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