This Week in China

Guang Niu/Getty Images There’s a great Asian parable about a group of blind men who stumble upon an unknown creature. Not knowing what they have encountered, the men argue as each describes a tusk, a tail, a foot, or a trunk — until they realize they are all touching different parts of an elephant. One ...

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596033_080312_china2.jpg
BEIJING - JANUARY 01: Chinese military rises a national flag ahead thousands of people climb the Great Wall to mark the 2008 New Year on January 1, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Guang Niu/Getty Images

There's a great Asian parable about a group of blind men who stumble upon an unknown creature. Not knowing what they have encountered, the men argue as each describes a tusk, a tail, a foot, or a trunk -- until they realize they are all touching different parts of an elephant. One could make an analogy to news reports about China today -- they're all trying to describe pieces of a larger picture. To some, China is the world's most dynamic market. To others, it is an emerging threat, a strategic competitor, a human-rights abuser, or all of the above. Whatever your view, there's no denying that China's rise is a huge story. Because there's so much to cover, each Wednesday, Passport will bring you a weekly wrap-up of the most important news from China, Taiwan, and the Hong Kong SAR.* Here's the first edition. Enjoy.

Politics

Guang Niu/Getty Images

There’s a great Asian parable about a group of blind men who stumble upon an unknown creature. Not knowing what they have encountered, the men argue as each describes a tusk, a tail, a foot, or a trunk — until they realize they are all touching different parts of an elephant. One could make an analogy to news reports about China today — they’re all trying to describe pieces of a larger picture. To some, China is the world’s most dynamic market. To others, it is an emerging threat, a strategic competitor, a human-rights abuser, or all of the above. Whatever your view, there’s no denying that China’s rise is a huge story. Because there’s so much to cover, each Wednesday, Passport will bring you a weekly wrap-up of the most important news from China, Taiwan, and the Hong Kong SAR.* Here’s the first edition. Enjoy.

Politics

The National People’s Congress convened in Beijing over the past week and announced new reforms officially intended to streamline the bureaucracy. A restructuring of the government will create five “super ministries” and an energy commission. Critics argue the reforms don’t go far enough.

The U.S. State Department dropped China from its list of top 10 human rights offenders and added Syria, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Still, the U.S. government is not happy with the state of China’s human rights.

The one-child policy will remain in place for at least another decade.

Economy

China will establish its first jumbo aircraft company in Shanghai with the goal of eventually producing the larger aircraft and joining the ranks of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain, and Spain.

Housing prices soared 11.3 percent in January, and the hottest housing market is Urumqi, Xinjiang (a predominantly Muslim province in the west), which saw a 25 percent increase in prices in January compared with last year.

The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts China will overtake Germany and Japan to become the world’s number two travel and tourism economy. The United States occupies the top spot.

The consumer price index is up 8.7 percent from last year, the highest jump in 12 years. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has named inflation and controlling economic growth China’s “top fiscal priorities for 2008.”

Security

A flight Friday from Xinjiang to Beijing made and emergency landing after two passengers reportedly tried to crash the plane. A Beijing Olympics terror plot was also uncoverend in Xinjiang. In light of the Australian hostages in Xian last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman assured tourists the Beijing Olympics will be safe.

Taiwan

Presidential candidates Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou held their final debate on Sunday in preparation for the March 22 elections, which will also include a controversial national referendum on U.N. membership.

The New York Times sees a loss of momentum in Taiwan’s independence movement and questions Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s legacy.

Other stories

Chinese government announces university professors will be evaluated on performance, not seniority.

School children in Anhui province made (and fed) their moms dumplings to show their appreciation for all their mothers’ hard work.

And finally, this week’s China moment: A Xinyang official had a big night out at the karaoke bar and apparently drank himself to death. Afterwards, he was awarded a “level-three order of merit” from the local government for being an “outstanding communist.” The city is in the midst of an anti-corruption campaign designed to cut down on officials’ lunchtime drinking. It should be noted that this incident happened at night…

*Note: The name “This Week in China” stems from the fact that most of the content is mainland-related, but is not a political statement on the status of Taiwan.

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