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
  15-20.12.13, No. 506  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Beijing slams Abe ‘slander' (Global Times)
2013.12.16
China on Saturday night slammed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent comments on China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The response came hours after Abe said at a Japan-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) special summit in Tokyo on Saturday that he was "deeply concerned" by China's establishment of the air zone and that he believed "many" leaders of ASEAN countries attending the meeting shared his view. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed China's strong anger at the Japanese leader for his "malicious slander" against China in the international arena, according to a foreign ministry press release. Abe criticized China for its "unilateral action" to change the situation in the East China Sea and said that China's ADIZ is an unjust violation of the freedom of aviation over the high seas, and reiterated Japan's call for China to rescind the ADIZ. Hong reiterated China's stance on the Diaoyu Islands and slammed Japan's unilateral actions to provoke disputes since last year. In a joint statement issued after the Saturday summit, the leaders said Japan and ASEAN will "enhance cooperation in ensuring the freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law" and standards and practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization, reported the Kyodo News. The statement does not single out a country but the expression "freedom of overflight" is seen by observers as alluding to China's declaration of its ADIZ on November 23. As a defensive measure, the establishment of the East China Sea ADIZ is in line with international law and practice, Hong said. He stressed that ADIZ does not affect the freedom of aviation of the aircraft acting within international law. The Japanese deliberate vilification over China on the ADIZ is doomed to failure, said Hong. ^ top ^

China's lunar rover Yutu rolls smoothly onto moon's surface (SCMP)
2013.12.16
China's lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, has rolled on to the surface of the moon and started beaming its first photographs back to earth last night. The Yutu and the Chang'e-3 landing spacecraft took photos of each other, including a close-up of the national flag on the Yutu. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other state leaders were in the flight control centre in Beijing to watch events unfold and shake hands with scientists. The rover took about 90 minutes to leave the landing craft and edge down two rails to the lunar surface. It stopped several times for checks to be carried out before touching rock in an area of the moon called the Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridum in Latin. The lunar lander carrying Yutu had touched down on moon at 9.12pm on Saturday, about six hours before the rover started its first mission. Space scientists and engineers were holding their breath throughout Yutu's exit from the landing craft for fear the force of landing and fine lunar dust might have damaged some critical electronic or mechanical parts. Zhang Tingxin, chief commander of the rover system, told state television that the separation was "smoother than expected". "The landing vehicle was in a very good position. After touchdown, it was standing almost entirely vertically, with only one or two degrees of tilt," he said. The craft had also found a landing area clear of rocks or large debris, making the rover's first steps on the moon easier. Zhang said they had prepared for worse scenarios, such as the landing vehicle leaning dangerously to one side, or the rover facing a large rock or deep hole in front of the landing tracks. "We have encountered none of these problems. We had not anticipated such smoothness," he said. The landing craft and rover will conduct a series of experiments over the next three months. These include carrying out astronomical observations, studying the earth's upper atmosphere and using ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to investigate the moon's geological structure and mineral and chemical make-up. Dr Morris Jones, an Australian space analyst, said he was impressed China had managed to put a craft on the surface of the moon at the first attempt. "This was no easy task. The moon keeps its secrets well and needs to be probed with skill and persistence," he said. The photos due to be beamed back from the moon were taken with a 3-D panoramic camera space scientists and engineers have spent years developing. Pictures taken during the nation's previous lunar missions were in black and white. The camera is just one of numerous technological breakthroughs accomplished for the mission. Some technology and instruments were not only new to China but had never been used by any country in a moon landing, the last of which was carried out by the Russians in 1976. A variable thrust engine brought the speed of the landing craft from more than 6,000km/h to virtually zero in minutes and allowed it to hover and move horizontally about 100 metres above the moon before touchdown, This enabled the spacecraft to avoid rocks and holes and land in the safest area. Liu Zhirang, a rocket expert with the mission, told Xinhua the landing craft system was the best China could produce and its performance demonstrated the nation's growing capability in rocket engineering. Wu Fenglei, a mission flight control expert, said the success was not due to luck. "The smoothness of the mission is a result of technological preparation, not luck," he told CCTV. ^ top ^

Chinese security chief meets Vietnamese delegation (Global Times)
2013.12.16
China's security chief Meng Jianzhu met here Monday with a delegation of Central Internal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam led by its head Nguyen Ba Thanh. Meng, secretary of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said China attached great importance to China-Vietnam relations, and would like to maintain high-level exchanges and enhance substantial cooperation with Vietnam in areas such as the economy and trade. Thanh spoke highly of the achievements of China on the cause of socialist construction, saying that Vietnam is willing to boost cooperation with the CPC so as to forge ahead with bilateral ties. ^ top ^

Chinese FM outlines diplomatic priorities for 2014 (China Daily)
2013.12.17
New-type relationship with big powers - "China will further build a framework for its relationships with big powers, which should feature positive interactions and healthy development," Wang said at a forum on China's diplomacy in 2013. He hailed China's diplomatic ties with the other major powers this year, including the upgraded comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia and the under-construction new-type relationship with the United States. "China will build a new type of relationship with the United States with increased results of cooperation, and expand cooperation with Russia in various fields," Wang said. China will also coordinate development strategies with the European Union and enhance cooperation with other developing powers, Wang noted. "China has determined to build a new-type relationship with the other major powers to twist the so-called fate of conflict between emerging powers and the existing ones," said Ruan Zongze, vice chairman of China Foundation for International Studies. The vision of such a new-type relationship "is not utopian", said Ye Zhicheng, a professor of international relations at the Beijing University."The current China-Russia ties has been a successful pilot model." Neighboring situation most complicated - On China's relationship with its neighbors, Wang said China will consolidate friendship with those countries and establish a "fate community". Wang said China will insist on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and strive for the resumption of the six-party talks on the peninsula's nuclear issue. China will safeguard its national sovereignty and dignity while striving to settle territorial and maritime disputes with neighboring countries via dialogue, he said. China will also promote Afghanistan's political reconciliation and economic reconstruction, Wang noted. "China's surrounding situation is at its most complicated period," Ruan said, labelling such complexity as China's "growing pains". "Singular policy will no longer work for all issues as China's connection with the outside world has been so complicated and various interests overlapped so profoundly," Ruan said. Japan's proactive policies, especially its activities on the Diaoyu Island in the East China Sea, are regarded by some as one of the reasons behind the complicated situation. "Japan has kept blaming China for changing the so-called status quo over the Diaoyu Islands. However, what's the actual status quo? The status quo is that Japan does not own the sovereignty of those Islands and did not even when the United States handed over their administration to Japan in 1972 without China's consent," said Yang Xiyu, a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies. "The actual status quo is that former leaders of China and Japan agreed to shelve this dispute when they agreed to normalize bilateral relations in 1972," Yang said, blaming Japan for its decision to nationalize the islands in 2012 "changing" the status quo. China hopes for dialogue and communication with Japan to settle disputes, said Gao Hong, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "However, the Japanese side should show some sincerity."NEW SILK ROAD TO BOOST TRADE New Silk Road to boost trade - Wang stressed the country's traditional friendship with other developing countries, noting that China will expand cooperation with Africa, implement its aid commitments and push for new breakthroughs in trade and economic ties with Africa. China will also enhance cooperation with Arab countries and Latin America, Wang said, vowing to struggle for justice and preserve the interests of developing countries. He highlighted China's strategy for a Silk Road economic zone and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, noting China will strive for an "early harvest" in those efforts. Wang also pledged to promote multilateral and bilateral free trade talks, including finishing talks with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Australia at an early date, upgrading its FTA with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and pushing forward the China-ROK-Japan FTA talks. "China will face the member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks with an open attitude, as well as other regional or cross-region FTA initiatives," Wang said. ^ top ^

