Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China, U.S. hold first high-level dialogue of political parties [Xinhua]

China, U.S. hold first high-level dialogue of political parties
Editor: Mu Xuequan
Source – Xinhua, published 31 March 2010

BEIJING, March 31 (Xinhua)– China and the United States held the first high-level dialogue between their main political parties in Beijing Wednesday.

Senior Chinese officials and representatives of a delegation of the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties took part.

Addressing the dialogue, Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said the political parties and statesmen of China and the United States should transcend differences of ideology, social systems and cultural traditions and abandon prejudice, so as to continuously strengthen strategic mutual trust and promote the healthy, stable, and long-term development of bilateral ties.

To build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-U.S. relationship for the 21st century, it was important for both sides to deal with bilateral ties from a strategic and long-term perspective, respect each other’s roads of development, take each other’s core interests and major concerns into consideration and avoid repeated disturbances and harm to cooperation, said Wang.

Wang also introduced China’s party system, the CPC’s governance theory and expounded China’s position on China-U.S. relations and related international affairs.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the regular exchange mechanism of the U.S. and Chinese political parties had created more channels for bilateral dialogue.

She also expressed the wish to enhance the understanding of the CPC through the dialogue.

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Williamson said the political parties of various countries were confronted with similar issues and undertaking similar tasks in promoting national prosperity in spite of the differences of their governance theories.

At the invitation of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, a delegation with 18 representatives from the U.S. parties are visiting China from March 30 to April 3.

Filed under: International Relations, Politics, U.S., xinhua

China tightens monitoring of solar storms [China Daily]

China tightens monitoring of solar storms
by Guan Xiaomeng
Source – China Daily, published 31 March 2010

Meteorological hazards including typhoons, sand storms, solar storms and other space storms will be listed in the upcoming meteorological hazards prevention regulations in China.

A report by the National Academies issued last year predicts a severe solar storm in 2012. Some nations including China have tightened monitoring on such storms despite the controversy of the prediction.

Solar storms happen when the energy of the sun has accumulated and has to give off electrically charged particles to space that may affect magnetic fields on earth. The storm cycle is about 11 years and the latest storm peak was around 2000.

Filed under: China Daily, Environment

Australia blasts China over sentence [The Age]

I believe this shows that when it comes to critical issues related to supporting China’s infrastructural growth, they are not quite ready to play the harmonious rhethoric – to them this is a matter of survival. In terms of international relations, whether what Hu did was/is criminal or not is not in focus here. China is dealing with this unilaterally, it is not quite the harmonious cooperative tone they have been charming the world with for a while now.

The PR backlash however, has already started in Australia.”They don’t realise this. The image is now they are the tough guys who do not have to be nice to anyone…’‘ Professor of Chinese studies at the University of Technology, David Kelly.

See also the massive amount of reportage within just one day from The Age in Australia – Australia blasts China over sentence (The Age, 30 March 2010) and Farce flags Canberra’s limited influence in Beijing and also, my favourite (written in true Aussie-style)- Hu just roadkill on the economic superhighway.

– – –

Australia blasts China over sentence
KIRSTY NEEDHAM, CANBERRA, AND JOHN GARNAUT, BEIJING
Source – The Age, published March 30, 2010

FOREIGN Minister Stephen Smith has hit out at China over a 10-year jail term handed to Australian businessman Stern Hu, describing it as ”on any measure a very tough sentence” and saying it put at risk the confidence needed by the global business community to operate in China.

Hu and three Chinese colleagues employed in China by mining giant Rio Tinto received sentences of between seven and 14 years after being convicted in a Shanghai court of accepting millions of dollars in bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

Judge Liu Xin broadly accepted the prosecutor’s allegations, including that the men had inflicted huge losses on China by obtaining industry secrets.

The secrets had included information taken from the China Iron & Steel Association, and a steel mill’s production plans. ”The four have seriously damaged the interests of Chinese steel enterprises,” the judge said.

One of the convicted, Wang Yong, would appeal against the verdict ”as not in accordance with the facts” while the other three were undecided, their lawyers said last night.

While the bribery convictions appeared well substantiated, the convictions and the court’s tough rhetoric could add to diplomatic tensions and exacerbate concerns that China’s business and political environment is becoming more difficult and unpredictable.

