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Sun, Mar 9, 1997
Family Planning &
the Environment

also: NPC hears about budget; Asean and China conclude Beijing meeting; more news on Kazakhstan; caution to Taiwan; investment prospects in PRC; and more . . .

Please read the statement of purpose.

Development: Jiang Zemin and Li Peng addressed a forum on family planning and environmental protection, sponsored by the central government. Jiang stressed the need for greater efforts to contain China's population to 1.3 billion by the end of the century. Every year 21 million new babies are born in China, reports the paper, and the problem of over population affects all aspects of life in the country.

China's family planning system is multi-faceted, its implementation depends on one's ethnic origin and where one lives. The policies do not apply to ethnic minorities; Chinese in rural areas may have more than one child; whereas urban-dwelling Chinese are permitted only one child. Interestingly, Jiang Zemin said at the conference, "There is still a boom in child births in some provinces and autonomous regions and family planning is still a heavy task." Could this be a signal that the policy will change with regard to ethnic minorities?

Jiang suggested family planning measures be tied to economic growth, writes the paper. In the countryside, where compliance is most lax, incentive programs designed to favour poor peasants and locales who adhere to the family-planning measures should be used, reports the paper. But clearly family-planning goes beyond reducing the population, as Jiang also suggested that the measures be part of a greater vision of ensuring farmer's prosperity through hard work and "making civilized and happy families," as the paper puts it. In this sense, economic development and family planning have far-reaching implications and connotations, in which "prosperity" and "civilized" would appear to be the operative words.

Li Peng mentioned the problem of China's so-called "floating population," the thousands of immigrants moving everyday from the countryside to more prosperous urban areas, especially Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. He said, efforts to coordinate family planning measures would require the cooperation of authorities at the origin of an immigrant's journey and destination.

The forum also addressed environmental protection efforts. Jiang called for the development of efficient management systems and the inclusion of such concerns in all regional and local government planning considerations. The President set the year 2010 as the deadline by which environmental problems in rural and urban China will have been considerably improved, reports the paper. Li said, "We must not follow the old path of first pollution and then control, and must not look for short-term development at the expense of the environment," reports the paper.

Li Peng said tainted drinking water is a serious problem in China, and the Huaihe River Valley is China's most polluted body of water, and its clean-up will require the cooperation of the four adjoining provinces, Li said. As one might expect from such a national forum, the emphasis the heads of the nationals government placed on inter-provincial relations and cooperation underscores the fragility of a system where each province may implement its own customs duty on goods moving through its territory, even if such duties impede inter-provincial commerce.

It's also worth commenting on the article itself. Although both Jiang and Li addressed both issues of family planning and environmental protection, the article first reported on Jiang's remarks and then Li's. The emphasis was upon the two, jointly working together, to lead the nation in tackling a number of vexing issues.

National People's Congress: the National People's Congress will vote on the 1997 budget this Friday. Part of the budget also includes various social and economic development programs, but the China Daily article is short on details. The article did say that the NPC met behind closed doors last week to review the implementation of 1996 budgeted items. A draft of the budget was reviewed and accepted on Saturday by the 157-member Presidium of the NPC, and the article mentions that Liu Suinian, chairman of the NPC's Financial and Economic Committee, spoke before the Presidium, stating that "the 1996 economic and social development plan had been carried out well and the 1997 arrangements were reasonable."

How exactly the NPC is structured is a mystery to me, and I will have to undertake further investigation into this before I can comment further.

An interesting note from the article concerns a closed-door meeting last week by Liu's committee at which "expert witnesses" urged the NPC to recognize agriculture "as the true centre of the economy," as the paper explains it. As part of this recognition, the experts want protection for arable land, reform of the marketing system for cereal grains and cotton, a reduction of charges to farmers and an increase in anti-poverty measures, reports the paper.

China's arable land has been diminishing since the commencement of economic reforms in the late 1970's. More and more land is taken out of service each year to satisfy demands from industry.

Asean: the Asean Regional Forum meeting held in Beijing ended on Saturday and the China Daily says it was a success in promoting both a dialogue between member states and confidence-building measures. The article notes, "A solid security network has been formed among countries of the region through increasingly expanding economic and trade cooperation, and by improving regional security by means of consultations and cooperative efforts."

Participants agreed that regional security would be maintained by adherence to the "UN Charter, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and provisions of the Southeast Asian treaty on friendly cooperation," writes the paper.

Ethnic problems: Asia Week's China Newsmap page has short pieces on various issues dating back to last year. In its most recent addition the magazine notes Kazakhstan is currently racked by labour unrest, high unemployment, and what is simply serious economic malaise. The last thing the government needs "is a bruising confrontation with his giant neighbor and trading partner, China," writes the magazine. Kazakhstan signed a number of agreements with China last year in which the two nations reaffirmed their commitment to trade and non-interference in each other's internal affairs; in other words, the magazine writes, "it is highly unlikely that Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev will throw his support to the three Almaty-based Uighur groups pushing for their own country - Uighurstan - in Xinjiang." (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia also signed similar trade and diplomatic agreements)

Other news stories on the page include ones on plans to bring Chinese television programs to the U.S., the development of high speed trains, and more.

Taiwan: an editorial from the March 14 issue of Asia Week cautions Taiwan to not inflame prejudices against mainland China and mainlanders in general, in its efforts to make amends with Taiwan's people for the 1947 atrocities committed by KMT military forces which slaughtered some 20,000 Taiwanese as part of a campaign to end riots (and killings committed by Taiwanese against mainlanders). (See the February 28 issue on the Recent News page for more information on the subject).

Business: investors in China's markets might find Asia Week's look at post-Deng financial prospects to be interesting. "Counting on a Rosy Future" details various infrastructure and industrial programs which, some analysts think, are worth considering.

Art: China Daily has a feature story entitled Folk art: the mirror of daily lives and dreams.

History: another Asia Week article briefly mentions how history can be such a touchy subject in various Asian countries, including Taiwan.

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China Informed

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