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US official praises cross-strait policy

NOT WORRIED: A senior National Security Council director said relations between Taiwan and China were headed in the right direction since the inauguration of Ma

Monday, Jun 02, 2008, Page 1

A top US National Security Council official said on Saturday that Washington would like to see Taipei develop better ties with Beijing and it has no concerns about any potential negative effects of recent developments in cross-strait relations.

National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder made the remarks in response to a reporter¡¦s question on Washington¡¦s understanding of recent developments in cross-strait relations and their implications and whether the US had any concerns, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

Wilder was approached by reporters at a dragon boat competition organized by outgoing Representative to the US Joseph Wu (§d°xÀè) in Washington, CNA said. Wu tendered his resignation following the inauguration of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.

Washington has no concerns about the expeditious developments in the Taiwan Strait, Wilder said, because the Taiwanese and the Americans have a special tie and the Taiwanese value Taiwan-US relations.

Since President Ma Ying-jeou (°¨­^¤E) took office, Wilder said, cross-strait ties are moving in the right direction.

Ma made clear his vision for the future of Taiwan¡¦s relations with the US and China in his inaugural speech, Wilder said.

In the address, Ma made several pledges, vowing to pursue ¡§reconciliation and a truce¡¨ with China both concerning cross-strait relations and Taiwan¡¦s interaction in the international community.

Ma promised to maintain the ¡§status quo¡¨ and not to amend the Constitution. He also promised to ¡§rationalize the defense budget¡¨ and purchase US weaponry.

Washington and the Pentagon have been frustrated by the KMT¡¦s obstruction in the legislature of funding for an arms package approved by US President George W. Bush in April 2001.

Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who attended Ma¡¦s inauguration at the request of Bush, reported positively on Taiwan¡¦s development and the state of Taiwan-US relations, Wilder said.

Card was impressed by Taiwan¡¦s vitality, industrial spirit, strong private sector, prosperity and vibrant democracy, he said.

With its second peaceful transfer of power, Taiwan has made the shift from a young democracy to a mature democracy, he said.

The people of Taiwan should be proud of themselves and Washington is proud of the Taiwanese, he said.



KMT chairman suggests missile gesture

ROCKET MAN: Wu Poh-hsiung was asked to elaborate on a comment he made to the president that he felt it was unlikely Beijing would fire missiles at Taiwan

By Flora Wang
Monday, Jun 02, 2008, Page 3

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (§d§B¶¯) said yesterday that China could demonstrate its goodwill toward Taiwan by reducing the number of ballistic missiles it has pointing at Taiwan.

¡§What I emphasized [during the meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (­JÀAÀÜ) last Wednesday] was that Taiwan needed security, dignity and international space. [Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] Chairman Hu responded positively,¡¨ he said on his way to a Hakka event in Taipei.

Wu went to Beijing last Tuesday, and on Wednesday met Hu in an unprecedented encounter between the chairmen of Taiwan¡¦s and China¡¦s governing parties.

Wu, who returned from his China trip on Saturday evening, said Taiwan¡¦s offers of aid to victims of the Sichuan earthquake had contributed to an amicable atmosphere across the Taiwan Strait creating an opportunity for positive interaction between both sides.

¡§The Chinese people have goodwill toward Taiwan. I don¡¦t believe military conflict between Taiwan and China is possible in this atmosphere,¡¨ he said.

Wu was asked to elaborate yesterday on a remark he made on Saturday evening during a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou (°¨­^¤E). Wu told Ma that he felt it was unlikely that Beijing would launch a missile attack against Taiwan, a reference to the more than 1,300 ballistic missiles China has targeted at Taiwan.

Wu said yesterday that both Taipei and Beijing can make joint efforts to prevent war as ¡§wars are the stupidest human behavior.¡¨

He said China can change the missile situation anytime, adding that Beijing can show its goodwill to Taiwan by scaling down the number of the missiles directed across the Taiwan Strait.

Comparing the KMT-CCP communication platform to a ¡§lubricant during past cross-strait tension,¡¨ Wu said he expected the platform to serve a similar function after an official cross-strait communication channel is resumed.

