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
  20-24.12.10, No. 351  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China, Pakistan 'forever brothers', premier vows (China Daily)
2010-12-20
Terrorism should not be linked to a certain religion or people, and the international community should fully support and respect Pakistan's chosen road of development, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Sunday. Pakistan has made "huge sacrifices and great contributions" in combating terrorism on the frontline, and its efforts are recognized by the world, Wen said during an address to a joint session of Pakistan's parliament in Islamabad. During his address, Wen said: "And the thing that I want to say most, is that China and Pakistan are forever brothers." […]Wen was the first Chinese leader and the sixth foreign dignitary to address a joint session of Pakistan's parliament. […] A number of countries have criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terror. […] Pakistan needs foreign investment to rebuild its infrastructure, which has been severely damaged by both natural disasters and terrorist attacks, Ye said. Michele Flournoy, US undersecretary of defense for policy, said Washington must prove its commitment to Pakistan with civilian as well as military support, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. Wen met on Saturday with top Pakistan military officials and exchanged views with them on defense cooperation and other matters. China is actively involved in all sectors of reconstruction work in the country and would like to deepen cooperation in the fields of energy, agriculture and infrastructure, as well as enhance communication between the young generation of the two countries, Wen said. Agreements and trade deals formalized by business leaders and cabinet ministers during Wen's three-day visit to the country amounted to around $35 billion. ^ top ^

Japanese ambassador's three-day trip to help improve strained bilateral ties (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-21
Japan's ambassador on Monday commenced a three-day visit to Nanjing, the scene of mass killings by Japanese troops in December 1937. Japanese Ambassador Uichiro Niwa arrived in Nanjing, capital of East China's economic hub Jiangsu province, on Monday afternoon to meet Japanese entrepreneurs and local officials in a move that analysts said will help improve strained ties between China and Japan. The three-day trip, ostensibly to boost bilateral trade, is significant as it is Niwa's first visit to the city where more than 300,000 civilians were slaughtered by invading Japanese troops between December 1937 and January 1938. It is also significant because relations between the two nations have been strained after Japanese authorities illegally detained the captain of a Chinese trawler and members of its crew in waters off China's Diaoyu Islands in September. […] Though the trip is primarily business-focused, media and analysts from China and Japan said it would improve ties. […] In a coincidental development related to the Diaoyu Islands, the ancient manuscript of Haiguoji, or literally "records of maritime kingdoms", which offers further historical proof that the islands belong to China, went under the hammer on Monday in Beijing. An unidentified Chinese buyer submitted the winning bid of 13.25 million yuan ($1.98 million) in an auction organized by Beijing CNTC International Auction Company Limited. With a reserve of 8 million yuan, the 160-page manuscript, hand-written during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was discovered in 2005 by a private collector in Nanjing. […] "The sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands is an historical fact, and I believe other evidence will continue to come out in the future," Liu said. ^ top ^

Human rights dialogue (Global Times)
2010-12-21
China and Australia held their 13th dialogue on human rights in Beijing Monday. The two sides exchanged views on each other's moves to protect human rights and international cooperation in human rights, according to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement. ^ top ^

China, EU reach "important consensus" at economic, trade talks: vice premier (Xinhua)
2010-12-22
China and the European Union (EU) reached an "important consensus" on high technology trade during economic and trade talks in Beijing Tuesday, said Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan. The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in high technology trade and convene the first meeting of the China-EU High-Tech Trade Working Group at an early date, Wang said. The two sides also agreed to improve trade and investment, innovation and customs cooperation, he said at a joint press conference after the third China-EU High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue. […] The two sides also reiterated the importance of stepping up coordination and cooperation in the G20 and other global economic governance platforms and jointly promoting the reform of international economic and financial rules and standards. […] The one-day talks were co-chaired by Wang and European Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquin Almunia, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn. "The EU remains strongly committed to its strategic partnership with China," Almunia said during the dialogue. Almunia said the EU would push forward trade and economic ties with China from a "strategic perspective", and advance the EU-China partnership of strategic cooperation. […] Officials from China's Ministry of Commerce, National Development and Reform Commission as well as Ministry of Industry and Information Technology participated in the dialogue. The EU was also represented at the talks by Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union Algirdas Semeta, Director General for Enterprise Heinz Zourek and Deputy Director-General for Information Society Antti Peltomaki. ^ top ^

Decade-old China-Africa Cooperation Forum yields abundant fruits (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-22
Jointly set up by China and Africa in October 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has made abundant achievements in the last decade, boosting the development of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership in an all-round and tangible way. The FOCAC, a collective consultation and dialogue mechanism between China and African countries, is the first of its kind in the history of China-Africa relations. It is a major future- oriented move taken by both sides in the context of South-South cooperation to seek common development in the new situation. Besides four ministerial meetings, the forum held a summit in November 2006 in Beijing, when Chinese President Hu Jintao and his African counterparts agreed unanimously to building "a new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges". It is an important milestone and beacon for the China-Africa relation development in the new times. The Chinese government has fully implemented the eight initiatives of assistance developed at a series of ministerial conferences and particularly at the Beijing Summit. Moreover, a new set of eight initiatives has been launched since the 4th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC last year. With a prosperous FOCAC, China-Africa relations registered considerable progress in all sectors. Over the past 10 years, mutual political trust had continued to deepen between China and Africa, practical cooperation had progressed on multiple fronts and exchanges and mutual learning had intensified, noted Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, addressing a seminar marking the 10th anniversary of FOCAC last month in Pretoria, South Africa. ^ top ^

