The weekly newsmagazine's feature included China's Premier, Wen Jiabao and described him as part of a leadership of technocrats rather than revolutionary military veterans. He is said to be a modest, even-tempered, practical person who gets things done by consensus. Wen supports continued economic reform and growth, but also calls for greater emphasis on social equality for those who have been left out of the 'economic miracle'. He has expressed deep concern for the plight of ordinary peasants and labourers, which has given him the image of being something of a populist. However he has taken a firm line on Taiwan but says that China's foreign policy is a 'path of peaceful development-the natural choice for China'.
The same issue of Time features China's richest man, Huang Guanyu, aged 36, a retail electronics entrepreneur. At the age of 16, he set up a roadside stall in Beijing selling radios and other products made near his hometown in south China. He beat rivals on price, expanded rapidly and now has 420 stores in his Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings Ltd, a company which is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. He is worth $1.7 billion. Although he is China's largest retailer, he only has 5% of the market and hopes to add a further 200 stores this year.
Also featured is Ang Lee, who directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This Chinese language movie captured the whole world. Lee, born and raised in Taiwan, had the ability to combine Chinese ways and culture with Western methods and Western film making techniques. 'He was able to erase cultural lines and create characters that drew in an audience no matter what language they spoke. He has a huge influence on the lives of younger film-makers and actors'. Note;-The entry was written by the actress, Ziyi Zhang, who was chosen by Lee to star in Crouching Tiger... although she had at the time only been in one previous film-The Road Home. (From Time 8/5/06)
A Shanghai trading company account manager spends about 8,000 yuan (about 90% of her income) every month on her credit card, but she always pays up in full at the end of the month. She says she uses credit cards for convenience, not to mire herself in debt. Her family tradition is to save money first, then spend.
In the past two years, the number of credit cards issued in China has jumped by a factor of 13 to 40 million but the number of card holders who 'roll over' the balance (don't pay off in full) is only 2% compared to 56% in the USA. Consequently the card companies earn little income from interest.
Household savings in China represent 16% of the nations GDP compared to -3.5% in the USA according to the International Monetary Fund. China's frugal mentality goes back centuries; Confucius said, 'He who does not economise will have to agonise.' However, credit card revenue in China is forecast to rise to more than $5 billion by 2010 from $500 million last year according to McKinsey and in addition, 'major profitability' is anticipated within a decade as cardholders become accustomed to rolling over their bills. At present however, Chinese borrowing habits are very conservative. Analysts believe older consumers do not build up credit cards debts because they have known poverty, but the banks may succeed with to younger people who have grown up in a more customer-orientated society. (From The International Herald Tribune 7/4/06)
The first captive-born giant panda will be released into the wild today. His name is Xiang Xiang, meaning, 'Lucky' and his whereabouts will be monitored by GPS satellite.
Lucky, who is four years old has been carefully chosen and prepared for this 'adventure'. He was selected for 'habitat training' at the age of two and he was at first given an area of five acres to acclimatise himself to the wide open spaces. Following this, the area was expanded by a factor of ten. He was taught how to build a den, forage for food and mark his territory.
Lucky was raised at the Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre in Sichuan. The centre was established by the Chinese government and the World Wide Fund for Nature (now WWF), which has long made the panda its symbol. However the WWF later pulled out and says that the focus should be on preserving panda habitat, half of which has been lost to logging, agriculture and human development within the last 30 years.
The WWF representative in China, Dermot O'Gorman said that he would be watching the release with interest. He said that this is a significant event for the long-term survival of pandas, but there needs to be continued efforts to protect the habitats in which they live.
Tough penalties have greatly reduced the threat from poachers and a logging ban in 1998, after serious flooding in the Yangtse basin has also contributed to better survival conditions. (From The Telegraph 28/4/06)
China is to build a new maglev train route between Shanghai and Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province. Hangzhou is a leading tourist destination with scenic hills, fragrant tea, ancient pagodas and tranquil West Lake. It is 105 miles from Shanghai and the new maglev train will reduce the present two hour journey to 26 minutes. The maglev uses magnetic levitation, which means no friction because the train does not actually touch the track. The cost is estimated at $4.3 billion (£2.5 billion) and will run at speeds of up to 270 miles per hour-301 mph has been achieved in trials. It is likely to use 'some German technology' (Transrapid International-a consortium of ThyssenKrupp, Siemens and the German Government) but the equipment would be mainly built in China. No dates have yet been given, but the project needs to start soon if completion by 2010 is required. This is when Shanghai hosts the World Expo International exhibition.
