News & Reports 2010-12-04

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2010-12-04

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

Japan and the United States launch their biggest-ever joint military exercises in waters east of the southern island of Okinawa, and elsewhere in Japanese territory.

The United Nations says this year is likely to be one of the warmest years in history, and caps a record-warm decade that is a new indication of man-made climate change.

A Chinese high-speed train breaks the world operational speed record with a speed of 486.1 kilometres-per-hour during its trial run.

China's grain output is up again for the seventh straight year, reassuring a market which had been expressing concerns about supplies.

Hot Issue Reports

Japan, U.S. Launch Largest-ever Joint Defense Drills

Japan and the United States have launched their biggest-ever joint military exercises in waters east of the southern island of Okinawa, and elsewhere in Japanese territory.

The exercises, dubbed "Keen Sword", involve around 44-thousand-500 military personnel from both countries.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is taking part in the drill, which is expected to focus on counter-measures to a potential ballistic missile attack.

Colonel Yoshihiko Izaki is a commander with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces.

"As part of this military exchange and being at the forefront of military exchange, an effective and functional drill will provide us the foundations of future of peace and security in East Asia."

The South Korean military is also taking part as an observer.

For its part, the Chinese side has called for restraint, saying the international community does not support any actions that escalate tensions.

The US and South Korea concluded a four-day joint naval drill just two days ago, after South Korea and North Korea exchanged artillery fire last week.

Tension remain high on the peninsula, with South Korea's newly appointed Defence chief Kim Kwan-jin now vowing "retribution", including airstrikes, if the North launch another attack.

Meantime, the foreign ministers for the US, Japan and South Korea are now scheduled to meet in Washington next week to discuss the latest developments on the Korean peninsula.

The Chinese government is still proposing an emergency session of the lead negotiators to the stalled six-party talks as an option to try to ease the tensions on the peninsula.

Wikileaks Wires Show U.S. Spies in Bolivia

Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Friday that WikiLeaks revelations about statements by high-level U.S. government officials were proof that the Americans were spying on his country and other South American nations.

Morales accused the U.S. State Department of trying to create an aura of distrust among South American leaders.

"It confirms everything we are againstspying, conspiracy. What we never knew before was how the State Department of the United States also used presidents in spying affairs. I welcome this case from WikiLeaks. The information they have unveiled deals with relations between presidents. So Evo Morales distrusts [Argentine President] Cristina [Fernandez]; so Evo Morales distrusts the government of [Brazilian President Luiz Inacio] Lula [da Silva], of his ministers; or that we distrust the former president [of Chile, Michelle] Bachelet. I want to tell you all, I will always trust President Cristina [Fernandez]."

Earlier in the week, the WikLeaks website disclosed statements by high-level U.S. government officials about espionage activities in various South American countries, sending the State Department into damage control mode.

The comments came as delegates from 200 nations meet in Cancun, Mexico, for a climate change summit, an issue Morales has championed since taking power in the Andean nation in 2006, where subtropical glaciers that keep croplands fertile are threatened by rising temperatures.

Obama Visits Troops in Afghanistan, Unannounced

U.S. President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Friday and told American troops there that they were making "important progress" against militants in Afghanistan, after he ramped up force levels to widen the Afghan military campaign.

"Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control."

Obama stayed at Bagram Air Base after he cancelled a planned trip to Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, because of bad weather. Obama spoke to Karzai by phone from the military base outside the capital after a planned helicopter visit was scrapped.

The U.S. president is under pressure to show progress in the increasingly unpopular nine-year-old war, and the visit is a chance for a firsthand assessment.

But White House officials emphasized the main purpose of his journey was to visit troops around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, rather than a fact-finding mission.

About 1,400 U.S. troops have died in the war since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Despite spiraling violence and record casualties, U.S. officials have said they believe NATO forces are making progress in stemming the Taliban's momentum and training Afghan security forces.

Obama has set a mid-2011 target to begin withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO officials say they plan to shift responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014.

WMO: 2010 to Rank among 3 Hottest Years on Record

The United Nations weather agency says this year is likely to be one of the hottest years on record, highlighted by a scorching and deadly summer in Russia and exceptionally mild winters in the Arctic.

Two other extraordinary years recently have been 1998 and 2005.

Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation Michel Jarraud.

"The decade from 2001 to 2010 has set a new record and that's sure, so the decade 2001 to 2010 will be the warmest decade, ever, since we have records."

Data from the WMO, released at the ongoing UN climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, now seems to confirm a warming trend that has been going on for decades, which some scientists attribute to man-made pollution trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Jerraud says he hopes the latest figures will help the push for urgent action for countries to cut emissions.

"This conference is about negotiation. I see our role there as bringing to the negotiators the very latest scientific information. So, in a sense, this is the foundation to say this is where we are now, these are the facts and of course if nothing is done, this curve we keep on increasing and increasing, they will go up and up and up."

