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Hunan Authorities Issues Urgent Notice to Prevent Price Hike in School Cafeterias

Since last year, consumer price has been going up continuously. In particular, the food price has increased markedly. The biggest snow storm in 70 years hit Hunan Province pretty hard, significantly affecting the lives of school teachers and students. To ensure stability, the Education Department of Hunan Province issued a notice, strictly controlling the fee for school education, and keeping price of food in school cafeteria from going up.

Source:China News Agency, February 11, 2008
http://edu.chinanews.cn/edu/zcdt/news/2008/02-11/1160015.shtml

Xinhua on U.S. Congressional Hearing on China Espionage

On February 8, 2008 Xinhua reported on a recent U.S. Congressional hearing regarding Chinese espionage.

“After the hearing a Congressman claimed, ‘China’s espionage activities has become the number one threat to the United States.’ In fact, in many cases last year, some Western media, organizations and individuals made allegations about China espionage theory and China hackers theory, with no evidence whatsoever. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly refuted these allegations. The content of this Congressional hearing is nothing but ‘the same old tune.’"

The article mentioned Congressman Forbes, and witnesses Hon. J. Patrick Rowan and Larry Wortzel, apparently out of Bill Gertz’s Washington Times article on the Congressional hearing.

Xinhua quoted from a Chinese government think tank that Washington Times tends to publish right-wing ideology and that the authenticity of its reports have always been questionable.

Source: Xinhua, February 8, 2008
http://news.xinhuanet.com/mil/2008-02/08/content_7581605.htm

Can We Trust Chinese Military?

On February 7, 2008, Banyuetan (Bi-monthly Discussion), a publication of Xinhua, published an article on U.S. – China military relations, written by Luo Yuan, Major General and Deputy Director of World Military Research Department of PLA Academy of Military Science.

After a brief review of the ups and downs since early 90s last century, the article states that biggest obstacle that hinders U.S. – China military exchanges and cooperation lies in the lack of mutual trust at a strategic level. The article complains that after China has done everything it could within the limit of its ability, “some Americans biased against China are still not satisfied and continue to spread the ‘China threat theory.’"

Source: Xinhua, February 7, 2008
http://news.xinhuanet.com/mil/2008-02/07/content_7580398.htm

A Lower Domestic Standard for Consumption Goods?

For a long period of time, although merchandize made in China has frequently been recalled in other countries, China’s domestic merchandize has seldom been recalled due to poor quality. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products, except drugs; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms. The following is a translation of the report from Voice of America. [1]

The Quality of Merchandize for Domestic Consumption in China is Lower Than Exported Merchandize

By Sun Feng
January 9, 2008

Although we have seen that outside of China, Chinese made products have frequently been recalled due to poor quality, China’s domestic merchandize seldom faces similar problems. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms.

In May and June of 2007, many countries announced the recall of tainted toothpaste made in China, because it contained the poisonous chemical diethylene glycol (DEG). The very same toothpaste has never been removed from China’s merchandize shelves.

In June of 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a warning that toothpaste imported from China contained more than 4% DEG and warned the public not to use toothpaste made in China.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, an organization under China’s State Council, issued a public notice in July 2007 forbidding the use of DEG as a toothpaste ingredient, and banning its export. However, it did not ban the sale of toothpaste with DEG within China. To the contrary, the General Administration specified in this same public notice that toothpaste with less than 15.6% DEG would not harm anyone’s health, and that "consumers do not need to worry too much about their health if they have used this type of toothpaste."

For a long period of time, although merchandize made in China has frequently been recalled in other countries, China’s domestic merchandize has seldom been recalled due to poor quality. Not only does China lack the disciplinary mechanism to recall poor quality products, except drugs; China’s merchandize for domestic consumption usually has a safety standard that is lower than international norms.

Take the auto safety evaluation system as an example. The head-to-head collision standard in the U.S. is 56 kilometers per hour, while it is 50 kilometers per hour in China.
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Gao Hongbing, the deputy minister of China’s Ministry of Agriculture admitted on Tuesday that China lagged behind other countries in setting up product standards and that there is still a gap between China and developed countries in this respect.

