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Left to right. Clara Li, Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan and Josephine Ma of South China Morning Post

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"...it seems to be China's unique sorrow that when it wounds itself, as it does time and time again, it hides behind a veil of silence and shame, leaving it to those far from China, who don't always have its best interests in mind, to tell the story."

"...Mr. Spence's gripping story was a reminder of how incompletely most foreign faiths, ideas and isms have been absorbed by China, and how, long before they ever begin to take root, most such foreign imports have mutated into almost unrecognizable Sinological forms."

"Stay tuned. The stakes could not be bigger. We are talking about 1.3 billion people - one-fifth of humanity. How China's leaders manage this transition will affect everything from the air we breathe to the economic stability of the world we live in. "

 

your site has become one of my go-to sites for interesting perspectives on China. Keep it up! Dan Viederman

I just discovered your website and wanted to congratulate you on a very useful site. Hannah

A comprehensive listing of recently published articles on China. Charles Hugh Smith, Shanghai Postcard (2001)

Inbox

There is a sculpture of hands holding a picture frame in Weihai, China, on the following web page:
Dec. I am very curious about it and can only find a few pictures, but no other information about it. Who was the artist? When was it installed? April 2, 2002

I'm curious too!!! -Laury Dizengremel, Sculpting A City.

I am sorry to trouble you. I am interested in Qi Baishi ( Ch`i Pai - shih , 1863 - 1957. China painter.) works. I would like to subscribe books - reproduction about Qi Baishi. For free price. Can be old or with defect. Thank you very much ! 28 Jul 2002 Lithuania

We'd like to purchase a big quantity of electrical kitchenware such as mixer, oven,toaster,rice cooker,... please be so kind and send your original catalogues by DHL courier as soon as possible so we can check the variety of your products. 28 Jul 2003 Tehran

Please find in attachment file "SPARES-24(04-05)" of specification for Heating Element for Rice Cooker. If you are able to supply then please send a price quotation F.O.B (Export price) with catalogue/brochure having details Technical Specification by E-mail. 16 Aug 2004 Dhaka

Can you help?

 

Excerpts and images are © of respective owners.

April 13, 2010
China Looks to Rails to Carry Its Next Economic Boom
By ALAN WHEATLEY

BEIJING In southwestern Yunnan Province, giant concrete pillars bestride the fields, tracing the route of one of scores of new rail lines that China is building.

In western Xinjiang, construction crews toil on a lonely line crossing the desert wastes to the Silk Road city of Kashgar.

From one end of the country to the other, China is in the midst of a railroad boom that promises to transform the world’s third-largest economy, after those of the United States and Japan.

By making it easier to move people and goods, the railroad mania will gradually shift the center of economic gravity inland, accelerating the development of central and western China in an echo of America’s experience in the 19th century.

Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of the China equities and commodities business at J.P. Morgan, said she also saw comparisons with the construction of the Interstate highway system in the United States and the shinkansen high-speed rail network in Japan, both of which brought far-reaching socioeconomic changes.

"However, due to the immense scale of construction, faster service speeds and China’s vast population, the transformative impact may be even more profound," she said in a recent report.

As better transportation links encourage manufacturers to relocate away from the coast, demand for property in the interior will grow, lifting consumer sentiment and retail sales. The railroads will also be a boon for tourism, Ms. Ulrich said.

Taking freight and passenger traffic together, China already has the world’s busiest railroad system. But measured by the size of the country and the needs of 1.3 billion people, the system is puny.

The density of the network, measured in kilometers of line per million inhabitants, is less than a tenth of those in Russia, the United States or Canada, a seventh of the European Union’s and about a third of Japan’s, according to the World Bank.

This sparse network, totaling 86,000 kilometers, or 54,000 miles, at the end of 2009, is so overburdened that it carries a quarter of the world’s rail traffic on about 6 percent of the world’s lines.

It is no wonder that China suffers periodic energy shortages, because coal trains are delayed in reaching power stations as they are shunted onto sidings to make way for passenger trains.

Well aware of the problem, the government turned the financial crisis into an opportunity to fast-forward its long-term plan to lengthen the network to 120,000 kilometers by 2020.

Railroad construction invigorated the economy last year by creating six million jobs and generating demand for 20 million tons of steel and 120 million tons of cement.

"If the policy is that large cash infusions create jobs, then from a transport perspective railways is certainly the place where the financing is necessary," said John Scales, the lead transportation policy specialist for the World Bank in Beijing.

By the end of 2009, work was under way on no less than 33,000 kilometers of lines, according to analysts at Macquarie, the investment bank.