In a letter from China¡¦s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait to Taiwan¡¦s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on Thursday, Beijing said it accepted Taiwan¡¦s invitation to hold cross-strait negotiations on weekend passenger charter flights and opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists. It invited SEF representatives to visit Beijing from June 11 to June 14, which Taiwan has accepted.

Wu yesterday also confirmed that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi (¤ý¼Ý) will head the Taiwan Affairs Office, adding that the KMT delegation learned the news soon after arriving in China.

Wu said the appointment of Wang may help China strike a balance between its cross-strait and foreign affairs policies.

¡§I felt that this appointment may help their office understand that their constant oppression of our international space hinders the development of cross-strait relations,¡¨ he said.



DPP warns pace of cross-strait exchanges too rapid

Monday, Jun 02, 2008, Page 3

Exchanges between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), if continued at their current pace, could put Taiwan¡¦s democracy, sovereignty, cross-strait negotiating position, economy and national security at great risk, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said.

The DPP issued the warning in a press release on Saturday night after KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (§d§B¶¯) concluded a six-day visit to China.

In its statement, the DPP blasted the talks, arguing that such party-to-party exchanges without the scrutiny of the Legislative Yuan could damage Taiwan¡¦s democracy.

Wu¡¦s failure to mention the formula ¡§one China, different interpretations¡¨ and his addressing President Ma Ying-jeou (°¨­^¤E) as ¡§Mr Ma¡¨ in front of Chinese President Hu Jintao (­JÀAÀÜ) also severely eroded Taiwan¡¦s national security, because the KMT appeared to have given up ground on issues even before quasi-official talks take place, the DPP said.

Such KMT-CCP engagement would only help create greater room for Beijing to step up its ¡§one China¡¨ principle propaganda and it would be a total farce if the KMT continued dancing to China¡¦s tune this way, the DPP statement said.

The DPP also accused the KMT of furthering Taiwan¡¦s economic reliance on the Chinese market by failing to include the cross-strait cargo charter service issue in its negotiations with the CCP.

As implementation of cross-strait cargo services would be more beneficial to Taiwan, such a development is unfavorable, the DPP said.



Missing the point?

Both Vincent Lalonde and Adam Supernant (Letters, May 26, page 8) raise some valid points, but they both seem to be missing the thrust of the argument put forward by J. Michael Cole (¡§Why are we sending aid to China?¡¨, May 23, page 8).

What China needed in the immediate aftermath of the disaster was boots on the ground contributing to the search and rescue effort, emergency supplies and equipment, logistical support and medical expertise. Not cold hard cash. China has massive foreign currency reserves on which to draw that could be distributed equitably if, and as, required.

One final point. If money was all that was needed in the wake of a disaster, and indeed, if money somehow equated to one¡¦s level of compassion and sympathy, why didn¡¦t Taiwan¡¦s government pledge an equal amount to the survivors of the Myanmar disaster?

While it¡¦s unfair to compare one person¡¦s suffering with another, the Burmese, in my opinion, are in an even less enviable position than the Chinese.

Who¡¦s playing politics now and why are the Burmese seemingly worth less?

Karl Haby


Be wary of China

As a foreigner who has been a long-time resident of Taiwan, to say that I feel trepidation at the growing ties between the new KMT government and China is an understatement.

The stated goals of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (§d§B¶¯) for his visit to China ¡X peace, expanded business ties and increased tourism ¡X sound benign and modest enough. No one is breathing a word about unification. But anytime one deals with Beijing, looking deeper and farther is essential.

China¡¦s leaders, despite their bluster about invasion and occasional missile practice in the Taiwan Strait, are nothing if not patient. With, as they believe, the ¡§current of history¡¨ on their side, they prefer a gradualist approach; secure in their positions, their plans are spun out over decades, not the four-year cycles of Taiwanese or US politics.

Consider Tibet. The Chinese have been in power there since 1951, with the Beijing gradually but relentlessly wearing down Tibetan culture and identity under a program of Han Chinese immigration, the crowning achievement of which is the completion of the Bejing-Lhasa railway.

