Archive for August, 2012

31/08/2012

* Beleaguered official faces netizens online

China Daily: “A senior work safety official’s grin at the site of a deadly traffic accident in Shaanxi province has become a nightmare haunting him.

Yang Dacai, 55, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Work Safety, was seen to be grinning in a photo taken after he arrived at the scene of a deadly traffic accident on Sunday in Yan’an, Shaanxi. Thirty-six people were killed when a sleeper bus rammed into a truck carrying a tank of methanol and caught fire.

The photo triggered an online wave of criticism among netizens.

The criticism grew louder when photos of Yang wearing five different watches, including Rolex, Mont Blanc and Radar, were posted online.

Many bloggers questioned how he could afford the costly timepieces and called for a corruption investigation.

On Wednesday night, Yang went online and apologized for the “relaxed” grin, saying that he was just trying to cheer people up after a long trudge to the accident site.

And he defended his innocence regarding the watches, saying he had “used legal income” to buy them over the past 10 years and he had reported the situation to the Party’s disciplinary organization.

Despite this, the Party Discipline Inspection Commission of Shaanxi has started an investigation on Yang, who would be punished if he is found to have violated disciplines or committed corruption, cnwest.com, an online news portal of Shaanxi, reported on Thursday.”

via Beleaguered official faces netizens online |Society |chinadaily.com.cn.

The Internet is continuing to ‘liberate’ Chinese citizens and cede power from (minor) officials.

See also: * How China’s 300m microbloggers are shaking the system (chindia-alert.org)

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31/08/2012

* Insurance to cover serious illnesses

China Daily: “China on Thursday announced a decision to expand the coverage of the country’s healthcare insurance system to include the treatment of critical illnesses, aiming to prevent patients from being reduced to poverty by necessary healthcare costs.

The new arrangement will further increase the level of protection that China’s healthcare insurance system can offer, according to a document co-issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and five other central government departments.

Sun Zhigang, head of the health reform office under the State Council, said it aims to ensure that each patient’s total medical expenditure is no more than the “household expenditure for healthcare,” which is set at the level of the regional annual per capita disposable or net income.

In an interview with Xinhua News Agency, Sun said when patients’ medical bills for necessary treatments under the existing basic healthcare insurance system exceed that level, they will be reimbursed by the newly launched critical illness insurance project.

Though around 1.3 billion people, or more than 95 percent of China’s population, were covered by the healthcare insurance system by the end of last year, medical expenditure burdens incurred by patients with severe medical conditions remain heavy, Sun said.

“The new move targets the widely recognized problem of ‘people falling into poverty because of illnesses’, and aims to ensure that most people won’t become impoverished because of diseases,” Sun said.”

via Insurance to cover serious illnesses |Politics |chinadaily.com.cn.

31/08/2012

* Shandong Heavy seeks stake in Germany’s Kion

China Daily: “Shandong Heavy Industry Group Co Ltd, the Chinese construction machinery producer, is seeking a 25 percent stake in German fork-lift manufacturer Kion Group GmbH, according to a report in German newspaper Handelsblatt, citing sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

Wiesbaden-based Kion belonged to industry group Linde AG until 2006 and now is owned by finance houses Goldman Sachs Group Inc and KKR & Co LP.

With an expected price of around 700 million euro ($879m), the transaction would be the biggest investment yet by a Chinese company in Germany, Handelsblatt said.”

via Shandong Heavy seeks stake in Germany’s Kion |Companies |chinadaily.com.cn.

See also: https://chindia-alert.org/2012/02/13/pattern-of-chinese-overseas-investments/

31/08/2012

* China’s Hu seeks clean power handover with ally’s promotion

Reuters: “China’s outgoing President Hu Jintao is angling to promote one of his closest allies to the military’s decision-making body, sources said, in a move that would allow him to maintain an influence over Beijing’s most potent instrument of power.

China's President Hu Jintao smiles during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

Three sources with ties to the top leadership said Hu hopes to cut all of his direct links to the top echelons of power by early 2013, on the understanding that his protégé, Vice Premier Li Keqiang, is made a vice chairman of the military commission at the party’s five-yearly congress later this year.

Hu wants a clean handover of the party leadership, the presidency and the top military post to his anointed successor, Xi Jinping, over the next seven months, to avoid a repeat of the past internal rancor when a transition of power took place, sources say.

They point to the example of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who clung onto the top job at the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission for two years after stepping down as party chief and president, a move seen as unpopular with party cadres and the public.

Hu, as president, is the current military commission chairman and, like Jiang, could choose to stay on as its chief for another couple of years beyond his handover of the presidency to Xi in March 2013.

In what is seen as the ultimate bulwark of power, the commission oversees the 2.3-million strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as well as the People’s Armed Police which enforces domestic security.

Hu has not made public his plans for retirement but, unlike in the West where former presidents and prime ministers tend to fade from the public eye, Chinese leaders seek to maintain influence to avoid possible adverse political repercussions down the road.

