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China Features
2007/09/25

CAPTIONS:

Harmonious World: China's Ancient Philosophy for the New International Order

1.Chinese president Hu Jintao advocated harmonious world at the UN's 60th anniversary summit in 2005.

2. China hosted the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in November of 2006

3. The Gwadar port in Pakistan, which was supported technically and financially by China, inaugurated in March of 2007.

China grooms "new social stratum" for political arena

4. China's top legislature in June approved the cabinet nomination of Chen Zhu, 54, a Paris-trained scientist with no party affiliation, as the country's new health minister.

         Chen is the first Minsiter without any Party affiliation since China began its reform and opening-up drive in 1978. He is also the second non-Communist Minister after Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology in current Cabinet.

5. Wan Gang, vice chairman of the China Zhi Gong (public interest) Party and president of Shanghai's Tongji University, was named minister of science and technology in April, 2007. He became the first non-Communist party minister of China's State Council in 35 years.

China and Africa build a new partnership on old ties

6. The Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum opened in the Great Hall of the People's in Beijing on Nov. 4, 2006.

7. On Nov. 6, 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika signed a joint statement in Beijing, declaring a strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

8. On Sept. 21, 2006, a worker of the Hisense Group in South Africa was packing television sets.

9. On Nov. 6, 2006, an exhibition of African products was held in the Beijing International Convention Center.

10. A conference on China-African trade and investment cooperation was held in Wuhan of Hubei Province from July 2 to 3, 2007, attracting 49 trade representatives from 21 African countries.

Talking Soft: Common Language Helps Resolve Darfur Issue

11. On June 23, 2007, in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir (right) met with visiting Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Darfur Liu Guijin (left). They exchanged views on the relations between two countries, the Darfur issue and other problems.

12. On May 22, 2007, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Darfur Liu Guijin (right) was shaking hands and talking with a native in a market, which is located in the capital of North Darfur, El Fasher. On that day, Liu Guijin visited Darfur and investigated the situations by himself.

13. On May 25, 2007, in the Ethiopia capital, Addis Ababa, Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao (left), the Rotating President of African Union, Ghana President Kufuor (second from left), Africa Union Commission Chairman Konare (third from left) and Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles took photos together. On the same day, foundation laying ceremony of the African Union conference center, which China helped to build, was held.

Chinese Manufacturers attempt to ditch "cheap" image

14. On May the 9th, 2007, the president of Haier Group Yang Mianmian(the front) is introducing features of a new freezer made by Haier. This catchy mode grabbed much attention at the 2007 international kitchen and bathroom exhibition that held in Las Vegas Convention Center.

15. The Haier resembling line.

16. June 13th, an engineer is checking cars with ACTECO engine in the CHERY workshop. More than 7000 ACTECO engines, co-developed with Austrian AVL Company, have been exported to the North America up to now. And it is estimated that the engine export will reach 25 thousand this year.

17.June 7th 2007, Egyptian audiences are visiting Chinese CHERY stand on an auto exhibition held in Cairo. The 5-day Pan-Arab and Africa auto exhibition attracts more than 30 carmakers including Volkswagon, Toyota and Peuguet. 5 Chinese-brands with 10 models are showing up on the exhibition.

18. The modern shoe-making assembling line in Wenzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang province. Wenzhou's shoe-making companies are focusing on enhancing the quality rather than quantity after the imposition of anti-dumping tariff in the previous year, and take initiative to promote sales in overseas markets. The first ten months in 2006 saw an export volume of $1.704 billion, with a year-on-year increase of 30.11%. The volume exceeds the total export of $1.584 billion in 2005.

China Expects "Intangible Legacy" from Beijing Olympics

19. Volunteers are dressed like Penguins, mascot for Beijing's queuing day, to remind people to wait in line at the airport on Apr. 11, 2007, Beijing, China

20. A college volunteer hands out pamphlets to pedestrians to publicise daily etiquette on March 17, 2007, Beijing, China.

Cooling the Fires of China's Overheating Economy

21. Photo shows Tianjin Dongjiang Free Trade Port Zone under construction. In 2006, cargo throughput amounted to 250.2 million tons in Tianjin Port, making it one of the busiest seaports in the country.

22. On April 18, 2007, a CRH (China Railway High-Speed) bullet train named "Harmony" left central China's Zhengzhou City for Beijing.

23. Photo shows an offshore drilling platform in China's newly discovered Jidong Nanpu oilfield in Bohai Bay, which will significantly boost the country's oil reserves and reduce its reliance on imports.

Farmers in flats, inspectors on the prowl: China's solutions to shrinking farmland

24. Residents at Hongjian Village of Shaoxing County, east China's Zhejiang Province, are playing billiards in front of their new homes. The 200-odd households of former farmers now live in four apartment buildings. The centralized living pattern helped save land of 3.33 hectares.

25. Pigs live in a multi-storey building, drink purified water and take lifts to go upstairs and downstairs at a livestock breeding base in Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. It is believed the new method of raising pigs is able to help save farmland.

26. This is Jiangsu Tieben Iron and Steel Company Limited, a private company that was located in Changzhou City, east China's Jiangsu Province, and occupied nearly 400 hectares of land without goernment approval.

China desperate for financial talents

27. Chairman of Bank of China (BOC) Xiao Gang (Left) and President of BOC Li Lihui (Right) celebrating the BOC listing

         China Construction Bank (CCB), Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China's top three state-owned commercial banks, landed on the capital market.

28. June 2007, examinees are taking CFA tests, Guangzhou.

29. Students attending financial classes, Hangzhou

30. Financial Street, Beijing

31. More than 350 financial institutions gathering around Lu Jiazui Financial District, Shanghai

Chinese Exporters Adapt to the Rising Yuan

32. Vietnamese workers at a wheel hub production line of the Lifan-Vietnam Motorcycle Manufacture in Hung Yen, Vietnam on July 6. After making its first overseas investment in 2002, China's  Chongqing Lifan Group has set up 11 subsidiaries in Vietnam and holds 70 percent of local motorcycle engine market share.

China Looks to Energy Independence

33. The 18,200 MW Three Gorges Hydropower Station is scheduled for full operation in 2009.

34. The first Russia-designed 1060 MW AES-91 pressurized water reactor at Tianwan Nuclear Power Station in Jiangsu started commercial operation on 27 June.

35. The Dabancheng No. 2 Wind Farm in Xinjiang accommodates 157 units of turbines totaling 82.8 MW in capacity. It is one of the earliest and largest wind power generating plants in China.

Tree by tree, China Rolls Back Deserts

39. Chinese President Hu Jintao chats with local officials and farmers on desert control during his inspection tour to Mu Us Desert in northwest China during April 11-14, 2007

40. Uygur farmers in Hotan county, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, prepare saplings during spring.

41.Residents in Minqin, northwest China's Gansu Province, cover sand with stalks before planting tress.

42. Li Kui, a farmer in Xilin Gol, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and his family move away sand from their courtyard after a sandstorm.

The Railway to the "Roof of the World": wealth and worries

43. Tibetan antelopes cross under the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

44. A Tibetan antelope and its protector at the Hoh Xil nature reserve.

45. Tibetan Buddhists pray in front of the Potala Palace.

46. Passengers board a train to pay pilgrimages in Tibet.

47. The Potala Palace

48.Railway bridges protect wetland and vegetation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Combating Climate Change China Goes On the Offensive

49. Hu Jintao and other high-profile state leaders are planting trees in the Beijing Olympic Forest Park on April 1 of 2006.

50. The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion reactor, which replicates the energy generating process of the sun, was tested at the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese  Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province in February 2006.

51. A wind power station in the Keshiketeng Qi in Inner Mongolia.

52. A high-energy consuming, high-pollutant power plant in northwest China's Gansu Province is being torn down on May 16 of 2007.

A Food Revolution In Chinese Army

53.A chef of the People's Liberation Army is in front of a cupboard. The rise of the PLA budget this year helps fund a large-scale renovation of military canteens.

54. PLA chefs are preparing meal. The nutritional and dietary goals are "set rules" that must be met, said Peng Guangli, supply chief with an artillery company.

55/56. Most military canteens are transformed into McDonalds-like dining rooms, containing standard cupboards, plate racks, dishware, tables and chairs According to a PLA food supply standard, the daily amount of meat or fish should be 280g per person and the percentage of animal protein should be 17 to 26 percent.

China's healthcare system receives recovery treatment

57.     Premier Wen Jiabao was talking with medical staff of the Xinjing Community Health Center of Changning district, Shanghai, to learn how community medical services and urban medicare worked.

58.     People in Dalian, northeast province of Liaoning are applying a medical insurance in a local social security center.

59.     On Jan. 23, 2007, a doctor with Tumen Township Hospital in Gulang County, northwest province of Gansu, was prescribing drugs to locals. Through a rural cooperative healthcare system, local farmers were able to have access to convenient and less expensive medical services.

60. Kuang Xiaoya, a farmer in Ganyu County of east China's Jiangsu Province, had her medical fees refunded through a rural cooperative healthcare system..

Growing Old With Dignity: China Struggles to Care for Growing Number of Elderly

61. Gong Shihai helps Huang Lanxiang do up her hair. 

62. Gong Shihai tails up to play mah-jong with other old fellows, accopanied by Huang Lanxiang standing behind.

63. Gong Shihai (right)and Huang Lanxiang(left) enjoy their meals at the dining room of the Donggou Welfare House.

64. Gong Shihai (right) and Huang Lanxiang(left)taste the sweet watermelon in their own little home of 12 square meters.

From Guns to Greetings: Defrosting China's Borders

65.A Chinese sentry post watching the Sino-Indian border, with an altitude of 4300 meters. Photographed by Quan Xiaoshu

 

 

 

A Food Revolution in Chinese Army

By Li Huizi, Cheng Yunjie (China Features)

 

Captain Jia Jingwei keeps a much closer eye on his regiment's food costs since pork prices across China began soaring from 10 yuan (1.3 U.S. dollars) per kg in May to almost double.

"We don't have money to squander," says Jia, director of the supply section of an anti-aircraft regiment of the Beijing Garrison Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

His 1,000 soldiers consume 125 kg of pork a day, which used to cost of 1,250 yuan (164 U.S. dollars). Since the price hike, the daily cost of pork has risen by more than 1,100 yuan (144.7 U.S. dollars), equal to the daily subsidy for 100 personnel.

Even the prices offered by a slaughtering and processing plant that has a long-term meat supply contract with Jia's regiment went up.

"Without careful planning, it is difficult to get good food for only 11 yuan a man," says Feng Liang, director of the military supply division of the PLA's General Logistics Department, adding that an increase in food subsidies this year can ease the impact caused by the pork price hikes.

Feng says China's defense budget is relatively small both in terms of sums and per capita amounts.

"To ensure good meals we have to practice economy."

A Food Revolution

"Red rice, pumpkin soup, Dig wild vegetables as our food,

"Commissioner Mao is with us, Every meal will be tasty."

This couplet from the song "Commissioner Mao Is with Us" originated in the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Base in east China's Jiangxi Province where Mao Zedong, then an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, successfully led the Autumn Harvest Uprising in the Hunan-Jiangxi Border Region in 1927.

As one of the most popular "revolutionary songs" still sung today, it reflects the hardships the CPC-led Red Army in fighting the Kuomintang.

Red rice and pumpkin soup are local specialties in the Jinggang Mountains and a part of the visitor experience today.

The red rice, a coarse staple, was eaten without much seasoning in 1927, and the pumpkin soup was commonly described as "not revolutionary enough" as hunger usually returned very soon after its consumption.

Without a regular supply chain, the Red Army, later renamed the People's Liberation Army, drove back the invading Japanese army and defeated the Kuomintang with its simple "xiaomi jia buqiang" or "millet and rifle" approach.

Today's PLA has updated the refrain with "nutritious food and long-range missiles". Since 1978, China has increased military food subsidies 24 times.

The latest increase was backdated to January 1 when each soldier's daily food subsidy was increased by 10 percent to 11 yuan (1.45 U.S. dollars). PLA pilots enjoy a daily per capita subsidy of 39 yuan (5.1 U.S. dollars) as they need more subsidies "to keep up their physical strength", says Feng. "They always get more care."

"The rise will help offset the impact of price hikes and improve food for soldiers, as military training demands a lot of energy," says Liao Xilong, director of the General Logistics Department of the PLA.

The government and Central Military Commission want the armed forces to share in the country's booming economy and improved living standards, Liao says.

According to the Central Military Commission, the defense budget for 2007 hits 351 billion yuan (45 billion U.S. dollars), 17.8 percent higher than last year. It will be used to raise salaries and pensions, produce new uniforms, and fund training for the country's 2.3 million servicemen and women.

Added Nutritional Value

Li Zhen, head chef of the anti-aircraft regiment of the Beijing Garrison Command, consults a "dietitian" before making meals for his regiment.

In fact, the "dietitian" is a computer-based "military recipe system". Li types in factors such as budget, training intensity and season and the system will produce a choice of menus with a proper nutritional balance and detailed analysis.

One menu on the screen reads cakes, cornbread, eggs and milk for breakfast, and rice, steamed buns, rolls, dumplings and meat rolls for lunch and dinner.

Supplementary dishes include shredded pork with garlic sauce, sauteed chicken cubes with chili and peanuts, twice-cooked pork slices, carp with pepper sauce, stewed chicken with potatoes, quick-fried julienne potatoes with vinegar, spicy bean curd or bean curd cooked in hot meat sauce, and lettuce with oyster sauce.

It also offers a choice of soups.

Li says they arrange soybean milk twice a week as a milk alternative and fried twisted dough sticks every Tuesday.

"We prepare more than 50 kg of flour for each meal, and on Tuesday ten chefs using five big pans fry twisted dough sticks, which can take about an hour and a half," says Li, who learned the skills for mass catering after joining the military supply section of his regiment in 2002.

The PLA General Logistics Department requires each soldier to have an egg and 250ml of milk at breakfast, and two kinds of fruit at lunch and dinner.

Each week, soldiers are required to have three or four kinds of fish and five or six types of animal protein.

"In the past, we prepared meals with whatever food we could get, without thinking about the nutritional value," says Li, from central China's Henan Province. He has received an "intermediate" catering certificate from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Chef Zhang Yong, in charge of staple foods, says they conducted a survey of the regiment on preferences.

"More soldiers choose rice because there are more southerners, though we are all in Beijing, in northern China," says Zhang from the northern province of Shanxi. Usually people from southern China prefer rice and northern Chinese prefer flour-based staples such as steamed buns, noodles and rolls.

According to a PLA food supply standard, which defines the amount of protein, minerals and vitamins in line with international practice, the daily amount of meat or fish should be 280g per person and the percentage of animal protein should be 17 to 26 percent.

Jia, the regiment military supply director, says the daily per capita consumption of staples has dropped from 750g to 600g since January.

"The drop in staple food consumption indicates an increase in provision of nutritious non-staple foods," says Jia, adding that personnel no longer depend on staples to allay their hunger.

"When I joined the army at 18, I could eat about a dozen steamed buns because there was no other food," says a senior colonel who has been in service for more than two decades.

The PLA has trained its first ever group of 101 military dietitians this year to help scientifically adjust menus in accordance with training intensity, says Jia, adding that previously dietitians only appeared in air force canteens and military hospitals.

Soldiers get extra festival subsidies of 10 yuan (1.3 U.S. dollars) per day per person on occasions such as the first day of the May Day, National Day, New Year's Day and Army Day and the first three days of the traditional Spring Festival.

Jia said they could have more for meals and snacks, as well as drinks on festivals. "But alcohol is not allowed," he said, adding that the liquor ban started at the beginning of 1990s.

The rise of the PLA budget this year also helped fund a large-scale renovation of military canteens.

Most military canteens were transformed into McDonalds-like dining rooms, containing standard cupboards, plate racks, dishware, tables and chairs, says Jia.

Sixteen types of processing machines were installed for meat, bean curd, vegetables, dumplings and steamed buns, and large computer screens show the cost and calorie-count of each meal.

Peng Guangli, supply chief with an artillery company, says the processing machines boost efficiency and liberate chefs from heavy manual work.

"Outside the PLA, it's almost impossible to have so many kinds of food on a daily subsidy of 11 yuan per person," Peng said, but the nutritional and dietary goals are "set rules" that must be met.

Hot Meals and Fat Discounts

Chef Zhang Yong, a non-commissioned officer, rises at 5:00 am. Half an hour later, Zhang, in a truck with three "duty buyers", goes to a wholesale food market three kilometers away.

After intense bargaining with sellers, they return with a ton of vegetables, including 200kg of tomatoes at around 8:30 am.

"Vendors like selling to us and giving us a fat discount because we buy in bulk," says Zhang.

They have a long-term meat supply contract with a slaughtering and processing plant so as to reduce costs and guarantee a supply of quality pork.

Cheaper animal proteins such as chicken, duck and aquatic products are an alternative to expensive pork to balance nutrition, Zhang says.

Previously in Zhang's regiment, all subordinate companies prepared meals independently. "Smoke from 17 chimneys choked passers-by when they were all cooking."

Since the end of last year, the regiment set up a supply service center that integrates resources and prepares meals for all companies.

"We prepare food for the entire regiment, which reduces energy consumption and pollution," says Jia, adding that in the first half year they saved about 60,000 yuan (8,000 U.S. dollars), up 40 percent from the same period last year. Jia would not say how much they spent in the first half year.

A "finance supervision committee" comprising soldiers from different companies, performs key roles in purchasing food, auditing, stocktaking and supervising food preparation.

Zhang says the committee is also in charge of discussing menus, noting soldiers' favorites and restocking.

Most staff in the supply service center are non-commissioned officers with special cooking skills.

With twice-yearly training sessions from star chefs at the PLA Beijing Command Chef Training Center, Zhang and comrades can prepare meals satisfying both stomachs and taste buds for 150 people in an hour.

Feng says chefs are especially trained to quickly prepare good, hot meals for personnel conducting field operations and military drills.

"Chinese people are accustomed to hot meals. An exhausted field army longs for a good, hot meal. Cold sandwiches and bread are neither popular nor durable," says Feng.

The PLA has 74 chef training and rating centers, with more than 10,000 professional chefs graduating annually.