Mr Smith said yesterday’s verdict left ”serious unanswered questions” because Australian officials had ”very regrettably” been locked out of that part of the trial dealing with theft of commercial secrets, for which Hu was sentenced to five years.

The minister said openness and transparency would have helped Australia and the international business community to understand and deal with the matter.

”Regrettably, China and the Shanghai court chose to go down a different road,” Mr Smith said. ”That leaves serious, unanswered questions and a significant lost opportunity so far as China is concerned.”

However, he conceded that there was ”substantial” evidence that Hu was guilty of bribery, based on what Australian officials had learnt through access to that part of the trial.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief Sam Walsh also accepted that the court had ”showed beyond doubt that the four convicted employees had accepted bribes” and last night formally sacked all four for ”deplorable behaviour”.

The four Rio Tinto iron ore salesmen were originally investigated and arrested for stealing state secrets of such importance that they threatened China’s national economic security, before the case was downgraded to receiving bribes and stealing commercial secrets.

Judge Liu said the actions of the men had caused 1.018 billion yuan ($A165 million) in losses to Chinese steel companies.

He said the stolen secrets included information taken from two conferences several years ago hosted by the China Iron & Steel Association, as well as the production plans of steel mill Shougang.

The industry association provided evidence that those conferences were closed, although industry observers say they may have been open to journalists and foreign traders.

The court said information was generally gathered by Hu or channeled to him by Hu’s three colleagues, and then passed on to Rio Tinto headquarters.

Judge Liu said Tan Yixin, head of iron ore buying at the state-owned Shougang, met with the China Iron & Steel Association on June 8, 2009 – one month before the arrests – and then passed information to Hu that evening at the China World centre, where Rio Tinto has its Beijing headquarters.

He said Hu emailed the information to his superiors at Rio Tinto, who emailed back requesting confirmation.

The judge said Hu received a 6.5 million yuan ($A1.05 million) bribe from Hebei Jinye and $US790,000 from Tangshan Guofeng – both small privately owned mills in north China.

Hu was sentenced to seven years’ jail for bribery and five years for stealing secrets commercial secrets. The total sentence was reduced from 12 to 10 years because Hu showed contrition and repaid the bribes received.

Wang Yong was sentenced to 14 years, reduced from 16, including for accepting a US$9 million bribe from billionaire steel magnate Du Shuanghua, which Wang had argued in court had been a loan which he had repaid.

Ge Minqiang received an 8-year sentence, reduced from 9.5, while Liu Caikui was sentenced to 7 years, cut from 9.

All four are expected to serve their sentences in Shanghai’s Qingpu prison.

Hu is one of the most senior foreign executives to have been convicted in China and questions remain as to the motives behind the investigation. Some sources in China say the conduct of the case has been complicated by bureaucratic and political infighting.

Apart from Wang’s case, the bribe payers were all said to be small and medium-sized private steel mills that were seeking access to high-quality Australian ore on long term contracts rather than paying higher prices for variable product on the domestic spot market.

The convictions will force Rio Tinto to confront criticism that governance of its China operations was not up to standard. The Age understands that after the July 5 arrests the company moved key marketing executives from Shanghai to Singapore.

Mr Smith denied that the government had not pushed hard enough on Hu’s behalf. He said multiple representations were made in Beijing, Shanghai and Canberra for China to honour its 1999 consular agreement with Australia and allow officials to attend the full trial.

”I feel very much for Stern Hu and his family. While we do not condone bribery in any way I think the sentence … was harsh,” he said.

Professor of Chinese studies at the University of Technology, David Kelly, said the trial had left the Chinese legal system’s image in tatters.”They don’t realise this. The image is now they are the tough guys who do not have to be nice to anyone,” he said.

Ann Kent of the Australian National University College of Law said the sentence ”will send a chill down the back of most foreign businesses in China”.

With SANGHEE LIU

Filed under: Australia, Influence, International Relations, Nationalism, Resources, Stern Hu - Rio Tinto, The Age

Stern sentenced to 10 years by Chinese court [The Age]

The verdict is out – 10 years jail for Stern Hu. More than anything, this sends a strong signal out to the rest of the world – Come to China to do business on Chinese terms. I will be very interested to see how China will manage the PR backlash.

