China's revisions to its death penalty laws came into effect today, removing 13 crimes from the list of offenses punishable by death. The move marks the first time the number of crimes subject to the death penalty has been reduced since the country's Criminal Law took effect in 1979. There are now 55 remaining crimes in China that are punishable by dealth.
The crimes removed were mainly economic offenses, for which the death penalty was rarely applied in practice. Such offenses include tax fraud, fraud with letters of credit, and the smuggling of cultural relics. The revisions were proposed by The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress last year and approved in late February this year.
Under the revisions, felons over the age of 75 have been made exempt from the death penalty. Previously only offenders under the age of 18, and pregnant women were exempt from capital punishment.
The Chinese government this week announced plans to cut taxes for low income earnings and raise them slightly for higher income earners. The changes will full under new legislation expected to pass this month, and comes as part of the country's efforts to address its rising inequality.
The proposed changes to the tax code would raise the minimum level of monthly income subject to taxation to 3,000 yuan ($460), from the current 2,000 yuan ($305). The minimum wage of a Chinese worker in Beijing is 1,160 yuan ($178) a month, the highest minimum-wage rate in the country.
The changes would also reduce the total number of tax brackets from nine to seven, eliminating two brackets, with rates of 15% and 40%, meaning more taxpayers would qualify for the top marginal rate of 45%.
Currently individual income tax makes up only a small proportion of government revenue in China, partly through design, and partly through widespread tax evasion. Last year income taxes accounted for only 6.8% of the central government's revenue, compared to 28.7% in the UK for example.
China Datang Renewable Power Co Ltd announced this week that it has signed a joint venture with Australian energy storage company CBD Energy Ltd to develop wind and solar energy projects in Australia.
Datang - China's second-largest wind power generator - will own a 63.75% share of the new company, while CBD will control 23.75%. The remaining equity will be taken by another Chinese company, Baoding Tianwei Baobian Electric Co, a manufacturer of power transformers.
So far no financial details of the new company have been given, but official statements suggest that the new company will develop a variety of cleantech projects in Australia, including solar thermal production.
Australia is currently investing heavily in alternative energy, and has set a national target of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The European Union has announced that it has removed the controversial 16.5% tariff levvied against leather shoes imported from China. The removal came this month following extensive appeals from major Chinese manufacturers and lobbying groups.
The tariff came into effect in 2006; brought on by complaints from Italian and French shoemakers who argued that a number of Chinese manufactures were 'dumping' cheap goods onto the European market, thus hurting domestic manufacturers. In 2006 nine countries, led by France, voted to renew existing levies, whilst 12 voted against. However, due to the EU voting mechanism, four abstentions were counted as yes votes, which meant the tariff was introduced.
The move to remove the tariff has been welcomed in China, as many shoe manufacturers believed that the duty violated EU law and claimed that the low price of the shoes came as a result of the declining value of the dollar, not becuase of dumping. Last year, the European Court of Justice rejected an appeal against the tariff from five major Chinese shoemakers. China also lodged an official complain with the World Trade Organisation following the rejection of the appeal.
Huawei, one of China’s leading technology companies, announced yesterday that it will invest US$300 million in the construction of a research centre in Sao Paulo State, Brazil. The company has had a presence in Brazil since 1999, with a focus on telephone network segments - technology used in many branches of telecommunications.
The project was announced by Huawei's chairman, Ren Zhengfei, during a meeting with the Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff. The move comes as part of a wider investment plan in Brazil by the Chinese firm, which has also pledged US$50 million for the purchase of computers for Brazilian universities.
Huawei is the largest networking and telecommunications equipment supplier in China, and second only to Sweedish firm Ericsson worldwide. In 2010, it had global revenues of US$28 billion, and it operates in nearly all of the largest telecom markets around the world. It has persued an extensive investment plan in recent years, opening R&D and training centres extensively thoughout Asia and South America. In addition to the poject in Brazil, it is currently also opening a training centre in Indonesia and an office in Adelaide, Australia.
Chinese telecom hardware company ZTE announced today that it is suing a division of Swedish giant Ericsson for patent infringement. The Chinese firm has formally begun legal action, citing intellectual property infringement in a number of areas, including "core networks, GSM infrastructure and 4G infrastructure".
