Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Premier Wen expected to make his debut on U.N stage

China's Premier Wen Jiabao is scheduled to attend the high-level meetings of the U.N Millennium Development Goals and the general debate of the 63rd session of the U.N General Assembly convened in New York next week. It will be his debut appearance on the U.N stage, and second trip to the U.S, in his tenure as Premier, following his four-day official visit in 2003.

Itineraries of Premier's U.N trip have yet to be publicized so far, but it was learned that the MDGs meetings are to be convened by the U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the incoming President of the 63rd U.N General assembly, Fr. Miguel Brockmann on September 25, and the 63rd plenary of the U.N General Assembly will formally open on September 23 with the presentation of a report by Ban Ki-moon to kick start the assembly's general debate.

A gathering of world leaders will speak from September 23 to October 1 at the U.N headquarters in a program that will attract more than 90 heads of state or government and other international figures, covering a spate of issues like poverty and famine, education and health, and environmental sustainability. Bilateral and multilateral talks for world leaders and prominent personalities are also expected to be held on the sidelines of the U.N General Assembly.

It is three years ago that China's voice was last heard when President Hu Jintao participated in the U.N Summit commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of the United Nations. At the largest-scale ever U.N Summit, President Hu for the first time put forward the concept of 'social harmony,' and clearly elaborated on the dialectical relationship between social harmony and world peace, winning a universal approval of the international community.

The MDGs meetings and the 63rd U.N General Assembly are to be convened in a sensitive time, as the world situation is getting increasingly volatile with the global economy slowing down and new problems arising in the hot regional issues. It is obvious that Premier Wen will capture the world attention by voicing his views at the U.N podium on the development of China and the world.

China, as a standing member of the U.N Security Council and the world's most populous country, will be further stating its views on the agricultural issues and programs to aid Africa at the meetings, according to observers. China has been for all these years striving to be a responsible country in seeking to achieve the goals benefiting the entire mankind and sought after by the international community.

The MDGs are actually eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world's main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations, and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the U.N Millennium Summit in September 2000. The eight MDGs break down into 21 quantifiable targets that are measured by 60 indicators.

China has in recent years constantly streamlined its policies to solve the problems of people's livelihood, and scored remarkable achievements in poverty reduction and elimination, which is regarded an inalienable part in achieving the U.N Millennium Goals. Meanwhile, with the increasing enhancement of China's comprehensive national strength, the international community will exert more and higher expectations on China in wide arrays of issues like climate change and open market, and China is expected to assume more responsibilities and pressure in the years to come.

Premier Wen Jiabao, as a popular premier with a large circle of 'fans' within and outside of China, will face a new challenge making his first international positions at the U.N podium. But it is convincing that the Chinese Premier's typically sincere, easy-going and amiable style will impress the world and deliver a message to the international community that China remains a peace-loving developing country.

By People's Daily Online

4th Beijing-Tokyo Forum in session in Tokyo

The fourth Beijing-Tokyo Forum, co-sponsored by China Daily, the sole English newspaper in China, and the non-profit Japanese organization Genron NPO, is now in session in Tokyo.

In a message of congratulations to the forum, Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo spoke highly of the Beijing-Tokyo Forum in session for its crucial, important role in exchanges between the two countries. Sino-Japanese ties have reached a "new historic starting point", based on the "strategic relationship of mutual benefit" after having undergone the "ice-breaking", "ice-melting", "spring-greeting" and "spring-warming" visits to each other's country by leaders of both nations.

Noting that the year of 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the China-Japan Peace & Friendship Treaty, he said, China is willing to go on making concerted efforts with the Japanese side to step up an all-round implementation of vital consensuses reached by their leaders and together push the Sino-Japanese strategic and mutually-beneficial relations to advance continuously and make fresh contributions in maintaining the world peace and promoting the common development.

"The Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which has offered a very good communication platform for the media, academic circles and non-governmental organizations, is of great significance to the two sides to recognize the past, grasp the present and think about the future," Dai said in the message.

