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News Briefs

Chinese Divided on Foreign Funding for Internet Sites


A battle has broken out between China’s top telecommunications official and Chinese reformers that could deal a severe blow to the country’s nascent Internet industry.

Wu Jichuan, China’s Minister of Information Industry, sparked the conflict Monday when he told the Financial Times newspaper that foreign investment in Chinese Internet firms is illegal and that “irregularities” would be cleaned up. Aides reiterated Wu’s position Thursday.

But Wu’s statement puts him in direct opposition to the positions of some of China’s leading local governments, including Shanghai, which have actively courted foreign Internet investors. Chinese reformers and foreign industry executives said Thursday that a government ban on foreign funds would undermine China’s position in one of the world’s fastest growing and most important industries by forcing both intellectual and financial capital away from China.

“This is a Chinese jobs program for Taiwan, Hong Kong and California,” said a U.S. industry executive, who noted that Chinese-language Internet sites can be built and based elsewhere and targeted to domestic Chinese audiences. “All the money, jobs and intelligence will be offshore.”

UAW, DaimlerChrysler Agree On Four-Year Labor Pact


The United Auto Workers and DaimlerChrysler AG Thursday agreed to a new four-year contract that could lay the foundation for long-term labor peace in the U.S. auto industry.

The tentative agreement, which replaces a three-year contract that expired Sept. 14, affects 75,000 hourly and salaried DaimlerChrysler employees.

The proposed four-year term, if approved by UAW members in a ratification vote next week, would mark the first time since 1950 that the union and an automaker have accepted a contract lasting longer than three years.

“This means UAW leaders feel that the proposed agreement is good enough for them to want to lock in its benefits long term,” said Harley Shaiken, a former UAW leader who is now a professor of labor studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

The agreement provides DaimlerChrysler with stability, which the company will need as it embarks upon an ambitious, $48 billion program to develop and produce 64 new cars and trucks by 2004.

Union officials now will attempt to get General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., where more than 300,000 UAW members are employed, to accept a similar contract. In the interim, covered GM and Ford employees will continue working under an “indefinite extension” of the old agreement.

Analysts predict relatively easy going at GM, ironically because of a UAW strike that shut down virtually all GM’s U.S. operations last summer, costing GM $2 billion. Neither side appears prepared to repeat the experience, especially at a time when the U.S. auto industry is rolling in record profits and sales, analysts say.