The Chinese Government also announced that a new high-speed rail link will be built between Shanghai and Beijing but this will use conventional (wheel) technology. It is expected that the present journey time of 13 hours will be reduced to five with speeds of up to 220 mph to cover the 820 miles. (From The Times 14/3/06)
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has drawn up new rules. Babies names must in future be drawn from a database that excludes thousands of rare Chinese characters, which are sometimes used as names. The deputy director of the ministry has said that their computers cannot handle rare characters-which were previously hand-written. Apparently about 60 million of China's 1.3 billion people have at least one rare character in their name, which makes it difficult to open a bank account or to buy an aircraft ticket. Most Chinese have three characters in their name; the surname and two given names. However, the current vogue is for a single name and the word for 'mighty', 'Wei' for boys is extremely popular. There are comparatively few Chinese surnames and in Beijing alone, more than 3,000 men have the name Li Wei. (In Chinese the surname is written first.) The situation for girls is no better, more than 4,300 have the name 'Wang Jade Orchid.'
Modern Chinese parents often choose words indicating, 'wisdom' or 'brightness' for a son and words representing 'serenity' and 'beauty' for a girl. More traditional parents may consult a fortune-teller who will take into consideration details of the child's birth, such as the time and weather. Before the police database is introduced, the range of words for names is enormous. Ancient poems are a popular source of inspiration and the 18th century Kangxi Dictionary contains 50,000 characters. (From The Times 18/3/06)
Saudi Arabia is considering a strategic oil reserve in China that could be used by Beijing in an emergency. Hu Jintao raised the plan during a meeting with King Addullah in Saudi Arabia. The oil reserve would be situated in a coastal city in south-east China according to a Chinese official. Beijing and Riyadh were discussing feasibility.
Saudi Arabia was China's top oil supplier in 2005 and provided 17.5% of its imports. Since joining the World Trade Organisation in December, Saudi Arabia's economy has opened up and the country is looking for new export opportunities in Asia. The king led a large trade delegation to China in January to develop links with Asian economies to diversify from traditional ties with the USA.
The state oil giant, Saudi Aramco signed a $3.5 billion deal with Exxon Mobil and Sinopec, China's top refiner to expand a refinery in south Fujian province.
President Hu told his hosts that China was ready to help bring stability to the Middle East and his visit is seen as a step towards boosting political and economic ties between China and Saudi Arabia. (From The Telegraph 24/4/06)
Chinese people consume little energy per person compared to westerners. They own 14 vehicles per 1.000 people compared to 783 in the USA. However things are changing fast and crude oil demand is growing by 8% per year. The urban population is growing by the equivalent of a city the size of Birmingham every two weeks. Power generation needs to increase by 80 gigawatts by 2007-equivalent to the entire UK output. Six of the world's 10 most polluted cities are in China and most of the electricity is produced by burning coal.
Because of these factors, China is making renewable energy a priority. It has enacted a law in January 2006, that aims to see 10% of energy coming from renewable resources by 2010 and 15% by 2020. Wind turbines are being built in China by Danish and Indian companies. Shanghai's city government has launched a scheme to install solar panels on 100,000 buildings.