China and Japan will push forward their relationship despite obstacles, outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in a message to the forum.

"During President Hu Jintao's visit in May, the two countries signed a joint statement on promoting a strategic relationship of mutual benefit, which clearly shows the direction of bilateral relations," Fukuda said in his message to the Fourth Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which opened on September 16.

"Our future will not necessarily be smooth sailing, and could see many tests. I believe Japan and China will adhere to the joint statement and overcome difficulties, and move forward with full courage," Yasuo Fukuda said.

Sino-Japanese cooperation may well set a good example for countries with different social systems, said Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information office of China, at the fourth Beijing-Tokyo Forum.

In a keynote speech at the plenary meeting, Wang said that there are important bases and favorable environments for the long-term development of bilateral friendly relations. For China-Japan friendship, he noted, geographical proximity is the natural link, political mutual trust serves as an important basis, mutual beneficial cooperation the economic basis and long-term people-to-people exchanges the important bridge, and, in the arena of international affairs, pose an active force to promote world peace and stable development.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cui Tiankai and Japanese foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, on behalf of their respective governments, advocated joint efforts to push forward the Sino-Japanese relations and conveyed good wishes for their further advance.

In his address at the plenary meeting of the Fourth Beijing-Tokyo Forum, Ambassador Cui Tiankai referred in particular to three "30th anniversaries", namely, the 30th anniversary of the signing of the "China-Japan Peace & Friendship Treaty, the 30th anniversary of the launch of China's reform and opening-up, and the 30th anniversary of late senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaopint's visit to Japan. Evidences of the last three decades have given an eloquent proof that evolution and development in Sino-Japanese relations are closely linked to the destinies of the two respective nations, Cui acknowledged, the long-term, healthy and stable growth of Sino-Japanese ties poses an essential condition for both nations to maintain prosperity and development in the complex, volatile international environment.

At the plenary meeting of the Fourth Beijing-Tokyo Forum, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said the Japanese government attaches great importance to its ties with China and it is his conviction that this general trend will not be reversed.

"Because of the current change in Japan's political situation many people are highly concerned over Japan's policy toward China," Foreign Minister Komura said, referring to the uncertainty created by Fukuda's resignation. "But I'm certain there will not be any change in promoting our relationship. The path of Japan-China ties will not be swayed by either the international climate or domestic affairs," he added.

Delivering a speech on behalf of the hosting Chinese side at the forum, Zhu Ling, editor-in-chief of "China Daily", said the current forum is themed on Asia's future and the role of China and Japan. Representatives of both China and Japan would conduct a candid, rational exploration and exchange in numerous realms, such as in politics, economic cooperation, security and natural disaster relief effort, the environment, cereals and food security and mass media. And the political dialogue sub-forum is held in prestigious Tokyo University, at which some honorable Chinese and Japanese guests would be invited for a direct dialogue with Japanese college students.

The ongoing forum,which has drawn increasing high attention of both China and Japan, is highlighted by the presence of Chinese elite panel with scores of ranking government officials, including Wang Chen; former Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing; Zhao Qizhen, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference ; Chen Haosu, president of the Chinese People's Association with Foreign Countries; and Ambassador Cui Tiankai; as well as business leaders, media moguls and noted scholars.

On the part of Japan, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, Minister for Internaal Affairs Hiroya Masuda, Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Minister of the Environment Tetsuo Saito, and Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, among others, attended and addressed the forum. The current forum has exceeded any previous forum in term of its scale and the total number of participants at the forum.

The annual forum, co-sponsored by "China Daily" and the non-profit Japanese organization Genron NPO, is held alternately in Beijing and Tokyo with a purport or goal to advance people-to-people, friendly exchanges between the two countries and provide an open space of discussion for the political, economical, academic and culture elite of the two countries. The first Tokyo-Beijing forum took place in Beijing in August 2005.

