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
  29.3-1.4.2010, No. 313  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

China to support UN sanctions, says US, as Iran's envoy arrives in Beijing (SCMP)
The United States heralded a potential breakthrough on Wednesday in building support for UN sanctions against Iran, saying China was now ready for "serious" talks at the United Nations. “China has agreed to sit down and begin serious negotiations here in New York,” the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on television. “This is progress, but the negotiations have yet to begin in earnest,” Rice said. US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he wants sanctions agreed on within weeks and Rice said Washington was airing “tough” proposals. She said the talks would take place between the six big powers coordinating a response to Iran's controversial push for what it says is a civilian nuclear capacity, but which Washington says could mask a military programme. China has veto power on UN Security Council resolutions and has consistently opposed punishing Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was upbeat however, saying the P5+1 group – permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany – “continues to be unified” […] Earlier on Wednesday, a State Department spokesman said that senior diplomats from the six powers, including China, had spoken by conference call on “consultations on next steps” […] That discussion came about one week after a similar conference call in which China participated after weeks of stalling. The Security Council already has slapped three rounds of sanctions on Iran's Islamic republic over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which the West and Israel view as a cover for building nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges and maintains that its nuclear programme is solely geared toward electricity generation for its growing population. China's position remains key to the future of the long-running stand-off […] Meanwhile, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili heads to Beijing on Thursday for talks that could hold the key to whether Tehran faces a fresh round of sanctions. Jalili has been invited by Dai Bingguo, the State Councillor advising top leaders on foreign policy […] The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not publicly commented on Jalili's visit, nor has it said whether it would back new sanctions – regardless of the announcements made by the Obama administration. Beijing has, however, backed previous UN resolutions on Iran […]. ^ top ^

China, U.S. hold first high-level dialogue of political parties (People's Daily Online)
China and the United States held the first high-level dialogue between their main political parties in Beijing Wednesday. Senior Chinese officials and representatives of a delegation of the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties took part. Addressing the dialogue, Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the political parties and statesmen of China and the United States should transcend differences of ideology, social systems and cultural traditions and abandon prejudice, so as to continuously strengthen strategic mutual trust and promote the healthy, stable, and long-term development of bilateral ties […] Wang also introduced China's party system, the CPC's governance theory and expounded China's position on China-U.S. relations and related international affairs. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the regular exchange mechanism of the U.S. and Chinese political parties had created more channels for bilateral dialogue. She also expressed the wish to enhance the understanding of the CPC through the dialogue […] At the invitation of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, a delegation with 18 representatives from the U.S. parties are visiting China from March 30 to April 3. ^ top ^

China inks $300m purchasing deals with South Africa (Global Times)
China on Wednesday signed a package of deals, purchasing products worth more than 300 million US dollars from South Africa. The deals, the biggest-ever single purchase China made from South Africa, coincided with top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin's official goodwill visit to South Africa from March 28 to April 1. Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body, witnessed the signing ceremony on the sidelines of a China-South Africa Economic and Trade Forum in Pretoria. The deals, involving nearly 30 corporations in the two countries, covered fishmeal, mohair, wool, bulk wine, copper, wood pulp, chrome ore and others. "The signing of the enormous deal showed the cooperation initiative of businesses of the two countries," Jia said. More than 100 Chinese entrepreneurs came to South Africa on the purchase mission. China has become South Africa's biggest trade partner and exporter as bilateral trade volume hit a historic high of more than 16 billion US dollars in 2009, which was over ten times than that in 1998 when the two countries forged diplomatic ties. South Africa is China's second largest trade partner in Africa with bilateral trade volume accounting for nearly 20 percent of China's trade with the African continent […] China's investment has expanded from the traditional industries of textile, garment and light industrial products to energy, mineral, machinery, household electrical appliances and construction materials […] South Africa was the last leg of Jia's ten-day African tour which already took him to Cameroon and Namibia. Jia had met with South African President Jacob Zuma and held talks with Mninwa Mahlangu, chairman of the National Council of Provinces of South Africa. Jia will leave Pretoria Thursday morning to conclude his African trip. ^ top ^

Beijing and US try to clear air before talks (SCMP)
Beijing and Washington have extended olive branches to each other after months of bickering, with Beijing yesterday welcoming US President Barack Obama's pledge to develop a positive relationship with China. With a high-level Sino-US dialogue scheduled for May and mystery over who will represent China at next month's nuclear summit in Washington, analysts said the remarks from both sides were attempts to clear the air for the high-level exchanges. Obama urged a better relationship yesterday after he received credentials from Zhang Yesui, the new Chinese ambassador to the US, at the While House. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama reaffirmed the one-China policy and support for efforts made by Beijing and Taipei to reduce friction across the Taiwan Strait. "During their meeting, the president stated his determination to further develop a positive relationship with China," Gibbs said. Obama "also stressed the need for the United States and China to work together and with the international community on critical global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth", he said. US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg also reassured Beijing of Washington's support for the one-China policy at a press briefing yesterday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website. Beijing reacted immediately, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang saying in a statement released yesterday morning that China appreciated Obama and Steinberg's "positive attitudes" in improving Sino-US relations. "Not long ago, Sino-US relations were bothered by some unnecessary disturbances, and they did not suit both sides' interest," Qin said. "China hopes both sides can carry out the consensus reached by their leaders, abide by the principles of three Sino-US joint declarations, enhance dialogue and exchanges, expand mutual trust and co-operation, and properly handle sensitive issues." […] All eyes are now on who China will send to a nuclear security summit called by Obama for April 12 and 13. China is under pressure from Washington and other Western powers to support further sanctions against Tehran over Iran's nuclear programmes but Beijing has been reluctant and has called for diplomatic negotiations instead […]. ^ top ^

Sino-French ties warm up after big chill, experts say
Sino-French relations have been salvaged from a nearly two-year diplomatic chill, leading diplomats and experts from both sides said during a seminar on Sino-French relations held in Beijing on Tuesday. They also urged both nations to cooperate better to face rising global challenges in a 'multi-polar' world. Although the French side called China a "strong and wealthy" power, their Chinese counterparts disagreed, saying the nation was still a "developing country". Tang Jiaxuan, China's former foreign minister and State councilor, said Sino-French ties have "revived and developed" after a bumpy period starting early 2008. The relationship started to sour during spring 2008 when the torch relay of the Beijing Olympic Games was disturbed by Tibetan separatists in Paris. It touched bottom in December 2008 when French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama at a time when France was holding the rotating presidency of the European Union. China, in retaliation, postponed an annual summit with leaders from the 27-nation bloc. After much effort, including some high-level diplomatic visits in 2009 and early this year, both countries now have an important occasion to further the relationship, Tang said. "Now, there are about 3,800 French firms in China, while more than 100 Chinese companies have invested in France," he said. The French ambassador to China, Herve Ladsous said Sarkozy would attend the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Expo, scheduled for April 30. President Hu Jintao is also expected to visit France within the year […] China is now a "strong and wealthy" power in the world, Ladsous said. It "should look further and give more suggestions" on issues facing the world, including the Middle East situation, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea nuclear issue, and to usher in a monetary system that will adapt to a 'multi-polar' world, he said. Hubert Vedrine, a former French foreign minister, said China was actually a "strong pole" of the multi-polar world […] Chinese participants at the seminar, however, disagreed. Feng Zhongping, the director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations' European chapter, said it would easily cause misunderstanding in the West if officials said China was no longer a developing country. "It might backfire if (the West) asks too much from China; it will affect cooperation," he said […]. ^ top ^