In addition to diversifying power generation, China plans to reduce its reliance on oil. The country has the world's third largest coal reserves and coals-to-liquid technology would enable it to be used for transport. Not all of the schemes will be profitable, but with China's political will fuelling them, they make fascinating investment opportunities. (Information from Merrill Lynch New Energy Technology Trust-From The Daily Telegraph 25/2/06)
North west (of England) travel company MyTravel is to launch package holidays to Sanya, regarded as China's premier beach resort. It is on Hainan Island, south-west China and is 15 hours flying time from Britain, including a two hour stopover In Bahrain. MyTravel's subsidiary tour operator, Airtours will fly from Manchester and Gatwick. Sanya is less than four hours flying time from Beijing. (From M.E.N. Life (Manchester Evening News) 22/3/06)
Where do the UK's overseas students come from? (top 10 countries)
This makes a total of 69,335 Chinese students, when China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are added together. Furthermore, a high proportion of the Malaysian students (11,475) are probably of Chinese descent. (From The Times 11/4/06)
NB. Numbers of students from China are reported to be falling as China develops its own universities.
A ranking of the world's biggest container ports show the importance of Asia as a growing power in world trade. The figures refer to 'millions of teu', which is the volume of a container measuring 6.10 metres long by 2.44 metres wide by 2.59 metres high.
|Hong Kong, China||21.9|
|Busan, South Korea||11.4|
|Los Angeles, USA||7.3|
(From Newsweek 10-17/4/06)
At present China's banks have never looked better. The results of China Construction Bank, the third largest reported, on 6 April, operating profits up by 17% boosted by robust loan growth in a growing economy. Share prices have risen over 50% since listing in the Hong Kong last October. It was the first of the four big state banks to do so. The smaller Bank of Communications has doubled its share price since last year. Now two more banks the Industrial and Commercial Bank and Bank of China are keen to sell shares and foreign investors are equally keen to buy.
The banks look healthy largely because of capital injections initially from the Chinese government and also latterly from foreign strategic partners and the capital markets. However, the bad loans cured by monetary infusions may be being replaced by other new problems. The biggest threat is overcapacity in almost every industry. For example steel, a big client of the state banks produced profits of 125 billion yuan last year-up from 5 billion in 1999. This triggered huge investment in new plant over five years worth 650 billion-about 66% of it financed by the banks. Today, China has excess steel making capacity of 125 million tonnes (a third of output) which, in the first two months of this year, has caused plunging profits, 75% lower than a year before. (Figures from the Institute for International Economic, Washington). Many steelmakers will find it hard to pay back the loans taken to finance their expansion. Overcapacity and declining profits are repeated in many other industries including power generation, cement, coke, aluminium, car components and luxury property.
At the March meeting of China's parliament, Wen Jiabao pointed out the risks of the build up of inventories. However, the government is to spend two trillion yuan on infrastructure which include; new railways, including several new subway lines in Shanghai in the next five years; 24,000 km (15,000 miles) of new motorway by 2010 and to build 21 new nuclear power stations by 2020 (to add to the existing nine).
Much of this will be financed by banks and not all with state guarantees. An economist at Credit Suisse believes much of it will not be commercially viable. The banks cannot rely on consumer spending to help. Although experts have been hailing the emergence of the Chinese consumer for years, net new household borrowing declined in 2005 and accounted for less than 15% of net bank lending. Also for the first time in nine years, the share of bank loans to householders failed to grow. (From The Economist 8/4/06)
China will spend 140 billion yuan on airports between 2006 and 2010-more than the total for the last 15 years. The total number will increase from 142 to 190 and work is also underway to expand the three largest, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Airports at Chengdu, Kunming, Xi'an, Wuhan and Shenyang will be turned into regional hubs. Yunnan province is expected to build five new airports in anticipation of a tourist boom. The boom in airports should benefit international design and construction companies including British names such as Norman Foster and Arup.
Last year, a mega-terminal opened at Guanzhou which will help double capacity to 27 million passengers a year by 2009 and a second runway was opened at Pudong, Shanghai (capacity 35 million passengers a year. The terminal building at Beijing under construction and designed by Norman Foster is expected to be the world's biggest. However even after the new facilities are built, the 1.3 billion people of China will be served by 190 airports compared to 10,000 in the USA which has less than a quarter of China's population.
The director-general of the CBI on a recent visit to Beijing, delighted at the success of British firms said, 'You never get a complaint in Britain that China is stealing our jobs. Our idea is to get China wealthy as quickly as possible so they can pay for all the value-added goods and services we can provide.'
