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
  9-13.8.10, No. 332  
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Table of contents

H1N1 flu

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Sino-Swiss trade increase a delightful surprise: Swiss President (Xinhua)
2010-08-13
Swiss President Doris Leuthard Thursday said the rise in bilateral trade between Switzerland and China is a delightful surprise, as she seeks to expand economic cooperation with China through a free trade agreement. The trade increase was a surprise as it came during the economic crisis last year, Leuthard said. In the first six months of 2010, Swiss exports to China increased more than 30 percent and Chinese exports to Switzerland increased more than 16 percent. Total trade volume between the two countries during the period hit 6.2 billion Swiss Francs (5.86 billion U.S. dollars), she added. Leuthard said she is optimistic about the future of Sino-Swiss bilateral trade, as the two countries are working on a free trade agreement. "We are ending feasibility study (for the agreement) so both sides know the market, the opportunities and the risks very well. It is very promising," she said. After the joint feasibility study, the two sides will enter the final stage ahead of the signing of the deal, she added. Talks on the free trade agreement began in 2007 when Leuthard, as head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, signed an agreement with then-Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai. The agreement recognized the full market status of China. Switzerland hopes to be the first European country to have a free trade agreement with China, Leuthard told Xinhua in an interview last year. China is Switzerland's second largest trade partner in Asia after Japan. ^ top ^

Vietnam 'will regret' naval power play (SCMP)
2010-08-13
[…] In an interview with Phoenix Satellite Television, a pro-Beijing broadcaster based in Hong Kong, Major General Yang Yi said Vietnam was playing a dangerous game of pitting two major powers against each other and fishing for profit. The naval exercise, which celebrates the 15th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the two countries, began on Wednesday. "Vietnam is a country in a very thorny [sea] territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. It has been eager to... use the US' power to increase its bargaining chips with China," Yang said. "But ultimately it is the pawn that will be sacrificed by the US in the power game... I am afraid that Vietnam will regret it in the future." Yang cited the US' diplomatic strategy in trying to draw China over to its side to counterbalance the former Soviet Union during the cold war. "The whole world understands the US' diplomatic pragmatism. Pakistan was one of the most loyal and closest allies of the US during the cold war," he said, adding that a senior Pakistani official told him that his country felt hurt when the US "had no further use" for it. […] "It's beyond Beijing's expectation... Could anyone imagine that the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March would escalate into joint military drills between the US and South Korea in waters near China? And now, even Vietnam is joining the game." However, Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said it was too early to conclude Vietnam's aim in having joint military drills with the US. "Vietnam has a long land border with China, and China is its closest economic and trading partner," Xu said. "But as a small state sandwiched between the US and China in this diplomatic conflict, I believe Vietnam knows how to deal with the problem through its experience.". ^ top ^

International community offers condolences to China over deadly mudslides (Global Times)
2010-08-13
Leaders of international organizations and countries including Russia, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Vietnam, France, USA, Canada and Mexico have offered condolences to China over its deadly mudslides. […] As of Thursday, the death toll has risen to 1,117, with another 627 people missing. But hopes of finding them alive were most gone as overnight downpours brought new disaster to Zhouqu, local authorities said. […]. ^ top ^

A bolder China asserts 'core' interests - but will it act? (SCMP)
2010-08-12
[…] The latest tit-for-tat war of words over what is called "national interests" between top diplomats of China and the United States at the recent Asean Regional Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the high-profile joint military exercises by US and South Korean forces and drills by the People's Liberation Army in the northeast Asian region suggest that Chinese diplomacy has gradually moved from advancing with caution to a more aggressive stance. Some say the era of "bide your time" has ended. In its more assertive, redefined place in the world, China has put the South China Sea into its "core national interests" category of non-negotiable territorial claims - the same league as Taiwan and Tibet. […] Professor David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Programme at George Washington University, said Beijing had long used the term when discussing Tibet and Taiwan to signify issues that go to the heart of its national sovereignty. […] Shambaugh said that, "having defined these territories as such [a core national interest], China will brook no foreign interference or contesting of its sovereign claim to these territories". […] Why does China do this? Rear Admiral Zhang Huachen, deputy commander of the PLA's East Sea Fleet, said: "With the expansion of the country's economic interests, the navy wants to better protect the country's transport routes and the safety of our major sea lanes." Xu Guangyu, a retired general, said: "We kept silent about territorial disputes with our neighbours in the past because our navy was incapable of defending our economic zones, but now the navy is able to carry out its task." For the outside world, the more worrisome issue is what will happen next. […] "There is consensus within Chinese diplomatic circles and think-tank scholars that the term will apply to only two categories - territorial integrity and sovereignty - at least for the moment," said Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University's School of International Relations. […]. ^ top ^

Swiss president starts visit to China, calls for Switzerland-China FTA (Global Times)
2010-08-11
Swiss President Doris Leuthard pledged to enhance Switzerland's economic ties with China Tuesday, as she started her working visit to China in the southwestern economic hub of Chongqing. Leuthard, president of the Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, voiced her hope for a free trade agreement between Switzerland and China at an economic forum. She also witnessed the signing of an economic and trade cooperation agreement between Switzerland and Chongqing at the forum. Accompanied by 11 government representatives, 28 business people and 11 journalists, Leuthard will leave Chongqing Wednesday for Shanghai, the second stop on her week-long visit to China. ^ top ^

