Coming soon after the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization declared the region’s security was the "right and responsibility of countries in the region", the test allowed China to press its credentials as a global statesman and a regional power with real influence over stability in Asia.
China rose to the challenge, rejecting a US and Japan-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that included reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which could have been used to justify military strikes if North Korea failed to comply.
Fearing an endangered, isolated and increasingly desperate failed state on its doorstep, China tabled its own resolution, calling for voluntary sanctions on missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and a resumption of the stalled Six-Party Talks, but leaving other sanctions and military action off the table.
US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton labeled it "manifestly insufficient", while his UK counterpart said "[it] didn’t really do the job". But the Security Council postponed voting on the US-Japan resolution to give a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Hui Liangyu a chance to coax or coerce the isolated state back into talks.
But then Kim turned on his only real ally, refusing to return to the fold and declaring his readiness for "all-out war".
Beijing was caught in an unenviable position. On one side was Japan, the US and a door marked global statesman; on the other side, an increasingly isolated, belligerent neighbor lurking behind the door marked regional power.
But somehow China walked unscathed through both doors, signing the resolution, but not before it had forced Japan and the US to drop references to Chapter VII. With its global statesman tag intact for now, China must start exercising its influence as a regional power and ensure stability on the Korean peninsula.
It will certainly have its work cut out. North Korea rejecting the resolution within 45 minutes, which is said to be a new world record.
Qiao Songju, a goose farmer from eastern Jiangsu province who reported bird flu outbreaks to the central government in October last year, has been jailed for three and a half years for fraud and blackmail, state media reported. Qiao, who was arrested a month after he reported the outbreaks, denied most, but not all, of the charges. State media did not say who had been blackmailed or whether the charges were linked to the bird flu reports. Meanwhile, new tests were being conducted to determine whether a man who reportedly died in November 2003 of SARS had actually died of bird flu, as reported in a letter from eight Chinese scientists to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Beijing tops Shanghai
Beijing and Shanghai are the 14th and 20th most expensive cities in the world in which to live, according to the latest cost-of-living survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting. Hong Kong, in fourth place, is the most expensive Chinese city. The study looked at 144 cities, including five on the Chinese mainland, plus Hong Kong and Taipei.
Abortion law in spotlight
Laws on gender-based abortion, a common practice due to China’s one-child policy, became the focus of a dispute within government. The National People’s Congress had considered punishments for selective abortions of up to three years in jail, but chose not to pursue them amid fears that this could simply drive the practice underground. However, the National Population and Family Planning Commission vowed to continue lobbying for the law. There are 119 boys for every 100 girls in China, compared to a global average of 105 to 100.
A skills shortage is driving up pay packets, increasing job-hopping and fueling a localization drive for managers, a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and headhunters Heidrick & Struggles showed. A lack of "suitable management candidates" was cited as a major problem by 48% of company executives, and 7% of companies lost 15-20% of their senior managers last year, up from less than 2% of companies two years ago. The number of firms with Chinese making up more than 50% of their management team increased, from 19% in 2004 to 47%.
No to Hu-Koizumi meeting
A possible meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the sidelines of July’s G8 Summit was ruled out by Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai ahead of the summit. Sino-Japanese relations have been strained by a number of contentious political issues, most recently North Korea’s missile tests on July 4.
Capital’s boss detained
The general manager of Beijing Capital Group, one of the city government’s most powerful companies, was questioned over the corruption scandal that has already seen Beijing’s vice-mayor removed from office. As head of Capital Land, Liu Xiaoguang – who has not been charged with any offence – was in charge of China’s sixth-largest real estate developer and also had responsibility for construction, financial services and water treatment projects. Disgraced vice-mayor Liu Zhihua was in charge of urban development in Beijing and headed the office overseeing much of the US$40 billion the city is spending on Olympics projects before his June 11 dismissal for unspecified corruption.
Moonwalk set for 2024
A Chinese manned lunar mission including a walk on the moon’s surface is scheduled for 2024, according to lunar program vice-director Long Lehao. Long said the moon walk would be the culmination of a program in which a robot explorer would bring a chunk of the moon’s surface back to earth in 2017. There are also plans to send a landing vehicle to the moon in 2020 to conduct tests.
