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
  22.3-26.3.10, No. 312  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China joins in talks on new Iran sanctions (Xinhua)
2010-03-26
China vowed Thursday to further negotiate to resolve Iran's nuclear stalemate, after participating in a six-way telephone conference Wednesday to discuss levying heightened sanctions on Tehran. "China urges all sides to use diplomatic means to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a press briefing. Beijing, after a weeks-long standstill, joined Wednesday's talks held by the five permanent veto-wielding UN Security Council members plus Germany – termed the "P5 plus 1" – to discuss a US-speared proposal to impose a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, but no deal has been concluded yet. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner claimed that "all sides expressed support" for the conference, an integral part of the "ongoing consultations" of the "two-track policy." The policy translates into open-ended political negotiations plus multiple incentives if Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment drive, but the imposition of penalties if it defies the Security Council's demands [...] Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, sounded a positive note on China's ultimate readiness for talks. "My understanding is that they have agreed to engage substantively," he said in New York. Grant further confirmed that senior officials from the six countries were expected to hold another telephone meeting next week […] Wang Feng, a researcher at the Institute of Western Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's participation in the talks didn't mean Beijing has changed its stance on the issue. "There are still some unknown clauses in the draft proposal, which may include sanctions against Iran's energy sector," Wang said. "That's something China will never agree with." […] A senior Russian diplomat said that Russia and China have pressed Iran to accept a UN offer to replace fuel for an atomic reactor that would require Tehran to ship most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment and processing into fuel assemblies […].. ^ top ^

US domain registrar follows Google out of mainland (SCMP)
2010-03-26
Go Daddy Group, the world's largest registrar of domain names, has joined rival Network Solutions in refusing to offer new domain names on the mainland because of what Go Daddy describes as increased internet spying by the central government on its citizens […] The decision was prompted by a "recent increase in China's surveillance and monitoring of the internet activities of its citizens," [executive vice-president ] Jones told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Virginia-based Network Solutions stopped offering mainland domain names in December because of the central government's requirements for "a lot of other personal information", said Susan Wade, a company spokeswoman. Go Daddy's announcement comes two days after Google said it would no longer censor internet search results on the mainland. Google, the world's largest search engine, said two days ago it would redirect mainland readers to its unfiltered Hong Kong website. "Go Daddy is the first company to follow Google's example," said Representative Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican. Go Daddy's decision is "a powerful sign that American" information technology "companies want to do the right thing in repressive countries". Jones told the commission that the China Internet Network Information Centre, a quasi-governmental agency that oversees registration services, had begun requiring more stringent identification and documentation for those seeking domain names. In addition, the agency said it would audit all mainland domain name registrations already held by its nationals […] Go Daddy and other domain registrars were also asked to provide to the agency photo and business identification, as well as signed registration forms from mainland domain registrants, Jones said. At the same hearing, Alan Davidson, director of public policy at Google, pressed for the US and other governments to consider trade rules for countries that censor the internet […]. ^ top ^

Dell denies China pullout (Global Times)
2010-03-26
Dell Thursday denied claims by the Indian prime minister that the world's third-largest PC maker is considering shifting its operation from China to India. According to the Hindustan Times, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after his meeting with Dell Chief Executive Michael Dell, "This morning I met the chairman of Dell Corporation. He informed me that they are buying equipment and parts worth $25 billion from China. They would like to shift to a safer environment with a climate conducive to enterprise with security of legal system." […] According to the report, Indian media suggested that tax breaks Dell enjoys in India make it cost-effective for the company to supply the Middle East, Africa and Europe out of India, rather than out of China […] Dell had already said at a conference in New Delhi that his company would not be embroiled in Google's move to shut down its mainland Chinese operation and stressed the importance of the Chinese market to Dell's growth […] Bloomberg Thursday quoted a Dell spokeswoman, Minari Shah, as saying, "There was no discussion concerning any change in how or from where Dell will source component parts for the computers it manufactures in Asia." India's Press Information Bureau removed a copy of Singh's official speeches from its website after Dell contacted the office, according to Bloomberg. A Dell insider who declined to give his name told the Global Times that it is unlikely for Dell to move its entire operation from China to India […]. ^ top ^

American report takes lid off China's hacking capital (SCMP)
2010-03-26
An in-depth study by a US-based internet security firm has revealed that there may be more targeted cyber attacks originating from China than previously uncovered. Analysts at Symantec, the world's leading security software supplier, identified Shaoxing, a city in Zhejiang, as the top source of all cyber attacks monitored this month from more than 12 billion e-mail connections the company processed. The report, titled "The Nature of Cyber Espionage," said more than a quarter of those targeted attacks - described as malicious e-mails sent in small volumes to gain access to sensitive corporate data - had originated in China, based on researchers' analysis of sender location rather than the more commonly used identifier of e-mail server location. Earlier analysis, based on e-mail server location, had China accounting for only 17.8 per cent of attacks this month […] An earlier report in The New York Times alleged a series of online attacks on Google and dozens of other American corporations had been traced to computers at two educational institutions on the mainland - Shanghai Jiaotong University and Shandong's Lanxiang Vocational School. Both have denied links to the attack attempts. ^ top ^

Beijing to disclose Mekong data (SCMP)
2010-03-26
China has agreed to provide information on water levels in the Mekong River in a major boost for efforts to respond to an alarming decline in the river's flow, authorities said yesterday. Activists in Thailand have blamed Chinese dams for record-low levels on the critical waterway, known as the Lacang in China, but severe drought in the region has also been identified as a factor. The Mekong River Commission said China would share data from its upstream monitoring stations on the river. "This is very positive news, as it shows that China is willing to engage with lower-basin countries," commission secretariat chief Jeremy Bird said. "It will clear ambiguity on this issue and further build the trust necessary to jointly address other critical issues facing the basin, such as food security and climate change." More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for their livelihoods, and it is the world's most valuable inland source of fish. The move comes ahead of a four-nation summit hosted by Thailand next month to discuss management of the Mekong, which is suffering from the lowest water levels for 20 years. The leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will meet in the resort town of Hua Hin, south of Bangkok. Water levels in the northern Mekong are at record-low levels this month. This threatens the water supply, navigation and irrigation for millions of people. Northern Thailand, northern Laos and southern China had all been affected, Bird said. ^ top ^

Uyghur Gitmo detainees arrive in Bern (Global Times)
2010-03-25
Two Chinese Uyghurs freed from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay have arrived in Switzerland, Swiss authorities said Wednesday, after the pair were granted asylum despite Beijing's opposition. "The two Uyghurs with Chinese citizenship, who were granted admission for humanitarian reasons by Switzerland, have arrived in canton Jura," the Swiss federal government said in a statement. "The two were neither charged with any crime nor condemned by the US authorities. Today they are free again." The brothers were among 22 Uyghurs seized at a camp in Afghanistan after the US-led bombing campaign began there in 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks. China said the men were members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a terrorist group blacklisted by the US and the UN Security Council. According to China, the group was responsible for at least 200 terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2001, killing more than 162 people. The group also threatened to sabotage the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and claimed responsibility for several incidents in China that year. After Bern formally decided to take in the two Uyghurs last month, Beijing warned that the move would "surely undermine" bilateral relations. "All countries must adhere to UN Charter chapter 7 and reject providing asylum to those who fund, plan, commit or abet a terrorist act," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in early February. In the end, Swiss authorities defied Chinese pressure and granted the brothers asylum following requests from the US to take in the former "war on terror" suspects from the prison in Cuba. When contacted by Global Times reporters, a counselor from the Chinese embassy in Bern said on condition of anonymity that the arrival of the Uyghur brothers brought complexity to China-Switzerland relationships. "We firmly object the Swiss federal government's decision to receive those two terror suspects," the official said. "We don't want to see the issue being hyped by the media or used by some groups as a tool against China." Citing "the sensitivity of the issue," the official refused to say what counter measures the embassy would adopt. This is not the first time Bern has helped Washington clean up the Guantanamo mess. Another former Guantanamo detainee, originally from Uzbekistan, has been living in Switzerland in asylum since the beginning of the year. ^ top ^

