China News - Autumn 2005

West End going to China

China has just signed a deal with Sir Cameron Macintosh, the British producer, that will bring musicals such as Les Miserables, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia to the Shanghai stage-performed in the Chinese language by Chinese stars. Sir Cameron said that China represents a vast untapped market and a rosy future for musicals that had run for years in London and New York and had already toured the globe. China is virgin territory and has marvellous potential. (From The Telegraph 18/5/05)

New bird vaccine may prevent pandemic

Just 24 hours after an international health expert said that China was woefully unprepared for a possible pandemic, Chinese researchers announced their success in developing a vaccine able to block the spread of avian flu. The latest avian flu scare has been reported in a remote region of western China where authorities reported 178 geese had died of the H5N1 strain of avian flu. However they have said that the outbreak was under control and that no people had been affected or were in danger.

Chen Hualan, director of the China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory said that the newly developed vaccine is 100% effective in preventing infection by H5N1. Scientists are worried that avian flu, which is infectious in birds but does not easily spread to humans, may mutate into a form that can be passed from person to person. They also believe that any bird flu pandemic is likely to start in Asia. New influenza strains have in the past (1956 and 1967) killed a total of 4.5 million people and 18 million died in the Spanish flu of 1918. (From The Times 27/5/05)

Asian Academia seeks to join global elite

Rapid growth in quantity and quality of corporate research and development has not been matched by a corresponding improvement in the academic sector. As a result hundreds of thousands of Asian students travel to North America, Europe and Australia every year for undergraduate and postgraduate education. In addition employers prefer young scientists and engineers educated outside Asia even though they demand higher salaries. Laboratories are better equipped in the west and are more tuned into the global community. Western universities usually have better links with industry and students learn international communication and language skills.

China is emphasising the need to improve its universities in its aim to become a global power in science and technology. In the past 20 years, China has sent its brightest students to study in the west, partly because its own universities suffered badly in the Cultural Revolution. However many students have chosen to stay aboard.

The Chinese government is encouraging western universities and public research institutes to come to China so they can help raise local academic standards. The law was recently changed to allow foreign universities to teach in China at university and postgraduate level. It is hoped that more British universities will follow Nottingham University's example in setting up a Chinese campus. The Nottingham campus in Ningbo accommodates 4,000 students and at present is the only foreign university to receive a license for university teaching from the Chinese authorities.

University education in China is expanding however. Total undergraduate enrolling increased from 7.2 million in 2001 to 9 million in 2002. The figures in each year for engineering were 2.5 million and 3.1 million respectively.

The numbers of Asian students coming to the west may have peaked two or three years ago. This may be due to more stringent visa requirements and a feeing that the country had become less welcoming following the events of 9/11 in the case of the USA. However there has also been a reduction in applications for British universities. Possibly this could be evidence that an improvement and expansion in Asia's own universities may already be reducing the need to study abroad.

None of the various league tables ranking the world's universities put Asian universities outside of Japan near the top. The widely respected ranking put out by Jiao Tong University in Shanghai show the best universities in Asia are Singapore University and National Taiwan University, but neither are in the top hundred.

However, The Times Higher Education Supplement, rank Peking University at 17th best in the world and Singapore 18th best in the world. (From The Financial Times 8/7/05).

Bachelor generation may threaten stability A study by the University of Texas believes that China will have more than 23 million men unable to find wives by 2020 because so many more boys are being born than girls. The practice of aborting female foetuses is being blamed for creating a generation of bachelors who could pose increasing social problems. These men are known as 'bare branches' because they will never bear fruit and history suggests that they will give rise to higher crime rates and political instability. Their numbers might encourage China to become more authoritarian or seek an outlet for their energies through war.

In nature the ratio of births is about 105 boys to every 100 girls-a difference assumed to be evolution's answer to higher male mortality rates-but in China the ratio in 2001 (the time of the Texas study), the ratio was 118 to 100. Last year two other American academics published a book called, 'Bare Branches' which argued that the gender imbalances in several Asian countries, including China and India, threatened domestic stability and international security. The new Texas study refers to a bloody uprising in Shandong province in the 19th century ascribed to the fact that there were 100,000 more men than women, caused by a previous generation practising female infanticide in a famine.

The researchers blame the imbalance on sex-selective abortions where boys are favoured and couples are only allowed one child. The Chinese government has prohibited the disclosure of the results of ultra-sound scans to determine unborn babies' sex, but this law is widely ignored. (From The Telegraph 22/7/05)

First Chinese tourists to UK undaunted by bomb threats

The first party arrived on Sunday night on tourist visas-before only business people and students have come here. The Beijing travel agent said, 'we heard about the bombings but are not really worried. London is probably a safer place now for tourists because of all the precautions.' They stayed at a four star hotel near marble arch and started their tour with a catamaran trip along the Thames, a ride on the London Eye, a coach ride past Buckingham Palace, a visit to Madame Tussauds and lunch at a Chinese restaurant near Baker Street. Later they will Oxford, Stratford on Avon, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The cost each is estimated to be over £1,000-about five months' earnings for the average Beijing worker. The visa is £65 and in addition they have to pay a bond of £1,000 to ensure that they return home. Chinese people are keen shoppers and the Burberry brand in England is very popular. They also buy watches from Switzerland and leather goods from Italy.

