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    IN BRIEF (Page 2)

    Well-wishers: Keepers of the 23 panda cubs born last year at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province hold them for group photos ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan 28 this year. Xue Yubin / Xinhua

    Washington told to keep promises

    China called on the new US administration to stick to the one-China principle and strictly limit its relationship with Taiwan to the nonofficial level, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Jan 23. She made the remarks at a regular news conference when asked about China's expectations for the government led by Donald Trump, who was inaugurated as president on Jan 20. President Xi Jinping sent Trump a congratulatory message. Every US administration should follow the commitment made by both the Republicans and Democrats to stick to the one-China policy, she said, adding that it is the foundation for the Sino-US relationship.

    Beijing, Manila agree on $3.7b in shared projects

    Officials representing Beijing and Manila shook hands on joint projects worth $3.7 billion during a meeting in Beijing on Jan 23. The package is the initial installment of planned cooperative projects aiming to improve livelihoods, Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng told reporters at a news briefing. The briefing came after discussions with a delegation led by Philippines Finance Secretary Carlos Domingue, who was in China from Jan 22 to 24. The delegation included ministerial officials responsible for areas such as economic planning, telecommunications, financing and public projects.

    Ex-State official gets life in prison

    Su Rong, a former State official who had also served as Party chief in Jiangxi, Qinghai and Gansu provinces, has been sentenced to life in prison for corruption. Su had been one of the 23 vice-chairmen of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until disciplinary authorities began investigating him in June 2014. He was found guilty of taking bribes, abusing public power and possessing a huge amount of unexplained assets, said the court.

    New 'carrier-killer' delivered to fleet

    The People's Liberation Army Navy commissioned its fifth Type 052D guided missile destroyer to the North Sea Fleet. The PLA Navy said in a news release on Jan 23 that the CNS Xining, which has a hull number of 117, was delivered to a destroyer flotilla of the North Sea Fleet at a naval base in Qingdao, Shandong province. The news release said that the Xining has a stealth design and can act as a flagship for a strike group. It is capable of conducting anti-ship, anti-submarine and air defense operations, it said.

    Poor villagers' relocation should be speedy, Li says

    Premier Li Keqiang called for innovative ways to relocate poverty-stricken families to a more habitable location during a visit to Zhaotong, Yunnan province, on Jan 23. People in the far-flung village will be moved in March to new houses in a place with convenient transportation, as part of Yunnan's target from last year to relocate 677,000 people below the poverty line at a cost of 23.9 billion yuan. The local government will pay half of the cost of building new houses, and villagers can get interest-free loans of up to 60,000 yuan for three years, in addition to using their own savings.

    Public doubts reasons for panda deaths

    A 21-year-old captive panda and one of her female cubs died of acute pancreatitis and intestinal complications, respectively, at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park in December. The zoo, still breeding five other pandas, has since become the target of public anger, raising questions about why the endangered mammals were being kept outside of their traditional habitat of Southwest China's Sichuan province. The State Forestry Administration said breeding pandas in developed regions can provide a safer environment for the species and aid in public education, while allowing them to take advantage of the advanced research and technology in those regions.

    Nation exceeds urban job creation target

    China created 13.14 million new jobs for urban residents last year, exceeding the official target, but the country faces a new challenge this year in creating jobs for a historic high of almost 8 million university graduates. The registered unemployment rate in Chinese cities stood at 4.02 percent at the end of last year, down from 4.04 percent three months earlier, Lu Aihong, an official with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said at a news conference on Jan 23.

    1,800 detained for illegally crossing border

    Border-control police in South China's Guangdong province detained more than 1,800 foreigners entering the country illegally last year, a 190-percent increase compared with 2015, according to officials at the provincial border-control department. The total number of people detained for illegally entering or exiting the country was 2,571, an increase of 99.3 percent year-on-year, which involved 337 cases, officials said. Among them, 192 cases involved 1,879 foreigners illegally entering China.

    Crackdown sees 111 golf courses closed

    China has closed more than 100 golf courses and ordered 507 others to make changes over the past five years as part of a clampdown on illegal land and water use, according to the National Development and Reform Commission. The golf courses were guilty of illicit behavior, including illegally using large amounts of arable land or natural reserves, and extracting groundwater from prohibited areas, the commission said.

    Couple set for flight around the world

    A Chinese couple with a penchant for adventure are planning an 80,000-kilometer round-the-world trip that will see them fly themselves to five continents, including Antarctica. Zhang Xinyu and his wife, Liang Hong, plan to begin their journey by flying a Chinese-made plane from Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, to North America via the Russian Far East. Their trip is scheduled to begin before the end of this month, and the adventure will last until June.

    Li: More foreign talent welcome

    More foreign talent is welcome to China for innovative work and business, and the government will step up support in such areas as granting "green cards", project applications and intellectual property protection, Premier Li Keqiang said. The country will also "relax market access, attract more foreign investment and learn advanced technologies and management", Li told a gathering in Beijing of outstanding foreign experts working in China.

