SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  13-17.4.15, No. 568  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Worldwide tips aid in graft fight (China Daily)
2015-04-13
China's anti-corruption system is receiving "high-quality" tips from around the world and is ready to take further action to catch more former public officials who have escaped abroad with ill-gotten gains. A senior official from the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection told China Daily that the top anti-graft watchdog had received more than 100 "valuable clues" since it opened an Internet channel for tips in December. "Many of the clues we received are of high quality, and some, after our careful verification, have been used as key evidence to assist the nation's anti-corruption manhunt," said an official from the CCDI's international cooperation bureau who declined to reveal his name. He said that about 60 percent of the clues came from other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia and Singapore. Many overseas Chinese and local people provided valuable clues involving the location of fugitives and their assets, including bank deposits and properties. The other 40 percent were reported by people in China, who offered evidence about so-called "naked" officials — those who may be preparing to flee the country after sending their family abroad. In recent years, the US, Canada and Australia have become big destinations for corrupt Chinese officials due legal differences and the lack of extradition treaties. Meanwhile, a number of corrupt officials have transferred millions, if not billions, of yuan to their foreign accounts through money laundering and underground banks. The official said that more than 10 special anti-graft officers are taking charge of dealing with the clues received online. "Once we receive such clues, we will give timely feedback to those who report information while classifying and analyzing the clues and sending them to judicial authorities for verification. And those valuable clues will be provided as evidence to the countries concerned." He said they welcome more valuable clues and will pay attention to protecting the whistleblowers' rights. In April, Chinese judicial authorities launched an action code-named "Skynet" to hunt down corrupt officials at large overseas and confiscate their illegal assets. The action will last until the end of December, according to the CCDI. To date, three fugitives suspected of economic crimes have been brought back to China to face trial from Laos and Greece, including one accused of illegally raising public funds of 44 million yuan ($7 million) after spending two years on the run in Greece, setting an example for enhanced cooperation with European countries to extradite more Chinese fugitives. Huang Feng, law professor from Beijing Normal University, said, "the priority for nabbing the fugitives is to obtain complete evidence for each individual case." ^ top ^

Beijing blocks Taiwan from becoming founding member of China-led AIIB (SCMP)
2015-04-14
Taiwan said it would try to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a regular member, after Beijing on Monday turned down its request to become a founding member. The Mainland Affairs Council of Taiwan said it regretted Beijing's decision, but would continue to communicate with mainland authorities over becoming a full member, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported. The council said Taiwan would scrutinise the AIIB's regulations to "ensure the protection of Taiwan's rights". Taiwan made a last-minute application to join the AIIB as a founding member on the deadline day of March 31 under the name of Chinese-Taipei. It had hoped that joining would help its push for regional economic integration and participation in international trade organisations. However, it faced opposition from within the island. Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing, did not disclose why Taiwan had been rejected, but said that authorities would positively consider its bid to become a regular member. So far, more than 50 nations, including Britain, have applied to join the bank. "[I] believe that through practical consultations, [they] will find a way for Taiwan to participate in the AIIB under a proper name," he said. Taiwan's parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng said the administration and the parliament had reached a consensus to strive for regular membership of the AIIB. But Wang stressed that the name under which Taiwan would join was important. He said "Chinese Taipei" was the bottom line, and Taiwan "absolutely will not participate" if this was not accepted. Taiwan's cabinet said earlier it had applied under the name of Chinese-Taipei, a name it uses in several international organisations including the Olympics Committee. Presidential spokesman Charles Chen I-hsin said that while joining AIIB would be beneficial, Taiwan would rather not participate if it could not enjoy equality and respect. Tsai Ing-wen, chairman of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said it was not appropriate for President Ma Ying-jeou's administration to hand in the island's application through the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office. She said the application should go directly to the AIIB's secretariat. Yu Keli, director of the Beijing-based Taiwan Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Taiwan was turned down because founding members of the AIIB must be independent sovereign states. However, he doubted this would harm cross-strait relations. Li Fei, deputy director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said public opposition also played a role. "There is no consensus reached inside the island, and there are still many voices of objection. Taiwan is not determined enough itself," he said. Founding members will have greater rights over AIIB decisions than members that join after its launch this year. ^ top ^

