President Xi to lead overall reform





>>  Chinese president offers condolences to Russia over Volgograd blasts

By Chen Jian

Chinese President Xi Jinping extended condolences to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday of December 30 over two terror attacks in Russia’s southern city of Volgograd, which left dozens of people dead.

In his message, Xi expressed his sympathy and condolences for the heavy casualties caused by the two explosions.

On the same day, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also sent a message to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over the deadly attacks.

At least 15 people were killed and 27 others injured when a suspected bomb exploded on a trolley bus in Volgograd on Monday and a suicide bomber attacked a railway station in the same city Sunday, killing 17 and injuring 45.





>>  China “strongly” condemns Volgograd attacks

By Liao Lei

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Monday of December 30 said China “strongly” condemned recent terrorist attacks in the Russian city of Volgograd.

At a regular press briefing, Qin said China expressed deep condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy for their families.

At least 10 were killed and 10 more injured early on Monday when an bomb went off in a trolley bus in Volgograd, the second deadly blast in two days in the city.

A female suicide bomber on Sunday blew herself up at a railway station in Volgograd, killing 17 and injuring dozens.





>>  Trolley bus blast kills at least 10 in Russia’s Volgograd

By Liu Hongxia

At least ten people were killed and 28 others injured in a trolley bus blast in Russia’s southern Volgograd on Monday of December 30, authorities said.

The blast, the second in two days, occurred at 8:25 a.m. Moscow time (0425 GMT), when commuters were on their way to work or school. Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, who is in the city, said three people hospitalized were in serious condition.

Xinhua reporters at the scene said the bus was badly damaged, and the police have cordoned off the site. Ambulances, fire trucks, police cars and vehicles of the Emergency Situations Ministry were working at the scene.

President Vladimir Putin has been updated with the deadly blast, and a terrorist investigation has been underway.

Russian Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the fresh explosion could also be a terror attack, resembling the Sunday one and another in October that left seven people dead.

A suicide bomber ripped a railway station in Volgograd on Sunday of December 29, killing 17 people and injuring 45 others.  The Emergency Situations Ministry has sent a plane with medical modules onboard to treat the victims of the new explosion.

Families of those who were killed in the blasts will receive a million rubles (30,580 U.S. dollars) each in compensation, and people hurt in the attacks will get 200,000 to 400,000 rubles (6,100 to 12,200 dollars), Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said Monday.





>>  Chinese, Russian FMs talk over Volgograd blasts, Abe’s shrine visit

By Li Bo

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, held a phone conversation on Monday of December 30 to exchange views on the serial blasts in Volgograd and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Wang strongly denounced the terrorist attacks in Russia’s Volgograd, saying that China supports the measures taken by Russia to safeguard national security and stability.

Lavrov expressed gratitude to the Chinese side, stressing that Russia is willing to strengthen cooperation with China in the fight against terrorism.

On Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Class-A war criminals of WWII, Wang said Abe’s move must prompt high alert of all peace-loving nations in the world.

China and Russia, as victorious countries of the world war against Fascism and as permanent members of the UN Security Council, should jointly maintain international justice and post-war order, Wang said.

Lavrov said Russia holds completely identical stance with China on the Yasukuni Shrine issue.

Russia opposes Abe’s visit to the shrine, deeming it provocation to its Asian neighbors, Lavrov said.

Abe’s visit shows that Japan is unwilling to objectively face up to its past and is trying to whitewash its militaristic history of aggression and colonial rule, he said.

The Russian side is dissatisfied with Japan’s attitude toward the outcomes of Wold War II, he said.

Lavrov urged Japan to correct its erroneous historical view and avert further moves that will hurt the feelings of the victims of Japanese aggression in various countries and that will intensify regional tension.

He said Russia is ready to work with China to safeguard regional security and stability.

The two foreign ministers also exchanged New Year greetings, vowing to enhance communication, exchanges and cooperation in 2014 and jointly promote the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership to a higher level.





>>  Silver lining to China-Russia trade clouds

By Zhu Shaobin, Ge Wannian and Wang Zuokui

China-Russia trade has downshifted, rising only 0.5 percent so far in 2013, and concern is growing that trade for the whole year might not grow at all from 2012.

With December’s data not due till January, a sharp slowdown of bilateral trade this year is almost certain.

China-Russia trade value in Jan.-Nov. stood at 81 billion U.S. dollars, up 0.5 percent. The growth rate is more than 10 percentage points down on a year ago, according to China’s general customs administration.

During the period, exports to Russia reached 44.56 billion U.S. dollars, up 11.3 percent while Russian exports to China stood at 36.52 billion U.S. dollars, down 10.1 percent.