The government generally does not comment on elite politics and personnel changes before the official announcement.

As a senior member of the commission, Li, who is also set to be named as the next premier in March 2013, would be expected to help protect Hu’s legacy in the area of military affairs, which has included a more moderate approach towards Taiwan and to territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

“Hu hopes to go down in history as the first leader (since 1949) to step down when his term ends instead of being reluctant to go,” a businessman with leadership ties said.

As well as helping to preserve Hu’s legacy, analysts say Li’s promotion will ensure there is no political retribution against Hu or his family by rivals who remain in power once he is gone.

But bargaining over the next leadership line-up is not over, and there is still room for change and surprises.”

via Exclusive: China’s Hu seeks clean power handover with ally’s promotion – sources | Reuters.

31/08/2012

* Does China’s next leader have a soft spot for Tibet?

Reuters: “For decades, Beijing has maintained that the Dalai Lama is a separatist, but Tibet‘s exiled spiritual leader once had a special relationship with the father of Xi Jinping, the man in line to become China’s next president.

China's Vice President Xi Jinping speaks with Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (not pictured) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing August 29, 2012. REUTERS/How Hwee Young/Pool

Few people know what Xi, whose ascent to the leadership is likely to be approved at a Communist Party congress later this year, thinks of Tibet or the Dalai Lama.

But his late father, Xi Zhongxun, a liberal-minded former vice premier, had a close bond with the Tibetan leader who once gave the elder Xi an expensive watch in the 1950s, a gift that the senior party official was still wearing decades later.

The Dalai Lama, 77, recalls the elder Xi as “very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice” and says he only gave watches back then to those Chinese officials he felt close to.

“We Tibetans, we get these different varieties of watch easily from India. So we take advantage of that, and brought some watches to some people when we feel some sort of close feeling, as a gift like that,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview in the Indian town of Dharamsala, a capital for Tibetan exiles in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Dalai Lama gave the watch to the elder Xi in 1954 during an extended visit to Beijing. Xi was one of the officials who spent time with the young Dalai Lama in the capital where he spent five to six months studying Chinese and Marxism.

The Dalai Lama fled to India five years later, after a failed uprising against Communist rule, but as late as 1979, Xi senior was still wearing the watch, the make and style of which the Dalai Lama can no longer remember.

Xi senior was a dove in the party, championing the rights of Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. He also opposed the army crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen student protests and was alone in criticizing the sacking of liberal party chief Hu Yaobang by the Old Guard in 1987. Xi senior died in 2002.

The Dalai Lama has never met Xi junior but his fondness for the father is, for some, a sign that China’s next leader may adopt a more reformist approach to Tibet once he formally succeeds President Hu Jintao next March. Some expect him to be more tolerant of Muslim Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang, and also of Taiwan, the independently ruled island that China has vowed to take back, by force if necessary.

“To understand what kind of leader Xi Jinping will be, one must study his father’s (policies),” said Bao Tong, one-time top aide to purged party chief Zhao Ziyang. Bao was jailed for seven years for sympathizing with student-led demonstrations for democracy centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“No (Chinese) Communist will betray his father,” he added.”

via Insight: Does China’s next leader have a soft spot for Tibet? | Reuters.

31/08/2012

* India’s economic growth better than forecast

BBC News: “India’s economy grew faster than expected in the three months to the end of June, easing some fears about a sharp slowdown in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Growth was 5.5% in the April to June period from a year earlier. Most analysts had forecast a rate of 5.2%.

That compares with a 5.3% annual growth rate in the previous quarter.

However, there are concerns that a lack of reforms, slowing factory output and investment may hurt long-term growth.

“Whilst an upside surprise at 5.5%, the pace of growth is undeniably below potential and validates the need for the government to address sluggishness in investment and external sector activity,” said Radhika Rao an economist at Forecast Pte.”

via BBC News – India’s economic growth better than forecast.

30/08/2012

* China to buy 50 Airbus planes for $3.5bn

BBC News: “China has signed a deal to buy 50 planes worth $3.5bn (£2.2bn) from Europe’s Airbus.

The agreement is part of a slew of trade deals signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of a two-day visit to China.

An agreement on Airbus plane assembly in China was also signed, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Thursday his country would continue to invest in the EU.

Emissions row

This is the first significant deal in China for Airbus, whose parent company is EADS, since a dispute between the country and the European Union over the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Effective from 1 January this year, the ETS charges airlines for the carbon they emit.

China and other countries say the system is not fair, as it charges airlines for the full journey, not just over European airspace.

Following this in March, EADS chief executive Louis Gallois said Airbus was facing “retaliation measures” by China.

According to him, China had blocked firms from buying planes made by Airbus. Beijing did not comment on the allegation.”

via BBC News – China to buy 50 Airbus planes for $3.5bn.

Although $3.5bn sounds big, it is only half that being ordered by the Philippines: Airbus wins $7 bln Philippine Air order (vancouverdesi.com)

30/08/2012

* Miners killed and trapped in China colliery blast

BBC News: “A gas explosion at a coal mine in south-west China has killed 19 people and left 28 trapped underground, state media say.

