China News - Winter 2005

Chinese Anti-piracy Laws

Foreign companies complain that Chinese patent and copyright laws are ineffective but China's top arbiter of intellectual property rights (IPR). Jiang Zhipei claims that China is making progress. He believes that China has come a long way from the Cultural Revolution and now has a complete system of laws. He said that foreigners often complained to newspapers and their own politicians without approaching Chinese courts. China introduced patent law, copyright and trademark laws in the early 1980s and also signed treaties to respect copyright. Foreigners should take their complaints to Chinese courts because China is serious about enforcing IPR and is moving forward, albeit slowly, but no problem can be solved overnight.

In China the Supreme Court's authority can dwindle at grass routes level and local judges often owe their first loyalty to local party bosses who employ them and are reluctant to close scofflaw factories that provide jobs and generate prosperity. To expect China to reach the same level of IPR enforcement as in developed countries in one leap is unrealistic. Jiang said that last year Chinese courts dealt with 12,205 civil intellectual property cases-an increase of 32% over2003 and from a few dozen cases two decades ago. A survey amongst American executives in China revealed that incidents of protection of intellectual property rights, regarded as 'effective' rose to 20%, up from 9% in 2004.

Jiang however said that foreign nations need to be patient. Inadequate resources, even in his own court in Beijing, hamper China's battle against commercial piracy. Outside of the capital, resources are even more stretched. China's 3,000 county courts and 404 intermediate courts have little incentive to spend time and money on IPR enforcement. The disputes often involve complex claims and courts have difficulty collecting evidence. Furthermore, lower courts are still very much under the control of local governments who do not see intellectual property theft as a particularly serious offence and consequentially things are moving very slowly at local levels. The situation is better at the Supreme Court and at the central government level, but if a judgement is obtained in Beijing, it does not follow that it will be enforced elsewhere and if you close down a factory, you are converting a foreign problem into a local one. To help promote intellectual property laws, Jiang started a website in 1999, China IPR Judicial Protection ( which has since had 800,000 visitors.

Realistically, Jiang does not expect piracy to disappear soon. Similar to the rest of the Chinese legal system, IPR have young and shallow roots and China is facing considerable problems in building them. There are many challenges and crises to face and IPR are not the first priority. (From International Herald Tribune 5/10/05)

The future looks bright for Chinese people

An index of personal optimism, produced by the Pew Research Center, an independent opinion research organisation based in Washington, shows that China has emerged as 'the world leader in hope for the future.'

Many Chinese people feel that they have made substantial progress in the last five years and think that they will be even better off in the next five years. They are also satisfied with the state of the nation.

The survey, conducted over the last 10 days of May in major Chinese cities found that 76% of those asked were optimistic about improving their quality of life over the next five years. This result ranked China at the top of the 17 countries investigated. The Indians were second, 75% expected their life to improve, but only 48% of Americans asked expected life to get better.

Analysts believe the optimism of Chinese is clearly linked to rising incomes, wider consumer choice and improved working and living conditions in major cities. When questioned about personal progress, 50 said they had made progress-the highest of any national group. Questioned about the nation, 72% said they were satisfied with national conditions-again the highest of any country and a sharp contrast to the 73% of Germans who expressed dissatisfaction. However 31% of the Chinese thought that they had lost ground.

The survey had an urban bias being conducted by face-to-face interviews with 2,191 persons mainly in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan. In addition some analysts believe that many of those interviewed wanted to give a positive view, feeling that not to do so would be disloyal to China. (From the International Herald Tribune website, via China Daily online 16/11/05)

Massive expansion of Chinese universities

China is experiencing the biggest expansion of student numbers in history. In the 1980s only 2-3% of school leavers went to university. In 2003, the figure was 17%. The watershed year was 1999 when the number of students enrolled jumped by nearly 50%. The expansion at doctorate level is even higher than for undergraduates. In 1999-2003, nearly 12 times as many doctorates were awarded as in 1982-89. In addition the number of new doctoral students jumped from 14,500 in 1998 to 48,700 in 2003.

The Chinese are determined to produce a super league of universities to rival the best in the world and the central government is pouring money into selected universities such as Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan. Higher salaries and more research funding are on offer. Provincial governments are doing the same. In fact it is no accident that the most widely used annual ranking of the world's research universities, the Shanghai index is produced by a Chinese university, Jiao Tong in Shanghai.. (Jiao Tong rates 17 American Universities amongst the world's top 20)

This is part of a gigantic technology transfer exercise. The Chinese universities have stocked up with foreign PhDs. In some departments of the University of Peking, a third of the faculty members have American doctorates. The universities are using joint ventures with foreign universities in much the same way as Chinese companies use joint ventures with foreign companies. The Chinese have no qualms about using market mechanisms to achieve this technology transfer. Tuition fees make up 26% of the earnings of public universities-nearly twice the level in 1998-and many professors are paid according to the number of students they attract.

