Friday, October 10, 2008

Sinopec parent announces not to sell 4.3 bln non-tradable shares

Sinopec, Asia's top refiner, saw 4.335 billion of its non-tradable shares freed-up on Friday, all belonging to its parent company, China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. . CPCC said it would not cash in any of those shares.

These shares accounted for 5 percent of its total capital stock.

"We have never sold any Sinopec shares and we are not set to do so this time," an unspecified CPCC source told Xinhua on Friday, adding several companies had mirrored the state-owned enterprises watchdog's call to buy back their shares.

The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission last month voiced its support to back up its 147 centrally-administered SOEs in buying more stocks of their listed subsidiaries, a move to shore up the sliding stock market.

CPCC has another 57.088 billion non-tradable shares to be unlocked on Oct. 12 next year. But the company did not say how it would deal with those shares.

Sinopec dropped 3.83 percent to 9.8 yuan per share on Friday.

Source: Xinhua

China mainland records 39.85% increase in actual use of overseas investment

China's mainland reported a 39.85 percent surge in the actual use of investment from other areas in the first eight months over the same period last year.

Investment inflow reached 74.37 billion U.S. dollars during the January to September period, the Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.

Zhang Hanya, a researcher with the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's economic planning organ, said the impressive growth indicated China was an attractive investment destination worldwide.

"Enterprises that invest in the country still have confidence in reaping profitable business returns," Zhang said.

The mainland approved the establishment of 20,801 enterprises funded with outside investment in the first nine months, down 26.25 percent from the same period last year.

The figures reflected the endeavor to increase the quality of investments from the outside, Zhang said.

"China is reducing its processing industry scale as part of its effort to upgrade industrial structure, so companies with high-energy consumption and high pollution were refused entry to the domestic market," said the researcher.

Source: Xinhua

Hong Kong stocks close down 7.19%

Hong Kong stocks tumbled 1,146. 37 points, or 7.19 percent, to close at 14,796.87 on Friday amid the global financial tsunami, marking the first time for the benchmark Hang Seng Index to end below 15,000 in about three years.

Turnover totaled a moderate 69.37 billion HK dollars , slightly higher than Thursday's 60.87 billion HK dollars .

All the 42 blue chip stocks lost ground, with market heavyweight HSBC Holdings shedding 8.2 HK dollars, or 6.95 percent, t 109.8 HK dollars, in spite of the London-headquartered banking giant saying it had abundant liquidity.

Analysts attributed the loss in its stock prices to tight credit market, as the banks remained unwilling to lend to each other despite high interbank rates, and to a spray of sell-off by fund managers as investors hurried to make redemptions.

HSBC local unit Hang Seng Bank, which adjusted its economic growth forecasts for Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 on Friday, lost 7.55 percent at 109 HK dollars, while local player Bank of East Asia lost 3.59 percent to close at 20.15 HK dollars.

Mainland-based commercial banking group Bank of China went down6.59 percent, while BOC Hong Kong lost 7.56 percent at 11 HK dollars on high interbank loan interest rates.

The financial sub-index suffered a loss of 7.54 percent, and the properties issues lost 9.64 percent, which was the biggest loss among the four major categories. The utilities and the commerce and industry sub-indices shed 6.88 percent and 6.23 percent, respectively.

Mainland-based commercial banking giant ICBC lost 7.41 percent to close at 3.75 HK dollars, while China Construction Bank lost 7.64 percent to 3.75 HK dollars.

China Life turned out one of the biggest losers with a plummeting drop of 3.35 HK dollars, or 13.01 percent, at 22.4 HK dollars, contributing 108.68 points to the change of the blue chip index, which was second to only HSBC Holdings' 208.96 points.

China Mobile, another market heavyweight and by far the largest mobile carrier on the Chinese mainland, lost 4.32 percent to end at 66.4 HK dollars, with a local investor services institution saying the stock may outperform the market.

Cheung Kong, the real estate conglomerate headed by "superman" Li Ka-shing, closed down 8.10 HK dollars at 67.5 HK dollars. SHK Properties, the leading residential developer in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, tumbled 11.63 percent on fears the local banks might raise mortgage interest rates in the near future.

Oil giant PetroChina lost 0.37 HK dollars, or 5.81 percent, at 6 HK dollars and Sinopec ended down 8.56 percent at 4.81 HK dollars. Offshore oil producer CNOOC closed down 9.23 percent at 5. 9 HK dollars as international oil prices fell.

Shipping stock China COSCO closed down 8.04 percent at 4.69 HK dollars.

