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
  12.4-16.4.10, No. 315  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Second summit meeting of BRIC leaders begins in Brasilia (Global Times)
2010-04-16
The second summit meeting of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) leaders started in Brazil's capital Brasilia on Thursday. A foreign ministry official told media that the first round of the meeting would be conducted behind closed doors, with nine senior officials representing each of the nations. The delegates will break for an official photograph and then return to a large meeting with 20 officials on each side, which will be broadcast. It will focus on issues including the world economic situation, the Group of 20, reform of global financial organizations, climate change and dialogue and cooperation among BRIC countries The meeting was brought forward one day because China's President Hu Jintao had to return home to help coordinate rescue efforts following Wednesday morning's deadly quake in Qinghai Province. The BRIC nations represent 26 percent of the land of the earth, and 42 percent of the world population. The term was coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill in 2001. The first BRIC summit took place in Russian city Yekaterinbug Russia in 2009. There the leaders discussed the world' s financial crisis, food and energy security and public health. ^ top ^

Chinese, Russian presidents meet on bilateral relations (Global Times)
2010-04-16
Chinese President Hu Jintao met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev Thursday in Brasilia to discuss bilateral ties and other important issues of common concern. It was the first meeting between the two leaders since they met on the sidelines of the Economic Leaders' Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore last November. Hu and Medvedev were meeting on the sidelines of a summit of BRIC nations, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China. […]

In recent years, China and Russia have strengthened their strategic cooperative partnership with enhanced mutual political trust, and fruitful cooperation in all sectors. The countries also have had close interaction and coordination in dealing with international and regional affairs. Last year witnessed the celebration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and Russia, as well as the hosting of the "Year of Russian language" in China, which brought about new breakthroughs in the Sino-Russian strategic partnership of cooperation. Despite some impact on bilateral trade by the global economic crisis, the quality of bilateral economic cooperation between China and Russia has improved, with trade structure optimized and significant progress achieved in energy sector cooperation. "Relationship with Russia is one of the priorities of China's diplomacy. The two countries have enjoyed mutual support on issues that concern each other's core interests," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at a press conference on March 7.

Last year, the two countries signed a series of important cooperation agreements covering oil, natural gas, coal, electricity, nuclear energy and high-speed rail, said Yang, adding that the relevant cooperation projects are now well underway. "We expect the China-Russia oil pipeline project to be completed by the end of this year and the pipeline will enter into operation next year. Moreover, the two countries are also committed to promoting cooperation between China's northeast region and Russia's Far East and eastern Siberia region," the minister said. ^ top ^

Ousted Kyrgyz president arrives in Kazakhstan (China Daily)
2010-04-16
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov confirmed the plane carrying Bakiyev has landed at the airport of the Kazakh regional center Taraza. He didn't disclose where Bakiyev would head for next. But it was reported that Bakiyev would fly to the Kazakh capital Astana to have talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Topchubek Turgunaliyev, a member of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, told local media that Bakiyev has signed a formal resignation statement and stepped down. But source from Bakiyev's entourage earlier told the Interfax news agency that the president did not formally resign before he left Kyrgyzstan. Turgunaliyev said that Bakiyev was accompanied by his wife and two children, while his other relatives apparently remained in Kyrgyzstan. Bakiyev claimed on Thursday that Kazakhstan and Belarus have offered him political asylum. "The question of my future whereabouts is being discussed by the presidents of some countries," Bakiyev told his fellow villagers and media in Teyitm. […] Bakiyev said on Tuesday he would resign if the interim government guarantees his security, as the interim government issued an ultimatum for him to surrender hours after it abolished his presidential immunity. ^ top ^

Chinese president offers proposals to enhance global nuclear security (Global Times)
2010-04-15
Chinese President Hu Jintao Tuesday delivered a speech at a nuclear security summit in Washington, offering five proposals to boost global nuclear security. Hu also held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the summit, which wound up late Tuesday. In his speech made at the summit, President Hu called for concerted action by all countries to enhance nuclear security while stressing the need to properly address the challenge. Hu said "The potential threat of nuclear terrorism cannot be neglected and the risk of nuclear material diversion and illicit trafficking is on the rise."

