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
  8-12.4.2013, No. 470  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea


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Foreign Policy

Xi Jinping meets Australian prime minister (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 on Sunday. Xi said China and Australia have agreed to foster a strategic partnership built upon mutual trust and mutual benefit. In a move to further boost bilateral ties, the two countries have also pledged to build an annual meeting mechanism between their prime ministers. Xi said China and Australia have seen their ties expand and deepen since the establishment of diplomatic relations 40 years ago, and the two countries can become friendly partners pursuing common development, as they share an increasing amount of shared interests and responsibilities amid constantly changing international and regional dynamics. "I hope the two countries can enhance communications, expand cooperation, accelerate negotiations on bilateral free trade agreements, and diversify trade and investments to push bilateral ties to a new height," Xi said. As stability and development are the top priorities for the Asia-Pacific region, China hopes related countries can cherish the current hard-won momentum and put the focus on development through mutual trust and cooperation, Xi said, adding that China and Australia should set a good example in this regard. During the meeting, Gillard said Australia is devoted to developing a mutually beneficial partnership with China, adding that she believes the regular meeting mechanism between the two nations' prime ministers will help deepen cooperation. Australia hopes to become a reliable resources supplier to China, while widening cooperation in areas such as agriculture and financial services, she said. The two countries should expand bilateral investment and try to reach an agreement on free trade as soon as possible, Gillard said, adding that Australia hopes to maintain contact and coordination with China to jointly maintain regional peace, stability and development. ^ top ^

President Xi Jinping issues call for regional stability (SCMP)
President Xi Jinping said no country should be allowed to cause chaos in the region as he acknowledged Asia faced "new challenges" to its stability amid mounting concern over North Korea's nuclear threat. "No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains," Xi said in the opening speech yesterday at the Boao Forum for Asia in the southern province of Hainan. Xi did not name any particular country in his speech and his language appeared to be diplomatically ambiguous. But Professor Wang Xinsheng, a historian at Peking University who specialises in Northeast Asia, said there was little doubt he was referring to the escalating tension on the Korean peninsula. "I think this is a clear message to North Korea and I also think it was one of the toughest remarks on the issue by a Chinese leader," said Wang. Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed frustration at North Korea in a statement late on Saturday, saying the central government would not "allow trouble-making on China's doorstep". Tensions have soared in recent weeks, with North Korea threatening nuclear war after the United Nations imposed fresh sanctions over its latest atomic test and the United States and South Korea launched war games. "Stability in Asia now faces new challenges as hot spot issues keep emerging and both traditional and non-traditional security threats exist," Xi said. He added that relevant countries need to make "concerted efforts" to resolve major difficulties to ensure regional stability. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard echoed Xi's remarks, saying that "all countries in the region share a deep interest in strategic stability". But Gillard, who has been critical of Pyongyang, singled out North Korea at the forum, saying the situation on the Korean peninsula illustrated the potential consequences of conflict. Beijing yesterday asked North Korea to ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats and citizens in North Korea. Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, a well-known soprano, was sitting in the second row of the audience as her husband, who became president last month, gave the keynote speech at the forum. "The international community should advocate the vision of comprehensive security and cooperative security, so as to turn the global village into a big stage for common development rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other," Xi said. While advocating a peaceful and open-minded approach for greater regional development, Xi - in an apparent reference to territorial disputes with neighbouring countries - said China would "properly handle differences and frictions with relevant countries", but would also continue to press its claims. "On the basis of firmly upholding its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, China will maintain good relations with its neighbours and overall peace and stability in our region," the president said. ^ top ^

U.S. secretary of state to visit China (Xinhua)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will pay a visit to China on April 13 and 14 as the guest of Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the announcement at a Monday press briefing. During Kerry's visit, the two sides will exchange views on China-U.S. relations, as well as international and regional issues of common concern, said Hong. China and the U.S. are at a crucial juncture in terms of maintaining their relations, Hong said. He said China is ready to work with the U.S. to fulfill the consensus reached by both leaders, increase strategic mutual trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation and manage disparities. He called on both sides to boost bilateral ties and explore a new type of relationship so as to benefit both countries. ^ top ^

Chinese ships patrol Diaoyu Islands (Xinhua)
Chinese marine surveillance ships patrolled waters near the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday, the State Oceanic Administration said. A fleet consisting of the Haijian 50, Haijian 26 and Haijian 66 declared to Japanese ships in the area that the Diaoyu Islands are part of Chinese territory and urged them to immediately leave the waters, according to the SOA. ^ top ^

China caught in a dilemma over crisis with North Korea (SCMP)
Analysts say China is adopting a flexible approach to the United States strengthening its presence in Asia to exert pressure on North Korea because Beijing has only limited options to deal with its reclusive neighbour. Beijing has recently toughened its rhetoric towards Pyongyang as tensions in the Korean Peninsula rise following provocative moves by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but analysts say the Chinese leadership will not abandon its ally because that would cost Beijing a strategically important role on the peninsula. China alone cannot solve the crisis. China is not the superpower that people sometimes think it is. They don't hold the key, but they are the key player. However, leaving Pyongyang unchecked is also not an option as Beijing is under international pressure to contain the crisis. [...] China has already sided with Washington in imposing United Nations Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang after its third nuclear test in February. [...] The crisis is expected to be centre stage at talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese officials in Beijing this weekend. Beijing, which has criticised the US pivot to Asia as an effort to contain China, normally does not want to see Washington interfering in regional affairs. But analysts said China had refrained from tough anti-American remarks after the US approved the sale of fighter jets to South Korea and launched a joint military exercise with Seoul last month. [...] "Beijing will instead let Pyongyang learn a lesson first, and then Pyongyang may be willing to go back to negotiation" said Edward Chen I-hsin, a political analyst at Taiwan's Tamkang University. [...] June Teufel Dreyer, a political science professor at the University of Miami, said it's a delicate issue for Beijing because Kim's actions gives Japan reasons to strengthen its military power. [...] "China is aware its influence on North Korea is diminishing because Pyongyang believes it does not have to heed Beijing's concerns.". ^ top ^

China, Australia agree to hold annual prime ministerial meetings (SCMP)
Premier Li Keqiang and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday agreed to hold annual prime ministerial meetings, as Chinese money drives Australia's huge resource boom. [...] Australia's economy has gained from Chinese demand for resources including iron ore, and China is now its largest trading partner with two-way business in goods and services worth A$128 billion (HK$1.03 trillion). "Our two sides have decided that the prime ministers will have regular annual meetings either in a bilateral format or on multilateral occasions," Li said, adding that yesterday's talks could be "regarded as the annual meeting mechanism". [...] Gillard told a business forum in Beijing yesterday that the Australian and Chinese navies started holding live-fire naval drills almost three years ago and the region will benefit from closer co-operation between the two. Gillard, who met President Xi Jinping on Sunday, underscored her nation's alliance with America while seeking closer ties with China. "I am committed to a relationship which goes well beyond the economy," Gillard said. [...] Gillard said on Monday that China would start direct trading between the yuan and the Australian dollar today. [...]. ^ top ^