Even in distant areas and remote garrisons where military supplies take days or even weeks to arrive, soldiers can enjoy specially preserved shrimp, rice pudding, vegetables and moon cakes, says Feng.

(Xu Jinzhang also contributed to the story)

 

 

China and Africa Build a New Partnership on Old Ties

By Chang Ai'ling (China Features)

Many Chinese in their 40s, like Zhou Zhicheng, have an impression of Africa that comes from the Tanzania-Zambia Railway China helped build in the 1970s or Chinese volunteer doctors working in Africa since the 1960s.

Zhou, aged 44, said for years he had imagined Africa as a land of deserts with the Third World economies, but the impression started to change in 2004 when he was appointed team leader in the project to design and build a satellite for Nigeria, the first four-frequency-band geo-stationary satellite for Africa.

"I had the chance to visit Abuja to deliver the satellite to Nigeria after it was launched in China and tested in 2007," Zhou says.

In Zhou's eyes, "Abuja is well planned and the people I met were professional and eager to learn. I was impressed with the country's vitality and ambition."

To Zhou, the "ambition" to develop Nigeria and other African countries means great business opportunities for China, which is eager to expand the international market as its economy and technologies are developing rapidly.

"After more than two decades of reform and opening up, China now finds itself in a position to offer what African countries need – sophisticated technology appropriate to African conditions at relative low cost, and expertise in poverty alleviation and economic development," says Liu Naiya, a researcher on African affairs with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The satellite project is a good example. We have the technology and the Nigerians have the demand. Such cooperation is mutually beneficial."

Compared with Western technologies, those of China are not more advanced. But, Liu notices, the services China provides are usually more cost-effective. And more importantly, the fact that China is more willing to transfer its technologies makes its high-tech products more accessible than Western products to African countries.

According to Zhou, under the Nigerian satellite deal, China not only designed, built and launched the satellite, but also built two ground monitoring stations and trained 50 Nigerian technicians.

"The training, starting from basic knowledge to satellite monitoring and designing, lasted 15 months," Zhou says. "The Nigerians said in their evaluation reports after the training that 'the Chinese are selfless' and the training is 'comprehensive'."

China-Africa trade has for decades been dominated by low-end products. Observers say the changing trade pattern, featuring increasing exports of Chinese high-tech products instead of labor-intensive agricultural or apparel products, demonstrates China's intention for more balanced trade and greater economic involvement in Africa.

"As China develops and the majority of African countries embrace market-oriented reforms and readjustment, economic relations have evolved gradually from free aid and donations to pragmatic economic and technological cooperation," Liu says.

The latest figures from the Chinese Commerce Ministry reveal that trade between China and Africa rocketed dramatically from 12 million U.S. dollars in 1950 to 55 billion U.S. dollars in 2006 with a 2.1 billion U.S. dollars of trade deficit on the Chinese side, making China Africa's third largest trade partner.

By 2006, China's direct investment in Africa has hit 6.64 billion U.S. dollars, covering projects of telecommunications, electric power, water conservancy, transportation, agriculture and manufacturing.

In a fresh effort to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa, China launched the China-Africa Development Fund in June with an initial 1 billion U.S dollars and the goal of expanding the pool to 5 billion U.S. dollars eventually.

At the helm is Beijing's policymaking China Development Bank (CDB), which forecasts a 50-year lifespan for what's being called the world's largest, single fund aimed at African development.

The fund would invest in Chinese companies that set up operations in Africa and provide advice to those planning to invest there, says Gao Jian, chairman of the new China-Africa Development Fund Co. and vice president of the CDB.

But the fund would seek neither the majority nor the largest shareholding in the businesses, Gao says. "Profits are not the fund's first priority. The China-Africa Fund first seeks to advance economic, political, and social development."

While welcomed by many African countries, China's investment in Africa also brought concerns.

Some African commentators have pointed out that China and African countries are both developing, and labor-intensive industries still play a major role in their economies. This similarity leads to competition in certain fields, such as the textile and apparel industry. They also cite the limited regard for environmental and safety standards of some Chinese companies as drawbacks of Chinese investment.

China's leaders are responding to such concerns and criticism. During an eight-country tour in Africa early this year, Chinese President Hu Jintao was at pains to change that perception. In a speech to South African university students, he emphasized "mutually beneficial economic cooperation". In Namibia, he counseled managers of Chinese companies on bearing social responsibility and promoting harmony with local people.

"The Chinese government does not encourage Chinese enterprises to take other countries' markets by purely increasing the quantity of their exports," Hu said during the tour.

To ease tension brought about by China's textile and apparel products, China has announced a series of measures, including voluntarily capping clothing exports to South Africa, providing technical training and assistance to textile industries of African countries and prohibiting 28 categories of textile investment projects.

Although China has been running a deficit in trade with Africa in recent years, China has promised to further expand imports from African countries.

At the Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in November 2006, President Hu announced eight steps to consolidate the "new type of strategic partnership" between China and Africa, including further opening China's markets to exports from Africa's least developed countries (LCDs) by increasing from 190 to 440 the number of products receiving zero-tariff treatment.

The measures also include building 3-5 trade and economic cooperation zones in Africa in the next three years, providing 3 billion U.S. dollars in preferential loans and 2 billion U.S. dollars in preferential buyer's credits to African countries and training 15,000 African professionals.

During the summit, the Chinese authorities also said they would further regulate their African activities and improve management of African projects. Premier Wen Jiabao said that projects implemented by Chinese firms should be conducted in an "open, fair, just, rational and transparent" manner and more efforts would be made to ensure that Chinese projects were high quality, safe and environment-friendly.

China's active economic involvement in Africa also caused alarm and suspicion particularly among those countries that previously used to enjoy unfettered market access to Africa.

Some skeptics claim China's interest in Africa is oil and resources-driven and that its closer economic and trade ties will lead to a kind of "neo-colonialism."

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai dismissed such accusation during the annual parliamentary session in March 2007, saying, "China was once a victim of colonialism and it has never had a record of colonizing other countries."

Bo said China's oil trade with Africa was normal and based on reasonable market prices. "Statistics show that 36 percent of Africa's oil exports in 2006 went to Europe, 33 percent to the United States and China only took 8.7 percent. If importing 8.7 percent (of African oil) can be seen as resource plundering, then how should we see the 36 percent and 33 percent?" Bo asked.

Chinese observers point out China's involvement in the oil trade and other economic sectors in Africa is welcomed by African countries as it provides Africa with opportunities to diversify the continent's external partnerships.

"African countries have more choices with China's coming, which, to a certain extent, gives them a greater say on their own resources," says He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

Xu Weizhong, director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies under the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, says that China's welcome in Africa, to a great extent, stems from the "sincerity and friendship" the country has demonstrated over past decades.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese engineers were hard at work throughout Africa, constructing stadiums, laying down roads, and building hospitals for the African people even though China itself was suffering from economic difficulties," Xu Weizhong says.

In the 1980s, when Africa was to some degree "forgotten" by the Western world, China continued to strive to improve its relations with Africa. Since 1991, China has maintained a tradition that its foreign minister starts the annual official visits with Africa.

"China's actions have shown that it is no fair-weather friend to Africa," Xu says.

With annual trade growing by 40 percent in recent years, Premier Wen Jiabao told Chinese and African entrepreneurs during the Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum that China hoped the two sides would fully tap cooperation potential and strive to bring the trade volume to 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2010.

Wen also reiterated China's African policy, which is based on "political equality and mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation and cultural exchanges".

"We will never forget the precious support that African countries have given China in its efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will, as always, continue cooperation with Africa on the basis of sincerity and mutual benefit," Wen said.

 

 

 

China Desperate for Financial Talents

By Xu Bo (China Features)

"When I hit the big time, I will buy a BMW7 series car as my marriage dowry," said sparkling 22-year-old Jian Jingtao, "and I'll give it to my fiance to show him how much I love him."

In China, the cheapest BMW7 series model costs nearly 1 million yuan (133,000 U.S. dollars) while the average annual income for urban residents, nationwide, was only 12,000 yuan (1,600 U.S. dollars) in 2006.

Jian, a civil servant in the southwestern province of Sichuan, makes about 1,200 yuan (160 U.S. dollars) a month, and she also works as a part-time weatherwoman in a TV station in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, an impoverished area of the province, where most people haven't even heard of BMW. The part-time job doesn't bring her much money.

Then, how can she possibly realize her dream? Well, instead of counting on her part-time job, she has other ideas.

"I'm taking the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) test and I've passed Level II," says Jian, her eyes shining with hope, "just one step away from the best financial institutions!"

She believed getting a job in such institutions would means she is one step closer to her dream car.

   Official data suggested that staff workers in China's well-known financial institutions are making 15,000 yuan (2,000 U.S. dollars) a month and more. And jobs in the financial sector have being taking the lead, driven by the basic principle of a market economy – supply and demand.

   Around 45 million people will join the labor force in the next five years in China, but many of them will have to take jobs as laborers and construction workers and make just 800 yuan (107 U.S. dollars) a month.

   When lecturing in China's leading Tsinghua University, China Construction Bank (CCB) Chairman Guo Shuqing testified that the most troubling problem facing his bank in its "go overseas" strategy is a shortage of talented professionals.

   CCB, one of China's four biggest commercial banks, wants to set up branches in New York and London, Guo told the students, adding that the bank is "hungry for people specialized in financial accounting, securities analysis, portfolio management, interest rate pricing and foreign exchange pricing".

   China, the world's fastest-growing economy with an annual GDP growth of almost 10 percent for the last 10 years, has long been considered the world's factory, producing about 75 percent of the world's home appliances for example.

   But as the country moves to a more market-oriented financial system, financial talents are at a premium because there are so many issues to deal with.

   As a major reform in the financial sector, China dropped its currency peg to the U.S. dollar in July 2005 and linked the yuan to a basket of foreign currencies, allowing it to float in a 0.3 percent band around the official central parity.

   "Everything changed when they expanded the fluctuation range to 0.5 percent," said textile trader Wei Changshan from Beijing-based Dongxing Textile Co. "I'd really like to hire someone to tell me about how to manage it."

   In July 2005, 8.28 yuan could be exchanged for one U.S. dollar. On July 10, 2007, the same dollar could be bought for just 7.58 yuan.

   Hearkening to overseas comments, Yi Gang, assistant governor of the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, said that the exchange rate of the Chinese currency would gradually become more flexible.

   As for the stock market, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index surged by more than 130 percent year on year in 2006 after a five-year bearish market, thanks to reformed securities regulations and continuing strong economic growth.

   China's stock market may overtake Australia to become the third biggest in Asia by the end of next year, according to a January forecast by Shanghai Stock Exchange Executive Vice President Zhou Qinye.

   As new regulations come into play concerning foreign investments, Chinese fund managers and securities traders would like to foot it out with overseas competitors – which brings us back to the lack of financial talents.

   A recent government document on qualified domestic institutional investors (QDII) allows domestic fund management and securities companies to follow commercial banks into the arena of overseas securities.

   "We started preparing for QDII products nearly six months ago," said Xu Xiaosong, vice general manager of China Southern Fund Management Co., Ltd.

   "So we are recruiting. Unfortunately we are not the only ones. A number of big securities companies are looking for people," said a fund manager who asked to remain anonymous. "It's simple. If we want to win the competition we need the best team."

   Not surprisingly, foreign banks are also on the lookout for qualified people in China. In 2005, the Bank of East Asia opened personal services, the first to do so in China.

   In the China-U.S. Strategic Economic Dialogue held in May, China agreed to allow foreign banks to issue their own yuan-dominated credit and debit cards.

   The move is seen as a way of boosting fair competition between local and foreign financial institutions.

   At the Third National Conference on Financial Work in early 2007, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China would facilitate fair competition between domestic and foreign financial institutions.

   As the government opens the banking sector to meet its World Trade Organization commitments, the human resources battle for the best and brightest in the financial sector has escalated as well.

   HSBC expects to grow its headcount from 3,000 to 4,000 in China this year and Citigroup plans to hire about 1,000 extra people. Standard Chartered said it did not have a specific target this year but hired 1,000 in 2006.

   Finding enough experienced staff and training them adequately was the toughest issue confronting the bank, HSBC China Chief Executive Richard Yorke said earlier this year.

   "There is no real finance education in Chinese colleges," noticed Wang Zhao, an economist with Peking University's China Center for Economic Research.

   "The so-called finance (education) in colleges only consisted of macro-control measures, such as monetary policy, that hark back to the days of the planned economy. What Chinese students want now is courses on securities analysis and portfolio management," he said.

   A recent international survey released by Deloitte Consulting found that two-thirds of the 636 senior finance executives surveyed thought the supply of high-quality talent in Asia was limited or inadequate.

   "The crucial but tricky part is that you have to master international practice as well as the local reality," Managing Director for Asia Pacific Operations CFA Institute Jane Squires commented.

   "This year 10,200 people signed up to take the CFA test in China, up 30 percent from last year," Squires said. "We can reasonably project that there will be 600 more CFA holders at the end of 2007."

   "I can't say how many financial experts China needs but one thing's certain, there is plenty of room for those who have the capacities. The United States currently has 44,220 people who hold the CFA qualifications. Compare that with just 3,650 in Hong Kong, 2,133 in Singapore and just 1,086 in China," she said.

   China has outlined its new policies for the finance industry, including deepening the reform of state-owned banks, facilitating rural financial reforms, and steadily pushing forward the reform of foreign exchange rate.

   The country's financial sector is set to speed up as the market continues to swing open.

In that case, Jian Jingtao, the young woman with so many traditional Chinese virtues, has an excellent chance of realizing her dream and the dream of her lucky boyfriend, probably with a little help in the shape of a bank loan.

 

 

                                                                                                China Expects "Intangible Legacy" from Beijing Olympics

By Rong Jiaojiao (China Features)

   He looks well-groomed, and like a professional, wearing a suit and walking down the street in the middle of the day.
   His head turns slightly and there's a slight hoicking sound from the back of his mouth. Then, he spits on the street.

   It's a flagrant violation of the law that occurs thousands --possibly hundreds of thousands -- of times each day in the Chinese capital, but as Beijing tries to spruce up its image for the 2008 Olympics, the city government and the civic-minded have the practice in their sights.
   During the week-long Labor Day holiday this year, which began on May 1, more than 100,000 paper bags were handed out to the public for people to spit into. The local authorities also meted out fines ranging from 20 yuan (2.7 U.S. dollars) to 50 yuan (6.7 U.S. dollars) to 89 people for spitting in public.

   A most recent official campaign against spitting in public was in 2003 to raise the public awareness of the spread of SARS.
   But spitting is proving difficult to eradicate. Beijing's dusty climate and high levels of pollution mean many people consider it necessary to spit in the streets just to clear their throats.

   Wang Tao, 35, who works at the Xicheng District Health Bureau, decided to do something about it.

   He started his first battle to fight spitting in the streets in May 2006. At weekends Wang and his growing band of Green Woodpeckers, formed mainly of student volunteers, patrol on Beijing's streets, trying to show spitters the error of their ways.
   "We give tissues to the people who spit and ask them to wipe up the spittle," he says. "If they refuse, we do it in front of them. This kind of action is effective on most people."

   He is not alone. With less than a year to the opening of the 2008 Olympics, Beijing continues its endeavors to improve the character of the city as residents are on the alert to mind their manners.
   "Hosting the Games means a lot more than building grand stadiums," says Zhang Huiguang, director of Beijing's Capital Ethics Development Office, the official etiquette watchdog.
   An official estimate of 500,000 visitors and athletes will come to China for the Games. "Both China's positive and negative sides will be amplified -- and bad impressions last," she says.
   Changing bad habits ahead of the Games is "crucial in providing a cultural and historical legacy to China and the world as a whole", says Zhang.
   Dubbed the "Ms. Manners" of the Beijing Games, Zhang Huiguang is racing against time to improve the city's decorum. She and her team use daily TV commercials, newspaper cartoons and street posters to try to change the ingrained habits of the 15 million people living in and around the city.
   "Promoting civilized behavior among Chinese travelers and residents is a long-term task. For the Games, we need to focus our resources on the main problems," Zhang says, citing spitting, queue-jumping, swearing and smoking as the four "new pests" against the "four pests" of rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows during Mao's era.
   One measure to "eliminate the four new pests" is the "promote queuing" campaign, which was launched in February 2007, and is held on the 11th day of each month as "11" has come to symbolize "one after one".
   Uniformed queuing inspectors, waving flags, appear at bus stops and subway stations on "queuing day" to ensure people line up. The traditional swarming mobs at the doors of trains and buses are less common these days.

   "In March, we focused on bus stops and subway stations. In April, we focused on hospitals," says Zhang. "We gave flowers to patients standing in line to show our appreciation for their good behavior."
   Beijing has also issued 2.8 million pamphlets about daily etiquette to local households and offered polishing courses to all civil servants and 870,000 people working in the service sector, such as cab drivers, waiters and waitresses, and bus conductors.

   "Sentences like 'No means no, it doesn't need an explanation' and 'We can't help you. Go ask someone else' are strictly prohibited," says Zhao Guiling, a 36-year-old cab driver.

   Yao Kuo, vice director of the municipal transport management bureau, says his bureau has devised a 12-point evaluation chart for taxi drivers, which includes no smoking while driving, no overcharging, no spitting and no littering.
   "Cab drivers must remember that their service is a window on China's capital, and they contribute powerfully to the city's image," Yao says.
   Progress is being made. A survey released by Renmin University of China at the end of January found that in 2006, 4.95 percent of people still spat, down by 3.5 percentage points from 2005.

   From November 2005 to November 2006, the poll covered 10,000 local residents and 1,000 foreigners who had lived in Beijing for more than two years. The survey team also gathered observations from 230,000 people at 320 public venues and 180,000 automobiles.
   The survey revealed that the occurrence of littering in public had dropped from 9.1 percent in 2005 to 5.3 percent in 2006 and queue-jumping dropped from 9 percent to 6 percent.