Even the most conservative estimates predict that the 95,000 Chinese visitors expected this year will double by 2010 and by 2020, the number will comparable with the Americans and Japanese in the top five. (From The Independent and also The Guardian 26/7/05)

Black museum of Japanese war crimes

A group of Japanese women have opened a museum in a Christian institute in northwest Tokyo. It is seen as a rival exhibition to the museum at the Yasukuni shrine which presents an impassioned and (some say) unrepentant view of all Japan's wars since 1866. The group of women, led by Nishino Rumiko, brave threats from right-wing extremists. One of the aims of the exhibition is to force the Japanese public to face the facts about sexual slavery in the Second World War.. Rumiko believes that it is only natural that (Koreans/Chinese) should be angry because Japanese soldiers had contempt for people in the occupied countries.

Professor Kenichi Asano of the Doshisha University in Kyoto who visited the Yasukuni Shrine last week, said that the shrine is a crime and that the problem is that young people do not learn the history and my generation wants to forget. (From The Sunday Times 31/7/05)

China-India technology deals

Wen Jiabao, China's prime minister hinted at more partnerships in technology on the first working day of a visit to India at Bangalore, the centre of India's IT prowess. Two-way trade between the world's two most populous countries has risen sharply in the last two years to $14 billion although trade in technology remeis tiny and in India's favour. However Mr Wen said that by combining Indian software skills, which are at the core of India's $17.3 billion IT industry, and Chinese efficiency in hardware, 'we can take a leadership position in the world'.

'China is keen to acquire technology through partnerships and investments because it is the only way it will access global markets', said Mr Ramadorai, ceo of TCS which has a $2 million IT centre in China alongside several other Indian companies.

Mr Wen's interest in bilateral trade also included space technology, biological sciences and astrophysics that he discussed with India's foremost scientists. Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation which designs, builds and launches communication satellites and remote sensing spacecraft told Mr Wen that they could, for example, supply the remote sensing technology China needs to map out its undeveloped western region. (From The Financial Times 11/4/05)

Corruption offender severely punished

Liu Binbao, formerly head of the Bank of China office in Shanghai and then in Hong Kong, has been given a death sentence suspended for two years for corruption. He was found guilty of embezzling 14.3 m Rmb ($1.7m) with other executives and personally pocketing 7.5 m Rmb. He was also convicted of taking 1.4 m Rmb in bribes. (From The Financial Times 13/14/8/05).

Time to take energy conservation bull by the horns-China editor's briefing.

During the past few weeks, the Pearl River Delta region has reported an unprecedented fuel shortage. In addition, most large cities are suffering from an acute shortage of electricity and petrol during this long hot summer. The fuel shortage has again led to urgent calls to step up efforts to save energy and reduce waste. To the credit of the central government, it launched a series of energy saving initiatives last month, including ordering government officials to set air conditioning temperatures to 26 deg C. The Beijing municipal government asked officials not to wear suits and ties to internal meetings and a national campaign to educate people about energy saving is also in full swing.

Despite these activities, a national long term energy savings strategy drawing on international experience is needed because China is one of the most wasteful in the world in terms of the energy consumption to production ratio.

Government office buildings account for 5% of the country's total energy consumption at a cost of 80 billion Yuan. Suggestions to save energy include, a 'tieless summer suit' designed to be lightweight and more breathable than traditional clothing, summer daylight saving time (move clock one hour forward), and introduction of compulsory standards to force property developers and managers to make energy saving a top priority.

Architects say that 90% of the glittering steel and glass high-rise buildings in large mainland cities do not have any energy saving features or use energy saving materials. (From Big News Network 11/8/05)

China lifts ban on student marriage

China's Ministry of Education has lifted a 50-year ban on students marrying and having children. Earlier the Ministry announced that students of legal marriageable age-22 for men and 20 for women-would no longer need university official approval to marry. However colleges in different parts of the country have caused confusion by interpreting the rules differently. In Beijing and Guangdong province, education officials said nothing would prevent students from getting married and becoming pregnant. But elsewhere some colleges still require students to inform authorities when they marry and policies on pregnancies varied from getting a full year's maternity leave to expulsion of the expectant mother. (From Xinhua and Big News Network 11/8/05)

Chinese premier under fire over rising medical costs.

China's premier Wen Jiabao under attack from political rivals over the disintegration of medical welfare has pledged to expand a pilot program that provides subsidised care to rural residents. Wen chaired a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to accelerate a two-year old pilot program and expand it to cover 40% of rural counties nationwide by 2006 from the present 21%. (People's Daily report on Thursday).