US puts on display of military ties with Vietnam (China Daily)
2010-08-11
Following plans of massive joint military drills with Seoul in China's near waters, the United States is prepared for a new demonstration of military ties with Vietnam on Thursday, amid warnings from Beijing for the US to keep away from the region. Though some experts said the military exchange between Washington and its former foe has limited impact on China, others are worried that Washington is shifting its China policy based on a wrong judgment of Beijing's strategic intentions. The US destroyer USS John S. McCain docked on Tuesday in central Vietnam for a four-day exchange program with the Vietnamese navy. […] China insists on complete sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims. To solve the dispute Beijing has suggested joint development of the resource-rich waters. Hanoi, however, has been particularly vocal about the issue and at the same time grown increasingly closer to the US, from trade and commerce to negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology that could allow Vietnam to enrich uranium on its own territory. It also joined the US in harsh attacks on China on the issue at the ASEAN annual forum last month, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested an international mechanism to solve the South China Sea issue, hinting at US involvement. But Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo on Monday told Washington to keep out of the regional issue. […] Southeast Asian countries are in a state of conflict on the issue, said Niu Xinchun, an expert on US studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "On security, they rely on the US but their economies are dependent on China. They do not want to see the Sino-US conflict continue and make them choose one," he said. Yuan Zheng, a researcher for American studies with Chinese Academy of Social Science, said China does not need to worry about the "limited impact" of the US-Vietnam military exchange. […] Pang Zhongying, a scholar on world politics with Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said there are several factors that will determine how far a US-Vietnam relationship can go. "The two countries have disputes on political systems, human rights and of course the painful war memories," Pang said. "Vietnam, like China, faces the same America." Based on the heavy US presence surrounding China - from the Republic of Korea and Japan to Vietnam and other ASEAN countries - Pang warned it seems Washington is changing its judgment on China. […]. ^ top ^

Hu's US visit delayed amid raised tension (SCMP)
2010-08-10
President Hu Jintao's long-anticipated visit to the United States now looks unlikely to happen any time soon, as Beijing has postponed preparatory talks with Washington amid heightened tensions between the two nations. […] Chinese diplomats with knowledge of the situation said the two governments originally hoped to complete preliminary negotiations by lower-level officials around now and finalise the deal by the end of this month. The talks are an essential part of preparations for Hu's visit. However, the relationship between the two powers has deteriorated fast in recent months. They have bickered over North Korea and the South China Sea. Beijing now believes the US is trying to contain it in Asia, and views America's challenge to its sovereign rights over the South China Sea as an infringement of China's "core national interest". […] A president's state visit to the US is traditionally considered the biggest event on China's diplomatic calendar and involves "a lot of procedures and agreements that need to be made in advance", the diplomat said. […] The relationship between China, the largest emerging power, and the US, the world's only superpower, will have worldwide ramifications and could well decide the prosperity and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Diplomats and experts in Beijing and Washington agree that if Hu's visit does not take place this year as planned, it will deal a huge blow to crucial bilateral ties and the credibility of both governments. It would also raise doubts and suspicions about both sides at a time when the world is still reeling from an economic crisis. […] Chinese diplomats said the last chance for Hu to visit might come in November, when he plans to attend a global summit, the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Cancun, Mexico. ^ top ^

Asia busy in arms buying spree (China Daily)
2010-08-10
[…] According to the latest data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, weapon purchases in Southeast Asian region almost doubled from 2005 to 2009. The Washington Post, which published the report, said Southeast Asian nations are building up their militaries and "edging closer strategically to the US as a hedge against China's rise," which the newspaper said has already itself become an "issue". However, Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, said China was not the driving factor behind the buying binge. Terrorism threats at home, upgrading weapons and military competition in the region are the three main reasons for the notable increase in arms spending, Li said. […] The report said Vietnam has agreed to pay $2.4 billion for six Russian Kilo-class submarines and a dozen Su-30MKK jet fighters equipped for maritime warfare. Australia is committed to buying or building nine more submarines and bolstering its air force with 100 US-built F-35s. As well, Malaysia has paid more than $1 billion for two diesel submarines from France, and Indonesia has recently announced it too will acquire new submarines. […] On the other hand, the United States has been seen feeling cozier with China's neighbors. Noticeable events include a joint military drill between Washington and Seoul in the Yellow Sea last month, Vietnamese officials boarding the USS carrier George Washington this week, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 'enthusiasm' over the South China Sea, expressed during the ASEAN summit in Hanoi last month. "The United States is using (good relationships with) small Asian nations such as Vietnam and ROK to close in on China," said Yuan Peng, head of US studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. ^ top ^

China opposes Vietnam's accusation on South China Sea islands (Xinhua)
2010-08-07
China firmly opposes any remarks and actions that violate its sovereignty over Xisha Islands and adjacent waters in the South China Sea, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu here on Friday. Jiang made the comment after Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Thursday, according to media reports, that Chinese vessels' seismic exploration activities near Xisha Islands had violated Vietnam's sovereignty. "China has indisputable sovereignty over Xisha Islands and adjacent waters," Jiang reiterated in a news release. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

More people go missing after fresh mudslides (China Daily)
2010-08-13
[…] The three people went missing when six houses were swept away in Xizangba village of Quwa township, which is about 50 km northwest of Zhouqu's county seat, a spokesman for the disaster relief headquarters said. […] By Thursday morning, about 45,000 cubic meters of debris had reportedly covered the Lianghekou-Zhouqu road, the shortest route for bringing materials from Lanzhou, the provincial capital, to Zhouqu. Rescue headquarters had sent workers aided with heavy machinery overnight to repair the road. […] Local authorities pointed out nine potential geological danger sites in the county on Thursday and outlined routes to evacuate people to safe areas nearby. […] "Local authorities will endeavor to complete repairs for all damaged homes by the end of November and complete rebuilding of all the destroyed homes before winter - or at the latest, by June next year," a spokesman for the Gannan Tibetan prefectural government said on Thursday. Citing a circular issued by the provincial government on Monday, the spokesman said each mudslide-hit family in rural areas is eligible for a 20,000 yuan ($2,941) subsidy to rebuild its home if it has been destroyed, or 4,000 yuan if the home has been damaged. Each urban family whose home was destroyed can receive 25,000 yuan, he said. […]. ^ top ^

