>> Chinese Ebola experts leave for Sierra Leone
By Liu Lu
The second group of Chinese medical experts left for Sierra Leone early on Saturday of December 20 to assist in the prevention and control of the Ebola virus, said a statement released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The 14 expert members of the team will offer training to 4,000 personnel in Sierra Leone.
The team’s experience and specialisms cover infectious disease prevention and control; epidemiology; health education; lab experiment; clinical medicine; and infection control. All have undergone strict training.
In addition, materials weighing 2.4 tonne were also taken to Sierra Leone, including training books and videos; personal protection equipment; temperature-testing equipment; disinfection apparatus; anti-malaria drugs; and logistics.
The first group of 12 Ebola experts set out for Sierra leone on Nov. 9, they have since trained 2,000 personnel on Ebola control and prevention, and their work has been acknowledged by the local and international community.
The deadly virus has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in west Africa since earlier this year, according to the World Health Organization.
>> China eases market access for foreign banks
By Zhu Shaobin and Li Yanxia
The Chinese cabinet announced new rules on Saturday that will ease market access for foreign banks in a move to further open up the domestic banking sector.
The State Council published the amended rules on Saturday of December 20, which will no longer require a specific amount of operating funds to be transferred from the parent foreign bank to its newly-established Chinese branch.
Previously, a foreign bank would have to unconditionally allocate at least 100 million yuan (around 16.4 million U.S. dollars) or the same value in other freely-convertible currencies.
The requirement has had a restrictive impact on capital replenishing at foreign banks’ China branches. Meanwhile, direct capital injection from parent companies to their branches would also be treated as foreign direct investment, which often involved a complicated approval process from multiple government agencies.
The new rules will also scrap the previous requirement that foreign banks or Sino-foreign joint venture banks should first establish a China representative office before they could set up branches.
Meanwhile, the new rules have relaxed requirements on foreign banks’ application to carry out Renminbi business. Foreign banks will be able to apply for such business if they have operated in China for at least a year, down from the previous requirement of three years. The banks applying for such business will also face no profitability requirement, a change from profit making for two successive years in the past.
Under the new rules, if a foreign bank has one branch already carrying out RMB business, its other branches will no longer face restrictions in launching the same business.
The new rules will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
>> China’s Dalian Wanda eyes competition with Disneyland
By Shi Hao, Jiang Guocheng and Han Miao
Chinese real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin said on Saturday of December 20 that his Dalian Wanda Group will compete with Disneyland and probably open theme parks in the United States in the future.
Wang, founder and president of the group, one of China’s top property developers, revealed his ambition at the opening ceremony of a movie park in Wuhan City, capital of Hubei Province in central China.
Although real estate contributed the bulk of Wanda’s revenue, Wang told Xinhua that the group is seeking more growth engines as rapid expansion in China’s property sector is coming to an end.
Wang said Wanda will unveil a transformation plan in January and turn to businesses in culture, tourism, finance and e-commerce for further growth.
In a move toward the transformation, Wanda launched the “cultural tourism city” program to construct building complexes for tourism, entertainment, shopping, dining and other purposes in a number of Chinese cities.
“Our cultural tourism cities will try to rival Disneyland parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai in terms of visitors and revenue. If we do well, Wanda will probably build theme parks in the U.S.,” said Wang.
Wanda is confident in promoting Chinese culture to the world, according to the 60-year-old businessman.
The group is actively exploring overseas markets with investment in the U.S., Australia, Britain and Spain.
Wanda aims to raise its business revenue to 600 billion yuan (97 billion U.S. dollars) by 2020, with 30 percent hopefully coming from overseas businesses.
>> Chinese Premier returns to Beijing from overseas visits, meetings
By Xiong Zhengyan
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang returned to Beijing on Saturday night of December 20 after his visits to three Asian and European countries and attendance at a series of international meetings.
Li paid an official visit to Kazakhstan. During his stay there, Li held the second regular meeting between the China-Kazakhstan heads of government with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov and attended the 13th prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held in Kazakhstan.
