China News - Winter 2012

Bo Xilai expelled from CPC and public office

Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and removed from public office, according to a decision made at a meeting of the politburo of the CPC Central Committee on Friday. Bo's suspected law violations will be referred to judicial organs. The decisions were made at a meeting to deliberate Bo's severe disciplinary violations. On April 10th the politburo was briefed on the two incidents: Wang Lijun's entering the US consulate in Chengdu without permission and the reinvestigation of the suspected murder of Neil Heywood by Bo's wife Bogu Kailai. It decided to suspend Bo's membership of the CPC because of Bo's mistakes and responsibilities in the two cases.

Investigations have found that Bo seriously violated Party discipline whilst heading the city of Dalian, Liaoning Province, whilst serving as Minister of Commerce and also whilst Party Chief of Chongqing Municipality. He abused his power and made serious mistakes in the handling of the Wang Lijun incident and Heywood's murder. Bo took advantage of his office to seek profits for others and received huge bribes personally and through his family. His position was also abused by his wife to seek profit for others and the Bo family accepted money and property from others. In addition, Bo had or maintained improper sexual relations with a number of women, violated discipline in the promotion of personnel and there is evidence which suggests his involvement in other crimes.

Bo's behaviour has produced serious consequences, badly undermined the reputation of the Party and the country and created very negative images at home and abroad. The CPC Central Committee said that Bo's case is an example of the maintenance of strict Party discipline, no matter who is involved, to prevent and punish corruption and to constantly enhance the Party's capability of self-purification, self-improvement and self-innovation, all in a bid to maintain the Party's advanced nature and purity. Violators of discipline and the law will be severely dealt with, showing no mercy for corrupt figures, no matter who is involved or how great his or her power is. (From CCTV News, Xinhua 28/9/12)

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)

This university is committed to preparing innovative professionals for a wide range of international expertise to address the critical challenges of our times. It actively encourages a global vision by providing unique and valuable experiences for students and researchers from all over the world to interact across national, cultural and linguistic borders. The university offers research and initiatives with the resources of 25 languages and has a global network of 227 partners in 47 countries and regions. There are 32 American institutes of higher education which have links with the SISU. China is now the fifth most popular destination for American students with over 14,000 studying in China ? a significant increase from the 3,000 a decade ago. However, this number is still far short of the 100,000 goal set by a programme backed by US President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009 to boost the number of students studying in China. (From Foreign Affairs (sponsored section) Jul/Aug 2012).

From the British Press

Slowdown in China hits luxury goods.

Figures from Euromonitor International show that China's luxury market has grown by an average of 22% over the last five years from $6.6 billion in 2007 to $14.7 billion in 2011. Euromonitor predicts that this growth will continue at 15% for the next five years and will reach $35 billion by 2017. Burberry has warned that its profits will be down this year; analysts believe one cause is China's cooling down. Some estimates say that 11% of Burberry sales are to Chinese customers whilst Gucci sales attributed to the Chinese is reckoned to be 30%. Despite this, sales of Porsches are up by 28% and BMW have sold 38% more cars than the previous year. A report from HSBC suggested that a shift in culture in China may be contributing; the habit of keeping second wives is on the wane and the Chinese government put a ban on using state funds to buy luxury gifts for officials and business contacts they want to impress. Also, a change of leadership is expected in China.

However, Burberry insists the sales slowdown is not just a Chinese phenomenon. There is also a slowdown across Asia and the American presidential elections could also be having an effect. (From The Sunday Times 16/9/12)

Reformer for the Politburo

The Chinese Standing Committee of the Politburo may be joined by a reformer who uses China's version of Twitter. He has ordered officials to read Thomas Friedman's study of 21st century globalisation, 'The World is Flat' and says that the Chinese have a right to the pursuit of happiness. The relatively liberal Wang Yang is regarded as a near certainty to join the nine-man standing committee this year. If Mr Wang does obtain a position, he is expected to promote his 'small government agenda', which allows a greater role for civic organisations. Academics say that the easy-going former factory worker could be a central figure in one of China's most important struggles of the next decade: whether social stability is best maintained with an iron fist or a soft hand. The 'soft' approach prevailed last year when a land rights protest in the village of Wukan was resolved without a police crackdown after Mr Wang took account of the villagers' grievances.

