Friday, December 18, 2009

What Mexico has become?

Kazakhstan turns into world's leading uranium producer

Kazakhstan's uranium production will hit 13,500 metric tons in 2009, or up 58% from last year, making the ex-Soviet state the world's leading uranium producer, Kazatomprom said on Tuesday.

"Consolidated revenue from the sale of Kazatomprom's output in 2009 will exceed last year's level by 53%," the country's nuclear holding company said in a statement.

Kazatomprom earlier said it expected to receive a net income of 49 billion tenge ($326.6 million) in 2009.

The company is currently developing areas like natural uranium conversion and enrichment, fuel production for reactors, and the creation and operation of small and medium-sized reactors.

Kazatomprom is the national operator for the import and export of uranium, rare metals, nuclear fuel for power plants, special equipment and duel-purpose materials.

The company is wholly owned by the government of Kazakhstan.

ASTANA, December 15 (RIA Novosti)

President Medvedev set to discuss customs union in Kazakhstan

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev begins his three-day visit to Kazakhstan on Saturday to discuss a customs union and a single economic space with presidents of Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Medvedev, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a package of deals on November 27 in Minsk to create the customs union with common tariffs, paving the way for a single economic space.

"Medvedev, Lukashenko and Nazarbayev are expected to approve at the current meeting a draft plan to form a single economic space," a Kremlin source said.

In June 2009, the heads of governments of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of their intention to join the world trade club as a customs union.

The three ex-Soviet republics suspended their bilateral negotiations on the WTO entry to hold consultations on a common position on the customs union.

In October 2009, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus announced they would resume talks on WTO accession separately, but on synchronized positions.

MOSCOW, December 16 (RIA Novosti)

Dutch deny Chavez aggression claim

By Al Jazeera:

The Netherlands has denied a claim by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, that it will allow the US to use islands a few kilometres off Venezuela's coast for military action against Caracas.

Bart Rijs, a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Friday that none of the territories in the Kingdom of the Netherlands - including Aruba and the Netherland Antilles in the Caribbean Sea - had acted "aggressively".

"The sea borders between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Venezuela have been established by treaty between the countries and The Netherlands ... will respect that treaty," the spokesman said.

Rijs said that Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch foreign minister, had asked Venezuela's ambassador to clarify the claims made by Chavez in a speech at the climate summit in Copenhagen on Thursday.

US ties denounced

Chavez told an audience of environmental activisits that an agreement between the Dutch and the US permits Washington to keep 250 airforce crew and ground staff just 24km off the Venezuelan coast.

"I am accusing the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Yankee empire [the United States], of preparing aggression against Venezuela", the president said in remarks broadcast by Venezuelan state television.

US air crews are officially involved in counter-narcotics and surveillance operations, and operations are undertaken from the air by unarmed planes only, the Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said.

Chavez also pointed to the reactivation of the US Navy's Fourth Fleet, which had been disbanded in 1950 but began to patrol the coast of South America earlier this year, as further evidence of a conspiracy to surround his country.

The Venezuelan president's remarks come as political tensions with neighbouring Colombia escalate.

Colombia has agreed to give Washington more access to its military bases, a move Chavez says is designed to threaten his eastern border.

Atrocities haunt DRC child soldiers

By Al Jazeera:

The abduction of children by militias which then force them to work as soldiers, porters and sex slaves has been a long-term and widespread problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But in the past few months, fighting between the DRC army and Rwandan Hutu rebels and other militias has intensified, deepening the crisis for the country's youth.

Aid agencies describe the present situation as "catastrophic", warning that child recruitment is on the rise.

Reporting from Goma in the eastern DRC, Mohammed Adow has found that the children are being put through terrifying ordeals; they are trained to kill almost as soon as they are recruited.

One tactic favoured by the militias is to force the child to kill a member of his own family.

Stolen innocence

Dede Amanor Wilks, Action Aid's international director for West and Central Africa, has spent time talking to child soldiers in the DRC.

She told Al Jazeera that even if a child soldier manages to escape or is rescued, their problems do not end there. They continue to be seen as "evil doers".

"Some of these young people say, because they are discriminated against in society, they have no choice but to go back to those rebel groups and find a place there," Wilks says.

"The danger is that people who have suffered abuse sometimes become the abusers themselves. That's why the issue of reintegration is so important.

"All societal norms have been broken down here. Rape and the recruitment of child soldiers has almost become a normal fact of life."

Thirty-thousand recruited

In a 2006 report, the UN children's agency, Unicef, listed DRC at the top of a list of countries where armed forces and militia fighters use children as soldiers.

It estimated that as many as 30,000 children may be fighting or living with armed groups.

An estimated 30 to 40 per cent of that number are girls, the report said.

Meanwhile, the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation, has said children are currently recruited and used in armed conflict in at least 15 countries and territories.

In the DRC, at least five parties in that country's armed conflict are known to use child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this year.

It listed the Congolese army (FARDC), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, pro-government Mai Mai groups, and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Chinese workers runners-up for Time's person of the year

By Xin Zhiming (China Daily)

In China, they are known as nongmingong, meaning "farmers-turned-workers", a term that likely means more in Chinese than it does in English.

And now this important segment of the Chinese workforce - also known as migrant workers - have come to world prominence, thanks to Time magazine naming them runners-up to Ben Bernanke in its latest Person of the Year awards.

While the US Federal Reserve chairman scooped the top honor, the fact that the nongmingong were singled out shows their importance on the global stage.

Leaving behind families and homes to migrate to China's cities, they take on largely manual work and are among the country's lowest-paid workers.

They often go about their work in relative obscurity, despite numbering around 200 million.

But while the nongmingong will garner a good deal of attention, Bernanke will be on the cover when the magazine comes out today, in recognition of his maneuvering of US monetary policy that helped steer the world's largest economy out of the financial crisis.

The magazine called him "the most powerful nerd on the planet" and said he likely prevented the crisis from getting worse.

The Chinese workers ranked second were the only group named. The magazine described them as "an increasingly influential group in one of the world's most powerful economies."

"By selecting the Chinese group, the magazine is actually highlighting the role of the Chinese economy in helping the world economy step out of the crisis," said Zhong Jiyin, an economist with the Institute of Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

This year, China's year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth is set to exceed 8 percent. The growth rate means it will contribute about 20 percent of this year's global economic growth, Cheng Siwei, former vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said last month.

Analysts said the country's nongmingong were an important part of the economic miracle in recent years.

According to the CASS research, the migrant workers account for around 50 percent of the labor force in the industrial and tertiary sectors. They constitute almost 70 percent of the manufacturing labor force and 80 percent of China's construction labor force.

"This group will have a great bearing on China's future development," said Chen Gong, chief economist and chairman of Anbound Group, a Beijing-based consulting firm.

They are young, ambitious and ready to learn and have made the country more competitive globally, he said.

"More importantly, they are linking the cities and the rural areas, playing a role in bridging the gap between the two," he said.

The important role of migrant workers in the Chinese economy, however, accentuates the fact that China still relies on low-technology manufacturing to support its economic development, said Zhong.

Time magazine also listed China's central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan on its list of People Who Mattered.

Madagascar's president sacks PM

By Al Jazeera:

Andry Rajoelina, the country's president, has dismissed Eugene Mangalaza, a man he appointed as prime minister in October.

The move is likely to anger international mediators and further jeopardise hopes for a solution to the island's political crisis.

Haja Resampa, secretary general of the presidency, said on Friday: "The measures in the decree dated October 10 ... relating to the nomination of the leader of the government of national union are hereby annulled."

Rajoelina offered the job to Mangalaza under heavy international pressure as part of a power-sharing deal signed with his political rivals.

But that deal and a succession of others have fallen through as Rajoelina and three former presidents squabble over the division of key jobs in a consensus government.

Cecile Manorohanta, Madagascar's vice prime minister and a close ally of Rajoelina, will take over the premiership indefinitely.

Analysts said Rajoelina's move would dent hopes for the unblocking of aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Unity government

Hours earlier, members of Madagascar's opposition said they would form a unity government within days and called on the military to stay in their barracks.

Albert Zafy, the country's former vice-president, said: "We are going to put in place our ministers and we ask the armed forces to remain neutral and stay in their barracks."

Rajoelina this week called elections and said power-sharing talks were dead.

