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
  31.3-3.4.2008, No. 211  
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Table of contents

Avian flu

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

New Zealand, China to sign trade deal in Beijing (China Daily)
New Zealand's prime minister said Sunday she would sign a groundbreaking free trade agreement with China on April 7 at Beijing's Great Hall of the People. The deal - which will give New Zealand access to the world's fastest-growing economy - is expected to boost exports to China by up to 400 million New Zealand dollars (US$318 million; euro201 million) a year. "This is a significant event for both New Zealand and China," said Prime Minister Helen Clark, adding that details of the agreement would be released publicly after the signing ceremony. Previously Clark said the trade pact would cut tariff barriers for New Zealand farm exports to China. Farm output makes up half of New Zealand's annual economic production. Beyond trade in goods, the agreement is also expected to cover the services sector, from insurance and banking to education and labor supply. China has already sought New Zealand's permission for specialist workers, including chefs and Chinese language teachers, to work in New Zealand. New Zealand has said it will study the proposal closely. Two-way trade between China and New Zealand is currently worth more than NZ$4.8 billion (US$3.8 billion; euro2.4 billion) a year, with Chinese exports making up about 80 percent. After the pact is signed, it will have to be formally ratified in New Zealand's Parliament. ^ top ^

China-ASEAN Expo Marketing Summit to be held in S China (People's Daily)
China-ASEAN Expo Marketing Summit is scheduled to be held from April 1 to 4 in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China, a spokesman for the China-ASEAN Expo Secretariat said Saturday. The four-day summit, the first of its kind, aims at finding an effective approach to better promote China-ASEAN Expo, which is an annual gathering of political and business leaders and experts to discuss major issues concerning the development in the region covering China and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Senior experts specializing in marketing will be invited to discuss or give lectures on establishing partnership between the exposition and enterprises in China, and attracting targeted customers. […]. ^ top ^

China, Ghana to strengthen parliamentary cooperation (Xinhua)
Chinese top legislator Wu Bangguo met here on Monday with the Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana, Ebnezer Begyina Sekyi-Hughes, agreeing to strengthen parliamentary cooperation between the two countries. Wu, who is chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, said that the NPC attaches great importance to developing relations with the Parliament of Ghana. He pledged to maintain the momentum of high-level bilateral visits, strengthen exchanges and cooperation between the special committees and offices of both parliaments, and enhance bilateral coordination in international and regional parliamentary organizations. Wu hailed the relationship between the two countries, saying that China attached great importance to such relations and was ready to continuously promote practical cooperation on a win-win basis for mutual benefit. He also expressed his appreciation of Ghana's adherence to the one-China policy and support for China on the Taiwan and Tibet issues. Hughes said that Ghana's Parliament was willing to make joint efforts with the NPC to develop friendly and cooperative ties, adding that Ghana cherishes the traditional friendship with China and will firmly adhere to the one-China policy. Hughes also met on Monday with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, and Abdul'ahat Abdulrixit, the vice-chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. Jia briefed Hughes on the work of CPPCC and said that the CPPCC is ready to strengthen cooperation with the Parliament of Ghana to develop bilateral relations. He also thanked Ghana's government and parliament for firmly adhering to the one-China policy and supporting China's reunification cause. Hughes agreed to promote cooperation between the Ghanaian parliament and the CCPCC, adding that Ghana appreciated China's aid and support and would continue to stick to the one-China policy. […]. ^ top ^