Earlier this year, China became popular with the aircraft industry when it said that it would buy 100 planes and recruit 1,000 pilots every year until 2010. However, concern has been expressed about the environment because planes are already responsible for 10% of ozone depletion. (From The Guardian 10/5/06)
Experts form the Palace Museum and Peking University showed their findings at the Great Hall of the People in a ceremony held by the Chinese Golf Association. They included copies of four paintings showing the Mongol emperors of China and his court putting balls with clubs, into holes in the ground designated by small coloured flags. Sticks produced from the paintings were shown and they looked like golf clubs. A rulebook written in 1282 is claimed to be very similar to the rules set by St Andrews in 1754.
It is speculated that golf was spread to Europe by Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes. However, the Times golf correspondent believes that the scene in the painting bears very little resemblance to golf. The painting is in a domestic setting with a table and chair nearby. He comments that the Chinese will claim to have invented haggis next! (From The Times 27/4/06)
The increasing wealth is stretching waistlines and threatening an epidemic of diabetes, cancer and other conditions that could kill up to 80 million people in the next 10 years health officials have said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that more needs to be done to combat 'lifestyle diseases' which already claim more lives than malaria, Aids and tuberculosis.
In China, the increased number of overweight children and adults in urban areas shows that people are eating Western sugar-laced foods. Lung cancer is also a major killer and smoking is banned on transport and some public places. Traditional Chinese food is wheat-based varieties in the north and rice in the south. These are healthy nutritious foods, but fast-food restaurants serving oily, fatty foods are springing up all over the cities.
With famine, within living memory, the belief that a fat child is a healthy one is still prevalent. The WHO believes that if nothing is done, a major health problem faces China that will impact on economic growth. It estimates that the new illnesses will cost China £300 billion in the next decade and urges China to do more to stop people smoking and discourage unhealthy eating. (From The Independent 10/5/06)
From next month, the Shanghai underground railway will display verses from Wordsworth, Blake, Michael Bullock and Kathleen Jamie. The poetry from four British poets are part of a cultural exchange between Britain and China-using the world's two most popular languages.
In place of adverts worth thousands of pounds, the Shanghai metro will display British poems on 500 carriage hoardings for at least two months. The Shanghai government employed a literature scholar from Fudan University to assess whether the exchange was appropriate. Next month, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone will launch a similar programme in Shanghai with Wordsworth's, 'Daffodils', Blake's 'Auguries of Innocence', Jamie's, 'The Blue Boat' and Bullock's Butterfly'.
The cultural and education consul of the British Council in Shanghai, Jeff Streeter, said that the Chinese were very cautious. Song Liqiang, the chief of the Shanghai metro Communist Party committee said that they wanted to create a more comfortable environment for the passengers and Mr Streeter said that he wanted the mood to be upbeat. This is in contrast to the poems by Li Bai, Du Pu and Po Chu-I on display in London, which Song Liqiang said are 'always about death'. (From The Guardian 17/3/06)
The City of London is to open its third office in China in Shenzhen-the other two are in Beijing and Shanghai. The Lord Mayor of the City of London, David Brewer, who recently visited Shenzhen is an 'old China hand' who remembers the place 25 years ago when it was a fishing port of 20,000 people. It is now a regional powerhouse with a stock exchange and population of 6 million people. (From The Times 7/3/06)
The Chinese government together with non governmental organisations (NGO) are working together to deal with environmental issues. On 18 January 2005, the (Chinese) State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) suspended 30 major construction projects that violated environmental protection laws. The projects included the Xiluodu Hydropower Station on the Jinshajiang River-a tributary of the upper Yangtze River.
Three days later 56 NGOs published a joint statement in more than 20 mainstream media outlets supporting SEPA's decision and expressed their willingness to be a 'close partner of the government'. There has over the last year, been growing co-operation between environmental NGOs and government agencies and the All-China Environmental Federation was established in April 2005.
Environmental NGOs first found that they could be helped by the government in their 2003 campaign to protect the Nujiang River. A dam project had been approved, but SEPA would not endorse the work. NGOs held meeting and seminars in their campaign against the dam and eventually when, Premier Wen Jiabao became involved in February 2004, the project was suspended.
