Friday, October 27, 2006

Big Hole in China’s Social Security Fund

China is one of the biggest aging societies in the world

The deficit of China’s social security fund has now amounted to trillions of yuan, said Xiang Huaicheng, chairman of the National Council for Social Security Fund, the top management body of the fund in China.

“There is a loophole during the process of the transformation of social security system in our country, a system transformation cost. The cost probably is not to be measured by trillions of yuan, but by tens of trillions of yuan,” Mr. Xiang said on a China Central Television program aired on Friday.

The estimation could be inaccurate, he added, because China is lack of detailed statistics data on social security fund. However, the current fund of 2.3 trillion yuan (about US$0.4 trillion) is far from being able to handle the pension needs of China’s increasingly aging population, Mr. Xiang said, but he hoped the fund could be expanded to close to 10 trillion yuan within five years.

Deficiency and poor management of social security fund has been recognized as a major threat to China’s social stability. Some reforms have been tried to resolve the problems but an overall efficient and stable social security system is yet to be figured out, let along to be established. The country’s wide economic and social development gap among different regions and rampant corruption among government officials only complicate the already thorny and dangerous situation.

The fact that China’s top official of social security fund management acknowledged publicly the existence of a huge loophole only spells how serious the problem has become, because Chinese government officials usually tend to cover up problems in their realms until things are too bad to hide.

Related article:
China Faces Social Security Fund Management Crisis

Zhou Zhengyi Under Investigation Again
Famous Shanghai real estate entrepreneur Zhou Zhengyi has been investigated by Shanghai law enforcement, according to the 21st Century Economy Report. Hong Kong investigators are also seeking to question Mr. Zhou over illegal financial practices.

Mr. Zhou was jailed for three years for financial fraud and got out of prison in May. He is widely speculated as having close ties with high-rank officials and involving in corruption.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cars to be Kept out of Beijing Roads During Important Conference

The logo of the conference is set up on the Tiananmen Square

More than half of the vehicles belonging to government agencies, military units and state-owned companies in Beijing are ordered to be kept at home from Nov.1 to Nov.6, when the China-Africa Cooperation Conference will be held, Beijing Evening News reported.

Meanwhile, many roads in Beijing will be blocked, and even the working and school schedule will be changed to guarantee good traffic during the conference, which actually will be held from Nov.3 to Nov. 5.

This is just another crazy example to show how bad the traffic in Beijing has become. In order to make sure hundreds of government officials and guests from African countries will be able to travel smoothly from the airport to hotels and around the city during their stay, the city could not do much but to ask large amounts of cars not to get on the roads at all, as well as government agencies and schools to pick other working or class hours than usual, no matter how confusing and incontinent that will be.

If hosting such an international meeting would require such big fusses to keep the traffic going, it’s simply terrifying to think how the city will handle the 2008 Olympic Games.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bloggers in China May be Requested to Reveal Real ID

Young bloggers at a blogger conference in 2005

The Chinese government has asked Internet Society of China, a non-governmental orgnization, to discuss the possibility and related issues of a new regulation requiring bloggers to use their real names and ID information to register for blogs, an official from the society said on Thursday.

The society held a meeting earlier this month, where experts from internet industry, law and government discussed issues like what kind of ID information should be requested, how to make sure the information are accurate and the timeline for the new regulation to take effect, according to a report on the organization’s website. No details of the discussion were revealed.

People who support such a regulation said it could prevent bloggers from publishing vicious comments, such as defamation and insult toward other people, which has occurred in the world of Chinese blog. Other people, especially those from the internet industry, voiced their concerns that the regulation could discourage people to blog and was against the open and free nature of the internet.

Other issues, such as protection of personal information and information verification, could also nullify the initiative, experts said.

Weblog started to gain popularity among Chinese people in 2002, and so far, there have been more than 33 million blogs registered in China, with more than 17 million bloggers, according to a report by China Internet Network Information Center. Like in most places around the world, Chinese bloggers have been blogging without revealing their real identity, and that is also one opportunity for some dissent voices to be heard.

