China News - Spring 2011

From the British Press

Chinese schools excel in league table

A survey carried out on 15 year-year-olds by the highly respected Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) showed Far-eastern schools to excel in the three subjects selected, whilst Britain slumped to 28th place in Maths, 25th in reading and 15th in science. Shanghai schools came first in each of the three categories. Education secretary Michael Gove commented that the previous Labour government had not produced 'value for money' despite massive investment over the last 13 years.

The most significant feature was the rating of Shanghai; this is the first time that Chinese mainland schools have taken part. Andreas Schleicher, head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that, in the east, they believe it all has to do with hard work. They have a disciplined approach to education and are not afraid to put in long hours in the classroom.

Shanghai did not succeed by throwing money at its educational system. China has a gross domestic product (per head of population) well below the OECD average shows that low national income is not incompatible with strong educational performance. However Shanghai may not be typical of China, as no other part of the country was included in the study.

RankCountryReadingScienceMaths
1Shanghai-China111
2Hong Kong-China433
3Finland326
4Singapore542
5South Korea264
6Japan859
7Canada6810
8New Zealand7713
9Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)23125
10Netherlands101111
21UK251628
23France222722

Figures in the table were compiled from OECD data. Interesting to note Singapore's high rating; the population comprises over 70% ethnic Chinese. (From The Independent 8/12/10)

Hu Jintao State visit to US

This was the first state visit to the US by a Chinese leader in 13 years and was intended to improve relations after a year of tensions over trade and diplomacy. Obama raised the issue of human rights in China during a press conference. Mr Hu replied that 'China is a country with a huge population and is also a developing country at a crucial stage of reform. In this context, China still faces many challenges in economic and social development. And s lot still needs to be done in terms of human rights'. But he also reminded Americans that while China is prepared to discuss human rights with the US, it would be on the basis of mutual respect and the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs. (From The Guardian 20/1/11)

Limiting Beijing cars?

The prospect of a plan to manage Beijing's traffic by restricting the number of new cars has unleashed a four-day frenzy of form-filling as 100,000 people applied for new license plates. By the time the application process closes next week, Beijing may well have filled most of its 240,000-plate quota for 2011 in only eight days, car dealers say.

Beijing's 'traffic-thinning plan follows a year in which more than 1,900 cars were put onto the road every day. A raft of rule changes which came into effect on 1 January include a rush-hour ban on all vehicles not registered in the city and restrictions that limit the movement of cars to particular days of the week. Beijing issued about 720,000 new licenses in 2010 but will issue only about a third of this number this year. The new system sets up a lottery for license plates and 20,000 will be issued each month; losers will be automatically entered into the following month's draw. (From The Times 6/1/11)

Chinese surgeons give sight to blind girl

A girl of four who has been blind since birth can see her parents for the first time after travelling to China for a medical operation. Izabelle Evans can now see up to 90cm (three feet) in front of her after stem cell treatment at Qingdao Chengyang People's Hospital in China. Her parents said nothing could beat the feeling the first time their daughter saw them and the results were better than they could ever have dreamed of. Izabelle was born with septo optic displasia and the family launched an appeal which raised £50,000. The medical procedure involves injecting the spinal canal with cells taken from the umbilical chords of healthy babies which then rebuild the optic nerves. The parents will be monitoring events for six months as the stem cells continue to work. (From Metro 25/12/10)

Chinese tourists

Chinese tourists to Europe can visit France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and now, more recently, Switzerland on a single visa because these countries all lie within the Schengen Area. This is a border-free zone and simplifies the paperwork and preparations. Switzerland joined the Schengen club in 2008 and the number of Chinese visitors soared.