China is also creating a parallel system of private universities alongside the public ones. For example the University of Peking has more applicants than places and so it has created a parallel university that charges higher fees and accepts slightly less able students. Links between universities and industry are commonplace and the majority of doctorates earned in China between 1992 and 2003 were in practical subjects. These subjects attracted the brightest students-engineering (32% of the total), natural sciences (22%) and medicine (15%). (From The Economist 10-16/9/05)

Prudential talking to Chinese banks about retail distribution

The UK insurer is in advanced talks with China's biggest banks that would transform its presence in one of the world's fastest growing financial services markets. Talks are being held with four Chinese banking groups about an agreement, which will see the retail investment products sold by a joint venture operation distributed through a major branch network. It is believed that a deal with ABC, which operates 38,000 branches across China was the probable outcome with an announcement likely before the end of the year. Details of the talks emerged after last weekend's announcement that Prudential had received regulatory approval to establish a fund management venture with China International Trust and Investment Corporation. Research shows that more than 80% of household savings in China are held in cash and bank deposits, providing huge scope for the sale of non-cash financial instruments. China is expected, after Japan, to become the second biggest insurance market in Asia by 2013.(From The Sunday Times 11/9/05)

Terracotta army may be guarding buried treasure

New images of the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the 'First Emperor' of China (221-210BC) show a bounty of coins. This find has led Chinese and German archaeologists to conclude that the emperor may have been buried with his state treasure. It is believed that building of the tomb took 36 years to build and that 700,000 men were involved. The First Emperor was a unifier, bringing in a single currency, rule of law and written language before he died of a lethal concoction of mercury when he was 49 years old. The terracotta army, which was discovered thirty years ago, have been affected by exposure to the light and air. Their once bright paint has begun to fade and their detailed features have started to corrode. Chinese and US scientists have decided that drastic measures were needed and have announced a two-year research project to study the noxious effect of pollutants on the figures. (From The Independent 21/10/05).

Chinese building boom

In Beijing the skyline is altering from week to week. Despite calls for local architects to be used, the government has hired many foreign firms including Herzog and de Meuron (of Tate Modern fame), Sir Norman Foster and Albert Speer Junior. The redevelopment is only partly due to the Olympics as the Chinese government has pledged a massive housing programme to give its population more living space per head. At the same time, the biggest ever mass migration of rural people to the cities-estimated by the BBC's World Service at 345 million over the next 25 years is fuelling the demand for property. Last year half of all the concrete used in construction in the world went into Chinese cities. The state alone pumped 265.2 billion yuan (£18.7 billion) into residential and commercial property in the first seven months of this year. The press has commented that the property boom will have to be brought under control by the state and the minister of construction has said that price surges were 'irrational' and pledged more low-cost housing to cool down the market. The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao has also warned that 'forceful' steps are being prepared to counter the huge surge in investment. In particular local banks are believed to be lending too much money and a crisis may arise if the apartments they are funding are not filled straight away. (From The Daily Express 12/10/05)

Chinese dragon set to roar into Europe

The Chinese car market may be the fastest growing in the world, but it does not stop Chinese carmakers aiming to export into Europe. Three Chinese brands were exhibiting at the Frankfurt Motor Show. China has two dozen car makers and new names are appearing all the time. One of these, Geely had five models on display last week-Geely HQ, CD, CK, FC and Marindo. CD is a small sports car whose name is short for Chinese Dragon and was unveiled in a lavish ceremony. The cars have been partially redesigned to suit the European market. Geely is ambitiously aiming for 2 million sales in 10 years with the majority being exported.

The company already ships cars to 34 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central America. The USA and Europe are the next targets and a Lisbon based auto retail has already been appointed for Spain and Portugal. Geely owner Li Shufu said that his company wants to show that Chinese makers do not copy foreign designs by showing off its own designs at the Frankfurt Motor Show with the intention of attracting international publicity.

Also making a debut was the Brilliance, China Automotive's Zhonghua sedan that the company intends to export to Germany this year.

The crucial question is whether the Chinese made cars will be as safe and as reliable as more established brands. Also there may be a backlash from western manufacturers and their unions because labour costs in China are 95 cents per hour compared to $36 in parts of Germany and $26 in the USA. Intellectual property may also be an issue with some models. However, the head of the WV brand has said that anybody who discounts the Chinese is wrong and that after the Japanese and Koreans, will be the Chinese. (From The Business 18-19/9/05)

Changes in Beijing

Following a vote in the Beijing Municipal People's Congress and a political debate, the fireworks ban was lifted. Before the ban was lifted, newspapers devoted columns to arguments for and against and in addition, the local police commissioned opinion polls on the subject. Both came out heavily in favour of lifting the ban. Fireworks at New Year are a Chinese tradition intended to drive away evil spirits. The ban was imposed 12 years ago on safety grounds but it is believed that this was part of a drive to stamp out 'superstitious practices' in the attempt to modernise the country.