The WMO says the same extreme weather event that suffocated Russia with a heat wave, also caused the floods that submerged a fifth of Pakistan, killing around 17-hundred people and displacing 20 million others.

Analysts say an understanding on measuring emissions will be an important step that could help break the long-standing deadlock on reducing emissions.

Chinese High-speed Train Breaks the World's Speed Record

A Chinese high-speed train has broken the operational world speed record, reaching a speed of 486.1 kilometres-per-hour during it's trial run.

The train in question reached it's record speed as it swooped along a section of the Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail line between the cities of Zaozhuang in Shandong and Bengbu in Anhui.

Niu Jiatang, head of Zaozhuang's Transport Bureau says the new link will help boost the local economy.

"High-speed railways make it a preferred choice for many, especially short-distance travelers. It not only marks a milestone in the construction of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway, but also is a major achievement of China's technology innovation. Meanwhile, it will also help to boost economy of the region."

The over 13-hundred kilometre-long track running between Beijing and Shanghai is expected to halve the travel time between the two cities to five hours when it opens next year.

China plans to build 13-thousand kilometers worth of high-speed railway lines by 2012, which is more than the rest of the world combined.

According to the government's blueprint, by 2020 the network will serve more than 90 percent of China's population at a projected cost of some 2 trillion yuan.

China 2010 Grain Output Rises for Seventh Year in Row

China's grain output is up again for the seventh straight year, reassuring a market which had been expressing concerns about supplies.

New data from the National Bureau of Statistics now shows China's grain output this year has topped a record 546 million tons, up 3 percent from last year.

Analyst Zhang Zhaoxin from the Agricultural Economic Research Center attributes the bumper harvest to both policy support and good weather.

"China has been focusing on grain production for recent years and rolled out s series of policies. A policy structure is now in shape in favour of promoting grain growth. The structure has proved to be effective with output rises for seven consecutive years. A project was launched for infrastructure construction, including increased input on irrigation, soil and grain field reconstruction. In the meantime, although last spring was hit by several natural disasters, it got better later on, particularly in the Northeastern areas, where good sunshine contributed to the grain production increase."

Zhang adds the grain harvest should help stabilize the price of agricultural products.

"Due to fluctuation of prices in the international market, there's a tendency of price hike of agricultural products in China, plus the inflation expectation, the price of agricultural products are pushed up. This harvest can serve as a great weapon for regulating and stabilizing the grain market. I think once the signal is sent, the prices of agricultural products will be relatively stabilized."

China's top economic planner has already decided to release 8.5 million tonnes of state-reserved grain and cooking oil to try to stabilize prices.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Friday marked the International Day for Disabled Persons.

Zhang Wan now on how people with disabilities here in China are making out.

A recent survey by the China Disabled Persons Federation indicates that the lives of disabled people in the country have greatly improved, especially in terms of income, social security and community service.

The federation surveyed more than 3,2000 disabled persons in 31 provinces and municipalities around China. The questions mainly focused on their living conditions, personal development and environment.

More than 57 percent of the respondents indicated they lived relatively well-off lives. Lv Qingzhe from the National Bureau of Statistics explains.

"Since 2007, the China Disabled Persons Federation has conducted a survey of disabled people. Up to now, the work has been ongoing for four years. We have found that their lives have been improving."

Rehabilitation services are a key factor in helping disabled people to be part of society. In 2010, the number of disabled people who have received rehabilitation services has risen to more than 33 percent, compared with 23 percent last year. A total number of 7 million disabled people have received rehabilitation treatment.

Here is Chen Xinmin from the China Disabled Persons Federation.

"A preferential policy to help disabled people has been expanded. For example, nine categories of rehabilitation treatment are now covered by social insurance. The move is driven by the Ministry of Health and the China Disabled Persons Federation. Meanwhile, we have been carrying out many rehabilitation projects. For instance, the Sight Rehabilitating Project has been included in the country's major public health projects. Also, we have carried out a rehabilitation project for deaf children."

Chen says many disabled people have benefited from these projects. Moreover, nowadays, there are more professional rehabilitation organizations helping disabled people improve their physical abilities.

But some experts say the lives of the disabled still can be improved further, as there remains a large gap between the disabled persons and non-disabled population. Public services for disabled people still need to be further improved, as do the poor living conditions of some disabled people.

Chen Gong, Deputy Director of the Institute of Population Research at Beijing University, says the lives of disabled people have greatly improved compared with their lives in the past. But when they are compared with the average quality of life of non-disabled people, a large gap remains.

For CRI, I am Zhang Wan.

FIFA Gamble on the Unknown

While many are saying that FIFA's decision to choose Russia as the host the 2018 football World Cup is a bold one, many others have been left scratching their heads over the governing body's decision to award the 2022 event to Qatar.

CRI's Paul Ryding now on FIFA's gamble on the unknown, and some of the reservations the wider footballing community may have about the winning bids.

