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
  14-18.2.11, No. 358  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

China urges West to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe (Global Times)
2011-02-14
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Friday called on the West to lift sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe while Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe applauded the Asian giant for its continued political and economic support. Addressing journalists soon after meeting Zimbabwe President Mugabe, Yang, who is on a two-day visit, said Zimbabweans and other African people have a right to choose their own development path. "We believe there should be the lifting of sanctions by certain countries. We think that is the voice of the Zimbabwean people and that is also the view of all the parties concerned here in Zimbabwe," Yang said, adding that no country has a right to dictate to another."We believe all nations should respect each others sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said. "China believes that Africans have the right to choose their own way of development as they are the masters of the African continent. All others are just guests," he said. Yang said that China appreciates assistance from Africa and would also continue to reciprocate the support. Addressing the Chinese delegation earlier, Zimbabwean President Mugabe said the West continues to persecute Zimbabwe through sanctions for the decision the county took to empower its people through land. He said the imposition of sanctions was despite the fact that Zimbabwe and Britain had agreed that the former would redistribute the land while the latter would compensate affected farmers. […] Meanwhile, China extended a 50 million yuan ($7.5 million) grant to Zimbabwe. Yang and his Zimbabwean counterpart Simbarashe Mumbengegwi signed the agreement on behalf of their countries. In his meeting with Mumbengegwi, Yang who described Zimbabwe as a "brother" said the two countries had identified areas for further cooperation such as infrastructure, agriculture, water conversation and personnel training. ^ top ^

Chinese FM has phone conversation with Egyptian counterpart (Global Times)
2011-02-14
China believes that Egypt has sufficient wisdom and capability to overcome difficulties and realize national stability and development, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Egyptian counterpart in a telephone conversation Thursday. Yang, who was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), told the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit that China pays close attention to the situation in Egypt, adding that Egypt, as an influential country in the Middle East, is vital to the region's stability. Egypt's internal affairs should be resolved by Egyptians themselves and should be free of outside interference, he added. Gheit briefed Yang on Egypt's situation, saying his government was taking measures to safeguard social stability and return the country to normality. Both sides also expressed satisfaction with the development of China-Egypt relations in the past year, saying the strategic cooperation between the two countries has great potential and broad development prospects. Yang arrived in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi late Wednesday for an official visit to the Gulf nation. ^ top ^

Gabon, China eye closer cooperation in trade, infrastructure (Global Times)
2011-02-14
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba met here Saturday with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and they pledged closer cooperation in trade, economy and infrastructure. Gabon highly values its traditional friendship with China which has long offered firm support to Africa, the Gabonese president said. Gabon believes China's development will bring major opportunities to Gabon and there are great potential for trade and economic cooperation between the two sides, he said. The president also expressed the hope that Gabon could strengthen cooperation with China in such fields as infrastructure construction and power grid upgrade, and more Chinese enterprises could make investment and start businesses in Gabon. Yang, for his part, spoke highly of the development of Gabon-China relations, citing frequent high-level exchanges, increasing bilateral trade values and enhanced cultural exchanges. He urged the two countries to keep the current momentum of high-level contact, strengthen political mutual trust, and enhance mutual support on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns. The two sides should also intensify cooperation in trade, economy, infrastructure construction, education, culture and health, and strengthen coordination in major regional and global affairs, said Yang, who arrived here Saturday for an official visit to Gabon. Yang also met with his Gabonese counterpart Paul Toungui on Saturday. They pledged to bring the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa to a higher level. ^ top ^

China calls for consensus on Security Council reform (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-14
China said late Saturday that members of the United Nations should work for a broadly-based consensus on the reform of the UN Security Council. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu made the remarks in response to a relevant question. Media reports had it that a recently-released declaration by some countries said most of UN member nations supported enlarging the council with new permanent and non-permanent members, and insisted tangible results be achieved in this regard during the Current Session of the UN General Assembly. Ma said China held that UN member nations should seek for a package of solutions for the reform, on the basis of broad and democratic consultation among member nations to accommodate interests and concerns of all parties. He said though some positive progress had been made since inter-government negotiations regarding the reform of the UN Security Council were launched, there were still serious differences within all parties over certain important issues about the reform. China advocated that the more differences the member countries had on the reform, the more necessary for UN member nations to enhance dialogue and consultation, he said. […] China is ready to maintain contact with all relevant parties, and make joint efforts with other member nations to push forward the reform in a way which can be conducive to safeguarding the overall interests of UN and the unity of the member nations, said Ma. ^ top ^