Russia urged to form alliance with China to widen influence (SCMP)
2010-03-25
The man widely seen as China's next leader has told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the world's two most powerful emerging market economies should unite to increase their impact on global affairs. China and Russia say their trade and political relations are better than ever, though senior Russian officials are privately concerned about an increasingly assertive China. Vice-President Xi Jinping , seen as the front runner to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013, told Putin that Beijing wanted the power of key developing nations to be recognised. "We consider that in the process of the deep transformation of the world order, the interests of China, Russia and other developing countries must be taken fully into account," Xi said. "Russia and China must become strategic props for each other in the future on all questions which have a strategic interest for Russia." Analysts said the visit to Russia - which was scheduled to include meeting President Dmitry Medvedev - was aimed to acquaint Russians with a potential successor to Hu […] Russia has called for the group of emerging market powers known as BRIC - which also includes Brazil, India and China - to get more say in world affairs, though China's economy is bigger than the other three put together. China has in recent years sought to secure long-term oil and gas supplies from Russia, the world's biggest energy producer, which has been battered by the economic crisis […] Russia is a keen buyer of Chinese manufactured goods, though Moscow is worried that its former Soviet role as a supplier of technology and arms to Beijing has largely vanished as China's own industries overtake Russia's. Russia also sees China as an important partner in efforts to limit the influence of the United States on issues ranging from Iran's nuclear programme to reducing reliance on the dollar. "We have always supported China on the most sensitive questions, including on the problem of Taiwan," Putin said. Xi said Russia and China should work to prevent the dominance of a single power, referring to the US. Xi's talks in Moscow would include trade, investment, energy and the development of the sparsely populated regions of Russia's Far East, Russian officials said. But behind the warm phrases of support for closer ties, many Russian policymakers are increasingly anxious about China's rise as an economic and political power […] China was Russia's second most important trade partner last year after the European Union, though bilateral trade tumbled 29 per cent to US$39.5 billion from US$55.9 billion in 2008 […] Bilateral trade fell as the economic crisis undermined demand for metals, oil and gas, Russia's main exports, but this is expected to recover this year. Xi, who arrived in Russia on Saturday, is on a four-nation European tour which will also take him to Belarus, Finland and Sweden. ^ top ^

Karzai visit yields major pacts (China Daily)
2010-03-25
China has announced more investment in Afghanistan and pledged to continue aiding reconstruction efforts in the war-torn neighboring country. President Hu Jintao and his visiting Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai witnessed the signing of three deals on Wednesday, which cover economic cooperation, technical training and the granting of preferential tariffs for some Afghan exports to China. Details were not disclosed. China is seen as a key player in an international coalition seeking to secure and rebuild Afghanistan, particularly after US troops pull out, analysts said, adding that Beijing is striving to help boost security and revive the economy in Afghanistan. It was earlier reported that State-owned China Metallurgical Group promised to invest a record $3 billion in one of the world's largest copper mines south of Kabul. Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told China Daily on Wednesday that China has contributed tremendously in Afghan economic development, especially in infrastructure building. He said Afghanistan, a country rich in natural gas and iron ore deposits, welcomes more Chinese investment in those areas […] "There are some security issues. We are trying to deal with it and I hope the security situation will allow Chinese investment to operate without any risks," he said. Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international aid, but its government hopes the vast reserves of minerals will provide the key to eventual financial independence […] This is Karzai's first visit to China since his re-election last year, and his fourth as Afghan president. He is scheduled to meet top legislator Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday. ^ top ^

Google plans to phase out filtered services to partners on mainland (SCMP)
2010-03-25
Google says it plans to phase out deals to provide filtered search services to other online or mobile firms in China. It has already been shunned by at least one of those partner firms and was attacked by a state newspaper after pulling the plug on its mainland Chinese-language portal Google.cn. It now reroutes searches to an unfiltered Hong Kong site. The Google dispute, which involves cyber attacks as well as internet censorship, is one of many thorny trade, financial, political and security issues that are roiling US-China ties this year. Google's search services yesterday remained erratic across Beijing, frustrating users unsure about the future of its other services - from maps to music. While Google is the world's top search engine, it held only an estimated 30 per cent share of China's search market in 2009, compared with home-grown rival Baidu's 60 per cent. Google said it was not providing direct access to censored searches, but would fulfil existing contracts. "We have over a dozen syndication deals with partners in China. We obviously have contractual obligations to them, which we want to honour," a Singapore-based Google spokeswoman said. "Over time, we will not be syndicating censored search to partners in China. But we will of course fulfil our existing contractual obligations," she added. Google has already been taken off the popular tom.com portal, owned by Li Ka-shing. Some mainland users said they were already suffering some fallout with erratic service. "Google.com.hk is not currently being blocked, although it seems that some sensitive terms are. However, if you search for a sensitive term and trigger a government blockage, that may affect subsequent searches ... for a short period," Google said. Around 100 people, including human rights lawyers and other activists, gathered at Google's Beijing base late on Tuesday to pay tribute. After arguments with police, they approached the company's door to leave messages including "Google forever" and "Long live freedom!" at the company's door […] State media continued attacks on Google. People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, accused it of colluding with US spies […]. ^ top ^

Rio Tinto trial ends with no verdict (China Daily)
2010-03-25
The three-day trial of four Rio Tinto executives concluded on Wednesday without a verdict, a lawyer said. The trial wrapped up at Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court at midday, and no date was set for the verdict, said Zhai Jian, an attorney representing one of the accused. The four, including Australian national Stern Hu and his three Chinese colleagues - Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong - were charged with taking bribes of more than 86 million yuan ($12.6 million) and stealing commercial secrets. All four pleaded guilty to bribery charges on the first day of the trial although they disputed the specifics of the charges. The guilty plea came as a surprise to many as Rio Tinto had earlier defended the innocence of its four employees, claiming that they "had done nothing wrong". Court proceedings dealing with the theft of commercial secrets were held behind closed doors on the second and third day, and few details were made public. Media reports cited another lawyer, Zhang Peihong, as saying three of the four defendants on trial for stealing commercial secrets had contested the charge. The indictment alleges the four used improper means to obtain commercial secrets from Chinese steelmakers. The information they obtained is believed to have been used as a bargaining chip to drive up the price that China pays for its iron ore imports. In a statement, the spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said "they were not in a position to say anything further at this point", but that Australian consular officers "will be present when the court reconvenes to announce its verdict […] "The Australian government will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Hu throughout this process, consistently engaging the Chinese authorities to safeguard his welfare and rights under Chinese law. We continue to maintain close consultation with Hu's family and his employer," it said. The four face jail terms of at least five years for bribery, and the maximum penalty for industrial espionage is seven years. ^ top ^

Pull-out has little real effect on Sino-US relations (SCMP)
2010-03-24
As the dust settled yesterday following Google's withdrawal from the mainland's search engine market after months of speculation and bickering, analysts said it had only played a marginal role in strained Sino-US ties and that many thornier issues lay ahead. Just hours before the much-expected announcement by Google that it was relocating its simplified-Chinese search service from the mainland to Hong Kong, Premier Wen Jiabao told foreign business executives on Monday that high-level strategic talks between Beijing and Washington would be held in May to address bilateral problems. At the start of the year, Google's surprise announcement of its exit plan fuelled tensions between the two powers. While the US called on China to allow greater internet freedom, Beijing repeatedly said the issue should not be politicised. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday Sino-US relations would not be undermined by Google's move unless the issue was "politicised". "I don't think this would have an impact on Sino-US relations unless some people want to politicise it," Qin said. "If you link this to China-US relations or politicise it, or even link it to China's international image, this is mere overkill." China has labelled the Google issue an "individual commercial case" that would not affect the overall environment for foreign investors nor the Sino-US relationship. Qin said Vice-Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo would head the Chinese delegation at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue to be held in Beijing in late May. The US side would be led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Wen said the May meeting was an "important dialogue". "This is also an important opportunity for China and the US to resolve our ... problems. We attach a lot of importance to this," […] First set up in 2006 under President Hu Jintao and then US president George W. Bush, the twice-yearly dialogue was expanded under Barack Obama from just focusing on economic matters to also address other important issues. While the internet censorship issue is expected to be brought up again at the dialogue, mainland analysts said it would be pushed aside by other more pressing issues including trade frictions and US concerns about the value of the yuan […] Obama's administration has also pushed China to put more pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Beijing has been reluctant to impose sanctions on Tehran, saying diplomatic talks were the only real answer. A big question mark still hangs over the identity of China's representative at a nuclear security summit in Washington on April 12 and 13. Analysts say the choice - Hu or someone less senior - will signal the direction of the Sino-US relationship in the near future […]. ^ top ^

US likely to label China 'currency manipulator' (China Daily)
2010-03-24
The US Treasury Department is highly likely to label China a currency manipulator in a report due out in mid-April, but the move will be "more symbolic than substantive" to win mid-term Congressional elections in the fall, former US trade representative Susan Schwab told China Daily on Tuesday. "There is a high possibility, definitely (that China will be labeled as a manipulator), but it is very important to remember the decision is largely symbolic and does not force any actions, other than consultations," she said. If that were the case, it will be the first time in 16 years. By declaring China a currency manipulator, the US could slap additional tariffs on imports from the country. Some Chinese experts strongly doubt the US will do so as it will provoke Beijing and jeopardize its most important trade relationship, while others believe that even if China were declared a currency manipulator, Washington will not follow up with punitive measures. Some Democrats and Republicans in the House have urged the Barack Obama administration to label China a currency manipulator. Lawmakers from both parties in the Senate also demand Washington force Beijing to revalue the yuan. Schwab said "a significant growing number" of Democrats are increasingly pushing protectionist solutions, which she said was unfortunate. "This is a very difficult decision (for the US government) to make. It is under a lot of pressure on the high unemployment rate and the coming election this fall." Last week, China sent a team led by the vice-minister of commerce to the US, seeking consultations and negotiations on trade-related issues. But many do not pin much hope on such efforts. "There is little room and time to convince the US that China is not a currency manipulator," said Huo Jianguo, dean of the Trade Research Institute affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce. "Obama would probably give the nod to the move if only to win over voters," he said. The US' unemployment rate has been around 10 percent since the onset of the global financial crisis and is expected to stay at the same level in coming months. Obama vowed recently to create more jobs and double exports in five years […]. ^ top ^