Hu put forward five proposals on ways to strengthen nuclear security in the world. First, Hu said, all countries need to honor their commitments and responsibilities by adopting effective measures to secure nuclear materials and facilities. Second, the Chinese top leader said, all countries should consolidate the existing international legal framework on nuclear security, which consists of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, he said. Third, Hu said, all countries should strengthen international cooperation by sharing experience, exchanging information and cooperating on law enforcement. Fourth, the Chinese president said, there is a need to help developing countries enhance their nuclear security capacity. Therefore he called for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the developed countries to offer greater assistance to developing countries in that respect. Finally, Hu said, all countries should properly handle the relationship between nuclear security and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

During a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama on April 2, Chinese President Hu said China attaches great importance to the issue of nuclear security, opposing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism and supporting international efforts to enhance cooperation on nuclear security. China is ready to work closely with the United States and other sides concerned to make sure that the summit is successful and fruitful, Hu said. As a major power of nuclear energy development, China has taken a series of effective steps to ensure nuclear security and established relatively comprehensive nuclear security and safety regulations and monitoring systems. China has played an active role in the development of related international conventions on nuclear security and maintained close exchanges and cooperation with the IAEA and other countries. […]

At their meeting Tuesday, President Hu and Merkel agreed to further the ties of the two countries. Hu emphasized that climate change issues concern the world's sustainable growth and the well-being of the peoples of different countries, so it requires joint response from the international community. The Chinese president said the results of the Copenhagen climate change conference were hard-won, and developed countries should honor their promises to provide fund and transfer technology to developing countries. He said China is willing to maintain communication and coordination with Germany to push for new progress in international cooperation on climate change and positive results at the Mexico climate change conference due at the end of this year. Merkel said Germany-China ties are developing well, with President Kohler's upcoming visit to China and participation in the Shanghai World Expo being a good example. Despite the impact of the international financial crisis, trade between Germany and China has maintained growth, she said. Germany will host a ministerial meeting on climate change in May and expects to cooperate with China closely to secure the success of the Mexico conference. ^ top ^

Gas field pledge as Japan gets nervy over navy (SCMP)
2010-04-14
Beijing and Tokyo have pledged to revive a 2008 agreement to jointly develop a gas field near disputed islands that have been a thorn in relations, officials say. The pledge on the gas dispute coincided with a Japanese protest over the "dangerous" manoeuvres of a helicopter that was part of the largest Chinese naval flotilla to sail between its far-southern islands.

President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama spoke on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Washington, the latest meeting between the two as ties steadily improve between the region's two largest economies. As two of the world's biggest energy importers, they struck a deal in June 2008 to end debate over four Chinese gas fields in the East China Sea that Tokyo feared may extend into its exclusive economic zone. […] However, the agreement has remained just on paper, with claims in the Japanese press that China has violated it. Hu told Hatoyama in the meeting that "China's commitment to the June 2008 pact remains firm and unchanged", Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama said. Meanwhile, the Japanese defence ministry said 10 Chinese naval vessels, including two submarines, on Saturday sailed through international waters between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako, heading southeast into the Pacific Ocean. When two Japanese destroyers spotted the ships about 8pm and followed them, a Chinese helicopter flew within about 90 metres of the Japanese destroyer Suzunami, a defence ministry official said. […]

Tokyo has warily watched China's growing military power and has called on Beijing to be more transparent about its intentions. Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said that Tokyo had never before monitored such a large group of Chinese warships travelling in formation in the region. […] Japan's Self-Defence Forces said it was the first time Chinese submarines had been seen on the surface in the area near Japan, the Kyodo news agency said. "We will conduct a detailed analysis, including whether or not there was any intention concerning our nation," Kitazawa said about the fleet's passage. […]. ^ top ^

CPC, CPV to strengthen exchanges on anti-corruption (Global Times)
2010-04-12
Senior officials in charge of discipline inspection from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) held meetings Monday in Beijing, vowing to strengthen exchange and cooperation between the two parties on anti-corruption. He Yong, deputy secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, met with a delegation of the CPV Central Committee's Commission of Inspection led by vice chairman of the commission Mai Truc. "I hope the two departments can carry out more exchanges and cooperation and share our practice and experience in combatting corruption," He said after briefing the delegates on China's economic situation and its anti-corruption practices. Speaking highly of the results China has made in combatting corruption, Truc said his commission will further enhance exchanges and cooperation with the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The two sides also discussed the development of China-Vietnam relations. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-Vietnam ties, and China will take this as an opportunity to strengthen strategic trust and expand cooperation with Vietnam, He said. ^ top ^