Source: Xinhua

Fund redemptions add to sell-off pressures on Hong Kong stock market

Hong Kong stocks tumbled 7.19 percent on Friday, with a spray of indiscriminate sell-off by fund managers on redemption pressures adding to the woes of the already troubled market, analysts said.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index opened down 7.69 percent at 14, 717.52 and once dipped to as low as 14,398.54. It closed down 1, 146.37 points at 14,796.87, marking the first time for the blue chip index to end below 15,000 in about three years.

Turnover totaled a moderate 69.37 billion HK dollars , compared with 60.87 billion HK dollars on Thursday.

All the 42 blue chip stocks lost ground, with market heavyweight HSBC Holdings shedding 6.95 percent to contribute a drop of 209 points to the index change, in spite of the London- headquartered banking giant saying it had abundant liquidity.

Analysts attributed the losses to the tight credit market, as the banks remained unwilling to lend to each other despite the high interbank rates. Tight liquidity forced some investors to redeem their investments in funds, which, in turn forced the fund managers into a spray of indiscriminate sell-off.

Jasper Tsang, director of equity research at CSC Securities Limited, said quite a number of funds faced redemption pressures, leading to selling pressures on the "stable" stocks that would normally have been considered safer investments.

Chan YK, an analyst with Phillip Asset Management, said the fact that even the utilities chips suffered from a spray of sell- off, let alone the mainland-based quality stocks, shows that the investors were selling off indiscriminately.

The utilities sub-index suffered a loss of 6.88 percent on Friday, which was more than the percentage point losses for the commerce and industry genre.

In a sign of redemption pressures on the investment funds, the Hong Kong unit of Atlantis Investment Management said it has suspended redemptions in its Atlantis China Fortune Fund -- a hedge fund with outstanding performance -- due to market volatility.

Yang Liu, the company's chairperson, said the company felt the move would best protect the interests of investors, local and international media reported.

The financial sub-index suffered a loss of 7.54 percent, and the properties issues lost 9.64 percent, which was the biggest loss among the four major categories.

HSBC local unit Hang Seng Bank, which adjusted its economic growth forecasts for Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009 on Friday, lost 7.55 percent at 109 HK dollars, while local player Bank of East Asia lost 3.59 percent to close at 20.15 HK dollars.

BOC Hong Kong, the local unit of mainland-based commercial banking group Bank of China, lost 7.56 percent at 11 HK dollars on high interbank loan interest rates.

China Life turned out one of the biggest losers with a plummeting drop 13.01 percent at 22.4 HK dollars, contributing 108. 68 points to the change of the blue chip index.

China Mobile, another market heavyweight and by far the largest mobile carrier on the Chinese mainland, lost 4.32 percent to end at 66.4 HK dollars. HSBC Holdings, China Life and China Mobile contributed a total of almost 400 points to the index change.

Cheung Kong, the real estate conglomerate headed by Li Ka- shing, closed down 8.10 HK dollars at 67.5 HK dollars, despite the" superman" chairman's buying of company stocks. Residential developer SHK Properties also tumbled 11.63 percent on fears the local banks might raise mortgage interest rates due to high interbank lending rates.

Dickie Wong, of Friedmann Pacific Investment, said he expected the investors to continue shying away from the stock market even if they had cash on hand. The limited effect of the concerted rate cuts by central banks of major economies showed that the investors just had no confidence, adding to the economic recession fears.

Wong said he expected the market to look to further boost measures by the United States federal government for cues, like a possible direct injection of cash into the banking system.

Source: Xinhua

To enhance supervision and financial innovation

When the sub-prime mortgage crisis has been escalating, the governments of the United States and other related countries and personages from all social sectors globally are mulling over its causes and impact worldwide. These days, U.S. statesmen and economists reflect upon the divorce of banking business innovation from financial supervision, and review the practice of former Federal Reserve Chainman, Alan Greenspan, in which he strove sedulously to extend the boom-and-bust cycle when America's red-hot economy was already cooling.

In another development, French President Nicolas Sarkozy demands the overhaul of the world economic system. "We need to rebuild the whole world financial and monetary system from scratch," he said in a keynote speech in last September. He also called for working out drafting essential international norms for guiding economic and trade globalization. Meanwhile, some developing countries hope to draw lessons from the financial market upheavals in the U.S., which, up to date, has the most mature and developed banking system, and are thinking of what-type open strategy they should adopt to stabilize their financial market.

Despite a divergence of particular emphases, they focus on one question in common, that is, the relationship between government financial supervision and financial innovation. The business of banking has all along been regarded as the lifeblood of the performance of a modern economy and the core for the allocation of resources. The past experience shows that the market-oriented mechanism can give more play to the efficiency of the banking business and contribute more to the economic growth accordingly.

American economy is a typical case in point. In spite of some troubles or disorders it has encountered on its financial market, big or small, at an interval of a dozen years, the U.S. is certainly the most booming, thriving economy among the developed nations, and its renewed vigor comes from the optimized allocation of resources, and the outstanding contributions its banking sector has made are of course beyond any doubt.

