Thursday, October 9, 2008

China's "Education for All" effort fruitful in 30 years

Of major events in China over the past three decades, most Chinese would list the resumption of National Examination for the Entrance of University as number one.

In December 1977, 5.7 million Chinese participated in the national exams, the first since the catastrophic Cultural Revolution . One year later, the country's reform, opening up and modernization drive was launched.

Over the past three decades, millions of students have graduated from colleges of various kinds, to form a high-quality workforce for the country. And China has developed into one of the largest economies in the world.

According to official figures, the country's higher educational institutions enrolled about 53.86 million students from 128 million participants of national college entrance examinations over the past three decades.

In the meantime, the government has stepped up effort to develop compulsory and secondary education, to improve the quality of the country's citizens. Over the past 30 years, more than 100 million students have graduated from professional schools of different kinds. In 2007, Chinese professional schools had 80 million students in training.

As of 2000, China had reached its goals to ensure nine-year compulsory schooling for children and to eliminate illiteracy among young and middle-aged citizens.

The great success in the economic reforms has fed back to the country's educational field as the government has increased investment and adopted more favorable policies in education, with greater importance attached to rural education.

In 2003, a remote educational program was launched to cover 360,000 rural elementary and middle schools involving more than 100 million rural students.

In 2004, the central government invested 10 billion yuan to build more than 8,300 boarding schools in rural areas.

In 2006, it amended its Law on Compulsory Education to exempt all school charges for students. This was first adopted in rural areas of the backward western parts of the country in 2006 and nationwide in 2007.

This year, 16 provinces, municipalities and ethnic autonomous regions, as well as five big cities in provincial financial powers, became pilot areas to test the free compulsory education for urban students of elementary and middle schools.

While making great efforts to reach its goal of "Education for All", the government has also encouraged students to study abroad. The number of Chinese studying overseas rose from 860 in 1978 to 144,500 in 2007. So far, 319,700 students have returned home after graduating from foreign schools.

In addition, China has opened up its door to overseas students. Over the past 30 years, 1.23 million students from more than 180 countries and regions have studied in domestic schools of various kinds.

Currently, it has signed agreements on educational cooperation and exchanges with 188 foreign countries and regions, while the Chinese government has agreed with the governments of 33 countries and regions to mutually recognize diplomas issued by their schools.

The successful reforms and increasingly higher international status have made the Chinese language more attractive and useful to foreigners. So far, the number of foreigners studying Mandarin is claimed to exceed 30 million.

To date, 262 Confucius Institutes have been set up in 77 foreign countries and regions to spread the Chinese culture. In addition, 46 foreign countries and regions have held the Chinese Proficiency Test known as HSK.

Source: Xinhua

High-rise in NE China catches fire, 21 rescued

Firemen rescued 21 people from a high-rise building fire on Thursday afternoon in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. No casualties were reported so far.

The blaze was initially believed to have broken out at around 4p.m. on the third floor of the "Jingwei360" building in the provincial capital Harbin. The structure had nearly 30 floors still under construction.

All of those rescued were construction workers in the building. They were sent to hospitals for a check-up.

The fire spread to many other floors but almost all of it was put out as of Thursday evening. The number of people in the building when the fire occurred was not clear.

"The construction has almost been completed," said a worker at the building. He said he was dumping garbage in the first floor when he saw smoke.

Source: Xinhua

Herbal injections recalled after three deaths

Two batches of ciwujia herbal injections produced by a northwest China firm have been recalled following the deaths of three people given the treatments, local authorities said on Thursday.

Batch numbers 2007121511 and 2007122721 of "Ciwujia Injection" were produced by the Heilongjiang-based Wandashan Pharmaceutical in December last year. The medicine was extracted from ciwujia, a type of Siberian ginseng.

"We started on Tuesday morning to recall the products that had been sold by the company but not used by hospitals. All the medicine is on the way back," said Guo Laibin, a Heilongjiang Land Reclamation Region official in charge of economic development, at a press conference.

But he declined to give the exact figure of the recalled medicine or how many doses were produced for each batch.

Six patients in southwestern Yunnan Province had strong adverse reactions after being injected with Ciwujia from the two batches. Three died in hospital on Monday.

The food and drug administrations of the state, provincial and city levels arrived at the Wandashan Pharmaceutical to investigate the medicine on Tuesday night, but had made no conclusions, Guo said.

"The heads of the company are cooperating with the investigation," he said.

The provincial food and drug watchdogs of Yunnan and Heilongjiang have ordered the suspension of sales and usage of the medicine.

All hospitals are ordered to closely monitor patients for possible adverse reactions, said Li Bin, head of the Heilongjiang health bureau.

To date, the State Food and Drug Administration had received no such reports from outside Yunnan.

Wandashan Pharmaceutical has more than 570 staff and has been producing ciwujia for over 30 years.

Siberian ginseng injections are often used to treat thrombosis caused by a weak liver and kidneys. It is also believed to be helpful in treating coronary heart disease, nervous exhaustion and menopausal problems.