With the Ministry of Railways budgeting a 17 percent increase in spending this year to 823 billion renminbi, or $120 billion, the analysts said that they believed the 120,000-kilometer target could be reached as soon as 2015 and that they saw a good chance that it would be raised to 150,000 kilometers.

The economic case for expanding the rail network is clear-cut. During a country’s development phase, total demand for transportation tends to grow faster than income.

But some critics say China is putting too much emphasis on high-speed rail lines capable of accommodating speeds of as much as 350 kilometers an hour.

China already has the longest operational high-speed network in the world, at 6,552 kilometers, and it intends to double that total to 13,000 kilometers by 2012 by upgrading existing track and building new lines.

When the high-speed line linking Beijing and Shanghai opens by early 2012, the journey time will be cut to 4 hours from 10.

China is rightly proud of the giant strides it is making. It is seeking to build a high-speed rail line in California and is bidding for a contract to link Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

At home, the aim is to reduce if possible the travel time to each provincial capital from second-tier towns in that province to two hours or less, bringing economic benefits.

Yet Zhao Jian, a professor at Jiaotong University in Beijing, who specializes in rail economics, is scathing in his assessment of what he calls the "blind pursuit of speed".

He said in the monthly journal Comprehensive Transportation that China could have built an extra 30,000 kilometers of conventional track with the money saved from what he characterized as "extravagant" high-speed lines.

China, he argued, does not have the technological experience to be sure of operating such lines safely. Moreover, high-speed trains gobble up energy and subsidies.

There is no high-speed railway in the world that can be financially self-sustaining, Mr. Zhao said in the journal. "The large-scale construction of high-speed railway passenger lines in China will definitely be confronted with huge risks".

High-speed rail travel could even pose social and political risks, he added, since fares on the new trains are three times as high as those on ordinary trains.

In addition, he said, the Ministry of Railways is deliberately reducing the frequency of slower trains to make passengers use the new services.

"This will be met with strong social discontent," Mr. Zhao said.

Mr. Scales, the World Bank expert, sees things differently.

"In other parts of the world, nobody would think of designing new passenger lines for less than 350 kilometers per hour," he said. "So it’s very reasonable."

He added, "And remember that many of the dedicated passenger lines are not built to move passengers, but to get passengers off the freight lines. That’s where the real bottlenecks are."

February 2, 2010
U.S. Deal With Taiwan Has China Retaliating
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: January 30, 2010

HONG KONG — The Chinese government announced late Saturday an unusually broad series of retaliatory measures in response to the latest United States arms sales to Taiwan, including sanctions against American companies that supply the weapon systems for the arms sales.

The Foreign Ministry announced in a pair of statements from Beijing that some military exchange programs between the United States and China would be canceled in addition to the commercial sanctions. Furthermore, a vice foreign minister, He Yafei, has called in Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the United States ambassador to China, to protest the sales.

The American decision to sell more weapons to Taiwan “constitutes a gross intervention into China’s internal affairs, seriously endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts,” Mr. He said in the ministry’s statement.

The Obama administration notified Congress on Friday of its plans to proceed with five arms sales transactions with Taiwan worth a total of $6.4 billion. The arms deals include 60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot interceptor missiles, advanced Harpoon missiles that can be used against land or ship targets and two refurbished minesweepers.

China has regarded Taiwan as a breakaway province ever since the Communists prevailed in 1949 in China’s civil war and the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan. The United States has been supplying Taiwan with arms under the Taiwan Relations Act, which Congress approved in 1979 and which mandates that the United States supply weapons that Taiwan could use to fend off an attack by mainland Chinese forces.

Canceling military discussions and calling in the American ambassador have been two standard Chinese measures in response to previous American arms sales to Taiwan. But the announcement of restrictions on the Chinese operations of American companies involved in the arms sales represents an unusual twist, said James C. Mulvenon, the director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis, a defense analysis firm in Washington.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement that mentioned the commercial sanctions was vague, providing no details on the restrictions that would be imposed on these companies’ business dealings in China or even what companies would be involved.

“We regret that the Chinese side has curtailed military-to-military and other exchanges” Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said, according to Reuters. “We also regret Chinese action against U.S. firms transferring defensive articles to Taiwan.”

The United States has occasionally imposed bans on exports to the United States by Chinese companies that have violated international agreements on weapons proliferation, most notably penalizing Chinese companies involved in alleged surreptitious shipments of medium-range missiles to Pakistan.

But China is going a step further in moving to penalize American companies engaged in commercial arms transactions that are publicly announced and do not violate international nonproliferation pacts, Mr. Mulvenon said.

The World Trade Organization generally prohibits the imposition of import restrictions as political maneuvers. But the body’s rules include a broad exception for national security that the Chinese could cite if the United States tried to challenge them.

