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
  25.2-1.3.2013, No. 464  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

China, Russia Discuss N. Korea Nuclear Test (Global Times)
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have agreed that any international responses to North Korea's recent nuclear test should be conducive to regional peace and stability. After a meeting in Moscow, the foreign ministers condemned last week's test but said any action against North Korea had to be agreed upon at the United Nations. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi: "We are against the nuclear test carried out by North Korea. But at the same time, we believe that the U.N. Security Council should give an adequate response to this issue. The international community should stand against the nuclear test, and at the same time make an effort to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed. "Russia and China share the same point of view that these actions are unacceptable and without any doubt require condemnation and an adequate reaction from the U.N. Security Council. That being said, it's vitally important to not use the current situation to start the modern weapons race in the region and to not allow the use of this situation as a pretext for outside military intervention." [...]. ^ top ^

Railway linking China, ASEAN becomes operational (Xinhua)
A railway that links Southwest China's Yunnan Province with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries became operational on Saturday after seven years of construction, local railway authorities said. The railway between Yuxi and Mengzi is part of the eastern line of the planned Pan-Asia Railway network. The 141-km railway has a designed maximum speed of 120 km per hour. It passes through 35 tunnels and crosses 61 bridges, which together account for 54.95 percent of the eastern line's total length. The eastern line also consists of Kunming-Yuxi Railway, which had been in operation, and the Mengzi-Hekou Railway that is under construction and scheduled to be operational end of next year. Upon the full completion of the eastern line, it will further open up China's southwest, improve transportation and boost economic development along the line, experts said. The Pan-Asia Railway network also consists of central and western lines and is an international railway project that will bring China closer with southeast Asia. […]. ^ top ^

Chinese state councilor, US national security adviser meet on ties (Xinhua)
Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong met US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon here on Monday and both sides called for further development of bilateral relations. China-US relations have come to an important juncture that links the past and the future, said Liu, who attended the inauguration ceremony of South Korean President Park Geun-hye as a special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. [...] She said that since the beginning of this year, China-US people-people and cultural exchanges had shown a sound momentum with a number of innovations, injecting a huge amount of "positive energy" into bilateral relations. Both sides, based on a principle oriented to the future, the world and the people, should further tap potentials and propel people-people and cultural exchanges to a new level. Donilon spoke highly of the development of US-China relations over the past four years. He said the two countries' leaders had kept close contact and both sides had set up an effective, constructive mechanism of communication. [...]. ^ top ^

Hu Jintao meets Lien Chan, urging further CPC-KMT cooperation (Xinhua)
President Hu Jintao Tuesday urged the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Kuomintang (KMT) to further strengthen their cooperation and make common expectations on cross-Strait relations a reality.Speaking with visiting Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan at the Great Hall of the People, Hu said the understanding and ideas reflected in the "common aspiration and prospects for cross-Strait peace and development," issued in 2005 by leaders of both parties, have been proven right. Most of the ideas detailed in the "common aspiration and prospects" have been realized, benefiting compatriots of both the mainland and Taiwan, Hu said. As proven by material progress, the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations is in accord with the overall interests of the Chinese nation and falls in line with the wishes of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, said Hu."The CPC and the KMT should step up their cooperation to further carry out the 'common aspiration and prospects,'" he said.[...] Moreover, enhanced exchanges and cooperation have strengthened Taiwanese compatriots' sense of identity with the Chinese nation and their belief that the blood bond between people on both sides shall never be cut, said Lien. Lien said the mainland and Taiwan should stick to the "1992 Consensus" and the principle of opposing "Taiwan independence," based on which both sides seek common grounds while shelving differences. He said discussions on political issues can be launched via civil channels at first to accumulate consensus."I believe that the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties will continue to be deepened and institutionalized," Lien added. From April 26 to May 3, 2005, Lien, then KMT Chairman, led a party delegation to visit the mainland, the first by a top KMT leader since 1949.During that visit, Hu, then General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, met Lien on April 29, which marked the first meeting between top leaders of the two parties in 60 years. ^ top ^

China and Iran meet ahead of nuclear talks (Xinhua)
Delegations from Iran and China called for dialogue during a bilateral meeting before the new round of nuclear talks began here Tuesday."Talks and dialogues will be the only correct solution to the Iran nuclear issue, which is always our stand," said Ma Zhaoxu, China's assistant foreign minister and representative to the Iran-P5+1 nuclear talks. In a meeting with Ali Baqeri, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ma said "we hope that the sides of the talks will work together, caring for each other's interests and to promote the talks to make real progress."Representatives of Iran and the UN Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- plus Germany, known as P5+1, and the EU, on Tuesday began a new round of talks concerning Iran's disputed nuclear program."The parties should take this opportunity and begin to negotiate in a realistic way, and promoting the dialogues to make new progress," Ma said. ^ top ^

Xinhua hits out at Washington Post over controversial Abe interview (Global Times)
The Xinhua News Agency has hit out at The Washington Post's interview with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to his trip to the US capital, implying it exacerbated already tense relations between China and Japan. Under the headline "Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Chinese need for conflict is 'deeply ingrained,'" The Post published an interview Thursday citing Abe as saying that China has a "deeply ingrained" need to spar with Japan over territory, because it uses the disputes to maintain strong domestic support. The purported comments sparked a strong reaction from Beijing, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying it was rare for a country's leader to brazenly distort facts, attack its neighbor and instigate confrontation. [...]. ^ top ^

