CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS PYONGYANG


March 24, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (left) is greeted by Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Chairman of the National Defense Commission of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)at the State Guesthouse in Pyongyang. Li was on an official visit to the DPRK between March 23-25 at the invitation of his DPRK counterpart Paek Nam Sun. This is the first visit to the DPRK by a Chinese foreign minister in five years.

opinions

Engendering a Sex Balance

LET ME FLY March 22, Brazil Airlines displays its plane, the EMBRAER 170, one of its four new branch line aircraft at the Guangzhou Baiyun Airport. Brazil Airlines, the largest plane producer in South America, will later continue its promotion tour in Haikou, Shanghai and Beijing.

Some Chinese and foreign media have recently reported that China’s male birthrate has long been higher than that of females. Experts warn that if an unbalanced gender rate gains momentum, a series of social problems are likely to occur.

In order to keep a gender balance, China has enacted laws to protect female babies. However, for thousands of years, a deep-rooted traditional concept that men are superior to women has prevailed. People believe that only sons can carry on the family name and bring honor to families. Although China’s fast economic growth has enabled people to enjoy better living conditions than at any other time, some parents, especially in rural areas, prefer to have sons for a variety of practical reasons. This has caused a vicious circle where the number of males is rising while that of females is descending. It means that in a dozen years, about 30-40 million men will be unable to find a partner due to an insufficient female population.

Uneven gender figures in China are the outcome of both traditional concepts and economic conditions. We should now deal with the problem seriously. Otherwise, the consequences will be out of control.

People’s Daily Overseas Edition

Streamlining Redundant Officials

CHEMICAL-LESS VEGGIES March 21, staff at a Shenyang Carrefour layout counter prepare vegetables for sale. It is reported that Shenyang Commercial Bureau has recently begun pesticide inspection at 25 department stores, supermarkets and open markets to remove pesticide tainted vegetables.

Sources from China Youth Daily said that a member of the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference recently pointed out, to rescind agricultural tax, local governments at all levels should reduce redundant government officials. This is vital to reduce the burden on farmers.

It is reported that the number of officials at county level and below have reached 13.16 million. It makes China’s current ratio between civilian and government officials 67:1. This strain on the reallocation of fiscal revenue has greatly affected reform in rural areas.

China’s institutional restructuring, a move to set up a high-efficiency and clean government system suitable to a market economy, has made some headway. For instance, statistics show that the government has released 50 percent of its public servants in just three years. But in some areas, eliminating redundant officials have yet been fully carried out.

We should set a proportion for the size of our government body and trim redundant staff uncompromisingly. In addition, the country’s legislatures should formulate laws to manage government officials as soon as possible and set up committees to supervise them in accordance with laws. This will help farmers tremendously.

Beijing Times

Let the Market Sort Talent Out

Market-oriented reform of the current personnel system is vital to implementing the strategy of rejuvenating the country’s pool of human resources. Some experts say that a market mechanism should play a key role in utilizing human resources.

Although China badly needs talented people for the next stage of its economic development, many university graduates, including Master and Doctorate degree holders, have difficulties in finding suitable jobs. Analysts believe that this is due to a gap between current university education and actual market demands.

It is difficult to change the structure of institutions of higher learning in the near future. But reforming the current personnel system is crucial and could be a start. This should stress market mechanisms to fill jobs with interested employees, experts say. For instance, the administration of state-owned enterprises should be improved through introducing market-based modes of training, evaluation and promotion of managerial personnel. Professional public servants should be given a wider sphere in which to display their ability.

Workers’ Daily

Free Pass to Prison

Today, China administers its prisons using more humane means. When jailed convicts feel sick, they are properly taken care of. For instance, it was reported that five convicted thieves in Zhejiang Province, who were confirmed HIV positive, will be sent to designated prison hospitals to serve their sentences. They will have special wards, wardens and experienced doctors responsible for their treatment.

People with personal freedom have to pay medical expenses out of their own pockets. However, some people cannot afford medical expenses. By improving medical treatment in prison will some people who intentionally commit crimes be incarcerated while enjoying better treatment? This sounds silly, but it has happened.

According to Chongqing Business Daily, a young man, who imagined he had both a mental illness and venereal disease, killed a 3-year-old girl and then surrendered himself to the police. He wanted to be jailed so that his diseases could be treated free of charge in prison.

This phenomenon and mentality, although not common, is a social problem that should not be ignored. The government should consider carefully how to minimize such detrimental behavior.

China Youth Daily

Politics

BORDER PATROL March 24, border police in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province conduct an anti-smuggling drill.

Dialogue Losing Ground China suspended its human rights dialogue and exchanges with the United States on March 23, following a U.S. decision to introduce an anti-China motion at this year’s session of the United Nations Human Rights Conference.

The United States, by insisting on confrontation, has seriously undermined the premise for bilateral human rights dialogues, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang, when making solemn representations to the U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt.

According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan, the U.S. decision was motivated by domestic politics rather than a serious concern for human rights. He stressed that the decision has politicized the human rights issue thereby tarnishing sacred human rights principles.

‘Referendum’ in Taiwan Vetoed The so-called “peace referendum” held by the Taiwan authorities, in a provocative attempt to undermine cross-strait relations and split the motherland, goes against the will of the people and is doomed to failure. The Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said in a statement on March 20.