Mr Wang has been the architect of numerous economic and regional pilot schemes in Guangdong, notably in the area of labour relations. He has encouraged trade unions and persuaded them in state-owned companies to fight harder for worker rights. Much of his rhetoric has played on the theme of openness. He has overhauled Guangdong's system for citizen complaints and has established an 'e-petitioning' website. He once published his own personal e-mail address and invited comments from the public.

In 2009, Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong, became the first city in China to publish all its budgets. This year Mr Wang unveiled a pilot scheme that will require officials to declare their assets. However, his critics say that his reforms may outstrip what the party will allow. Others see the reforms as necessary in a modern, quickly changing world with super-fast communications. (From The Times 8/6/12)

Note; Mr Wang Yang did not make it to the new seven man Standing Committee of the Politburo. However he is a member of the new 25 strong Political Bureau which includes two females. (Beijing Review 22/11/12)

Shanghai to rival London in shipping finance

A direct challenge to London's centuries-long-reign as a global hub for shipping has been mounted with the launch of indices designed to turn Shanghai, the world's busiest container port into a centre for shipping finance. The Baltic Exchange in London has dominated global shipping markets for 268 years and at present covers three quarters of the world's commodity cargo. It is compiled using price information taken from ship-brokers, regarded as independent by the market. The Baltic Dry-Index has lost 40% of its value as freight rates have plunged.

This week, the Shanghai Shipping Exchange unveiled indices to cover oil tankers and dry bulk ? a market dominated by the Baltic. A ship-broker in a Beijing research unit, Banchero Costa commented that it will take a lot of effort and the Shanghai Shipping Exchange will have to improve transparency, because Europeans will think the indices will somehow be controlled by the Chinese government. (From The Times 30/11/12)

Elderly couple defy developers

An elderly Chinese couple are still living in a house in the middle of a newly built road in Wenling, Zhejiang province. They say that the compensation offered them to move was too little and have refused to move. A picture of their house which is standing on its own, adjoining houses have been demolished, appeared in several newspapers and occupied the centrefold of the Guardian. (From The Times, Guardian and Independent, 23/11/12)

Note: The man, Luo Baogen, a duck farmer was offered 220,000 yuan, the standard offer of compensation but he refused, claiming that 600,000 yuan had just been spent on repairs. The offer was raised to 260,000 yuan which he again refused. However, a village chief, Chen Xuecai said that Mr Luo had accepted the deal, because' he was tired of media attention'. The house has been finally bulldozed. (From The Times 3/12/12)

Signs of recovery in China?

A preliminary 'flash' reading of the HSBC purchasing managers' index (PMI), has shown an increase to 50.3 in November from 49.5 last month. This is the first time it has risen out of contraction in 13 months and may be a sign that China has averted a hard landing after GDP growth cooled to 7.4% in the third quarter of this year. This PMI shows a dramatic improvement in new export orders. However some economists warn that the signs are 'patchy' and the situation is still very fragile. (From The Times 23/11/12)

Chinese Party schools

The Daily Telegraph was this week given rare access to the Chinese leadership academy in Shanghai. A lecturer, Professor Li Min, said that when it came to crisis management, Margaret Thatcher was a model of excellence. The prof said that Mrs Thatcher is a lady I quite admire; she is the 'Iron Lady.' The head of the school's international programme explained; 'we have an open attitude towards all civilisations that are useful to us and (we) learn from them.'

The academy's executive vice-president, Feng Jun conceded that many outsiders found Chinese Party schools 'mysterious', but denied that they were designed to indoctrinate officials with Marxist dogma. He said that they do brainstorming and not brainwashing to find answers and solutions to problems. Students are taught to love socialism and to strengthen their faith in the paths of socialism with Chinese characteristics. A prospectus says the international, contemporary and innovative institution, offered cutting-edge leadership training. Gordon Brown and Romano Prodi have both visited and past speakers include Lord Patten and Robert Zoellick, then President of the World Bank.