China, Russia reach consensus on oil supplies: vice premier (Xinhua)
China and Russia have reached an important consensus on boosting oil trade, Vice Premier Wang Qishan said Monday. Wang made the remarks after holding talks with his Russian counterpart Arkady Dvorkovich at the Great Hall of the People. "The two sides have reached an important consensus to expand the trade of oil, marking major progress for China-Russia energy cooperation," Wang said, urging government agencies on both sides to hasten negotiations and ink an inter-governmental deal at an early date. During the talks, Wang said the Chinese and Russian governments endorsed their respective enterprises' negotiations on gas supplies to be delivered via an east pipeline, with Russia set to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of gas each year to China. The two sides will continue feasibility research on liquefied natural gas (LNG) cooperation using the east line, as well as gas to be supplied via a west line, Wang said. Priority will be given to gas-related projects in bilateral energy cooperation, Dvorkovich said, adding that he hopes the pipeline project and the LNG east line project will be pushed forward at the same time. The two sides also pledged to boost cooperation in nuclear energy, electricity, coal and renewable energy. [...]. ^ top ^

China's first aircraft carrier anchors at homeport (Xinhua)
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, anchored for the first time at its homeport in Qingdao, eastern Shandong Province on Wednesday morning. The anchoring means that the naval base for aircraft carrier in Qingdao is operational after four years of construction, according to a People's Liberation Army Navy statement. Huang Yi, an officer with the construction team of the base, told Xinhua that the carrier homeport has the longest breakwater in China, which could resist a once-in-a-century huge typhoon. Huang said he was proud of the first-class construction quality that his team has delivered. Qingdao is ice-free throughout the year for berthing civilian and naval vessels. The city is also the base of the PLA Navy's Beihai Fleet headquarters. The Liaoning left a shipyard at Dalian in northeast Liaoning Province on Tuesday for its first voyage of the year, during which weapon systems of the carrier were tested.After its delivery to the PLA Navy on Sept. 25, the Liaoning has undergone a series of sea trials and experiments, including successful test flights of carrier-borne J-15 fighter jets. ^ top ^

China rejects Japanese media's armed surveillance ship claim (Xinhua)
The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) on Wednesday said a Japanese media report regarding a Chinese marine surveillance ship that aimed at a Japanese fishing boat with machine-gun near the Diaoyu Islands is a "groundless rumor." The report was intended to be sensational and is not true, the SOA said. The Wednesday edition of Post, a Japanese weekly, stated that Chinese marine surveillance ship Haijian 66 aimed at a Japanese fishing boat with machine-gun, as well as told the boat's crew that the ship would sink after being shot at, on Feb. 18. The SOA said China's marine surveillance ships represent an administrative law enforcement team under the organization's jurisdiction and that they have carried out law enforcement and safeguarded China's due rights through administrative means, as well as abided by relevant international and domestic laws. The marine surveillance fleet was conducting regular patrols after detecting the intrusion of a Japanese fishing boat in waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, according to the SOA.The fleet was not armed with any heavy weaponry including machine-gun and the action it took against the Japanese vessel was legal and justified, the SOA said.The SOA said some Japanese politicians and media have vilified China's marine surveillance activity, adding that such actions will jeopardize bilateral relations and will not help to solve the issue.. ^ top ^

Next foreign minister for China tipped to be Japan expert Wang Yi (SCMP)
China is likely to appoint an expert on Japan and North Korea as its next foreign minister, three independent sources said, in a measure of Beijing's resolve to improve difficult relationships with two of its closest neighbours. Barring last-minute changes, Wang Yi, 59, the ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007, was likely to be appointed foreign minister during the annual session of the National People's Congress next week, the sources said. A fluent Japanese speaker, Wang was China's main representative to the six-party talks on North Korea from 2007 to 2008, and was a counsellor and later minister counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo from 1989 to 1994. "China is sending a signal that Sino-Japanese relations will be the most important of important issues," a source with ties to the leadership said, while requesting anonymity. [...]. ^ top ^

PLA plans 40 drills for 2013 (Global Times)
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will hold about 40 military drills in 2013 to fully prepare its soldiers for war, the PLA General Staff Headquarters revealed Tuesday, the first time in years that it had announced plans for exercises in advance, at the beginning of a year. The Military Training Department said in a statement that the PLA will put China's core security-related interests in a more prominent position and will strengthen live-ammunition and confrontation exercises. "The move shows that the PLA has become more confident and transparent in national defense and drills will become routine, judging from this gesture," Meng Xiangqing, a deputy director of the Strategic Research Institute at the National Defense University of the PLA, told the Global Times Wednesday. ^ top ^