China urges U.S. to be cautious on South China Sea issue (Xinhua)
2013.12.18
China on Wednesday rebuffed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on the South China Sea issue and urged the country to be cautious in its words and deeds. "We have noticed his remarks," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing in response to Kerry, who said on Tuesday that the United States would speak out when China took unilateral actions that raised the potential for conflict. "We hope the relevant country will respect the efforts made by China and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the South China Sea issue, strictly abide by its commitment of not taking a position, and be cautious with its words and deeds," she said. Hua noted China always stands for a resolution of the South China Sea issue through direct negotiations among relevant countries, and keeps smooth and effective communication with ASEAN countries on the South China Sea code of conduct. The spokeswoman urged the United States to be more helpful for the mutual trust among countries in the region and the peace and stability of the region. Hua also slammed criticism by Japan and the Philippines on China's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), urging them to stop sowing discord. "The performance of relevant parties is enough and should be stopped. If they really care about the region's peace and stability, they should treat this objectively and fairly and stop sowing discord," Hua said. ^ top ^

Carrier commander spoke to US ship captain after near collision (SCMP)
2013.12.18
The captain of aircraft carrier Liaoning had a brief, "professional" conversation with the commanding officer of the USS Cowpens after the near collision earlier this month between the American warship and a Chinese vessel. The radio discussion between the two captains was one of several new details about the December 5 incident reported yesterday by the Global Times, a tabloid newspaper affiliated with the People's Daily. The paper, citing an unidentified person, said that the Liaoning's commanding officer, Zhang Zheng, spoke directly to the Cowpens captain after the US missile cruiser was forced to stop in the South China Sea to avoid a collision with a Chinese ship from the Liaoning squadron. The person told the paper that the American ship was bound to get a warning, since the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration had declared a month-long entry ban on the area on December 3 to accommodate exercises by the carrier group. The US government has filed a formal protest over the incident, saying that the Cowpens was in international waters. Two amphibious Chinese ships from the Liaoning squadron were sent to investigate after the US ship entered the drill area. One sounded a warning whistle, but it was ignored, the newspaper said. The Chinese ships then sailed into the Cowpens' path to stop it, forcing the US captain to order a complete stop to avoid collision. The newspaper also quoted an anonymous US defence official as saying that communications between the two sides was "very professional". It said another US defence official later told the Chinese side that maintaining communications could reduce the chance of mistakes. The Chinese defence ministry has yet to issue a formal response to the naval close-call, but the Global Times has revealed numerous details about the incident for two consecutive days. The newspaper said on Monday that the Cowpens had been getting too close to a drill, and said it was "coming to China's threshold and posing a threat to China's military security". The Global Times said yesterday that the encounter appeared to have had no immediate impact on military ties between the two countries and China's East Sea Fleet is preparing to join the Rim of the Pacific Exercise next year, the world's largest international naval drills. Jia Xiudong, a senior research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies, called the US "the bad guy who slung the first accusations". Jia said the US Navy was aware of the drill and still made the dangerous decision to follow Liaoning because it was holding its first exercises in the South China Sea since being commissioned last year. "How China reacted was normal and expected," Jia said. ^ top ^

China, Bolivia promote friendly relations (Xinhua)
2013.12.19
China and Bolivia on Thursday vowed to further promote their friendly and reciprocal relationship in talks between the two presidents. President Xi Jinping and visiting Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales Ayma agreed in their talks at the Great Hall of the People that the two countries should keep up high-level engagements; strengthen communication between governments, legislatures and political parties; share experience on state governing; and continue to support each other on major issues involving each other's core interests. The two sides will promote balanced growth of bilateral trade and jointly promote cooperation in areas including energy, minerals, agriculture, infrastructure construction, high technology, finance and aerospace. Bolivia welcomes Chinese investment and will create a good environment for it. The two sides will increase cultural, educational and tourism exchanges; promote mutual understanding and friendship; and facilitate personnel exchanges. The two countries also vowed close cooperation in multilateral mechanisms including the United Nations and the Group of 77 plus China, and strengthen coordination on issues of sustainable development, climate change and food security, to maintain the interests of developing countries. They will promote early establishment of a China-Latin America cooperation forum to push forward the comprehensive cooperation between China and Latin American countries. The two presidents witnessed the signing of several cooperation deals including governmental technology and economic cooperation. Xi said China attaches high importance to relations with Bolivia and takes Morales' China visit as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral cooperation. He wished the Bolivian government and people new achievements in national development and vowed to continue to support Bolivia's economic and social progress. ^ top ^