China hits back at Vatican over bishops' meeting (SCMP)
2010-12-23
China fired a fierce broadside at the Vatican yesterday, slamming its criticism of the country's state-sanctioned Catholic church, which is not recognised by the pope, as "imprudent" and "dangerous". The comments from China's State Administration for Religious Affairs came after the Vatican accused Beijing of "unacceptable and hostile acts", following a high-level meeting earlier this month of state-approved bishops. […] "The Vatican's position is well-known. It works to promote political ideas under the pretext of religious belief, which is very dangerous and will seriously harm the healthy development of Chinese Catholicism in China." […] Last week, the Vatican said both incidents "unilaterally damaged the dialogue and climate of trust that had been established" between the Holy See and China. The Vatican said the meeting was "imposed on numerous bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful", describing China's "persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens' lives" as "a sign of fear and weakness". While the Holy See reaffirmed its "own wish to dialogue honestly", it said the meeting was a sign of the state church's "intransigent intolerance" and condemned the "grave violation of the human rights" of those forced to attend. The state religious body fired back yesterday saying that the Vatican's statement was a "brutal trampling of and contempt for" the will of the Chinese Catholic church. […] "China's Catholics have the right to elect their own bishops. The Vatican does not understand China's situation," association vice-president Liu Bainian said at the end of its bishops' meeting this month. The State Administration for Religious Affairs said China had acted with the "utmost sincerity" in talks in recent years to improve ties with the Holy See, but accused "some people at the Vatican" of disrupting those talks. ^ top ^

President Hu meets chief executives of HK, Macao SARs (Global Times)
2010-12-23
President Hu Jintao met Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chief Executive Donald Tsang and Macao SAR Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On in Beijing Wednesday when the two SAR government leaders reported their work to central authorities. Hu told Tsang Hong Kong's situation has improved in 2010 as its economy has enjoyed a robust recovery. In 2010, the Hong Kong SAR Government prioritized improving the people's livelihood, Hu added. In August, China's top legislature approved Hong Kong's constitutional reform package that amended the methods to be used in 2012 to select the region's chief executive and form the Legislative Council. Hu said the development of Hong Kong's political system took a step forward in line with the Basic Law of Hong Kong. The central government applauds Tsang's and the SAR government's efforts, Hu said, expressing hope that in the new year Hong Kong authorities will cope with changes in the international economic situation. Hu called on the Hong Kong SAR government to expand economic cooperation with the inland, especially the Pearl River Delta region, while making efforts to improve Hong Kong people's livelihood and the social stability. When meeting with Chui, Hu spoke highly of the Macao SAR government's work in 2010. Macao's economy recovered strongly this year, improving people's living standards and enhancing social stability, Hu said. Hu said he hopes the Macao SAR government works hard to strengthen government construction and promotes the diversified development of its economy in an appropriate way. Hu also said he hopes the SAR government improve people's livelihood in a way that lays a solid foundation for Macao's long-term development. Vice President Xi Jinping and other senior officials attended the meetings. ^ top ^

EU adopts different attitude from US on RMB issue (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-24
Unlike the United States, the European Union does not think the revaluation of yuan, China's currency, could resolve trade imbalances with China, said visiting vice president of the European Commission Joaquin Almunia in Beijing. Both the European Union and the United States have huge deficits in their trade with China. Some U.S. officials and Senators have repeatedly called for actions against China if China refuses to strengthen its exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. The European Union has been China's largest trading partner for six years, and this year China has replaced the United States to become the European Union's top trading partner. China's trade surplus with the European Union for the first 11 months of 2010 stands at 131 billion U.S. dollars. […] The European Union, however, tends to approach the issue of its trade deficit another way. E.U. companies have 13.9 billion euros of investments in China, which Almunia says is tiny. They want more investment opportunities. Now it seems that they have made progress in that regard. Investment is high on the agenda of the annual highest economic and trade dialogue, which has concluded in Beijing on Tuesday. A joint task force has made positive conclusion on the feasibility of a bilateral investment negotiations. And Alumia disclosed that China has agreed to open talks on market access, which has been one of the major concerns of European enterprises. Investment cooperation agreements are normally signed between two countries. The Lisbon Treaty, which was put into effect in December 2009, made it possible for such an agreement between China and the European Union as a bloc of economic entities. ^ top ^

South Africa joins BRIC as full member (Xinhua)
2010-12-24
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Thursday said BRIC has accepted South Africa as a full member of the group, which currently includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. Yang, during a phone conversation with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said Chinese President Hu Jintao would issue an invitation letter to South African President Jacob Zuma, inviting him to attend the third BRIC leaders' meeting to be held in Beijing next year. Yang said that China, as the current rotating chair of BRIC, believes South Africa's accession will promote the development of BRIC and enhance the cooperation of emerging market economies. On behalf of the South African government and President Zuma, Nkoana-Mashabane said, "I would like to express our sincere appreciation towards President Hu's invitation." South Africa is ready to step up communication and coordination with China and other BRIC members for mutually-beneficial cooperation, the minister added. Later in the day, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hailong forwarded to Bheki Langa, South African Ambassador to China, the letter by President Hu. ^ top ^