Prof Frank Pieke, the chairman of Modern China Studies at Leiden University, said the academies were conceived to improve the quality of local cadres and improve their ability to govern their localities and institutions effectively. The Shanghai academy is one of five and some believe it is part of a public relations drive to show what they (Party officials under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao) want China to look like and how they want China to be ruled. (From The Times 27/9/12)

China hails Mo Yan's Nobel Prize

Mo Yan is the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, announced at midday that Mo Yan was the 2012 winner, saying that the writer 'with hallucinatory realism, merges folk tales, history and the contemporary. Michel Hockx, professor of Chinese at SOAS said: 'He is one of the grand old men of Chinese literature', adding: 'He has a substantial oeuvre. He writes big novels about big issues.' In China, the 'People's Daily was ecstatic, saying that this is the first Chinese writer who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and that Chinese writers and Chinese people have waited too long.

Mo's most famous work is 'Red Sorghum', published in 1987 and made into a film. Other works include 'The Garlic Ballads' and 'Big Breasts, Wide Hips.' Mo's real name is Guan Moye. Mo Yan, his pen-name, actually means 'do not speak.' The award-winning Chinese film director, Xialu Guo, is very glad that Mo has won, because the award will open up a much deeper understanding of what Chinese literature's essence really is in the contemporary world. However, the dissident Ai Weiwei is furious about the award to Mo, saying Mo has no involvement with contemporary struggle. Professor Hockx has said that Mo deals with big issues, but is not a political activist. (From The Independent 12/10/12)

China to move to two-child policy?

A report has leaked out from the China Development Research Foundation advising that China should end the one-child policy in order to stop the population ageing. The report sets a three-year deadline to phase in the reform. Li Jiamin, one of the co-authors and a population specialist at Nankai University believes that it just a matter of time for China to rethink the one-child policy. He believes that if there is no change, old people will make up a third of the population by 2050. Another co-author is Cui Fang, an economist, who has lectured to members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. He drew attention to the fact that when the one-child policy was introduced three decades ago, the government promised that should circumstances change, so would the policy.

The sacrifices made by Chinese families have had an enormous impact not only on China's resources, but on the whole world. By some estimates, the one-child policy has prevented between 100 million and 400 million people from being born. The new study argues that ending the policy will not unleash a huge population boom. It references four experimental areas in northern and central China which had their family planning controls lifted in 1985. All the areas had low population growth and the birth-rate has been shrinking since 2000.

Furthermore the gender balance and age distribution are better. However, the report admitted that in some other experimental areas, the birth-rate had spiralled out of control. Prof Li mentioned that some families who had the right to have a second child, had chosen not to because of the expense. However, there had not yet been any feedback from the National Family Planning Commission in Beijing probably because they feel that it will take more time to change. (From The Daily Telegraph 1/11/12)

Ban lifted on Cultural Revolution book

A book that describes the horrors of the Cultural Revolution has become available on the internet in China, after a ban of 26 years. The book's appearance coincides with the rise to power of Xi Jinping who was exiled to the countryside under Mao. An informal translation of the book of 500,000 Chinese characters by the Sunday Times, leaves no doubt that it is a document of historical importance for China. Some have compared it to the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Russia. A highly regarded academic, Mao Yushi has said on his blog that it shows why our younger generation must be careful with the future or our society will suffer a great regression. In the preface to his book, the author, Tan Hecheng, writes that 'every sentence and every case is true'. (From The Sunday Times 25/11/12)

China buys into Heathrow

China's Stable Investment Corporation has paid £448 million for a 10% stake in Heathrow airport, reducing the Spanish infrastructure group, Ferrovial's holding to 33.65%. The Chinese, Qatari and Singapore governments now own more than 40% of Britain's biggest airport. (From The Sunday Times, Travel 4/11/12)

The great wait of China!