Firm denies selling radio jamming kit to Beijing (SCMP)
French defence electronics firm Thales has denied accusations by human rights campaigners that it sold equipment to China that has helped Beijing scramble radio broadcasts. French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy said in articles published in the past week that equipment sold by Thales was used to block foreign radio broadcasts into China, "particularly into areas such as Tibet". Media rights campaign group Reporters Without Borders has also said antennae manufactured by Thales are allowing China to interfere with radio broadcasts. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Few surprises in delegation of duties for new vice-premiers (SCMP)
The central government has announced the division of labour for its newly appointed vice-premiers and state councillors, local media reported. The announcement contains few surprises. Of the four new vice-premiers approved by the National People's Congress last month, Li Keqiang, widely believed to be Premier Wen Jiabao's successor, will oversee overall economic and development planning, the Southern Metropolis News reported. Mr Li, 52, who joined the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee in October, will also assume Mr Wen's duties when the premier is overseas. Vice-Premier Wang Qishan is to take an expanded role in overseeing trade, tourism, product safety, customs and finance. He will be charged with pushing through the much-needed reforms for the financial sector, the newspaper reported. North Korea-educated Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang will be in charge of industry, telecommunication, energy and transport. His colleague Hui Liangyu retained his post as vice-premier in charge of agriculture. Of the five new state councillors, Liu Yandong, the only woman among the top leadership, is to assist Vice-President Xi Jinping in handling Hong Kong and Macau affairs. The newspaper said Ms Liu was also appointed as the first-rank vice-chairwoman of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Marking a departure from tradition, Taiwanese affairs - which were normally handled by the same person who overseas Hong Kong and Macau affairs - were handed to State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the former vice-minister of foreign affairs. Mr Dai will be in charge of foreign policy and diplomatic affairs, the newspaper reported. Ma Kai, the former head of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, is to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the general office of the State Council. State Councillor Meng Jianzhu, who also heads the Public Security Ministry, will be responsible for internal security and law. Another state councillor is Liang Guanglie, the defence minister. ^ top ^

Route completed linking S China with N Thailand via Laos (China Daily)
Leaders of from the six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries attended here Monday a ceremony for the completion of Route 3 along the GMS North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), which will create more business opportunities and provide people with easier access to social services. The Kunming-Chiang Khong road in the NSEC (Route 3 in Laos), which links China's Yunnan Province with northern Thailand via Laos, is the last remaining stretch of road in an overland route joining China's Beijing and Singapore. Route 3 passes through 94 villages and towns in Laos' poor, northwest region with a total length of 220 kilometers. The total cost of Route 3 in Laos is US$97 million, to which China, Thailand, and the Asian Development Bank contributed 30 million dollars each. At the ceremony, Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said he thanked the financial assistance of the Chinese and Thai governments in construction of the route. Also on March 31, the prime ministers from the six countries sharing the Mekong River -- Laos, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand -- witnessed a completion ceremony of phase one of the GMS Information Superhighway Project, the signing of an memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the road-map for implementing the GMS cross-border power trading, and the inking of another MOU toward the sustainable and balanced development of the GMS North- South Economic Corridor and enhanced organizational effectiveness for developing economic corridors in the sub-region. […]. ^ top ^

Chinese premier pledges more support to poor minority areas (People's Daily)
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged that his government will extend further support to poor areas inhabited by ethnic minority people.

"All ethnic groups form one big family. We must be united and help each other, to prosper and make progress together," Wen told a group of Jingpo nationality farmers during a visit to the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. […]

Wen told farmers in Dai, Jingpo and De'ang villages that his new cabinet has decided to increase rural spending by 25 billion yuan (3.5 billion U.S. dollars). […]. ^ top ^



Beijing air quality getting better, but more needs to be done (China Daily)
Two-thirds of Beijing residents think the city's air quality is getting better, a survey by Gallup, whose results were published on Monday, said.Sixty-six percent of the more than 4,000 people polled last year, said air quality had improved, compared with just 53 percent of a similar group questioned in 2006.Gallup's website mentioned the fact that some Olympic athletes had cited air quality concerns as a reason for possibly skipping some events this summer. However, it also quoted the International Olympic Committee's top medical official, Arne Ljungqvist, as saying that while pollution could affect athletes' performance, the levels posed no serious danger to them.

Beijing authorities have been keen to improve air quality by the Olympic year. In a bid to meet World Health Organization air pollution standards and live up to its "Green Olympics'" promises, the city implemented new vehicle emissions standards - equivalent to those applied by the European Union - on March 1, and from July, the number of cars allowed on the city's streets will be reduced. […]. ^ top ^



Key index nosedives another 4% (China Daily)
Shanghai: The mainland stock market plunged a further 4.13 percent yesterday, losing over 1 trillion yuan in total capitalization after the central bank said monetary tightening policies will stay.The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 143.55 points to close at 3329.16, the lowest since April 6, 2007. […]. ^ top ^