At present, the UK is not in the Schengen club and is in 22nd place for the number of Chinese tourists - Germany by comparison is in 10th place. Mr Cameron is calling for promoting Britain's heritage and a Chinese tour organiser based in Paris has said that half of the Chinese tourists in Europe would head to London on the Eurostar if Britain followed Switzerland into the Schengen Area. The Chinese are fascinated that such a small island could run such a large empire and actually started the Opium wars. (From The Economist 18-31/12/10)

China going in right direction

According to the Pew Research Centre, some 87% of Chinese think their country is going in the right direction. The survey shows that 50% of Brazilians believe their county is on the right lines, as do 45% of Indonesians. However the figure for Americans is only 30%, 31% for British and 26% for the French. Companies, meanwhile, are investing in 'emerging markets' and side-lining the developed world. 'Go east, young man', seems to be the rallying cry of the next century. (From 'Leaders' in The Economist 18/12/10)

Jaguar/Ineos deals with China

Jaguar Land Rover has pledged to increase its sales to China, the government said on the occasion of the visit of Chinese Vice-premier, Li Keqiang who is in the UK with a delegation of business and political leaders. The company is owned by India's Tata Motors and is set to sell about 40,000 cars, worth more than £1 billion, into the fast growing Chinese market this year. In all, British and Chinese companies linked deals worth about £2.6 billion including a deal between the privately-owned chemical firm Ineos and Petrochina. Refining joint ventures will be set up at the Lavera refinery in France and Grangemouth in Scotland. (From The Independent 11/1/11)

PetroChina will be taking a 50% stake in the two oil refineries and have joint control with Ineos, Britain's biggest private company by turn-over. The cash injection into Ineos will significantly reduce its seven billion euro (£5.8 billion) debt pile. PetroChina said that the deal was part of its plan to build a broader business platform in Europe and to become a leading international energy company. (from the Times 11/1/11)

China enters into joint venture in Canada

PetroChina has bought a 50/50 joint venture with Encana, a shale gas company in Canada costing $5.4 billion. Although investors and traders believe that PetroChina has overpaid for the stake, analysts believe that the deal is shrewd because one breakdown of the deal suggests that it could ultimately make it cheaper than the gas it brings in from Australia.

Over the next few years, PetroChina and Encana will tap the one trillion cubic feet of proven shale gas riches beneath the Cutbank Ridge region of British Columbia. The project includes 3,400km worth of pipelines, judged by analysts to represent about 70% of the price.

Although, the deal requires the official approval of governments on both sides, Canada has appeared increasingly relaxed about large resource deals involving Chinese companies. There are even discussions about a Chinese financed pipeline that will pump oil from the oil-sands heartland of Alberta to the Pacific coast where it can be shipped to China. This is another step in the reduction of the dependence on coal in China. (From The Times 11/2/11)

China talks over rival to the Panama canal China is in talks to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, which would link Colombia's Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail. Chinese and Colombian officials say talks are in an advanced stage over a 791km railway and expansion of the Pacific port of Buenaventura. The $7.6 billion project would be funded by the Chinese Development Bank and operated by China Railway Group and would move up to 40million tonnes of cargo from Columbia's heartland to the Pacific. Priority would be coal for China. (From The Times 14/2/11)

Pandas - new zoo celebrities

Tian Tian and Yangguang, a breeding pair of giant pandas yesterday became the highlight of a four-day visit by China's Vice-Premier, Li Keqiang. China agreed to give the animals to Edinburgh Zoo for ten years as part of a deal between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the China Wild-life Conservation Association. The British government said that the animals would boost research, conservation and tourism in Scotland and Britain.

The staff at Edinburgh Zoo cannot wait for the animals to arrive because last year lower-than-expected visitor numbers meant the zoo had to make drastic cost cutting measures. When Adelaide Zoo leased pandas from China, visitors increased by 70%; a similar increase in Edinburgh could increase ticket sales by £1.5 million.