Guinea, China eye strengthened bilateral cooperation (Global Times)
2011-02-15
Guinean President Alpha Conde said Monday while meeting with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that Guinea hopes to expand cooperation with China in a wide range of fields. […] For his part, the Chinese foreign minister said China-Guinea relations have been enjoying healthy and stable development throughout a period of over half a century, featuring political equality, mutual benefit and friendship. Yang said China has always been supporting Guinea's strive for peace and stability, and offering assistance for Guinea in social and economic development. He said enterprises from both sides have been carrying out cooperation in such realms as telecommunications, infrastructure building, among others. Yang said Guinea has successfully completed a political transition, and under the leadership of President Conde, the country will surely make more achievements in social and economic development. He noted that China is willing to make joint efforts with Guinea to consolidate traditional friendship, expand cooperation and push bilateral relations to a new height. The visiting foreign minister, who arrived here on Sunday, also met with his Guinean counterpart Edouard Niankoye Lama on Monday on bilateral cooperation and a number of other issues. ^ top ^

China reduces US debt holdings in December (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-16
China, the biggest buyer of US government debts, reduced its holdings in December for the second straight month, the Treasury Department said yesterday. China's holdings of Treasury debt dropped 0.4 percent to $892 billion. The declines follow four months of increases, the Associated Press quoted the department data as saying. China's ownership of US government debt, now slightly below the $895 billion it held a year ago, is a small-step tactical restructuring of its forex reserve investment portfolio. The country has been buying sovereign bonds of a wider variety of governments, including more European countries, to diversify its holding portfolio, Chinese analysts said.Overall, foreign holdings of US Treasury securities rose 0.6 percent $4.37 trillion. Britain and Japan ramped up their purchases of US government debt in December, the AP report said. Japan, the second-largest buyer of US government debts, boosted its holdings 0.7 percent to $883.6 billion, while, Britain, the third-largest, increased its holdings 5.8 percent to $541.3 billion. The U.S. government is selling huge amounts of debt to finance record-high deficits. This year's deficit is forecast to reach $1.6 trillion, the highest ever. Overseas demand for Treasury bonds helps lower the interest rate the U.S. government pays on its debt. If the United States had to finance its debt through U.S. investors alone, the government would have to pay higher rates, the report said. ^ top ^

Chinese FM arrives in Togo on mission to further ties with Africa (Xinhua)
2011-02-16
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived on Tuesday morning in Togo's northern city Kara, the second largest in the West African country, on a mission to further friendly and cooperative ties with Africa. Upon his arrival at Niamoutougou airport, Yang was welcomed by several ministers led by his Togolese counterpart Elliot Ohin and China's new ambassador to Togo, Wang Zuofeng. In the airport's VIP lounge, Yang held cordial and friendly talks with Ohin. [...] In recent years, notably since the visit to China by President Faure Gnassingbe in 2006, the development of bilateral ties has been accelerated, marked by mutual political trust and pragmatic cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, agriculture and infrastructure. In international affairs, the two countries have increased their collaboration, the Chinese minister said. Yang noted that in the new context where countries in the world are no longer completely detached from the international financial crisis, reinforcement of the Sino-Togolese relations not only corresponds to the fundamental interests of the two countries, but has great significance in promoting the Sino-African friendship, deepening the South-South cooperation and preserving the common interests of developing countries [...] The Chinese foreign minister said he was convinced that this visit will reinforce understanding, deepen traditional friendship, broaden cooperation and bring the Sino-Togolese relations of friendship and cooperation to a new level. Well placed sources said Gnassingbe will meet with the Chinese minister at Pya, his birth place. The Chinese and Togolese ministers are expected to sign economic and technical cooperation agreements during the visit. Yang's African trip also includes Zimbabwe, Gabon, Guinea and Chad. ^ top ^

China, Ghana eye more trade, investment (Xinhua)
2011-02-17
Ghanaian President John Atta Mills and visiting Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming agreed Wednesday to boost trade and investment between the two countries. Ghana boasts abundant resources of oil, natural gas, minerals, fisheries and tourism, while China enjoys advantages in technology, equipment and capital, Chen said. China is ready to cooperate with Ghana to broaden mutually beneficial cooperation and expand bilateral trade and investment on the basis of each other's advantages, he added. Beijing, he said, encourages Chinese companies and financial institutions to take part in relevant cooperation programs between the two sides. Mills, for his part, highly praised the current relations with China, saying that his country has benefited a lot from cooperating with China. Stressing that Ghana welcomes more Chinese investment, he also conveyed the hope that Ghana will increase its exports to China. Trade between China and Ghana reached a record high of $2 billion in 2010, some 15 times of that in 2000, according to the Chinese Commerce Ministry. Official statistics also showed that Ghana's exports to China increased by 74 percent and 55 percent respectively in 2009 and 2010, reducing the big trade imbalances between the two countries. Also on Wednesday, Chen hled talks with Ghanaian Trade and Industry Minister Hannah Tetteh, and the two sides signed a series of cooperation agreements. ^ top ^

