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
  24-28.1.11, No. 356  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

US ties shine, bumps linger (Global Times)
2011-01-24
Calling President Hu Jintao's recently concluded trip to the United States a fruitful diplomatic maneuver, officials and analysts called on the world's two biggest economies to cement their burgeoning mutual trust, as they are almost certain to run into future disagreements. Offering an analysis of the trip, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said over the weekend that Hu and US President Barack Obama "harvested rich fruit from their extensive cooperation, retained effective communication and coordination on major regional and global issues, brought tangible benefits to the two peoples, and made great contributions to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and beyond." However, Yang offered a cautious tone, adding that with the China-US relationship forging ahead with increasing momentum, it is inevitable that both sides will encounter differences and disputes. Yang noted that as the two nations share increasingly common interests and responsibilities, visible differences remain on certain issues. This is unavoidable, he said, due to the varying cultures, social systems and development levels. [...] The Japanese Asahi Shimbun said Saturday in an editorial that the two nations are becoming more and more dependent on each other, adding that they must "look to 30 years ahead and gather trust as superpowers in an age of globalization." But the Times of India voiced its concerns regarding the willingness of Beijing and Washington to strengthen consultations on major issues concerning regional issues, saying such a move "might generate negative externalities for India in terms of its relationship with China." "This outcome would have a ripple effect across Asia, perhaps encouraging countries to perceive India as a second-rate power in its own neighborhood," it said. The Korean Times also noted Sunday that the China-US summit saw no progress made on Korean Peninsula issue, disappointing the analysts who had anticipated historic results from the "summit of the century." The report said, "It would have been far better, of course, had the two giants denounced North Korea for its military provocation and nuclearization and put greater pressure on Pyongyang to stop" such actions. ^ top ^

S.Africa's entry to BRIC beneficial: envoy (Global Times)
2011-01-24
An invitation given to South Africa by the BRIC bloc of nations to join their ranks will serve to create a mutually beneficial and strategic relationship, South Africa's ambassador to China told the Global Times in a recent interview. "BRIC's acceptance of South Africa as a full member is a recognition of the advances the country has made in economic construction, as well as of the constructive role South Africa has played in some key issues affecting the world," Bheki Langa said Thursday. The BRIC nations comprised Brazil, Russia, India and China, but will now be known as BRICS after last month's invitation of South Africa, which has the largest economy in Africa. Langa said South Africa's joining of the bloc also means that his country is being globally recognized as the "gateway" to the African continent, which has a potential market of 1 billion people and is the source of new economic growth. [...]. However, he stressed that, as the most powerful country in Africa, South Africa could help open up opportunities on the African continent, and through that the country could complete its economic integration on the continent. Langa said 90 percent of the trade to Africa goes via the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Aspirations with China Langa said he believes that relations between China and South Africa, with their large developing economies, are set to become closer with South Africa becoming a full member of the bloc. "For South Africa, China is not only the No. 1 trade partner, it is indeed a key strategic partner." [...] "Following the successful state visit by President Jacob Zuma to China last year, the two countries have agreed to promote balanced and stable trade and investment between each other," Langa said. Langa noted that the Chinese government is pushing for more imports from South Africa, especially of value-added products. "We also would like to see more Chinese companies and investors invest in South Africa," he said.China and South Africa also have a lot of experience they could offer each other, Langa said, noting that one of the experiences they are learning in China is socialism with Chinese characteristics. [...] African countries have become independent and can make their own decisions, so it is meaningless for outsiders to accuse China of launching neocolonialism in Africa, Langa said. "The rise of China indicates that the world is now returning to its historical economic powers and trade patterns.". ^ top ^

Russia, China hold fifth round of strategic security talks (Xinhua)
2011-01-25
China and Russia held the fifth round of strategic security talks here Monday, pledging more joint efforts to strengthen national, regional and international security. The Chinese delegation, led by Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, was visiting Russia at the invitation of Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. During the talks, the two parties exchanged views on major international issues and the further development of strategic partnership and interaction between Russia and China. Both sides agreed that their close bilateral cooperation on global issues has helped maintain regional and world peace, safety and stability. The two countries acknowledged that in order to further enhance strategic mutual trust and improve the security situation around the global, the two sides should chart the development of Sino- Russian relations for the next 10 years from a strategic and comprehensive perspective. As long-time strategic partners, Russia and China will adhere to the principles of mutual trust, win-win cooperation and good neighborliness while conducting strategic coordination, the two sides pledged. The fourth round of Sino-Russian security consultations took place in Beijing in December 2009, when Russia and China signed a protocol on cooperation in the strategic security sphere. The next round of talks is scheduled to be held later this year in China. ^ top ^

FM: China to deepen interconnection, co-op with ASEAN countries (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-26
At the beginning of 2011 and the second decade of the 21st century, it has great significance to hold China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) foreign ministers' meeting, said Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, on Tuesday. Yang spoke highly of the significance of China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, which was held on Tuesday in Kunming, capital city of southwestern China's Yunnan Province, during an interview on the consensus reached by the meeting and its meaning. Today's discussion focused on how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dialogue between China and ASEAN, how to strengthen interconnection through road and sea routes transportation and construction of better telecommunication and other infrastructure establishment, how to fully exploit the geographic and complementary advantages to promote mutually beneficial cooperation, and how to further expand the cooperation on important regional and global issues. Yang stressed that both sides pledged to further improve coordination and promote interconnection. China will not only strengthen interconnection with the ASEAN neighbors bordering with the land, but also with ASEAN countries across the sea such as Brunei, the Philippines and Indonesia. […] Yang noted that the two sides will hold a series of important meetings this year, and believed that the friendly and mutually beneficial relations between China and ASEAN will surely achieve greater development in the new decade. More such informal talks, which Yang said are very important, are likely in the future. ^ top ^