Tian Tian means 'sweetness' and Yangguang means 'sunshine'. They will be the first pandas to be kept in a British zoo since Bao Bao and Ming Ming were favourites at London Zoo. Bao Bao left in 1991, whilst Ming Ming went back to China in 1994. London Zoo has kept several pairs of pandas since 1938. Some became television celebrities such as Chi-Chi who was acquired in 1958 for £12,000. Attempts were made to mate her with An-An from Moscow Zoo, the only other panda outside China in at the time. This attracted international attention, but she died without having a cub. (From The Times 11&15/1/11)

Chinese rein in Spain

Li Keqing, China's Vice-premier, agreed a series of business deals with Spain and pledged to buy another six billion euros (£5 billion) of Spanish sovereign debt this year. This is about 16% of the additional cash Spain is likely to need to raise this year from the international debt markets, assuming some big privatisations can also be pulled off. It is estimated that China holds about 10% of all the national debt issued by Spain. China has also made public commitments to buy debt issued by Greece and Portugal.

A senior banker has said that China wants the Eurozone to hold together, because China wants to have a credible alternative to the dollar. Only a small amount of China's giant foreign exchange reserves needs to be deployed in propping up the periphery countries to ensure that the euro holds together. (From The Telegraph 9/1/11)

Africa now one of world's growth regions

An analysis by The Economist finds that over the ten years to 2010, no fewer than six of the world's fastest growing economies were in sub-Sahara Africa. Of the BRIC's (Brazil, Russia, India and China, the subject of much attention), only China was represented. The leader was Angola, with China in second place with five other economy 'sprinters', namely Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and Rwanda, all with about 8.0% annual growth rates.

In the next five year period to 2015, China is expected to be in first place with an annual growth rate of 9.5%, followed by India (8.2%) and seven African countries (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria) with annual growth rates of between 8.1% to 6.8%. Africa's fortunes have largely been driven by China's surging demand for raw materials and higher commodity prices along with other factors. In addition, the continent has benefitted from foreign direct investment, especially from China, as well as foreign aid and debt relief. Urbanisation and rising incomes have fuelled faster economic growth in domestic demand and economic management has also improved. (From The Economist 8/1/11)

China's booming trade with Africa

China said yesterday that its two-way trade with Africa had increased by nearly 45% in a year to hit a record $114.81 billion (£75 billion), highlighting a trend that could be helping to transform the world's poorest continent. Beijing said that economic ties with Africa had recovered from a dip in 2009 due to the global financial crises but would now grow even faster. In 1992 two-way trade between China and Africa stood at just $1 billion, but Chinese demand for oil, gas, iron ore and other raw materials for its rapidly growing economy has spurred trade and investments in Africa in recent years. A Chinese government report says growth is likely to gain traction in the coming years - 'economic and trade cooperation' is bright between the two sides. Beijing is encouraging Chinese companies to invest in Africa in the effort to diversify China's economy, which is driven by exports. China's investment in Africa has largely targeted oil, gas and mining but is expanding to manufacturing, real estate, infrastructure and other sectors.

Some Westerners have criticised the deals, quoting transparency and human rights aspects, but African governments have defended China's position. Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, said, 'China is there discussing with the brothers and sisters in Africa to create a mutually beneficial kind of relationship...different from former western colonists (who simply took) things by force. (From The Guardian 24/12/10)

Minimum wage to be increased in China

Beijing has announced a 21% rise in the minimum wages set by provinces from next year. Every municipal authority in the country has already raised its minimum wage this year; the most recent were only six months ago. Minimum wages in China date from China's Labour Law of 1994 and ensure that low-paid workers have enough to live on. The latest double digit rise in minimum wage will make exports more expensive and stimulate demand in China for imported goods. A rise in domestic living standards is what the Chinese economy needs and what the rest of the world wants China to attempt. However, standards of living in China have been squeezed by inflation, for example, food price inflation is running at 10%. (From The Times 29/12/10)