US pressure over blind lawyer (SCMP)
2011-02-17
The United States is concerned about the continuing house arrest of a blind activist lawyer and his family after a secretly made video about their life under surveillance was released online last week. Chen Guangcheng and his wife were reportedly beaten over the video's release, and reporters trying to reach Chen's village were threatened. CNN yesterday showed footage of non-uniformed men pushing its reporters away from an entrance to the village and throwing rocks as reporters retreated. […] Jiang Tianyong, a rights lawyer, said he was questioned and beaten by police yesterday after meeting other lawyers to discuss ways that they could help Chen. Jiang said he was released after a few hours. Diplomatic sources said representatives from the European Union, Switzerland and Canada tried to visit Chen late last year but were rebuffed. In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US urged Beijing "to immediately restore the personal liberties, including freedom of movement, of Chen and his family". Chen, a self-taught lawyer blinded by a fever in infancy, has been under an unofficial house arrest since his release from prison last autumn. He angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilisations and other abuses in his rural community, but was sentenced for instigating an attack on government offices and organising a group of people to disrupt traffic, charges that his supporters say were fabricated. […] "I have come out of a small jail and walked into a bigger jail," Chen says in the video. His case was one of the few mentioned by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech shortly before President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington last month. China Human Rights Defenders, an international rights group, said a reliable source told it that Chen and his wife, Yuan Weijing, were beaten in response to the video. […]. ^ top ^

Commentary: Chinese FM's African tour promotes mutual beneficial, win-win Sino-African relations (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-18
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Wednesday ended his official visits to five African countries -- Zimbabwe, Gabon, Guinea, Togo and Chad. Yang's African tour during the Chinese New Year has helped deepen the traditional Sino-African friendship, and has significant meaning for promoting pragmatic cooperation, sharing opportunities and pursuing common development between China and Africa. […] Yang's visit, which came at the beginning of a second decade of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), is expected to further consolidate the fruitful results of the decade-old FOCAC. […] Over the past decade, the scale of China's aid for Africa has grown 10 folds. Currently, China is Africa's biggest trade partner, and Africa is China's fourth biggest overseas investment destination. As a banner guiding the development of Sino-African relations, in the new era, FOCAC takes on the task of promoting faster and better development of the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership. During his visit, Yang said China is willing to use FOCAC as an important platform for collective dialogues and an effective mechanism for pragmatic cooperation, and continuously push forward the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges, and further promote world peace, stability and development as well as common development of China and Africa. Abiding by the principles of sincerity and friendliness, equality, mutual benefits and common development, China has been focusing on helping Africa improve its ability of self-development and sustainable development, and has expanded its aid for Africa according to China's own capability, which has won extensive appreciation from African countries. ^ top ^

High-level Chinese delegation to visit Rwanda (Global Times)
2011-02-18
A high-level Chinese delegation headed by the vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Li Zhaozhuo, will arrived for an official visit to Rwanda, according to an official statement released on Thursday. The visit by the Chinese delegation comprising 12 officials aims to deepen inter-parliamentary cooperation between the two countries, a press release said, citing Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda Shu Zhan. The delegation is scheduled to arrive on Friday for discussions with officials of the Central African nation, including the deputy speaker of Rwandan parliament, Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo, the statement said. The delegation is expected to meet with Governor of Rwanda's Northern Province Aime Bosenibamwe on opportunities for Chinese investors to explore in that region. ^ top ^

China calls on Russia, Japan to handle territorial row properly (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-18
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Thursday called on Russia and Japan to properly handle their recent dispute over the sovereignty of the Southern Kuril Islands in the Pacific. […] When responding to a question, Ma said he was unaware of any joint investment between China and Russia in the four islands. Earlier in the day, spokesman Yao Jian of the Ministry of Commerce also said he didn't know whether any Chinese enterprises intended to invest in the four islands. Russia and Japan have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the Southern Kuril Islands. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashiri Island in November, becoming the first Russian leader to travel to any of the disputed islands. Japan temporarily recalled its ambassador from Moscow to protest Medvedev's visit. Last Friday, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Sato said at a press conference that Japan rejected Russia's invitation to any third country to invest in the islands. ^ top ^

