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  All materials © 1999 
  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 29, October 15 - 21

Up in Smoke


Smoking has grown in popularity in China, the world's largest producer and user of tobacco, where most people are unaware of the associated health risks, Chinese and U.S. researchers say. Based on a survey of 120,298 people across China, 34 percent of respondents say they smoke at least one cigarette a day, an increase of more than 3 percent since 1984. But only 40 percent of both smokers and nonsmokers surveyed are aware that smoking can lead to lung cancer, and just 4 percent know that smokers run a higher risk of heart disease.

"For the public good, the Chinese people need to know the scientific evidence about disease risk and the potential benefits of quitting and preventing new smokers from taking up the habit," the report published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association says.

Chinese men are much more apt to smoke than women, the report says. Nearly

two-thirds, or 63 percent, of men smoke every day, while 3.8 percent of women smoke. Among men, 7.5 percent are classified as heavy smokers of at least 20 cigarettes daily, while only 0.2 percent of women are heavy smokers. Smokers also are taking up the habit at an age three years younger on average than in the 1984 survey.

China is in an early stage of a "tobacco epidemic" that will take a toll in coming years, warns the report's authors, Yang Gonghuan of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine and the Chinese Association on Smoking and Health in Beijing, and Jonathan Samet of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. An estimated 50 million Chinese smokers are expected to die prematurely, they say.

Few Chinese manage to quit smoking, according to the survey, which found

only 2.3 percent of respondents claiming to be former smokers. Yet 16.8 percent of the smokers say they want to quit and the report projects 50 million of the nation's estimated 320 million smokers want to stop.

"A remarkably high proportion of Chinese people strongly support control of the tobacco epidemic, even though the people underestimate the magnitude and severity of risks from smoking," the report says. It cautions that "any policy will require rigorous enforcement because multinational tobacco companies have demonstrated great ingenuity in tapping into China, the world's largest market for future tobacco sales."



20 Million By 2003


China expects to have 20 million Internet users by the end of 2003, up from

around four million now, Minister of Information Industries Wu Jichuan says. Wu also told a business conference he expects the number of mobile phone users to climb to 100 million from 36 million by then.

The number of fixed-line telephones will climb to 170 or 180 million, from about 100 million now, and telephone use is expected to climb to 22 percent of households from 12 percent now, he said, and The Survey Says:

According to a 1999 Gallup survey of 4000 households across China, over 25

percent of the respondents say they want to start their own business, and over 50 percent say they would like to change jobs. A total of 10 percent say they have used a computer, 14 percent say they had heard of the Internet, and 33 percent of Beijingers from 18-29 years of age have actually surfed the Net.

Regarding foreign products, 29 percent say they have seen Western movies,

10 percent say they have bought foreign music or foreign videos, and 11 percent say they have read foreign books, newspapers or magazines. A total of 30 percent say they plan to buy a color TV within the next two years (up from 21 percent in 1997), 19 percent say they want to buy a digital movie player (up from 11 percent in 1997), and 10 percent say they want to buy a cell phone, (up significantly from 3 percent three years ago). Most middle income families in China deposit about 16 percent of their monthly income into savings accounts, and spend 39 percent and 9 percent on food and housing respectively. Although urban residents account for much less than half of the total population in the country, the survey reveals that the urbanites in China control 70 percent of the country's wealth. The survey also shows that the average annual income of urban families in China is about US$3,000 per year.

-Beijing Evening News



Gotten Gains

Luxury homes built illegally by party officials have been sold in the first public auction of its kind. Huang Liufu, former party secretary in Dujiangyan city, Sichuan province, was one of 21 party and government officials who swindled public funds to build villas. But he was the only official to be singled out when the 21 homes went under the hammer recently.

Eleven of the villas were sold for a total of nearly rmb 4 million, the Beijing Youth Daily reports. Interest in the auction was high with more than 100 people registering for bidding rights. The Sichuan Commodities Auction Center says the villas were sold slightly above their market values.

The Dujiangyan City Party Discipline Inspection Committee refused to reveal the total amount of funds misappropriated by the officials, nor would they release the identities of the other implicated officials. The scandal was uncovered in 1997. In addition to being sacked as party secretary, Huang was punished according to party discipline the following year. The discipline inspection committee is still trying to sell the remaining 10 homes, but it is unlikely another auction will be held.



Internet Rates Drop


After two of China's largest Internet service providers-the China Educational and Research Network (CERNET) and Golden Bridge cut their rates, China's biggest ISP China Net announced that it will soon sharply reduce its own rates. When this reporter visited several ISPs in Beijing lately, the ISP said that they will soon see very sharp reductions in Internet access rates. Competition from the broadcasting departments is one of the reasons for the drop in Internet rates. The broadcasting departments are building networks throughout China. The Guangdong cable television broadcasting fiber optic cable network will soon be completed. This service will boost the speed of Internet service to many customers. The speed will be between one hundred and one thousand times faster than a telephone dial-up link but the price will be much less than that charged on the telecommunications network.

-Guangming Daily



Confounding Counterfeiters


On October 1, the People's Bank of China issued the fifth revision of China's currency. The revision includes the rmb 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 notes as well as the rmb.10 and .50. Counterfeiting is an increasingly serious problem in China. Improvements in technology have increased the quality of counterfeit money. Laser printing, electronic color separation and printing, and other new technologies have enabled counterfeiters to abandon obsolete manual counterfeiting technologies and use modern equipment to print counterfeit money. The overall quality and detection methods of Chinese currency have been improved. These new features include magnetic microprinted security lines, colored threads, and various computer and electronic engraving techniques. Experts say that with this new revision, Chinese currency will have reached the advanced international level for currencies. The threshold for successful counterfeiting will have been raised so high that counterfeiters will face great difficulties.

-China Economic Times


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