Google breaks promise, totally wrong to stop censoring (Xinhua)
2010-03-23
Google has "violated its written promise" and is "totally wrong" by stopping censoring its Chinese language searching results and blaming China for alleged hacker attacks, a government official said early Tuesday morning. The official in charge of the Internet bureau under the State Council Information Office made the comments about two hours after the online search service provider announced it has stopped censoring its Chinese-language search engine Google.cn and is redirecting Chinese mainland users to a site in Hong Kong. "Google has violated its written promise it made when entering the Chinese market by stopping filtering its searching service and blaming China in insinuation for alleged hacker attacks," said the official. "This is totally wrong. We're uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts," the official said. Google's chief legal officer David Drummond made the "stop censoring" announcement in a blog post at about 3 a.m. Tuesday Beijing Time, more than two months after the company said it had been attacked by hackers supported by the Chinese government and was considering pulling out of the Chinese market. The Information Office official said relevant departments of the Chinese government talked with Google twice at its requests, on Jan. 29 and Feb. 25 respectively, to hear the company's real intentions and demonstrate sincerity of the government. "We made patient and meticulous explanations on the questions Google raised (in the talks), ...telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws, while it would be its own affair if it was determined to withdraw its service," the official said. "Foreign companies must abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they operate in China, " the official said. He noted that the Chinese government encourages the development and promotes the opening-up of Internet. "Online opinion exchanges are very active in China and e-commerce grows rapidly here. As facts have demonstrated, the environment for Internet investment and development in China is sound," the official said […]. ^ top ^

Beijing clears US warship to visit HK, but ties still tense (SCMP)
2010-03-23
Beijing has approved the visit of a US warship to Hong Kong this weekend despite troubled Sino-US ties - a low-wattage mission that offers few signs of warmth in military relations. The USS Blue Ridge is the command and control ship for the Japanese-based US Seventh Fleet but will arrive on Thursday without fleet commander Vice-Admiral John Bird, who has other commitments in Japan, US military officials said. Despite the historic and strategic role played by the Blue Ridge in projecting US power in the Pacific, no military exchanges with the local garrison or other PLA brass are planned […] The Foreign Ministry approved the visit over the weekend - the second approval since Beijing vowed to shelve military exchanges in the wake of Washington's decision in January to go ahead with the sale of US$6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan. Sino-US relations have struggled since then following the White House visit by the Dalai Lama as well as tensions over currency valuations and commerce. Beijing allowed the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to stop in Hong Kong last month, but PLA officials were conspicuous by their absence during parties and tours of the ship - events traditionally popular with local military brass. No such events are planned this time […] While Beijing has occasionally halted ship visits to Hong Kong during times of tension, US warships are frequent visitors to Hong Kong. The approval of routine missions such as port calls apparently confirms internal assessments from US officials that Beijing's response to the arms sales has been calibrated to lodge a protest without rocking the wider relationship too much. "Officially, we're still in the dog box ... but business as usual is still proceeding," one Pentagon official said. "For day-to-day management of relations, that is very important." That calibration appears to reflect US efforts not to shock China with the long-planned sales, keeping them informed in advance and ensuring Taiwan does not get all it asked for […] Bigger tests will be US Defence Secretary Dr Robert Gates' planned trip to Beijing later this year and on-going Pentagon efforts to draw the PLA into improved communications as the two sides encounter each other more frequently on the high seas. The Pentagon's annual assessment of China's military build-up has yet to be presented to Congress - a document set to be scrutinised in Beijing and by foreign analysts who fear Washington is under pressure to tone down the report […]. ^ top ^

Record number of foreign students in China in 2009 (Global Times)
2010-03-23
China's Ministry of Education said Monday that the number of foreign students in the Chinese mainland reached more than 230,000 last year, the highest since the founding of New China. The figure was up about 6.6 percent from the previous year, the ministry said. This figure was still far short of the 500,000 target for 2020, set in the country's draft medium-to-long-term education reform and development plan (2010-2020) that was put out for public response last month. The plan says China will be built into Asia's largest international student destination in ten years. The foreign students, from 190 countries and regions, studied in about 610 higher educational institutions last year […] Among them, more than 18,000 students obtained scholarships provided by the Chinese government, up about 35 percent, it said, adding that the number of self-supporting students reached nearly 220,000, up 4.7 percent. About 68 percent of all the foreign students were from Asia, 15 percent from Europe, 10.7 percent from the Americas, five percent from Africa and more than 1.1 percent were from Oceania […] The Republic of Korea, the United States, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, were top ten in the student nationalities list. Over the past six decades since the founding of New China in 1949, about 1.69 million students across the world came to study in China. ^ top ^

Quito-Beijing hydro project in doubt (Global Times)
2010-03-22
Ecuador on Saturday accused China of jeopardizing talks on financing for a hydroelectric station project, threatening to seek money from Taiwan instead. Negotiations on the financing of the Coca-Codo-Sinclaire hydroelectric plant, which would cover 75 percent of Ecuador's energy consumption, have lasted more than eight months and passed their March 15 deadline. According to the website of Sinohydro Group, the company signed a $1.97 billion deal with Ecuadorian authorities in October to construct the plant. Based on the deal, through the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank), Sinohydro would provide 85 percent of the total financing as a loan, while the Ecuadorian government would cover the remaining 15 percent. However, according to media reports, Eximbank has demanded that Ecuador's Central Bank put up its assets as collateral for the loan. "Never before had anyone made such requests, which in any case are forbidden by law," Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said in his weekly broadcast presentation. "We will not forget the "mistreatment and the rudeness" that the Ecuadorian negotiators endured during the talks," Correa said. "We have shown much solidarity with China, supported the policy of one China ... but we will not forget how they treated us." Correa insisted that there were "many alternatives" to obtaining finance for the project, including from Taiwan. An official at the Chinese embassy in the capital, Quito, told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the two sides' differences on collateral stalked the talks. "After Quito rejected the proposal involving Central Bank assets, Chinese negotiators brought up another one involving plant assets, which was also rejected under Ecuadorian law," the official said. "In 2008, Correa declared a default on the country's foreign sovereign bonds, which might have caused concern among Chinese delegates. Correa unilaterally ended the talks Wednesday. However, as it is an important project for both countries, staff at the embassy are collaborating with Chinese negotiators to revive the talks. We remain optimistic on solving the matter," the official said. He also denied that the issue would have any negative impact on other Chinese business in the country. In fact, this is not the first time the talks have faced failure. In December, Correa complained that negotiating with China was like undergoing a "dental extraction," and threatened to reassess his policy toward China […] Despite the disputes, China signed $4.7 billion worth of cooperation agreements in November during a visit by Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference […]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Diabetes epidemic threatens quarter of adult population (SCMP)
2010-03-26
After working overtime to catch up with life in the West, China now faces a whole new problem: the world's biggest diabetes epidemic. One in 10 Chinese adults have the disease and another 16 per cent are on the verge of developing it, according to a new study. The finding compares to the US rate of 11 per cent and surpasses other Western nations, including Germany and Canada. The survey results, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found much higher rates of diabetes than previous studies, largely due to more rigorous testing measures. With 92 million diabetics, China is now home to the most cases worldwide, overtaking India. "Our results indicate that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the general adult population in China," the report said, adding that most cases remained undiagnosed. "Given its large population, China may bear a higher diabetes-related burden than any other country." The report said another 148.2 million were considered to be pre-diabetic, or showing early symptoms of developing diabetes, a condition that could lead to cardiovascular disease, China's leading cause of death. "The ageing of the population, urbanisation, nutritional changes and decreasing levels of physical activity, with a consequent epidemic of obesity, have probably contributed to the rapid increase" in levels of diabetes, the report said […] The study found men were slightly more affected as were city dwellers — one in 11 city dwellers were diabetics, compared with one in eight in rural areas. ^ top ^

Land reclamation harms sea ecology (China Daily)
2010-03-26
Excessive land reclamation from the sea poses a growing threat to oceanic ecology and aggravates coastal pollution, a top administrator has warned. Sun Zhihui, head of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), said strict laws to protect arable land have prompted local authorities to resort to sea reclamation to meet growing land demand […] Reclaimed land accounts for 3 to 4 percent of the mainland's total new construction area annually. In coastal provinces and municipalities, the figure is 13 to 15 percent […] Projects on reclaimed land are much cheaper than on land. Generally, the cost per square meter for sea reclamation ranges from 220 yuan ($32) to 520 yuan, while building on land costs thousands of yuan because of expenditures on relocation. The State Council has so far approved seven coastal economic zones in Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi and two are being planned in Shandong and Zhejiang, Sun said. Sun, however, warned that land reclamation may go out of control due to the absence of a national macro-control scheme […] As a majority of heavily-polluting chemical, energy and transportation industries are in coastal areas, a variety of pollutants like heavy metals and organic toxins are discharged into the sea with wastewater. According to an inspection last year, about 74 percent of 457 discharge outlets released excessive pollutants, with 14 million tons of heavy metals discharged into the ocean, a year-on-year increase of 16 percent […]. ^ top ^

