China News - Spring 2005

China moves to ban late abortions

The Chinese city of Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province is to introduce a pilot programme aimed at halting the widespread termination of female foetuses. It will prohibit doctors from carrying out abortions on most women who are more than 14 weeks into pregnancy. At present there is no time limit but ministry of health protocols say clinics can terminate pregnancies until 24 weeks although there have been reports of even later stages.

This has reflected the government's determination to curb China's huge population. However this has produced imbalance amongst the sexes. Shortly after the introduction of the one-child policy in 1982, the ration of male; female births was 105; 100, similar to the global average. Last year, the ratio was 117; 100. Worried by the long-term implication of this, China's President Hu Jintao ordered China's demographers in March to expedite research into the social consequences of the one-child policy. They gathered information on abortions in other countries and consulted international organisations for views on the problem.

The main recommendation was for a time limit. A factor which could have influenced the choice of Guiyang for the pilot scheme is the city's boy; girl ration standing at 129; 100. International development workers gave a cautious welcome because, the health risk to the mother is 10 to 20 times lower if abortions are carried out in the first rather than the third trimester. (From The Guardian 16/12/04)

Ancient royal tombs found in China

Tombs believed to be those of the earliest Zhou Dynasty kings have been found at Zhou Gong Miao, near Baoji (about 65 miles from Xi'an). Archaeologists from Beijing University and the local Institute of Archaeology have so far located a complex of at least ten massive tombs.

They have also revealed the existence of a lost city, which was probably a Zhou Dynasty centre. This find is said to be the most important discovery of its type for over 70 years. Some of the tombs appear to have been looted both in ancient and in modern times. However it is hoped that spectacular royal grave goods will be found including bronze cauldrons, wine goblets and ritual purification basins with inscribed texts that will reveal information about the individuals buried there.

The early (Western) Zhou kings have always been regarded as model rulers, who though honesty and wisdom gave China wealth and prosperity by good government. Confucius, 600 years later promoted their rule as examples of good ethical conduct and for some Chinese they retain this status today.

Excavations, which started in October 2004, have also found an extraordinary series of burnt animal bones that were used for divination. At this stage 760 fragments of these 'oracle bones' have been found and 80 have small religious texts inscribed on them. (From History Today, Jan 2005)

Panda eats (bamboo) shoots and leaves

The Chinese government and WWF believe that there are now 1,600 pandas in the wild-500 more than the last survey found in 1989.

One of the reasons for the substantial increase is thought to be improved efficiency in counting them. However other developments do indicate that the threat to this endangered species has been checked. An important factor has been the ban on logging in the upper Yangtze River region.

Deforestation that led to flooding further down the river also cut off panda populations from reaching each other. The WWF hope that new corridors of forest will link up panda habitats and thus allow them to roam and meet new mates from a different gene pool. The ability to migrate also ensures against pandas starving to death because of localised bamboo famine. Every few decades a bamboo species wilts and takes a few years to re-grow. The pandas will now be able to reach other areas where the bamboo is still thriving.

Some researchers maintain that it is not true that pandas do not like to mate and are poor parents who abandon their cubs. The reproductive rate is reported to be similar to some other bears. Another report records mother pandas hiding their cubs in tree trunks for up to two days whilst they go and forage for food in the difficult terrain, only to return to find they have been 'rescued'. (From The Telegraph Magazine 18/12/04).
P. S. The Mandarin Chinese word for panda is xiong mao, literal translation, 'bear cat'.

First brain cells grown in Chinese laboratory

Scientists have grown brain cells and used them to repair the damaged brains of head-injury victims. This could bring hope for cures for patients suffering from strokes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and other degenerative conditions. Spinal injury victims may also benefit. An initial experimental treatment allowed the patient to regain the ability to walk. However researchers emphasise the experimental stage of the work.

The work was carried out at Fudan University hospital, Shanghai by Professor Zhu Jianhong who will present his findings in London later this month. Professor Stephen Minger, director of the stem cell laboratory at the Wolfson Centre for age related diseases at King's College, London said that this is 'a world's first'. He has been to Shanghai, seen the methods used and met the eight patients treated. Dr Peter Mountford, chief executive of Stem Cell Sciences, a leading British company in this area, said that the work was outstanding in that clinical trails are actually being undertaken, whilst in Britain, we are just beginning to think about it. (From The Sunday Times, 10/1/05)

Evidence of Chinese fermenting alcoholic drinks 9,000 years ago

Archaeologists have found evidence of an alcoholic drink made from rice, honey and fruit in the Neolithic village of Jiahu, Henan province, northern China. It would have tasted like mulled wine and had an alcoholic content of about 9 to12%. This alcoholic drink is 1,000 years older than the oldest previously known alcoholic drink, which was brewed in the Middle East. It is the same village where the world's oldest musical instrument and first sample of writing were found.