China, U.S. in close touch for President Hu's visit: FM (Xinhua)
2010-12-24
China and the United States are in close touch for Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to the U.S. in January, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday. Jiang said President Hu's visit will be a major event of the China-U.S. relations in the new era, and China hopes the visit could further push forward the positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-U.S. relations. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China plans 100 bln yuan investment in next five years to improve farmland (Global Times)
2010-12-20
The Chinese government plans to invest more than 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) over the next five years to improve farmland for the nation's food security, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources (MOLAR) on Friday. The investment aims to improve about 4 million hectares of land and replenish an additional 670,000 hectares of arable land in its major grain producers -- Hebei, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Shandong, Hubei provinces and Inner Mongolia and Guangxi autonomous regions. An extra grain production capacity of 10 million tones will be added to China's agriculture industry every year if the plan goes smoothly, according to MOLAR, which supervises land use in China. […] China began improving its farmland in terms of per unit grain production capacity by upgrading the ecological environment for cultivation beginning in 2008 due to food security concerns over shrinking arable land amid the country's rapid economic growth and urbanization. According to the MOLAR, China has thus far improved 4 million hectares of farmland and turned another 1.33 million hectares of reserve land into arable farmland, boosting its cultivated land productivity by about 10 to 20 percent. […] Food security remains one of the major concerns for Chinese leaders as the country's arable land continues to shrink amid rapid economic growth and urbanization while its population keeps expanding. The Chinese government urged provincial governments across the country to conserve a total of 120 million hectares of arable land till 2020, because farmland shrinkage is threatening the country's grain production. "Our country must hold fast to the bottom line of 120 million hectares of arable land area," Xu said. "This is the lifeline of food security for the 1.3 billion people.". ^ top ^

Top political advisor urges efforts to promote industrialization, urbanization, agricultural modernization (Xinhua)
2010-12-20
Top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin urged more efforts be made to promote industrialization, urbanization and agricultural modernization to achieve steady and fast economic development while maintaining social stability. Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks during his inspection tour of east China's Shandong Province from Friday to Sunday.

More efforts should be made to speed the transformation of the economic development pattern and promote the coordinated development of agricultural modernization, industrialization and urbanization, Jia said. Jia also urged efforts to step up transformation of agricultural development pattern, vigorously develop modern agriculture, attach great importance to grain production, and increase farmers' incomes through diversified channels, Jia said. He also called for more efforts to quicken the upgrading of traditional industries, develop strategic emerging industries, improve the core competitiveness of Chinese industries, and push forward energy savings, emission reductions and environmental protection. Jia said governments should strengthen public services and accelerate the establishment of cultural projects to meet people's daily-increasing spiritual and cultural needs. Jia also urged members of democratic parties and individuals without party affiliations to contribute their wisdom and resources to the nation's development. ^ top ^

China's top legislature opens bimonthly session, reads draft laws (Xinhua)
2010-12-21
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, opened its bimonthly session Monday to read a series of draft laws. During the six-day session, lawmakers are reading, for the second time, a draft amendment to the Criminal Law, a draft revision to the Law on Water and Soil Conservation, and a draft law on intangible cultural heritage. In the draft amendment to the Criminal Law, harsher punishment are to be handed down for principal offenders of organized crimes. Organized crime chiefs will face longer jail terms of up to 15 years and "core members" of organized crime gangs could be jailed for up to seven years, under the proposed amendment to the Criminal Law. The law currently stipulates that organizers, leaders and core members of crime gangs are all subject to jail terms ranging from three to 10 years. […] Under a proposed change to the Criminal Law, the death penalty will not be given to people aged 75 years or more at the time of trial except if they used exceptional cruelty when murdering another. […] According to the draft revision of the Water and Soil Conservation Law, local authorities must seek public and expert opinions before drawing up soil and water conservation plans. The draft also stipulates that penalties for the loss of soil and water must be included in land-use contracts reached with local governments. […] The draft further broadens the conditions for food safety crimes. It says those who produce and sell a harmful food product will be punished, even if poisonings fail to occur. On a different matter, according to the draft Law on Intangible Cultural Heritage, foreign organizations and individuals will have to obtain government approval before conducting surveys of intangible cultural heritage in China. Also, they will have to conduct surveys in cooperation with Chinese ICH research institutions. The top legislature conducted the first reading of the draft laws in August. The legislature will also examine three reports from the State Council on boosting economic and social development in ethnic minority areas, deepening reform of health care systems and stepping up the development of the service sector. Additionally, lawmakers will discuss a report from the NPC inspection team on the enforcement of the country's Energy Conservation Law. They will also consider a bill on a draft resolution to convene the fourth annual session of the 11th NPC. The session was presided over by Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. ^ top ^

Rural work conference focuses on threats to stable food supply (SCMP)
2010-12-22
The central government opened its annual rural work conference in Beijing yesterday to map out plans for development in agriculture and rural regions next year. Topping the agenda are how to deal with price fluctuations, guarantee a steady increase in harvests and improve rural infrastructure construction, particularly irrigation, experts said. This month's annual central economic work conference said the government's top economic issues for next year would include higher farm production and the development of modern agriculture. The details of how to achieve those goals should be decided at the rural work conference. […] Rural regions have suffered extreme weather this year - including droughts, floods and cold snaps - which reduced the summer harvest compared to last year's. The whole year's production still increased modestly over last year's because of a good autumn harvest, making 2010 the seventh consecutive year of increased grain output. […] In an article published on the website of the institute, Chen Xiwen, head of the State Council's office on rural policy, predicted an inevitable decline in the rate of self-sufficiency. To increase domestic output enough to offset the demand currently covered by imports, it would require more than 40 million hectares of arable land that China doesn't have, he said. Inadequate infrastructure is believed to be a major factor in the farm sector's vulnerability to the weather. Poor village irrigation has been cited as one reason why this spring's worst-in-a-century drought in the south did so much damage. Despite Beijing's ambitious investment in grand water projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, experts said grass-roots irrigation had been neglected. "The problem is that no one is willing to invest in these small reservoirs and ditches in villages," Xie Yang, deputy director of the rural economic institute under the Development Research Centre of the State Council, said. Beijing was currently spending money on building irrigation systems but not on maintenance, he said, and farmers were reluctant to invest in these things since the income brought in by farming was still very low. "It's as if one has the money to buy himself a coffin but can't afford to see a doctor," Xie said. ^ top ^