Sino-Australian ties may be hit by Rio verdict (SCMP)
A Shanghai court yesterday found four Rio Tinto officials guilty of accepting bribes and stealing commercial secrets and gave them jail sentences of seven to 14 years, in a move that threatens to strain commercial and diplomatic relations with Australia - one of its most important trading partners. Stern Hu, Rio Tinto's general manager of China sales, acknowledged accepting two large bribes, which prosecutors said were worth a total of US$935,000 and was found guilty of stealing commercial secrets, and jailed for 10 years. The case has attracted global attention and highlighted tensions that have emerged over the pricing of iron ore, which is dominated by the three big producers Vale of Brazil, and the two Australian producers Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The trial also exposes the intense frustration felt by China over the iron ore talks, with Judge Liu Xin saying that the four had caused more than 1 billion yuan in losses and had "seriously damaged the interests of the Chinese steel enterprises and put those enterprises in an unfavourable position in the iron ore negotiations, which led to the suspension of those negotiations in 2009". Analysts say that iron ore is the one industry sector that China has no leverage over and its frustration and inability to get a special "China price" boiled over last year. "The problem has been that the iron ore market has been relatively tight and the bargaining power has been with the producers and that's obviously put the Australians in a much stronger position […] In 2003, a spot market emerged in China when Indian iron ore suppliers stopped accepting the benchmark price and sold cargoes at whatever price Chinese steel mills were prepared to pay. This second-tier market has, with the exception of the end of 2008 and early 2009, always been higher than the benchmark price. The miners were prepared to accept the existence of this second-tier market, analysts say, because they had long-term volume contracts, which enabled them to secure financing to build out their operations. But this attitude changed when the spot price fell from a peak of almost US$200 a tonne in May 2008 to US$55 a tonne in December 2008, well below the benchmark price. "Steel mills in Europe reacted to the decline in prices by walking away from their volume commitments to the miners, while Chinese steel mills walked away from their price commitments," Jim Lennon commodity strategist for Macquarie, said […] China has also created problems for itself by restricting companies which are allowed to import iron to about 30 big steel companies even though there are thousands of relatively smaller steel mills that are desperate for iron ore. As a result, there was a huge incentive for Chinese steel mills that were allowed to import iron ore to import as much as they could in the knowledge that they could sell on excess supply to smaller mills at the spot market price at a significant profit. This is why steel mills such as Baosteel and Sinosteel earn considerable profits from this "trading". ^ top ^

Tainted dumpling arrest raises doubts in Japan (SCMP)
Japanese media voiced suspicion yesterday about Beijing's motives after China announced the arrest of a factory worker accused of poisoning frozen dumplings exported to Japan. The arrest came two years after Tokyo first pressed Beijing to investigate the case of the pesticide-tainted dumplings that made 10 people sick in Japan, including a small child, triggering a row between the two neighbouring countries. "This does not resolve the issue of food safety," the Asahi daily said in an editorial, while others questioned why the probe took so long and demanded an apology from China. Xinhua said on Friday that Lu Yueting, 36, had been arrested on suspicion of injecting poison into the dumplings while working at a Tianyang Food factory in Shijiazhuang , Hebei. Authorities described him as a disgruntled worker who acted out of revenge because he was dissatisfied with his pay and did not get along with colleagues. Initially, China insisted that the poison was injected into the dumplings after they had reached Japan, in a spat that added to tensions over energy and territorial disputes between the countries. "Undoubtedly, the initial Chinese reaction fuelled Japanese consumers' distrust. Why did the investigation take so long?" a Mainichi newspaper editorial said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Dream of court turns sour for milk activist (SCMP)
For 18 months, Zhao Lianhai hoped to be sitting in a courtroom one day, as a victim's father, to see justice for the 300,000 children made ill by melamine-tainted milk. However, when he appeared in Beijing's Daxing District People's Court on Tuesday, he was standing in the dock with shackles around his feet. Zhao, 37, had to defend himself against charges that he disrupted social order by talking to journalists about the plight of melamine-poisoned babies and also by reporting a rape case to the police. He lived a comfortable, white-collar life before his son Zhao Pengrui, now five years old, was diagnosed with kidney stones in 2008 after drinking melamine-tainted milk. Zhao was a former advertising executive and a former editor of a newspaper specialising in food and product safety that was linked to the state quality supervision watchdog. He quit his job as an editor not long before the melamine scandal broke […] The scandal changed the course of his life. Instead of landing himself a better job, Zhao started a concern group - Home for Kidney Stone Babies - for the parents of children made ill by melamine-tainted milk […] The group's website soon attracted thousands of parents from across the mainland and became a strong advocate for better compensation and lifelong medical treatment for the affected children. However, as Zhao said at Tuesday's hearing, the journey to fight for the rights of his child and other victims inflicted far more pain on him than he expected […] the website was soon shut by the authorities and Zhao had to move the portal to an overseas server. He and several parents were also detained for a day before a planned press conference with overseas media in Beijing in January last year. That month, Zhao and several parents also staged a protest outside a court in Shijiazhuang after they were denied access to the trial of Tian Wenhua, the chairwoman of Sanlu Dairy Group […] Zhao was detained in November last year. He has been charged with making use of a "hot social problem to gather people" to disrupt social order by "chanting slogans, holding illegal gatherings and causing trouble" from September 2008 to September 2009 […] The second charge he faces is "provoking many people to cause troubles" outside a Beijing police station by "using the excuse" that he had a case to report to the police. Zhao said he came to the rescue after hearing from an activist that a petitioner had been raped in a "black prison" - an illegal detention centre for petitioners - and all he had done was to take the victim and witnesses to report the case to the police. The rapist was later sentenced to eight years in jail. If convicted, Zhao faces a maximum penalty of five years. Defence lawyer Li Fangping said yesterday it was unprecedented for someone to go on trial for "reporting a case to the police" […]. ^ top ^

5 arrested for fatal coal mine fire in C China (Xinhua)
Five people have been formally arrested for being implicated in a coal mine fire that killed 25 earlier last month in central China's Henan province, local authorities said Wednesday. The March 15 fire started with electric cables in a main pit of Dongxing Coal Mining Co in Xinmi city in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, when 31 workers were working underground. Six were later rescued. The five arrested included a company investor Fu Mancang, legal representative Fu Xiao, and three senior mine executives Bai Xiaobo, Li Bingcan and Wang Shuangbin […] The five were arrested for allegedly committing "crime of major liability accident," […] Just a day after the deadly fire, four government officials were removed from their posts […] The Xinmi municipal government also dismissed three work safety inspectors deployed by the municipal and township governments to the mine. The mine, with a designed annual output capacity of 150,000 tons, had been operating illegally, investigations found. Rescuers and work safety officials earlier said the victims had no oxygen tanks when the fire started and were quickly overcome by the enormous amount of carbon monoxide. Coal mines in China are legally obliged to equip workers with oxygen tanks. These could help a miner to survive up to 45 minutes in case of emergencies […]. ^ top ^

