Wandering China

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

China mission to repair political ties [The Age]

China mission to repair political ties
Source – The Age, published June 21, 2010

CHINA is closely watching the resource tax stoush in Australia, sensitive to any threat to the supply of minerals that underpin China’s economic boom.

Vice-President Xi Jinping will meet Prime Minister Rudd in Canberra today amid threats from the mining industry that major projects are at risk if the government’s new tax goes ahead.

The visit by Mr Xi is part of a wider repair job for Australia-China ties after a series of tense months in the relationship.

Mr Xi was doubtless bemused by reports of Kevin Rudd’s fascination with mating rodents – this is the Year of the Tiger, after all.

Yet despite Mr Rudd’s reported annoyance with China’s hardline stance during climate change talks in Copenhagen last year and the fallout over the trial of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu, officials insist the relationship is on track.

Mr Xi’s six-day visit to Australia is a clear sign by Beijing’s political elite that nothing should impede the rich supply of Australian resources to the Asian powerhouse.

The visit is seen as a chance for Australia to get to know Mr Xi, with the 57-year-old widely thought to be the most likely candidate to replace President Hu Jintao in the country’s opaque political system.

Stopping in Melbourne at the weekend, Mr Xi joined Premier John Brumby to take in an AFL match on Saturday night before touring Telstra headquarters in the CBD yesterday.

He later opened an institute for Chinese medicine at RMIT before flying to Canberra.

ANU Asian security expert Brendan Taylor said yesterday that early Chinese hopes that Mr Rudd would treat China more favourably quickly evaporated after recent tensions, which included a visit to Australia by exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer and critical comments about China’s military intentions in the region in Australia’s official defence plan.

”[Mr Rudd] tended to be misread because he’d worked as a diplomat in China and speaks Mandarin,” Dr Taylor said.

”I think the tension has been a result of Rudd taking a much tougher line than many expected him to take and certainly the Chinese expected him to take.”

Dr Taylor said there was a certain ”fragility” in political ties between the two countries – even though economic links were growing stronger.

Filed under: Australia, Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Economics, Influence, International Relations, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, The Age, Trade

WANTED: Top students INCENTIVE: Full grants [Straits Times]

WANTED: Top students INCENTIVE: Full grants
Chinese colleges wave carrots as more top scorers head overseas
By The Straits Times China Bureau
Source – Straits Times, published June 20, 2010

A student leaving her school after the annual gaokao, or college entrance examinations, in Wuhan, Hubei province, on June 7. -- PHOTO: AFP

Beijing: China’s best universities are now forking out top dollar to attract the country’s brightest students, in an attempt to fend off stiff competition from schools abroad.

The latest measures – which include full scholarships that cover living expenses – mark a clear reversal of fortune for these brand-name colleges from just a decade ago, when they could count on top students to flock to them unconditionally.

Fudan – consistently ranked among China’s top five universities – last month promised 50,000 yuan (S$10,000) in scholarship money to the top five students of each province in this year’s gaokao, or college entrance examinations.

That would fully cover tuition and boarding fees for all four years of education, with money to spare.

Coming two years after Beijing University started giving full scholarships to a handful of exceptional freshmen, Fudan’s offer is seen as sweeter because its scholarships are offered before admissions, and more students – potentially hundreds – stand to qualify.

Other top-tier schools such as Nankai and Xi’an Jiaotong University also raised scholarship amounts this year.

‘It’s a sign that students are now picking universities, not the other way round,’ said education expert Xiong Bingqi of think-tank 21st Century Education Research Institute. ‘And one of the main reasons is that students have so many other options, thanks to the overseas universities.’

Analysts say some parents with deeper pockets are turning to prestigious Western colleges, which they hope will help groom their children into more globally savvy graduates.

But some of the competition originates closer to home: Hong Kong’s universities, which began accepting mainland students only in 1998, are proving to be the fiercest rivals because they offer a lot more scholarship money to Chinese students than schools in the United States and Europe do.

In comparison, Stanford University only offers partial scholarships of up to 80 per cent of costs to about 25 of its 100 international freshmen each year. Chinese students also have to compete with other non-US students for these scholarships.

No fewer than 12 Hong Kong colleges are planning to take in students from the mainland this year. The University of Hong Kong is looking to admit 300 of them, and has set aside HK$9 million (S$1.6million), with full scholarships of up to HK$500,000 for the most outstanding applicants.

Many Chinese students are drawn to Hong Kong by the better job prospects and a chance at permanent residency.

‘My son is likely to be accepted to both Beijing University and the University of Hong Kong, and I think he will pick the latter,’ said the parent of a student graduating from one of Beijing’s top high schools.

‘Hong Kong’s schools are more attractive because they offer a more liberal, Western style of education that trains students to be independent.’

Last year, an annual survey showed that Fudan, which had in the past attracted the third-highest number of top gaokao students from each province – known as zhuangyuan – was beaten by the University of Hong Kong, slipping to fourth place for the first time.

Beijing and Qinghua University still get 90 per cent of these zhuangyuan each year, but even their share is down two percentage points from two years ago.

Meanwhile, second- and third-tier schools are struggling to fill places. Many have rolled out sweeteners such as job promises and the flexibility to switch freely between courses of study.

Some blame the one-child policy for the falling number of applicants, but ultimately, say scholars, schools have to raise their standards if they want to compete internationally.

