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
  22.12-24.12.2008, No. 248  
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Table of contents

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Foreign Policy

Top official: one-China principle, non-interference prerequisites for China-Vatican ties (Xinhua)
Beijing - Only when the Vatican severs its ties with Taiwan and stops interfering into China's internal affairs can the two sides improve their relations, said a top Chinese official on Friday. The two principles must be followed when seeking improvement of the relations between China and the Vatican, said Du Qinglin, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. Du, also vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the remarks at a seminar marking the 50th anniversary of the selection and consecration of bishops of Chinese Catholic churches. "The Vatican must not interfere in China's internal politics, including using religion to interfere in our country's domestic affairs," said Du. Du reiterated that the Vatican should cut off its "so-called diplomatic relationship" with Taiwan and recognize the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing China. […]. ^ top ^

China decides to send navy vessels to fight pirates off Somali coast (People's Daily)
Beijing - China has announced that its naval deployment to the seas off Somalia to fight pirates will be of three vessels. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed on Saturday evening that the taskforce would consist of three vessels, and would patrol the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. The Ministry of Defence said the taskforce would consist of two destroyers and a supply ship, and will leave Sanya of southern Hainan Province on Dec. 26. Their major task is to protect the safety of Chinese ships and crew on board as well as ships carrying humanitarian relief material for the international organizations such as the United Nations World Food Programme, Liu said. […] China was acting in accord with United Nations resolutions, he said. […] "Chinese naval vessels will strictly follow U.N. Security Council resolutions and international laws. They are willing to work with other countries and to take part in humanitarian relief tasks," Liu said. […]. ^ top ^

China, Japan vow further political trust, reciprocal cooperation (Xinhua)
Beijing- China and Japan pledged to continuously promote cooperation and personnel exchanges. In a Monday meeting with former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Chinese President Hu Jintao said the two countries should view relations from a long-term and strategic perspective. […] Yasuo Fukuda is heading a 1,000-member youth delegation for a visit to China. They attended the closing ceremony of the "China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth" in Beijing on Dec. 20. […] Hu said significant progress had been made in Sino-Japanese ties in 2008 as leaders frequently visited and cooperated in international and regional affairs. For example, Hu visited Japan in May and met Aso Taro twice since Taro became Japanese prime minister in September. They reached consensus on pushing forward a strategic and reciprocal relationship. […]. ^ top ^

China requests WTO probe into U.S. anti-dumping measures (People's Daily)
Geneva - China on Monday asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish an expert panel to investigate U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Chinese products which may violate WTO trade rules. The U.S. measures at issue "appear to raise a number of WTO concerns," and China "is deeply concerned" about the compatibility of these measures with U.S. obligations in the WTO, the Chinese delegation told a meeting of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). […] "Therefore, given its systemic concerns, China is compelled to pursue this matter further and to request that the DSB establish a panel ... to examine China's complaints," it said. The U.S. duties at issue affect such Chinese products as circular welded carbon quality steel pipe, new pneumatic off-the-road tires, light-walled rectangular pipe and tube, and laminated woven sacks. […] At the DSB meeting on Monday, the United States blocked the establishment of the panel. But the panel would be established automatically if China makes the request again in January. […]. ^ top ^

Bloc members sign military pact (SCMP)
A multilateral treaty on joint military exercises, signed by member states of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, is expected to be ratified by the nation's top legislature in a week. The pact was submitted by the State Council to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for deliberation yesterday. The treaty was signed by SCO defence ministers in Kyrgyzstan in June last year. ^ top ^

China says reports on China's arms transportation to Zimbabwe "fabrication" (People's Daily)
Beijing - China refuted the reports on its arms transportation to Zimbabwe via the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as "sheer fictitious" and having "ulterior motives", the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said here Tuesday. When asked to comment on a batch of weapons made-in China were reportedly transported to Zimbabwe via the DRC in the second half this year, Qin said some western media distorted the UN report released on Dec.12, and slandered that China had transported arms to Zimbabwe. Qin said any one who conducts serious reading of the report will find the accusation is totally groundless. According to the UN report, a group of UN experts had "received credible information that the weapons transported originated in China". […]. ^ top ^