Democracy 'takes time to digest' (SCMP)
Beijing could not allow full democracy in Hong Kong before at least 2017 because the government and businesses needed time to adjust to the new political game, a leading mainland legal expert has said. Wang Zhenmin, a member of the Basic Law Committee and vice-dean of Tsinghua University's School of Law, said universal suffrage would erode the power of the elite as the grass roots gained more power and benefits via the ballot box. "Because the business community in particular will have to `sacrifice' more income, it will need to adjust its business models and political representation methods," the academic said. He defended the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Hong Kong's democracy in an article in the Hong Kong Journal, a Washington-based quarterly online publication. It is the first time a mainland expert familiar with Beijing's policy towards Hong Kong has explained the thinking in holding back the green light to democracy. Professor Wang said the mainland realised that democracy was essential to maintain long-term economic growth and establish a socialist harmonious society advocated by President Hu Jintao . Beijing also understood that Hong Kong would need democracy to maintain its stability and prosperity, he said. "Realising full democracy in Hong Kong is not only in the interest of Hong Kong, but also in the national interests of China," he said. But the academic said universal suffrage would mean those now enjoying the greatest political interest would lose power to the public. "There is a strong possibility that a fully democratised Hong Kong might be restructured from a typical traditional capitalist society into a public welfare-based capitalist society," he said. Economically, the rich may be forced to pay more taxes to finance benefits for the poor as they gained power. "An elite-centred, business-oriented society will be transformed into a grass-roots-centred and welfare-oriented society," he said. "Everyone should be prepared to accept the new rules of the political game and a new style of life. For such `revolutionary' constitutional reform, 10 years is not a long preparation period.". ^ top ^

Ma's office delays inauguration stamp over use of 'Taiwan' name (SCMP)
Taiwanese president-elect Ma Ying-jeou has asked for a halt to the issuing of stamps marking his May 20 inauguration, saying the printing of the word "Taiwan" on them was inappropriate. Political observers and pundits said the gesture was his attempt to uphold the island's official "Republic of China" title to facilitate his plan to engage the mainland, which insists on the "one China" principle in resumption of cross-strait talks. […]Su Tien-fu, vice-president of Taiwan Post, said it had long been a practice of the company to issue presidential-inauguration stamps, and Mr Ma's office agreed to do so for this inauguration. "But they hope we can use the `Republic of China' title to issue the stamp. This still needs approval by. ^ top ^



Speaker calls for neutral observers to assess Tibet (SCMP)
The Speaker of Tibet's government-in-exile yesterday called for neutral international observers to evaluate the situation in the restive province. He also rejected Beijing's claims that the Dalai Lama "instigated the uprising in Tibet". "Independent, neutral, unbiased observers should go into Tibet to find out the real situation," Karma Chophel said in Rome. "If demonstrations and uprisings go on in Tibet then China will continue [clamping down], then the [international] voice should get stronger and stronger. In the present very urgent circumstances, information is hard to obtain but according to reliable sources a very, very brutal subjugation of the Tibetan people is going on in Tibet." Mr Chophel said the unrest in the region was triggered by the mainland government's misrule, and the protests were being led by third and fourth generation Tibetans. He added that unrest was occurring in areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region to the northeast and southeast that were part of China proper. "That goes to show that genuinely, Tibetans are not happy with Chinese rule." The Speaker said that while Tibetans inside Tibet were seeking full independence, the government-in-exile remained in favour of "genuine autonomy" - self-rule apart from foreign affairs and defence. He also charged that Beijing had a "well-planned strategy ... to minimise, to nullify their minorities" in what Mr Chophel labelled "demographic aggression". Thanks especially to the railway line that opened last year from Beijing to Lhasa, ethnic Han Chinese outnumber Tibetans by two to one in the Tibetan capital, Mr Chophel said. "The Chinese themselves say that by 2010 there will be 20 million Chinese in Tibet," he added. "Now we can safely say that Tibetans in Tibet have become a minority in their own country.". ^ top ^

Separatists 'planning suicide hits (China Daily)
Tibetan separatists may use suicide attacks to escalate violence after the recent riots in Lhasa, public security officials warned Tuesday. "To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibetan 'independence' forces is to organize suicide squads for launching violent attacks," Ministry of Public Security spokesman Wu Heping told a press conference in Beijing."They claim that they fear neither bloodshed nor sacrifice. Wu made the remarks while revealing a series of activities conducted, or planned, by the Dalai clique based on information collected by security authorities and confessions made by captured suspects.He promised that the ministry would reveal more evidence as investigations progress.Wu said police have sufficient evidence to prove that the Lhasa riots were part of the "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement" launched by the Dalai clique in January, which aims to create crises and exert pressure on the Chinese government as the Olympic Games draws near.They set a deadline of March 10 for the central government to meet their demands, Wu said.The demands included inviting the Dalai Lama back to Tibet as soon as possible, pulling out Communist Party of China organizations from Tibet, and freeing all "political prisoners"Wu said police have captured the key suspects who allegedly planned, organized and participated in the violence on March 14 and "the suspects are closely connected with the Dalai clique."The captures have also led to the discovery of a domestic network overseen by an official from the "security ministry" of the Dalai clique, Wu said. He said a key suspect directly related to the Lhasa violence had "confessed to his part in organizing, planning and implementing the Lhasa violence on March 14, directed by an official of the Dalai clique". The suspect's identity was not revealed as the case is still under investigation.Wu also said that evidence shows that claims by the Dalai Lama that he neither participated in, nor supported, violence are "blatant lies". He also said police had found a huge quantity of lethal weapons in the dormitories of some monks, including 178 guns and 3.5 tons of explosives after receiving tip-offs.A total of 414 suspects are in custody in connection with the riots, and another 298 people surrendered to police. ". ^ top ^

