China reported its first human cases of bird flu on November 16, including at least one fatality, affirming health experts' prediction that a human infection in China was inevitable after the country suffered more than 10 outbreaks. The deadly H5N1 strain killed a poultry worker in eastern Anhui while a 12-year old girl in Hunan was suspected of having died from the virus. The girl's brother, a 9-year-old boy, was infected but has since recovered.
China has implemented drastic measures since an outbreak was reported in the northeastern province of Liaoning in October. After the slaughter of six million birds in Liaoning province, China began vaccinating its entire poultry stock of 14 billion birds, or about a fifth of the world's total. It also ordered live poultry markets to close in Beijing and banned live chickens from entering the city. Across China, authorities are producing more than 100 million doses of bird flu vaccine a day, but some areas are still reporting shortages. Roche Holding AG, the maker of the antiviral Tamiflu drug, said it had stopped selling the drug in China and was turning over supplies to Beijing in anticipation of human cases of infections, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Bird flu outbreaks have been reported in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where a total of 6,547 chickens were infected, and in the Hunan, Anhui, Henan and Inner Mongolia provinces, where a combined 4,400 birds have died.
Bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since the H5N1 strain emerged in 2003. Scientists and health officials worry that the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans, igniting a worldwide pandemic.
The World Bank said the prospects of a pandemic represents a "grave concern" for East Asian economies, while the Asian Development Bank said it could kill three million people in Asia, leading to an economic loss of nearly US$300 billion in the region and plunging the world into a recession.
Meanwhile, fresh consumer fears of the flu have caused poultry sales in major Chinese cities to plummet about 80%.
Henk Bekedam, the World Health Organization chief official in Beijing said China will see more outbreaks among poultry and possibly people in the coming winter months.
Hasta la vista, piracy
Boosting trade and protecting intellectual property rights were top of the agenda during California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's six-day visit to China. He said China's economic growth provided increased opportunities for California which, unlike the US, has a trade surplus with China. Last year, it shipped US$6.8 billion in exports to the country, a 25% increase on 2003. However, movie, music and software piracy in China translates into millions of dollars lost from the California economy.
Hu pushes DPRK on nukes
North Korea repeated its commitment to multilateral nuclear talks and echoed Beijing's pledge to boost economic ties as a result of Hu Jintao's three-day trip to Pyongyang in October. Hu's visit, the first by a Chinese leader to North Korea in four years, took place shortly before the expected fifth round of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. In September, the country agreed to give up nuclear arms in exchange for economic and energy assistance, but then qualified its stance by insisting it be given a light water nuclear reactor before it disarms.
Japan's FM visit canceled
China canceled a visit by Japan's foreign minister after Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to a war shrine that China says honors Japanese war criminals, the Wall Street Journal reported. China has repeatedly asked Tokyo to do more to acknowledge the atrocities committed during Japan's World War II invasion of China, yet Koizumi's recent visit to the controversial shrine was his fifth since taking office in 2001. Japanese business executives are concerned the diplomatic stain could hurt economic relations with China, according to the Journal.
Bush, Dalai Lama meet
Two days after the White House named China a serious violator of religious freedom in a report to Congress, US President George W Bush met with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. In doing so, Bush ignored objections from China 10 days before he made his official visit to Beijing. "The Dalai Lama is not a mere religious figure. He is a political refugee who has conducted activities splitting China and undermining national unity," said Chu Maoming, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
Vatican's China outreach
The Vatican said it was willing to end relations with Taiwan and return its embassy to Beijing provided China respects religious freedom and treats the Holy See fairly, Reuters reported. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, said representatives of Pope Benedict were ready to start dialogue with Beijing at any time. China and the Vatican have had no diplomatic ties since 1951, although the Vatican believes it has about eight million followers in the country who worship at the "underground church."
Critical lawyer suspended
A Chinese lawyer who criticized Beijing's alleged suppression of followers of the banned Falun Gong movement has been ordered to suspend his practice for a year, the Financial Times reported. Gao Zhisheng, who also sought to represent private oil investors in a landmark lawsuit against the state, said the order came after he refused to retract an open letter to Chinese leaders that denounced the "barbaric persecution" of Falun Gong members. "[The authorities] suppress anyone who believes the law," Gao said.