The Chinese politicians' grant of free tolls on China's motorways for the first day of the mid-autumn festival holiday resulted in enormous traffic jams on 24 motorways in 16 provinces. (This year the mid-autumn festival holiday, combined with National Day holiday plus two weekends provides an eight day holiday). It was the first time in a decade that China's motorways had been toll-free and many families were keen to take advantage of the savings. A 788-mile journey from Shanghai to Beijing would cost about 600 yuan (£60) and a 500 mile trip from Beijing to Dalian, on the coast would cost 380 yuan, significantly more than a train ticket. However 86 million drivers took to the roads at the same time and nobody got anywhere fast. Frustrated drivers were seen walking their dogs on the hard shoulder, playing tennis, doing press-ups on the tarmac or simply snoozing in their cars. (From The Daily Telegraph 2/10/12)

China/Japan islands dispute

The Chinese finance minister and the governor of the People's bank of China did not turn up at the IMF meeting in Japan. Earlier, Japanese car makers announced declines in sales in China of up to 49%, as Chinese buyers boycotted Japanese goods. (South Korea is also in dispute with Japan over an island and they have decided not to renew a currency-swap facility). (From The Economist 13/10/12)

Chinese insurance companies to invest overseas

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission is to allow China Insurance, AIA, China Pacific and Ping An to expand their offshore investment activity substantially. Until now, restrictions applied or they were only allowed to invest in Hong Kong stocks and bonds. China's four largest insurance companies combined have a market capitalisation of about £224 billion ? this is eight times that of the Prudential of the UK. (From The Times 27/11/12)

Starbucks to expand in China

Starbucks intend to open 800 new shops across China by 2015 to take its total to 1,500 in 70 cities. The first one opened in Beijing in 1999 and there are now 100 in the Chinese capital. The company are researching local tastes and will offer green tea, tiramisu, red bean scones and moon cakes. (From The Times 28/11/12)

Chinese engineering students in UK expected to increase even further

The most recent figures provided by the UK Higher Education statistics Agency show that of 2.5 million students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, 69,325 are from China ? an increase of 18.1% on the previous year. The Chinese government has inaugurated a project to improve the country's engineering skills and this is likely to increase the figure further. At Imperial College in London, of 146 electrical engineer first year students, 21 are Chinese. Universities say that Chinese students tend to be particularly strong in maths. Universities across the UK are recruiting in China and the Far East and earlier this year, Keith Burnett, the vice- chancellor of Sheffield University, signed a deal with Nanjing University for a joint research centre for electronic engineering. (From The Sunday Times 18/11/12)

China computer syndrome

A report from a US congressional committee has warned against American companies doing business with Huawei and ZTE, two giant Chinese telecom firms saying that they are a threat to national security. Huawei in particular has come under scrutiny because of alleged links with the Chinese Communist Party. Huawei described the claims as 'little more than an exercise in China-bashing.' In a separate development, Cisco Systems has ended its long-standing partnership with ZTE because of allegations that the Chinese firm sold Cisco's equipment to Iran in violation of American sanctions. (From The Economist 13/10/12)

Han Suyin dies at the age of 95

Han Suyin, the author of many books and novels about China has died aged 95. She was a London-trained doctor who worked in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. She wrote a series of autobiographies which also contained historical details of China: 'The Crippled Tree' (1965), 'Birdless Summer' (1968) through to 'Wind in my Sleeve' (1992). She is probably best known for her novel, 'A Many Splendoured Thing' (1952), which was made into a Hollywood film starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones. The theme song was subsequently recorded by Artists such as Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and Nat King Cole.