China stresses to promote inclusiveness, win-win cooperation in human rights field (Xinhua)
China called on all countries to promote equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation in international human rights field on Thursday. Liu Zhenmin, permanent representative of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations in Switzerland, said at the high-level segment of the general debate of the Human Rights Council's 22nd Session that the international human rights cause is facing a series of challenges. "In order to advance the international human rights cause along a healthy path and to achieve the noble objective of human rights for everyone, all countries should promote equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutually beneficial cooperation in international human rights field," Liu said. Liu said that the recent 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China gave greater prominence to the role of the people as the master of the nation and called for better protection of their rights and for bringing out greater initiatives from them. The Chinese government has made the respect for and protection of human rights a major guiding principle, and will continue to participate actively and constructively in international human rights activities, he said. China has submitted its candidature for HRC membership for 2014-2016, Liu said, which shows China's continuing commitment to working with the rest of the international community and making contribution to healthy progress in international human rights protection. ^ top ^

China supports UN's proper response to DPRK nuclear test (Xinhua)
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Thursday said the UN's response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test was "prudent and moderate," and China supports the proper response against the test. China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei met with his ROK (Republic of Korea) counterpart Lim Sung Nam on Wednesday to exchange views on the situation on the peninsula, spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press briefing Thursday in Beijing. Regarding the United Nations Security Council's (UNSC's) discussion on a recent nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Hua said China wishes to safeguard peace on the peninsula and realize denuclearization. Pyongyang conducted its latest nuclear test on Feb. 12, marking its third test following nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, respectively. China supports the UNSC's appropriate response which showed its opposition to the DPRK's nuclear test, Hua said. "The UNSC's response has been prudent and moderate, and should be able to help realize the peninsula's denuclearization and safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula and northeast Asia," Hua said. China has maintained close communication with the ROK and other parties regarding the UNSC's discussion, Hua said. China has always maintained that the only correct solution to the Korean nuclear issue is to hold negotiations and resolve all parties' concerns in a comprehensive and balanced way, Hua said. ^ top ^

Long March-7 rocket's maiden launch hopefully in 2014 (Xinhua)
China's indigenous carrier rocket Long March-7 hopefully will make its first launch in 2014, a senior official of the rocket's designing institute said Friday. Liang Xiaohong, Party chief of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, made the remarks during an exclusive interview with Xinhua. The Long March-7 rocket, of which key technological breakthroughs have been made in the design and production, is expected to be one of China's backbone carrier rockets for the nation's future space missions, he said. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

CPC Central Committee to Hold 2nd Plenum (Xinhua)
The Second Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be held in Beijing from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, according to a decision by members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Saturday. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the meeting. A draft on institutional restructuring and function transformation of the State Council, China's Cabinet, was discussed during the meeting. It was agreed that efforts will be made to achieve simpler and decentralized administration as well as push forward institutional reform. Members agreed that institutional reform of the State Council should be carried out in an "active yet prudent, step by step manner, with priority given to function transformation."Participants vowed to attach greater importance to the transformation of government functions. They said more efforts should be made to improve administrative efficiency and the socialist market economic system. They also discussed the list of candidates for the country's next administration, which will be recommended to the upcoming first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, as well as the candidate list for the leadership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body, which will be recommended to the coming first session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee. [...]. ^ top ^

Public anger over case of son of general accused of rape (SCMP)
Public anger continues to swell over a high-profile incident involving a 17-year-old son of an army general who is accused of participating in a gang rape in Beijing, in the latest example of a child of privilege acting as if he was above the law. Four of the five detained suspects, who are accused of raping a young woman on February 17, are minors, the Beijing Morning Post reported yesterday. This includes Li Guanfeng, son of Li Shuangjiang, a senior official in the People's Liberation Army who is famous for singing patriotic songs at public events and enjoys a non-commanding rank equivalent to major general. According to the newspaper, the five suspects - one aged 24 and the others aged 16 or 17 - are suspected of bringing a young, drunk woman from a bar to the Hubei Hotel in Beijing and raping her. The woman was reportedly beaten violently. [...] There were also rumours swirling that he was actually 19 years old and that his parents falsified his age to shield him as a minor. Beijing police could not be reached for comment yesterday. [...]. ^ top ^

How far will China's crackdown on corruption go? (SCMP)
When politicians stake out the high moral ground and order a crackdown, it can be a smokescreen for business as usual, or it can mean they really mean business. Incoming leader Xi Jinping has signalled that he wants to cut back on banquets, but it's too soon to say whether this means the Communist Party's anti-corruption campaign is for real, or is being used to manage public opinion. Excessive consumption and corruption, especially on the part of state officials who are supposed to be public servants, does make a mockery of the "serve the people" ethos at the heart of good governance. China faces a destabilising inequality gap, so the waste of public resources on empty gestures - like showy motorcades, honour guards, over-the-top banquets, glitzy hotel receptions and lavish gift-giving - not only squanders funds needed elsewhere, but fuels indignation while eroding social harmony and self-respect. Despite his revolutionary communist pedigree, it is unlikely that Xi will be saying "Farewell, my tycoon" any time soon, though. The get-rich-quick ethos launched by the canny "capitalist roader" Deng Xiaoping is still the default ideology in a nation bereft of meaningful ideology. [...] Putting on aristocratic airs has become so widespread that an everyday act as simple as the sight of US ambassador Gary Locke carrying his own bag and buying his own coffee was considered newsworthy in China. Where were his porters and servants? [...] Cementing deals over food and making toasts to friendship is an East Asian legacy that runs deep. Even in the 1980s, when China was much less affluent than it is today, and a good deal more egalitarian, being invited for a meal at someone's home was a grand gesture. The meal might have been cooked on a single-burner hotplate on a busy staircase outside a family's one-room apartment, but it was always a multi-dish affair, a way of showing generosity and respect. [...]. ^ top ^