Britain and EU clash on arms sales to China

The British Government was on collision course with Brussels last night after the EU foreign affairs chief recommended reform of Europe's 20-year embargo on selling arms to China. This marked the first sharp public disagreement between David Cameron and Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the Labour Peer who acts as the EU's High Representative, effectively its foreign minister. It came as Li Keqiang, the man tipped as a possible future leader of China, used the third day of his visit to call for Britain's help in lifting controls on high-tech exports - although he steered clear of calling for an end to the weapons ban. There is division amongst the EU's 27 members over lifting the ban, with Britain opposed to relaxation and France and Spain leading calls for it to be scrapped. There is believed to be growing support for abolishing the arms embargo since a lot of countries are starting to rely on China for their economic performance and especially since China started to buy Greek and Spanish bonds. (From The Times 12/1/11)

General Electric China deal

General Electric (of the USA), has agreed a string of energy, aviation and rail projects with China worth at least $2.1 billion in sales. The deals struck during President Hu Jintao's visit to the US, include the supply of 50 gas turbines, set to generate $500 million in revenue over five years and a $100 million clean coal technology project. (From The Times 19/1/11)

Acupuncture stops brain sensing pain

MRI scans indicate that acupuncture works directly on the brain to reduce the amount of pain we feel. Apparently it not only works on a psychological level as a placebo, but limits the activity in parts of the brain which process pain. Experimenters looked at brain scans of 18 volunteers who were given mild electric shocks first without acupuncture and then while having needles put into the toes, below the knee and near the thumb. The researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany then compared MRI scan images which can measure the small metabolic changes which can take place in active parts of the brain to see whether the responses to the shocks differed.

The results were presented by Dr Nina Theysohn at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture. Last year, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence appeared to endorse the treatment by saying that doctors should use acupuncture to help reduce back pain. (From The Daily Telegraph 30/11/10)

China-India hotline

This 'emergency communication route' was activated this week when Wen Jiabao, Chinese Premier met his counterpart Manmohan Singh, in Delhi. This was Mr Wen's first visit to Delhi in five years and he came with a 300-strong business delegation and signed $16 billion worth of deals. This was more than half as much again as that managed by American companies following President Obama's recent visit. (From The Times 17 & 20/12/10)

Expansion of China's aviation industry Despite having 43 airlines, domestic Chinese carriers account for only 46% of the country's international passenger market and only 30% of the international cargo market. Recent comments from policymakers in Beijing suggest that the government is absolutely convinced that it needs big recognisable global airlines. Last week the Civil Aviation Administration of China set out a blueprint for a spectacular state-backed expansion of the aviation sector. Over the next five years, China will invest more than £150 billion in an attempt to serve the national economy and the public. It is likely that 45 new airports will be built and the fleets of the 35 state-owned airlines will be increased by a total of 700 new aircraft. (From The Times 28/2/11)

From the Chinese press

Corruption sweep in China

A white paper entitled 'China's Efforts to Combat Corruption and Build a Clean Government' was issued by the Information Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, on 29 December. A summary of the White Paper includes the following items; unswervingly pushing forward the undertaking of combating corruption and building a clean government; providing a leadership system and working mechanism for combating corruption and building a clean government; a legal framework for combating corruption and building a clean government; a power restraint and supervisory system; prevention of corruption through system reform and institutional innovation; handling cases of corruption in accordance with law and discipline, education in clean government and construction of the culture of integrity and international exchanges and cooperation in combating corruption.

China adheres to the rule of law as a fundamental principle and continuously promotes legalization and standardisation in the fight against corruption and the building of a clean government. From 2003 to 2009, prosecutors investigated more than 240,000 cases of embezzlement, bribery, dereliction of duty and rights infringements, according to the white paper. Also 69,200 cases of commercial bribery, involving 16.59 billion yuan in total, were investigated from 2005 to 2009. In 2009, some 7,036 officials were held responsible for making serious mistakes in decision making, breach of duty and failing to manage subordinates. The white paper quotes statistics which say that 83.8% of Chinese thought corruption was reduced in 2010 - up from 68.1% in 2003. (From Beijing Review 6/1/11)