Chinese president offers condolences to Poland over plane crash (Global Times)
2010-04-11
President Hu Jintao on Saturday sent condolences to Polish parliamentary speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, who became acting president by law, over the death of Polish President Lech Kaczysnki in a plane crash. Hu said in the message that he was shocked and grieved to learn of the death of Kaczysnki and his Polish state delegation in a plane crash in the Russian city of Smolensk. "On behalf of the Chinese people and in my own name, I express my deep condolences to President Kaczysnki and all other victims, as well as sincere sympathies to their families and the Polish people," Hu said. Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also sent their condolences to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski over the plane crash. A chartered plane carrying Kaczynski crashed in thick fog near the Smolensk airport in western Russia on Saturday, killing all 96 people on board the aircraft. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Chinese president, premier postpone trips because of earthquake (Global Times)
2010-04-16
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have postponed planned overseas visits because of a strong earthquake in northwestern China that killed more than 600 people. Hu postponed visits to Venezuela and Peru after a scheduled summit of Brazil, Russia, India and China slated for Thursday and Friday and a state visit to Brazil. Before arriving in Brazil, Hu took part in the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington from April 13 to 14. Wen Jiabao has postponed a scheduled visit to Brunei, Indonesia and Myanmar on April 22 to 25.

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit China's northwestern Qinghai Province on Wednesday has left more than 600 people dead, another 313 missing and 9,110 injured. About 100,000 people were left homeless. ^ top ^

Premier Wen arrives in quake-hit Yushu (Global Times)
2010-04-16
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in northwestern Qinghai's Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu Thursday afternoon after a three-hour flight. Wen will inspect the disaster relief work and visit affected local people. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who arrived in the disaster area Wednesday evening, specified a timetable for rescue work in Yushu which was hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake. Transport and communication facilities should be restored in 24 hours since the quake occurred Wednesday morning, a task that has been achieved, Hui said at a meeting held by the quake relief headquarters in Yushu's Gyegu Town near the quake's epicenter. Electricity and petrol supply should be guaranteed within 48 hours, especially in important venues including the quake relief headquarters and hospitals, he said. State Councilor Ma Kai and Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu accompanied Wen to visit the disaster area. ^ top ^

Warning of more powerful aftershocks (SCMP)
2010-04-16
Seismologists warn that more strong aftershocks could follow the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Qinghai's Yushu county on Wednesday morning, but they are divided on whether China has entered a period of more frequent seismic activity. The state-run China Earthquake Networks Centre estimated that between 200 and 300 aftershocks had struck Yushu by Wednesday night, including a strong magnitude 6.3 aftershock at about 9am. "This magnitude 6.3 aftershock is considered powerful compared with historical records, so we should watch out for possibly more aftershocks of around magnitude 6," Liu Jie, director of the centre's earthquake forecast division, said in an online interview on mainland news portal Sina.com.cn. "In other words, there could be more powerful aftershocks to follow.". ^ top ^

Vast urban migration poses risk to low carbon lifestyle (Global Times)
2010-04-16
The country will be under mounting pressure to maintain an environmentally friendly and sustainable development in urban areas because a large number of people will migrate to cities from rural areas, according to a report released by Renmin University of China Thursday under a commission by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The China National Human Development Report 2009–10 emphasizes that urban migration can pose a challenge, but also gives the nation an opportunity to develop low carbon lifestyles with advanced technologies.According to the report, nearly 350 million people are expected to migrate to urban areas over the next two decades, a number exceeding the current total population of the United States.The urban areas will then face enormous pressure to build infrastructures and housings for the newcomers, which, in turn, will lead to more energy consumption and pollution.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development revealed that cities use up to 85 percent of the energy produced in the nation, and emit 85 percent of carbon dioxide.

The report estimated that if no control measures were taken, the country would emit 13.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2030. If control measures were taken, emission of carbon dioxide can be kept at 5.5 billion tons in 2050. "China could now leapfrog over decades of traditional development based on high polluting fuel, and build new low carbon communities from scratch," said Khalid Malik, United Nations Resident Coordinator in China.