The referendum, which Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian had willfully promoted despite strong opposition from home and overseas, ended that day and turned out to be invalid because less than half of the eligible voters took part.

In another development, tens of thousands of Taiwan residents took to the streets after March 20 in protest of the allegedly unfair election. Chen Shui-bian won by only 29,000 more votes than the opposition coalition.

The protesters demanded a recount of the votes and the truth about the shooting of Taiwan leaders Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu on March 19.

Safety of Chinese on Island Called Japan should treat Chinese citizens who landed on Diaoyudao (island) carefully and not jeopardize their safety, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said on March 24.

According to Kong, seven Chinese citizens landed on the island after a sea journey early that day. They were detained by the Japanese coastguard in the afternoon.

Kong said Diaoyudao and its affiliated islands have always been China’s territory and the Chinese Government has proposed resolving the dispute through negotiations.

Still More to Be Done The Chinese Government has resolved to further implement its western development strategy through environmental protection, basic infrastructure construction, eco-development, improvement of farmers’ lives and industrial structure adjustment.

According to a document issued by the State Council, China’s cabinet, on March 22, a series of preferential policies for the development of the western region will include more subsidy, preferential tax rates and flexibility in policy.

Downsizing in Sight China is considering an overhaul of its public service structuring, a move that could affect tens of millions of employees on the government’s pay roll.

The reform of public service units is yet another major task that China will face following the reform of state-owned enterprises and a streamline of government departments, said Li Shenglin, Vice Minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission, at an international seminar in Beijing on March 23.

The aim of the reform is to develop a more efficient public service system suitable to a market economy, he added.

ECONOMY

TAIWAN STOCK FALLS March 22, investors monitor the latest stock prices at a brokerage in Taipei. Taiwan’s stock market plummeted 6.66 percent in the first 20 minutes of trading that day, amid the turmoil caused by the election in the island on March 14.

Rustbelt Needs Oil On March 23 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao unveiled this year’s four major tasks for reinvigorating the nation’s industrial rustbelts, promising more efforts in restructuring state firms, promoting the non-state sector, optimizing industrial structure and absorbing more domestic and overseas investment.

Addressing a meeting on revitalizing the northeastern region and other old industrial bases, the premier said those old industrial bases should speed up institutional innovation and reform, which is the only path to revitalization.

New Rules for Futures Firms China issued new guidelines on corporate governance for futures brokerages on March 23, urging the companies to upgrade management and become more competitive.

The rules, drafted by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, clarify standards of corporate structure, rights and liabilities of the shareholders and requirements for risk management and internal control of futures brokerages.

These companies are asked to make their decision-making process more efficient through clear separation of the functions of board members and managerial staff.

Import Prediction China’s annual crude oil imports will exceed 100 million tons this year, according to a report by the Ministry of Commerce issued on March 23.

The country’s oil market will keep booming and the supply will meet demand on the whole, the report said. It predicts annual consumption of crude oil in China will reach 270 million tons this year.

According to the report, the consumption of gasoline, diesel oil and coal oil will total 136 million tons, up 4.6 percent year on year. The price of oil will be flexible and maintain similar to last year.

IT Market Expands China’s IT market is expected to reach 289.8 billion yuan ($35 billion) in 2004, up 15 percent year on year, a leading IT consulting firm announced on March 24.

The hardware market will reach 190.1 billion yuan ($23 billion), an annual increase of 10 percent. The software and IT service market are expected to reach 53.9 billion yuan ($6.52 billion) and 45.8 billion yuan ($5.54 billion), up 25 percent and 27 percent respectively.

According to a report issued by China Computer World Research, manufacturing and power industries may contribute greatly to the IT market growth this year.

Historic City Expo Nanjing in east China’s Jiangsu Province will host an exposition on cities of historical significance throughout the world from April 30 to May 6.

Organizers said the exposition will cover a total of 53 programs and six major projects, namely, dialogues among world historic cities, a cultural seminar, cultural events, a historic city show and evening ball and carnival.

Sale of Stake China Construction Bank (CCB) plans to sell shares worth 50 billion yuan ($6 billion) this year to companies that had overdue loans to the bank, the Beijing Times reported.

Quoting CCB officials, the report said the bank has set up a special group to arrange the sale. And though the bank has yet to make any moves in conjunction with the sale, CCB plans to chop the bad assets in preparation for its overseas listing.

Last year, the CCB managed to recover 5 billion yuan ($796 million) in cash by selling off its equities in some key state-owned enterprises through assets rearrangement, share transfer and stake redemption.

EASY DOES IT March 21, three-year-old Adier Yasen from Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region walks a 10-meter high, 50-meter long tightrope.

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT March 22, a cockfight is held in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region during the local Noroz Festival where locals pray for good harvests.

LONGEST FAST March 20, Chen Jianmin, a 50-year-old Chinese herbalist doctor, begins his planned 49-day fast in Ya’an City in southwestern Sichuan Province, hoping to beat the 44-day record set last year by U.S. magician David Blaine.

DANCING DRAGON March 20, sparks light up the night during a performance of “Fire Dragon” in Luodai, a town near Chengdu, Sichuan Province, during the opening ceremony of the Fire Dragon Festival. The festival is a local Hakkan tradition that serves to pray for happiness.