Back to the cover pageBack to home
Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 14, June 25 - July 1


Survey: Sex is Natural
More than half of China’s urban youth agree with pre-nuptial sex, and one-third believe sex outside marriage is "natural," according to survey results reported by the official media.

The survey polled 6,500 14-to-28 year-olds across China and found 32.2 percent believe pre-marital sex is "a natural outcome of love" and 20.2 percent say such relations are acceptable among consenting partners, the Xinhua news agency says.

Another 35.1 percent hold that pre-nuptial sexual relations are "immoral" and should be prohibited, according to the survey conducted by the China Youth and Children Research Center and China Youth Development Foundation.
Almost 12 percent of respondents also said they would prefer to be celibate.

On extra-marital affairs, just under 34 percent believed they should be condemned and punished, while slightly more than 34 percent thought affairs were not blameworthy if those involved had applied for a divorce or had been in "poor relationships," Xinhua says.

Though pre-nuptial agreements have only recently been introduced to China, 52.4 percent of those surveyed agreed with the idea in principle.
According to pollsters, the majority of today’s urban youth will marry and produce offspring.
The survey, the first of its kind in China, was conducted in September and October last year in 27 provinces, municipalities and cities.

Sperm Bank Deposits
A sperm bank is seeking deposits from the intellectual and financial elite to lure a new generation of status-conscious infertile couples.

The clinic, in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, aims to provide "select sperm with high-quality characteristics," the semi-official China News Service reports.

The news agency says: "In recent years, infertile couples have ever greater demands. They want attractive, intelligent children."

Film stars, successful entrepreneurs, well-known writers, journalists, athletes and pop singers are also welcome to provide their genetic material, it says.
Couples seeking sperm could select from a host of desired characteristics, but donor names would not be provided.

Fees for the service would be "much, much higher" than the ¥20-30,000 charged for artificial insemination using "normal" sperm, the news agency says.

Opium War
The Health Ministry has announced it will crack down on a trend among restaurateurs of mixing highly addictive opium poppy seeds into their dishes.

In an urgent circular, the ministry pledged to "suppress activities involving the mixing of poppy seeds in food," the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

Dishes such as beef soup, cooked noodles and bean curd jelly were mentioned as particular favorites for the potent mixture.

The circular said a chain of restaurants in Hebei province had recently been punished for mixing "auxiliary materials" into the food it served.

After monitoring outlets of the Yanqingguan Fried Chicken chain across the province, health officials moved to shut down seven stores in which traces of morphine, codeine and alkali of opium poppy were found in the chicken.

In 1991, the ministry was forced to issue a similar warning after food producers in Henan and Sichuan provinces were found to be using poppies in dishes.
"Opium poppy seeds include morphine and other substances harmful to people’s liver and heart, and cause addiction," the circular warns.

"Chinese laws and regulations forbid the production of these goods," it says, adding those found violating such laws would be "investigated and punished".

A survey of 45 hotpot restaurants in Shanghai in January found one-quarter of establishments added ingredients derived from poppies into their dishes.
Poppies are mass cultivated in the Golden Triangle area, bordering southwest China, in Burma, Thailand and Laos.

Wired Cadres
Confronted with the break-neck development of the Internet and on-line communications, Chinese authorities are racing to launch their own governmental websites, official media says.

Yang Baosheng, an official with China’s largest computer network Chinanet, tells the Xinhua news agency that there are now 1,564 government sites whose addresses end with "".

The news agency reports that some 80 percent of China’s government ministries and ministerial departments will have their own sites by 2000 under a new "Government On-line"project aimed at making state organs increasingly cyber-friendly.

Sites launched by China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) and the State Economic and Trade Commission (SETA) have met with "great success," the report adds.

Other frequently visited official sites include those of the municipal governments in Beijing, Guangzhou, Kunming, Haikou and Qingdao.

Spurred on by the growing importance of cyberspace and an expanding army of net users, China kicked Internet development into high gear at the end of last year, reducing hook-up fees by 50 percent in March and lowering long distance charges.

