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

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Mon, Mar 24, 1997
Hog Epidemic: Wide, Lasting Consequences

also: Al Gore in Beijing, signs deals, recites poetry; Dalai Lama's activities in Taiwan; Vietnam calls for expert-group to resolve PRC drilling; archeological sites spring up on mainland

Taiwan: the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, reported in yesterday's issue (Sun, Mar 23, 1997), is spreading like wild-fire down the densely populated west coast of the country. An estimated 90 percent of the industry is affected by this deadly disease, and it has already infected 54,000 hogs. The government has called in troops to carry out mass slaughters, but it will be years before the industry will recover. In the mean time, reports the Asia Times, prices for pork have plummeted, and the effects on Taiwan's economy will be hard felt. Estimates range from 0.4 to 1.4 percent of the GDP will be lost to this epidemic, and the trade deficit with Japan will be particularly exasperated; Japan was buying 6 million hogs a year from Taiwan, before the government banned all exports last Thursday. The hog export market in 1996 brought in NT$43.6 billion (US$1.59 billion), or 0.5 percent of GDP. Some speculate infected hogs smuggled in from the mainland, where prices are lower, may have infected Taiwan's stock, reports the paper.

One reader wrote to me saying that the stock market has fallen because of the crisis, but I haven't seen any reports about this.

United States: Vice President Al Gore arrived in Beijing today. Reading from a prepared statement, he said: "I've traveled here to reaffirm the vital importance of relations between our nations, and to continue building a lasting peace between China and the United States," the China Daily reports. Gore will meet with Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and other Chinese leaders. The paper notes, "Gore's visit comes as Sino-US relations improve following a November meeting in Manila between President Jiang Zemin and US President Bill Clinton."

The paper makes an interesting comment at the end of its rather terse article: "In another development, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen left Beijing for Moscow yesterday on an official visit at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov." Inside China notes that Qian will sign a number of troop-reduction agreements with Moscow.

Vice President Gore signed two trade agreements today, together nearly totaling US$2 billion. Under one agreement China will purchase 5 Boeing 777 jetliners for US$685 million. The second agreement establishes a $1.3 billion joint venture between General motors and an unnamed state owned enterprise in Shanghai; this venture will manufacture 100,000 GM sedans a year in Shanghai.

Reporters have been shied away from Mr Gore, reports the New York Times, but we still hear Gore recite poetry from the Tang dynasty and Haiku's about cherry blossoms.

(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.)

Taiwan: the Dalai Lama held a press conference today at which he said his trip to Taiwan, contrary to what the PRC might think, actually promotes understanding and ties between Tibet and mainland China, reports Inside China. Beijing has condemned his trip as one promoting 'splittism' from the 'motherland'. "I always consider that a close understanding between Tibet and the Chinese is extremely important. This visit can be very helpful to remove the feeling of distance between one another," the Dalai Lama said.

"Dalai Lama Spends First Day of Visit Preaching" is another Inside China article. It describes the whirlwind of activities the leader of the Tibetan government in exile has undertaken since arriving in Taiwan on Saturday. He has travelled from temple to temple, lectured here and there, and met with some 20,000 faithful at a Gaoxiong stadium (the event is billed as one of three "enlightenment meetings" he will hold).

At Sun Yat-sen University he received an honorary doctor of philosophy degree and said kind words about Sun Yat-sen, the 'father' of the Chinese revolution and the "Three People's Principles" on which Taiwan's government is based. Sun was christened the president of the republic after the October 1911 revolution toppled the Qing dynasty and put in its place a government based on then radical ideas as "constitutionalism" and "elected" "assemblies", although Sun himself was in the US state of Colorado at the time of the revolution. "Since my childhood I have had great admiration for that great leader. He really made a big effort to change that great nation," the Dalai Lama said.

As we reported yesterday, however, the Dalai Lama's visit has brought out tensions in a country caught between two worlds. For his trip ". . . has stirred political passions in Taiwan as advocates and opponents of the island's independence from China have tried to marshal the visiting monk to their cause," writes the paper.

The government maintains a Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission at the Cabinet level, and technically speaking the Dalai Lama could be considered another Chinese subject. Pro-independence advocates would do away with this commission in a symbolic move to advance their cause. But the paper notes, " 'Since making initial contacts in 1993, the Dalai Lama has refused to visit under such conditions', saying they reflected political 'misunderstandings'." However these "misunderstandings" have been resolved for the Tibetan leader, the issue continues to buzz among Taiwan's people.

Today Beijing said there existed no scope for early Taiwan talks. "Officials on the island, and its so-called president, Lee Tung-hui, will first have to abandon their splittist activities before dialogue can begin," writes the China Daily. Quoting Tang Shubei, vice- chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (Arats), the paper describes Tang as one "battling for peaceful reunification." Beijing has said it will use force against Taiwan, if the island declares its independence.

Vietnam: the Vietnamese government has called for Vietnam and the PRC to establishment an expert-level group to resolve the issue concerning the intrusion of a Chinese drilling rig and support vessels in Vietnam's "exclusive economic zone". Hanoi said, the location of the rig clearly falls within Vietnam's territory and this in itself warranted bypassing the normal channels for resolving "border" disputes. Interestingly, Inside China quotes an official with Vietnam's state oil firm Petrovietnam: "Vietnam would never sign a contract on production-sharing with China on its continental shelf. If someone came to your country and drilled, and then asked you to sign a contract, would you?"

The Paper writes, China has remained very quiet about the whole issue in the past few days, and some Vietnamese analysts have said "Beijing's outward silence over the issue in recent days reflected the weakness of its claim to the disputed area," writes the paper.

Archaeology: "Archaeological artifacts expected to shed light on ancient social structures are cropping up with increasing frequency throughout the country," the China Daily reports in this story.

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China Informed

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