China willing to deepen pragmatic cooperation with Mongolia: official (Xinhua)
2011-01-26
China hopes to promote political mutual trust and deepen pragmatic cooperation with Mongolia, a senior Chinese official said here Tuesday. Yan Junqi, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, made the remarks when meeting with Mongolian Parliament Speaker Damdin Demberel and Prime Minister Batbold Sukhbaatar on the sidelines of the 19th Annual Meeting of Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum. She said China and Mongolia are friendly neighbors and important cooperation partners, adding that China is willing to work together with Mongolia to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation and common development so as to bring more benefits to both sides and the two peoples. Demberel and Batbold said that consolidating and promoting the good-neighborliness and friendly cooperation with China is one of the priorities of Mongolia's foreign policy. They added Mongolia is willing to enhance high-level exchanges with China and deepen their pragmatic cooperation in various fields to bring bilateral ties between the two countries to a higher level. The 19th Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum opened on Monday in Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital. The forum was established in Tokyo in 1993. Its objective is to promote greater regional identification and cooperation among national parliamentarians in the Asia-Pacific region. ^ top ^

South Africa promotes business with China (China Daily)
2011-01-26
To ignore China would be a „fundamental mistake" for any business seeking growth in the world, the founder of a consultancy company said in Johannesburg Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 as South Africa is preparing to host the first China-South Africa business forum. Beijing Axis (BA) group managing director Kobus van der Wath said a China-South Africa business forum is being prepared, which aimed at assisting South African and African business to expand trade relations with China. The forum, with a theme "Can South Africa and Africa take the risk and ignore the Chinese", which is going to held next month, will address key trade issues that include unlocking opportunities in the resource sector, strategic considerations and business dynamics in Asia and the effects of culture on business. […] He said following 13 years of diplomatic ties it is becoming more evident that trade between China and South Africa is gaining momentum and companies that may have ignored this growing trade relationship in the past, are now forced to recognize the potential for doing business with China. […] He said in 2009, China surpassed the United States, to become South Africa's largest export destination. This emanated from major exports in raw materials to fuel the booming Chinese economy. "To ignore China would be a fundamental mistake for any business seeking growth in a world limited with expansion opportunities as a result of the economic meltdown in recent years in developed markets. China provides the platform to harness increased trade, develop new markets as well as given China's growing household and industrial consumption, the demand for exports from South Africa and Africa is rising rapidly," he said. […] Trade between China and South Africa reached $16 billion in 2009 and is expected to grow year on year, with the signing of various cooperation deals in August 2010 by South Africa President Jacob Zuma during his state visit to China. These deals focus on the mineral resources sector, railway development, construction industry, the mining sector and power transmission and nuclear power. […] South Africa and China are both members of BRICS an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, a forum that provides its members with opportunities to network and to initiate economic arrangements. Under this arrangement, South Africa is expected to push for the 15-nations of the Southern African Development Community to integrate trade and policies with the other members. ^ top ^

China hopes to see early consensus between north, south Sudan on outstanding issues (Xinhua)
2011-01-27
China on Wednesday welcomed the smooth development of the south Sudan referendum, voicing its hope that the parties in south and north Sudan could reach a consensus at an early date on the outstanding issues through dialogue and consultations. Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the United Nations, made the statement in an interview with Xinhua after he spoke at the UN Security Council about the Chinese stance on the situation of Sudan. [...] "China welcomes the smooth development of the south Sudan referendum, this is the result of the joint efforts of north and south Sudan and the international community," Li said. "At present, priority should be given to the following work: First, continuous efforts should be made to fully maintain peace and stability in Sudan to enable the country to realize its long- term peace, stability and development," he said. "Second, efforts should be made to encourage the parties in south and north Sudan to continue their efforts for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), particularly for a consensus at an early date on the outstanding issues." The referendum, with its week-long polling period ending on Jan. 15, will determine whether south Sudan remains a part of Sudan or becomes independent, in accordance with the 2005 CPA that ended a long-running north-south civil war. The referendum's preliminary results are expected to be announced by Feb. 2, and depending on whether appeals are launched in the courts, the final result will be declared on Feb. 7 or 14. ^ top ^

China to be hot topic at Davos Annual Meeting 2011 (Xinhua)
2011-01-27
The World Economic Forum (WEF) will kick off its five-day annual meeting for 2011 in the Swiss town Davos on Wednesday, and China is expected to figure prominently this year. This year's WEF theme is "Shared Norms for the New Reality." According to this year's program, there will be four separate sessions exclusively on China-related topics, more than in previous years, including "Insights on China," "The Future of Chinese Enterprise," "China's Impact on Global Trade and Growth" and "New Realities of Modern China." The session on "Insights on China" will take place during the first 75 minutes after the Annual Meeting kicks off on Wednesday, in which four Chinese representatives will discuss China's innovation policies, legal reform, the future of real estate and the impact of media, and to answer the question of "how will political priorities, economic realities and business issues shape China's growth and social dynamics?" A particularly special session for this year's Annual Meeting is on "China's Impact on Global Trade and Growth" as the year 2011 marks a decade since China joined the World Trade Organization. Chen Deming, China's commerce minister, and Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO, will hold talks Thursday on topics such as China's export growth model and the future of multilateral trade. [...] Other Chinese officials and entrepreneurs like Liu Mingkang, chairman of China Banking Regulatory Commission, Wang Jianzhou, president of China Mobile Communications Corporation, and Liu Chuanzhi, chairman of the Board of Lenovo Group, will also participate in forums of a wide range of topics concerning China and the global economy. According to the WEF, the number of Chinese delegates to the Davos Annual Meeting this year has gone up five-fold since a decade ago, hitting a new record high. "It's a reflection of the accelerated leadership of China and India in the global and economic and intellectual discussions globally," said Robert Greenhill, the WEF's chief business officer. ^ top ^