Zafy was among opposition leaders who returned to the island after Rajoelina's administration lifted a ban on their re-entry following talks in Mozambique.

"Rajoelina has reneged on his signature. We can no longer trust him to run the country," Zafy said.

Rajoelina, who toppled former leader Marc Ravalomanana with military support in March, said on Thursday it would be impossible to share power with political enemies.

He said the international community no longer needed to involve itself in Madagascar's affairs.

In a statement seen by Reuters on Friday, France has called for speedy, transparent elections that are monitored by an independent electoral commission and foreign observers.

While France, Madagascar's former colonial power, did not condemn Rajoelina outright, it urged all parties to resume dialogue in search of a consensus solution.

Foreign countries have said they will re-engage with Madagascar only after a consensus government is established and a road map to free and credible elections is in place.

Rajoelina has not set a timetable for a presidential election which, under the terms of the original power-sharing deal, must be held by late 2010.

Go east to China, young basketball man

(China Daily)

Dozens of former NBA players are seeking jobs in the CBA.

John Lucas III (pictured), who played for the Houston Rockets, has joined Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks.

Go east to China, young basketball man

Lucas signed a three-year contract with the Rockets in the 2006-07 season and teamed up with Yao as the side reached the playoffs. He was cut in Oct 2007.

The Sharks are having trials with Garret Siler, a college senior who played in this year's summer league for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The center averaged 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in five games with the Timberwolves.

Forward DerMarr Johnson joined Jiangsu Dragons last week.

Johnson, who was drafted sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2000, averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds during his two seasons with the Hawks before he was injured in a car crash in 2002.

The 29-year-old also played with the San Antonio Spurs, New Yorks Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

Dozens of former NBA players are seeking jobs in the CBA.

John Lucas III (pictured), who played for the Houston Rockets, has joined Yao Ming's Shanghai Sharks.

Go east to China, young basketball man

Lucas signed a three-year contract with the Rockets in the 2006-07 season and teamed up with Yao as the side reached the playoffs. He was cut in Oct 2007.

The Sharks are having trials with Garret Siler, a college senior who played in this year's summer league for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The center averaged 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in five games with the Timberwolves.

Forward DerMarr Johnson joined Jiangsu Dragons last week.

Johnson, who was drafted sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2000, averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds during his two seasons with the Hawks before he was injured in a car crash in 2002.

The 29-year-old also played with the San Antonio Spurs, New Yorks Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

Fashion blogs: Who cares?

By Gan Tian (China Daily)Catching a growing trend abroad, more Chinese are writing fashion blogs in a bid to influence the way people dress.

When Piksi from Finland posted her photos on her blog, she never expected that the H&M dress in that photo would trigger such online enthusiasm. Malaysian fashion blogger Bryan Boy became so popular that top US designer Marc Jacobs designed a special bag and named it after him. A number of designers have asked American blogger Cory Kennedy to wear their clothes and take photos to share with her blog readers.

Chinese fashion bloggers are also trying to make their voices heard in fashion circles. Wang Hao, blogger of My Boyfriend is Very Sexy, has just been invited to Hong Kong to its fashion shows.

His blog is the most visited fashion blog on blogbus, sohu, and sina and carries tips on style, schedules of major fashion weeks, comments on the fashion industry, and celebrity gossip.

Wang, 23, started his blog in 2006 under the name "Panda Gugu". It is now reportedly the most visited fashion blog in China, with 800,000 hits to date.

A fashion editor with a Beijing magazine, Wang majored in film direction from the Sichuan Conservatory of Music.

Having watched the proceedings at Paris Fashion Week recently, Wang predicts on his blog that the 2010 Spring Summer collections will be all about torn and faded jeans, and outlandish hairstyles.

Qin Di, 26, a graphic designer and ardent fashion blogger does not agree. He believes the look of the upcoming season will be big colors and stripes.

Qin started his blog JC Homme in 2005, and mainly included comments on parties, fashion shows, exhibitions, and the latest fashion collections. He updates his blog two or three times every month and is working on his online magazine.

Qin is not a fashion designer and says that is his biggest advantage. "The most interesting part of this work is I don't have to look at those clothes in a professional way. I don't comment like a fashion critic, I just see them from a customer's perspective. That is why fashion blogs are popular - readers like the fact that they are free of PR language," says Qin.

More Beijing and Shanghai-based public relations companies seem to be recommending bloggers to their clients in the fashion industry. Justin Zhang, an account supervisor at Ketchum Public Relations Beijing office, keeps the contact details of 10 top fashion bloggers on hand. Usually, only blogs with more than 50,000 visits get consideration.

"There are not many fashion bloggers in China," says Zhang.

"Usually, if the event is a show, a concert, or an opening party, we would like to invite bloggers, but if it is in the form of a press conference, we still mainly invite the traditional media," says Zhang.

But some dismiss the significance of fashion blogs. Eric Shya, fashion editor with Time Out Beijing, says he has no need for the opinions expressed in these blogs. "Some so-called fashion bloggers are writing about trends that exist only in their imagination. Even their fashion tips are mostly useless. Some others just pick up some fashion gossip and open a blog to spew rubbish."

Op-Ed Contributors Let's end the beginning, not begin the end

By Michael Berendt (China Daily)

It is not an optimistic scenario. As the Copenhagen climate change conference moves to its conclusion and the 192 participating nations set out their negotiating stalls, there seems slim prospect of a global agreement. Nobody wants to be blamed for failure. But everybody went there with "red threads", a package of minimum demands that, they said, must be met if they were to approve of a deal.

China's position has been pivotal to the three-dimensional chess of these negotiations. It is perceived as ally and competitor both. This is no surprise, given the size of the country's economy, the pace of its economic growth, its expanding energy needs and its rising share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There was never any doubt that without full Chinese involvement Copenhagen would not be a success.

Politics is at play here, including the politics of the US Congress. Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, signaled to the press even before reaching the conference venue that his delegation would be putting pressure on China. He said that he did not envision public funds going to China, declaring: "We would intend to direct our public funds to the neediest countries."

China's Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei said he was shocked by Stern's remarks. China was not asking for money, he said, a position he underlined in other briefings during the conference. "Beijing set to drop funding demand" was the headline in the Financial Times last Monday. But maybe Stern already knew that and his tough talking was intended more for the ears of Washington lawmakers than Copenhagen negotiators!

Negotiations in Copenhagen have progressed on two tracks. The first is the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets on developed countries for reducing their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions up to 2012, but no targets for the developing economies (which include China). The US is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and refuses to accept binding targets. The second track is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, parent of the protocol, in which the US is participating.

An initiative by the Danish presidency to combine the two agreements triggered a walkout by the African delegations at the start of the second week, because they feared that any binding targets beyond 2012 would be scrapped. They were reassured by the Danish presidency that long-term targets would indeed be set.

China has insisted that the Kyoto Protocol is the way ahead, as does the European Union (EU), which has already committed itself to binding emission limits, reducing by 30 percent by 2020, but only if other countries (especially the US) take on similar commitments.

The Europeans continue to push the faster developing countries such as China and India to set their own emission targets, but both continue to argue against any firm figures for controlling emissions because of the need to maintain economic growth and raise living standards of their people.

There was, however, a qualified welcome when Beijing announced targets for reducing its carbon intensity (the amount of carbon emitted per unit of GDP) by 40-45 percent on 2005 levels by 2020. It was seen as evidence that Beijing wanted the Copenhagen talks to succeed. Nonetheless, it implies a steady increase in China's CO2 emissions until they peak sometime between 2030 and 2040, and external verification of progress promises to be a difficult feature of any final settlement.

China's association with the group of 77 developing countries (G77) has been a feature of Copenhagen. It seems that the Chinese delegation has organized press conferences on behalf of the G77, without participating in them, although it supports the demand of the poorer countries that 1 percent of GDP of the developed world should be allocated to developing countries up to 2020 - equivalent to about $600 billion - in recognition of the fact that it is the developed world that is responsible for current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Agreeing on how much funding poorer countries should get to help them deal with climate change remains a major issue. When EU leaders met in Brussels on Dec 11, they said the EU would transfer about $10 billion over the next three years. The offer got a cool reception among the developing countries, both because it was regarded as inadequate and for fear that it simply repackaged development aid that had already been allocated under earlier programs. There is general agreement on the need for technology transfer to help poorer countries to face the challenge.

