13 January 2020
XI SENDS MESSAGES TO OMAN'S NEW SULTAN
President Xi Jinping sent two messages on Sunday to Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, the new sultan of Oman — first a congratulatory message about his succession as sultan and second a message of condolence over the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
In the congratulatory message, Xi said that since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, bilateral relations had made significant progress and the two sides have become strategic partners with mutual trust.
He said he attaches great importance to the development of China-Oman relations and stands ready to work with Sultan Haitham to take the strategic partnership to a new level.
In his message of condolence, Xi extended sympathies from the Chinese government and people, and in his own name, to the family of Sultan Qaboos and the people of Oman.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said died on Friday at age 79, Oman's state media reported on Saturday.
Sultan Qaboos was a great leader of Oman and had made important contributions to the country's development, as well as to the peace and stability of the Middle East and the Gulf region, Xi said.
Calling him an old friend of the Chinese people, Xi said Sultan Qaboos had made positive contributions to advancing the China-Oman strategic partnership, facilitating practical cooperation between the two countries in various fields and deepening the friendship between the two peoples.
REGULATORS AIM TO REDUCE FINANCIAL RISKS
Regulators are determined to deal with high-risk financial institutions and continue to dismantle shadow banking, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said on Saturday.
At its recent annual work conference, the commission highlighted the importance of comprehensively strengthening the regulation of asset quality and the liabilities of financial institutions in the banking and insurance sectors.
The commission, China's top banking and insurance regulator, said it will formulate detailed rules to improve the accuracy of asset classification based on the current five-category system that organizes bank loans according to their inherent risks. The categories are pass, special-mention, substandard, doubtful and loss.
It will also comprehensively strengthen regulation of assets and liabilities' quality to improve the liability status of banks and insurers, especially small and medium-sized financial institutions.
"The year 2020 is the closing year of a tough battle against financial risks," said Zeng Gang, deputy director-general of the National Institution for Finance and Development. "Preventing and resolving financial risks remains the primary task of the regulator."
As banking business innovations continue to increase, non-credit obligation assets now account for a fairly large proportion of banks' total assets. As a result, the previous methods of asset quality classification, which mainly aim to disclose nonperforming loans, no longer describe the current features of bank assets.
"To obtain a true risk profile in the banking sector, the regulator decided to expand the scope of bank assets covered by the asset quality classification system, from loans to total financial assets," Zeng said.
"China must also adjust the previous five-category system to adapt to changes in international financial regulations and accounting standards, as well as to enhance the accuracy of asset quality classification."
The regulator said it will guide financial institutions to allocate more funds to key areas and weak links in the Chinese economy and to enhance the quality and effect of finance in serving the real economy, the portion that produces goods and services.
It urged commercial banks to further cut financing costs for small businesses — to which banks grant a total credit line of up to 10 million yuan ($1.45 million) for each borrower — by 0.5 percentage points, in addition to asking China's five largest commercial banks to increase their offerings of these types of loans by more than 20 percent this year over 2019.
Lian Ping, president of the China Chief Economist Forum, said that compared with large State-owned companies, small private businesses are under greater economic pressure, so lowering financing costs for small businesses is an important measure to improve their financial condition.
It is necessary for the regulator to mobilize financial institutions to play a larger part in this respect, he said, adding that the five largest commercial banks should play a core role.
But Lian said that to achieve the goal of reducing financing costs of small businesses, simply relying on the five largest commercial banks is not enough.
"China should launch a series of targeted policies to encourage small and medium-sized banks, credit unions and emerging financial institutions such as village banks to play a greater role in serving small businesses. It's the main duty of these types of financial institutions to serve small businesses and private companies. The regulator should also allow more small and medium-sized financial institutions that meet compliance requirements to grow," Lian said.
He asked the regulator to notice that small and medium-sized banks may lose high-quality small, private corporate clients to large banks, as the latter are urged to increase small business lending. This change in market structure must be handled well, he said.
NEW REFORMS TO BOOST INVESTMENT
The task of deepening the integration of China into the global economy is posing a series of challenges to the Chinese authorities as it requires improvements to the local standards of doing business, additional measures beyond the opening-up policy, and enhanced legislations, experts said.
China ranked 31st in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 report, and among the top 10 fastest-reforming countries around the world for two years in a row.
What's more, in terms of the best environment for "doing business", China moved up the rankings by almost 50 places during the past four years, joining the world's top 30 countries.
The latest edition of the World Bank Doing Business report acknowledges the 10 economies that improved the most in terms of "ease of doing business" after implementing regulatory reforms: China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, India, and Nigeria.
These 10 economies implemented a total of 59 regulatory reforms, accounting for one-fifth of all the reforms recorded worldwide. Their efforts focused primarily on the areas of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, and trading across borders, the report said.
It indicated that, in 2018 alone, China implemented significant reforms in eight out of 10 "doing business" areas, from starting a business, through construction permits and getting electricity, to paying taxes and registering property.
Improvement in dealing with construction permits, for example, has been particularly notable. While only a few years ago, it took more than a year to get a construction permit in Beijing, now it takes just 93 days.
China has managed to combine the substantial progress in streamlining the regulations with enhancing their quality: it now scores all 15 points on the building control quality process, supporting public safety.
WEALTHY PROVINCE'S POVERTY CLAIM SPARKS ONLINE DEBATE
The claim that "only 17 people live in poverty" in the coastal province of Jiangsu - one of China's wealthiest regions - has sparked online discussions over the veracity of poverty figures and how to define "poverty".
Experts said such doubts showed there's a knowledge gap among the public and called for better explanations of poverty relief measures.
The discussions started after Zhu Guobing, head of the poverty relief office in Jiangsu, told a local legislative gathering on Tuesday that only 17 people from six families remain in poverty across the province.
