2009 top ten news

Debuts, deaths and Disney

By Peng Yining and Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-31 07:02
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China Daily asked its foreign readers in China and overseas to vote for their favorite stories of 2009. Peng Yining and Zhang Yuchen take a look how they answered. [The Top 10 Everything of 2009]

1. 60th anniversary of the founding of New China

Debuts, deaths and Disney

Looking at China's history over the past 60 years, it is apparent that, despite much suffering, the country has achieved huge political, economic and social success, especially during the past three decades.

A grand parade in Beijing on Oct 1, led by the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police Force, showcased some of China's latest achievements in defense modernization. About 8,000 military officers, along with tanks and other vehicles, formed columns stretching 3 km.

The military parade was followed by a civilian procession featuring six massive performing groups and 36 formations of about 100,000 people. In addition, 60 floats represented everything from the country's geographic areas to last year's Beijing Olympics.

Everyday life in China is a parade on a grander scale, with citizens now able to enjoy things their ancestors did not dare contemplate 100 years ago, things their grandparents took for luxury 60 years ago, and things their parents did not even know how to attempt 30 years ago.

2. Barack Obama's historic visit to China

Debuts, deaths and Disney

Barack Obama became the first United States president to visit China in his first year of taking office when he arrived in Shanghai on Nov 15 as part of his first Asia tour.

During one of his trademark town hall-style meetings with youths at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum on Nov 16, the 48-year-old president reiterated that the US does not seek to contain China's rise and welcomes China as a "strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations".

After the speech, Obama departed for Beijing, where he spent two days in talks with President Hu Jintao, National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPC) Chairman Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao.

China and the US signed a joint statement on Nov 17 highlighting joint efforts to combat climate change and promote the clean energy industry. The countries also reiterated a commitment to building a "positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship in the 21st century".

Obama capped his four-day visit with a trip to the Great Wall in northern Beijing on Nov 18.

3. Climate change


Debuts, deaths and Disney

Leaders from about 100 nations, along with thousands of negotiators from almost 200, flocked to Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, for the United Nation's 12-day climate change conference on Dec 7. The talks were intended to seal a deal on the fight against global warming after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Premier Wen Jiabao arrived on Dec 16 to join world leaders for the crucial last two days of negotiations, during which he told US President Barack Obama climate change is a global challenge, as well as an important field for cooperation between China and the US. The key to this issue is to stick to the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", said Wen.

The Chinese premier said his country has always regarded addressing climate change as an important strategic task and that, between 1990 and 2005, China's carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) were reduced by 46 percent. "Building on that, we have set a new target of cutting carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent on the 2005 level by 2020," Wen told delegates.

The conference ended on Dec 19 with the Copenhagen Accord. Although the document was not legally binding, it firmly upheld the basic framework and principles established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.

4. July 5 riots in Xinjiang

Debuts, deaths and Disney

The violence that broke out in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on July 5 left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.

Rioters gathered in downtown streets at 8 pm and began beating pedestrians, vandalizing cars and buses, and looting shops. The mayhem quickly spread to other areas. Most of those killed or injured were ethnic Han Chinese, while most of the rioters were Uygurs armed with bricks and batons.

Chinese authorities accused Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the World Uygur Congress who lives in exile in the US, of orchestrating the violence by using mobile phone text messaging and social networking websites. The central government blocked access to the Internet in Xinjiang just 24 hours after the violence, and its Web service to this day remains restricted.

Police asked the local procuratorate to approve the arrests of 575 suspected rioters. The authority granted 430 and, so far, 22 people have been sentenced to death for murder and other crimes during or after the July 5 riot.

5. H1N1 flu

Debuts, deaths and Disney


Since the first confirmed case of H1N1 flu on the Chinese mainland on May 11, there have been 326 reported deaths from the virus, which quickly spread across the globe after initial reports in Mexico.

Pregnant women make up almost 14 percent of the victims of H1N1 on the Chinese mainland, while men account for 58 percent, according to official figures. About 90 of the 326 H1N1 deaths were reported between Dec 14 and 20, said Ministry of Health officials. During that period, 6,129 cases were reported.