The promises made by Qatar's bid had impressed the executive committee, but in the run up to the final week of lobbying it was still considered something of an outsider to win the race for World Cup 2022.

Ray Gatt is chief football writer at The Australian newspaper. He believes Qatar sealed some bids courtesy of a spectacular closing presentation.

"Obviously they did very well in the final presentation. It was a very slick presentation and a very slick video. They had that wow factor. I think the Qatari's were by far the best presentation of all nine bids, and in the end it probably didn't surprise me that they got up."

Both bids were attractive to FIFA on account of fitting FIFA's remit to make football global. The World Cup has never been held in either Eastern Europe or the Middle East.

But thought to be holding both bids back was the level of work both campaigns would require, with much of the infrastructure and facilities required not yet in place in either country.

Russia's bid suffered early on from an unfavorable technical report which criticized country-wide logistical problems. Following that the government promised to pour $155-billion of World Cup related investment into infrastructure across Russia.

Like much of the international football community, Gant felt England's bid was the superior one in the 2018 race, but he expressed his belief that Russia's version will be successful.

"I've got to admit I have a soft spot for England, and I really thought they deserved to win the bid. It was their time-they hadn't held it since 1966. But obviously the people at Exco had different ideas. Russia did its homework very well, and they got up. Look obviously, they'll do a good job, but I still would have preferred England."

Football experts have claimed that Qatar, a country of just 1.7-million inhabitants, and the smallest nation to host the finals, is not fit to host the most watched sporting event in the world. They point to its stifling climate in the height of summer and the fact that Qatar have never qualified for the World Cup on merit.

The Qatari government has vowed to spend a reputed 50-billion dollars on readying the emirate state to host the 2022 World Cup. Investing in stadia, infrastructure and solar technology aimed at making the 2022 World Cup the first carbon neutral World Cup in history.

The executive committee was also impressed by Qatar's promise to donate the stadia used for the World Cup to some of the poorer nations in the region when the competition concludes.

Some may consider FIFA's choice of hosts a gamble, but the noises coming from the two host nations express confidence that they will be ready to build on the success of FIFA's first jaunt into Africa at last summer's World Cup.

For CRI Sports, I'm Paul Ryding.

Newspaper Picks

From the Guangzhou Daily: The controversial abbot of the world-famous Shaolin Temple now says that he is determined to continue with commercial developments to revitalize the 1,500-year-old monastery and conserve its rich Buddhist and cultural heritage.

Renowned for its kung fu and Zen Buddisim, the ancient temple was built in the fifth century and nestles in the Songshan Mountains in Henan. Since taking his position in 1999, the temple's 30th abbot, Shi Yongxin, has started a campaign of commercial development of the temple in a variety of fields.

Among a host of other initiatives, the temple is now planning to open a Zen hospital and is now seeking legal approval to put its "Shaolin Medicine" brand on instant foods such as coffee and noodles.

Many have argued that it's inappropriate for a temple to engage in these kinds of money-generating and publicity-gaining activities. The abbot argues the temple is "far from over-developed commercially" as alleged by some critics, but instead is in need of more commercialization initiatives.


From the Wuhan Evening News: The State Council has now approved changing the name of the city of Xiangfan in Hubei to Xiangyang.

The city has more than 2,800 years of history.

In the classic novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," the events in chapter 31 take place in Xiangyang. In Jin Yong's famous Kung Fu novel "The Legend of the Condor Heroes", the hero Guo Jing guards the Southern Song Dynasty in Xiangyang.

The name change has prompted some public feedback, with one prominent microblogger expressing disappointment that the State Council's actions will erase his childhood memories of the city of Xiangfan, which garnered its name in 1950.

But by contrast, another internet user from Xiangfan says the name changes will bring more economic opportunities, because all the signs used for business or government will be changed, and brand registries with "Xiangyang" should be able to be easily sold.


From Reuters: In an era when chain smoking, off-color jokes and three-martini lunches have largely faded from the workplace, the holiday office party survives.

Despite potential pitfalls, such as liability surrounding sexual harassment and drunk driving, a new survey still shows that almost 80 percent of companies throw holiday parties. The study by an executive search does point out, though, that the number of companies having parties is down to its lowest level in 22 years to 79 percent, and two-thirds are restricted to employees only.

But workers, when asked in another survey if they would rather receive a bonus than swill eggnog at an office party, overwhelmingly chose cash. The survey has found that 93 percent of respondents would ditch the year-end party for more money.

Market Update

US stocks headed for their best week in a month on Friday after a brighter assessment of the economy and a more optimistic view of Europe's debt crisis drove a rally earlier this week.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.2 percent to 11,387. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.3 percent to 1,225. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.6 percent to 2,594.

In Europe, Britain's lost 0.4 percent to 5745, Germany's DAX went down 0.1 percent to 6948 and France's CAC-40 was up 0.1 percent to 3751.