Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  15.2-19.2.2010, No. 307  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea


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Foreign Policy

Obama meets Dalai Lama in defiance of Beijing's warnings (SCMP)
US President Barack Obama held talks with the Dalai Lama in the White House yesterday, brushing aside China's warning that the meeting could further damage strained Sino-US ties. Obama's first presidential meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was sure to draw complaints from Beijing, which is increasingly at odds with Washington over trade, currencies, US arms sales to Taiwan and mainland internet censorship. Supporters chanted and waved Tibetan and US flags in snowy Lafayette Square across from the White House to welcome the Dalai Lama, who has met every sitting US president since George H.W. Bush in 1991. In a delicate arrangement to avoid inflaming ties with Beijing, Obama gave his fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient little of the ceremonial trappings of a visit to the White House. The Dalai Lama entered out of sight of journalists and the talks were closed to media coverage. Obama denied him the symbolism of meeting in the Oval Office. Instead they met in the lesser-known Map Room. Such distinctions signalled to Beijing that the Tibetan monk was not being received as a political leader. Beijing has equated contact with the Dalai Lama, whom it labels a "liar" and "separatist", with support for his "separatist attempts" to seek Tibetan independence. China's rising economic and political prowess has given it more bargaining power to deter international leaders from publicly supporting and meeting the popular religious figurehead. Beijing publicly denounced the meeting and has warned of possible consequences several times since Obama postponed it from late last year. […] Pang Zhongying, an international relations specialist at Renmin University, said Beijing had yet to come up with an effective approach to the bilateral relationship despite its new-found assertiveness. "Beijing is looking for a new approach to deal with Washington, to settle the issue of [US presidents meeting] the Dalai Lama and arms sales, but it hasn't found one." Beijing said last month it would, for the first time, impose sanctions on US companies as a protest against Washington's arms sales to Taiwan. "Beijing does not have tools to impose sanctions," Pang said. "There is no mechanism and no experienced personnel to carry out the sanctions. And if it does impose sanctions, it's going to be embarrassing for Beijing to oppose international sanctions on countries like Iran and North Korea." […]. ^ top ^

What's behind Obama-Dalai Lama meeting? (Xinhuanet)
Despite China's firm and repeated opposition, U.S. President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington on Thursday. Obama pledged to build "a positive, cooperative and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship for the 21st century" during his high-profile China visit last November, but his pledge has failed to hold water merely three months later. International observers hold that, through the meeting, Obama wants to achieve his multiple political goals at home and abroad, while the Dalai Lama pursues his illusion to split China in the guise of religion. […] By playing the Tibet Card at such a juncture, Obama is trying to shift the attention of both supporters and opponents when he is faced with a sagging economy and a much tougher midterm election for the Democrats. […] The Dalai Lama has all along tried by every means to meet Western politicians, U.S. presidents in particular. But to further his political end, he has put on a religious disguise to win acceptance and favor in the West. […] Obama is not the first to meet the Dalai Lama as a sitting U.S. president. Three others have done so since 1991. This is because the Tibet Card is one up the sleeves of U.S. leaders who are still influenced by the Cold War mentality when dealing with China. […]. ^ top ^

EU president congratulates Chinese people on lunar new year (Global Times)
The European Union's permanent President Herman Van Rompuy on Monday sent a message of congratulations to the Chinese people on the occasion of the Chinese Lunar New Year. […] "We Europeans are happy that we have good relations," he said. "We are ready to develop them in a broad direction." Van Rompuy, who has been to China twice, said he admires China' s culture, history and cuisine while the speed of China's development also impressed him. As president of the European Council, Van Rompuy said he is looking forward to receiving the Chinese leaders in Brussels. […] "No doubt many Europeans will visit the Shanghai Expo 2010, where the European Union is present," he said. […]. ^ top ^