The decision “to exclude the Australian consuls violated existing Chinese law, which since 1995 has explicitly instructed China’s courts to permit foreign consular representation even at non-public trials…” New York University professor Jerome Cohen, US expert on Chinese legal issues.

– – –

Stern sentenced to 10 years by Chinese court
JOHN GARNAUT AND SANGHEE LIU
Source – The Age, published 29 March 2010

Stern Hu. Photo - The Age

Australian Stern Hu has been sentenced to 10 years’ jail by a Chinese court for stealing commercial secrets and receiving bribes.

His three Rio Tinto colleagues will face between seven and 14 years for the same charges.

The sentences were at the higher end of expectations and will add to fears that China’s business and political environment is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

The case against Hu has strained relations between Australia and China, with the three-day hearing taking place last week in a closed court and Australian consular officials barred from hearing some evidence.

Australian officials were allowed into the court for today’s verdict, while journalists were able to watch on a video screen in an adjoining room.

Hu, the head of the Anglo-Australian miner’s Shanghai office, and the three Chinese men – Wang Yong, Liu Caikui and Ge Minqiang – had pleaded guilty to taking $US13 million ($A14.33 million), and one admitted to commercial espionage.

The men have been in custody for more than eight months.

The four Rio employees were arrested last July during contentious iron-ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world’s largest consumer of the raw material. The talks collapsed.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the world would be watching the trial, which has been widely seen as a test of the rule of law in China and has sparked concerns about doing business in the world’s third-largest economy.

Three decades after China opened up to the world, US and European businesses are now complaining of increasingly onerous rules, preferential treatment for local firms and growing nationalism.

A prosecutor had recommended that Hu be given a lenient sentence after he apologised to the court and to Rio, saying he took more than $US900,000 ($A994,475) to help childhood friends in need, his lawyer Jin Chunqing said.

At the three-day trial of the Rio employees, the court heard evidence that millions of yuan in bribes had been stuffed into bags and boxes for the accused, according to state media.

Hu took money from small private steel companies, which before the global financial crisis were locked out of buying iron ore from Rio because the mining giant prioritised large state-run steel companies, Jin said.

When the global economic crisis hit in September 2008, demand for iron ore plummeted and the smaller players paid bribes “to squeeze into the club and join the buyers,” he said.

Wang strongly objected to the bribery allegations, saying he simply borrowed the money from one of China’s richest men, Du Shuanghua, the National Business Daily said.

Du, the former head of Shandong-based Rizhao Iron & Steel group, has contradicted Wang’s account, saying he paid the Rio employee $US9 million ($A9.94 million) for preferential treatment, the newspaper said.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith chastised China last week for locking the country’s diplomats out of the courtroom during the hearings on the commercial espionage allegations.

China appeared to have broken its own laws by excluding Australia’s consular staff from the hearings, according to New York University professor Jerome Cohen, a leading US expert on Chinese legal issues.

The decision “to exclude the Australian consuls violated existing Chinese law, which since 1995 has explicitly instructed China’s courts to permit foreign consular representation even at non-public trials,” Cohen wrote in an article co-authored with Yu-Jie Chen, a fellow at the US Asia Law Institute.

Hu’s lawyer Jin Chunqing told The Associated Press by telephone that an appeal had not yet been decided.

“We haven’t decided yet if we would appeal to the higher court or what we should do for the next step, as we need to meet and discuss with Stern face to face, and as soon as possible,” Jin said.

With AP/AFP/AAP

Filed under: Australia, Influence, International Relations, Resources, Stern Hu - Rio Tinto, The Age

China’s Geely buys Volvo unit for 1.8 bln U.S. dollars [Xinhua]

China’s Geely snaps up Volvo on the cheap. “Volvo, which has about 22,000 workers around the world including 16,000 in Sweden, was purchased by Ford in 1999 for about 6.4 billion dollars.”

Headquartered in Hangzhou (the capital of Zhejiang, south of Shanghai) and established in 1986, the 24-year-old Geely Group’s slogan is as simple as it is ambitious – Let Geely cars go to the whole world. It looks like Geely, which started off making refrigerators back in ’86  is taking huge steps. Even its Chinese name means ‘prosperity’.