Milk powder moms unhappy with result (Global Times)
2010-08-13
Parents in Wuhan, Hubei Province, whose female infants developed premature breast enlargement after consuming a milk powder formula were frustrated Thursday after local health authorities told them the baby girls did not show symptoms of early puberty. Medical tests determined that the three baby girls, aged between four and 15 months, developed simple premature thelarche, the medical term for breast enlargement at an early age. The lab reports said the symptoms do not necessarily mean precocious puberty linked to excessive female hormones, the National Business Daily reported Thursday. The baby girls in Wuhan reportedly developed symptoms of precocious puberty after being given baby milk powder formula produced by Qingdao-based Syrutra International. The parents said they were frustrated by the confusing information they were given on the differences between premature thelarche and precocious puberty, or they were not aware whether the baby milk powder formula contained excessive hormones. […] "We had a check-up about one month ago at the Wuhan Children's Hospital and were told our baby girl had an abnormally high amount of female hormones. But Thursday we were told by another group of experts in the hospital that the report issued to us one month ago said our daughter's female hormones are normal," one of the mothers, surnamed Wang,said. […] The hospital refused to comment on the issue Thursday. The Ministry of Health announced that at the request of Hubei, a panel of nine experts has been set up to investigate claims of health damage, Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday. After more cases of early puberty in baby girls were reported nationwide in recent days, safety standards in the domestic milk production industry were put under the microscope. […]. ^ top ^

23m Christians on the mainland, figures show (SCMP)
2010-08-12
Christians on the mainland now number some 23 million, accounting for 1.8 per cent of the population, according to the first official figures compiled on the country's religions released yesterday in Beijing. The Blue Book of Religions in China, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of World Religions, revealed that nearly 70 per cent of Christians are female and about 67 per cent have been baptised. Christians aged between 35 and 64 account for more than 60 per cent of the total number and a quarter are 65 or older. "Christianity has developed rapidly in recent years, with new believers since 1993 accounting for about three-quarters," editor-in-chief of the Blue Book, Jin Ze said. […] The survey collected more than 60,000 questionnaires in nearly 3,000 villages in 321 counties across the mainland. […] The number of Christians in urban areas had risen as young and middle-aged migrant workers from religious strongholds in the countryside left to escape poverty, Jin said. He hailed the release of the figures as a step forward for the mainland in its policies towards religion. […] Surveys about religions are still sensitive and many believers hide their faith. The Blue Book says its statistics are "just minimum estimates". […] "There is no point discussing the number of Christians who are not officially recognised. The number of 23 million already suggests rapid growth in the number of Christians," Mei said. "The unrecognised ones would be increasing similarly." […]. ^ top ^

Experts advised county seat be moved (SCMP)
2010-08-11
Geological experts recommended two years ago that the mudslide-torn seat of Zhouqu county in Gansu be moved elsewhere due to safety concerns, mainland media reported. The town, bordering Sichuan in a valley between two mountains, was listed as a key site prone to landslides by the Ministry of Land and Resources after the massive May 12 earthquake, the 21st Century Business Herald reported. The geological experts, who had travelled from Beijing, made their recommendation to local authorities after surveying landslide risks across the county. "We were in favour of relocating [the county seat, informally called Zhouqu]," Du Tao, an official with the Beijing Land Resources Bureau, was quoted as saying. The town has a long history of geological disasters during the rainy season, with at least three massive mudslides between 1978 and 1992 wreaking havoc and causing many casualties. But none of them compared to the tragedy this time. […] The geologists said their recommendation was based on the fact that the inherent hazards to Zhouqu town were almost impossible to eliminate. "Even if it were possible to tackle, it is far too expensive," the report said. But local officials argued that the proposed relocation plan, at a cost of more than 80 million yuan (HK$92 million) in preliminary preparations alone, would exceed the impoverished county's ability to pay. Zhang Sanchao, a deputy director with the county's Development and Reform Commission, said the government had been caught in the dilemma for decades as similar proposals of relocation were also raised in the 1980s. Professor Fan Xiao, a geologist based in Sichuan, also noted that finding a suitable relocation site for the rapidly expanding town was another challenge. "It would be difficult to find flat terrain for Zhouqu along the Bailong river, which lies between steep mountains," he said. He and Dr Wu Jishan, a geologist in the Chinese Academy of Sciences based in Chengdu, Sichuan, also warned of more mudslides in the coming days. […] Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi said on Monday that the mudslides had been triggered by record-breaking rain, citing data saying an upstream town 10 kilometres from the county seat received 97mm of rain on Saturday night. But according to the media, residents in Zhouqu said they did not see much rainfall before the mudslides. The official figure of casualties in the tragedy was also challenged by local residents and volunteer rescuers. Footage by two Hong Kong television stations showed volunteers angrily accusing authorities of substantially under-reporting the death toll and gave their rough estimate of those killed in the tragedy at 3,000 or even higher. "There was a populated mountain village with 8,000 residents - only about 10 have been rescued so far with the rest all buried," a volunteer said. ^ top ^

Chinese premier urges all-out rescue efforts when inspecting mudslide-hit county (Global Times)
2010-08-10
Premier Wen Jiabao has urged rescuers to race against time to search survivors after catastrophic mudslides hit a northwest China county and left nearly 1,300 people missing Sunday. […] "For those who were buried under the debris, now it's the most crucial time to save their lives," Wen stressed during a meeting held at the county government late Sunday night. He said the search and rescue work must not be halted as long as the possibility for finding survivors still exists. […] Wen also demanded that traffic, power supply and telecommunication in the county should be resumed as soon as possible. "And people who have been evacuated should be taken good care of," Wen stressed. […]. ^ top ^

