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China Economy Weekly: Currrency and Trade Arguments, Rare Earths and Japan, Banks in Taiwan

Currency Issues:  Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has there was no basis for the drastic appreciation of the yuan, the Chinese currency. He added the issue was an economic one and must not be politicized.

Critics have claimed that China keeps the level of the yuan low to win competitive advantages in trade. However, Wen said, there was no connection.

The yuan appreciated 55.2% from January 1994 to July 2010. Meanwhile, major currencies of the world had depreciated, with the US dollar dropping 2.5%, the euro 3.8% and the Japanese yen 19.5%.

Wen continued that China has never pursued a surplus in trade, and it should not be blamed for high US jobless rate.

Wen argued that China's trade surplus dropped by 34% in 2009 and was down 42.5% during the first half of 2010. He said it was at a reasonable 2.2% of Gross Domestic Product, and foreign-owned enterprises including US-owned firms were the main beneficiary of China's export growth.

EU Probe angers China Wireless Manufacturers:  China's top machinery and electronic products chamber said on Monday that it is concerned that the fresh European Union investigation into Chinese-made wireless modems represents a new wave of trade protectionism.

The latest anti-subsidy probe was launched on Thursday and comes after the EU launched anti-dumping and safeguard probes into wireless wide area networking (WWAN) modems in late June.

"No Ban" on Exports of Rare Earths to Japan:  A Chinese trade official has denied a New York Times report that China had banned exports of rare earths to Japan following the detention of a Chinese trawler captain near the Diaoyu Islands.

"China has not issued any measures intended to restrict rare earth exports to Japan. There is no foundation for that," said Chen Rongkai, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce.

"Rare earths export quotas were cut pretty sharply and have been basically used up, you can't export any to Europe or the United States either. People think it's about Japan, but it isn't," said Bruce Zhang, a rare earths expert at consultancy Asian Metal.

Debts to Chinese Exporters Hit $150b:  China's small- and medium-sized exporters, while fighting domestic woes such as rising costs, are having to deal with huge and increasing debts of international buyers.

Estimates by China Chamber of International Commerce show that Chinese companies are owed at least $150 billion debt abroad, an annual increase of $15 billion each year over the past three years.

"Most of them have little chance to be claimed," said Lin Shunjie, deputy secretary-general of the chamber. Some debts have been overdue for four or five years, and many debtors have gone bankrupt.

Taiwan OKs Mainland Banks Offices:  Taiwan's banking regulators have approved the applications of two major mainland banks, Bank of China and Bank of Communications, to establish representative offices on the island.

The ofices will not conduct banking operations and will only engage in non-profit-seeking activities like making contacts with local bankers and collecting financial information about the island, Taiwan's banking regulators said.

Under the trade and economic pact the two sides signed in June, mainland banks can apply to set up branches in Taiwan one year after the establishment of representative offices there.

Last week, China's banking regulatory commission gave permission for the first time for four Taiwanese banks to begin preparatory work for branches on the mainland.

Toyota's China auto finance company fined for commercial bribery:  Officials from a local administration for industry and commerce in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, said Monday it has fined Japanese carmaker Toyota's auto finance unit in China for involvement in commercial bribery.

This is the first commercial bribery fine for both Toyota Motor Finance (China) and Toyota Motor Corp, the agency said in a statement.

Toyota Motor Finance (China) Co. offered rebates to encourage three dealers to have customers take loans from Toyota, rather than from local banks, between August 2008 and April 2010, it said.

Dipping into the big drink:  China will build four industrial zones for ocean engineering equipment and develop several enterprises to service the field over the next 10 to 20 years, each with a projected revenue of 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion), a senior official said.

The nation's long-term goal is to form a complete industrial chain in this sector, Zhang Xiangmu, director-general of the equipment industry department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said on Tuesday at the International Forum on the Development of Ocean Engineering.

The ocean has now become the new frontier for energy- thirsty nations like China, which are investing in the research and development of this resource.

Regulations issued for new energy projects:  China on Tuesday stepped up its efforts to boost energy conservation across the country, enforcing new rules that demand energy-saving assessments be carried out on new fixed-asset investment projects.

All new investments must undergo independent assessments and government reviews to establish whether they actually save energy before approval can be granted by regulators, the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, said in a statement posted on its website.

According to the new regulations, independent institutions will carry out the assessments, while government departments take charge of their review.

China plans to boost digital publication industry:  The blueprint, issued by the General Administration of Press and Publication, sets out the goal for all publishers to offer digital publications to the market by 2020.

The blueprint outlined that by the end of 2015 the entire revenue generated by digital publications should represent one fourth of the total revenue of the publication industry.

China's digital publication industry has taken off in recent years. In 2009, the revenue of this industry reached 79.9 billion yuan ($11.9 billion), an increase of 50.6 percent year on year.

Urbanization could cost 24 trillion yuan:  China may need to invest up to 24 trillion yuan ($3.6 trillion) in urban infrastructure by 2020 to accommodate the increasing number of rural residents moving to the cities, according to a new report by a government think tank.

China's urbanization rate is currently around 47 percent and is increasing by about 1 percentage point each year. If the nation continues its urbanization-friendly policies, the rate could rise to 65 percent by 2020, according to the report released on Tuesday by the China Development Research Foundation.

To accommodate this increase in the urban population, the report said the country may need to invest at least 16 trillion yuan in roads, railways, power plants, water systems and social services. But it added that this could be a conservative estimate.

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