Former surgeon charged with children's murders (SCMP)
2010-03-26
Before Tuesday, former surgeon Zheng Minsheng was just another disgruntled mainland man after being dumped by his girlfriend and sacked from his job in Nanping, Fujian. Now he is the talk of the nation after stabbing 13 primary school pupils in a minute-long rampage that left eight children dead and five in intensive care, one of whom might not emerge from a vegetative state. The Yancheng Evening News yesterday quoted a doctor as saying that the heart of one of the survivors had stopped beating twice and that after two operations there were doubts about whether the child would regain consciousness. The children were attacked outside the gate of Nanping Experimental Primary School at about 7.20am on Tuesday as they waited for the school to open. The attack shocked the nation and sparked questions about the lack of security near schools. Local media said at first that Zheng, 42, was mentally ill but later portrayed him as a sane person with personal grudges who was well aware of what he had done. Officials refused to comment on Zheng's mental state. At a press conference on Wednesday, Nanping Public Security officials told mainland media that Zheng had been charged with murder. Police said Zheng, who was pessimistic by nature, had sought revenge on society after failing to find romance. A person who saw Zheng trapped by a crowd of people after the attack quoted him as saying "They are not letting me live so I won't let them live either," […] It quoted Zheng's neighbours as describing him as a tall, handsome man who had not had much luck with women because he had a low-income job. They speculated that Zheng, pushed into a corner in life, had sought revenge on the children of the rich […] Zheng had a medical career for more than 20 years and worked as a qualified surgeon in a community clinic of in the city's Yanping district. However, he was unable to find work after leaving that post in June. Former colleague Huang Liben told the Guangzhou Daily that Zheng was a hardworking doctor with good surgical skills and was popular with patients […]. ^ top ^

Hu orders army to pitch in and help local governments in stricken areas (SCMP)
2010-03-25
The People's Liberation Army should be ready to help disaster relief in drought-hit western provinces, President Hu Jintao, in his capacity as the chairman of the Central Military Commission, has told the army. With drought affecting 61.3 million people in Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan, Hu ordered PLA garrisons to co-operate with local governments in dealing with the natural disaster, Xinhua reported yesterday. "The severe drought in some provinces in our country has brought great impacts to local residents' living," Hu was quoted as saying during an inspection of a village in Pengyang county, Ningxia, earlier this week. "Local garrisons should understand and sympathise with our people's difficulties and be ready to make more contributions to solve their problems." Hu's order is essential to set the army in motion as the PLA is directly under the command of CMC […] Xinhua said direct economic damage in the five worst-hit provinces and areas had increased to 23.7 billion of yuan. The number of people affected had topped 61.3 million, with at least 18 million lacking drinking water. It said the central government had allocated more than 1.15 billion yuan of relief funds to the drought-hit areas, where 5.3 million hectares of farmland have been affected and more than 1.1 million hectares of crops killed. Hu urged local garrisons to work closely with local governments and party committees in long-term drought relief work. He encouraged garrisons in the five drought-hit provinces to learn from soldiers in the Lanzhou Military Area Command, which overseas Shaanxi, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Gansu and Qinghai. Those soldiers spent three years digging nearly 160 wells in 117 villages in Ningxia, a perennially dry region. ^ top ^

Half of food boxes unsafe: report (Global Times)
2010-03-25
China uses 15 billion disposable plastic takeaway boxes every year, but at least half of them are unsafe, containing chemicals that could cause cancer, an expert from a non-governmental food-packing organization estimated, warning that the danger to human health is as serious as taking drugs. Dong Jinshi, of the Beijing Environmental Tableware Association, which represents more than 50 manufacturers nationwide of tableware, filed lawsuits against two restaurants in Beijing for what he called the use of "inappropriate" one-off plastic containers for leftover and takeaway food […] Results from the Beijing Center for Physical and Chemical Analysis show that the plastic containers, which Dong took from the two restaurants on March 3, can easily make chemical reactions with oil and vinegar, up to 150 times the national standard. "Judging from the results, if we eat food containing vinegar or oil in poor-quality tableware, we will consume one fourth to one third of the takeout box," Dong said […] Dong, also the secretary-general of the association, said less than 50 percent of them meet safety standards, noting that his estimation is based on a briefing released by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in 2005 […] The quality problem is very serious in the manufacturing industry of one-off plastic tableware. A large amount of industry-used calcium carbonate, paraffin wax and recycled waste are added to the production materials, making the products react easily to vinegar or oil, which leaches into the food, the report said. Industry-used calcium carbonate and paraffin wax can damage our digestive and nervous systems, and are triggers of cancer. The recycled waste may be traded to the left-over bits and pieces of industrial material, or even medical waste […] The production of tableware posing a risk to health is so rampant because the illegal industry generates huge profits, Dong told the Global Times. "Some 100,000 yuan ($14,700) was enough to set up a production line of unregulated plastic tableware, while the price of equipment for state approved production was as high as 1 million yuan," […] Poor sales of regulated plastic tableware forced many lawful producers of the products to partly switch to underground production in an effort to keep factories alive […] Dong condemned the restaurants, major purchasers of the one-time tableware, which consider costs rather than quality and safety, and which contribute to the serious situation […]. ^ top ^

Lead poisoning sickens 191 children in central China city (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-25
Another 13 children were diagnosed with high blood lead levels in central Chinese city Chenzhou Tuesday, raising the total toll to 191, health authorities said Wednesday. Results of tests at two medical institutions in Chenzhou in Hunan Province over the past week showed that 191 of 423 people had excessive lead levels. Forty-six, mostly children under 14 and from Haotang Town of Guiyang County, had lead levels so high that they were diagnosed as suffering from lead poisoning, said Chenzhou health bureau in a statement. A total of 38 remained hospitalized, including three adults who demanded further checks despite normal blood lead levels. The cases emerged about 10 months after 254 children were found with excessive levels of lead in their blood in the neighboring Jiahe County of Chenzhou in July last year. As many as 309 factories were polluting the county in 2009. Three lead plants in Chenzhou were held accountable for discharging lead contamination, which caused the poisoning […] The three plants had been leveled and the city would overhaul its mining industry and shut down more polluters […] The South China Environmental Supervision Center under the Ministry of Environmental Protection had dispatched a group to investigate the case Monday. Yu Qi, the group leader told Xinhua Wednesday an investigation was under way, but refused to give any further details. Excessive amount of lead in the blood can cause damage to the digestive, nervous, and reproductive systems and cause stomachaches, anemia and convulsion. ^ top ^

Drought paralyzes power supply (China Daily)
2010-03-24
The severe drought in Southwest China has caused a drop in Yunnan province's electricity supply, as about 70 percent of the power in the province is from hydropower stations, media has reported. The drought has also paralyzed 90 percent of hydropower stations in the neighboring Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region […] The water level of the upper reaches of the Baise multipurpose dam in Guangxi has dropped to a historical low, and the supply to the middle and lower reaches of the Pearl River has been halted, the report said. "The normal water level should be at 228 meters and the dam paralyzes at a water level of 203 meters. Now the water level is even lower than 190 meters," the report quoted an unnamed dam worker as saying. Officials at China Southern Power Grid, which takes care of the power supply for five provinces and autonomous regions, including Guangxi, Yunnan and Guizhou, admitted in a recent statement that it is an "arduous task" to ensure the supply in the region. Due to its rich hydropower resources, Yunnan has been a major power supplier to neighboring Guangdong province. However, because of the drought, the amount of power supply diverted from Yunnan has been gradually reduced, and the province needs more power from outside the province […] The situation also caused a power shortage in Guangdong. The energy production by major heat-engine plants in Guangdong has increased by at least 50 percent over the same period last year, according to a report by National Business Daily. If the situation continues, the price of thermal coal could go up, analysts said. Since last autumn, Southwest China has received little rain and water storage is low. The severe drought has affected 51 million Chinese and left more than 16 million people and 11 million livestock with water shortages, according to the State Disaster Relief Commission. The drought has incurred 19.02 billion yuan ($2.79 billion) in direct economic losses, statistics from the commission showed […]. ^ top ^

Wind puts stop to high-wire act (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-24
Two "High Sky Princes" met in Tianmen Mountain, Zhang Jiajie city, in central China's Hunan province, to compete for the limits of high-wire walking but had to withdraw midway because of bad weather, on March 20, 2010. Saimaiti Aishan, a young high-wire lover from Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, performed high-splits 500 meters above the ground. Freddy [N]ock, king of high-wire from Switzerland, walked on the high wire for 200 meters. The two were planning to walk through 690 meters of high wire with 42-degree slope at 500 meters high, but both failed to complete the walk because of bad weather and the sleekness of the wire. Crowds at the site were amazed by their performance, and praised them as "Tianmen Mountain Legend Heroes". ^ top ^

