Monthly Archives: June 2008

Empty Hotel Rooms In Beijing As Tourists Stay Away

More reports suggesting that there may be more empty hotel rooms in Beijing this summer than expected.

The latest one comes via the BBC, which also notes new Beijing Tourism Bureau figures showing the number of tourists to the capital was down by 14% in May compared to the same month a year earlier. Tougher visa restrictions is one reason cited, though there was also the matter of the Sichuan earthquake and the severe winter in the south earlier in the year to depress demand.

The BBC quotes a spokeswoman from Beijing’s Swiss Hotel saying bookings for June and July are down on last year’s levels. In late May, the Tourism Bureau said the city’s five-star hotels wee 77% booked. This Bystander just tried to find a room for 8/8 and found plenty on offer from five star to two star.

More room, we suppose, for the 100,000 soldiers and police officers that will be deployed in the city ahead of and during the Olympics to ensure everything goes as smoothly as planned.

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China Plays Tit-For-Tat Over U.S. Banks’ Access To Domestic Market

Deutsche Bank’s newly announced tie up with Shanxi Securities to offer investment banking services is expected to get the official nod later this year. Credit Suisse has recently got approval for its joint venture with Founder Securities, the first such since the moratorium on securities joint ventures was lifted in December. But Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are still waiting for approval for their jv deals and Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Lehman Bros. have got no farther than discussions with potential partners.

Bias against Wall St. firms? The FT thinks it is.

What would break the logjam for U.S. investment banks?

This Bystander would wager that it would be Washington letting China’s leading banks set up and expand branch networks in the U.S. as they have wanted to do for years.

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Filed under China-U.S., Economy, Markets

Hu Reins In The Press

The reining in of the press evident in recent weeks has become formal.

Domestic media have been ordered to “earnestly study and implement” a recent speech by President Hu Jintao in which he said the primary task of the news media is to guide public opinion correctly, to benefit the party, the nation and the people, the FT reports.

Hu, who conducted his first online chat earlier this month, also said that the internet should be considered “the battlefield forward position for the propagation of advanced socialist culture”.

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The Post-Quake Struggle For Hearts And Minds

Li Yuanchao, who heads the Party’s Organization Department, says Party members should take a leading role in reconstruction after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, Xinhua reports. He emphasized the need to build Party branches at the local level.

Does that suggest that senior Party officials are concerned that NGOs have managed to occupy too much of the ground the Party would traditionally consider its own during the rescue and recovery phases of the quake relief effort? It would be a ‘hearts and minds’ battle that would have long-term ramifications if the Party were to lose it. Hence the reining-in of NGOs and the press in recent weeks.

The scale of that battle is indicated by a new quake situation map (.pdf) posted by ReliefWeb, a snapshot of which is below:

There is also a lengthy series of statistics showing the devastation the quake caused, both to individuals and property. The economic damage is put at an estimated $86 billion, but the human numbers are staggering:

2,000: No. of orphans
9,000: No. of children killed in collapsed schools
17,420: No. still missing
69,172: Official death toll
374,159: No. injured
5 million: No. homeless
10 million: No. living below poverty line
15 million: No. evacuated
46.2 millon: No. affected

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Olympic Torch Relay Reaches Lhasa

The Olympic torch has been taken to Lhasa in a firm demonstration of authority. Normal service has been resumed.

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Death Toll From Southern China Flooding Rises; Dams At Risk

Death toll from the flooding across 9,000 square miles of  southern China has now risen to 171 with a further 52 people missing.

As with the Sichuan earthquake, the fear is of dams bursting. Six holding back reservoirs are seen as a highest risk. Thousands more are being evacuated from their homes as a precautionary measure, adding to the more  than 1.66 million people have been evacuated across nine provinces and regions since torrential rains started 11 days ago.

While southern China suffers flooding every year, this year’s inundation is more severe than most years’. The economic damage is put at an above average $4 billion.

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Sichuan To Build Earthquake Museums

What to do with three of the places worst hit by the May 12 earthquake? Turn them into world-class earthquake museums. That, at least, is a plan for Beichuan County, Tangjiashan and Hanwang Town in Mianzhu City, according to Zhang Gu, head of Sichuan’s tourism bureau.

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More Natural Disasters Strike Southern China

The areas of southern, central and western China stuck by severe winter storms earlier in the year are now suffering from rainy season flooding.

At least 62 people are dead or missing and 1.3 million have been forced to flee from their homes, Xinhua says. The affected province include Sichuan still reeling from the devastating earthquake of May 12.

Throughout the affected regions flooding has submerged large areas of farmland as well as destroying thousands of homes. Many roads have been washed away or blocked by mudslides. Flooding in the Pearl river delta, home to so much manufacturing, is said to be the worst for 50 years.

The economic loss as already been put at 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion), according to Xinhua, and this bound to push up food prices further.

The forecast calls for more torrential rain.

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Filed under Economy, Politics & Society, Sichuan earthquake

China And Taiwan To Set Up Direct Weekend Flights

The outcome of the first formal talks between China and Taiwan in a decade is an  agreement for regular direct flights back and forth and to allow more mainland tourists to visit the island.

From July 4, there will be direct cross-strait flights every weekend, instead of just during holiday periods. From 18 July, each side will also allow in 3,000 tourists a day, which will triples the number of mainland Chinese who will be allowed into Taiwan. The two also sides agreed to host permanent representative offices.

These are the first tangible signs of the improvement relations since Ma Ying-jeou took over as president of Taiwan in May, softening the independence-leaning stance of his predecessor.

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Tangjiashan Flood Alert Lifted And Latest Satellite Images

The outflow from the Tangjiashan quake lake has slowed to 56 cu. meters a second and the water level has dropped nearly 30 meters from its peak, officials said Wednesday. They have also lifted the flood alert as fears of downstream flooding receded. At those outflow rates the lake is likely to fill up a bit again, though the sluicing operation will keep the level at around 20 meters below the peak.

NASA satellite images (pdf), snapshots below, show the Jiangjiang River downstream from the quake lake before and after the sluicing. The top image, taken on June 8th, shows the river slow-moving and hampered by landslides. The lower image, taken on June 10th, shows the river as a torrent, submerging land along its banks, and flooding over the landslide that was previously visible in the upper picture. Its color indicates that it carries considerable sediment, including sediment from the breached landslide upstream.

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Filed under Sichuan earthquake