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31 October 2003

• North Korea Agrees To Continue Nuclear Negotiations
• Official Report Predicts China’s Net Trade Surplus Will Drop 75 Percent in 2004
• New Reform Invites Citizens to Participate in Legal Oversight

North Korea Agrees To Continue Nuclear Negotiations

Chinese National People’s Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo reported on Friday October 31 that North Korea is willing to continue multi-lateral talks and negotiate a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. The announcement comes after the conclusion of a high-level diplomatic visit to North Korea led by Chairman Wu.

North Korea has stated that it agrees to the talks “in principle”, but is only willing to discuss a package solution whereby each side simultaneously acts to address the concerns of the other. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated that “China supports rational proposals of all the parties concerned and believes that concerns of the DPRK and the United States should be resolved simultaneously.”

President George W. Bush thanked Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan for China’s efforts to help resolve the nuclear crisis. During a brief meeting on October 30, President Bush stated that he believes Chinese assistance has been essential to the current diplomatic negotiations with North Korea.

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Official Report Predicts China’s Net Trade Surplus Will Drop 75 Percent in 2004

The China Foreign Trade Situation Report Panel, which includes experts from both the Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economics, released their bi-annual report last week. The report finds that although China’s trade volume will continue to increase, its trade surplus is rapidly falling and may even reach deficit by 2005. In 2003 for example, along with a 25% growth in trade volume, the report notes that China’s foreign trade surplus has decreased by 54% to US$9.15 billion.

Between January and September 2003 imports grew at a rate of 40% while exports only increased by 31% This trend is attributable to a new government policy that encourages domestic companies to increase their imports. According to Zhang Xiaoji, an expert from the State Council's Development and Research Center, the fact that import growth outpaced that of exports is notable. "The policy turnaround is a result of the nation's ample foreign-exchange reserves and the government's desire to promote world economic growth,'' Zhang said.

China’s decreasing trade surplus is the result of a growing trade deficit with the ASEAN member nations, Japan, and South Korea. Thus, while China’s annual trade surplus with the United States is forty billion dollars and growing, much of this surplus is immediately used to balance China’s payments to other nations.

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New Reform Invites Citizens to Participate in Legal Oversight

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China maintains that “In the exercise of procuratorial authority by the people’s procuratorates laws are to be applied equally to all citizens and no privileges are allowed.” In an effort to transform this ideal into standard practice, China's Supreme People's Procuratorate initiated a pilot program that allows common people to serve as supervisors in state courts.

According Zhang Zhongfang, spokesman for the Supreme People’s Court, “these supervisors will have a voice in whether to place cases on file for investigation and [the decision] to prosecute. They can express their views on what they see as improper or illegal action by procuratorial staff and can participate in the investigation of cases.”

China hopes this new reform will help alleviate the growing popular resentment over the lack of oversight in the people’s procuratorates. Ten provinces in China have already set up pilot programs, with around 3,000 common people participating as “People’s Supervisors”.

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