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

Association to sue Beijing karaoke bars over copyright

The China Audio-video Copyright Association said on Thursday it would file suit in mid October against Beijing-based bar operators refusing to pay royalties for songs and MTV videos they used.

The association, which is responsible for charging karaoke bars, sent notice to the first batch of about 300 Beijing-based bars in late September. It urged them to pay the royalties before Oct. 10.

It warned of legal action if they failed to meet the deadline, the association said in a statement.

About 100 karaoke bar operators will be named in the suit filed by the association, which vowed to push through the fight until all operators made payment according to the law.

At present, only about 10 operators out of about 1,000 Beijing-based karaoke bars paid royalties for the copyrighted audio-video products they used. The figure stood at about 1,000 nationwide.

Last year, 15 provincial-level areas, including Beijing and Guangdong, agreed to collect karaoke copyright royalties. The practice was spreading nationwide.

Karaoke operators must pay a daily charge of 12 yuan for each karaoke room -- less in underdeveloped regions -- for the use of musical and video products, according to a National Copyright Administration notice issued in November 2006.

Chinese karaoke operators have enjoyed free access to songs and MTV videos without paying royalties for more than 20 years.

The country has an estimated 100,000 karaoke establishments -- each with an average of 10 rooms -- collectively generating almost1 billion yuan in turnover annually.

The association hoped Beijing could set a model for the rest of country in royalty payments and it didn't rule out the possibility for legal actions against karaoke bar operators outside of the capital.

Source: Xinhua

Landslide kills six in north China

Six people died in a landslide early on Thursday in north China's Shanxi Province.

The slide occurred around 8 a.m. at a farm in Zaolin Village, Liulin County, burying the six people, according to the county government.

Rescuers pulled the victims from the rubble and sent them to hospital, but all died despite the doctors' efforts.

Local government authorities were investigating the cause of the incident.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese shares open 1.59% higher after interest rate cut

Chinese share prices rose 1.59 percent at opening on Thursday after the central bank announced cuts in both the interest rate and reserve-requirement ratio in the latest effort to boost the economy.

The Shanghai Composite Index opened at 2125.57 points, up 33.34points or 1.59 percent from Wednesday's closing 2092.22. The smaller Shenzhen Component Index opened at 7043.55 points, up 119.06 points or 1.71 percent from Wednesday's closing 6924.49 points.

The rise ended a three straight day fall since Monday when the Chinese stock market resumed trading after the weeklong National Day holiday.

On Wednesday evening, the People's Bank of China announced the deposit and lending rates would be lowered by 0.27 percentage points from Thursday and the reserve-requirement ratio would be down by 0.5 percentage points from Oct. 15.

The loosening in monetary policy, the second such move in less than a month, highlighted the government's rising concern over the slowing economy and slumping capital market, analysts said.


Tokyo stocks open lower despite global rate cuts

Tokyo stocks open lower on Thursday despite concerted rate cuts by the United States Federal Reserve, the European Central bank and five other central banks around the world, including Britain and China.

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average lost 52.38 points, or 0.57 percent, from Wednesday to 9,150.94.

The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was down 1.87 points, or 0.21 percent, to 897.14.

The Second Section also lost ground in the first 15 minutes of trading.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and four other central banks in Europe and Canada said Wednesday they have decided to cut interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to jointly curb the spread of the financial crisis. China also lowered the deposit and lending rates by 0.27 percentage points.


Hong Kong stocks rebound 1.08% at opening

Hong Kong stocks bounced back 166. 51 points, or 1.08 percent, to open at 15,598.24 on Thursday following concerted rate cuts and other boost measures announced by central banks of major economies almost worldwide.


World Bank chief: China's economic growth important to global economy

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said on Wednesday the growth of China's economy is "very important" to the global economy, which is entering a major downturn after five years of strong economic growth.

"China's economy, up to this point, has been helping offer an alternative growth. This is very important to the global economy," said Zoellick.

However, what are happening in the U.S. in these two months will lead to a worldwide economic slowdown, and that will impact China as well, he said.

"Fortunately for China, it has very strong current account position as well as budgets position," said the World Bank chief.

He said he endorsed Justin Lin's opinion about China's contribution to the World economy, referring to Lin's recent interview with Xinhua.

"I think that in the global context, Justin Lin made a point that I endorse, that if china could expand domestic demand, particularly in the consumption side, that will help strengthen the overall global economy," said Zoellick.

Justin Lin, chief economist and senior vice president for Development Economics at the World Bank, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that China should stimulate the domestic demand to cope with the current financial crisis.