Ethnic minorities remain besieged by poverty (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-23
More than 6 million people of ethnic minority groups need to be relocated to provide them with basic living facilities of an adequate standard, a top official said on Wednesday, adding that ethnic minority regions in China are still confronted by poverty and a lack of infrastructure. The construction of infrastructure in ethnic minority regions remains "weak" and the country faces a "significant and ever-widening" gap between inland ethnic minority places and developed areas, Yang Jing, minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC), said in a report to the country's top legislature on Wednesday. The report said basic public facilities in ethnic minority regions, such as water, electricity and transportation, do not meet the basic needs of those who reside there. […] According to a report on rural poverty released by the SEAC in August, about 49.5 million ethnic minority people confront the problem of safe drinking water. Along with a lack of public facilities, ethnic minority regions are also challenged by poverty and severe environmental problems. The report said the average GDP per capita in ethnic minority places is only two-thirds of the national average in 2009. About 19.6 million rural ethnic minority people still live below the rural poverty line - an annual income of 1,196 yuan ($180). They represent half of the nation's rural impoverished population, which has increased for four consecutive years. […] To tackle the issues, Yang pledged to step up the pace of developing the infrastructure in ethnic minority regions and to spend more on education, medical services, poverty relief and environmental protection. Among the measures to be taken, the government will continue to provide development-oriented poverty relief, offer favorable low-interest loans to ethnic enterprises and include more ethnic minority regions in government-funded projects. Over the next five years, the government will give priority to poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas and hopes to eliminate "absolute poverty" by the end of 2015, it said. ^ top ^

Suburban farms plan to fight food price rises (SCMP)
2010-12-23
Beijing will increase farm production bases in key city suburbs over the next five years to offset the rising price of agricultural products, which coupled with a long supply chain have pushed up inflation recently. At an annual rural work conference that ended in the capital yesterday, policymakers decided to improve food supply capabilities on the outskirts of its four municipalities, provincial capitals and some other big cities. Five regions - home to 800 grain production counties and 44 locations growing bulk products such as cotton, sugar and hogs - would also see huge investment to push forward a modern agricultural system, state media reported. […] At the two-day conference, policymakers decided to greatly increase investment in agriculture and rural development, China Central Television reported. The central government spent 828 billion yuan (HK$965 billion) this year - up from an originally budgeted 818 billion yuan. Despite continuous growth in grain output in the past seven years, Chen warned that the level was difficult to sustain, as productivity has increasingly concentrated in the drier northern provinces. Last year 13 key grain production provinces, most of which can be found in the north, contributed 77 per cent of the country's total grain output. The mainland is also facing tight supply of some key commodities, including corn, cotton and sugar. In a statement posted on its website yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce said China would increase imports of sugar and meat, among other daily necessities, next year to replenish national reserves. The government's general guideline for rural work next year includes improvements in irrigation, food supply, farmers' income and urban-rural integration. […] Arable land accounts for just 12.5 per cent of the nation's total area. Compared with remote villages, the outskirts of towns and counties have better irrigation systems, but farmland in these areas is the first to disappear as urbanisation spreads. A big part of the increased investment next year would go to irrigation facilities in villages, Xie said. […] The conference expected Chinese farmer's average annual income to grow by 10 per cent to 5,800 yuan this year. ^ top ^

China worried about higher reliance on imported oil (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-24
It is predicted that in the year 2010, 55 percent of all crude oil in China would be imported from overseas, said the Beijing News Thursday, citing information from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). From January to November, China is estimated to have imported 218.45 million tons of crude oil, a 19.8-percent increase on a year-on-year basis. In the past 10 months, the country consumed 190 million tons of refined oil, an increase of 10.6 percent compared with the same period last year. And the country may go wilder on oil import in the next five years, since domestic consumption increases and the output cannot catch up, added Li. According to him, importing more and more oil will not pose a threat to the country's energy supply, as it is backed on its overseas acquisitions and constructions of pipelines in Russia and other nations. ^ top ^