The report said transformation from traditional development to low carbon living is costly, and will lead to a series of problems during the transitional period, such as job losses in the traditional energy sectors, price increase of commodities and reduction of government revenues. The report said a low carbon strategy will boost economic growth in the long term and enhance the competitiveness of the country in the world. The report estimated that some 6.9 million jobs related to the renewable energy industry will be created, and about 1.1 billion jobs will be created for the energy conservancy industry by 2030. It suggested that authorities should impose levies on industries that fail to cut carbon emission levels and use the fines to develop research on new technologies. […]. ^ top ^

Cost of mine rescue: 100 million (Global Times)
2010-04-12
The China National Radio (CNR) reported that the rescue operation has cost more than 100 million yuan ($14 million), without elaborating in details. The report said the mine was scheduled to start operation in October, producing high quality coal that cost 1,000 yuan ($146) per ton, three times more expensive than the price of normal coal. It added that the reconstruction of the coal mine will take at least a few months. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing toughens up property price curbs after record rise (SCMP)
2010-04-16
The State Council took tough steps to cool down the mainland property market yesterday, raising mortgage rates and down payment requirements while increasing the land supply, after property prices rose at a record pace last month. The cabinet meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, ordered banks to raise minimum mortgage rates on second homes to 1.1 times the central bank's benchmark lending rate instead of the current 80 per cent. The down payment on first homes of more than 90 square metres will be raised to 30 per cent from the current 20 per cent, while buyers of second homes will have to pay 50 per cent, up from 40 per cent. […]

At the same time, the Ministry of Land and Resources in Beijing announced a 135 per cent increase in land supply to 180,000 hectares this year, of which 77 per cent will be set aside for building economic housing and small- to medium-sized units in the private sector. "Of the measures, the higher mortgage charges and initial down payments will be the most effective means to cool the red-hot property market," David Ng, the head of regional property research at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said. He said the significant increase in land supply and the building of more economic housing for low-income groups were long-term means to ease the housing shortage. The new measures came as the government pledged to control inflationary pressure fuelled by soaring property prices. […]. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Expo transport system to be largest ever (Global Times)
2010-04-12
Shanghai Expo organizers will launch a comprehensive public transport network combining subway, bus and marine services to provide convenient access to the 3.28 square kilometer park for nearly 70 million visitors. Officials described the scale of the operation as unprecedented for a World Expo. "The transport network, including one subway line, five bus lines and 12 water traffic lines, is the largest ever," said Zhou Huai, deputy director of the Urban Transport Management Bureau in a press conference Saturday. The transport system, which is set to open May 1, will give access to 95 percent of the expo park with no more than 300 meters between stops. The subway line to the expo park includes stops at Madanglu Road, Lupu Bridge and World Expo Avenue. It runs from 9 am to 12 pm, with a service frequency of between three to six minutes and a capacity for 25,000 to 47,000 visits per hour. Up to 120 electric buses will operate on the Yuejiang Line and will have power to run for 100 kilometers on a full load. The line is seven kilometers' long with five stops, connecting Pudong and Puxi Park. The 12 water traffic lines are divided between ferry services for individual tourists and some exclusively for tour groups. About 70 percent of the transportation services will be free. […] Transport authorities say they will control the flow of tourists to ensure safety. "Large passenger volumes are our biggest concern and we will supervise the flow accurately when they enter the park; we can measure the volume using entry data from the World Expo Station," said Zhou. […]. ^ top ^

Expo imposes controls similar to airport security (SCMP)
2010-04-12
Visitors to the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai will face some of the toughest security checks imposed at an international fair as the authorities tackle the mammoth task of ensuring that the six-month show passes without incident. Hundreds of X-ray machines and security gates have been installed at the site's eight entrances to cope with the crowds, but officials effectively admitted yesterday that it could take several hours to clear the backlog on busy days.

Speaking at a press conference, Cheng Jiulong, deputy chief of Shanghai Public Security Bureau, called for expo visitors to keep their possessions to "a minimum" to help speed up the process. The stringent restrictions on what items visitors will be allowed to take with them into the 5.28 square kilometre fair site rival pre-boarding controls at airports. Cigarette lighters, matches and any liquids - other than medicines or milk for babies - will be banned, along with less conventional items such as blades, radioactive devices and explosives. Visitors will need to apply for special licences to take wireless electronics into the site, other than mobile phones, digital cameras and car keys. Cheng said the bureau estimated each security gate would be able to handle one visitor every 18 seconds, giving an expected passenger flow into the park of close to 200,000 per hour. Expo organisers announced this weekend they would cap daily visitor numbers at 600,000 to prevent overcrowding - meaning visitors could potentially have to queue for up to three hours to get in. However, Cheng said no decision had yet been taken on whether to begin letting visitors into the site earlier than the official opening time. "According to Shanghai Expo Bureau regulations, the park is to open at 9am and the pavilions will open at 9.30am," he said. "We will need to wait until the test opening to get an exact figure of our capacity."