China's mainland home to 247 'cancer villages' (People's Daily Online)
China has more than 247 "cancer villages" throughout the mainland, according to a map that is being widely circulated on the Internet. The map caught the public's attention after the Ministry of Environmental Protection admitted earlier this month the existence of such villages and said pollution was to blame for high cancer rates among their residents. The map was said to have been drawn up by a Chinese university student after research into data and media reports. Although such villages are found in around 27 regions, many of them are located in central Henan and eastern Jiangsu provinces. [...]. ^ top ^

Report on mainland soil pollution a 'state secret' (SCMP)
The top environmental watchdog has rejected a request to publish findings of a high-profile national survey on soil pollution, citing "state secrecy". Legal and environmental experts called the Ministry of Environmental Protection's decision irresponsible, and said it put public health at risk, as contaminated land could jeopardise food safety and cause cancer or other health problems in people living on it. "The ministry's claim is rather ill-founded, because the regulations on disclosure of government information actually allow for the release of so-called 'national secrets' if they involve public interests," said Beijing-based lawyer Dong Zhengwei, who requested the findings from the environmental ministry on January 30. Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said soil contamination might pose more risk than other forms of pollution because it was not as visible and people did not know how to take precautions against it. [...] "The environmental ministry has been releasing real-time information about air pollution even though the air in Beijing was so bad last month. In contrast, soil pollution is a 'state secret'," Dong said. "Does this suggest that the land is contaminated much worse than the air?" Authorities have a poor record of transparency on pollution information. A five-year national plan to tackle heavy-metal pollution by 2015 has never been made public. Ma said authorities deemed the soil-pollution findings "too sensitive", and he said there were likely questions about the accuracy of the findings, because the survey was met with strong resistance from local governments. [...]. ^ top ^

Draft rules stress educational rights for disabled (Xinhua)
Educational coverage for people with more types of disabilities, such as autism and cerebral palsy, will expand, according to a draft revision to the regulation on the education of the disabled. The current regulation, which was promulgated in 1994, only ensures education for people with sight, listening, speaking and intellectual impairments. The newly-revised draft was released Monday by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council at to solicit public opinion until March 25.The 50-article rules cover education for the handicapped at both ordinary schools and special educational institutions, teachers for the disabled and the supervision and guarantee of such education. Stressing equal rights for both ordinary and disabled people, the draft specifies detailed conditions only in which schools are allowed to refuse the admission of disabled children as well as a mechanism to solve admission-related conflicts. According to the draft, only children who suffer serious disabilities or severe physical or mental impairments and need special care or professional support can be deemed unsuitable for normal school education. Such cases must be verified by educational committees at or above county level. In addition, the draft urges ordinary schools to make efforts to improve their own capabilities to educate as well as create a sound environment for disabled students. They are also encouraged to arrange special curriculums for these students. ^ top ^

China's navy takes delivery of 'stealth frigate' (SCMP)
The navy has taken delivery of a "stealth frigate" that is expected to bolster the country's maritime defences as it faces territorial disputes. The ship, identified by Xinhua as a Type 056 stealth frigate, was delivered to the navy on Monday afternoon in a ceremony in Shanghai. Navy commander Wu Shengli emphasised the importance of mastering the vessel's equipment and capabilities in the face of maritime disputes, according to a front-page article on Tuesday in the PLA Daily newspaper, published by the military. Wu, also a member of the Military Commission, called for continuous improvement and growth of an elite naval force capable of fighting and winning so as to reassure president-elect Xi Jinping and other members of the commission. In January, state media reported that the armed forces were instructed to raise their fighting ability this year and "focus closely on the objective of being able to fight and win battles". President Hu Jintao, set to step down next month and be replaced by Xi, said in November at a Communist Party congress that China should become a "maritime power". Yesterday's report did not specify the size of the ship but said it possessed "good stealth performance". The vessels would mainly be used for escort missions and anti-submarine operations, it added. ^ top ^

Calls to abolish labour camps are unlikely to be heard by NPC (SCMP)
With less than a week to go before the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, anyone hoping for bold and rapid action from China's new leaders on the 50-year-old re-education through labour system might be disappointed. Public hopes soared in January after media reported the new security tsar had promised to "halt" the practice of sending petty criminals and government critics to forced labour camps for up to four years without trial. Meng Jianzhu, secretary of the Communist Party's Political and Legal Affairs Commission, was quoted as telling a national law and order work conference the laojiao (re-education through labour) system would be "halted" after the NPC rubber-stamped the move in March However, the latest issue of the party's flagship magazine Qiushi published an excerpt from Meng's January speech which said the re-education through labour system would be "reformed", rather than halted, this year. [...] Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer involved in several laojiao cases, said: "The laojiao system is a national disgrace and now is the best time to abolish it; it is so disreputable that it cannot be reformed. The leaders' previous promises of stopping the system have come to nothing."People who attended January's work conference and media reports stemming from it had led many to believe that Meng was more determined to end the system, but doubts about his commitment to change have since surfaced. His promise to halt the system was first reported on the microblog of a senior legal journalist, and not by a state media outlet. Hours later, however, Xinhua reported that authorities had pledged to reform the system, not to halt it. [...] Lawyer Chen Youxi said the threat of compensation claims from victims could be the biggest obstacle for the government in abolishing the laojiao system. "To abolish the laojiao system means the government recognises the whole system was wrong," he said. "The government is afraid the move might hit an impasse, as victims who had been treated unfairly in the camps in the past might claim compensation. And that could cause social unrest." [...] A 2009 UN Human Rights Council report estimated that 190,000 inmates were locked up in 320 re-education through labour camps on the mainland. A government researcher said late last year that there were some 60,000 people in labour camps.. ^ top ^