Han Suyin was born Elizabeth Kuanghu Chow in 1917 in Xinyang, Henan province, the daughter of a Chinese railway engineer and his Belgian wife. She was convent educated and began work as a hospital typist at the age of 15 and was later accepted as a student at Yenching University in 1933. In 1935 she went to Brussels to study medicine, but did not qualify. She returned to China in 1938 where she married Tang Pao-huang, a young officer, who eventually became a general in the Nationalist Army. He was posted to London as a military attach? and Han Suyin resumed her medical studies at the Royal Free Hospital in London, qualifying in 1949. Her husband, having returned to China, was killed in action in 1947 in the civil war against communist forces.

She subsequently married the Times Far East correspondent, Ian Morrison, who was killed in Korea when his car ran over a mine. Later she married Colonel Vincent Ratnaswamy, an Indian Army officer, whom she met in Nepal. Her novel, 'The Mountain is Young', was inspired by her visit to that country. She lived in Switzerland for a time with him, but they separated. He died in 2003. (From The Times 9/11/12)

From the Chinese press

The 18th CPC National Congress

This began on 8 November in Beijing. More than 2,700 journalists including 1,700 from overseas were in attendance to cover Hu Jintao's report of the 17th CPC Central Committee. Hu said that China will continue to stick to a path of opening up and reform. The success of the last 10 years has been due to the establishment of the Scientific Outlook on Development, the latest achievement of the Party in developing the system of theories of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The new Party theory advocates comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development and attaches top priority to the principle of putting people first. He reaffirmed the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and GDP and per-capita income for both rural and urban residents should be doubled by 2020.

He said that the Party would uphold the nation's sovereignty, security and development interests and never to yield to outside pressure. The report was prepared by giving full play to democracy, sending tens of investigation teams to every corner of the country to listen to the people. In addition, special forums were set up on major websites in China to gather the opinions of around 540 million Chinese netizens. A total of 4.5 million people participated in the online investigation and over 190,000 suggestions were made.

People's democracy should be expanded and improved. The rule of law should be fully implemented as a basic strategy. A law-based government should be basically in function, judicial credibility should be enhanced and human rights should be fully respected and protected.

Living standards should be fully raised. Equal access to basic public services should be generally achieved. The education level of the entire population should be significantly raised and training of innovative professionals markedly improved. There should be more job opportunities and income gaps should be narrowed. Social security should cover all the people. Major progress should be made in building a resource-conserving and environmentally friendly society.

Education should be provided for all students and creativity should be cultivated in them. We should vigorously promote fairness in education, with a focus on rural, remote, poor and ethnic minority areas. Subsidies to poor families should be increased and it should be ensured that children of rural migrant workers in cities have equal access to education. We should encourage non-governmental organisations to run educational programmes. (From Beijing Review 15/11/12)

A determined war on graft

China will initiate a new five-year plan to tackle corruption, said He Guoqiang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party(CPC). The new plan would run from 2013 to 2018 and would follow on the first plan which was started in 2008. He went on to say that the 18th CPC National Congress will find new ways to prevent corruption.

Ren Jianming, an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, was quoted by Nandu Daily newspaper, as saying that the drafting of the work plan started as early as May 2010 and scholars had been invited to carry out surveys and studies. The first five-year plan was to establish an anti-corruption mechanism and the next five years would be spent in perfecting that mechanism.' The government has placed the fight against corruption high on its agenda over the past 10 years. In a speech last July, Hu Jintao warned that corruption is one of the growing dangers that confront the Party and it has become more important and urgent for the Party to police itself and impose strict discipline on its members. On 23 July, Hu again listed fighting corruption unswervingly as one of the efforts that must be continued to promote Party building. From December 2002 to June 2007, a total of 518,484 CPC members were punished according to Party discipline.