Scientists found chemical remains of fermented drinks in pottery jars and samples were flown to the USA and examined at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Dr Patrick McGovern at the museum is working with breweries to try to reproduce the drink. His team also analysed liquids more than 3,000 years old which were remarkably well preserved inside hermetically sealed bronze vessels. The liquids were rice and millet wines whci had been flavoured with herbs, flowers and tree resins.

In the same village of Jiahu, Chinese archaeologists discovered simple pictograms-the forefunner of written text-which may have been used there as early as 5,500 B.C. In 1999 a flue dating from 7,000 B.C. was found. (From The Daily Express 10/2/05)

Visa access to Britain for Chinese tourists

Jack Straw will sign an agreement today on a one-day visit to Beijing where he will meet the chairman of China's National Tourism Association, He Guanwei. Chinese tourists who travel in groups and led by licensed operators will have most visa restrictions removed under an approved destination scheme. Tours operators who do not take everyone in their groups home will lose their licenses. Most other European countries opened their doors to Chinese tourists last summer. (From The Times 21/1/05)

Nottingham's China link

A Chinese delegation including the vice mayor of Jiaxing Municipality and the chairman of the Jiaxing Chamber of Commerce visited Nottingham in mid November.

Nottingham is well placed to develop ties with China for a number of reasons. The University of Nottingham had the foresight to appoint a Chinese chancellor, Professor Fujia Yang and is now building a university campus in Ningbo. Nottingham is also looking to set up a twinning arrangement with Ningbo whose growth rate is 16%, about twice the national rate. Nottingham is well known in China because the Chinese table tennis world champion, Deng Yaping, a four times Olympic gold medallist graduated at Nottingham University. The graduation ceremony was broadcast live on Chinese television. (From The Nottingham Evening Post 23/11/04)

Legal development-new juries

China plans to start holding jury trials next year designed to cope with the wave of corruption and corporate crime spawned by the high economic growth. The jurors will not have the independence associated with Western courts but will act more like magistrates and have powers equal to judges. They will be elected for five-year terms and will need at least two year's university education. China is also increasing the number of judges by 10%. The Supreme Court announced these measures after a meeting to improve the legal system.

Actions were promised to fight corruption, combat piracy and theft of intellectual property. The president of the Supreme Court, Mr Xiao acknowledged that China was entering a difficult adjustment period because of rapid economic growth. The intention would be to 'strike hard' at serious criminals and crack down on financial and economic fraud, intellectual property infringements, human rights violations in the judicial field and abuse of power by officials. The number of court cases relating to state-owned company reforms, salaries in arrears and illegal land acquisition had risen dramatically according to Mr Xiao. (From The Times 21/12/04)

China shifts from receiver to giver of foreign aid.

China is set to make the transition from aid recipient to donor next year. The executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) Mr James Morris said that this is a sign of China's success in combating poverty. The WFP will make its last donation to China next year marking the end of a 25-year programme, which started in the wake of the Cultural Revolution and supported more than 30 million hungry people.

The programme has been steadily reduced as China's economy soared with annual growth rates of 9% which helped to lift up to 500 million people out of poverty. The WFP chief said that this achievement is unprecedented in the past 50 years, maybe for all time and given the Chinese experience, we have as much to learn from China as China can learn from us. The transition has already begun with an initial small donation, but Mr Morris thinks that over the next 25 years, China will become one of the WFP most important friends. He is hoping for support for Africa. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has said that, China will make a donation according to its own capacity, as it is still a developing country with 29 million people living in poverty. (From The Guardian 15/12/04)

Road linking Taiwan to mainland?

The precise details were not clear-it could be a bridge or tunnel. Mr Zhang Chunxian, China's communications minister said that Taipei had been included in the plans to link all of China's big cities in a vast motorway network because 'we are in one same family sharing one integral network'. The road system is projected to cost $242 billion (£129 billion) and to take over 20 to 30 years. China's motorways are to be more than doubled to 53,000 miles and are to link all cities with populations of over 200,000.

The minister said he was confident of Taiwan's support for the link across the Taiwan Straits which would be 100 miles long and dwarf all existing road-building projects. At present the world's longest underwater tunnel-for trains only-links Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan and is 34 miles long. The Channel tunnel is 31 miles.

