China News - Autumn 2006

From the British Press

World's first eco-city will be in China

Later this year, construction will begin on building, Dongtan on Chongming Island in greater Shanghai. It will eventually house 500,000 people living on 86 sq km and will have zero pollution and be largely car-free. It will be powered by renewable energy, have sewage recycling and will be a 'green-fringed utopia'. The construction plans have been drawn up by the British engineering firm, Arup.

The plan is for the whole of Chongming Island to be a strategic green area for Shanghai and to use it to develop new ways of living ecologically. Environmental scientists have been involved to minimise impact on the environment; how best to design transport systems, waste disposal systems and how to spread the housing of the population. Peter Hall of University College, London, a planning adviser on the project says nobody has done anything like it before and Dongtan could become a template for green cities that could change the world.

Energy will come entirely from renewable sources; wind power, solar panels and biogas from sewage and composted waste. The population will live in three zones which will be separated by parks, farms, lakes, pagodas and leisure facilities. The buildings will be designed with natural ventilation to minimise the need for air conditioning. Fresh water requirements will be cut by two thirds by use of river water and recycled drainage to supply toilets and garden irrigation.

Cars will not be banned but special traffic lights will give priority to hydrogen-fuelled buses. The streets will be laid out to favour public transport, bicycles and pedestrians and in fact make it difficult for cars. A problem could be Dongtan's proximity to Shanghai and it could become a car commuter suburb-but the city planners are sure they can make it work.

Arup is designing two more eco-cities in the region and last month, Ken Livingstone visited Shanghai and announced a 1000 home eco-development for London modelled conceptually on Dongtan. (From New Scientist 17/6/06)

Confucius comes to Scotland

A global network of Confucius Institutes is being established around the world to promote the study of the Chinese language and a greater understanding of Chinese culture, history and business methods. The Chinese Ministry of Education's plan is to open 100 by 2010. The University of Edinburgh will host the first Confucius Institute in the UK in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy in London and the Chinese Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, a branch of the Education Ministry. The Institute will open later this year and will launch a programme of language and business courses. It will build on the links that Edinburgh University already has with Fudan University in Shanghai. Fudan University will provide staff on long-term secondment to Edinburgh to support the Institute. (From China-Britain Business Review June 2006)

Recycled cooking oil for fuel

China Biodiesel a company in south-east China has patented technology to convert waste cooking oil into three useful forms of biodiesel. One form can be used in detergents for shampoos and gels, another can be used in toxin-free plastics and the third form can be used as a fuel on its own or as an additive to ordinary diesel. The waste oil is collected from food factories and restaurants and taken to China Biodiesel's factory at Longyan in Fujian province. The products have important advantages in that they are sulphur free, which therefore reduces atmospheric pollution and the starting material does not have to be imported. The company is hoping to raise £7 million to £8 million to build a second plant at Xiamen, also in Fujian. The company is probably worth about £35 million. It holds three patents but the key to the process, a proprietary catalyst has not been patented because the company wish to keep it secret. The only people who know are the company chairman and the chief technology officer but the details have been locked in a Chinese bank. China Biodiesel believes it to be the only commercial manufacturer of biofuels in China itself although there are two other companies about to begin production. (From The Daily Express 12/6/06)

Beijing Olympics helped by British Standards Institute (BSI)

The BSI will help to ensure that international standards are met at the 2008 Beijing Olympics according to a co-operation agreement signed between Science and Technology Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad and the Standardisation Administration of China. The agreement recognises the integral role standards play in supporting a safe, efficient, fair and green Olympic Games. The parties involved will collaborate in making, implementing and assessing Chinese national standards. In providing information and technical support, BSI will liase with the British government, business, organisations and individuals with the relevant experience. The areas covered include sports standards, the environment, public safety, food safety, accommodation and business services, graphical symbols and guidance signs. The exercise enables the BSI to demonstrate its credentials as a world leader and it is also valuable experience for the London Games in 2012. (From China-Britain Business Review June 2006)