‘Hopefully, this will encourage our universities to raise their quality of education and research abilities,’ said retired education expert Wang Jisheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. ‘Otherwise, they risk getting sifted out.’


Additional reporting by Lina Miao


Last year, a record 220,000 Chinese students left the country to study abroad, up 50,000 from the previous year.
The number of students registering for the gaokao fell for a second straight year, by 650,000, to 9.57 million this year.

Filed under: Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Education, Population, Straits Times

China to allow more exchange rate flexibility [Straits Times]

China to allow more exchange rate flexibility
Source – Straits Times, published June 20, 2010

Beijing – China’s central bank said yesterday the country would allow more exchange rate flexibility, but there was no basis for a large-scale appreciation of the yuan.

‘The global economy is gradually recovering. The recovery and upturn of the Chinese economy has become more solid with the enhanced economic stability,’ the central bank statement said.

‘It is desirable to proceed further with reform of the yuan exchange rate regime and increase the yuan exchange rate flexibility…

‘The exchange rate floating bands will remain the same as previously announced in the interbank foreign exchange market.’ The statement gave no specifics.

Chinese officials have said this year that change will be gradual.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama welcomed the move, saying in a statement: ‘China’s decision to increase the flexibility of its exchange rate is a constructive step that can help safeguard the recovery and contribute to a more balanced global economy.’

Markets will be watched closely tomorrow for the effects of the announcement, which was posted on the bank’s website.

China’s decision was also welcomed by International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss- Kahn.

‘A stronger renminbi…will help increase Chinese household income and provide the incentives necessary to reorient investment towards industries that serve the Chinese consumer,’ he said.

The yuan has been frozen against the dollar since late 2008 to help Chinese manufacturers compete amid weak global demand, and China has been under pressure from the US and other countries, which say the yuan is undervalued.

Chinese officials in the past week have warned that any adjustment to the exchange rate is not the concern of other countries.

The issue will follow President Hu Jintao to this week’s Group of 20 meeting in Toronto, but the director of the international department of the People’s Bank of China, Mr Zhang Tao, said that Chinese leaders will not discuss the yuan at the summit.


Filed under: Chinese Model, Economics, Finance, International Relations, Media, Politics, Public Diplomacy, U.S., Yuan

China’s latest craze: A dog to dye for [Straits Times]

China’s latest craze: A dog to dye for
Source – Straits Times, published June 20, 2010

Dogs in China are getting dyed in a rainbow of colours and an assortment of costumes in Beijing's pet spas: Old English sheepdog Kung Fu (above) is decked out to look like a panda; a six-year-old poodle (photo 2) is 'dressed' in a bikini; and a four-year-old Bichon (photo 3) shows off its Spider-Man dye job. Once banned as bourgeoise, pet ownership is now booming in China. -- PHOTOS: AP

Beijing – Walking into Ruowen Pet Spa is like entering a doggie Halloween costume contest. There’s turtle-dog, zebra-dog, Spider-Man-dog, tiger-dog and even panda-dog.

Toy poodle Raphael – named after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character – sports a neon green coat that has been partially shaved, leaving a ‘shell’ on top.

Kung Fu, a 10-month-old Old English sheepdog, stops passers-by in their tracks with a panda look.

The two canines are among half a dozen dyed dogs on display at the spa in downtown Beijing, which caters to wealthy Chinese.

‘People already love to show off their pets and draw attention, so a panda-dog walking down the street is bound to turn heads,’ said spa owner Sun Ruowen, who charges from US$7 (S$10) to dye one ear to US$300 for permanent dyeing and trimming of larger dogs. Most dye jobs last six months before the fur grows out.

The dye jobs are the latest in a growing trend of pet pampering, with dogs and cats increasingly being sent for pedicures, rose petal bubble baths and massages.

Dog owners say the attention their canines receive has improved their mental well-being.

Panda-like Kung Fu, says its owner, can barely make it down the street without people gathering to admire his thick coat.

‘Kung Fu loves the attention, and his self- confidence has shot up since lots of pretty girls come up to pet him,’ says Ms Queenie Yang, a 31-year-old housewife from Beijing.


Filed under: Culture, Domestic Growth, Lifestyle, Straits Times

Foxconn protest disrupts Computex Taipei opening [China Post]

Foxconn protest disrupts Computex Taipei opening
Source – The China Post/Asia News Network, published Jun 02, 2010

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Scuffles erupted in Taiwan yesterday as activists alleging labor abuses by IT giant Foxconn tried to enter an exhibition centre where President Ma Ying-jeou was opening Asia’s biggest technology fair.

The protesters, who were shouting “Capitalists kill people” and holding placards and pictures of Foxconn chief Terry Gou, fought with uniformed police as they tried to deliver a letter to Ma while he launched Computex Taipei.

Five other IT tycoons, including Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and Cher Wang, chairwoman of Taiwan’s leading smartphone maker HTC Corp, were also targeted.

Foxconn, a unit of the Hon Hai group, makes a range of popular products including Apple iPhones, Dell computers and Nokia mobile phones.

“All the products on display at the exhibition inside are made with workers’ sweat and blood,” demonstration leader Liu Nien-yun told reporters. “That’s why we’re here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chinese Model, Disaster, Economics, Finance, Foxconn Suicides 2010, International Relations

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June 2010

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