Li paid an official visit to Serbia, where he attended the third leaders’ meeting of China and Central and Eastern European countries.
He also traveled to Thailand to attend the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation.
>> China starts construction on new high-speed railway
By Zhu Shaobin and Fan Xi
The China Railway Corporation announced on Saturday of December 20 that construction on a new high-speed line has commenced in east China’s Jiangxi Province.
The new passenger line, which will stretch for 419 kilometers and run through more than 10 cities and counties, will link provincial capital Nanchang with Ganzhou city in the province, the company said.
Upon completion, the line will also connect to a number of other high-speed railway lines that crisscross the province including the Nanchang-Jiujiang High-speed Railway and the national high-speed railway arteries including the Beijing-Kowloon and Shanghai-Kunming routes.
The new railway will increase passenger transportation capacity in the eastern provinces of Jiangxi and Fujian, and between China’s eastern regions with the central and western regions, the company said.
However, it did not reveal the project’s completion date or planned costs.
>> China Mobile eyes 250 mln 4G customers next year
By Zhu Shaobin, Gao Kang and Ye Qian
China Mobile, China’s largest telecommunication service provider, has forecast that it will have 250 million 4G customers in 2015.
The company has experienced robust 4G business growth in 2014 and had more 50 million 4G users as of the end of October, China Mobile chief executive officer Li Yue said Friday of December 19.
China’s 4G is powered by the homegrown technology, Time-Division Long-Term Evolution (TD-LTE), one of the two major international standards in the mobile telecom industry, the other being Frequency Division Duplex (FDD-LTE).
“The TD-LTE sector is maturing, and increasingly accepted by more telecom companies. Given this, we aim to increase our 4G users to 250 million in 2015 by increasing the number of our 4G base stations to 1 million to enhance coverage,” Li said during a global cooperation partners conference held by the company in Guangzhou.
China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua said 2014 was the start of the 4G era for the company.
He said the company had 700,000 4G base stations currently under construction and that they would be complete by the end of 2014. He also forecast the company would have almost 80 million 4G customers by year end.
The company has 42 TD-LTE commercial networks worldwide, allowing users to access 4G services in 26 countries and regions, Xi said.
>> China-Arab research institute launched in Muslim region
By Cao Kai and Ai Fumei
A China-Arab research institute was established on Friday of December 19 in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where many of the Muslim Hui ethnic minority live.
The institute, based at Ningxia University, is expected to be a top think tank for China-Arab strategic cooperation, communication and training, said Qi Yue, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC)Ningxia University committee.
The Ningxia regional government and Ningxia University will jointly assign the institute 15 million yuan (2.45 million U.S. dollars) every year.
Li Shaoxian, vice president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, will head the institute.
About one third of Ningxia’s 6.5 million population are Muslims. The region expects to use its religious links to the countries involved in the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping last September, to revive trade and relations with countries along the route that spans Central Asia, Russia and Europe.
>> China’s Muslim region to subsidize senior religious personnel
By Cao Kai and Zhang Liang
Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where many of the Muslim Hui ethnic minority live, will start to give monthly living allowances to senior religious personnel from January next year, local authorities said on Saturday of December 20.
They include registered imams in mosques, abbots in Buddhist and Taoist temples and bishops in Christian and Catholic churches, according to the regional ethnic affairs commission.
They will get 400 yuan (65 U.S. dollars) every month. Those who assume leading posts in county, municipal, regional and national religious groups can have an extra 100, 200, 300 and 400 yuan respectively.
The commission did not say why it introduced the trial policy, which will run for one year.
Those who break the law or carry out illegal religious activities will loose the allowance, according to the commission.
About one third of Ningxia’s 6.5 million population are Muslims. There are more than 3,700 mosques in the region.
The number of churches and temples in the region is not clear.
>> Xinjiang denies rumor of new terrorist attack
By Cao Kai and Ma Kai
The regional government of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Saturday of December 20 denied hearsay of a terrorist attack in Shache County in Kashgar Prefecture.