Liu not the only Nobel ceremony no-show (SCMP)
2010-12-24
Imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo's empty chair was a powerful symbol at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony held in his honour. Few noticed another absence at Oslo's City Hall: Norwegian Trade Minister Trond Giske, who is in charge of talks on a groundbreaking trade pact with China. Giske skipped the December 10 ceremony - the highlight of the year in Norway - because he "was sick", his spokeswoman, Anne Cecilie Lund, said this week. The no-show did not raise eyebrows at the time because Norway was represented by the royal family and top members of the centre-left government, including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Store. Now questions are being raised about whether Giske's sudden illness and equally sudden recovery - he skipped just one day of work - was an attempt to appease the infuriated Chinese government and get trade talks back on track. The minister has refused to discuss his illness, but opposition politicians are beginning to seek answers. […]. But by Giske's absence, the government may have tried to send a signal that it does not want to jeopardise the trade ties. "If he had been there it could possibly cause him problems later in the trade negotiations," said Halvor Eifring, a China expert at the University of Oslo. Norwegian media have reported that trade negotiations stalled after the award was announced, though Norway's trade ministry insists they are ongoing at a lower level. Norway is hoping for slashed tariffs on exports of fish, machinery, chemicals and other products to the Chinese market. Last year, Norway's exports to China were valued at 16.1 billion kroner (HK$20.9 billion). Imports from China reached 32.6 billion kroner. A day before the ceremony, the state-owned China Oilfield Services (SEHK: 2883) announced a contract with Norway's Statoil for drilling in the North Sea. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Capital set to unveil plan to free it from the road to ruin (SCMP)
2010-12-23
Beijing municipal government will today announce controversial policies to tackle the capital's traffic congestion, after a week-long public consultation that drew hot debate on the internet and triggered a frenzy of car buying. Fearing the government may finally impose controls on car ownership, showrooms and registration offices were packed. Last week alone, the municipal traffic management bureau registered 30,000 new vehicles, double the average of the past several months. The capital already has more than 4.76 million registered vehicles. […] In a consultation paper released more than a week ago, the government proposed a range of measures, including capping the number of officials' vehicles, introducing "congestion fees" in peak hours, better integration of different modes of transport, better urban planning and even building tunnels under the busiest sections of roads. The government said most of the 3,000 public responses had been positive, with just 6 per cent against the proposals. But an online survey at the People's Daily's website showed 55 per cent of respondents considered the measures as not effective enough to solve congestion. […] Authorities agree that road design beside and near the ring roads is weak, making the situation worse. Li Xiaosong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Transport Commission, said roads took up only about 13 per cent of the city's total area, compared with other major cities in the world where roads covered as much as one-third of the total area. […] But the municipal government cannot do much about cars owned by central government agencies. […] Frustrations also mount as the authorities have not informed the public about the number of government cars in the capital. A law firm worker yesterday won applause from the cyber community after she posted on the internet a request form to Beijing authorities to disclose the number of their cars. […] In fact, not just mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai are suffering serious jams. Official data showed that on October 10, China's vehicle number reached 199 million. According to traffic management bureaus, at least 16 cities have more than one million vehicles on their roads. Ideas similar to Beijing's have been brought up by local authorities but have either met with strong resistance or turned out to be ineffective. […] The main answers lay in a city's overall planning, including things such as sustainable energy, conserving the environment and managing the population. "Another key thing is to change people's attitude towards travelling," Song added. Many rising cities were repeating the mistake of the bigger cities: promoting car sales before building roads. ^ top ^

Beijing to limit new car sales at 240,000 next year (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-24
China's capital city of Beijing is set to drastically cut the number of new car sales in 2011, and increase parking fees in central downtown areas, to curb rising traffic gridlock and make the city on a faster move. The Beijing municipal government department in charge of transport announced at a press conference on Thursday that only 240,000 new vehicle plates will be allowed next year. The number is much smaller than this year's total sales estimated to reach 700,000 by the end of December. An official from the department said that about 88 percent of the 240,000 new plates will be given to Beijing permanent residents, foreigners residing in Beijing, or people from other provinces and regions who have paid due taxes in the city for five consecutive years. The car plates will be given to individual applicants through lottery. Other plate numbers will be given to institutions and groups. […] To control traffic, Beijing will also strictly restrict vehicles with non-Beijing plates to enter within the Fifth Ring Road. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Ex-scholar named deputy regional head in restive Xinjiang (SCMP)
2010-12-24
A scholar-turned-official was named deputy government head of the restive Xinjiang region yesterday. Members of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress approved Huang Wei, 49, to succeed Yang Gang, 57, Xinhua reported. Huang was the vice-mayor of Beijing municipality before his posting to the Uygur- predominated Xinjiang. The central government has rolled out new policies on Xinjiang that emphasise accelerating economic and social development to catch up with other provinces, as well as fostering the region's long-term stability, after rioting in Urumqi, the regional capital, last year. […] Clashes between Han and ethnic Uygurs in Urumqi left nearly 200 dead, mostly Han Chinese, and more than 1,700 injured on July 5 last year. In April this year, the central government named Zhang Chunxian, an official with a relatively moderate image, to replace Wang Lequan, dubbed "the king of Xinjiang" for his iron-fisted rule in the region as the party chief. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Mainland, Taiwan negotiators sign agreement on medical, health care cooperation (Xinhua)
2010-12-22
Chinese mainland and Taiwan negotiators signed a medical and health care cooperation agreement in Taipei Tuesday in a move to jointly combat epidemics and ensure the quality of traditional Chinese medicine. The agreement covers medication, medical devices, cosmetics and health products. It aims to guarantee the health of people on both sides of the Strait and promote cross-Strait medical exchanges. The agreement includes: timely notification of infectious disease; strengthened disease prevention measures and handling of major epidemics; enhanced cooperation in pharmaceutical research and safety management; exchange in traditional Chinese medicine research and quality guarantees; and cooperation in handling medical emergencies. Some 90 percent of the traditional Chinese medicine used in Taiwan comes from the mainland. The agreement was inked at talks between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which are the two bodies authorized to handle cross-Strait affairs. ARATS President Chen Yunlin said cross-Strait medical cooperation is urgently needed "given the increasing number of people and goods traveling across the Strait." SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung said the agreement, together with the previously signed farm product inspection and quarantine agreement and a food safety deal, form a safety net across the Strait. ^ top ^