Just how serious the outlook could be for some countries has been demonstrated by the discussions over global temperature targets, which form the basis of the CO2 emission limits. Island states such as the Maldives and Tuvalu have been demanding a settlement in Copenhagen itself, which would limit global temperature rise to not more than 1.5C - a position supported by the G77. Anything higher, they believe, and they would be submerged by rising sea levels.

The EU target is to keep the global temperature increase to 2C. That seems the likely outcome of any global agreement, too. Anything below that would require even more drastic emission cuts by everyone, including China and India.

The vital importance of the world's forests in mitigating global warming has been widely recognized in Copenhagen. It was demonstrated by China's recent announcement of a massive expansion of its forests and by general support for REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), a global initiative to protect and expand the world's forests, which was expected to form part of any Copenhagen agreement.

Deforestation causes about 16 percent of the CO2 emissions. The EU is pressing for binding targets, which would bring down the level of deforestation by half by 2020 and end it by 2030, whereas countries such as Brazil prefer a voluntary agreement. Before the Copenhagen conference began, US President Barack Obama lent strong support to a Brazilian-Norwegian proposal for protecting the Amazon rainforest.

So the scientific basis underpinning the political process in Copenhagen evidently has gotten stronger by the day. The question for world leaders as they gather for the last day of Copenhagen talks is how the burdens of achieving a low-carbon world should be shared.

Most of the developed countries accept that they should take the biggest immediate cuts, but they have to convince their electorates of the need for action if they want their legislatures to approve of any global agreement. The EU has the institutions to do this, but it is a special challenge for the US, where a skeptical Congress may be difficult to convince. No matter what the outcome in Copenhagen is, Obama will have a huge political challenge ahead.

As we head into the final day of negotiations, it is clear that the battle lines are clearly drawn - and the biggest story for many will be the proactive and constructive role that China has played at the conference. By taking this approach, not only has China avoided much of the criticism it might have been exposed to, but also it has also shown itself to be a leading driver of positive change on one of the most important issues facing the world.

It seems unlikely that all the outstanding issues will be resolved in the next 24 hours. But then, given the importance and the complexity of the topic at hand, perhaps the expectation that the world would be able to come to a binding agreement in a matter of a few weeks was unrealistic to begin with. The real test of the world's political leaders will be their ability to sustain the momentum built in Copenhagen through the complex and technical discussions that will follow.

The author is an advisor to Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. A former journalist, he was also a member of the Cabinet of European Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan.

China pension fund to raise overseas investment cap

By People's daily:

China's National Council for Social Security Fund plans to lift the limit of the ratio of overseas investments to 20 percent from the current 7 percent, according to the China Securities Journal report Thursday, citing Dai Xianglong, the fund's chairman.

The fund also plans to invest in privately-held overseas companies and overseas funds.

The ratio of investments in fixed-income products will be reduced and the ratio of equities investments will be maintained, according to Dai.

He explained that the fund's investments on equities do not aim to "pursue the rising ones and kill the falling ones". What the fund does is to sell equities when the market value of the equities and the investment ratio of the equities are high, and to invest in equities when the market value and the ratio are low.

By the end of October this year, the total assets of the fund have amounted to 700 million yuan ($102.5 million). Within that amount, the investment on equities reached 32 percent, the investments on fixed-income products was 46 percent, and the investments on the cash and equities of unlisted companies accounted for 22 percent.

Also, Dai said the average rate of return on investment (ROI) of the fund in nine years was 9.44 percent, and after deducting 2.08 percent for the rate of inflation, the actual ROI was 7.36 percent.

The fund was established in August 2000.

PNA denies any security cooperation with CIA

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) denied on Friday an alleged report which claimed that there was security cooperation between the PNA and the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Adnan Damiry, spokesman of the PNA security apparatuses, denied a report published by the British daily The Guardian that the U.S. intelligence plays a role in aiding the PNA in cracking down on Hamas movement's members and activists in the West Bank.

"This report is totally untrue and rootless," said Damiry, adding "it is fabricated." He called on The Guardian "to check the accuracy of its report before publishing it."

"We have no cooperation with CIA, and all that we have in Palestine is a small security force that tries to restore discipline and calm."

Meanwhile, Gaza Strip ruling Islamic Hamas movement accused the United States of being involved in the war the PNA carried out against its members and leaders in the West Bank.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a new conference held in Gaza that the report of the British newspaper "is totally true," adding "Hamas members in the West Bank are detained and badly tortured by the PNA security apparatuses."

"The report and the massive arrests against Hamas members in the West Bank indicate that there is a strong cooperation between Ramallah authority and the American CIA," said Abu Zuhri.

He added that all the testimonies that Hamas movement got from its members imprisoned by the PNA security forces were "proof that the CIA cooperates with the PNA in arresting and torturing Hamas members." 

Source: Xinhua

Billionaire given death penalty for murder

By People's daily:

Billionaire Wang Wenxiang was sentenced to death Friday for hiring two people to murder a former business partner.

Wang, 49, a native of Heilongjiang Province, was convicted of having contracted the killing to his personal secretary Bai Peng and a migrant worker Yu Yi, according to the court verdict handed down by the Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Harbin, the provincial capital.

The court also sentenced Bai to death and gave death penalty with a two-year reprieve to Yu over charges of murder and theft.

The three were ordered to pay 340,000 yuan (49,786 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the victim Zhong Yishi, who ran a construction company that began doing business with Wang 10 years ago.

Wang and Zhong had a rancor over defaulted payments for a project that ended up in court in 2004. Wang's company was ordered to pay 10 million yuan to Zhong in compensation.

In December last year, Zhong brought another lawsuit against Wang on other issues related to the construction properties, which motivated Wang to plan the kidnapping and murder.

Bai and Yu were caught on videotape strangling the man in an underground car garage and putting him in a trunk on May 18. Yu put a rope around Zhong's neck while Bai sealed Zhong's mouth and tied up his hands with tape.

They put the victim into the trunk of the car and drove to an abandoned brick kiln, where they burned the body and took 4,000 yuan they found on the body.

Bai hired Yu to assist him in the killing, while Wang was responsible for covering the fees.

Wang, graduated from Tsinghua University, a top university in China, and was the political consultative conference member of Heilongjiang province. His Xinheng Corporation was involved in a range of industries including real estate, power, wholesale and retail. According to its website, the fixed assets of the company reached over 1 billion yuan.

Source: Xinhua

CPC recruits from grassroots in attempt to enhance government ability Li Hongwei, a near forty-year-old village official in northwestern China's Qingh

Li Hongwei, a near forty-year-old village official in northwestern China's Qinghai province fortunately become a civil servant in June. He benefited for a new move that saw the province recruit 14 civil servants from grassroots level (including village, county, and neighborhood committee) for the first time.

Li was party branch secretary of Qutan town, Ledu county, Qinghai province but now works for Putai village, Ledu county as a civil servant.

Thanks to Li's years experience as a village official, he quickly gained acquaintance with villagers shortly after his taking office at Putai village and is very popular among them.

"Village officials can better understand the masses and so they can better carry out government's policies", said Wang Yaochun, an official form Organization Department of CPC Qinghai Provincial Committee.

China now has 600,000 village committees and 84,000 neighborhood committees.

Village officials were selected by villagers or residents at a neighborhood committee, so they are not "officials" in the true sense and earn very low salaries. They are still peasants or ordinary people after they fulfill their terms, so many of them lack enthusiasm to serve the people.

But the reform gives them a way to promotion and has aroused their enthusiasm.

"Selecting carders from the grassroots level gives hope to those hard-working grassroots officials and also optimizes the carder structure,” said Li Jun, secretary of CPC Guiyang Municipal Committee.

Recently 47 grassroots officials have been promoted in Guiyang, southwestern China, which not only changed the status of these village officials, but also played a role in improving people's livelihood.

"I have experience working at grassroots level, so I can better understand opinions of the masses and facilitate daily routines," said Li Taizhen, deputy director of a neighborhood committee in Guiyang.

Selecting civil servants at grassroots level has been carried out in Qinghai, Guizhou, and Zhejiang province this year.

In the past, village officials were promoted to cadres only through special promotion, but now they are checked by their exam performance and working achievements.

