I’m visiting one of Africa’s most important friends in the world.
During last year’s visit to China, I couldn’t get off the plane in Beijing until authorities had shot a temperature gun at my head to make sure that I was free of swine flu. The outbreak seems like a distant memory this year as a host of new concerns, including massive flooding in the south, have taken centre stage.
To give you a taste of what’s happening here, I’m going to share several items that I’ve picked up in recent press reports.
-- A large Chinese naval fleet is heading your way. The six ships, which left at midweek, are being set to secure the coastal waters off Somalia. A Chinese ship, which was carrying dangerous chemicals, was hijacked on Monday. Soon, there will be an additional 1,000 Chinese sailors in the region.
-- Kenyan runner Japhet Kipkorir won the men’s cross-country race in Jingyuetan Park in Jinlan Province. Kipkorir won his second straight race in sweaty, 35-centigrade weather. He finished the 30km race in 98 minutes.
-- A new flu vaccine, which could protect humans from virtually every kind of flu, is getting attention in China. The vaccine, which is being developed in Japan and the US, is still in research stages. From a health standpoint, food safety (not flu) remains the largest concern of the Chinese public, according to a recent poll.
-- Natural and man-made tragedies are causing great concern. Three are dead and 96 still buried after a mudslide in southwest China that was caused by rain. Floods have killed almost 400 so far this year. Excessive mining has forced more than 100,000 people in one province from their homes because the ground is unsafe. Unsafe coal mining in Jining, one of 13 coal mining regions, has caused 23,333 hectares to sink in the last 20 years.
-- Almost 500,000 scholars have returned home to China from abroad over the last 30 years in what the government is saying is a growing, positive trend. These intellectuals will be one of the key ingredients in helping to rebuild the country. This week, nearly 10 million took college entrance exams. There are about 6.5 million available seats at Chinese universities.
-- An historic trade pact is being signed with Taiwan, the island nation to the east of China. The deal is significant because China and Taiwan have great economic and military differences. A new era of cooperation is being forecast. At the same time, the US announced this week that it is delaying a major weapons deal with Taiwan.
-- China is pushing hard on environmentalism on every front. But there have been setbacks. A ban on plastic bags, for example, has not been enforced, reports the China Daily, meaning that trash facilities are overflowing with bags that will take years to break down.
-- The American navy and Chinese navy are patrolling seas near China. America is running the exercise to promote relations with South Korea, which lost over 40 sailors to a North Korean torpedo.
But the Americans are raising eyebrows in China because their flotilla includes an aircraft carrier that will be within striking distance of the Chinese mainland. Interestingly, the Chinese announced this week that they’re planning to have a live ammunition drill in the East China Sea.
-- The Shanghai World Expo is attracting record traffic. It’s difficult to get train and plane tickets into the city. Admission is hard to get. The expo is essentially an opportunity for countries to show off their specialties. Almost every day, there are advertisements for comedy, music and cultural shows.
-- China is planning to increase exports to North America. Earlier this week, President Hu said his country would significantly increase output to Canada. And at the recent G-20 meeting in Canada, US President Barack Obama invited the Chinese leader to visit America soon.
-- Air China is growing steadily. The airline, which has 256 passenger planes, announced plans to buy 20 Boeing 737-800 jetliners from America. The deal is worth $1.4 billion. Most of the airline’s planes are new and are made by either Boeing or Airbus.