This is the latest move in a series of legal disputes between the two manufacturers, who are increasingly finding themselves direct competitors as a result of mutual overseas expansion. According to a report made by Ericsson this month, the Sweedish company has itself filed three European lawsuits against ZTE for patent infringment on mobile phones and network infrastructure.
As part of the suit, ZTE has demanded that "Ericsson immediately cease production of the infringing technology, and that it bear legal liability in accordance with the provision of relevant laws". ZTE also said in a statement regarding the case "[we are] fully committed to developing our its own patent technology and respect reasonable patent requests from other vendors."
Australia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has been warned that China's fast-growing shale gas industry could threaten the Asian country's appetite for LNG. A senior consultant from McKinsey and Company told the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association conference in Perth yesterday domestic production could provide up to 25 percent of China's total gas demand within four years, if shale gas production takes off in a similar manner to that which has been seen in the US in recent years.
Shale gas, so called because it is found in shale rock, has only recently become economically viable due to technological advances during extraction. In the US, it has proved to be a huge area of investment in recent years, and now accounts for about 15 percent of gas production in the country, a proportion which is expected to rise to 45 per cent by 2035.
China and India have become major export partners for Australian LNG, supplementing existing demand for the Australian commodity from Japan and South Korea. China has been investing heavily in shale extraction technology of late, and has ambitious plans for the industry's growth over the coming decade. Growth figures have shown that Chinese shale gas production could reach 50 billion cubic metres by 2015, of a total estimated gas demand of 200 cubic metres.
The McKinsey consultant, Pedro Hass, also stated, however, that "it was too early to tell if this potential surge in shale gas production would be more of a challenge to coal production or LNG imports".
Legal experts in China have been quoted in one of the country's state-run newspapers, China Daily, suggesting reforms are needed to combat the increasing level of spam in China. They highlighted fraud-based spam, and said that in five regions of China, including Shanghai and Guangdong provinces, fraud cost mobile phone users more than 1 billion yuan ($153 million) over the course of 2009.
"We need a long-term and systematic method to curb the spam," said Wang Yongjie, deputy dean of the law school at the University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai.
Currently spam is a major problem in China, and mobile phone users receive, on average, more than 11 spam text messages every week. The main issue, however, is that much of this is sent legally. Some agencies in Beijing charge a mere 12,000 yuan for assisting companies apply for a legal license as a service provider. The licenses are granted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and enable the companies to send spam messages without fear of prosecution.
The proposed reforms would include greater cooperation between the government and China's three national telecom networks in reporting and following up on complaints regarding spam. Lawyers specialising in privacy laws in China have also also suggested more profound changes, stating that civil laws need to be updated to take into account technological changes which have facilitated the collection and spread of huge volumes of personal information, including phone numbers, addresses and car registrations.
China's Customs Bureau reported yesterday that imports ($400bn) had exceeded exports ($399bn) over the first three months of 2011, marking the first time China has run up a trade deficit for over seven years. According to industry analysts, the $1.02bn deficit reflected strong domestic economic performance and the effect of rising commodity prices.
If constant prices were seen for oil and iron ore, for example, the $1bn deficit would have actually been a surplus of $18bn.
Zheng Yuesheng, statistics chief at China's Customs Administration, reported on national television that the deficit was likely to be a temporary phenomenon. Figures for March showed a $140m surplus, and exports over the month rose 36% year on year.
Reactions from industry analysts have, on the whole, been positive as stong domestic performance gives the Chinese government more scope for focussing its attention on tackling inflation. It also bodes well for the world economy as a whole, and many countries have reported a rise in exports of consumer and high technology goods to China in recent years.
Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan today officially blocked the merger of the Australian and Singapore stock exchanges. This follows concerns of Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board about the proposed US $8.67 billion deal between the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), suggesting it was not in Australia's national interest.
The deal would have created the second largest listing in the Asia-Pacific region, leapfrogging both Shanghai and Hong Kong, and supporters of the bid argued that a tie-up would provide Australian companies better access to Asian capital market.
Swan said the SGX was a relatively smaller regional borse, based on the number and value of the listings, and that a merger between the two could threaten the stability and number of jobs in Australian financial services
In response, ASX Ltd said that the company has agreed to terminate the existing merger agreement, adding that the board still believes that the ASX should take part in future consolidation with other regional and international exchanges. Swan also stated in the report that he was seeking advice from financial service regulators on ensuring the stability of Australia's financial systems in the case of a merger, but refused to comment on the likelihood of such a deal being approved in the near future.