China's Lunar New Year goes international (Xinhuanet)
China's Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China's 5,000-year tradition and culture, has spread from its cradleland to the West and elsewhere in the world in recent years. People around the world, including Chinese and foreigners, have joined in the various Chinese-style activities to celebrate the Year of the Tiger this year, which falls on Feb. 14. Posting Lunar New Year paintings, writing Spring Festival couplets, setting off firecrackers and fireworks, performing dragon-and-lion dances, staging stilt-walking shows, rowing boats on "land", and eating dumplings, people have lots of fun at the annual Chinese festival. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, local residents and foreign visitors put up red lanterns, performed dragon-and-lion dances, and showed the Chinese Kungfu, calligraphy, acupuncture and other Chinese skills to welcome China's Lunar New Year. In Paris, France, China's tea art, the shadow show or the leather silhouette play, and dumplings made their debut one after another at the Spring Festival celebrations. In Thailand, all kinds of Chinese snack foods, colorful lanterns and the Avalokitesvara dance attracted thousands of tourists. […] Today's Chinese Spring Festival serves not only as a bond for the nostalgic overseas Chinese, but also as a window for curious foreigners to have a better understanding of Chinese culture. […]. ^ top ^

Heartache of the Aids whistle-blower forced to live in exile (SCMP)
Over the past six months, 82-year-old Dr Gao Yaojie has often woken up in tears, only to find herself in a cosy Texas bedroom. In her dreams, she can reach home by crossing a river. But when she wakes up, she is separated from her Henan home by an ocean and the central government's suppression of her campaign to speak up for mainland Aids patients. Gao, the mainland's most high-profile HIV/Aids whistle-blower, said she was forced into exile in August in order to carry on documenting the plight of mainland Aids patients and the scandal of disease transmission through blood sales and transfusions. She faced constant harassment from the authorities for insisting that blood remained the most important means of transmission on the mainland, not sexual contact as claimed by the government. Gao is now living with a Chinese family in an undisclosed location in Texas. But the more care they show to her, the more heartbroken she is as it reminds her that her only son has blamed her for causing trouble for the family. "I feel secure and comfortable here, but my son did not treat me that way," she tells RTHK in a documentary that will be broadcast tomorrow. "I travelled to the US alone as I was homeless in my country. All my children have their own families... none of them supports me." Every day, the small, frail doctor is taken to a study provided by a nearby church so that she can write. It is quiet, clean and safe compared to her home, where she was constantly under surveillance. She has published a first book and almost finished a second. But she has paid a heavy price for bringing the stories of hundreds of Aids patients to light. She may never be able to go home to the old flat in a compound in Zhengzhou that she shared with her late husband for many years. […]. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Is South China Sea bubble about to burst? (SCMP)
Prices up 30 per cent in a fortnight. Luxury properties costing as much as the priciest Shanghai homes. Property sales at record levels. Developers hoarding flats in the expectation they will fetch more later. Land prices too rich even for Allan Zeman. Is the latest property bubble in tropical Hainan about to burst? Or will prices for high-end properties keep on rising as the island builds the tourism infrastructure needed to meet Beijing's goal of turning it into a world-class destination? Investors such as Xu Jianqing think prices can only go one way. The Paris-based mainlander, who is eyeing a Sanya Bay apartment costing 83,000 yuan per square metre (HK$8,750 per square foot), is betting on the development of casinos. Property consultant Sam Crispins is slightly more cautious. "I see no danger of prices falling in Sanya," he said. "However, I do think prices have peaked for the time being and will take some time to consolidate." Zeman has been put off investing. The chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings had pondered expanding his luxury resort chain, Andara, to the island or building a theme park in Boao on the east coast. The plans were stalled by high land prices. "The biggest problem is land price," he said. "It has gone crazy there. The government needs to take a hand in regulating the property market there." If there is a property bubble on the South China Sea island, it won't be the first. Soon after being designated a special economic zone in 1988, Hainan suffered an economic bubble fuelled by a housing boom. It collapsed by the end of 1998, leaving 7.03 million square metres of unsold housing, a tenth of the national total. […] The key factors supporting the price rises, especially in Sanya, were the latest government policies, he said. On January 4, the State Council released a plan for Hainan to become a world-class tourism destination by 2020. The policy is expected to see Hainan develop its roads and traffic management systems and build shopping malls and a new international airport terminal. […]. ^ top ^