Tokyo, Taipei agree on fishing rights near Diaoyu islands, irking Beijing (SCMP)
Taipei and Tokyo reached an agreement yesterday that would allow Taiwanese fishermen to fish in a larger area of disputed waters in the East China Sea, prompting unease in Beijing. The agreement was signed in Taipei after negotiations resumed following a four year hiatus. Taiwan's Council of Agriculture described the agreement as the biggest breakthrough in 17 years of fishing talks between the two sides, the Taipei-based United Evening News reported. The accord disturbed Beijing. "We are extremely concerned about Japan and Taiwan discussing and signing a fishing agreement," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during yesterday's daily news briefing. "We hope that Japan earnestly abides by its promises on the Taiwan issue and acts cautiously and appropriately," he said. Japan has diplomatic ties only with Beijing, and recognises Taiwan as belonging to China. It maintains close economic and cultural ties with Taiwan. The Kyodo News agency quoted sources close to the talks as saying that the deal would allow Taiwanese trawlers to operate in part of Japan's claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near the Diaoyu Islands, which are controlled by Tokyo and known there as the Senkaku Islands but also claimed by Beijing and Taipei. Under the deal, Tokyo and Taipei will designate an area in Japan's claimed EEZ as jointly managed waters where fishing by both Japanese and Taiwanese boats will be allowed, Kyodo added, without giving further details. The official Central News Agency in Taipei said the jointly managed waters will be defined by the geographic latitude-longitude system, with Taiwan's fishery area expanded. "The adoption of latitude-longitude system to replace the term '12 nautical miles' is a very smart move that avoids territorial controversies," said Professor Fu Kuen-chen, a Taiwanese expert in maritime law. The United Evening News also said that Japan would open up a fishing zone near Yaeyama Islands to Taiwanese boats. Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday the deal expanded Taiwan's fisheries by 4,530 square kilometres, the report added. Beijing-based Sino-Japan relations expert Jiang Lifeng said that Japan aims to use the cross-strait issue to counterbalance Beijing. ^ top ^

News Analysis: Gillard's visit to China a watershed in Beijing-Canberra relations (Xinhua)
As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard wraps up her visit to China this week, she would be bringing home a package of deals that are expected to further boost the already strong China-Australia relations. Most importantly, Gillard and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to elevate the relationship between China and Australia to the level of "strategic partnership". This new description of bilateral relation is both an endorsement of present situation of bilateral relations and also a direction for future development. The evolution of China-Australia relations in the past 40 years is a story of success, especially in terms of trade and business connections. Bilateral trade between Canberra and Beijing had increased a thousand fold since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972. China has been Australia's largest trading partner and a major importer of Australia's iron ore, coal and energy products. For quite some time, political relations between Australia and China were widely regarded as the short board of the barrel. Local media had repeatedly urged Australian government leaders to visit China more frequently in order to further cement the two countries' bilateral relations. During Gillard's visit, her second visit to China in three years as prime minister, a new political architecture was forged. Under the new mechanism, the Chinese premier and Australian prime minister will meet annually. [...] In the more sensitive area of defense, China and Australia have agreed to set up new initiatives between the Australian Defence Forces and the People's Liberation Army, including a strategic policy exchange bringing together military officials from both sides to discuss regional security issues. [...] Gillard's schedule in China demonstrated that Australia's understanding of "Strategic Partnership" is the same as that of the Chinese. During her visit, Gillard talked to business leaders from both countries, signed a number of bilateral agreements, including one that allows direct trade using Australian dollar and Chinese renminbi, and another one that concerns carbon trading. In her visit, Gillard also introduced plans for a new tourism campaign in China and pushed for more bilateral cooperation in education, science and research and in addressing the issue of disease control. Some local media compared Gillard's visit to the ice-breaking visit by then Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to China, which resulted in the founding of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1972. It is not an exaggeration to call Gillard's China visit " historic" or "a cornerstone," as what the Australian media said, because with its scope and depth, the visit deserves the description, analysts [in Canberra] said. ^ top ^

Philippines charges Chinese fisherman of ship that rammed reef (SCMP)
Philippine authorities filed a poaching case and were preparing more charges against 12 detained Chinese fishermen who were aboard a vessel that ran aground in a protected coral reef. The steel-hulled vessel strayed into the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a Unesco-designated World Heritage Site, and struck an atoll earlier this week. The massive reef already had been damaged by a US Navy ship that got stuck in January and had to be dismantled. Environmentalists argued the grounding showed the government needs to do more to protect endangered seas and biodiversity under threat from poaching and pollution. Apart from the poaching charges, which carry up to 12 years imprisonment and fines of up to US$300,000, the 12 Chinese fishermen also face complaints of damaging corals, attempting to bribe park rangers to avoid arrest and carrying explosives for fishing, Adelina Villena, a lawyer for the park, said on Wednesday. The Philippine military quoted the fishermen as saying they accidently wandered into Philippine waters from Malaysia. They were visited by Chinese consular officials in southwestern Palawan province, where they were detained. [...] The US Navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian, ran aground in another Tubbataha atoll on January 17 and was removed March 30 after being dismantled and lifted piece by piece by a crane to prevent more damage to the reef. The US Pacific Fleet said last week that it relieved the commanding officer, the executive officer and navigator, the assistant navigator and the officer of the deck of the Guardian after initial findings indicated all had failed to adhere to standard navigation procedures at the time of the grounding. ^ top ^

China calls for "turnaround" in Korean Peninsula situation (Xinhua)
China on Thursday called for all parties concerned to take action to turn around the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing that the parties concerned should not make any move to further escalate the situation. "On the contrary, they should take action to realize a turnaround of the situation," he said. Hong said China has made unremitting efforts to this end and will continue to do so. "The Chinese side believes that despite changes in the situation, we have to stick to resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through dialogue and consultation, push for improvement in relations between the parties concerned and focus on maintaining peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula," Hong said. He said the international community has shown great concern over the situation on the Korean Peninsula. "It is the universal aspiration of the international community to see peace and stability on the peninsula," he said. He called for the parties concerned to restart the six-party talks and push forward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.. ^ top ^

Asean, China to meet on maritime code of conduct (SCMP)
Foreign ministers from Asean and China will hold a special meeting to hasten progress on a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea, Indonesia's foreign minister said on Thursday. The meeting was proposed by China and all countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed to participate, Marty Natalegawa told reporters at a meeting of Asean foreign ministers in Brunei. The agreement is potentially significant as China has insisted on handling territorial disputes bilaterally with individual countries, while Asean wants to speak as a group, a disconnect blamed for hindering progress on a code. Although no date has been set, Natalegawa said the planned meeting underscored the importance of making “progress on the code of conduct and to maintain a positive atmosphere in the South China Sea”. [...] Simmering tensions over competing claims to the sea, which is rich in oil and gas deposits, have reached boiling point in the past two years, with the Philippines and Vietnam accusing China of increasingly aggressive actions. China claims nearly all of the sea, an important waterway for world trade, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the area. [...] The sea dispute led to unprecedented infighting at an Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Phnom Penh last July, which ended for the first time in the bloc's 45-year history without a joint communique. As chair at the time, Cambodia – a close China ally – was accused of resisting efforts by the Philippines and Vietnam to take a more aggressive position against the Chinese. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China confirms 21 cases of H7N9 infection (Xinhua)
China reported three more H7N9 infections on Sunday, bringing total number of the confirmed cases to 21 as the country is gearing up to fight the disease that has left six dead. The latest confirmed H7N9 case was reported in east China's Anhui Province, where a 55-year-old male working in the live poultry trade was diagnosed with the virus, local health authorities said on Sunday night. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDCP) diagnosed the patient, surnamed Li, positive of the H7N9 avian influenza virus on Sunday. Li began exhibiting flu symptoms on March 28 and was taken to a hospital in Bozhou City on April 1 after his condition worsened, according to a statement from the Anhui Provincial Health Department. Li is currently in stable condition, said the statement, adding that 12 others who have had close contact with the patient have not shown any signs of infection so far. Before Li's case of H7N9 was confirmed, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) reported that there were a total of 20 H7N9 cases across the country as of 5 p.m. Sunday, including two cases that were newly reported in Shanghai on Sunday. One is a Shanghai resident and the other is from neighboring Anhui Province, according to Shanghai authorities. The two male patients, 67 and 59 years old, respectively, developed flu symptoms in late March and were diagnosed with pneumonia over the last week, Shanghai's health and family planning commission said in a statement. An initial investigation showed that six people who have had close contact with the two have not exhibited flu symptoms. So far, Shanghai alone had 10 confirmed H7N9 cases, with four resulting in death. The other six patients have been quarantined and are undergoing treatment. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, three cases, including two that ended in death, had been reported in east China's Zhejiang Province, six cases in Jiangsu Province, and one case in Anhui Province, according to the NHFPC. Governments at provincial levels across the country have reinforced efforts in their fights with the disease, even if there are no such reports in some regions. Authorities in Shanghai have placed 194 people who had close contact with the 10 infected people under medical observation. Two have exhibited symptoms, although bird flu has been ruled out as the cause of their illness. To prevent the spread of the virus, Shanghai authorities have ordered the slaughter of 98,000 poultry and incinerated them, according to the municipal agriculture commission. [...] In Beijing, where there is no H7N9 case reported so far, the authorities have banned all live poultry trade outside the market and unlicensed butchering of poultry. [...] Testing reagents for the H7N9 avian influenza virus have been distributed to 409 flu monitoring sites across the country, according to a statement by the CCDCP. The center has also provided major infectious disease hospitals and research agencies with testing materials and has provided instructions for conducting the tests, it said. The center said it has participated in a series of teleconferences organized by WHO headquarters and has reported on the H7N9 infection situation in China in a timely manner. The center is also maintaining communication with health authorities in the United States and other countries regarding technical cooperation. On Saturday, China approved a new drug believed to be effective in treating the H7N9 avian flu virus. [...]. ^ top ^