This campaign, described by the Dalai Lama as a program of ¡§cultural genocide,¡¨ bore its deadliest fruit during the recent protests and Chinese crackdown, when Beijing justified its actions as necessary to protect Han Chinese from violence at the hands of Tibetans.

Such a claim is reminiscent of Adolf Hitler¡¦s insistence on annexing the Czech Sudetenland to protect the rights of ethnic Germans (or, for that matter, former US president Ronald Reagan¡¦s claim that his invasion of newly-Marxist Grenada was motivated by his concern for the handful of US citizens there).

Imagine for a moment that there is a real, long-term thaw in relations between China and Taiwan, bringing with it greater trade, tourism and perhaps even a large, semi-permanent Chinese population in Taiwan. Imagine then that a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-style government is once again elected on an independence platform. A Chinese invasion, instead of making Beijing an international pariah, might be then viewed as a regrettable but necessary step to protect the safety and business interests of its people.

It¡¦s an alarming scenario, but not, I think, an alarmist one. Taiwanese would do well to weigh the short-term benefits of an accommodation with China against the long-range consequences. The little bird that picks the crocodile¡¦s teeth eats well ¡X for a while.

Barry Hall



Rising incomes impact global bread basket

The increasing consumption of meat and poultry by China¡¦s growing middle class is destabilizing world food prices

By Jonathan Watts
Monday, Jun 02, 2008, Page 9


Before lunch Zhang Xiuwen asks his family to give thanks. The table in their small Beijing flat is set with a simple meal: garlic pork in vinegar, fresh tomatoes, leavened bread, potato, cauliflower and fried egg with cucumber. But for Chinese migrants such as Zhang and his wife it is a feast that they could only have dreamed about when growing up in a poor rural village.

Ten years ago Zhang swapped the mountain skyline of his rural home near Shangrila in Yunnan Province for the grimy suburbs of west Beijing. For Zhang what he sacrificed in scenery he has more than made up for in lifestyle and diet. Once a rural farmer, Zhang is now an urban tennis coach. He no longer grows food, he buys it. Often hungry during a poor childhood, he can now afford meat every day.

It is a trend repeated across the most populous nation that is affecting global prices of grain and dairy products, and raising the risk of hunger among the world¡¦s poor as grain is diverted to fatten up animals.

Western suppliers claim the shift will ripple through world markets for years.

¡§This is the end of self-sufficiency for China,¡¨ said James Rice, chief of China operations for Tyson Foods, the world¡¦s biggest meat producer. ¡§This year will be the last in which China produces enough corn for itself, and the last that it is self- sufficient in protein.¡¨

He predicts China will be importing US$4.5 billion worth of protein by 2010.

¡§Whenever China goes from being a net exporter to a net importer of anything, it has a big impact on global prices. Just look at oil. The us$40 per barrel price popped just when China started buying,¡¨ Rice said.


By Western standards, Zhang is a modest consumer. His Beijing flat is small. He and his wife are limited to one child by the strict family planning policy. Their only home appliances are a fridge, a TV, a computer and a washing machine.

But, compared with his childhood, it is clear how far he has moved towards the urban middle class. Almost 60 years ago tens of millions among Zhang¡¦s grandparent¡¦s generation died of starvation in the famines that followed Mao Zedong¡¦s (¤ò¿AªF) disastrous Great Leap Forward. Thirty years ago his parents in Yunnan were still struggling to put enough food on the table.

¡§In my childhood I sometimes went hungry. During July and August, just before harvest, we usually did not have enough to eat. I remember once when some guests came to visit us we could not find any food at home so we had to borrow some wheat powder from the neighbor to make pancakes,¡¨ he said.

Today the family never goes short. Zhang spends only one-fifth of his 5,000 yuan (US$719) monthly income on food, but it is plenty to ensure a tasty, balanced diet for him, his wife, their baby and the relatives who come to dine at least once a week.