Wife of missing lawyer rejects Beijing's claims (SCMP)
The wife of an activist lawyer missing for more than a year has challenged claims by mainland authorities that he is working in a remote western region and has been in touch with relatives, a human rights group said yesterday. The case of Gao Zhisheng has drawn international attention for the unusual length of his disappearance, and for earlier reports of torture he said he faced from security forces. "For a very long time I have not heard from him, and I do not know where he is now," Gao's wife, Geng He, said in a statement released by the New York-based group Human Rights in China. Her statement comes after a San Francisco-based human rights group, the Dui Hua Foundation, said last week it had been told by the Chinese embassy in Washington that Gao was working in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and had been in touch with his wife and relatives. Dui Hua did not say what kind of work Gao was allegedly doing or where he was staying. "Unless the Chinese government truly makes good on what it is declaring to the outside world and allows my husband to get in contact with me directly, I have no way of verifying his current whereabouts and whether he is safe and free," Geng said. Gao's brother, Gao Zhiyi, says he does not know where his brother is and has had no luck getting information from Beijing police. Geng and her two children now live in the United States after being accepted as refugees. Gao disappeared shortly after his family left China. Officials have been vague about his whereabouts, with a policeman telling Gao Zhiyi that his brother "went missing" and a Foreign Ministry official saying last month that the lawyer "is where he should be". State media have not mentioned the case. ^ top ^

Travel peak rebounds as passengers start to return (China Daily)
The number of railway passengers rebounded sharply in China on Tuesday as more people started their return trips after Spring Festival family reunions, the Ministry of Railways said Wednesday. Statistics from the ministry show China's railways served 4.185 million passengers on Tuesday, up 689,000 or 9.8 percent from the previous day. […]. ^ top ^

Road traffic smooth so far in China's travel peak: ministry (Xinhuanet)
Road traffic in China had been smooth so far into the lunar new year travel peak, with no serious congestion or major accident with a death toll of more than five, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) said late Thursday. The ministry did not give the total death toll from road accidents during the week-long holiday that started on February 13. […] Traffic across the country faced huge challenges during what is called the world's largest annual migration around the lunar new year, to be added by unfavorable weather such as snowfalls and rain. The Ministry of Railways estimated 210 million passengers will travel during the 40-day rush period beginning January 30, a 9.5 percent rise compared with a year earlier. […]. ^ top ^

Porn providers via mobile targeted in crackdown (China Daily)
Offensive material transmitted via mobile phones will be the main target of a crackdown on Internet porn, it was announced Wednesday, as authorities unveiled tougher measures to clean up the telecommunications industry. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said in a statement on its official website that it will introduce tougher measures to fight illegal mobile phone and Internet content providers as it has become much easier for them to evade supervision by the relevant authorities. The country's three mobile carriers - China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom - have been required to examine the quality of their business partners, according to the document. Internet service providers should regularly check the content of websites, cut off irregular websites and put them on a blacklist, the MIIT document said. […]. ^ top ^

Senior Chinese leader encourages Xinjiang students to study hard, contribute to country's development (Xinhuanet)
Senior Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang has encouraged students from Xinjiang who are attending school in southern Guangdong Province to study hard and become qualified builders of the country. Zhou, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China(CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks when replying to a letter written by the 12th graders of Guangdong Guangya High School on Sunday, or the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. […] Zhou said the 56 ethnic groups in the country are a family and they have gone through thick and thin together to forge the flesh-and-blood ties. Zhou said the Party and government are exerting great efforts to address major issues including development gap between southern Xinjiang and other western regions, and the eastern coastal regions of the country. He told students that the CPC Central Committee is to hold a meeting on Xinjiang work, at which major decision will be made to boost Xinjiang's development. He also encouraged students to contribute to ethnic solidarity and safeguard the national unity. ^ top ^