“The global economic situation is the major cause of the slowdown,” said Li Jianmin, a researcher on Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

External factors began to effect what was 88.2 billion U.S. dollars of trade in 2012, a record year. Growth that year of 11.2 percent, however was far below the dizzy heights of 42.7 percent and 43.1 percent in 2011 and 2010. The first half of 2013, saw the first contraction of trade since the global financial crisis in 2008, down 1.2 percent. Things have picked up slightly since.

Li said that the industrial structure of Russia has not improved for many years and the economy lacks new growth points. Russian exports also fell in the first 11 months and a 3-percent slide in the Russian economy in 2013 is expected.

Meanwhile, China’s economic transition goes on apace, switching from the old investment-led model to one more concerned with domestic demand, she said.

“It is difficult to see any real change in the short term before a significant improvement in the global economy,” Li said.

It’s not all bad, according to Sun Zhuangzhi of Shanghai Cooperation Organization studies, who reckons energy will be of strategic importance because of its mutual benefits and complementary nature.

Energy cooperation means better guarantees and greater diversity for energy supplies to China and new markets for Russia in the Asia-Pacific, Sun said.

Russia will supply 46 million tonnes of oil to China each year in the next 25 years, according to agreements signed between the two countries.

Apart from traditional goods, China’s non-financial direct investment in Russia totalled 4.42 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, an average of 40 percent growth in the previous ten years, according to the Commerce Ministry.

In April, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, in Beijing that Russia is open to Chinese investment. He welcomed Chinese companies to Russia, saying his country is working on a quality environment for foreign investors.

In early December, the city of Suifenhe in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province became the first Chinese city to use the rouble.

Li Jianmin said that this was important for bilateral financial cooperation not only to invigorate trade in border regions, but to help formulate an exchange rate mechanism between the yuan and rouble.





>>  China, S.Korea to cooperate in dealing with spillover from Fed’s tapering

By Yoo Seungki

China and South Korea agreed on Monday of December 30 to strengthen bilateral cooperation in dealing with possible spillovers from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering of its quantitative easing.

The agreement came after Xu Shaoshi, minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Hyun Oh-seok in Seoul on Monday to discuss various issues on macro economy and bilateral cooperation.

The two countries have held economic cooperation meetings since 1992 when South Korea and China established diplomatic ties. The meeting rose to the ministerial level in 1999 from the prior vice ministerial-level gathering.

This ministerial meeting marked the 12th of its kind and was also the first since new leaderships took office in the two countries.

The ministers agreed to”strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in tackling global uncertainties arising from the U.S. reduction in quantitative easing and sluggishness in emerging economies,”sharing views that it will have limitations for an individual country to deal with such spillover effects, according to Seoul’s Finance Ministry.

The agreement came after the Fed decided to cut back its monthly bond purchases by 10 billion U.S. dollars to 75 billion dollars starting January next year. The reduction was feared to cause capital outflow from emerging economies.

The economic chiefs also agreed to widen its policy cooperation, especially in the service sector, under the shared view that advancement of the service industry will be mandatory for boosting domestic demand and sustainable growth.

The two sides discussed other various issues, including investment cooperation, urban development and climate change cooperation, the ministry said.





>>  Chinese, German FMs hold phone talks before New Year

By Li Bo

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, held phone talks on Monday of December 30 ahead of the New Year.

Wang said that China and Germany are important strategic partners to each other.

In the coming year, the Chinese side is ready to work with Germany to map out and put into action exchanges and cooperation between the two countries so as to carry forward the already successful bilateral relations, Wang said.

For his part, Steinmeier said that ties between Germany and China are very important and that the two sides have close exchanges in politics, economy and other fields.

The new German government attaches great importance to advancing the ties between Germany and China and is ready to continue to deepen friendship and cooperation between the two countries, he said.

The two ministers also exchanged views on Japan.





>>  China to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam: Chinese FM

By Hu Yao

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday of December 30 that China is willing to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam.

The development of China-Vietnam relations maintains momentum and China attaches great importance to its ties with Vietnam, Wang told Vietnamese Deputy Prime Miniser and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a telephone conversation.

Wang said that leaders of the two countries have reached consensus on comprehensively carrying forward the strategic partnership between the two countries with pledges to promote maritime, land and financial cooperation.

He said China is willing to work with Vietnam to implement the leaders’ consensus and enhance high-level exchanges.

China is also willing to work with Vietnam to prepare for the seventh meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation, to make the first round of talks of the working group for joint maritime development successful, and to push for the early start of joint investigation in sea waters out of the mouth of Beibu Bay in a bid to make substantial progress in joint maritime development.

Minh said that he agreed with Wang. Vietnam is willing to work with China to further promote bilateral relations in the coming year, he said.

The two officials also exchanged views on regional issues including Japan.





>>  Canada’s astronaut, space executive call for int’l cooperation with China

By Zhang Dacheng

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is calling for cooperation with China in space and wants it to be part of any international effort to return to the moon, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported on Sunday of December 29 on its website.

“I think right now a lot of people see it as kind of crazy to cooperate with the Chinese, but I think it’s the next logical step, ” CBC quoted Hadfield as saying in a recent interview with the Canadian Press.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003. Hadfield said China’s ambitious space program aims to eventually put an astronaut on the moon.

He also cited the fact that China launched in 2011 an experimental space station, saying it will be replaced with a more permanent one to be completed in 2020.

However, China was barred from participating in the current orbiting space station, largely because of U.S. objections over political differences.

Hadfield said a logical progression would be to include as many countries as possible in an international mission beyond Earth — “hopefully including China and India and the other countries that have launch capability and then progress to the next stepping stone, the next natural waypoint out to space, which is the moon.”

Hadfield, who became a Canadian astronaut in 1992, visited Mir in November 1995 on the U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis, becoming the only Canadian to ever board the Russian space station.

“If you predicted in 1989 that I would fly on an American shuttle to go build a Russian spaceship, people would have said you were crazy,” said Hadfield, who last March became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.

“So I think looking forward, there’s a great opportunity to include the Chinese in the world space program — the international space program,” Hadfield added.

Hadfield attracted worldwide attention with his dramatic photos of the Earth, his tweets and his Space Oddity video during his space station visit which began when he blasted off in December 2012. He retired after returning to Earth in mid-May 2013 and is now an adjunct professor with the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Iain Christie, executive vice-president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, which represents the interests of more than 700 aerospace companies across Canada, said China’s presence in space cannot be ignored.

“I think China is back where we were in North America 50 years ago,” he said in the interview. “I am hopeful that their enthusiasm for space becomes infectious to the rest of us.”

Christie said decisions will have to be made in the coming years.

“We’re going to have to decide what to do about engaging with China in space — whether it’s to be more collaborative or more competitive,” he concluded.





>>  President Xi to lead overall reform

By Fu Shuangqi, Meng Na and Wu Jing

President Xi Jinping will head a leading group for overall reform, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee decided on Monday of December 30.

The political bureau decided to set up the group to lead the work to comprehensively deepen reform and appoint Xi as its head, according to a decision adopted at a political bureau meeting held on Monday of December 30.

This is the latest development of a reform blueprint put forward at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

A decision made at the session first came up with the idea of establishing such a leading group, an important reform move.

The leading group will be in charge of “designing reform on an overall basis, arranging and coordinating reform, pushing forward reform as a whole, and supervising the implementation of reform plans,” the document said.

It will research and decide on major guidelines, policies and schemes for systematic reform in economic, political, cultural, social and environmental sectors as well as the Party system, the document said.

The group will lead major reforms at the national level and address major issues with nationwide significance and long-term effect, which involve different regions and departments.

It will guide, push forward and supervise the implementation of major reform policies, the document said.

When explaining the reform blueprint to the plenary session in November, Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said it is hard for certain or several departments to push forward such a complicated systematic reform so a higher level of leadership is needed.

The leading group will allow the Party play a better role of commanding the whole situation and coordinating the efforts of all quarters, he said.

Prof. Xie Chuntao, with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, told Xinhua that setting up the group is necessary because reform this time will be both unprecedented in scale and degree. A goal has been set to “achieve decisive results in the reform of key sectors by 2020.”

To achieve this, an institution that exercises core leadership is essential because reform on such a large scale will involve not only government institutions but also those of the Party, legislature and judiciary, said Xie.

Experts also suggested that top-level design and leadership is very much needed in future reform to break entrenched vested interests and boost confidence.





>>  Chinese President attends opera gala

By Tian Ye

Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a Chinese opera gala to celebrate New Year, on Monday evening of December 30.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and five other senior officials of the Communist Party of China including Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli, also attended the gala.

Held at the National Center for the Performing Arts in central Beijing, the gala encompassed classics from several schools of Chinese opera.





>>  China’s top antigraft commission to meet

By Zuo Yuanfeng and Wu Jing

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will convene a plenary meeting in January.

The decision was revealed in a statement released on Monday after a meeting of the CPC Central Committee’s Political Bureau.

“Corruption is still commonplace, and hotbeds of corruption still exist. The anticorruption situation remains difficult and complicated,” said the statement.

Praising this year’s victories against the corrupt and decadent, the statement insists that, in the long term, the entire Party must work against corruption.

The statement stressed that combating corruption demands effort from the entire Party, and each Party organization must shoulder their responsibilities.

According to the statement, groups and individuals who do not fulfill their obligations will be punished and made examples of to alert Party members and officials.

Disciplines in organization, finance, work and life must be strictly obeyed, and questionable behavior must be spotted and corrected as early as possible, it said.