Refugees not fleeing dry regions, says disaster chief (SCMP)
The mainland's top disaster relief official denied yesterday there had been a huge exodus of refugees from drought-hit areas and said Beijing had no plan to relocate people. Liu Ning, the secretary general of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and a vice-minister of water resources, told a press conference that the authorities had not seen drought refugees pouring into other provinces and he believed the severe weather would not trigger social unrest. Official figures show that more than 24 million people and 16 million head of livestock have been without enough drinking water since the devastating drought began in autumn last year, drying up water sources and preventing farmers from spring plantings in five southwestern regions including Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi. In Guangxi, South China Morning Post reporters have seen villages abandoned by most young and middle-aged residents since the drought began, leaving behind many elderly villagers and children who could not walk the long distances needed to get safe drinking water. Officials from two of the worst-hit counties in Guangxi - Donglan county and the Bama Yao ethnic minority autonomous county, both in Hechi - said the money sent home by young and middle-aged villagers who worked elsewhere was helping their families survive the disaster. But Liu insisted that Beijing's relief work was effective and most drought victims had been given enough drinking water […] Liu said the drought would not affect the mainland's food supplies even though more than 77 million hectares of farmland is too dry to plant, accounting for 16 per cent of the country's annual grain output. He said the Ministry of Civil Affairs had set aside more than 155 million yuan in relief funds to mitigate the immediate effects of the drought, and 260,000 soldiers had been deployed to deliver water and help villagers dig wells […] Liu said the central government would consider moving people from the affected areas if the drought did not ease by the middle of next month […] Although weather forecasters do not predict an end to the drought any time soon, Liu estimated the situation would improve with the arrival of the rainy season, which should come after May 20 […]. ^ top ^

Disabled Chinese to get driver's licenses (China Daily)
More disabled people will be able to drive in China, including those paralyzed from the waist down, thanks to revisions to driving license regulations that will take effect starting from April 1. The newly revised "Regulations on Application and Use of Driver's Licenses" allows, for the first time, Chinese who are able to sit by themselves despite their paralyzed limbs to acquire a license for adapted vehicles. "The new regulations means a lot to me since a car will be my new 'legs'," said Shen Ping, from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, who had driven for almost 30 years before both his legs were paralyzed in 1999 making him unqualified to drive under the old regulations […] There are 28 million people with paralyzed limbs in China, and many are longing to drive but have been deprived of the right. Some have driven anyway, hoping to avoid being caught by the police. Chairman of China's Association for People with Paralyzed Limbs Xu Fengjian estimates that China has at least hundreds of such "unauthorized drivers." […] The new regulation also permits hearing-impaired people to drive if they can hear adequately while with a hearing aid. To get the license, applicants will undergo a health check at a designated medical institute to prove they are capable of driving. Successful applicants will undergo another check up if they want to renew their licenses three years later […] The disabled drivers will have to drive vehicles that have been modified to enable them to drive safely. The vehicles will also be labeled to inform other drivers […]. ^ top ^

Mine managers ignored reports of water leaks (SCMP)
The management of a colliery in the northern province of Shanxi where 153 miners remain trapped underground ignored reports about water leaks sent at least three hours before the mine flooded, workers say. China National Radio and The Beijing News said workers had begun warning managers of the Wangjialing Coal Mine in Xiangning county on Thursday, three days before the accident, that there were signs of water leaks inside the mine. "Many workmates and I found that the underground roads were full of dense fog, while some coal faces started to crumble on March 25," one worker told the national radio station. "All the indications told us that water was leaking out, so we reported to management immediately." A worker told the newspaper that one mine co-ordinator whom they phoned to express their concerns even hung up on them. "The accident could possibly have been prevented if they'd listened to us," the worker told the paper. Managers also ignored warnings three hours before the mine flooded, when workers said water leaks had appeared at the coal face at 10.30am on Sunday, The Beijing News said, citing more than 10 workers. A staff member at the mine's accident relief office confirmed the report, saying that the receptionist who listened to the workers' warning calls failed to pay attention "because he had just woken up". A manager at the mine had said they never took workers' warnings seriously because, based on experiences at other mines, they believed "many of the warnings were just crying wolf". A total of 261 workers were working underground in the half-finished pit when underground water gushed in at about 1.30pm on Sunday […] Only 108 workers were lifted to safety and 153 remained trapped. The authorities are concerned that gases from the abandoned shafts may have flowed into the mine, bringing new dangers […] Workers have also complained that state-owned Huajin Coking Coal Co, which owns the coal mine, failed to detect underground aquifers and pushed workers to finish roadway construction and start mining in October, five months ahead of schedule […] More than 1,000 rescuers have worked around the clock to pump water from the mine, but the authorities expect it will take another four days to complete the job. Only 84 trapped workers in higher areas had a fighting chance of rescue […] Meanwhile, Xinhua reports that nine journalists from eight media organisations were sentenced to 18 months to 16 years in jail for taking bribes to cover up a deadly coal mine accident in a northern province […] Ten journalists took bribes from the owner of a coal mine in Weixian county, Zhangjiakou, in the province of Hebei, in return for not reporting an explosion on July 14, 2008, in which 35 people died […]. ^ top ^

Banker's bribery trial names two female celebrities (China Daily)
Two female celebrities and a large amount of money were the star attractions in Tuesday's bribery trial of Wang Yi, former vice-president of State-run China Development Bank. Wang, who stood trial at the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court, pleaded guilty to the charge of accepting bribes of more than 11.96 million yuan ($1.76 million), and confessed that he "used his power and his influence to make profit for others and himself". No verdict was reached. However during the trial testimony by Li Tao, a businessman from Hong Kong who bribed Wang with 5 million yuan, unexpectedly named two famous celebrities - movie star Zhao Wei, and the anchor of China Central Television, Liu Fangfei […] Li, who has also been arrested, said that years ago he invited Wang to attend an opening ceremony for his company in Shenzhen in South China. Zhao arrived with Wang and was later given a 300,000 yuan ($43,944) "appearance fee", the report said. Zhao's agent, Chen Rong, denied Li's remarks […] Li said Wang also asked him to give Liu 2 million yuan ($292,960) so that Liu could pay off her housing loan. In 2008, Wang then asked Liu to give the money back to Li when the police started to investigate his case […] According to charges brought by the No 1 branch of the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate, Wang received all of his bribes by helping others to get loans. He helped Li get a loan for a highway construction project and received about 5 million yuan ($732,402) in return. Wang also allegedly took advantage of his post to help Zhou Hong, chief executive of a steel slag company in Southwest China's Yunnan province, with business operations and loan applications, in which he received bribes of 6.3 million yuan. Wang, 54, had an impressive career path before he was investigated for possible corruption […] At the age of 39, he became the vice-chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission and he was vice-president of the China Development Bank from 1999 to 2008, when he was investigated and removed from his post. Wang is one of eight ministerial-level officials being investigated for corruption last year […]. ^ top ^