E-Waste recycling

Offenders against China's new regulations on electronic junk, which became effective on 1 January, could face fines of up to 500,000 yuan ($75,760). This is an effort to promote an environmentally friendly economy. The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection has introduced a set of supplementary guidelines for regulation implementation, which specify rules and procedures regarding issues such as recyclers' qualifications and government subsidies to e-waste recycling initiatives. It is estimated that nearly 30 million units of televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and computers are discarded in China each year. In the past they have been simply burnt or soaked in strong acid and hence caused severe pollution of the environment. (From Beijing Review 6/1/11)

Controlling pollution targets met

China met pollution targets ahead of schedule for two major air and water indices. The index for sulphur dioxide dropped 13.14% by 2009 compared to 2005 levels. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) index - a measure of water pollution - decreased 9.66% by 2009 from 2005 levels and in addition, dropped a further 2.39% in the first half of this year. The Chinese government set out to reduce COD and sulphur dioxide levels by 10% of 2005 levels by 2010. Environmental protection authorities will add two more items to the major pollutant monitoring list in the next five years - ammoniacal nitrogen, a major water pollutant, and nitrogen oxides, major air pollutants. (From Beijing Review 18/11/10)

Wind power to expand in China

By the end of 2010 China had the highest wind power capacity in the world, having just overtaken the US. China installed 16 gigawatts (gw) of new wind power in 2010, growing 62% year on year to make its total 41.8 gw. This wind power capacity will save 31.3 million tons of coal and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 90 million tons. China is to continue to build wind power capacity and will reach 55 gw this year. By 2015, the figure will be 100 gw, with 200 gw reached by 2020. (From Beijing Review 27/1/11)

Trial property tax

Chongqing and Shanghai became the first regions to trial the long-awaited property tax on 28 January. The move came after the State Council, China's cabinet, announced new measures to cool off the red-hot housing market. They include higher down payments, home purchasing restrictions in more cities and annual price control targets for newly-built homes. In Chongqing, the tax rate is between 0.5% and 1.2% depending on values. In Shanghai, the rate is between 0.4 and 0.6% according to house price. (From Beijing Review 10/2/11)

British royal wedding

Chinaware for the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton were unveiled by the manufacturer in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on 10 January 2011. (From Beijing Review 20/1/11)

China excels at the Asian Games

China topped the medal table by a wide margin at the 16th Asian Games which have just finished in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. It was the most contested sports meeting in the Asian Games' 59-year history. There were 28 Olympic sports, 14 non-Olympic sports and 476 events in total.

Medal leadersGoldSilverBronze
China19911998
South Korea766591
Japan487494
Iran201425
Kazakhstan141733
India141733

(From Beijing Review 9/12/10)

Freeway extension

China built 33,000 km of new freeways (motorway) over the past five years bringing the country's total to 74,000 km, said Li Shenglin, China's Minister of Transport on 28 December. This is still short of the 100,000 km in the US, the longest in the world. In addition, China built 639,000 km of new roads over the same five year period, with 527,000 km built in rural areas. This brought China's total road length to well over 3.98 million km. (From Beijing Review 6/1/11)

Beijing whistle-blowing

If Chinese people believe a judge or court official has acted in a corrupt manner, they can now provide a tip-off online and then see how their tip-off develops. All provincial courts on China's mainland have launched websites to collect tips against corrupt judges following the launch of the 'tip off' website by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), according to a SPC statement issued on 9 February. The statement also said that 'This is an important move to facilitate public supervision and intensify a crackdown on corruption in the court system.