Women 'chained up and tortured' in labour camp (SCMP)
A rarely seen report by a Chinese monthly has exposed some of the dark practices of a Liaoning labour camp including torture and inhuman treatment of female prisoners at a time when the government has vowed to reform the country's notorious, decades-old labour camp system. The claims, reported by Lens, part of the leading SEEC Media Group, are based on accounts of provincial procurators, former camp officials and former and current prisoners. Masanjia female labour camp, near Shenyang, houses nearly all the female forced-labour prisoners in Liaoning province and is one of over 300 labour camps in China, where police can imprison people for up to four years without trial, a practice condemned by critics as arbitrary and unconstitutional. The Lens report revealed that women prisoners had frequently undergone torture for not obeying prison officials, according to the prisoners' accounts. Labour camp administration laws stipulate police officials can only employ electric rods during prison breaks or riots or if they are assaulted by prisoners. But the report claimed prison guards had used electric rods regularly to torture prisoners, leading in cases to disfigurement and nerve damage. “It was extremely painful, causing my body to shake,” one woman recalled. Another woman who had an electric rod pressed on her tongue said, “I could not stand still when the electric current flowed through my tongue. It was like being pricked by needles.” Use of handcuffs was reportedly widespread with prisoners handcuffed to iron bars or gates for prolonged periods of time, sometimes more than a week. Some prisoners said they were handcuffed with both hands above their heads and unable to touch the ground with their feet. The reported also revealed the camp had exploited the prisoners as a labour force. Laws stipulate prisoners work not more than six hours a day with no more than two hours of overtime. But Masanjia inmates claimed prisoners were engaged in garment manufacture for 12 to 14 hours every day starting from 5am and were beaten if they were too slow or their work did not meet required standards. Prisoners also claimed they were responsible for building roads and farming 2,500 acres of land, growing corn and cotton. Peng Daiming, the former deputy administrator of the camp, said there were over 5,000 prisoners at one point, generating almost 100 million yuan (HK$125 million) a year, while each prisoner was paid nothing. According to the report, prisoner's rations consisted of only small portion of vegetables and half-cooked rice every day with meat only on Sundays, leading to wide-spread of malnutrition due to lack of salt and vitamins. Prisoners were also forced to pay for medical treatment, which was supposed to be free, with the health of many prisoners worsening during their time of incarceration as the facility did not have adequate medical equipment and prisoners were not allowed to receive treatment outside. Sick and disabled prisoners were still required to work regardless of the severity of their symptoms or the impact of labour on their conditions. Many claims reported by Lens appeared to echo those of the outlawed Falun Gong. Long labelled a “cult” by the Chinese government, the Falun Gong has long accused the government of imprisoning and torturing hundreds of its practitioners in the same labour camp. The report, a rare look inside a Chinese labour camp, did not last long in the Chinese cyber sphere. It was taken down by all Chinese news portals except one as of Monday afternoon, only hours after it was put online and widely reposted. In January, China's senior legal official Meng Jianzhu hinted the government would reform the “re-education through labour system” this year, although details were not disclosed. But in another twist of the events, state-owned news portal said in a brief on Monday evening that the Liaoning government had paid a high degree of attention to the allegations. It said the government had formed a joint panel consisting of Department of Justice, Provincial bureau of reform-through-labour administration, and local procuratorial organs “to conduct an objective, transparent and just investigation on the relevant contents in the report.”. ^ top ^

Backroom battle delays reform of China's one-child policy (SCMP)
Two retired senior Chinese officials are engaged in a battle with one another to sway Beijing's new leadership over the future of the one-child policy, exposing divisions that have impeded progress in a crucial area of reform. The policy, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiraling out of control, has long been opposed by human rights and religious groups but is also now regarded by many experts as outdated and harmful to the economy. Former state councillors Song Jian and Peng Peiyun, who once ranked above cabinet ministers and remain influential, have been lobbying China's top leaders, mainly behind closed doors: Song wants them to keep the policy while Peng urges them to phase it out, people familiar with the matter said. Their unresolved clash could suggest the leadership remains torn over one of China's most divisive social issues, said a recently retired family planning official. How quickly it is settled may shed light on whether new President Xi Jinping will ease family-planning controls on a nation of 1.3 billion people. [...] For decades, Peng and Song – both octogenarians – have helped shape China's family planning policy, which has seen only gradual change in the face of a rapidly ageing population that now bears little resemblance to the youthful China of the 1970s. They have starkly different views of China's demographics. From 1988 to 1998 Peng, 83, was in charge of implementing the one-child policy as head of the Family Planning Commission. In the mid 1990s she became Beijing's highest ranking woman, serving as state councillor, a position superior to a minister. Like many scholars, she now believes it is time to relax the one-child policy. [...] Many analysts say the one-child policy has shrunk China's pool of labour, hurting economic growth. For the first time in decades the working age population fell last year. By contrast, Song, 81, whose population projections formed the basis of the one-child policy, argues that China has limited resources and still needs a low birth rate to continue economic development. Otherwise, he has written, China's population would skyrocket, triggering food and other resource shortages. [...] There are signs that China may loosen the one-child policy. Former leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao both dropped the phrase “maintain a low birth rate” in their work reports to the party congress in November – the first time in a decade that major speeches by top leaders had omitted such a reference. Last month, Beijing merged the Family Planning Commission with the health ministry and shifted population policymaking to its powerful economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission – for the first time putting demographics at the heart of economic policy-making. If the government scraps the one-child policy, it would affect the lives of millions of Chinese and affect policy-making across society and the economy – from housing, education and health care to the labour market, pensions and state investment. The policy, which went into effect in 1980, was meant to last only 30 years and there are now numerous exceptions to it. But it still applies to about 63 per cent of the population. Peng's push for reform is buttressed by evidence from two-child pilot programmes in four regions of the country. In none of them has there been a surge in births. Numerous studies have shown the detrimental effects of the one-child policy. China's labour force, at about 930 million, will start declining in 2025 at a rate of about 10 million a year, projections show. Meanwhile, its elderly population will hit 360 million by 2030, from about 200 million today. A skewed gender ratio is another consequence. Like most Asian nations, China has a traditional bias for sons. Many families abort female foetuses or abandon baby girls to ensure their only child is a son. About 118 boys are born for every 100 girls, against a global average of 103 to 107. [...] Song was a protege of Qian Xuesen, a science adviser to former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Song was among scientists sent by Zhou to a remote northwest province for their protection. Those ties to the party's founding members give Song clout with today's leaders that few scholars or bureaucrats can match. [...] It is far from clear that radical reform of the one-child policy will win the ideological battle in Beijing, despite Song now representing a minority view among demographers in China. A policy miscalculation in the world's most populous nation carries enormous risks. During his career, Xi has stressed that the population should be controlled. And many officials in China's most heavily populated provinces – such as Henan and Shandong – believe the one-child policy is still necessary. A senior Family Planning Commission official said he did not expect any decision before June due to the restructuring of the commission. Many scholars and former family planning officials believe Xi will have no choice but to move to a two-child policy. The possibility of such a move is already under discussion now in Beijing, said Tian Xueyuan, a retired family planning scholar who worked with Song more than 30 years ago to draft the original one-child policy but who now supports reform. “This situation cannot remain unchanged,” Tian said. “As such there's reason, a need and a possibility that there will be an appropriate adjustment to the policy.". ^ top ^