   The "civic index" of Beijing residents scored 69.06 in 2006, 3.85 points higher than 2005. The index takes into account public compliance with rules in public health and public order, attitudes towards strangers, etiquette in watching sports events and willingness to contribute to the Olympic Games.
   However, the "civic index" still fails to meet the standard required for the 2008 Olympics, says Sha Lianxiang, professor of the Department of Sociology, Renmin University. She expected the index to rise to 72 to 78 during the Games.
   "On the one hand, we are developing and making progress now, while on the other, we still have many problems. Raising public etiquette and civility is not something we can do in one or two months, or even one or two years," she says.
   Zhang Faqiang, vice chairman of the China Olympic Committee, agrees. "We are still away from meeting the standards of a really civilized Olympic Games, so we will continue to do important work on this."
   "The Olympics is an opportunity to learn, but this is not just for the Olympics. We are trying to get the public to be more civilized in the long run. Ultimately, China's modernization rests on the quality of its citizens."

 

 

China Grooms "New Social Stratum" for Political Arena

By Meng Na (China Features)

Wherever Zhang Lianqi goes, he's always sure to take two things with him – a photo of his son and his laptop.

"I am too busy to take care of or even meet my 15-year-old son, so I need to take his photo," says Zhang.

As a partner of the Beijing-based China Rightson Certified Public Accountants Co., Ltd., which employs 1,000 professionals and has several branches in different cities, Zhang loses count of the number of business trips he makes every year.

Another important thing 43-year-old Zhang needs to do whenever he finds time is to "write suggestions in my laptop regarding solving thorny economic issues for the government and the Party," he says.

A "liaison person" of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Zhang takes advantage of his job, learning from customers, colleagues and economists on how to properly develop his profession and the country's economy.

"Recently, I wrote two reports for the UFWD. One was a warning of economic overheating, suggesting a variety of policies to reduce liquidity and better control credit flows. Another was about a possible stock market bubble," Zhang says.

"The two topics are a little bit big for me, but I think they are crucial. I spent several months on them, collecting materials, talking to economists and using my own knowledge to analyze, and finally complete my reports," says Zhang, who earned a doctorate in economics from Peking University.

He is certain that his two reports will be transferred by UFWD to government departments for reference.

Zhang has more than ten years of working experience in a private accounting firm, and earned a decent income, and yet often felt "disconnected from society" until he attended a "theoretical research class" in 2006, which was designed specifically for China's "new social stratum" and sponsored by the UFWD.

"I learned about the country's fundamental economic and political system, the general economic and political situation at home and abroad. My classmates and I also inspected the remote and backward countryside to learn about the national situation.

"Being a liaison person of the UFWD, providing suggestions for the government and attending UFWD class, I get a communication channel to ruling authorities and learn about my place in society," Zhang says.

The concept of a "new social stratum" officially emerged in former Party leader and Chinese President Jiang Zemin's speech to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in 2001.

He said that since the reform and opening-up began in China in the late 1970s, a "new social stratum" had emerged and many of its members contributed greatly to society through honest work and lawful business.

They were also the builders of China's socialist cause along with workers, farmers, intellectuals, cadres and the members of People's Liberation Army, said Jiang.

When the CPC was founded in 1921, the Party mainly represented workers and farmers.

Like Zhang Lianqi, Lin Kaiwen is also a member of such new social stratum. Chairman of the board of the Shanghai Kaiquan Pump Group Co., Ltd., Lin also attended the "theoretical research class" in 2006.

"The class helped me to learn about state policies and ruling guidelines from a higher level, so I can better participate in political affairs and contribute ideas to the authorities," Lin says.

The annual "theoretical research class" was launched in 2004. Every class has about 50 members mainly from private firms, managerial-level staff of foreign-funded companies, self-employed professionals and intermediate organizations.

Lin Zhimin, vice secretary-general of the UFWD, says the class is intended "to further connect with and unite the representatives of the 'new social stratum'."

"Through the class, we inform and publicize the new policies and guidelines of the CPC to the new social stratum, learn their thinking, and discover, train and select candidates to form a talent contingent outside the CPC," Lin says.

The UFWD has established a new social stratum talent reserve and a large number of candidates are graduates of the theoretical class. "Currently, we are establishing an evaluation system to recommend people from the reserve to some important government posts."

The "new social stratum" includes private entrepreneurs, technicians and managerial-level staff in private or foreign-funded companies, the self-employed and employees in intermediate organizations.

It is estimated that the "new social stratum" consists of 50 million such professionals, who possess or manage capital totaling 10 trillion yuan (1.3 trillion U.S. dollars), according to the UFWD.

Chen Guangjin, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says that with economic development, the "new social stratum" is eager to influence policy-making and be more acknowledged in society.

Chen cites Wenzhou city in China's eastern province of Zhejiang, where the private sector is very prosperous, as an example. Private entrepreneurs are trying to win elections for village committee heads, deputies of people's congresses and members of political advisory bodies.

More than 9,000 members of the "new social stratum" have been elected deputies of people's congresses of the county level or above, while 30,000 others were recommended as members of political advisory bodies of the county level or above.

Lin Zhimin says the successful representatives of the "new social stratum" always have political astuteness and professional knowledge. They are not only an important force in developing a socialist market economy, but also an active force for developing socialist democratic politics.

"Uniting and guiding the 'new social stratum' to participate in politics is necessary for building a socialist harmonious society and for extending the Party's ruling foundation," says Lin.

The CPC has a history of consulting the eight non-Communist parities and unaffiliated individuals and organizations for their opinions and recommendations on important issues.

"The participation of the 'new social stratum' in political affairs has improved both in quantity and quality," says Zhen Xiaoying, former vice president of the Central Institute of Socialism.

More members of the "new social stratum" are earning senior or even top government posts, says Zhen.

The most outstanding representatives are Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, and Chen Zhu, Minister of Health, who were the first non-Communist cabinet appointments since the 1970s when China launched its economic reform and opening up, Zhen says.

Wan Gang, a member of the China Zhi Gong (Public Interest) Party, replaced 65-year-old Xu Guanhua as Minister of Science and Technology in April 2006.

A former automobile engineer at the Audi Corporation in Germany, Wan, born in August 1952, was president of the Shanghai-based Tongji University before his appointment.

"To appoint non-CPC member cabinet minister is an important move in implementing and improving the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC," says Lin Zhimin.

China's top legislature in June 2006 approved the cabinet nomination of Chen Zhu, 54, a Paris-trained scientist with no political party affiliation, as the country's new health minister.

Zhang Liangqi says the appointments of Wan Gang and Chen Zhu indicated that more members of the "new social stratum" would be given important governmental posts. "The 'new social stratum' shall be ready."

 

 

China Looks to Energy Independence

By Yang Jianxiang (China Features)

The high-pitched tone of the China Central Television news announcer was all too familiar to Chinese aged 40 or over. Many important events in their lives were broadcast in the same manner.

But this was May 2007, and the news wasn't a significant change in the country's political leadership. It was the discovery of the Nanpu Oil Field, and it was being hailed as one of the most exciting finds in the history of China's oil industry.

The excitement had a reason – the discovery was symbolic evidence of and actual support for the government's strategy of becoming self-reliant in energy.

The Nanpu Oil Field, with oil and gas reserves estimated at 1.18 billion tons, is located in a coastal area of the northern China city of Tangshan, which was devastated by an earthquake in 1976 that claimed 242,000 lives.

A subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation started exploration in the area in 1988. Little progress was made in the initial years, but a breakthrough came in September 2004 and experts say they are confident that 1,800 to 2,800 meters underground lies more than 900 million tons of petroleum and 140.1 billion square meters of natural gas, more than 111 million tons of oil equivalent.

Nanpu has undoubtedly boosted the confidence of decision-makers in the domestic supply. Yet it cannot relieve the worry over long-term energy security, as the overall picture of the country's energy reserves is basically unchanged.

At the current speed of extraction, analysts say, the proven reserves of petroleum could last little more than 15 years, gas 30 year and coal 80 years.

Statistics show China imported 43 percent of the oil it consumed in 2005. By 2020, demand could climb to 450 million tons, of which 250 million tons would have to be imported.

To address the issue, conservation was deemed a priority. The Chinese government has set a target for 2010 of cutting the energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent against the 2005 level.

Apart from tightening management and optimizing the industrial structure, this is to be done largely through technological renovations in production and utilization. Outdated technology is the major cause of the country's low energy efficiency, which is about 10 percentage points below the world's most advanced level. The energy intensity of highly energy-consuming products, such as steel and cement, was often 40 percent higher than the world's leading producers.

The power sector itself is a lavish energy consumer. To avoid loss of energy in the process of production, 1,000 MW of supercritical, extra-supercritical coal-fueled generators and nuclear power units are replacing small units to become the main production force of the industry.

Long distance transmission, a necessary operation due to the uneven distribution of resources, is applying ultra high voltage technology. Projects are underway for two demonstration UHV power lines totaling 2,088 kilometers.

For the same reason, the government has banned the extraction of petroleum if accompanying combustible gas is let loose and not collected.

With the swift growth of China's economy, demand for energy has inevitably risen too. Conservation may help slow down – but not stop – the climb of the latter.

According to Zhao Xiaoping, director of the energy bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's highest economic planning department, the government is aiming to curtail primary energy consumption to within 2.7 billion tons of coal equivalent (CE) in 2010.

Given the economic situation and the self-reliance policy, conservation in the sense of preserving reserves for future use is not an option. Digging and extraction have to be accelerated to meet the surging demand.

China's energy consumption totaled 2.46 billion CE tons in 2006, the second highest in the world. It was also the world's second largest energy producer, producing 2.21 billion CE tons the same year. This breaks down into 2.38 billion tons of coal, 184 million tons of crude oil, and 58.55 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

   Coal has dominated the energy portfolio and China is the world's biggest coal extractor. In the last two decades, the proportion of coal in total energy consumption dropped from 76 percent to 68 percent. The share is expected to fall further, chiefly because of environmental concerns. But output is not likely to decline in the coming years.

Neither is oil and gas production likely to slow. China's oil production ranked the fifth in the world. The country is constructing four oil contingency reserves for times of short supply. On completion in 2008 the facilities will be able to meet the nation's oil needs for at least 10 days.

China is also actively promoting nuclear power. At present, nine units totaling 6,990 MW of generating capacity are in commercial operation. The target is to build 30 units with 40,000 MW of generating capacity by the year 2020, when the ratio of nuclear energy in total power capacity would climb to 4 percent.

Since the 1990s, domestic supply has satisfied more than 90 percent of China's energy demands. Boosting production at home is possible with modern technology, capital and the reserves of coal, oil and gas. But the solution is short-term and the impact of conservation would be limited. The sustainability of energy security and the self-reliance policy would be in jeopardy without other measures.

The answer lies in alternative or renewable energies. China's tapping of hydropower started early and other forms of renewable energy are gaining attention. By the end of last year, the country had installed 129,000 MW of hydropower capacity, more than any other country in the world.

In addition, China was home to 80 million square meters of solar heating facilities, accounting for almost a half of the world's total. And turbines installed in the country's 91 wind farms have a combined capacity of 2,600 MW.

The total capacity of all renewable power was 622,000 MW last year.

According to the State Renewable Energy Medium- and Long-Term Development Program, China hopes to raise the proportion of renewable resources in total production from the current 7 percent to 16 percent by 2020. Specific targets for major renewable energies are: hydropower 290,000 MW; biofuels 20,000 MW; wind 30,000 MW; and solar 2,000 MW.

China is home to the world's largest stock of hydropower resources, two thirds of which remains unexploited. The exploitation of wind and solar energy has just started.

The potential of renewable energies is huge, says Ma Kai, minister in charge of the NDRC, and alternatives such as ethanol, coal-based alcohol ether fuel, and coal liquefaction products are promising.

In the meantime, the government is looking at other energy possibilities, including "flammable ice" or frozen gas hydrates. And the country is on the seven-party International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program, which hopes to achieve breakthrough in exploiting nuclear energy through atomic fusion.

Conservation and clean alternatives have a positive impact on the environment, another aim of China's energy strategy. As a developing country, China had insisted that it should not be obliged by a quantitative quota to cut down on polluting emissions. But the government is taking actions to this end, if only for the sake of its own environment and its international image.

The government has set a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent in five years starting from 2006, while controlling emissions of greenhouse gases. In early June, it announced an unprecedented National Climate Change Program.

The power industry was blamed for 54 percent of China's sulfur dioxide emissions. If the clean energy targets for 2010 were met, the program document said, the emission of 950 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent could be avoided.

Ma Kai said the government would consider the uniqueness of its resources and responsibility in maintaining the stability of the international energy market. It would stick to the basic strategy of self-reliance by accelerating the development of the energy industry and boosting capacity.

However, "self-reliance" also encompasses international cooperation. In the past year, China has participated in high-level international dialogues on energy issues. Frequent international communications allow the sharing of information, experience and technology, the exchange of personnel, joint investment and operation, and the trading of resources and products.

Besides importing more oil and gas, China shipped in markedly more coal in the first half of this year. In December last year, a company dedicated to procuring uranium abroad was inaugurated in Beijing. Imports helped meet the energy demand at home, and were occasionally more cost-effective than domestic products, an industry observer said.

From 1978 to 2005, China's primary energy consumption rose by 5.16 percent on average each year, while GDP grew by 9.6 percent. The energy sector had supported an economy that ran almost twice as fast as it did.

However, almost the entire nation except the capital, Beijing, failed to meet the target for reducing energy intensity last year. This makes it a more daunting task ahead.

"The targets can't be revised and we must work resolutely to reach them," Premier Wen Jiabao said in his Report on the Work of the Government, which was delivered in early March at the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature of the country.

 

 

China's Healthcare System Receives Recovery Treatment

By Li Huizi (China Features)

   As Zhang Lan approached 60, she found herself often feeling dizzy when going up and down the stairs.

   Zhang, 58, a retired employee of a failed state-owned washing machine factory, dismissed her son's pleas for her to see a doctor. "These problems are common when you get old," she said.

   Zhang's reluctance to see a doctor is common among China's elderly who fear doctors are only out to make money from them. Many delay going to a doctor, allowing minor ailments to develop into serious conditions that end up consuming their savings.

   On top of the cost is the inconvenience.

   Zhang's son, Wang Qi, usually makes appointments for her, rushing to the hospital early only to find a long queue in front of the registration window – another reason for Zhang not to see a doctor about her dizziness.

   Her unwillingness persisted until she fell down the stairs of her apartment block.

   The doctor said she had a brain tumor, which was still treatable – but only with immediate surgery.

   Since the operation, Wang Qi, a 27-year-old bank clerk who earns just 2,000 yuan (267 U.S. dollars) a month, has scrimped and saved and investigated every possible avenue to pay his mother's 100,000-yuan (13,300 U.S. dollars) medical bill.

   He still hopes China's medicare system might help.

  

Coughing Up the Cash

   When Zhang was still working in 2000, she joined a "medical insurance system for employed urban residents" through her factory, or "danwei", having 2 percent of her monthly salary automatically submitted as premiums to her account at the local social security service center.

   A 1998 State Council decision that launched China's medicare reform allowed urban employees, including pensioners, to join locally-operated medicare systems, combining personal insurance and social security.

   Smaller outpatient treatment fees are mainly paid from the personal account, while larger hospitalization expenses are paid mainly from the social security fund.

   Pensioners are exempted from paying the premiums. Zhang, with a monthly pension of 1,000 yuan (133 U.S. dollars), receives 1,200 yuan (160 U.S. dollars) a year from her personal account for outpatient treatment.

   "Actually, the government will let pensioners have free outpatient services. If they see the doctor frequently, they still have most of the outpatient fees refunded," said a staff member with the social security service center of Chaoyang District in east Beijing.

   However, larger medical expenses for surgery and hospitalization are still a major financial burden for the ill. The government encourages enterprises to establish supplementary medical insurance for their staff, mainly for medical expenses not covered by the medicare system.

   But Zhang's factory was on the verge of total financial collapse.

   "About half of my mom's medical bills were reimbursed via medical insurance," says Wang Qi.

   "The medical insurance only covers part of the surgery cost for complicated services like brain surgery, but we still have a huge amount to pay ourselves," says Wang.

The Collapse of the Free Medical Service

   Under China's planned economic system last century, Zhang enjoyed completely free healthcare. The work unit, or danwei, provided everything.

   The danwei provided for all needs, including subsidies for daily necessities, education, transport and housing. A generation of Chinese are still nostalgic over food coupons for staples like eggs and meat.

   "The danwei was omnipotent," says Tian Ying, 51, a retired accountant of a state-owned cotton textile factory.

   Tian says people at that time had few wants as everyone had a similar standard of living and the low salaries were enough to get by.

   "If you needed an operation, you asked the danwei to pay the medical fees, even for your children. Everything was free."

   However, Tian says, many danweis could not afford to maintain the welfare from the cradle to the grave. "Gradually the burgeoning medical bills became too much, and if your danwei was rich, you were very lucky."

   Financial departments were the danweis' busiest offices. Workers rose early to have medical bills reimbursed through a small window, but usually after a morning, the accountants had to tell waiting queues that the money had run out.

   "The problem was that the free medical care resulted in a huge waste of resources," says Tan Shen, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank.

Medicare for Everyone

   The central government began to reform the healthcare system in the 1990s after finding the dilapidated public-funded medicare system was no longer effective.

   In 1998, urban employees began paying 2 percent of their salaries into their personal medical insurance accounts, and employers were obliged to contribute 4 percent of their total wage bill to a social security fund operated by local governments.

   "This has separated employee medicare from the danwei system, and greatly reduced enterprises' financial burden. It has made it easier to rejuvenate state-owned enterprises," says researcher Tan.

   However, the health sector is coming under growing criticism for rocketing medical fees, inaccessibility, poor doctor-patient relations and the low coverage of the medicare system.

   Statistics from the Health Ministry show that soaring medical costs have plunged many rural and urban Chinese back into poverty, with one third of rural patients choosing not to go to hospital and 45 percent of rural patients discharging themselves from hospital before fully recovering.

   A survey released last December by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed healthcare expenses had risen to 11.8 percent of average household consumption, exceeding spending on education and transport, a very high percentage even compared with developed countries.

   A 2005 report by the Development Research Center under the State Council, China's cabinet, harshly criticized the health sector reform and concluded that reforms over the past decade were "basically unsuccessful". The report stirred a public debate over the path of China's reforms of the healthcare system.