Also, have a read here for coverage from Singapore’s Straits Times (Reuters + AFP) – I especially found the article they prepared interesting because they included this quote from the Geely Chairman Li Shufu – ‘I see Volvo as a tiger. (The) tiger belongs to a forest, it can’t be found in a zoo…We need to liberate this tiger…’ Li Shufu (as quoted in the Straits Times, 29 March 2010)

– – –

China’s Geely buys Volvo unit for 1.8 bln U.S. dollars
Editor: Han Jingjing
Source – Xinhua, published 28 March 2010

Geely Chairman Li Shufu (FRONT L) shakes hands with CFO of Ford Motor Company, Lewis Booth (FRONT R) after signing a deal in Goteborg of Sweden, March 28, 2010. China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a deal with Ford Motor Co. here on Sunday on the takeover of Sweden's Volvo Cars. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)

GOTEBORG, Sweden, March 28 (Xinhua) — China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a deal worth 1.8 billion U.S. dollars with Ford Motor Co. here Sunday to acquire the U.S. auto giant’s Volvo car unit.

Under the definitive stock purchase deal, Geely will own 100 percent of Volvo Cars and its related assets.

The agreement was inked by Li Shufu, founder and chairman of Geely, and Lewis Booth, chief financial officer of Ford, at a ceremony at the headquarters of Volvo in Goteborg, the second largest city of Sweden.

Geely Chairman Li Shufu attends a press conference after the signing ceremony in Goteborg of Sweden, March 28, 2010. China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a deal with Ford Motor Co. here on Sunday on the takeover of Sweden's Volvo Cars. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)

The ceremony was witnessed by Li Yizhong, China’s minister of industry and information technology, and Maud Olofsson, Swedish deputy prime minister and minister for enterprise and energy.

The agreement provides a solid foundation for Volvo to continue to build its business under Geely’s ownership, said Booth at the ceremony.

“China, the largest car market in the world, will become Volvo’s second home market. Volvo will be uniquely-positioned as a world-leading premium brand, tapping into the opportunities in the fast-growing China market,” said Li.

Geely has secured all necessary financing to complete the transaction, he said, adding that Geely intends to preserve Volvo Cars’existing manufacturing facilities in Sweden and Belgium, and explore opportunities to manufacture Volvo vehicles in China for the local market.

Li promised that Geely will maintain the strong collaborative relations that Volvo has built with employees, unions, suppliers, dealers and above all, customers.

Volvo Cars will eventually become a separate company with its own management team based in Goteborg and a new board of directors, he told reporters after the ceremony.

Volvo, which has about 22,000 workers around the world including 16,000 in Sweden, was purchased by Ford in 1999 for about 6.4 billion dollars.

But Ford has been attempting to sell Volvo since late 2008, due to its poor market performance. Geely was named as the preferred bidder for the Swedish subsidiary in October 2009.

Geely, which started to manufacture cars in 1998, is a major private automaker in China, with its headquarters based in southeast China’s Zhejiang province. Geely Holding Group is the parent company of Geely Automobile Holdings.

Photo taken on March 28, 2010 shows the national flags of China, Sweden and the United States are fluttering outside the headquarters of Volvo Cars, in Goteborg of Sweden. China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group signed a deal with Ford Motor Co. here on Sunday on the takeover of Sweden's Volvo Cars. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)

Besides Ford, some other Western auto giants are also seeking buyers in China. Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings has agreed to buy some powertrain technology from General Motors Co.’s Swedish Saab unit.

Filed under: Automotive, Domestic Growth, Economics, Influence, International Relations, Nationalism, xinhua

China: Big plans to link up the world through rail [Straits Times]

Yes, China has got the cheap household goods, cheap everything. But now, China does ‘cheap’ train systems too. ‘We know how to build rail lines across regions with vastly different climates and conditions. The technologies of the Europeans and Japanese lack China’s adaptability.’ Professor Jia Limin, Beijing Jiaotong University

And, simply building train systems is just the tip of the iceberg. ‘When China talks about train systems, it is also talking about the construction of rail roads…’ Singaporean businessman Ng Pock Too

For related news – go to High-speed rail: New Silk Road by the Global Times, published March 12, 2010
– – –

China: Big plans to link up the world through rail
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief
Source – Straits Times, published 27 March 2010

Passengers in a bullet train undergoing a test at the new railway station in Wuhan last December. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING: The factory of the world is looking to export its latest product – high-speed trains.