21 infants dumped as 'medical waste' (Global Times)
The bodies of 21 fetuses and infants, placed in plastic bags or wrapped in cotton gauze, have been found abandoned in a river in east China's Shandong Province, igniting controversy over how to properly dispose of deceased or aborted babies. The bodies were found in the Guangfu river by residents in Jining on Monday, with eight having identification tags on their feet that listed their names, heights and dates of birth […] Authorities were still trying to identify the remaining 13 unidentified bodies Tuesday. The news shocked locals and many who have read about the finding online, with anger being a common reaction to the disrespectful treatment of unborn or newborn human beings. Calls for an explanation were also widely heard. Tags on the eight identified bodies indicated that they came from the hospital affiliated with Jijing Medical University. Among the eight, three died of serious illness after hospital treatment failed, the bureau said. Video footage posted online showed the bodies covered in plastic waste bags and floating near the river shore. Local health authorities and police have launched an investigation into the dumping. "The hospital medical staff involved have been suspended from their work," said Zhong Haitao, office manager for the Jining Health Bureau […] In response to widespread public concern over whether the water quality of the Guangfu river had been degraded by the discarded bodies, local environmental authorities have assured that the water quality standards are sound and people's access to safe drinking water won't be affected because it comes from underground sources for the residents of Jijing and surrounding areas. A report by the Beijing News said the bodies had started decomposing, making it nearly impossible to tell their age. It said the tallest one was around 60 cm (about 2 feet). One body was even placed inside a plastic wrapping labeled "medical waste." […]. ^ top ^

Starved animals found dead in zoo (Global Times)
Fourteen jungle cats have starved to death at a zoo in Harbin and a mass grave stuffed with dozens of other malnourished wild animal bodies has been uncovered at the zoo in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The Xinhua News Agency reported that last year the Harbin North Forest Zoo dug the three meter grave, labeled a "myriad animal pit," to bury the dead beasts, including two white tigers, two African lions, two African cheetahs, three leopards and five white lions. Zoo workers said the animal park has had financial difficulties since 2004 and that the famished jungle creatures had all died of malnutrition over the past two years. The report did not reveal the total number of animals buried in the mass grave, but noted that the overall number of animals at the zoo had decreased, including the loss of an Asian elephant. Zhang Xinru, deputy chief of the feeding department at the zoo, told Xinhua that some zookeepers fed the lions only steamed corn bread, reminiscent of the three year famine between 1958 and 1961 […] The zoo's deputy director, Zou Ximing, said there have not been significant changes to the total number of animals in the zoo, but admitted the existence of the mass grave. Zou said that since 2004, the zoo had been through a difficult financial period and the lack of funds contributed to a lack of animal care, nutrition and building maintenance. The Harbin government has allocated the zoo 8.5 million yuan ($1.2 million) a year, but the zoo still lacks about 5 million yuan ($731,960) a year in its operating budget. Other zoos in the country face similar conditions, said Hua Ning, China project manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare […] Hua said many zoos are operating without strict standards […] Animal protectionists and legal experts in China are currently reviewing the second draft of an anti-cruelty law. "Simply passing a law can never fundamentally solve all these problems," Hua said. "The problems can only be solved by comprehensive standards.". ^ top ^

Wife pleads for China to let dissident leave and join family in US (SCMP)
The wife of a dissident Chinese lawyer missing for more than a year said she was relieved to learn he is alive and appealed yesterday to the government to allow him to leave China and join his family in the US. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng resurfaced suddenly on Sunday, saying he is now living in Shanxi province, but it was not clear under what conditions. A human rights group said he is most likely living under tight surveillance by Chinese security forces. Before being jailed and otherwise muzzled four years ago, Gao was the most dauntless of a new group of civil liberties lawyers. He took on sensitive cases involving underground Christians and the banned Falun Gong spiritual group and advocated constitutional reform. Since he went missing on February 4, 2009, from his hometown in Shaanxi province, the government has given vague explanations about Gao's whereabouts, heightening worries he had been jailed or tortured as he was previously. The US and the European Union have called on China to investigate his disappearance. "I am tremendously relieved that my husband is alive," Gao's wife, Geng He, said […] Geng and her two children fled China a month before Gao was detained and now live in the United States. "I am so happy that my children were able to speak to him," she said. "My children and I have not seen their father since January 2009. We urge the Chinese government to allow Zhisheng to leave the country and be reunited with us in the United States." Freedom Now said Gao should be allowed to travel to the US for medical treatment and to be reunited with his family. Contacted briefly on Sunday on his cell phone, Gao said he is living in Wutai Shan, a mountain range famous as a Buddhist retreat, and that he is "free at present". "I just want to be in peace and quiet for a while and be reunited with my family," Gao said […] Gao declined to answer further questions, saying he was not allowed by law, nor was he willing, to accept media interviews. Bans on interviews are often a condition of parole on the mainland. Li Heping, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer and friend of Gao's, said he also spoke briefly with Gao on his cell phone and believed Gao was being followed by authorities. ^ top ^

City workers lacking social welfare (China Daily)
One in every four people living in China's cities lacks adequate social welfare, in a trend that is causing problems for the country's urbanization plans, the government says. Li Shouxin, director of the development and planning department at the National Development and Reform Commission, said 46.6 percent of China's population, or 622 million, lived in urban areas at the end of 2009, up from 45.7 percent in 2008. Included in this total is about 167 million migrant workers, who have lived and worked in cities for more than six months and do not have a local residence permit giving them access to social welfare […] "While their production and lives are unstable, it causes a big problem," Li said […] Migrant workers move frequently and often pay their life and healthcare insurance in the various cities where they are working. These policies cannot be rolled over into one account, which threatens their livelihood after retirement. To address the problem, policies have been relaxed in some cities. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has also drafted national policies. At a press conference on Monday, Yin Chengji, the ministry spokesman, said that a regulation to address the problem with life insurance will be implemented this year. Another regulation on the healthcare insurance will be enacted on July 1. China has been promoting urbanization since the 1990s to boost economic development. Between 75 to 80 percent of the population live in cities in developed countries. Li said the number of cities in China grew to 655 by 2008, with 122 mega-cities (with a population more than 1 million) and 118 big cities (with a population between 500,000 and 1 million) […] Li said the strategy has proven conducive to the country's economic development […] "We expect the proportion of the urban population to exceed 50 percent between 2011 and 2015," […] However, the urbanization campaign has faced problems, including the country's heavy dependence on selling land to generate income […] "Driven by local interests, some cities have extended their scale and tried to earn revenue by selling land," […] As a result, the urban area expanded by 7.2 percent from 1999 to 2007, faster than the 4 percent growth of the urban population […] "Such development means is unsustainable and wastes land resources," he said. ^ top ^