Chinese parents of gays and lesbians demand equal marriage rights (SCMP)
More than 100 parents of gays and lesbians in China recently wrote an open letter to delegates of China's National People's Congress, which is scheduled to convene in March, demanding marriage equality for their children. Calling themselves “comrade parents” [“comrade” is slang for a homosexual in Chinese], they confessed anxieties and worries for their gay children, who under China's current marriage law aren't allowed to marry their partners, and therefore excluded form rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. “The fact that they can't legally marry puts them in a difficult situation when they try to adopt children, sign for their partners' operations, inherit assets from a deceased partner, or even buy a flat,” reads the letter.[...] Even though the letter has been widely circulated online and reported by several major Chinese newspapers, A Qiang, a worker at PFLAG, said he hasn't heard yet from any NPC delegates.[...] Marriage rights for gay people became a hot topic on China's social media this week after two Beijing lesbians were not allowed to register for marriage in Beijing on Monday. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping elected as deputy to new national legislature (Xinhua)
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, was elected as a deputy to the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), the NPC Standing Committee confirmed Wednesday. The other six members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli were also elected as new NPC deputies. ^ top ^

Tainted rice sold to consumers: report (Global Times)
Some 10,000 tons of cadmium-tainted rice from Hunan Province was reported by the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily Wednesday to have found its way onto the market in Guangdong Province, a claim that had been denied by some of the companies named in the report. Some of the rice, which far surpassed the State level of 0.2 milligrams of cadmium per kilogram, was reported to have been transported and sold in Guangdong by the Shenzhen Cereals Group in 2009. [...]. ^ top ^

Reformist wealth fund boss Lou Jiwei next finance minister (SCMP)
The mainland leadership has decided to appoint Lou Jiwei, the chairman of its sovereign wealth fund known for his reformist outlook and financial experience, to be the next finance minister. The appointment is part of a major cabinet reshuffle due to be approved by the top legislature this month. Government sources said Lou, 62, would replace Xie Xuren to lead fiscal policy after the National People's Congress (NPC), which opens on Tuesday. [...] In another top appointment, Zhang Xiaoqiang, a vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, will be appointed chairman of the board of supervisors of the nation's sovereign wealth fund, the China Investment Corporation (CIC), replacing Jin Liqun. Jin will become chairman of China International Capital Corp (CICC), the mainland's leading investment bank, while former CICC top boss Li Jiange will become chairman of Shenyin Wanguo Securities. It remains to be seen who will be picked to fill the vacancy left by Lou. Since its launch in 2007, the US$482 billion sovereign wealth fund has been beset by controversy due to its lacklustre performance and obstructions to its attempts to make acquisitions abroad. A key appointment not yet disclosed is who will head the national pension fund, a significant reserve fund to support the mainland's ageing population, as chairman Dai Xianglong is set to retire. The top leadership has nearly completed the personnel arrangements for the heads of the key financial regulatory bodies ahead of the NPC, with all chiefs of the banking, securities and insurance watchdogs retaining their posts. [...] The appointments are set to be passed by the NPC, the rubber-stamp legislature. It is believed that a minor change in the line-up of the country's top financial regulators will ensure the originally planned economic and financial reforms will stay on course, while new party and state leaders hope to consolidate their power amid economic and financial stability. China is on the way to creating a market-based interest rate mechanism, internationalising its currency, directing a freer cross-border fund flow on the capital markets and launching more financial derivatives. […] Lou, an economist who owes his political rise to former premier Zhu Rongji, was a vice-finance minister between 1998 and 2007 before becoming the head of the China Investment Corporation when Beijing launched the high-profile sovereign fund. He carries the rank of a minister. ^ top ^

CPC solicits opinions on government reform, state leader candidates (Xinhua)
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held a consultative meeting on Thursday to solicit opinions on government reform from non-CPC representatives. The meeting was presided over by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. The country should deepen administrative system reforms so as to remove obstacles standing in the way of socio-economic development, Xi said. Priority should be placed on the institutional restructuring of the State Council, Xi noted. A draft on the institutional restructuring of the State Council has been put forward by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council will be encouraged to hand it over to the upcoming first annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) after the draft is approved at the second plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, Xi said. Meeting participants also discussed lists of candidates for state leaders and leading members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The two lists were put forward after careful deliberation by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Xi said. Xi said consulting representatives from democratic parties and people with no party affiliation on major state issues, including the selection of state leader candidates, is an intrinsic requirement for multi-party cooperation and a manifestation of socialist democracy. […] Chairpersons from eight democratic parties, including Wan Exiang, Zhang Baowen, Chen Changzhi, Yan Junqi, Chen Zhu, Wan Gang, Han Qide and Lin Wenyi, as well as chairman of All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce Wang Qinmin and non-party representative Hao Ruyu spoke at the meeting. They voiced support for the draft restructuring plan and candidate lists and put forward suggestions on the institutional restructuring of the State Council.[…]. ^ top ^