Lin, the first chief economist of World Bank from a developing country, said China's stable and fast economic development is itself one of the contributions to the world economy.

"The stable and rapid economic development in China not only boosts China's export, but also provides a bigger market for the rest of the world," he said.


Little confidence in Chinese stock market despite new gov't measures

Investor confidence in the Chinese stock market remains weak despite a government measure to boost the economy.

Share prices only went up 0.56 percent in Thursday morning session after the central bank announced both interest rate and reserve-requirement ratio cuts Wednesday night.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index opened 1.59 percent higher at 2,125.57 points, but dipped to 2,063.83 at 10 a.m. before closing in the morning at 2,104.01 points. The Shenzhen Component Index declined 0.39 percent to 6,897.53 points.

The early drop was largely due to PetroChina shares, which dipped to 11.9 yuan before closing up 0.25 percent to 12.16 yuan.

Other heavyweights also had poor performances. China Shenhua Energy Company fell 1.7 percent to 22 yuan and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China declined 0.25 percent to 4.06 yuan.

Irico Display Devices was the only stock that rose to the daily limit of ten percent. It gained 0.28 yuan to close at 3.08 yuan as it announced a net profit estimate of 40 million yuan in the first three quarters.

Securities shares made gains after heavy loss in the previous two days. For instance, Pacific Securities was up 7.83 percent to 19.27 yuan and Citic Securities rose 5.1 percent to 21.86 yuan.

Though the interest rate cuts should have benefited the real estate industry, property shares only increase 0.33 percent in overall growth, said analysts. Beijing Urban Construction Investment & Development Co. rose 5.44 percent to 7.36 yuan, but China Vanke Co. dropped 2.15 percent to 6.36 yuan. Poly Real Estate Group Co. was down 3.65 percent to 14.53 yuan.

Despite gains in the Shanghai benchmark index, total sells still outnumber buys, which shows strong investor prudence, analysts said.

Wednesday evening, the People's Bank of China announced deposit and lending rates would be lowered by 0.27percentage points on Thursday and the reserve-requirement ratio would be down by 0.5 percentage points starting Oct. 15.

The cuts, the second such move in less than a month, highlighted the government's rising concern over the slowing economy and slumping capital market, analysts said.


China's business climate index plunges in Q3

China's business climate index, a key gauge of corporate performance, slid year on year in the third quarter, said the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

The index, based on a survey of 19,500 Chinese firms, fell to 128.6 points in the third quarter, down 16.1 points from the same period last year. In the second quarter the index dropped 8.8 points from 137.4 points.

It was the first time China's business climate index fell below130 points since the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic in early 2003. The 100-point mark is seen as a definition between depression and prosperity.

Compared to the same period last year, all sectors reported notable declines in business climate index, the NBS said.

If compared with the second quarter this year, all enterprises, except the service industry, reported declining business indices.

The information technology and software index, which remained at the top among all sectors, declined 15.3 points from the April-June period.

According to the NBS, the business index of China's listed companies plunged to 145.6 points in July-September, down 18.5 points from the second quarter.

In terms of company size, the index of large-sized enterprises fell the most. In the third quarter it was to 143.5 points, down 23.9 points year on year and 12.4 points from the second quarter.

The indices of medium- and small-sized enterprises were 118.5 points and 111.9 points, down 12.6 points and 8.9 points, respectively, from a year earlier.


Rural China gets more financial institutions

China Banking Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that the country would have more than 100 new rural financial institutions in operation by the end of this year.

CBRC said this is part of China's efforts to improve service in distant rural areas.

At the end of August there were 61 new rural financial institutions in operation, said the industry watchdog.

The new financial institutions include county-and village-level credit companies and capital mutual aid organizations.

Credit from these new types of institutions mainly went to farmhouse holds and small-sized enterprises in rural areas.

The combined balance of deposit currently stands at 2.831 billion yuan . Total loans reached 1.917billion yuan, according to the CBRC.

By the end of August, these loans benefited 22,797 rural households and 4,452 small-sized companies.

China has a rural population of 900 million, but their financial services are generally less than what's found in urban areas.


Hong Kong authority follows Fed to cut base rate

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority on Thursday followed the United States Federal Reserve to cut the base rate by 50 basis points, with the actual rate cut amounting to 150 basis points due to a methodology change alongside.

The base rate was thereby adjusted downward to 2 percent, with immediate effect.

The Federal Reserve announced its decision to reduce U.S. federal funds target rate by 50 basis points overnight in a concerted global effort to boost the deeply troubled financial market.

