been nervous in anticipating further credit tightening measures from the central bank, the People's Bank of China. Governor Zhou Xiaochuan was quoted by the China Securities Journal on Monday that the bank's Monetary Policy Committee which he heads was “a little bit surprised” by the “higher than expected” rise in February inflation rate. Before the National Bureau of Statistics disclosed a 2.7 percent jump in inflation, most market analysts estimated the rise at 2.1-2.4 percent. Zhou's remarks could be taken as more tightening measures will be taken by the central bank to rein in credit and manage “inflation expectation”, a chief job for Beijing policy-makers this year. Earlier, China's Premier Wen Jiabao outlined in his government work report to the National People's Congress, which closed on Sunday in Beijing that China will try to curb annual inflation within 3 percent for 2010. Some market watchers have expected another 0.5 percentage hike in the commercial banks' reserve requirement ratio by the central bank, which is now set at 16 percent. There are also heavier worries that the central bank could raise the benchmark interest rates late this month or early next month. And, investors found few reasons to buy after U.S. economic data released Friday painted an uneven picture of recovery in the world's largest economy. While retail sales were better than expected last month, a weaker report on consumer sentiment disappointed traders. Investors were also awaiting statements and policy decisions from central banks in the U.S. and Japan expected later this week [...]. ^ top ^

Consumer complaints hit new high in 2009 (China Daily)
2010-03-16
More than 223,000 Chinese consumers filed complaints on consumer electronics last year, almost double the record in 2008, according to a survey released by www.315ts.net under the China Electronic Chamber of Commerce (CECC). "Four out of five products that topped the complaints list last year were consumer electronics," Liu Zhuohui, a senior official of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said over the weekend. She said her administration accepted a total of 19,303 quality complaints last year, of which 24 percent were about consumer electronics. The largest number of complaints concerned mobile phones, microcomputers, air conditioners and televisions, she said. Liu stressed that consumers urgently need a professional body to identify the reasons for so many faults with electronic products, in case sellers seek to avoid their responsibility for the defects. "The high-speed upgrade of consumer electronics increases the instability of products," she said. He Xiaolong, the chief of the quality department under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said after-sales service needs to be integrated into chain stores in China. "We have modern, consumer electronic products, but we do not have modern after-sales services," he said. Wang Fushan, an official with the CECC, said the soaring number of complaints on www.315ts.net is due to an increased number of visitors to the site, which doubled from 2008 to 2009. "Consumers are concerned with how sellers deal with their complaints, rather than with the number of complaints," he said […]. ^ top ^

US Treasury: China trims $5.8 billion debt in Jan (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-16
China retained its spot as the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt in January even as it trimmed its holdings for a third straight month. The string of declines underscored worries that the U.S. government could face much higher interest rates to finance soaring budget deficits, the Associated Press reported Monday. The U.S. Treasury Department said Monday that China's holdings dipped by $5.8 billion to $889 billion in January compared with December. Japan, the second-largest foreign holder of U.S. government debt, also trimmed its holdings but by $300 million, to $765.4 billion. Net foreign purchases of long-term securities, a category that includes both government and corporate debt, totaled $19.1 billion in January, as net purchases of private corporate bonds fell by $24.8 billion, the biggest drop on record. A month ago, Treasury initially reported that China had cut its holdings so sharply that it had lost its top spot as America's largest foreign creditor. However, 10 days later, Treasury released its annual update of the figures. The revised data showed that China, while reducing its holdings, still retained the top spot. Treasury revises the data based on more detailed readings of the statistics, which do a better job of sorting out actual ownership of the bonds. This review determined, for example, that some bonds credited to Britain because they were purchased there were actually purchased on behalf of Chinese investors. ^ top ^

China's economy faces tough year (Global Times)
2010-03-15
Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday he fears social stability and even the solidarity of the ruling power face the threat of looming inflation, unfair income distribution and corruption. At his annual press meeting after the parliament session in Beijing, Wen underscored "continuity and stability" of the macro economic policy and signaled that his country was not ready to withdraw a massive stimulus package bankrolled by authorities in 2008 to ward off the global financial downturn. "We will continue implementing proactive fiscal policy and moderately loose monetary policy to consolidate the trend of economic recovery," Wen told reporters in Beijing, saying that exit strategy on stimulus should be "very cautious and flexible." China's economy grew 8.7 percent in 2009, the fastest among major economies, thanks to a 4-trillion yuan ($588 billion) two-year investment and a record 9.59 trillion yuan of new loans last year. Growth at such rate prompted fears of economic overheating and asset bubbles, as it seemed to become increasingly tricky for the government to spur development while remaining committed to reining in inflation. "Inflation, along with unfair income distribution and corruption, may undermine social stability and even the solidarity of the ruling power," Wen said, in response to a question concerning economic bubbles. Consumer prices climbed to 2.7 percent in February, close to the 3 percent full year target set by the government. The country's top legislature approved Wen's proposed annual 7.5 trillion yuan of new loans this year. Wen urged striking a balance between maintaining relatively fast and stable development with economic structural adjustment and management of inflation expectations to avert a possible economic "double dip" this year. He said uncertainty still lingered over world storyeconomic recovery and major challenges and problems for the global economy had not been fully addressed. He said the country has to prioritize economic restructuring and growth pattern transformation to solve China's economic imbalances […] The premier also reiterated the government's determination to close a widening rich-poor gap increasingly seen as a threat to social stability […] "We are still facing many unfair problems in fields such as income distribution and the judicial sector. The problems demand more attention from us," Wen said, pledging more attention to the poor and disadvantaged groups because "they account for the majority of society" […]. ^ top ^