Dark side of mining cover-ups exposed (SCMP)
2010-08-10
Two months before an explosion at a Henan coal mine killed 49 workers, a gas leak at the same mine killed 12. While state leaders ordered a swift response to the second disaster, few people knew about the first due to a combination of official pressure and hush money. Ten officials, including Pingdingshan's mayor, were sacked after an explosion in the early hours of June 21 at the Xingdong No2 Mine killed 49 workers and injured 26 others. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao sent a high-level State Council investigation team to the city to dig into the cause of the accident. What they did not know was that it could have been prevented if the earlier accident had not been covered up so well. […] Mainland media say at least two county officials had invested in the mine. […] The privately owned mine was only a small one but it had extraordinarily deep pockets and strong official connections. That meant it was able to silence witnesses, survivors and the families of dead workers through intimidation and hush money - ranging from 100 yuan (HK$115) for villagers living nearby to hundreds of thousands of yuan for victims' families. Silencing journalists usually proves more difficult but Zhang noticed that while many contacted him after his expose, few published reports. He had heard that some were paid hush money by the mine. But some reporters said they simply found it impossible to gather evidence because the survivors and the families of the dead refused to talk about the accident. There was also pressure from the authorities, at least at the provincial level: Henan Television broadcast a report about the cover-up on May 27 but an order "from above" banned any repeats. […] After the gas leak, the mine put the injured workers in different hospitals to avoid raising suspicions, and paid their medical fees. However, the people running the mine were either arrested or disappeared after the explosion in June and the survivor said he was kicked out of hospital. […] Most other injured workers and the families of dead workers accepted compensation offers, thinking that they had no better options. One 37-year-old survivor said that when accepting compensation, he was asked to sign an agreement promising never to mention the accident to anyone. But he was not given a copy of the contract. Like other workers, he never signed an employment contract and was always paid in cash. The only thing that could prove his connection to the mine was a bicycle parking tag. […] The State Council team investigating the June explosion found that the mine was operating illegally at the time, its mining licence having expired on June 6. The owners reconnected severed electricity cables, cheated inspectors by building a fake wall around the supposedly closed pit and continued to mine it until illegally-stored explosives blew up. […] Even though workers knew the mine was operating illegally, they still took the risk since working in mines pays significantly more than any other jobs available in impoverished rural areas. "Big and safer state-owned mines are notoriously hard to get into: you must be young, and have good connections," one of the survivors of the April gas leak who used to work in a big mine said. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

PLA ends 5-day exercise to defend Beijing (SCMP)
2010-08-08
The People's Liberation Army yesterday ended a five-day drill to defend Beijing from air attack. More than 12,000 personnel from the land, air and naval forces in Shandong and Henan provinces took part in the drill conducted by the Jinan Military Command, which oversees the defence of the area south of the capital, including the Yellow Sea region. Xinhua said unmanned planes, reconnaissance aircraft and five types of modern fighter jets were deployed while anti-aircraft weapons including the new generation of land-to-air missiles were tested. The drill comes amid rising tension in the South China Sea. Military experts said it was aimed at dealing with a "decapitation attack", a strategy commonly used by the United States military. ^ top ^

Beijing Olympics official report published (Xinhua)
2010-08-08
The Official Report for the Beijing Olympic Games and the Paralympics was unveiled here on Sunday in a bid to provide valuable experience and lessons for futures hosts. The launching of the Report, detailing the planning, organisation and celebration of the two Games, coincided with the second anniversary of the Beijing Olympic Games which opened on Aug. 8 two years ago. The Beijing Olympics official report comprises four volumes telling stories and experiences in the bidding process, the organization and operation, the Games ceremonies and summaries as well as the official competition results.". ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

For residents, the thrill is long gone (SCMP)
2010-08-09
The World Expo in Shanghai celebrated its 100th day of operations yesterday, coinciding with the second anniversary of the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But while the Olympics' jaw-dropping opening ceremony remains fresh in many people's minds, the expo - with 84 days to go - is rapidly fading from Shanghai's collective consciousness. […] When the city won the hosting rights way back in 2002, a massive propaganda campaign was launched intending to ensure locals would behave in a "civilised" manner to match the massive investment in transport infrastructure and renovation of old buildings. It was a relatively simple task for Beijing to keep the capital spick and span for the 17-day Olympics. Shanghai officials have realised that keeping nearly 20 million people enthused about a six-month-long expo is another matter entirely. Privately, some of them admit that it is proving difficult to maintain public interest for an event over such a long period of time. The picturesque, tree-lined backstreets of the French Concession are awash with litter, particularly once the sun has gone down. An army of street-sweepers toils against the tide, seemingly round the clock, as food stalls and fruit vendors simply deposit their junk on the pavement outside. […] Locals witnessing examples of undesirable behaviour invariably blame it on uneducated tourists from the countryside or recently arrived migrants - conveniently turning a deaf ear when the offender is speaking in Shanghainese. The situation within the expo park is not a whole lot better, either. Even official media outlets have started recounting tales of visitor misconduct - even tourists urinating inside national pavilions, despite the toilets dotted around the site. Pavilion staff recount similar tales - and worse - with a strange mixture of glee and revulsion. […]. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Guangdong debate on illegal labour heats up (SCMP)
2010-08-12
Guangdong labour authorities have launched an investigation into the influx of illegal foreign workers from Southeast Asia, as experts and officials are debating whether the province should allow foreigners in to do blue-collar labour at a lower cost. A team from the provincial Labour and Human Resources Department, led by two deputy heads, was sent this week to the Pearl River Delta, one of world's most important manufacturing centres, to determine the seriousness of the situation. […] With a huge workforce and strict immigration policies, the mainland is still closed to overseas labourers. But as labour costs have increased in the past few years - partly caused by the new Labour Law, which promises better pay and welfare to migrant workers - more and more manufacturers are likely to employ illegal labourers from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. The reason is that they will work for less pay and endure worse working conditions. Xinhua reported that last year Guangdong police had uncovered 13 cases of illegally hired foreign workers and deported 180 workers without work permits. In the first quarter of this year, six cases were handled and 154 people detained. Many labour experts warned that the mainland was about to face an influx of overseas blue-collar labourers and that its laws were out of date and could not address the problem. Zhang Rongfa, a consultant to the Guangdong Labour Institute, suggested that the province should learn from Japan and Hong Kong and partially open its labour market to foreign workers. Some experts disagreed, saying a simple open policy might trigger not only severe competition between foreign and domestic labourers, but also more social or even ethnic problems. Professor Zheng Zizhen, a labour expert with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The enterprises hire illegal foreign workers for lower pay, but the government and the communities will have to deal with their living, family and welfare issues, which are also a price to be paid by the whole society.". ^ top ^