Chinese leading renewable energy

China is the world's biggest investor in renewable energy according to a senior researcher with the US World-watch Institute at a Beijing forum for decentralised sustainable energy solutions. Dr Eric Martinot said that China spent $6 billion on renewable energy in 2005 out of a total worldwide figure of $38 billion. In China, most was spent on small hydropower and solar-heated water energy with $600 million on windpower. (From China-Britain Business Review June 2006)

Shanghai firm line against jaywalkers

Traffic wardens and closed circuit TV are being used against jaywalkers in Shanghai. Pedestrians are filmed and when they can be identified, the pictures are shown to their bosses at their place of work. The boss has the right to deduct fines from pay packets. Otherwise the film is shown on television as part of a public shaming exercise or the photos are posted on billboards. These actions are on the orders of the Spiritual Civilisation Office. The crackdown is also an attempt to reduce the 400 pedestrian and cyclist deaths every year.

One particular incident became known all over China. A woman had a violent row with a policeman and ended up hitting and scratching him when he tried to fine her 20 yuan for jay walking. The incident was captured on camera and she was jailed for 10 days. Shanghai newspapers reported the incident 'with extra glee' when it was discovered that the woman had a master's degree from a British university. (From The Telegraph 2/6/06)

Chinese demand turns rubbish to riches

Pearsons of Thetford, Norfolk collects, sorts, shreds and stores waste before selling it on to reprocessing plants in the UK, Europe and the Far East. Low labour costs in China, mean that China can process waste plastic into the pellets used in recycling plastics cheaper than the west. In addition China has a booming manufacturing sector of its own and there is a large local demand for the pellets. Pearsons have 1,200 customers in China and Malaysia. Low transport costs to the Far East helps and in fact it is cheaper to send a 40-foot container to inland China than sending it to Scotland. The reason being that a lot of goods are made in China and shipped to the UK. The ship is empty on the return journey and therefore costs are low-$850 per container for the return journey compared to $2,000 for the first journey. (From The Telegraph 23/5/06)

China invests in Africa

China has promised to invest $1 billion (£530 million) in Nigeria's railways. The funds are in the form of a soft loan to help repair old lines and install new rolling stock and equipment. The move will consolidate China's relations with Sub-Saharan Africa's biggest oil producer. Last week, Nigeria awarded four drilling licenses to China National Petroleum Corporation following a visit by Chinese president, Hu Jintao.

Last week China's CITIC group and the China Railway Construction Corporation fended off rival European and US tenders to build almost half of a 754-mile road in Algeria.

In March Chinese engineers started work to overhaul Angola's Benguela railway. Beijing will spend $500 million building dozens of bridges and stations that should give the country a functioning transport system. It has also offered to lend another $1.5 billion for additional infrastructional projects. After Nigeria, Angola is the region's second biggest oil exporter. China is estimated to obtain between a quarter and a third of its oil from Africa including Sudan.

Trade between China and Africa has almost quadrupled in the last six years reaching $39.7 billion last year. (From The Guardian 23 May 2006)

Chinese tourists top 31million

Last year more than 31 million Chinese went abroad (this includes visits to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) and the number is expected to reach 100 million by 2020. The present number already exceeds the number of Japanese going abroad, but only 7% in fact have come to Europe. Most have gone to Hong Kong, Macau or nearby gambling destinations such as Vietnam or Russia. Visa agreements between China and all 25 EU member countries have made it easier for Chinese to come to Europe. However, France so far is much more popular that Britain. Only 22,000 Chinese came here last year compared to half a million to France, but it was only in January last year, that the Chinese authorities granted Britain Approved Destination Status.