On his visit to China, Tony Blair raised the subject of human rights and the move to democracy with his counterpart Wen Jiabao. Mr Wen told a news conference that China was introducing democracy gradually. Village elections had already taken place and these would be expanded to township level 'in a few years'. Xinhua reported, 'Although it is nigh on impossible to please every constituency, the willingness to hear diverse views on legislation that will have an immediate impact on the public is necessary and progressive'. (From The Telegraph 12/9/05)

China's second manned space flight

China launched a manned space flight yesterday. The Shenzhou VI spacecraft took off from the Gobi desert almost two years after its predecessor. In contrast to the limited pre-launch publicity given to the first launch, the second was heralded with everything from special newspaper editions to a children's parade in the in the city nearest the launch site. The first Chinese astronaut was strapped in and not allowed to move for 21 hours whilst the flight was controlled remotely. The current astronauts will be carrying out their own tests and will be in space for five days. China's space planners have mapped out plans for a space station and even a Moon landing. The US defence department believes that China's space programme includes anti-satellite lasers. However Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister denies this and said that China's entry into space flights is entirety for peaceful purposes. (From The Telegraph 13/10/05)

Tibet-positive aspects

Nearly everything published in the Western press about Tibet is on the negative side. This summary extract of letter sent to The Independent on 28/10/05, points out the more positive aspects. It was sent in by Pasang Wangdu, the Director of Nationality Studies Institute, Tibet Academy of Social Sciences in Lhasa. The letter was in response to two articles in the same newspaper in August, which the writer said painted a tarnished picture of Tibet.

In 2004, the per capita GDP reached US$960 in Tibet with overall GDP more than US$2.6 billion. This latter figure is 18 times higher than the 1965 figure. The vast majority of children (95%), of school age have access to education compared to 2% fifty years ago and the average life expectancy has increased from 35 to 67 years. There are now 1,700 Buddhist temples and monasteries in Tibet and 46,000 monks and lamas. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway project, which is nearing completion, included an allocation of US$250 million for environmental protection. He also comments that tourism development and protection of Tibetan culture are not conflicting but complementary because many Tibetans are encouraged to take up or go back to culture activities such as music and the arts.

Tussauds in Shanghai

The results of a poll to see who the Chinese would most like to see included, David Beckham, Jackie Chan, Bill Gates and most of all Audrey Hepburn. (From The Sunday Times 18/9/05)

Sprouting online democracy

Chinese Internet users are mushrooming and discussions in cyberspace are unprecedently dynamic. The Internet has 103 million Chinese uses and it is only a matter of time before they form the largest group. However, considering the size of China's population (1.3 billion) the ratio of web users to population is still low. It is estimated that 20% of China's Internet users-20.6 million-regularly make use of bulletin boards. Online topics are all embracing, from environmental protection to official corruption, from traffic accidents to AIDS prevention. All of this could not have happened two decades ago. Science is acting as a colossal engine for social progress. From a social point of view, science and its applicative form, technology, can hardly push society forward without open-minded people and without their desire for a freer, more just, democratic, peaceful and prosperous society. The essence of democracy is the same everywhere but its form is always different in accordance with national and cultural conditions. (From Beijing Review 25/8/05)

Chinese population cap

China has set the objective of limiting the mainland population below 1.37 billion by 2010. China has been working to build a new mechanism featuring management according to law, self-governance of villages, quality services, policy impetus and comprehensive management as an overall approach towards population control. The country will continue to improve its laws governing population to eliminate practices that infringe upon people's legal rights and interests. The government minister responsible for Population and Family Planning said that work should be done to study population policies focusing on all-round development of people and implement interest interest-oriented policies to award and assist families practicing family planning. (From Beijing Review 29/9/05)

4,000 unsafe coal mines to be closed down

Safety watchdogs halted production at 12,148 coalmines in the first 10 months of the year to enforce safety regulations. Of the mines inspected 70% failed said Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety. He said that all the mines that have not applied for certificates for safe production should suspend production. Those that fail post-renovation inspections will be closed before the end of the year.