9 dead of H7N9 bird flu in China (Xinhua)
Two patients from east China's Anhui and Jiangsu provinces who were confirmed as H7N9 cases days ago died of the avian influenza on Tuesday afternoon, said health authorities. This has brought the total number of deaths caused by the H7N9 bird flu in the country to nine, the National Health and Family Planning Commission announced in a daily update on H7N9 cases across China. The agency also said that, during the 25-hour period ending 6 p.m. on Tuesday, China has confirmed four new cases of H7N9 avian influenza, with two each in east China's Zhejiang Province and Shanghai City. [...] So far, China has reported a total of 28 H7N9 cases, including nine which ended in fatalities. A total of 13 cases, including five ending in fatalities, have been reported in Shanghai. Eight cases, including one death, have been reported in Jiangsu, and two cases, including one death, in Anhui. Five cases have been reported in Zhejiang, with two deaths. No epidemiological link between those cases has been identified to date, the agency said, adding that those who have had close contact with people infected by H7N9 have been placed under medical observation. It said the country's confirmed H7N9 cases were isolated and there has been no sign of human-to-human transmission. ^ top ^

China reports 5 new H7N9 cases, 33 total (Xinhua)
During the 24-hour period ending 5 p.m. on Wednesday, China has confirmed five new cases of H7N9 avian influenza, with two each in east China's Shanghai City and Jiangsu Province, and one in neighboring Zhejiang Province. In a daily update on H7N9 cases across China, the National Health and Family Planning Commission also said one child patient, who had been a confirmed H7N9 case, was discharged from hospital on Wednesday. China officially confirmed the occurrence of human infection with the H7N9 virus late last month. So far, the country has reported a total of 33 H7N9 cases, including nine which ended in fatalities. A total of 15 cases, including five ending in fatalities, have been reported in Shanghai. Ten cases, including one death, have been reported in Jiangsu, and two cases, including one death, in Anhui. Six cases have been reported in Zhejiang, with two deaths. No epidemiological link between those cases has been identified to date, the agency said, adding that those who have had close contact with people infected by H7N9 have been placed under medical observation. It said the country's confirmed H7N9 cases were isolated and there has been no sign of human-to-human transmission. ^ top ^

H7N9 vaccine expected ready within 7 months: ministries (Xinhua)
As part of China's emergency response to the H7N9 bird flu on technological front, China formally launched a research project on Wednesday for developing a vaccine for H7N9. Jointly launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Health and Family Planning Commission here, the move is expected to make a vaccine ready within seven months, an official statement said. China officially confirmed the occurrence of human infection with the H7N9 virus late last month. So far, the country has reported a total of 33 H7N9 cases, including nine which ended in fatalities. ^ top ^

China's ex-railways minister charged with bribery, abuse of power (Xinhua)
Former railways minister Liu Zhijun has been charged with bribery and abuse of power, authorities said Wednesday. The Second Branch of Beijing People's Procuratorate filed the charges against Liu with the city's No.2 Intermediate People's Court. The court has accepted the case according to law, and will set a trial date. [...] According to the indictment issued by the Second Branch of Beijing People's Procuratorate, as a state functionary, Liu sought benefits for others by taking advantage of his position, and accepted financial incentives from others, which were of a huge amount. The indictment said as a staff member of a state organ, Liu engaged in malpractices for personal gains and abuse of power, leading to huge losses of public properties and of the interests of the state and its people. With "especially serious circumstances," Liu should be subject to criminal liabilities for bribe taking and abuse of power according to law. The prosecution comes two years after he was dismissed from his post for serious disciplinary violations. He was also stripped of his position as Communist Party of China (CPC) chief at the ministry. Liu had accepted massive bribes and bore major responsibility for rampant corruption in the railways industry, according to an earlier statement of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. [...] The public trust in the railway system has been hit hard by a series of corruption and safety scandals during the past few years. [...] Last month, China dismantled the Ministry of Railways into administrative and commercial arms to reduce bureaucracy and improve railway service efficiency. ^ top ^

China death toll hits 10 in H7N9 bird flu outbreak (SCMP)
The death toll from H7N9 bird flu in China reached 10 on Thursday with another victim in Shanghai, as cities banned people from raising chickens at home to try to contain the outbreak. China has confirmed 38 human cases of H7N9 avian influenza after announcing on March 31 that it had found the strain in people for the first time. One person, a young boy in Shanghai, has been discharged from hospital after recovering but the city reported the death of a 74-year-old retired man on Thursday. Chinese authorities say they do not know how the virus is spreading, but it is believed to be crossing to humans from birds. [...] The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this week that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FA0) said on Thursday that H7N9 showed “affinity” to humans while being harder to detect in birds, which made finding the source of transmission more difficult. [...] The prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences said Wednesday H7N9 had probably originated from migratory birds from East Asia mixing with domestic fowl in China's Yangtze River delta region – the site of the current outbreak. Five more markets across eastern China had found H7N9 in samples from chickens and ducks, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday. Nanjing city had barred urban residents from raising poultry and livestock on their property, asking them to cull their own animals and fining them up to 50 yuan (HK$62.64) for violations, the China Daily newspaper reported on Thursday. [...] Shanghai said it would enforce a long-standing ban against residents raising poultry and rabbits for meat, giving a telephone hotline for people to inform on their neighbours for violating the rules. [...] Shanghai last week suspended trading in live poultry and shut markets in a bid to curb the outbreak while Nanjing did the same, followed by other cities. [...]. ^ top ^

Ex-railways minister Liu Zhijun seeks to avoid death penalty (SCMP)
Beleaguered former railways minister and alleged philanderer Liu Zhijun asked lawyers to help him escape the death penalty in his upcoming trial, while his wife described him as a good man who came home for dinner every night, mainland media reports said. Lawyers Gao Zicheng and Qi Xiaohong were approached by Liu's family to defend him, The Beijing Times reported yesterday. [...] "He wanted me to guarantee that he would escape a death penalty, which of course I could not," the newspaper quoted Gao as saying. Liu finally appointed Qian Lieyang, as designated by the authorities. Liu has been officially charged with taking bribes and abusing power, and slated for trial at a Beijing court. State media said the amount of money involved in the case was "huge" and the circumstances "very serious", without providing further details. Liu is accused of taking bribes worth 60 million yuan (HK$74 million) linked to rail construction projects, the paper said. Under mainland law, the death penalty can be given for accepting bribes over 100,000 yuan. Liu allegedly accepted about 40 million yuan from Shanxi businesswoman Ding Shumiao, in return for her winning bids worth 3 billion yuan for projects involving the mainland's massive high-speed railway, the report said. Ding also reportedly arranged for Liu to have sex with young women, including stars from popular TV series Dream of the Red Chamber, in which her firm had a 50 million yuan stake. Caixin Century Weekly said in August that the then-Ministry of Railways - now dismantled - had listed in an internal briefing six major crimes it accused Liu of committing, including serious economic crimes, the keeping of mistresses and perpetrating political and moral wrongdoings. [...]. ^ top ^