Fully market-oriented banking industry brings in greater competition and innovation, which are not all necessarily beneficial or conducive to economic entities. Some innovations, such as the high-lever financial derivatives, chief culprit of the present financial turmoils, contain or herald immense risks, as operators of the relevant agencies expose investors' money to market risk. If a gambling is won, they would make windfall profits and, if it is lost, both investors and the government would incur huge, unmeasurable losses. Such "innovation" will definitely not help economic entities, but contrarily dampen investors' confidence, give rise to panic, and proceed to thwart economic entities due to the loss of financial games.

There poses a tough, thorny problem placed before investors: An excessive supervision can smother market competition and innovation, which are indispensable in keeping up the vitality of economic entities, whereas the lack of such supervision will end with a plunder of public property by a handful of individuals and naturally jeopardize the stability of the entire economy.

Although the current raging financial tsunami is not yet over, the international community has come to recognize that three ensuing points have to be underlined in the supervision of the banking sector. Firstly, increasing transparency, or to propose more transparency for the derivatives to be devised, so as to ensure that investors would not be hoodwinked. Secondly, stepping up social supervision, so that more stakeholders should be empowered to inquire about activities of banking institutions, which are in turn accountable to give detailed and earnest replies.

Thirdly, to ensure that financial innovation should not be detached from financial supervision, whose activities should also keep pace with new financial innovation promptly and ensure that supervision departments should have an ample, high degree of freedom in action so that these departments, too, would be likewise accountable once problems crop up.

With regard to developing nations, how to beef up financial supervision represents a conspicuous, protruding issue in the process of opening their financial markets to the outside world. The opening-up of banking sector poses a crucial, component part of the marketization of banking business and also a vital fresh impetus to uplifting the banking industry.

This constitutes a severe test for national economy, since both the shortage of experience and the lack of supervision could possibly spur financial competition to deviate further from the development objective of economic entities and become an instrument for speculation and plunder. Faced with vibrant global financial upheavals, therefore, developing nations need all the more to mull over carefully and learn painful lessons; they must never forget that they should retain transparency, and keep up the wide-ranging, rigid supervision, and prompt, effective control over the financial business while advancing the opening-up of the financial sectors prudently and with great caution.

By People's Daily Online, and its author is Zhang Bin, deputy researchers with the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Financial crisis is teaching us how to spend money

‘The time of wielding wealth is over,' remarked the U.S historian Steph Friesier on the unprecedented financial turmoil. It is much like the scene, he said, in which a grand feast broke up all of a sudden, leaving everybody running wild. The Wall Street bubble suddenly burst, with the disillusionment of extravagant consumption puffed up by the fanciful splendor.

A few months prior to the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers, an executive director of the once flourishing investment bank put his luxurious seaside villa on sale for $325 million. More significantly, many business tycoons even sold out their luxurious yachts, which used to be the apple of their eyes and worth tens and even hundreds of million. Before this, no doubt had been raised about the U.S superpower in consumption, as the U.S has long been acting as the engine of the world economy, and its powerful consumption determines the U.S role in the global economy as the bellwether. If the U.S consumption diminished, the driving force propelling the world economy would accordingly be retarded.

China, on the other hand, is an emerging economy and what is confronting it as a crucial issue will be the modes of consumption. So what mode to select is closely related to its economic routes with sustainable development highlighted. From the perspective of handling crisis, China will have to brace for the shrinking U.S consumption, and meanwhile, learn a good lesson from the U.S mode of consumption.

The U.S mode of consumption has served as the driving force pushing ahead the global economy, but other-handedly, it has also exacerbated the precariousness of the world economy and the trade structures, spurring the strong desire for extravagance all across the world. As Kenneth Rogoff, a notable economist at the Harvard University, was cited as saying, ‘the U.S consumers exhausted almost all on the earth, helped the country swallow up 25 percent of the world oil reserves, but had no interest in opening a saving account. He added, ‘thanks to the U.S unmatchable fiscal policies, the consumers don't need down payment before deciding to buy in a luxurious car. They can, of course, mortgage their houses to the bank for more loans. They have the courage to squander every cent of their savings, and enjoy their retirement life starting much earlier than ever.' Perhaps, only when we really understand the above statements, can we realize why the U.S is and has to be unique on the planet.

When tracing the causes to the financial storm, economists from different nations have so far reached an uncommon consensus, pinpointing unanimously the influence imposed by the consumption concept. When the capitals from world wide flooded into the U.S market, and due to the slack supervisory system, the untamed consumption loomed there. Abruptly, the credit links snapped, and the visionary bubble puffed up by the false prosperity got burst.