China's law profession advances as nation builds rule-of-law system (Global Times)
China has seen progress in the development of the law profession as it strives to build a country based on the rule of law. According to the Ministry of Justice, the country had more than 15,000 law firms, more than 166,000 lawyers, and more than 220,000 people working in the sector at the end of 2009. By October 2009, foreign law firms from 21 countries had set up 224 representatives offices in China, while law firms from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had set up 65 offices on the mainland, the ministry said. Sixteen lawyers are deputies in the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and 22 lawyers are members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory body. Last year, the country's lawyers handled nearly 2 million lawsuits, and dealt with more than 534,000 non-litigious legal matters, plus more than 184,000 cases of legal aid. […]. ^ top ^

President Hu meets with tunnel construction workers in Xiamen (Global Times)
Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for efforts to accelerate the construction of the economic zone on the western side of the Taiwan Strait during his four-day inspection tour to Fujian Province that ended Monday. Hu urged Fujian officials and people to seize the favorable opportunities offered by the central government on the construction of the economic zone and accelerate the transformation of the economic growth mode. Hu, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, visited Zhangzhou, Longyan and Xiamen in Fujian during the inspection tour and celebrated the Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, with local residents and Taiwan compatriots living in Fujian. Hu stressed the role of tourism in the transformation of the economic growth mode, urging local authorities to make Fujian a tourist resort with international fame. During his visit to a tourist information center in Xiamen, Hu urged the city to strengthen its tourism management and provide better services to solicit more visitors. […] During his visit to the Xiamen Strait Cruise Center, Hu talked with a Taiwan passenger awaiting the ship, who said the travels across the Strait are much more convenient than before. Hu said that compatriots across the Strait are like family members and should keep in close contact. Hu extended Spring Festival greetings to migrant workers at the construction site of Xiang'an Tunnel in Xiamen. Speaking highly of the migrant workers as a labor force growing in China's reform and opening up, Hu urged all government departments to be more concerned about these workers. […]. ^ top ^



Taipei set to challenge Beijing's 'soft power' (SCMP)
Taipei plans to set up a string of "Taiwan Academies" around the world in a race with Beijing to promote traditional Chinese language and culture, an official said yesterday. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou had told the cabinet-level Council for Cultural Affairs to work out a plan for the academies, his spokesman said, in what could become a new competition about the spread of "soft power" abroad. […] Beijing has launched dozens of Confucius Institutes since the first one opened in Seoul in 2004, catering to a new desire for knowledge about the world's most populous country, fuelled by its economy's extraordinary growth. The Confucius Institutes are similar to the British Council or Germany's Goethe Institutes and mainly aim to teach the language to foreigners. However, observers also see the push for opening up Confucius Institutes as an attempt to spread Chinese "soft power", which is a form of influence based on ideas and values rather than military might or economic muscle. […]. ^ top ^

Kadeer invited to visit Taiwan for release of movie (SCMP)
A Taiwanese pro-independence group said yesterday it has invited Uygur leader Rebiya Kadeer to visit the island after a previous trip was banned by the government in Taipei. Freddy Lim, head of the organisation Guts United Taiwan, extended the invitation when he met Kadeer in Washington on Wednesday, the group said. "Kadeer wished very much to visit Taiwan for the release of the DVD of the Chinese-language version of her The 10 Conditions of Love in Taiwan" in March, it said. The biographical movie was screened across the island last year, including at a high-profile film festival in Kaohsiung, reportedly prompting Beijing to order mainland tourists to boycott the southern city. However, Taiwan's Beijing-friendly government refused to grant Kadeer a visa to attend the festival, citing security concerns. ^ top ^