More than two decades of economic reforms have ended cradle-to-grave welfare for the masses. In 2000 the cash-strapped government deepened reform of China's hospitals, dividing them into for profit and not for profit institutions and slashed subsidies. Most of the 800 rural residents lack medical insurance and 50% of ordinary people cannot afford medical treatment when sick.

After 1949, the Communists were successful in eradicating epidemics in China from smallpox and plague to cholera, which killed millions of people in the previous decades. 'Barefoot' doctors in the countryside provided farmers with basic medical care. Universal health care for urban residents helped increase life expectancy to over 70 years by the mid 1980s. However market reforms during the last 25 years have left the health care system in need of life support. As part of the pilot 'rural cooperative medical system', the People's Daily said that the central government planned to double subsidies to 20 Yuan per person per year. Local governments should boost their contributions correspondingly. Wealthy provinces along China's eastern coast should introduce the scheme ahead of schedule. (From Big News Network 11/8/05)

Beijing Olympics' slogan announced

'One World, one Dream', was officially announced as the slogan for the 2008 Olympics on 26 June. It was selected from 2,100,000 entries submitted from across the country and from around the world. (From China Today August 2005)

Characterised development of China

As a developing country, China is badly in need of the experiences of advanced counties. However, it is relying mainly on itself to address the problems that present themselves in the pursuit of peaceful development and it can therefore be said that China's modernisation will bear Chinese characteristics.

In dealing with the current energy crisis, China tries to explore ways of energy conservation, thereby ridding itself as well as the entire world of any disastrous consequences in the wake of rampant energy consumption. China also seeks to balance development in rural and urban areas by encouraging an orderly migration of rural surplus labour as well as giving priority to the training of the rural population, especially the youth to enable them to be better suited to the employment market.

By highlighting these approaches, China is seeing to it that it will never copy the unreasonable Western practices in history. These included, amongst other things, plundering the resources of other countries, indiscriminate exploitation of non-renewable resources and colonisation of other counties.

Peaceful development will usher in another fundamental transformation of Chinese society in the first half of the 21st century and it calls for the concerted efforts of the Chinese people for decades to come. (From' Opinion' Beijing Review 4/8/05- originally People's Daily Overseas Edition)

Smaller Chinese Families

A 2002 study showed that Chinese families comprise and average of 3.39 members and is approaching the average three of developed counties such as the USA and Canada. The latest, Journal of the Chinese Academy of Sciences states; Apart from nuclear families (a couple with one child), other non-nuclear small families units, such as empty-nests (where grown up children have left), DINKI (double income, no kids) and single parent families, are featuring largely in China's urban and rural areas.' Experts say that this phenomenon may be attributed to changing attitudes towards marriage among Chinese young people. (From China Today August 2005)

China to launch lunar probe in 2007

China is expected to launch its first ever lunar probe satellite in 2007. The countries moon exploration project has so far proceeded smoothly according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC). The CASTC chief designer said that, the probe dubbed, 'Chang'e-1, China's first lunar orbiter is scheduled to be launched in 2007 for a fly-by mission. After the lunar flight, China will carry out soft landing exploration and auto inspection missions. Projects on the materials, dynamics, radiation and other subjects will be carried out. (From Xinhua 10/8/05).

Chinese museums become global bridges The ever-strong forces of globalisation and the bullet-paced march of a market society across China are fundamentally changing museums and the art they display. 'Chinese museums, like Chinese society, are very quickly becoming more open and free', said Gao Minglu, a widely respected expert on Chinese art and museums. Gao, a professor at the University of Pittsburg, USA, said, 'The driving forces behind the metamorphosis of museums throughout China are the market, international institutions and globalisation.' Gao and other experts say that the rush of the world's top museums to get a foothold in the planet's fastest growing economy is bolstering the growing competition amongst museums in China to match Chinese exhibitions with imported shows.

Curators say that the complementary trends are making the outlook of Chinese museums more professional and global. For example Aurelie Arff, a leading coordinator for the Year of France in China, said that since France started staging a rapid-fire series of major shows at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing last October, 'every exhibition has gone off perfectly'. The Beijing museum is currently hosting four simultaneous exhibits on photography, engraved prints, oil paintings and fashion sent here by leading French art centres. Arff praised the cosmopolitan head of the National Art Museum for his professional skills and global outlook and said that each side learnt a lot from joint French-Chinese exhibition which have attracted record numbers of visitors to the National Art Museum and at major art centres in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Now nearly all the important art museums and galleries in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzen, Chengdu and Beijing compete to organise international biennial exhibitions.

The Chinese character' 'chai' meaning 'demolish' has become a symbol for some artists to capture China's rapid-fire changes. (From China Daily 11/8/05).

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

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