By People's Daily Online, and its co-authors are PD resident reporters in Japan Wu Changsheng and Yu Qing

By People's Daily Online

Chinese ambassador to the UK: Bringing out the best in us

A question often raised after the Beijing Olympics is this: in what way has it changed China - and where is the country heading now? One of the most important effects has been on the world's perception of China, and vice versa. The Olympics brought the international community into China and made the Chinese people feel closer to it. They understand better the diversity of the world, and are more relaxed about different opinions about their homeland. They are more confident in expressing their feelings and thoughts to the world.

The Olympics also opened up China more directly to the world, thanks to the presence of 30,000 international journalists. Much of their reporting helped to unroll a panoramic view of the dynamic, diverse, modern China, which is not free of challenges. After this encounter, hopefully, there will be fewer cases of using old footage, photos or stereotypes to present today's stories.

For the Chinese people, hosting the Olympics is a century-old dream come true. For 16 days the whole country was immersed in excitement brought by the magic of sport as well as the close encounter with the world. About half a million people watched the games in Beijing and other cities every day, in addition to the hundreds of millions of television viewers.

The Olympics brought out the best in the Chinese people. They cheered enthusiastically for athletes, both Chinese and international, and for all endeavours, successful or otherwise. Most noticeable of all were the smiling volunteers who appeared everywhere, eager to help. The Paralympics will be another opportunity to celebrate our common humanity.

The success of the Olympics was not an overnight effort. Only we in China know how hard the journey has been. It was the culmination of seven years of painstaking preparations and 30 years of persistent reform, during which a planned economy was incrementally replaced by a market economy, semi-seclusion gave way to growing openness, and human rights gradually improved. The success of the Olympics has strengthened our commitment to continue these reforms.

Of course, the games have not altered the underlying realities. China remains a developing country with a per capita GDP that is one twentieth of Britain's. It still has a long way to go in meeting the challenges of development and building a harmonious society for all its people.

Over the past three decades we have been through a vast amount of change, more than many countries. We have learned a lot from the west. As ambassador, I receive a continuous flow of delegations from China to study Britain's governmental and social management, legal structure and technologies. But China should not be expected to become a carbon copy of a western society. It will develop democracy and prosperity in line with its own culture and social conditions.

Our continued growth will be achieved only through closer integration and cooperation with the rest of world. A relationship between China and the west based on mutual understanding, respect and cooperation is what we desire.

Britain certainly made its name at our games, not only thanks to the thrilling performance of its athletes, but also with the dazzling eight-minute show that followed the flag handover. People have already started to compare Beijing with London, but I believe that each Olympics, while building on previous efforts is unique. I am sure that London will do well in 2012.

By Fu Ying, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom

Shanghai Wal-Mart signs group contract with trade union

According to Xinhua Net, the Shanghai branch of the US retail giant Wal-Mart and its subordinate supermarkets have signed a breakthrough group contract with their employees, marking the formal establishment of collective negotiation system between employers and employees, said the Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions.

Covering nearly 1000 workers in Shanghai, the group contract includes some substantive provisions about core issues concerning employee's interest, such as remuneration, work hours, vacation, insurance and welfare. Details include the establishment of salary negotiation system, under which in each December trade union and the company negotiate the next year's general growth rate of employees' wages. It specifies an average salary increase of 8% in 2008 and 2009. Besides, another 1% increase will be provided for promotion and other special problems. The company's minimum wage is apparently higher than that of Shanghai municipal. Employees who work for more than three years have the right to sign a labor contract which enables employees to stay in the company without a fixed deadline.

Shanghai will gradually promote employer-and-employee negotiation system in more of the local branches of top-500 companies, said Mao Ronghua, vice director of the Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions.

By People's Daily Online

Fitch: limited impact on Asia-Pacific banks from Lehman bankruptcy

Fitch Ratings, one of the leading international rating agencies, announced on Sept. 16 that preliminary findings from its investigation of exposure to Lehman Brothers held by banks in the Asia Pacific Region suggest that, for the most part, net exposures are small and the direct impact on banks will be limited.

The largest exposures are held by banks in Japan. For all the banks the exposures are small in relation to equity capital but provisions could adversely affect earnings - this is at a time when banks are already absorbing other losses arising from the credit crisis.