Although Chinese tourists are not yet spending as much as the Japanese, they are catching up fast. The average spend is $987 (£535) per tourist. Luxury items are popular because they are 20% to 30% more expensive in China because of high import duty. They buy watches in Switzerland and perfume in France. In Britain, they buy shortbread but Britain is seen as expensive. Chinese tourists prefer to save money on hotels, so they have more to spend on shopping. However, one source of dissatisfaction is the hotels in Europe. This is because in China virtually every hotel is new and Chinese arriving in Europe often find city hotels have tiny rooms in old buildings. They also find European food a disappointment, because they are accustomed to a wider menu. (From The Times 15/7/06)

China shows its Aerospace City

China opened up its nerve centre for its space launchers to foreign reporters. The 'space centre' is in the Beijing suburbs. The visit was allowed because China is keen to gain access to the international Space Station and other joint projects and to assuage fears that its space programme is driven by military needs.

Analysts believe that Washington is unlikely to agree to sharing technology and giving China a role in space projects until it signs a treaty that controls trade in long-range missiles. However, relations are improving because, Michael Griffin, a Nasa administrator has said that he will visit China this year to discuss co-operation.

China has launched two manned space flights. Contrary to popular belief, the first taikonaut (Chinese astronaut), Colonel Yang said that the Great Wall was not visible from outer space. The next manned launch is due next year and is expected to be a party of three taikonauts. China is also planning to put a man on the moon and build a space station within 15 years and it hopes to have the technology for a space walk and dock in space by 2012. The costs, so far have been low-about £1.2 billion over 11 years. This is the cost of a single US space shuttle flight to put a man in space. (From The Independent 29/6/06)

China's growth exceeds 11%

In the second quarter of this year, China's economy reached 11.3%, the fastest growth within a decade. It makes an interest rate rise likely as Beijing tries to cool the boom, which is fuelled by increased building and strong exports. However Beijing fears that rapid construction of houses, factories and shopping centres could create a supply glut and trigger a financial crisis if developers default on loans. There is concern that inflation, rising gently to 1.3% could gather pace.

The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics believes that the government should restrain bank lending and investment in building and other fixed assets if China is to maintain fast and stable growth without igniting inflation. However, an economist for the Standard Charted Bank in Shanghai, believes that although there are some serious imbalances building up, the last thing the government wants to do is undermine growth. This is because high growth creates jobs and bolsters confidence. So long as inflation stays low, China can continue to keep growing at this general pace. (From The Times 19/7/06)

China slows encroaching deserts

China has slowed the rate at which desert is eating up farm land-but the problem is still serious. The spread of desert has made spring sandstorms worse in Beijing in recent years and the storms even reach South Korea and Japan. A persistent drought in northern parts of China has added to the problem. In addition, population growth and an increase in the number of livestock, especially imported European cattle, which eat more than Asian breeds, led to a rapid expansion of desert. However, Zhu Lieke, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration announced that the rate of desertification had slowed to about 3,000 sq km a year-down from 10,400 sq km a year. Although major progress has been made, the situation is still very serious. Over-planting, over-grazing and over-use of water are still issues to be totally resolved.

China's State Council said its schemes would ensure that by 2020, half of all land that could be repaired would have been repaired. However, a UN study last year, said that deteriorating environment including encroaching desert could drive 50 million Chinese from their homes by 2010. China has embarked on a massive tree-planting scheme to hold back the deserts as well as banning the grazing of domestic animals on fragile soil and the country is also trying to improve irrigation. An enormous, 'green wall', nearly 5,700 km long is being built to protect the 'sandy lands' believed to have been created by human activity. (From The Telegraph 30/5/06)

China's biggest bank set to raise $21 billion in world's biggest stock market float

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) could raise $21 billion in a dual listing in October in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It could be the world's largest initial public offering. This is the first Chinese bank to list simultaneously in both Hong Kong (12%) and the mainland (6%). Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch are arranging the deal amongst others, which values ICBC at about $116 billion, making it the world's No 6 lender after JP Morgan Chase.

This offering is likely to exceed that of the Bank of China, which raised $11.2 billion in Hong Kong in late May and the 20 billion yuan (about $2 billion) in a Shanghai listing this month. ICBC net profits jumped 12.4% to 33.7 billion yuan in 2005. Non-performing loans fell to 4.69 of its total loans compared to 21.16% in 2004. (From The Times 18/7/06)

China's Beckham?

