Party chief and Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke of creating a 'harmonious society" and seeking "scientific development," suggesting a move away from a past focus on economic growth alone to a new emphasis on managed wealth creation. Increased fear of China's economy overheating combined with a growing number of problems caused by the pace of economic development – from mismanaged population relocations to social unrest – may partly lie behind the party's newfound prudence. To date this year, 74,000 protests have occurred across China, a one-third increase on 2004, state media reported, citing police records.
The plan also called for China to cut energy consumption and raise efficiency, ensure every child receives education until the age of nine and make healthcare more affordable. Good health care provision is often cited as one of the casualties of China's development.
Speculation that Hu would consolidate his power base by replacing a few Jiang devotees with his own proteges was proved wrong, however. Even Li Keqiang, a presidential favourite who has risen through the party Youth League, Hu's traditional support base, failed to win a place in the 25-seat politburo.
If the party plenum was supposed to inspire the populace to unity, then it was a poor third to China's launching of Shenzhou VI, which dominated Chinese TV screens for several days, and to the highly ceremonial China National Olympics. Chinese people interviewed on television expressed patriotic pride at the shuttle launch – they viewed it as another sign of China rising to global superpower status. One man even quoted Mao Zedong's 1949 speech, saying "The Chinese people have really stood up!"
To mark the end of the fifth plenum with China's second space flight and the opening of the national Olympics dominating the media rather than a leadership speech suggested a new level of political PR sophistication.
Bush to visit China
US President George W. Bush accepted an invitation from President Hu Jintao to visit China in November. The visit will follow the APEC meeting in Korea, said Mike Green, US National Security Council director for Asian affairs and replaces a visit to the US that Hu cancelled following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
China angry at shrine visit
China and South Korea chided Japan for a visit made by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni shrine on October 17, a site widely viewed as a symbol of Japan's past militarism. China's foreign minister Li Zhaoxing summoned the Japanese ambassador in Beijing in order to express China's anger, according to statements made on the foreign ministry's website. Koizumi's visit coincided with the final day of talks being held in Beijing between Shotaro Yachi and Dai Bingguo, Vice Foreign Ministers of Japan and China, respectively. Topics under discussion included the disputed ownership of oil and gas fields in the North China Sea and UN reform – China recently opposed a proposal to give Japan a permanent seat on the Security Council. Koizumi insists he makes the yearly visits to the shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals along with other war dead, in a private capacity and not as prime minister.
Rumsfeld visits China
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited China, his first since taking office five years ago, for talks on military relations. The visit comes amid Beijing's military buildup that is concerning Washington, which says Chinese defense spending is increasing by double-digit percentages annually.
Nearly one third of children living in China's poorest areas suffer from malnutrition, state media reported, citing a report by the Beijing-based Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, underscoring the country's growing economic disparity. The report said 29% of children younger than five who live in the poor regions of southwestern China's Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, or in Qinghai in the northwest, were malnourished, while child malnutrition in urban areas was estimated at 1%.
Iranian FM in Beijing
Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in China in October to hold two days of talks aimed at deepening ties between China and Iran. A Chinese government spokesman said Beijing supported the European initiative to find a solution to Iran's nuclear impasse and that the nuclear question would be one of the issues addressed during talks. Oil and gas were on the meeting agenda as China increasingly relies on an Iranian energy supply with several Chinese oil companies planning investments in Iranian oil and gas companies.
Chen: not in hurry for talks
Taiwan President Chen Shuibian said he would not be rushed into talks with China, saying it was important to preserve the island's sovereign status and raise awareness in world "of how Taiwan differs from China and that Taiwan is not a part of China," Reuters reported, quoting Chen. Chen said he would not allow Taiwan to follow the path of Hong Kong, which became a Special Administrative Region of the Mainland in 1997, following the British handover. The Mainland has promised Taiwan more autonomy than Hong Kong if it accepts the "one-China" policy.
Shenzhou VI returns to earth
After a 115-hour flight that cost US$111 million, space shuttle Shenzhou VI returned to earth amid a fanfare of excitement. Following the shuttle's return, Tang Xianming, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said that China planned a space walk for 2007.
Vice Premier meets Kim
In what Chinese state media dubbed a "goodwill visit", one likely to have focused on advancing the six-party talks to end the nuclear standoff with North Korea, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi met with the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The latest round of the talks ended in Beijing in September with North Korea agreeing to abandon its nuclear weapons in return for energy and security guarantees, but Pyongyang has since said it will not dispose of its atomic weapons until the US delivers light-water reactors for civilian use.
Sweeteners for HK
Beijing will give Hong Kong a package of social and economic liberalization reforms in a show of support for new chief executive Donald Tsang, the South China Morning Post reported. The package includes increasing the scope of yuan business for local banks, giving national residency rights to local students and allowing more Hong Kong service industries to establish mainland businesses.
Torrential rains and typhoons have killed 1,292 people in China so far this year and left 332 missing, with most casualties caused by rains in mountainous areas, state media reported, citing E. Jingping, vice minister of water resources. As of October 8, bad weather had caused direct economic losses of US$19 billion, destroying more than one million buildings and 16 million hectares of croplands. Floods have always been part of life in China, but officials say this year had been more devastating than most.