Australian banks have not released comprehensive information but Commonwealth Bank of Australia has stated that its exposure is less than AUD150m. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group has stated that its total exposure is USD120m. The filing also shows that both ANZ and National Australia Bank had small exposures in the form of letters of credit.

Korea's financial sector regulators have disclosed that the whole system has exposure of USD720m. The direct risk to Korean banks appears small. The risk of Korea's securities firms may be more significant.

Preliminary data disclosed by Taiwan Financial Supervisory Committee indicates that the Taiwanese financial system as a whole has USD2.5bn exposures related to Lehman credits.

Among Chinese banks, only Bank of China was listed as a significant unsecured lender with USD50m but potential losses are not material for a bank of BOC's size.

Thai banks have generally limited exposure, with Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited the highest at THB3.5bn accounting for only 2% of its equity. Among Indian banks, ICICI Bank Ltd. has disclosed exposure of a modest EUR57m. The three Singapore banks have indicated that their direct exposure is not material. Data from banks in Hong Kong is not yet complete, but among the banks that have provided information none so far have acknowledged a material exposure to Lehman.

However, the agency will continue to investigate the full extent of these banks' on-and-off-balance sheet exposures and take account of potential losses that will add to the existing burden of writedowns stemming from the credit crisis.

By People's Daily Online

Backgrounder: American International Group, Inc.

American International Group, Inc. , as the country's biggest insurer, provides insurance, financial and investment products and services to both businesses and individuals in more than 130 countries and jurisdictions through its subsidiaries.

AIG's major product and service groupings are General Insurance, Life Insurance & Retirement Services, Financial Services and Asset Management.

The company is based at the American International Building in New York City. Its UK headquarters is located on Fenchurch Street in London, UK. Continental Europe operations are based in La Defense, Paris and its Asian headquarter is in Hong Kong.

AIG was originally a small insurance agency established by Cornelius Vander Starr in Shanghai in 1919. As the first westerner in Shanghai to sell insurance to the Chinese, Starr was very successful with the business in Asia, then he expanded it to other markets, including Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.

In 1962, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, took over the company's management, and shifted the company's U.S. focus from personal insurance to high-margin corporate. In 1968, Greenberg was named Starr's successor.

The company went public in 1969. It became a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on April 8, 2004, and was the 18th-largest company in the world, according to the 2008 Forbes Global 2000 list.

Greenberg resigned as the company's CEO in February 2005 and was succeeded by Martin Sullivan, who began his career at AIG as a clerk in its London office in 1970.

In September 2007, AIG announced that it completed the merger of a wholly owned subsidiary of AIG with 21st Century Insurance Group.

On Sept. 17, 2008, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will lend an 85 billion-U.S. dollar-bridge-loan to AIG to save it from bankruptcy.

In return, the U.S. government will receive a 79.9 percent equity interest in AIG and has the right to veto payment of dividends to common preferred shareholders in the deal.


Hang Seng Index finish off 18,000 support line at midday

Hong Kong stocks fell 339.41 points, or 1.85 percent, off the key support line of 18,000, to finish Wednesday's morning session at 17,961.20.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index once fell 342.40 points, or 1.87 percent to 17,958.21, during Wednesday's morning session.

Hong Kong stocks rose 390.69 points, or 2.13 percent, to open Wednesday's morning session at 18,691.30, following the U.S. Federal Reserve announced an unprecedented deal to rescue insurance giant American International Group overnight.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced on Tuesday an unprecedented 85 billion U.S. dollar rescue loan to save insurance giant American International Group from bankruptcy amid fears of a catastrophic effect on financial markets.

Barclays announced in a statement Wednesday that it had reached an agreement to acquire Lehman Brothers North American investment banking and capital markets businesses.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index on Tuesday plunged 1,052.29 points, or 5.44 percent, to close at 18,300.61, the lowest close in nearly 23 months, amid worries of a global financial turmoil after investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection.