China Informed: a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

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Sat, Mar 1, 1997
China mixes politics with business in Hong Kong

also: reports on Chinese press; job markets in China; natural earthquake in Xinjiang; Li Peng keeps quiet on Mao; real estate in Shanghai; Chinese calligraphy and maps; and more . . .

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Hong Kong: due to intense political pressure from Beijing, a leading investment firm has withdrawn from a deal to underwrite a plan by Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai to list his companies on the Hong Kong stock exchange. An outspoken critic of the PRC government, Lai recently published a photograph of Deng Xiaoping, billed as the last one taken of the man before he died. The Times remarks that many investment firms and other organizations refuse to discuss or comment on the matter.

The Times quotes Martin Lee, the head of the Democratic Party in the colony, who warns that such heavy-handed meddling in Hong Kong's economy does not bode well for the future of Hong Kong's freedom, reports the Times. "As I have said before, you simply cannot separate economic and political freedom," said Lee (Note: the New York Times on-line edition is free, but requires that users register a name and password, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the Times registration page.)

The Business Times reports, Lai will take legal action against the investment firm which refused to list his company. The paper sees a pattern emerging by which "analysts, bankers and fund managers are being asked to pull their punches when talking about China companies and exercise a kind of self-censorship", writes the paper.

Closed society: The New York Times examines why China did not invite foreigners to Deng Xiaoping's funeral. The Times notes that China issued a directive explaining that "Chinese custom" dictated that foreigners not be invited. But the paper noted that emissaries and tribute missions customarily came to such events in imperial times. As the paper suggests, China's leadership wanted to ensure a stability and order, as the carefully choreographed funeral would suggest, and for this reason the event was strictly a matter of "China's internal affairs," so to speak.

It is worth remembering that immediately after Deng's death, the President of Kazakhstan, who was vacationing in China at the time, and a Vietnamese Communist Party Politburo member were summoned by Jiang Zemin and Li Peng for a news conference. See below Sat, Feb 22 .

Chinese press: The New York Times reports about the Chinese press in an article by Seth Faison entitled, Even on Big News Day, Chinese Newspapers Toe Party Line. The author writes, that in times of political change or crisis Chinese turns to newspapers and other forms of media not for China Informed News as such, but for clues into "political shifting" occurring within the government, writes Faison. After Deng's funeral, readers scrambled for newspapers to read the speech given by Jiang Zemin and others. Political power struggles are not overtly discussed or reported, but they find expression in disagreements on such things as economic policy, reports Faison. When Deng Xiaoping died, the Propaganda Department headed up by Ding Guanen left newspapers little leeway, writes Faison. According to one editor quoted by Faison, "They give us the material and [we] put it in."

Earthquake: CNN reports, an earthquake of magnitude 6 struck Xinjiang today. Two people were killed and 1500 houses destroyed. The quake was centered in Jiashi county, and CNN has a map of the region and epicenter.

Party politics: CNN reports that Chinese Premier Li Peng addressed the National People's Congress (NPC).

Opting for caution and emphasizing the needs for increased economic reform, Li omitted reference to Mao Zedong. Li stressed that economic reform must continue, especially for the state-owned sector where unprofitable enterprises continue to suck funds from the central government and place a drag on the flourishing economy. As reported in the story, Li said, "Development and reform of state enterprises is a major economic problem that relates to the nation's economic development and is also a major political problem that relates to the fate of the socialist system."

Li spoke in moderate terms about Taiwan, reports CNN, and confidently predicted that the problem could be solved by negotiation. As for the U.S., Li said "Sino-U.S. relations have undergone relatively large setbacks but are now evidencing a trend towards improvement and development," reports CNN.

Economy: Asia Inc has a China Business Roundup. Shanghai would like to forge closer ties with Hong Kong after the July 1 handover. Areas of cooperation between the two include "finance, trade and management." But there is no word on what exactly this "cooperation" would entail and how it would be achieved.

Shanghai: under new rules Shanghai home owners may now exchange government-assigned homes with other people, reports the Shanghai Star. Such a move is seen as the first step leading toward opening the entire real estate market.

"The regulation is seen as a prelude to the complete commercialization of public housing, which used to be allocated to people by the government for low rent", writes the paper.

Economy: job markets are new structures in China , and the Beijing Review has a story on the disappointments and problems Chinese college graduates and redundant workers face in an economy where government-assigned jobs and iron rice bowls are slowly being discarded for market-oriented systems.

Universities have turned to advertising in newspapers to showcase their recent graduates, writes the magazine. "The change has led highly touted university students to the market, and instilled them with a sense of competition," writes the magazine.

The magazine notes that the number of redundant workers in China's state-owned enterprises ballooned in 1995 to over 6.5 million; one wonders if the figure is considerably higher. According to the magazine, the government has targeted this group for re-training and other programs designed to find them new employment. No longer is the so-called iron rice bowl, by which the state provided such things as subsidized housing and food, "available to numerous redundant employees," it writes. Indeed, although the "change represents a conceptual buffer to off-job workers", those who "have succeeded in finding new employment have taken the lead in altering traditional concepts."

In an editorial in the same issue, the writer calls "for unremitting long-term efforts" in establishing labor markets in China. The author makes the point that China has little choice: the total labor force will reach 268 million people over the next five years and the "figure for rural areas will rise to 214 million people. Unless effective measures are introduced, the number of unemployed and inadequately employed workers in urban and rural areas will reach as many as 153 million people by the year 2000," writes the author.

The Beijing Review was founded in 1958 at the behest of Premier Zhou Enlai and "is committed to providing the most authoritative and up-to-date information on China's reform and opening, which is reshaping the economy and society of the nation with the world's largest population and 5,000 years of civilization", explains its editor, Lin Liangqi.

Calligraphy: no words are necessary, just walk through an exhibit of Chinese calligraphy.

Society: maps are great tools and forms of art. With so much mention of problems in Xinjiang, it would be instructive to see the break down of China's geography by linguistic group.

Here is a map of Kazakhstan. Note the town of Yining, where this month's riots occurred. Situated in a valley through which the Ili River flows, Yining is surrounded by a relatively lush environment. It was for control of this area that China and Russia quarrelled in the nineteenth century. Eventually Russia gave up claims to it.

A full-relief map of China (JPEG image 1062x1054 pixels) shows roads crossing the frontiers into Burma, Vietnam, and the Mongolian Plateau. Note the border states on the West and the mountain chains.

India: whether or not the reports concerning the infiltration of Chinese troops across the Sino-Indian frontier are true or not, it's worth taking a moment to put the whole situation in perspective (JPEG image 1038x1262 pixels). It's not so much a border that separates these two nations but a vast, mountainous frontier.

Military: didn't the military give vows to Jiang Zemin a few days ago? See below for related stories. Here's a different perspective on the divisions in mainland China's military , again by cartographic methods.

Water: finally, here's a 1983 map of China's precipitation (JPEG image 1256x956 pixels). Note the line demarcating the western limit of non-oasis agriculture.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day