Armenian president, PM meet with visiting Chinese FM (Xinhua)
2011-02-18
The president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia on Thursday met with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan told the Chinese visitor that his country is interested in expanding China's participation in regional economic cooperation and that he had expected Yang's visit to give the development of Armenian-Chinese relations a fresh impetus. […] During their meeting, the Armenian prime minister and the Chinese foreign minister stressed further development of bilateral economic ties. They agreed that the next sitting of the Armenian- Chinese inter-governmental committee would be held in Yerevan. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and Yang agreed that further cooperation could be forged in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture, telecommunications and trade. The two touched upon such issues during their talks as China's participation in the Iran-Armenia railway construction, direct flight between China and Armenia, and increase in trade turnover. The Chinese minister also met his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian on Thursday in Yerevan. The two foreign ministers also discussed further cooperation in various fields of development. […] The Chinese foreign minister told a joint press conference after the meeting between the two foreign ministers that China supports a peaceful solution to the conflicts in the South Caucasus.[…] The Chinese minister told the press conference that he believes the conflicting parties in the region would find a solution that will bring prosperity and development to the region. […] The Chinese minister said that the two countries could also cooperate in such other fields as science, education, health, culture and tourism. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Chinese premier invites ordinary people to advise on government work (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-14
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has invited a group of ordinary people from all walks of life to seek their opinions on drafts of a government work report and the country's economic and social development blueprint for the next five years. The representatives, including a farmer, a migrant worker, a rural doctor and a community worker, were invited to Zhongnanhai, the central leadership compound in downtown Beijing, on Jan. 25. Some details of the meeting were made public on Sunday. At the meeting, Wen said, "Ordinary people are in the best place to evaluate government's work, and listening to public opinion will allow us to know how government policies are carried out at grass-roots level, and what difficulties people are facing." […] Wen said this year the government would invest more in water conservancy while starting retrofitting the grid in rural areas to guarantee electricity supply for both residential consumption and irrigation of crops. Wen also assured Liu that the government would raise purchasing price of grains so as to protect the interests of grain farmers. […] Wen said the government was working on the issue, such as promoting better implementation of government regulations on workplace injury-related insurance, which became effective in 2003. The meeting also touched upon issues of favorable policies to small and medium-sized enterprises, fair treatment of village doctors, stronger support to facilities for senior citizens, boosting space science and technology and improving vocational training, among others. The drafts of the 12th five-year program, or the national development plan for 2011 to 2015, and the government work report will be delivered for review early next month at a plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's national legislature. ^ top ^

'Livelihood issues' remain top concerns for Chinese (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-14
"Livelihood issues," including the social security system and affordable housing, remain the Chinese people's top concerns, as indicated in online polls prior to the country's annual parliamentary and political advisory sessions. Many Chinese have voiced their complaints online in the hope that their voices could be heard by the country's top leaders, national lawmakers and political advisors who will gather in Beijing next month for the two sessions. Among the 25 listed topics, "affordable housing" has become the issue receiving the most votes as of 11 am Saturday in a survey on xinhuanet.com, the website sponsored by Xinhua News Agency. The topic earned some 5.92 percent of the 362,126 votes cast and was followed by concerns about inflation, employment and income. China has witnessed escalating housing prices over the last few years, while owning an affordable house has been a dream that has been extremely hard to realize for many citizens. In their postings, the netizens expressed hope that the government could accelerate the supplying of affordable houses to low-income groups and tighten measures to rein in property prices. […] According to officials, China plans to build 10 million affordable apartments and houses for the country's poorest citizens in 2011. Additionally, the government has recently introduced much tougher measures to check property speculation and contain surging housing prices. […]. ^ top ^

China allocates funds to fight drought (Xinhua)
2011-02-15
China's meteorological authority announced on Monday that it has received 7.5 million yuan from the country's Ministry of Finance to strengthen its efforts in fighting persistent drought in some regions. The fund would be used to support efforts by meteorological departments in Shanxi, Hebei, Anhui, Shandong, and Henan provinces, all major crop-producing regions, to conduct activities for seeding clouds and making artificial rain, according to a statement posted on the National Meteorological Administration website. Government data shows that a prolonged drought since last October had affected 108.24 million mu (7.22 million hectares) of wheat crops in those provinces, as well as Jiangsu, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, as of Sunday. The statement added that some of the affected regions experienced two rounds of snowfall last week, which were helpful in alleviating the drought. However, the major wheat-growing provinces of Shandong and Henan recorded no rainfall. The country's meteorological authority also predicted no significant rainfall or heavy snowfall for the dry regions over the next three days. (One U.S. dollar equals roughly 6.6 yuan.). ^ top ^

Wheat prices drop on abundant China reserves (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-17
Beijing sought to allay global fears that a possible reduction in its wheat output shall not push up world food prices, as the country has adequate grain reserves to meet demand. The government has spared no efforts to help local farmers fight a severe drought that hits the northern and eastern wheat-growing land. Last week, Beijing said it had budgeted up to $1 billion to farmers to fight the dry spell. World wheat prices fell 3.6 percent yesterday, after Beijing said it has sufficient grain reserves to satisfy market demand. China's assurance greatly eased concerns that the dry spell could aggravate the tight global wheat supply heading into the spring planting season. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters at a regular news conference yesterday that China has plentiful reserves following seven years of bumper harvests and that recent drought conditions in the wheat belt "will not affect international food prices." The crippling drought in northern China, China's major wheat-growing land, has caused considerable concern abroad. The World Agricultural Organization issued a warning on a possible wheat reduction last week. Global wheat prices have spiked in recent days, with some analysts pointing to China's drought and concerns that China would be forced to import wheat to meet domestic demand. Date released Tuesday showed China's consumer prices rose 4.9 percent in January, driven by a 10.3 percent jump in food costs, and a 6.8 percent rise in housing prices and rentals. ^ top ^