Beijing campus says Tibetans staged sit-in (SCMP)
The vice-president of the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing confirmed yesterday that some Tibetan students there staged a sit-in on March 17 - three days after rioting broke out in Lhasa. But Serab Nyima insisted the students at the school in northwest Beijing were just praying for peace for their families and the region after feeling worried about the unrest. "Those students were very reasonable and returned to their dormitories by midnight after talks with teachers," he said at a press conference organised by the State Council Information Office. Beijing has repeatedly accused what it terms "the Dalai Lama clique" of instigating the riots, which spread to other Tibetan regions on the mainland, an accusation that has been strongly denied by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Joining the attacks on the Dalai Lama, the scholars rejected suggestions that the riots had underlined conflicts between Han Chinese and the Tibetans as a result of Beijing's policy of encouraging large numbers of Han Chinese to settle in Tibet. They said the claim was politically motivated. Professor Nyima also criticised the Dalai Lama for calling for the autonomy of "greater Tibet", which encompasses four other Tibetaninhabited provinces - Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai - and the Tibet Autonomous Region . While saying such a term had never existed in Chinese history, he said the "Dalai clique" was likely to instigate hatred in the region by making such a claim and it had also resorted to "bloodshed activities" to seek Tibetan independence this year because of the Olympics. Hu Yan, a professor of Tibetan studies at the Central Party School in Beijing, called for the stepping up of legal and patriotic education in monasteries in view of the rioting and the influence the Dalai Lama still exerted on the few large monasteries in Tibet. "Of course, there are only some of them who insist on being unpatriotic, not all of them. "But this reminds us of the need to attach importance to the education of young Tibetan monks," Professor Hu said, stressing that religious activities must be considered under the framework of the law. He also said monks should study Tibetan history, such as its "peaceful liberation and suppression of rebellions" - apparently referring to Tibet's failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, which led to the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India. The apparent stepping-up of rhetoric against the Dalai Lama by Beijing, which on Tuesday claimed the next plan of the "clique" was to organise suicide squads to launch violent attacks, met strong criticism from the spiritual leader and his officials. His spokesman, Chhime Chhoekyapa, said official state press and other mainland media had told Chinese people only one side of the story. "What we would like to see is impartial international bodies going to Tibet to investigate who is behind the riots," he said. ^ top ^

Dalai Lama not planning to meet Bush (SCMP)
The Dalai Lama has no plans to meet US President George W. Bush during his trip to the US starting next Thursday, his spokesman Chhime Chhoekyapa said yesterday. The spokesman said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would deliver lectures and meet community leaders in Seattle, the state of Michigan and other places. "He has no plan to go to Washington or New York," he said. Despite the latest unrest in Tibet, which Beijing has accused the "Dalai Lama clique" of fomenting, the Dalai Lama neither planned nor had been invited to meet the US president on the trip, which had been planned for a long time, Chhime Chhoekyapa said. He said that while the Dalai Lama would make a brief stopover in Japan next Thursday morning, he did not have any plans to meet Japanese leaders. His US visit would coincide with the Olympic torch relay. The torch arrives in San Francisco on Wednesday then leaves for the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires two days later. The Dalai Lama's last visit to the US, in October, drew fire from Beijing, which protested against Mr Bush's decision to meet him as well as present the country's top civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, to him on Capitol Hill. The incident was also cited as one of the reasons behind Beijing's decision to block a port call in Hong Kong by the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in November. ^ top ^