China has also never joined the W.T.O. side agreement on government procurement. So China could bar the American companies from selling to the government without fear of W.T.O. review.
January 17, 2010
China says its Web open, welcomes Int'l companies

BEIJING, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- China's Internet is open and welcomes international companies, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Thursday, just two days after Google issued a statement saying it might quit China.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing that China encouraged development of the Internet.

"China's Internet is open," said Jiang. "China has tried creating a favorable environment for Internet," said Jiang while responding to a question on Google's possible retreat.

"China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law," she said. "China's law prohibits cyber crimes including hacker attacks."

Google's corporate development and chief legal officer, David Drummond, posted a statement on the company's official blog on Tuesday, indicating the possibility that Google may "shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

The statement said that its disputes with the government and unidentified attacks targeting Google's services in China forced the company to make the review of "the feasibility of our business operations in China."

Google sent a short statement to Xinhua Wednesday, saying, "We are proud of our achievements in China. Currently we are reviewing the decision and hope for a resolution."

According to the iResearch Consulting Group, the Chinese search engine market reached nearly 7 billion yuan (about 1 billion U.S. dollars) in 2009, and Google took 32.8 percent of the market in the third-quarter while China's home-grown search engine Baidu claimed 63.8 percent.

A new approach to China

January 13, 2010
China jewelry makers say toxic metal cuts costs

By Eugene Hoshiko And Alexa Olesen, Associated Press Writers – Tue Jan 12, 4:25 pm ET

YIWU, China – For China's low-cost jewelry makers, it was an open trade secret: The metal cadmium is shiny, strong and malleable at low temperatures, regardless of its health hazards. And it's cheap.

Despite the risks, manufacturers in factories ringing this city on China's east coast say their top priority is profit. So offering cut-rate goods often means using lower quality materials, including cadmium, which is known to cause cancer.

"Business is business, and it's all up to our client," said He Huihua, manager of the Suiyuan Jewelry Shop at International Trade City in Yiwu, a sprawling wholesale mecca where sellers pitch their wares in hopes of landing a lucrative export contract.

He spoke from a small cubicle with rows of dangling metal earrings and key chains hanging on the wall. Elsewhere, brooches, necklaces, charms and other baubles shone under the market's lights.

"We just make what our clients order. If they pay more, we use the better raw material, and vice-versa. From a few cents to a few dollars, we can make the same style of jewelry product with a different raw material."

Asked what he thought about the health risks associated with cadmium and other toxic metals, He said: "I can't be overly concerned about that."

Long-standing concerns about the safety of Chinese exports flared anew this week after an investigation by The Associated Press found that 12 of 103 pieces of mainly Chinese-made children's jewelry bought in the Unites States contained at least 10 percent cadmium, some in the 80-90 percent range. Two had less than 10 percent and the rest had none.

The findings prompted retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to remove the products cited by AP from its stores in the United States. On Tuesday, the jewelry and accessories chain Claire's, with nearly 3,000 locations in North America and Europe, announced that it, too, would stop selling any item cited in the AP investigation.

Charms on a "Best Friends" bracelet sold at Claire's contained 89 and 91 percent cadmium, according to testing organized by AP, and shed alarming amounts in a procedure that examined how much cadmium children might be exposed to.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it was opening an investigation into the AP's findings, and China's government also took notice of the trouble brewing in its largest export market.

"We just heard about this, and we will investigate," said Wang Xin, director of supervision in the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

He spoke to an AP reporter at a toy safety conference in Hong Kong. His agency and the Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to written questions submitted by fax in Beijing.

The tainted jewelry was reminiscent of the product-safety scandals of 2007 in which dangerous levels of lead caused Mattel Inc. and other toy makers to recall large numbers of Chinese-made toys. Following that, the U.S. government enacted tougher limits on lead in toys.

Beijing also promised greater vigilance in enforcing safety standards for exports and the domestic market.

China has regulations limiting cadmium to tiny amounts in fashion jewelry and children's toys. Fashion jewelry should not contain more than 0.1 percent cadmium. In materials for toys, cadmium should not exceed 75 parts per million, or 50 parts per million for clay and paint.

The limits are comparable with international standards. But enforcement is still lax, as it was in 2007.

A metals expert in a Yiwu jewelry factory said some raw-material suppliers sell an alloy containing up to 90 percent cadmium.

Interviews with more than a dozen manufacturers and sellers in Yiwu confirm that cadmium is a common ingredient in the earrings, bracelets, charms and other baubles being churned out by local factories and piled high in that city's wholesale markets.

