In a speech at the summit, the Iranian leader made it clear he saw the group as an ally against the US, and reconfirmed Iran's desire to become a fully fledged member. "We need a strong powerful organization to protect us from unreasonable outside interference," he said, in an obvious reference to the US.
Ahmadinejad also offered SCO members access to Iran's oil reserves, the world's third-largest, in a move that will do nothing to allay US energy security fears. For China, the chance to turn the Silk Road into an "energy road" for land-based resource traffic is one of the driving forces behind its promotion of the SCO.
With Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan joining China and Russia as its members, it is clear the SCO is a powerful counterpoint to US interests in the region. At last year's summit, it called on the US to set a deadline for the withdrawal of American military personnel from Central Asia.
But with pro-American India and Pakistan joining Mongolia and Iran as SCO observers, and Afghanistan also present, this criticism is overly simplistic. Nevertheless, the participants made it clear that they wouldn't be pushed around by the US.
A June 15 declaration signed by the heads of state of all six member-states forcefully reasserted the SCO's right to regulate affairs in Central Asia. "The SCO will make a constructive contribution to the establishment of a new global security architecture of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and mutual respect," the declaration asserted. "What specific means and mechanisms should be adopted to safeguard security of the region is the right and responsibility of countries in the region."
As a sweetener, Chinese President Hu Jintao added that China has been implementing plans to provide US$900 million in loans in the form of preferential buyer's export credit to the other SCO members, and to help them train 1,500 experts and managers.
Party commits to reform
A signed article in the Chinese-language People's Daily, the voice of Chinese Communist Party, said the country should not swerve from the path of reform started 28 years ago. "Without reform, China could not make further progress," said the article, signed by "Zhong Xuanli", thought to be a pen name for the Publicity Department of the CCP. It called on China to push ahead with reforms to "improve its financial and banking systems, develop all kinds of modern markets, and enhance its external exchanges and cooperation".
Cross-strait flights to rise
Mainland China and Taiwan announced an increase in the number of direct charter flights across the Taiwan Strait. Holiday passenger, cargo, medical and humanitarian charters were expected to start within weeks, with regular charter services to be launched in four to five months. Negotiations were taking place between the Taipei Airlines Association and the Cross-Strait Aviation Transport Exchange Council.
Shrine remains an issue
President Hu Jintao said he was willing to resume top-level talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi provided he stopped visiting the controversial Yasakuni shrine, which honors war criminals among other dead. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said it was wrong for Beijing to refuse talks over one issue, adding that China's defense buildup was an obstacle to improved relations. Meanwhile, a Japanese Foreign Ministry survey found 77.9% of Japanese believe Tokyo and Beijing should improve bilateral ties.
Military buildup alarms US
The US Department of Defense said in its annual report on China that the country's growing military might had altered the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region. But it also noted that developments over the last year were incremental and did not mark drastic changes. China's official 2006 defense budget was US$35 billion, but is believed to be two to three times more.
China to the top by 2050
A PricewaterhouseCoopers report predicted China would be the largest economy in the world by 2050. The report said China would lead "the emerging seven", a group of seven emerging nations 25% larger than the current G7 group of developed nations in terms of US dollars, and 75% larger in terms of purchasing power parity. Other members of the group are Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey.
Hu calls for Asia harmony
Chinese President Hu Jintao called for the building of a harmonious Asia at the second summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), held last month in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan. "Asia is a continent of great diversity … solidarity and coordination of the Asian countries and peoples are crucial for the success of Asia," Hu said. CICA, a forum aimed at increasing security in Asia, comprises 17 member nations and nine observers.
Villagers jailed for unrest
A group of villagers from Dongzhou, in Guangdong province, were jailed for up to seven years after violent clashes with police in a demonstration last December that cost at least three lives. Seven of the 19 villagers were acquitted while the rest were convicted of a number of offences including manufacturing explosives and disturbing public order. The police officers who fired on the protesters, killing three, received lower punishments. The chief who ordered officers to open fire was fired. The riots started when villagers protested at the seizures of their land for a coal-fired power plant.