China's Jan-Feb fiscal revenue up 33% (Xinhua)
2010-03-15
China saw a 32.9 percent growth year-on-year in fiscal revenue in the first two months of the year due to factors including rising tax revenue following continued economic recovery, the Ministry of Finance announced Sunday. Fiscal revenue for January and February combined reached more than 1.36 trillion yuan ($200.05 billion), the ministry said […] Of the total, the central fiscal revenue topped 702.7 billion yuan, up 36 percent from the same period in 2009, while local governments raked in 657.61 billion yuan, up 29.7 percent. Fiscal revenue in January was 865.9 billion yuan, up 41.2 year-on-year and exceeding February's 494.5 billion yuan. The statement said the big difference in fiscal revenue between the past two months was due to a nationwide seven-day Spring Festival holiday in February, leading to fewer working days in the month. The ministry attributed the fast fiscal revenue growth to the continued economic recovery in China which boosted tax revenue, and a low comparison base in the first two months last year, when revenue was down 11.4 percent due to the financial crisis. China's National Bureau of Statistics released figures last Thursday which showed in January and February, the country's industrial output grew 20.7 percent, retail sales of consumer goods rose 17.9 percent, and the urban fixed assets investment leapt 26.6 percent. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

N Korean official 'executed over currency reform' (SCMP)
2010-03-19
North Korea executed a ruling party official last week, holding him responsible for unrest sparked by a botched currency revaluation aimed at reasserting the regime's grip on power, according to media reports. Pak Nam-ki, who was fired earlier this year from his post as Workers' Party head of finance and planning, was shot in Pyongyang for intentionally harming the country's economy, Yonhap News reported […] Free North Korea Radio, run by North Korean defectors in Seoul, yesterday reported widespread rumours of the execution. "If the report is true, it proves the regime is now desperate to placate its people," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Dongguk University. "The regime appeared to have needed a scapegoat," he said, recalling the case of former agriculture ministry director Seo Gwan-hee, who was publicly executed in 1997 after being held responsible for a famine. The reported execution is the latest sign of efforts by Kim Jong-il's government to appease the public after the currency revaluation fuelled inflation, worsened shortages of goods and food, and decimated savings. Premier Kim Yong-il made a rare apology after the currency was devalued between November 30 and December 6 last year, and the sum that could be exchanged for new notes capped, Seoul-based rights groups including Good Friends said […] Pak was arrested in mid-January after being criticised at a party meeting, Yonhap said. He was fired from his post this year […] While the government pins the failure on Pak, North Koreans believe he is being made a scapegoat, Yonhap and Free North Korea Radio said. Rice prices jumped 70-fold since the currency devaluation, which knocked off two zeros off the face value of the old currency […] Yonhap said the regime executed Pak as public anger derailed a propaganda campaign to promote Kim's youngest son Jong-un as eventual successor. "All the blame has been poured on Pak after the currency reform failure exacerbated public sentiment and had a bad effect" on the succession plan, one person close to the situation said. Kim, 68, had a stroke in August 2008. Some analysts say Pyongyang is waiting for the right moment to officially declare Jong-un as successor. ^ top ^

S Korean Defense Minister: Number of DPRK missiles increased (Xinhua)
2010-03-17
South Korea's Defense Minister said Wednesday that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is believed to possess some 1,000 missiles and is pursuing a highly enriched uranium (HEU) program, local media reported. Kim Tae-young told a forum held in Seoul earlier in the day that some 1,000 missiles include intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) and shorter-range Scud and Rodong missiles, according to Yonhap News Agency. The estimation shows an increase of 200 missiles from an earlier projection by South Korean and American intelligence authorities that Pyongyang possessed some 800 missiles as of 2008 […] The DPRK is believed to have stored 30 to 40 kilograms of plutonium and is proceeding with the HEU program, Kim reportedly told a forum. The six-party nuclear disarmament talks are currently stalled after Pyongyang in April 2009 quit the talks over its denuclearization in protest of the U.N. condemnation of its missile tests. ^ top ^