Fifteen years ago most homes in Beijing relied primarily on cabbage to see them through the winter. Today Zhang can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from his local store or from the nearest supermarket. In recent years Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco and Ito-Yokado have been expanding in China faster than in any other country. Together they are opening hundreds of new stores every year in the expectation that Chinese consumption will surge as its middle class grows bigger and richer.


Nothing symbolizes such change more than meat. The world¡¦s most populous nation is becoming more carnivorous. In 1980, when the population was still under one billion, the average Chinese person ate 20kg of meat; last year, with an extra 300 million people, it was 54kg. The country as a whole now chomps through more than 60 million tonnes of meat a year, roughly equivalent to 240 million cows, or 600 million pigs, or 24 billion chickens. It is a worldwide trend that is taking grain away from the world¡¦s poor. The consumption of meat in developing countries is rising by more than 5 percent a year.

Zhang reckoned his family spends about 250 yuan a week on food, half of it on meat.

¡§I love beef. I was told it is a good source of protein for sportsmen, that it gives us strength. But I also buy more chicken, pork and fish than before so that I get a balanced diet,¡¨ he said.

To produce a kilogram of beef farmers need 8kg of feed; for pork about 6kg; for chicken 2kg. Worldwide, 700 million tonnes of grain are needed to fatten animals each year.

As he slices pork in his kitchen, Zhang explained that even the lunch he is preparing would have been considered a luxury during his childhood.

¡§In the past we couldn¡¦t imagine a meal like this,¡¨ he said. ¡§Children looked forward to spring festival, partly because it was fun, but also because it was a chance to eat meat. But now we can eat meat every day if we want. It has become part of our lives.¡¨


Until the age of 20, Zhang said he never had milk. The reason was simple ¡X his family had no cows. It was a similar story across the country, which has traditionally had a very low reliance on dairy products. In many lowland regions butter was a rare luxury. For Zhang the change came when he moved to the city.

¡§Now I earn a living to support my family, we drink quite a lot of milk. I guess we get through a one-liter carton every day,¡¨ he said.

This will become more commonplace. Last year Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (·Å®aÄ_) said he dreamed of the day when every child in the country could consume a pint of milk a day. That will require either a sharp rise in herd sizes or greater demand on international markets. China is currently importing one-third of the world¡¦s traded milk. In Germany ¡X a major exporter ¡X consumers have complained that Chinese demand is pushing up the cost of their breakfast cereal.

Zhang¡¦s diet is modest compared with many urbanites. He rarely eats at restaurants and never goes to fast-food outlets. But young Beijingers are becoming as enthusiastic about French fries, burgers and fried chicken as their counterparts in New York or London. In the past 20 years KFC has gone from one to 2,000 outlets in China, McDonald¡¦s from zero to 800.

In lifting 300 million people out of poverty over the past 30 years, China also saw an improvement in diets that made the country healthier. According to the World Food Programme, a six-year-old boy today in China is 6kg heavier and 6cm taller than his counterpart at the start of economic reforms in 1978. But there are signs that more children and adults are simply becoming fatter. In the first 15 years after economic reforms the number of people defined as overweight in China more than doubled to 200 million, Asian Development Bank figures show.

Wang remembers her parents talking about hunger, about stomach aches that came from a diet of only broomcorn and sweet potato, about grandparents who had to forage in the bracken for scraps of left-over harvest to feed their children. Her husband has similar anecdotes about the suffering of the past, but now he says the situation has gone too far in the opposite direction.

¡§Some people even in their 30s already have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems,¡¨ he said. ¡§Many [tennis] students want to lose weight. Some are very fat and have difficulty running or walking up stairs. That is when they realize they are overweight and need to exercise.¡¨


Growing demand for meat has pushed up prices in the past year and a half. Restaurateurs and shop owners are feeling the pinch. Most buy from Baliqiao market, a wholesalers¡¦ supply center a few miles east of Zhang¡¦s home in east Beijing. Since the last day of 2006 stall holders have increased the price of a kilogram of pork ¡X the most popular meat in China ¡X from 12.3 yuan to 20.3 yuan. Beef has risen by 73 percent, lamb by 65 percent and chicken by 30 percent.