Once the old balance collapsed, the new one would not come into being promptly, and the world economy will have to seek a new bolstering point to keep balance. As a matter of fact, the ongoing process, in which grappling with and dealing with the crisis are addressed, is in itself a process to seek the new economic growth point and a new driving force. Currently, China, as well as its economic measures and policies countering the side effects brought about by the global economic slowdown, is stepping into the limelight, and the entire world is pinning hopes on China to lead the global economy out of the abyss by escalating its domestic demands.

Without any doubt, it is a bold but very plausible assumption. But considering China's present level in its economic development, the more important practice to be put in place may well be its economic restructuring and optimization. On the surface, it seems to be an easy job for China to push forward its domestic demands in its economic transformation. As economist Mr. Lin Yifu put it, ‘China is able to maintain a relatively high economic growth by stimulating its domestic economy and enhancing its domestic demands.' But if viewed from its nature, we will find that the enhancement of China's domestic demands also means that we will have to select a new consumption mode, or so to speak, we will have to spend money in a more courageous but much wiser way.

Now that China can hardly learn from the U.S in its consumption mode and even hardly can the U.S consumption mode set a goal for China to follow in its economic development. Therefore, the Chinese consumers will have to be armed with the idea involving more scientific and more rational consumption. In so doing, China's economy will be kept on the sound track of sustainable development, and contribute more to the world economy.

By People's Daily Online

Great progress achieved in the cause of women

The 10th National Women's Congress of China will be held from Oct. 28 to 31 in Beijing. The congress will comprehensively review and sum up the development of China's cause of women in the past five years, and set forth the goals and tasks within the next five years.

The All-China Women's Federation recently introduced the development status of the cause of Chinese women in the past five years.

During the past five years, the Chinese government has enhanced the investment and support in women's education and employment. The gaps between men and women in years to receive education and employment rate were both shortened.

At present, the years of Chinese women to receive education averaged 7.3; women account for more than 45.4% of all the the employees in China.

Women, making up more than 65% of China's labor force in agriculture, are the main force in building new countryside.

At the same time the women's employment structure in urban areas continues to optimize, and the employment levels to upgrade.

Data shows that Chinese's women entrepreneurs in medium and small enterprises consist of 20% of the total entrepreneurs; the number of women who start their own business has risen remarkably.

At present, among the senior party and state leaders, eight are female. The ratio of women deputies to the 11th National People's Congress and women members on the CPPCC Ninth National Committee were 21.33% and 17.7%, risen by 1.09 and 1 percentage points respectively, as compared with the NPC and CPPCC National Committee of the last terms.

In the past five years, the Chinese government has taken effective measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of women and children, and have greatly promoted the healthy development of the cause of Chinese women.

By People's Daily Online

HK enhances support service for people with emotional problems in financial crisis

The Social Welfare Department of the Hong Kong government Friday announced an extra fund of over a million HK dollars will be allocated to help out people with emotional and family problems arising from financial crisis.

A spokesman for the department said Friday that just as other economies, Hong Kong is being affected by the global financial turmoil to a certain extent.

Some people may face personal financial crisis as a result of investment failure and unemployment as well as difficulties with their emotions, family relationship, and accommodation, he said.

To address these people's needs, the department will inject additional funding of 1.2 million HK dollars to two local social service organizations including CEASE Crisis Center and the Family Crisis Support Center to related strengthen support services.

Each will be allocated an additional 600,000 HK dollars to set up a Financial Crisis Emotional Support Hotline to provide counseling service which will commence on Oct. 13.

In addition, social workers will provide face-to-face counseling and organize support groups to help those in need by strengthening their skills in coping with stress and working out positive ways to manage their problems.

Where necessary, social workers will also refer cases to appropriate welfare services for follow-up.

Source: Xinhua

Party on Great Wall highlights Chinese language

A "Chinese language only" party has drawn more than 300 people from 40 countries to the Great Wall, where they enjoyed themselves by speaking Chinese and savoring the folk culture.

The "Night of Chinese" cultural activity was held at Juyongguan Pass of the Great Wall about 60 km from Beijing on Thursday, attracting diplomatic envoys, people from multinationals and foreign chambers of commerce, as well as Chinese calligraphers and folk artists.

Participants drew Chinese paintings and calligraphy, had Chinese chess and tea, and made kites -- and they all communicated in Chinese.

The activity was aimed to give Chinese language lovers an opportunity to appreciate the time-honored culture on the Great Wall, the symbol of the Chinese civilization, which was a unique experience, said the organizers, the China Great Wall Institute and the Commercial Press.

According to official figures, about 30 million people are claimed to be studying the language overseas. Nearly 3,000 institutions of higher education in more than 100 countries and regions have set Chinese learning courses.