Kim keeps $4b Emergency fund in European banks (Global Times)
2010-03-16
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has a $4 billion "emergency fund" hidden in secret accounts in European banks, in case of US, South Korean invasion. South Korean intelligence officials told The Daily Telegraph that much of the money was held in Swiss banks until authorities there began to tighten regulations on money laundering. Kim's operatives then withdrew the money – in cash, in order not to leave a paper trail – and transferred it to banks in Luxembourg. "I believe this is the most extensive money-laundering operation in the history of organized crime, yet the final destination of the funds has not been given the proper attention it deserves," telegraph.co.uk quoted Ken Kato, the director of Human Rights in Asia, as saying. "Somewhere in the world, there are bankers who are earning a large sum of money by concealing and managing Kim Jong-il's secret funds, and at the same time, almost 9 million people in North Korea are suffering from food shortages," he said. "I believe the secret bank accounts are now in Luxembourg, or have recently been transferred from Luxembourg to other tax havens." A spokesman for the Luxembourg government said that it was obliged to investigate all transactions involving North Korea. "The problem is that they do not have 'North Korea' written all over them," he added. Kato said, "If Kim Jong-il's $4 billion secret bank accounts are frozen, it would change the course of history." A South Korean intelligence official said that the North Korean people could rise up against Kim if they were aware of the situation. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia ranks 39th among countries with natural gas (News.mn)
2010-03-18
Exploration by PetroChina Dachin Tamsag of 14 blocks in the Toson Uul oil deposit has revealed 119.02 million tons in total reserve. The deposit also contains 2 billion 589 million cubic meters of natural gas. The rest of the 29 blocks of Toson Uul is believed to have 4 billion 692 million cubic meters of natural gas. This puts Mongolia at the 39th place among 97 countries with natural gas. The Professional Council on Minerals has registered the deposit in the general state reserve. ^ top ^

President seeks stricter punishment for corruption (News.mn)
2010-03-17
Presidential Adviser on legal policy G.Ganzorig, Director of the President's Office L.Batjav, Vice-Director of the Anti-Corruption Authority D.Sunduisuren, Consulting Teacher at the Police Academy S.Jantsan and Teacher J.Boldbaatar briefed journalists on draft amendments to the Criminal Law prepared by the President. Stricter punishments for corruption are proposed. At present, corruption does not fall in the category of serious crimes and is thus covered by amnesty laws. Persons convicted of robbery or theft are sentenced to 15 years, while those guilty of massive embezzlement of Government money get only 5-year terms. The President thinks this is contrary to the basic principle of equality of all before the court. The draft proposes that there will be no amnesty for anyone convicted on a charge of corruption. It also seeks to extend the period for which a convicted person cannot work in a high position from the present 2 years to 10. ^ top ^

Heavy Snow Storm and Thawing Causes Chaos (UB Post)
2010-03-16
Last weekend, most parts of the country saw heavy snow and dust storms as predicted by the national weather service agency, reaching the level of “disastrous”. Wind speeds reached 32-40 meters per second, strong enough to devastate poorly-structured shelter houses. No human casualties were reported from the storm. Last Saturday, Dalanzadgad, the provincial center of Omnogobi, was laid dark by the storming. Around 40 households in the center of Omnogobi were badly affected by the storm. Their gers and fences have been blown down. The eastern part of the country was blanketed in a 15cm thick snow fall, which was recorded during two days, in Dornod province. In Ulaanbaatar, heavy snowfall made traffic conditions in the city bad, and snow that fell on Saturday thawed during the day and turned into a slippery nightmare on Sunday morning. Small minor road accidents happened everywhere on the slippery streets of the city. One man died, and eight people have been injured from the accidents. The main roads that link Ulaanbaatar with the countryside have resumed this Monday morning, to normal operations, after being closed down for fifteen hours. ^ top ^

Interpol wanted Mongolian man arrested (Montsame)
2010-03-15
A Mongolian man, D.Surenkhor, was arrested recently in Austria by Interpol and was brought to Mongolia. Surenkhor run away abroad in 2005 while he was working as State Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Trade after defrauding a large amount of money. He has been accused of frauding about MNT 100 million from the public and individuals. He was wanted and searched by the Mongolian police through Interpol. While he was hiding abroad, he lived in Austria seeking an asylum under the fake name. He is being detained in Gants Khudag detention center near Ulaanbaatar, his case is now under investigation. ^ top ^

Demonstration run peacefully (Montsame)
2010-03-11
The Confederation of Civil Movements hosted a demonstration in Sukhbaatar square Thursday demanding to quit some government officials. The event run and ended peacefully Thursday afternoon. At the end of the protest, the demonstration organizers presented a petition to Deputy Chief of the Government Cabinet Secretariat and demanded to give a response within April 19. The petition demands to resign the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, the Minister of Health and the State General Prosecutor. It also demands to re-start allocating the child allowance. This event is said to be the first civil movement demonstration organized in Sukhbaatar square since July 1, 2008. ^ 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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