Inflation is a growing source of political and economic concern and could also dent China¡¦s competitiveness and push up global prices of manufactured goods. With costs rising in the cities, factories have to offer migrants higher wages to lure them from the countryside, where their crops now bring in better incomes. Even salary rises are often not enough. Many manufacturers complain of worker shortages. The pool of cheap Chinese labor is clearly not as inexhaustible as thought.

The government¡¦s inflation target of 4.8 percent this year looks impossible. Last month the consumer price index rose by 8.5 percent driven largely by food and oil increases.

Overseas analysts warn that this could have a damaging knock-on effect for the global economy. China¡¦s cheap goods have kept consumer prices low for more than a decade. But as workers need to spend more on food they need to earn more, and the cost of goods goes up. The risk of a new bout of global inflation is rising.

Beijing insists China is not a major contributor to global food price inflation. Many analysts agree. China boasts an impressive degree of food self-sufficiency, particularly given it must feed more than one-fifth of the world¡¦s people on less than 10 percent of the arable land.

The lunch that Zhang cooked for his family is far from the lavish feasts seen on tables in many Western restaurants. On average Americans eat 129 percent more meat than the Chinese; Europeans consume 83 percent more. But in China¡¦s case the fear is not of individual consumption, but of the multiples of scale and speed of 1.3 billion people growing richer at a rate of more than 10 percent a year.

Zhang is aware of the concerns. The best way to deal with them, he said, is to avoid waste.

¡§According to an old Chinese saying, we should wear enough clothing to avoid feeling cold and eat enough food to avoid feeling hungry. That means we should not eat too luxuriously. We should practice this rule by ourselves and encourage others to do the same. It would be good if we could influence others to save food. My child is still young but when he drops even one grain of rice I ask him to pick it up and eat it. I tell him it is the product of a lot of hard work by an old farmer somewhere,¡¨ he said.


China and food

How is China¡¦s diet changing?

Thanks to two decades of double-digit growth, hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of subsistence-level poverty. Two generations ago China was plagued by starvation. A generation ago meat was reserved for special occasions. Today it is common. Worldwide, protein consumption tends to rise with wealth. In China, since 1980, the average person¡¦s annual meat consumption has risen from 20kg to 54kg.

What other factors are involved?

Urbanization is turning farmers into factory workers, and agricultural fields into industrial parks. Each year 8.5 million people move from food-producing villages to hungry cities. The upside is a gain in efficiency and economic activity. The downside is a surge in consumption and waste. So much farmland has been converted for factories, roads and homes that the country¡¦s arable land fell last year to 1.22million square kilometers, less than 25,900 above the minimum needed to feed China.

How big is the Chinese middle class?

An estimated 150 million people earn more than 20,000 yuan a year, which leaves a little disposable income. The ranks of this, mostly urban, middle class are forecast to almost double in a decade, further raising consumption of proteins. In anticipation big foreign supermarket chains are opening hundreds of stores. Fast-food retailers are ahead of them.

What about nutrition?

On an individual level China is way behind developed countries. The average American chomps through 124kg of meat a year, mostly beef, which is the least efficient way to convert grain to protein, requiring four times as much feed a kg of meat as a chicken. Europeans have a leaner diet, but still get through 89kg of meat a year. At a national level, however, China is consuming more meat and dairy products than any other country due to its large population and fast- growing economy.

Is China to blame for food problems?

The World Food Programme, the Chinese government and most experts say not. Because it is largely self-sufficient, other factors weight heavier ¡X rising oil prices, increased use of biofuels, climate change, and population growth. But China has pushed up global prices of products it needs to import, such as soya beans and milk. Within China rising consumption and disease among the swine herd has raised prices of pork and other meats since the start of last year. This has not yet rippled across its borders. In the long term, however, China looks set to play a more important role in the global food trade as it imports more to meet its growing domestic demand. By one estimate, this year will be the last in which China is self-sufficient in proteins.


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