New Year fireworks as Tibetans celebrate talks in America (SCMP)
Tibetans living near the birthplace of the Dalai Lama in northwestern China voiced their support for the meeting between their exiled spiritual leader and US President Barack Obama while setting off Lunar New Year fireworks. The attitudes expressed at a midnight display of fireworks along a valley in Tongren - dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries - were a reminder that, despite Beijing's condemnation of the Dalai Lama, he remains a potent figure in his homeland, and his meeting with Obama will be noticed by both supporters and opponents. "My heart is filled with joy," said Johkang, showing off an enormous smile, standing at his monastery in Qinghai, which lies next to the official Tibet Autonomous Region. "It is so important for us that this is happening, that the US has not given in to threats and will meet our leader," added the monk, who like many ethnic Tibetans goes only by one name. Qinghai, called Amdo by Tibetans, is where the Dalai Lama was born in 1935. He fled into exile from Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and since then has campaigned for autonomy for Tibetans. Beijing brands him a separatist. Many Tibetan monks in Tongren said that this year's Lunar New Year fireworks were also marking the Dalai Lama's scheduled meeting in the White House. […] Word of the Dalai Lama's meeting with Obama has filtered through to Qinghai through Tibetan-language foreign radio broadcasts, monks say, though news that the meeting was happening has been mentioned in passing in state media. […] Still, a sense of wariness pervades Tongren. A large new paramilitary police headquarters is being built outside the county seat, and monks mutter about occasional fines if their public devotion to the Dalai Lama becomes too obvious. […]. ^ top ^



Australia trade talks resume to boost ties (China Daily)
Agriculture remains stumbling block to deal, Canberra says. Trade talks between China and Australia will restart this month despite tension surrounding the trial of a Rio Tinto executive on allegations of bribery, the Australian Minister for Trade said Tuesday. Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) stalled more than a year ago but fresh talks to be held in Canberra, the Australian capital, could further thaw relations between the two countries. However, agriculture is still a stumbling block, said trade minister Simon Crean in Sydney. "The political will, in my judgement, is there," he told the Foreign Correspondents' Association. "The stumbling block still, in essence, remains the sensitivity surrounding agriculture. These are sensitivities that I believe we can address but we can't ignore. "It is clearly impossible for Australia to accept an FTA that is less than China offered New Zealand when it comes to agriculture." China's State-owned companies are eager to buy into Australian mining assets to secure supplies of raw materials in its rapidly growing economy, the world's third largest, and China wants more clarity on Australian foreign investment rules. But China is concerned about the pressures from Australian agriculture imports and both have unresolved differences over the rules to protect intellectual property in China. Both nations started work on a free-trade deal in April 2005 but there has been no further discussion since the 13th round of talks in Beijing in December 2008. […]. ^ top ^

China's holdings of US Treasury debt slashed (China Daily)
China sold $34b in bonds in Dec; Japan becomes biggest foreign holder. China drastically slashed its holdings of United States government debt last December, allowing Japan to retake its place as the largest foreign holder of US Treasury bonds. China sold more than $34 billion in short- and long-term bonds, leaving its total holdings at $755.4 billion, according to US Treasury data released on Tuesday. The country sold about $45 billion in US Treasuries in the last five months, Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist for RBS Securities Inc, said in a research note. He said it was a "long enough period to hint strongly at a trend". Liu Yuhui, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said now is a good time to cut holdings of US Treasuries as recent European debt concerns have driven up the US dollar. "China has chosen the right strategy in slashing its huge holdings of US government debt as the greenback rebounds," said Liu, adding that there is no sign of change to the long-term weakness of the US dollar. Massive US deficit spending and near-zero interest rates would also further erode the value of US bonds, said Cao Honghui, director of financial market research at CASS. […] The net sales of US Treasuries in past months by China might carry a subtle economic and political message to the US, according to Eswar Prasad, a trade policy professor at Cornell University and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division. "Chinese leaders are deploying their reserves to try and pressure the US to stop haranguing China about its currency and trade policies, and to back off from interference in its domestic issues," he was quoted by AFP as saying. However, Nicholas Lardy, a China expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said he believes the dramatic cut in US Treasuries is purely a market move. The China-US relationship was still relatively smooth last December so the political implications should not be over-emphasized, he told Xinhua News Agency. The foreign holdings of US Treasury securities fell by $53 billion in December, surpassing the previous record drop of $44.5 billion in April last year. […]. ^ top ^