----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bold Moves for China in Grasping Oil Resources

China Natural Petroleum Corporation

China Natural Petroleum Corporation, China's state-owned biggest oil producer, has reached a deal for a joint venture with Rosneft, Russia's state-owned oil giant. The new oil company is called Oriental Energy (translated from Chinese), in which the Chinese will own 49% of its stocks, and the Russian will own 51%, China Youth Daily reported. The new company will mostly operate in Russia, exploring and recovering petroleum there, the newspaper reported.

Earlier, China Petro purchased Rosneft’s stock worth of $500 million.

Meanwhile, an official in charge of China’s energy policy said in Beijing on Wednesday that Chinese companies’ oil exploitations in African countries were “mutually beneficial,” China News Service reported.

Zhang Yuqing, the official, also said that China is “willing to exploit [energy resources] in the United States.”

City to Select Filial Piety Paradigms

Haikou city in southern China’s Hainandao province released on Tuesday the candidates for its first competition of “Ten Stars of Filial Piety,” Hainan Daily reported.

The candidates were selected based on their exceptional behaviors of taking care and respect senior family members or citizens. The final results will be announced at the end of this month.

The campaign in Haiko is just one of many across China aimed at restoring some of the lost traditional values, including filial piety, which was highly regarded and enforced in ancient China.

In recent decades, however, it has become widespread that young people disrespect seniors, including elderly parents, even maltreat or abandon them when they are in need of care. Such a trend is partly the result of people turning their attention away from morality to money-making, as well as lack of education of traditions.
----by Josie Liu

Monday, October 16, 2006

Memorizing the Long March

Late leaders Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, featured in a Long-March movie poster

The Chinese government has launched various activities across the country to mark the 70th anniversary of the successful completion of the Long March, a master piece in the history of the communist-lead revolution in China in last century.

The Red Army started the Long March in October 1934, to evade massive attacks from the Nationalist army. They marched thousands of miles across China from east to west, sustaining battles, heavy casualties, famine, wounds and illness, walking through some of the cruelest conditions such as snow mountains and swamps, till they finally accomplished the mission in 1936.

President Hu Jintao visited an exhibition on the Long March in Beijing on Monday. He urged people to remember the great achievements of the revolutionary generation, and inherit their legacy in the current course of building the country, Xinhua reported.

Janitors Went on Strike Due to Low Pay
More than 100 city janitors in Lanzhou, Gansu, did not go to clean the streets on Monday, in protest against their under-minimum wages, Western Economic Daily reported.

The province, for which Lanzhou is the capital city, increased its monthly minimum wage to 430 yuan (about $54) in August, but some of the city janitors received only 360 yuan ($45) in October. These workers are mostly hired contemporarily. City government cited financial difficulties for the low payment. Labor Union in the city has pledged to investigate and resolve the problem.

----by Josie Liu

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Woman Named the Richest in China

Zhang Yin

The richest entrepreneur now in China, according to the newly released Hurun China Rich List, is Ms. Zhang Yin, Chairwoman of Nine Dragons Paper Industries Company, one of world’s largest manufactures of packaging material based in Dongguan, Gongdong.

Her personal fortune was estimated to be about $3.4 billion, which not only made her the top entrepreneur in China, but also the richest self-made woman in the world - surpassing that of Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling, said Hurun Report, the company that compiled this list.

This is also the first time for a woman to top the China Rich List. The second richest on the list is Mr. Huang Guanyu, with personal fortune amounting at $2.5 billion. There are 35 women on this year’s list, domenstrating the increasing power of women in the private sector of Chinese economy.

Ms. Zhang, 49, was born into a military family in northeastern China province of Heilongjiang. Her career took off at the age of 27, when she came to Hong Kong and started a paper recycling business, recycling waste paper to produce new paper. A few years later, in 1990, she started to recycle paper in the United States and used it as material in her own paper manufacturing factory in Dongguan, established in 1988.

What made her the top of the list was the listing of her company on Hong Kong stock market in March. High price of her company’s stock, of which she owns 75 percent, has helped to boost her fortune.

“I was just lucky,” she once told Chinese media about her success. She said her secret was to “focus on my own work” and “always try to do what I am able to.”

Despite her achievements, she keeps low profile, and many people have never heard of her by the time she was announced the richest entrepreneur in China by Hurun Report on Wednesday.