NGOs fear tighter state curbs after university cuts links (SCMP)
Peking University severed ties last week with a high-profile women's rights advocacy group under its auspices, sending further chills through the mainland's NGO community, which fears a new era of tightened government control. In a public notice dated March 25 on the university's website, the social sciences faculty announced it was "cancelling" four research institutes set up under its name, and that any further actions carried out by them would have nothing to do with the university. The four institutes include three from the law department - the Women's Legal Research and Services Centre, the Public Law Research Centre and the Constitution Research Centre - and one from the media department, the Finance News Research Centre. The dean of social sciences, Cheng Yuzhui, told Beijing Youth Daily yesterday that the cancellations were just routine restructuring of the university's research institutes, removing "some institutes that no longer suit the current trend". The Public Law Research Centre was an obsolete shell, having been renamed the Constitutional and Administrative Law Research Centre in 2002 […] The Constitution Research Centre has not conducted any research in the past two years. The Finance News Research Centre, with former Caijing editor Hu Shuli as one of its chief advisers, was once a high-profile institute. But its chief, Xu Hong, confirmed that the "cancelling" of the centre was due to the need to make way for a new multimedia research centre […] However, the rationale for the "cancellation" of the Women's Legal Research and Services Centre is more dubious, sparking concern and anger among non-governmental organisations and rights activists. "I'm very shocked and confused, and above all, I feel very sad," said lawyer Guo Jianmei , one of the four founders of the centre. "We have been serving society and bringing glory to the university for the past 15 years. What have we done wrong? I feel sad for the future of public interest lawyers in China, and the future of NGOs." The centre was set up in 1995 and has handled more than 70,000 women's rights cases, including 2,600 legal aid cases, according to its website. In recent years, it has become increasingly high-profile, offering legal advice in hotly discussed cases such as that of Deng Yujiao, the hotel hostess who stabbed to death an official who was trying to rape her, as well as holding seminars to raise women's awareness of their rights, training public interest lawyers, and calling for legal reforms. Sources close to the centre said the "cancellation" announcement did not come as a surprise since it had been warned by the university more than six months ago to focus on research and drop its involvement in high-profile cases. ^ top ^

Fights break out over scarce drinking water (SCMP)
The PLA Air Force dispatched aircraft to trigger artificial rain to ease the worst drought in a century that has seen dozens of fights break out over drinking water in the southwest of the country. There have been at least 41 disputes over water in Luoping county, Yunnan, one of the provinces hit hardest by the extreme dry weather since late last year […] Violent quarrels broke out between more than 50 households in Yina village after a resident, surnamed Zhao, stole from their communal water tank after he ran out of drinking water on February 27 […] Wang Fude, director of the village, yesterday confirmed that tempers had flared. "The confrontation was initially triggered by the collection of water between fellow villagers Zhao Jiagao and Zhao Mansun, both in their 40s. The conflict was settled after mediation by local government," Wang said […] But Wang was quick to point out that the villagers had endured an unprecedented dry spell […] When asked about the first rainfall in months, Wang said he had heard and seen two or three planes flying overhead at about 9.30pm on Saturday night. "Roughly two hours later, it started showering for about 10 or so minutes. But the rainfall was too light and it didn't last long enough." […] Fourteen military aircraft were dispatched to induce rainfall in an area of more than 200,000 square kilometres across drought-hit regions including Yunnan Guizhou, Sichuan and Chongqing, the China News Service said. The operation was carried out by the Chengdu Military Region Air Force […] Drizzle, moderate rain and downpours induced by cloud seeding had helped ease the situation in 11 cities, prefectures and counties - including Kunming, Chuxiong and Xishuangbanna - between 8am Saturday and 8am yesterday […] The Ministry of Land and Resources said on Saturday it would send more than 1,100 engineers and workers from across the country to dig over 1,600 wells in the southwest. The wells would be used to provide 200,000 cubic metres of drinking water daily to two million residents and one million head of livestock, the ministry said. All workers involved would be in place by April 1 and the first team had already left on Saturday […] The most severe drought in the southwest for decades has left 18 million residents and 11.7 million head of livestock in the region short of drinking water and caused direct economic losses of 23.7 billion yuan, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed. ^ top ^



Expo security tightened in Shanghai (China Daily)
China is confident of hosting a safe and successful World Expo, Shanghai's top leader has said in the aftermath of serial suicide bombings in Russia which have jolted the world. With 30 days to go before the grand opening of the gala, Shanghai Party chief Yu Zhengsheng said the city can ensure the security of the 184-day event with the key being mobilization of people and careful implementation of plans. "All the infrastructure will be completed in time; all measures on security, traffic and publicity have been taken, and residents have high expectations of the Expo - all of which show that we are ready," he said. "I am confident that with the help of the public, we will do an excellent job on security," he added. Patrol units with sniffer dogs are deployed at entrances to the subway in Shanghai as part of enhanced security measures before and during the Expo. Security has become a paramount issue following Monday's double suicide bombings in Moscow, which killed 39. Another two suicide bombings in Russia's North Caucasus region on Wednesday killed at least 12. Major Chinese cities have stepped up security checks at subway stations while some propose upgrading checks at bus stations. Beijing on Tuesday beefed up security in the city's metro system. Fu Zhenghua, director of the Beijing public securit bureau, said police patrols with sniffer dogs were increased at metro stations […] Many believe the Expo faces tougher security challenges compared to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games due to the six-month duration and huge number of visitors, estimated at 70 million […] Shanghai has taken such measures as extending the X-ray scanning of passengers' hand luggage to all metro stations. City officials are also hoping to close a deal with Swedish security services provider Securitas AB. Taking a cue from Beijing's preparations for the 2008 Games, Shanghai has called on 1 million volunteers - many of them retirees - to patrol streets and detect any security hazards […]. ^ top ^

New Bund wins good reviews from visitors (SCMP)
The curtains drew back on Shanghai's front window yesterday when the city's best-known landmark, the Bund, reopened after a refit costing billions of yuan. The iconic strip of colonial buildings has been a chaotic construction site for nearly three years as part of the city's immense development drive ahead of the World Expo, due to open on May 1, but yesterday it was mobbed by nostalgic locals and wide-eyed tourists […] The riverfront promenade is now 40 per cent wider than before, and extended by almost a kilometre southwards to 2.6 kilometres in length. New fountains, floral displays and seating areas now line the stretch between the raised walkway and Zhongshan East Road, although the precinct's extensive shopping areas remain empty. The four billion yuan project involved digging a 3.3 kilometre double-deck tunnel to divert most vehicle traffic underground. But not every hint of the past has been erased. The new-look Bund has kept at least one thing which earned it a fond place in locals' hearts - a section of low wall known as the lovers' wall. Speaking at a press conference last week, however, officials were keen to stress that this was an attempt to preserve the area's community memory, and was not intended to condone illicit behaviour. Along the widened riverfront walkway, visitors numbered in their tens of thousands. Officials claimed last week the new park would accommodate more than one million visitors per day, and it appeared to have been given a thorough test […] The Bund's massive redevelopment project represents just a tiny fraction of the city's preparations for the six-month World Expo. The mainland's biggest international event since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 is expected to draw upwards of 70 million visitors, and the municipal government is pulling out all stops to show off the city as vibrant and modern. The expo's budget is already estimated to be twice that of the Olympics and has involved a massive drive to upgrade the city's transport network and other infrastructure. But Shanghai has rejected plans for a massive opening extravaganza featuring performances spanning the Huangpu River […]. ^ top ^