Xinjiang protest linked to Tibet riots (SCMP)
Mainland authorities yesterday confirmed a protest in Xinjiang last month, with one official linking the incident to anti-government riots by Tibetans. No injuries were reported. Incidents were first reported by the US-government funded Radio Free Asia, which said several hundred Uygurs were arrested after demonstrating in Hotan and a neighbouring county in Xinjiang on March 23. It said demonstrators were demanding that authorities not ban headscarves in the predominantly Muslim region, and that they stop torturing Uygurs and release all political prisoners. Fu Chao, an official with the Hotan Regional Administrative Office, confirmed yesterday that a protest had taken place in Hotan. But he said it had been triggered by people who wanted to establish an Islamic nation and separate Xinjiang from China - not a ban on headscarves. He said the government discouraged Uygur women from wearing veils while working because it was "inconvenient" but that the practice was otherwise accepted. "The rioters were mainly Uygurs," he said. It had "nothing to do with the ban on headscarves, but about responding to the riots in Tibet". Some were released after being "educated", Mr Fu said, but authorities had kept the "core splittists under custody". The protest came as the government poured police and troops into Tibet and neighbouring areas to contain unrest in the wake of violent anti-government riots in Lhasa in mid-March. China has labelled the riots an attempt by the "Dalai clique" to split Tibet from China. The Hotan government said on its website on Tuesday there were no reported injuries after last month's protest and that the situation had returned to normal. It said a small number of people - including "terrorists", "separatists" and "religious extremists" - "stirred" things up but were stopped by police. The Radio Free Asia report said the protests were also in response to the death of a wealthy Uygur trader and philanthropist who died after two months in police custody. ^ top ^

Japan's royalty unlikely to attend Games over Tibet, food, gas (SCMP)
Japanese Emperor Akihito and other members of the royal family are unlikely to attend the Beijing Olympics amid concerns in Japan about China's crackdown in Tibet and other issues, a report said yesterday. Tokyo thinks it is not a good time for a rare royal visit because of the unrest in Tibet, a recent health scare over mainland -made dumplings and a spat over disputed gas fields, the Sankei daily reported. "We were planning not to ask royals to go even before the [January dumpling] incident. It is all the more true, now that the Tibetan unrest occurred," it said, quoting a Japanese official. ^ top ^

Paris envoy sorry for comparing French and Chinese forces (SCMP)
Beijing's ambassador to Paris has apologised for comments by an embassy official who compared the violence in Tibet to recent rioting in Villiers-le-Bel outside Paris, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Tuesday. Mr Fillon told France Inter radio that the French interior minister had protested to the ambassador and "suggested that all [French] police guarding the Chinese embassy be withdrawn since these police had been compared to Chinese forces in Tibet. The ambassador reacted immediately to offer his apologies and to state that he wanted the police to stay at the embassy". ^ top ^

Credibility gap (SCMP)
It is ironic that China, a country that does not allow the operation of a free press, should accuse the western media of bias in its coverage of the dramatic events in Tibet, including the use of double standards. "Senior editors condemn western media," a headline in the state-controlled China Daily newspaper screamed on Saturday. The headline appeared over an article distributed by the official Xinhua News Agency. The article quoted Meng Yang, identified as a senior editor of the authoritative People's Daily as saying: "The western media have made their claim that they seek truth in stories, but what they do betrays what they say. Their stories can only incur discredit on their reputation." Actually, the lesson China should learn from the Tibet affair is that it is better to trust the free media to present a fair picture rather than try to use government-controlled mouthpieces to convince the outside world that right is on its side. The free press, despite its many and frequent flaws, has far greater credibility. When the riots broke out on March 14, only one accredited western journalist - James Miles, of The Economist - happened to be in Tibet. His impartial reporting of the riots, including Tibetans burning shops and throwing stones at Han Chinese, earned praise by Chinese state television. Nonetheless, even he was told to leave Tibet. Beijing did not trust anyone whom it did not control to tell the story the way it wanted it to be told. And what was that story? It was that the Dalai Lama and his followers were responsible for the riots because they wanted to split Tibet from China and to use the Olympics to embarrass China. In fact, such charges were made by Chinese officials almost immediately after the riots broke out. They were repeated by no less a figure than Premier Wen Jiabao, who said on March 18 at a press conference that "we also have plenty of evidence proving that this incident was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique." No evidence was produced in support of this claim. And the People's Daily and other official media bodies present did not press him to produce the evidence. Now, look at how the state-controlled media resorts to double standards. On March 27, Chinese officials were escorting members of a press delegation visiting Tibet and, at the Jokhang Temple, the tour was suddenly disrupted as about 30 young monks screamed: "Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!" and declared that Chinese charges that the Dalai Lama was responsible for the violence in Tibet were false. The China Daily, reporting on the incident, left out the fact that the monks had called for freedom in Tibet. Instead, it focused on their claim that the Dalai Lama had not been involved. Then, it added that the monks "did not provide any proof to back up their claims". What kind of proof, one wonders, can be produced to prove a negative - that the Dalai Lama had not been involved in organising and planning the violence? The official media did not ask Chinese officials to back up their charges by producing evidence - something which should be possible. Instead, they asked the monks to produce evidence to support their denials - something that cannot be done. Is it any wonder that the outside world prefers to read the free press, despite its admitted shortcomings, rather than the controlled press? After the Cultural Revolution ended, the late Chinese leader Hu Yaobang apologised in Lhasa for 30 years of misrule and ordered most Chinese officials there to be replaced by Tibetans. Now, another 30 years have gone by and the recent violence makes it clear that China's policy on Tibet is still not working. It is time for Beijing to take the Dalai Lama at his word - that he does not want an independent Tibet - and work with him. On Sunday, while in Laos, Mr Wen for the first time called on the Dalai Lama to use his influence to end the violence in Tibet. That is a good first step. Beijing should engage with the Dalai Lama to solve this problem, rather than regard him as the enemy who instigated the violence. ^ top ^