Now the US and China face the nitty-gritty (SCMP)
2011-01-28
The pleasantries have been exchanged, now the real challenges will begin. The Chinese and American leaders were on their best behaviour during President Hu Jintao's state visit to the US last week. They put relations back on a cordial footing after a year of disputes in areas from trade and currency policy to military and regional security. But American analysts said that while China was pleased with the joint statement incorporating the term "co-operative partnership", the US was more reserved and would continue to judge China's sincerity through its actions. Jobs and the economy were Barack Obama's top concerns, but it was issues such as North Korea and human rights that would really test the relationship in the long run, they said. Arms sales to Taiwan will be China's key test for the US. On the North Korea issue, reports have emerged that Obama put pressure on Hu during their private dinner, saying the US might station more troops in South Korea if China did not work harder to rein in its fellow communists in Pyongyang. [...] Some progress has been seen on the Korean Peninsula since the summit. North Korea has proposed - and South Korea has agreed to - high-level exchanges that might result in a meeting of defence chiefs. [...] Arms sales to Taiwan, on the other hand, were described by Paal as a problem of "one choice and three compulsions". If China decided to increase military pressure on Taiwan, as it was doing now with a continued build-up of missiles, aircraft and other offensive capabilities opposite Taiwan, then Taiwan's leader would be compelled to seek arms from the US. The US would be compelled to sell them for political and legal reasons and China would be compelled to criticise such sales. [...] Despite improved political relations and closer economic ties between China and Taiwan, Swaine said "you don't have the development of serious confidence-building measures that could really result in the reduction of military deployments across the Taiwan Strait". [...] In the absence of such reductions, US arms sales were likely to continue, further upsetting China. [...] Another challenge was China's growing naval reach in the western Pacific, with strategic fault lines opening up between China and the US in the East China and South China seas last year. "The US tends to believe that stability in the western Pacific rests to a certain extent on US maritime predominance... and China does not entirely accept that argument," Swaine said.[...] The US Congress pressed Hu hard on human rights issues when he was in Washington and such ideological differences will make deepening friendship difficult. In Obama's State of the Union Address on Wednesday he made a subtle comparison of the governance systems in China and the US, saying that while Americans argue about everything "some countries don't have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don't want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn't get written". [...] But many US experts lauded the joint statement's commitment to high-level exchanges. US Vice-President Joseph Biden will visit China this year and Vice-President Xi Jinping will make a trip to the US. [...]. ^ top ^

Myanmar, China sign agreements on bank loans (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-28
The Ministry of Finance and Revenue of Myanmar and the Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) of China Thursday signed some agreements on bank loans, the state radio and television reported in a night broadcast. The agreements were signed by Myanmar Deputy Minister of Finance and Revenue U Hla Thein Swe and Vice President of the China Exim Bank Zhu Xinqing, and was witnessed by First Secretary of the State peace and Development Council Thiha Thura U Tin Aung Myint Oo and Chinese Ambassador Li Junhua. The agreements include the one on renminbi loan for mutually beneficial cooperation and a main agreement between the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Chinese bank on the loan. The other agreement is the purchaser's loan agreement concerning the construction project-2 of Nay Pyi Taw international Airport. ^ top ^

Chinese, French foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations (Xinhua)
2011-01-28
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi discussed bilateral relations with his French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie during a telephone conversation on Thursday. In their conversation, Yang and Alliot-Marie unanimously agreed that positive achievements have been made in various fields of cooperation between China and France over the past year. In the new year, steps will be taken to further implement the consensus reached between leaders of the two countries to promote new and greater development of China-France relations, the two foreign ministers agreed. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China issues new rules to ease tensions over forced demolition (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-24
China has issued new rules to put an end to forced demolitions in cities without due process and fair compensation, amid an increasing number of deadly property disputes occurring due to the country's fast urbanization process. China's State Council, or Cabinet, published the regulation on expropriation and compensation of houses on state-owned lands on Friday. The new regulation took effect upon its being issued. The regulation targets disputes over house expropriation and demolition and strives to give equal consideration to both public interests and property owners' individual rights, according to a statement jointly issued by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on Saturday. No violence or coercion could be employed to force the homeowners to leave. Nor could measures, such as illegally cutting water and power supplies, be used in the relocation work, the regulation said. [...] The regulation has further ruled out land developers' involvement in the demolition and relocation procedures. Links between the progress in demolition and the developers' business interests had long been an important element fueling the tension over land disputes, the joint statement said. According to the regulation, local government is to be in charge of the work of land expropriation and compensation, or they have the option to authorize other non-profit organizations to conduct the work. [...] The new regulation had also promised fair prices for homeowners. The new regulation also states that compensation for expropriated homes should be no lower than the sum of the market price of similar properties at the time of the expropriation. Compensation is a major concern during public submissions and surveys during the drafting of the new regulation, and a principle for the new regulation is that expropriation of homes should help to improve, not impair, the living standards of the owners, the joint statement said. [...] The homeowners will have more say in the negotiations during the expropriation procedures and they could challenge the government's compensation plan through public hearings or bringing law suits for higher payments, he said. [...]. ^ top ^

China's migrant workers should enjoy paid home leave, says political advisor (Xinhua)
2011-01-24
Migrant workers, or off-farm workers, in China should enjoy paid annual family-visit vacations as their urban counterparts, a political advisor in southwest China's Guizhou Province had said. "Localities could legislate on the issue on a trail basis," said Yu Peixuan, a member of the Guizhou Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made this proposal at the political advisory body's annual session held Jan. 16-22. If migrant workers took paid home leave every year, they would have more time to help their wives in rural homes do the heavy farm work and educate their children, said Yu. "Thus, family ties would be cemented." Statistics show that 47 million women remain at home in rural China when adult males go off to cities to earn their livings. These women played an important role in taking care of the elderly people and children in their rural homes, but they also face many practical difficulties, such as heavy farm work and dull daily life. One of the major factors affecting these women's quality of life was the lack of communications with their husbands, said Yu. Yu called on large enterprises to allow migrant workers to take paid home leave first to set an example for other enterprises. According to the present Labour Law, regular workers at government organs, institutions and state-owned enterprises are eligible for paid vacations of one month per year to visit separated spouses in different cities or regions. ^ top ^

Wen urges to better address public complaints (China Daily)
2011-01-26
During a rare visit to China's top complaints department Monday, Premier Wen Jiabao asked officials to be responsible and dedicated to addressing people's complaints, to create conditions for the public to criticize and supervise the government. Braving the winter freeze, Wen visited the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, the central level department dealing with petitions, in south Beijing Monday afternoon. It was the first time a Chinese Premier has had face-to-face communication with petitioners in Beijing since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. After entering the bureau's lobby, Wen was surrounded by people filling in petition forms and queuing to submit documents. Wen shook hands with each of them and asked them their complaint and where they had came from. He told the petitioners that as long as their appeals are reasonable, they will be solved. […] In the meeting room, eight petitioners from Tianjin, Jilin, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Hebei, Shanxi and Jiangsu told Wen about their discontent caused by payment delays, land expropriation, housing demolition and labor disputes among other problems. When responding to the problems of land expropriation and house demolition in rural areas, Wen said the State Council, China's cabinet, has just approved new rules to ensure the rights of property owners in cities. […] Apart from listening to individual complaints, Wen also solicited opinions from the petitioners on the problems of the current government work and system, as well as on the draft government work report and the 12th Five-Year Program Outline, which will be delivered for review at the annual plenary session of the national legislature in March. Wen said the government should expand channels for the public to make suggestions, to create conditions for the people to criticize and supervise the government. […] Wen said letting officials conduct face-to-face communications with petitioners can help solve public complaints timely and at the grassroots level. He urged officials at various levels to keep in close contact with the public, to make government work consistent with the public will. […] He urged cadres to properly address public complaints, protect the people's rights and interests, dissolve negative emotions such as depression, and better reflect their will. […]. ^ top ^

Leadership takes pride in legal system (China Daily)
2011-01-26
China has established a comprehensive socialist legal system that provides a legal basis to help with the development of almost all sectors of the country, top legislator Wu Bangguo announced on Monday in Beijing. The system, with the Constitution as its head, Constitution-related laws, civil laws, commercial laws and other important laws as its backbone, and national and local regulations as its support, is in accordance with China's present circumstances and is a good basis to ensure the continuation of a socialist system that remains Chinese in nature, Wu said. […] "The system ensures that our country will follow the right socialistic direction in future development," said Wu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. "And, by providing a legal basis and guide for values, it also solves the essential, comprehensive and long-term problems encountered by our country." The establishment of the system dates back to the first generation of leadership within the Communist Party of China, which "laid the political premises and the systematic foundation", Wu said. In 1954, the NPC held its first session and unanimously approved the first Constitution of the People's Republic of China, which was subsequently called the "1954 Constitution". It established the basic structure of the government and guaranteed a relatively comprehensive set of human rights. Since the late 1970s, the Party and national leadership, headed by Deng Xiaoping, shifted the country's priorities to economic development. Deng said socialist democracy should be ensured by "institutionalization and legalization", preventing it from being changed at the whim of future leaders. The next generation of leadership, headed by former president Jiang Zemin, enriched and developed the socialist legal system and, for the first time, deemed the rule of law to be a general principle for the State. It also set a goal of having the socialist legal system of China established by 2010. The current leadership, headed by Hu Jintao, put the idea of the rule of law into practice, placing emphasis on the "leadership of the Party and the rule of the people" as the basis of socialist democratic politics. Upon completing the comprehensive socialist legal system after decades of work, Wu encouraged lawmakers to continue striving at their appointed tasks and, at the same time, to pay more attention to the revision and improvement of existing laws. […] Lawmakers should be cautious, perform research and reach a comprehensive consensus before submitting draft laws that lead to debate, he said. […]. ^ top ^

