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Wed, Mar 12, 1997

A show of ethnic unity in Beijing; Li Peng advises Sichuan, talks about Chongqing; CPPCC calls for unity; US intelligence monitoring PRC influence in campaigns; more info on population control measures; and more . . .

Please read the statement of purpose.

Ethnic problems: in a show of ethnic unity President Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng and Kelimu, a popular signer and a member of the Uighur ethnic minority, posed for a picture together today, reports Inside China. The paper describes the event, writing that Kelimu had his "head bowed" as he clasped "the hand of Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, while Premier Li Peng smiled in the background." The photograph and accompanying story were featured on the front page of the People's Daily and designed to emphasize the unity among the ethnic groups of China.

The article also quotes Tomur Dawamat, a Uighur vice chairman of the national congress, who declared, "We will hold higher the banner of patriotism and ethnic equality and unity. . . . (We) are determined to resist plots and activities by hostile forces in the West to use ethnic and religious problems to Westernize and divide us," reports Inside China. What exactly Tomur meant by this was not explained in the article. By "hostile forces in the West" did he mean the Muslim separatists in western China or adjoining countries? Or did he mean the United States and Europe (does this include Australia and New Zealand)? Nor am I clear on what it means to "use ethnic and religious problems to Westernize and divide". Was he referring to activists outside of China and in the "West" who have concerns over Chinese rule in Tibet and elsewhere?

Party politics: more information on Sichuan Province and changes there comes from the China Daily which reports on Li Peng's talk with Sichuan delegates to the National People's Congress. Li reportedly urged the province to place agriculture first in all of its plans. Li explained, "Because Sichuan has a large population but relatively limited farmland, it should rely on advanced, applicable technology and on scientific and technological progress to raise grain output." Li also advised the province to "develop rural and township enterprises that focus on the processing of farm produce in order to increase farmers' incomes," the paper explains. He said that improving living standards was the imperative task put before the province, reports the paper.

Rural and township enterprises are extremely important for the Chinese economy, and in fact a substantial amount of China's economic activity in recent years has come from these firms. They are often owned and operated by local governments and provide substantial tax revenue. The issue is more complicated than this, and I will address it again in future issues when I have more time.

Li made some interesting remarks on the issue of Chongqing. He said, "As one of our country's old industrial bases, Chongqing made and is still making significant contributions to the State. Though there remain many difficulties and problems, Chongqing should not lose sight of its own advantages and of the present rare opportunity for development, and should by no means underestimate itself," reports the paper. In other words, the new municipality will have to first rely upon the "self-reliant, hard efforts of its people," as the China Daily explains it. The province should not primarily rely upon assistance from other provinces and cities and preferential policies granted by the central government.

Party politics: the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) ended its session yesterday with a speech by Li Ruihuan, the chairman of the conference, reports the China Daily. Li said, the return of Hong Kong in July and the convening of the 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party this October makes 1997 an especially important year. The world will be watching these two events, Li said, and the "smooth accomplishment of these major tasks requires the mutual efforts of all Chinese in all fields and, in particular, to safeguard (the country's) unity and stability."

The article mentions little else about the conference itself, except to say the 1,476 members submitted a "record-high 2,528 proposals since the plenary meeting opened on February, 27". The conference ended by adopting a resolution which voices agreement with "Premier Li Peng's government work report and other documents, including reports by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate to the National People's Congress," reports the China Daily.

Development: we get a rehash of China's population control measures in this China Daily article. But one piece of information concerning local, 'non-governmental' organizations is provided. A call was made to "prioritize" local government population control initiatives with an organization called "Programme of Happiness." The China Daily explains it as "a charity drive that collects donations to support impoverished mothers in the country. The drive was jointly initiated by the China Population Welfare Foundation, the China National Family Planning Association and the Chinese Population News," writes the paper.

See below the Sun, Mar 9 issue under the heading Development for more information on this subject.

Hong Kong: Inside China reports the territory's police detonated a suspicious package sitting unattended outside the Legislative Council building. The incident occurred six hours before Financial Secretary Donald Tsang was scheduled to present the new budget to the Legislative Council.

United States: we get a little more information on the efforts of the Chinese government to influence U.S. Congressional elections. The National Security Agency, a U.S. organization charged with collecting singnal's intelligence, monitored a series of conversations between Chinese and American officials early last year, reports the Times. When the agency finally understood last spring the significance of what it had monitored, writes the paper, the information was handed to the FBI which has treated it as a counter-intelligence operation, not a criminal matter. There is speculation, reports the paper, that mainland China was peeved over the influence Taiwan lobbyists have had in the congress and wanted "to even the score," as the paper puts it.

The paper reports, thirty members of congress were considered "vulnerable" to China's efforts, and the FBI warned six of them. There are few details, and the story of course raises more questions than it answers. We will monitor this story and observe how mainland China reacts to it. It's curious how the NSA was able to monitor these activities, which it did without a court order, and to do it within the United States. I thought domestic spying was illegal.

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China Informed

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