Max Baucus, Obama's pick for China envoy, no stranger to Beijing (SCMP)
2013.12.20
President Barack Obama has turned to a 72-year-old senator with strong China experience to be his next ambassador to Beijing at a time of heightened tension between the two countries, analysts said yesterday. Long-serving senator Max Baucus - named by Democratic Party officials as Obama's nominee for the sensitive post - has rich experience dealing with Chinese trade and has visited the country eight times, most recently in 2010 when he met then vice-president Xi Jinping, now the nation's president. "Baucus has substantial experience and a strong record on trade issues, including with China," said Yun Sun, a US-based research fellow who knows Baucus. "He has been to China many times, so Beijing is definitely no stranger for him." If confirmed, Baucus would succeed Gary Locke, whose resignation last month after 21/2 years in the job surprised many. Baucus sidestepped questions about the ambassadorship when asked on Capitol Hill. "It's not for me to comment on … This happens every once in a while. Names get floated around," he said. There was no immediate comment from the White House. Baucus is a Democrat who has been in the Senate since 1978 and has been the party's leading voice on trade policy since 2001. "He knows these guys in the Chinese leadership extremely well and has met with them on several occasions," said Jon Selib, Baucus' chief of staff from 2008 to 2012. In a speech during the 2010 trip, Baucus emphasised his past support for permanent normal trade relations with China and noted the "angry rhetoric" and complaints about "protectionist policies" from both countries. Obama's search for a new top diplomat in Beijing comes as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in US foreign policy to more directly counter China. The relationship has grown more troubled in recent weeks. "The appointment suggested Obama has attached great importance to US-China relations," said Tao Wenzhao, a US affairs expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, citing Baucus' significant role in and contribution to the US effort in the 1990s to bring China into the World Trade Organisation and to establish permanent normal trade relations between the two countries. Some analysts said that Baucus shares the administration's views on how to approach delicate US-China relations, including how China sets its currency, addresses intellectual property issues, as well as labour and human rights policies. In June, he was among a group of senators who raised concerns about a plan by Chinese meat company Shuanghui International to buy US pork firm Smithfield Foods, citing national security and food safety interests. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying yesterday made only a vague statement that Beijing welcomed anyone who helped promote mutual trust. But mainland microblog platforms were filled with posts yesterday about whether the 72-year-old could survive Beijing's notorious smog. One even suggested giving the senator the Chinese name Bao Kesi, which means "cough until you die" in Putonghua. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Beijing lays out first steps in push to urbanise, including 'hukou' changes (SCMP)
2013.12.15
The central government yesterday rolled out long-awaited plans to push forward urbanisation.
The plans are considered a centrepiece of the leadership's effort to unleash domestic demand and reduce urban-rural disparities. As a first step, restrictions under the household registration system, or hukou, will be removed in small cities and townships and gradually eased in medium-sized cities to make it easier for migrant workers to win full urban resident status. The measure was one of six contained in a plan released following the highest-level meeting yet convened on the issue. President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote speech at the Central Economic Work Conference in Beijing. Premier Li Keqiang, widely seen as the main initiator of the drive, also gave a speech, and the other five members of the Politburo Standing Committee were present. Urbanisation was "the path China must take in its modernisation drive", said a statement released afterwards that described the plan. The policy would provide "an important means" of addressing rural issues, and carried "practical significance" in the nation's pursuit of modernity, Xinhua quoted the statement as saying. The statement marks an official reaffirmation that the controversial urbanisation drive will be a top policy priority for at least the next decade. The leadership has viewed urbanisation as a key plank in its effort to move the economy away from reliance on credit and export-driven growth to one based on consumption. The overall guidelines for the massive project, which would see the urban population boosted by 400 million over the next decade, were "steady", "active" and "human-focused", the statement said. By partially relaxing the hukou, the leadership hopes to set reasonable conditions for settling in big cities while strictly controlling the population in mega cities. The hukou has long been considered as a cause of inequality and to have suppressed consumption, as it stops migrant workers accessing the same social services as those with urban hukou even after they move to the cities. The other measures include more efficient use of urban construction land, greater low-carbon urban development and better cultivation of urban management officials and experts. Analysts say the plan lacked details of how the leadership would solve a main sticking point of the urbanisation drive - funding. The conference had been postponed for the past eight months as authorities tried in vain to devise viable ways to finance spending on roads, housing and the social safety net. Analysts say local governments will have to issue long-term bonds, but that requires a fiscal overhaul as they don't have steady stream of tax revenues to back the debt issuance. The central government gets most tax revenue while local governments do the spending, forcing them to rely on land sales for survival. To support urbanisation an overhaul of land and tax codes is needed, analysts have said. But yesterday's statement only said steps should be taken to "improve local taxation mechanisms", "set up a system for managing local bond issuance" and "encourage private capital to invest in public infrastructure and facilities", without giving details. ^ top ^

Did Xi Jinping bypass Zhou Yongkang in his 'consultation' with retired Party leaders? (SCMP)
2013.12.16
President Xi Jinping has consulted with almost all retired Communist Party leaders on his current anti-graft campaign, state-media said, raising speculation on which ones he chose not to confer with. There are at least 19 retired Politburo members still living, and Xi consulted 17 of them on how to pursue his campaign against graft, Xinhua news agency said. One of the retired elders, former security zsar Zhou Yongkang, is understood to be the target of a graft investigation – the highest-profile corruption inquiry in decades. The report did not name the elders Xi had consulted. These consultations preceded an extraordinary meeting by the current Politburo on “four styles” – the party-speak for lean and efficient governance – from June 22 to June 25, which included criticism and self-criticism. Xi had consulted the elders prior to the meeting, the report said. The austerity campaign, launched in a speech shortly after Xi became the Communist Party's general secretary a year ago, has been felt throughout the nation, with a stark slowdown in luxury spending. A dozen inspection teams have combed through the finances of ministries, provinces and state organs over the last months. Among those sacked for “serious discipline violations” was Jiang Jiemin, the man overseeing the nation's state-owned assets after running one of China's largest oil firms for more than a decade. The period following the consultations also saw the trial of former Chongqing party secretary and Politburo member Bo Xilai on graft charges as well as initial reports on the decision to investigate Zhou Yongkang. Xi Jinping also consulted 478 “other comrades”, the report said. ^ top ^

China reconsiders reeducation through labor (Xinhua)
2013.12.16
Chinese lawmakers will deliberate a motion to abolish the "laojiao" program, or reeducation through labor, at a bimonthly session next week. According to the agenda published on Monday for the Dec. 23-28 session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, a State Council motion includes abolition of reeducation through labor. The "laojiao" system was adopted in 1957 for minor offenders whose crime is not severe enough to warrant court proceedings. It allows for detention of up to four years without an open trial. The latest motion follows key policy decisions last month stating that "laojiao" should be abolished to protect human rights. Also on the agenda is a resolution on birth policy, following a proposal to allow couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child. The date and agenda for the session was announced Monday at a meeting of the chairman and vice chairpersons of the Standing Committee of the 12th NPC, which was presided over by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. Lawmakers will also review draft amendments to seven laws including the administrative reconsideration law, the military facilities protection law and the marine environment protection law. The committee will also deliberate reports on the medium-term progress of the 2011-2015 development plan, rural poverty relief and the compulsory education law. ^ top ^

China reports second H7N9 case in two days (China Daily)
2013.12.16
South China's Guangdong Province on Monday reported the second H7N9 bird flu case since Sunday. The female patient, Zhang, 65, resident of the city of Yangjiang, is in serious condition, the provincial health authority said in a statement. Guangdong on Sunday confirmed an H7N9 case from a man, aged 39, who is also in serious condition. The province has warned the public of the transmission after the virus was found in its live poultry markets. Lin Shaochun, vice governor of Guangdong, warned at a meeting on Sunday that the province had entered a season when human infections of H7N9 are highly likely to occur. The Chinese mainland has reported 142 human infections of the deadly bird flu virus since it emerged in March. Earlier this month, Hong Kong also confirmed its first two H7N9 cases, including an Indonesian national and a mainland resident. ^ top ^

China ups vigilance ahead of holidays (Global Times)
2013.12.18
China's Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday urged police departments at all levels to be vigilant against crimes ahead of the holidays. Li Wei, Vice Minister of Public Security, said public security organs should be on high alert for severe crimes to ensure a satisfactory New Year, Chinese Lunar New Year holiday and "two sessions" in 2014. Li stressed that all departments should severely crack down on major crimes including guns, explosives, arson, homicide and intentional injuries, and called on all levels of police to innovate to uncover cases. The Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional Chinese festival and an occasion for family reunions. It falls on Jan. 31, 2014. The "two sessions" are annual meetings of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. ^ top ^