China's railways are also to be expanded and this year more than $12 billion will be spent. This is twice the amount spent last year. At present only a third of potential demand for coal and other raw materials can be transported by rail. Other transport projects are also underway including deep-water ports, airports, and a railway across the Himalayas into Tibet. (From The Guardian 14/1/05)

Positive energy news from China

The World Wind Energy Conference held in China in the autumn was the most successful ever held. More than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries took part. Mr Shi Dinghuan of the State Council said China would increase the use of wind energy and he emphasised the importance of international co-operation. The conference resolved to continue to work for the alleviation of world poverty though sustainable development of renewable energy.

China is investing $1.2 billion into solar energy and is aiming for a capacity of 300 megawatts before 2005. (From Positive News, Winter 2004)

Maglev Train

This commercial trial of the 430 k/hr (267 mph) magnetic levitation train is to continue during 2005 with services both day and night. Consideration is being given to extend the 30 km track by 170 km to reach the city of Hangzhou. The present 30 km (19 miles) track runs from Pudong airport to Shanghai's financial area and the journey takes just 8 minutes. (From New Scientist 8/1/05)

N.B. The very high cost of track building and maintenance is a drawback for long distances, but a Chinese analyst has suggested that Maglev use, as commuter trains would very significantly extend the catchments areas of main cities. For example if a Maglev was built around London, commuters living in say Birmingham, Bristol or Norwich, could all travel into the capital within 30 minutes!

China puts tariffs on its textile exporters

Textile manufactures in Europe and the USA welcomed tariffs on 148 of China's textiles products from next year. This move eases trade friction for fear of a flood of Chinese goods after the quota system expires. The World Trade Organisation predicted that after the end of the quota system, China could have been producing more than half of the textiles in the world within three years. The imposition of the tariffs was one of eight steps taken by China's Commerce Ministry to help the industry to smoothly adjust to free trade and to counter the threat of anti-dumping measures.

Beijing is also making companies report on expansion plans and is encouraging companies to invest abroad and also to develop domestic brands. (From The Times 28/1/04)

Fidelity funds China Focus Fund

The advertisement for Fidelity Investments which believes China and Hong Kong have potential for exceptional growth (but past performance is not a guide the future) makes interesting reading. China is now the largest market for mobile phones-over 300 million people own a handset. The country makes more than $60 billion worth of consumer electronics every year-more than Western Europe and it has the highest number of households with digital TVs.

Over 1,000 universities turn out nearly a million new graduates each year-38% of which are engineers. And 43% of the cement in the world is used in the Chinese building industry. Furthermore, a forecast sourced from Goldman Sachs indicates that China will overtake Japan before 2020 and the USA shortly after 2040 to become the world's largest economy. (Advert in The Sunday Times 31/10/04)

Relaxation of visa requirements

Visitors to China can now extend their visas for six to 12 months as many times as they want. In the past they were only able to renew visas twice each for a period of three months.

The vice-director of Exit-Entry Administration of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said people who could enjoy the new regulations included the following;-foreigners who are the spouses of Chinese, spouses, parents, and children under the age of 18 of foreigners who are working or studying in Beijing, foreigners of Chinese origin older than 60 years and who have purchased real estate in Beijing, those who are older than 60 and have relations in Beijing but not abroad, foreign children who were adopted in Beijing and foreigners who have come to Beijing for a short visit for cultural exchanges and activity or business. The department has also increased the time span of foreigners' residency permits to five years. Meanwhile people with residency permits are no longer required to get re-entry visas as they had to previously.

Foreigners who can take advantage of the new residency permits include, top foreign professionals and investors, foreign legal repre2senatatives, returning citizens of foreign nationalities and foreign students. Investors looking to invest more than $3 million in Beijing can apply for a two to five year residency permit. Those applying for two-year permits are not subject to a specific amount of investment requirement. Foreign legal representatives can only apply for two-year residency permits. (From China Daily 3/2/05)

China to end bail out for SOEs

The State Council has decided that the central government will stop subsidizing bankrupt state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and thus move further towards the socialist market economy. The bankrupt industries will be left to the laws and market when the time and conditions are ripe. So far, Beijing, Shanghai, and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian have stopped subsiding.