RMB is not a cure-all for US economy: IMF (China Daily)
An appreciation of the Chinese yuan will help US economic growth but it will not solve problems in its own economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist said Monday. A 20 percent appreciation of the yuan, formally known as renminbi or RMB, along with a similar currency appreciation by other emerging Asian economic entities may lead to an increase of about 1 percent of the US gross domestic product, Olivier Blanchard said, basing the prediction on an IMF model. "This would be good news for US growth but this is clearly not enough by itself to sustain growth in the United States," the IMF chief economist told Xinhua News Agency. […]On Monday, Blanchard again stressed that a discussion on China's macro-economic policy should start with the savin rate and not with the exchange rate. "There is wide agreement that the current Chinese saving rate is too high, that it reflects insufficient social insurance for households, governance problems in firms and low financial access," he said. Blanchard, an economist from France, said that it is "very desirable" for China to take measures in the fields of healthcare, the retirement system, distribution of profits by companies or financial institutions. He added that the Chinese government has already begun taking measures along these lines. He believes that with these measures already taking effect and the increase of China's domestic demand, China will "need to redirect resources towards this increased domestic demand and to avoid over-heating". "The right tool to do that is an appreciation of the RMB," he explained. "This is the context in which we should think about the RMB appreciation as we look to sustained growth in China over the medium run." . ^ top ^

China, S Korea, Japan to launch joint study on trilateral free trade deal (China Daily)
South Korea plans to launch a joint research with China and Japan on the feasibility of a free trade agreement (FTA) among the three Northeast Asian countries, South Korea's foreign ministry said Wednesday. According to a report by the ministry, the country, which has been seeking an economic integration of the Northeast Asian region by creating favorable conditions for FTAs, will kick off a joint study with the countries, in which government officials, scholars and business representatives will participate. Along with the trilateral FTA, the country will also continue to push for settling separate bilateral trade agreements with China and Japan, the ministry said in the report. […]. ^ top ^

Six out of 10 expect income rise: survey (China Daily)
A nationwide survey shows six out of 10 Chinese expect income growth in 2010, indicating Chinese people are confident in the country's economic outlook, a senior economist said Monday. […] According to the survey, residents in south China's Hainan island were the most optimistic about income growth this year, with 27 percent of survey respondents expecting a significant income rise in 2010. A computer was the item most respondent wanted to buy in 2010, while travel was the second most popular. A car was the third popular product, with 32 percent of those polled intending to buy a car. Among those potential car-buyers, 65 percent said they would buy a car worth no more than 100,000 yuan (14,641 U.S. dollars), according to the survey. Some 54 percent of those surveyed said their biggest annoyance is soaring house prices. In Beijing and Shanghai, more than 60 percent of respondents said they will not consider buying a home this year. Yao said the survey questionnaire was sent by mail to 100,000 families in 300 counties nationwide among the mainland's 31 provincial-level regions. Nearly 88 percent of those sent the survey returned an answered survey. In 2009, the per-capita disposable income of urban Chinese residents was 17,175 yuan, up 8.8 percent from a year earlier, NBS figures show. Per-capita disposable income of rural residents stood at 5,153 yuan last year, up 8.2 percent from a year earlier. ^ top ^