Source: Xinhua

China calls for "unbiased, scientific, fair treatment" of dairy products

China's government has called for "unbiased, scientific and fair treatment" of its dairy products abroad after the scandal of the melamine contamination that left at least three infants dead and thousands ill.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China "understands" the concerns of countries that have restricted imports of its dairy products, but Chinese food safety watchdogs had strengthened supervision of exported dairy products.

Food safety authorities had promised that once problems were detected, China would immediately inform the concerned countries and demand the responsible manufacturer recall or destroy the tainted product.

The Sanlu Group, a leading Chinese dairy producer based in northern Hebei Province, admitted on Sept. 12 that it had found some of its baby milk powder products were contaminated with melamine.

Contaminated baby formula has left more than 53,000 with urinary tract problems, including kidney stones.

"As a matter of fact, China promptly reported the information to relevant countries as well as international organizations such as the World Health Organization when Sanlu milk powder products were found contaminated," Qin said.

He added that food safety had become a global challenge, and China was committed to stepping up its communication and cooperation with the international community to address the issue.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese FM spokesman: U.S. presidential candidates should understand Taiwan issue

China hopes the two main U.S. presidential candidates will continue to promote good bilateral relations, particularly over the Taiwan issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Thursday.

"Appropriately handling the Taiwan issue is the crucial political foundation of Sino-U.S. ties," Qin said at a regular press conference.

He was commenting on a question regarding the support of Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama for the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

Qin reiterated China's "clear, firm and grave protest" against the arms deal worth 6.5 billion U.S. dollars.

"Thirty years of bilateral ties have showed that when the Taiwan issue was properly handled, the base for Sino-U.S. relations would be protected and it could develop further. If not, the Sino-U.S. relationship faces difficulties," he said.

Now that the U.S. government and various social circles valued ties with China, they should be sensitive to the Taiwan issue, which constituted the political foundation of China-U.S. ties, Qin said.

"We expect U.S. presidential candidates can realize this and stick to the one-China policy, observe the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques, oppose 'Taiwan independence' and advance bilateral ties," he said.

He said China had repeatedly opposed the arms sale in a clear, solemn and resolute manner.

Source: Xinhua

Officials: supplies badly needed in quake hit NW region

Tents, winter clothing and medicine were badly needed in quake-hit Wuqia County, a mountainous area also swept by continuous rain in the far west of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local authorities said on Thursday.

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the county on Sunday night, affecting 7,645 people. More than 700 houses suffered structural damage, while four collapsed. No casualties were yet reported.

As of Thursday afternoon, the rain that started on Wednesday evening had not stopped, lowering the temperature to minus 3 to minus 5 degrees Celsius. The sky was overcast and there could be a chance of more rain in the following days, according to county officials.

Up to Wednesday, the quake-hit zone had received 50 tents, 500 quilts, 500 clothes and 500 tons of coal, which was far from enough, according to the county government.

Jigen Town, the epicenter, needed 400 tents, 1,200 tons of coal,400 tons of flour and 400 tons of fodder, said Fan Baojun, the county's party chief, adding another three towns were also affected.

"I am worried the heavy rain would damage the houses shaken by the earthquake. More people would suffer from the cold."

The quake zone in the Pamirs was about 100 km from the county seat of Wuqia County at the conjunction of the south of the Tianshan and Kunlun mountains. Poor traffic conditions and telecommunications made it difficult to transport supplies from outside.

More than 1,000 locals with 30 vehicles were dispatched for the rescue work. About 60 doctors were working in the quake zone to provide emergency medical care as well as disease control and prevention.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese environmental watchdog blacklists polluted cities

An annual urban environment assessment report has blacklisted such major Chinese cities as northwestern Xinjiang's Urumqi and central Hubei's industrial Huanggang for their poor environmental record.

The report, released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Wednesday, said northern Inner Mongolia's Bayannur and Ulanqab, northwestern Gansu's Baiyin, Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi and Hubei's Huanggang had "relatively poor" air quality.

It also listed cities having low-level water quality. They were Hengshui and Cangzhou in northern Hebei, Linfen in northern Shanxi, Fuyang in eastern Anhui, Tongchuan in northwestern Shaanxi and Wuwei in Gansu.

The report said in 2007 the country's overall urban environment had improved and local governments had increased spending on environmental protection.

It showed the urban sewage processing rate increased by 9.4 percentage points, while garbage recycling rose by 8.1 percentage points. Medical waste rose 4.31 percentage points year on year.

The report assessed the environment of 617 cities, more than 90 percent of the national total, up by 22 over the previous year.

It pointed out many cities had made the annual assessment as a major reference for gauging local governments' environmental protection efforts.

According to the report, major cities' sewage treatment rate reached 64.44 percent, up by 3.75 percentage points year on year, and garbage recycling and medical waste treatment hit 82.09 and 84.06 percent, up 0.9 and 1.83 percentage points respectively.

The public satisfaction rate exceeded 90 percent in cities such as coastal Shandong Province's Linyi, Dongying, Rizhao and Yantai, and the northernmost Heilongjiang Province's Daqing and Heihe, the report said.

Residents of Shanxi's coal base Datong and southern Guangxi's Hezhou were the least satisfied with their environment.

Source: Xinhua