   The government is yet to decide on a long-term policy. Experts are still comparing reform paths by studying different medicare systems and proposals. The thorniest issues are funding and management structures.

   However, the government took a major step this year, extending access to reasonably priced medical care and insurance to 80 percent of Chinese counties and more urban residents, including those without danwei.

   Official statistics show just 157 million of the country's 1.3 billion people were covered by medical insurance at the end of last year, most of them urban workers and pensioners who had danwei.

   This year, urban residents – including children and the self-employed – who are not covered by the "medical insurance for urban workers" can be insured through the "medical insurance for urban residents". Local governments will allocate funds to partially cover major treatments.

   "Urban residents without danwei, including the self-employed and private business owners, can now be covered," says researcher Tan Shen.

   One reform plan that might be adopted is to change a number of public hospitals into community medical service providers that offer almost outpatient services for residents and migrant workers, says Liu Xinming, a Health Ministry official in charge of medical policies and regulations.

   The rural cooperative healthcare system, founded in 2003, will cover 80 percent of all China's counties before the end of the year and all rural areas by next year, to help China's 900 million rural dwellers.

   About 50.7 percent of the country's rural areas, or 1,451 counties, were covered by the system at the end of last year, with 410 million farmers, 47.2 percent of the rural population, signed up. Last year, the system raised 21.36 billion yuan (2.85 billion U.S. dollars), and spent 15.58 billion yuan (2.08 billion U.S. dollars), statistics show.

   Participants pay 10 yuan (1.3 U.S. dollars) a year, while the state, provincial, municipal and county governments jointly chip in another 40 yuan (5.3 U.S. dollars) for the cooperative fund. Farmers who contribute then get a proportion of their expenses refunded according to the treatment they receive.

   The State Council earlier this year adopted a five-year plan to further develop the public health system, which promises to establish a basic medicare network covering the whole population by the end of 2010.

   The public health service network will include rural cooperative medicare, urban community medical services and public hospital management systems.

   However, a unified national medicare system is still a long way off due to the low level of urbanization, widening wealth gap, and vast contrast in regional development, former Health Minister Gao Qiang has said.

   A final version of the medicare reform policy will be unveiled after authorities compare reform schemes and solicit public opinions, according to him.

 

 

Chinese Contemporary Art Comes out of the Shadow

By Zhan Yan (China Features)

   Yue Minjun enjoys laughing at the world. He paints himself on canvas: a group of Yue's laughing during military exercises, laughing while flying on backs of geese and laughing at historic world events.

   The 44-year-old Yue has a reason to laugh in the real world now. His painting, "The Pope" – a giggling Yue dressed as a Pope – sold for 2. 14 million pounds, or over 30 million yuan, at Sotheby's London auction in June 2007, setting a new record for Chinese contemporary art piece.

   The last record holder before was Liu Xiaodong, whose painting "The New Migrants of the Three Gorges" sold for 22 million yuan at Beijing Poly International Auction in November 2006.

   Chinese contemporary art has taken off in the international art world. Yue is not the only Chinese avant-garde artist selling at international auctions; others include Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun, Liu Xiaodong and Yang Shaobin.

   The rise of Chinese contemporary art took many by surprise. Just 20 years ago, today's big-name artists were described by their neighbors as "mang liu", or jobless loafers, moving from their hometowns to illegally live in big cities like Beijing.

   To escape their neighbors' distrustful eyes, during the early 1990s many artists moved to a village near the Yuanmingyuan (the Old Summer Palace) in northern suburban Beijing, where the rents were lower and they could live as a group.

   "We were a headache for local police, who thought we were troublemakers. They just didn't want us to live there (the Yuanmingyuan), but had no reason to get rid of us so they kept coming to our homes. It was hard to concentrate on painting," recalls Yue in his spacious studio in Songzhuang Township.

   Like Yue, many artists are now living in Songzhuang after being driven out of the Yuanmingyuan area in the early 1990s. In fact, about 1,500 artists from all over the country have moved to Songzhuang since 1994, taking the town as their home. The town in Tongzhou district in the eastern suburbs of Beijing has become a leading base for Chinese contemporary art.

   "You can't imagine how life has changed," says Yang Wei, a leading art critic who came to public attention with his sarcastic paintings of the People's Bank of China. "If our electricity meter is broken, the local authority immediately sends people to repair it. In the past, they would have tried to drive us away."

   Chinese contemporary art has blossomed since 1979 after Chinas reform and opening-up drive. It boomed from long years of isolation from the international contemporary art scene, which sprang up after 1945.

   Few aspects of modern Chinese life better characterize the nation's continental drift away from its collective past to a more individualistic future.

   "The country's management mode has changed. During the planned economy era, it was the elite powers who decided what the people should do and say," Yue recalls.

   "The people should all make steel because the country needed steel or should weave cloth because of a shortage of cloth. Society was run from top to bottom."

   "Now a lot special creation starts from a basic individual. The creation grows and then gets accepted by the mainstream and changes the people's thinking just like Chinese contemporary art's trajectory."

   Contemporary art has transformed the country's physical landscape too. It has formed several cultural landmarks out of dilapidated plants or reclusive villages in Beijing such as the 798 Plant, Jiuchang (Brewer Plant), Fangcaodi (Fresh Grassland), Suojiacun Village and Songzhuang Township. The centers in the other parts of the country include the Moganshan No. 50 on the Suzhou River in Shanghai, the Tank Storehouse Art District in Chongqing and the Blue Roof Art Center in Chengdu, all places densely populated with studios and galleries.

   "These communities reveal the true state of Chinese contemporary art – seemingly marginalized, but actually vigorous," says Li Feng, director of Chinese oil on canvas department at Beijing Huachen Auctions.

   Since the Star Show in 1979, which marked the launch of China's contemporary art, new platforms have mushroomed. Since 2000, these have included the biennales at Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, Li says.

   Yang Wei believes the sudden rise of contemporary art, from the underground to the spotlight, is the result of the continuous economic growth and social reforms in China that make people more open-minded.

   "Chinese contemporary artists have two advantages. On the one hand, the outside world wants to know China and the artists are important channels for telling the world China's stories. On the other hand, China wants to show the world something new besides the Great Wall and the Forbidden City."

   International collectors quickly focus on countries with long histories and rapidly changing societies, such as India and China.

   "China's unique experience is the attraction of its contemporary art. The country is absorbing Western cultures against a backdrop of a culture with thousands of years of history. The country is changing like never before in history and the future is even more unpredictable," Yang says.

   Yue believes "creativity" is the charm of Chinese contemporary art. "Every artist is trying to express his individual experience and thought."

   But not all artists are reveling in the newfound prosperity.

   Avant-garde artist Jiao Yingqi says, "Society is already talking about money all the time. Now you are also talking about contemporary art after learning it sells well. Contemporary art came into being as a rebellion against capitalism, but now it seems quite satisfied with capitalism. Criticism of society and capitalism should be the core value of contemporary art, but the core value is fading."

   Critic Huang Heqing says in his book "Cultural Conspiracy" that Chinese contemporary art is actually "Western art made in China". The booming interest is a form of "cultural invasion" and the prosperity is almost the same as that in the former Soviet Union.

   Despite the worries, most artists concentrate on creating their own styles. Many artists have their own signature theme or style, such as the old photos on canvas by Zhang Xiaogang, the harmless hooligan-like men with shaved heads by Fang Lijun and the red-hued violence depicted by Yang Shaobin.

   "Every artist has in his mind an individual style. It's the theme of contemporary art and also the key," says Yang Shaobin.

 

 

Caption: Chinese contemporary art comes out of the shadow

Photo:Zeng Huang    Caption: Zhan Yan (China Features)

1.        Yue Minjun with his laughing self images at his spacious studio in Songzhuang in suburban Beijing, 1997. Photo Provided by Yue Minjun.

2.        Part of Zheng Lianjie's performance art "Big Bang" at the Great Wall, 1993. Photo by Zeng Huang.

3.        Yang Wei's life at Yuanmingyuan painters' village, 1994. Photo by Zeng Huang

4.        Yang Shaobin works at his shabby studio at Yuanmingyuan painters' village, 1994. Photo by Zeng Huang

5.        Artists at Yuanmingyuan painters' village are satisfied to have a simple hot-pot get-together in a small but warm room in winter, 1994. Photo by Zeng Huang

6.        Jiao Yingqi tries something new with the artistic materials in his experimental art work "Feeling the Space" in 1994, just to see whether concepts could be put across easily. Photo by Zeng Huang

7.        Chinese leading contemporary art critic Li Xianting (L) watches performance art. Photo by Zeng Huang

8.        Artist Zhang Huan in his performance art works "68 kg and a Half" at Dongcun village, once a community for contemporary artists in suburban Beijing, 1995. Photo by Zeng Huang

9.        Performance artist Zhang Jianhua (3rd F) and his statues depicting coalmine workers after a deadly accident at Beijing 798 Art Festival on April 28, 2007. Photo by Zeng Huang

10.    Frog King Kwok Mangho (L) from Hong Kong puts on show his performance art works at Beijing 798 Art Festival on April 28, 2007. Kwok started his performance activities in the mainland in the 1970s and was dubbed by some media as "the first performance artist in China." Photo by Zeng Huang

11.    European and American contemporary art pieces attract many visitors to a foreign art exhibition at China National Museum of Fine Arts, October 2006.  Photo by Zeng Huang

12.    Exhibitions prior to the 2006 Beijing Sotheby's art works auctions draw investors' attention. Increasing investment on art works provides economic support for the contemporary art boom. China sees 15 billion yuan (2 billion U.S. dollars) of deals in art auctions in 2006. Photo by Zeng Huang

 

 

Chinese Exporters Adapt to the Rising Yuan

By Cheng Yunjie (China Features)

Looking at China's snowballing trade surplus since its exchange rate reform in July 2005, one might think the appreciation of the Chinese currency yuan, also known as Renminbi (RMB), had gone largely unnoticed by the country's exporters.

Yin Mingshan, chairman of the Chongqing Lifan Group, China's largest private motorcycle manufacturer, noticed that pressure from the rising yuan never ceases to ease up. "The impact is tangible and costly," he says.

The self-made entrepreneur who started from scratch 15 years ago earned 78 million yuan less from exports worth 318 million U.S. dollars after the RMB rose by 4 percent against the U.S. dollar at the end of last year.

By August this year when the RMB had gained more than 9 percent accumulatively to reach 7.57 yuan to one U.S. dollar, five of the company's smaller Chinese rivals had folded. Lifan foresees motorcycle exports slowing from last year's 30 percent rise to 25.5 percent this year.

Instead of complaining as the RMB strengthens, however, many Chinese enterprises, including Lifan, rise to the challenge and seek to check exchange rate risks through all available means, such as cost efficiencies and technological innovation.

China's exports have grown to 546.7 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of this year, a rise of 27.6 percent from the same period last year, bringing the aggregate surplus to 112.5 billion U.S. dollars, up 83 percent.

"We should give credit to our exporters, who bear the brunt of China's exchange rate reform as a stronger yuan squeezes their profitability and dampens their competitiveness in world markets," says Tan Yaling, a research analyst with the Bank of China.

China scrapped the yuan peg to the U.S. dollar and linked it to a basket of currencies in July 2005 so as to allow the currency to float in line with market changes. But a daily floating band was imposed to ensure only a gradual appreciation.

This encourages exporters to become more competitive through quality, brand reputation and technology. "If the RMB had gained 20 percent overnight, a legion of Chinese enterprises would have gone bust. Now we have time to adapt, upgrade our production and get stronger," Yin says.

Yin's company has registered 3,807 patents at home and abroad, the most among all domestic automobile companies. Its flagship product, the Lifan 50-200ml Single Cylinder Gasoline Engine, and motorcycles were sold to more than 100 countries in South-East Asia, West Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. It has also begun producing sedans.

The sense of the urgent need for changes is prevalent among China's exporters, especially in such traditional sectors as textile. Yu Yimin, general manager of the Soho International Group, which deals in natural silk fabrics, says his company has developed an obsession with innovation, which it considers the only way to survive.

"Importers would just say 'No way' and walk out on us if we hinted at a price hike as competition is fierce in China, but if we have something unique, then it strengthens our hand," Yu says.

Based in east China's Jiangsu Province, the company has established its name for manufacturing rare male raw silk and is developing artificial skin from silk protein. Yu is confident that his company will be more competitive as the artificial skin – already in clinical use – will cost just one-tenth of similar products abroad.

As the world's third biggest trade power expands rapidly after the United States and Germany, China hopes to polish the reputation of "Made in China", making it a mark of quality rather than cheapness. Processing trade requiring only simple assembly of imported raw materials, which boost the country's foreign trade takeoff in the 1980s, is no longer widely encouraged.

Processing trade imports and exports totaled 440.9 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of 2007, a rise of 17.6 percent year on year. Meanwhile ordinary trade jumped 28.7 percent to 440.8 billion U.S. dollars, the first time it had equal shares with processing trade.

Zhao Yumin, a research fellow with the Trade and Economic Cooperation Institute of the Ministry of Commerce, says only cost-efficient companies that constantly improve productivity have a chance of surviving fierce global competition and growing protectionism.

The exact number of Chinese exporters is unknown, but Zhao says many of them still depend on the cost advantages of labor and raw materials as they lack the financial or technological capacity for innovation.

While China-made clothes, shoes, toys, furniture and tyres flow into overseas markets, some foreigners are happy to have cheap goods, but others claim they suffer the effects of job losses. Foreign governments sometimes imposed stricter quality standards, which exporters sometimes struggled to meet, aggravating problems caused by currency appreciation.

Turkey, for instance, imposed a customs deposit of 200-300 U.S. dollars on every imported motorcycle and electric bike since last August as Turkish foreign trade authorities launched a safeguard measure to investigate the damages inflicted by foreign manufacturers on local industries. China, the world's largest motorcycle exporter, however, was the only developing country targeted by the investigation.

As China-made motorcycles are priced at only 400 U.S. dollars on average, the move immediately set back China's motorcycle exports. For instance, Taizhou, a port city in east China's Zhejiang Province, saw its motorcycle exports plummet from 166,000 units worth 75.71 million U.S. dollars over the first half of 2006 to 78 units worth 32,000 U.S. dollars in the first seven months of 2007, as figures from Hangzhou Customs revealed.

 The solution, Lifan figured, was to set up motorcycle plants in Turkey. "Will there still be trade friction? No. We're now part of Turkey's economic family and are well taken care of," says Yin Mingshan.

Looking to the future, experts warn that the biggest menace to Chinese exporters is expectations of continued RMB appreciation that could trigger an influx of speculative funds so as to jeopardize the country's financial stability and wipe out profits of export-oriented manufacturers.

A recent survey shows that three quarters of the 103 export companies polled by the China Business News had no idea of or had not used financial hedge tools to reduce exchange rate risks.

Many small and medium-sized export-oriented enterprises are still used to adding an exchange clause in contracts or shortening collection period, the time period for which receivables are outstanding, to reduce exchange rate risks.

Some larger ones have started to try forward foreign exchange trading, which require exporters to sign forward contracts with banks to sell or purchase foreign exchange on agreed date at agreed exchange rates.

Another less used measure is RMB swap against foreign currencies, involving two transactions in opposite directions featuring domestic currency against foreign exchange between one company and one bank.

"It's unrealistic to have exporters fight alone against a strengthening currency as the country's financial system is still embryonic and potentially vulnerable," says Tan Yaling.

She says the government needs to extend currency elasticity and make the exchange rate formation more market-oriented by bringing in more market makers – banks and financial institutions that are obliged to quote both selling and buying prices through the interbank foreign exchange market.

"The most important thing is that all participants in the interbank foreign exchange market should learn to perform in a professional way while the government should do more research to identify the real value and the equilibrium price of the RMB," she says.

Ha Jiming, chief economist with the China International Capital Corporation predicts the value of the RMB will rise to 7.3 yuan against one U.S. dollar at the end of the year if the dollar maintains its performance. "It will take three to five years to ease the pressure for further appreciation of the RMB yuan," he says.

 

 

Chinese Manufacturers Attempt to Ditch "Cheap" Image

By Fan Ling, Yu Zheng (China Features)

   It's already conducting market testing for its high-end SUVs in the world's biggest consumer market – the United States, and now Chery, a leading Chinese automaker, is eying Latin America as the fastest-growing market. Urban Latin Americans are potential buyers of reliable, but inexpensive Chery cars.

   The Anhui-based Chery and its peers hope to copy the South Korean miracle of expanding auto sales into every corner of the world. A Chery senior manager said at the Changchun International Automobile Fair that his company was planning to launch, with Argentina's SOCMA Group, a joint venture in Uruguay.

   Cars are not the only Chinese commodities flooding Latin America. Guangdong-based home appliance giant Gree supplied about 2,400 air conditioners for the Pan American Games media center and athletes quarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some 5,600 athletes and journalists from 42 countries and regions cooled off to China-made air conditioners.

   ZTE Corp., a Chinese telecom supplier, sold 1 million cell phones in the first half of 2007 in Venezuela and plans to invest in a local cell phone manufacturing base churning out more ZTE handsets. With relatively low prices, high quality and technological advantages, including 3G and other technologies, ZTE has drawn local partners in Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia. The latest available revenues of ZTE in Latin America were 400 million U.S. dollars in 2005.

   China also has some already recognized brands, such as Haier, the world's fourth largest electric appliance manufacturer, which has been promoting innovative high-end refrigerators since April in Latin America. Haier says it has received orders from dozens of countries.

   To some extent, these quality products have provided a counterbalance to recent controversies over Chinese exports to the rest of the world. The "poisonous toothpaste" issue, the Panama medicine issue and the U.S. ban on marine exports earlier this year aroused distrust of Chinese exports worldwide. For some, "Made in China" seems to mean "Buyer beware".

   Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang has said that China had been very responsible to ensure the quality and safety of its exports, in processing, packaging, delivery or sales. The government has striven to implement laws to supervise and manage the product manufacturers.

   More than 99 percent of food exports to the U.S. in the last three years met U.S. quality standards, higher than the equivalent figure for U.S. food exports to China, Qin said. "Products with problems are a tiny minority, those reported by the media cannot blemish all Chinese exports."