By People's Daily Online

Senior CPC official meets Laotian guest

By People's daily:

Wang Gang (R), a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, meets with a delegation from the General Office of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) led by Khampheuy Panemalaythong (L), the office director and the LPRP's central committee member, in Beijing, Dec. 18, 2009. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

A senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) met here Friday with a delegation from the General Office of the Central Committee of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP).

Wang Gang, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, vowed to enhance exchanges with the LPRP.

Noting both the two nations keep to the socialist road, Wang said the CPC was ready to push forward the inter-party relations with the LPRP and advance the Sino-Laotian ties, so as to attain new progress in the bilateral cooperation of friendship.

Wang also hailed the growth of the bilateral relations since beginning of the 21st century.

The visiting delegation was led by Khampheuy Panemalaythong, the office director and the LPRP's central committee member.

Source: Xinhua

Chinese vice president meets South Korean regional governor

By China View:

KYONGJU, South Korea, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met South Korean Gyeongsangbuk-do Governor Kim Kwanyong here Friday.

Xi said China and South Korea, with a long history of friendship, have witnessed strong growth in their relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, and the two countries had set up a strategic and cooperative partnership.

Xi said he met and reached broad consensus with South Korean leaders during the past two days, and made extensive communications with South Korean people from all walks of life.

Xi said his South Korea trip was a success, achieving the expected goal of expanding consensus, promoting friendship and pushing forward cooperation.

Xi said communications between Chinese and South Korean provinces and cities account for a large part of the bilateral ties. He called on Gyeongsangbuk-do to strengthen communications and deepen cooperation with its Chinese sister province of Henan, and make a positive contribution to the development of ties between the two countries.

Kim greeted Xi on behalf of the local people. The governor hoped that the economic, cultural and local communications between South Korea and China would be further enhanced by Xi's visit.

Xi arrived in South Korea Wednesday night after a visit to Japan. He will also visit Myanmar and Cambodia.

World's largest atom smasher put into "technical stop"

By Yan:

GENEVA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- The world's most powerful atom smasher has been put into a "technical stop" to make preparations for higher energy particle collisions next year, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Friday.

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has now been put into standby mode, and will restart in February 2010 following a short technical stop to prepare for higher energy collisions and the start of the main research program," the Geneva-based agency said in a statement.

Housed in a 27-kilometer, circular tunnel at the Swiss-French border near Geneva, the giant machine was designed by scientists to unlock many secrets of the universe by recreating the conditions immediately after the Big Bang which happened some 13.7billion years ago.

That can only be done by colliding two beams of particles circulating in opposite directions at close to the speed of light.

The machine was first started on Sept. 10, 2008, but suffered a serious malfunction only nine days later. A successful restart was made on Nov. 20.

"Over the last two weeks, six LHC experiments have recorded over a million particle collisions, which have been distributed smoothly for analysis around the world on the LHC computing grid," said the CERN statement on Friday.

CERN Director-general Rolf Heuer said the first running period of the LHC "has served its purpose fully."

"We could not have asked for a better way to bring 2009 to a close," he said.

Are cyber security and international cooperation at odds?

by Lucy-Claire Saunders

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- It has quickly transformed the way we live our lives, from the way we communicate to the way we do business. The Internet has evolved rapidly and with it the threats to international peace and security.

As the United States engages in bilateral talks with Russia and prepares to speak with the United Nations committee on disarmament and international security in January to discuss cyber security and cyber warfare, the idea of an international framework governing the rules of cyberspace has taken on a renewed spirit in public discussions.

In the past, the United States kept all cyber-talk to the UN's economic forum. But moving the discussions into a realm of security is necessary, said Scott Weber, the former counsel to President George W. Bush's Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"It is a very important acknowledgment, that above all the spectrum of hazards that a country would need to deal with, whether it's a hurricane or a terror attack ... cyber-attacks happen almost on a daily basis," he told Xinhua. "But we've almost become numb to it because it's so frequent."

Yet admitting that cyber-attacks happen frequently is like airing one's dirty laundry. No country wants to openly talk about it for fear of giving away national security secrets to those who might be the perpetrators.

Weber painted a picture where countries must walk a fine tightrope and perform a charade in the delicate balance of sharing information while not giving away top-secret defense and offensive strategies.

"There's sharing and then there's sharing," he laughed.


A geopolitically significant development, cyber-attacks have the ability to tear into a country that has woven its national and economic security into the seams of vast computer systems and the Internet. Whether a hacker steals information or implants a virus, the technology offers the chance to sabotage the world's mightiest powers.

Last month, the antivirus software and computer security company McAfee released its fifth annual Virtual Criminology Report, concluding that politically motivated cyber attacks have increased in a number of countries, including the United States.

"Over the next 20 to 30 years, cyber-attacks will increasingly become a component of war," William Crowell, a former deputy director of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), said in the report. "What I can't foresee is whether networks will be so pervasive and unprotected that cyber war operations will stand alone."

The U.S. experiences hundreds of hacks a day on its military command centers. Last year, someone was able to breech the CENTCOM network, a military system fighting two wars, and stay inside for several days, according to the Pentagon. It's believed that foreign spies left corrupted thumbnail drives or memory sticks, where they were later inserted into a CENTCOM computer.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that insurgents hacked into U.S. military Predator drones -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- monitoring targets in Iraq. The Russian software, easily downloaded from the Internet for under 30 U.S. dollars, allowed insurgents to tap into U.S. communication links, said the newspaper.

U.S. Congress has taken note, allocating 17 billion U.S. dollars for a national cyber security initiative, and the Department of Defense has nominated Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, to head a new military command tasked with offensive and defensive cyber war.

But as more businesses go online and build their economic engines on the foundation of computer systems, they too become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Public companies, banks, electrical power grids, nuclear power plants, water treatment plants -- all are susceptible to viruses that can bring whole systems crashing down, and with them the fabric of society.

In 2005, a series of power outages in Brazil threw millions of people into darkness and put a grinding halt on business. According to some reports, the world's largest iron ore producer had seven plants knocked offline, costing the company 7 million U.S. dollars.

Targeting non-military institutions and entities is fair game these days, challenging the traditional notions of war.

"The lines are becoming more blurred with time," said Weber.


Cyber security is a new frontier for the UN committee on disarmament and international security, which typically deals with conventional weapons. So when the United States takes its cyber concerns there in January from the economic forum, it will be uncharted waters.

The move signifies that at the highest levels of leadership, the United States has come to the conclusion that it needs to address cyber security in the international arena under the rubric of security. What happens at the talks is still unknowable, but some hope that real progress can be made on a comprehensive international protocol that governs cyberspace.

Alexander Ntoko is a cyber security expert at the International Telecom Union (ITU), a United Nations agency for information and communications technology issues, which has been working on new rules to govern cyberspace.

He stressed that the scope and nature of the threats are increasing, so much so that no single country or region is capable of putting together an effective solution to such a global issue.

"An international treaty is desirable and necessary," he said in an email message from Cameroon. "However, its scope needs to take into account the broad nature of the threats, crimes, vulnerabilities and attacks."

Ntoko explained that the ITU recently completed drafting a strategic approach built on five pillars: Legal measures, technical and procedural measures, organizational structures, capacity building, and international cooperation.

This Global Cyber security Agenda (GCA) has brought together governments, industry leaders and cyber security experts in an effort to enhance the capacity to prevent, defend and respond to cyber-threats. Having been in operation for just six months though, only 50 countries are members of the GCA.

While no one denies that international cooperation is needed, it's also true that suspicions taint the communal watering hole.

"There are certain innate limitations to the (international) discussions," said Weber. "The intelligence communities are using warfare ... to hack into other countries' critical infrastructure. These are things that many countries are doing as part of their intelligence gathering and yet none of them will want to admit it in public."

One challenge the world faces in pushing through an effective cyber-protocol is the painfully slow pace with which they come about. By the time policy is drafted and implemented, the technology has warp-speeded light years ahead.

"During the Geneva Convention in 1949 and the protocols that followed in the 1970s there was no such thing as cyber-attacks so there is a great example of how the policy is outdated by virtue of the technology," said Weber.

Also, the fifth pillar of the GCA -- the international treaty --does not apply to non-state actors, another challenge created by the borderless nature of cyberspace.

"Terror groups are increasingly more involved in using the Internet both to acquire ill-gotten gains, make money, steal information, steal resources, and also to recruit," said Weber. "The whole notion of virtual jihad is becoming more and more prominent and we're seeing it more and more in the United States. So you can layer on to that intricacy on the whole framework and it makes it even more difficult to get things done quickly."

