31 March - 06 April 2003

No 135


Experts tally the cost of mainland's policy of silence
Global investment banks, which typically are extremely polite to the mandarins on the mainland, have begun accusing officials of mishandling the crisis and causing a drop in investor confidence. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter revised downwards its 2003 growth forecast for the entire region, including the mainland, and blasted the mainland authorities for not being more forthright. Citibank's Salomon Smith Barney followed suit, revising its GDP estimate for the mainland downwards 0.3 percentage points to 7.3%, citing a dramatic slowdown in travel and the services sector in general. Mainland sensitivities to criticism became only too apparent when local analysts, other than foreigners based in China, refused to comment on questions about the government's handling of the crises. (SCMP, 5 Apr)

Forums and sporting events called off as fears hit home
Scores of international conferences, sporting events and other activities have been cancelled as foreigners heed travel warnings. If the cancellations go on any longer, organisers say, China's conference and hospitality industries will lose money. Among the major no shows are: the Rolling Stones; the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Women's Championship; the Beijing Rugby Sevens: the Young Presidents Organisation convention; the World Economic Forum's China Business Summit; and the International Labour Organisation's China Employment Forum. The annual trade fair in Guangzhou, set for April 15-19, will still take place, but some German and Israeli businesses have said they will not attend. American and British authorities said they were not sure. But events for Chinese people are going ahead with no hitches. (SCMP, 5 Apr)

We handled it badly, admits disease expert
Li Liming, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control apologised for China's failure to give the public more information about the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The unexpected acknowledgment follows days of international criticism over the way China has handled the crisis. Still, co-ordination with the media remained an issue: his apology came at a news conference to which foreign news organisations were not invited. (SCMP, 5 Apr)

Firms hit by virus scare
Several major Swiss companies have imposed travel restrictions on their employees following a scare over a highly contagious form of pneumonia. The country's leading bank, UBS, cancelled all visits to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and the Canadian city of Toronto.The action is in line with recommendations issued by the WHO. UBS employees who have returned from Asia have been ordered to stay at home for ten days before they resume work in Switzerland. Credit Suisse Group has advised its staff to keep business trips to the affected regions to a minimum. Nestlé and ABB announced that they were also restricting business trips to southeast Asia. Pictet Bank put on hold all travel to Hong Kong and Singapore. Staff already in the region will have to undergo medical checks on their return to Switzerland. Exhibitors from some Asian countries were banned from doing business at an international watch and jewellery fair in Basel and Zurich. (swissinfo, 2 Apr)


Japan cuts foreign aid to China
Japan cut its yen loans to China by 25% for a second straight year to slim its budget deficit by reducing foreign aid. The cut took yen loans to JPY121.2 billion (USD1 billion) for the fiscal year. (FEER, 10 Apr)

China's export volume ranked world fifth last year
China's export volume of foreign trade ranked the world fifth in the year 2002, one place higher than the previous year. The import volume ranked the world sixth, the same with previous year. Last year China realized an export volume of USD325.6 billion (up 22%), with its percentage in world total export rising from 4.3% in 2001 to 5.1% in 2002, according to WTO statistics. The top four world exporters are the US, Germany, Japan and France. In 2002 the import volume for China is USD295.2 billion (up 21%) and its percentage in world total trade volume rising from 3.8% in 2001 to 4.4%. The top five world importers are the US, Germany, Britain, Japan and France. (People's Daily, 6 Apr)

China's economy fuels East Asian growth
China's vigorous economy boosted East Asian economic growth from 5.5% in 2001 to 6.7% in 2002, despite relative stagnation in Japan and volatile US demand, according to a World Bank report. (People's Daily, 4 April)

Mexico blasts China's 'unfair' manufacturing advantage
Mexico blamed China for this country's economic woes, repeating complaints that rock-bottom Chinese wages attract manufactures who would otherwise open factories in Mexico. Mexico has long claimed China steals its factories, then floods its market with cheap goods. (AP, 2 Apr)


China urges WTO members to speed up talks
China is gravely concerned that WTO talks have fallen behind schedule, especially on issues that affect developing members, said Chinese Minister of Commerce Lu Fuyuan. He urged WTO members to carefully consider the needs of developing members and contribute to the next ministerial meeting of the WTO to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in September. (China Daily, 1 Apr)

Japan calls on China to meet WTO obligations
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry highlighted China's need to improve domestic laws, establish a transparent and uniform administration and to improve training. Tokyo was looking for "drastic improvements" in the enforcement of intellectual property protection, it added. METI also said China had "failed to provide explanations that would alleviate" concerns that it was not honouring automobile import quotas. (AFP, 28 Mar)