Barely two years after completing its first bullet-train line, Beijing wants to sell its rail technologies overseas, pushing its gaotie (literally high-speed trains) in a race against the likes of France’s LGV and Japan’s shinkansen.

And the Chinese are targeting many stops in its global push, from India to the United States – and possibly at Walt Disney World in Florida.

A Chinese state-owned enterprise is going up against the Japanese, competing for the US$8 billion (S$11 billion) which President Barack Obama had earmarked to remake US railways.

General Electric has already announced a partnership last November with China’s Ministry of Railways to manufacture equipment for US high-speed rail projects.

Analysts believe that China has the edge.

‘China is a big country and we know the high-speed rail technologies required in big countries like India, Russia and Brazil,’ said Professor Jia Limin from Beijing Jiaotong University.

‘We know how to build rail lines across regions with vastly different climates and conditions. The technologies of the Europeans and Japanese lack China’s adaptability.’

China also has the added advantage of offering a comprehensive package, said Singaporean businessman Ng Pock Too, who advises companies selling Japanese- made train braking systems and doors to Chinese clients.

‘When China talks about train systems, it is also talking about the construction of rail roads,’ said the former Member of Parliament. ‘And we have seen what they can do with the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet railway.’

Opened in 2006, the highest railway in the world was lauded as an engineering feat for covering hundred of kilometres over harsh terrain and frozen ground.

Chinese systems are also more attractive because they are cheaper than their Japanese and European competitors, added Mr Ng.

To further boost the global demand for Chinese high-speed rails, Beijing is planning to build an international rail network, according to the Ministry of Railways.

Three routes have been mooted, linking China to Asean countries, Central Asia and Europe, but negotiations among the various countries have only just started, and it is likely to be completed only in 2025.

If China is able to pull off this ambitious plan, it would be a huge boost to its rail industry and would help Beijing recoup the billions of yuan it has invested to transform its ageing national railways.

Beijing aims to increase its national network from the current 86,000km to 120,000km by 2020, making it the most extensive rail system outside the US.

The expanded network will include 50,000km of high-speed rail, many times the current 6,550km over three lines (Beijing-Tianjin, Wuhan-Guangzhou and Zhengzhou-Xi’an).

The crown jewel of China’s gaotie project will be the Beijing-Shanghai line, which will slash travelling time from the current 10 hours to four. State media recently reported that it will now open next year, a year ahead of schedule, and trains would hit top speeds of 380kmh.

But high-speed rail has its detractors. Some observers are concerned it is not sustainable and profitable in the long run.

The influential Caijing magazine referred to China’s massive drive to build more railroads, airports and expressways as the new ‘Great Leap Forward’, pointing to the huge debt which the national rail has chalked up as a result of easy credit from state banks.

The aggressive push for gaotie has also been estimated to raise the Ministry of Railways’ total debt to three trillion yuan (S$616 billion) by 2020.

‘Governments and other units are piling up debt in the initiation of the construction, which needs more debts to ensure that they can continue,’ said analyst Hung Ho-fung from Indiana University.

‘High-speed rail systems are expensive to maintain and their tickets need to be expensive,’ he added. ‘Many of them are not profitable in many high-income countries even with heavy government subsidies, so it is questionable how the future national system in China could be economical upon its completion.’

shpeh@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Carol Feng

Filed under: Charm Offensive, Economics, High Speed Rail, Influence, International Relations, Nationalism, Soft Power, Straits Times

Disposable containers are ‘cancer in boxes’ [China Daily]

Profiteering against their own seems to be a hallmark of Chinese domestic problems today, even if it kills – it is disappointing. Melamine in milk, and now unsafe disposable dishware. If there is one thing that it shows – capitalism can be a bad medicine for some inherently negative dimensions of the Chinese mentality.

– – –

Disposable containers are ‘cancer in boxes’
by WANG YAN
Source – China Daily, published 26 March 2010

People eat food out of disposable containers in a market in Haikou, Hainan province. HUANG YIMING / CHINA DAILY

BEIJING – Next time you say the word da bao (box it) at a restaurant, be aware, you could end up with a life-threatening disease. At least, that’s what an expert in food packaging claims.

According to Dong Jinshi, vice-president of the Hong Kong-based International Food Packaging Association (IFPA), about half of the disposable dishware used in the country are unsafe, with excessive amounts of chemicals that can cause cancer.