Yiwu, once a small county town five hours south of Shanghai, has boomed in the past 20 years. It now dominates China's low- to mid-range jewelry market, while premium products using gold and real gems tend to be made down south in the Pearl River Delta, near Hong Kong.

In all, China shipped about 1.3 million pounds (595,000 kilograms) of jewelry abroad in 2008 — a 15 percent decrease from the previous year, according to the Hong Kong-based consulting firm Global Sources.

Tao Xinyao, a metals expert who works in the Yiwu factory for jewelry maker Neoglory, said she noticed an uptick in the use of cadmium around 2003, when prices of the metal hit a low. Jewelry makers discovered they could work with cadmium at much lower temperatures than they could zinc, the most common nontoxic material, she said.

The lower melting point for cadmium — around 300 degrees Celsius compared to 400 degrees for zinc — means factories use less energy and do not need to change their silicon rubber molds as often, Tao said. Because cadmium is lighter than zinc, buyers also get more per ton when they buy an alloy.

"In the Yiwu market, some material suppliers sell so-called 'zinc alloys,'" Tao said. "However, this may contain just a very small amount of zinc, and 80 to 90 percent cadmium. It actually should be called cadmium alloy."

Lead and cadmium are commonly found in metal jewelry sold in China simply because it's cheaper. A ton of high-quality zinc costs about 28,000 yuan ($4,100) while zinc with lead, cadmium or both in it sells for about 16,000 yuan ($2,350), said Frank Zhang, an executive with a jewelry factory in Yiwu that specializes in high-end exports but who did not want his Chinese or company names used.

Industry executives said most of the low-end goods with high amounts of cadmium are sold in China and increasingly sent to Dubai and other markets in the Middle East with less stringent import controls than the U.S. or Europe.

Cutting corners and trimming costs have become even more critical to Chinese manufacturers since the financial crisis sent purchase orders plummeting. Global Sources said about 10 percent of China's jewelry plants were forced to shut down in 2008 due to the financial crisis.

Sales representative Toby Zhu said his company, a jewelry factory in Yiwu that turns out faux diamonds and jade strung on gold-plated chains, is among those feeling the pinch.

Over the last year, Zhu's factory closed its showroom at the trade mall, laid off seven of its 100 workers and gave deep discounts to loyal customers in an attempt to weather the financial crisis. They are also using a cheaper grade of zinc than before, but Zhu denied switching to a cadmium alloy. He said their zinc alloys were mid-range in price and contained safe metals such as copper, magnesium or steel.

Zhu, who did not want his Chinese or company's name used, said lead was even better than cadmium or zinc for tiny charms. Since the U.S. adopted more restrictions on lead, he said, many overseas clients have come to demand lead-free products, probably prompting many manufacturers to turn to cadmium.

Making sure Chinese-made goods are safe requires constant vigilance — something many foreign companies fail to do, said Christopher Devereux, managing director of the Guangzhou-based consulting firm Chinasavvy HK Ltd. China traders like Devereux call it "quality fade" — a phenomenon in China in which suppliers constantly try to produce goods more cheaply with lower-quality materials.

"In any other country in the West, your quality curve goes upwards, but it's the opposite in China. We just have learned our lesson. We need to check every single batch," said Devereux who helps Western companies buy and produce a variety of goods in China, from toys and plumbing fixtures to shoes and lunch boxes.

"Cadmium is one of the nastiest of the heavy metals, worse than lead. I was absolutely amazed that people were using it," he said.

Chen Zaiying, manager of the Yiwu SK Jewelry shop in the International Trade City, echoed Devereux's comment, saying many Chinese manufacturers combine hazardous batches with others that comply with regulations in the destination market.

"The buyer should not rely only on the inspection report offered by the producer," Chen said. "They should have the sense to do their own inspection as well if they really want the product to meet the export standard."

___

Olesen reported from Beijing. Associated Press writers William Foreman in Guangzhou and Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong, and AP researchers Xi Yue in Beijing and Ji Chen in Yiwu contributed to this report.

Report sparks concern over jewelry
By Huang Jingjing

Zhong Yanzi, a mother of a 5-month-old girl in Hunan Province, told the Global Times that she was alarmed.

"It is hard to imagine that even trinkets are poisonous," she said. "I wouldn't buy any alloy for my child any more, except pure silver and gold."

January 6, 2010
China faces new risk: Attacks on pipelines
By Xin Dingding, Li Jing and Wan Zhihong (China Daily)

Efforts were urged recently by energy experts for the nation to protect and strengthen the pipelines in light of the Dec 30 discovery of diesel fuel leakage into a tributary of the Yellow River.