   Qin acknowledged the controversial products stemmed from misunderstanding, unscrupulous vendors at home and abroad, and different regulations and policies in imports and exports examination between China and other countries.

   Lin Wei, a senior official with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), says that the government has focused on food safety problems and increased regulatory oversight gradually.

   The AQSIQ announced on July 11 that toothpastes containing diethylene glycol (DEG) were banned from import and export. In exceptional cases that the chemical finds its way into toothpaste with other ingredients, quantities must not exceed limits set by importing countries or regions. Toothpaste factories have been banned from using EG as an ingredient.

   The AGSIQ says the long-term use of toothpaste in which the DEG content is less than 15.6 percent would have little adverse effect on the human body. None of the data suggested that toothpaste containing this substance had directly led to the harm.

The statement was intended to highlight China's efforts in raising industry standards to the levels of those in other countries.

   The Oral Health Supplies Certification and Management Regulation has been formulated by the State Certification and Accreditation Administration (CAA) and the Ministry of Health. The CAA is also drawing up stricter certification and grading procedures for the toothpaste industry in China in line with the oral health supplies certification standard of the American Dental Association.

   No evidence was found to support any organized violation of product safety standards in China and the government has taken drastic measures to locate and punish companies that do break the law. However, voices of doubt abroad may still deter consumers from treating Chinese goods objectively.

   Yu Lixin, a research scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Finance and Trade Economics, urged Chinese firms to improve the image of Chinese products.

   "China should satisfy the demand for higher-end products in the international market by adding innovative features," Yu said. "China should transform itself as soon as possible from a powerful trading country to a country with innovative competitiveness."

   Competitive Chinese companies, with their own intellectual property rights, are advised by Yu to show their products at international fairs and other global showcases.

   Future international competition lay in struggling for intellectual property, technical standards, and other non-tariff barriers, Yu warned.

   "The government will play an irreplaceable role in perfecting the industry technical standards, which can't be accomplished in a short time," Yu said.

 

 

Combating Climate Change: China Goes on the Offensive

By Ding Yimin (China Features)

Chinese President Hu Jintao and a group of other state leaders were pictured wearing open-necked shirts with short sleeves, rather than their normal jackets and ties when attending a high-profile conference at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on June 25 of this year.

The less formal attire wasn't just for their own comfort. China's leaders are trying to set an example for all the office workers to dress in light, casual clothing in summer in order to reduce the use of air conditioners. The State Council, or cabinet, ordered in June that air-conditioning units in most office buildings be set no cooler than 26 degrees Celsius.

"As a developing country, China tries to shoulder more responsibilities in addressing the issue of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions," says Lu Xuedu, deputy director of the Global Environmental Affairs Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In China's National Climate Change Program issued on June 4, the government pledged to restructure the economy, promote clean energy technologies and improve energy efficiency.

With the new program, the nation has opted not to hide behind the fact that the Kyoto Protocol frees developing countries from the obligation to reduce GHG emissions, said Ma Kai, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission.

An Imminent Threat

       "Climate change has begun to take its toll in China in recent years, and we shouldn't wait till it is too late to take action," says Lu Xuedu.

Since the mid-1980s, China has experienced 19 warm winters. In 2006, the average temperature for winter hit 9.92 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1951, according to statistics from the National Meteorological Center.

Lu points out that if climate change remains unchecked, the output of China's major crops including wheat, rice and corn will drop by up to 37 percent in the second half of this century. Global warming will also reduce the river levels, and lead to more droughts and floods. And water supply in western China will fall short of demand by up to 20 billion cubic meters from 2010 to 2030.

Climate change also presents a major threat to ecologically vulnerable areas such as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, says Qin Dahe, an expert in glaciers, who is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

       "The glaciers on the plateau have been melting faster in recent decades," he said.

If the speed of the temperature rise fails to slow down, he warns, the total area of glaciers on the plateau will shrink to 100,000 square kilometres in 2030 from 500,000 square kilometres in 1995.

Since many major rivers in Asia come from the plateau, this shrinkage might result in water shortages for more than one billion people in Asia.

Liu Jingshi, a researcher with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute of the CAS, adds the plateau has also softened as global warming melts the permafrost.

Liu says that the melting permafrost has already flooded some of the Tibetan herdsmen's families, and will become even more dangerous to them if the temperature continues to rise.

International Collaborations

The per-capita emissions of greenhouse gas in China stand at 3.66 tons, less than one third the level of developed nations such as the Netherlands, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a press conference in late June.

As a developing country, China is not obliged to meet targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, under which most industrialized countries are required to reduce gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below the 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012.

Despite low per-capita emissions, Qin says, the Chinese government has placed great emphasis on climate change and has employed effective measures to cut emissions and their negative impacts.

The spokesman called on the international community to strengthen cooperation and help more countries embark on the road of clean development that both protects the environment and eco-systems and ensures the fulfilment of their development goals.

"China is still in the process of industrialization, and has the potential to become one of the world's leaders in reducing GHG if proper technologies can be adopted before the industrial facilities are built," said Dr Jason Blackstock, a researcher at Harvard University.

He says that developed nations should also take the responsibility to help China and other developing countries by providing the advanced technologies needed for reducing GHG through international collaborations.

Finding Alternatives

To actively address the issue of climate change, China released the National Climate Change Program.

It is estimated if all the objectives prescribed in the program are achieved – on hydro and nuclear power generation, upgrading of thermal power generation, facilitation of coal-bed-gas development, the use of renewable energy resources such as wind power, solar power and terrestrial heat, forestation and energy-saving – the world's most populous country will emit 1.5 billion tons less carbon dioxide by 2010 while still continuing to grow rapidly.

China also issued the General Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Pollutant Discharge Reduction, under which the government pledged to adhere to its plan for energy efficiency and to reduce major pollutant discharges by 10 percent by the year 2010.

The work plan criticized some government departments for their poor awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and pollutant reduction.

The central government will reform the mechanism of evaluating local governments and their leaders by including the implementations of energy-efficiency and emission-reduction tasks into their performances, according to the work plan.

It also contains instructions to government departments to work out detailed measures for this reform.

Units, branches and bodies of the central government are asked to take the lead in procuring energy-efficient, water-efficient and environment-friendly products, such as air conditioners, computers, printers and displays.

The state will encourage and direct financial institutions to enhance credit support for environment-protection and pollution-reduction projects. Preferential tax policies will be offered for such projects.

The government will also reform pricing mechanisms for resource products, such as refined oil, natural gas and electricity, and restrict exports of high-energy consuming and heavy-polluting products.

Energy use in high-energy consuming industries, such as steel, non-ferrous metals, petrochemicals and cement production, will be optimised to realize energy-saving targets of 50 million tons of standard coal in 2007 and 240 million tons by 2010.

The government has also taken action to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Non-fossil fuels will account for 30 percent of China's energy consumption in 2050, compared with the current 10 percent, says Yan Luguang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

       Even though China's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are lower than countries like the United States or Australia, its heavy reliance on coal makes it a major polluter and a major contributor to emissions that cause climate change.

       By 2050, the burning of coal will account for a much smaller proportion in China's energy consumption compared with 70 percent now, says Yan.

       Oil consumption would contribute around 20 percent of the total and reach 800 million tons in 2050, 75 percent of which would be imported from foreign countries.

       As China's energy demands continue to grow, a sufficient oil supply is critical to the country's energy security.

       The demand for natural gas, hydropower and nuclear power will grow and by 2050 solar energy, wind energy and biomass energy will account for 15 percent of the nation's total energy consumption.

Scientific Support

Aiming for a green and hi-tech 2008 Olympics, China has designed the Olympic venues to be as environment friendly as possible, with "green" materials, and energy saving and water recycling systems.

The Olympic stadiums have also introduced solar and wind energy and other new energies, which are vital in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

       The Ministry of Science and Technology and 14 other government departments in June jointly issued a special action plan for science and technology for China to deal with climate change, providing scientific support to the National Climate Change Program.

China invested 2.5 billion yuan (330 million U.S. dollars) in the research and development for climate change control during its 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005).

In the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), says Minister of Science and Technology Wang Gang, the government will more in this field, with 4.6 billion yuan (610 million U.S. dollars) already put into a number of projects.

The nation must consider developing a "low-carbon economy" and a "carbon-absorbing economy", says Wang. A low-carbon economy is a low energy-consuming and low pollution-based economy.

Other methods, such as optimising energy structure, improving energy efficiency and developing clean and renewable energy, should also be taken to deal with the climate change, he says.

 

 

Constructing for 2008 Olympics

By Rong Jiaojiao (China Features)

   As Beijing prepares to host athletes throughout the world to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games, the city's Olympic new look begins to unfold.

   Of the 31 new and refurbished venues for the Olympics, the iconic "Bird's Nest" National Stadium and the "Water Cube" Aquatics Center are the landmark showpieces.

   The main stadium for the Games, the National Stadium is located at the Olympic Green, east of the city's north-south axis and to the north, covering an area of 258,000 square meters (63.8 acres).

   Its twisting structure, which gives the 91,000-seat stadium its nickname, is made of 45,000 tons of steel. It will host the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events and football finals.

   The "Bird's Nest" has the world's most advanced screening and omni-directional systems and mobile seating. It will be used for large sports events, conventional competitions and non-competitive events as well as provide wide-ranging entertainment and sporting facilities to residents after the Games.

   The glittering National Aquatics Center is another highlight of the Olympic Green. It covers an area of more than 65,000 square meters (16.1 acres) and boasts 17,000 seats. The center will be a venue for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo games during the Games. After the Games, the center will become a water recreation center for the public.

   Together, the two structures are the heart of the 2008 Games layout and reflect the Chinese philosophy of harmonious balance. The steel stadium is circular and red hued. The water-covered swimming center is square and blue. Fire and water, masculine and feminine. An aerial photograph of the site reveals the two key Olympic venues forming a giant yin and yang symbol.

   The north-south city axis, which runs through Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Drum and Bell Towers, perfectly dissects the two modern landmarks, which are born from a mix of deep-rooted Chinese culture and free-flowing modern ideas.

   Environmentally friendly technology and materials have been used to construct the new venues and 69 new energy "schemes" have been implemented, including the use of solar, geothermal, waste water, wind and other sources.

   Of the 31 Beijing venues, 12 are new, 11 are older buildings being refurbished and eight are temporary structures. Except for the National Stadium due to be completed next March, all the venues will be completed by the end of the year, with a total of 300,000 migrant workers making up the construction squad.

Captions: Constructing for 2008 Olympics

Photos by China Features and text by Rong Jiaojiao (China Features)

1.      More than 5300 workers are still busy working on May 1st, 2007, the International Labor Day, at the National Stadium, which is also called Bird's Nest covering an area of 258,000 square meters (63.8 acres) in the Olympic Green and. Photo by Luo Xiaoguang

2.      A view of the National Gymnasium (front) and the National Stadium (Bird's Nest). Photo by Luo Xiaoguang

3.      Construction site of the National Conference Center, a venue for the 2008 Olympic Games. Photo by Luo Xiaoguang

4.      Welding at the Olympic Center Stadium, where the 2008 Olympic football matches will be held. Photo by Luo Xiaoguang

5.      Installing facility inside a gymnasium. Photo by Luo Xiaoguang

6.      Female workers also contribute to construction of 2008 Olympic projects. Photo by Cui Xinyu

7.      A 60-year-old worker feels happy to work for 2008 Olympic. Photo by James Zeng Huang

8.      Workers take a break outside the National Aquatics Center, a highlight of the Olympic Green and a venue for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo games during the 2008 Olympics. After the games, the center will become a water recreation center for the public. Photo by Ma Yubing

9.      Night scene of the National Stadium, which is also known as "Bird's Nest" and functions as the main stadium for the 2008 Olympics. It will host the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events and football finals. Photo by Xing Guangli

 

 

Cooling the Fires of China's Fast-growing Economy

By Wu Qi (China Features)

       Tianjin Development Zone thrives on foreign investment, but when it recently rejected a large foreign paper-processing project, there was little concern.

The plant was one of more than 100 enterprises rejected by this zone in the largest northern China port city in less than one year because of its heavy energy consumption and pollution.

"This is in line with the central government's efforts to boost the economy while saving energy and protecting the environment," says Li Yong, chairman of the zone's administrative committee.

Likewise, Wuxi City in eastern China has refused a 1.8-billion-U.S. dollar papermaking project. Shanghai Songjiang Industrial Zone turned down a 1.9-billion-yuan polluting project. And Jiangsu Kunshan Industrial Zone actually spent 500 million yuan to move away polluting enterprises in the past three years.

The government's strategy and tactics of absorbing foreign funds have altered from "swapping the market for technology" in the late 1970s when China started its economic reform and opening to the outside world, to "locally attracting foreign funds" to boost regional economic development in the 1990s, and the use of low-pollution or high-end projects now, says Professor Xu Fu of Nankai University in Tianjin.

Industry officials state that the new focus is not on raw growth, but on the cost it incurs, as the country pursues sustainable development.

Moving too Fast?

China has been striving for "rapid and efficient" economic development over the past decade.

Since 1990, China's economy has been expanding rapidly, averaging an annual growth rate of almost 10 percent. At the end of 2005, China overtook the United Kingdom to become the fourth largest economy in the world by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), after the United States, Japan and Germany. Over the past five years, China has contributed a yearly average of around 13 percent to the world's economic growth.

However, China has paid a price for the blind pursuit of GDP – its high energy consumption, accompanied by high pollution, has threatened its sustainable development and prompted criticism from around the world.

One of the side effects of China's rapid rise has been the sacrifice of the environment. Huge burgeoning coal plants are being constructed around the country to feed the increased demand for energy.

Industry officials comment that the deplorable record in energy efficiency is one of the motives behind the government's changes, listing efficiency at the top of the economic agenda.

Ma Kai, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), has pledged, "We will continue to change the country's pattern of growth this year, by further reducing energy consumption and pollution."

And President Hu Jintao has voiced concern too: "Governments at all levels should strive to better control economic growth and prevent the economy from overheating."

Rein in Investment

China's economy remains highly investment-reliant. The first half of this year saw a 25.9 percent growth in fixed assets investment to 5.41 trillion yuan, despite a slowdown from 29.8 percent in the same period last year.

The investment hike is attributed to excessive liquidity and surging investment in new projects, says Li Xiaochao, spokesman with the National Bureau of Statistics.

Official figures show the January-June investment in new projects grew 6.4 percent, compared with 6.1 percent in the first five months of this year.

"Low investment and resources costs also spurred enterprises to accelerate investment in some sectors," says Li.

Investors were also lured to sectors with large profit margins such as iron and steel.

Ma Kai warned the basis for economic development is not solid enough, the rate of GDP growth is still too fast, and the sacrifices involved are too high. As a result, the government will continue to rein in fixed-asset investment.

Balancing Trade Deficit

Balancing international payments has become one of the Chinese government's top priorities.

Chinese leaders have pledged to redouble efforts in expanding imports and investment abroad, while maintaining rational export growth and encouraging foreign investment.

According to Customs figures, China's aggregate surplus of foreign trade soared to 136.81 billion dollars in the first seven months of this year, an increase of 81 percent over the same period last year.

Having attracted more foreign investment than any other developing country for 15 consecutive years, China is estimated to hold some 1.33 trillion U.S. dollars in foreign exchange reserves.

This growing surplus has led to frequent trade friction, while the large international payments surplus has added pressure for appreciation of the Chinese currency, Renminbi (RMB).

Experts say too much foreign exchange has forced the central bank to issue more RMB, causing excessive fluidity in the domestic financial market. Instead, they propose, the government should focus on bringing in advanced technologies, management and foreign expertise.

According to officials, the government will continue its strategy of "going global", by encouraging domestic companies to invest abroad.

Outbound investment by Chinese enterprises is still in the start-up stage, but has recorded rapid rises, said Assistant Minister of Commerce Chen Jian.

Figures from the Ministry of Commerce show outbound investment hit 16.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, rising 31.6 percent year on year. Outbound investment topped 4.27 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter of this year, up 22.7 percent.

Chen forecast total outbound investment would reach 66 billion U.S. dollars in the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), and jump to about 30 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.

Expanding Domestic Demand

Of China's three major economic driving forces – export, investment and domestic demand, consumption at home is now the priority.

While investment slowed in the first half of this year, consumption is lending more strength to economic growth, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Retail sales in the first half rose 15.4 percent, 2.1 percentage points higher than the figure of the same period last year, bureau spokesman Li Xiaochao says.

"The changes in domestic demand since the beginning of the year are what we expected."

Li attributes the fast growth in consumption to the rapid growth in incomes.

"The good performance of Chinese businesses in recent years and government subsidies for low-income families and farmers as well as higher minimum wages for rural workers helped increase the incomes of urban and rural people," Li says.

China's rapid economic growth has brought nearly 200 million people out of poverty over the past two decades, but the unbalanced development has also left millions of the poor struggling in agony with rising educational, medical and housing costs.

As a result, Chinese people would largely save huge amounts of money for the education of their children and for healthcare costs. This has also fueled investment in the stock markets as people see better returns on their money than savings interest income. They are less inclined to buy things – particularly expensive imported goods – that are not seen as necessities.

"This year, we will completely stop collecting tuition and miscellaneous fees from all rural students receiving compulsory education," Premier Wen Jiabao   announced in March this year, adding that the policy will ease the financial burden of 150 million rural families with children attending primary or middle schools.

Wen also announced an ambitious plan to set up "a nationwide basic minimum cost of living allowance system" for the rural residents, who traditionally had no access to social security coverage.

Other major spending plans include a 201.9 billion yuan investment from the central government to improve the social security network, and a 10.1 billion yuan subsidy from the central budget to expand the coverage of a cooperative medicare system to 80 percent of China's rural areas.

"As the government has put more into education, medicare and housing, people are inclined to spend more, resulting in rising sales of automobiles, consumer electronics, housing and furniture," Li Xiaochao says

Sustained, Fast Growth

"China will continue implementing and improving its macro-economic control policies, stick to a prudent fiscal and monetary policy and strive for stable and fast economic progress," says Finance Minister Jin Renqing.

This means "the government will continue to rein in investment in overheated sectors and channel money towards fields that concern people's livelihoods. The government will use market mechanisms, such as interest rate adjustments and reserve requirement ratios, to strengthen controls in 2007," according to Wang Xiaoguang, an economist with the National Development and Reform Commission.

