News & Reports 2011-03-20

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2011-03-20

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

World leaders announce military intervention in Libya, with French fighter jets firing on a Libyan military vehicle and warplanes from other countries amassing around the Mediterranean.

Japan, China and South Korea, involved in talks to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, agreed to work together to increase nuclear-power safety.

Shops in Tokyo's normally busy streets remain quiet as the city conserves energy to prevent blackouts.

And the number of museum visitors hoping to learn about earthquakes increases by 30 percent in Beijing following Japan's devastating disaster.

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Paris Summit Decides to Launch Intervention in Libya

World leaders have announced the start of military action against Libyan government forces, after an emergency summit in Paris.

France led the way with the first surveillance missions and the first strike, firing on a Libyan military vehicle, followed by air strikes from the U.S. and British forces.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that "there is still time for Colonel Gadhafi to avoid the worst by complying immediately and unreservedly with all the demands of the international community."

He said that "the doors of diplomacy will open once again when the aggression stops."

"If there is not an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of the forces that have been attacking civilian populations in the last few weeks, our countries will have recourse to military means. This warning was endorsed by all participants of the summit that has just concluded."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the emergency summit attended by leaders from some Arab countries and main Western powers was a success.

He added it was "troubling" to get assurances by the Prime Minister of Libya of a ceasefire, while they were continuing attacking Benghazi.

"Everything depends upon how the Libyan authorities will comply with the Security Council resolution. I again urge in the strongest possible terms that Libyan authorities must fully comply with resolutions and they must immediately stop these military hostilities."

Libyan government troops attacked Benghazi earlier on Saturday, apparently ignoring a proclaimed cease-fire.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is on a Latin America visit, also announced that the United States has started limited military actions in Libya.

U.S. Defense Department said over 20 Libyan air defense sites were struck in Tomahawk cruise missile strikes conducted earlier in the day.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said "the world would not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed."

"This is a broad international effort. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce resolution 1973. We are standing with the people of Libya and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them."

Warplanes from Canada and Denmark have also arrived at Italian air bases. Germany backed the operation but hasn't offered its own forces.

It was the first reported offensive military action against Gadhafi's troops since the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution 2 days ago, authorising operations in Libya.

Meanwhile the high-level African Union panel on the Libya crisis has said it opposes any foreign military intervention in Libya.

Gaddafi's Supporters Act as Human Shields to Protest a Possible Air Strike

Thousands of supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi packed into his Tripoli compound to act as human shields against a possible air strike by allied forces.

Fireworks erupted into the night sky and people fired defiant shots into the air after allied warplanes went into action to stop Gaddafi's forces attacking the rebel-held city of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Thousands of Libyans of all walks of life streamed into the Bab Al-Aziziyah compound, shouting slogans and holding portraits of Gaddafi. Loudspeakers boomed songs praising the leader.

One Gaddafi supporter said the UN-authorised action against Libya was aimed at getting hold of the country's oil.

"What is happening? It is a game from outside Libya. We know this game from America, France and UK. They need just oil. They are not coming to protect us. They are not coming to protect Libyans, they are not coming to protect our country. They are coming just for oil. This is far away from them. We will die all of us, for Libya, for our leader."

The huge Tripoli complex, which also includes military barracks, was the main target of a 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya. Then U.S. President Ronald Reagan said it was in retaliation for what he called Libyan complicity in the bombing of a Berlin night club.

The gates of the compound, the heart of Gaddafi's powerful security apparatus which is usually off-limits to the general public, were wide open, and people continued to stream into it throughout the evening.

The government took foreign reporters there on a rare visit to showcase people's support for Gaddafi.

Japan, South Korea and China Cooperated to Maintain Nuclear Safety

Japan, China and South Korea, involved in talks to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, agreed in Japan on Saturday to work together to increase nuclear-power safety.

The talks came eight days after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged northeast Japan, killing thousands of people and sparking a nuclear crisis at the country's Fukushima nuclear power complex.

Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto talked about the current priority with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.

"At this Japan-China-South Korea summit, I would like to make it a priority to discuss disaster prevention and nuclear safety issues, while taking advantage of our country's disaster coping experience and your support."

Japan suffered a crippling earthquake and tsunami on March 11th that killed nearly 7,000 people and turned entire towns into waterlogged, debris-strewn wastelands. Another 10,700 people are missing.

Matsumoto also assured his counterparts that the basis of Japan's economy remained strong.

"Our economy has momentarily been affected, but the basis supporting our economy remains solid."

Japan's total economic losses from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster have been estimated by Barclays Capital at some 184 billion U.S. dollars, about 3 percent of the country's GDP.

Shops Closed in Tokyo to Conserve Energy

Japan's Akihabara, a street in Tokyo known for its electronics shops selling gadgets of every sort, was quiet as the city conserved energy to prevent blackouts.