Insurance reserves rules are set
China issued rules which apply to all domestic and foreign insurers and outline the minimum reserves for different types of insurers. Insurers must have reserves to cover their payouts, calculated as a percentage of the previous year's premium income. (FEER, 10 Apr)

State tax revenue rises 27%
China's tax revenue rose about 27% this quarter, compared with the same period last year. Tax revenue stood at CNY436.1 billion for the three months to March 20 this year, an increase of CNY94.9 billion over the same period in 2002. (China Daily, 2 Apr)

Bonds fuel graft, claims mainland economist
China's policy of stimulating economic growth by issuing tens of billions of yuan worth of treasury bonds every year has created white elephants and incited corruption, wrote Lin Ling of Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences an economist in an essay carried by the China Economic Times. Since most treasury bonds were snapped up by state banks - which were anxious to find a safe means to invest - depositors were at risk because they were indirectly lending money to loss-making projects. Explicit criticism of the fiscal spending stimulus policy is rare on state media. Economic Times is run by the powerful Development Research Centre. (SCMP, 1 Apr)

Overseas institutional investors enthuse about China's A-shares
In its research report on China's A-Share market, UBS Warburg singled out preferential choices of shares on that market, which has a capital value of USD500 billion. According to the report, four types of companies will be popular with overseas institutional investors, including those having an industry monopoly, such as over airports, harbors and expressways. The other three types were those "with Chinese characteristics", for example, alcohol producers and cheap-labor textile enterprises, companies that own valuable self-developed brands, and companies engaged in resources development like coal mines and iron mines. (Xinhua, 1 Apr)

More Export-oriented Processing Zones set up in China
The central government approved the establishment of another 13 export-oriented processing zones, bringing the total number of such zones to 38. (People's Daily, 31 Mar)


Foreign capital to gain greater access to Chinese media
China published new rules governing foreign-invested book, newspaper and magazine distribution. They provide specific guidance on the establishment of foreign-funded book, newspaper and magazine distributors. (People's Daily, 4 April)

Foreign investors fear China's antitrust proposals
A new law on mergers and acquisitions is officially aimed at promoting foreign investment inflows by opening up and regulating an area that has until now been in legal limbo. The anti-monopoly clause in the new law is particularly significant because it represents the first legal expression of Chinese thinking on antitrust issues. A full anti-monopoly law, being drafted by a National People's Congress committee, is expected to be passed at an unspecified date. (FT, 2 Apr)

US publications make illegal debut in China
China's publishing authority warned that the Chinese-language version of Newsweek, Forbes and Harvard Business Review could be banned for illegal entry. Earlier reports said the three elite American magazines had acquired permission from Beijing to enter the Chinese mainland market in the form of monthly periodicals. But the State Press and Publication Administration denied that it had approved any of the three. (China Daily, 28 Mar)


China Aluminium Group to be inaugurated
China Aluminium Group will be launched late this month, marking the start of a massive consolidation of the Chinese aluminium industry. More than 60 Chinese aluminium companies have applied to join the group, with a combined primary aluminium production capacity accounting for over 70% of the national total and alumina capacity almost 100% of the national total. The new conglomerate will be among the State Council approved list of some 120 large group companies which the central government will help to become internationally competitive. China has become the world's largest primary aluminium producer and a net exporter of aluminium. (People's Daily, 5 Apr)

GM bullish on mainland prospects
The head of General Motors' China operations predicted at least 10% growth for the mainland car market in coming years, against 62% last year, and said his company hoped to offer Chinese buyers financing packages within three months. GM said it sold 264'101 vehicles in China last year, up 325% from 2001, with a 7.7% share of the national market compared with 5% a year ago. GM aims to offer loans of up to 90% of the purchase price. (SCMP, 4 Apr) Why not give the cars away from the start?

Spending by telecoms expected to slow
Mainland telecom operators are expected to spend a combined CNY207.7 billion on network expansion this year, nearly the same as last year when spending slowed during industry restructuring. (SCMP, 4 Apr)

AOL wins Chinese approval for select broadcasts
AOL Time Warner announced it had won permission to broadcast its Chinese-language entertainment channel to hotels and selected residential compounds across China. The Chinese government's approval is the latest in a series of moves in its cautious opening of the tightly controlled television market to a handful of carefully chosen foreign companies. (FT, 1 Apr)

Swiss pearl wholesaler eyes China's retail sector
Swiss-based pearl wholesaler Golay Buchel aims to expand into China's retail market through partnerships with mainland firms. The group met more than 60 mainland retailers from major cities at its first Golay distributor conference in Shanghai today to explore possible partnerships. (SCMP, 31 Mar)