The topic "Jiangsu has only 17 people in poverty" quickly began trending on the Sina Weibo microblog, where many users wondered how the province of more than 80 million residents obtained the ultra-precise statistics.
Other netizens lamented that they felt poor themselves but were not included in the relief system, suggesting that the national poverty line-defined as an annual per capita income of 2,300 yuan ($332), set in 2010 and adjusted regularly for purchasing power parity-was too low for today's China.
In response, the provincial poverty relief office told Beijing News on Wednesday that 17 was the head count of registered poor people as of Dec 31, and it is an accurate and floating figure based on comprehensive national and provincial databases.
The data may change on a weekly basis, as some may escape or slip back into poverty, the newspaper said, quoting an unnamed official.
The report said the standard Jiangsu adopted to determine "absolute poverty" is an annual income of 6,000 yuan per person.
NATION SOARS AHEAD WITH SPACE MISSIONS
Last year, a long chapter was written in the history of China's space industry, with a host of memorable events taking place.
The nation carried out more space missions than any other country, with 32 successful orbital launches.
At the start of last year, the country mounted the world's first expedition to the far side of the moon, which had never before been closely observed by a spacecraft. The Chang'e 4 robotic probe landed on the far side in early January last year after a 26-day journey that began at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. It was the country's fourth mission to explore the moon.
Yutu 2, the world's seventh lunar rover and the first to reach the far side, was released from the spacecraft to survey the landing site near the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest and deepest known in the solar system.
The robot has been operating on the lunar surface for about 370 days-a record. The previous mark was set by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 1, which worked on the moon for 321 days in 1970 and 1971.
According to the China National Space Administration, Yutu 2 has traveled nearly 360 meters on the lunar surface.
In June, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the nation's leading maker of carrier rockets, carried out the country's first seaborne launch of a rocked in the Yellow Sea.
A Long March 11 solid-propellant rocket was fired from a mobile launch platform in the waters off Shandong province, sending seven satellites into orbit nearly 600 kilometers above the Earth.
The mission-the world's first seaborne space launch for five years-shows that China has the technologies and capabilities required for such an operation and also indicates that the country has found an alternative to its ground-based launch centers.
Before the seaborne mission, more than 310 launches had been conducted at the country's four ground centers.
Compared with conventional launches on land, a sea-based one means there is a lower risk for densely populated areas along the rocket's trajectory. The marine method also allows launches to be made near the equator, increasing a rocket's carrying capacity, lowering launch costs and extending the life span of some satellites.
At the end of last year, the third launch mission of the nation's biggest and most powerful carrier rocket, the Long March 5, was conducted in Hainan province, sending the largest satellite ever built by China into space.
Witnessed by tens of thousands of spectators at the Wenchang Space Launch Center, the 57-meter-tall rocket, the tallest and most technologically sophisticated of China's launch vehicles, rose into a cloudy night sky with a blinding white flash and the combined thrust of more than 1,000 metric tons.
Some 37 minutes later, it placed the Shijian 20 experimental satellite into its preset position in space.
The launch attracted widespread public attention and was closely watched by the space industry. It was tasked with not only ferrying the satellite, but also verifying measures by researchers and engineers to detect structural defects and technical hazards that possibly led to the failure of the gigantic rocket's second flight.
Furthermore, its outcome will determine whether China can fulfill its first Mars mission as well as the Chang'e 5 lunar expedition as scheduled.
Carried by the rocket, the 8-ton Shijian 20 is the country's largest and heaviest satellite. It is also the second technology demonstration satellite based on the nation's new-generation platform, the DFH 5, after the Shijian 18, which was lost during the Long March 5's second flight.
EGG FREEZING TECHNOLOGY RAISES LATE MOTHERHOOD HOPES FOR CHINESE WOMEN
Guo Lei had a nightmare before her egg-retrieval day at a fertility clinic in Los Angeles, a city in the United States. She dreamed of having her body incised and torn open from both sides from neck down, leaving two scars that could jeopardize her livestreaming career in Beijing.
Egg retrieval is a process in which a woman's eggs are removed from her ovaries. These eggs are mixed with a man's sperm to facilitate fertilization.
But the real-life surgery passed like a breeze, thanks to anesthesia. As planned, a total of eight eggs were retrieved from her body in less than 15 minutes and transferred to a liquid nitrogen canister for storage for up to ten years.
"If I do not have a child in three years, I'll probably thaw and use these eggs. It's my Plan B," she said. At 32, Guo is already behind her original plan of becoming a mother before reaching 30. She blamed the delay to a hectic work schedule and difficulty in finding a suitable partner.
Rapid economic development in China has tapped into the potential of female workforce and diminished the urgency of childbearing for women committed to work or self-improvement.
According to the National Health Commission, the average age at which women give birth to the first child in China reached nearly 26 in 2015 and rose by one year from 2016 to 2019. In Shanghai, the childbearing age is as high as 29, the municipal women's federation said.
But the biological clock for women is ticking irrespective of the societal change. While men can produce sperm throughout their lives, women's eggs diminish in quality and quantity as they age and decrease rapidly after the late thirties.
With ovaries deteriorating fast after 35, it's not easy to get pregnant, and there are risks of miscarriage or birth defects, Qiao Jie, president of Peking University Third Hospital, said at a news conference.
An increasing number of women in the country are intrigued by the promise of extending fertility through egg freezing. But there is a ban on unmarried women freezing their eggs in China, prompting determined females to freeze and store their eggs overseas.
Data released in April by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, a nonprofit group in the US, shows that 10,936 women have had their eggs frozen in the country in 2017, up from 8,825 in 2016, and 6,207 in 2015. A decade ago, the number was less than 500.