Government plans to find oil, mineral reserves (China Daily)
The search is on for domestic reserves of key resources, such as iron ore and crude oil, to reduce dependence on imports, according to a government plan released Wednesday.By 2010, China aims to find 10 new oil fields, each with a reserve of at least 100 million tons, and eight to 10 new gas fields, each with a reserve of more than 100 billion cu m of natural gas, the national geological surveying and prospecting plan said.

By the same year, the country is also seeking to find about 200 large mines, with coal, iron and copper being the resources most urgently needed, the plan drafted by the Ministry of Land and Resources, said.Ju Jianhua, deputy head of the ministry's planning department, said: "The plan is of strategic importance to China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on imports."The country is the world's second largest crude oil importer. In 2006, it imported 145 million tons, which accounted for more than 45 percent of that year's total domestic consumption."The year-on-year increase of domestic crude oil production - 1.7 percent in 2006 - is far less than that of consumption, which is currently 12.8 percent," he said.China is also the world's largest importer of iron and copper ores. In 2006, it imported 50 percent of its total requirement, he said. […]. ^ top ^

Hu: SED promotes relations (China Daily)
President Hu Jintao said Wednesday that China values the Sino-US Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) mechanism for its role in promoting economic and trade collaboration and bilateral relations.As key economic players, China and the US have the responsibility to promote the stable and healthy development of the global economy, Hu told US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Wednesday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People.Paulson, who arrived in Beijing Wednesday morning, is on a two-day visit to prepare for the next meeting of the SED scheduled for June in Washington.The process was launched in 2006 to address trade frictions; and the biannual dialogue also serves as a platform to address long-term issues of mutual concern ranging from energy efficiency and copyright protection to the environment."The three SED sessions held so far have yielded positive results," Hu said. "They have played an important role in pushing forward Sino-US trade cooperation and bilateral relations."Paulson reaffirmed the US commitment to promoting bilateral relations, adding that the sound development of the US and Chinese economies and Sino-US relations are important to both sides.Earlier, Paulson met Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, his fellow co-chair of the SED.This is the first time Wang has met Paulson after taking office as one of China's four vice-premiers in March. He has replaced retired vice-premier Wu Yi and taken charge of financial affairs, including the SED.Paulson said he looked forward to working with Wang, whom he called a friend. The former Goldman Sachs banker has known Wang since the 1990s, when the latter was head of China Construction Bank.Wang expressed sympathy for the thorny task Paulson has in handling the US credit crisis. "You looked very tired and worn out on TV. As an old friend, I was concerned," Wang said. "But now I see you here this morning, and you are glowing and robust."Paulson briefed Wang on the current situation of the US economy; and noted that Washington opposes trade protectionism.Paulson is today scheduled to meet Premier Wen Jiabao as well as deliver a speech on energy and the environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. ^ top ^

ADB scales down China forecast (China Daily)
China's economy may expand by 10 percent this year because of weakening external demand and domestic tightening policies, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said yesterday.