Water fears over Miyun dump (Global Times)
Environmental activists and villagers Sunday warned of pollution of Beijing's water supply due to illegal trash dumping near Miyun Reservoir, which supplies about two-thirds of Beijing's drinking water. Zhang Xiang, from environmental NGO Nature University, told the Global Times Sunday that he went to see the trash site Friday with local journalists after residents of Bingmaying village in Miyun asked them for help. The site is six kilometers from the reservoir. A local government official from Miyun county told the Global Times Sunday that he had ordered a trash cleanup near the reservoir, a move he claimed was unconnected to media involvement. It comes after a campaign by public service activist Deng Fei, in which he asked people returning to their hometowns for Spring Festival to post photos of polluted water sources, putting water pollution under the spotlight. Zhang released the information on his Sina microblog Sunday. "The dump is more than 60 meters long, 50 meters wide and around 15 meters deep. It's nearly filled with trash," said Zhang. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing CDC to start system to monitor safety of food bought online (Global Times)
Food sold over the Internet will be included in a food monitoring system for the first time, Beijing Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) told the Global Times Monday. Chen Qian, director of the CDC's food microorganism lab, said that their monitoring will start with five types of food sold online. This includes baby formula and cereal food, milk powder, puffed snack food, cooked meat and raw aquatic animal products. [...] Industrial and commercial bureaus in China investigated and punished 67,000 cases which did not meet food safety standards during the first three quarters of 2012, said a report on the website of Guangming Daily on November 17, 2012. ^ top ^

Beijing now offers permanent residency at a group discount of HK$125m (SCMP)
It's official, writes the Beijing Daily, that a hukou in the city can now be had by senior executives (and their immediate family members) of companies willing to invest at least 100 million yuan (HK$124.6 mln), or US$10 mln (HK$77.6 mln) for foreign capital investors. According to the report, 45 individuals affiliated with 14 separate firms were granted permanent residency in Beijing last year. Zhou Weimin, director of the Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau, says his organisation was given the power to issue hukous last year, currently extended only to chairpersons, vice-presidents, and the chief accountants, engineers or economists of sufficiently invested firms or top managers of their subsidiaries. Directors of R&D bodies established by corporate investors are also eligible under the scheme. [...] Prior to 2012, a Beijing hukou could only be legally obtained through the city's labour and social security bureau. [...]. ^ top ^

Darkness at noon as worst dust storm in months mixes with morning smog (SCMP)
The sun vanished and nearby buildings disappeared from view across northern China yesterday morning as the worst dust storm in months combined with thick, stagnant smog to create an acrid mix of air that deepened health concerns. Just days before the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC) - a time when authorities are particularly keen on positive publicity - early risers saw Beijing shrouded in "hazardous" smog that reduced visibility to a few hundred metres. Both the US embassy's Twitter feed and the official Beijing figures showed the air quality index reached the scale's maximum level of 500 in the late morning and early afternoon. [...] Similar, if not worse, conditions were seen across the region, including Tianjin, Shijiazhuang in Hebei, and across Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces. […] As forecast by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, strong northwesterly winds arrived at midday, improving things considerably. The index reading dropped below 50 to "good" levels, according to embassy readings, but not before the winds brought a wall of thick dust from Inner Mongolia. While the level of health-threatening PM2.5 pollutants improved, the level of larger PM10 pollutants exceeded 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre in the early afternoon. Weather authorities said the dust storm - the first this year and the worst in months - affected a vast swathe from Inner Mongolia to Hebei. The combination of smog and dust renewed public concerns about China's air pollution.[...] Professor Chen Tian, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, has been puzzled by China's abnormal air pollution in recent months. He said the usual pollution sources like car emissions and deforestation were no worse than in previous years. ^ top ^



Shanghai police investigate toxic school uniforms (Xinhua)
Police in Shanghai have started investigating a local garment firm after toxic dye was found in the school uniforms it manufactures, authorities said Monday. Disciplinary supervision authorities are also investigating whether officials allowed the substandard uniforms to enter school campuses, a city government spokesman said.As of Sunday, two out of 106 batches of school uniforms produced by the Ouxia Garment Company were confirmed to contain azo dye, which can cause cancer, said the spokesman. Student uniforms for 41 schools in the city were produced by the firm or labeled with its "Ouxia" brand. On Feb. 18, education authorities ordered 26,400 primary and high school students to stop wearing Ouxia-brand school uniforms after a quality inspection campaign found toxic dye in some of the uniforms. Education and quality inspection departments have strengthened inspections of school uniforms used in primary and high schools and asked all schools to deliver samples of their uniforms for quality testing before distributing them to students. ^ top ^