Freak weather prompts study on climate change (SCMP)
2010-03-23
The spectre of abrupt climate change, which could render massive infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam and the South-North Water Diversion Project useless, has prompted the central government to launch a national scientific study. Some mainland scientists are warning that annual temperatures could drop sharply in the next two decades, causing a drastic shift in rain distribution and hitting the agricultural sector hard. Like their peers around the world, the mainland's scientific community long regarded the possibility of abrupt climate change as minimal, and funding for research into its ramifications was non-existent […] But today, with snowstorms raging across northern China, unprecedented drought in the south and the IPCC's credibility coming under serious attack, some mainstream scientists are not so sure any more. They admitted that they could not rule out the possibility that China, as well as the rest of the world, is caught up in the process of an abrupt climate change. In 2003, the Global Business Network, a US think tank, prepared a report for the US Department of Defence titled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States' National Security". The report created a climate change scenario based on interviews with leading scientists, and historical data, which estimated that global warming would stop abruptly in 2010 and long cold winters would follow. "Mega-droughts begin in key regions in southern China ... around 2010 and last throughout the full decade," the report says. "China, with its high need for food supply given its vast population, is hit hard by a decreased reliability of the monsoon rains ... longer, colder winters and hotter summers caused by decreased evaporative cooling because of reduced precipitation stress, already tight energy and water supplies. Widespread famine causes chaos and internal struggles as a cold and hungry China peers jealously across the Russian and western borders at energy resources." The report was covered by some mainland newspapers at the time but was met with derision from scientists […] Mainstream scientists firmly believed that global warming was irreversible and that climate change would be a slow and gradual process. But it now seems the futurists could have been right. Since September, areas of southwestern China such as Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Chongqing have been hit by the worst drought in more than a century. Xinhua says rainfall is down by as much as 90 per cent and water levels in major rivers are at their lowest in history. Nearly 20 million people are suffering from drinking water shortages. Meanwhile, enormous snowstorms, not seen in decades, have hit northern China. Some dams along the Yellow River, which have not flooded for many years, are reporting dangerous water levels. These happenings match almost perfectly with the 2003 report's prediction that China's normally wet south would see droughts and the normally dry north would experience floods. Now the question is, will it last for a decade? The Ministry of Science and Technology launched an emergency national science project last month to deal with the issue […]. ^ top ^

Shanxi vows to investigate killer vaccines (Global Times)
2010-03-23
In what appears to be a response to public outrage over an alleged vaccine scandal involving four deaths and dozens of cases of illnesses, Shanxi provincial authorities assured the public Monday that experts had been sent to inspect 15 children who were reportedly victims of tainted vaccines. The response has been seen as a positive turn from the provincial health bureau, which affirmed last week that related media reports were "basically untrue." Speaking at Monday's press conference, Ju Xianhua, deputy secretary general of the Shanxi government, assured local residents that vaccines in the province are being "strictly monitored and their quality is guaranteed." He said that, following the latest media reports, the local government had sent experts to check on all 15 children named in the news stories, and would announce later whether their illnesses were connected to the vaccinces. Shanxi authorities and the Ministry of Health sent experts to investigate the case in 2007 and 2008, without finding any problem with the vaccines, he added. The vaccination scandal came to light after a report by the China Economic Times on Wednesday said that four children had died and at least 74 others became sick in Shanxi after receiving vaccines for encephalitis, hepatitis B and rabies between 2006 and 2008. The report said that since 2006 the local health bureau had been selling problematic vaccines that were exposed to summer heat rather than stored in refrigerators as required. The Shanxi Health Bureau denied the accusations Wednesday, adding that it had checked with 10 children said to be victims and found that one of them had an adverse reaction and died as a result of a vaccination. The report was "basically untrue," Li Shukai, the local deputy health director, told the Xinhua News Agency. The China Economic Times, however, stood by its report, issuing a statement two days later saying it had sufficient evidence to back up the claims. Chen Tao'an, a former information office official with the Shanxi Province Disease Prevention and Control Center, the whistleblower who helped the newspaper with its six-month inquiry and interviews with the families of 36 victims, said he saw boxes and boxes of vaccines piled up in a hot room without air conditioning. Chen told the Global Times that he was removed from his post and redirected to do cleaning in early 2009. The Beijing-based Huawei Biomedical company, which owned the exclusive rights for supplying vaccines and distributing them at the center, was later deemed ineligible to conduct vaccine-related business […] Meanwhile, a panel consisting of eight experts from China's Ministry of Health (MOH) arrived in Shanxi over the weekend to oversee the investigation of the case […]. ^ top ^

Are megacities answer to China future? (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-22
[…] Some experts have predicted that up to 350 million more rural residents are to influx to China's cities in the coming 20 years. A leading environmental lobby group, The Climate Group, believe that huge Mega-cities could pave the way to a cleaner environmental future for China. And a leading world's consultancy business, the McKinsey & Co, also forecasted that by 2025, China will have eight super-large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Wuhan – each with a population of more than 10 million. Wu Changhua, Greater China director of The Climate Group said that it was possible to deliver energy and essential services more efficiently to concentrated urban areas […] Wu added planners in China have the opportunity to fashion new cities that will be effectively carbon neutral, making use of state-of-the-art technology […] But the speed of China's development will still make it hard for urban planners to contain the environmental risks. By 2030, 120 million people will live in China's mega-cities, an increase from 34 million in 2007 when only Beijing and Shanghai were classed in this category, according to McKinsey. Chongqing, which could be set to be China's first 30 million population city, has been growing at six times the rates it took Chicago to develop in the 50 years before 1900. It has grown from a collection of towns and villages to become one of the world's greatest new conurbations. Martin Jacques, author of "When China Rules The World", which predicts China will overtake the United States as the world's largest economy by 2050, said the emergence of mega-cities will create huge challenges. "China will have to come up with novel solutions to the challenges this rate of development poses. It cannot just blindly copy the development of cities in the West," Jacques said. "Clearly cities cannot be built around the car because when car ownership got up to western levels the cities would come to a complete standstill." […] Professor Lu Bin, head of the department of urban and regional planning at Peking University, doubts whether there will be enough service jobs in the megacities to support the size of their populations. "That is why it is important to have small and medium sized cities supporting the core city. The smaller cities could offer manufacturing employment and people could commute within the conurbation," he said […] Just 600 million people, or 45 per cent of China's 1.3 billion population, currently live in cities but this is expected to grow to more than 1 billion by 2030. Some 70 per cent of the new urban dwellers will be migrants from mainly rural areas […] British author Jacques said it was important to understand how far China had traveled on the urbanization journey. In 1949 at the birth of New China it only had five cities with more than one million population. "China is currently either at the end of the beginning stage or, at best, the beginning of the middle stage of urbanization," he said. ^ top ^

Vaccine victim families receive death threats (SCMP)
2010-03-22
Parents of children affected by the Shanxi vaccine scandal were threatened yesterday with injury and death if they did not give up their fight to punish those responsible. The threats were issued in anonymous telephone calls and text messages. Whistle-blower Chen Taoan, a Shanxi Centre for Disease Control and Prevention staff member, also received a death threat. "I can't wait to meet those guys and beat the crap out of them," Chen, a retired PLA investigation unit captain, said. "It's an open war now. Let's fight." A report in the China Economic Times, a government-affiliated newspaper, on Wednesday linked vaccines to the deaths of four children and illnesses in another 74. Some of the children who fell ill were left with permanent damage after taking vaccines for encephalitis, hepatitis B, rabies and other illnesses from 2006 to 2008. Some of the parents staged a protest in provincial capital Taiyuan on Saturday after Chen told the newspaper the vaccines had been improperly handled and sold by a small private company with no medical qualifications but close ties to senior provincial health officials. More than 10 of the parents told the South China Morning Post they had received threatening calls or text messages yesterday. They were asked to "stop making a fuss" and that "we will give you 100,000 yuan" if they did so. The parents were told that if they failed to comply, "we will receive an order for one of your legs", or "to tear you into pieces", or "burn your house down and kill everyone in your family". Some were told, "Our boss hopes you understand one thing: You will never win. You are nothing, but we have all the power and money." The phone calls and text messages were sent from an anonymous mobile-phone account registered in Fuyang city, Anhui […] While some parents were rattled by the threats, others were determined to continue their fight […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