Virtual jihad makes use of the Internet to inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in a religious "struggle" against America and the West.

Ntoko stressed that a treaty is only one aspect in a far-reaching international strategy. Because of the asymmetric nature of cyber warfare, the GCA must include the work of leading global security companies so that a proactive strategy includes up-to-date technological systems that reduce threats and vulnerabilities.

As more countries come to the table to weigh in on a broad-ranging framework that addresses economic, financial and military considerations, the United Nations hopes to place itself at the center of a meaningful agreement.

"The priorities of different nations vary and to have an effective solution, it is important that the different views are taken into account," Ntoko said. "That is the role that ITU, as a neutral broker, can facilitate this common understanding and bring together the various parties to work on an approach that addresses the main concerns of all."

No easy feat, to be sure. But one likely to be attempted in the coming years.

Finding the Forgotten


Beverly Shaver had been married just three months to 24-year-old U.S. Navy pilot James Brayton Deane Jr. when his plane was shot down off China's east coast in 1956.

The navy told the families of 12 crewmembers aboard the plane including Deane, whose bodies were never found, that their loved ones died during a top-secret mission. After nearly four decades, another husband and four grown children later, Shaver accidentally read a book on American prisoners of war and started to suspect that her first husband might have been captured alive and be living somewhere in China.

Desperate for answers, Shaver turned to former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deane's fellow pilot and the couple's close friend, for help. During Rumsfeld's first visit to China as the U.S. Defense Secretary in October 2005, he asked whether China's military archives department could compile detailed information on the crash 49 years ago from their records.

A year later, when Guo Boxiong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited the United States, he surprised Rumsfeld with an unexpected gift—a military document that chronicled the last two hours of Deane's flight before it was shot down. The document, accurate to the second, convinced Rumsfeld that it was impossible for his close friend to survive the crash or be captured.

Liu Yiquan, one of China's most seasoned military archivists, and his colleagues, found the 50-year-old document after combing through mountains of material over the course of many days.

"We all know the anxiety people feel when a valuable item is missing, let alone a family member," Liu, 59, once told a colleague.

During his 38-year career as a military archives collector and researcher, Liu has regarded the recovery of the records of service members who were missing or killed in action as an important part of his work. He believes that finding the records of service members' deaths and informing their families restores a human being's last dignity and is something that everyone deserves.

Liu has collected battle records for nearly 10,000 People's Liberation Army (PLA) service personnel who were killed in different periods and he helps to have their names inscribed on monuments.

In June 2008, 90-year-old Li Qingren wrote a letter to the PLA Archives, where Liu works, hoping to find information on his elder brother, Li Qingyong. Li joined the Red Army in 1930 and soon lost contact with his family. Liu volunteered to take on this seemingly impossible mission. After reading numerous military documents, Liu finally found Li Qingyong's name on a list of soldiers killed in a battle and informed his brother, who had been waiting for such confirmation for nearly 70 years.

Liu has worked as one of four experts on a cooperative program established in 2006 between the Chinese and U.S. defense ministries to find information on U.S. military personnel who were classified as missing in action during the Korean War (1950-53) period. Liu was given the task of combing through more than 60,000 of the hundreds of thousands of military documents that span the years from 1950 to 1958 for any information that could be used to trace missing U.S. service members.

Due to China's economic difficulties during the time, very few of the documents were typed and, on some, the handwriting was tiny. They were written in traditional Chinese, a different character set from the simplified Chinese that is used today. It was difficult to read some of the documents because they were written on poor-quality paper, which made the characters too blurry to make out. Moreover, the writers of the handwritten records, especially battle accounts from batteries or squadrons, were sometimes semi-literate soldiers, who dotted their writings with drawings to replace complicated Chinese characters that they did not know how to produce.

These difficulties could only be overcome by professionalism and expertise that has been accumulated over a long time, which Liu possesses. He has collected more than 830,000 military documents over the last 20 years.

To make sure he did not skip any possible sources, Liu worked overtime to read documents assigned to him, often sitting over one piece for hours with a magnifying glass in hand. When he was diagnosed with rectal cancer in September 2008, Liu had finished combing more than 50,000 documents.

After having surgery to remove a tumor, Liu returned to work and refused colleagues' suggestions to take a long sick leave. Between his chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, he worked seven-hour days until he was hospitalized in June with cancer that was spreading to other organs of his body.

When a delegation from the U.S. Defense Department visited the PLA Archives in April, Navy Rear Admiral Donna L. Crisp, Commander of the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, met Liu and was touched by his professionalism after being told his story. After going back to the United States, she wrote a letter to Director of PLA Archives Ji Yingchun, in which she said, "I appreciate the importance you and your staff place on our humanitarian mission."

Kungfu Expo


The two major schools of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin and Wudang, have agreed to perform during the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, offering a kungfu gala for fans from around the globe.

Agreements were signed on October 29 between Shanghai World Expo organizers and Shi Yongxin, Principal Abbot of the Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan Province, and Li Guangfu, President of the Wudang Mountain Taoist Association in central Hubei Province. It will be the first time that Shaolin monks and Wudang Taoists perform in the World Expo's 158-year history.

Working with martial artists from China, Australia and Germany, the Shaolin Temple has produced a 45-minute kungfu play called Shaolin Temple: Saga of the Warriors Monks, which tells a story of growing young Shaolin monks in four scenes set during each of the four seasons. The play features martial arts, acrobatics and multi-media art. It will be performed at Shanghai theaters for two months during the Expo.

The monks will present 736 kungfu shows during the six months of the Expo, putting on an average of four shows each day.

Shi said the monks would interact with spectators during the shows and teach them some of their methods to strengthen their bodies and maintain good health.

"The monks will also perform the famous Shaolin 72 Stunts that are exclusive to Shaolin martial arts, such as the forefinger deep meditation stunt and the iron cloth stunt," he said.

Practitioners in Wudang, which is well-known for being a holy land in the Taoist religion, have developed the famous Taijiquan, a form of traditional Chinese shadow boxing. They have produced a 30-minute kungfu show called Wudang: Taiji Taoism.

From July to September 2010, the Wudang Taoists will present 276 kungfu shows, amounting to about three shows per day, Li said.

"It will be a first for the Taoist culture, which advocates the idea of harmony, to appear at the Expo. I hope through Wudang kungfu, we can present the world the traditional harmonious Chinese culture," he said.

Li said the Wudang Taoists would demonstrate different ancient martial tactics in addition to Wudang kungfu.

The Wudang kungfu group is a non-profit organization that has never before done commercial performances. The group decided to appear at the Expo to perform an original show, which will be the first time domestic and foreign visitors will be able to witness Wudang kungfu up close. The Wudang performers are all skilled martial artists who are 20 years old on average.

"The audience will be led into a Taoist world accompanied by Taoist music," said Li.

As one of the world's intangible pieces of cultural heritage, Wudang kungfu fits into the Shanghai World Expo's theme of "Better City, Better Life" by letting the world know about Taoism, and the healthy way of life it promotes.

Older Taoist practitioners will be among the performers who have spent almost all their lives perfecting their art and have seldom left Wudang Mountain, meaning that the audience will see genuine and original Wudang kungfu, said Li.

The 50-80 Shaolin monks and the 60 Taoists who will attend the Expo are not only experts at martial arts, but can also speak English.

Shi noted that it would be possible for Shaolin monks and Wudang Taoists to have a martial arts contest on stage during the Expo, depending on "the overall arrangements of the organizers."

"Since Eastern and Western cultures can have cultural exchanges, it is also absolutely acceptable for different schools of traditional Chinese martial arts to do the same," said Li. "Let nature take its course, as we Taoists believe."

The Shanghai World Expo will be held from May 1 to October 31 next year and is expected to attract 70 million visitors.

The Science of Trash


Few Beijingers who are enjoying the bustle of modern city life realize that they are being besieged by trash. If no measures were taken, Beijing would soon see itself in the middle of a garbage crisis, said Chen Yong, head of the Beijing Municipal Cityscape Management Commission. The volume of trash the city produces grows 8 percent annually. Officials project that more than 12 million tons of trash will be generated in Beijing each year by 2015.