The site is due to be put through its paces in a series of test openings involving thousands of volunteers beginning next Monday, ahead of the official opening on May 1. An estimated 70 million visitors are expected to visit the site during its 184-day run. Only 5 per cent are expected to come from overseas. Before announcing the daily cap on visitor numbers, expo officials had suggested upwards of 700,000 or even a million might visit on the busiest days. […] Police would instead monitor hotel bookings and transport systems, and liaise with tour operators to estimate the likely numbers of visitors. […] Cheng said he was not prepared to reveal how many police officers would be deployed to monitor security in and around the expo site. "We have a regulation which states we are not allowed to make such information public," he said. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Not everyone from Switzerland "adores" the Dalai Lama (People's Daily)
2010-04-14
The first Tibetan refugee group arrived in Switzerland 50 years ago. To commemorate the date, the Dalai Lama is visiting Switzerland. The Dalai Lama is well-known there, but the Swiss people living in China have a completely different view of the Dalai Lama.

Christoph Müller, who is from a Swiss German-speaking area, has lived in Beijing for seven years and owns a travel agency there. He has his own view on the Tibet issue. "The so-called cultural extinction is completely nonsense," Müller. Although he's been to Tibet only once, he is very familiar with the situation in Tibet. He stressed that with the support from the Chinese government, the Tibetan traditions have been respected. "All the Tibetan text is written in both Tibetan and Chinese, new buildings must be in harmony with local buildings, and Tibet's infrastructure development is very fast," he said briefly. Thanks to tap water and heating supply, the Tibetan people who have led nomadic lives for generations are now able to settle down.

Müller also dismissed rumors on China's policy of turning Tibet into a Han Chinese-dominated region, because Tibetan people account for 93 to 95 percent of Tibet's total population, and China's official figure stands at 92 percent. Data from other media agencies shows the percentage of the Han Chinese in Tibet exceeds 10 percent. Numerous Han Chinese are willing to take on work that local people are unwilling to do. Müller said that many Tibetan people highly valued the arrival of the Han Chinese. […] In his eyes, all westerners are the victims of the Dalai Lama's inciting actions. He felt that the information provided by China is more reliable. He also believes that the Dalai Lama has attained the world peace and environmental protection awards through illegal means.

"The Tibetan people enjoy full freedom of religious beliefs, just the same as people living in other parts of China," said Ivan Salamin, head of the China Branch of Alcan Aluminum Corporation. His wife Catherine Salamin explained it more clearly, "I have not seen any signs of cultural extinction in Tibet. You know, the traditional culture and buildings in Tibet are all well-protected." The couple believes that although there are still some problems in the daily lives of the Tibetan people, it is not a result from pressure by the Central Government, but a result of moral consciousness. They arrived in China three years ago and had a long journey to Tibet in 2008. […]

As is mentioned before, a large number of Swiss people have changed their views on China through their personal experiences in the country. They have realized that the Dalai Lama makes use of Westerners' prejudice against China to give credibility to the "Tibetan government-in-exile.". ^ top ^

First microcredit institution inaugurated in Tibet (People's Daily)
2010-04-12
Tibet Yurong Microcredit Company, the first microcredit institution in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, was established here on Sunday. With a registered capital of 50 million yuan (7.33 million U.S. dollars), the company was set up with full funding from private investors, according to the company. Targeting small and medium-sized enterprises and farmers and herdsmen,the company said it would focus on loans that was conducive to improving the livelihood of the poverty-stricken people. By the end of 2009, China had 1,334 microcredit institutions which had extended a total of 70 billion yuan, accounting for 0.19 percent of the total loans extended by Chinese banking sector, according to the People's Bank of China,the central bank. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's economic recovery momentum strong, difficulties remain (Global Times)
2010-04-15
China's economic development environment remains "very complex" with difficulties and problems persisting in the process of its economic recovery, said the State Council Wednesday. The national economy was heading toward the goal of macroeconomic regulation, with a strong foundation for economic recovery, said a statement released after a Wednesday executive meeting of the State Council, the Cabinet, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The fast economic growth can be, to a large extent, attributed to the stimulus package. As the economic recovered, old difficulties remained and new problems emerged, said the statement. With trade protectionism on the rise and major economies suffering from climbing unemployment rates, uncertainties remained in the global economy, said the statement. Severe drought in southwestern China, how to increase grain production and rural people's income, growing inflation expectations, especially soaring housing prices, managing financial risks, and pressure of increasing unemployment were posing great challenges to the economy, said the Cabinet. "We should never rest in the face of these problems and difficulties," said the statement.

