China is getting serious about reining in at least one aspect of its ghost cities—the monolithic work palaces built for civil servants. On March 19, the central government announced it has investigated 147 officials and punished 55 for violating a five-year ban, imposed last July, on construction of all new government buildings.
“The malpractice of constructing new government buildings should be exposed. Departments and individuals should never cover or shield the malpractice,” said the State Council in its statement. “Precious funds should be used for safeguarding and improving the people’s well-being,” the statement said, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.
The ban has at least two purposes. One is to compel local governments to spend state funds more wisely, as concerns about growing levels of debt are mounting. China’s National Development and Reform Commission last year announced that 144 cities in 12 provinces were planning to build more than 200 new towns.
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A Feb. 20 analysis by Beijing economic consultancy Gavekal Dragonomics showed that by 2011, 45 percent of all investment in China was channeled into “stagnant or loser prefectures,”—defined as those with little or negative population growth.
“Empty towns and ghost cities are redundant constructions that do not generate much economic benefit. They are a huge waste of resources which pile debt pressure onto local governments,” editorialized the People’s Daily last year.
The ban is also part of President Xi Jinping’s effort to curb ostentatious behavior by government officials and crack down on graft. The aim is “to promote a national frugality campaign and curb official’s appropriation of public funds,” explained Xinhua.
via China Cracks Down on Ghost City Monoliths – Businessweek.
Bilateral trade between China and the United Kingdom hit a \”record high\” in 2013, according to the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming.
The state-owned Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Liu as saying that bi-lateral trade between the two surpassed $70bn (£43bn) last year.
He said the UK\’s exports to China grew more than other EU countries.
The UK has been pushing to boost trade ties with Beijing in an attempt to tap into China\’s domestic market.
Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the world\’s second-largest economy to foster closer trade ties.
“The UK can be the most profitable destination in the Western world for Chinese outward investment in infrastructure, real estate, energy and transportation”
48 Group Club
He was accompanied by more than 100 British business people on the three-day visit – his second to the country.
\”The two countries\’ leaders reached a broad consensus on pushing forward bilateral relationship and expanding co-operation,\” said Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, an independent business network that looks to promote ties between China and the UK.
\”China and the UK working together will benefit our people and contribute to global peace and development,\” Mr Perry was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
via BBC News – China and UK trade at ‘record high’.
China will soon rate the performance of local governments partly by how much debt they incur, as Beijing tries to wean the country off heavy government investment, state media said.
The central organization department, which oversees the appointment of senior party, government, military and state firm officials, said debt will be key when evaluating performances, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
Large-scale government investment has helped China\’s gross domestic product expand at double-digit rates for the past three decades. But analysts say China\’s economy has now hit a turning point, and domestic consumption must grow and investment fall to ensure a healthy expansion.
via China to judge local governments by their debt: Xinhua | Reuters.