Wrongfully convicted Henan death row inmate awarded 980,000 yuan court payout (SCMP)
2013.12.18
A Chinese man who was sentenced to death and spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of a child was awarded 980,000 yuan (HK$1.24 mililon) compensation on Tuesday after his conviction was overturned, a court said. Li Huailiang stood trial seven times and was given three different sentences for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Pingdingshan in August 2001, the official Xinhua news agency said. The farmer was condemned to death, then death with a two-year reprieve - a Chinese sentence normally commuted to life in prison - and after that, 15 years in jail. Each time, the verdict was subsequently overturned “due to lack of evidence”, but he was not formally acquitted until April this year, when he was released from prison, Xinhua said. Li was not released earlier as he “had to await a further trial”, it added. The Intermediate People's Court in Pingdingshan, in the central province of Henan, granted him 780,000 yuan for the loss of “personal freedom” for 4,282 days spent in prison and a further 200,000 yuan for “psychological damage”, a statement posted on its website said. Li had claimed 3.79 million yuan in total, the statement added. Abuses are widespread in China's legal system, where police routinely coerce confessions and courts have a near-perfect conviction rate. Nonetheless a trickle of wrongful guilty verdicts have been overturned this year. ^ top ^

Jiangxi death first human case of H10N8 bird flu strain, expert says (SCMP)
2013.12.18
Another bird flu strain has crossed the species barrier and claimed a human life in China. Health authorities and infectious disease experts said last night that an elderly Jiangxi woman died earlier this month after contracting H10N8, a strain previously unknown in humans. "It has never been detected in humans before," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, one of the world's foremost experts on bird flu, told Hong Kong Cable TV. The 73-year-old woman was diagnosed with severe pneumonia on November 30, after being admitted to hospital in Jiangxi's provincial capital, Nanchang. She died on December 6, the official Jiangxi Daily reported online last night, citing provincial health department. At some point, she was diagnosed as having contracted H10N8, one of 15 known bird flu varieties. Unlike H5N1 or H7N9, it was not previously known to have made humans ills. Health authorities said the woman had a compromised immune system and visited a local live poultry market before becoming ill. They said people who had come in contact with the victim were being monitored and had so far showed no signs of the disease. Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection said it received notification of the fatal case yesterday from the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Yuen told Hong Kong Commercial Radio that genetic sequencing needed to be conducted on the new flu strain before experts could assess the risk of more human infections. The Jiangxi Daily, however, cited an anonymous expert as saying that initial assessments suggested the death was an individual case and the risk of human infection remained low. ^ top ^

Chinese government website boosts social network presence (Global Times)
2013.12.18
The official website of the Chinese government, www.gov.cn, created two more microblog accounts on Wednesday, following its previous entry into social networks in October. The website, which is run by the General Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, started microblog accounts on Sina Weibo and people.com.cn. Since Oct. 11, the website has operated two microblog accounts at xinhuanet.com and qq.com, as well as an account on WeChat, a hugely popular Chinese messaging app with over 400 million users. The website will publish important government information through these online platforms, according to a statement from the website. The Chinese government website has been in operation since January 2006 and publishes information about the activities of senior officials of the State Council, important cabinet meetings, as well as policies and regulations. These attempts are a display of the central government's willingness to approach the public and improve transparency in the age of the Internet. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing to reform pricing system for subway tickets (China Daily)
2013.12.16
The Beijing municipal government has announced that it plans to reform the current low-cost subway ticket system in an apparent bid to cut the overall cost of transport subsidies in the city. Plans will involve a differential pricing system during peak hours to ease the pressure of passenger volume, the government said in a statement on Friday. Last week, Beijing's Municipal People's Congress conducted a three-day review of the city government's 2014 budget. Members of the congress's urban construction and environmental protection commission said the government's financial burden is increasing because of mounting subsidies for low-cost public transport. They called on the government to make cuts in the subsidies, with some suggesting variable ticket pricing as a solution. Beijing has had a low-price strategy for its public transport system since 2007 to encourage public use. Any subway trip, regardless of how long it is, costs only 2 yuan (33 US cents), while a bus trip costs only 0.4 yuan if the passenger has a Yikatong, or public transportation reloadable smart card. A statement from the environmental commission said earlier this month said that the government's public transportation subsidy is growing every year. In 2010, the total subsidy was 12.8 billion yuan, while in 2013 the figure could be more than 18 billion yuan. The government said expenditure increased more than revenue in 2012. Some lawmakers are now suggesting that the rising costs should be reflected in ticket prices and the city government should reconsider the size of the subsidy. City legislator Ning Bin has proposed that the subway charge riders according to the length of the trip. He said people who travel more than six stations should pay more than 2 yuan, with a price cap of around 8 or 10 yuan. Such suggestions have led to heated debate, with some cheering the proposal, while others say it would be counterproductive. Xu Kangming, who has done research on Beijing's public transport, said that the reform should be carried out as soon as possible. Xu said that the gap is growing between the low price and the actual cost of operation, especially in rush hour. But not all experts agree that hiking fares is a good idea. Dong Yan, a researcher at the Institute of Comprehensive Transportation, said that the public transportation sector should provide social welfare services to the public, and therefore the government should maintain the current subsidy policy. Despite the rising subsidy, Beijing's public transport system has seen more passengers and covered more parts of the city in the last several years, he said. In 2012, 44 percent of Beijing commuters used the city's public transport, the highest rate in the country. However, it still did not meet the target of 60 percent set by the State Council early this year. A 29-year-old commuter who gave only her surname, Liu, pointed out that beginning next year, the city government will strictly limit the purchase of cars to encourage green transportation. That lawmakers are now considering changing the low-cost public transportation strategy contradicts its green-transportation strategy, she said. "How can you encourage green transportation if you change the low price?" she said. ^ top ^