Analysis: Restructuring to make economy a "tiger" (China Daily)
As China celebrates the arrival of the new lunar year, the Year of the Tiger, the world hopes China's economy will roar again in 2010, after it helped pull the global economy out of recession in 2009, the Year of the Ox. The world's third largest economy will become a "real tiger" when the Chinese government successfully restructures the nation's economy, a task the authorities have made a priority, as evidenced by a string of recent comments by top leaders, analysts say. In early January, President Hu Jintao called on the whole nation to strive to accelerate the adjustment of China's economic development pattern, to promote sound and fast economic and social development. […] The January trade data provided solid evidence of growth consolidation, with exports jumping 21 percent year-on-year and imports surging 85.5 percent. After having sustained the nation's fast economic growth for more than two decades, the weaknesses of China's export-led growth model were revealed with the onset of the global economic recession which originated in the U.S. [...] Li Keqiang said that expanding domestic demand is the prime and long-term strategy for economic development. […] Tax cuts and auto subsidies helped propel China to becoming the world's biggest auto market last year. Wang Xiaoguang said China still has plenty of potential to grow its consumption, with the nation's vast rural areas to provide plenty of demand. In 2009, retail sales in rural areas grew 0.2 percentage points faster than those is urban regions. In addition to subsidies for auto and home appliance purchases, the government said in the 2009 No. 1 document, which focused on rural development, enunciated policies to help farmers buy building materials. Demand for building material is growing as the better-off rural residents renovate their houses to live more comfortable lives. […]. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

China to make massive investment in North Korea (SCMP)
Beijing plans to invest billions of dollars in North Korea in an apparent effort to prod the impoverished country to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks, a news report said on Monday. The news came one week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting high-level envoy from Beijing that he was committed to a nuclear-free Korea. Kim subsequently dispatched his top nuclear envoy to Beijing for talks on the resumption of six-nation negotiations on ending its nuclear programme in return for aid. Several state-run Chinese banks and other multinational companies neared an agreement to invest about US$10 billion to build railroads, harbours and houses in North Korea following their negotiations with Pyongyang's official Korea Taepung International Investment Group, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency. More than 60 per cent of the US$10 billion investment would come from the mainland banks, Yonhap reported citing an unidentified source it described as knowledgeable about the situation at the North Korean investment agency. […]. ^ top ^



Cabinet 100 Days Since Formation (UB Post)
It has been 100 days since the formation of the current cabinet of ministers headed by the 26th Prime Minister S.Batbold. On this occasion, the cabinet called a press conference to report on its actions implemented during the past 100 days. The biggest work the cabinet did for this period has been the designing and adoption of the 2010-2012 State Property Privatization Guidelines by Parliament. Thanks to this, the government will try its strength in international capital markets to raise big money, relying on futures in national strategical mining deposits, which the Chief of Cabinet Secretariats, Ch.Khurelbaatar emphasized at the beginning of the session. As Khurelbaatar explained, the current cabinet has outlined the state policy concerning the Tavan Tolgoi Coal Mine saying that the license for the mine should be 100% owned by the state and they also started to pay Tg70,000 to citizens from the Human Development Fund and 80% of target beneficiaries already received the money in cash. The Law on the Human Development Fund is not an action of social welfare, but it is in line with the policy raised by the Premier to make its population healthy, educated, employed and provided with houses. Another achievement was the commitment to construct 4,000 new apartments for civil service employees to be offered with low interest, and long-term mortgages. One of the priorities of Batbold's cabinet is to make a reform in the educational system. Within this task, the cabinet seeks to bring the general educational system to the Cambridge standard. If it succeeds, any graduate from a local high school will be eligible to enrol in any college or university around the world. The recent decision to merge state-owned universities was a part of the effort to improve the training quality. Vocational Training & Production Centers were also set up, as a response to social demand for a new qualified labor force. ^ top ^