Air quality in Beijing second worst out of 31 mainland cities (SCMP)
Air quality seriously deteriorated in some major metropolises on the mainland last year, but there were surprising improvements in a few cities, said an environmental report released in Beijing yesterday. Beijing's air was the second-most polluted last year among 31 municipal and provincial capital cities ranked by Friends of Nature, a major non-governmental organisation, in its annual Green Book of Environment. Liu Jianqiang, chief editor of the report, said that he could understand why some foreigners had reportedly left Beijing for better air. "They made a wise decision because I don't think Beijing's air quality will improve any time soon," he said. "Many locals, in fact, have the same idea. But we have nowhere to go." Lanzhou, in the northwestern province of Gansu, finished 31st, below Beijing. Haikou, in the southernmost province of Hainan, was said to have the cleanest air last year, followed by Kunming, Yunnan and Lhasa, Tibet. Guangzhou ranked fifth, and Shanghai was ninth. The results were based on government-provided figures on air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide and fine particles. [...]. ^ top ^



Dead fish in Shanghai river prompt safety fears (China Daily)
Hundreds of dead fish have washed up along the shorelines of a man-made river in Shanghai's Songjiang district since April 3, but the local water authority and environmental protection bureau insist the water is safe. A total of 250 kilograms of dead fish, mainly crucian carp, have been retrieved in suburban Shanghai's Sijing pond since last week. Gao Yunchu, director of Songjiang water authority, said small fish with relatively weaker body defense systems were found dead at the beginning of April and the bodies of bigger fish such as carp were discovered on Saturday. About 150 kg of crucian carp and 100 kg of bigger carp will be sent to a landfill site. "The water quality is stable and safe," said the official, surnamed Zhang, from Songjiang Water Authority, on Sunday. Zhang said the fish died due to illegal fishing by electrocution and poisoning, according to information from local fishermen. Previous media reports said people living near the river claimed it wasn't the first time they had seen a lot of dead fish in the water. When asked whether poisoned fish would affect the water quality, Zhang said "no" and that "most fish were killed by electrocution". "The river's quality hasn't been affected by the dead fish so far. It remains the same level as usual," said Zhang, adding the authorities would continue to closely monitor water quality once a month in case there are any emergencies. Songjiang water authority also ruled out the possibility of pollution after Friday and Saturday's water quality tests because the river is surrounded by old-fashioned residences and shops and no chemical plants. It said test results showed the levels of dissolved oxygen, ammonia nitrogen and the acid/alkali reading in the water was within the normal range. Some of the fish have been sent to Shanghai Municipal Agricultural Commission, where the cause of death is still under investigation. Liu Fengqiang, vice-director and spokesman of Shanghai's Songjiang district's environmental department, said the dead fish had nothing to do with the rotting pig carcasses found floating in the Huangpu River last month. [...] "Local residents don't need to worry about water safety because the dead fish were found in a landscape river rather than a natural water source," said Liu, adding the situation also had no connection with the deadly H7N9 bird flu strain that has claimed the lives of six people nationwide. Just one month ago, Liu told China Daily the water quality in the Songjiang area met national sanitary standards for drinking water despite the presence of so many pig carcasses. However, residents remain concerned about water safety, especially after a large number of the dead pigs were found drifting downstream in Huangpu River. Shi Hua, a Songjiang resident, said he stopped drinking tap water and bought bottles from supermarkets instead. "I need to trust my sources of water. I'm still haunted by the dead pigs," he said.[...]. ^ top ^

Shanghai considers permanent ban on sale of live poultry (SCMP)
Shanghai authorities are considering a permanent ban on the sale of live poultry in the city, as the death toll from the H7N9 avian flu virus continues to rise. Authorities said yesterday the virus had claimed its eighth and ninth victims - an 83-year-old man from Suzhou, Jiangsu, who died a week after testing positive for the virus, and a 35-year-old woman from Chuzhou, Anhui. Four more infections with the new bird flu strain were also confirmed yesterday. In Shanghai, authorities said two local men, aged 62 and 77, were being treated for the virus and were in stable condition. In Zhejiang province, a 51-year-old woman in Huzhou and a 79-year-old man in Hangzhou were found to have the viris. Twenty-nine people have now been diagnosed with the bird fllu. The director of Shanghai's agriculture commission, Sun Lei, said it would consider a public consultation on a permanent ban for the live-poultry trade, after 20 samples taken from wet markets tested positive for H7N9, according to the Oriental Morning Post. A total of 7,185 samples were collected by yesterday and included pigeons, chickens and feathers, the Shanghai Evening News reported. More than 111,000 birds have been culled in the city since Thursday. Many mainlanders prefer buying live poultry and having it butchered in a market or at home, as they believe the meat is fresher and tastes better. However, Sun said that meat kept at temperatures between zero and 4 degrees Celsius "is more tasty than that which is butchered and cooked immediately", because acidity in the meat is reduced by chilling it first. [...] Beijing banned all trade in live poultry in 2005, and the ban became permanent in 2006 after the Ministry of Agriculture issued a directive urging big cities to phase out such sales. The directive was not widely followed. Cities in Zhejiang and Jiangsu have temporarily closed wet markets because of H7N9. [...] Zhao Deming, a professor of veterinary medicine at China Agricultural University in Beijing who studies diseases that infect both people and animals, wants to ban the live-poultry trade. "Having live poultry in a crowded market is bad for human health," Zhao said. "The virus might spread to nearby animals and then to humans. It presents a great challenge for disease control and prevention." The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday ordered local governments nationwide to collect samples from poultry markets, poultry farms and slaughterhouses to test for the presence of H7N9. [...]. ^ top ^



Online campaign for release of Guangdong democracy activist Liu Yuandong doesn't give up (SCMP)
An online campaign calling for the release of a jailed Guangdong activist is facing roadblocks from Chinese censors as supporters' weibo posts have for the most part been promptly deleted since February. Pictures of people holding banners demanding that Liu Yuandong be freed keep appearing on Sina Weibo, but many of the posts are not seen for long. Liu, 36, was detained in February after he participated in a protest in the provincial capital of Guangzhou condemning North Korea's nuclear test. His arrest has incited a movement online. In one photo, a group of seven men are seen at night holding a white banner with black handwritten characters. "What crime has Liu Yuandong committed when protesting against the nuclear test?" the banner said. "We ask the authorities to release him without charges." One photo, dated April 7, shows three men holding a red banner that reads: "Release Liu Yuandong, stop political persecution." Another shows a man named Yu Gang calling for Liu's release outside a Shenzhen subway station. Liu's arrest came 11 days after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on February 12. Within several hours of Pyongyang's rocket launch, news of the earthquake triggered by the test close to the Chinese border led to an outpouring of concern in China over nuclear contamination. The trained chemist gathered some 16 others in Guangzhou, where they held banners condemning the test, according to another person surnamed Liu who participated in the February 23 protest. Liu Yuandong was first held for 15 days; eight others were also detained, for seven to 10 days; and seven escaped the authorities. They didn't let us sleep," said the other detainee surnamed Liu. "They treated us like dogs and pigs." Liu, who runs the Guangdong-based company Dongsheng Biotech, was detained longer on charges of embezzling corporate funds at his small high-tech company. On April 3, his family was informed of his formal arrest. He is understood to be currently awaiting trial. "He has not embezzled any money from his own company," Ou Longgui, 28, who has worked at Dongsheng Biotech for years, told the South China Morning Post. "They just used it as an excuse to prosecute him." Ou, who also participated in the protest, said Liu organised one of the first public protests in Guangzhou in 2011. [...] “Liu is a core person among a group of 20 to 30 people in Guangzhou," said the other protester surnamed Liu. "This has nothing to do with religion; he opposes the Chinese political regime," she said. "He thinks the current regime has not been established democratically, has no legitimacy." Liu Yuandong, a married man and father of two, is a native of Meizhou in eastern Guangdong. He has participated in several protests in Guangdong after the initial anti-Gaddafi protest. Earlier this year, he participated in a protest in solidarity of the Southern Weekly journalists in Guangzhou in January and the trial of policeman-turned-activist Wang Dengchao in Shenzhen in February. On February 16, he participated in a protest against North Korea's nuclear test in Guangzhou. Others where arrested, but not Liu, whose turn came on February 23. "Most of us are in Guangzhou," Ou said, "but there are people in other cities. Around Spring Festival we even talked about founding a party, but we have no leaders or even a name yet." "We thought we'd call it Democracy Action Group [minzhu xingdong pai],” he said. "We will continue to protest, because it's right.". ^ top ^