That would be 1.4 percentage points lower than last year, and it could further slow to 9.8 percent next year, the ADB said in its latest report on Asian economic outlook.The World Bank has forecast a 9.4 percent growth for this year and 9.2 percent for the next.The ADB said China's export growth may slow to 19 percent this year and further to 16 percent next year, down from 26 percent last year, in the face of weakening global demand and cuts in export tax rebates. Import growth may stand at 20 percent this year due to yuan appreciation, cut in import tariffs and other import-friendly policies.It warned that rising inflation would pose a serious challenge to the country as its CPI may hit 5.5 percent this year, higher than the 4.8 percent target set by the government. Next year it may continue to hover around 5 percent, the report said.The bank previously predicted that China's GDP may grow by 10.5 percent this year, but the worsening US subprime crisis and the likely global economic slowdown have made the bank notch down its forecast.The industrial sector has already begun to show signs of slowing down, with profit growth of China's major industrial enterprises dropping to 16.5 percent year-on-year in the first two months, compared with 43.8 percent in the same period of last year."As contribution from the external side falls, GDP growth will be pulled down," the report said.In the worst case scenario, China's economic growth may be hit by a hard landing and slump to 7 percent, although that possibility is "very slim", said Zhuang Jian, senior economist of the ADB Beijing office.Such a hard landing can be caused by three factors: a more than expected deterioration in the global economic and financial condition; a major downturn in China's property or stock markets, or both; and the acceleration of inflation from the current high level. A combination of these three would drag down China's economic growth to that level, the report said. […]. ^ top ^

Pilots set to win deal after strike (SCMP)
China Eastern Yunnan Airlines management is likely to give in to pilots who went on strike on Monday, leaving more than 1,000 passengers stranded.

An industry source close to the negotiations said yesterday the management of China Eastern had flown to Kunming to resolve the crisis. "The latest development is that management might act to solve the problem of a 30 per cent income tax the pilots have to pay on overtime," the source said. Fourteen China Eastern Yunnan Airlines flights took off from Kunming on Monday but did not land at their destinations, citing bad weather, returning instead to the city. The airline suspended them. […] Pilots of the airline, known as China Yunnan Airlines until being merged into China Eastern in October 2002, have been complaining that they are only allowed to fly domestic routes, which means they earn less than their counterparts in the parent company because of shorter flying hours. Morale fell further recently when pilots realised they would have to pay 30 per cent tax on their overtime payments, which are making up more of their income these days. […]. ^ top ^


Avian flu

Bird flu vaccine for humans approved (China Daily)
Bird flu vaccine for humans approved (China Daily)
A homegrown vaccine for humans against the H5N1 influenza virus, commonly known as bird flu, was Wednesday approved by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).Worldwide, only the United States and the European Union have approved human vaccines against bird flu.The SFDA approval follows two rounds of clinical tests involving 500 volunteers from 2005 to 2007.The vaccine will enhance the country's capability to protect people from an influenza pandemic, said SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying."Almost all known human bird-flu cases are caused by the H5N1 strain," said Yin Hongzhang, head of the biological product department of the SFDA.But given the constant mutation of the bird-flu virus, it might be another strain instead that could trigger a pandemic, he added.Yin Weidong, CEO of Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech and the vaccine maker, said in case of a pandemic, the WHO would offer the identified viral strain in three weeks for the producer to incorporate into the vaccine.The production time for a vaccine against a new strain would take about four months, he said, adding that it takes two months for the H5N1 virus.The vaccine-induced immunity lasts a year, similar to that of a seasonal flu shot, he added.The company can churn out at least 20 million doses of the trivalent vaccines, Xinhua News Agency reported earlier.Yan noted that the company will not sell the vaccine commercially."It will be purchased by the government for inclusion in the national strategic stockpile."She said the SFDA streamlined approval procedures for the vaccine."It's also part of the task to secure an outbreak-free Beijing Olympics," she added.Some 373 people worldwide have been infected with the virus since 2003, of whom 236 have died, according to the WHO. China has recorded 30 infections and 20 deaths. […]. ^ top ^