China’s official number of Internet users topped two million by the end of last year - compared with 600,000 at the end of 1997. The tally is expected to pass five million this year and 10 million by the end of 2000.
But despite cyberspace’s increasing popularity, authorities have not loosened their control on on-line information and continue to block access to overseas-based sites judged to be too sensitive or offensive.
Non-governmental Chinese sites remain subject to very strict surveillance.

33 Million surfers By 2003
BDA (China) Limited and the Strategis Group have published a new study on China’s Internet market that projects China’s online user total will reach 12 million by 2000 and 33 million by 2003.

ÔThe Internet in China’ study was compiled over a six month period and includes organizational profiles based on interviews with regulatory players, equipment vendors, Internet service providers (ISPs), Internet content providers (ICPs), software players and e-commerce shops in China.

"'The Internet in China’ is an essential business tool for companies seeking to size up or enter the China Internet market," says Duncan Clark, partner at BDA China.

"Each new user that comes online creates new opportunities for Internet-related business, enabling companies to leverage technology, service or capital in one of the world’s most exciting Internet markets," adds Clark.

Currently, foreign vendors dominate China’s Internet infrastructure market which BDA forecasts to exceed US$160 million in 1999.

"While domestic players gear up for this market, foreign vendors are likely to accelerate plans for local manufacturing to preserve their lead," says Alexandra Rehak, another BDA analyst.

With regard to China’s ISP market, BDA’s study indicates that only providers with access to the "fattest pipes" (largest bandwidth), typically those funded or owned by China Telecom, have come out on top.
Nevertheless, the China Internet report projects that the country’s ISP market will exceed US$4 billion by 2003.
BDA’s study also provides an analysis of the Internet content market in China. It profiles the strong portal competition and predicts the market to grow to US$12 million in 1999.

According to BDA, a critical success factor for China’s ICPs will be financing from foreign private and capital interests and the movement towards IPOs in overseas stock markets.

Troubled ITICs
Moody’s Investors Service has discounted China’s chances of successfully reforming its debt-troubled trust and investment companies, the so-called ITICs, despite strenuous efforts to trim down and restructure the sector.

The New York-based ratings agency says in a report that the root cause of the sector-wide crisis that began late last year - the ITICs’ control and mismanagement by local governments - will remain unaltered even after the sweeping rectification campaign.

"With the local governments retaining ownership and control of the ITICs, it is inconceivable to us that a satisfactorily accountable and transparent governance mechanism can be put in place at the ITICs," the report says.

Regulatory supervision alone - no matter how tough - may not be enough to preempt a repetition of the GITIC-style crisis, it warns.

Moody’s says it expects all the ratings "will remain fluid despite government efforts at stabilizing these institutions."

It has put all of China’s ITICs on review for possible downgrade except for the central government-controlled China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

The agency says China’s ITICs face particularly steep hurdles in transforming themselves from freewheeling funding and financing arms of local governments to conservative and prudent stewards of other people’s money.

"Aside from the immensely difficult challenge of adopting a new corporate culture and mentality, it is unclear how the ITICS will be able to acquire the necessary skills, personnel and risk-control mechanisms," it says, citing a dearth of such resources in China’s financial system.

The report says reforms would strip the ITICs of many of their traditional areas of business, leaving little in the foreseeable future that provide revenues or business opportunities.

"The business activities the ITICs will be allowed to engage in - the management of mutual funds, pension funds and social-security funds, for instance - are still in their nascent stage in China," it says.

Authorities are ruling out past activities such as lending, securities brokerage and property development.

Runaway levels of risk and debt at many of China’s 200-plus ITICs came to the fore in October, when authorities abruptly closed one of the biggest and most internationally-engaged firms, Guangdong International Trust and Investment Corp. (GITIC).

Declared bankrupt in January, GITIC owed nearly US$2 billion to foreign creditors, and clearing authorities have yet to determine how much of the debt will be recovered.


  Previous Stories...

June 18 - 24, 1999

June 11 - 17, 1999

June 4 - 10, 1999

May 28 - June 3, 1999

May 21 - 27, 1999

May 7 - 13, 1999

April 30 - May 6, 1999

cartoon FYI In Short