Liu Xiang, an athlete from Shanghai has shattered Colin Jackson's 13-year old world record for the 110 metre hurdles. He had previously won the gold medal for this event at the Athens Olympics two years ago when he was 21 years old. He has won himself a series of lucrative sponsorship deals in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic games in 2008. Already he is in third place on the Forbes list of the most marketable Chinese celebrities, behind Yao Ming, the NBA basketball player and Zhang Ziyi, the actress.

Liu says his determination is driven by a need to show respect for his grandmother who raised him whilst his parents were at work. Her special dish of braised pork in brown sauce gave him energy and it is still his favourite dish. Unfortunately she died shortly after he came first at the World University Games and at the 2001 National Games. Despite his fame, Liu remains down to earth. He is said to be an excellent singer and a keen numismatist who buys coins on his travels throughout the world. (From The Times 13/7/06)

Japanese Emperor Hirohito snubbed the Yasukuni Shrine

A memo written by a close aid of the former Japanese Emperor Hirohito states that the emperor stopped visiting this shrine after 14 Class A war criminals were buried there. The memo has only recently been discovered.

The war criminals, including the wartime prime minister, Hideki Tojo were enrolled at Yasukuni in a secret Shinto ceremony in 1978. Hirohito is quoted as saying that he never worshipped there again after that enshrinement because of his conscience. He did not visit the shrine after 1978 and his son, the present Emperor Aikihito has also not visited the shrine since his succession.

Junichiro Koizumi, the present Japanese prime minister is one of many Japanese politicians who visit the shrine every year despite furious objections from China and South Korea who say that they are honouring war criminals. (From The Telegraph 21/7/06)

From the Chinese Press

Chinese millionaires

The 2006 Millionaire Fair, recently held in Shanghai featured incredibly expensive goods including jewellery worth 200 million yuan and even a 500,000-yuan dog collar. A 3.5 diamond worth 1.5 million yuan was sold minutes after the fair was opened. More than 100 customers ordered diamonds at the event. Ernst Young, the financial services company estimates that 175 million Chinese can afford famous brands and that of these, 10 to 30 million are frequent buyers of luxury goods. (From China Today July 2006)

Taxing luxury

As part of the taxation reform programme in 1994, China began to levy consumption tax on 11 categories of goods that included cars, cigarettes and liquor. On 1 April this year, the Chinese tax authorities adjusted the rate of consumption tax and also the scope of products upon which it is levied. Golf equipment, up-market watches, yachts, disposable chopsticks and wooden floor panels were added to the list, but skincare products and shampoo were removed from the list.

The range of goods defined as 'luxurious' has changed dramatically in China within the past two decades. A tape recorder was defined as a luxury in the early 1980s but today, even a hi-fi system is defined merely as a household appliance. Mobile phones were regarded as a status symbol ten years ago, but today everyone has one. These are the reasons why the consumption tax system needs to be overhauled. Many luxury products have become commonplace such as cosmetics. In 1994, only a small proportion of the population could afford them, but nowadays, skin creams, shampoos, hair conditioners and perfumes are used daily by most Chinese urban dwellers and are becoming popular in the rural areas. The consumption taxes on these products have recently been removed.

A report by BNP Prime Perigrine concludes that China is still at an early stage of luxury goods consumption. It is estimated that there will be 100 million middle-class families within six years, with average assets of 620,000 yuan per family (about £44,500). The tax which increases the cost of cars, petroleum products, disposable chopsticks and wooden floor panels, is expected to have a positive effect on environmental protection and the efficient use of resources in China. (From China Today June 2006)

Clear sky and air-China's 2010 plans

The National People's Congress's 11th Five-Year development Plan outlined plans for cleaner sky and air to be achieved by 2010. The Chinese government has launched 10 ecological conservation projects that include conservation of the sources of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers, the control of pollution in major river basins and the desulphurisation of coal-fired power stations. At least 70% of sewage in cities should be treated by 2010 and at least 70% of rubbish disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. The discharge of major pollutants will decrease by 10% and forest coverage of the country will increase from 18.2% of the land area to 20%.