China to fight toughest battle to reform health care system (Xinhua)
2011-02-17
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang said the country would fight the toughest battle to reform the health care system in 2011, as he called for practical measures towards accomplishing the reform. […] Citing the reform as a key project that involves public interests, Li called for efforts to ensure the people's universal access to basic medical insurance and basic health care services. Li added that China would largely raise the level of government subsidies for medical insurance schemes in both rural and urban areas and increase government spending on public health care services this year. Efforts would be made to let insured people get a higher ratio of reimbursement for their inpatient medical treatments as well as for their outpatient medical treatments for severe diseases, Li said. He added that the basic medicine system, which aims to ensure affordable access to crucial drugs for patients, should be implemented across government-run grassroots hospitals and clinics in 2011. Furthermore, Li said that comprehensive reforms including the separation of medical treatment services and medicine sales would be initiated in government-run hospitals in 16 cities this year. ^ top ^

Fears rise over heavy metals in mainland rice (SCMP)
2011-02-17
After many food safety scandals - including the infamous melamine-tainted milk that sickened 300,000 children more than two years ago - mainlanders now fear that rice, the major staple in their diets, is also not safe. Heavy metal contamination of rice has existed for years, but it caused a public outcry in the past two days after mainland media published a survey showing at least 10 per cent of the samples from various provinces contained excessive amounts of cadmium, a heavy metal that can cause bone problems if too much is consumed. […] Experts said the situation could only be worse now as soil pollution, the main cause of farm product contamination, was spreading hand in hand with rapid industrialisation. Lin Jingxing, professor at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said soil pollution had expanded geographically as heavily polluting industries, such as chemical plants, moved inland from coastal regions. Once contaminated, the soil cannot be rehabilitated for years and has a long-term affect on agriculture. Rice was most susceptible to absorbing cadmium in soil because of its genetic traits, Pan said in the Shanghai Morning Post. He could not be reached yesterday. […] A Ministry of Agriculture survey in 2002 also showed that Chinese rice contained excessive amounts of lead and cadmium. The mainland's food safety rules set caps for heavy metals per kilogram of rice at 0.2 milligrams of cadmium, 0.3 mg of lead and 0.3 mg of arsenic, said Wang Guangyi, a micro-element expert from the Anhui Institute of Chemical Industry. […]. ^ top ^

Review of foreign takeovers won't hurt investment (China Daily)
2011-02-18
China's new rules for reviewing proposed foreign takeovers of Chinese companies on grounds of national security will not affect the country's long-held policy to encourage foreign investment, the country's top economic planning agency said on Wednesday. The new rules are also expected to increase the transparency and predictability of China's reviews of foreign investment, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

[…] It added that the new rules are in line with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the regulations in countries such as the United States, Germany and Canada. The State Council, or China's cabinet, said in a statement on Saturday that China will establish a ministerial panel to review foreign firms' attempts to buy, or merge with, domestic companies, laying the ground for the country's first formal process for scrutinizing the national-security questions that arise from international deals. The committee, lead by the NDRC and the Ministry of Commerce, will review foreign companies' attempts to buy or merge with domestic companies whose business pertains to defense, agriculture, energy, resources, infrastructure, transportation, technology or equipment manufacturing, according to the new rules. The NDRC clarified on Wednesday that the national security scrutiny will only take place when foreign companies take a majority stake in a domestic merger and acquisitions, meaning that a minority stake purchase will not trigger the review. It also said the review will be "brief" unless a government department says a deal could put national security at risk. […]. ^ top ^