Way ahead looks rough for next cross-strait talks (SCMP)
2010-12-23
Although three days of talks between Beijing and Taipei yielded an agreement on medical co-operation, the more important investment protection pact was left unsigned. And Chen Yunlin, the mainland's top negotiator in these talks, acknowledged yesterday that the road ahead would be bumpy for the two sides. […] Chen led a group of senior officials in talks with his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung, in Taipei on Tuesday. Both sides said later that the investment protection agreement became bogged down because of the complexity and sensitivity of some of the terms and issues. One negotiator said the mainland was concerned about the island's demand to bring in international arbitrators to settle disputes, a move that would elevate Taipei's sovereign status. And Taiwan was hesitant about the mainland's demand that restrictions on mainland investments on the island be lifted. Although both Chiang and Chen stressed that they expected the investment protection agreement would be signed during the next round of talks, analysts were doubtful. […] Analysts said the two sides had already signed 15 agreements, including the medical co-operation pact on Tuesday, […] Those agreements signed by Beijing were all non-political, involving merely cross-strait tourism, transport, economic, health, and crime-fighting co-operation. "But the time has come for the two sides to deal with tougher issues, which take time to ponder," Tsai said. […] Besides making the investment protection pact a major item for the next round of talks, the two sides also agreed on Tuesday to tackle the highly complex agreements on trade in goods and services - two follow-up issues after they had signed the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement in June. The pro-independence camp, led by the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, continued to criticise Ma's mainland engagement policy and challenge the effectiveness of the 15 signed agreements, saying some of them were just economic sweeteners to attract votes. ^ top ^

 

Economy

They can't print money fast enough, the price hounds cry (SCMP)
2010-12-20
A media report about efforts by eight mainland banknote-printing firms to hire more workers has outraged netizens who took it as evidence of spiralling inflation. The report made it clear that the printers were hiring more school graduates to get away from a tradition of mostly hiring well-connected people. But netizens could not help connecting the hiring with inflation, which many believe is being caused by excess money supply. […] The recruitment was related to the growth in money supply but was not the key reason, the manager was quoted as saying. The scale of recruitment this year was higher than for the past five or six years, the manager said, because the firm needed "More professional and well-skilled technicians". For that reason, it had a new policy of recruiting people from outside "instead of relying on internal references only". Insiders have long filled vacancies in the banknote-printing industry, with almost all staff hired based on recommendations by leaders or government units. Those hired included the offspring of retired workers. Despite the manager's explanation, thousands of internet users still saw the recruitment as evidence of inflation. "First we didn't have enough note codes for the renminbi, and now we lack workers to print banknotes," one internet user wrote on 163.com. […] Some people even joked that the central government should use gold and silver ingots as currency again. ^ top ^

China pledges to curb excessive growth in land price (Xinhua)
2010-12-20
China's land regulators urged local land authorities late Sunday to take concrete measures against excessive growth in the country's land prices in some Chinese cities and crack down on illegal behavior, such as land hoarding, to ensure the implementation of the government's cooling measures on the property market. The Ministry of Land and Resources (MOLAR) said in a statement on its web site that the recently seen high prices in land sales in some Chinese cities had raised social concerns, which local land authorities should pay considerable attention to, and take actions to curb the rapid growth in land prices. According to the MOLAR, cities and counties that had not provided more than 70 percent of the total land supply this year to shantytown renovation, the construction of affordable homes and medium-priced commercial housing, should not provide land for high-end housing for the rest of this year. Further, for land sales with over 50 percent premium rate or record high prices, local governments should report to provincial land authorities and the MOLAR within two working days after the deal is closed. The procedures of supplying land should also be strictly conducted, and there should never be any change in the use of land that is for the construction of affordable housing, said the statement. ^ top ^

Govt to outline 2011 fiscal deficit target (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-21
China is planning to outline a fiscal deficit of 900 billion yuan ($135 billion) for next year, 150 billion yuan less than this year's target, according to a report in the Beijing-based Century Weekly Magazine on Monday. The central government's fiscal deficit will decrease to 700 billion, while debt issued by central authorities for local governments will be maintained at 200 billion yuan, the magazine cited an anonymous source close to the Ministry of Finance as saying. The magazine said that before the plan is passed at the annual national legislative session in March, the government might fine-tune the numbers in accordance with changes in the domestic economic situation and the level of recovery of major world economies. […] In March, the nation's leaders outlined an "appropriate" deficit of 1.05 trillion yuan for this year, roughly 2.8 percent of GDP, and an increase of about 100 billion yuan from last year. The total deficit consists of 850 billion yuan in central government deficit, and 200 billion yuan in local government bonds, which will be included in local government budgets. […] Despite a shrinking deficit in 2011, the fiscal policy is still undoubtedly a "proactive" one, said China formally decided in early December to adopt a proactive fiscal policy and a "prudent" monetary policy for 2011. […] Analysts said greater-than-expected fiscal revenue this year will also contribute to a smaller deficit in 2011. Between January and November, China's fiscal revenue increased by 21.1 percent year-on-year to more than 7.67 trillion yuan, exceeding whole-year revenue in 2008 and 2009. Over the same period, fiscal expenditure rose by 27.3 percent to nearly 7.16 trillion yuan, according to the Ministry of Finance. Liu predicted that the actual deficit for 2010 will be more than 1 percent of GDP. Although the proactive policy will be maintained, it will still be very different from 2009 and 2010, when the government took an unusually loose fiscal stance to stimulate economic growth after the global financial crisis affected the nation, said Lu Zhengwei, chief economist with the Industrial Bank. He added that the government's spending focus for next year will be on promoting economic restructuring, instead of guaranteeing the growth rate. […]. ^ top ^

China targets 10% foreign trade growth in 2011 (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-24
China has set targets of 10 percent growth both in foreign trade and non-financial overseas direct investment in 2011, a senior commerce official said Wednesday. Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, made the remarks at a national commerce work conference. Commerce Minister Chen Deming told the conference that China will promote the steady growth in exports in 2011, keep foreign trade policy basically stable, and explore emerging markets while restricting the export of high polluting, high energy-consuming and resource-consuming products. The country will also increase imports next year, simplify import procedures and promote balanced trade, Chen said. Further, China will increase imports of advanced equipment and key components to assist with the transformation of the economic development pattern and industrial upgrading. Chen added that China will expand import channels of bulk commodities including grain and sugar to ease domestic supply shortages. The Ministry of Commerce forecast China's 2010 foreign trade might grow more than 30 percent year on year to 2.9 trillion U.S. dollars. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