21 stand trial for parts played in 2009 CCTV building fire in Beijing (Xinhua)
2010-03-24
Twenty-one people implicated in a deadly fire that burned a section of the newly built China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters last year stood trial at a court in Beijing on Tuesday […] The No. 2 branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate has confirmed that all of the defendants including Xu Wei, former head of the broadcaster's construction office, were charged with causing an accident with dangerous goods, apart from other crimes. An illegal fireworks display caused the blaze on Feb. 9, 2009 in the 30-story building in Beijing's Central Business District, which left one firemen dead and eight others injured, including six firemen and two construction workers. It caused direct economic losses of more than 160 million yuan (23.44 million U.S. dollars). In February, a statement from the State Council said its probe found 71 people responsible for the fire. Forty-four of them would face criminal charges while 27 others would suffer Party and administrative disciplinary actions. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang communications restored (SCMP)
2010-03-22
Authorities in Xinjiang have restored access to e-mail services and 32 internet sites that were blocked after ethnic unrest broke out in the region in July, state media report. Restrictions on the number of text messages a mobile user could send have also been lifted, according to Xinhua. Xinjiang communications services would be restored "step by step", Xinhua said, citing a regional government official. Internet and e-mail services were cut following clashes between Han Chinese and mainly Muslim Uygurs, in which almost 200 people died and 1,600 were wounded. The authorities accused Uygur organisers of using the internet and mobile phones to stir the unrest. In all, 26 people were sentenced to death for their part in the rioting, which lasted several days in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Pyramid sales probe zeroes in on HK firm (SCMP)
2010-03-26
Shenzhen police are investigating a suspected pyramid-selling scheme run out of Hong Kong that may have cost some 600,000 mainland investors almost 2 billion yuan over the past three years. More than 40 people appealed to Shenzhen People's Congress member Yang Jianchang for help on Wednesday, saying they, along with others across the country, had been duped. The victims said they had bought voice-over-internet-protocol software known as Mycool from Hong Kong ABM Technology Group. The company's managers told them Mycool could be used to conduct telephone-like voice conversations by computer, make cheap long-distance calls, send messages and watch movies online for free. To be a member of the scheme, people were required to buy at least one Mycool product at a cost of 3,300 yuan. They could also earn commissions for recruiting new members, and the company promised top-tier recruiters a share of its sales revenue. "The company set up in 2008, and it told us it had recruited 600,000 members to buy shares in the company," said Xie Shuping, a Shenzhen teacher in her 40s who spent 21,300 yuan on the software last year. If that number of members is correct, the scheme would have involved at least 1.98 billion yuan. Yang said it was a typical illegal pyramid scheme, involving a great many people across the mainland. Shenzhen police and the city's Market Supervision Administration said yesterday that they had launched investigations […] Hong Kong police said they could not comment on an individual case. ^ top ^

Four in 10 HK babies born under the knife (SCMP)
2010-03-22
Four out of 10 women who give birth in Hong Kong now have Caesarean sections - a rate that is double the average for the developed world. In private hospitals, six out of 10 babies are born under the knife. Doctors warn of grave dangers behind the figures. Caesareans carried out for non-medical reasons are linked to a much higher risk of maternal death and serious complications, according to the latest survey by the World Health Organisation in Asia. Hong Kong's Caesarean rate has been on the rise in recent years, creeping up from 36 per cent in 2006 to 41.6 per cent in 2008. A WHO study in 2007 showed that the rate in developed countries was only 21.1 per cent. The trend is causing particular alarm in private hospitals, where mothers can freely choose the way they give birth. In 2006, 59 per cent of 25,141 women in private care had Caesareans. This had jumped to 62 per cent in the first half of last year. At least a quarter of pregnant women requested the operation for reasons other than medical ones, such as fung shui or fear of pain, one local doctor said. The average Caesarean rate across Asia is 27.3 per cent - 19.8 per cent in Japan, 35.6 per cent in Vietnam and 46.2 per cent on the mainland. The percentages for Latin America and the United States are 35 and 31 per cent respectively. The WHO survey revealed that the risk of maternal death or severe complications increased up to 14.2 times when Caesarean sections were done without a medical reason. The risk of wounds being infected is much higher, as is the possibility of severe blood loss that would require a blood transfusion […]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Mainland invests nearly 69 mln dollars in Taiwan by February (Xinhua)
2010-03-25
Since it opened up the island to the mainland investment in June last year, the Taiwan authority had approved 38 investment projects from the mainland totaling 68.68 million U.S. dollars by the end of February. According to the Taiwan economic authorities, the majority of investment went to computers, electronic and optical products manufacturing, which made up 53 percent of the total investment […] Taiwan opened up the island to Chinese mainland investment on June 30, 2009, with 100 categories of manufacturing, service and infrastructure sectors in the initial opening-up list, which was a historic breakthrough in realizing two-way cross-Straits investments. The Taiwan authority green-lighted 1.372 billion U.S. dollars of investment to the mainland in the first two months of 2010, up by 57 percent year-on-year […] The mainland has been the largest trade partner of Taiwan since 2003, with annual trading volume surpassing 100 billion U.S. dollars. ^ top ^

Boao Forum emerges as stage for cross-strait talks (SCMP)
2010-03-23
The Boao Forum for Asia, a flop as a regional talkfest, has inadvertently emerged as an important platform for meetings between mainland and Taiwanese leaders in recent years. The annual forum was originally designed to draw together the region's political and business elite, with a view to rivalling the influence of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. But a lack of interest in the event by regional leaders eroded its importance until 2008, when then Taiwanese vice-president-elect Vincent Siew Wan-chang took part and met President Hu Jintao. Since then the forum has provided a much-needed venue for leaders from both sides of the strait to discuss matters that are important but not suitable for formal negotiations. The reshaping of the forum has prompted harsh criticism from the pro-independence camp in Taiwan, which has branded it a "secret second channel" for negotiations between the mainland-friendly Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. Siew's participation in the April 2008 forum in Hainan, his fifth as head of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, was later seen as a watershed for cross-strait rapprochement. A private meeting with Hu on the sidelines of the forum resulted in the resumption of cross-strait talks in June that year, just a month after Siew was inaugurated as Taiwanese vice-president. Taiwanese media and analysts have recognised the forum's importance to the thawing of the cross-strait relationship, after an eight-year freeze during the administration of Chen Shui-bian, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party […] Last year, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou sent Fredrick Chien Fu, former president of Taiwan's government watchdog, the Control Yuan, as his envoy to the forum, with Chien and Premier Wen Jiabao holding talks on its sidelines […] This year, Ma plans to send close confidant Su Chi, former secretary general of Taiwan's National Security Council, to join Chien at next month's forum, with Su expected to meet Vice-President Xi Jinping, widely regarded as Hu's mostly likely successor […] Su confirmed on Sunday that he would join Chien in attending the forum in his capacity as an "adviser" to the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation but said no "special mission" was involved. ^ top ^

US indicates it will continue to arm Taiwan (SCMP)
2010-03-22
The United States has left open the possibility of further arms sales to Taiwan, with a senior official saying Beijing's military build-up was aimed squarely at the self-governing island. US President Barack Obama's administration in January approved a US$6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan including helicopters, Patriot missiles and mine-hunting ships, angering Beijing. State Department official David Shear told a congressional panel that the United States would "continue to stand by our commitment" under US law to provide Taiwan with weapons to defend itself. "Taiwan must be confident that it has the physical capacity to resist intimidation and coercion in order to engage fully with the mainland," said Shear, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia. Testifying before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, US officials declined to say whether Obama's administration would approve F-16 fighter jets. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou wants the jets to refurbish an ageing fleet. A recent report by Taipei's defence ministry found that Beijing has gained an edge in air power. Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, said he "didn't want to suggest a decision one way or the other" on the jets […]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China beats US in green investment (China Daily)
2010-03-26
China has taken the lead in investments in clean energy, spending nearly double what the US did in 2009, as it ramps up projects in both renewable and traditional energy, a report said Thursday. China's investment and financing for clean energy rose to $34.6 billion in 2009, out of $162 billion invested globally, according to the report by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts. US was ranked second in spending on renewable energy, at $18.6 billion, with European nations also recording strong growth. "Countries are jockeying for leadership. They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses," Phyllis Cuttino, who directs the Pew Environment Group's Global Warming Campaign, said in a statement. The report comes as China is clinching a slew of energy and resource-related deals meant to help ensure access to the commodities needed to keep its fast-growing economy booming. On Wednesday, China's offshore oil and gas company CNOOC agreed to buy 3.6 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year, for 20 years, from an Australian energy project operated by BG Group PLC. Though a value for the deal was not released, Australian media reports estimated its worth at 80 billion Australian dollars ($73 billion), which is the country's biggest single company-to-company contract ever. Natural gas is cleaner than the coal that now fuels about three-quarters of China's electricity generation. But Beijing also is throwing massive resources into nurturing renewable energy, both to counter environmental damage from fossil fuel emissions and to curb its soaring reliance on imports. The US still leads the world in installed renewable energy, with 52.2 gigawatts of wind, small hydroelectric, biomass and waste generating capacity […] But China is quickly closing the gap, as a doubling in wind energy capacity alone boosted its own installed renewable energy capacity to 49.7 gigawatts in 2009 […]. ^ top ^

China to further support private investment: State Council (Xinhua)
2010-03-26
China's State Council, the Cabinet, said Wednesday the country would step up efforts to encourage investment from the private sector. The government would encourage private investment in sectors currently mainly state controlled such as infrastructure for transport, telecommunications and energy, public utility, scientistic and technological programs for national defense, and the building of affordable housing, according to a statement released after the Cabinet's executive meeting Wednesday chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The State Council called for private firms, which played an important role in creating jobs, to strengthen independent innovation and roll out more new products […] The government would also help some private enterprises set up technology research centers. Private companies were welcome to participate in the reform of state firms by purchasing a stake in them […] The government said it would create a good environment for private investment by setting up a sound administrative service system and amend unfavorable laws and regulations […]. ^ top ^

China Railways wins $4.8b Indonesia contract (China Daily)
2010-03-26
China Railway Group said on Thursday that it had won an Indonesian coal transport contract worth $4.8 billion. The long-term contract, equivalent to 14 percent of China Railway's operating income in 2008 under domestic accounting standards, would not have a major impact on its earnings in 2010, the company said in a statement […] China Railways will be responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the South Sumatra project, with design and construction priced at $1.3 billion and maintenance at $3.5 billion. The contract with Indonesia's Bhakta Hill Pan Pacific Railway Corporation includes four years of construction with an operational period of 20 years […] China is investing an average of 700 billion yuan ($102.5 billion) a year in rail construction after a rise to 600 billion yuan last year. ^ top ^