Wang Hai is the host of Wang Hai Hotline, a "consumers’ rights protection" group. According to Wang, establishing overly low standards for domestic merchandize occurred because no representatives for consumers were present when the standards were drafted.

"Why can’t China’s quality standards be improved?" asked Wang. "The key is, first of all, the standards were set by the leaders of the particular enterprise, with little or no involvement from the general public. In other words, the consumers’ rights protection group has no way to participate in the decision making process. In addition, we have virtually no on to speak for consumer’s interests. In China, there is no organization that truly represents consumers’ interests. The Consumers’ Association is a state-run organization. It can only serve a very limited purpose in protecting consumers. We also lack a third-party inspection organization. The inspection organizations we have are all state-run institutes."

According to Wang Hai, in the battle between consumers and entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurs have considerable resources while consumers have none. The government is usually overly lenient with enterprises, for the sake of economic development. In addition, many of the enterprises are either state-run companies or have government backing. All media outlets are state-run mouthpieces. They do not dare to offend their major advertising clients either.

However, the legal consultant of the Consumer Association of Beijing Qiu Baochang has a different point of view. According to Qiu, it is an inappropriate generalization to say the standards for domestic merchandize are lower and are higher for exports.

"Inside China we have our own standard," Qiu said. "As long as we meet this standard, we do not have any problem selling the product inside China. Of course it remains a question whether China’s domestic standard is the same as those of other countries. Can they ever be exactly the same? I don’t think it is possible to unify the standard, because there are issues like development of the market economy and scientific development."

He also said when drafting the standards the authorities had taken protecting consumers’ interests into consideration.

According to Mao Shoulong, director of the Department of Administration and Management at People’s University, many agricultural produces intended for export are refined goods. They are different from the products for domestic consumption. Although it’s a common belief that the standards for goods for domestic consumption should be improved, he believes that implementing those new standards will encounter many problems.
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Mao said, "For example, many of the companies may be forced out of business. This year, the price of food itself is rising sharply. If we factor in the improvement of the processing technique and other investments, as well as training personnel and the management team, the cost will be high. It will bring a huge change to the market. If we cannot adjust to the change, the price may go up 100%, not just the 5%, 10% or 30% that we are experiencing right now. It may bring about some social problems."

Long Yongtu, the current general secretary of the Boao Forum for Asia, was the leading negotiation representative when China joined the WTO. Long also shared his opinion on this subject. He believed there was no need to have two different standards. "We had no other choice when China was a poor country." Long added, "Now things have changed. Chinese civilians’ well-being is as important as that of foreigners."

Endnote
[1] Voice of America, January 9, 2008
http://www.voanews.com/chinese/w2008-01-09-voa39.cfm

Human Rights Defender Sentenced to 4 Years’ Imprisonment

On February 5, Hangzhou-based writer Lü Gengsong was sentenced to four years for "inciting subversion of state power" based on 19 articles that he posted online. His political rights will subsequently be deprived for one year. Lü’s hearing lasted for 15 minutes and only his immediate family and two friends were allowed to attend. Outside the courthouse, more than 20 people came to voice their support, one was detained. According to Radio Free Asia, his wife said that he plans to appeal.

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 05, 2008
http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/shenrubaodao/2008/02/05/lugengsong/

China Developing Spaceplane That Can Bomb Any Target on Earth

Zhuang Fengan, a Chinese Aerospace expert, disclosed that China has been conducting research on spaceplane. Yan Liang aircraft stress testing base in Xian, a subsidiary of No. 1 Group of China Aviation Industry will carry out the final testing, which is expected to be completed before 2010.

The Global Times calls the U.S. developed spaceplane “sudden and swift; capable of bombing any target on earth.”

Source: Wenweipo, Hong Kong, February 6, 2008 http://www.peacehall.com/news/gb/army/2008/02/200802060815.shtml