The China Rich List, first released in 1999, was the creation of English man Rupert Hoogewerf, who also established Hurun Report, a luxury publishing and events group.

The list surveyed thousands of private enterprises around China to find the richest individual who owns or runs the companies, by camparing the stock values owned by these individuals. For non-listed companies, their profits were the basis for evaluation. Inviduals considered for the list were born and raised in China, no matter what passport they might hold today, according to Hurun Report.

On this year's list, real estate, manufacture and information technology are the top three businesses in terms of the fortune they possess. Individuals from IT sector started to appear on the list only a few years ago.

Apparently, Chinese entrepreneurs’ fortune keeps growing, pushing the bench mark of the list about $37 million higher than last year. Also, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Shanghai, Beijing and Jiangsu are home to most of these entrepreneurs, according to the list.
----by Josie Liu

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Harmonious Society the Key Word at Party Meeting

China's top leaders sitting on the stage at the plenum

The annual plenum of the China Communist Party central committee closed on Wednesday and issued the most important result of the meeting, a resolution on “several major issues about building a harmonious society.”

An editorial on People’s Daily, the major party mouthpiece, called the resolution a “guiding document” for the harmonious-society endeavor. The party initiated the drive as the core maneuver to tackle the widely spreading economic inequality among people from different classes and regions in China, as the country has been labeled by some as one of the most unequal economies and societies in the world.

The resolution portrayed the harmonious society as being “built and enjoyed by all Chinese people under the leadership of the CCP.” The concept was also labeled as the essence for the party’s course of building a China-style socialism society.

Through the declaration of the meeting, the party admitted that there were many conflicts and problems within today’s Chinese society, and urged party members to try their best to “increase harmonious elements as much as possible, and decrease the un-harmonious elements as much as possible.”

Specific goals of establishing such a society were articulated by the meeting, including a sounder judicial systems, reining the trend of the widening gap between rural and urban area, boosting technology innovations and "obvious improvements" of environment.

Bold economic developments and emphasis on social fairness and justice were cited as the basis for achieving a harmonious society. The meeting pledged to establish systems that will guarantee social fairness and justice, help the development of rural villages, make education development the priority, and improve public health care and environment protection. The party also mentioned establishing better anti-corruption mechanism and strengthening supervision of party officials.

These goals are set to be reached by the year of 2020, the declaration said.

Generally speaking, these principals and goals are old messages to Chinese people, except for a few things such as the stress on social fairness and intra-party utility, which suggests factional conflicts within the party. Some of the discourse is simply reiterating those that have been sung for many years by the party, although under different names, be it establishing China-style socialism, socialism market economy, or accomplishing the preliminary stage of socialism. Many of these goals have yet to be really achieved.

Among the initials mentioned in the plenum declaration, nothing substantial was mentioned about political reform. The focus was mostly on economy and social developments. The one-party ruling system was resolutely upheld, like always.

Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the question now is not the goals or the strategies, but secondary strategies used to achieve the goals.

“The issue is not what has come out of Beijing’s mouth, as much as it is what is Beijing doing to ensure that what has come out of its mouth is being implemented at the local level,” said Dr. Economy.

----by Josie Liu

Friday, October 06, 2006

CCP Central Committee to Discuss Building Harmonious Society

The annual meeting of the CCP central committee will start on Sunday. The three-day session is expected to discuss in detail maneuvers to achieve the goal of building harmony in Chinese society, with a stress on fairness.

Observers also expect to see the party discuss more efficient ways of cracking down corruption, to maintain its legitimacy and a welcoming image of itself among the public.

Personnel change is also closely watched. There are a lot of speculations that a younger generation of officials, who are viewed as more pragmatic and open- minded, are going to be positioned in some key posts, getting ready for in-side party elections next year on the 17th party congress. Also, these promotion-hopefuls will mostly share the vision with the current leadership.

However, most observers agreed that this is not the time for any major shift in China’s current system and political-economic policies. The long-existing lag between political and economic reform will continue to persist, and serious or institutional political reforms will have to wait till a new generation of leadership, who is expected to take over power in early next decade.

----by Josie Liu