Liquid nitrogen may help to clean up Beijing smog, Chinese scientists say (SCMP)
2013.12.19
Scientists are researching whether pumping super-cold gas into Beijing's atmosphere can help reduce air pollution in the capital. He Hui, a researcher at the government's Beijing Weather Modification Office, said liquid nitrogen, an industrial coolant nearly three times as cold as dry ice, was promising as an anti-smog agent though it was in the early stages of development. The government-funded research involves pumping the gas from large tanks into the air as a fine mist at least 10 metres above ground. Crystals form on the small particles of dust and other pollutants, which then fall to the ground. The belt of cooler air, less than 20 metres thick, also stops polluted air above reaching street level. The researchers said that during colder weather the belt, rich in vaporised liquid nitrogen, could remain hanging in the atmosphere for several hours. Beijing Vice-Mayor Lin Keqing said this week that the city was investigating the use of technology to combat the capital's smog, but did not elaborate. Conventional methods include seeding clouds with chemicals to create rain or snow to wash out air pollutants. Cloud seeding was used ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But using aircraft to deploy enormous amounts of chemicals over the capital could prove costly and its efficiency is reduced in winter, a season with a higher frequency of smog in the north. He's team was given 250,000 yuan (HK$317,000) by the National Natural Science Foundation last year to carry out computer simulations of how various chemical agents might help clean the air. Other agencies, which He declined to name, funded the liquid nitrogen experiments. This had proved the most promising research, he said. "Our experiments showed that in an environment with temperatures below freezing point, liquid nitrogen outperformed all other agents, but in summer or autumn its effect was less obvious,'' He said. Other scientists have questioned whether this can be done safely. Dr Wang Xinfeng, a researcher in atmospheric chemistry at Shandong University in Jinan, said the use of liquid nitrogen was unprecedented, innovative and backed by basic science, but the technology must be handled with care. "It is possible in theory to create a smog-free zone with liquid nitrogen and a shield against air pollutants with man-made cold, but even in laboratories we handle liquid nitrogen with care due to its extremely low temperature," he said. The liquid vaporised quickly when exposed to air and even a tiny spill on exposed skin or thin cloth could cause serious cold burns, Wang said. If the agent was released at a point more than five floors high and at a very low speed, it would not cause harm to people on the ground, Wang said. Another potential problem in using liquid nitrogen is wind. "Small winds in different directions can alter our data quite significantly,'' said researcher He. Fu Zuntao, a professor at Peking University, said the government had spent a lot on weather manipulation research that was often not publicised. ^ top ^

200 foreigners expelled from Beijing this year (China Daily)
2013.12.20
About 200 foreigners have been deported from Beijing this year, according to the city's General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection on Thursday. Most of the foreigners were repatriated because they entered the country illegally, held illegal visas or had illegal jobs. Some of the foreigners were detained in other provinces and sent to the capital to be deported from China, the authority said. Li Zhongwei, an official from the station's repatriation department, told Beijing Evening News that most of the repatriated foreigners were from developing countries. They came to China for work or were traveling through China to illegally enter other countries, Li added. Some foreigners were intercepted at airports after Chinese police discovered they were holding fake visas or passports. In some cases, foreigners were using another person's identity card or information, Li said. The authority said it is required to see the illegal foreigners off. Authorities do not leave the airport until the airplane's cabin doors are shut, he added. Yang Liu, a publicity officer at the Beijing Exit-Entry Administration, said they regularly check on foreigners to see if their certificates are legal and have not expired. According to current Chinese exit-entry rules, foreigners are not allowed to come into China within five years if they have been repatriated for unqualified or illegal certificates. "For foreigners who disobey our administrative regulations, our police have the right to ask them to go back home," she said. "But for those who commit crimes or do illegal acts in our country, we'll send them back under a court's verdict." The question of when a foreign wrongdoer or criminal can return to China depends on specific court judgments, she added. Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department at the People's Public Security University of China, said some foreign criminals will be repatriated after serving their sentences in China. "Not all foreigners with illegal certificates can be found at customs," he said. But he added that Chinese police will search out foreigners who are illegally staying, entering or working in China. On April 4, a man named Alsubaie, 22, from Saudi Arabia, sexually assaulted a Chinese woman in public in Changsha, capital of Hunan province. The man was detained after witnesses seized him and notified the police. He later confessed to the assault and was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted rape and will be deported after serving his sentence. On Dec 2, a foreigner knocked over a woman with his motorbike. Initially it was reported that the woman had intentionally thrown herself in front of the foreigner's motorbike to extort money from him. Beijing police said after an investigation that the man had violated traffic rules. Both he and his father were working in the country illegally. The man was detained for five days and fined 5,000 yuan for illegally working in China. His father received 14 days of administrative detention and a fine of 10,000 yuan. Both the man and his father were deported from China. Yang said on Thursday that the man's residence certificate in Beijing had also expired. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Social welfare in Tibet (Global Times)
2013.12.17
All 29,000 monks and nuns in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region have been integrated into the social welfare system, announced the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Committee in Tibet. Under the system, monks and nuns have access to social welfare benefits including a pension, health and accident insurance as well as subsistence allowances and a free annual physical examination. Nursing homes for monks and nuns have also been built in the region, reported the Xinhua News Agency on Monday. The central government has allocated over 13 million yuan ($2.14 million) to Tibet every year since 2011 to build up the region's social welfare system. Local authorities have issued a series of preferential policies for monks and nuns and the local investment in monasteries and people has amounted to over 800 million yuan. ^ top ^

Green policy vow for Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Global Times)
2013.12.19
China plans to strengthen the environmental protection of the Sanjiangyuan region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the source of important rivers. With an average altitude of 4,000 meters, Sanjiangyuan, which means "source of three rivers" in Chinese, lies in the hinterland of west China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is home to China's biggest and highest wetlands ecosystem. A newly-approved protection plan for the region aims to expand the rehabilitation area from 152,000 to 395,000 square kilometers, according to a statement released after Wednesday's executive meeting of the State Council, the country's Cabinet, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang. According to the plan, efforts will focus on protecting and rehabilitating vegetation in the area while improving a monitoring and warning network for local ecological conditions. Meanwhile, a separate plan on lakes whose water quality is relatively sound was also approved at the meeting. It called for adjusting the industrial structure and distribution in major lake areas and strengthened pollution control of rivers that flow into these lakes. The statement encouraged strengthened scientific management, wider use of proper technology and the strictest source protection rules, calling for greater government investment and a balance among environmental protection, economic development and people's livelihoods. Also at the meeting, a report was delivered on combating sandstorms in Beijing and Tianjin, urging more forestation subsidies from the central government and a responsibility pursuit system for forests management. "Unapproved tree felling, land reclamation, farming, digging and the use of water resources in the forested areas must be strictly cracked down on," said the statement. In addition, the meeting approved a blueprint on establishing a multifunction ecological experimentation zone in Northwest China's Gansu Province that incorporates water saving, ecological protection and more. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

21 workers killed after gas explosion at western Xinjiang coal mine (SCMP)
2013.12.15
An explosion has killed 21 workers at a coal mine in the far western Xinjiang region, Xinhua reported. According to the report, 34 miners were working underground at the Baiyanggou mine at the time of the explosion. Twelve managed to escape but 22 were trapped by the blast. Only one of the trapped miners survived the explosion. Mining accidents are common on the mainland, which is the world's largest consumer of coal and where mine operators often skirt safety regulations. Last year, 1,384 people were killed in coal mining accidents, according to official Chinese figures, down from 1,973 in 2011. Some rights groups argue that the actual figure is significantly higher due to under-reporting by mining companies. In an effort to address mine safety concerns, state officials last year moved to shut more than 600 small mines, which are deemed more dangerous than larger ones. But high-profile accidents have continued this year. In May, more than 50 miners were killed in two accidental explosions in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces in the southwest, after a blast at a coal mine in the northeastern province of Jilin in March killed 28 people. On the same day a huge landslide crashed down a mountainside in Tibet, entombing 83 workers in two million cubic metres of earth. There were no survivors. In October, 10 miners were killed when a mine was flooded in the northern province of Shaanxi. Two miners were rescued after being trapped underground by the flood for 10 days. ^ top ^