Also at the meeting, a revised regulation on selecting and appointing Party and government officials was approved, with more stipulations on the management of the Party and officials.

The 2002 regulation has played a key role in preventing and rectifying improper selection and appointment of officials, the statement said.

According to the revised regulation, leading Party organizations should strengthen supervision over official selections, and democratic recommendation procedures should be improved and upheld.

The regulation also made stipulations on the review of official performance, open selection based on fair competition and stricter procedure for exceptional personnel promotion.

The CCDI urged Party committees at all levels to map out a scientific, comprehensive, effective and simplified personnel selection system in accordance with the new rules.





>>  China’s HD observation satellite opens its eyes

By Hu Longjiang and Yu Xiaojie

China’s high-definition Earth observation satellite, the Gaofen-1, has been formally put into service, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) announced on Monday of December 30.

The satellite has undergone eighth months of in-orbit tests since it blasted off on April 26. It has met requirements and even performed better than expected by sending back high quality photos, according to SASTIND.

The satellite will help in geographic and resources surveys, environment and climate change monitoring, precision agriculture, disaster relief and city planning.

Its major users will be the Land and Resources, Environmental Protection and Agriculture Ministries.

Gaofen-1 means China’s is self-sufficient in more high-resolution Earth observation data, and China’s use of remote-sensing satellite has entered a new phase, said Xu Dazhe, head of the SASTIND.

Gaofen-1 provided data on the Lushan earthquake in Sichuan; floods in northeast China; and the smog in north and east China during the test period. It also provided Pakistan with image data after the September 24 earthquake.

Gaofen-1 was the first of five or six satellites to be launched for high-definition Earth observation before 2016. It is also the first low-orbit remote-sensing satellite designed to be in use for longer than five years.

It carries two 2m panchromatic/8m multispectral high-definition cameras, and four 16m resolution wide-angle cameras, which means it can capture images of a car or even a bicycle on the Earth.

Wang Chengwen, deputy head of the Gaofen projects, said that Gaofen-1′s efficiency of Earth observation is much higher compared to other remote-sensing satellites.

The Gaofen-2 satellite is scheduled to be launched early in 2014.





>>  China to see better trade environment in 2014

By Liu Xinyong

China will see a better trade environment next year partly due to rising external demand, as economic recovery in some developed nations may accelerate, the People’s Daily reported on Monday of December 30.

“The trade environment will continue to improve as the government’s policies to promote trade growth show further effects and some developed nations see recovering economies,” the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China said in a report.

The contribution of foreign trade to the country’s GDP growth will likely rise to 0.1 percentage point in 2014, up from minus 0.1 percentage point for the first three quarters of this year, Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center, was cited as saying.

The Ministry of Commerce forecast on Friday that China’s foreign trade is likely to grow by more than 7 percent from the previous year to reach 4.14 trillion U.S. dollars in 2013, slightly lower than the official target of 8 percent.

In late July, the government rolled out a raft of measures to stabilize trade growth to help trade companies that were confronting weak external demand and rising costs.

However, external demand will gradually pick up next year, as many institutions predict global economic recovery will accelerate in 2014.

In a report earlier this month, Citigroup forecast that global real GDP growth will rise from 2.4 percent in 2013 to about 3.1 percent in 2014, with growth in advanced economies up from 1.1 percent this year to about 2 percent in 2014.





>>  China estimates direct govn’t debt at 20.7 trl yuan

By Lin Jianyang

The National Audit Office (NAO) said on Monday of December 30 in a statement that governments at various levels in China were liable for a total direct debt of 20.7 trillion yuan (3.4 trillion U.S. dollars) as of the end of June 2013.

Total debt guaranteed by governments at various levels amounted to 2.93 trillion yuan at the end of June, the NAO said in the statement posted on its website.

Debt for which governments at various levels might shoulder some of the rescue burden amounted to 6.65 trillion yuan, data revealed.

The auditing results came after a two-month-long nationwide audit of government debt by the NAO in August and September of 2013.

In breakdown, the auditing results showed that direct debt owned by the Chinese central government stood at 9.81 trillion yuan at the end of June, while the remaining 10.89 trillion yuan was owned by local governments.

The debt guaranteed by the central government was at 260 billion yuan, while debt guaranteed by local governments totaled 2.67 trillion yuan, according to the results.

Over the past year or so, the market has been worried over the scale of local government debt, as there has been no official update on it since mid-2011, when the NAO put the nationwide figure at around 10.7 trillion yuan by end of 2010.





>>  China strives to improve lives of left-behind women

By Sun Xiaozheng

In Lianchi village of Yongren County, Yunnan Province, 43-year-old Li Fumei is dancing with other women in a circle at the village square.