A tale of 2 cities for property tax reform (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-28
Shanghai and Chongqing will launch the first-ever property tax for second-home buyers, part of a series of government measures to curb soaring prices and real-estate speculation. The two cities announced on Thursday night that they will levy the property taxes from Friday. The tax will target high-end, newly purchased second homes and will require buyers to pay between 0.4 to 1.2 percent. Non-local residents without any job or investment in Chongqing will also be taxed when they buy second homes. In separate statements, the two local governments said the taxes will depend on how values of homes compare to average market prices. […] China took a series of measures last year to rein in property prices, including limiting home purchases, raising down-payment requirements and hiking interest rates twice. Analysts say they believe the property tax is a long-term tool that can help stabilize the market. The announcement followed the State Council's latest tightening regulation publicized on Wednesday to cool down the housing market, including raising the down payment for second-home buyers to 60 percent from 50 percent. […]The two city governments told the media that the property tax is aimed to help narrow the wealth gap, guide property purchases in the right direction and better distribute housing resources. The tax collected will be used in the construction of government-subsidized affordable housing projects. ^ top ^

Senior Chinese leader calls on religious figures to contribute more to economic, social development (Xinhua)
2011-01-28
A senior Chinese official has called on the country's religious figures to make more contributions to economic and social development by innovating and improving social services. Jia Qinglin, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remark at a meeting Thursday while offering lunar New Year's greetings to religious circles on behalf of the CPC Central Committee. Jia said Chinese citizens' freedom in religious belief was fully protected, and the religious circles had provided excellent services for people from around the world during the Shanghai World Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games last year. The official asked the religious circles to pay more attention to helping grassroots religious groups and believers and improving their management. ^ top ^

Carrefour apologizes for overcharging (China Daily)
2011-01-28
The retail giant Carrefour SA made an official apology on Wednesday after 11 of its stores in China were found to have overcharged consumers with false pricing. The French retail company also said it will establish an internal group to enhance pricing control. Chen Bo, spokesperson from Carrefour China, said in a statement that Carrefour "sincerely apologizes" for causing losses to the customers and promised to refund 5 times the difference. […] Carrefour's announcement came shortly after China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said Wednesday it found deceptive pricing practices during a national inspection at certain supermarket stores, including 11 stores of Carrefour SA and 3 stores of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. NDRC also ordered local authorities to fine the supermarket involved five times the overcharged amount or up to 500,000 yuan ($97,197) if the amount cannot be calculated, according to the statement. Chen Zhijiang, an official at NDRC, told China National Radio that in all the cities they investigated, Carrefour stores were suspected of price cheating. The investigation is part of the government's efforts to curb inflation as the Chinese Spring Festival nears. […] According to the report, the investigated cities are mainly provincial capitals including Tianjin, Shanghai, Wuhan, Shenyang. Regulators selected 30 to 40 items at random and compared their label prices with selling prices, and there were always three or four items that were not consistent. […] The NDRC said on Wednesday that all supermarkets in China should avoid overcharging customers, adding that it will further strengthen price monitoring over the Lunar New Year period. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's GDP grew 9.8 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, faster than the third quarter's 9.6 percent increase. The country's consumer price index hit 4.6 percent in December, down from November's 5.1 percent, which was a two-year high. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Parched Beijing looks to Yellow River (SCMP)
2011-01-25
Beijing is considering diverting water from the Yellow River in an attempt to relieve its chronic water shortage, which is rapidly approaching a crisis level with the capital's overpopulation and worsening droughts. An official at the Beijing Water Authority yesterday confirmed a report by the Beijing Times that a new diversion project channeling water from the river through a 500-kilometre canal had emerged as the new hope for the grave water woes. The municipality also planned to pump more water from arid Hebei and Shanxi provinces, increase groundwater extraction this year and step up research on desalination, the report said. Environmentalists warn that water diversions and the overuse of groundwater may carry dire long-term consequences. They also lambast the capital as having set a terrible example of urban management, marked by runaway expansion at the expense of neighbouring areas. The drinking water sources for the municipality of nearly 20 million people - the Miyun and Guanting reservoirs - can barely supply half of the household water consumption, which stands at 2.5 billion cubic metres a year. A 12-year drought has made the shortage worse. Beijing has not seen any precipitation since October 25 - which was 92 days ago. Years of pumping more and more water from sources, including strategic reserves deep in the ground, had lowered the level of underground water by 1.2 metres a year since 1999, the authority's director Cheng Jing was quoted as saying. [...] Beijing would face grave challenges in ensuring water supply before the Yangtze diversion project began to deliver in 2014, Mayor Guo Jinlong admitted last week at the municipal people's congress. Despite its efforts on water conservation and efficiency in the past five years, it faces a gap of 515 million cubic metres a year; its total demand stands at 3.6 billion cubic metres a year. A new reservoir in Hebei would be added this year to the list of six - four in Hebei and two in Shanxi - that were involved in Beijing's water diversion scheme, the newspaper said. The capital has long pinned its hopes on its neighbours to solve its water woes. Hebei and Shanxi began delivering water in 2003, especially in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics, water expert Wang Jian said. Official figures showed up to 400 million cubic metres was pumped to Beijing to ensure a successful Games. Its new plan was tipped to aggravate hard feelings harboured by residents in neighbouring provinces, which are suffering from severe drought and shortages of their own. Citing senior local water officials, the newspaper - operating under the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece - yesterday said about 300 million cubic metres of water would be transferred from the Yellow River to the capital. Officials conceded that even with water diverted from the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, Beijing would still have to cope with a lack of 190 million cubic metres a year. Wang said: "The current mode of development... is by no means sustainable, and we won't be able to avoid a crisis without curbing population growth and stopping the city's expansion.". ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Gross domestic happiness key to Guangdong's future (SCMP)
2011-01-24
Perhaps taking a leaf out of Bhutan's book, the Communist Party in Guangdong says it is refocusing its development strategy on gross domestic happiness rather than rapid economic growth. It is something that will be welcomed by residents, judging from anonymous postings on an official internet chat room. [...] After more than three decades of rapid economic growth, Guangdong has finally made livelihood issues its top priority, with official documents saying that economic development is just a step towards the final goal of making people happier. Early this month, Wang vowed to realise that dream in the next five years while a new slogan "Happy Guangdong" has become the government's slogan for the 12th five-year plan, lasting until 2015. The plan will be the main focus at the annual meeting of the provincial people's congress, opening tomorrow. Scholars and analysts close to the drafting of the plan and familiar with local issues say Wang's move echoes party general secretary Hu Jintao's call for an improvement in the quality of people's living standards in the next five years. They say it is the first time Guangdong, one of China's richest provinces and a perennial leader in mainland growth, has paid more attention to livelihood issues than economic statistics. [...] He said the wealth gap in Guangdong was just an example of a much broader phenomenon in China. [...] Many scholars, including Ding and Yuan, also pointed out that besides providing a basic social safety net, Guangdong should also create a stronger civil society in which people could have more freedom. "Just like Premier Wen Jiabao put it, happiness also means respecting individuals' dignity and rights," Yuan said. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Delegation to show 'gratitude' across Straits (Global Times)
2011-01-25
Chen Guangbiao, China's most famous philanthropist, announced he will lead a delegation of mainland entrepreneurs on a trip to Taiwan Thursday, armed with 113 million yuan ($17 million) in cash gifts they will personally hand over to Taiwanese people. "The team is made up of 53 people who will express our gratitude and concern for our Taiwan compatriots on behalf of over 200 entrepreneurs from the mainland," Chen told the Global Times Monday. Chen, the chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources, became famous after he announced he would turn over his 5 billion yuan ($759 million) in assets to charity, upon his death. The public called the decision a "naked donation." [...] The team will hold a donation ceremony Saturday at the Grand Hotel in Taipei and distribute some 50,000 red envelopes, each stuffed with NT$10,000 ($343) to over 600 representatives of low-income households, elderly people living alone and single-parent families. The recipients are from places such as Taipei, Xinbei, Hsinchu county, Nantou county as well as victims of earthquakes and typhoons. The news that mainland businessmen will donate money to Taiwanese was met with mixed feelings on the island. Taiwan's United Daily News reported Monday some felt the face-to-face donation would be an uncomfortably "high-profile" event while governments in Xinbei and Taoyuan county refused to cooperate. [...] "To poor families, NT$10,000 count. The sum at least enables them to have a decent Spring Festival," said Yang Chi-wei, who is also from Taipei. Chen told the Global Times Monday they would bow to the recipients to show respect. ^ top ^