Efforts will be made to reduce the energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20%. At present, for each unit of GDP the energy consumption in China is 11.5 times that in Japan, and 4.3 times that in the USA. The problem will be tackled by increasing the proportion of hi-tech industries, which consume less energy and at the same time cutting the proportion of energy consuming industries such as steel and aluminium. Energy saving technologies will be widely employed and in addition, energy-saving behaviour will be encouraged in people's daily lives.

The population of China will be maintained at 1.36 billion meaning that the resources per capita will decrease. Urbanisation will increase from the present 43% to 47%. (From Beijing Review 13/3/06)

China's patents

The level of Chinese parent application is now the fourth highest in the world. There has been a sharp increase in recent years. The State Intellectual Property Rights Office received 476,264 patent applications in 2005 and granted 241,003 patents. Ninety percent of the applications for trademarks, new models and exterior patents were domestic. A record high of 170,000 invention patents was received. Of these 46% were from overseas and the other 54% were from Chinese individuals. The other 60,000 patents were from Chinese higher institutions, research institutes and enterprises. (From China Today July 2006)

Environmental awareness in China

In May this year, mayors from 11 Chinese cities completed courses on environmental sustainability at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University USA. The course included American laws and policies on the environment, urban transport and planning, the relationship between sustainable development and human ecology, green architecture and industrial ecology. After the course, the mayors went on an inspection tour of American cities, including New York, Chicago and Portland.

Before going to the USA, the mayors had taken a foundation course at Tsinghua University, Beijing. This course was run by the Yale/Tsinghua Environmental and Sustainable Development Leadership Programme, which was launched in 2005 by the China Association of Mayors, Tsinghua University and Yale University. (From China Today July 2006)

Education development in rural areas

China is encouraging college graduates to teach in rural primary and middle schools in China's underdeveloped western regions. Beginning this year, the project will involve 11 provinces, municipalities (directly under central government) and autonomous regions in western China as well as counties in Hubei and Hunan. The objective is to fill the 111,000 shortfall of teachers in primary and middle schools. Funding will come mainly from central government with supplements from local government. Assuming teachers are paid 15,000 yuan a year, the five year plan will cost the government 1.5 billion yuan. (From China Today July 2006)

China's Year of Russia

This year, 2006 is dedicated to Russia in China and 2007 will be 'Russia's Year in China'. Both countries are to host a wide rang of cultural activities aimed at promoting mutual understanding between the Chinese and Russian peoples. The Year of Russia started with the 'Russian Art over 300 years' exhibition at Beijing National Art Museum, which opened on 22 March and running to 15 May. Over 110 works of art from the Moscow Tretyakov Art Gallery were on display. There will further art exhibitions and in addition more than 1,000 Russian actors, dancers, singers and musicians will come to China. (From China Today June 2006)

Cleaner drinking water

China plans to spend more than 40 billion yuan over the next five years to improve water quality in rural areas and to provide clean drinking water. The central government and local governments will each contribute half the money. This should enable 100 million people to have better water. According to government more than 300 million people-about a third of rural residents do not have access to clean drinking water at present. (From Beijing Review 15/7/06)

China to be a major rugby country?

Martin Johnson, the retired England and British Lions captain, believes rugby will become popular in China. He went to China in June as part of a delegation from the Leicester Tigers who have agreed to help develop the sport in China. Martin thinks it will be a big game in China just like soccer and basketball. However, to be a truly global sport, rugby needs more teams capable of being world champions. The club has agreed to exchange players and establish training clinics in China. Leicester chief executive thinks that China, currently ranked 50th in the world could be amongst the top 16 within say, 20 years. Chinese sports officials welcome Leicester's involvement saying it would stimulate the development of rugby in China. At present, China has just 30 university teams and a rugby union that is less than 10 years old. In comparison, Japan has the fourth largest number of registered players in any country of the world. (From China Daily31/7/06)

Beijing's Da Vinci Code

President Hu Jintao is cautiously trying to revive traditional Chinese values without appearing to break with the party's roots in Marxism. 'Social harmony' is the buzzword that encompasses this movement, which may become a social renaissance. Almost every week it seems, one research institution or another is hosting a social-harmony conference. Even the World Economic Forum (symbol of American values) has chosen social harmony as the theme of the conference in Beijing this year. The super-growth economy has transformed the country in two decades from a poor ideologically driven nation, to a rich ideological bankrupt nation. It has raised living standards and created huge modern cities but left society in a state of discord.