There are over 2000 environmental organisations in China involving over a million volunteers. The largest with more than 100,000 members is the Friends of Nature (FON). Other organisations are GEV, (Green Earth Volunteers) and (GVB), Global Village of Beijing. However co-operation between the government and NGOs depends much on personal relations between leaders on each side. Areas of co-operation are still limited at present. The government wants the NGOs to focus on issues such as environmental education. (From Beijing Review 19/1/06)
Job fairs with graduates looking for work are held in football stadiums in major cities across China. Police stand by to control the crowds. Meanwhile in Shenzhen, the city government is considering a 23% increase in the minimum wage because factories cannot attract the labour they need, especially in the garment and textile sectors. Such is the contradiction in China's labour market-not enough cheap labour and an oversupply of highly educated people. This peculiar state of affairs is due to demography, economic development and social attitudes.
In Guangdong province there is a shortage of workers aged between 18 to 30, who are single and prepared to live close to the factory and work overtime as required. A study in April found that such rural migrant workers accounted for 68% of employees in manufacturing and 80% of those in construction.
The one child-policy has limited the availability of this sector of the population and the growth rate for workers between 15 and 24 is zero or negative. The pool of young and uneducated workers has already begun to shrink-and yet China still relies on labour-intensive industries for growth.
At the other end of the labour market, there is overproduction. A recent report by the Ministry of Personnel, said that this year, China would need 1.665 million university graduates-a fall of 22% over last year. At the same time, the number of new graduates would rise by 22% to 4.13 million. The 'outlook is not optimistic.' The surplus of graduates is as a result of extraordinary growth in universities since 2000 when they turned out 1.07 million graduates-this year the figure will be four times higher.
There are believed to be two reasons for this. One is because education became a commodity in the late 1990s and universities increased the intake and charged higher fees. Education became very profitable. The other reason is said to be the one child policy because parents concentrate their money on one child and are prepared to spend a larger part of the family savings on his education. Many of the parents were deprived of an education themselves by the Cultural Revolution.
The labour mismatch could cause companies to shift production to low-wage inland provinces or to countries outside China. In addition it may drive Chinese graduates abroad like nurses and dental assistants being actively recruited in Europe. (From The South China Morning Post 8/5/06)
Frequent traffic jams and poor air quality are the bane of many Chinese cities and many Chinese government departments want priority to be given to the development of public transport. At the end of 2005, Wen Jiabao gave his backing and Beijing are to take the lead in implementation. The mayor of Beijing has predicted that within five years, 40% of the local population will be using public transport.
This year, Beijing local government will invest 5.4 billion yuan to improve public transport, roads near to the Olympic facilities and other engineering works-an 11.8% increase over 2005. By 2008, the number of buses meeting the Euro III auto emission standard will exceed 8,000 and more than 90% of the total number (20,000) will use environmentally friendly fuels which will lead to a 76% reduction in the four main air pollutants.
There is no doubt of the potential benefits of the use of public transport, but for it to be actually used, a mindset of 'public transportation first' must be actively cultivated. A city's development also includes other public services, resource conservation and environmental protection. Foreign co-operation with respect to managerial expertise and advance environmental protection technology should be encouraged. (From Beijing Review 30/3/06)
The Cross-Strait Economic and Trade Forum held in Beijing this month was attended by 50 entrepreneurs, scholars and lawmakers from Taiwan as well as senior KMT officials, (the KMT was the ruling party in Taiwan until quite recently). After the forum, President Hu Jintao met Lien Chan, the Honorary Chairman of the KMT and raised suggestions on promoting cross-strait peace and development. This was the second time the two men have met within the last year. Lien Chan was the KMT Chairman until a few months ago.
The result of the forum was a package of 15 new policies and a seven-point joint proposal to promote economic and trade relations across the Taiwan Strait. They are designed to enable the people of Taiwan enjoy the benefits of booming economic growth. They encourage cross-strait direct transport, agriculture, financial and economic exchanges and travel of mainland visitors to Taiwan.