Six held after Xinjiang attack (Global Times)
2013.12.17
Local police in a township near Kashi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, have detained six suspects who were involved in a terrorist attack on Sunday, which killed 16 people, including two police officers and 14 attackers. The incident, which was "organized and premeditated," took place in Sayibage township of Shufu county, administered by Kashi in western Xinjiang, according to local news portal ts.cn. According to the report, Hesen Isma'il and another 19 people formed a violent terrorist gang in August. The gang frequently held gatherings and watched videos featuring violence and terrorism. They advocated extremist religious thoughts, produced explosive devices and guns, and tested explosives several times in a bid to plot terrorist attacks. The report said police officers from the county, who were pursuing Isma'il, were attacked by several terrorists armed with knives and explosive devices at around 11 pm on Sunday, leading to the deaths of two officers. A total of 14 suspects were shot dead, and six have been arrested. A Xinjiang official, who required anonymity, on Monday confirmed the report to the Global Times. "The officers entered a house and found a large number of people were holding an illegal gathering. As the police carried out inquiries, some of the people remonstrated and staged a confrontation. They suddenly stabbed the police with knives. Two officers, who were caught off guard, died at the scene," said the official. According to the official, the suspects immediately took out homemade explosive devices to attack other police officers who came as reinforcements. The police opened fire after the attackers ignored their warnings. "These rioters were in a self-organized group, according to their weapons and terrorism propaganda materials found during the initial investigation," the official said, adding that the case is still under investigation. Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monday told a regular press briefing that the Sunday attack was carried out by a "violent terrorist gang." It once again shows these terrorists are "anti-society and against humanity," which should be condemned by the international community, she said. "People in Xinjiang aspire to maintain social stability and unity. Violent terrorists' plots to devastate Xinjiang's economy, social stability and ethnic unity will not win public support and are doomed to failure," Hua said. The Xinjiang official told the Global Times that the region has entered a period marked by frequent terrorist attacks. The attack in Shufu was the latest to occur in the region in 2013. A riot in Shanshan county, eastern Xinjiang, killed 35 people in late June, several days ahead of the fourth anniversary of deadly riots in the region's capital in 2009 which left 197 people dead and over 1,600 injured. "The majority of the rioters were bewitched by overseas terrorism groups, such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Those groups carried out terrorist attacks in the name of 'holy war,'" the official said. Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that the spread of the concept of a "holy war" is the most significant change in the motive for terrorist attacks. "Such concepts show that the attacks have become more extreme and cruel. Those terrorist groups took advantage of local religious beliefs to brainwash people," Li said. Li also pointed out that the attacks have spread to other areas in the region and even other Chinese cities, while previous attacks mainly occurred in southern Xinjiang. On October 28, an SUV ploughed through bystanders near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five and injuring 40 others. The attack was later claimed by ETIM. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Premier Li continues support for Hong Kong (Xinhua)
2013.12.17
Premier Li Keqiang Tuesday said that the central government will continue to uphold "One Country, Two Systems" and the principle of "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" with a high degree of autonomy. Li made the remarks when he met with Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), noting that the central government will further expand opening and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong. "The central government will strictly act in line with the provisions of the Basic Law and fully support Leung and the HKSAR government to administrate in accordance with law," Li said. Li said that Hong Kong has maintained mild economic growth with a low rate of unemployment and a stable society under the complexity of the world economic recovery. "The implementation of comprehensively deepening reform and opening up brought about by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee will provide more opportunities for the development of Hong Kong," Li said. Li also expressed his hopes for the HKSAR government to grasp the opportunities to meet challenges and maintain stable economic growth in order to keep a leading position in fierce competition. During the meeting, Leung briefed Li on the recent situation in Hong Kong and the work of the HKSAR government. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan chief negotiator expects early cross-Straits talks (Global Times)
2013.12.18
Taiwan's chief negotiator Lin Join-sane said on Tuesday that the next round of talks on commodity trade and trade disputes would commence at the earliest possible date. Lin Join-sane, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), made the remarks at a board meeting of the organization. The agenda for the tenth round of talks will include a follow up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), a dispute settlement mechanism, cross-Strait offices for trade organizations, tariff and taxation cooperation, meteorological and seismic cooperation. He said both sides are eager to discuss the terms, and both expected an early agreement. The ECFA is a comprehensive cross-Strait economic pact signed in 2010 to reduce tariffs and commercial barriers between the mainland and Taiwan. Lin also stressed that preparation for the tenth round was not thwarted by difficulties in the cross-Straits service trade pact. The service trade pact, one of several follow-up agreements to the ECFA signed in June's Ninth round of cross-Straits talks, is pending ratification by the island's legislature. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Fiscal, monetary policy highlights reform concerns (Global Times)
2013.12.15
China's key fiscal and monetary policy will be kept unchanged in 2014, signaling that the government will target internal structural reforms while maintaining stability and containing risks, analysts have said. A statement released on Friday after the country's four-day central economic work conference said China will continue to implement a proactive fiscal and prudent monetary policies in 2014, a combination that the country has held onto since 2011. The tone of the fiscal and monetary policies was kept unchanged because the country has been facing similar downward pressure and uncertainties amid the global economic downturn in recent years, according to Jia Kang, head of the fiscal science research institute under the Ministry of Finance. Jia said the policy combination will work to guard against upside risks in consumer prices resulting from mounting liquidity in the past few years, as well as being conducive to adjusting economic structure. Adjusting economic structure is a core task that the leadership has repeatedly stressed and written again into the list of major economic tasks for 2014. They vowed greater effort to resolve overcapacity and suggested a solution via innovation in Friday's statement. Gao Peiyong, an analyst with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said inflationary pressure and financial risks such as local government debt will restrict solutions for China's monetary policy. On the fiscal side, a proactive policy is necessary for realizing the goal of "making progress while maintaining stability," Gao said. For specific fiscal measures, the government will continue to adjust the structure of expenditures, spend money more wisely, improve structural tax cuts and increase the number of experiments for replacing turnover tax with a value-added tax (VAT), according to the statement. According to Gao, the key to current economic system reform is to reduce government intervention and let the market play a decisive role, while the most effective way of doing this is to expand the scope of tax abatement measures, including the ongoing VAT tax reform. The 2014 fiscal policy should closely serve a bigger picture of deepening comprehensive reform, Jia Kang suggested, adding that special attention should be given to transforming government functions and reducing administrative approval procedures. As for monetary policy, when downward pressure is not cleared, it is necessary to keep reasonable growth of monetary credit and financing, in order to provide for a steady economic rebound, said Song Li, deputy director of the Institute of Economic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission. M2, a broad measure of money supply that covers cash in circulation and all deposits, increased 14.2 percent year on year to 107.93 trillion yuan (17.65 trillion US dollars) at the end of November, latest data showed. Full-year M2 growth may miss the government macro-control target of 13 percent, putting pressure on the central bank to curb liquidity, but the pressure of the economic downturn points the opposite way for monetary policy. Analysts said keeping monetary policy neutral and stable is the best choice for next year. Friday's statement outlined other monetary policy measures, including optimizing the funding and credit structure and increasing the proportion of direct financing. The statement also noted that macroeconomic control should be calibrated to contain China's reform concerns. Song Li said that macroeconomic control in other countries is mainly an adjustment of economic aggregates, in a bid to address cyclical fluctuations, but China's has to handle a mix of issues ranging from aggregates, structure to system. "For the fiscal and monetary policy to come into effective play, we need the support of reforms in the fiscal and financial system, " said Song. ^ top ^