Li’s husband is a migrant worker in neighboring Guangdong Province. Her only son is a driver in coastal Fujian Province.

Li’s husband and son only come home once every year during the Spring Festival. The rest of the time, Li stays home alone taking care of her father-in-law.

Lianchi village has a total of 1,020 households, with an average of two people from each household working as migrant workers. The left-behind are all women, children or seniors.

To seek better-paying jobs, more and more married men in the village, unhappy with their tiny farming incomes at home, make their annual exodus to cities after the Spring Festival, leaving their loved ones behind.

The wives who stay in the countryside not only bear the loneliness but also toil to keep their homes running.

To improve the lives of these left-behind women, the Lianchi village committee has built a cultural square and set up an art troupe to organize dancing and singing activities for those left at home.

“When I was home by myself, I sometimes felt lonely. Now I often come to the square to dance and sing with others. I love singing and dancing, plus chatting with other people makes me feel better,” Li Fumei said.

China now has nearly 50 million left-behind women in rural areas, statistics from the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) show.

Research conducted by the China Agricultural University also showed that left-behind women have taken up more than 85 percent of both farm work and household chores.

In recent years, the Chinese government, along with non-governmental organizations, has made many attempts to help alleviate the loneliness and stress of left-behind women.

According to a decision approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee last month, the government pledged to improve a care service network for rural children left behind by their parents as well as for women and the elderly in rural areas.

Starting in 2010, the ACWF began to build “homes for women” nationwide to provide women with a place to organize entertainment activities, give psychological guidance and offer legal consultation to protect their rights. Now there are a total of 745,000 “homes for women” across China.

Encouraged by the ACWF, support groups have also been set up across the country to help left-behind women with production, parenting and employment, and provide them with psychological counseling.

The ACWF also provides preferential loans to left-behind women who are willing and able to start their own businesses.

Li Jiyan, a 32-year-old in Yongren County, started her own embroidery association in 2009 after receiving a government loan. The association’s annual production value has now reached more than 3 million yuan (about 488,600 U.S. dollars).

“Before I started my own business, my income was 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per year. Now I make 150,000 to 160,000 yuan a year,” Li said, adding that all of the left-behind women in her village have joined her association to embroider.

“They do not need to migrate to work outside anymore,” said Li.

Yongren County has provided a total of 20.41 million yuan in preferential loans to left-behind women since 2009, helping 277 women to start their own businesses in industries including planting, animal breeding and embroidery.

“To help women is to help families and, ultimately, to contribute to society,” said Zheng Lu, vice president of the Yunnan Provincial Women’s Federation.





>>  China arable land area above food security red-line

By Wang Yaguang and Wang Libin

Although China’s latest national land survey showed better-than-expected arable land figures, the country’s growing population, accelerating urbanization and pollution are eroding the country’s arable land and threatening food security.

According to the results of the second national land survey released on Monday, China’s arable land totaled 2.03 billion mu (about 135.4 million hectares) at the end of 2012, 227 million mu more than the “bottom line” set by the government to ensure food security.

The total arable land area was larger than in the previous land survey. However, the actual available arable land was just slightly above the government’s red-line after deducting land arranged for forest and pasture restoration or land deemed not suitable for farming because of pollution, said Wang Shiyuan, vice minister of land and resources at a press conference.

The three-year survey showed that China’s per capita arable land area shrank to 1.52 mu by the end of 2009, far below the world average of 3.38 mu, Wang said.

Wang said China must step up efforts to guarantee the arable land red-line, as the per capita figure is still decreasing due to a growing population and accelerating urbanization process.

To make the situation worse, soil pollution is also hurting farming, with around 50 million mu — about 2 percent of the country’s arable land — too polluted with heavy metals or other waste to be used for growing food, according to Wang.

As the world’s most populous nation, China has been striving to maintain food self-sufficiency.

The country saw another bumper year for grain production in 2013 as output gained 2.1 percent year on year to hit 601.94 million tonnes, marking the 10th consecutive year for increased grain output in China, according to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics.

China’s second national land survey was conducted between 2007 and 2009. The country’s first national land survey ended in 1996.





>>  805 companies face punishment for pollution

By Hu Longjiang and Gu Ruizhen

China’s environmental watchdog on Monday of December 30 said it plans to punish 805 companies for violating environmental protection regulations.

These companies were identified during a massive monthly inspection in November, when the Ministry of Environmental Protection checked 29,285 industrial and catering companies in 37 cities across China, according to the ministry.

The names of 33 companies, including Ansteel Group’s chemical branch in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, were publicized by the ministry for serious air or environmental pollution.

Another 890 small workshops were shut down in the inspection, the ministry said.

Journalists had been invited to participate in the inspection, it said.

