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

| Current edition | Previous edition | News Index | Contents |

Previous issue | Next issue

---"Focused Coverage Informed Perspectives"---
Thu, Jan 22, 1998 edition
Ambulant Siew, pt. II
Premier is mum about details of trip to Indonesia

Also in this edition . . .

1: Siew is mum about details of trip to Indonesia
2: in Taipei APEC meeting does not acknowledge its host
3: Beijing says Taiwan's technology is something to study
4: agreement opens code-sharing and other perks to Taiwan-US travellers
5: industrial park is booming with sales of IC products
6: Zhu says HK dollar must be defended at any cost
7: with price not the only decision, will mainland QC cut the mustard?
8: (Op-ed) Burma: 'Honoring Those Who Fought For Freedom' by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
9: (Op-ed) 'Mandela, I see as no one special anymore' by Ms TKG


Cross-strait relations: Siew is mum about details of trip to Indonesia
(source: The China Post and Reuters) Back from a two-day visit to Indonesia that infuriated Beijing, Premier Vincent Siew yesterday denied mainland China's accusations that Taipei had offered aid to the economically troubled country in exchange for upgraded relations.

Siew, who arrived at Taoyuan's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport at 8:40 p.m., told an airport news conference he had shared his government's successful experience in meetings with Indonesian officials. He said no political subjects were broached in the meetings. Siew, who was widely reported to have met with Indonesian President Suharto, declined to confirm the meeting, citing fears of reprisal against Jakarta by Beijing. "I cannot confirm or deny" having met President Suharto, he said. "Out of respect for our hosts, it is not convenient for me to reveal who I saw and name names." Saying the trip's results "exceeded expectations," Siew told reporters "I can say that I saw the people I wanted to see, and discussed the issues I wanted to discuss."

Last Monday, Siew prompted angry protests from Beijing when he made an overnight visit to the Philippines for meetings with Asian Development Bank officials. The bank's headquarters are located in Manila. After Siew was reported to have met with Philippine President Fidel Ramos, officials in Manila confirmed the meeting only to deny it later. Siew's Indonesia visit coincided with the arrival of a 60-strong business delegation led by P.K. Chiang, chairman of the Cabinet's Council for Economic Planning and Development.

Chiang's delegation, comprised of officials and major business leaders, also arrived back in Taiwan last night after touring four Southeast Asian countries stricken by the recent region-wide economic crisis. The delegation had prompted accusations from Beijing of seeking political gains from the crisis.

In Beijing Monday, foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said leaders in Taipei were "capitalizing on Southeast Asian countries caused by the financial crisis . . . to realize their political motivations." He said Taipei "demands in explicit terms, a political reward" for assistance it had allegedly offered.

Reacting to the allegations last night, Siew said that "none of the four governments had expressed any demands for so-called loans or cash. He added that "all that was done was to exchange experiences and opinions on dealing with the crisis." He said Taipei had an obligation to conduct exchanges with its Asian neighbors in the wake of the economic crisis. "It is done in the spirit of us all being in the same boat," he said, adding that Taiwan could also suffer from the aftermath of the region-wide crisis.

In Jakarta earlier, sources told Reuters Siew had met with Research and Technology minister Jusuf Habibie Wednesday morning. Siew, who arrived on Monday, was whisked away from the airport, dodging waiting journalists, and officials refused to acknowledge his stay in Indonesia. Diplomatic sources told Reuters that Siew was briefed by Taipei's de facto embassy in Jakarta Tuesday morning and then spent much of the day in discussions with Indonesia's state minister for national development and planning, Ginanjar Kartasasmita.

The sources said Siew was believed to have met President Suharto on Tuesday after dinner with Ginanjar, but officials refused to confirm this. Several Taiwan newspapers reported from Jakarta on Wednesday that Siew had discussed Asia's financial turmoil and bilateral cooperation with the president late Tuesday. Taiwan's Liberty Times, quoting unidentified sources, said Suharto hoped to strengthen Taiwan-Indonesia finance, economic and trade cooperation to help Indonesia stabilize its economy.

The China Times said Siew had promised to grant "appropriate aid" to Indonesia. Diplomatic sources said the Taiwan delegation might have discussed with Habibie possible backing for Indonesia's aircraft manufacturer IPTN, which has fallen victim to cuts in government subsidies imposed under an economic reform plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund. President Suharto has said IPTN's US$2.0 billion project to develop a 130-seat passenger jet would go ahead with private funding. The sources said Taiwan might also offer business training facilities to Indonesians.