Rescue workers carry survivor out of Qianqiu colliery in Henan province - 5 November 2011

Efforts are underway to rescue the remaining miners at the Xiaojiawan mine in Panzhihua city in Sichuan province.

The blast happened on Wednesday evening when about 150 miners were underground, city officials said.

By Thursday morning, more than 100 people had been rescued and taken to hospital, reports said.

Chinese state television said rescue teams had retrieved the bodies of 16 miners who died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Another three people died in hospital.

The mine is owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co Ltd. Its officials are assisting in a police investigation, the city government said in a statement on its official microblogging site.

Accidents are frequent in China’s mining industry, which is criticised for poor safety standards.

Official figures show that 1,973 people died in coal mining accidents in the country last year.

While this represented a 19% drop compared to the year before, some have suggested that actual numbers could be higher as not all incidents may have been reported.

China’s central government has introduced measures aimed at improving standards but these directives are often ignored at local level.”

via BBC News – Miners killed and trapped in China colliery blast.

Another week, another disaster. China has a very poor record of mine safety, though central government is trying its best to set standards. But road, bridge and rail safety are also issues. Though, thankfully, there have been no recent air disasters.

29/08/2012

* In China, Sons Fight Railways Ministry Over Crash

NY Times: “Henry Cao has stark memories of the moment the high-speed train he was riding rear-ended another last summer in the eastern city of Wenzhou: the pleasantly hypnotic rocking that gave way to a jolt he likened to an earthquake, followed by blackness and the sensation of falling as the car plummeted 100 feet off a viaduct.

Henry Cao, left, and his brother, Leo, at the site of a train crash that killed their parents and injured Henry in Wenzhou last year.

“We were flying like rag dolls,” he said.

The crash killed 40 passengers, injured 191 and shook the nation’s confidence in its ambitious high-speed rail system. Mr. Cao, 33, a Chinese-American importer from Colorado, barely survived; he lost a kidney and his spleen, and head injuries have left him mired in a perpetual daze, unable to stay awake for more than an hour or two. His parents, naturalized American citizens taking him on a triumphant tour of their native land, were killed.

As Mr. Cao has struggled to recover over the past year, he has found himself drained by a different sort of battle: trying to wrest compensation from the Ministry of Railways, an unbending government behemoth unaccustomed to dealing with determined foreign citizens.

This month Mr. Cao returned to China for the first time since the accident. He and his brother, Leo, came to collect their parents’ remains and to press negotiations with the ministry. “They know how to wear you down,” said Leo Cao, 30. “First they let you scream and yell, then they stall you, and finally they tell you vague and empty words. Now they say, ‘You’re lucky you’re getting anything.’ ”

Their painful and politically fraught odyssey has highlighted the workings of an omnipotent ministry that employs more than two million people and rivals the Chinese military in size and influence. The experience has been disorienting for the Cao brothers, who left China as adolescents two decades ago. “This place is not how I remember it,” said Henry Cao, speaking faintly as his eyes flickered and lost focus. “Everyone is rushing around to make money. Life here is cheap.”

The ministry, which runs its own court system and is largely impervious to oversight, has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. A former rails minister, Liu Zhijun, who was fired five months before the accident, is expected to go on trial next month for charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes and other unnamed “disciplinary violations.”

Zhang Kai, a lawyer who represented a passenger sentenced to three years in prison for slapping a train conductor, described the ministry as a “monster left over from the planned economy era” that resists reform or challenges to its authority. “It is common knowledge that the ministry is responsible for generating maximum profits while supervising itself,” Mr. Zhang said.

In a report released in December, government investigators placed the blame for the Wenzhou accident on flaws in signaling equipment. Investigators say the ministry bypassed safety regulations in its haste to create the world’s largest high-speed railroad network.”

via In China, Sons Fight Railways Ministry Over Crash – NYTimes.com.

29/08/2012

* India riots: Court convicts 32 over Gujarat killings

BBC News: “A court in India has convicted 32 people for involvement in the 2002 religious riots in Gujarat state.

Rioting in Gujarat in 2002

The court acquitted 29 others in the case known as the Naroda Patiya massacre.

Among those convicted were former minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, a former leader of the militant Hindu group Bajrang Dal.

A total of 95 people were killed in the rioting on 28 February in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad city.

Most of the convicted, including Ms Kodnani and Mr Bajrangi, were found guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy, reports said.

The trial began in August 2009 and charges were framed against 62 people. One of the accused died during the trial.

Ms Kodnani was the junior minister for women and child development in the Gujarat government when she was arrested in connection with the incident in 2009.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed when riots erupted after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire in 2002.

It was one of India’s worst outbreaks of religious violence in recent years.”

via BBC News – India riots: Court convicts 32 over Gujarat killings.

See also: Indian ethnic – religious tensions

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