The situation in big cities is better, he said, adding that about 30 percent of disposable dishware found in Beijing is substandard.

Dong said his figures are based on a nine-year research project conducted by his association, in addition to some documents from the country’s top quality watchdog – the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

According to an IFPA report released this month, the Chinese use 15 billion disposable food boxes – either made of foam, plastic or paper pulp – each year.

The latest case of unsafe disposable dishware Dong’s team detected was on March 3. The researchers visited two famous restaurants – the 170-year-old Laobian dumpling restaurant and the Dong Laishun restaurant – in Beijing and requested some disposable dishware.

The samples were then sent to the Beijing Center for Physical and Chemical Analysis, where tests indicated that the boxes contained excessive amounts of minerals, such as talcum powder and ceresin wax, which contains a substance that can cause cancer.

Zhang Zhisheng, a lawyer from the Beijing Zhongyin Law Firm, confirmed Dong and his team had filed a lawsuit against the two restaurants at the Haidian district people’s court, accusing them of selling poisonous foods.

“This will be the first case in which the newly issued Food Safety Law will come into play in consumer rights protection, Zhang said.

He added: “Consumers might not be willing to go to court for something cheaper than 1 yuan, which partly resulted in the manufacturers’ weak legal consciousness.”

Dong said the situation in small cities and rural areas may be worse, since laws and regulations are not as well implemented as they are in bigger cities.

“The situation in small cities and rural areas in the northeast and northwest regions could be the worst,” he said.

Dong also said that less than 10 percent of the disposable dishware sold in the market is made of paper pulp, which is generally safer but more expensive. The foam and plastic boxes each take about 45 percent of the market share.

China has banned the sale and use of disposable dishware made of foam, as it is more likely to be made of plastic wastes.

As for the plastic boxes, Dong said a large number of them are actually made in small plants that do not have production licenses.

The high profit margin drives the illegal business, he said, adding that the wholesale price for an ordinary disposable food box is at least 0.15 yuan, whereas a low-quality one costs half that.

However, food experts said the management of disposable dishware is in the hands of at least three government departments, which makes it hard to effectively spot violations.

According to existing laws and regulations, the production of disposable dishware is the responsibility of quality control authorities, but when the products enter the market, the industry and commerce authority takes over.

It then becomes the health department’s responsibility to supervise restaurants that hand out such products.

Filed under: China Daily, Environment, Food

Melbourne: Foreign buyers inflating market [The Age]

And the Chinese continue to stamp their imprint around – I think this is beginning to cheese off the locals quite a bit. Kew and Balwyn have been known to be very sought after residential areas for a while now, and the houses there are big and grand.

Mandarin-speaking sales executive Michael Liu, who was hired by the agency to deal with overseas buyers, said a few streets in the eastern suburbs of Kew and Balwyn were now 80 per cent Chinese-owned.

”They want to send their children to the best schools and think property here is cheap compared to the big cities in China, where you don’t get freehold ownership over land, just a 99-year lease.”

– – –

Foreign buyers inflating market
MARIKA DOBBIN
Source – The Age, published March 27, 2010

RESERVE Bank governor Glenn Stevens says foreign buyers are a factor in rising house prices.

Mr Stevens said the bank was monitoring how much the federal government’s decision last March to relax its rules on foreigners owning property had contributed to surging prices for housing.

He said the role of foreign purchases was ”an important one and it’s one we’re giving some attention to”.

The bank has raised official interest rates four times in five meetings, with rising house prices helping to tip its hand at its meeting this month.

The Age has reported on a trend of overseas investors buying Melbourne real estate to safeguard wealth and advance hopes of migration.

Treasurer Wayne Swan eased restrictions for those on temporary visas, such as business owners and foreign students, to allow them to buy any home to live in, land to build on or new dwelling for investment purposes.

Agency Marshall White says buyers from mainland China and Hong Kong kick-started Melbourne’s prestige property market last year and still account for a third of its sales.

Mandarin-speaking sales executive Michael Liu, who was hired by the agency to deal with overseas buyers, said a few streets in the eastern suburbs of Kew and Balwyn were now 80 per cent Chinese-owned.

”They want to send their children to the best schools and think property here is cheap compared to the big cities in China, where you don’t get freehold ownership over land, just a 99-year lease.”

