Author: Thomas Clouse
China opened the 29th Olympic Summer Games in Beijing on August 8 with a ceremony incorporating 15,000 performers and 29,000 fireworks shells and attended by US president George Bush, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and other world leaders. China spent a record-breaking $43 billion preparing for the games, with the country’s leaders seeking to positively display the country’s growing economic and political power. The intensified focus on the host county brought much praise for preparations and overall economic achievements as well as criticism for its human rights record.

Shortly before the games, however, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against China for the first time since the country joined the WTO in 2001. Currently, China charges a higher import tax on full automobiles than on automotive parts and requires automotive manufacturers to source at least 40% of their parts locally or face the higher taxation rate. The US, the EU and Canada complained that the practice discriminates against foreign-made parts. China, however, asserts that the tax prevents foreign manufacturers from circumventing the higher tax rate by importing automobiles in kits and assembling them domestically. The WTO panel ruled in favor of the US, EU and Canada, but China has the right to appeal the decision.

Four Chinese banks applied for regulatory approval to invest in domestic insurance companies, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission says. The CIRC will review the applications, submitted by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications and Bank of Beijing, before passing them on to China's State Council for final approval. The CIRC and the China banking commission signed a memorandum of understanding in January promoting more cooperation and consolidation across the two industries. These applications are the first four submitted since the agreement was signed.

China has surpassed the United States to become home to the world’s largest Internet population. The China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing announced on July 31 that the number of Internet users in China reached 253 million in the first half of 2008, representing a 56% increase over the same period last year. The 253 million users account for less than one-fifth of China’s total population, however, leaving significant potential for further growth.


Thomas Clouse