Ma calls on US to back hi-tech arms sales to Taiwan (SCMP)
2011-01-27
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is urging Washington to approve a new round of arms sales to the island. Ma told Raymond Burghardt, the de facto United States ambassador to Taipei, during a meeting on Tuesday that he hoped the US would sell to Taiwan its advanced F-16C/D fighter jets and diesel-electric submarines to help reduce the growing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait. It was Ma's first public call for the US to sell advanced-level arms to Taiwan since he was elected president in 2008. Last January, US President Barack Obama decided to sell Taiwan a US$6.4 billion arms package, but it did not include the two weapons systems long sought by the island. Burghardt, who is chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, was visiting Taipei to brief Ma on the meeting between Obama and President Hu Jintao in Washington last week. He told Taiwanese media that the US was waiting for the "right time" before making any further decisions on arms sales to Taiwan, and that Beijing's "habit" of breaking off military ties with Washington following such arms deals was not a factor in the omission of the F-16C/D jets from the January deal. [...] Ma said he was happy to see the US had stuck to the Taiwan Relations Act when deciding on arms sales to the island last January and in August. The 1979 act commits the US to selling arms to Taiwan, and Washington said it had not consulted Beijing about those deals. The request for advanced weapons came after Taiwan conducted a major missile drill ahead of Hu's high-profile state visit to the US. The drill, involving a dozen Taiwanese army, navy and air force units, upset Ma because almost a third of the 19 missiles fired missed their targets - raising concerns that the island needed to strengthen its defence capabilities further. The Taiwanese government denied the tests had anything to do with Hu's trip. Beijing's successful first test flight of its J-20 stealth fighter earlier this month, its aircraft-carrier project and its rapidly expanding naval and air forces have threatened to diminish Taiwan's defence capabilities. Military experts and the public have urged the Ma administration to upgrade the island's defences. During a visit to Taiwan's Defence Ministry on Tuesday, Ma said he did not want to see any struggles between Taiwanese and mainlanders, and hoped that both sides of the strait could implement concrete measures to resolve disputes "under the guidance of the wisdom of Chinese culture". [...]. ^ top ^

 