Filed under: Chinese overseas, Economics, The Age

Armed forces help with drought relief in SW China [Xinhua]

Armed forces help with drought relief in SW China
Xinhua
Source – China Daily, published 26 March 2010

KUNMING – China is mobilizing its troops to help the struggling people in the country’s drought affected southwest.

1,000 soldiers were on their way to help with drought relief in Yunnan province on Friday, and another 3,000 would be sent in the next few days, said Li Shiming, commander of the Chengdu military command.

Each soldier carries a 25 liter plastic water container and is also equipped with well drilling equipment and sanitation devices.

“The soldiers are prepared for long-term work in the field,” Li said.

The drought, the worst in 100 years in Yunnan and parts of Guizhou, would likely continue till May as no substantial rainfall was expected ahead of the rainy season, according to meteorological agencies.
The drought had left 18 million residents and 11.7 million head of livestock in the region with drinking water shortages, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Wednesday.

In hardest-hit Yunnan, 8.1 million people and 5.4 million head of livestock face drinking water shortage. The drought has affected 3.1 million hectares of crops, 87 percent of total.

Before the arrival of the new troops, other troops and local paramilitary forces have been engaged in the relief work.

They have regularly shipped water to villages and helped villagers find new sources of water. The army has also sent technicians to teach farmers how to save water for farming.

At Seshuba village in Mengding in the southwestern part of Yunnan, a seriously-hit area, troops have carried water every day to about 2,200 villagers there from the nearest water source.

Wang Xiaofeng, a 73-year-old widow, told Xinhua that soldiers have carried water to her house every week since late last year.

“The water tank in my house has never dried up thanks to the soldiers,” she said.

Jia’er village of Xuanwei lies in the mountains with an altitude of about 2,000 meters and villagers in the past have survived on rain water as there was no well nearby.

However, recently a small group of paramilitary forces helped them dig a well, 6 km away from the village, and built pipelines to the village.

“It is our responsibility to help the people,” Li said. “We will try our best to work with local governments in drought relief.”

Filed under: China Daily, Environment, military, xinhua

Little Mermaid leaves for Shanghai [China Daily]

This is the first time the Little Mermaid has ever left Denmark. I remind myself to be an open heart – but in some ways it reminds me of the act of paying tribute to the Chinese dynasties of old. I need to broaden it up to think it is all goodwill. It should be. It can be! It will be.

– – –

Little Mermaid leaves for Shanghai
Source – China Daily, published 26 March 2010

“]

The renowned Little Mermaid left Denmark’s Copenhagen harbor on Thursday heading for Expo 2010 in Shanghai on its first overseas journey since its birth in 1913.

The goodbye ceremony included dancing as well as children singing songs in Danish and Chinese. After a ribbon cutting ceremony, the statue was lifted from its position in Copenhagen.
It is expected to greet visitor starting from the end of April and will return to the Danish capital by the end of November.

Copenhagen’s city council has approved its landmark statue to be sent to Shanghai during Expo 2010 on March 12, 2009.

The bronze statue was created by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen according to Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale that bears the name.

Renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (known for the Olympic Stadium “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing) will create a video installation that will take video footages of the Little Mermaid’s journey to Shanghai. After darkness falls on the Denmark Pavilion, a documentary will be shown on the large screen in the Pavilion about the Little Mermaid’s journey to Shanghai.

”] ”]

Filed under: China Daily, Denmark, Influence, International Relations, Shanghai World Expo, Soft Power

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China in images and infographics, by Wandering China

China in images and Infographics, by Wandering China

Wandering China: Facing west

Please click to access video

Travels in China's northwest and southwest

Wandering Taiwan

Wandering Taiwan: reflections of my travels in the democratic Republic of China

Wandering China, Resounding Deng Slideshow

Click here to view the Wandering China, Resounding Deng Slideshow

Slideshow reflection on Deng Xiaoping's UN General Assembly speech in 1974. Based on photos of my travels in China 2011.

East Asia Geographic Timelapse

Click here to view the East Asia Geographic Timelapse

A collaboration with my brother: Comparing East Asia's rural and urban landscapes through time-lapse photography.

Wandering Planets

Creative Commons License
Wandering China by Bob Tan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at Wanderingchina.org. Thank you for visiting //
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