China steps up checks on U.S. soybeans after finding pesticide residue (Xinhua)
Beijing - China's quality supervisor said on Tuesday that it would step up checks of soybeans from the United States after tons of soybeans were found tainted by pesticides. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) said the local quality watchdog in eastern Zhejiang Province found some 57,000 tons of U.S. soybeans were mixed with soybean seeds coated with three types of pesticides -- metalaxyl, fludioxonil and thiamethoxam. Such seeds are for planting and usually bear warning colors such as red, blue or green, said the GAQSIQ. […] The GAQSIQ also informed the United States about the issue and required the U.S. side to intensify quality checks on soybeans destined for China. […]. ^ top ^

Official: China doesn't subsidize export of "famous brands" (Xinhua)
Beijing - China doesn't subsidize the export of "famous brands," an official responsible for the selection of "famous brands" said Tuesday. Every country encourages its enterprises to produce better goods, improve product quality and raise brand value, and that's why China has "famous brand" selection, said Hui Boyang, deputy director of the quality management department of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. "In fact, 'famous brand' is just an honorary title," Hui told Xinhua. […] "In short, China gives no subsidies to help the export of 'famous brands,'" he said. "While policies like export tax rebate are based on all eligible products instead of certain brands." Hui's comment came days after the United States and Mexico filed a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming China was using subsidies to promote export of its "famous brands." […] On Monday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that China would work under WTO rules to settle disputes with the United States and Mexico over the dispute. "On the U.S. and Mexican request of dispute settlement consultations through the WTO, the Chinese side will deal with it according to WTO rules," it said. […]. ^ top ^

China donates $500,000 to support Zimbabwe cholera fighting (Xinhua)
Harare - China donated 500,000 U.S. dollars to Zimbabwe on Tuesday to boost the country's efforts to arrest cholera epidemic which has killed more than 1,000 people since the first outbreak in August. Speaking at the donation ceremony at the Health Ministry office building in Harare, He Meng, Chargé d'Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Harare, said as a long-term friend of Zimbabwe, China shares the concerns of international community over the current cholera situation, and sympathies with Zimbabwean people in their sufferings. […] Zimbabwe's Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa said with the help of international organizations and countries friendly like China, the situation is now much better. He spoke highly of good relations between the two countries. […]. ^ top ^

Chinese Vice Premier meets Indonesian President (People's Daily)
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Monday afternoon, calling on the two countries to step up partnership and tackle the international financial crisis. Li said that the development of cooperation between China and Indonesia, both as important developing countries in the region, serves to the significant purpose to promote peace and stability in the region and the world. […] Li said the two nations share huge potential for cooperation, noting that China will support and encourage the Chinese companies to participate in Indonesia's infrastructure construction, share successful experience on domestic economic development. […] The Indonesian president also expressed his gratitude for China's help in the country's economic development, suggesting that the two countries work closer and boost bilateral cooperation. […]. ^ top ^

Warships will also protect Taiwanese vessels, crews - Navy fleet sent to Somalia to co-operate with US, says Beijing (SCMP)
The Ministry of National Defence said yesterday that warships sent to protect Chinese vessels against pirates in waters of Somalia would co-operate with navies from the US and other nations. The navy fleet would protect Taiwanese vessels and crews, ministry spokesman Huang Xueping told a rare news briefing in Beijing yesterday. […] US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Timothy Keating said that China's plans could lead to a renewal of military exchanges between Beijing and Washington. "I think this could be a springboard for a resumption of dialogue between PLA forces and US Pacific Command forces," Admiral Keating said in Washington last Thursday. China suspended military contacts with the US in October in protest against Washington's arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province. However, with cross-strait relations having improved since the pro-reunification Kuomintang regained power this year, Beijing said the fleet's missions would also cover protecting Taiwanese vessels and crews. […]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China moves to mitigate enterprises' burdens for stable employment (Xinhua)
Beijing - The Chinese government was taking such measures as deferring payment of social security funds in its latest efforts to reduce burdens of companies nationwide and foster stable employment situation, officials said here on Sunday. In a notice jointly issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS), Ministry of Finance and State Administration of Taxation, troubled enterprises will be allowed to delay payment of social security funds in 2009 with the deferment period less than six months, MHRSS officials said. Companies which are unable to pay social security funds are eligible to delay payment after authorization from the provincial governments, it said. No overdue fine will be imposed on these companies. The notice also said the insurance rates for medical, work injury, unemployment and maternity will be allowed to temporarily cut back next year in some regions after authorization from the provincial governments. The pension insurance rate, however, should not be lowered. […]. ^ top ^