Guangzhou set to allow 72-hr visa-free visits (China Daily)
Guangzhou is expected to become the third Chinese city to allow foreign visitors to transit for 72 hours without a visa, according to Tan Wangen, general manager of China Southern Airlines. Tan said the policy will help boost tourism in Guangdong province and boost the local economy. "We are actively talking with the local airport and customs authorities to push the implementation of the visa-free transit policy as soon as possible," Tan said. Since Jan 1, travelers from 45 countries have been benefiting from 72-hour visa-free stays in Beijing and Shanghai, a move that is expected to boost consumption. Tourists holding third country visas and plane tickets are allowed to apply for a transit without visa at the Beijing Capital International Airport and Shanghai's Hongqiao and Pudong airports. Foreign visitors are not permitted to leave the cities to travel to other Chinese cities during the 72 hours, and have to depart from the two cities. "If the negotiations go smoothly, the policy will be implemented in Guangzhou within this year," Tan was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency. [...] Since the policy was introduced in January, Shanghai has registered more than 1,000 foreign passengers transiting from its Hongqiao and Pudong airports without visas, sources with the local immigration control authorities said. The number of inbound tourists to Beijing is expected to increase to 10 million passengers within the next three years, as a result of the policy, said Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development. [...] Sources with Guangdong tourism authorities said the number of inbound tourists decreased by 2.6 percent year-on-year to reach 107 million in 2012. [...]. ^ top ^



Tibet mine disaster 'shows failure of resources policy to benefit minorities' (SCMP)
A landslide that crashed down a Tibetan mountain, entombing scores of mine workers, serves as a parable for the nation's resources boom and its failure to benefit ethnic minorities, analysts say. The 83 workers killed in the disaster were almost all members of the Han ethnic majority and from across the country, illustrating how minorities rarely see the fruits of underground wealth - not even dangerous jobs. China has enjoyed decades of stunning economic growth but critics say much mineral development, often in poor minority regions, has been reckless and inefficient, coming with a high environmental and cultural cost. About 91 per cent of the population of 1.35 billion is classified as ethnic Han, with the rest scattered among 55 other ethnic groups, including Uygurs, Manchus, Mongols, Koreans and Kazakhs as well as Tibetans. Areas with significant minority populations such as Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia hold resources including oil, gas, copper, iron ore, coal and so-called rare earths - key components in hi-tech products such as smartphones. The latest disaster struck in late March when a vast quantity of rock tumbled onto a workers' camp at a copper mine 4,600 metres above sea level east of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet autonomous region. Most of the buried labourers were migrants who had ventured to the high altitude of the Tibetan plateau to work in an accident-prone sector of the economy. The mine is run by a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Gold Group, the country's largest gold producer, according to official media, and the Beijing-based company's website carried a photo of burning candles and a message offering "prayers for personnel". "There are long-standing issues of Han immigration and inequality that are much broader than simply mineral extraction," said Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, which promotes worker rights. "When new economic opportunities open in these ethnic minority regions, it's usually Han workers who come in and do the work rather than locally employed workers." Such movements have seen tensions flare. Riots turned deadly in Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009. Hundreds protested in Inner Mongolia when a Han truck driver ran over and killed a herdsman in 2011. Carl Soderbergh, of the London-based Minority Rights Group International, said China's smaller ethnic groups were paying a heavy environmental price for development. "Minority herders are being forced off of traditional grazing lands while also seeing their water sources being polluted," he said. In much of the world, he added, "many, if not most, minorities and indigenous peoples are marginalised and kept out of decision-making processes". Independent economist Andy Xie said that most resource development in the hinterlands, aside from coal, was misguided given the prohibitive expense, danger and environmental damage. "If you completely [leave it] to market forces, I'm not sure a lot of mines would be opened up," he said, adding imports were often cheaper. The Communist Party officially promotes ethnic solidarity and hails the benefits of market reform policies started in the late 1970s, which unleashed an economic boom that lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. More than 110 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in recent years in western areas in protest against Chinese rule. Beijing rejects criticism of its control, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and higher standards of living brought about by investment. ^ top ^



President Xi meets Taiwan politician (Xinhua)
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Vincent Siew, honorary chairman of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 on Monday. During the meeting, Xi noted that the Chinese mainland's resolution to push forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations is steadfast, and its policies and guidelines for Taiwan are clear. Xi said the mainland will maintain various policies that have proven effective in promoting cross-Strait relations and bringing benefits to people from the mainland and Taiwan. It is important that people from the mainland and Taiwan realize and take advantage of the historic opportunities to push forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, according to Xi. The president said he hopes cross-Strait economic cooperation can be boosted by compatriots across the Strait through the concept of "one family." In order to deepen cross-Strait economic cooperation, Taiwanese companies investing in the Chinese mainland will be treated as equal to mainland companies, he vowed. The Chinese mainland and Taiwan should jointly push cross-Strait economic cooperation to a new level by strengthening cross-Strait high-level dialogues and coordination, in the president's view. He said the two sides should accelerate industrial cooperation, expand two-way investment, and deepen cooperation in financial services. During the meeting, Xi also voiced his hope of improving institutional levels of economic cooperation by accelerating negotiations on follow-up issues regarding the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement. Ways to promote common economic development and regional economic cooperation should be discussed in the proper capacities, Xi said, adding that the two sides should work hard to wrap up negotiations on the trade in goods and dispute settlement issues by the end of 2013. He also called on compatriots across the Taiwan Strait to jointly work toward achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Siew hailed the development of cross-Strait relations over the past five years, saying Taiwan and the Chinese mainland should treasure the "fruitful" achievements and deepen mutual trust and cooperation, so as to make greater achievements in promoting cross-Strait relations. Yang Yi, spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, described the meeting between Xi and Siew as "positive" and "fruitful," at a briefing in Boao on Monday. Yang said that the two sides exchanged views on the development of cross-Strait relations, especially ideas on strengthening cross-Strait economic cooperation. Both sides praised the achievements that have been made over cross-Strait relations in the past five years, according to the spokesman. The two sides agreed to deepen mutual trust and cooperation in order to bring more benefit to the people from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Yang added. ^ top ^

Mainland, Taiwan to accelerate ECFA negotiations: spokeswoman (Xinhua)
A mainland spokeswoman on Wednesday called for more efforts to accelerate negotiations on follow-up issues related to the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). A recent meeting between President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese politician Vincent Siew was fruitful, with both sides sharing common views on cross-strait economic cooperation, said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. "The mainland will make timely efforts in offering equal treatment for Taiwanese companies," Fan said. The mainland also hopes to seek advice from Taiwan in developing the cross-strait economy and deepening regional economic cooperation, Fan added. On Monday, Xi met with Siew, honorary chairman of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation, at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013. During the meeting, Xi said Taiwanese companies investing in the Chinese mainland will be treated the same as mainland companies. ^ top ^



Australia, China reach agreement on direct currency trade (Xinhua)
Australia and China have reached a new agreement to allow the Australian and Chinese currencies to trade directly, visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Monday in Shanghai, China, according to a statement by her press office here. "Earlier today we took a significant new step in the relationship when I welcomed a new agreement between our financial authorities. The Australian and Chinese currencies will be directly traded on the Chinese mainland for the first time," Gillard said when giving a speech at China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP), a Shanghai-based national institution. This agreement makes the Australian dollar the third major currency to directly trade in China's mainland foreign exchange market, after the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen. "This reflects the rapid growth of our bilateral trade and the value of two-way investment, and it also creates opportunities for new financial integration," Gillard said. "The important Chinese government policy objective of greater internationalization of the Chinese currency will be significantly advanced by these decisions," she added. Gillard also said she hoped that Australia's banks, superannuation funds and financial houses will be better placed to help in the growth of China's service economy. The prime minister hailed the development of Australia-China relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972, saying that bilateral trade has grown one thousand fold in the past 40 years. "Today, China is Australia's largest trading partner, and Australia is China's seventh largest trading partner," she said. [...]. ^ top ^