In 2005, trade between the mainland and Taiwan reached $90 billion, about 25% of Taiwan's foreign trade. (From Beijing Review 27/4/06)
China announced yesterday it would stand for a three-year seat even as it acknowledged that much remains to be done to protect the rights of its own people. At the same time, China circulated a note saying, 'China is a developing country with a big population. Much work remains to be done in the field of human rights'.
The 191 nation General Assembly will elect the council's initial 47 members next Tuesday, choosing from 65 nations who have put themselves forwards. To be successful, nations must win at least 96 nation votes. This is a requirement put in place to help keep out human rights abusers who had come to dominate the UN Human Right Commission, the council was created to replace.
The USA, a critic of the old commission, voted against the resolution, which set up the council, saying barriers were still too low to keep rights abusers from winning a seat. However, the resolution was overwhelmingly approved but Washington said that it would not seek a seat this year. The US State Department, in a report on Human rights last year, said that China's human rights record 'remained poor'. This was swiftly rejected by Beijing.
Of the 47 seats, 13 go to African nations, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin American and the Caribbean and seven for the UN grouping of 'Western nations', which includes, Western Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. (From South China Morning Post 4/5/06)
For years much has been written about the plight of Beijing's traditional single story courtyard houses in old lanes which are being destroyed in the capital's development. However, people living in these houses have launched small businesses aimed at foreigners and tourists. Traveller accommodation is available at new backpacker hostels and courtyard hotels offering English fry-up breakfasts and cocktails. Signs outside former private homes now offer laundry services, guided trips to the Great Wall, bicycle hire, and goods including trinkets and authentic Tibetan artwork.
China's society and economy are changing. State owned enterprises are being taken over by new, private owners and in these shifting conditions, many people must look for alternative sources of income. However, the owners of hutongs must preserve the old-style lanes and buildings. This is being done because they realise that tourists will only keep coming if the buildings look traditionally Chinese and if life appears to go on as it traditionally has.
Some so-called China experts (Zhongguo tong) complain that modernity is creeping in at the expense of tradition and areas are becoming too 'touristy' and that tradition is being destroyed. However, people here have always worked hard and they still do-its just that their means of making a living has taken a different course. (From South China Morning Post 1/5/06)
Dozens of people gathered at Liverpool's Pier Head on a cold Monday afternoon to witness the dedication of a plaque to the memory of Chinese seamen who served in the British Merchant Navy in the two world wars. The plaque was thanks to the persistent efforts of a group of children of the Chinese seamen who had married local British women. They referred to themselves as 'Dragons of the Pool'. This piece of history is largely unknown not only to the British but also to the Chinese.
Liverpool saw the first Chinese merchant sailors in the 1850s when a local shipping line, Alfred Holt & Co established a route between Shanghai and Liverpool. The Chinese men established the first Chinatown in Europe.
During the Second World War, up to 20,000 Chinese sailors from Shanghai, Ningbo, Shandong, Hong Kong and Singapore were registered in Liverpool. They constituted a 'pool' of merchant seamen who lived in Liverpool between voyages.
About 300 Chinese sailors married or cohabited with local women and about 900 children were born. After the war, more than 200 of these men were forcibly deported by the British government over a two-day period. They left behind wives who thought they had been deserted. It was not until 2002 when the BBC ran a documentary programme on the incident that the 'Dragons' and their families realised that they had been abandoned all those years ago.
The plaque remembers those who served Britain and those who gave their lives for Britain. It remembers those who were required to leave and pays tribute to the wives and partners who were left in ignorance of what happened to their men and also to the children who never knew their fathers. The plaque inscription end, 'We hope nothing like it will ever happen again. For your memory'.
One 'Dragon' who flew all the way from Canada to be there, said that giving respects to ancestors is very important to her and that you cannot know where you are going until you know where you have come from. Knowing the truth is a very thing and it changed her whole psyche. She is very proud to be Chinese and British.
The 'Dragons of the Pool' are doing further research and hope to record everything in a book. Anyone with information is invited to contact them. (From People's Daily on line 5/4/06).
Sino File is compiled by Walter Fung with some input for From the Chinese Press by Teresa Ray.
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