China arrests five Tibetans for ‘inciting' immolation (SCMP)
Chinese police arrested five Tibetans, mostly Buddhist monks, whom they allege worked at the behest of foreign forces to persuade three people to set themselves on fire in anti-Beijing protests. The arrests are the latest in an intensified crackdown on self-immolations by authorities in tightly controlled Tibetan areas and indicate that China's new leadership is responding to the protesters' calls for greater freedom by clamping down even harder. In recent months, Tibetans have been arrested for encouraging others to self-immolate and have been handed sentences ranging from a few years in jail to death with a two-year reprieve, which is usually commuted to life imprisonment. [...]. ^ top ^



9 tourists from China's Hong Kong killed in Luxor balloon crash (Xinhua)
Nine tourists from China's Hong Kong were killed in a balloon crash Tuesday morning in Egypt's Luxor governorate, a local health official told Xinhua."Eighteen tourists, including nine from Hong Kong, four Japanese, two Britons, two Frenchmen and an Egyptian, have been killed in the accident." [...] "The explosion happened in the early morning. The pressure was too high in the balloon and then fire of the engine touched the balloon and suddenly the balloon was on fire," a local tourist guide named Mohamed told Xinhua."The balloon belongs to the Sky Cruise Company. The dead and injured have been transferred to the Luxor International Hospital," he added. Luxor governor Ezzat Saad decided to suspend the business of balloons companies and ordered the companies to cancel all the arranged balloon trips. Prosecution in the governorate started investigations into the accident. The official al-Ahram online quoted a source in the Sky Cruise company as saying the hose attached to the gas tanks was cut while some workers were trying to tug the rope of the balloon during landing, which led to the explosion. [...] In 2009, a balloon impinged with a tower of mobile phone network on a building roof and fell down in the west bank of Nile River in Luxor, leaving 19 people injured. ^ top ^



Top Taiwan official Lien Chan to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing (SCMP)
The honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, Lien Chan, arrived yesterday in Beijing for what analysts say is a hugely significant trip that may shed light on policy direction in cross-strait relations for the next decade under the new Communist Party leadership. Lien meets new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping today in the highest-level cross-straits meeting since Xi took office in November. Xi is expected to touch on his policy points towards the island. Speculation is rife in Taiwan media that Xi, who is poised to become president in March, might propose strengthening co-operation between Taipei and Beijing in exploiting maritime resources in the disputed waters of the East China Sea and South China Sea. [...] Delegation spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun said Lien - invited by Xi to visit the mainland - would meet Xi at the Great Hall of the People this morning. "The honorary chairman is expected to hold a news conference at around 11am about his meeting with CCP General Secretary Xi," she said. She said Lien would also meet outgoing President Hu Jintao tomorrow and other "friends" in Beijing during his trip. Lien made history in 2005 for his fence-mending trip to Beijing, where he met Hu and reached consensus on peaceful development of relations between Taipei and Beijing, rivals since the end of the civil war in 1949. [...]. ^ top ^



China central bank takes lead in economic reform push (SCMP)
China's readiness to bend retirement rules to keep arch-reformer Zhou Xiaochuan at the helm of the central bank signals clearly that new Communist Party chiefs want to speed economic reform in the country's most critical development phase in three decades. Central bank insiders say the People's Bank of China (PBOC) is the country's most potent force for reform in the face of powerful vested interests, echoing sources with leadership ties who last week said Zhou would keep his job despite reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Keeping Zhou ensures that the PBOC will remain a trusted instrument through which China's leaders can enact financial reforms designed to boost free markets and private enterprise, rebalance the economy, reinvigorate growth and ultimately heal a socially divisive rift between the country's rich and poor. “Governor Zhou has been rather bold in spearheading market reforms and sometimes does not care about the possible repercussions,” said a PBOC official who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. “They really need someone who can sustain the reform momentum.” [...]. ^ top ^

Boost for solar energy industry as prices rise (Global Times)
Prices of polysilicon products, the main raw ingredient in solar products, have risen recently due to reduced production and favorable policies to promote domestic demand, injecting some hope into the industry amid its problems with overcapacity, analysts told the Global Times Monday. The prices sank to a record low in the fourth quarter of 2012 when exports of solar panel products to the US and European Union stalled. The US gave final approval on November 7, 2012 for anti-dumping duties ranging from 18.32 to 249.96 percent and additional countervailing duties of 14.78 to 15.97 percent on solar-energy products from China over the next five years. The EU also launched probes into Chinese solar panels in September and November last year. China, the world's biggest producer of solar power products, imports half of its polysilicon materials mainly from the US and EU for assembling solar cells and panels that are then re-exported to these markets. The average price of polysilicon reached 136,163 yuan ($21,962) per ton Monday, up 16 percent from mid-December, according to data from market intelligence agency Sunsirs China Commodity Data Group. The higher price means that polysilicon producers can break even and even make a slight profit of 1 to 2 percent, Zhang Ming, a market analyst with Sunsirs, told the Global Times Monday. "Many polysilicon manufacturers have gone bankrupt and only one out of 10 producers maintained production last year due to overcapacity issues," Zhang said. [...]. ^ top ^