China calls for calm as UN meets (People's Daily Online)
2010-12-20
As tension on the Korean Peninsula increased ahead of scheduled military drills by the Republic of Korea (ROK), China and Russia urged the two Koreas to show restraint as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation late on Sunday. The session follows a request by Russia after Seoul on Sunday reaffirmed its determination to go ahead with its planned live-fire drills this week off a border island in the Yellow Sea that was shelled last month by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Amid growing regional tension, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged both Pyongyang and Seoul to keep calm, open dialogue and not to take any steps that might escalate the situation. He made the comments in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Saturday night. Beijing extended its diplomatic efforts to contain the situation over the weekend as two more senior diplomats -- Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu -- made public calls for restraint on Saturday. […] Yang told his Russian counterpart that Beijing would work together with Moscow to "strive to avoid the situation deteriorating out of control". The ROK had planned to conduct live-fire drills on Dec 18-21 off the island of Yeonpyeong. The drills are similar to ones held last month before the island was shelled by the DPRK and four people were killed. But the drills were called off on Saturday because of bad weather and ROK authorities vowed to commence them on Monday or Tuesday. Pyongyang had made it clear during the weekend that the situation on the Korean Peninsula would "explode" if Seoul goes ahead with the plan. […] Meanwhile, a flurry of regional diplomacy is under way, with Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, visiting the DPRK. […]. ^ top ^

DPRK says 'feel no need' to react to South Korean artillery drill (Global Times)
2010-12-21
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Monday that it did not "feel any need" to react against the South Korea's artillery drill off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, state media reported. "South Korea's military provocation was a product of their cunning scenario to deliberately lead the DPRK army's counteraction to driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war and thus save the U.S. Asia policy and strategy toward the DPRK from bankruptcy," the official KCNA news agency quoted a statement from the DPRK's Army Supreme Command as saying. The drill was also aimed at saving the face of the present South Korean authorities in a ruling crisis, the statement said. This was "nothing but a childish play" without an opponent and South Korea was "firing shells left unused during the military provocation on Nov. 23," it added. The statement also called on the world to recognize "who is the real supporter of peace and who is the real provocateur of a war." The exchange of artillery fire on Nov. 23 between South Korea and the DPRK, which killed four people, sent tensions soaring on the peninsula. South Korea staged an artillery drill in the sensitive area of Yonphyong Island off the west coast earlier on Monday. DPRK army dealt no counterattack to the drill. ^ top ^

Change tack on Korea, experts urge Beijing (SCMP)
2010-12-22
China yesterday urged close ally North Korea to follow though on its offer to allow UN nuclear inspectors to return. But as hopes rose that the worst crisis on the Korean Peninsula in years may ease, there were calls from Chinese diplomatic and military think tanks for Beijing to change the way it handles Pyongyang to avoid further embarrassment. "China's Korea policy is a failure, which should be reviewed," said Professor Jin Canrong, associate dean of Renmin University's school of international relations. "North Korea has proved itself to be a troublemaker and frequently acted to distract China's foreign policy," Jin said. […] China yesterday urged its communist ally to allow UN nuclear monitors into the country to reduce international tensions. "North Korea has the right to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but also at the same time must allow IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors in," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in Beijing. […] The offer by North Korea to let the UN nuclear inspectors back in was announced by US troubleshooter Bill Richardson on Monday. The New Mexico governor said before leaving Pyongyang for Beijing that North Korea had agreed to readmit the inspectors and to negotiate the sale to a third party, possibly South Korea, of nuclear fuel rods - from which plutonium can be taken to make bombs. […] Chinese analysts said Beijing had played an important role in reducing tensions. "It is surely a result of Chinese efforts," Wang Xinsheng, a Peking University historian specialising in northeast Asia said. No one but Beijing could play even a limited role in persuading the North to refrain from hostilities, he said, and Chinese officials had been working hard over the past few days to at least appear to be mediating in the crisis. […] There are signs that Chinese officials are increasingly frustrated by Pyongyang's belligerence following a series of provocative acts this year, although they have refrained from publicly criticising Kim. […] The frustrations are shared by the PLA. Hawkish Major General Luo Yuan described North Korea's defence policy as one of "brinkmanship", in which it "holds the South and Japan hostage". In an interview with the People's Daily website yesterday, Luo, the deputy secretary general of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, said any war on the peninsula would be a disaster for China's national security and economic development. A Chinese academic speaking on condition of anonymity said: "North Korea is now not an asset to China but a negative. Still, the government is investing heavily in it, which does not serve them, and might hurt China's national interest." […]. ^ top ^

N.Korea warns of 'sacred war' (Global Times)
2010-12-24
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula continued to boil over Thursday as South Korea kicked off its largest air and ground military drills of the year and Pyongyang renewed its nuclear threat.