In resolving the problems, China would give top priority to speeding up the transformation of the economic development mode and improving the quality of economic growth, according to the statement. The government would introduce measures to boost agricultural production, improve financial management and regulation, stabilize prices, rein in soaring property prices, expand domestic demand, push forward economic restructuring, increase energy saving and emission cuts, enhance the opening-up policy and improve the people's livelihood. ^ top ^

China posts first monthly trade deficit since 2004 (Global Times)
2010-04-12
China reported over the weekend a $7.24 billion monthly trade deficit in March, its first in six years, which analysts said would be a short-lived phenomenon given the country's export-oriented economy. Beijing's exports jumped 24.3 percent, year-on-year, last month to $112.11 billion, while imports surged 66 percent to $119.35 billion, the first monthly trade deficit since April 2004, when the trade deficit was $2.26 billion.

[…] Premier Wen Jiabao and Commerce Minister Chen Deming last month projected the likeliness of a trade deficit for the month, with Wen putting the figure at $8 billion. Beijing's trade surplus, gained by its export-based economy, has shrunk following the government's efforts to boost imports amid the global financial crisis. The first quarter's trade surplus was $14.49 billion, down 76.7 percent from the same period last year. The General Administration of Customs (GAC) said in a report that the March deficit is a result of the shrinking exports of labor-intensive products, surging imports and rising commodity prices. Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, attributed the late Spring Festival, cold weather that pushed up energy imports, an increase in raw materials imports and the policy to expand the import of technologies, equipment and resources, as key factors in contributing to the trade deficit. However, Mei predicted that China would not post an overall trade deficit in 2010 because the processing trade that naturally leads to surplus still dominates China's exports, according to his blog on sohu.com. Tian Yun, vice president of the China Macro Economics Institute, said March's trade deficit was only a temporary phenomenon and the country will remain a surplus country in the long run. The March trade deficit is mainly a result of expanded deficits with the Taiwan region, Japan and South Korea, customs figures indicated.

The March deficit with Japan more than tripled over the same month of last year to $6.53 billion, and its deficit with South Korea jumped 76 percent to $6.13 billion. The Chinese mainland's deficit with Taiwan amounted to $7.9 billion in March, up 78.7 percent, year-on-year. However, China continued to report a trade surplus with the United States and the European Union. The March surplus with the US dropped 3.5 percent to $9.87 billion, year-on-year, and that with the EU fell by 13.1 percent to $6.96 billion, customs figures showed.

The US and the EU have long pushed China to revalue its yuan, which has been pegged at around 6.83 per dollar since July 2008, claiming that the weaker yuan gives an unfair advantage to the country's exports. China argued that a quick appreciation of the yuan could hurt exports, cause unemployment among laborers and hurt social stability. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Yao Jian said Saturday that China's trade deficit in March proves that the exchange rate is not the decisive factor affecting the trade balance. "China's trade surplus continued to fall, and China even posted a trade deficit in March under a basically stable yuan exchange rate," Yao said in a statement posted on the ministry's website. […] Zheng Jianmin, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics, said that the deficit is a result of an adjustment in the division of labor in the post-financial crisis era and will be an overriding trend in China's international trade. However, he said the trade deficit will not help relieve the pressure on China to appreciate the yuan. "But China will not bend to the pressure to let the yuan rise too soon. Hot money will come in and hurt China's economy if China rushes to raise the yuan's value," Zheng said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