Two drug traffickers receive death (Global Times)
2010-08-09
Two drug traffickers, including a Chinese-French citizen, were sentenced to death Saturday for manufacturing, transporting and dealing large amounts of crystal methamphetamine, known as "ice," in south Guangdong Province. Chan Thao Phoumy, a 47-year-old Chinese-French citizen, and Xie Weiming also had their personal assets confiscated, according to the sentence handed down by the Intermediate People's Court of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong. Their eight-member drug ring manufactured tons of "ice" between 1999 and 2003 in Guangdong and central Henan Province, and they sold the drugs on many occasions, the court heard. Two other traffickers in the ring, Li Yunfeng and Xian Jinbai, were sentenced to death but with a two-year reprieve. Three others were jailed for life, while one other man was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, according to the court. ^ top ^

 

Economy

High trade surplus 'likely to remain' (China Daily)
2010-08-11
The country's high trade surplus will likely remain for the rest of the year as domestic demand continues to shrink from government attempts to curb the property bubble, Chinese analysts have said. Exports in July shot up 38.1 percent from the same period last year, bringing trade surplus to a 18-month high of $28.7 billion and beating common forecasts, figures from the General […] In July, exports grew to $145.5 billion and imports increased to $116.8 billion. The higher trade surplus "was mainly driven by the larger-than-expected slowdown in imports", said Nomura Global Economics in a note on Tuesday. Growth in imports fell to 22.7 percent, from 34.1 percent in June, although China's imports from the United States and European Union reached the highest since February, rising by 33 percent for US imports and 34 percent for EU imports year-on-year, Customs figures showed. Despite the strong growth of imports in auto, grain, mechanical and electrical products, imports of industrial goods, including crude oil, iron ore, copper and finished steel products, all fell. These reflected "weakening commodity prices, shutdown of inefficient and heavily polluting producers, and flooding which caused weak manufacturing activity", Nomura said. As government policies on curbing real estate speculation continue and commodity prices are expected to stay low, the country's imports of "most industrial materials" will continue to shrink, said Yan Jinny, an economist from Standard Chartered Shanghai. Trade surplus will stand at above $20 billion in the coming months, she said. […] Analysts said China must also be prepared for a fresh round of international pressure led by the US to raise the value of the yuan, as the US and EU will possibly "launch more trade remedy cases against China" in the second half of the year. […] Last weekend, the Ministry of Finance, together with four other ministries, released a policy on remitting import value-added tax and import tax on selected high-tech products, which analysts said is a sign that China is taking imports seriously. ^ top ^

GDP growth to hit 11%: State Council (Global Times)
2010-08-10
[…] "Provided that fiscal expenditures achieve their target this year, 2010 GDP growth should be about 10 to 11 percent," Zhang Yutai, head of the Development Research Center of the State Council, China's cabinet, was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Securities News. […] In 2010, the country's GDP grew by 11.9 percent in the first quarter, and by 11.1 percent for the first half of the year, according to data cited from the NBS. By contrast, Wu Xiaoling, a former vice governor of the central bank, said that China should learn to tolerate slower growth as the result of efforts to reconfigure its economy toward more reliance on consumption and less on capital investment. She said growth could slow to 8 percent in annual terms early next year, but that the government should desist from rolling out a fresh stimulus package to compensate for the weakness. "When adjusting the economic structure and changing the pattern of expansion, China is sure to encounter a moderation," Wu said in an article in the People's Daily. J.P.Morgan forecasted China's GDP growth for this year will reach 10.8 percent, even though the country will suffer an economic slowdown in the second half of this year due to rising inflation, yuan revaluation and the unclear of the global economy. China's exports will likely fall in the second half of this year as developed countries face budget cuts and reduce debt risks, Zhang said. Investment and consumption, however, in the second half of this year will likely only see small changes, Zhang added. ^ top ^

Soaring global grain prices may impact China's domestic market (People's Daily Online)
2010-08-10
During this time of the year when major buyers are purchasing early paddy rice, expectations for higher grain prices remain high, and the strong upward trend for grain prices in the global market has added pressure on the domestic market. With the increase of China's grain imports and international capital entering the domestic agricultural product market, the price hike in overseas markets will have a more significant impact on China's domestic market, experts say. Currently, the purchase price for early paddy rice stands at around 1.90 yuan (0.28 U.S. dollar) per kilogram, higher than the minimum purchase price of 1.86 yuan. However, it cannot meet farmers' expectations. Recent extreme weather events were to some extent the basis for the price hike expectations. Early paddy rice production will decline compared to the previous year. […] Since both domestic and international grain markets face limited supply, a price hike in the overseas market is very likely to cast a shadow on the domestic market, experts say. Wildfires and serious droughts have ravaged a large swath of central Russia this summer, destroying one-fifth of its crops. On Aug. 5, Russia announced a ban on the export of grains that would begin Aug. 15 and last through the end of the year. On the same day, September wheat's 60-cent gain on the Chicago Board of Trade at 7.85-3/4 U.S. dollars per bushel was the first limit-up settlement and the highest front month price since August 2008. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations last week said that estimated global wheat production in 2010 will be 651 million tons, 25 million tons lower than previous predictions. Since June, wheat prices on the global market have surged 50 percent. "In the 2008 food crisis, grain prices in China's domestic market remained stable due to abundant production. But as both domestic and overseas markets face tight supplies, the markets face similar pressure for higher grain prices," said Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). China's grain imports have increased significantly since 2010. […] Li pointed out that international capital may have a more severe impact on domestic grain prices than prices of imported grain. "Holders of international capital are playing for high stakes with expectations of a huge increase in China's domestic grain prices. That's why they are entering China for speculation," he said. ^ top ^