China starts four-dimensional mode of economic growth (Xinhua)
2013.12.17
China's four-dimensional mode of economic growth focusing on safe, balanced, inclusive and green development,proposed at the central government's just-concluded work meeting, has grabbed global attention. Experts say the new mode that centers on economic restructuring and seeks urbanization in a resource-conserving and environment-friendly way, will help promote sustainable and effective economic development. SAFE GROWTH - China's development will be hindered by the basic issue of food, as fast urbanization and industrialization threaten to reduce the country's 1.8 billion-mu (1.2 million-square-kilometer) arable land. Therefore, the four-day central economic work conference, which concluded Friday, elaborated a national food security strategy based on domestic supply and moderate imports, aimed at ensuring production capacity and harnessing science and technology. Jiang Wenran, who runs the annual Canada-China Energy and Environment Forum, told Xinhua China's focus on food security amid consecutive rich harvests shows the leadership had strong crisis awareness and attached importance to people's lives and security. Ensuring China was self-sufficient in food when global trade and transport systems were heavily blocked was very important for national security, Jiang said. BALANCED GROWTH - The central economic work meeting emphasized the traditional over-reliance on investment for growth had ended, and also highlighted the balance between consumption, investment and exports to adjust industrial structure and reduce overcapacity. The country should "make efforts to free up demand, give full play to the fundamental role of consumption, the pivotal role of investment and the supporting role of exports," said a statement after the meeting. Jiang said China was expected to adopt specific measures to realize its goals, and one of them was that gross domestic product (GDP) growth was no longer the only criterion for weighing local governments' performance. Hassan Raghab, professor of the Chinese Faculty of Egypt's Ain Shams University, said the conference sent a message that the Chinese government would continue to reform and open up to the world. Rather than just pursuing the speed of development, Beijing would put more emphasis on economic and social stability. It might moderately slow development speed but make the economic structure more reasonable and the foundation more solid, so as to prevent potential risks, Raghab said. INCLUSIVE GROWTH - The meeting also highlighted improving people's lives, employment of university graduates and re-employment of the laid-off, demonstrating China's aspiration for inclusive growth. In Raghab's opinion, China had to balance the growth of big cities and small towns; and it was noteworthy the government, at the meeting, had stressed the importance of narrowing the income gap and protecting the weak, which were crucial in achieving an inclusive growth. Song Yu, an economist at Goldman Sachs, said the meeting did not ask to "regulate and control" the real estate market, but to "solve" the housing problem, which reflected a greater concern of the government that prioritized increasing supply instead of reducing demand. GREEN GROWTH - The meeting also proposed enhancing environmental governance, protection, and investment and policies. Axel Berger, political scientist at the German Development Institute, said, if China managed to green its growth model, it would have a tremendous positive effect globally. "If... a large economy such as China is able to shift its growth model from a high to low carbon one, this will push more reluctant countries to move as well in such a direction," said Berger, who identifies managing the rapid urbanization while building a low carbon urban infrastructure as one of the key challenges in terms of green growth. For his part, Jiang said, if the adjustment of China's industrial structure went smoothly, it would increase domestic demand and form a sound relationship between the environment and economic growth, which would help boost the development of the Chinese economy and deepen reform and opening-up. ^ top ^

