The Chinese yuan, also known as the renminbi, is already convertible under the current account - the broadest measure of trade in goods and services. However, the capital account, which covers portfolio investment and borrowing, is still closely managed by Beijing because of worries about abrupt capital flows.
Trains' toilets cost up to 1.2m yuan each, report says
Fresh questions were being raised yesterday about the much-maligned high-speed-rail network, following media reports of extravagant spending on the trains' internal fixtures.
For instance, each onboard toilet facility costs as much as 1.2 million yuan (HK$1.5 million), featuring 'attractive but impractical' imported automated sinks and facial tissue boxes costing 1,125 yuan each.
A probe by Century Weekly magazine published yesterday found that train makers had been paying up to 10 times market value for toilet fittings.
That is despite placing bulk orders that industry insiders said should have brought a 40 per cent discount on listed prices.
The report on the spending could trigger a new round of criticism of the rapid development of the high-speed-rail network, which had been hailed as a national success story before the Ministry of Railways became embroiled in a series of corruption and mismanagement scandals early last year.
The ministry's woes peaked in July with a crash involving two high-speed trains in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, that claimed at least 40 lives and injured more than 100 people.
According to purchase documents obtained by the magazine, public toilets fitted in CRH2-class high-speed carriages made by China South Railways (CSR) cost 300,000 yuan.
But that figure was eclipsed by the 1.2 million yuan cost of toilets in CRH3-class carriages made by China Northern Railways (CNR).
'At the time, we said we wanted to use the very best materials,' a CNR official told the magazine, referring to design specifications set forth in 2006.
Among the most profligate of purchases were hand basins from Japanese firm Toto's TYL range - with built-in taps with automatic sensors - which cost more than 70,000 yuan.
The magazine's reporters had been able to find Toto's top-of-the-line sink - the LW991B - on sale in Beijing for just 32,400 yuan.
Although Ningbo CSR Times Transducer Technique, a CSR unit, had developed a domestically made automatic sink for use on the trains, this idea was abandoned after two purchase orders were made, a technical officer with the firm told the reporters, citing various defects.
The magazine did not provide the cost of the Ningbo CSR sink.
The charge, in yuan per metre, of countertops. The same brand retails for as low as 2,000 yuan a metre