Since 2004, more than 260 non-profit Confucius Institutes have been set up in foreign countries to teach Chinese language and culture.

Source: Xinhua

Suicide sparks concern for officials' mental health in quake zone

Authorities in the southwest China May 12 quake zone are seeking ways to improve the mental health of their staff after a 40-year-old senior official of Beichuan County, one of the worst-hit areas, committed suicide.

Dong Yufei, the county agriculture commission head and disaster relief office director, hanged himself in a temporary office on Oct. 3.

Dong, who lost his 12-year-old son and other relatives in the quake, left a letter that read: "I feel too much pressure from life and work everyday. I cannot hold on any further. And I just want a good rest."

Officials and the public in Sichuan Province are now questioning the amount of pressure under which grassroots officials work.

"It was surprising for such an iron man to fall like this. It was a great pity and worth our reflection," said Feng Bin, first deputy head of the Organization Department of Communist Party of China Beichuan County Committee.

"Dong was a positive man. We're surprised at his suicide," said Tang Anwen, the county agriculture commission deputy head.

"I asked his permission for sick leave that morning. He told me to take care of myself. I never imagined he would take his own life that afternoon.

"He became depressed after his son died. Although he displayed a strong will and worked hard, he was in a depressive mood," Tang said.

Dong's death resonated among local officials in the province.

"Most of grassroots officials in the quake-hit area were weighed down with tasks from their superiors. The workload is at least five times greater than before the quake and locals always complained a lot to them," said Luo Yingguang, head of the municipal publicity department of Mianzhu, also a badly hit area.

"In such a time and in such a post, I have to learn to be strong. I have so many affairs to deal with every day," said Mianzhu deputy mayor Guo Yongfu, who lost her 22-year-old daughterin the quake.

"Whenever people ask me how my daughter is, I always say she is receiving treatment outside Sichuan," said Guo.

Zhang Wei, a psychologist and deputy head of West China Hospital affiliated to Sichuan University, said, "Three to six months after the quake is an bursting point of psychological crisis. Depression can set it after the initial tension eases.

"Grassroots officials are the focus of the pressure, with tasks from the superiors and requirements from the public. But they are also common people and are victims of the victims."

However, psychological intervention was not possible because ofthe lack of personnel -- even for the children, let alone officials, he said.

In total, 466 officials of Beichuan, a quarter of the total, died in the quake. Many others lost relatives.

In July and August, the county government offered psychological and material support to officials who lost loved ones. They also dispatched officials to other areas and promoted some to ease the pressure.

It also had a compulsory vacation policy, forcing them to rest,but with the heavy burden of rescue and reconstruction, few really rested.

Dong Yufei's suicide prompted the government to give more care to the grassroots officials.

"Now the reconstruction goes on the right track. We're considering sending them for training in other cities. The focus is on psychological help," said Feng Bin.

"This is an unseen rescue. I hope Dong was the first and last suicide," said a county government official without telling his name.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese herbal injections fail tests in deaths probe

Experts have found the ciwujia injections suspected of causing the deaths of three people in southwest China failed to meet standards, authorities in Yunnan Province has said.

Tests on samples from batches 2007121511 and 2007122721 of "Ciwujia Injection" used in the No. 4 People's Hospital of the Honghe Autonomous Prefecture of Hani and Yi Nationalities showed the products were substandard, said Sun Yuemin, the expert team leader investigating the deaths and a senior doctor with No. 2 Hospital affiliated to Kunming Medical College.

"The herbal injections were produced by Wandashan Pharmaceutical. They differed in shades of colour. Some looked turbid and some rubber caps of the bottles were swollen," he said." But we are still unsure what caused these problems."

Experts dispatched by the Ministry of Health had tested 180 samples from the two batches, but found no toxins, such as rodent poison, pesticide or herbicide, Yunnan Provincial Health Department announced on Thursday.

The problematic injections were produced in December by Wandashan Pharmaceutical in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. The medicine was extracted from ciwujia, a type of Siberian ginseng.

In total, 19 people used the injections in the No. 4 People's Hospital of Yunnan's Honghe Prefecture, said hospital president Liu Ru.

Six patients had strong adverse reactions, including vomiting and comas, after being injected with ciwujia from the two batches. Three died in hospital on Monday. The others were described as stable, but still under observation.

The firm recalled 3,600 bottles of injections, less than 10 percent of the total of the two batches, following the deaths of the three people, said Feng Dianguo, the company's deputy party chief.

"Nearly 48,000 bottles were produced for the two batches, and we recalled 3,600 bottles, or 360,000 milliliter. The rest had been used."

Wandashan Pharmaceutical, with more than 570 staff, had suspended production to cooperate with the investigation.