In China, poor work safety, collusion between officials and colliery owners, over-exploitation of resources and severe pollution have been dubbed the 'four tumours' of the coal industry. Corruption and collaboration between officials and coal mine owners is the root cause of coal mine accidents,' said Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety. More than 90% of the officials who protect illegal mines are public servants at county or township levels, said Cao Jianlin an official of Shanxi province. These officials determine the life and death of the coalmines and the trading of power and money makes it difficult for watchdogs to tackle collaboration, he added. There are about 4,600 registered and 4,000 illegal coalmines in Shanxi province. Shi Xueai, the vice-Party secretary of Linfen city (in Shanxi) said that more than 100 officials have been punished for collaboration with coalmine owners. (From China Daily 12/11/05)

Cultural relics to be protected-in south-north water diversion project

Underground ancient tombs and sites along the central and eastern routes of China's south-to-north water diversion are to be protected. The central government has earmarked 50 million yuan (US$6.6 million) for the protection of 45 major cultural heritage sites. Two of the sites are under national level protection similar to the Great Wall remains of the Yan State in the Warring States Period (475 BC to 221 BC). More than 200,000 sq metres of archaeological excavation will start next year.

The south-north water diversion project consists of three canals, each more than 1,200 kilometres across the eastern, central and western parts of China. To alleviate the water crisis in the north the eastern canal is expected to supply water to Shandong province by 2007 and the central canal to Beijing by 2010. The two canals will affect a large number of precious cultural relics as they pass through the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage says that at least 788 cultural heritage sites will be affected by the project. (From China Daily 15/11/05)

Change comes from within

The political rehabilitation of former party chief Hu Yaobang is encouraging the progressive wing of the communist Party-even though there is little indication that leaders are about to ease hard-line policies. Hu Yaobang was the most liberal leader that the party has produced. Whilst party chief, he apologised for the actions of the party in Tibet. He even proposed that Chinese use knives and forks instead of chopsticks for reasons of hygiene. He called on Deng Xiaoping, his mentor to go into full retirement. However he was forced to step down as party chief in 1987 for refusing to crack down on student demonstrations. Hu Yaobang is held in high regard by many of the party faithful, to a large extent, because he rehabilitated some 3 million party members who had been wrongly persecuted during the Anti-Rightist movement of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.

Coincidentally the ceremony to honour him took place three days after the death of party elder and reformer, Ren Zhongyi at the age of 92. Ren was a former party leader of Guangdong province and after his retirement in 1985, he became an outspoken critic of the party's reluctance to introduce political reforms. In April 2000 he wrote an article in the official Guangzhou party paper in which he discussed the 'four cardinal principles' enunciated by Deng Xiaoping , which all party members are meant to observe.

The four principles can be boiled down to one, i.e. maintain the party's leadership. However Ren wrote that it is impossible to preserve the party's leadership without first improving it. Ren said that, 'Improving leadership means that the situation in which no one can constrain the party has to end' and that,' Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the party needs to be supervised not just by the party, but by the people.'

The article was reprinted in two other Chinese publications, suggesting that there are others in position of authority who want to disseminate those subversive ideas. In the long run, change in China is more likely to come from critics within rather than from outside. (From South China Morning Post 23/11/05)

Chinese medical institutions

China has nearly 300,000 different kinds of medical institutions. In 2004, the number of beds in all medical institutions was 3.27 million-an average of 3.1 beds for every 1,000 people (the figure was 3.6, 0.8 and 1.7 respectively for the USA, India and Nigeria). Medical staff totalled 5.25 million, an averaged of 1.5 licensed doctors for every 1,000 people (2.7, 0.4 and 0.2 respectively for the USA, India and Nigeria). In addition China has 880,000 rural doctors and medical workers.

Since 1978, China's medical system made some progress, but reform has not been successful according to an authoritative Chinese research institute and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Medical costs in China are too high for most people and health care is far from thorough. In China, urban employees are now covered by medical insurance; whilst in the past medical service was free costs covered by the government. The most common complain is that it is now difficult and expensive to see a doctor.

For many Chinese, getting the necessary medical treatment for serious ailments can siphon off needed income and even life savings. When the money dries up, so does the medical treatment and it can become a matter of life and death. China's medical system is at a crossroad. Debates are going on about whether hospitals should be private and profit driven or subsidised by the government.

At present, China's medical system includes basic and supplemented medical insurance, free medical treatment covered by the government and commercial medical insurance. Currently about 130 million urban workers are covered by basic medical insurance and 50 million enjoy free medical service at state expense.

In 2003, an experiment of a new type of rural cooperative medical treatment was initiated in some counties in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. It raises funds from central and local governments as well as farmers on a voluntary basis and mainly provides subsidies for critical illness. The number of farmers participating has reached 156 million this year-17% of the total rural population. The experiment will be enlarged during 2006 and will be practised nationwide in 2007. (From Beijing Review 22/9/05)

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

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