An economic boom, but migrants still dirt poor (SCMP)
2010-08-09
They make up the 200-million-strong workforce in the nation's manufacturing heartlands and have been known for decades for their diligence, tolerance and plain living. So why are the migrant workers on the mainland still so poor after close to three decades of double-digit economic growth? […] Mainland sociologists blame unreasonably low statutory minimum wages and heavy taxation that offer little in the way of social welfare protection. […] Professor Lu Huilin, from Peking University, says the mainland's minimum wage policy, meant to protect workers' rights, actually helps employers exploit workers. "Last year, the statutory minimum wage in Shenzhen was 900 yuan a month, but official statistics suggested that Shenzhen people spent an average of 613 yuan on food," Lu said. "Migrant workers spend most of their income on food which means their other basic needs such as accommodation, transport or basic social contacts can't be fulfilled." As in many other mainland cities, most Shenzhen employers pay migrant workers the minimum wage or a little more. Lu said a reasonable minimum wage should be 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the locality's average monthly salary, and that many foreign countries set the level at 60 per cent. But only a few mainland cities even reach 30 per cent. Shenzhen's minimum wage is just 20 per cent of a resident's average income. […] He said Shenzhen's per capita gross domestic product had risen sevenfold since 1992 but the city's minimum wage rose only threefold in that time. […] More than 5,000 workers surveyed by Shenzhen's labour union federation and Shenzhen University last month said a reasonable monthly salary would be around 2,700 yuan, but they actually earned an average of 1,800 yuan - including overtime that often exceeded legal limits. Sociologist Liu Kaiming, from Shenzhen's Institute of Contemporary Observation, said heavy taxation and an inequitable social insurance system added to the plight of low-paid migrant workers. […]. ^ top ^

 

H1N1 flu

China vows to ensure flu prevention in post-pandemic stage (Xinhua)
2010-08-12
[…] "Based on the experience from A/H1N1 prevention and control, we will revise emergency plans and will continue flu prevention efforts in a bid to ensure people's health," said a statement released late Tuesday by the ministry. Figures from the ministry show that the weekly new A/H1N1 cases have remained below 30 since mid-April. Further, no deaths have been reported for 12 consecutive weeks. While announcing the coming of the post-pandemic period, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan warned that the A/H1N1 virus will continue to spread as a seasonal flu for some years. Chan urged health authorities to maintain alert for the virus. So far, about 800 deaths from A/H1N1 influenza had been reported in China, Health Minister Chen Zhu said earlier. […]. ^ top ^

WHO declares end to swine flu pandemic (SCMP)
2010-08-11
The World Health Organisation declared the swine flu pandemic officially over yesterday, months after many national authorities started cancelling vaccine orders and shutting down hotlines as the disease ebbed from the headlines. WHO director-general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said the organisation's emergency committee of top flu experts advised her that the pandemic had "largely run its course" and the world is no longer in phase six - the highest influenza alert level. "I fully agree with the committee's advice," Chan told reporters in a telephone briefing from Hong Kong, where she was a former director of health. The virus had now entered the "post-pandemic" phase, meaning disease activity around the world had returned to levels usually seen for seasonal influenza, she said. But Chan cautioned against complacency, saying countries should still keep a watchful eye for unusual patterns of infection and mutations that might render existing vaccines and antiviral drugs ineffective. "It is likely that the virus will continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups," she said, urging high-risk groups such as pregnant women to continue seeking vaccination. Hong Kong's government last night welcomed the announcement. […] Unusually, swine flu hits young adults harder than those above 65, who are believed to have some immunity to the A(H1N1) strain. At least 18,449 people have died worldwide since the outbreak began in April last year. Lab-confirmed deaths globally increased by only about 300 in the past two months and many countries have long since closed the chapter on swine flu. Governments in Europe and North America started dumping vaccines earlier this year after finding their stocks were full of unused and expiring supplies. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

US teen hopes to meet Kim Jong-il (SCMP)
2010-08-13
[…] Jonathan Lee, who was born in South Korea and lives in the US state of Mississippi, was scheduled to fly to Pyongyang yesterday from Beijing with his parents. The family said North Korean officials in Beijing gave them visas on Wednesday night. Jonathan said he expected to meet North Korean officials and would propose the children's peace forest, "one in which fruit and chestnut trees would be planted and where children can play". […] The Lee family said they applied to go to North Korea as a "special delegation" and North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in New York gave permission for their visit. "It's supposed to be safe, but I'm a little nervous. It's a communist country," Jonathan said. "I've watched lots of documentaries. It's supposed to be really clean and stuff." His mother said the family told the US embassy in Seoul. An embassy spokesman said he was checking into the mission. Reports by South Korea's Yonhap news agency say Jonathan met former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung three years ago and suggested planting chestnut trees on the Korean Peninsula and that he went to see the then-ailing former president again last year. In a letter Jonathan hopes to give to Kim Jong-il, he wrote that Kim Dae-jung talked with him about his "sunshine policy" of peaceful coexistence with the North. "He promised he would take me with him the next time he went to the DPRK, but sadly he passed away last year," the letter says. "I'd like to carry on his dream.". ^ top ^