Investment caps set for insurance groups (China Daily)
2010-03-25
The insurance regulator on Wednesday capped the investment limit for insurance groups and their subsidiaries in non-financial companies at 10 percent of their consolidated net assets, to prevent cross-sector risk transfer. Insurance groups and their subsidiaries cannot invest more than 30 percent of their consolidated net assets in non-insurance financial companies, the regulator said. Cai Jipu, deputy director of the general office under the China Insurance Regulator Commission (CIRC), said the operational risks of group companies will be one of the key areas for supervision this year. "We will come out with more detailed rules on the establishment of group companies, investment, risk management and consolidated supervision," Cai said. The CIRC also launched a pilot rule for the management of insurance group companies, the first in the country's financial sector. Besides setting two ceilings for investment, the rules state that equity investments made by insurance groups should be based on their own capital […] an insurance group can invest in four types of insurance companies including insurance asset management companies and agencies. The group company and its subsidiaries' investment in non-financial companies should not be more than 10 percent of the group's consolidated net assets. Additionally they are also not permitted to participate in the management of the company. Insurance groups can also invest in banks and fund houses, but the investment amount should not be more than 30 percent of the consolidated net assets. "It is a timely move to prevent cross-sector risk transfer," said Hao Yansu, an insurance professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics. Currently, China has seven insurance group companies and one insurance holding company. By the end of 2009, the consolidated net assets of these eight companies stood at 321 billion yuan, and their premium income totaled 841.9 billion yuan, accounting for 75 percent of the whole industry […] Though quite a number of insurance companies have been preparing for property investment, the regulatory is unlikely to come out with detailed rules for this soon, said insiders. ^ top ^

Sale of residential land temporarily halted (People's Daily Online)
2010-03-24
The Ministry of Land and Resources has ordered a temporary ban on the sale of land for housing in a renewed measure to ease soaring real estate prices. Yun Xiaosu, vice-minister of land and resources, said local authorities should not sell land for residential purposes until this year's housing land supply plan is released in early April. "Residential land supply will increase and low-income housing projects will top local governments' agendas," Yun said […] In his government work report early this month, Premier Wen Jiabao said China will build 3 million housing units for low-income families and renovate 2.8 million shanty units with a total of 63.2 billion yuan ($9.25 billion) allocated this year, a year-on-year increase of about 15 percent. "The low-income houses and shanty units must be included in this year's land supply, while large-sized housing projects must be controlled in big cities," Yun said. He emphasized that land used for low-income housing, for rebuilding shanty areas and for self-occupied small- or medium-sized houses must account for more than 70 percent of the overall supply this year. "The ministry encourages local governments in second and third tier cities to explore new policies and measures to curb the escalating housing prices," Yun said. On March 11, the Ministry of Land and Resources issued a directive ordering developers to take a 50 percent down payment on all land put up for auction within one month of signing the contract, or they will lose the land along with their deposit. Shortly after the directive, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council ordered 78 central State-owned enterprises to quit the housing market on March 18. Only China Ocean Shipping Company, China's largest group in modern logistics, said it will quit the sector within six months. On Monday, the administration said that the 78 companies must work out their quitting plans within 15 days. Since March, a five-month campaign across the country is under way to crack down on illegal land use and land hoarding […]. ^ top ^

China to build 28 more nuclear power reactors by 2020 (China Daily)
2010-03-24
China, the world's second-biggest energy user, approved the construction of 28 more nuclear power reactors under a revised target for 2020 to meet rising demand for clean energy and to accelerate development of the industry. Each of the one-gigawatt reactors will cost as much as 14 billion yuan ($2.1 billion), Mu Zhanying, general manager of China Nuclear Engineering Group, said in an interview in Beijing today. One gigawatt is enough to power 800,000 average US homes. Under the original plan announced in 2005, China was to spend 400 billion yuan to add 40 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020 to help reduce reliance on more polluting coal and oil. The country's capacity will rise to more than 70 gigawatts by then under the revised plan […] Construction of 20 of the 28 reactors has already begun, Sun Youqi, vice president of China National Nuclear Corp, said at an industry exhibition in Beijing today. It would take 50 months to build one reactor […] The country currently has 9 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in operation, the China Electricity Council said on Aug 14. Details of the government's revised plan will be announced this year […] About 200 gigawatts of nuclear capacity is planned or being built worldwide as governments turn to non-fossil fuels to fight global warming, Nomura International said in a report in January. Currently, 372 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity is in operation, according to the World Nuclear Association. ^ top ^

China to become world's top tourist destination by 2015: UNWTO (Xinhua)
2010-03-22
A senior official with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said Sunday China is expected to become the world's largest tourist destination by 2015. "China, as we predict, is going to become the world's No. 1 tourist destination by the year 2015," said Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UNWTO. "China is almost there. It is now the world's fourth largest destination when it comes to incoming tourists, and the rates of growth are moving so quickly that we think this is a realistic target," Rifai said. France is currently the country receiving the most international tourists, at 80 million per year, followed by the United States and Spain, both at 60 million a year, while China has about 48 million, he said. "China's tourism economy has moved incredibly in the last ten years. The number of incoming tourists rose from 8 million to 48 million. The potential of the growth is still big because of the size of China," […] Rifai said the global tourism industry is improving but challenges remain due to the weak economy. "The tourism industry has to follow and is very much affected by the general economic situation, and for sure the general economic situation has started to turn around. But we cannot call it a full recovery at the moment," he said. ^ top ^

Trade deficit likely in March (China Daily)
2010-03-22
The country will probably see a "record trade deficit" in March thanks to surging imports, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said on Sunday, while warning that Beijing will "fight back" if Washington labels China a currency manipulator. Speaking at the three-day China Development Forum that ends on Monday, Chen said: "I believe there will be a trade deficit in March" - which will be the first since May 2004. After China's exports rebounded in December, US legislators and economists have been demanding the Barack Obama administration label China a currency manipulator in a US Treasury report due out in mid-April, which will make it possible for Washington to slap duties on Chinese imports. China's trade surplus with the US has been turned into a key excuse by American economists to pressurize the Chinese government to revalue the yuan," but, ironically, the calls have been growing stronger even as the "surplus keeps falling", Chen said. "It's not rational (for China) to revalue the yuan, as it would hurt both Chinese exporters and American consumers." In the three decades up to the 2008 global financial crisis, China's exports registered annual growth of 20 percent but the surplus with the US contributed a big chunk to China's total. Last year, China had a surplus of $143.38 billion with the US, accounting for a hefty 73 percent of the total. "The impact of currency revaluation on trade is limited […] "If the (trade) issue is taken to the WTO, China will respond actively," Chen added. "China, of course, wants to buy more to balance trade, but it is a pity there are so many things that we cannot buy from the US. The US has set restrictions on exports three times, and it added several categories in 2007, such as computers, aerospace technology and digital machine tools," said Chen. Nobel laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz told China Daily on the sidelines of the forum that many other factors, such as restrictions on high-tech products, rather than the exchange rate contribute to the US deficit with China. He called on Washington to relax the curbs to balance trade. The ministry also said on Friday that Washington's method of evaluating trade figures magnifies the deficit with China. "The deficit has been vastly overestimated based on American statistics," and according to the latest report prepared by both sides, the US deficit for 2006 is "26 percent higher than it should have been," Chen said. ^ top ^

World Bank to work with China on rural financing: WB official (Xinhua)
2010-03-22
The World Bank Group will step up its efforts to work with the Chinese Government this year on rural financing, said a senior official of the organization Sunday on the sideline of the China Development Forum 2010. Both the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are very interested in the program, said Janamitra Devan, vice president of the bank […] “There is a low rate of penetration of financial service to the rural sector,” noted Devan, who is also IFC's vice president, adding that the number of villages and towns that don't have banking facilities is large. “How can people become active in society if they don't have some of these fundamental things?” he asked, noting the World Bank will “work with the Chinese Government to help expand the access to finance for people in the rural areas to use banking facilities.” […] The position of the World Bank in China, he explained, is “to continue to bring the best knowledge that we have on development, and we share (it) with the Chinese Government very openly.” The other areas that the World Bank is interested in involve very different arenas including such vital issues as climate change […] The World Bank “takes active interest in lending to the Chinese Government,” he went on. “From these lending we try to focus especially on climate change, energy efficiency and environmentally friendly energy. And these are the things that we think are significantly important. I believe that the Chinese government also believes in the same thing.“ The two-day forum, titled “China and the World Economy: Growth, Restructuring, Cooperation,” opened on Sunday morning […] It will address a wide range of topics, including the international trade, and adjustment of economic structure, as well as the actions and international cooperation in dealing with the climate change. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