Fears over food safety linger after milk scandal (SCMP)
2011-02-18
In the aftermath of the mainland's biggest food safety scandal, Premier Wen Jiabao promised to restore public confidence within two years, maybe "sooner". Melamine-tainted infant milk formula left six children dead and more than 300,000 ill with kidney problems in 2008. But more than two years on, the public still needs some convincing. And reports this week that at least 10 per cent of rice contains excessive amounts of the heavy metal cadmium show that it is still a problem. Almost 70 per cent of mainland consumers have serious doubts about food safety, according to a survey released by Insight China magazine and Tsinghua University's Media Survey Lab. With staples such as cooked meat, dairy products, fresh meat, canned food and cooking oil among the top 10 food concerns, the level of distrust is unprecedented. […] Industry insiders and other observers blame poor regulation, weak safety laws and a dysfunctional system that fails to prevent or severely punish hazardous behaviour. Consumers have to arm themselves with sound knowledge, keep their eyes open and even roll up their sleeves to keep fake wine, dyed mushrooms, dirty bean curd, mouldy rice noodles, toxic dairy drinks and cancer-causing cooking oil off their dinner tables. The chairwoman of a Beijing company that processes and sells cooked meats said the problem stemmed from the need to feed the mainland's 1.3 billion people […] The mainland rushed through a food safety law in the wake of the melamine-tainted milk scandal. But the law, which came into effect in June 2009, is generally considered weak and not intimidating enough. The law ended the practice of exempting certain companies from product quality inspections, established a product recall system and instituted uniform, nationwide standards for everything from allowable additives to nutritional labelling. But although the law increased fines for companies that produce substandard food, it said violators should be punished according to criminal laws, without being more specific. Criminal law at present pertains only to those who produce and sell substandard food, but food safety also involves food processing, packaging, transport, storage and the supervision of not only food, but also food additives. […] A State Council Food Safety Commission, headed by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang, and including the heads of relevant government agencies, was established last year. But it is only a co-operative body. […] While the government is engaged in a seemingly doomed battle, the public has come up with way of coping. The more affluent have grouped together or hired people to plant vegetables and raise livestock for their daily consumption. […]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Cloud-seeding chemical not a risk: expert (Global Times)
2011-02-17
The cloud-seeding chemicals used to prompt Beijing's recent snowfall will not affect either the environment or humans, meteorologists assured Wednesday. Although this winter's third forecasted snowfall left the city hanging Wednesday, online forums saw a blizzard of discussion regarding the cloud-seeding chemicals used to coax precipitation from the clouds in this year's two preceding snows. Most Web users were worried that the chemicals involved might include heavy metals that could harm the city's environment and its residents. But research by international meteorologists has showed that silver iodide, the snow-making catalyst, has no harmful impact on the environment, an officer surnamed Fang of the Weather Modification Center of the China Meteorological Administration told the Global Times. "We only use a very small amount of silver iodide scattered over a very large area," Fang said. About 13 kilograms of silver iodide were dispersed in the clouds over the city's nine districts and counties for the two snows after Spring Festival. That means every square kilometer of earth received only 1.3 grams of silver iodide, Beijing Weather Modification Office director Zhang Qiang told the Beijing Morning Post Wednesday. "The snow that falls from cloud seeding does not contain any polluting chemicals. It's the same as snow that falls without a catalyst," Fang said. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Mainland official pledges enhanced economic cooperation with Taiwan (Xinhua)
2011-02-16
A senior Chinese mainland official has said the government will work with Taiwan to enhance cross-Strait economic exchanges and cooperation. The mainland would this year focus on fulfilling the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and conducting follow-up negotiations on the pact, which took effect in September last year, Xu Mang, director of the economy bureau of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told Xinhua in an interview. Top of the follow-up agenda was cross-Strait investment protection. The mainland hoped to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the issue with Taiwan at an early date, with concerns of both sides respected, Xu said. Xu said the two sides should adhere to the principle of balance in negotiations, aiming for effective protection, fewer restrictions and more convenience for cross-Strait investment. Mainland and Taiwan negotiators agreed in December last year to continue discussing the investment protection agreement at the seventh round of talks scheduled for this year. The mainland would also continue this year to encourage investment in Taiwan, address Taiwan enterprises' concerns over economic transformation and development, and promote cross-Strait cooperation in finance, modern services and agriculture, Xu said. [...] Xu said the implementation of the early harvest program would boost trade links across the Strait. As the products receiving tariff reductions covered industries including agriculture, petrochemicals, machinery, textiles and transport, Taiwan businesses on the mainland would benefit from lower purchase costs on Taiwan raw materials, Xu said. Taiwan's small and medium-sized enterprises and low-income groups would especially benefit from the tariff reductions on exports of 18 agricultural products to the mainland, Xu said. [...] Cross-Strait trade volume totaled 145.37 billion U.S. dollars last year, a rise of 36.9 percent year on year. The figure included 115.69 billion U.S. dollars of Taiwan exports to the mainland, up 20.2 percent. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China to tax on early retirement subsidy (Xinhua)
2011-02-14
China will impose tax on the one-off subsidy to people taking early retirement, the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) said Sunday. The SAT said the early retirement subsidy, which is not tax-free retirement income, should be imposed with personal income tax. However, the tax will be calculated after the subsidy is divided by the months between the date of the completion of retirement formalities and the corresponding legal retirement date, the SAT said. ^ top ^

Yuan rate 'at right level but fluctuation possible' (China Daily)
2011-02-14
The exchange rate against the US dollar is currently at an appropriate level but could fluctuate in the future, Yi Gang, vice-governor of the central bank and head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said on Sunday. "In the future, as markets fluctuate and labor productivity changes, the rate will certainly show some fluctuation," he said at a seminar. Last Thursday, the yuan's central parity rate rose to a record high of 6.5849 against the US dollar, after rising for three consecutive trading days, before declining to 6.5952 on Friday. The yuan has appreciated about 3.6 percent against the dollar since mid-June. A report from the US Treasury said earlier that on an inflation-adjusted basis, the appreciation was even higher, at an annual rate of more than 10 percent. US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last Wednesday that China's recent measures to control inflation by raising interest rates is "surprising" and urged Beijing to let its currency rise in value. The resilience of exporters to the rising yuan is stronger than previously estimated, which helps to pave the way for more currency reform to liberalize the yuan, said Lu Mai, secretary-general of the China Development Research Foundation (CDRF). […] China should keep the proportion of its trade surplus to GDP within 5 percent, and avoid further increasing its huge foreign exchange reserves to allow the currency to settle at a balanced level, he said. China's foreign reserves rose to a record $2.85 trillion at the end of last year, an 18.7 percent increase year-on-year, according to statistics from the People's Bank of China, the central bank. […]Analysts have predicted that the yuan will appreciate this year as inflation may see the government opt for a rising yuan to lower the cost of purchasing international commodities. Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, predicted the yuan would rise by 5 to 7 percent in 2011. ^ top ^