Four major illegal practices were found during the inspection, including irregular use of pollution treatment facilities, excessive discharge of pollutants, failure to upgrade technology and industrial capacities, and improper handling of hazardous waste and dust, according to the ministry.

The ministry said it will join local authorities in rectifying the illegal acts and punish “relevant staff.”





>>  Chinese city cancels polluting fireworks

By Feng Guodong and Li Baojie

Authorities in a central Chinese city on Monday of December 30 called off a New Year fireworks show to avoid further dirtying the already smoggy air.

The Wuhan government in Hubei province had scheduled the show for Tuesday night. Wuhan has been wrapped in murk for days and the bad air in December has prompted a firework ban in downtown areas.

Most residents support the move as the display is costly and can cause further pollution. Among urban residents, pollution has become a main source of complaints and health concern.

Fireworks celebrations had been allowed for the past 19 years.

Authorities in Beijing said earlier that firework celebrations will be canceled if serious air pollution is forecast for the Lunar New Year, a festival that usually features massive use of pyrotechnics.

The firework firestorm last year in Beijing led to a surge in the PM 2.5 reading to 500 micrograms per cubic meter on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The Chinese have a tradition of celebrating the Lunar New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, hoping the noise will fend off evil spirits and bad luck.





>>  Beijing subway network stretches to 465 km

By Cao Kai and Yang Yichen

The subway network in the Chinese capital of Beijing reached 465 km as a new section of Line 8 opened on Saturday of December 28.

The metro network hauled an average of 8.76 million passengers per day from January to November, up 30.5 percent over the previous year, according to the municipal transport commission on Monday.

It moved a daily maximum of 11.06 million passengers, according to the commission.

The subway accounted for about 40 percent of passenger volume in the first 11 months of this year on the city’s public transportation system, which includes buses, taxis and subways, according to the commission.

A total of 62 km in track will be added to Beijing’s subway network next year as Line 7 and parts of Line 6, Line 14 and Line 15 will be put into operation, bringing the total track length to 527 km by the end of 2014.

Shanghai, another Chinese megacity, currently has a subway track length of 567 km.





>>  Beijing’s smog mainly caused by industrial pollution

By Yang Hui and Wu Jingjing

Industrial pollution is the biggest source of the PM 2.5 problems which cause Beijing’s smog, the Chinese Academy of Sciences said on Monday of December 30.

Secondary inorganic aerosols — sulfates and nitrates — are responsible for 26 percent of Beijing’s PM 2.5, followed by industrial production and coal burning at 25 percent and 18 percent. Soil dust accounted for 15 percent. Beijing’s heavily industrialized neighboring provinces add to pollution in the capital.

The report suggests that energy structure improvement and regional cooperation are needed to combat air pollution.

Days of smog over large parts of China caused traffic jams and school closures earlier this month.

Scientists sampled PM 2.5 in different seasons and analyzed its chemical composition and seasonal variation from 2009 to 2010. The research findings were published in the influential “Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics”.





>>  High-speed railway to link Beijing, Shenyang

By Cao Kai and Xu Yang

A high-speed railway linking the Chinese capital of Beijing with Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, is expected to kick off construction in the first half of 2014.

The 709-km railway will cut travel time between the two cities in half to 2.5 hours, said Tian Limin, a senior manager of the railway project at a conference organized by the Liaoning provincial government on Monday.

The railway is expected to be completed within 5 years with a total investment of 124.5 billion yuan (20.4 billion U.S. dollars). It is designed with a speed of 350 km per hour, said Tian.

After completion of the railway, 13 out of the 14 cities in the province will have high-speed rail connections, said Wang Zhanzhu, head of the Shenyang Railway Bureau.

China’s railway network topped 100,000 km on Saturday, as several new high-speed rail links started operations ahead of one of the busiest travel seasons next month.

The newly opened links include the Xiamen-Shenzhen railway, the Xi’an-Baoji railway, the Chongqing-Lichuan railway, and others in southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. They have a combined distance of 2,000 km.

Of the 100,000 km of track, more than 10,000 km are highspeed, said Hu Yadong, vice general manager of the China Railway Corporation.





>>  Taiwan fishermen enjoyed fixed fish prices

By Tian Ying, Zha Wenye and He Zili

Syuejia District in southern Taiwan’s Greater Tainan is known as “the home of milkfish”.

It was with milkfish that, in 1662, local people welcomed Zheng Chenggong, a Ming general, upon his victory over the Dutch colonialists who had occupied Taiwan for 38 years.

Today, milkfish farming is still the primary livelihood of locals, but a difficult one. Bad weather effects their trade and even a bumper harvest means undercutting by middlemen.

Since 2011 when the Chinese mainland and Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) early harvest program, milkfish have been part of the program and exported to the mainland with a preferential tariff.