Rumors have been circulating on WeChat, a popular mobile social network application, over the past few days, according to the regional government’s publicity department.
Xinjiang remains stable and the police are tracing the source of the story, it said.
>> China to boost civil aviation in Xinjiang
By Shi Hao and Qian Chunxian
China vowed on Saturday of December 20 to make more efforts to support the development of civil aviation in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in a guideline that it will improve aviation infrastructures in Xinjiang by supporting expansion of established airports and construction of new ones.
The CAAC will speed up preliminary study of a new airport in Urumqi, capital of the region. It also backed the city to apply for 72-hour visa-free entry for international transit passengers.
In addition, the administration encouraged airlines to operate more routes connecting Xinjiang cities with China’s eastern areas as well as foreign countries.
Xinjiang currently has 16 civil airports, with 46 domestic and foreign airlines operating 184 routes. It has the most airports and longest airways among China’s provincial-level regions.
From January to November, Xinjiang saw 238,000 civil flights and throughput of over 20 million passengers and 163,000 tonnes of cargo and mail, up 20.5 percent, 9.8 percent and 8.8 percent year on year, respectively.
>> China to set up over 30 minority languages courses
By Liu Lu
China plans to set up courses on more than 30 minority languages by 2020, a move to cover all the languages spoken in the countries which have established diplomatic relations with China, a language expert said on Saturday of December 20.
Principal of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Peng Long, said that China had established diplomatic relations with nearly 200 countries, and the country now provides 64 foreign language study programs at a symposium on the strategic development of non-common languages.
The newly-developed courses will include the languages spoken in Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as Byelorussian, Peng added.
The symposium was attended by university professors and officials from the Education Ministry.
>> Chinese government net assets at 55.3 trl yuan: research
By Zhu Shaobin and Liu Zheng
The total net assets of the Chinese government, including government executive departments, legislative departments and justice departments was 55.3 trillion yuan (around 9 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2013, according to research published on Saturday of December 20.
In a broad measurement that also included government-backed public institutions and associations, the government’s net assets stood at 92.3 trillion yuan in 2013, according to the finance research institute under the People’s Bank of China, the central bank.
The total net assets of China’s public departments, including the government’s net assets as well as government-controlled companies, stood at 106.9 trillion yuan.
The government’s net assets in the narrow sense of measurement accounted for 26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.
“Given China’s relatively huge foreign exchange reserves, the Chinese government has a good foundation for economic control,” the finance research institute said.
It added that the government’s net assets were substantial and also demonstrated structural stability and fitness.
Chinese authorities are pushing for a unified economic accounting regime and compilation of national and local balance sheets, which would draw a clear picture of the country’s liabilities and assets, and provide a tool for risk prevention.
However, the process has met stumbling blocks in terms of the classification of departments and liabilities definition. This recent research will facilitate the process.
Launched in September 2013, the research program is scheduled to be complete by 2018.
>> Nearly 1.1 bln Chinese suffering from smoking
By Li Zhihui
Nearly 1.1 billion Chinese people are either smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke, an official said Saturday.
About 356 million people above the age of 15 are smokers, while another 738 are passively smoking, said Jiang Yuan, director of Tobacco Control Office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking-caused cancers and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases have imposed economic burden of more than 223.7 billion yuan (35.9 billion U.S. dollars) for people at or above the age of 35, she said.
“China has to adopt comprehensive, long-term and effective tobacco-control measures,” she said.
China is mulling a ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products, according to a draft regulation published on the legislative affairs office of the State Council website in November.
The draft bans smoking in all kinds of indoor public places and outdoor space in kindergartens, schools, colleges, women and children’s hospitals as well as in fitness venues.
Also in November, the legislature of Beijing Municipality adopted an anti-smoking legislation to ban smoking in all indoor public places, workplaces and public transport vehicles. It is scheduled to become effective on June 1 next year.