Flexible pricing in the wings
Chinese airlines will be given more freedom within the next three months to decide on ticket prices. The CAAC and State Development and Reform Commission will jointly settle on the base prices, which will guide the airlines. CAAC statistics show the industry transported 84.25 million passengers and 1.98 million tons last year, up 12% and 15.8% over 2001. (China Daily, 31 Mar)


Sinopec to start oil production in Nigeria
China's second largest oil producer, Sinopec, is to commence operations at an oilfield in Nigeria this year. Its annual output is expected to be 200'000 tons, or about 4'100 barrels per day. (People's Daily, 31 Mar)

Beijing 2008

Swiss architecture design for 2008 Olympic Main Stadium picked
A scheme jointly designed by Swiss and Chinese architects has been picked as the design of the National Stadium - the main stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games, the Beijing Urban Planning Commission announced. The scheme worked out by a consortium of Switzerland's Herzog & de Meuron Architekten AG and the China Architecture Design & Research Group, polled eight out of 13 votes to defeat the other two short-listed designs for the honor, the BUPU said. An evaluation panel made up of 13 architects and experts from five countries had picked out the three schemes from 13 prequalified candidates. "The design is a perfect combination of elegance and simplicity," said Guang Zhaoye, chairman of the evaluation panel. "Every part of the conceptual stadium is functional," he added. The winning scheme will provide a basis for the final design of the National Stadium with more detailed architectural plans to be drawn up, the BUPU said. The 80'000-seat National Stadium, located in the south of the Olympic Green, will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track-and-field events during the 2008 Olympics. The construction work of the National Stadium is set to start on December 24. (China Daily, 31 Mar)

Analysis on prospects for Sino-European economic cooperation
During the just-ended Ninth China-France Economic Forum, dozens of French firms strove to promote themselves in a bid to take advantage of the major business opportunities generated by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Just days before the forum, Minister-President of Germany's Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, led a huge delegation of entrepreneurs to China to learn about China and its market and to seize the business opportunities presented by the Olympic Games. (People's Daily, 5 Apr)


Chinese and foreign banks unite to fight debt evasion
About 68 Chinese and foreign banks in Shanghai signed a pact to join their efforts to fight against debt evaders. According to the pact, the banking trade union is responsible for the management of bad debts and the protection of the banks' rights as creditors. All debt evasions should be reported to the trade union, which will make decisions on them. (China Daily, 4 Apr)

Shanghai reports huge influx of overseas investment
During the first three months this year, the contracted overseas investment in Shanghai reached USD3.393 billion, representing a 59.2% increase over the same period of last year. The newly approved overseas-funded projects in the city in the period numbered 984, rising 48.6% year on year. A total of USD2.084 billion was invested in the city's industrial sector, up 68.8%, and USD1.304 billion in the service sector, up 48.3%. Investment from Hong Kong was USD726 million, the largest proportion of the total. (People's Daily, 3 Apr)

Shanghai Mayor promises to create 400'000 jobs this year
Mayor of Shanghai Han Zheng pledged to create 400'000 jobs for the local people this year in an effort to maintain an unemployment rate of less than 5%. This year, the city government will again subsidize the creation of 100'000 public-sector positions for such people and another 100'000 job opportunities in the field of public facility maintenance. (People's Daily, 3 Apr)

Bank fund to aid small firms
The China Development Bank has decided to allocate an initial fund of CNY5 billion as a credit guarantee for Shanghai's small and medium-sized enterprises, under an agreement signed by the bank and city government yesterday. Shanghai is the first pilot city to benefit from such a new service, which is expected to cover other major Chinese cities in the following years, according to the bank. (China Daily, 3 Apr)

Pearl River

Guangzhou plans CNY10 billion into water projects this year
Authorities in South China's Guangdong Province will spend CNY10 billion this year tackling water supply problems. The money will primarily be used to fortify key river banks and dykes, reservoirs, water supply and conservancy pivots. Guangdong aims to treat more than 40% of its waste water by the year 2005 and more than 60% by 2010. Only 30.61% of Guangdong's waste water is treated at present and just 15 of its 50-odd cities have set up waste water treatment plants. (China Daily, 4 Apr)

Weekly Market update  04 April 2003  28 March 2003
Shanghai A 1581.15 1560.15
Shanghai B 121.83 121.65
Shenzhen A 447.73 442.10
Shenzhen B 204.48 200.07
Hong Kong Red Chip  895.33 933.36
Hong Kong H 2187.77 2232.03
Source: South China Morning Post

China Business Briefing is a random selection of business related news gathered from various media and news services covering China, edited by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices and other interested parties. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Upon request and depending on the resources available, the Embassy will provide further information on the subjects mentioned in the China Business Briefing.

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