Researchers using remote-sensing technology in 1983 found that landfills were scattered between Beijing's Third and Fourth Ring roads. More than 4,700 of the dumps were larger than 50 square meters. The Beijing Municipal Government had invested 2.3 billion yuan ($338 million) to build waste treatment facilities to solve the problem.

"Waste management requires science and technology for improvement," said Wu Wenwei, head of the Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Research Institute. Wu said waste treatment technologies are progressing in two directions—researching commonly used landfill, incineration and compost technologies to reduce pollution, lower costs and increase recovery rates and developing other new methods to deal with trash.

"The optimal solution is to produce little or no waste. The sub-optimal solution is to recover waste, and the third best option is to build waste treatment plants and strive to treat 100 percent of waste," said Wang Weiping, a senior engineer at the Beijing Municipal Cityscape Management Commission and a consultant to the Beijing Municipal Government. Wang, who has spent more than 20 years researching garbage, is one of many experts pushing for a fully circular economy.

In recent years, Beijing has actively promoted waste reduction, reuse and recycling, as well as scientific waste treatment. The city has constructed a number of key facilities for waste collection, transportation and disposal, and is gradually building a multidimensional waste treatment system, said Yang Zhihui, Director of the Environment and Resource Section of the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission.


Beijing has been building large landfills and other treatment facilities since 1992.

"Beijing's landfills are constructed according to national standards, with seepage control, leach ate collection and removal and bio gas collection systems. The landfill techniques are very complicated, and there are strict and clear technical specifications," said Wu. Every layer of waste, about 1 meter thick, is regularly sanitized, deodorized and covered with a layer of soil. The bottoms of landfills are covered with thick polyethylene films to prevent leakage and to protect groundwater and soil from contamination. Thick, black pipes dot the surface of the landfills and are used to collect bio gas from waste.

Beijing has 13 landfills, with a designed daily capacity of 10,400 tons. But on a single day last year, 17,400 tons of waste was treated, with 1,000 tons left unprocessed on a daily basis.

There is a large landfill in Liulitun, Beijing's Haidian District, which is dozens of meters deep and is as large as about a dozen football fields. It was built in 1999 with a designed daily capacity of 1,500 tons. It was expected to reach capacity in 2017, but at its current rate of use, the facility will be filled and closed next year. Some experts said Beijing would have no more room for trash in four to five years.

In many Chinese cities, there is too much trash to be treated. Government statistics show that last year about 40 percent of waste did not go through centralized treatment because processing costs were too high. Some untreated waste is simply transported and dumped in the suburbs or countryside.

An alternative to landfills is waste incineration. This treatment technology seems simple and quick, reducing trash volume by at least 50 to 80 percent. The energy produced in the combustion process can be harnessed for electricity and heating.

But waste incineration releases toxic compounds like dioxin, which is 130 times as damaging as cyanide and 900 times as toxic as arsenic trioxide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed dioxin as carcinogenic to humans.

Nonetheless, experts like Wang are very confident that the right technology can keep the amount of emitted dioxin at safe levels. Wang said that one way to remove the chemical is to control the combustion temperature.

China has built waste incinerating plants in recent years and some have been successful, said Wu Xiaoqing, Vice Minister of Environmental Protection. He said his ministry had worked with other agencies in 2008 and clarified management and technical requirements. Wu emphasized that waste-incinerating plants need to be strictly regulated.

But experts realize the optimal waste treatment strategy was to reduce the production of garbage, said Wang. Mao Da, a doctoral student majoring in environmental history at Beijing Normal University, said waste management should follow the 3 "Rs"—reduce, reuse and recycle—the amount of trash should be reduced first of all.


Every 500 grams of moon cake were wrapped in 2,000 grams of packaging, a Mid-Autumn Festival survey revealed. The study, conducted by Lu Ming, a School of Environment and Natural Resources professor at the Renmin University of China, showed product packaging has created a large amount of waste.

On November 2-10, the Beijing Municipal Cityscape Management Commission solicited public feedback for its tentative "zero waste" methods and standards, which encourages trash reduction and proper garbage sorting. For instance, government organizations will be required to: purchase environmentally friendly, recyclable and energy-saving products; print on both sides of office paper; and not provide any single-use tableware in workplace canteens.


Reusing products destined for the trash heap is the most effective way to deal with garbage and represents the future of waste management, said Zhao Zhangyuan, a research fellow with the Chinese Research Academy on Environmental Sciences. In experts' eyes, Zhao said, garbage is a misplaced resource that can be converted into new resources if properly treated.

Research has shown that China loses 25-30 billion yuan ($3.7-$4.4 billion) in trash resources and, if garbage is sorted and reused, the country could generate production value exceeding 250 billion yuan ($37 billion) each year.

Some firms are recycling and reusing trash. In Beijing's Shangdi area, vehicles collect leftovers from restaurants and transport them to waste treatment stations equipped with microbial recycling technology invented by Beijing Goldenway Biology Tech Co. Ltd. After eight hours of high-temperature fermentation, kitchen waste produces 0.6 tons of microbial communities, which can be used to produce fodder and fertilizer.

Incom Resources Recovery Co. Ltd. plants are turning plastic Coca-Cola bottles back into nontoxic base materials, which can be reconverted into beverage bottles or weaved into clothes, bags or caps. This June, a delegation of German business people and environmental managers came to China to attend a China-Germany environment forum and visited the plants. They saw how used bottles were being transformed into new ones. About six used bottles can make a T-shirt that is 85 percent polyester, and 100 used bottles can produce 80 new ones. China currently produces 3 million tons of plastic bottles each year and consumes more than 18 million tons of oil. Reusing waste will not only cut pollution from landfills and waste incinerators, but will also save oil.

In Beijing, there are also companies that specialize in turning waste plastics, wood and crop residues into construction materials. Demolished construction materials can be reprocessed into new ones, and the recycling rate can reach 100 percent.

Bridging Evolutionary Gaps


Unearthed dinosaur fossils shed light on the evolutionary process.

Chinese and foreign experts confirmed recently Zhucheng in east China's Shandong Province contains the biggest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world discovered to date. The fossil stratum, 500 meters long and 26 meters deep, is located in Zhucheng's Dinosaur Valley, which was formed 230 million years ago.

Dinosaurs inhabited the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago and roamed the globe for about 150 million years, yet humans were unaware of their existence until the 19th century. The word dinosaur was coined in 1842, a few years before the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Today, much is known about dinosaurs, yet their sudden and complete extinction is still a mystery in evolutionary history.

Scientists think that dinosaurs were the most successfully evolved organisms of the period from 228 million years ago to 65 million years ago. The causes of their extinction can be best understood in the light of evolution.

"Dinosaurs are the best species to study evolution," said Xu Xing, a famous paleobiologist in the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dinosaurs are studied by analyzing their fossils—the remains, traces and excreta preserved in layers of rocks. Although fossils often seem no more than bones, they carry important evidence to explain evolutionary history, Xu said.

So far paleobiologists are unable to revive dinosaurs, as people saw in the film Jurassic Park, yet they can reconstruct the creatures using scientific methods. Unearthed fossils reveal some dinosaurs had front limbs so short that they seemed to be redundant, some had long necks and some had spikes that were more like burdens than weapons. Experts believe that there is an evolutionary reason for each strange shape of the dinosaur's body, although some reasons remain unknown.

Darwin said that populations evolve through natural selection. In the 150 years since the birth of Darwin's evolution theory, the idea has been questioned. The most serious and constant challenge is the lack of "transitional fossils" between closely related species.

Some of these missing links have been found as more fossils are unearthed. In 1861, two years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, an Archaeopteryx fossil was discovered, bridging the gap between dinosaur and bird. In recent years, fossils of feathered dinosaurs have been found by Chinese paleobiologists, which have filled in a greater number of missing links, Xu said.

From dinosaur to bird

In 1856, Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin's fervent supporters who dubbed himself "Darwin's bulldog," attended a Christmas Eve party given by his friend, when he realized the skeleton of the turkey on the plate remarkably resembled a dinosaur's. Suddenly, a stunning hypothesis jumped into his mind: Could birds have developed from dinosaurs?

Whether birds came from dinosaurs has long been debated. Many people were reluctant to accept the idea that aesthetically appealing birds developed from ugly dinosaurs. To prove dinosaurs were birds' ancestors, dinosaurs with real and typical plume structures must be found, Xu said.