To re-engineer its ideology, the party needs only look over the north wall of Zhongnanhai at Beihai and Jingshan parks. Beijing actually has its own political version of the Da Vinci Code, written in architecture, next to the party's very seat of power. With the exception of Mao Zedong, probably nobody else has understood that code. The Da Vinci Code made much of meridian lines and symbols. In Beijing there is a meridian line running from Qianmen Gate through the centre of the Forbidden City, Drum Tower and out of the back gate. At the highest point of the line is a pavilion on Jingshan hill with a massive statue of Buddha. Buddha's hand is open, thumb touching index finger, in the hand mudra position-a symbol of realism.

There is another key symbol in the centre of Beihai Park in the form of a white pagoda. The whole park was designed in rings for walking around the pagoda, which is said to contain a relic of the Buddha. These and other symbols converge near the pagoda, in the Eternal Peace Temple and it is a unique fusion of Tibetan tantric and Chinese Zen Buddhist architecture and symbolism. Within the central shrine are images of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Nearby is a tablet inscribed with the Chinese characters hui gen xiang yuan, 'the face of the root of wisdom is complete'.

This architectural imagery reveals the code underlying the success of Emperor Qianlong's rule in the 18th centrury. Qianlong's own Yinian Tang-an 'imagination pavilion' inside Zhong nanhai is directly in line with the White Pagoda. Mao selected Yinian Tang as his private office and residence after 1949.

The root of Chinese culture was cut, if not completely uprooted, during the decades of westernisation and globalisation-preceded by the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. There is nowhere to turn back, but to China's own traditional and cultural roots which were the same values continually dismissed over the past five decades by mainlanders who felt that they were about China's past and not its future. Maybe that attitude is about to change; maybe such values really are the future. (From South China Morning Post 18/7/06)

The new Qinghai Tibet Railway

The new railway on which trials are to begin on 1 July, is the highest in the world, most of the 1,110 km track is above 4,000 metres high (13,300 ft) and crosses 550 kms of permafrost. The highest point is 5,072 metres (16,907 feet) and at least 200 metres higher than the previous highest track in the Peruvian Andes.

The Chinese authorities are to ensure that the new line is 'harmonious with ecology'. No waste will be discharged along the track and lakes, plants, the animal population and the desert will be monitored. Any effects of global warming will be continually examined. The route had been designed to avoid regions with seismic activity but in vulnerable areas, rail beds rather than tunnels and bridges and retrofitted structures to minimise the effect of any possible tremors.

The government is to spend 13 million yuan ($1.6 million) on an earthquake warning system along the southern section of the railway. About 450 people will be employed for station and train services and another 1,000 will work on power supply and telecommunications.

Oxygen will be available in 'air conditioned' carriages and oxygen masks will be available under seats in carriages. Each train will have a doctor and a nurse for emergency treatment of passengers.

The cost of a seat from Beijing to Lhasa will cost 389 yuan ($48.6), hard sleeper 813 yuan ($101.6) and a soft sleeper 1,262 yuan ($157.75). (From Chinaview reports April-June 2006)

Visas for mainlanders to visit Hong Kong and Macao

New visas are available to residents of Beijing to visit Hong Kong and Macao. They are valid for one year and replace the old 3-month visa. The classes of visa have been reduced from 14 to six types. These are T-class (visiting relatives), S-class (business), L-class (group travel), G-class (individual travel), Q-class (others) and D (stay). (From China Today June 2006)

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

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