CHINA must adjust to the relationship between private and public telecommunications networks in the country and bring into full play the complementary function of the private networks, according a senior official for China's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT). The statement, made by Mr Yang Xianzu, the MPT's Vice-minister, at Asia Telecom '93 in Singapore, indicates that problems surrounding the gradual liberalisation of China's telecoms' market have eased. In the past, the MPT has been resistant to changes which might allow telecoms operators within China to play much of a role in the future of the country's burgeoning telecommunications industry. As the central government has increasingly called upon state industries to become economically viable, other ministries have begun pressuring for a slice of the telecommunication's pie. A number of ministries operate their own network facilities and want to serve other organisations as network carriers in direct competition with the MPT. CITIC (China International Trust and Investment Corp) supports these moves but the MPT has been trying to retain the monopoly. However, even before Mr Yang's statement multinational telecoms had been optimistic about the potential for business in China. Dr Hans Baur, executive vice-president of Siemens, said: ''Alone this year, we anticipate receiving orders for some two million EWSD [digital switching system] lines, which would make China our largest foreign market for this system.'' Mr Lars Ranqvist, the president of Ericsson, said his company had already tripled the intake of orders over the previous 12 months, now with a value of about US$1.5 billion. ''China is planning on 10 million new lines each year and we're looking to get 20 per cent of that in switching systems,'' he said. AT & T expected to establish a second network in China even before the MPT statement. Mr Jay Carter, AT & T's vice-president, network systems, for Asia, said that the demand for lines was such that all ideas had to be considered. Even with the massive development plans of the MPT, to almost quadruple the number of installed lines, this would still only give five per cent of the population access to a phone line. ''They need such a dramatic increase in telephones and services that the issue of other carriers is not a matter of taking market share away from someone else - they'll all work,'' said Mr Carter. With AT & T's recent memorandum of understanding with China's State Planning Commission (SPC), he hoped his company's experience in integrating various networks would be a boost for its business. ''In the United States, carriers accept us working with different companies, but we don't know how that will work in China.'' However, the massive growth in China's telecommunications infrastructure poses other problems with liberalisation. One of these is the development of rural links. Experts accept that even with other state ministries joining the network expansion, they will tend to concentrate on the most profitable areas. ''If governments are prepared to put up with real competition, then it's okay, but who cares about rural networks?'' asked Dr Alfred Weber, executive director of Siemens public switching division. Mr Weber commended Indonesia's plan to force private operators to spend 20 per cent of their investment on rural development, and added that other countries should consider such options. Another problem is the sheer number of organisations choosing their own systems. Regional AT & T firms, the MPT, even local mayors are signing deals to expand paging, mobile, data and even video-telecommunications services. ''The fact is there is such demand for the telecoms' structure, it's good for now. But it's true that all of a sudden - a few years in the future - the standards issue will come up on how to connect everything,'' Mr Carter said. ''However, SPC is perfectly aware of the phenomena, but it has only been in the last year that intense discussions between interested parties has begun.''