Frugality, anti-corruption affects luxury brands (Xinhua)
Sales of luxury goods on the Chinese mainland, a fast growing market for the sector in recent years, are on the decline as the country fights against corruption and extravagance."Sales have dropped a lot," said a salesman of a Parker pens brand store on Fuzhou Road in east China's business hub of Shanghai. The salesman, who declined to be identified, said in the past customers purchased pens as gifts and sales of the products priced at more than 10,000 yuan (1,591 U.S. dollars) were good. But in the past month, which included the traditional Spring Festival and is usually a good season for expensive goods, salesmen of many luxury brands have felt the "winter chill" in their businesses. Guo Ming, an expert in luxury watches in Shanghai, said "Some who had planned to buy high-end watches worth more than 100,000 yuan as presents just purchased basic fashions valued between 30,000 yuan and 40,000 yuan." "Those luxury fashions are no longer a favorite. Low-key luxury goods have become more popular instead," he added. Sales of some high-end watch brands dropped as much as 30 percent last year in China, industry insiders said. [...] Given the drop in sales, some luxury brands have reportedly decided to stop or slow their market expansion in China. However, Zhou Ting, dean of the Fortune Character Institute, which specializes in lifestyle studies of the rich in China, remains optimistic. She said, "The anti-corruption move has had a great impact on luxury goods. But entrepreneurs in booming cities or towns are becoming luxury consumers." [...]. ^ top ^

China February factory growth cools to 5-month low (SCMP)
Growth in Chinese factories cooled in February to a five-month low after domestic and foreign demand slackened, an official government survey showed on Friday, missing market forecasts and underscoring China's patchy economic recovery. The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) eased to 50.1 after seasonal adjustments, the National Bureau of Statistics said, down from January's 50.4 and the weakest since September last year.The index nevertheless signals that a mild economic recovery is still taking hold in China. […] New orders and new export orders both fell in February from the previous month, the data showed, indicating soft domestic demand was a source of additional headwinds last month for Chinese factories already battered by lethargic foreign sales. New orders fell to 50.1 from January's 51.6, while new export orders retreated to 47.3 from 48.5 the month before. But some economists attributed the pull-back in data to distortions arising from the Lunar New Year holiday which fell in February, even though the statistics agency says the PMI has been seasonally adjusted. […] Condon, who has a more upbeat view than the market consensus of the world's second-largest economy this year, predicts it would grow 9 per cent this year. Economists polled by Reuters in January expect a median growth rate of 8.1 per cent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast an outcome of 50.2 for February's PMI on the back of tepid overseas demand for Chinese goods. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

DPRK offers mobile internet access for foreigners (Xinhua)
Foreigners living in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) can get access to the mobile Internet starting from Monday. Du Baiyu, a Xinhua reporter based in the DPRK, paid 75 euro upon registration with the Korean-Egyptian joint venture company Koryolink and became the first foreigner to surf the Internet from a cellphone. [...] Du said with excitement after testing that "it is fast, and webpage surfing is not restricted." However, the charge is comparatively high, she said, noting there are different levels of charge standard, from 400 euro/10G, 250 euro/5G, to 150euro/2G for USB modem and 10 euro for SIM card per month to get access to Internet. The move came one month after the DPRK began allowing foreigners to bring their own cellphones into the country to purchase Koryolink-made SIM cards, at the airport or at Koryolink shops for 50 euro (70 U.S. dollars). The DPRK citizens will still not have access to the mobile Internet service or make international calls. There are 1.8 million 3G cellphone users across the country. However, DPRK citizens and foreigners cannot make calls between each other because their SIM cards set by different segments. ^ top ^

South Korean leader Park asks North to end nuclear agenda (SCMP)
South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, has urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and to stop wasting its scarce resources on arms - less than two weeks after the North carried out its third nuclear test. In her inauguration speech on Monday, the country's first female president offered North Korea aid and trade if it abandoned its nuclear programme. "I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development," Park said. [...] At her inauguration, a band played a military march before a large crowd including notable female foreign guests such as State Councillor Liu Yandong, the highest-ranking female politician in China, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Australia's first woman governor-general, Quentin Bryce. The North, which is facing further UN sanctions for its latest nuclear test, is unlikely to heed Park's call and there is little Seoul can do to influence its bellicose neighbour. As Park was sworn in as president, North Korea's state media continued its typical rhetoric against South Korea and the US over annual military drills that Pyongyang says are an invasion rehearsal. "The US warmongers should think what consequence will be brought out for getting on the nerves of the DPRK, a dignified nuclear power," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary. [...]. ^ top ^

Rodman worms his way into North Korea (Global Times)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to exert "flexible diplomacy" to ease the hostility between Pyongyang and Washington through a US basketball delegation's visit, two weeks after the country's third nuclear test drew international condemnation, observers said. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, nicknamed "The Worm" during his playing days, arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday to film a television documentary with representatives of the Harlem Globetrotters celebrity team, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The week-long trip to Pyongyang was organized by a television production company, VICE, and includes a basketball camp for North Korean children and engaging in community-based games. The company hinted that Kim may attend one of its events. But that could not be independently verified, Reuters reported. Kim, who is in his late 20s or early 30s, is reported to be an avid NBA fan. [...]. ^ top ^


Andrin Eichin
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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