Premier reassures university students on jobs amid financial crisis (Xinhua)
Beijing - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged to university students that the government would seek to provide more jobs for graduates and "put the issue of graduate employment first." "Your difficulties are my difficulties, and if you are worried, I am more worried than you," Wen told the students at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. […] He said the country is in a difficult period as the global financial crisis has continued affecting the country's real economy. The government has begun measures to sustain the economy, such as the four-trillion-yuan stimulus package and interests cuts. "We are considering taking more measures at proper time. But currently we are most concerned about two issues, migrant workers returning home and employment for graduates," Wen said. […] "We are also studying a package to guarantee jobs for graduates and it will kick in soon", Wen said. "The government will encourage major enterprises to increase recruits from graduates, seek more jobs in grassroots, offer opportunities of further study and skill training." […] Wen reiterated "confidence", saying it is much more important than gold and currency. ^ top ^

Where will all those trillions go? (SCMP)
"Only development makes hard sense," President Hu Jintao told a grand ceremony in Beijing ast week to mark the 30th anniversary of reforms that have transformed China and changed the world, quoting Deng Xiaoping. While Mr Hu promised more reforms to achieve the goal of a "well-off society" by 2021, the world's immediate attention is focused on how the mainland can get out of the global economic crisis which officials admit has hit the country faster and harder than expected. The mainland's immediate answer is to spend, spend and spend, unveiling a stimulus programme of 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.5 trillion) focusing on infrastructure like railways and ports, and projects that can improve people's livelihoods. As argued in this column last week, the impact of the stimulus package is expected to be swift and clear-cut from the second quarter of next year, propelling the mainland's economic growth rate above 8 per cent and creating enough jobs to preserve stability. But an issue that is critical to the mainland's pattern of economic development has received less attention - how all those trillions of yuan should be spent. So far the signs are not good, as there has been little transparency or public discussion about the mainland's biggest public spending programme. In past weeks, mainland leaders have released only broad guidelines of the proposed spending, without meaningful details. Premier Wen Jiabao has called for swift spending: banks have been ordered to make credit easily available, tax rebates on exports have been restored and taxes on real estate have been slashed. While necessary, such swift action has given rise to mounting, legitimate concerns over the probability of a huge waste of taxpayers' money and the construction of many repetitive, highly polluting and inefficient projects, which may boost output in the short-term but do nothing to advance the mainland's technological development and improve economic competitiveness in the long-term. […] While it is important that mainland leaders should immediately reveal more details about the stimulus package, it is even more important that the central government should tune its massive spending to engender much-needed economic reforms and strategic changes. […]. ^ top ^

Police told to be ready in the new year (SCMP)
Top officials in charge of public order and security have told mainland police to be ready for challenges next year. Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said that as the global economic crisis deepened, the risks of social unrest had also increased. He said police departments must stay alert and take measures to ensure stability. "Police officers should go out more often and meet different people, find out what the public need and help them solve their problems. We need to solve the problems while they are at the initial stage," he said. His boss, Zhou Yongkang, also urged police officers to prepare for hard times. "In 2009, the country will face severe challenges in economic and social development," said Mr Zhou, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. "Police officers will have to work with stronger resolution and a firmer fist and do a better job than in 2008." He promised more investment in police stations to improve their facilities, hire more officers and increase their salaries. ^ top ^

China's top legislature starts six-day session (Xinhua)
Beijing - Chinese lawmakers will debate eight bills and several cabinet reports, including one on China's response to the international financial crisis, during a six-day, bi-monthly session which starts Monday. The Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress, or the top legislature, is expected to review draft amendments to the earthquake precautions and disaster relief law, the patent law, the criminal law and the insurance law at its sixth meeting. It will also consider social insurance and tort liability law drafts. […] Lawmakers will also discuss four cabinet reports dealing with: the implementation of the 11th Five-Year Plan; measures to cope with the international financial crisis and maintain stable, healthy economic growth; measures to stabilize consumer prices and efforts to control water pollution. Two international pacts are due to be ratified during the session: the pact on joint military exercises held by Shanghai Cooperation Organization members and the pact on criminal judicial assistance between China and the United Arab Emirates. ^ top ^