Democracy rally stand-off ends in arrest of student (SCMP)
A student protester was taken away by police following a tense stand-off between officers and about 200 young activists who yesterday staged a rally outside Government House in Central calling for full democracy in Hong Kong. Minor scuffles broke out as some activists tried to break the police barricade and force their way to the main entrance of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's official residence. The police managed to halt their advance and eventually took away a Polytechnic University student […] The confrontation followed what the police had said was an illegal protest by the young activists, who marched from the University of Hong Kong to the central government's liaison office in Western. Once the 200-strong crowd stepped out of the campus, officers warned through loudhailers that their assembly was illegal and that they could face prosecution because they had not applied for permission from the force. However, the repeated warnings were ignored. The police force has faced criticism recently over its handling of pro-democracy protests, especially those outside the liaison office - Beijing's representative office in the city. There have been at least five arrests in the past six months, including the high-profile arrest of student activist Christina Chan Hau-man. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, which organised yesterday's march, accused the police of trying to suppress freedom of expression […] The protesters called for the abolition of functional constituencies, the trade-based seats of the legislature with small electorates. They said such legislators could not represent the public. The students chanted slogans and burnt a petition letter, before moving the protest to Government House […] The protest yesterday coincided with a campaign by fellow students, Tertiary 2012, to field candidates in the May by-elections to press for full democracy. Only half of the 60 legislators are directly elected. The other 30 seats are elected by functional constituencies, consisting of special interest groups, many of which are pro-Beijing. To Beijing's dismay, five pro-democracy legislators from two political parties resigned in January to force a series of by-elections, scheduled on May 16, which they regard as a de facto referendum on universal suffrage. The Democratic Party did not support the campaign. Instead, it is leading other pan-democrats in a separate campaign to fight for universal suffrage with a "rational and pragmatic" strategy. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong is technically entitled to universal suffrage from 2007. ^ top ^



New era in cross-strait relations (SCMP)
In a reflection of warming relations between Taiwan and Beijing, Hong Kong and the island are establishing a quasi-official framework under which deals on economic and cultural co-operation can be negotiated. The Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council, headed by top ministers, will be authorised to hold talks and sign memorandums of co-operation with a soon-to-be formed Taiwanese counterpart. The council, being established today, will be registered as a limited company, bypassing political obstacles to direct negotiations. Announcing the launch yesterday, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who will be the council's honorary chairman, said officials from both sides could exchange views on issues of mutual concern "in appropriate capacities under this umbrella". The council will be registered as a limited company under the Companies Ordinance, with the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau providing secretariat support and the government as a whole providing "full support and resources", Tsang said. Executive councillor Charles Lee Yeh-kwong will chair the new body […] The Taiwan counterpart, the Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council, headed by high-ranking Taiwanese government officials, will be established soon, according to Taiwan media reports. Tsang said the two councils would hold their first joint meeting in the coming few months. "We expect to see multifaceted and multilevel exchanges with Taiwan," a government spokesman said. These could include health issues such as infectious diseases, medical services, clinical trials and the exchange of drug-related information and financial topics such as co-operation in financial regulations and the avoidance of double-taxation […]. ^ top ^

Taipei and Beijing set for second round of cross-strait trade talks (SCMP)
Taiwan said yesterday a second round of formal trade talks with the mainland will be held this week in Taipei, focusing on which industries will benefit from an agreement between the former foes. The two days of talks are slated to begin tomorrow, with the Taiwan side to be led by Huang Chih-peng, the head of the Bureau of Foreign Trade. "The two sides will exchange views on which industries will be placed on the early harvest list and the content of the trade agreement," Taiwan's quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation said. The products on the list will be entitled to preferential tariff status under the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement. Taiwan and the mainland held their first round of formal talks in late January in Beijing to decide on an agenda and other procedural issues. The island's mainland-friendly Kuomintang government hopes the talks will result in a sweeping trade agreement that it says will lift growth and boost employment. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has defended the proposed agreement, warning that the self-ruled island, already politically isolated in the international community, could be marginalised economically without it. But the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which favours independence from Beijing, strongly opposes the pact, which it says will demote Taiwan to the status of a local government in future talks with the mainland. Former vice-president Annette Lu, from the DPP, said yesterday the opposition party should be more realistic about taking advantage of the mainland's increasing economic clout while not losing sight of the party's pro-independence goals. The comments follow a series of recent DPP victories in local and legislative by-elections, indications the opposition will provide formidable competition for Ma in the 2012 presidential poll. Part of the reason for the DPP's growing strength is unhappiness among many Taiwanese with Ma's policy of negotiating a limited free-trade agreement with Beijing. Ma says the deal will be signed by June. Lu blasted the agreement as helping to pave the way for Taiwan's eventual absorption into the mainland, but she insisted that her party should not seek direct confrontation with Beijing. "The DPP needs to become more realistic to face the rising of China," she said. Lu defined the mainland and Taiwan as "relatives" and "neighbours" but said it was important to emphasise the island's sovereignty. ^ top ^



Beijing accused of erecting new trade hurdles (SCMP)
The United States voiced concern on Wednesday that China has erected new hurdles to foreign innovation, in an annual report to Congress on foreign trade barriers. “A troubling trend that has emerged... is China's willingness to encourage domestic or ‘indigenous' innovation at the cost of foreign innovation and technologies,” said the report submitted by US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk. The USTR noted the Chinese government directive issued in November requiring that a product's intellectual property (IP) must originally be registered in China to qualify as “indigenous” innovation under its accreditation system. The report cited as another example of “this broad trend” draft patent regulations released for public comment in November. “These proposed regulations have raised a number of concerns regarding their expansive scope, the feasibility of certain patent disclosure requirements, and the undermining of IP rights through possible compulsory licensing of essential patents included in national standards […] If adopted in their current form, these provisions may have the unintended effect of undermining the incentives for innovation and, by discouraging rights holders from participating in the development of standards in China, depriving the standard setting process of potentially superior technology.” China is currently the third-largest export market for US goods, according to the 2010 National Trade Estimate report, which outlines significant barriers to US trade and investment and the USTR office's actions to address them. Critics accuse Beijing of keeping its yuan currency undervalued to maintain an unfair trade advantage and the politically sensitive massive US goods trade deficit with China remains a sore point between the two economic powers […]. ^ top ^

Sharp coal price hike may shock power producers (China Daily)
China's power industry may incur losses this year as rising coal prices may take the sheen off the 9 percent growth in consumption, said an industry association. Coal prices have risen sharply since the fourth quarter of last year, and are eating into the profits of power plants, China Electricity Council (CEC) said in a report. Coal-fired power plants and even the whole power industry will go into red if coal and electricity price hikes are not controlled […] The country should also look at adopting the coal electricity pricing linkage mechanism, according to CEC. The Chinese government decided to approve a mechanism linking coal and power prices at the end of 2004. Under the linkage, electricity prices will move in tandem with coal price hikes. If coal prices rise by more than 5 percent over a six-month period, the government will adjust electricity prices. However, the government has utilized this mechanism only twice until now. The power industry has already incurred losses in February, said Liu Nanchang, an official with State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC). Central government owned power companies have a debt-to-asset ratio of more than 80 percent, which exposes them to severe risks in the event of a credit tightening, he said. "This year will be tough for coal-fired power plants, although it is still hard to estimate by how much coal prices will go up this year," said Xue Jing, director of the statistics and information department under the CEC. "Despite making profits in 2009, domestic power companies are likely to incur losses this year," she added. Coal-fired power accounts for around 70 percent of China's total power generation, and rising fuel prices have always been a headache for power generators […] China is expected to import around 100 million tons of coal this year. The country's coal consumption is expected to be around 4 billion tons of coal this year, Huang Li, an official with the National Energy Administration, has said. ^ top ^