The SPC website, jubao.court.gov.cn, opened in May 2009. Provincial courts have begun to set up similar websites this month and they will be linked to the SPC website. The courts' disciplinary watchdogs are required to respond to the tip-offs on the websites within 10 working days, online. (From Beijing Review 17/2/11)

Legal aid surge

The funds for legal aid surged by 32.8% to one billion yuan ($152 million) in 2010 as central and provincial governments stepped up support. Currently there are 3,374 legal aid organisations and nearly 200,000 lawyers, 80,000 grassroots law workers and tens of thousands of volunteers engaged in legal aid in China. (From Beijing Review17/2/11)

Small and medium enterprises (SME)

Lending to SMEs rose faster than lending to large enterprises last year, highlighting the government's efforts to optimise the loan structure according to the People's Bank of China. Outstanding loans to small enterprises jumped 29.3% year on year to 7.55 trillion yuan ($1.15 trillion). Those to medium enterprises were up by 17.8% to 10.13 trillion yuan (1.54 trillion), while the figures for large enterprises were 13.3%, 13.42 trillion ($2.04 trillion). Nearly 99% of Chinese enterprises are SMEs and are responsible for 60% of GDP. (From Beijing Review17/2/11)

Travel boom in China

Chinese tourists made a total of 57.39 million outbound trips in 2010, which was an increase of 20.4% over the previous year, according to the Director of China's National Tourism Administration at a national tourism work conference on 18 January 2011. In-bound trips by overseas tourists to the mainland hit 134 million trips, an increase of 5.8% over last year. Domestic trips made by Chinese tourists topped 2.1 billion - up by 10.6% over 2009. Revenue from overseas tourists reached $45.8 billion - an increase of 15.5% over last year. (From Beijing Review 27/1/11)

'Tiger Mothers'

'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' by Amy Chua, a Chinese-American and a Yale Law School professor, has captured global attention. Are mothers in China all 'tiger like?' Chinese style parenting is comparatively strict and old- fashioned. Chinese parents tend to make decisions for their children and prefer to use punishment rather than encouragement when children fail to meet high expectations. Recently however the situation has begun to change.

As China has opened to the world, Chinese people have reflected on the pros and cons of Chinese style parenting and have explored Western education and parenting styles. Western educational concepts have gradually achieved some acceptance among Chinese families. Many have realised that if pushed too hard, their children may become depressed. They try to find a middle way and as a result more Chinese parents are encouraging their children, as well as respecting their choices.

A general consensus amongst Chinese is that the old-fashioned way should be reformed. However getting top grades at school, leads to a top university and to good jobs and since most urban families have only one child, some mothers, against their natural wishes, feel that they have no choice but being tiger mothers. (From Beijing Review 24/2/11)

Tourists to Taiwan

The number of mainland, tourists visiting Taiwan in 2010 is expected to reach one million, said Yang Ruizong, head of the Beijing Office of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association. More emphasis will be placed on their safety after some mainland tourists were killed in a landslide triggered by typhoon Megi. As of 4 November 2010, a total of 979,000 tourists had visited Taiwan, with an average of 4,000 per day. This figure does not include members of business delegations to Taiwan from the mainland. (From Beijing Review 18/11/10)

Chinese pensions increase

China will raise the pensions for retired enterprise employees and increase living allowances for college students from impoverished families to help against increased inflation.

The State Council decided on 22 December to raise the retired enterprise employees' pensions about 10% from 2010 levels. This is about 140 yuan ($21.2) per person per month on average, beginning on 1 January 2011. There are more than 50 million retired enterprise employees in China. This is the sixth consecutive year China has raised these pensions.

In addition 4.3 million needy college students will get state allowances increased from 2,000 yuan ($303) per year to 3,000 yuan ($455) per year. The State Council also decided to extend tuition waivers to 4.4 million vocational school students and provide 1,500 yuan ($227) to each of China's 4.82 million needy high school students on an annual basis. (From Beijing Review 30/12/10)

Nursing home shortage

A senior civil affairs official admitted that China is running short of nursing homes for senior citizens as society rapidly ages. The total number of beds in existing nursing homes stands at 266,200 which is equal to 1.59% of the total number of senior citizens. This ratio, 1.59% is lower than in other developing countries - 2% to 3% and much less than developed countries where the figure is 5% to 7%. Of the 167 million seniors in China, 11.4% were older than 80 years at the end of 2009 and most of them are not able to live independently, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. (From Beijing Review 18/11/10)


Sino File is compiled by Walter Fung.

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