Cabinet warns authorities to protect migrants - State Council signals concern over unrest as jobless workers go home (SCMP)
Beijing yesterday urged local authorities to protect the rights and job prospects of the millions of migrant workers who are expected to return home after losing their jobs amid the economic slowdown, signalling the government's growing fear of social instability. […] "The economic difficulties coupled with the approaching Lunar New Year break have created a massive exodus of workers from the cities to rural areas [and] caused new social problems," the decree said, according to Xinhua. The cabinet called for measures to help workers find jobs, including an appeal to rural governments to establish vocational schools to prepare them for re-employment. It also encouraged employers to retain employees through flexible strategies such as staff rotation and paid training leave. […] The mainland had 130 million migrant workers at the end of 2006, according to the National Statistics Bureau. […] The mainland will face an artificial surge in the number of its poor as the country redefines the poverty line, according to Caijing Magazine. Liu Fuhe, a State Council poverty-relief official, told Caijing the government would synchronise its confusing double standards on impoverishment from next year. The new poverty line would be set at an annual income of about 1,100 yuan (HK$1,250). Currently there are two poverty lines used on the mainland. A family whose members earn on average between 786 yuan and 1,067 yuan a year are categorised as "relatively impoverished" while those earning less are "absolutely impoverished". The old rules have led to an underestimation of the number of poor people. Currently, slightly more than 14 million mainlanders, mostly rural residents, officially live in "absolute impoverishment". The statistics would soar to 43 million once the new yardstick was set, Caijing estimated. ^ top ^

Watchdog: China's manufacturing quality improves during 2007 (Xinhua)
Beijing - China's overall manufacturing quality level maintained stable growth in 2007 with the national quality competitiveness index (QCI) reaching 80.99 points, up 1.01points from 2006, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said Monday. The yearly-announced QCI was based on a survey of 250,000 enterprises in 29 industrial sectors, such as telecom equipment, machinery, petroleum and chemical, textile and furniture. China quality watchdogs adopted such a system five years ago. The index ranges from 60 to 100. The higher the reading is, the more competitive the sector is in terms of product quality level. According to AQSIQ, the QCI readings for two of the 29 industrial sectors exceeded 85 points -- telecom equipment, computer and other electronic equipment and electrical equipment -- indicating high-quality competitiveness. […]. ^ top ^

Move to Minimize Disputes over Land Use (China Daily)
Conflicts over land-use rights in rural areas would be minimized if the National People's Congress (NPC) passes a draft law. The country's first draft law on arbitration of disputes over land-use rights was tabled at a six-day, bi-monthly session of the top legislature on Monday. The draft, submitted for first reading, says arbitration should be completed within five working days and proceedings of a case ought to end within 60 days. […] Disputes over land use currently fall under vague guidelines of the Arbitration Law and the Rural Land Contract Law. That causes overlapping of arbitration bodies, irregular work procedures and untimely settlement, Premier Wen Jiabao told the 11th NPC Standing Committee earlier. […] Disputes over land use have topped the Ministry of Agriculture's (MOA) petition list since 2003, with about 44 percent of all those received by the MOA in 2006 being land-related. The same year, 200, 400 disputes over land use were heard in the country, except the Tibet autonomous region. Nearly 90 percent of those were resolved through mediation, and 4.6 percent through arbitration, the MOA said. The central government policy document issued in October allows farmers to lease their farmland or transfer their land-use rights. "Setting up a settlement mechanism for disputes over land use would benefit people in rural areas and ensure a harmonious and stable rural environment," Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai said. About 4.6 percent, or 55.51 million mu (9.1 million acres) of China's (except Tibet Autonomous Region) arable farmland was transferred - mainly through sub-letting and rent - in 2006. […]. ^ top ^

China plans to establish social security number system (People's Daily)
China announced plans Monday to establish a social security number system for the welfare of its citizens. The draft of the social insurance law was discussed by the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, on Monday. The draft said China would establish a standard social security number system across the nation by using each citizen's current identification card number. The social insurance fund will be categorized into endowment insurance, medical insurance, insurance against injury at work, unemployment insurance and childbirth insurance, the draft said. Currently, China's social insurance fund is managed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and its branches in provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. According to the country's labor law, the funding of endowment, medical and unemployment insurance is raised by both individuals and their employers. Workplace injury and childbirth insurance have to be paid by employers. […]. ^ top ^

Mainland to toughen hacking punishments (SCMP)
The mainland is tightening its criminal law to mete out stricter punishment for the rising number of internet hacking crimes. The National People's Congress Standing Committee started yesterday to consider amendments to the Criminal Law to make it easier to convict hackers, according to Xinhua. Under the proposed changes, anybody who illegally taps into computer systems to process or transfer data or take over information systems could be sentenced to up to seven years in jail. The new law would also apply to people who provide software and other tools to hackers. Currently, only hackers invading systems related to "national affairs, national defence, and cutting-edge science and technology" are considered to be committing a crime and are subject to maximum jail sentences of three years. […]. ^ top ^