Siberian ginseng injections are often used to treat thrombosis caused by weak liver and kidneys. It is also believed to be helpful in treating coronary heart disease, nervous exhaustion and menopausal problems.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese-led research team creates bionic gecko feet

A U.S. research team led by Chinese scientists has created a nanotube-based dry adhesive that surpasses the stickiness of gecko feet -- no easy feat, since the animals can cling to nearly any type of surface.

Geckos rely on aligned microscopic hairs for their gravity-defying climbs. Their design mimics this arrangement, with a vertically aligned array of straight carbon nanotubes topped by a layer of curly, entangled nanotubes, Wang Zhonglin, the lead researcher from Georgia Institute of Technology, told Xinhua on Thursday.

Just as in the gecko foot, the combination produces an adhesive with superior strength in the shear direction -- clinging against the pull of gravity -- and regular strength in the normal, perpendicular direction, which allows the adhesive to be easily pulled away from a surface. The shear adhesive force of the nanotube array is almost 10 times that of the gecko foot.

Though the material might seem most appropriate for use by Spider-man, the real applications may be less glamorous. Because carbon nanotubes conduct heat and electrical current, the bionic gecko feet could be used to connect electronic devices.

Another application might be for adhesives that work long-term in space. "In space, there is a vacuum and traditional kinds of adhesives dry out, but nanotube dry adhesives would not be bothered by the space environment," said Dai Liming, another lead researcher from University of Dayton.

Their paper will appear in the Oct. 10 issue of journal Science. For the future, the researchers hope to learn more about the surface interactions so they can further increase the adhesive force. They also want to study the long-term durability of the adhesive, which in a small number of tests became stronger with each attachment.


Targeting climate change in Himalayas

The Ministry of Science and Technology and the United Nations Environment Programme jointly launched a three-year program yesterday to address the increasingly worrying effects of climate change in the Himalayas.

"The rapid melting of snow and glaciers in the past 10 years has threatened economic development and ecological balance in the Himalayas faster than any period of time in the past half century," Zhang Shigang, the coordinator of the UNEP China Office, told China Daily yesterday in Beijing.

Global warming is causing a rapid meltdown of snow and glaciers in the Himalayan region, resulting in glacial overflows along the Himalayan range, data from the independent International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development showed.

Similarly, weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable and extreme, with droughts and floods worsening, he said.

The latest program aims to improve understanding of these problems and provide first-hand data for local governments to make more constructive policies to instruct residents on adapting to climate change, Zhang said.

The program will cover five regions: the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, Qinghai and Gansu provinces, and Sichuan province.

The UNEP plans to provide $1.2 million for the program. It will also use the funds to research climate change in the country's coastlines.

Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang has also called on the international community to work on a mechanism for the development of technology and its transfer to address the problems of climate change.

"Technology is central to adapting to climate change," he said.

Source:China Daily

Warmer world threatens "Happy Feet"

More than half the colonies of Antarctica's penguins, including emperor penguins made famous by the Hollywood film "Happy Feet", face decline or are in danger of being wiped out if the world warms by 2 C, a report says.

Rising temperatures in coming decades would lead to less sea ice in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica and fewer nesting sites and feeding grounds for penguins, global conservation group WWF said in the report "2 C is Too Much".

"The problem is very serious. Antarctica and the Arctic are the most threatened regions from climate change," Juan Casavelos, WWF's Antarctic Climate Change Coordinator, said yesterday.

"In the Antarctic Peninsula, the temperature has risen 2.5 C in the past 50 years, which is five times faster than the global average," he said on Barcelona, Spain, where the report was released at this week's International Union for Conservation of Nature congress.

Global temperatures have already risen on average by about 0.6 C since the Industrial Revolution, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels.

The report said unless nations slash carbon emissions, the world would warm by an average 2 C in less than 40 years.

But temperatures near the Poles have already risen much faster, leading to dramatic melting of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula, off the bottom of South America, and sea ice at the North Pole.

"The situation is quite critical because in the past 50 years, the emperor penguin population has decreased by 50 percent in all of Antarctica," Casavelos said.

On the Antarctic Peninsula's northwestern coast, Adelie penguin numbers have dropped dramatically over the past 25 years, WWF's report said, calling for rich nations to agree to steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in UN-led climate talks.

"Fifty percent of the colonies of the iconic emperor penguin and 75 percent Adelie penguin colonies face marked decline or disappearance if the global temperature is allowed to rise 2 C above pre-industrial levels," the report said.

"Under 2 C global warming and the projected decrease in sea ice thickness and increase in open water area, emperor penguins will find it increasingly difficult to find new nesting areas," it said.

