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NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
Newsletter> NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009
UPDATED: August 28, 2009 NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 3, 2009

RIGHT & WRONG: Teachers are responsible for criticizing students when necessary and are not just knowledge providers (WEI PEIQUAN) 

Rubbing Salt in

Since 1994, in a bid to eliminate iodine deficiency syndrome, all Chinese table salt has been required by the government to be iodized. However, there have been recent reports that, in eastern Zhejiang Province, where iodine-rich foods are abundant, some are falling ill after overdosing on the element.

What has led to this situation? Largely, it can be blamed on the government monopoly of table salt. Originally, the regie system was meant to ensure that table salt be properly iodized. In this way, consumers can only buy iodized salt, because neither supermarkets nor food shops offer any iodine-free salt at all.

In fact, there even lies a profit chain behind the system: When purchasing huge packages of iodized salt from producers, salt companies only need to pay 450 yuan ($65) per ton. But when they are divided into smaller packages, the wholesale price per ton jumps to 2,000 yuan ($300). Consequently, every year consumers nationwide have to pay an extra 13 billion yuan ($1.9 billion) due to the regie system.

Table salt is a daily staple for most people. Therefore, uprooting the monopoly system not only protects consumers' financial interests, but also their health. Indeed, people's health should never be compromised in the pursuit of profit.

Changjiang Times

Smoke Screen

In Jinan, east China's Shandong Province, consumers can no longer find cigarettes priced below 5 yuan ($0.75) per pack in local markets. It's not that local residents are too rich to buy cheap cigarettes, but local authorities that regulate tobacco have imposed a floor price for tobacco products.

Officials who earn high salaries might not know that the cheap cigarettes they despise are popular with lower-income people who smoke. No one believes that the new pricing regime aims to protect smokers' health.

True, expensive cigarettes undoubtedly bring more profits. But the rock-bottom price for tobacco products does not make sense even in the context of administrative monopolies. Every monopoly abides by its own rules. For example, there should be hearings or public debates when a certain product is to be stamped out of the market.

By imposing a floor price for cigarettes, Jinan's authorities that regulate tobacco are actually helping tobacco companies increase their profit margins, despite the fact they are not entitled to do so. The new pricing regime, moreover, smacks of an abuse of administrative power. Surprisingly, since it took effect at the end of 2008, no government department has yet to question its legitimacy.

Yangcheng Evening News

Rules for Education

The Ministry of Education recently issued a document explicitly stipulating that middle and primary school teachers have the right to criticize their students.

Is it true that teachers nationwide do not know that they can criticize their students and must be reminded by education authorities?

According to the Ministry of Education, however, teachers fear criticizing and correcting their students because too much attention has been paid to the protection of students' interests. Education officials are concerned about this state of affairs. In this respect, if teachers respect students, they can never criticize them.

The cause of this embarrassing situation is actually the market-oriented development model of education over the past decade. These circumstances have made interactions between students and teachers seem akin to that between customers and vendors. That is: "I pay you tuition, you ensure my good academic performance."

In this context, teachers are automatically deprived of their right to criticize their students. But at the same time, they give up a major responsibility they bear for their students.

Qianjiang Evening News

Shortsighted Bans

In April 2008, eight ministries issued joint notices freezing the admission fees of scenic spots for a whole year. But after the price freeze expired earlier this year, these locales across the country have, in turn, raised their charges for visitors.

The current admission fee hikes appear to be balancing out the previous price freeze. Not surprisingly, people are asking: What is the point of having a one-year price freeze when admission fees can be raised afterward, negating the whole process?

Originally, by announcing the price freeze, concerned government departments did not mean to keep admission fees stable just for one year, but to overhaul the random pricing system of scenic spots.

Now that the price freeze is over, though, the ministries are expected to tell the public how many unauthorized price increases they have discovered, and what is the solution to this issue.

The key to understand arbitrary hikes in admission fees lies in the fact that local governments, which are vested with the power to fix admission fees for local scenic spots, regard these places as a cash cow. Only when pricing rights return to the Central Government, can we enjoy reasonable and stable admission fees at scenic spots nationwide.

China Youth Daily

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