Another top official falls from grace in Tianjin graft probes (SCMP)
A deputy ministerial level official in Tianjin has been made the subject of Communist Party disciplinary action over corruption allegations, making him the latest official in the city to fall from grace. Pi Qiansheng, 57, who was formerly in charge of Binhai New Area - Tianjin's answer to Shanghai's Pudong area - was placed under house arrest for two months, Caijing Magazine reported yesterday. His daughter Pi Xiaomeng, who works for Citibank, was arrested in August, the financial magazine said. The disciplinary action, called shuanggui, is similar to house arrest. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection uses it on party members who are suspects to make them confess wrongdoings. Tianjin has been dogged by scandals. Its higher court president, Zhang Baifeng, was investigated by the commission in June last year. Earlier, Song Pingshun, chairman of Tianjin's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, killed himself after a commission interview. Song was closely involved with Wu Changshun, the former head of Tianjin police, who was detained two years ago for alleged bribery connected to property deals. Mr Pi has spent almost his entire career in the port city. He is said to have close ties with Li Baojin, Tianjin's former chief prosecutor, who was dismissed in August last year for a "severe breach of discipline". […]. ^ top ^

New poverty line raises number of poor (China Daily)
The new poverty line adopted by the government has increased the number of poor people to 43.2 million, the Caijing magazine has said. Earlier data, based on a yearly income of 785 yuan ($115), put the number at 14.79 million. But the government has now raised the threshold, saying a person earning less than 1,067 yuan ($156) a year will be considered living below the poverty line. The government has stopped using the much lower "absolute poverty line", said Liu Fuhe, a senior official with the policy and regulation department of the State Council's leading group office of poverty alleviation and development. The low-income poverty line, sometimes called the relative poverty line, is now the only yardstick to measure poverty. The unified standard was introduced in October during the 3rd Plenary of 17th CPC Central Committee. The poverty line was raised after the Ministry of Civil Affairs introduced minimum income protection scheme in rural areas last year so that more poor people could be brought under the poverty alleviation office. The raising of the poverty line means more people will be covered by the government's poverty relief schemes, on which the central government has spent 16.7 billion yuan this year, 2.3 billion yuan more than in 2007, Liu told Caijing over the weekend. […]. ^ top ^

New Guideline on Death Penalty (China Daily)
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) is working on a guideline to unify standards for the issuing of the death penalty for five categories of crimes in a bid to ensure consistency across the country, a senior judge said on Sunday. The guideline will apply to the crimes of murder, robbery, abduction, drug trafficking and intentional injury, which account for almost all death penalties handed down, the anonymous official said. "It will include the necessary conditions for handing down the death sentence to those found guilty of any of the five crimes," he said. "We must unify standards across the county so as to avoid such situations where different sentences are handed down to people found guilty of committing similar crimes," he said. Last year, the SPC took back the power to review all death penalty cases from high courts in a move to unify standards and give those condemned a final opportunity to appeal. As a result, 15 percent of the death sentences handed down by high courts last year and in the first half of this year were rescinded. […] The SPC named the unification of death sentence standards as one of 10 areas it will reform next year, along with a national compensation system for victims and promoting the greater use of mediation to settle cases. […] Capital punishment should be given only to an "extremely small number" of serious offenders, he said. […]. ^ top ^