China's inflation drops to 2.1 pct in March (Xinhua)
China's consumer price index (CPI), a main gauge of inflation, grew 2.1 percent year on year in March, down from a 10-month high of 3.2 percent in February, official data showed Tuesday. The drop is mainly due to lower food prices according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It said in a statement that year-on-year growth of food prices slowed to 2.7 percent last month from 6 percent in February. On a month-on-month basis, food prices dropped 2.9 percent in March, as vegetable supply grew due to rising temperatures and food demand dropped from February, in which the traditional Spring Festival holiday fell. The March CPI fell below experts' forecasts at around 2.5 percent. Wang Jun, an economist with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said mild inflation in the first quarter laid a good foundation for achieving the target of inflation control for the year. China aims to hold this year's consumer inflation at around 3.5 percent, according to the government work report released last month. ^ top ^

Xi holds talks with top entrepreneurs (Global Times)
The dialogue between Chinese President Xi Jinping and entrepreneurs Monday, the first of its kind held on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia, is a sign that China is trying to inject confidence into regional economic cooperation, experts told the Global Times. Xi told some 30 representatives from renowned domestic and overseas companies that China won't close the door to the outside world and will continue welcoming global investors, after hearing the entrepreneurs' speeches and discussions on their firms' operating conditions in the country. He pointed out that the development of China benefits the whole world and firstly benefits neighboring countries, adding that the country can continue to sustain economic growth at a high level. The dialogue is of profound significance as China wants to ease concerns from foreign companies over its rise to becoming the world's second largest economy, Li Xiao, deputy dean of the Economics School of Jilin University, told the Global Times. "Faced with the current complicated international situation, Xi's talk delivers the message that China will firmly stick to economic development, requiring peace and regional economic exchanges based on business," said Li. China has a new top leadership and they need extensive contacts with entrepreneurs from well-known international companies, Mei Xinyu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times, adding that macro policymaking will be effective only after main market players digest the message. "This was to let the political leader know more about the frontline players, and boost their confidence toward policymakers, which is ultimately important as bearish arguments on China are currently prevailing," said Mei. "Entrepreneurs also need this opportunity to make their own judgments on the new leadership's ability to take control of things," Mei said. The newly-set meeting may reflect the fact that the forum has started innovating, said Li Youhuan, a researcher at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, citing Xi's comments at the opening ceremony that the forum, which has been held for 12 years, stands at a tipping point as 12 years is seen as a full cycle in Chinese traditional culture. Mei also said that the forum may be on its way to becoming a comprehensive platform that brings together both economic and political figures. ^ top ^


DPRK and South Korea

North Korea 'shows signs' of readying for 4th nuclear test (SCMP)
North Korea is showing “signs” of preparing a fourth nuclear test, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said on Monday, with reports of stepped up activity at its main atomic test site. “There are such signs,” Ryoo told a parliamentary committee hearing when lawmakers asked him to confirm the reports. Ryoo declined to elaborate, saying it would be inappropriate “to comment further here on matters related to intelligence”. A newspaper on Monday, quoting a senior South Korean government official, reported that activity at its atomic test site were similar to events preceding earlier blasts. North Korea has intensified warnings in recent weeks, declaring it had entered a state of war with Seoul, threatening to strike US targets and blocking access to a border factory complex jointly run with the South. “There are recent active movements of manpower and vehicles at the southern tunnel at Punggye-ri,” South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted an unidentified government official as saying. The official was referring to North Korea's nuclear test site. “We are monitoring because the situation is similar to behaviour seen prior to the third nuclear test,” the official was quoted as saying. It was unclear, the official told the newspaper, whether the activities were intended to mislead US surveillance. The North's February 12 nuclear test prompted tougher UN sanctions and triggered a hostile response from Pyongyang. South Korea's defence minister told lawmakers in February, after the third nuclear test, that an additional test was possible. Pyongyang moved what appeared to be a mid-range Musudan missile to its east coast, according to media reports last week. ^ top ^

North Koreans ‘don't report for work' at Kaesong joint industrial park (SCMP)
North Korean workers didn't show up for work at a jointly run factory complex with South Korea on Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang suspended operations at the last remaining major economic link between rivals locked in an increasingly hostile relationship. Some of the more than 400 South Korean managers still at the Kaesong industrial complex just north of the Demilitarized Zone said they planned to stay and watch over their equipment until food ran out. Pyongyang said on Monday it would pull out its 53,000 workers at the complex, which began production in 2004 and is the biggest employer in the North's third-biggest city. By closing the factory, Pyongyang is showing it is willing to hurt its own shaky economy in order to display its anger with South Korea and the United States. Pyongyang has unleashed a torrent of threats at Seoul and Washington following UN sanctions punishing the North for its third nuclear test, on February 12, and joint military exercises between the US and South Korea that allies call routine but that Pyongyang sees as invasion preparation. In recent days there have also been worries in Seoul of an even larger provocation from Pyongyang, including another possible nuclear test or rocket launch. Some North Koreans who worked an overnight shift at Kaesong were still there on Tuesday morning, but South Koreans said those scheduled for day shifts didn't show. A North Korean woman at Kaesong said in a telephone call that she planned to return home now that her night shift was done. [...] The point of North Korea's threats and possible future provocations, analysts say, isn't a full-scale war, which North Korea would certainly lose. It's seen instead as an effort to force new, Pyongyang-friendly policies in South Korea and Washington and to boost domestic loyalty for Kim Jong-un, the country's young, still relatively untested new leader. Monday's statement about Kaesong came from Kim Yang-gon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. It did not say what would happen to the 475 South Korean managers still at the Kaesong industrial complex. Kim's statement said North Korea will now consider whether to close the complex permanently. “How the situation will develop in the days ahead will entirely depend on the attitude” of South Korean authorities, it said.[...] Yoo [Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at Korea University in South Korea,] said he expects the South Korean managers will be deported, Pyongyang will convert the park for military use, and the fates of the North Korean workers and their families will not be considered. [...] Another analyst, however, believes North Korea will reopen the complex after South Korea-US drills end in late April. Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea said the complex depends on raw materials and even electricity from South Korea. He also noted that workers at the complex are paid in US dollars that North Korea would have a hard time replacing because of international sanctions. Cheong also thinks that although North Korea would put recalled workers on other projects, it would “face a burden that it has to provide the similar quality of livelihood to them.... There would be voices calling for the normalisation of the Kaesong complex.” South Korea's Unification Ministry, which is responsible for relations with the North, issued a statement saying South Korea will act “calmly and firmly” and will make its best efforts to secure the safety of South Koreans at Kaesong. The Kaesong complex is the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement projects from previous eras of co-operation. Other projects such as reunions of families separated by war and tours to a scenic North Korean mountain became stalled amid confrontation between the rival Koreas in recent years. [...] South Korea's Unification Ministry estimates 53,000 North Korean workers in Kaesong received US$80 million in salary last year, an average of US$127 a month. ^ top ^