No signs of end to recession (
Figures released by the National Statistics Bureau make it unlikely that Mongolia will come out of the recession any time soon. The number of births in January reached 6,127, 729 or 13.5 percent more than in January last year, while thee number of mothers giving birth was 6,097, 718 or 13.3 percent more. Infant mortality stood at 137, an increase by 15.1 percent while maternal mortality rose by 2 to reach 6. Under-5 mortality was 30, a rise by 12 over January last year. This January 1,860,500 adult animals or 4.2 percent of the total livestock were lost. This is more than in any other year since 2002. Of the animals dead, 57.1 percent were goats. Total industrial output reached MNT 142.6 billion demonstrating an increase of 15.4 percent or by MNT 19.0 billion (at 2005 constant prices), compared with the same period of the previous year. Compared with the same period of the previous year, 15.4 percent increase in output of the industrial sector reflected increases of products such as copper concentrate with 35%, molybdenum concentrate with 47%, zinc concentrate, fluorspar concentrate, coal, crude oil, meat, flour, alcoholic beverage, wine, beer, copper 99%, metal foundries and steel casting. For the first month of 2010, Mongolia traded with 70 countries from all over the world and total external trade turnover reached USD 295.5 million, of which export made up USD 163.5 million and import MNT 132.0 million. The total external trade balance showed a surplus of USD 31.5 million. The surplus was USD 19 million, or 38.1 percent less than in the same period of the previous year. Compared with the same period of the previous year, total external trade turnover increased by USD 5.6 million, or 1.9 percent, of which import was USD 12.5 million, or 10.4 percent, but export decreased by USD 6.9 million, or 4.0 percent. Meanwhile, budget deficit was up by MNT 36.7 billion. Total constant budget income was MNT 140 billion while constant budget expense was MNT 207.7 billion which showed a deficit of MNT 67.7 billion. Tax income was up by 64.8 percent or MNT 49.4 billion compared to the same period of 2009. Even though tax income was up and manufacturing increased, increased unemployment and loss of livestock are hurting the economy. ^ top ^

IMF to release USD 24 million to Mongolia soon (Montsame)
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Steven Barnett, visited Ulaanbaatar during February 3-10, 2010, to hold discussions with the Mongolian authorities of the fourth review of the country's Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The SDR 153.3 million (about US$236 million) SBA was approved by IMF Executive Board on April 1, 2009. At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Barnett made the following statement: “The IMF mission reached a staff-level agreement with the Mongolian authorities on the conclusion of the fourth review under the SBA on the basis of the authorities' continuing strong policy performance. IMF Executive Board is expected to consider the fourth review in the coming weeks. If the Board approves the completion of the review, the next disbursement under the program would be released to Mongolia in an amount of SDR 15.33 million (about US$24 million). “Since the SBA was put in place last April, the government and central bank have implemented policies that have helped Mongolia cushion and adjust to the global economic crisis. This year's severe winter, however, is taking its toll on many families, and our sympathy goes to all those affected. The hard winter will also have an economic impact on the country. “Nonetheless, we expect overall growth to rebound sharply and inflation to remain broadly under control. GDP growth is expected to rebound to around 7 percent this year, boosted by the development of the Oyu Tolgoi mine. Meanwhile, inflation could pick up to around 8 percent by year-end, driven in part by higher meat prices from the loss of livestock, before stabilizing at some 6 percent in 2011. “The relatively favorable outlook is due in large part to prudent macro-management and continuing structural reforms. The successful implementation of the government's reform plans for this year, in particular in the following two areas, will be critical for consolidating and building on the recent gains. “First, it will be important for the authorities to continue strengthening public finances, including through early passage of the comprehensive social transfer and fiscal stability laws that have been submitted to Parliament. The social transfer reform law will critically help low-income families through a better targeted poverty benefit system. The fiscal stability law will promote prudent fiscal management and help insulate the economy from swings in copper prices. “Second, but equally important, is strengthening the banking system. As international experience indicates, a healthy banking system helps foster private sector development by ensuring that businesses and households have access to loans at reasonable terms. Key in this regard will be Parliamentary adoption of a comprehensive bank restructuring plan that will help ensure a sound financial footing for all banks. The ongoing efforts by the authorities to strengthen bank supervision, including through the implementation of the recently passed banking law, is also welcome. “In conclusion, we are encouraged by the authorities' recent success in managing the economy. Pushing ahead with the structural reform agenda on the one hand, and maintaining sound macro-policies on the other—including a prudent fiscal stance, flexible exchange rate, and monetary policy geared to containing inflation—will help ensure that the economy moves along a path of sustainable growth, falling poverty, and low inflation.”. ^ top ^


Gautier Chiarini
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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