Economy

GDP 'to slow this year' (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-24
The country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to retreat to 9.8 percent this year, with inflation likely to be under control at 3.7 percent, a government think tank said on Saturday. "Tighter credit and a higher economic growth base in 2010 will drag down the 2011 GDP growth figure," a report released by the Center for Forecasting Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said. [...] China's 2010 GDP growth increased by 10.3 percent year-on-year, rapidly rebounding to double digits within three years of the global financial crisis' onset. It was 9.6 percent in 2008 and 9.2 percent in 2009, National Bureau of Statistics' (NBS) figures released on Thursday showed. JPMorgan Chase predicted China's GDP growth will decrease to 9.6 percent in 2011, while the World Bank said the world's second-largest economy's growth is expected to ease to 8.4 percent in 2012 amid credit-tightening measures to combat inflation and surging property prices. The Chinese Academy of Sciences' report also predicted the consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, will decrease to 3.7 percent this year, while the producer price index (PPI), a measurement of inflation in wholesale prices, will be at 4.6 percent. The rate of property price increases is also expected to slow. The average is predicted to be 5,711.51 yuan ($867) per square meter, a 12.77-percent increase over last year, the report said. Drastic measures taken by the central government last year are showing results. Property prices in major cities are stable. And "the impacts of regulatory real estate market measures will be examined this year", Dong Jichang, a professor with the institute, said. [...] In addition, measures aimed at increasing food supplies, together with oversupply in the manufacturing sector and the appreciation of the yuan, will curb inflationary pressures later in the year, the think tank said.Yale School of Management professor Chen Zhiwu predicted the central bank will increase benchmark interest rates again early next month and let the yuan appreciate about 3 percent this year to fight inflation. ^ top ^

Nation 'unlikely' to reduce export rebates (People's Daily Online)
2011-01-25
Official from MOFCOM said cuts won't be considered in 1st half of 2011. China expects to maintain the stability of its export-related policy, and it is "highly unlikely" that the country will reduce export rebates for highly polluting and energy-intensive industries "during the first half", said a senior Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) official. The Economic Information newspaper reported on Monday that some Chinese ministries are mulling reducing and canceling export-tax rebates on selected products which are highly polluting and energy-intensive, but a senior official from the MOFCOM, in charge of drafting export-related policies, told China Daily that such a decision will not come any time soon. [...] Citing an unnamed source, the Economic Information said new tax-rebate measures will probably cover several categories including rubber, steel and materials for construction, although the rate of any rebate was not disclosed. The newspaper said the ministries have finished preliminary research work, but did not outline when the authorities would launch concrete proposals. [...] Last June, China announced it would scrap tax rebates on some 406 categories of exported products, especially in polluting and energy-intensive industries, a move which signalled a shift in the country's economic development pattern in favor of "green" growth. As part of its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the State Council said China will strengthen efforts to become a more environmentally friendly and energy- and resource-saving economy. But as external demand is still fragile and many uncertainties exist, including the rising costs of labor and raw materials and possible yuan appreciation, "the stability of export and relevant policies is the most important of all", said Long Guoqiang, a senior trade expert at the Development Research Center of the State Council. "There will be more advantages than disadvantages if we can maintain it (policy stability)." Song Hong, a senior researcher on international trade from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "A reduction in tax rebates would restrict production and exports of environmentally-polluting and energy-intensive goods. China must implement change in a steady but stable manner since any small move will have a fairly big impact on the profitability of the industries involved." [...] Chen Deming, the minister of commerce, also said at the annual commerce conference in December that China's exports will be challenged by the European debt crisis, currency revaluation expectations and the rising price of commodities this year. [...] China's monthly trade surplus has remained high, at around $20 billion, since the second half of 2010. That has provided some foreign nations, including the United States, with ammunition to pressure China to allow its currency to rise, despite the country's moves to narrow its surplus gradually this year as more measures to promote imports are underway. Adjustments - whether a rebate increase or reduction - will be implemented if the trade situation changes, said the MOFCOM official. "If the trade surplus is large enough and stable global economic growth is maintained, China will make the appropriate adjustments to the tax-rebate policies," he said. ^ top ^

Property prices 'will continue to increase' (China Daily)
2011-01-26
Property prices are unlikely to fall this year and are expected to rise, at least in the short term, despite tightening monetary policies and the expected availability of more affordable housing, a report said on Tuesday. "In the short term, prices are expected to continue to rise because of high inflation expectations," Ren Rongrong, a property analyst at the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, who participated in compiling the report, told a news conference. She added that developers have no incentive to cut prices as they still have sufficient funding and feel no urgent need to cash in. Other factors, such as GDP, price fluctuation and the construction of government-subsidized affordable housing, will also define price movements this year. The findings echo a report issued last week by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which predicts property prices will rise 12.77 percent this year. The government has prioritized price stability, which means real estate policy will remain tight, and Ren predicted it will become even harsher in the latter half of this year if prices continue to soar. […] The report predicted that apart from tightening policies, increasing land supply and affordable housing would help take some air out of the property market bubble. […] Although the government took a series of measures to cool the market last year, real estate investment in 2010 still hit a post-1998 record high, the report said. […] Property prices in 70 major cities rose 6.4 percent in December from a year earlier, compared to a 7.7-percent increase in November, the National Bureau of Statistics said last week. The average property price in December in Beijing reached 26,599 yuan per sq m, about 12.6 percent higher than November, according to figures released by the Beijing municipal commission of housing and urban-rural development. The overheated market shows the government's housing control policy last year failed to meet its goal and harsher control measures are expected in 2011, Yan Jinming, a professor of land management at Renmin University of China, told China Daily on Tuesday. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Date proposal to come next week (Global Times)
2011-01-24
South Korea's defense ministry is set to propose a date for a preparatory session with North Korea next week ahead of high-level military talks, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported. [...] "The preliminary talks are likely to be held in February if the two sides agree on the agenda and other issues." Kim said Friday, adding that colonels would represent their countries at the preparatory talks. China "supports and welcomes" the coming talks between two Koreas and expects "positive progress" of the dialogues, Hong Lei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said Friday, according to the ministry's website. North Korea accepted Thursday the South's conditions for talks on two deadly border incidents that the South blames on its neighbor, marking a major step forward for the peninsula. The South's defense ministry reaffirmed that talks will only happen if the North acknowledges responsibility for a recent series of cross-border provocations, Yonhap said. [...] Meanwhile, Seoul's unification ministry spokesman, Chun Hae-sung, said Pyongyang, in addition to the military dialogue, should hold separate high-level nuclear talks with the South, according to AFP. Washington welcomed Thursday's agreement, which came a day after US and Chinese leaders jointly called "sincere and constructive dialogue" between the two Koreas, and after Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke out for the first time about his concern on the North's nuclear program. The New York Times Friday quoted a senior US government official as saying that US President Barack Obama had warned Beijing that if it did not step up pressure on North Korea, Washington would re-deploy its forces in Asia to protect itself from a potential North Korean strike on US soil. "The reason for Pyongyang sticking to a defiant stance is that Beijing and Washington did not agree on how to engage Pyongyang. Since China and the US have now coordinated their stances, the North then began to bow to pressures for talks," Lü told the Global Times Friday. ^ top ^