Wang believes the government will try to reduce the widening gap between urban and rural areas by directing more investment into the countryside. However, he says rural investment will not increase sharply in the short term, and rural development will mainly be driven by industrialization and urbanization.

Despite the central government's use of macro-economic policies to rein in overheating development, Chinese experts largely agree the entire economy will maintain the momentum of sustained and fast growth in the next two years.

"This is because China is creating favorable environment for the convening of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China this year and the hosting of the Olympic Games next year," said Lu Zhongyuan, an expert of the Macroeconomic Research Institute of the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Other factors helping boost China's economy include the improvement of consumption patterns to upgrade industry, the acceleration of industrialization and urbanization, nongovernmental investment and rapid economic growth in central and western China.

Lu predicts China's GDP growth in 2007 will be 11 percent. In the medium to long term, economic growth will slow down with GDP growth forecast at 10 to 11 percent in 2008 before dropping below 10 percent.

 

 

Farmers in Flats, Inspectors on the Prowl: China's Solutions to Shrinking Farmland

By Zhao Wei, Qiu Lihua (China Features)

   As urbanization and new factories devour more and more rural land over the last few years, presenting a threat to the country's food safety, the Chinese government is casting worried glances at the nation's shrinking hectares of farmland.

   China, which supports 22 percent of the world's total population with just 10 percent of the world's total farmland, must focus its land use policy on curbing the expropriation of land for construction projects and on using existing farmland in a more efficient manner, said Wang Xiaoguang, a senior economist with the National Development and Reform Commission.

   With the population expected to reach 1.4 billion in three years from now, the government determined in 2006 that the absolute bottom line for arable land was 120 million hectares if it was to be able to grow enough grain to feed everyone in the country.

   One way to curb the problem is to persuade farmers to use land more efficiently and to start living "up" rather than "out", Wang said.

   Ma Youming moved into a new flat with his wife and son six months ago. He said, "I'm not a farmer any more, now I work for a company. Most of my fellow villagers have started up small businesses or are hiring themselves out as day laborers."

   The 42-year-old Ma said his village Xinchang in Taizhou of eastern China's Zhejiang Province, had 875 people in 250 families, who had lived in an untidy, poorly planned environment for years.

   But the villagers realized that the village did not have enough land for them to build new homes after they became richer.

   So they invited professionals from Zhejiang University, in the provincial capital of Hangzhou, to help them. In 2003, the professionals drew up a new plan for the village with land set aside for public wonders: apartments for the former farmers rather than houses on a section of land.

   Village head Yu Zheng said that by going up in the air they have increased per-capita living space from 37 to 82 square meters. And "we have land left for commercial development. We've built shops with a combined floor space of 2,500 square meters, and are preparing to build a 19-storey building to rent out."

   Last year, the village business garnered 1.5 million yuan (200,000 U.S. dollars) in annual income, and the figure is likely to reach 2.5 million yuan (330,000 U.S. dollars) this year, Yu said.

   Ma Youming is satisfied with his new home. "We don't need to worry about the property management of our apartment building for it is paid for by the village business. And we don't have to pay to give our neighborhood a green look either."

   Yu said scientific planning and the efficient use of limited land resources have transformed people's lives.

   A report from Zhejiang Research Institute of Development and Reform says rural houses in the province use land too capriciously. If the land for housing is used more efficiently and scientifically, at least 100,000 hectares of land can be reclaimed for farming, equivalent to 5.7 times the land devoted to construction projects last year in the whole province.

   Experts on rural problems say, even if decentralized living has been around for thousands of years, houses spread out higgledy-piggledy in rural areas occupying vast plots of land are inappropriate for modern Chinese conditions. The campaign "Trade your rural house for an apartment", being rolled out in the economically-developed coastal regions, could save 40 percent of land used for home construction, mitigating the threat to farmland and triggering consumer demands among the former farmers.

   However, experts say that "apartments for farmers" work best in coastal regions and suburbs of large and mid-sized cities where manufacturing and service industries flourish. Many years will pass before they are adopted in underdeveloped western regions.

   Authorities in neighboring Fujian Province took the theme of this year's national land day on June 25 "efficient use of land and preserving farmland" to heart. They compiled rural housing charts, settling on 15 approved architectural housing styles that suit the climatic, geological and economic conditions in southern regions, as well as the living habits of coastal and mountainous areas in the province.

   They distributed the charts to 100,000 rural households in the province and have helped 37,000 households build satisfactory cost-effective homes in a land-efficient manner.

   Land efficiency does not stop with humans. New-style livestock pens have also been built to save land.

   The Xinling Farming and Animal Husbandry Co. in Jinjiang of Fujian has built three five-story buildings for pig raising, each for 2,000 pigs. After female pigs become pregnant on the fifth floor, they descend by lift to the fourth floor to give birth.  Piglets are nurtured on the same floor, and after they "grow up", they take the lift down to the other three stories to be raised there.

   Efficient use of land is one barrel in the government shotgun, and the other involves tightening controls over shady land deals to prevent further encroachments on farmland.

   Efforts to save land have begun to pay off. According to the Ministry of Land Resources, China had 122 million hectares of farmland in 2006, down 307,000 hectares or 0.25 percent from the 2005 level. But 367,000 hectares had been converted back into farmland, 42 percent more than the total area of land expropriated for construction purposes last year.

   China's population of 1.3 billion demand approximately 500 million tons of grain annually, or more than 300 kilograms per capita. Last year the nation's grain production was 490 billion tons or so. In other words, the 122 million hectares of farmland provides just enough to feed the 1.3 billion people.

   "Grain production needs to increase in line with the growth in population. China cannot afford any further shrinkage in farmland," said Chen Qizhou, head of a research center under the Ministry of Land Resources.

   Chen pointed out that China's population would grow to 1.4 billion by 2010. The figure of 120 million hectares of farmland is a minimum that cannot be squeezed.

   To improve land management, China has launched a second national land survey due to be completed in 2009. It has also passed the property law, which enshrines special protection for farmland and strictly restricts the expropriation of farmland for construction purposes.

   Construction of villas, golf courses and training centers for governmental institutions and state-owned companies has been at least temporarily banned.

   In April, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Land Resources and the Ministry of Construction made a joint announcement on development-zone projects. They said the number of development zones in China had decreased from 6,866 to 1,568 and new provincial-level development zones would not be approved. The move targets poor use of land by unqualified development zones.

   In the meantime, China is putting together a nationwide land supervision regime and has set up 9 regional bureaus.

   According to the Ministry of Land Resources, less land was approved for construction projects last year. Yet, the ministry admitted that 131,077 land-for-construction project cases were detected nationwide in the same year, up 17.3 percent on the previous year. They involved nearly 100,000 hectares of land, up 76.7 percent, including 43,000 hectares of farmland.

   Observers noted that although land control policies are well established in China, local governments' obsession with GDP growth, poor policy execution and low penalties for rural violations have conspired to increase the number of infringements.

   Zou Yuchuan, a national political consultant, noted that land use and land protection do not figure in the performance assessment system for local officials, who are eager to make "achievements" in their political careers.

   Experts suggested that the current land law should be amended to curb local governments' power to approve land use projects and to institute an effective accountability system. Also, they said that a mechanism should be created to encourage the efficient use of land.

 

 

From Guns to Greetings: Defrosting China's Borders

By Lou Chen, Quan Xiaoshu (China Features)

On the winding Heilongjiang River, China's northeast border with Russia, Chinese soldiers ride in blue patrol boats, passing Russian houses on the other bank so swiftly that they soon look like matchboxes.

Patrolling the river is now routine, but it was unimaginable when relations between the two nations were strained.

"The border was once marked with barbed wire and dotted with blockhouses. Cannons were positioned against each other. The Heilongjiang River was a forbidden zone, and any approaches could have seen a flare up in the bitter bilateral relations," says Colonel Jia Lun, of the People's Liberation Army regiment stationed in Mohe County on the southern bank.

But the same border is no longer a "sensitive" area, and sentry posts and lookout points are fewer, Jia says.

And similar changes have taken place along other parts of China's 22,000-kilometer land border.

According to China's white paper on National Defense in 2006, China has signed land border treaties or agreements with 12 of its 14 neighbors, with most of the demarcation disputes settled. It is currently negotiating with India and Bhutan to resolve boundary issues.

"China now shares the most peaceful borders with its neighbors since the republic was established in 1949," says Teng Jianqun, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

China saw three major military conflicts along its borders from the 1950s to the 1970s. "Since the 1980s, no major border clashes have occurred and border troops have gradually expanded exchanges with each other," Teng says.

He considers changes in the international environment, particularly the demise of the Cold War mentality, as a key factor in better border relations.

"There did exist territory disputes along the borders, but the prevailing ideological bias during the Cold War period served as a catalyst and worsened conflict," Teng says.

"The whole international climate has changed since the end of the Cold War, as a country is no longer judged as a friend or an enemy according to its political pattern, which has helped China to rebuild relations with its neighbors," he says.

More importantly, the Chinese government has employed a practical attitude in solving border issues.

"Following the foreign policy of building good neighborly relations and partnership with adjacent countries, China is more willing to solve border problems through negotiations, with both the confidence brought by its rapid economic growth and the consideration constrained by its 'peaceful development' promise," he says.

"Now, border troops from China and its neighbors have very friendly exchanges and communication. Sometimes, they invite each other to parties or celebrations," he adds.

Basketball Diplomacy

"We salute every time we meet the Russian soldiers on the river or patrolling on ice during winter. We shout hello in Russian, and they greet us in Chinese," says Jia Pengfei, head of a border sentry post.

China and Russia share a 4,300-kilometer border, with most of the 3,800-kilometer eastern section sitting along the boundary of the Heilongjiang Province.

There are no bridges spanning the Heilongjiang River and the border is crossed by boat. In winter, the frozen river can carry vehicles.

Russian's Amur Region has agreed with Heilongjiang Province to build a bridge that links Heihe city with Blagoveshchensk city, but the date for construction is yet to be set.

Jiang Yi, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), says that as relations between the two countries improve, the two militaries are transcending old conflicts to develop a solid friendship.

In 1996 and 1997, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan signed agreements on disarmament and deepening military trust along borders, agreeing to restrict the scale, geographical limits and the number of troop exercises, to notify each other of large military activities and troop movements during emergencies and to allow temporary entry of armed forces to 100 kilometers across borders.

"These joint endeavors have improved security along China's 7,000-kilometer border with the other four countries," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman has said.

The agreements helped lay the groundwork for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) founded in 2001, which has brought about closer cooperation among the five member states and Uzbekistan on trade, energy and fighting terrorism.

"Peace Mission 2007", an anti-terrorism drill on the SCO agenda, was staged in Chelyabinsk of Russia and Urumqi, capital of China's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, from August 9 to 17, 2007.

Apart from increasingly frequent and deep military and political exchanges, China and Russia have been making agreements on their borders.

In October 2004, the two sides signed the Supplementary Agreement on the Eastern Section of China-Russia Boundary Line, setting a deadline to complete demarcating the eastern boundary at the end of 2007.

Chinese and Russian border troops have, since the 1990s, operated a regular meeting mechanism to increase trust and resolve problems.

Under the mechanism, troops across the boundary have met for news briefings, joint patrols, holiday celebrations and even basketball matches and parties. Senior officers have also invited each other for family gatherings, says Song Wanjiang, deputy chief of a company stationed in Hunchun, northeast Chinas Jilin Province.

"The meetings allow us to meet face to face, but we also have a direct telephone connection to the Russian border troops, just like the hotline used by heads of state, for daily contact," Song says.

Inhabitants of border areas are the direct beneficiaries. Along the Sino-Kazakhstan border, Chinese soldiers worked with Kazak troops last summer to tame the flooded Ulken Ulast River, the border river, which could have ravaged areas in Kazakhstan.

Locals recall how Kazakhstan soldiers helped a Chinese herdsman find a cow that disappeared across the border.

  

A Thaw in the Himalayas

China's southwest border with India is also growing more amicable. From busy passes to lonely sentry posts high in the Himalayas, Chinese personnel are warming to the uniformed guards on the other side.

Jin Guangyong, a soldier at a sentry post along China's southwestern border with India, says Indian soldiers often shout "Hello" to greet Chinese soldiers.

Isolated by snow for eight months a year, the two sentry posts, separated by a canyon, are the only signs of human habitation, clinging to the black and bare mountain.

"I can feel their loneliness, since we suffer it ourselves. We respond to their greetings. Even the guard dogs bark at each other," Jin says.

But Major Ai Huaichun remembers skirmishes when troops from the two sides confronted each other on patrol just a decade ago.

"In the 1990s, meetings usually ended in squabbles that solved nothing. The two parties could argue for hours about whether a soldier had trespassed or not," says Ai, who used to serve as interpreter at joint meetings for 11 years.

China and India fought over the border in 1962 and hostility afflicted bilateral relations for decades until the end of the 20th Century.

The year 2000 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and India, which helped warm relations between the troops.

In June 2006, the Nathu La Pass, a century-old trading post that sits 4,545 meters above sea level between China's Tibet and India's Sikkim, was reopened after being closed 40 years ago.

"Border meetings have become more friendly. The two sides tend to reflect on progress in Sino-Indian relations and constructively plan for further exchanges," says Ai.

"Now, if problems like trespassing come to the meeting table, both sides politely agree to further investigate and then settle it through negotiations."

The regular meetings have resulted in the successful repatriation of soldiers who became lost and strayed over the border in 2003 and 2006.

"The meetings have enabled both sides to exchange information promptly and resolve problems conveniently, which has better maintained peace and stability," says Colonel Zhang Weiguo, head of the Chinese delegation at a meeting with Indian border troops in May this year.

From Landmines to Tourism

Tension has also eased at the Sino-Vietnamese border. In the Friendship Pass area, in China's southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Chinese border troops have just finished clearing landmines left from confrontations in the late 1970s.

Vietnam and China normalized relations in 1990, and in 2002, the two countries agreed to settle demarcation of the border by 2008. The troops have been ordered to step up mine clearances.

In two campaigns from 1992 to 1994 and from 1997 to 1999, Chinese troops cleared more than 6,800 mines from 130,000 square kilometers along the Friendship Pass.

"You face death every day," says Wei Lianhai, who has done the job for almost 10 years.

In June 1998, Wei and his comrades were setting up detonation devices in a minefield, and one soldier was so nervous he pulled a fuse before the order was given. They had to evacuate immediately, but one was trapped in vines on the ground. They managed to pull him free and run to safety before the mine went off.

When they cleared the last landmine on July 5, making the Friendship Pass zone a mine-free area, everybody roared with relief.

They had reason to rejoice, as they had smoothed the way for the two countries to develop tourism, trade and regional integration.

China has been the largest trade partner of Vietnam for two years running, with trade hitting almost 10 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, up 21.4 percent from 2005.

Leaders of the two countries have set a target of 15 billion U.S. dollars by 2010.

In addition, they have pledged to accelerate the establishment of sub-regional economic areas, including the China-ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) free trade zone and trade corridors along the Mekong River, which originates in China, runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and empties into the South China Sea.

"A peaceful border is part of any promising relationship between two armies and two countries, and provides opportunities for increasing mutual respect and trust," says Jiang Yi, the CASS research fellow.

 

Growing Old With Dignity: China Struggles to Care for Growing Number of Elderly

                     By Miao Hong, China Features

Gong Shihai, a 73-year-old peasant, had never dreamed that he was married for the first time in his life at a township senior citizens home, 40 kilometers southeast of Wuhan,capital of central China's Hubei Province.  

He had led a lonely and childless life in the small village of Zhazhou, within the reach of Donggou Town of Ezhou City, where he farmed 1.2-mu land and each month received a fixed amount of 70 yuan ( 9.2 U.S. dollars) from the government.

Sometimes, Gong's nephews would offer him rice and cooking oil. They wanted to take care of him, but like other able-bodied laborers in rural areas,they left to find jobs in large cities. Gong had to manage everything by himself.

In the village, Gong was one of the ten single aged people who benefited from the government's "five guarantees" system. These childless and infirm elderly, known as rural "wubao laoren" in Chinese, are guaranteed food, clothing, medical care and burial expenses by the village.

Gong could earn his own living with financial support of the village and the help of relatives and neighbors, but sometimes he felt helpless and easily descended into a state of anxiety, especially when he fell sick. The elderly of the village tried to persuade the village cadres to help hire a nurse for them, but didn't succeed.

The cadres had other advice in return. In May 2005, Gong turned over his farmland to the village and moved into his "new home" at the Donggou Welfare House. Soon after he moved to enjoy the "centralized care" funded by the government, his benefit was raised to 100 yuan (13.2 U.S. dollars) per month and was again raised to 150 yuan (19.8 U.S. dollars) per month this July.

Gong felt cozy in the new habitat. He indulged in a "sunset romance" with a childless widow his own age. He fell in love with Huang Lanxiang in November 2005. They married on January 8, 2006. "I took a fancy to her," Gong admits, with a hint of coyness. "She is good in character and personality. We get along so very well. " 

Four other elderly couples have married in the welfare house. Their pairings enable them to take better care of each other while lightening the burden on the nursing staff. Gong likes playing card games or chess in his spare time. "It's ten thousand times better than staying at home," Gong says, and boasts he could "live to be a hundred, no problem".

The welfare house, built in 1997, is now fully occupied by 85 old people, with the oldest at 95. The number of male residents doubles that of the female. The wubao laoren aged over 60 have preference in admission.  

   "It all depends on whether they want to move in," says Fu Yuancheng, 61, the principal of the welfare house ever since 1997.  He used to be a village head as well as a township factory director. "We took in two disabled under 60 because they could not work." 

Initially, the house only had 880 square meters of bungalows with 43 beds. As a result of the three-year "Mascot Project" launched in Hubei Province in 2003, an expansion with six new cottages of 660 square meters with 42 beds was accomplished in 2005. With his eight staff and the residents, Fu has tried to develop mixed farming, making this welfare house self-sufficient in grain, vegetables, fruit, fish and pork.