PBC injects cash into market (Global Times)
2013.12.20
China's central bank announced Thursday that it had injected liquidity into the market, with the country's interbank short-term lending rate having soared in recent days as commercial banks sought funds to meet year-end requirements. The People's Bank of China (PBC), the central bank, said that via its Short-term Liquidity Operations (SLO) it had injected fresh funds into the interbank lending market, but it did not specify how much. "The market is historically impacted by factors including the country's fiscal income and spending at year-end," the PBC said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "If necessary, [the PBC] will continue injecting liquidity into financial institutions that have met certain requirements," it said. The announcement was made after the benchmark seven-day bond repurchase (repo) rate rose to nearly 10 percent in intraday trade on Thursday, its highest level since the cash squeeze in late June. The seven-day repo rate stood at 7.1 percent when trading closed Thursday, the highest point in three months, and the one-day repo rate reached 7 percent Thursday, gaining by 318 basis points. Jin Lin, a senior banking analyst with Orient Securities in Shanghai, told the Global Times Thursday that while there is a shortage of liquidity, it will not lead to a dangerous credit crunch any time soon. "After the cash crunch in June, banks should have some cash reserves and will not experience any serious liquidity problems soon," Lin said. All terms of the Shanghai interbank offered rate (Shibor), which measures the costs for banks to borrow from each other, have posted alarming spikes since Monday, with the Shibor for seven-day yuan loans seeing the largest increase - it rose from 4.35 percent on Monday to 6.47 percent on Thursday. The Shibor for one-month yuan loans rose by 33.62 basis points to 7.1 percent on Thursday, according to the National Interbank Funding Center, and the Shibor for two-week loans jumped by 113.9 basis points to 6.22 percent Thursday. Li Bo, Shanghai-based chief investment consultant at GF Securities, told the Global Times Thursday that it is normal for commercial banks to increase their borrowing at year-end since they need to meet reserve requirements set by the regulator, and that raises the Shibor level. Zhang Lei, a macroeconomics analyst with Minsheng Securities, told the Global Times Thursday that another reason why commercial banks are short of funds is that an unusually high number of financial instruments are maturing late this year. SLOs are usually conducted behind closed doors with banks that are in need of liquidity. The PBC did not mention which banks received the fresh cash injection or when. The PBC did not conduct any open market operations during the last five sessions, intending to let maturing financial instruments absorb the cash injected into the market by the Ministry of Finance's fiscal deposits, according to a report by Reuters Thursday. The US Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it will cut its quantitative easing program by $10 billion to $75 billion each month, which could cause a rise in the US dollar. This might cause funds to flow from China to the US, which would lead to a surge in the Shibor and deposit interest rates in the future, Li said. However, both Zhang and Li said the Shibor level will go down soon. "The interbank lending rate will decline soon since the Ministry of Finance will inject fiscal deposits into the system within the next few days," Li said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Purge unlikely to change China-NK ties (Global Times)
2013.12.18
The foreign media has been speculating about the impact of the execution of Jang Song-thaek on China-North Korea economic cooperation. The issue has also been raised on China's Internet. The question comes as Jang used to have a close relationship with China and was in charge of bilateral economic cooperation. Meanwhile, North Korea accused Jang of asking his cronies to sell off the country's resources and selling land in the Rason Special Economic Zone at cheap prices, which could easily make people think this accusation also implicates China. Jang's execution is a result of Pyongyang's domestic politics, yet the Chinese public feels bad about it. Some worry Pyongyang will scrap its contract with China over the 50-year pier lease in the port of Rajin; others are concerned that further moves by leader Kim Jong-un will be even unpredictable. Many Chinese scholars of North Korean studies believe things will not become that bad. Economic relations between Beijing and Pyongyang are determined by their political ties, which will not be easily changed due to the execution of Jang. This Northeast Asian country has no strategic maneuvering room as it confronts South Korea, the US and Japan. Its dependence on China is irreplaceable. As long as China does not interfere with the North's internal affairs or make it feel threatened, the North is unlikely to take the initiative to worsen ties with China or give up economic cooperation with China. Such analysis sounds reasonable. At the moment, Pyongyang might have been engaged in dealing with Jang's affairs and have no time to take bilateral ties into consideration. Even though it has made the Chinese public feel awkward, this may not be Pyongyang's intention. North Korea is facing political uncertainties. There is little likelihood that it shows a tough stance toward China now. Although Kim Jong-un has irritated the world several times since he took power, he has a clear mind when it comes to consolidating his regime. But it has become a fact that some negative impact has been cast on Sino-North Korean ties. If Pyongyang doesn't want such impact to spread to the Chinese public or the wider world, it should respond to the outside's questions. China's foreign ministry has said China will continue to promote healthy and stable bilateral ties, but we haven't heard anything about Pyongyang's stance. When it concerns China's national interests, China should not take too courteous an attitude when dealing with North Korea. Chinese society will not accept the inconsistency of North Korea in its words or deeds.We are more prone to believe Pyongyang is keeping a clear mind in maintaining the friendship with China and in acknowledging the importance of abiding by the economic pattern set during the era of former leader Kim Jong-il. China takes the initiative in economic relations with North Korea, while it needs to strike a balance between keeping its own principles and respecting North Korea. Sino-North Korean ties should remain stable as the strategic pattern in Northeast Asia and interests of the two haven't changed. How Pyongyang should walk out of the shadow of Jang's affairs is a test for its young leader. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Oyu Tolgoi Board members unanimously approved the 2014 operating budget (Infomongolia)
2013.12.17
On December 16, 2013, Turquoise Hill Resources informed that its owner Rio Tinto had secured extensions to the financing commitment letters from 15 commercial banks that would now expire on March 31, 2014, where the mature date was due on December 12, 2013. The extension to the financing commitment letters from 15 commercial banks such as BNP Paribas, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Societe Generale and Standard Chartered gives opportunity to Rio Tinto to have negotiation with the Government of Mongolia on Oyu Tolgoi investment issue. The Rio Tinto plans to borrow a total of 3 billion USD from these banks. Although, investors could not reach yet negotiations with the Government of Mongolia on Oyu Tolgoi project's underground mining. Besides, the feasibility study is expected to be completed during the first half of 2014, says Rio Tinto. In the meantime, Turquoise Hill Resources also provided an update on Oyu Tolgoi, project financing and financial and production guidance for 2014 during its the Oyu Tolgoi LLC Board meeting held in Ulaanbaatar last week and Board members unanimously approved the 2014 operating budget on December 12, 2013. In 2014 production from Oyu Tolgoi is expected to be 150,000 to 175,000 tons of copper concentrate and 700,000 to 750,000 ounces of gold concentrate. Operating cash costs are expected to be approximately 1 billion USD and capital expenditure is expected to be 160 million USD of which approximately 80 million USD relates to sustaining capital. During 2014, Oyu Tolgoi intends to draw down inventory and return to more normal levels of approximately four to six weeks of production. Turquoise Hill and Rio Tinto remain focused on securing project finance to fund the Oyu Tolgoi Project with the full support of the Government of Mongolia. All parties are committed to resolving the shareholder issues and advancing the necessary steps to restart the underground mine; including resolution of the shareholder issues, completion of the feasibility study, project financing, permitting and approvals. According to the feasibility study for open mining or the first phase of Oyu Tolgoi Project, the investment had been over budgeted by 40% or about 2 billion USD, hence experts representing Mongolia and Rio Tinto had agreed to conduct a simultaneous audit from October 2013 following the last Board meeting's negotiation held in London on September 23-27, 2013,. Currently the final summary of the audit to reach a general conclusion has not revealed yet. ^ top ^

Draft amendment to anti-corruption law submitted (Montsame)
2012.12.20
A member of parliament Sh.Tuvdendorj Thursday submitted to the Speaker a draft amendment to the law on combating corruption.The MP wants, as he said, to change name of the Corruption Combating Agency (CCA) to the General Department of Corruption Combating in order to set up its branches and units in localities. In accordance with the current law, the CCA does not have any branches in the localities, and this causes the agency some difficulties in activating anti-corruption actions at local administrative bodies due to lack of human resources and financial potential, he explained. As seen from international experience, the corruption combating bodies usually have the public monitoring council and carry out works through local units and branches, the MP added. ^ top ^

Mongolia provides nomads with solar power (Montsame)
2012.12.20
The Mongolian government has taken upon itself to install solar panels on tents in its vast plains where around 800,000 nomads live. Near to a third of Mongolia's population continue to live an unchanged centuries old nomadic lifestyle, herding animals and living in tents made of yak's wool. Up until just a few years ago, they had almost no access to electricity. However, in this region, which gets 250 days of sunshine a year, the potential to produce solar-powered electricity is endless. The government originally started installing solar panels in 2000, but the project was stalled in 2005. In 2006 the project was revived when the World Bank agreed to cover half of the costs and set up centers across the country so people wouldn't have to travel all the way to the capital when maintenance was needed. By 2013, 70% of the country's nomads gained access to solar power, surpassing the original target of 35%. It has given nomads access to television, which tells them the weather forecast, enabling them to keep their animals safe. It also allows them to keep in touch with their children via telephone, most of whom are in boarding schools in the capital Ulaanbaatar. The project has also helped Mongolia lower its carbon dioxide emissions, which according to a report by Al-Jazeera, is already 10 times higher than the world average due to coal mining in the country. Solar energy is clean as it does not produce smoke pollution caused by fires and candles. The fact that most nomads now own mobile phones and color televisions, however, make some worry that their traditional nomadic lifestyle is under threat. On the other hand, the fact that the solar panels are portable allows nomads to take them wherever they go, in order to help them continue their nomadic lifestyle. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Ludivine Candiotti
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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