Beijing Olympics

No transmission delays in 'live' broadcasting of sporting action, say officials (SCMP)
Television broadcasts (SEHK: 0511) of the Beijing Games will go out live to the world with no transmission delays, senior Olympic officials said yesterday. "As far as the Olympics are concerned, the broadcasts will go out as and when the action happens," said veteran International Olympic Committee vice-president Kevan Gosper. China Central Television routinely delays transmission of so-called live events, including a ceremony on Monday in Tiananmen Square to welcome the Olympic torch. That footage was broadcast with about a one-minute delay. Fears that Beijing would delay Olympic broadcasts to try to censor the coverage or would block the internet to journalists during the Games were completely unfounded, Mr Gosper said. Mr Gosper said there would be complete internet freedom for the more than 20,000 accredited journalists. "TV signals will be live, and the internet will be open and free for all accredited media," he said. Sun Weijia, director of media operations for the Games' organising committee, said CCTV had no role in international transmission from the Olympics. The job would be handled by the host broadcaster, Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, a joint venture between the organising committee and the IOC. "There will be no delay from Beijing. The transmission signal goes out to international broadcasters as events unfold," Mr Sun said. Mr Gosper was speaking on the sidelines of a three-day meeting between the commission and Games organisers. […]. ^ top ^

Bill aims to stop Bush attending Olympics opening gala (SCMP)
US lawmakers have moved to prohibit President George W. Bush from attending the Olympics opening ceremony amid a global uproar over the crackdown in Tibet. A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Thaddeus McCotter - chairman of the House policy committee of Mr Bush's own Republican Party - which would compel him to skip the ceremony. In addition, 15 lawmakers from the Republican and Democratic parties asked Mr Bush in a letter to "renounce your decision to attend the Olympics in China, and urge the Chinese government to change its policies and begin to respect international standards of human rights". The bill seeks "to prohibit federal government officials and employees" from attending the opening session based on Beijing "brutalising protesters in Tibet". "Given what is happening to the people of Tibet, it would be a careless sign for the president of the United States to attend those Games," Mr McCotter said. "President Bush, as the leader of the free world, must uphold America's beacon of liberty to the world's oppressed. "This noble cause is harmed through his attendance as a guest of this oppressive communist government." Mr McCotter said he expected lawmakers from both sides to back the bill, which Mr Bush could still veto. "I think more than anything, the president will see how serious members of Congress view this situation," he said. The US leader has said he plans to attend the Games in August despite calls for world leaders to boycott the ceremony over the Tibet crackdown. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will not attend the ceremony, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not ruled out following suit. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top US Democratic lawmaker, also on Tuesday urged Mr Bush to consider skipping the opening ceremony. "I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," she said. ^ top ^

Human rights banner to greet flame in Paris (SCMP)
Paris city hall will unfurl a giant banner in defence of human rights when the Olympic flame arrives on Monday, its mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, said yesterday. "There will be a banner saying `Paris defends human rights everywhere in the world' on city hall," Mr Delanoe said. The socialist politician said Paris hoped to defend the values "of all humanity and of human rights", saying all people "have the same right to dignity, and I am thinking in particular of the Tibetan people". Pro-Tibet activists have called for protests over Beijing's crackdown in Tibet at key locations during the Olympic flame's 19-country tour before it returns to China. The Reporters Without Borders media rights group, which disrupted the lighting of the flame in Olympia, Greece last month, said it planned to stage protests to mark its passage through Paris. "Every time the flame crosses a city, we will be there to say `Don't forget the reality of Tibet; don't forget the reality of China'," said the group's head, Robert Menard, who is calling for a boycott of the August 8 Olympic opening ceremony. Meanwhile, French athletes competing at the Beijing Olympics are planning to wear a badge that will express their support for human rights worldwide, especially in Tibet. Pole-vaulter Romain Mesnil, who is one of those behind the idea, said the badge would have a profound impact. "I think it will have a big impact and that it will turn into a worldwide movement," he said. Mesnil said the athletes' commission of the French National Olympic Committee wanted to make their views on the matter clear, and they had the backing of their president, former Olympic judo champion David Douillet. Mesnil had initially proposed that competing athletes wear a green ribbon to express their concern over Beijing's crackdown on protests in Tibet, but that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had ruled that this would run counter to the Olympic charter. He said he believed the badge project had a far better chance of being cleared by members of the IOC. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

Pyongyang flights launched (SCMP)
Air China yesterday began operating regular flights between Beijing and Pyongyang. Carrying 51 people, the first plane, a Boeing 737-300, touched down in the North Korean capital at about 4.30pm. It was welcomed by Air China officials. The flights will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, returning to Beijing the same day. North Korea's Air Koryo operates regular flights between the cities on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. ^ top ^


Patricia Straessle
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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