The mainland and Syuejia district started a scheme of “contract farming” which allows aquiculturalists to sell their product directly to the mainland importer, Shanghai Fisheries General Corp. Group, at a price fixed by contract.

“It has helped fish farmers a lot, and now they are queuing for a quota to join the scheme next year,” said Wang Wen-tsung, the president of Tainan milkfish farming association which brokered the deal, explaining the “contract farming” not only cushions fishermen against drastic price fluctuations, but also moderates the market price.

Huang Yi-he, 70, sighs when recalling a “terrible loss” one year when middlemen offered only 28 New Taiwan dollars (NTD) (93 U.S.cents) for one kilogram of milkfish, far below cost price of around 50 NTD per kg.

“Now, there is no such worry,” he says, because the contract sets a floor price which guarantees a profit.

This year, 125 fish farmers in Syuejia, some by renewed contracts, some by drawing lots, participated in the scheme, and each one had 18,000 kilograms of milkfish purchased through contract.

The contract price stands at 70 NTD per kilogram, Huang says. Adjusted for production costs, he managed to earn a profit of some 10 NTD per kilogram.

Huang’s pond measures five hectares with an annual output of nearly 25,000 kilograms of milkfish as well as other aquatic products such as prawns. According to the contract, 18,000 kilograms were purchased at the predetermined price, a profit of 180,000 NTD.

Though not such a handsome margin, Huang is content, as contract-bond purchasing offers him what is often denied to farmers: security.

Wang Wen-tsung says because of the contract farming, middlemen can no longer dominate the market, thus avoiding exceptionally low prices. “When market price rises above contract price, we sell our fish to higher bidders.”

On Sunday, Syuejia held a banquet for fishermen to celebrate contract farming, in the gymnasium of local primary school. Local women prepared milkfish dishes, including fish balls, fish soup, fried fish, and fish hotpot.

After a year of hard work, fish farmers got together to taste the fruits of their labor, hopeful for another good harvest and a good price for their fish.

Huang Yi-he says, “All I want is that the contract ration is enlarged and the purchase price… If the ration grows, I will reassign my ponds of other fish all into milkfish.”





>>  Cross-Strait judicial cooperation handles 40,000 cases

By Tian Ying and He Zili

The Chinese mainland and Taiwan have cooperated on more than 40,000 criminal cases since a 2009 cross-Strait pact on crime, Taiwan’s judicial authorities announced on Monday of December 30.

Police from both sides have captured 230 suspects, and seized over 3,000 kg of narcotics including heroin and ketamine, in that time.

Taiwan’s judicial authorities said the cooperation has been successful in clamping down on drugs.




>>  Hong Kong launches new air pollution information system

By Wang Xin and Li Baojie

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region launched a new air pollution information system called the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) on Monday of December 30.

The EPD said the new system, which will replace the existing Air Pollution Index that was introduced 20 years ago, is intended to better monitor air pollution’s impact on health and provide more timely and useful information to the public.

The AQHI forecast will also be provided to help the public plan their outdoor activities and consider taking precautionary measures to protect their health.





>>  HK’s first international standard velodrome holds completion ceremony

By Xie Xiyu

Hong Kong Velodrome, the first- ever indoor cycling facility that meets the standards of the Union Cycliste Internationale, held the works completion ceremony on Monday of December 30.

Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam officiated at the ceremony, saying that the Hong Kong Velodrome’s core mission would be to provide a local, fixed and quality training base for the Hong Kong Cycling Team (HKCT).

Its completion would also mark Hong Kong’s achievement in owning a venue which is well suited to hosting large-scale and high-level track-cycling competitions, she added.

She also hoped that the velodrome’s completion would help to train up more outstanding cyclists in Hong Kong, striving for better achievement in international competitions and boosting the standard of track cycling in the city.

During the demonstration session, the bronze medal winner of the women’s keirin event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Lee Wai- sze, and other elite cyclists from the HKCT demonstrated their superb skills and speed in pursuit and keirin events, as well as in artistic cycling. Their wonderful demonstrations won great applause from the audience.

Located at 107, Po Hong Road, Tseung Kwan O, the Hong Kong Velodrome boasts a 250-metre indoor cycling track with supporting facilities of international standard and a multi-purpose arena. There are also sports facilities including a fitness room, a table- tennis room, a dance room and a children’s playroom.

Drawing reference from the concept of the cycling athlete’s helmet, the velodrome is uniquely-designed and characterized by an exceptional oval, wavy rooftop design, signifying a perfect synthesis of the element of the sports and the architectural building.

Facilities at the Hong Kong Velodrome will be opened in phases for public use in the first quarter of 2014.