N Korea tries to barter ginseng to settle debts (SCMP)
2010-08-13
North Korea wants to pay off some of its debts - with ginseng root. The Czech Republic was pleased to discover that cash-poor North Korea has not forgotten US$10 million worth of debts it owes to then Czechoslovakia from cold war days, when Czechoslovakia sent machinery, trams, and equipment to Kim Il-sung. Last month, a Pyongyang delegation in Prague sought forgiveness of 95 per cent of the old debt. Czech authorities said no. Prague suggested that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea could pay back by barter. Pyongyang then offered 400 tonnes of ginseng, worth about US$500,000. North Korean ginseng is considered one of the finest in quality, called "heaven grade" in Asia. The problem for Czech authorities is that their country consumes only 1.4 tonnes of ginseng a year; the quantity proposed by Pyongyang would last almost 300 years. They suggested Pyongyang pay in zinc ore, which the Czechs could process or resell, according to Tomas Zidek, Czech deputy finance minister. ^ top ^

DPRK leader meets Chinese delegation to mark 60th anniversary of Korean War (Global Times)
2010-08-12
Yang Hyong Sop, vice-president of the Presidium of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), met with a visiting China-DPRK friendship delegation here on Wednesday. During the meeting, Yang said this year marked the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The Chinese volunteers fought side by side with the DPRK army against U.S.-led forces. "The DPRK-China friendship was built in the tough war," he said, adding: "the traditional friendship fostered by the elder generation of revolutionaries of the two countries will be further strengthened and promoted." Head of the 32-member delegation Xin Qi, also vice-president of the China Association for International Friendly Contact, shared with Yang's view. He said members of the Chinese delegation can always feel the deep friendship during the week-long visit, noting that the DPRK people take good care of the tombs of the Chinese People's Volunteers martyrs. Members of the Chinese delegation included many veterans of the Chinese People's Volunteers and their offsprings. They came to the DPRK at the invitation of DPRK-China Friendship Association the Czechs could process or resell, according to Tomas Zidek, Czech deputy finance minister. ^ top ^

Embassy concerns about Chinese crew on detained S. Korean fishing boat (People's Daily Online)
2010-08-09
The Chinese embassy in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Monday expressed concern over the report that a South Korean fishing boat with three Chinese aboard was detained by the DPRK. According to Chinese consulate officials, the Chinese embassy and the Chinese Consulate in Chongjin closely followed the report by the South Korean media and were verifying it with the DPRK authorities. If the report is confirmed, the DPRK should treat the Chinese crew members well with humanitarianism, guarantee their rights and interests, and inform the Chinese side of their conditions, the officials said. The 41-ton Dae Seung 55, which carried four South Korean and three Chinese sailors, was detained on Sunday by the DPRK in waters presumably within the DPRK's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the east coast, according to the South Korean media. ^ top ^

North Korea seizes fishing boat from South (SCMP)
2010-08-09
North Korea has detained a South Korean fishing boat, the South's coast guard said yesterday, an incident that could further inflame high cross-border tensions. The boat, with four South Korean and three Chinese crewmen, was seized in the Sea of Japan, known to Koreans as the East Sea, while apparently operating near the North's exclusive economic zone, the coast guard said. It was being towed yesterday to the North's northeastern port of Songjin. "We urge North Korean authorities to handle this case in accordance with international norms and practices and return the ship and the crew at the earliest possible date," the coast guard said. It was not clear whether the Daeseung 55 was suspected of illegal fishing. The seizure came during a major South Korean naval exercise that has stirred anger and threats of retaliation from the North. […] YTN television said the fishing boat sent a message yesterday saying it was heading for Songjin. A government official in Seoul said the boat had been operating in or near a fishing area jointly shared between Russia and North Korea, 270 kilometres east of the North's Musudan region. […]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

UN official happy at Mongolia's progress, promises to consider increasing assistance (New.mn)
2010-08-11
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, D.Tsogtbaatar, told a press conference on Monday that Ajay Chhibber, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, had said, during his visit from August 5 to August 9 that Mongolia is an exemplary country in the region for developing democracy. Chhibber attended a ceremony on August 6 where the third national report on the implementation of the program on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was presented and also a seminar on MDGs, especially reducing poverty and ensuring gender equality. Jointly organized by the Government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the seminar brought together representatives from Laos, Vietnam and Bangladesh. They spoke about their experience on realizing MDGs. Chhibber also called on Parliament Speaker D.Demberel who said the Mongolian government, Parliament and people appreciated the support received from the UN. He also gave details of the measures taken by the Government to generate employment, to develop human resources, and to streamline the distribution of social welfare services, and asked for UNDP assistance and support. Chhibber expressed happiness at Mongolia's steady progress towards better democratic governance and stronger protection of human rights. oreign Minister G. Zandanshatar and Chhibber reviewed Mongolia-UN relations. Chhibber announced UNDP technical assistance to strengthen the Research Center for Landlocked Countries which was established at the initiative of Mongolia. The UN would also cooperate with Mongolia in improving the skills of Mongolian peacekeepers, organizing training on human rights and implementing the "One UN" program. Minister of Environment and Tourism L.Gansukh met with Chhibber to exchange views on the progress of projects and programs implemented in Mongolia by the UNDP. The UN Assistant Secretary General visited Uvurkhangai province to observe some UNDP projects, including those on civil registration, stable landscape management, legal service, and human rights. He promised to consider increasing the financial assistance for these projects. ^ top ^

