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China Reform Monitor - No. 732

"Floating population" of Chinese workers hit hard by crisis;
Chinese navy to join hunt for Somali pirates

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
January 2, 2009

December 2:

The global financial crisis has slowed China's industrial economy and
the Wall Street Journal reports that hundreds of thousands of China's 130 million migrant workers – known as the "floating population" – are losing urban jobs in factories and at construction sites. Rural provinces that supplied much of China's factory manpower are now seeing reverse migration and the effects are already being felt. In Dongguan, for instance, laid-off factory workers overturned patrol cars and clashed with police and in Beijing workers let go from a liquor factory in northern China protested at the parent company's headquarters. Many of the returning workers have too little income from their land to support their families. Beijing had been encouraging many to lease out their farms to more profitable cooperatives – which don't share their increased earnings from the crops with the landholders – at the same time it encouraged their moves into the cities. "These aren't the same peasants like the peasants of yesterday," an official from one local Human Resource and Labor Bureau said, "they don't raise crops, they have skills."

[Editor’s Note: On November 21st,
the official People’s Daily reported a statement issued by The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security contradicting the Journal’s report
: “At present, the employment situation in our country is on the whole stable” and “newly employed workers in the urban areas of the whole country from January to October this year was 10.2 million, 102 per cent of the annual target.”]

December 4:

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been sending personnel to an aircraft-carrier pilot training base in Ukraine,
the South China Morning Post reports. In 2006, the PLA sent a large naval delegation to the “Ukrainian Navy Aviation Force Training Centre” in Odessa and Sevastopol. Chinese military personnel also visited the "Research Test and Flying Training Centre” at Nitka located in the Crimean Peninsula – a traditional training base for aircraft-carrier pilots during the Soviet era – where the two sides discussed the possibility of having Ukraine help train Chinese navy and aircraft-carrier pilots. The center’s takeoff and landing simulation module, which the PLA cannot currently produce on its own, teaches pilots how to land on a short runway at a speed of 250km/h. The PLA also obtained one prototype of Ukraine’s T10K, a maritime variant of the Russian Sukhoi-33 fighter jet, for research and as a model for the development of its own ship-borne fighter jets. Support vessels for a Chinese aircraft carrier have already been built in Shanghai and two other major shipyards in Tianjin and Dalian in Liaoning.

[Editor’s Note: In an interview published last month in the Financial Times, Major General Qian Lihua, director of the Defense Ministry's foreign affairs office, said the world should not be surprised if China builds an aircraft carrier. In October, a Russian industry source told Jane's Defence Weekly the PLA Navy was seeking to buy carrier-based Sukhoi-33 multiple-role fighter jets from the Komsomolsk-na-Amure Aviation Production Association on the Amur River, bordering China.]

People’s Liberation Army Major General Jin Yinan has called for China’s navy to join the fight against Somali pirates, saying the mission would boost China's international stature and give its sailors valuable experience in fighting open ocean combat operations far from their home ports. Chinese ships have been among those seized in a wave of pirate attacks this year, including the fishing vessel Tianyu No. 8, seized in mid-November. International warships from NATO and countries including Russia patrol the Gulf of Aden and have created a security corridor in the area under a U.S.-led initiative, but attacks have not abated. "Piracy doesn't just interfere in our country's navigational safety, it also impedes our development and interests. I think our navy should send ships to the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy duties. Dispatching ships is a very common act and we wouldn't just be protecting Chinese shipping. We are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and these are the duties of major nation." Jin said,
according to a transcript of the interview reported by the Associated Press

December 5:

The China-India joint anti-terror training exercise, code-named "Hand in Hand 2008" was held in Belgaum District in India's Karnataka State. This year's training exercise, which features mixed Chinese-Indian troop training at sub-unit level, featured exchanges in training, the use of military equipment, and in tactics and logistics. The first China-India land-force joint training exercise, successfully held in Kunming last year, laid a foundation for this one. In the South Asia region alone, China has conducted five exercises jointly with Pakistan and four exercises/training exercises jointly with India. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted 25 joint exercises and three joint ground training exercises with a total of 21 nations
the official Zhongguo Xinwen She reports.