China launches crackdown campaign on illegal food additives (People's Daily)
The Ministry of Agriculture announced on Dec. 22 the action plan of cracking down illegal addition of non-edible stuff and abuse of additives in edible agro-products. The safety of fresh milk is one of the major tasks. According to the action plan, measures will be taken to make sure that fresh milk will not be tainted by melamine or any other toxic stuff in any process from cow breeding, milk collection and delivery. […] Investigations and penalties will be imposed on misconducts involving adding non-edible stuffs or abuse of food additives. The production and marketing of illegal additives will be tracked and punished. A long term regulatory mechanism will be established. Fake supplies of agricultural production will be found in a blanket check. All the major cases involving 50,000 yuan of fake and shoddy farming materials must be investigated and dealt with. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing signals intent to build aircraft carrier - Ship plan under 'serious' study (SCMP)
The Ministry of National Defence has revealed that China is "seriously" considering building an aircraft carrier to protect its national interests - Beijing's first public confirmation of the controversial plan that has been a source of speculation for a decade. "Aircraft carriers are a reflection of a country's comprehensive national strength as well as the competitiveness of the country's naval force," ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said at a rare news conference in Beijing yesterday. […] The move is certain to cause concern internationally, particularly in the US and Japan, as well as Southeast Asian countries that have maritime disputes with China. It also signals that the navy is shifting its strategic focus from coastal defence to building a blue-water force. […] Taiwan's military reacted immediately. "The development would have serious implications for Taiwan's defence and the region's stability, and we will watch it closely," Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence spokeswoman Lisa Chi Yu-lan said. Ms Chi said the island was prepared to take corresponding action to strengthen its military's ability to control air space and sea lanes. The aircraft carrier could also give Beijing an edge in any conflict over the South China Sea, where it has conflicting claims with neighbouring nations over territorial seas. […]. ^ top ^



Greatest benefits lie in truly opening up (SCMP)
The hand of economic support Beijing extended to Hong Kong on Friday has now been offered to Taiwan. A package of measures was announced at the end of the fourth cross-strait economic forum, which brought together senior officials of the Communist Party and Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang. The global financial turmoil was the pretext, but at the heart of the agreement was drawing the mainland and the island closer. As welcome as the steps may be, though, some Taiwanese opposed to closer links between the two sides will be less enthusiastic than their counterparts here in accepting the deal. There is no denying that Taiwan's mainland-based companies are suffering from the downturn. The drying up of their European and North American markets has hit profitability hard, which is being starkly reflected in the Taiwanese stock exchange. An offer to such firms of 130 billion yuan (HK$148 billion) in support over three years, as well as tax breaks and allowing them to take part in the mainland's economic stimulus projects, among other measures, are to be applauded. The mainland is in a position to help because of its controlled markets offering a degree of protection against the global downturn. It should always be willing to assist the Chinese family in times of crisis, no matter what the political persuasions. […]. ^ top ^

18,000 chickens slaughtered in bird flu outbreak, Taipei reveals (SCMP)
The Taiwanese agricultural authorities confirmed yesterday that they had slaughtered about 18,000 chickens last month after an outbreak of bird flu. The authorities said that when a farm in Luchu, southern Kaohsiung county, reported that some of its chickens had died of an unknown disease on October 21, they banned movement of the birds from the farm. An inspection report released on Saturday showed that the chickens had contracted the H5N2 strain of the avian flu, a less virulent strain than H5N1, which can be transmitted to humans. However, the findings of the report came too late for the 18,000 chickens on the farm that were slaughtered on November 14. "We took the most stringent measures in dealing with the episode as according to the rules of the World Organisation for Animal Health [OIE], there was no need to slaughter those chickens," said Huang Kwo-ching of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine. "The OIE was informed of the outbreak" on Saturday, he said, adding that the origin of the outbreak remained unclear. Since the outbreak, 76 chicken farms within 3km of the centre of the outbreak had been monitored to ensure the disease did not spread, Mr Huang said. Taiwan had suspended its poultry exports, but would be allowed to resume them if no fresh outbreak of H5N2 was reported within the next three months. […]. ^ top ^

Security cordon for Taiwan panda pair (SCMP)
Giant pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, whose names said together mean "reunion", will be flown by chartered Taiwanese plane from their native home in Sichuan to the island today, with steamed corn buns and fresh bamboo in their luggage and a supply of airsickness pills. Armed police and more than 500 security guards were stationed at an airport in Sichuan yesterday, from where the pair will take off for their new home in Taiwan, China Central Television said. An Eva Air jet from Taiwan landed at Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu at midday yesterday to pick up the pandas. Roads would be blocked when the pandas, which lived at a sanctuary 120km outside Chengdu, travelled to the airport in a convoy, CCTV said. The report did not explain the need for such high security, which was on duty around the clock. Beijing first offered the pandas to Taiwan in 2005, hoping they would strengthen Taiwanese public support for reuniting with the mainland, an offer rejected by the island's leader at the time, Chen Shui-bian, who supported independence. Current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou accepted the pandas as a goodwill gesture. […]. ^ top ^