New Tibet train opens
A US$3 billion, 2,000-kilometer rail link connecting Beijing and Tibet has opened, featuring a train designed to withstand the rigors of a journey over 5,000-meter passes. The train is equipped with systems to stabilize tracks over permafrost and cabins with enriched oxygen to help passengers deal with high altitudes. The railway has been criticized as part of Beijing’s campaign to crush Tibetan culture, and environmentalists worry about the railway’s impact on the highlands. Railway officials said it would help improve economic links and teach more people about Tibet’s unique culture.
Filling up on Big Macs
McDonald’s and Sinopec announced plans to build drive-through outlets of the fast food restaurant in 30,000 gas stations across China to capitalize on growing car ownership. McDonald’s has 760 restaurants in China and opened its first drive-through outlet in Dongguan, Guangdong province, last December. Two more have since opened, in Foshan and Shanghai. Sinopec said the deal meant it could differentiate its brand from rival China National Petroleum Corp.
Growing party influence
More than 85% of private-sector enterprises in China that employ three or more Communist Party members currently have party branches, Ouyang Song, vice minister of the Organization Department for the Communist Party’s Central Committee, told a news conference. He said that the party hoped to boost the figure, underlining the growing convergence of interests between China’s private sector and its communist rulers.
Guizhou journalist Li Yuanlong was sentenced to two years’ jail for inciting subversion after posting political articles on overseas websites banned on the mainland. He planned to appeal. He has also been denied political rights for two years. Another jailed journalist, Shi Tao, filed an appeal against a 10-year sentence imposed last year for "revealing state secrets". Yahoo’s Chinese partner was accused of helping the authorities identify Shi through his e-mail account. Li, who used the pen-name Yelang, or "night wolf", used a Hotmail account to distribute his work, but Microsoft denied involvement in the case.
Teenagers mix old and new
Chinese teenagers still adhere to traditional values about family and saving money, a recent survey by McKinsey & Company has found. Urban teens aged 12 to 17 spend US$36 billion every year, but more teens than adults saw saving a significant amount of money as a "virtue". Among respondents, 96% expected to support their parents in old age.
Guangdong raises minimum wage
The minimum wage in Guangdong province will rise an average of 17.8% from September 1 in an effort to attract migrant workers. Workers in Guangzhou will earn a minimum US$97.5 (RMB780) per month, in Shenzhen US$101.25 (RMB810), and second-tier cities like Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan and Zhongshan will see the minimum wage hiked to US$86.25 (RMB690). Although it is the seventh time Guangdong has raised the minimum wage in 12 years, this is the biggest single increase.
China outlaws body part trade
The sale of human body parts and related commercial activities will be banned from August 1. Only medical institutes, medical schools, medical research institutes and forensic research institutes will be allowed to accept body donations. About 20,000 transplants are conducted in China each year, but at least two million Chinese patients need them. It has been reported that organs for transplant in China have been taken from executed criminals, but the Ministry of Health has repeatedly denied the claim.
US$100m for waterways project
The Asian Development Bank announced a US$100 million loan to China to build or upgrade wastewater treatment facilities, repair and extend collection networks and add stormwater-pumping capacity in Wuhan. Some 56% of Wuhan’s rivers and 89% of its lakes are polluted due to wastewater discharges that sometimes go untreated, affecting 8 million people.
CHINA BY NUMBERS
The capitalization of currently tradable shares on mainland stock markets is equal to 18% of the Hong Kong market’s total value.
Chinese farmers use 400 kilograms of chemical fertilizer per hectare of land.
In developed countries, 225 kilograms per hectare is seen as the safe limit.
China’s tax revenue for the first half of 2006 rose 22.3% to US$241 billion.
Pollution problems cost China more than US$200 billion a year, according to official calculations.
China’s GDP for 2005 was US$2.26 trillion.
Spending on television, newspaper, and magazine advertising in China rose 25% in the first quarter from the same period in 2005, to US$10.3 billion.
China’s foreign exchange reserves rose above US$900 billion in July.
China’s monthly trade surplus hit a record US$13 billion in June.