According to Wei Guoxiang, an official from the Civil Affairs Department of Hubei Province, the fending funds for rural beneficiaries of the "five guarantees" system was transferred from the central government to local governments after rural taxation reforms and the source of which became more stabilized.

It was against this backdrop that the provincial government launched its three-year "Mascot Project", which ended in 2005, designed to benefit more rural elderly in extreme financial difficulties. As a result, more than 700 welfare houses were rebuilt and expanded, with a total of 670 million yuan (88.4 million U.S.dollars) invested in the project.

Last year and this year, the provincial government successively allocated 50 million yuan (6.6 million U.S. dollars) to improve nursing conditions in rural welfare houses. The provincial government allocated six million yuan (791,985 U.S. dollars) to purchase 400 TV sets, 800 washing machines, more than 1,400 freezers and more than 200 solar water heaters as well as more than 100 sets of exercise equipment.

The provincial government also allowed half a mu of land to be transferred with each resident to welfare houses. "None of our welfare houses in rural areas buys vegetables at the markets," Wei says. "They are self-sufficient in vegetables, otherwise they would be burdened with extra expenses." In the latter half of last year, the provincial government encouraged each house to raise pigs and build methane ponds, encouraging the development of a circulatory economy.

Earlier this year, CCTV presented the love story of Gong Shihai and Huang Lanxiang and also disclosed that a total of 1,180 wubao laoren couples had married in welfare houses in Hubei Province.

 "Some of them are registered," says Wei, "but some are not and they just live together. We really have difficulties in management. As long as they stay together, they remain mentally active. When they were brought into the houses, they only wanted three meals every day, but later on, they changed their minds for good meals and something else."

       China started to become an aging society in 1999, about five years before its population hit 1.3 billion in early 2005. At that time, its GDP per capita was between 800 and 1,000 U.S. dollars.

Generally, the GDP per capita in developed countries had already reached 5,000 to over 10,000 U.S. dollars when they entered into the aging stage. By 2020, China's GDP per capita is not expected to exceed 2,000 U.S. dollars as its aging population of 240 million would account for 16 percent of the expected total population.

It is predicted that the country's total population will peak at 1.46 billion in 2030 and the number of senior citizens will hit 437 million by 2051, says Li Bengong, president of the National Committee on Aging. 

China only has a 25-year strategic preparatory period (2007-2032) to cope with the everlasting challenges of the aging population throughout the 21st Century, Li says. No developing country has successfully dealt with this challenge to provide China with a model to follow.

China has more than 40,000 senior care institutions with about 1.7 million beds for its population of 145 million over 60, of which about 67 percent live in rural areas and about 13 million aged people over 80 are now in dire need of care, says Zhang Mingliang, director of the Social Welfare and Social Affairs Department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

About one-third or half of the elderly in large cities are without support from their children or a livelihood. More elderly people are realizing they cannot expect their working children to shoulder the responsibility of supporting and taking care of them. However, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has endeavored to build up a senior care social service system based on family care, supported by community services and supplemented by institutional services.

"Suppose that five percent of China's 145 million elderly population need to live in old folks' homes," Zhang says, "more than seven million beds will be needed, but the present number of 1.7 million beds is far from enough."

 Under China's 11th Five-Year Program (2006-2010), a total of three million beds will be set up – 2.2 million beds in rural areas and 800,000 beds in urban areas, on which the government can focus basic care for 50 percent of the infirm and childless and a total of 1.8 million senior care jobs will also be created.

       "The construction of senior care institutions on a large scale is now a crying need," Zhang says. "The government should allocate more funds to purchase senior care services and constitute favorable policies for institutions, further mobilizing social resources and supporting forces in society to take part in initiating senior care undertaking."

However, complained Fu Yuancheng, the principal of the Hubei welfare house, finding good staff is a problem. "Even if they are professional senior care nurses and receive on-the-job training regularly, they won't stay long, leaving for other jobs." 

 

Harmonious World: China's Ancient Philosophy

 for New International Order

By Li Shijia (China Features)

   China, together with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, staged a joint anti-terrorism exercise in mid August this year, the fifth drill launched within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) since it was founded in June 2001.

   The drill, dubbed "Peace Mission 2007", was a practice run of anti-terrorism procedures, but its underlying aim was to strengthen military cooperation between China and central Asia.

   Despite the show of military force, like the joint military maneuvers China has participated in with other countries, including the United States, it served to promote mutual trust among the participants.

   "Such efforts are clear indication that China aspires to promote peace and harmony by reducing conflict in the world," says Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.

   The "harmonious society" is a political catchphrase in China today, by which President Hu Jintao aims to lead the government in closing the wealth divide and easing growing social tensions. The concept of a "harmonious world" is an extension of Hu's domestic policy into the arena of foreign relations.

Philosophical Traditions

   Looking at the 5,000-year history of China, it becomes apparent the word "harmony" is not freshly coined political jargon, but a philosophical tradition.

   Thousands of years ago, Chinese carved the character "He", which means harmony and peace, on tortoise shells, and philosopher Confucius (551 B.C. to 479 B.C.) expounded the philosophical concept of "harmony without uniformity", meaning a world is full of differences and contradictions, but the righteous man should balance them and achieve harmony.

   Italian missionary Matteo Ricci, who came to China more than 400 years ago, wrote after studying Chinese history, and especially after comparing the Chinese and European history, that the Chinese were contented with the status quo and cherished harmony and peace. The Chinese nation by its nature had no ambition for overseas conquest, he concluded.

   "The thought of harmony is a major component of the Chinese culture that highlights a harmonious union of people," says Professor Zhang Liwen, of the Beijing-Based Renmin University.

   Harmony means coordination, combination, integration and peace among different elements. "It's a reflection of the Chinese people's ethical principles and a basic element of China's modern diplomacy."

Late premier Zhou Enlai played a crucial role in formulating the "Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence" in 1954, which are now the fundamental guidelines for international relations; in the early 1980s, Deng Xiaoping proposed the "independent foreign policy of peace"; and since the turn of the century, the Chinese leadership has pledged to take a "path of peaceful development".

   "The continuity in the strategies of different generations of Chinese leaders shows that China, facing a complex and changing world, has always regarded peace and harmony as a priority," says Ruan Zongze.

   In 2005, as China started to advance social harmony in the domestic sphere, it also declared its pursuit for building up a harmonious world in the international arena.

   President Hu Jintao advocated this concept at the United Nation's 60th anniversary summit, saying: "Multilateralism, mutually beneficial cooperation and the spirit of inclusiveness should be upheld to realize common security, prosperity, and to build a world where all civilizations coexist harmoniously and accommodate each other."

   President Hu pointed out that the inevitability that China would develop peacefully was based on its national circumstances, historical and cultural tradition and world development trends.

   At the end of 2005, the Chinese government for the first time issued a white paper on peaceful development. "Harmony" was described as the building of a peaceful and prosperous world as the ultimate goal of China's development.

   During a national meeting on foreign affairs in August last year, the government vowed to create a sound international environment and favorable external conditions for the country's development and to contribute to the construction of a harmonious world.

Advocating Multilateralism

 

   The upholding of multilateralism has been the striking feature of China's diplomacy over the past few years, as the country engaged more with international and regional organizations.

   This strategy was outlined in the report of the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2002, and guided diplomatic work in the next five years. The report says, "China will take an active part in multilateral activities, and play a constructive role within international and regional frameworks."

   Multilateral diplomacy advocates relations with more than two nations, and it is more open and inclusive than diplomacy between just two countries, says Wang Mingjin, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

   China has taken multilateralism as the long-term strategy for two reasons, Wang says. The first is that China would like to work with other countries to handle problems facing the whole international community, such as terrorism and climate change.

   Second, China hopes more countries will work together for economic development.

   China attended the G8 summit meetings concerning climate change in Germany in June last year, pledging to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.

   Last year, China hosted three summits with nations from Africa, central Asia, and southeast Asia.

   The Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last November brought together more than 40 leaders and heads of state from Africa. The SCO summit began drafting cooperation codes in various fields to legally guarantee long-term, good neighborly and friendly cooperation. The China-ASEAN Summit marked 15 years of dialogue and partnership. It raised a proposal for cooperation in strategic, economic, security and cultural spheres.

   "China's diplomacy has become more active and mature as the country's national strength developed," says Wu Jianmin, president of the Foreign Affairs University.

Interaction with World Powers and Neighbors

The five United Nations Security Council permanent members and other major economic heavyweights are the most important movers and shakers in the world arena, and China's interactions with them could well decide many issues relating to peace and security.

   After five years of deadlock, relations between China and Japan have finally begun to thaw. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid an "ice melting" visit to Japan in April 2007, the first-ever tour by a Chinese premier in seven years. The two sides agreed to develop a "strategic and mutually reciprocal" relationship.

China's relationship status with the United States has upgraded from "stakeholder" to "constructive cooperator" as the two nations face common interests and challenges.

In the economic sphere, China has become Japan's biggest trading partner, and two-way trade between China and Japan exceeded 200 billion U.S. dollars last year. China-U.S. trade was worth more than 260 billion U.S. dollars in 2006 and is expected to rise to 300 billion U.S. dollars by 2010, according to the Chinese statistics.

Trade and security cooperation is becoming the cornerstone for the relationship between China and the major powers, and a new aspect of China's diplomacy.

To resolve the rising number of trade disputes, China advocated strategic dialogues with the U.S., Japan, India and Russia. China and the U.S. started their first economic dialogue in 2006.

To promote understanding and exchanges between the peoples, China has held a "year of culture" each with France, Italy and Russia.

"China has engaged in more interactions with the major powers, and its role in balancing the relationship among major powers cannot be neglected," says Jin Linbo, a researcher with China Institute of International Studies.

   Maintaining peaceful borders with its neighbors is a top priority of China's foreign policy. Along frontiers with Vietnam, India and Russia, former battlefields are witnessing booming cross-border trade.

   With the principle of equal consultation as well as mutual understanding and accommodation, China has signed boundary treaties or agreements with 12 of its 14 neighbors, demarcating 90 percent of its 22,000-kilometer land border.

   On the disputes over oceanic resources, China proposed the principle of "shelving differences for joint exploration" and has reached agreements on joint development of mineral resources with neighbors, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

Engagement in World Affairs

   China's aspiration for harmonious ties with others is demonstrated in its substantial engagement in world affairs and conflict resolution.

   The country has actively participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations. At present, about 1,600 Chinese personnel are serving in ten countries, including Sudan, Lebanon, and Liberia.

   China has always been a staunch supporter of political means to resolve the nuclear issues in the Korean Peninsular. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has shut down its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, the initial step towards nuclear disarmament.

   To boost the development of African nations, China adopted a series of measures and will provide aid initiatives worth more than10 billion U.S. dollars over the next three years. Also, China offered aid and funds to countries hit by natural disasters. It also offered emergency aid to disaster victims in developed nations.

   On the thorny Darfur issue, China has maintained communications with Sudan through high-level visits, special envoys, and direct contact between leaders, advising Sudan to cooperate with the UN and the African Union and to take active steps to ease the situation in the Darfur region. China also appointed a special representative Liu Guijin for Darfur, who has been shuttling between the two continents.

   "China has become an active mediator in international conflicts and helped regulate international rules," noticed Chen Xulong, deputy director of the Department of Strategic Studies of the China Institute of International Studies.

   Harmony, the ancient Chinese philosophical concept reflected in modern diplomacy, will guide China to achieve stability and prosperity and play a positive role in forming the new international political and economic order, Chen says.

   Talking Soft: Common Language Helps Resolve Darfur Issue

   By Liu Dongkai, Lin Liping, China Features

   As China's first special envoy on African affairs, Liu Guijin has been running against time since assuming office in May. He made three trips to Africa in less than three months, two of them to Darfur, Sudan, at a dramatic time in one of the most volatile spots in Africa. More than one million displaced people came one step closer to returning home as the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) decided to deploy a 26,000-strong joint peacekeeping force in Darfur. The largest country on the continent struggled towards peace and stability as rebel groups sat down to negotiate with the government. As the international community hailed the progress as "unprecedented", many world leaders thanked China for playing a constructive role.

   "You can describe China's role in resolving the Darfur issue as unique, since we speak and act in a manner our African friends understand and accept," Liu said.

   Over the years, the Sudanese government has cooperated with the AU in addressing conflicts among local tribes in Darfur. Some Western countries had accused it of genocide in the region, an allegation overturned by an on-site UN investigation. Highly suspicious of the motives of Western countries, the Sudanese government had refused to allow any troops from outside the AU into Darfur, even under the banner of UN. The situation became more complicated as the West threatened to impose economic sanctions on Sudan. Some individuals and groups in the West even called for use of force without authorization of the United Nations. The move caused agitation within the African Union, while Sudan vowed to fight for its sovereignty.

   At the crucial moment, China stood up for a political resolution of the Darfur issue. It adopted a clear-cut stance that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sudan should be respected and that sanctions were not conducive to resolving the issue. In order to avert a possible escalation of the crisis, China immediately embarked on a series of diplomatic efforts.

   Chinese President Hu Jintao met twice with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed El-Bashir from November to February. Hu spelled out China's principles on the Darfur issue, including respect of Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, insistence on a peaceful resolution through dialogue and equal consultation, affirming the role of AU and UN and the imperative of advancing stability and living standards in the region. Chinese leaders have also discussed the Darfur issue with First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit and other Sudanese officials when they visited China.

   Meanwhile, Beijing dispatched five groups of envoys to Darfur in the months running up to May, when it appointed Liu Guijin as the special envoy on the Darfur issue. During his visit to Sudan in May, Liu met with President El-Bashir and several government ministers in a bid to persuade them to show greater flexibility on issues such as the proposal put forward by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on deploying an AU-UN joint peacekeeping force in Darfur in three phases. The proposal was the result of a year of mediation by AU and other countries. It won the broad consent of the international community, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. "We made it clear to the Sudanese side that it was in the immediate and long-term interests of Sudan to accept the Annan proposal, since it was universally recognized as a comprehensive solution to the Darfur issue," Liu said.

   "China has been trying every possible channel to carry through the message to Sudan. And the Sudanese government apparently agreed with us," Liu said.

   On June 12, Sudan declared in a joint statement with the AU and UN that it had explicitly accepted the third and final phase of the Annan proposal without reservation. On July 31, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1769 on deploying AU-UN troops in Darfur.

   However, China's position on seeking the cooperation of the Sudanese government rather than asserting pressure or imposing sanctions has drawn criticism in the Western media. Some accused China of protecting "tyranny" for its own benefit and called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games.

   MEDIATOR WITH AN OPEN ATTITUDE

   "In fact, China has adopted a very open manner in dealing with the Darfur issue," Liu said. Chinese leaders and officials have taken every opportunity to exchange views with their Western counterparts, including US special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios' visit to Beijing in January and Chinese President Hu Jintao's meetings with G8 leaders in Germany in June. Beijing has welcomed mediation trips to Darfur by international figures such as US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. It holds an open attitude toward France's proposal of opening up a humanitarian corridor to Darfur, on the condition that relevant countries accept it. At the Paris meeting in June, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi acted as a mediator in smoothing out difficulties between Sudan and certain Western countries.

   "We've been trying to persuade our Western colleagues that an iron hand may not necessarily be the only way to solve problems. Imposing sanctions will only make the situation even more complicated by discouraging Sudanese government cooperation on resolving the issue," said Liu, who also attended the international meeting as a representative of the Chinese government. "We can use our wisdom and joint efforts to achieve a better result."

   Under China's presidency, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1769, which is concise and clear-cut in its wording, paving the way for an AU-UN peacekeeping force entering Darfur, but without asserting pressure or imposing sanctions against Sudan. Sudan's UN ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem said many of the Sudanese government's concerns have been taken into consideration in the resolution. For example, the resolution stipulates the AU-UN troops shall conduct the peacekeeping mission in Darfur without prejudicing the role of the Sudanese government.

   "Darfur is Sudan's Darfur. It is Africa's Darfur," Liu said. China has always based its relationship with Africa on equal footing and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. "China's Africa policy is deeply rooted in the philosophy of Chinese culture and in its long history," Liu says.

    The Chinese people, belonging to 56 ethnic groups and speaking hundreds of dialects, believe that different cultures can coexist peacefully with mutual respect. Confucius said more than 2,000 years ago that the Chinese people would not impose on others what they themselves did not desire. Since China and Africa both have painful memories of Western colonization, China will never pursue its own interests at the cost of Africa, Liu says. China's prime interest lies in building a harmonious world, because it can only focus on domestic development under stable international circumstances. And friendship with Africa has always been one of the pillars of China's peaceful foreign policy. "The so-called new colonialism cannot fit China's overall strategy," Liu says. "Accusing China of pursuing neocolonialism in Africa merely reflects the mindset of the accusers who have a colonial past in the continent."

   ECONOMIC COOPERATION OF EQUALITY, NON-EXCLUSIVENESS

   On China's economic cooperation with Africa, Liu said that both sides abide by the principles of equality, mutual benefit, transparency and non-exclusiveness, he says.

   "China does import oil from Sudan," he said. But Western oil companies take the lion's share of resources on the continent. Chinese companies won oil contracts through international bidding and conducted all projects in Sudan jointly with international partners, including those from Britain, Canada, India, Malaysia and Sudan. Since the oil output is divided in accordance with the share of investment, China only gets a quota to buy a minimum part of the total output. According to AU statistics, 33 percent of Africa's oil exports went to the United States last year. Another 36 percent of African oil flew to Europe, while China only bought 8.7 percent of the total exports.

   Western countries have long been showing increasingly great interest in oil resources in Sudan. When Chinese oil companies entered Sudan 11 years ago, the country had to rely on imports for most of its fuels. Before that, some Western oil giants had been drilling in the pastures of Sudan for more than a decade, without finding any oil deposits of commercial value. Chinese companies helped the country pump the first barrel of oil in 1996, thanks to the unique technology they employed. Three years later, the first shipment of oil left Port Sudan. The economy has taken off in the past six years as oil income topped two billion US dollars a year.  Economic growth is expected to reach an unprecedented 13 percent this year.

     The presence of Chinese companies has brought about alternative sources of funds and technology for the development of African countries. Renowned African economist Adebayo Adedeji said African people were able to get tangible benefits from economic cooperation with China, while Western companies had brought little benefit to locals in their exploitation of African resources.