>>  8 terrorists killed in Xinjiang attack

By Yao Yuan, Cao Zhiheng, Zhao Ge and Bai Zhiqiang

Xinjiang police said they had shot dead eight terrorists and captured another one as they busted an “organized and premeditated” terrorist attack early on Monday morning of Deember 30.

Nine terrorists attacked a police station wielding knives at around 6:30 a.m. in Shache County of Kashgar. They also threw explosives and set police cars on fire, the public security bureau of Kashgar told Xinhua.

An initial probe showed the gang, led by Usman Barat and Abdugheni Abdukhadir, had gathered to watch terrorist videos and promote religious extremist ideas since August. They had also raised funds, made and tested explosives for planned terrorist attacks, the bureau said.

Police reported no casualties. They confiscated 25 explosives and nine knives at the site of the attack.

Local social order has returned to normal, according to police.





>>  Sex scandal brings down health chief

By Yao Yuan, Shi Qingwei and Zhao Yong

A sex scandal in a northeastern Chinese city has forced the resignation of a health bureau chief, the local discipline authority said on Monday of December 30.

The discipline inspection commission of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, confirmed that health bureau chief Yan Shi and Li Chenyang, head of a local women’s and children’s hospital, were under investigation after an online post accused Li of corruption and trading sex for benefits.

The post cited two surveillance video clips that allegedly showed the two checking in the same hotel room on November 27 and Dec. 11, where they stayed for hours.

The commission said Li had been suspended from her post, and inspectors were looking into the claims .





>>  China stocks lower on weak financial sector

By Han Qiao

Chinese shares rose in morning trade on Monday of December 30 after a government pledge to protect small investors, but gave up their early gains in the afternoon, with losses led by the financial sector.

Over the day, benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.18 percent, or 3.72 points, to finish at 2,097.53. The Shenzhen Component Index lost 0.62 percent, or 49.55 points, to finish at 7,999.30.

Total turnover on the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses shrank slightly to 160.14 billion yuan (26.24 billion U.S. dollars) from 162.31 billion yuan recorded the previous trading session.

The Shanghai Composite Index opened 0.36 percent higher in the morning as market sentiment was brightened by a document released on Friday on the interests of small investors.

The measures include information transparency and better dispute settlement and compensation.

But shares dropped in the afternoon, led by banking and insurance shares, as cash concerns lingered.

Bank of Communications sank 2.31 percent to 3.80 yuan per share. Bank of China shed 1.88 percent to 2.61 yuan, and China Minsheng Bank dropped 1.30 percent to 7.57 yuan.

China Life lost 1.38 percent to 14.98 yuan and China Pacific Insurance edged down 0.81 percent to 18.37 yuan.

Furniture and machinery were the two strongest sectors across the board with sub-indices tracking the two sectors up 1.77 percent and 1.63 percent respectively.

The ChiNext Index, tracking China’s NASDAQ-style board of growth enterprises, rose 1.06 percent, or 13.69 points, to close at 1,307.99 points.





>>  Changan Auto posts 21 pct sales growth

By Zhang Guilin and Li Baojie

Chinese carmaker Chongqing Changan on Monday of December 30 announced 2013 sales of 2.13 million units, annual growth of 21.3 percent.

The growth, the fourth highest among automakers nationwide, was 12 percentage points above the industry average, said Zhang Baolin, president of Changan Auto,

The carmaker has joint ventures with Ford, Mazda and Suzuki, and recorded sales revenue of 160 billion yuan (26.4 billion U.S. dollars), up 40.4 percent from a year ago.

Sales of its own vehicles, mostly minivans, hit 380,000 units, up 71 percent, from a year earlier.

Zhang said the company has set sales targets of 2.33 million units and 175 billion yuan for 2014 including 600,000 own-brand vehicles.





>>  More auto recalls in China in 2013

By Rong Jiaojiao and Chen Weiwei

A record 5.3 million vehicles were recalled across China in 2013, up 65.5 percent from a year earlier, the country’s top quality supervisor said on Monday of December 30.

A total of 1.96 million cars were recalled due to faults found during quality investigations by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, or 37 percent of total recalls.

China launched a recall system in 2004, and over 15 million vehicles so far have been repaired or replaced under the scheme, according to the quality watchdog.

The recall system is important in protecting consumers’ interests and public safety, avoiding large-scale damage and raising the quality standards of automobiles, said the quality watchdog.





>>  New Ford Transit models recalled in China

By Rong Jiaojiao and Chen Weiwei

Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors Co., Ltd.began recall of 8,638 New Ford Transit vehicles on Mondayof December 30, according to China’s quality watchdog.

The recall involves New Ford Transit models manufactured between June 17, 2012 and February 20, 2013, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement.

The vehicles have defective windshield wipers, which may pose safety hazards, the statement said.

Jiangling Motors will replace faulty parts for affected car owners free of charge, according to the statement.







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