DPRK holds national meeting to commemorate Kim Il Sung (People's Daily)
2010-04-15
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a national meeting to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the birthday of Kim Il Sung at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang on Wednesday. Kim Yong Nam, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, delivered a report to praise and honor Kim Il Sung. He said the Korean people would fight to achieve national reconciliation and unity, accomplish national reunification through the unity of the nation. In the report, he stressed the need to improve the people's standard of living. Senior Party, army and state officials of the DPRK and delegations of foreign countries attended the meeting. Kim Il Sung, the founder of the DPRK, was born on April 15, 1912 and died on July 8, 1994. ^ top ^

Fireworks in N. Korea to celebrate Kim birthday (The China Post)
2010-04-15
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il marked the "Day of the Sun" — the anniversary of his late father's birth 98 years ago Thursday — by promoting 100 loyal generals while Pyongyang residents thronged riverbanks to watch a "kaleidoscope" of fireworks, state media said. Fireworks and a laser display lit up the skies above the Taedong River on Wednesday night, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Thursday. "The evening of fireworks will demonstrate before the world the inexhaustible mental power and indomitable spirit" of North Korea as the nation pushes ahead with a mission to build a "great, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012, the centenary of founder Kim Il Sung's birth, KCNA said. All week, thousands have been lining up to lay flowers at the foot of the towering statue of Kim Il Sung, the guerrilla fighter-turned-political leader who founded the communist state in 1948, KCNA said. Kim Jong Il marked the holiday by watching a military drill, it said in reports earlier in the week.

In South Korea, defectors and activists marked the holiday by sending balloons filled with leaflets and DVDs denouncing the totalitarian government across the border. April 15 is one of North Korea's most important holidays, a day when even average North Koreans get a rare chance at gluttony, according to defectors. One defector recalled tables piled high with rice cakes; boiled pork and rice served in broth; seasoned spring greens, and her favorite: steamed pollack skin stuffed with ground fish meat and tofu. "Every household prepared at least three kinds of rice cakes for the occasion," she said, flashing a coy smile at the memory. "You also can't forget the cookies and candy — holiday presents from the government." She asked that her name not be used to protect her family back in North Korea. Such lavish meals are a rarity in North Korea, where flooding and mismanagement in the 1990s destroyed the economy and led to widespread famine. Millions now rely on handouts from foreign nations and international donor agencies. Sanctions tightened in the wake of North Korea's nuclear defiance last year are believed to have put a further strain on food supplies in the impoverished country. On Wednesday, the North's No. 2 official, Kim Yong Nam, delivered a report that highlighted "the need to intensify the all-party and all-state general offensive for improving the people's standard of living."

As friends and family back in North Korea celebrated Kim Il Sung's birthday, seven defectors now living in Seoul recreated their home cuisines for South Koreans unfamiliar with the northern palate. The defectors and South Korean researchers from the North Korea Traditional Culinary and Culture Institute presented a North Korean-style feast at the five-day 2010 World Food and Tourism Expo in southern Seoul, calling it "Unification Spring Celebration." […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

PM S. Batbold becomes new MPRP chairman (Mongol Messenger)
2010-04-09
On April 8, an Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party Conference was held at the State House and a new MPRP Chairman was selected. The former MPRP Chairman, S.Bayar introduced a request to the Party Steering Committee and members of the Conference to resign his post, due to the state of his health and proposed that the Conference support Prime Minister S. Batbold for the position of MPRP Chairman.

S.Batbold was solely nominated for the MPRP Chairman without any opposition, and received the support of 191 out of 194 members. All 191 f the ballot papers were considered valid; therefore, it can be said he has received 100 percent support. ^ top ^

Protesters to sit on indefinite hunger strike (UB Post)
2010-04-13
A number of protesters, who have declared hunger strike at the main square, maybe numbered 40, organizer said at a press conference on Monday, with additional 33 people joined them from countryside. Health condition of initial seven people, who have declared “wet” hunger strike (by only drinking water, and tea with sugar but without food) on April 5, are normal, said Ard Tumnii Kholboo, a politically motivated NGO that demand dissolution of “oligarch” occupied Parliament and hold a national referendum to form a new government.

Earlier on April 5 thousands of people marched at the main square to demand ruling political parties to keep their political promises to distribute MNT 1.5 million cash to each citizen. The demonstration ended peacefully, but some remained at the square to continue sit-in strike for dissolution of Parliament, which later shifted into hunger strike. Health conditions of those men, who have lost 2-5 kgs, are under close monitor by Chingeltei District Hospital, they said.