DPRK accuses Japan of disrupting denuclearization (Xinhua)
2010-03-25
The official Minju Joson daily of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday blasted Japan for linking the abduction of Japanese citizens decades ago with denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. According to the paper, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea claimed in a speech recently the abduction issue should be resolved along with the issue of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. The newspaper said the two issues are "absolutely not relevant to each other." Japan's intention is to "deter the international community from focusing attention on solving the issue of denuclearization and furthermore create conditions favorable for attaining its sinister political aim," […] For Japan, the only way to improve the relationship between the DPRK and Japan was to make an apology and reparation for its war crimes, the newspaper said. It also held Japan responsible for the failure of the six-party talks on nuclear disarmament. The DPRK has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. It has returned five abductees to Japan, while saying the other eight are dead. But Japan insists the DPRK is hiding survivors and abducted more people than it has acknowledged. The abduction issue remains a major obstacle to the development of relations between the two countries. ^ top ^

US hoping Kim will signal return to talks (China Daily)
2010-03-24
The US hopes the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-il, would indicate that the country was willing to return to the stalled Six-Party Talks during a likely tour to Beijing later this month, a senior official said in Washington. "I hope when he (Kim) arrives in Beijing he will announce that North Korea is willing to come back to the six-party process and take affirmative action - steps towards de-nuclearization," US Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley said on Monday. Despite increased media speculation, Beijing has insisted it has no information about Kim's upcoming visit. Crowley did not comment on reports saying China had proposed a six-nation preparatory meeting before resuming the actual nuclear talks. He also did not confirm attendance at the discussions. Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper cited several US officials as saying that "Washington plans to hold substantial discussions on the North's de-nuclearization at the preliminary talks and to flexibly deal with the North's demand for one-on-one talks within the framework of the preliminary multilateral meeting." The Korea Herald cited a senior Seoul official as saying that Pyongyang was not responding to Beijing's suggestion, insisting instead on direct talks with the US first. Pyongyang announced Monday that it will put on trial a US citizen who entered the country illegally, triggering immediate concern in the US. The move is seen as Pyongyang's means to press Washington to agree to hold talks about a permanent peace pact and a lifting of the UN sanctions before it returns to Six-Party Talks. International analysts believe that Pyongyang has no intention to cause real serious trouble over the case amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to resume the Six-Party Talks. However, Washington said additional bilateral talks with Pyongyang should be held on condition that they directly lead to its return to the six-nation negotiating table. Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the Obama administration was skeptical over the DPRK's pledge to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula and pessimistic about the success of the Six-Party Talks. He said the US government was reluctant to return to the Six-Party Talks without some indication that Pyongyang was serious about fulfilling its commitments […] In another development, the US-based Science Magazine reported that researchers at the Stanford University and a consortium of nonprofit organizations have been working with colleagues from the DPRK's Ministry of Public Health to help set up the nation's first laboratory capable of growing the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis and detecting drug-resistant strains. ^ top ^

DPRK to try American for illegal entry (Xinhua)
2010-03-23
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Monday that it will try a US citizen who allegedly entered the country illegally, the official KCNA news agency reported. The US citizen, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, was born in 1979, and lived in Boston, Massachusetts. The DPRK authorities decided to indict him for trial "as his crime has been confirmed," said the KCNA. It is unknown whether Gomes was the US national who was detained for illegal entry on January 25. Separately, the DPRK authorities on February 5 released 28-year-old US missionary Robert Park, who was detained for illegal entry last December. Two female US journalists, who were arrested for crossing the DPRK border without permission, flew back home together with former US President Bill Clinton in August 2009 after he paid a 20-hour private visit to Pyongyang and met top DPRK leader Kim Jong Il. The DPRK detained four citizens from Republic of Korea for illegal entry, the KCNA said on February 26. ^ top ^

DPRK to hold Supreme People's Assembly annual meeting in April (Xinhua)
2010-03-20
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will hold the annual meeting of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the country's top legislative body, in Pyongyang on April 9, an official newspaper reported on Saturday. The decision was made by the Standing Committee of the SPA on Thursday, Rodong Sinmun reported. The SPA meets once every year. The current 687 SPA representatives were elected last year with a term of five years. The SPA annual session is tasked with deliberating and approving the government work report, the final budget of last year as well as the budget for this year. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

First case of non-sexual HIV transmission (News.mn)
2010-03-24
The 65th case of HIV, registered in the National Infectious Disease Research Center last week, was the first in Mongolia where the virus had not been transmitted sexually. A woman of 25 from the countryside received the virus during pre-surgery diagnostic tests in the regional hospital. Her husband has been brought to UB for tests and the woman is under regular medical observation. ^ top ^

Mongolia to receive loan of USD 23.4 million from IMF (Montsame)
2010-03-23
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today completed the fourth review of Mongolia's economic performance under a program supported by an 18-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The completion of the review enables the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 15.33 million (about US$23.4 million), bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to an amount equivalent to SDR 122.64 million (about US$187.4 million). The Board also approved the request for the modification of performance criteria to reflect the revised macroeconomic data and framework. The SBA was approved on April 1, 2009 (see Press Release No. 09/110) for an amount equivalent to SDR 153.3 million (about US$234.3 million) or 300 percent of Mongolia's quota. Following the Executive Board's discussion on Mongolia, Mr. Naoyuki Shinohara, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, stated: "Mongolia's macroeconomic outlook has improved markedly. Growth is expected to rebound sharply boosted by investment in a large mining project and the authorities' strong policy implementation. At the same time, inflation has recently picked up in part because of higher food prices due to the severe winter. "The authorities have made substantial progress in strengthening public finances. Expenditure restraint and an increase in revenues emanating from higher world copper prices have resulted in an improvement in the structural balance by 3.5 percentage points, about 1 percentage point more than anticipated. This large fiscal adjustment was achieved while fully protecting social welfare expenditures. "Passage of a comprehensive social transfer reform law with a targeted poverty benefit will be an important step in fighting poverty and increasing fiscal flexibility. The planned passage of a fiscal responsibility law will be critical for institutionalizing fiscal discipline and avoiding the boom-bust policies of the past. "The flexible exchange rate regime is working well, helping to contain inflationary pressures and safeguarding international reserves. The current neutral stance of monetary policy is appropriate but will need to be reviewed if inflationary pressures persist. Maintaining low and stable inflation will be a prerequisite to continued improvement in poverty indicators and high and sustained growth. "A comprehensive bank restructuring plan is needed to ensure that banks have strong balance sheets that can support sustained growth in lending to the private sector. Moreover, a further strengthening of bank supervision will help support the bank restructuring effort and prevent the re-emergence of problems in the banking system," Mr. Shinohara stated. ^ top ^

Swiss Provide CHF 500,000 in Aid to Dzud-Affected Herders (UB Post)
2010-03-22
On March 19, Prime Minister S.Batbold received Felix Fellmann, Country Director of the SDC Mongolia (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), which has approved a CHF500,000 grant to provide immediate humanitarian relief for those Mongolian herders worst hit by the dzud, the agency announced. The dzud has affected thousands of herders throughout the country, who have lost most of their livestock and been left without livelihoods. The Mongolian Government has appealed to the international community to assist in providing immediate aid to affected herders, who were estimated to number 200,000. The SDC dzud-relief project will target more than 9,000 herder households (36,000 people) in the 20 worst-affected soums in which its Green Gold Pasture Ecosystem Management Project. “This aid will be distributed to through self-governing organisations of herders, who will themselves identify their needs and decide how to best make use of the relief support,” Fellmann said. Prime Minister S. Batbold said he appreciated SDC support at a time when Mongolia was suffering its harshest winter in the past 30 years. “It is substantial support to help the herders economically. But more importantly it is moral support that gives them confidence to decide for themselves how they will rebuild their lives and livelihoods. I know that Swiss development aid is much focused on herders' livelihoods and dealing with their social and economic issues. Mongolia is grateful to Switzerland for its generous support,” said Batbold. The project will be implemented by the Mongolian Society for Rangeland Management (MSRM) NGO in cooperation with the local government. MSRM has facilitated the establishment of herder organizations in 55 soums throughout the country with support from SDC. “While SDC is dealing with the immediate needs of affected herders in the aftermath of the dzud, its long-term goal is to ensure sustainable pasture and herd management by increasing livestock productivity, addressing overgrazing issues and promoting alternative income sources for herders,” Fellmann said. “SDC is continuing its support to MSRM in developing pasture management legislation in cooperation with other stakeholders that will ensure a sustainable future for Mongolia's livestock sector.” SDC said that it believes this assistance will also help prevent migration from rural areas to urban centers such as was experienced in the aftermath of the dzuds from 1999-2003, which resulted in a doubling of Ulaanbaatar's population from 600,000 to 1.3 million. ^ top ^

School lunch makes 100 children sick in Khovd (News.mn)
2010-03-22
Of the more than 100 children in Bulgan soum of Khovd province who fell ill after eating lunch at school, 26 are still being treated in hospital. One child is in serious condition. According to the Vice director of the General Emergency Authority, D.Namsrai, who is leading a working group established by the order of State Emergency Commission, 3rd-5th grade students were the ones affected. Most of them had symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and high fever. Specialized doctors were sent from UB and the children are expected to recover soon. The children were given pies. The symptoms started after about 10 minutes of eating pies. They were made in the soum and samples are being tested. The soum hospital worked well even though there were few nurses and doctors. ^ 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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