PM assures prices will remain stale (News.mn)
2010-08-11
Speaking to traders and buyers at a food market in a western province, Prime Minister S. Batbold recently said Mongolia would soon produce enough wheat and vegetables to meet the entire domestic demand. He also said the planned commodity exchange markets will keep prices fair and stable, by eliminating middlemen and reducing the number of stages between the primary producer and the end consumer. The Government also plans to adopt a tax policy offering incentives to domestic enterprises. ^ top ^

Gross domestic product and consumer price index (Montsame)
2010-08-10
Gross domestic product (at 2005 constant prices) increased by MNT 79.1 billion or 5.0 per cent to MNT 1,650.7 billion in the first half of 2010. The increase was mainly due to increases in industry, construction, service sector and net tax on products. There was a MNT 28.0 billion or 9.5 per cent increase in value added of mining and quarrying sector (at 2005 constant prices), MNT 12.1 billion or 22.0 per cent increase in value added of manufacturing sector and 40.4 per cent increase in the amount of net taxes on products. The national consumer price index in July, 2010, decreased by 2.8 per cent compared to the previous month, increased by 8.3 per cent compared to the end of the previous year and the same period of the previous year, respectively. Decrease in national index compared to the previous month was mainly due to a 6.5 per cent decrease in food and non-alcoholic beverages. ^ top ^

Inspection Authority Warns Threat of Plague (UB Post)
2010-08-10
Capital city's inspection authority released precautionary message to the general public last week about threat of marmot plague or bubonic plague. The authority warned not to eat marmot meat, or skin of any suspicious animals. Marmots, rodent animal prohibited for hunting for food and other commercial purposes in Mongolia, are main carriers of bubonic plague but the government's strong hunting restriction, that will be effective until 2011, may no longer deters local hunters to hunt down marmots, and trading of marmot meat and skin illegally to urban markets, as some of the veterinary health authorities said. ffective until October 15, Ulaanbaatar's main vehicle checkpoints were last week re-enforced with police officers and disinfection workers to closely screen “suspicious” vehicles entering into the city. Three different attempts on bringing illegal meat and skin of marmot has been reported, and the authorities have already began taking surveillance measures on major marketplaces especially those skin trading on the outskirt of the city as well. More than 1600 vehicles have been screened, and around 3,400 passengers' luggage were checked in Bayanzurkh, Songinokhairkhan and Nailakh districts' vehicle clearance checkpoints. Also, mobile policing was introduced at railway station and domestic arrivals hall of the airport. Within frame of the hunting restriction, the authorities may high cash reward anyone who has informed about illegal hunting of marmot, and its skin trading. In Bayankhongor province's Bayan-Undur soum, a number of marmots were found dead last month for unknown reason in the wild. But no sign of plague was found in the sampled flesh of the dead marmots tested at the State Veterinary Laboratory in Ulaanbaatar. ^ top ^

Russia Ban Wheat Export, No Effect on Mongolia (UB Post)
2010-08-10
Russia's ban on export wheat would not affect Mongolia's domestic market supplies and food prices, agriculture analysts said. Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters from which Mongolia imports more than 100,000 tons of grain, banned export of wheat last week effective until end of this year in response to an expected shortage due to wildfires and serious droughts that have ravaged a large swath of central Russia this summer. More than one-fifth of Russia's crop have been destroyed. “As far as of today, crops situation of Mongolia has not reached to a worrying level,” said M.Ariunbold, an officer at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry. Stockpiles of wheat and other grains in Mongolia are greater now than they were three or four years ago, he said. “Thanks to the government's agricultural campaign, Mongolia will fully supply its domestic demand of wheat and other grains by 2011,” Ariunbold said. Mongolia has planted grain in more than 260,000 hectares of land. Wheat crop information on how much grain it would ultimately be able to harvest in the fall, the government is expected to announce it on August 15. ^ top ^

Tiny Mongolia bourse hopes to tap resource firms with outside help (SCMP)
2010-08-09
[…] The undeveloped country's stock exchange may be the world's smallest national share trading platform, with a total market capitalisation of only US$693 million. It is housed in a bright-pink former children's cinema in Ulan Bator and open for trading between 11am and noon. Unsurprisingly, hardly any global money managers, except a few specialist hedge funds, want to use it. But this pint-sized bourse is determined to move into the modern age. Mongolia has enormous untapped mineral deposits. Last August, its new Democratic Party government finalised a deal with Canada's Ivanhoe Mines to develop the US$5 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold reserve, which is the size of Manhattan and will take 60 years to exhaust. Global investors are already salivating over Mongolia. But its local stock market has a big problem. Hordes of local mining companies are stampeding straight past the former children's cinema and onto foreign stock exchanges. Mongolia Stock Exchange chief executive R. Sodkhuu is fighting back, though. He has invited Nasdaq, the London Stock Exchange, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Korea Stock Exchange to submit bids to manage the Ulan Bator bourse, which is government-owned. The winning bidder would be expected to completely modernise the exchange, providing trading technology that would make it easier for global money managers to buy and sell local companies' shares. […] The combined market capitalisation of the 20 largest Mongolia-based businesses reached US$15.39 billion in July, according to a study by Hong Kong investment bank Eurasia Capital. But less than US$400 million of this was contributed by companies whose shares are sold in Mongolia. The largest firms with Mongolian assets are Ivanhoe, whose shares are traded in New York; Centerra Gold, which is listed in Toronto; and coal miner SouthGobi Resources, which had a HK$3.06 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong in January. […] Big companies and global fund managers bypass Mongolia's stock exchange for a reason. It has virtually no liquidity. Alisher Ali Djumanov, the chief executive of Eurasia Capital, estimated that fewer than 100,000 Mongolians own shares. Sodkhuu said only US$93,000 worth of stock changed hands in Ulan Bator on an average day. […] Hong Kong may not need to start panicking just yet.

 

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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