China pledges aid
China will provide US$10 billion in aid for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs), state media reported. President Hu Jintao delivered a speech at the United Nations entitled "Promote Universal Development to Achieve Common Prosperity", in which he outlined China's aid package. Hu said that China would also accord zero tariff treatment to the 39 least developed countries.
China unfriendly to US: poll
China and Pakistan led the list of countries that most Americans view as "unfriendly" to American interests, according to a poll conducted by market researchers Harris Interactive. The survey of more than 1,200 adults found 53% of Americans perceive China and Pakistan as being unfriendly, while Britain, Canada and Australia were seen as being America's closest allies.
Huang Guangyu, 36, the founder and chairman of Gome Electrical Appliances, is China's richest man for a second consecutive year, with a fortune of US$1.7 billion, according to "The China Rich List," an annual ranking of the country's wealthiest business people compiled by researcher Rupert Hoogewerf. Huang's fortune grew US$400 million from last year, mainly because he sold off US$320 million in stock from his Hong Kong-listed company, China's biggest home-appliance chain. The average wealth of the top 100 on the list soared 48% to US$440 million, from US$297 million in 2004.
China marks Taiwan return
Asserting its claim to Taiwan, the Mainland broke with convention to mark the October 25 anniversary of Japan's return of the island to Chinese rule, with Chinese leaders attending a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. Japan ceded Taiwan to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists at the end of World War II in 1945 after 50 years of colonial rule. After losing the civil war to the Communists in 1949, the Nationalists fled to the island.
Nurse shortage in China
China says it needs at least 2.2 million nurses to care for its 11 million bedridden elderly, but it currently has just one million caretakers, the majority of whom are laid-off workers and female peasants who lack proper training, state media reported, citing a forum on the welfare of the aging. China has 130 million people aged over 60, including 94 million over 65, and estimates suggest that, by 2050, there will be more than 400 million people aged over 65, and at least 100 million aged 80 or older.
Medicine prices to be slashed
The prices of 400 medicines will be cut up to 40% as the government tries to deal with mounting discontent over the rising cost and poor quality of the public healthcare system, state media reported. The National Development and Reform Commission announced it would cap prices on 22 different categories of drugs in what may prove a further blow to pharmaceutical multinationals already facing a tough battle to establish themselves in the Chinese market. High medicine prices have in the past been blamed on profiteering by hospitals which, despite being largely not-for-profit organizations, rely heavily on drug sales.
China's population will stabilize or even shrink from its current 1.3 billion peak in the next three decades as the average age increases and men continue to outnumber women, according to a study by the French-based National Institute of Demographic Studies. The study is based on UN data which projects China "will never reach 1.5 billion inhabitants and will level off at 1.45 billion in 2030 before beginning to decline." The rising cost of living in China will discourage couples from procreating, resulting in the average number of births falling to between 1.5 and 1.8 per woman, below the average of 2.1 needed to replace the previous generations, according to the study. "In 2035, China will have reached the level of demographic aging seen in Japan, which has the highest proportion in the world," the study said.
No progress on human rights
A US congressional report said there had been "no improvement" in human rights in China over the past year as Beijing enforced stricter controls on religion, speech, media and assembly. While China has attempted legal reform and engaged the international community on human rights, it has made few inroads in these areas, according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which criticized Beijing for clamping down on free speech and religious rights and for its treatment of Tibetans and other ethnic minorities who seek greater autonomy.
Text messages censored
The Ministry of Information Industry announced a month-long crackdown in October aimed a curbing "dirty" mobile phone text messages including those containing pornographic and astrological content, the South China Morning Post reported, citing the Ministry website. The censorship may continue beyond October 30 and is likely to affect activists who have used text messaging to plan protests.
A new line of condoms branded "Clinton" and "Lewinsky," named after former US President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky and being sold and manufactured in China by Guangzhou Haojian Bioscience Co, is igniting debates over trademark law, the Los Angeles Times reported. Haojian said it has registered both trademarks, although one trademark attorney interviewed for the story says given Clinton's fame and the evident commercial use of his name, the former president would have a good case to register the name as his own and thus block the company from using it.
China by numbers
China's economy expanded 9.4% in the first nine months of this year, with full-year growth expected at 9.2%, according to official figures.
China's total trade surplus for the first nine months of this year rose to US$68 billion as exports surged 31% over a year earlier to US$546.4 billion and imports reached US$478.1 billion, up 16%.
China's lowest-income families, comprising the bottom 10% of all families, own less than 2% of the total residents' assets, while the top 10% of all families own more than 40% of total assets, according to government statistics.
Bonds accounted for less than 1% of the RMB837 billion in funding sources in the first quarter, while bank loans represent 70% of Chinese fixed-asset investment, according to central bank data.
Advertising spending in China grew 20% in the first half of 2005, with spending on television, newspaper, and magazine ads across 166 cities totaling US$17.7 billion.
China now has 120 million rural laborers seeking a better life in the cities while the unemployment figure stands at about 30 million.
Chinese staged some 74,000 protests across the country in 2004, up from 58,000 in 2003, according to police figures.
Less than 10% of Chinese job candidates are suited to working in a multinational company within the services or export sectors, according to a new study published by McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company's economics think tank.
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