A vaccine developed in China was approved on Sept 3 and, as of Dec 21, more than 40 million people had been inoculated nationwide.

The Chinese government planned to vaccinate 65 million - 5 percent of the country's population - before the end of 2009. Health workers, public service workers and students are priority groups for the vaccine.

6. Adoption of the Food Safety Law

China's top legislature, the NPC Standing Committee, approved the Food Safety Law on Feb 28, providing a legal basis for the government to strengthen control "from the production line to the dining table".

The law, implemented on June 1, enhanced monitoring and supervision, and toughened safety standards. It stipulated substandard products must be recalled and promised severe punishments for rule-breakers.

All chemicals and materials not on the list of authorized additives were banned from food production, with the new regulations insisting "only items proved to be safe and necessary are allowed to be listed as food additives".

The NPC Standing Committee gave the nod to the hotly debated draft law following a spate of food scandals triggered vehement calls for an overhaul of China's monitoring system.

Winning 158 from 165 votes, the rules said the State Council would set up a State-level food safety commission to oversee the entire food monitoring system, which due to a lack of efficiency has long been blamed for repeated scandals.

7. China's 8-percent growth rate

The nation's economy grew by just 9 percent this year, the lowest in seven years, which experts blamed on the global financial crisis. It brought to an end a five-year streak of double-digit expansion.

China has been under great pressure to realise 8-percent growth - the target announced by Premier Wen Jiabao in March - as the government has long believed it essential to the populous developing nation.

A massive economic stimulus package featuring a two-year investment plan worth 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) was implemented in the first quarter. It was originally adopted in November 2008, shortly after the start of the world economic slowdown, along with more pro-growth economic policies such as expanding the "home appliances to the countryside" program.

Official figures show GDP grew 8.9 percent in the third quarter, accelerating from 7.9 percent in the second and 6.1 percent in the first. For the first three quarters, the annualized GDP growth reached 7.7 percent.

8. PLA Navy takes on Somali pirates

China launched its first overseas military mission since 1949 on Dec 26, 2008, when it sent its first fleet of People's Liberation Army warships to the coast of Africa to protect merchant vessels from Somali pirates.

Leaving from Sanya port, Hainan province, they traveled more than 4,500 nautical miles and arrived on Jan 6. By the time they were relieved by the second fleet on April 2 , the Haikou, Wuhan and Weishanhu had escorted 130 vessels, as well as rescued three foreign merchant ships from pirates, according to statistics from the Ministry of Transport.

The mission has included more than 3,300 troops, while figures show the PLA Navy has in 12 months of operations escorted 1,300 merchant vessels, including 405 foreign ships and 18 from Taiwan province.

Four batches of destroyers and frigates have so far been deployed to the Gulf of Aden.

9. Forced demolitions

When Tang Fuzhen was told her home in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, was in the way of a highway project and would be demolished, she doused herself in petrol and set fire to herself in protest on Nov 13.

That same month, the media also highlighted the case of a woman in Minhang district, Shanghai, who threw petrol bombs at a demolition crew outside her home in June last year. Officials planned to raze the building to make way for a transportation hub for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.

Both "nail houses" - a term used to describe when people refuse to move out of homes slated for demolition - shocked citizens across China and turned the spotlight onto the rights of homeowners and forced demolitions by local governments. The central government announced on Dec 7 it would look into the issue of housing demolition regulations.

The most famous "nail house" case was in Chongqing in 2007 when a couple stopped developers from demolishing their home for three years until they received suitable compensation.

10. Disneyland in Shanghai


Debuts, deaths and Disney

Construction of a Disneyland on the east bank of Huangpu River in Shanghai finally got the green light on Nov 4. The theme park will cost an estimated 25 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) and will open its gates as early as 2014. It is expected to cover an area of 116 hectares, 10 hectares fewer than the Disneyland in Hong Kong.

Walt Disney Co. will reportedly take a 43-percent equity stake in Shanghai Disneyland, while a joint-venture holding company formed by a consortium of Chinese companies owned by the municipal government will own the majority 57 percent.

The park will be the fourth Disneyland outside of the US - the others are in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong - and is one of the largest-ever foreign investments in China's mainland.