Caution as economy overtakes Japan's (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-15
China still has a long way to go to improve its economy, despite formally overtaking Japan as the world's second largest economy, experts said. Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) reached $5.47 trillion last year, compared to $5.88 trillion for China, Japan's Cabinet Office said on Monday. Japan became the world's second largest economy, after the United States, in 1968 on the back of its post-war recovery. China overtook Germany in 2007 to become the world's third biggest economy. "It is not a surprise that China overtook Japan," said Lu Zhengwei, senior economist with the Shanghai-based Industrial Bank. However, economists pointed out that China's per capita GDP was only about 10 percent of Japan's. […] China's per capita GDP was about $4,300 in 2010, and income levels have been falling behind economic growth for years. Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, said in January that the country has a huge population, a weak economic foundation, few resources and many people are mired in poverty. […] The China Youth Daily described China's expansion as an "empty happiness" as the country's economic development was at the expense of cheap labor and environmental degradation, while the quality of life, including education, social security and healthcare, still lags far behind developed countries. […] The term was coined by the World Bank to describe stagnation in a country when its per capita GDP reached $3,000. […] He predicted urbanization will be the biggest driving force for China's economy. One person moving into a city can create economic value of 100,000 yuan, he said. In the next 10 years, 200 million Chinese people will move into cities and towns, with a potential to add 20 trillion yuan to the economy over the decade, he estimated. Sustained economic growth in China also helps other economies in the world, including Japan. The Japanese Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano said: "We welcome China's economic advancement as a neighboring country," according to Kyodo News. Japan's economy has benefited from China's rapid growth, initially as businesses shifted production here to take advantage of lower costs, and as local incomes rose, by tapping an increasingly lucrative market for Japanese goods. ^ top ^

China's trade center begins operation in Russia (Xinhua)
2011-02-17
The Greenwood International Trade Center, financed by China Chengtong Development Group, has began operation in Moscow, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Russia announced here on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference, chamber chairperson Cai Guiru said about 70 percent of the construction of the center has been completed and 28 Russian enterprises have signed contracts with the center and stationed in the quarter. The Greenwood will be put into full operation three months later, Cai said. He stressed the trade center, the largest Chinese investment project in Russia, is expected to be built as a China brands trade center in the largest scale and highest grade. The Greenwood would not only serve as a platform for Chinese products to enter the Russian market, but also help build the " Made-in-China" brand image in Russia, Cai said. Ling Ji, minister counselor for economic and commercial affairs at the Chinese embassy to Russia, told the press conference that total trade volume between China and Russia in 2010 hit 55.45 billion U.S. dollars, increasing by 43.1 percent over the previous year. Sino-Russian trade has rebounded to the pre-crisis level, Ling said, adding that China's non-financial direct investment to Russia has surged more than 70 percent in last year. Against such a backdrop, the two countries should pay more attentions to China's investment to Russia's real economy, Ling noted. Oleg Schwartzman, CEO of Russian Financial Groups, said he believed the trade center would draw more high-tech enterprises from both countries and become an innovation platform to facilitate those enterprises. ^ top ^

China sees only ant hill of hot money: SAFE (People's Daily Online)
2011-02-18
China has only seen a moderate growth in speculative "hot money" inflows in 2010, said the government's foreign exchange regulator yesterday, despite the extraordinary loose monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve to prop up its flagging economy. A good number of Chinese economists have criticized the Federal Reserve for releasing the so-called "quantitative easing" policies, but the State Foreign Exchange Administration (SAFE) said yesterday that it only detected $35.5 billion of hot money slipping into China, which was relatively "very small-scale" as compared to the size of China's economy. SAFE, in announcing the figure, said speculative cash made up "a relatively small portion" of the foreign exchange reserves China attracted in 2010. Illicit cash inflows were more like "ants moving home", coming in bits and pieces via multiple deals and transactions, the regulator said. Also yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce said that foreign direct investment rose 23.4 percent in January from a year earlier, as the country attracted $10 billion. The January figure compares to growth of 15.6 percent in December, when $14.1 billion in investment flowed into China. Foreign direct investment (FDI) hit a full-year record of $105.8 billion in 2010, the ministry said last month, reflecting growing foreign confidence in the economy. The massive build-up in the country's forex reserves, which hit a historical high of $2.85 trillion at the end of last year, has many analysts to speculate that large inflows of overseas hot money were evading China's rather strict capital controls and finding their way into the local equity markets, particularly the red-hot property market. But SAFE said it did not find huge influx of overseas hot money. "We have not found evidence of any large-scale capital inflows coordinated by any established financial institutions," the regulator said. This is the first time that China announced an official estimation of "hot money" inflows.The figure accounted for 7.6 percent of the increase in foreign exchange reserves from 2009, SAFE said. […]. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