Fortunately, since 1996 the fossils of several dinosaurs with rudimentary plume structures have been found in China, which provide evidence supporting Huxley's hypothesis. In 1996, fossils of small Theropod dinosaurs named Sinornithosaurus were found. They have better developed feathers than those of Archaeopteryx. Their feathers, with full-blown stems and shafts, have the same shapes and structure as those of modern birds.

In 2003, scientists found the fossil of a 77-cm-long microraptor whose four limbs were covered with feathers. The shape and pattern of microraptor's feathers bear stunning resemblances to those of birds. Microraptor gave rise to the idea of a four-winged dinosaur.

This year, details of an exquisite fossil that remained buried in the west of Liaoning Province for nearly 160 million years appeared in a recently published issue of the science magazine Nature, providing convincing evidence that birds evolved from Theropod dinosaurs. This discovery has moved the history of feathered dinosaur 20 to 30 million years back. It shows dinosaurs had already donned feathers 10-20 million years before the birth of Archaeopteryx.

At the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology held in 2009, Xu announced the discovery of Anchiornis huxleyi. This creature has two types of feathers: one type on its head and neck, looking similar to porcupine quills; and the other type basically resembling the structure of modern bird feathers.

Anchiornis huxleyi's fossils had been on the floor of the specimen warehouse in Xu's research institute for three to four years before Xu realized that they might belong to a new dinosaur species. When the scattered fossil pieces were put together last year, it occurred to Xu that he had never seen a dinosaur with such resemblance to a bird. It was a pity that the fossils were so poorly preserved, making further research difficult. Fortunately, Hu Dongyu, a professor in Shenyang Normal University, had a well-preserved fossil of the same species. The fossil showed the entire dinosaur was covered with feathers. Even the feathers on the toes were clearly seen.

The feathers covering the legs of Anchiornis huxleyi are clear evidence supporting the existence of a "four-wing" period, and show the complexity of the evolution process, said James Clark, a professor at the George Washington University. Clark and Xu were in a team of Chinese and U.S. paleobiologists who recently found a beaked, plant-eating dinosaur named Limusaurus inextricabilis. This dinosaur species has supplied important evidence on how birds' toes evolved from dinosaurs' hands.

On October 14, 2009, a group of Chinese and British researchers found the fossils of a new type of Pterosaur in northeast China, "filling in the gaps in the evolutionary record of the extinct flying reptiles," according to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. news report. Scientists named the dinosaur Darwinopterus, to mark the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.

Darwinopterus also suggests evolution may occur in modules. For instance, groups of features in the head, neck and tail may evolve together, said David Unwin of the University of Leicester.

The evolutionary relations between dinosaurs and birds have not only been proven by analysis of fossils. John M. Asara, a professor at Harvard Medical School recently matched proteins of a Tyrannosaurus that lived on Earth 68 million years ago with those of birds. This is the first time that the kinship between dinosaurs and birds has been proven by molecular level studies.

Darwin "Lives" in China


Charles Darwin and his theories have exerted a profound influence on Chinese thought for more than a century.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his pioneering work on the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species. Darwin's discoveries of evolutionary mechanisms and facts have made immeasurable contributions to the development of life sciences.

"He could not change nature, but he changed the whole world," said Zhang Xian'en, Director of the Department of Basic Research of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Darwin never landed in China but his theory has risen in popularity across the country. It has deeply influenced China's social and natural sciences, political thoughts and philosophy of life.

Pathfinder to China

The name of Charles Darwin was mentioned for the first time in a Shanghai newspaper in 1873, but it was not until 1920 when On the Origin of Species, which was first printed in 1859, was translated into Chinese.

Yan Fu (1854-1921), a famous Chinese thinker, was the first to introduce Darwinian theories to China. He is well-known for his translation, first published in 1898, of Thomas Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, which not only initiated dissemination of the idea of biological evolution in China, but also had a far-reaching social impact on disseminating science, intellectual enlightenment and the ideas of reform and social revolutions.

In 1895, China was defeated in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, launched by Japanese imperialists to annex Korea and invade China. The incident shocked the Chinese and many were anxious to find a way of salvation for China. Under such conditions, Yan, who studied at the Arsenal Academy in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province, and the Navy Academy in Greenwich, England, started his translating work, trying to find salvation in ideology and theory.

The harsh realities of the two Opium Wars (1840-42/1856-60), unequal treaties and the mid-century mass uprisings caused courtiers and officials of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to recognize the need to strengthen China. Western science and languages were studied, special schools were opened in larger cities, and arsenals, factories and shipyards were established according to Western models. Western diplomatic practices were adopted and students were sent abroad by the government or community initiatives in the hope that national regeneration could be achieved through the application of practical Western methods.

Amid these activities came an attempt to slow dynastic decline. The efforts came to nothing 40 years later in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95. Some Chinese, including Yan, started to realize advanced technology from the West could not save China within the framework of traditional Chinese institutions.

The ideas of "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" were introduced to Chinese readers through Huxley's work. But while Huxley was a steady supporter of bio-Darwinism, he was also a steady objector to social Darwinism. He opposed applying the rules of nature to human society.

In order to awake the Chinese, Yan deliberately neglected Huxley's opinion on differences between bio-Darwinism and social Darwinism when he translated Evolution and Ethics. "He was trying to find a basis for China's social revolution," said Han Yuhai, a professor with the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University.

"It was difficult for Yan to propose evolution and revolution during the late 19th century in China," he said. In a letter to the emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Yan set out China's dangerous situation and appealed for social reform.

"The final confirmation of the legality of Chinese revolution comes from the introduction of the theory of evolution," Han said.

For more than 100 years, Darwin's theories and the work of Evolution and Ethics have influenced several generations in China, said book reviewer Dong Lili.

In the 1970s, Cao Juren, a well-known Chinese scholar, said he had read more than 500 Chinese authors' memoirs over 20 years and almost all of them mentioned they had read Evolution and Ethics.

In December 1897, when the Chinese edition of Evolution and Ethics was published in Tianjin, it had a huge impact socially and became a vogue in China's intellectual circles. Kang Youwei, a noted Chinese scholar and leader of the Reformative Movement (1895-98), praised Yan as "the first person to introduce Western knowledge." Another Reformative Movement leader, Liang Qichao, became an important communicator of Darwinism, influenced by the work of Evolution and Ethics. At that time, Mao Zedong, former leader of the People's Republic of China, was young but also began to understand Darwin. Years later, he founded a youth organization with the aim of "reforming China and the world."

"Of course, it was Karl Marx who finally provided the theoretical basis that led the Chinese out of their difficult position, but Darwin also contributed to the result. He not only provided a theoretical basis for China to end feudalism but also created the basis for Marxism to enter China," Dong said.

Image of a scientist

"We memorialize Darwin in order to not only express our respect but also derive food for thought and enlightenment to improve scientific development and innovation in our own country," said Lu Yongxiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Friedrich Engels even mentioned Darwinism and Marxism in the same breath. He said, as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic communities, Marx found the law of the development of the history of mankind.

"Darwin's theory of evolution regards humankind as a link in natural evolution, which corrects people's opinions about nature and the relationship of humans and nature, laying down a basis of knowledge and epistemology for later ideas of sustainable development, environmental protection and even a scientific outlook on development," Lu said.

Chen Junyuan, a paleontologist at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the CAS, opened a course on the theory of biological evolution at Nanjing University. He says the course contains new interdisciplinary exploration and thought.

In 1921, Chinese zoologist Bing Zhi (1886-1965) set up China's first department of biology at Nanjing Normal University. His interest in biology came from Darwin's theory of evolution. When he was 18, he entered Peking Imperial University, the highest institute of the late Qing Dynasty. At the institute he read many scientific books from Western countries.

Han Xuewen, a doctor of biology, said he always uses Darwin as a model in conducting research. "Darwin is a careful observer. Careful observation, deliberate thinking and scientific research methods were the bases of his success," he said.

He said traditional life science focused on observing, describing and classifying superficial changes of life, but Darwin's theory put an emphasis on probing the relationships and systemic laws of the diversity of life and initiated the method of proposing scientific hypotheses.

"Darwin's theory of evolution seems simple because of its popular language," said Chen Caigang, a college student who became determined to learn biology or archeology when he read On the Origin of Species. "In fact, the theory is profound," he said.

"A curious aspect of the theory of evolution is everybody thinks he understands it," said Jacques Monod, the French scientist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965.