    Chinese companies have invested money back into Sudan for future development. With Chinese investment, Khartoum has developed a complete set of oil refineries, petrochemical plants and trading systems. More than 100,000 Sudanese people have found jobs in cooperative projects between China and Sudan. Chinese companies helped train 6,000 local managers and technicians, who are now serving at key positions in the country's oil industry.

   China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the major Chinese oil company operating in Sudan, has donated more than 35 million US dollars to build roads, bridges, hospitals and schools for local communities, benefiting more than 1.5 million local residents.

   Some 65 kilometers to the north of Khartoum, a China-built power plant is generating one-third of the country's electricity.  Further to the north, the big dam of Marawi hydropower plant is taking shape under the supervision of Chinese engineers. On completion next year, it will triple the electricity output in Sudan. It will not only eliminate power shortages in Sudan, but also provide irrigation within a radius of 100 kilometers.

     As the biggest developing country in the world, China is fully aware that Sudan is in urgent need of accelerating development in order to dig out the root of conflict. As Western countries withhold aid and impose sanctions on Sudan, Chinese companies are building water supply projects in Darfur, which are crucial to ease the tension caused by lack of resources. During his visit to Sudan in February, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to give 40 million yuan worth of humanitarian aid to Darfur on top of the 80 million yuan of aid that already given to Sudan. China has also conributed troops and funds to AU-UN peacekeeing mission in Darfur.

   At the Tripoli meeting in July, AU special envoy for Darfur Salim Ahmed Salim voiced deep concern that peace might not last in Darfur if no progress were made on development. The international community's effort to promote development in Sudan has been handicapped by the West's failures to honor pledges of aid under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Sudanese government and southern rebels. According to the agreement, people in southern Sudan will vote on whether the region will stay in a unified Sudan or split in 2011. And the Darfur region will hold a referendum in 2010. Salim said if the largest country in Africa split, it would send shock waves through the neighboring countries and mean a disaster for the whole continent.

   "When I listen to him, I feel his deep love for Africa and his deep worries,"  Liu said when recalling a conversation with Salim at the meeting. That's why China has been calling for a "double track" approach in addressing the Darfur issue, namely applying balanced and parallel efforts on peacekeeping and a political resolution of the issue.  As rebel groups previously not included in the peace process sat down in talks with the AU and UN special envoys in Arusha, Tanzania, in August, the two wheels of the Darfur issue at last started to roll simultaneously toward a lasting peace.

   In a meeting with Liu, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said China had spoken what Africa wanted to say.

   (Zhang Haina also contributed to this story) 

 

The Railway to the "Roof of the World": Wealth and Worries

Zhou Yan (China Features)

   

Zhaxi Wangzhag prostrated himself on a month-long pilgrimage from his remote village at Nagqu County in northern Tibet to Lhasa, crawling on hands and knees and refusing to walk upright.

He was fulfilling a dream and honoring a commitment to his father, a devout Buddhist who insisted every man in the family should perform the ritual.

   The pilgrim says his knees were swollen and his back ached at the end of the 400-kilometer trek. But he was content even as trains rumbled past several times a day, with passengers smiling and waving through the windows.

   The Lhasa tour did not just take Zhaxi Wangzhag to the famous monasteries, but also to herbal markets where he was convinced the wild caterpillar fungus from his hometown promised another fortune this year.

   The lucrative Tibetan medicinal cure-all doubled his family income last year.

   As Tibetan medicine gains popularity, nearly 1,300 tons of caterpillar fungus and other Tibetan herbs were sold to the other parts of China last year, up 7 percent year-on-year, the regional government says.

   It attributes the growth, in part, to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which has carried 44,000 tons of Tibetan products to the rest of China in its first year of operation since July 1, 2006. These include organic farm produce, adornments, herbs, incense, dried yak meat, barley beer and even mineral water from an altitude of 5,100 meters.

   Meanwhile, the 1,956-kilometer railway has boosted Tibetan markets by bringing in 620,000 tons of supplies, says Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the regional government.

Changing Lives

 

"Unprecedented economic growth, rising living standards, and job creation… are transforming life, work and attitudes, especially of the young, in sparsely populated Tibet. And the railway is making a big difference," wrote journalist N. Ram in the Indian newspaper, The Hindu.

   More than a half century ago, Liu Guangfan trekked three months on camelback from Golmud City of Qinghai Province to Lhasa in order to build the first ever highway on the "roof of the world".

   With the railway, the same 1,142-kilometer journey is covered in just 12 hours. Even Beijing is only 48 hours away from Lhasa.

   "It's brought in tourists and a better life," says Losang Cering, a taxi driver in his 40s, who earns more than 2,000 yuan (270 U.S. dollars) a month, three or four times the amount he could make as a peasant before.

   The railway has created jobs for many peasants in his village close to the Lhasa railway station. "Our village-run taxi fleet has expanded to 70 cars from the previous 10, and the more enterprising young men have contracted civil construction projects, and opened souvenir stores and hostels."

   The tourism boom has boosted Tibet's retail market, enabling many peasants and herders to profit from sales of homemade yogurt, dried yak meat and souvenirs at their doorstep.

   Qamba, who runs a dairy in Nagqu, plans to buy more cattle and double the plant's current output of 1,500 kilograms a year. "Traditional Tibetan dairy foods are very popular with the tourists. Many buy huge packages to take home," he says.

   The immense business opportunities posed by the railway have brought in staggering investment from home and abroad – 4 billion yuan (530 million U.S. dollars) last year, close to the total of the previous five years, says He Benyun, vice director of Tibet's regional development and reform commission.

   This has saved many ailing Tibetan businesses from bankruptcy, he says.

   Investors from east China's Zhejiang Province have revived a former brick kiln on the suburbs of Lhasa. Today the Qingda Building Material Supplies Co. employs 40 locals and sells flooring and tiles to China's inland provinces as well as to Nepal and India.

   It has given 22-year-old Lhazhoin a job – three years after she graduated from a local secondary school. She's making 1,500 yuan (200 U.S. dollars) a month as a cashier.

 

Culture on the Move

  

Gama Chilai has taken his extended family of 12, including his grandmother, 73, and his son, 3, by train to Lhasa this summer.

"For many Tibetans, a pilgrimage to Lhasa's monasteries is a lifelong dream," says the young man from Yushu, a Tibetan community in adjacent Qinghai Province.

   Yushu is about 2,000 kilometers from Lhasa. Before the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened, local Tibetans could only take buses to Lhasa. The journey over the zigzagging mountain road was tiring, dangerous and by no means cheap, says Gama Chilai.

   The railway has carried trainloads of pilgrims like him into Tibet over the past year.

   Last year, 328,000 pilgrims visited the Potala Palace, Norbuglinkha and Johkang Monastery, the top three religious sites in Lhasa, an increase of 62,000 from the previous year, Tibet's regional government says.

   During this year's weeklong May Day holiday, more than 73,000 people visited Norbuglinkha, the summer resort of all the Dalai Lamas. At least 40,000 were pilgrims.

   Many travel by train. Pilgrims wearing Tibetan costume and bringing articles of tribute and lamas in crimson cassocks make the train journey to Tibet unique.

   In the meantime, many Tibetans have taken the train on pilgrimages elsewhere, to the Ta'er Monastery in Qinghai and the Lama Temple in Beijing.

   The railway has also promoted Tibetan culture and arts in the rest of China. Tibetan theme bars, restaurants and souvenir stores are found in many big cities.

   "Tibetan adornments have become fashionable almost overnight. They're beautiful," says Wang Yanwen, whose store on Zhangye Road in downtown Lanzhou, capital city of northwestern Gansu Province, sells everything to do with Tibetan Buddhism, ranging from beads and prayer wheels to necklaces and bracelets ingrained with totems.

   A Tibetan tap dance has gained nationwide popularity after a group of 70 farmer-performers staged it for the lunar New Year's Eve gala on China Central Television in February.

   "I hope people from outside Tibet will also learn about traditional art forms," says Zhaxi Puncog, a villager in Lhaze County of Xigaze, home to the centuries-old dance.

Man and Nature

A Tibetan antelope runs briskly after a 4-wheel drive vehicle towards the three sheds that serve as a wildlife preservation center in the Hoh Xil Natural Reserve 4,600 meters above sea level.

It apparently recognizes the car and its driver Gama – many Tibetans have no surnames – a worker at the center.

   Gama became the animal's means of survival in June 2006, when it was found alone in the wild, barely a week old and with an injured leg. He took it to the center, tended its wounds and kept it at a 300-hectare nature reserve alongside other Tibetan antelopes, stocky wild horses and donkeys.

   He named it Nima, which means "the sun" in Tibetan.

   Gama and his colleagues work to protect wild species in the Hoh Xil, a 45,000-square kilometer area that is an ideal habitat for wild animals.

   "Nima was obviously scared when the first train leaving Lhasa passed the Hoh Xil," says Gama. "She was barely a month old and had never seen or heard a train. So she ran."

   Today, a daily average of six trains pass their home, but Nima and the other animals are no longer afraid. "They simply stop grazing and look."

   Doubts and criticisms are part of the history of the "heavenly railway" even when it was still on the drawing board. The possible extinction of the critically endangered Tibetan antelopes has been frequently cited by some environmentalists in arguments against the railway.

   At the wildlife preservation center, visitors have poured in. "Many chipped in preservation funds. Some offered to work as volunteers," says Gama.

   Tibet used to have several million Tibetan antelopes, but excessive poaching and human encroachment on their habitats caused the population to shrink sharply in the past decades.

   Until the mid 1990s, up to 4,000 antelopes in Tibet were killed by poachers each year. Tibet has tightened supervision and patrols in the antelopes' habitats since 1998, and established three nature reserves to protect the creatures, covering more than 600,000 square kilometers, an area 40 times the size of Beijing.

   The government made wildlife preservation a priority in its construction of the railway to Tibet. Thirty-three special passageways were built along the line, enabling animals to follow their normal migratory routes unhindered.

   Last year, a Chinese forestry administration report put the population of Tibetan antelopes in Tibet at 150,000, doubling the number of the late 1980s. The Hoh Xil alone has 50,000 antelopes.

   "Next year, when we mark the second year of the railway, we'll set Nima free far from our preservation center. It'll be time for her to return to the wild," says Gama.

   "Very likely train passengers next year will see flocks of pregnant antelopes migrating to their breeding sites. Nima could be one of them."

Boon or Bane

   Yet a year after its opening, debate continues over whether the world's highest railway, built at the cost of 33 billion yuan (4.4 billion U.S. dollars) is a boon or bane.

   On the one hand, it drove up Tibet's GDP by 13.4 percent last year to a record 29 billion yuan (3.87 billion U.S. dollars), with per-capita GDP topping 1,000 U.S. dollars. In 2006, Tibetan farmers and herders reported a per-capita net income of 2,435 yuan (325 U.S. dollars), up 17.2 percent year-on-year.

   The railway has linked the southwestern China region, once so exotic even to the Chinese, ever so closely with the rest of the country. It has carried 1.5 million passengers into Tibet, nearly half of the total tourist arrivals over the past year.

   Yet the railway has prompted worries from environmental groups including WWF (World Wildlife Fund) over the fragile ecosystems on the plateau.

       "Once damaged, it is extremely difficult to reverse. Integrating the needs of local development with conserving Tibet's biodiversity is in need of urgent attention," says Dawa Tsering, head of WWF China's Program Office in Lhasa.

   Though an assessment by environmental scientists in June indicated no apparent damage to the environment along the route, an official with China's top environmental protection agency recently frowned upon tins and plastic bags littered at several railway stations.

In 2010, about 6 million tourists are expected to flood into Lhasa, a city with 400,000 permanent residents. "Tourism will create mountains of garbage and sewage, far beyond the city's waste treatment capacities."

Lhasa allows its sewage water to flood into the Lhasa River. Its only sewage treatment plant became operational in January 2007 to treat sewage water discharged from the railway station and the trains.

       "The real test has only started," says Zhu Xingxiang, an official in charge of environment evaluation at the State Environmental Protection Administration.

 

 

Tree by Tree, China Rolls Back Deserts

By Cheng Zhiliang (China Features)

Abdulla Arken needs to find a new line of work – and soon.

Every morning he takes firewood to sell at the market in Hotan county near the Taklimakan Desert, in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

But on most days, hours can drag by before he gets a customer.

"I'm considering other lines of business because fewer and fewer people are buying firewood now," says the Uygur man in his 40s who has been selling firewood for 12 years.

The stagnation of Arken's business is little surprise to Bisumihan Imin, a woman farmer in Bagqi town of Hotan, since she stopped using firewood and turned to methane gas 2 years ago.

She used to buy firewood once a month and annually burnt 500 kilograms of diversiform-leaved poplar and Chinese tamarisk that protected her hometown from desertification.

Rural residents in arid Hotan area burnt 170,000 tons of trees and shrubs for cooking each year.

"I don't need to buy firewood or coal anymore, for methane gas is cleaner and more convenient," Bisumihan says.

Since 2003, the Chinese government has invested about 200 million yuan (27 million U.S. dollars) in installing methane gas facilities that use animal dung and human waste as the main ingredient in Xinjiang so the people no longer need to chop down trees.

More than 300,000 families in rural Xinjiang, about 10 percent of the rural population, are using methane gas.

Residents are also being encouraged to plant trees that resist desertification, such as poplars, desert dates and sea buckthorns.

Xinjiang is one of China's worst affected areas when it comes to desertification. Statistics from the regional government show 75 million hectares of the region's land, or 45 percent of the total, is desert. At least 12 million people suffer the consequences, ranging from drinking water shortages to cropland infertility.

Before the 1980s, residents of Qira County on the southern edge of the Junggar Basin had to relocate three times from the path of the encroaching sands. The desert is now only five kilometers from the county seat.

Sand and dust blown by the wind choked Hotan more than 300 days every year, leading to a sharp rise of respiratory diseases.

"The desert in Xinjiang as a whole is expanding less rapidly now. We have managed to reduce the speed of expansion from 38,400 hectares to just 10,400 hectares a year, but the situation is still very severe," says Ismail Tiliwaldi, chairman of the regional government.

Rolling Back the Deserts

The situation in Xinjiang mirrors China's achievements and challenges in the fight against desertification.

The area of land in China vulnerable to desertification is dwindling by about 128,300 hectares per year thanks to years of afforestation efforts, compared with the annual expansion of 343,600 hectares before the end of the 20th Century, Zhu Lieke, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) noticed.

China tops the world in afforestation with 54 million hectares of man-made forest.

Since the government began promoting voluntary tree planting and forestation 26 years ago, the Chinese people have planted 49.2 billion trees, he said.

The government has announced a budget of 18.7 billion yuan to roll back desertification in Xinjiang in the next eight years, aiming to prevent further expansion of the Gurbantunggut and the Taklimakan deserts.

The money will fund the creation of forest belts around cities and oasis areas, the upgrading of irrigation facilities, the establishment of monitoring stations and the training of professional staff, says Chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi.

Experts have warned that harmful human activities, such as overgrazing, over-logging and collection of firewood, still existed, and global warming hampers the fight against desertification.

In April, China imposed a nationwide grazing ban amid efforts to prevent further deterioration of its vast grasslands. A two-month-long ban has been imposed in certain areas but the ban will last a full year in other areas.

China banned grazing on 86.7 million hectares of pasture and forbade 30 million livestock from roaming on wild grasslands at the end of last year.

More than 400,000 farmers have been relocated from the edge of Mu Us and Hobq deserts in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region between 2001 and 2006, as human activity was primarily to blame for the degrading biological conditions there.

However, China remains one of the world's worst affected by desertification.

SFA statistics show 2.64 million square kilometers of land, or 27.36 percent of China's territory, are deserts which directly cost the economy about 54 billion yuan a year and affect 400 million people, while indirect losses are as high as 288.9 billion yuan.

Recent research has found ecological degradation at the headwaters of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers, China's two biggest rivers, and signs of desertification have emerged in some parts of the river source areas.

During in April inspection tour of Ningxi, a sandy and drought-afflicted autonomous region in northwest China, Chinese President Hu Jintao said, "We should strengthen our efforts in desertification prevention and control by relying on the power of the public and advanced technology."

Hu asked local officials to ensure environmental improvement goals were met and to help with the creation of a "green wall" in the country's western regions.

China has being implementing a law on preventing desertification and treating sand areas since January 1, 2002, the first law of its kind in the world.

International Collaborations

China has cooperated with Africa, the world's most desertification affected continent, in combating deserts on the global arena, while Japan, the Republic of Korea and others have aided the campaign in China.

The Chinese government will continue to help African countries combat desertification, according to the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDCRI), which trains technicians from developing countries in desert-control methods.

The institute, based in northwest China's Gansu Province, organized two training sessions in June and August this year on how to set up windbreaks, choosing plants for desert control, says Director Wang Jihe.

The training programs that lasted 45 to 60 days have attracted officials and experts from about 18 African countries, Wang says, adding that most of the expenses, including tuition and accommodation, were covered by the Chinese government.

Since the first program in 1993, more than 150 trainees from more than 30 African countries including Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Angola and Tanzania, have taken part.

Last year's course was held in Minqin County in Gansu, one of the four areas in China from which sand storms originate.

The county saw 14 sand storms in 2006, down almost 50 percent on the previous year, after it brought 2,000 hectares of desert under control by encircling the sand with nets made of wheat straw and planting drought-resistant plants.

Ahmed Ashomakhy, a Liberian agriculture researcher at the 2006 session, said China's desert-control techniques are very practical, while Peter Seeiso from Lesotho said he was impressed by China's efforts to fight desertification.

Fujitsu, a leading Japanese electronics company, is to invest 10 million Japanese yen in the desert greening projects in China, under an agreement signed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the workers union of Fujitsu last year.

This was the second such agreement between the two sides. From 2001 to 2005, the Fujitsu workers union sent more than 200 members to north China's Hebei Province and spent 12 million Japanese yen planting 170,000 trees. Under this project, 50 hectares of desert were made green.

The Republic of Korea has provided funds for environmental restoration near the Aiding Lake in northwestern Xinjiang, China's lowest land point, since 2001.

"I believe this area will eventually turn green," said a Korean expert who joined the program.



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