DPRK leader meets Chinese senior official (Xinhua)
2011-02-15
Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), met Chinese Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu here on Monday. Kim said it was the consistent stand of the Worker's Party of Korea (WPK) and the government and the firm will of the people to develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship generation after generation. The DPRK is sincerely happy to see the great achievement China has made and wish that the Chinese people make even more progress, Kim said. Meng, also a State Councilor, said the traditional friendship between the two neighboring countries has strengthened through the ages. He expressed his expectations of inheriting the friendship, deepening communications and cooperation in various areas and promoting the China-DPRK friendship. Ri Yong Ho, Presidium of Political Bureau of Central Committee of WPK and chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff, also met Meng on the same day. Ju Sang Song, a member of the Political Bureau of Central Committee of the WPK and Minister of People's Security, met Meng on Sunday. The two achieved consensus on making more efforts to develop cooperation and communications on public security to make active contributions to the traditional China-DPRK friendship. An agreement on cooperation between the the two security ministries was signed after the meeting. Meng arrived at Pyongyang on Sunday at the invitation of Ju Sang Song. ^ top ^

N.Korea seeks stronger ties with China (Global Times)
2011-02-16
North Korea called Monday for developing cooperation and communications with China during Kim Jong-il's meeting with Chinese Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu in Pyongyang. Kim praised the meeting with Meng as highly beneficial, and expressed satisfaction over the continuous development between North Korea and China across various fields, Xinhua reported. Beijing and Pyongyang also agreed to organize a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries.

[...] The Korean Central News Agency said Meng congratulated Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un, on his appointment as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission last year, saying it constituted "a successful solution to the issue of succession in the Korean revolution." South Korean experts and media commented that the North's rapprochement with China is related to its food shortages. [...] The Korean Times reported that Beijing is Pyongyang's "economic supporter," and North Korea, as an isolated state, "is scrambling to deal with the growing (food) problem." Earlier Tuesday, ROK-US Combined Forces Command confirmed that the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills will be staged from February 28 to March 10. Walter Sharp, general of the United States Forces Korea, told the Global Times that "the routine annual drills would practice the responses to various kinds of realistic scenarios beyond defeating unexpected military attacks." "We will exercise alliance crisis management, deterring and rapidly defeating provocations and defensive operations," he added. Jeung said the joint military exercises would focus on "tactics to prevent additional localized provocations by North Korea and other possible emergencies." According to the Korean Herald, the allies are also planning to expand their exercises on researching North Korean weapons of mass destruction. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Prime Minister Batbold's Visit to Singapore and Australia Began (UB Post)
2011-02-15
The Prime Minister of Mongolia Batbold Sukhbaatar is to pay official visits to Singapore and Australia on February 16-24 as the guest of his Singaporean and Australian counterparts. During the visit to Singapore between February 16 and 19, Mongolian government head will hold talks with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana, the government house of the island country. Batbold is also expected to meet with other top officials of the country to discuss the expansion of bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, science and other fields. Batbold will give a lecture at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on the development of Mongolia and open an international exhibition of heritage of Chinggis Khaan hosted at Marina Bay Sands Art Science Museum. A Mongolia-Singapore Business Forum will take place in Singapore on the sidelines of the visit. Prime Minister Batbold will arrive in Australia on February 19 for a six-day official visit. There Batbold will hold talks with his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard to talk about the future of bilateral ties between the two countries. Within the framework of the visit, inter-ministerial document will be signed on education cooperation. Besides, national universities of the two countries will also ink a cooperation document. UB Post. ^ top ^

Parliament Concludes Fall Session (UB Post)
2011-02-15
The remaining term of seventeen months will be a decisive period for the incumbent Parliament, said Speaker Demberel in his closing speech of the Autumn Session. The autumn session of the highest legislative body concluded last Friday. “The fall session passed a number of important laws intended to give a strong impetus to the country's development” underlined Demberel. “Some long-awaited bills such as draft law on elections will have to wait till the spring session” he added. “We [the Parliament] will have to work more hardly in remaining seventeen months as there are a long list of bills and policy documents to be decided and this demand also refers to the Cabinet” noted Demberel. According to the speaker, the government plans to make an investment of MNT700 billion this year, which means the country is going to see the largest-ever construction year in its history. The autumn session in 91 days passed more than 150 laws and resolutions. ^ top ^

Mongolia Recalls Its People from Egypt (Monstame)
2011-02-16
The Prime Minister S.Batbold has given a direction to a related organization to take an urgent measure for ensuring safety of Mongolians living and working in the Arab Republic of Egypt in conjunction with the emergency situation. In accordance with the Premier's direction, the government of Mongolia has recalled its 47 citizens, and has taken four students and their three children in the protection of the Mongolia's Embassy in Cairo. In conjunction with the situation, the Wednesday's cabinet meeting decided to allot money of MNT 143 million from the governmental reserved fund for the transport expenses to Mongolia for these people who are residing now in Kuwait and Turkey. ^ 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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