Coup de'absurd: in Taipei APEC meeting does not acknowledge its host
(source: Agence France-Presse) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) opened a technology conference in Taipei, Tuesday, but the host's national flag was absent in deference to communist China.

Economic Affairs Minister Wang Chi-kang delivered a key note speech after Vice Premier Liu Chao-shiuan chose not to appear at the opening, allegedly in deference to Beijing. Liu is also chairman of the Cabinet's National Science Council. The organizers were said to have been forced to scrap Liu's name from the invitations and the conference agenda after Beijing protested to the APEC secretary-general. Mainland China has sent the largest delegation-some 220 people-to the conference, at which 1,000 of the latest technology designs will be exhibited.

In another conciliatory move, no national flags were flying at the Taipei World Trade Center, the venue of the five-day Technomart. On the display ground, models of several Taiwan-made military aircraft were on exhibition, but ROC national emblems were covered with makeshift stickers. The organizing committee argued that the arrangement was consistent with APEC protocol.

Fourteen APEC member countries are taking part in the event including mainland China, which has considered this island a province under its authority since both sides were split by civil war in 1949. Although Taiwan is an APEC member, the organization has deferred to Beijing and routinely bans Taiwan officials higher than the ministerial level from participating in the forum's activities. APEC summits have been held annually since 1993, but Taiwan has never been able to be represented by President Lee Teng-hui, although it is one of APEC's founding members.

Kao Cheng-yen, the leader of the Green Party, and other members staged a protest outside the building over what he called unfair arrangement. The protesters scuffled with police but no one was injured. Several members of a right-wing group unfurled a banner welcoming the mainland delegation, and supporting reunification with the mainland, although they too opposed Beijing's objections to flying the ROC flag at the venture.

Coup de'cooperation: Beijing says Taiwan's technology is something to study
(source: Reuters) A senior technology official from communist China on Wednesday advocated expanded technical and industrial cooperation with Taiwan.

Lin Quan, secretary-general of the prestigious State Science and Technology Commission, said Beijing valued its growing technological exchanges with Taiwan. Diplomatically avoiding a comparison of technology levels in the mainland and Taiwan, Lin told Reuters in an interview that the mainland could learn from the island's application of technology in industry and commerce. "There are cooperative fields between the two sides, such as advanced materials, aerospace and low-pollution petrochemical industries," he said.

Taiwan investors already have about 30,000 ventures on the mainland-making everything from trousers and umbrella spines to computer components-but there are few joint projects at the cutting edge of technology. "Many people still think China is backward, and we are here today to tell them we are not," said Lin, who heads the mainland's delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum Technomart.

Anchoring Beijing's prodigious display were six models of mainland China's Long March rockets, which are challenging far costlier western systems in the global space launch market. Meng Hsien-chun, councilor of Taiwan's National Science Council, said mainland China's aerospace and some other high technologies were much better than Taiwan's.

Friendly skies: agreement opens code-sharing and other perks to Taiwan-US travellers
(source: Central News Agency) Taipei and the United States will formally sign an open-skies agreement in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) announced on Wednesday.

Stephen Chen, de facto ROC ambassador to the U.S., and Richard Bush, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), will ink the accord on behalf of their governments. AIT was established by American authorities in 1979 to handle exchanges with the ROC in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. MOTC officials said the new agreement will help local airlines make inroads into the Central American air market.

Under the agreement, Taiwan and American carriers can jointly operate domestic and international flight services through code-sharing. The two sides already signed a preliminary open-skies accord on Feb. 28, 1997, enabling two major Taiwan carriers-China Airlines and EVA Airways opened several new cargo and passenger air routes between Taipei and major U.S. cities by cooperating with American air companies.

With the signing of a formal agreement, civil aviation officials said, local airlines will be able to open additional air route linking Taiwan to major North American and Latin American cities. "The new accord will help boost Taiwan's civil aviation industry," an MOTC official said, adding that Taiwan is also negotiating with several other Asian countries for signing similar open-skies agreements.

Economy: industrial park is booming with sales of IC products
(source: The China Post) Taiwan's Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park recorded an all-time high with sales of NT$400.10 billion for 1997, up 26 percent from a year earlier, said a government statement.

According to the statement released by the Cabinet's National Science Council (NSC) yesterday, the 1997 year-on-year rise in sales is largely attributed to the growth of integrated circuit (IC) products. Sales for the sector totaled NT$200.14 billion, up 28 percent from 1996, and accounted for half of the park's total sales last year.

Along with the impressive gains in the IC industry, peripheral industries also showed a robust growth. Beefed up by mass production in several newly established wafer fabs last year, all IC peripheral industries recorded an averaged more than 50 percent year-on-year growth.