In December 2010, China issued its first-ever white paper on the anti-graft efforts. A string of policies to improve government transparency, curb the misuse of power and police and the behaviour of senior officials have been issued over the past few years. In February 2010, the CPC Central Committee issued a code of ethics for CPC cadres to follow to ensure clean practice in their work. (From Beijing Review 13/9/12)

More Green buildings in China

Green buildings have developed quickly over China and there are plans to significantly increase the rate. In some major cities such as Shenzhen and Xiamen, all government-funded housing projects for middle and lower-income families are required to meet certain green requirements. There are plans to extend these requirements to municipalities directly under the central government: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing and provincial capitals. Impetus is provided by consistent falls in the prices of photovoltaic and LED products and increasing public awareness of the benefits of energy-frugal houses. (From China Today June 2012)

Growing US-China tourism

China and the US have become each other's fourth largest tourist destination. Last year more than 1.36 million Chinese visited the US ? an annual increase of 17.6%. They spent a total of $7.7 billion, an average of $7,107 per head, which helped create 210,000 new jobs in the US. The number of tourists from the US to China exceeded 2.11 million and they spent $3.3 billion, an average of $2,348 per head. The total number of tourists from the US and China was 3.5 million last year, but this is expected to reach 5 million in 2015. This information was presented at the sixth China-US Tourism Leadership Summit held in Qingdao in September. Tourism is expected to stimulate economic growth for both counties. (From China Today November 2012)

China buys into Weetabix

Bright Food Group, one of China's largest food organisations announced on 5 November that it had acquired 60% of the British Weetabix Food Co. With a value of £1.2 billion ($1.92 billion) including company shares and debt, the deal marks the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese company in the food and beverage sector. The transaction allows Bright Food to enter both the UK and global food markets by the acquisition of a premium global brand. The Weetabix brand will have access to all of Bright Food's channels, including over 100,000 retail outlets and will allow access into Chinese households. Meanwhile, Weetabix is carrying out research into the diet and taste preferences of Chinese consumers which will aid the launch of new products for the Chinese market. (From Beijing Review 15/11/12)

More safe drinking water

The Chinese Ministry of Water Resources has listed water safety problems as one of the government's priority projects. China will invest 175 billion yuan ($28 billion) by 2015 to ensure safe drinking water in rural areas and more than 298 million rural residents will by this date have access to safe drinking water. In addition 114,000 schools will also benefit. (From Beijing Review 8/11/12)

Smart nursing homes

China plans to build 100 hi-tech nursing homes within 10 years, the China National Committee on Ageing announced on 31 October. The hi-tech system will feature modern communication and computer technologies and will provide medical care, education and entertaining facilities. It will also be able to offer customised rehabilitation and mental care. Construction of the first facility began on 29 October in Beijing and will cover an area of 86,115 square metres. China had about 185 million people above the age of 60 last year and the figure is expectd to surge to 221 million in 2015. (From Beijing Review 8/11/12)

China sets up institute for dolphin protection

A research institute to protect the endangered Chinese white dolphin and other rare animals has been set up in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The institute will also monitor marine ecology and marine pollution. The Chinese white dolphin is the most endangered marine animal in China and is under first-class state protection. It lives mainly in the sea around Xiamen and the Pearl River estuary. It is estimated that 2,000 white dolphins are living in China's seas. (From China Today October 2012)

China's National Day spending illustrates potential for domestic consumption

During the Mid-Autumn Festival/National Day holiday from 30n September to 7 October this year, about 425 million people ? equivalent to the population of North America ? travelled the country, creating sales in the retail and catering industries in excess of 800 billion yuan ($127.04 billion). This is roughly 10% of South Korea or Mexico's GDP in 2011. Despite China's slowing growth, booming sales during the holiday illustrate the potential for consumption. The flourishing holiday economy raised employment; scenic spots, transportation, hotels and restaurants needed staff. Many enterprises were willing to pay more than usual to recruit new employees. The number of tourists increased by 40.9% over the same period last year, with crowded tourist spots, gridlocked highways and packed airports. (From Beijing Review 18/10/12)

Undersea cable links Taiwan with the mainland

The first undersea telecommunications cable linking Taiwan with the mainland started operating on 21 August according to China Telecom, the primary builder and operator of the line. The two optic fibre cables link Xiamen with Kinmen Island. They will play a significant role in improving telecommunication quality and security across the Taiwan Straits as well as promoting technical development on both sides. The design capacity of the two cables is about 100 times the current volume. The total cost reached NT$ 200 million with half of the cost funded by Chunghua and the rest from three mainland companies. (From China Today October 2012)