With less sea ice, Adelie penguins could be pushed further south but this could hamper their hunts for food during the dark winter months because they needed at least a few hours of daylight to find food, the report said.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

Over 1.2 million Chinese studying abroad during 30 years

From 1978 to the end of 2007, a total of 1.212 million Chinese had studied abroad. The number increased 168 times from 860 in 1978 to 144,500 in 2007 in 30 year, according to the Ministry of Education.

From 1978 to the end of 2007, 319,700 people have returned home after graduating from foreign schools.

In the field of education and scientific research, 77 percent of the colleges and universities principals, 84 percent of the academicians of Chinese Academy of Science, 75 percent of the academicians of China Academy of Engineering, 62 percent of doctoral tutors and 71 percent of the directors of the State-level teaching and research bases have had experience of studying abroad.

By People's Daily Online

IOC to retest Beijing doping samples

Any athletes who thought they got away with doping at the Beijing Olympics shouldn't rest easy. The drug police are coming back.

The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday it will retest samples from the games to search for a new blood-boosting drug at the center of the latest Tour de France scandals.

The move reflects the IOC's aggressive attempts to nab drug cheats not just during an Olympics, but weeks, months and even years later once new tests become available. Results and medals could be at stake.

"Our message is very clear," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. "The IOC will not miss any opportunity to further analyze samples retroactively. We hope that this will work as a strong deterrent and make athletes think twice before cheating."

The Beijing samples will be reopened and tested in particular for CERA, a new generation of the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO. The substance boosts an athlete's performance by increasing the number of oxygen-rich blood cells.

No test for CERA was available during the Beijing Games. But a new blood test developed by the French Anti-Doping Agency has since detected CERA in samples of Tour de France riders, and the IOC now wants to go back and check whether it was also used in Beijing.

"The idea is to retest across the sports, not solely on cycling," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "They will retest for all the new substances that are currently detectable, not only CERA."

IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said the IOC will test blood samples for CERA, but other tests will also be carried out to detect new drugs which he declined to identify.

"We have indication of other substances," he said.

The IOC freezes and stores samples from the Olympics for eight years, leaving open the possibility to retest them when new detection methods are devised.

The IOC conducted more than 5,000 drug tests during the Beijing Games, including nearly 1,000 blood screenings.

All Beijing samples are currently being sent to the Olympic doping lab in Lausanne, Switzerland.

IOC medical officials haven't decided yet how many or which samples will be opened for reanalysis.

"You don't do it just by random," IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said. "You have to base it on some suspicion. A number of blood samples were taken in Beijing. We will look into where we may have some suspicious parameters. Endurance events are of particular interest."

The time frame for the testing process hasn't been finalized. Logistics have to be worked out, including whether the tests will be analyzed in Lausanne or other labs.

"Our hope is to have this done during the coming few months," Ljungqvist said.

The IOC previously retested some samples from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games to look for THG, the designer steroid at the center of the BALCO scandal. No positives were found.

Any athletes caught by new tests can be sanctioned retrospectively and be stripped of their results and medals.

"All undiscovered cheats will be shaking now," said Michael Vesper, director general of the German Olympic Sports Union.

The IOC has shown increasing willingness to retroactively punish doping cheats. US athlete Marion Jones had to return her five medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics after she admitted in federal court last year that she had been doping.

"Since we store the samples and have them at our disposal, we will not hesitate in doing further analysis," Ljungqvist said. "This is a message to people who are tempted to cheat that there may be something coming up soon or later."

Andy Parkinson, head of operations of Drug-Free Sport in Britain, said the initiative "sends a great message."

"Long gone are the days when an athlete gets a negative test after a competition and disappears with the medal forever," he said. "Athletes who cheat are not safe even eight years after competitions."

Officials confirmed on Tuesday that German rider Stefan Schumacher and Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli tested positive for CERA at the Tour de France. The three riders combined to win five of the Tour's 21 stages.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG, which manufactures the drug for use by kidney patients, said it had teamed up with the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2004 to help catch cheats using it for sports enhancement.

Michael Ashenden, the Australian-based coordinator of research consortium Science and Industry Against Blood Doping, helped develop the first doping test for EPO and another for blood tranfusion.

He said Thursday that he expects the IOC retesting to result in more positives.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if we had more athletes caught," Ashenden said. "CERA is more easily detectable in blood than in urine. If there are some athletes that showed indications of it in urine, anticipate there will be even more of it in blood."

WADA president John Fahey agreed that retesting could result in more drug test positives.

"There's a distinct possibility that the retesting will bring out cases that weren't otherwise thought possible to detect," Fahey said on Thursday from his base in Sydney, Australia. "WADA believes that this is a very strong deterrent against any athlete who may be tempted to cheat."

The IOC disqualified six athletes for doping during the Aug 8-24 Beijing Games.