Speaker of Parliament D.Demberel on Monday invited main organizers of the hunger strike to sit behind negotiation table at the Parliament House. The meeting went on closed for media reporters. The President Ts.Elbegdorj on Monday appealed all parties to negotiate and avoid “extreme” life-threatening form of protest. Advisors to the President Ts.Elbegdorj on Monday met with those people on strike. ^ top ^

World Bank Mongolia monthly economic update for February (News.mn)
2010-04-13
The latest data from February show that exports are rebounding strongly, buoyed by high copper prices andstrong demand from China, Mongolia's largest trading partner. Imports are also rebounding, reflecting the improvement in the domestic economy. Foreign exchange reserves are close to record levels, while high real interest rates and expectations of currency appreciation have caused a large increase in MNT deposits. Meanwhile, the fiscal deficit continues to improve, reflecting a combination of stabilizing government revenues and continued expenditure restraint.However, February's data also show a sharp upturn in inflation which rose to 8.7 percent year-on-year (yoy), roughly double the level in January and up from just 1.2 percent in December 2009. This increase has been mainly driven by a rise in food (mainly meat) prices which in turn reflects large livestock losses during the recent dzud and a distribution of 70000 tugrugs to the citizens.

With rising inflation eroding real incomes and purchasing power, low-income households are likely to be the most severely affected. Moreover, these effects will be felt on top of those from the sharp economic downturn last year and the recent dzud. According to latest information by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the total official livestock loss equals 4.1 million. Over 50 percent of the livestock losses are goats, which suggests that the cashmere sector will experience a significant supply shortage in the coming season and that rural livelihoods and incomes will remain under strain.

In the banking sector, there are tentative signs of a stabilization of non-performing loans (NPLs). However this may prove to be a temporary respite given that loans with principals in arrears are continuing to mount (these are categorized as NPLs once they have been in arrears more than 90 days).

Overall through, the economy is continuing to show signs of recovery, following an extremely sharp downturn last year. This recovery is being supported by a favourable external environment, on the back of strong policy actions over the past year.

At its upcoming spring session, the Mongolian Parliament is expected to debate and enact a number of important reform laws. These include comprehensive social welfare reform legislation to consolidate and improve the targeting of existing social transfers in a fiscally sustainable manner. Parliament is also expected to adopt a Fiscal Stability Law and an Integrated Budget Law which will set in place a fiscal framework for managing mining revenues as well as a commitment to prudent fiscal policy. With regard to the banking sector, a restructuring strategy is expected to be finalized soon, laying out a framework for banking sector resolution techniques. Finally, there has been growing pressure to amend the 2010 budget, to exclude public investment program projects lacking feasibility studies.

These reforms will play a crucial role in ensuring that Mongolia minimizes the risk of Dutch Disease associated with the upcoming mining boom and that its budget is protected from volatility in copper prices. Putting in place a targeted poverty benefit will ensure that the poor are protected from future mining boomand-busts in a fiscally affordable manner. Similarly addressing the current problems of the financial sector in a decisive and transparent manner will prepare the sector for the coming upturn in economic activity, investment and capital flows in the years ahead. ^ top ^

Southgobi sees jump in Mongolian coal exports to China (Montsame)
2010-04-15
Coal imports from Mongolia are expected to nearly double in 2010 from a year earlier, making Mongolia the third or fourth largest coal supplier to China, the top executive of SouthGobi Energy Resources Ltd has said.

Mongolia is likely to ship 12 million tonnes of coal to China this year, up from 8.5 million tonnes in 2009, Alexander Molyneux told Reuters on the sidelines of a Coaltrans conference. But official statistics showed that China imported just over 6 million tonnes of coal from Mongolia in 2009. "We estimate that this year already about 3 million tonnes of coal has been sold from Mongolia to China," said Molyneux.

"People see Mongolia as an emerging exporter of coal to China, but nobody is aware how quickly it's becoming a reality." Last year, Australia was the top supplier of coking coal to China, exporting more than 22.7 million tonnes in 2009, compared to Mongolia's nearly 4 million tonnes. Molyneux said Mongolia's coal exports to China this year will be predominantly coking coal.

SouthGobi -- which is 80 percent owned by Canada's Ivanhoe Mines -- owns the Ovoot Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, located about 40 km from the Chinese border and containing both thermal and metallurgical coal. China's sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corp (CIC), is also a strategic investor in the company. ^ top ^

 

Corentin Buela
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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