Monetary policies cause anxiety on China's capital market (People's Daily Online)
Although the current trend for China's economic recovery is apparently positive, the A-share market has still fluctuated around the 3,000 point level mainly because of rumors surrounding the future monetary policy. This has led to numerous uncertainties in the entire capital market. News loans extended by commercial banks in March will maintain a relatively high growth rate. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China and China Construction Bank offered loans totaling nearly 200 billion yuan during the first two weeks of March. This is slightly higher than that in the same period of the previous month. Judge from this figure, the banking institutions will extend about 800 billion to 1 trillion yuan in new loans in March. With the amount of loans in March rising from the earlier estimate of 150 to 500 billion yuan to the current 800 billion to 1 trillion yuan, there has been a clear difference on the market in the amount of new loans in March […] With the release of relevant economic data for February, it is rumored that the People's Bank of China may again raise the deposit reserve ratio in March. In fact, the central bank has been taking balanced measures in open market operations. According to statistics, it withdrew a total of 218 billion yuan last week, a record high in two years. So far, it has been withdrawing funds for five consecutive weeks after the Spring Festival, collecting money by 61 billion, 59 billion, 82 billion, 213 billion and 218 billion yuan each week, respectively. The figures show that the central bank is now speeding up fund withdrawal […] It is commonly agreed that when the consumer price index (CPI) reaches 3 percent, it is the right time to increase interest rates. Therefore, when the CPI rose to 2.7 percent in February 2010, there were hot discussions on whether or not to increase interest rates. Although the CPI for February was higher than expected, it was mainly resulted from seasonal factors. As the expected inflation has eased to some extent, it is almost impossible to raise interest rates in the first quarter of 2010 […]. ^ top ^

PetroChina plans $60b of overseas expansion (China Daily)
PetroChina Co plans to spend at least $60 billion in the next decade on overseas acquisitions, challenging Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc in the race to control oil and gas fields. "Ten years ago, PetroChina was a State-owned oil company, but now we have a goal of becoming an international, integrated energy company," Jiang Jiemin, chairman of the world's largest company by market value, said in a March 25 interview, where he announced the investment plan. Beijing-based PetroChina spent almost $7 billion in the last year to buy refineries and reserves in Australia, Canada, Singapore and Central Asia. The expansion pits PetroChina against Irving, Texas-based Exxon, which agreed to pay about $30 billion for US gas producer XTO Energy Inc in December […] Exxon is counting on gas to provide the bulk of its future growth with the acquisition of XTO Energy as well as new developments from the South Pacific to the Celtic Sea. BP, vying with Royal Dutch Shell Plc as Europe's biggest oil company, paid at least $8.3 billion to acquire assets over the past 12 months. PetroChina teamed up with Shell last week to buy Australian gas producer Arrow Energy Ltd for $3.2 billion. Spending by Chinese companies on mining and energy acquisitions reached a record $32 billion last year. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, Asia's largest refiner, said on March 28 it will pay $2.5 billion to purchase a stake in an Angolan oilfield from its parent to boost production […] PetroChina wants half its oil and gas to come from abroad by 2020, Jiang said in Hong Kong. The company, more than 80 percent owned by the state, currently gets less than a tenth of its production from overseas. The energy explorer and refiner plans to produce 400 million metric tons of oil and gas a year by 2020, Jiang said, without stating which countries are favored for investment. Purchases will be largely funded by the company's cash flow and earnings […] Politics is the biggest risk PetroChina faces in its expansion, Jiang said, without elaborating […] PetroChina's parent, China National Petroleum Corp, has been in talks with Russia on gas imports for more than a decade and has made "good progress" over the past two years with an initial pricing agreement signed at the end of 2009 […] The company will focus on its oil and gas business and won't invest in renewable energy including wind and solar for now, Jiang said […]. ^ top ^

China's crude oil import dependence exceeds 50%, raises security concerns (Global Times)
In 2009, China produced 189 million tons of crude oil, but imported an extra 199 million tons, and the oil import dependence well exceeded the warning line of 50 percent for the first time to reach 51.29 percent, according to the latest figures from the National Energy Administration (NEA). In addition, China is dependent on a single area for oil and one shipping route that could increase security risks of the country's energy safety. Due to economic development, the energy shortage problem increased gradually. From 2000 to 2009, China's oil consumption rose from 241 million tons to 388 million tons, up 6.78 percent each year on average. In the meantime oil imports grew from 59.69 million tons to 199 million tons, with oil import dependence increasing from 24.8 percent to 51.29 percent. "The demand for crude oil in China will be greater in the future, and the country will import more," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University. However, the amount of oil produced in China is experiencing a decline, according to Lin. In 2009, China produced 189 million tons, down 0.4 percent year-on-year. "If the trend continues to decrease, China's economic growth can not be maintained for a long period of time," he said […] Analysts point out that China does not have its oil pricing right, and putting more than half of its oil demand in overseas market is dangerous. The large energy shortage brings uncertainties to China's energy security. Also, according to figures from China's custom, the top 10 sources of the China's imported oil are Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Oman, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Kazakhstan. Experts said that the sources of the country's imported oil are too concentrated, and those areas are experiencing political instability. China is relying too much on the Middle East since more than 50 percent of China's imported oil is from this area. In addition, China's transpiration of oil relies on the Straits of Melaka and once the strait is attacked, the country's oil transportation will be threatened, according to analysts. They also point out that as strategic resources, oil supply is closely related to national energy security and the country should cut its crude oil import dependence through a number of ways including cutting oil consumption, finding a new replacement for oil, stepping up overseas purchases and developments of oil, and promoting the construction of the oil pipes to diversify sources. ^ top ^

Chalco reports losses in 2009 on low product prices (China Daily)
The Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (Chalco), the country's top aluminium producer, reported losses in 2009 as average prices of its major products were lower compared to a year ago. Net losses in 2009 stood at 4.65 billion yuan ($681 million) while the company netted 9 million yuan of profit in 2008, according to the company's annual business report filed to the Shanghai stock market. The report did not say how much the average prices of its major products dropped, but said the "price plummet has posed unprecedented pressure and challenges" to the production and operation of the company. Business revenue was 70.27 billion yuan, down 8.42 percent compared to a year ago. The Aluminum Corporation of China is Chalco's largest shareholder. It holds a 38.56 percent share of Chalco. ^ top ^

Geely purchases Volvo for US$1.8 billion (People's Daily Online)
China's Geely Holding Group signed a binding deal Sunday to buy Ford Motor s Volvo Cars unit for $1.8 billion, representing a coup for the independent Chinese automaker which is aiming to expand in Europe. It is another manifestation that a rapidly growing China has set its eyes on valuable assets around the globe. The purchase gives Geely, in East China's Zhejiang Province, a European luxury car brand with a reputation for safety and quality at a time when China, which last year surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest car market, is eager to improve its competitiveness. The price, which includes a $200 million note with the remainder to be paid out in cash, is far less than the $6.45 billion Ford paid for the Swedish automaker in 1999. The U.S. automaker has been trying to sell Volvo since late 2008 to focus its resources on managing its core Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands. "We think it's a fair price for a good business, and yes, we're happy with the deal we've achieved with Geely," said Ford Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth Sunday […] Booth added that his company believes that, under Geely, “Volvo can continue to build its business and return to profitability.” […] In a statement, Geely said it has secured all the financing necessary to complete the deal, as well as “significant working capital facilities to fund Volvo Cars' ongoing business.” The sale is expected to be completed in the third quarter, subject to regulatory approvals. The deal also covers further agreements on intellectual property rights, supply, and research and development arrangements between Volvo Cars, Geely and Ford. The U.S. automaker has committed to provide engineering support, information technology, access to tooling for common parts and certain other services for a transition period to smooth the separation […] Geely said it aims to keep Volvo's existing manufacturing facilities in Sweden and Belgium, but that it also will explore manufacturing opportunities in China. Volvo Cars will remain separate from Geely's other operations, with its own Sweden-based management team and a new board of directors, the company said […]. ^ top ^