S.Korea to propose talks with North (Global Times)
2011-01-25
South Korea is set to offer talks with the North that could lead to a resumption of the Six-Party Talks, an official said Monday, Reuters reported. The meeting will be proposed independently from high-level military talks between the Koreas. "As soon as (internal) discussions conclude, we will be making a proposal to the North on high-level military talks and also official meetings on denuclearization," said unification ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-ju. A South Korean defense ministry official said Monday that a set of working-level talks would occur in mid-February to set the dates, venue and agenda for a high-level military meeting, with Seoul set to table its proposal this week. "The government continues to hold the position that we need to check how serious the North is about denuclearization," said Lee, referring to remaining tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship and a shelling attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island last year. Meanwhile, North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Monday that détente on the Korean Peninsula is essential for peace in Northeast Asia, according to the Xinhua News Agency. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

State Head Leaves for Switzerland (Montsame)
2011-01-24
The President Ts.Elbegdorj arrived Sunday in Zurich city to pay a working visit to the Swiss Confederation January 23-25. Main legs of the visit are meeting s with Mrs. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the President of Switzerland, and Jean-Rene Germanier, the Speaker of the National Council of Parliament. With them he intends to talk about developing the Mongolia-Switzerland relations and cooperation. Then, a director-general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Martin Dahinden will be received by the State Head. The Mongolian delegation will visit the Center of Direct Democracy in Aargau canton, and will meet the governmental officials of the canton.Furthermore, President Ts.Elbegdorj will participate in annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which to be held between January 26 and 29 in Davos, at an invitation of Klaus Martin Schwab, chairman of the WEF. ^ top ^

Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum Begins (Montsame)
2011-01-24
The 19th Annual Meeting of Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) began its activity yesterday with Executive Committee meeting in Government House. The meeting that is being organized by Mongolia will continue till January 27. Member countries of the Executive Committee: China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Chile and Australia are attending the meeting. Over 260 parliamentary delegates from 19 countries were registered to attend 19th APPF and 80% of them arrived in Mongolia so far. Speakers of Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Micronesia have arrived. Also, S.Mironov, Chairman of the Federal Council of Russia will attend the meeting. The 18th APPF was held in January 2010 in Singapore. MP and Mongolian delegates led by Chief of Parliamentary group of Mongolia-Asia Pacific D.Zagdjav attended it. President of the 19th forum and Speaker of Mongolian Parliament D.Demberel opened the Executive Committee meeting and introduced the issues. The meeting will discuss total of 37 draft protocols submitted by the delegates of 11 countries, appoint Chiefs who will be chairing conferences and document processing. In addition, the delegates will discuss about the membership of the Executive Committee and the host country for the 20th Annual Meeting. Delegates approved the subjects. ^ top ^

Mongolia Ranks 68th by Business Climate (News.mn)
2011-01-26
Forbes Magazine has published its rankings of countries by favorable climate to do business. It ranks by business environment by taking into account the population, GDP growth, national gross production per capita, trade balance, finance and budget. Mongolia was ranked 68th from 129 countries. The second best country for business of 2009, USA stepped backwards to 9th place. Specialists believe that USA taxation policy has influenced the decline. Denmark is the leading country for business third year in a row, followed by Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore. New Zealand has attracted world investors by introducing several economic reforms. Our neighbors Russia ranks 97th and China 90th in the list. ^ top ^

China Willing to Deepen Pragmatic Cooperation with Mongolia (News.mn)
2011-01-27
China hopes to promote political mutual trust and deepen pragmatic cooperation with Mongolia, a senior Chinese official said in Ulan Bator Tuesday. Yan Junqi, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, made the remarks when meeting with Mongolian Parliament Speaker Damdin Demberel and Prime Minister Batbold Sukhbaatar on the sidelines of the 19th Annual Meeting of Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum. She said China and Mongolia are friendly neighbours and important cooperation partners, adding that China is willing to work together with Mongolia to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation and common development so as to bring more benefits to both sides and the two peoples. Demberel and Batbold said that consolidating and promoting the good-neighbourliness and friendly cooperation with China is one of the priorities of Mongolia's foreign policy. They added Mongolia is willing to enhance high-level exchanges with China and deepen their pragmatic cooperation in various fields to bring bilateral ties between the two countries to a higher level. ^ 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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