Escalators were turned off in some buildings and some shops were closed down until power and the transport situation became clearer.

Japan's power plants supplying electricity to Tokyo and surrounding areas were severely affected by the massive earthquake and tsunami in Northeastern Japan, which has curtailed electric supplies.

Among the city's residents there is mixed feeling about how the situation is being handled.

"I think we are handling the aftermath better than other countries since we have a lot of earthquakes in Japan."

"People receive information on what kind of supplies are needed on Twitter from the evacuation center. I think the government should pick up that kind of information. Their operations should be more diversified, not centralized."

Japan's trade minister has said power blackouts in the Tokyo area can be avoided if demand stays at its present level.

Worries over a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, where engineers are frantically trying to avert a catastrophic release of radiation from a crippled nuclear power plant, has cast a pall over Tokyo, with fewer cars on the road and thousands of residents fleeing to other parts of Japan.

Massive Quake Turns a Japanese Northeastern City into Ghost Town

A week after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan, the streets of Tono remained virtually deserted.

The small city, which lies in the center of the Iwate prefecture, had a thriving tourism industry. Tourism office official, Shinichi Tachibana, said that has come to an abrupt halt.

"On March 11 there was a big earthquake and since then we haven't had a single tourist. We discussed what we could do as a city to help with the situation."

The city is providing shelter for thousands of evacuees, few of whom are venturing out.

Fujiko Segawa, who runs a hairdressing business, said most of her clients are regulars. Now she stays open in the hope that business will pick up.

With vehicle fuel tightly rationed and completely unavailable at many filling stations some residents, like construction worker, Katsuhiro Tada, are resorting to pedal power to get around.

"There's no gasoline, so basically I use my bicycle to get to work. I live in the suburbs so I do my shopping on by bicycle also, and drive as little as possible."

Some food stores are still operating but increasingly their shelves are empty, with supply routes wrecked.

Iwate Prefecture alone has reported 1,907 people dead and 4,253 missing.

China Starts Voluntary Evacuation of Chinese Citizens in Japan

More than 6,000 Chinese citizens in Japan's disaster-hit areas have moved to safer places, with about half returning to China by air and the rest living in three emergency shelters in Niigataken.

The Niigataken shelter hosts the largest number of Chinese citizens. Some of them want to be flown back to Harbin City and others are waiting to be flown back to Shanghai.

The most serious problem is how to keep themselves warm, as outdoor temperatures are about three degrees centigrade.

Most people could not sleep well after facing aftershocks, tsunami and radiation worries. But some could still fall asleep.

The girls who worked for a seafood company in Miyagi, an the Northeast district in Japan, have been moved to the shelter. They have been so scared by the fires they saw and were unable to shut their eyes. They now understand what a true 'sea of fire' is.

A Chinese eyewitness, with no name given, described the fire.

"They saw the flames shoot up just like oil suddenly lit by a match. Even though you could survive the tsunami, you cannot escape from fire."

Another serious problem is food shortages. They can have nothing more than a rice-ball and bowl of soup for a day's meal.

Chinese Market Affected as Result of Japan Earthquake

Factories across Japan's quake-struck northeast have shut down, in many cases pending further notice.

The move has impacted the country's high-tech and auto sectors in particular, resulting in a shortage of Japanese gadgets and cars in China.

Mi Caifei owns a digital product shop in Beijing.

"The quake in Japan affects both wholesale and retail (prices). The price of flash drives with Japanese chips has increased by 20 yuan. Customers find it difficult to accept that rise."

Japan manufactures 40 percent of the world's microchips, and China is a major buyer.

The price of cameras made in Japan has also increased by 3 percent.

Besides digital gadgets, automobiles are another key Japanese export to China. Major Japanese auto companies in China are facing component shortages because of the earthquake.

Experts say the impact of Japan's devastating natural disasters will continue, but their effect on these businesses will eventually taper off.

Japanese Earthquake Triggers Drive to Experience Earthquake in Beijing

The number of people who book a visit to a museum to learn about earthquakes has increased by 30 percent in Beijing in the past few days.

The earthquakes in China and especially the one that rocked Japan have triggered interests in experiencing what an earthquake feels like.

There is an earthquake experience hall in the Beijing Fire Museum. People are vying with one another to feel the shocks of an earthquake. The guide of the Fire Museum informs visitors about basic knowledege of earthquakes.

"Now, it is an earthquake of magnitude 3 on a little scale. We can feel slight tremors. There are 134 such earthquakes occurring every day in the world. So, we do not need to take any action."

Then, the earthquake increases to 5-magnitude and the guide asks visitors how to avert risks.

The guide told them, when a strong shock comes, one should not stand still. If we can't run out in time, we should choose a safe place and leave quickly. We must keep away from windows and choose smaller spaces in the room such as a kitchen or bathroom, which are not easy to collapse. Other good places to hide are the main walls and solid objects.