"The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK are getting fully prepared to launch a sacred war of justice of Korean style, based on the nuclear deterrent, at anytime necessary to cope with the enemies' actions deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency quoted the North's minister of the People's Armed Forces, Kim Young-chun, as saying. […]However, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that a strong counter against the North's attacks was the best way to maintain peace. […] Kim's comments changed the dimension of Pyongyang's statement Monday that provocations from Seoul were "not worth reacting to." "Pyongyang's strong reaction is not unexpected," Lü Chao, director of the Korean Research Center at China's Lia-oning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. "A larger-scale military conflict in the Korean Peninsula might break out if Seoul continues to hold more military exercises." "The South Korean government has been trying to ease public pressure recently since the military was slammed for its slow response after the Yeonpyeong attack. The newly appointed South Korean military officials might also hope to show their stronger positions than their predecessors," Lü said. "But I don't think North Korea will bow to such military pressure.". ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Last Year's Winter May Repeat, Nema Warns (UB Post)
2010-12-21
Similar winter conditions have furnished nationwide as it was in 2010 winter, alerting the probability of repeat of natural disaster of dzud, warns the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). […] Authorities of at-risk provinces together with professional agencies and World Vision have worked out a plan on early alert of dzud threat and organize relevant trainings. The Government has ordered to place required fodder and other supplies to needed areas immediately because roads and mountain passes might be blocked. NEMA jointly with the UNDP Mongolia has launched a rapid assessment of wintering in soums.
“Up to 80cm of snow fell in some northern parts of the province” said Tserenjav, Governor of Khuvsgul Province. “Blocked mountain passes of Ultiin and Tsagaan Burgastai were opened up with the help of local people. The situation is likely to get worse if more snow falls in northern territory of the province” he added. Last winter, dzud disaster struck 97.5 thousand herders families of 175 soums of 18 provinces of the country, killing over 9.7 million heads of livestock nationwide. Total of loss caused to the country's economy crossed MNT526079,0 billion. As result of the last dzud, 8711 herding families lost their sources of livelihood, 32576 herders lost 50% of their livestock's. MNT26.2 billion was spent for efforts to overcome dzud disaster last year. ^ top ^

Mongolia – First Asian Country to Sign PAC with EU (UB Post)
2010-12-23
A Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (PAC) between the European Community and its Member States and Mongolia is signed in Ulaanbaatar on December 20. The signatories were B.Bolor, Deputy Foreign Minister of Mongolia and Franz Jessen, Head of Unit, DG External Relations, European Commission, who heads the visiting EU Delegation. “Today we witness a historically important event for bilateral relationships between Mongolia and European Union” said Prime Minister of Mongolia Batbold Sukhbaatar, who was presence at the signing ceremony. “The newly-signed document will bring bilateral cooperation into a new level of development” he underlined. Mongolia becomes the first Asian state to sign the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation with European Union. After signing the document, the sides held talks on withdrawal of Mongolia from the list of countries with non-market economy. The EU delegation handed over a special questionnaire prepared by European Commission in relations to this matter. Negotiations on PAC were first launched in September 2009 in Ulaanbaatar. ^ top ^

Debt to be Reduced to Zero (Montsame)
2010-12-23
The cabinet meeting held Wednesday approved a Mongolia-Russia inter-governmental agreement on regulation of financial responsibility of Mongolia to the Russian Federation (RF) which was signed December 14, 2010 in Moscow, Russia. The Minister of Foreign Affairs G.Zandanshatar has been obliged to give a report to the Russian side about Mongolia's ensuring rules of validating the agreement. In accordance with the agreement, the cabinet has suggested L.Purevdorj, a president of the Bank of Mongolia, to establish an agreement on technical rule and keeping settlement account between the Bank of Mongolia and the "Development and foreign economic activity bank" Russia's state corporation. In order to collect a half of authorized capital of the "Mongolrostsvetmet" Mongolia-Russia joint venture for Mongolian side, the former Soviet Union gave a loan to Mongolia. As of the year 2010, a balance of the debt of Mongolia to Russia was 163.7 million convertible rubles according to Russia-made account. In addition to it, a balance account, which had been opened for the barter between Mongolia and Russia, reached 10.4 million clearing U.S dollars but the sides had not been tackling the debt. As results of several meetings and talks on tackling the debt issue, the financial ministers of the two countries signed an inter-governmental agreement on annulling balances of the debts during the official visit of Mongolia's Premier to Russia December 13-16, 2010. Accordingly, Russian side annulled 97.8 per cent of the debt which stood at USD 174.2. Thus, Mongolia will pay USD 3.8 million within 30 days from the first day of the agreement. The money has been placed in the state budget for 2011. ^ top ^

Data Show Economy is Improving (News.mn)
2010-12-23
The National Statistics Office has released figures for key indices in several social and economic sectors. The national consumer price index rose 1.5 percent over the previous month, 10.3 percent over the end of 2009, and 11.1 percent over November last year. Of the 1,192,700 people aged 15 and above and fit for work, 53.4 percent are men. Of the total, 103,100 were unemployed, of whom 59,500 were male. The percentage of unemployment was 8.6 nationwide, a fall of 1.9 percent, and 10.5 percent in Ulaanbaatar, 3.1 percent less than in 2009. The number of registered job hunters at the end of November was 2.2 percent more than in 2009. The General Government Budget showed a surplus of MNT 71.0 billion at the end of November. The current account surplus stood at MNT 669.0 billion. Tax revenue was MNT 916.7 billion or 65.3 per cent more than in 2009. Receipts from the windfall profit tax rose MNT 221.5 billion or 250 percent, from corporate income tax MNT155.6 billion or 84.9 percent, from value added tax MNT209.8 billion or 72.8 percent, and from excise tax MNT97.9 billion or 67.5 percent. Industrial output rose 12.0 percent in the first 11 months of 2010. The total turnover of trade with 130 countries in the first 11 months of 2010 reached USD 5,421.8 million, a rise of 51.0 percent. Exports accounted for USD 2,550.6 million of this, showing an increase of 52.0 percent, while imports amounted to USD 2,871.1 million, rising 50.2 percent. External trade balance deficit stood at USD 320.5 million, rising 37.1 percent. ^ top ^

 

Gabrielle Tschopp
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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