    Xi tells Hebei to hasten overcapacity reduction

    Hebei province needs to quicken the pace of overcapacity reduction this year, President Xi Jinping said on Jan 24. Xi said stepped-up efforts would lead to healthy economic growth through developing emerging industries such as dairy production. There should be zero tolerance for allowing "zombie" factories and enterprises previously shut down to restart operations, he said. Cheating must not be permitted, the president said.

    WHO put on 'high alert' for bird flu

    The World Health Organization has called on all countries to closely monitor outbreaks of deadly bird flu in birds and poultry, and to promptly report any human cases that could signal the start of a flu pandemic. Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to large-scale slaughter of poultry in some countries and occasional human deaths in China. Experts fear the virus could mutate to spread more easily among people. Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of the highly pathogenic bird flu in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO.

    Beijing to push talks on regional free trade pacts

    Beijing said on Jan 24 that it will support ongoing deliberation for two free-trade arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region after the United States quit the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China will stay committed to pressing ahead with the economic integration process in the Asia-Pacific region. Beijing will further promote the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, since the negotiations have made substantial progress and should be completed at an early date, Hua said. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan 23 to withdraw the country from the TPP.

    Tap TCM's potential, premier says

    Premier Li Keqiang called for traditional Chinese medicine producers on Jan 24, during a visit to Yunnan province, to introduce advanced methods from developed economies to make diversified products and improve people's health. The premier spoke with managers and researchers of Yunnan Baiyao Group Co in Kunming. Li said traditional Chinese medicine has great potential for development of new products and expansion in overseas markets. In the bigger picture, the company can develop more manufactured goods under the category of dietary supplements.

    Report of new type of passport dismissed

    Guo Shaochun, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs has dismissed a fake online report that claims China will issue a "frequent traveler passport" that would grant holders visa-free trips to 141 countries. He reminded the public to get authoritative information from two sources: his department's website and its Wechat account. Currently, there are three main types of passports for Chinese citizens - diplomat, service and regular passports.

    Graduates urged to work for grassroots units

    The central government issued a guideline on Jan 24, urging departments to encourage college graduates to work for grassroots units in remote areas. The guideline stated that grassroots work experience should be a mandatory requirement for civil service applicants eyeing provincial-level posts. More training and field studies should be organized to prepare the students for work with grassroots organizations, according to the guideline.

    3,800 arrested for IP rights crimes

    Nearly 3,800 people were arrested in China for crimes related to intellectual property rights violations last year, the Supreme People's Procuratorate announced on Jan 24. More than 7,000 people were prosecuted for violating IPR last year, the SPP said. According to official statistics, more than 3,500 people were arrested for crimes involving trademark infringement, accounting for more than 92 percent of all IPR offenders last year.

    Program aired to mark anniversary

    The Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries published a documentary on Jan 24 to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The 20-minute documentary, entitled People-to-People Diplomacy: Six Decades of Shining Glories, gives a brief account of the organization, which was founded on Sept 13, 1956. By 2015, the organization had established exchange relationships with 345 organizations in 100 countries.

    Duo sent to prison over illegal vaccine trade

    A woman and her daughter were sentenced to prison terms on Jan 24 after being convicted of selling vaccines without a license in Shandong province, according to a local court. Pang Hongwei was sentenced to 15 years in prison for illegally purchasing vaccines and then selling them to clients in the province and other parts of the country between June 2013 and April 2015, according to the Jinan Intermediate People's Court. Pang improperly stored the vaccines she bought, and sold them for a total sales value of nearly 75 million yuan ($11 million), the court said.

    Investment will help protect farmland

    China will invest 600 billion yuan ($87.5 billion) in the next four years to protect farmland and improve its facilities, an official said on Jan 24, as the country is set to encourage more private capital to participate in the farmland improvement process. Han Jun, deputy director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Rural Work, said a national effort to increase the area of well-facilitated farmland from the current 26.7 million hectares to 53.3 million hectares by 2020 could cost about 600 billion yuan, and authorities will encourage private capital to take part in the process. The group is China's top rural affairs decision-making agency.

    New leader takes helm of PLA Navy

    The People's Liberation Army Navy has a new commander, 60-year-old Vice-Admiral Shen Jinlong, according to the Navy. Shen has replaced Admiral Wu Shengli, 71, to take charge of the largest navy in Asia. Shen was chosen because of his rich experience with front-line combat units, institutes and a major fleet's commanding body, according to a senior researcher with the PLA Navy, who asked not to be named, said.

    4th quarter growth bucks slowing trend

    China's economic growth hit the full-year target of 6.7 percent in 2016, with a faster-than-expected rate of 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, but more proactive efforts may be needed to keep the strong momentum, economists said. The performance in the fourth quarter bucked the trend of decline for the first time in the past two years. Industrial production grew steadily last year, with high-tech industry rising by 10.8 percent year-on-year. The economic structure also improved, with the service sector accounting for 51.6 percent of the total GDP, according to NBS data.

    Second-child policy increases births by 7.9%

    The universal second-child policy implemented early last year was a major factor in raising the number of births in China to 17.86 million last year, an increase of 7.9 percent and the highest annual number since since 2000, according to the top health authority. The number of newborns has increased by 1.31 million compared with 2015. The portion of the births to couples who already had at least one child rose quickly to at least 45 percent last year, Yang Wenzhuang, a division director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a news conference.

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