The leak has spread downstream into Shanxi and Henan provinces and contaminated the drinking water of many local residents.

China now has around 50,000 km of oil and gas pipelines, and will build 40,000 km of pipelines in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), according to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's largest oil and gas producer.

Rapid urbanization has resulted in the reckless construction of buildings and roads within the pipelines' buffer zones in recent years, said Cao Kangtai, director of Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council.

Rampant theft of oil and gas through illegal siphoning is also a major threat, he said.

Thieves illegally drilled into the CNPC's pipelines 18,382 times from 2002 to 2006, causing the company a loss of more than 500 million yuan ($72 million), according to CNPC.

Oil theft is now a major cause of oil spills, said Liu Zheng, a professor from Tsinghua University, to China Daily.

"Those who steal the oil from pipelines never think about the consequences on a large area of soil surrounding the pipeline," said Liu.

In China, most oil pipelines are built near farmland where oil spills usually damage land and crops. Toxic substances contained in oil tend to accumulate in plants and animals, which consequentially threaten the health of humans who consume the polluted plants, he said.

Moreover, oil pipelines could be a target for terrorists.

Li Wei, director of the center for counterterrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that attempts to attack energy production and transportation infrastructure by creating explosions have been previously made in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and South America.

"Though terrorists are more likely to aim at causing a large number of casualties instead of attacking pipelines in China, there is still a possibility," Li said.

A draft law to "protect oil and gas pipelines, maintain transportation safety and public safety and safeguard the national resource supply" was sent to the National People's Congress Standing Committee for a first reading in October.

And security measures such as cameras have also been installed every few kilometers along pipelines, Han said.

"But full monitoring is difficult to achieve on pipelines laid outside of China's territory," he said.

"Once a pipeline, such as the gas pipeline between China and Turkmenistan, is attacked outside of China, a large area in China could suffer a shortage of natural gas, since it does not have enough on reserve," Han said.

China is now the world's second largest oil importer and a major consumer of natural gas.

Official statistics show that China imported nearly 200 million tons of crude oil last year. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said 64.5 percent of the country's oil consumption was likely to be met by imports in 2020.

China also has set a target of raising the proportion of natural gas in its total energy consumption to 5.3 percent in 2010 from 2.8 percent in 2005. The targeted output of the fuel in 2010 is 90 billion cu m.

China pushes global channels for media
China Daily, January 6, 2010

China is rolling out an ambitious plan to support and expand the global presence of its media and publication companies, though an industry expert warned of challenges to the nation's "going out" program.

Domestic publication companies will be encouraged to invest abroad by establishing overseas branches, making media takeovers or working with foreign counterparts as partners, according to the latest guideline released by the General Administration of Press and Publication.

"The plan is to let the world know more about China and to enhance the influence of Chinese culture," said Fan Weiping, head of the administration's publication industrialization department, to China Daily yesterday.

The central government will provide support in policy, resources, information and other services that broaden its media outlets through publications, copyrights and brands, according to the guideline.

"I hope Chinese cultural enterprises will be booming at every corner of the world like Chinese restaurants have," he said.

As of this year, the Chinese mainland has 958 publishers of books and electronic print products and boasts 9,549 magazines and 1,943 newspapers.

The output of the press and publishing industry is expected to hit 1 trillion yuan (US$147 billion) in 2009, according to government statistics.

Fan said the administration has signed a framework agreement with the Bank of China to finance expansion ventures. Other commercial banks are expected to sign on in the future to support public and private publication enterprises.

He added the scale and presence of the Chinese press and printing industry overseas are still relatively small because of cultural barriers.

But the successful globalization of "Made in China" products can't be applied to cultural products, said Yu Guoming, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Communication in Renmin University of China.

"Selling the Chinese press and publications everywhere is not going to happen because of cultural differences and how the Chinese media is received in different regions of the world," said Yu. "We call it 'culture discount'."

He suggested that the nation's publishing and media firms that are seeking to expand abroad should seek commonalities with their foreign counterparts first.

"The investment in the culture industry will not be successful in crossing over unless investors learn and understand the rules of other cultures," Yu said.

The Chinese government's ad campaign to promote "Made in China" products on cable news outlet CNN was cited by Yu as a good example of sharing the Chinese culture and values to the West.

The guideline also said China will encourage private enterprises to play a bigger role in the publishing industry.

Private capital will be permitted to enter the publishing industry as content suppliers or partners to publish books about science and technology, finance, the arts and other fields, according to the guideline.

China previously only allowed limited private investment in printing and publishing industry.

It also encouraged publishing companies to employ self-financing measures by issuing corporate bonds, absorbing foreign investments and going public.

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