Tibetan NGO worker gets life for telling world of unrest (SCMP)
A mainland court has sentenced a Tibetan who worked for a non-governmental organisation to life in jail for passing on information about the situation in the restless region to the outside world, a rights group said. Wangdu was given the sentence last month, the International Campaign for Tibet said in an e-mailed statement, quoting a report in a regional Tibetan newspaper published on November 8. Six other Tibetans were also given long prison terms, it said. ^ top ^

Tibet sees GDP grow amid turmoil (SCMP)
Tibet's gross domestic product is expected to grow 10.1 per cent year on year to reach 39.2 billion yuan (HK$44.6 billion) this year, a senior local official told Xinhua. Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government, said fixed-asset investment would reach 31 billion yuan, up 14.3 per cent from a year earlier. He told an economic work conference on Sunday that the economic growth was achieved against the backdrop of a string of difficulties this year. ^ top ^



China publishes details of real-estate stimulus package (Xinhua)
Beijing - The General Office of the State Council, or Cabinet, on Sunday unveiled more details of a real-estate stimulus package adopted at an executive meeting of the Council last Wednesday. The document, called A Number of Opinions Concerning Boosting Healthy Development of the Property Market, was posted on the central government's official website. […] The five-point opinions included building more houses for low-income urban families, encouraging home buying, supporting property developers to deal with changing market, enhancing role of local governments in stabilizing the real estate market, and improving surveillance on the property market. The document repeated last Wednesday's decision that the government will solve the housing problem for 7.47 million low-income urban families and 2.4 million households in shantytowns in the next three years. […] It detailed the goal for 2009, during which the government will help overcome housing difficulties for 2.6 million low-income urban families and 800,000 households in shantytowns. […] Property prices in 70 major Chinese cities rose 0.2 percent in November from a year earlier. The growth rate was the lowest since the government started to publish the figure in July, 2005. […]. ^ top ^

Clean coal best way to fuel Asia's growth (SCMP)
As China this month celebrates 30 years of extraordinary growth, it is also keenly aware that it has had to pay a steep environmental price - in terms of the health of its people because of severe pollution of its air, water and land. Pan Yue, deputy environment minister, wrote recently: "China's reform and opening has achieved in 30 years the economic gains of more than 100 years in the west - yet more than 100 years of environmental pollution in the west have materialised in 30 years in China." That is to say, the pace of China's environmental pollution matches that of its economic growth. China has now overtaken the United States as the world's greatest emitter of greenhouse gases. That is not a record of which to be proud. […] But the Earth is a vessel in which we all are journeying and we will all sink or swim together. Finger-pointing is not going to help: we need to reduce, as much as possible, the carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere by all countries. There has been a lot of talk about switching from fossil fuels to non-polluting forms of energy such as wind, solar or nuclear power. However, in the foreseeable future, there is no alternative to fossil fuels and, in particular, coal. Coal is abundant and cheap, and is going to be used anyway, so there is a compelling need to come up with technology to "clean" the coal. […] Currently, researchers are focusing on ways in which coal can be burned without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. […] This is something that the world, not just China or the US, needs badly. ^ top ^

Interest rates cut again to spur growth (China Daily)
The central bank has rolled out the fifth interest rate cut in four months - in its latest attempt to shore up investment and boost the economy. The People's Bank of China lowered the benchmark one-year lending and deposit rates by 0.27 percentage point to 5.31 percent and 2.25 percent, effective from today, it said in a statement. The central bank also lowered the reserve requirement ratio for lenders by 0.5 percentage point to 13.5 percent. The reduction in the reserve requirement, which refers to the deposits commercial banks are required to set aside in reserves, will take effect from Thursday. Analysts estimate the move will free up another 300 billion yuan ($43billion) for possible lending. "The combination of interest rate and reserve requirement ratio cuts will be more effective in helping stabilize the weakening economy," Dong Xian'an, a macroeconomics analyst at China Southwest Securities, said. […]. ^ top ^

China's foreign exchange reserves fall for first time in five years (People's Daily)
Cai Qiusheng, an official of the External Debt Division of the Capital Account Management Department under the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), said recently that China's foreign exchange reserves fell for the first time since December 2003, which was already below US $1.9 trillion. A source said on December 22 that China's foreign exchange reserves had dropped to less than US $1.89 trillion by the end of October, the first monthly decline since the end of 2003. […] The source added that, the fall of foreign exchange reserves partly reflects the US dollar's strength and the RMB's weakness versus the US dollar over the past months. ^ top ^


Philipp Orga
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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