Three other cases are still pending.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

Hamilton says he is stronger one year on

Lewis Hamilton says he is stronger, both physically and mentally, than ever and not about to blow his lead in the Formula One title race for a second year running.

The McLaren driver holds a seven-point advantage over Ferrari's Felipe Massa with three races left going into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton was unbeatable in the rain at Fuji last year but the Briton then squandered his lead in the final two races in China and Brazil, allowing Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to close a 17 point gap and snatch the title.

No longer a rookie learning the ropes, the 23-year-old said he was wiser this time.

"I feel a lot different coming here compared to last year," he told reporters. "Last year I stayed in Asia for quite a long period of time.

"I was away for about five weeks. I was tired from being away. I didn't see my family and I didn't get back in touch with reality.

"Then you go to a race and you have to perform. I went back this time and recharged my batteries. I did my training and made sure I spent some quality time with my family."

Hamilton, winner of four races so far this year, added: "I came back here feeling fresh again. I feel just as good now as I did five months ago."

The Briton's hopes of making up for last year's late meltdown were boosted by a bizarre Singapore race two weeks ago.

A third-place finish for the championship leader came after Massa's hopes were dented by an embarrassing pitstop blunder, caused by a mechanic, which dropped the Brazilian from first to last and meant he finished 13th.

"I'm definitely in a much stronger position than I was last year," said Hamilton, bidding to become the sport's youngest champion.

"We not going out there to finish second. We're going out there to win the race but the most important thing is to finish in the points.

"I've not thought about the different scenarios. There's still 30 points to go. I'm just focusing on coming here to win. We just have to keep on pushing."

Source: China Daily/Agencies

Federer to play Madrid Masters

World number two Roger Federer will play at next week's Madrid Masters, organizers said on Thursday.

Federer won the Madrid Masters in 2006 and was a finalist in 2007 in the event, which this year begins on Saturday with qualification matches and ends on October 19.

The Swiss had a layoff of two weeks as he skipped this week's Stockholm Open.

The tournament could pit Federer against Rafael Nadal for the first time since the Spaniard assumed the No. 1 ranking, which the Swiss star had held for a record 237 weeks.

Federer was knocked out of the Olympic tournament in Beijing before a potential matchup with Nadal, who won the gold medal.

The pair haven't met since Nadal ended Federer's bid for a sixth straight Wimbledon crown in June.

Source: Xinhua

Davydenko into quarters, facing Safin next in Moscow

Top seed and two-time defending champion Nikolay Davydenko wasted no time in booking his quarterfinal spot at the ATP Kremlin Cup on Thursday, knocking out Spaniard Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-1, 6-1 in just 55 minutes.

The Russian, who converted five of 10 break points and only dropped three points behind his first serve, is bidding for his fourth title in Moscow.

The only player to have won three or more consecutive titles in the Russian capital is Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who reigned from 1997- 2001.

The 27-year-old Davydenko is closing in on one of the four remaining berths at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai.

In the quarterfinals, Davydenko will face seventh-seeded compatriot Marat Safin, who recovered from dropping the second set6-0 to prevail 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 against Frenchman Julian Benneteau.

Davydenko and Safin have met six times previously at ATP level, with Davydenko winning their past four encounters to lead the head- to-head 4-2.

The 28-year-old Safin is making his 11th appearance in his home- town tournament and reached the final in 2006 when he lost to Davydenko -- it was his last appearance in an ATP final.

Viktor Troicki prevailed in an all-Serbian clash against Janko Tipsarevic, defeating the No. 8 seed 6-3, 6-4 to reach his fourth ATP quarterfinal of the season.

Troicki now will face German Mischa Zverev, who edged out Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

Igor Kunitsyn is the third Russian to reach the quarterfinals after breaking serve four times in dismissing American Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-3.

French fourth seed Paul-Henri Mathieu completed the quarterfinal line-up with a hard-fought 6-7 , 7-5, 7-6 victory over Beijing finalist Dudi Sela.

Source: Xinhua

China's NE city to hold first ever Birkebeinerrittet Mountain Biking Race

The 2008 China Birkebeinerrittet Mountain Biking Race is scheduled to be held on Saturday in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, Northeast China, an official said Friday.

It is the first time that the well known competition comes to China.

Gong Wenbin, chairman of Changchun Jingyuetan Traveling Development Group, said that Norwegian Birkebeinerrittet which is loved by mountain biking fans all over the world, is the world's biggest MTB competition.

Over 100 Athletes from the USA, France, Norway and China will participate in Birkebeinerrittet China, which is to be held in Jingyuetan National Forest Park.

According to Morten Nygard Nergard, director of Birkebeinerrittet Organizing Committee, the 92-mile Birkebeinerrittet Mountain Biking Race was started in 1993 to commemorate the warriors of Norway.

Source: Xinhua