The earthquake experience hall can provide visitors with a real earthquake environment. Many visitors could learn much knowledge about earthquakes after the visit.

China Raises Bank Reserve Requirement Ratio by 50 Basis Points

The People's Bank of China, China's central bank has announced to raise the bank reserve requirement ratio by 50 basis points starting on March 25.

The reserve requirement ratio of large financial institutions will reach to a historic high of 20 percent after this raise.

It is the third time for China to raise its bank reserve requirement ratio this year and the ninth raise since last year.

Yin Zhongli, an economic researcher from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says the move is aimed to to soak up liquidity to check inflation.

"A large amount of central bank bills expired recently, releasing a fund of some 1,000 billion yuan. The bank reserve requirement ratio raise by 50 basis points will have 350 billion yuan of bank funds freezed. In addition, the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan also have impacts on China's related industries, such as home appliances industry and high-tech electronic industry. Raising reserve requirement ratio at this moment actually indicates that the Chinese government eyes the inflation control as its main task this year."

Government data showed that the country's consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, remained stubbornly high at 4.9 percent in February. And that figure in March is expected to surpass 4.9 percent to 5 percent.

US Targeting the Latin American Market

US President Barack Obama arrived in Brazil early on Saturday on a five-day mission to reassert U.S. interests in Latin America's fast-growing economies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier that jobs, trade and energy security will dominate Obama's first trip south of the border in nearly two years that will also include Chile and El Salvador.

"In Brazil, he will announce new economic opportunities and discuss new ways we can work together on our core challenges in energy, innovation, education and beyond. He will go to Chile to emphasize our fundamental values and shared commitment to democracy.??And, in El Salvador, he will show how we can do our part on meeting the shared challenges of security and development in a country that has shown the will to move forward".

Obama's challenge will be an attempt to convince Latin Americans he is sincere in his commitment to make the region a priority for U.S. trade and investment.

The trip has important political implications at home. The White House is touting Latin America as a fertile market for increased exports that Obama sees as a path to creating U.S. jobs, considered to be crucial for his 2012 re-election chances.

Why College Students Are Paid Less for Their Entry-level Jobs Than Migrant Workers?

It's been reported that in some manufacturing-based Chinese cities, many college students are paid less for entry-level jobs than low skilled migrant workers.

A commentary in the China Daily says that the situation reflects a sign that college degrees are no longer tickets to jobs, while practical skills have become more valuable.

The newspaper points out that from such a situation, it is not difficult to see what is missing in the nation's education: vocational training that can produce a pool of skilled labor.

A study by the U.S.-based economics consultancy shows that China has superseded the United States as the world's top manufacturing country.

But senior technicians make up less than 4 percent of the workforce in China while in developed countries it is as much as 40 percent.

The author analyzes that vocational education must be more affordable and available, especially for children from underdeveloped rural areas, an important pool of cheap labor for industrial development.

Rural students, both in and out of college, face much expectations by their families. However, in a job market where college credentials no longer guarantee success, they need to be trained with practical skills to sharpen their competitive edge.

An article in the People's Daily, however, sees the situation from a different approach.

The article says the current situation is a result of an unbalanced industrial structure in China, which sees the manufacturing industry weighing much more.

The article says an overall upgrade of China's industrial structure is badly needed, or more college-educated people would be wasted, as well as the country's educational resources.

Beijing News: China Must Establish a Disaster Insurance System

The losses from Japan's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami have been estimated at several hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars, while insured losses from the disasters are believed to total US$12 billion-US$25 billion.

By comparison, the earthquake that occurred in southwestern China's Wenchuan County nearly three years ago caused more than 800 billion yuan (US$2 billion) in losses, with insured losses accounting for only 2 percent of the total.

A commentary in the "Beijing News" says the difference in the amount of losses reflects the need for a well-established disaster insurance system in China. It points out that the purpose of disaster insurance is to protect businesses and residents against natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes as well as manmade disasters such as terrorist attacks.

The commentary argues that such insurance is badly needed in China, a country that experiences frequent natural disasters and suffers annual losses of more than 100 billion yuan because of them.

The commentary further points out that insured losses following natural disasters in China only make up 5 percent of total losses on average, while the global level is 36 percent. Most of China's disaster compensation comes from state coffers and voluntary donations, which are limited.

The commentary suggests that to improve China's disaster insurance system, the government must establish a related law to monitor responsible departments and insurance companies, and map out detailed items covered by the insurance as soon as possible.

The commentary also says the government must think about how to coordinate responsibilities between itself and the insurance industry and how to ensure that insurance companies are qualified to handle claims from disaster-related losses.

In conclusion, the commentary advises that the government no longer neglect to create a well-established disaster insurance system.