U.S. urges DPRK to refrain from further provocations (Xinhua)
The United States on Wednesday urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to refrain from further provocations amid reports of an imminent missile launch by the Asian nation. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington was monitoring the situation and coordinating "closely" with its allies and partners. "As we've said many times before, a ballistic missile launch would be a clear violation of North Korea's obligations under numerous (UN) Security Council resolutions," he told reporters at a regular news briefing. "It would only further isolate North Korea, undermine its goal of economic development," he added. "So we urge the DPRK to refrain from taking further provocative actions." Citing intelligence, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said on Wednesday that it is highly likely that the DPRK would launch a mid-range missile "at any time from now on." Ventrell said the U.S. was taking "a range of prudent measures, " including missile defense, to defend itself and allies against threats posed by the DPRK. [...] The country on Tuesday urged all foreign organizations, companies and tourists in the South to evacuate in case of war, saying the DPRK "does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war" as the situation on the peninsula "is inching close to a thermonuclear war." [...]. ^ top ^

North Korea carries out parachute drills on Chinese border (SCMP)
North Korean soldiers carried out parachute drills along the border with China yesterday as Taiwan's government became the first to urge its citizens to delay visiting South Korea. More than 50 North Korean soldiers conducted drills for about two hours in Sinuiju, which neighbours Dandong, Liaoning province, Kyodo News Agency reported. The report said it was rare for North Korean soldiers to conduct such exercises along the border with China. [...] China has also conducted live-fire drills along the border with North Korea in recent days. The PLA Daily reported on Sunday that tanks and armoured vehicles from a Shenyang military unit took part in drills. Beijing has issued warnings to Pyongyang, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying China would not allow chaos on its doorstep. Ni Lexiong, director of the sea power and defence policy research institute at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the parachuting drills may have been a reaction to Wang's remarks. "I believe Pyongyang did that partially in response to Wang's warning, and to show they would continue with the chaos," he said. In signs of escalating tensions, South Korea deployed three naval destroyers, an early warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system in response to the expected launch of a long-range missile by Pyongyang. [...] Japan has deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors in key locations around Tokyo. The Ministry of National Defence in Beijing issued a statement last night denying a Japanese media report that the military had stepped up its presence on the border with North Korea. But it added: "China is highly concerned about developments on the Korean Peninsula. China is committed to maintaining peace and stability." [...]. ^ top ^

Pyongyang steps up the war of words (China Daily)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea delivered a fresh round of rhetoric on Thursday with claims it has "powerful striking means" on standby for a launch, as Seoul and Washington speculated the country is preparing to test a medium-range missile during upcoming national celebrations. On the streets of Pyongyang, meanwhile, residents celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un's appointment to the country's top Party post - one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after his father Kim Jong-il's death. The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a non-military agency that deals with relations with the Republic of Korea, didn't elaborate on its warning of a strike. The statement is the latest in a torrent of warlike threats that pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their policy toward Pyongyang. Officials in Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile designed to reach the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow hopes for positive developments on the Korean peninsula. "We believe the situation is very grave, because nuclear tests and missiles launches are not jokes," he said. Analysts do not believe Pyongyang will stage an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950. But there are concerns that the animosity could spark a skirmish that could escalate into a serious conflict. The Musudan missile has a range of 3,500 km and is designed to reach US military installations in Guam and Japan, experts say. Bracing for a launch, which officials said could take place at any time, Seoul deployed three naval destroyers, an early-warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system, a Defense Ministry official said in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department rules. Japan deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors around Tokyo. But officials in Seoul played down security fears, noting that no foreign government has evacuated its citizens from either Pyongyang or Seoul. The war talk is seen as a way for Pyongyang to draw attention to the precariousness of the security situation on the peninsula and to boost the military credentials of young leader Kim Jong-un. [...]. ^ top ^




A document signing to repatriate the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton will take place in New York on May 07, 2013 (InfoMongolia)
At the Cabinet meeting held on April 06, 2013, an Agreement to sign between the Government of Mongolia and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement affiliated the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was authorized to ink by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the United States B.Altangerel. In the scope of the Agreement, it states to officially repatriate a nearly complete 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton to its homeland Mongolia. The document signing ceremony will take place in New York City, United States on May 07, 2013. The latter fact regarding the Tyrannosaurus Bataar, that was approved being smuggled from the territory of Mongolia, was the order issued by the United States Federal Judge Honorable P. Kevin Castel to dispose of the Defendant Property according to law released on February 13, 2013. Consequently the Case codenamed under 1:12-cv-04760-PKC was closed. Therefore, a year-round lasted case of "Tyrannosaurus Bataar" dinosaur skeleton was concluded in favor of Mongolia, but yet not was resolved where to accommodate when it returns, because authorities of Mongolian People's Party are denying to vacate the purpose-built former V.I.Lenin Museum, however it was decided at the Cabinet meeting held on January 12, 2013 to open a new Central Dinosaur Museum aimed to preserve cultural heritages for public view in this museum. ^ top ^

Residence choose tender winners for re-planning of ger district (
The tender for the project to re-plan the ger districts was announced publicly according to the rules for the re-planning process for the ger district, approved by the Capital City Representative Khural. Over 32 entities sent 52 proposals for the tender. As a result of first stage of the tender process 30 proposals from 18 companies were selected. These 18 selected bidders have made their introductions during this period informing the public of their companies' activities and the advantages they will provide to residents in the area where the project is planned. According to the rule approved by the Capital City Representative Khural, residents in the area to be re-planned have the right to choose the company who will take on the project for the re-planning of the ger district. As a result of a residents` poll 14 companies were finally selected to undertake the project. These companies are supposed to sign an agreement with the project coordinator, land owners and residents in 30 days time. ^ top ^

The Presidential Election of Mongolia was set to be conducted on June 26, 2013 nationwide (InfoMongolia)
On April 11, 2013, the plenary session meeting of the State Great Khural (Parliament) started at 09:00am and the first issue to discuss was the draft bill of the Parliament's Resolutions on "Date Announcement for the Presidential Election". In conjunction, Chairman of the State Structure's Standing Committee of the Parliament A.Bakei introduced the summary of the Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 09 and in accordance with the discussion and regulations, the General Election Commission of Mongolia (GEC) suggested to conduct the Presidential Election on June 26, 2013, moreover Mongolian eligible citizens residing abroad are to give their votes at the Diplomatic Offices of Mongolia overseas between June 14 and June 16, 2013. Consequently, the Parliament's Resolution on "Date Announcement for the Presidential Election" was approved by 74.5% of votes. Hence, the Presidential Election of Mongolia was set to be conducted on June 26, 2013 nationwide and on June 14-16, 2013 overseas. Also, due to regulations the Presidential Campaign will start on April 22, 2013. ^ top ^

The Goldman Sachs to the Mongolian Court? (
Senior Mongolian MPs and cabinet members had a session on whether Goldman Sachs had a conflict of interest when it advised the Mongolian government at the times when Oyu Tolgoi deal was in negotiation. The Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC was one of the advisors to the government on the economics and financial aspects, such as building a model, of the project. The government received legal and financial advisory services on the deal from many organizations with help of The World Bank. Some of them performed the services without a charge due to project's reputation to be added into their portfolio, says a person familiar with the matter. However, Goldman Sachs charged USD 250K, according to the introduction given by Erdenes OT LLC at the session. The Mining Minister Gankhuyag D. concluded the session by stating that it is hard to determine if the Goldman Sachs had conflict of interest, and if it did, it should be identified by the court. Which court? Traditionally courts in Mongolia prove the wrongdoing to proceed with a legal action. It is hard to find a major investment institute that hadn't invested into Turquoise Hill Resources Inc. formerly Ivanhoe Mines. Goldman Sachs is famous among the conspiracy activists that it can configure between both buy and sell sides as it dominates the investment industry with its' full service. Last month, when Oyu Tolgoi shareholders gathered, the Goldman Sachs conflict of interest matter was in the list of the agenda. It was dropped after the government realized that it is not relevant to discuss it with Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto representatives. If the Goldman Sachs financial advisory disassociates with all the projects and companies that its' asset managers have bought stocks, it will be impossible to perform their jobs. If the Mongolian government wants go on with this argument, it should consider bringing in S.E.C or other relevant financial regulatory agencies where the shares traded in at the time of the deal was non-public, and determine if the Goldman Sachs used insider information to take positions. ^ 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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