World Bank continues aid
The World Bank will lend China up to US$1.5 billion a year until 2010 as part of a Country Partnership Strategy to combat poverty, improve the environment and promote sustainable development, state media reported. About 70% of the funds will go to projects in inland provinces. The World Bank says China is still a developing country, with more than 135 million people living on less than US$1 a day.
High price of AIDS
Ministry of Health statistics showed that lost labor due to HIV/AIDS could cost China US$40 billion over the next five years. More than US$2 billion could also be lost due to reduced productivity in the agricultural sector. An estimated 25,000 people died from AIDS in 2005, 10,000 of whom were poor farmers who sold blood in the 1990s. An estimated 650,000 Chinese people had been infected with HIV by the end of last year.
Activist left paralyzed
Fu Xiancai, one of the most vocal opponents of the Three Gorges Dam, was left paralyzed from the neck down after being attacked by unknown assailants. Fu was on his way home from the Zigui public security bureau in Hubei province, where he had been interrogated about an interview he gave to reporters from the German television station. Human Rights in China said police and local officials had warned Fu that he would be punished for talking to foreign journalists about the forced relocation of more than a million people to make way for the hydroelectric project.
Veteran dissident Yang Tian-shui was sentenced to a 12-year jail sentence for organizing pro-democracy activities and posting anti-government articles online. Yang, 45, who was imprisoned from 1990 to 2000 for "counter-revolutionary" crimes, pleaded innocent and argued that the trial was both illegal and an insult.
HK on bird flu alert
Hong Kong strengthened bird-flu control measures and was considering a 21-day ban on poultry imports from Guangdong following confirmation from provincial authorities that a 31-year-old Shenzhen man was critically ill with the H5N1 strain of the virus. The man, who bought vegetables several times at a wet market which also sells chickens, is the first confirmed human bird-flu victim in Shenzhen.
Google questions deal
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, said the company was not convinced the self-censorship deal it made to gain market access in China was the right approach. His comments came in resoonse to reports that Google.com – which, unlike China-specific Google.cn, does not filter out links to sites the government considers sensitive or harmful to society – was being blocked. The company said it was investigating the claims.
Pirates face large fines
Internet distributors of illegally copied music, movies and other protected material may face fines of up to US$12,500. The move would up the pressure on search engines while internet service providers would have to give the authorities information on sites that distribute pirated material. Baidu, the most popular search engine in China, offers a service that allows users to find MP3 files. Last year, it was sued by several international music companies for allowing free downloads. The government fines apply to individuals and companies that sell equipment or technology to make illegal copies.
Pollution costs GDP
Environmental pollution costs China an estimated 10% of GDP every year, according to a white paper released by the State Council Information Office to mark World Environment Day. Zhu Guangyao, deputy director of top watchdog the State Environmental Protection Administration, said the central government had focused on tackling environmental problems and had a detailed clean-up plan for the next five years. He stressed that the environment plays an increasingly important role in the government's attempts to cool the economy.
CHINA BY NUMBERS
China posted a record US$13 billion single-month trade surplus in May, up from US$10.5 billion in April.
China's trade surplus through the first five months of 2006 reached US$47 billion, on pace to break the single-year record of US$102 billion.
Exports grew to US$73.11 billion in May, a 25.1% year-on-year increase.
May imports totaled US$60.11 billion, a year-on-year rise of 21.7%.
Consumer inflation rose 1.4% year-on-year in May, after an increase of 1.2% in April.
Retail sales increased 14.2% year-on-year to US$78 billion in May, the biggest increase in almost 18 months.
The Ministry of Commerce expects China's stock market to reach a scale of US$4 trillion by 2010.
According to a Pew poll, 81% of Chinese are satisfied with the way things are going in China, an increase from 72% recorded in 2005.
China has 350 million smokers, more than a quarter of the world's total smoking population.
About 1 million people die of smoking-related diseases in China every year, a number projected to triple in the next 50 years.
Between 1950 and 2005, China received a total of 884,315 overseas students.
Last year 141,000 students came to China from abroad – 86,679 of whom studied Mandarin – up 27.3% from 2004.