At present, the government subsidizes a select group of SOEs in extreme financial difficulty but in return, the SOE is asked to properly arrange laid-off worker's livelihoods. Up to April 2004, China had closed 3,377 insolvent SOEs and resettled 6.2 million workers. In doing this, the government allocated 49.3 billion yuan as SOE bankrupt subsidies and allowed state owned banks to write off a total of 223.8 billion yuan worth of bad loans caused by SOE bankruptcy. The government minister concerned, Li Rongrong, said that the period of transition from policy aided bankruptcy to bankruptcy according to law would take about four years.

The State Council meeting Chaired by Premier Wen Jiabo, also approved a programme dealing with the closure and bankruptcy. All local authorities and departments were urged to act strictly in line with legal procedures and to prevent the loss of state assets, to protect the legal rights and interests of workers and handle the debts properly. Enterprises with the right conditions are encouraged to merge with others. (From China Daily 3/2/05)

Clean energy development

China is intent on developing clean coal burning technology to cut sulphur dioxide emissions and environmental pollution. Coal burning produces 70% of China's primary energy and it has been recognised that sulphur dioxide emissions are at a level that inhibits China's sustainable development. Greater attention must therefore be paid to research, development and application of clean coal burning technology. In the next decade at least 40 million kw of China's power plants will install desulphurising plant. (From China Today January 2005)

China's Bathyscaphe expected to set world record

This project which is regarded as equal in significance to the manned space flight programme, is part of the Tenth Five-Year Plan. China's manned bathyscaphe is believed to be capable of diving to depths of 7,000 metres and observing 99% of underwater space, making it the world leader in sea exploration technology. The bathyscaphe is scheduled for tests at the beginning of 2006 and by the end of that year, it will be in active use in scientific research. The spherical bathyscaphe is believed to take five hours to reach depths of 7,000 metres and operates on a 12-hour mission basis. The development is said to be equal in complexity to that of a manned spacecraft. Now that the main technological problems have been solved, the focus is being shifted to maintenance of human life within the craft at the extremely low depths. China joins the USA, Japan, France and Russia in this area of technology. (From China Today January 2005)

Three Gorges Project Corporation halts projects due to environmentalist pressure

The vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) said yesterday that all 30 projects ordered to suspend activity have now complied. The suspensions had been ordered because their mandatory environmental impact assessment reports had not yet been approved.

Construction of the huge Xiluodu dam, which topped the list would not be resumed until the administration had vetted the report submitted last year. The compliance of the Three Gorges Corporation, which initially refused to obey the order, was believed to have come about as a result of direct pressure of central government. The State Council is co-ordinating talks between Sepa, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Three Gorges Project Construction committee. (From South China Morning Post, 3/2/05)
N.B. The Three Gorges Project Corporation is involved with other dam construction in a wider region and not just the actual Three Gorges Dam itself.

Spring Festival spawns business boom

The Spring Festival presents a boom for many businesses, tourism, travel, telecom and also a buying spree for retailers. In addition about one third of urban families are expected to eat out rather than at home. This information was obtained from a survey involving 2,000 people in areas ranging from Beijing in the north to Guangzhou in the south. Some 53% of respondents said that they would spend the week-long holiday at home. The rest said that they would take tours or other activities such as reading in libraries or working out in gyms.. Of those travelling, only 43% said that they would travel independently-the majority would join tour groups.

The number travelling to Australia, New Zealand and Europe is expected to be 30% up this year compared to last.

An executive with China International Travel Service said that at least 600 people have booked through her agency and that most planned to visit four to five destinations in up to eight days. These included France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Egypt. The Spring Festival is the busiest time of the year for Chinese travel agents. Travel to tsunami hit places could plummet, but with promotions work and reconstruction in the hit areas, travel could pick up.

Apart from domestic travel for family reunions, Harbin and Changchun in the icily cold northeast, and Yunnan and Xiamen in the perennial warm south are popular destinations.

Use of modern technology is also prominent; less than half of the respondents would actually visit their relations but 61% would 'thumbnail' greetings i.e. use text on mobile phones. Last year China's telecom operators chalked up a turnover of over 1 billion Yuan ($120 million) as 9.6 billion messages were sent during the seven-day holiday. One fifth said they would use the Internet to send greetings making use of broadband and videophones. Forty one percent said they would spend up to 3000 Yuan ($361)-which represents a month's pay for many people. Four percent said they would spend up to 10,000 Yuan ($1,205). The survey found that 62% would have traditional New Year's Eve dinner at home, which is perhaps the most important annual feast for Chinese people. (From China Daily 3/2/05)


Sino File is compiled by Walter Fung with some input for From the Chinese Press by Teresa Ray.

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