Commerce and campaigners
Hu Jintao's three-nation European tour saw a series of deals signed with British, German and Spanish firms but it took place against a backdrop of protests by human rights and pro-democracy campaigners. In the UK, an estimated 300 protestors lined the route to Buckingham Palace where the president stayed as guest of Queen Elizabeth II. With UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Hu witnessed the signing of commercial contracts worth a total of US$1.3 billion, involving aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce, aircraft manufacturer Airbus and engineering firm Arup. Further deals worth US$1.5 billion were signed in Germany, including one that will see electronics giant Siemens supply 60 high-speed ICE trains to China. The EU embargo on arms sales to China also came under the spotlight as outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reaffirmed his support of Beijing's calls to lift the ban. Schroeder's successor, Angela Merkel, however, is expected to align herself with the majority of EU nations opposing any change. In Spain, wind turbine and aeronautics firms were among those who secured contracts with China worth a total of US$1.1 billion.
China's "white paper"
The Chinese government issued a lengthy justification of its commitment to unassailable one-party rule in China's first ever policy ' white paper' on the subject, the Financial Times reported. In the paper, entitled The Building of Political Democracy, the government defined democratic governance in China as "the Chinese Communist Party governing on behalf of the people… while upholding and perfecting the people's democratic dictatorship." The paper is expected to do little to silence widespread domestic dissatisfaction with the Party's monopoly on power, or calls from abroad for greater political freedom.
Premarital sex up
Incidents of premarital sex in China are up from 15.5% in 1989 to 65% in 2004 with Guangdong recording an 86% increase, said Li Yinhe, China's first female sexual sociologist, who described her study in a speech reported by state media. Li said 26% of Chinese women never experienced a sexual climax, a much higher figure than 10% reported in western countries.
AIDS cases could reach 10m
Issuing a warning similar to the UN's, Dai Zhicheng, China's director of the Health Ministry's Committee of AIDS Experts, said the country could have as many as 10 million HIV carriers by 2010 unless effective preventive measures are taken, state media reported. China says 840,000 HIV-AIDS cases have been reported, but experts say in the central province of Henan alone at least a million poor farmers were infected in botched blood-selling schemes. However, AFP reported that China is said to have fewer HIV infections than the 840,000 it claims, citing sinologist Bates Gill of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. A Ministry of Health official in charge of monitoring HIV confirmed the figure was still 840,000, but added that a new figure would be released before December 1. A lower number had not been made public, said Gill, because its disclosure would undermine confidence in China's statistics.
Forbes rich list
China's richest man, Larry Yung, retained top spot on the Forbes magazine list (often called the "death list" because it sparks official investigations) of the country's wealthiest individuals. Yung is chairman of Citic Pacific and the son of former Chinese vice president Rong Yiren. His net worth is estimated at US$1.64 billion. Property developer Zhu Mengyi and his family are second-richest with US$1.43 billion, followed by the Netease.com founder William Ding with US$1.27 billion.
Anti-drug campaign China's
National Narcotics Control Commission has launched a campaign to combat the spread of recreational drug use in China, focusing on 10,000 recreation venues in the cities of Beijing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Harbin, Wuhan and Urumqi, state media reported. At a launch ceremony in Beijing, Vice Minister of the commission Zhang Xinfeng said there had been an increase in the use of methamphetamines as well as in the number of drug users, particularly in recreational venues such as karaoke clubs.
China by numbers
In 2004, China imported US$5.5 billion of agricultural products from the US while exporting US$1.6 billion worth of its own farm goods to the US.
About 63% of fake products seized by US Customs officials came from China last year, with a total value of US$87.3 million, versus US$62.5 million in 2003, according to US Customs statistics.
23,490 homeless people received government aid in Guangzhou in the first nine months of this year, according to Li Weijie, director of Guangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau.
China and other developing countries will be the world's biggest polluters over the next 25 years, responsible for a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. China is projected to produce 19% of the world's CO2 emissions by 2030, up from 16% in 2003.
More than 400,000 people in China die prematurely each year due to air pollution, according to an unpublished study by the Chinese Academy on Environmental Planning. The study found that 300,000 people died each year as a result of outdoor pollution, while indoor pollution was responsible for 111,000 deaths.
China has 189 banks and more than 30,000 credit cooperatives with total assets equivalent to US$3.7 trillion.
China's 2004 state audit report uncovered US$1.1 billion in misappropriated funds within central government departments and US$1.8 billion in misappropriated funds among top state companies.
China's banking watchdog reported 240 cases of corruption in state- owned commercial banks in the first half of the year with losses totaling US$197 million, state media reported.