BOC banks on rail securities (China Daily)
Bank of China (BOC) is likely to invest some 6.6 billion yuan in Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Corp, the operator of the 1,318 km express rail link being built between the country's most affluent cities […] The nation's third largest lender by market value plans to buy 6 billion shares from China Railway Investment Corp (CRIC), the largest shareholder of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway operator, at about 1.1 yuan per share, the sources, who declined to be named, told China Daily. CRIC, currently holding 56.2 percent of Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Corp, said in February that it intended to shed a 4.5 percent stake to raise about 6 billion yuan for the purpose of funding other rail construction projects. The deal has won the approval from the banking regulator and will be completed through BOC's Hong Kong-based investment arm - Bank of China Group Investment Ltd, the sources said, adding that BOC will file the announcement of the deal to the stock exchange on March 30. Analysts said the move marked a breakthrough for commercial banks investing in non-financial entities […] Under the country's frantic railway boom, especially pushed by the giant stimulus package last year, the Ministry of Railways is mulling whether to expand its capital raising avenues to fund railway projects nationwide. Sources indicated earlier this month that the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Corp was applying for top policymakers' approval on its initial public offering, which could raise up to 50 billion yuan to fund the construction. Work on the high-speed railway between Beijing and Shanghai has a planned investment of 220.9 billion yuan and is scheduled to be operational by 2012. So far, nearly 122.4 billion yuan has been invested in the project. ^ top ^

Viva Macau loses its operating contract (SCMP)
Macau's government ended the operating contract of Viva Macau yesterday after the cash-strapped budget airline did not offer to help passengers whose flights were cancelled due to its failure to pay fuel bills. Travellers have been warned against buying any more tickets from Viva Macau - whose online ticketing service was still available yesterday. Officials said any further sales by the airline would amount to fraud. Hundreds of passengers who only knew their flights were cancelled upon arrival at Macau's airport vented their anger on police. Dozens of mainland tourists formed a human blockade to stop other passengers from boarding their planes in a bid to attract the authorities' attention. Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists in Hong Kong face disruption to their Easter holiday because travel agencies said tickets had sold out. Macau's Civil Aviation Authority ordered the city's franchised airline, Air Macau, to terminate Viva Macau's operating licence in a bid to protect the public interest and the city's image as a tourism hub […]. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

N.Korean leader to visit China soon: Seoul (Global Times)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is highly likely to visit China soon, South Korea's presiden-tial office said Wednesday, a move that could signal his country's return to nuclear disarmament talks. "There is a high level of possibility that Kim Jong-il will pay a visit to China. We are closely monitoring the situation," AFP quoted South Korean presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye as saying Wednesday. The Yonhap news agency cited diplomatic sources as saying that Kim might leave as early as today or tomorrow and return before the annual meeting of North Korea's parliament April 9 […] Pyongyang's official news agency said a military delegation held a meeting Tuesday in Beijing, but did not indicate whether they were preparing for any visit. Analysts say any trip this year would be aimed at seeking badly needed economic aid from China, and Pyongyang in return may feel bound to return to the six-nation nuclear dialogue that Beijing hosts. North Korea quit the talks in April last year and vowed to restart production of weapons-grade plutonium. It carried out its second atomic weapon test the following month. Pyongyang says it will not return to the nuclear dialogue until United Nations sanctions are lifted, and until the United States makes a commitment to hold talks on a formal peace treaty. North Korea's economy is ailing and a bungled currency revaluation in November has aggravated already serious food shortages. China is its sole major ally and its most important source of food and energy […] There has been no official statement from China about Kim's visit so far. ^ top ^

N.Korea to build light-water reactor (Global Times)
North Korea is raising the stakes in its nuclear standoff with the United States by vowing to build a light-water reactor using indigenous fuel, analysts said Tuesday. Even though it lacks the technology to build such a plant, they said, the North will speed up uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons unless Washington softens its attitude. The North "will witness the appearance of a light-water reactor power plant relying on its own nuclear fuel in the near future," the official Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary late Monday. Light-water reactors are more resistant to proliferation than gas-graphite types such as the North's Yongbyon facility, but they use low-enriched uranium as fuel. The commentary "strongly suggests that Pyongyang will speed up a nuclear weapons program based on highly enriched uranium, as it said last year," said Kim Tae-Woo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). The announcement bolsters Pyongyang's assertion in September that it was in the final stages of experimental uranium enrichment, he said. "Light-water reactors use (low) enriched uranium, but it's quite easy for North Korea to turn it any time into a nuclear weapons program based on highly enriched uranium," Kim told AFP. US envoy Stephen Bosworth said in December after visiting Pyongyang that North Korea had agreed to discuss its enriched uranium program whenever the stalled Six-Party Talks restart. "The North is airing its technology related to uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons before going back to the six-party forum," said Baek Seung-joo, another KIDA analyst. "Light-water reactors and uranium enrichment may become a hot topic if North Korea returns to the dialogue table.". ^ top ^

DPRRK leader Kim Jong Il meets new Chinese ambassador (Global Times)
Kim Jong Il, the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) met with the new Chinese ambassador to the country on Monday in Pyongyang. Kim, the general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, welcomed Liu Hongcai, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK in Pyongyang, and hosted a dinner party for the new Chinese ambassador. They had a cordial discussion on the relations between the DPRK and China. Liu conveyed the regards of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Kim. Kim expressed his appreciation and stressed the traditional friendship between the two countries, which is fostered by the elder generation of revolutionaries of the two countries, would be further strengthened and promoted […]. ^ top ^

Low chances of DPRK's involvement in ship sinking: Yonhap (China Daily)
Chances seem low that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is involved in its warship sinking, said South Korean officials at the presidential office on Saturday. "It is hard to say for sure now, but chances appear to be slim that North (DPRK) was related," a senior official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity. "Given the investigations by government ministries so far, it is the government's judgment that the incident was not caused by North Korea, although the reason for the accident has not been determined yet," a senior government official was quoted. "An unidentified reason caused a hole in the ship, which led to its sinking. Rescue efforts are under way," the Defense Ministry said. "The ship fired a warning shot at an unidentified object, and the object was later suspected to have been a flock of birds. But we are checking," it said. Cheong Wa Dae said that there has been no "unusual move" by Pyongyang so far despite initial media reports that the DPRK "might be to blame for the incident" that happened Friday night near the disputed western sea border between the two sides. Initial media reports said the incident might be caused by a possible torpedo attack from an unidentified DPRK vessel, citing military sources. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has not responded to the incident. ^ top ^


Manuel Muehlebach
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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