Currency: Zhu says HK dollar must be defended at any cost
source: Reuters) Mainland China's economic czar Zhu Rongji has called for the defense of the Hong Kong dollar at any cost, bluntly warning that confidence in the territory's currency had to be maintained.

Vice Premier Zhu, in two tough internal speeches in recent weeks, also said mainland China's currency, the yuan, would not be devalued because even a modest adjustment would be hard for Hong Kong to sustain. He also pointedly accused rival Taiwan of letting its currency slide and using the Asian financial crisis to further its political interests. "The Hong Kong dollar peg (to the U.S. dollar) must be protected no matter what the cost," Zhu said at an internal speech to financial officials last week. "Confidence is the key," he said in an address, a transcript of which was obtained by Reuters.

Mainland China has recently stepped up its public statements on its intentions to keep the yuan stable, despite fears that exports might slow, and on its support for the Hong Kong currency's peg to the U.S. dollar. Last week, Beijing issued its most direct public comments on stability for the two currencies on the eve of a visit by U.S. Deputy Treasury Lawrence Summers. The U.S. official was on an Asian tour, trying to control damage from the financial crisis which has battered currencies and stock markets around the region.

The Hong Kong dollar's peg has withstood several rounds of speculative attacks but interest rates in the Special Administrative Region of mainland China have risen sharply and the stock and property markets have been hard hit. Zhu's internal speeches largely followed the themes of Beijing's public statements but they were unusually blunt. "Even a five-percent devaluation of the yuan would be hard for Hong Kong to sustain," he said.

The official also said that Chinese entities in Hong Kong had joined in the selling of Hong Kong dollars and that this had to be contained. Hong Kong had ample foreign exchange reserves, but these would not be enough if public confidence in the currency faltered, he said. "If we devalue, the impact on Hong Kong will be too great. Hong Kong will be unable to sustain the pressure," Zhu said in another speech made in southern mainland China late last month. Both of Zhu's speeches attacked Taiwan.

Taiwan, despite its own mountain of foreign exchange reserves and one of the region's healthiest economies, saw its currency slide to the lowest level against the U.S. dollar in a decade recently before recovering some of its lost ground. Taiwan "had no need for a depreciation. It was acting out of political considerations," Zhu said. Zhu also accused senior ROC official Liu Tai-ying of spreading rumors about a possible devaluation of the yuan. Liu, who is in charge of investments of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang through its business development committee, has been quoted in Taiwan newspapers as commenting on the prospects and impact of a potential devaluation.

Quality: with price not the only decision, will mainland QC cut the mustard?
(source: Reuters) From ham sausages to electric massagers, if you buy something in mainland China, the odds are 50-50 it will be of substandard quality.

That was the conclusion of a recent survey of 285 products conducted by mainland Chinese trade, industry and consumer groups, and published in the People's Daily on Wednesday. The survey of goods in retail shops and wholesale markets in 15 provinces and cities showed that 49.5 percent were below standards, the newspaper said. Just 16.1 percent of electric massage devices met quality standards, while only 55.5 percent of ham sausages made the grade, it said.

Less than one-fifth, or 18 percent, of jasmine teas received a stamp of approval, while just 35 percent of electric water kettles and 64.3 percent of dried noodles met standards, it said. Products with the highest consistent quality were carbonated beverages. Only eight percent failed to pass, it said.

The survey was conducted in the run-up to the Chinese New Year, the nation's most important holiday that is celebrated with feasting and family purchases. The New Year falls on Jan. 28 this year. The check was carried out by the Ministry of Internal Trade, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and China Consumers Association, the newspaper said.


Burma: (14/1/98) ( Burma: 'Honoring Those Who Fought For Freedom' by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) This month will mark Burma's Golden anniversary of her independence from British colonial rule. In a letter published by the Mainichi Daily in Japan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi takes stock of this fifty year period, noting the sobering irony that Burma's citizens enjoyed more freedoms under colonialism than they do under the present regime.

See also

  • ( BurmaSong Home Page )
  • ( About Aung San Suu Kyi )

    South Africa: (5/1/98) ( China Informed Op-Ed: 'Mandela, I see as no one special anymore' by Ms TKG) Ms TKG writes on Nelson Mandela, whose government switched formal recognition from Taiwan to the PRC. The author laments Mr Mandela's failure to maintain moral and ethical coherence---to maintain one's integrity---in discharging the affairs of government. . . . .

  • Previous issue | Next issue

    China Informed

    a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
    ©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day
    China Informed is seeking articles for publication. Write to for more information.