"Thanks to Darwin's efforts, the theory of evolution has been accepted by the public but few actually understand the real meaning of the theory," said Wang Yuan, Director of the Paleozoological Museum of China.

"It's terrible the process of the theory of evolution entering China did not cause any great argument," said Li Daguang, a professor with the Graduate University of the CAS. "Argument does not mean random negativity but rather useful scientific discussion. I believe that the process of discussion is more valuable than the theory of evolution itself."

Probing Ancient Mysteries


Two palace museums across the Taiwan Straits are preserving traditional Chinese culture together.

For the first time in 60 years, relics from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735) that have been stored separately at the palace museums in Beijing and Taipei have been brought together in an exhibition that opened on October 7 at the Taipei museum, known as the "National Palace Museum."

The exhibition, named Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Time, will last until January 10, 2010.

"The exhibition is a landmark indicator of the exchanges launched by the two museums more than half a year ago," said Zheng Xinmiao, Curator of the Palace Museum in Beijing's Forbidden City.

With cooperation gradually improving between experts from the two museums across the Taiwan Straits, there have been more opportunities to jointly research their relics.

In July, Chen Donghe, a Taipei palace museum researcher in mechanical engineering, materials science and cultural relic's preservation, came to the Palace Museum in Beijing with two research topics—testing ancient ceramics and researching restoration techniques for clocks and watches.

"I am very lucky to be the first staff member from the Taipei museum who has been granted a permit to enter restricted work areas at Beijing's museum," Chen said. He has been issued a magnetic security card, allowing him to enter any restricted conservation laboratories in Beijing's museum.

In March, the two museums' curators began the first exchange visits in 60 years and launched a researcher exchange system. Under the system, the two palace museums will send one or two researchers every year to the other institution.

Chen said his two research topics involve burning questions at Taipei's museum, while Beijing has already accumulated a body of knowledge on the subjects.

Situated in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City is the imperial palace of two consecutive dynasties—the Ming and Qing dynasties. A total of 24 emperors lived in the palace, the construction of which was completed in 1420. Covering an area of 72 hectares, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms and is called a "sea of regal buildings." It is now the largest and most complete imperial palace and ancient building complex in China and the world.

Numerous precious cultural relics collected by the royal families were kept there. However, since the 1930s and 1940s, many of the valuable paintings, calligraphic works, ceramics and decorative objects of the Forbidden City were moved out of the palace and eventually transferred to Taiwan, where they remain to this day, creating a situation of one imperial palace, with two palace museums.

Although the collections of the two museums have their own unique characteristics and strengths, neither of them is complete. Only combined as a whole can the two museums present to visitors a complete view of the best ancient Chinese artworks and artifacts, and a thorough understanding of the best elements of Chinese culture.

Ceramic secrets

The Palace of Prolonging Happiness used to be the sleeping chamber of Qing Dynasty concubines. Today, though, it is home to the research laboratory of ancient ceramics.

The laboratory contains advanced materials analysis and detection instruments, which researchers use to detect the sizes of ancient ceramics' atoms and molecules.

Laboratory Director Miao Jianmin said composition analysis helps more accurately identify ancient ceramics along with providing information to reproduce forgotten ceramic-firing techniques.

The Taipei palace museum has more than 25,000 ceramics, hailing from the five well-known kilns of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), as well as governmental kilns of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. Among those are more than 300 so-called Chinese peak ceramics with baked enamel colors from the Kangxi (1654-1722) and Yongzheng reigns of the Qing Dynasty.

The Taipei museum bought advanced detection instruments to ascertain the secrets of ancient firing techniques.

"Enamel technology was monopolized by the Qing Dynasty government and gradually disappeared. Today, research into the lost technology is one of the key research topics at the Taipei museum," Chen said.

In the Beijing museum's laboratory, Chen and other researchers probe antique pottery samples to study their components and molecular structures.

"Although the samples include only some small fragments, they can present rich information using spectroscopy, such as ceramic raw materials and firing techniques," Chen said.

Conserving time

The Beijing museum has more than 1,500 imperial clocks but only three conservators. Qin Shiming, a clock conservator at the institution, said their clocks were mainly manufactured between the 18th and early 20th centuries and include representative works from the Western Industrial Revolution in Britain, France and Switzerland and those made by Qing Dynasty imperial workshops.

As the toys of emperors, imperial clocks were fashioned to perform many complex movements, including acrobatics, magic arts and music, Qin said. The clocks' hearts are made of complicated machinery.

"One such clock has several transmission systems and each system has many components so it is very difficult to fully understand their complete functionality," said Chen.

Clock conservation is a kind of traditional skill relying upon conservators' experience and faculty of memory.

Sixty-three-year-old Qin has worked in the Beijing museum for 35 years and has accumulated a great deal of knowledge on their conservation. Under his direction, Chen has begun to grasp conservation techniques.

There is a machine bird installed in one of the clocks. Pointing to it, Chen said he had spent a lot of time to understand how its wings work and how to make it sing.

"I'm happy I fixed it finally," he said.

Besides learning conservation skills, Chen is also sketching the detailed processes of clock conservation, recording them and drawing their inner mechanical structures.

"These data and pictures will be helpful for the public to understand the history of early technical development," he said.

The Value of Ideas


The Fourth China Beijing Interna-tional Cultural and Creative Industry Expo, held on November 26-30, showcased the latest technological developments and Chinese culture and aimed to build platforms for the trade of cultural products and services.

Cooperative agreements totaling more than $12 billion have been signed since 2006.

The expo featured 18 exhibitions focused on domestic cultural and creative industries, broadcasting, film and television, Taipei cultural industries, cultural relics and museum-related products. A number of other activities were also held, including forums, promotions, trade fairs and art performances.

"We hope that we can promote these grand events as well as our own company through this expo," said expo attendee Song Yan from Shanghai's K-Pro International Co. Ltd. The company was granted the exclusive license to sell NBA products in China and is also the worldwide pin manufacturer for the South Africa 2010 World Cup. "We welcome clients who are interested in our products and would like to cooperate with us."

It is expected by some experts that this year's Cultural and Creative Industry Expo will help the economy recover more quickly from the global financial crisis.

The cultural and creative industry has become a new growth point around the world. According to UN statistics, the sector's growth now makes up 7 percent of global gross domestic product and is increasing by 10 percent annually.

In an opening speech, Chinese Minister of Culture Cai Wu said the cultural industry has become a strategic part of national economic development. He said during a previous press conference in September that China's culture industry has experienced robust development over the last 60 years, contributing greatly to the development of the national economy. He also said that China's culture industry has come into a renaissance.

"Since China's reform and opening up, the country has gradually shaped its culture market, including entertainment, performing arts, movies, the Internet and fine arts. Meanwhile, an open, ordered market system has been formed," said Cai.

In the past, most cultural organizations were state-run and funded by the government. They did not give much thought to whether their performances were good enough to attract audiences. But things have changed over the past 30 years as the government has restructured state-owned cultural enterprises to make them more market-oriented and economically efficient.

Cai said China's cultural industry in recent years has experienced rapid growth at a rate of more than 15 percent year on year. It has become a pillar of economic growth in some areas.

"The cultural and creative industry can serve as the growth point for Beijing to resist the financial crisis," said Zhao Hong, Director of the Economics Research Institute at Beijing's Academy of Social Sciences.

Other Chinese cities such as Shanghai developed their creative industry earlier than Beijing did. The capital's cultural segment was officially recognized in December 2005, when the municipal government implemented a policy of developing creative industries after it completed a thorough analysis of the social and economic development situation.

The creative industries have served as a new driver for economic growth, an engine of social progress and a new symbol of the city. Many experts who attended the forum agreed that the culture and creative industry is playing an increasingly important role in the city's growth.

According to Beijing Vice Mayor Cai Fuchao, there has been an increasing proportion of the cultural and creative industry as a part of the city's overall production value since Beijing made the decision to develop such industries in 2005. The added value of the industry totaled 96.5 billion yuan ($14.2 billion) for the first three quarters of the year, reaching a record high of 11.8 percent of the total local output value.

But experts also noted that transforming Beijing into a competitive creative city in the world requires that it deal with various problems such as investment policy, market access and technology innovation.

Experts, who held that the intellectual property legal system be perfected along with other legal systems governing investment and market operations, also urged on the favorable creative environment. n