Subsistence allowance for poor families

China set aside 69.6 billion yuan ($11.13 billion) from the central budget to pay for subsistence allowances for needy rural and urban families next year. Of the fiscal spending 35.1 billion yuan ($5.61 billion will be used for urban allowances, while the rest will be distributed to rural areas. Since the start of the year, 87.5 billion yuan has been earmarked for minimum living allowances, with 44.36 billion yuan ($7.09 billion) given to poor urban families. (From Beijing Review 25/10/12)

Healthcare affordability

The Chinese government has pledged to establish a national basic medical and healthcare system by 2015. To address high medical costs, the newly released highlights of the 12th Five-Year Plan for healthcare development says that annual medical insurance subsidies for non-working urban residents and rural residents will be raised from about 240 yuan ($38) to 360 yuan ($58) by 2015.

China has a three-tier health insurance scheme, including insurance for urban workers, non-working urbanites and rural residents. According to the plan, health insurance can cover as much as 75% of total in-patient care costs under all three schemes.

Furthermore, more diseases will be covered by medical insurance programme designed to provide financial aid to seriously ill patients. The programme began in June 2010 and covers 20 diseases. (From Beijing Review 15/11/12)

Village based accountability

A new system of village-based supervisory committee has been proposed in China to stem emerging misconduct and corruption amongst local officials and to guard against infringement of farmers' interests.

An official document co-publicised on 5 November by 12 central government departments suggested the committees be formed in villages to improve supervision over members of villagers' committees, the autonomous bodies that govern all of a village's public affairs. In addition, a notice posted on the website of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, stated that systematic arrangements should be made to improve auditing of village officials' economic responsibilities and hold them accountable. (From Beijing Review 16/11/12)

China's middle-class expanding

A government think tank has predicted that China's rapid urbanisation will greatly increase the number of middle-class people to 600 million and support an economic growth of between 7% to 8% annually by 2020. The continued urbanisation and the increase in middle-class consumers will spur investment demand by at least 40 trillion yuan ($6.41 trillion) over the next 10 years. A study by the same institute (China Institute for Reform and Development) stated that China's urbanisation rate reached 51.3% in 2011. This means that over half of the Chinese population were living lives in cities and towns by last year. As more farmers are leaving their farms, the migrant worker population is expected to increase by another 200 million. (From Beijing Review 15/11/12)

China's rich-poor gap at alarming level

The Beijing-based International Institute for Urban Development warns that beneath the profound achievements of China's opening-up and reform is a yawning wealth divide, which is approaching the limit of public tolerance. China's Gini coefficient reached 0.438 in 2010 compared with 0.275 in the early 1980s and has been increasing at an annual rate of 0.1%. The income disparity between China's urban and rural residents is now the highest in the world. In the two decades from 1988 to 2007, the disparity between China's top 10% of earners and the bottom 10% rose from a factor of 7.3-fold to 23-fold. (From China Today November 2012)

International study increasing

The International Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the number of international students worldwide rose from 0.8 million in 1975 to 3.7 million in 2009. Data for years after 2009/10 is still being assembled. The US attracted most international students during 2009/10 with 691,000 students. The next most popular country for international students was the UK. China was in third place with 265,000 overseas students. China sends more students abroad than any other country, followed by India and South Korea. (From China Today November 2012)

New radio telescope

A new radio telescope was opened at Shanghai on 28 October. It is based on Shenshan Mountain and will be used to track and collect data from satellites and space probes. The new telescope can pick up eight different frequency bands and track deep space probes. It will also be used as part of the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). This is a kind of astronomical instrument used in radio astronomy to collect data and increase its angular resolution during astronomical observation. China's VLBI system is made up of four telescopes situated in Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming and Urumqi. The data centre is in Shanghai. (From Beijing Review 8/11/12)

SinoFile is compiled by Walter Fung.

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