The base rate in Hong Kong was previously set at either 150 basis points above the prevailing U.S. Federal Funds Target Rate or the average of the five-day moving averages of the overnight and one-month HIBORs, whichever is higher.

With the methodology adjustments effective from Thursday, one leg of the formula for determining the base rate will be changed by reducing the spread of 150 basis points above the prevailing FFTR to 50 basis points, while the other leg remains unchanged.

Joseph Yam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, has said the rate cut will help alleviate tight liquidity and help those who are on mortgages for real property, although the effect may not be immediate.

Hong Kong banks had been unwilling to lend amid the recent financial turmoil, leading to high interbank lending rates and pressure on banks to raise mortgage interest rates.


Economist: Indonesia not to see economic crisis

Indonesia will not suffer another economic crisis as the one in 1997 and 1998, said the country's prominent economist Faisal Basri quoted by a local newspaper on Thursday.

"Indonesia's economy is stronger now because it has learned a lot from the last crisis," Faisal with Indonesia's Institute for Development of Economics and Finance said on Wednesday.

Indonesia is the country hardest hit by the Asian Financial Crisis in the late-1990's. Its currency against U.S. dollars dropped from about Rp. 2,000 to Rp. 18,000 in two years, when the economy shrunk by 13.7 percent.

According to the economist, Indonesia's short-term loans to foreign reserves ratio was 175 percent in 1997, which stands at 34.5 percent currently. That is to say, the country can safely finance its short-term loans now.

"Our banking sector was erratic in 1997, it is now sturdy. Overall, even in Southeast Asia, judging from indicators such as politics and business, Indonesia is fairly stable," Faisal said.

Thus, he said that the global financial crisis will only affect Indonesia's currency and stock market.

However, he also warned that Indonesia "may eventually feel the impact of the financial crisis as the U.S. economy slows down, resulting in China shifting its export destination from the United States to countries like Indonesia."

In this regard, the economist said that Indonesia should "guard national borders against imports of unessential goods." He added that the government should move its focus from processing trade to domestic potential industries, such as those producing rattan, wood, tea, coffee, cacao and crude palm oil.

Faisal's remarks echoed the statements by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that the country should exploit domestic economy. The President prescribed 10 steps to avoid the negative impact of global financial crisis on Indonesia's economy on Monday at a special cabinet meeting with central bank officials, business leaders, economic observers and mass media figures

But economists said that the government still needs "concrete actions to safeguard the economy, including providing incentives for exporters and raising the deposit insurance limit from Rp. 100million to Rp. 250 million ."


Chinese shares fall for 4th day, despite gov't efforts to boost markets

Chinese shares closed 0.84 percent lower on Thursday, falling for the fourth consecutive day, driven by insurance and banking shares.

The falls reflected that investors' confidence were still low, though the central bank had cut interests rate and reserve requirement on late Wednesday, analysts said.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.84 percent, or 17.64 points to end at 2,074.58 points. The Shenzhen Component Index closed at 6,758.21 points, down 166.27 points, or 2.40 percent.

Aggregate turnover shrank to 48.8 billion yuan from previous day's 57.5 billion yuan. Losses outnumbered gains by 1,056 to 376, while 167 stocks were unchanged.


Expert: US economy still hopeful

The current financial crisis may threaten the dominance of the US in the world. However, the world cooperation and the strong hi-tech competence of the US will help the US economy recover, asserted a senior Chinese expert in an interview with People's Daily Online on Oct. 9.

Chen Baosen, a research fellow from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, thinks that the euro will get stronger and the RMB will become more important while the US dollar will be weakened as the result of the financial crisis. Despite of that, he stressed, the leading role of the dollar will not be challenged in the near future.

Chen said it takes time for the RMB to be a fully convertible international currency. The competitiveness matters the most, which comes from a strong financial system and success of products on the world market. China still stands at the low end of the international supply chain.

The hi-tech remains the most important comparative advantage of the US. Chen believes that as long as it retains that advantage, the US economy will recover in one or two years after it overhauls its financial system.

The way that the crisis is dealt with also makes difference compared with that in 1929. Chen noted that unlike the Hoover administration's non-intervention policy the Bush government has taken positive actions this time. In addition to that, global cooperation on fighting against the crisis also helps.
Chen insisted that China should learn lessons from the US financial crisis to develop its own financial system in a more solid and healthy way on one hand and have more say on the overhaul of the US financial system on the other.

"Like many other countries, China is also affected鈥�We are all stakeholders on this issue," said Chen, " we should have our voice heard."

By People's Daily Online