Chinese premier urges stronger clean energy cooperation with U.S. (Xinhua)
2015-04-14
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with a U.S. presidential trade mission in Beijing on Monday, urging stronger cooperation with the United States in clean energy, environmental protection and other areas. "China is accelerating a new type of 'people-oriented' urbanization plan, which offers a huge market for the advanced technology and management experience of the United States," Li told the delegation led by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The delegation, consisting of 24 U.S. business leaders in the clean technology field, is the first-ever presidential trade mission sent to China by the Obama administration. Pritzker told Li that the mission shows how important the U.S. government considers its trade ties with China. Li urged combining U.S. technology, regulation and experience with competitive Chinese equipment and industries to jointly explore third markets. "This will help boost balanced growth of our two-way trade," he added. Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to the United States in September this year. Li said China is willing to enhance strategic trust and substantial cooperation with the United States, properly manage differences and jointly cope with regional and global challenges. Calling trade ties a "ballast" in China-U.S. ties, Li said the two economies are highly compatible, and both countries enjoy huge cooperation prospects in such areas as infrastructure, energy, information and environmental protection. Premier Li called on both sides to facilitate negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) to reach a "high-level and balanced" agreement at an early date. China's reform and opening-up policy and its commitment to World Trade Organization regulations will remain unchanged, he said. "China will continue to open wider to the world and will have a more transparent and predictable market," said the premier. He welcomed companies from various countries to enter the Chinese market and enjoy fair play. Li pledged to treat Chinese and foreign companies equally and better protect intellectual property rights. The Chinese premier called on the U.S. side to ease high-tech exports to China and take effective measures to make Chinese investment in the United States more convenient. Pritzker told Li the U.S. side is ready to boost cooperation with China in areas such as clean technology, energy conservation and environmental protection. She welcomed U.S.-China joint cooperation in developing third markets, and welcomed more Chinese companies to invest in the United States. The United States will elevate BIT negotiations with China in a constructive manner in an effort to reach a list acceptable to both as soon as possible, Pritzker said. Earlier on Monday, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang also met with the delegation. ^ top ^

Singapore PM meets China's Shaanxi provincial party chief (Xinhua)
2015-04-13
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met here on Monday with Zhao Zhengyong, secretary of the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Lee expressed gratitude to Chinese President Xi Jinping for sending message of condolences as well as a special envoy for the death of Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore. He said the relation between Singapore and China has been developing fast over the years, with close communication between the two governments. As this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China, he hopes to take this opportunity to further promote bilateral ties to a new level. He stressed that Singapore is willing to actively participate in China's plan to develop its western region, where Shaanxi belongs to. Zhao said China is keen to deepen bilateral ties through inter- party exchanges and regional cooperation. He also highlighted the significance of fastening collaboration between Shaanxi and Singapore through the "Belt and Road" initiatives. Zhao also met with Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office on Monday. ^ top ^

UAE can play unique role in China-proposed "Belt and Road" initiatives (Xinhua)
2015-04-14
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently joined the Beijing-championed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member. The Gulf Arab state has also been trying to play a unique role in China's "Belt and Road" initiatives by expanding its industrial free zones and markets. Dubai, rich in business hubs like ports, airports and industrial free zone, is considered the gateway to global trade of UAE's seven sheikhdoms. For years, UAE has been the largest export market for China in the North Africa and West Asia region. Mohammed Al-Gergawi Fahad Al-Gergawi, CEO of Dubai's foreign direct investment office, said the UAE had itself "perfectly positioned" to be part of the new belt and Road initiatives, which have been put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "Dubai has a supportive business environment... and that makes the emirate attractive regarding perspective for the new silk road," said Alison Burns, regional head of precious metals for the Middle East and North Africa at ICBC Standard Bank in Dubai. Standard Bank has been a long-time market participant, bringing producers of physical gold in Africa and buyers in Central and East Asia together. In relation to logistics and transport, Dubai international airport became last year the world's busiest airport in terms of international passengers, catering 71 million people. Its capacities will be expanded this year to serve 90 million passengers. Some 90 percent of passengers flying to Dubai use the city as a hub for connecting flights as the emirate is located strategically between Africa and Europe on the one hand and central and East Asia on the other hand. "From Dubai, you can indeed reach two thirds of the global population within two hours flight time," said Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai airports. Sir Tim Clark, president of Dubai's state-owned carrier Emirates Airline, told Xinhua he would like to fly to more cities in China, Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, could be an interesting destination for connecting Dubai to tourism and trade in central China, he said. Xi'an was in ancient times the starting point of the old silk road. As of now, Emirates flies with an Airbus A380 super-jumbo to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou. Since Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi started flying to Bejing in April 2008, the state-owed carrier added direct flights to Shanghai and Chengdu to its network, while cargo flights go to Chongqing and Guangzhou. Data compiled by global aviation body IATA show that in 2015, Middle East air traffic growth in cargo and passengers outperformed global growth mostly because the region's linking function between the continents and as a launchpad for traveling to the Silk road countries and the Far East in particular. Other UAE projects that link the nations along the silk road are the ports Jebel Ali in Dubai and Kizad in Abu Dhabi. Kizad, which stands for Khalifa industrial zone Abu Dhabi, was opened in the fall of 2012 and is slated to become a vital part of Abu Dhabi's strategic plan 2030, to diversify the economy away from oil and to link Africa with the "Belt and Road" countries. Dubai's Jebel Ali, on the other hand, harbors the biggest man-made container port in the Middle East as well as the headquarters of Dubai Ports (DP) World, the word's third biggest port operator. "Expansions currently underway at the port will bring total handling capacity to 19 million TEU in the second half of 2015," said DP World chief operations officer Mohammed Ali Ahmed. He added that Jebel Ali will be able to handle 10 of the giant new generation vessels at the same time, the only port in the region able to do so. DP World shares are listed on the Nasdaq Dubai, the only international capital market in the Middle East by regulatory standards. The Nasdaq Dubai as part of the financial free zone DIFC aims to play key role in the UAE's shift to the east as well and to build financial bridges between Africa and the road and belt. The DIFC which harbors 22 of the biggest banks in the world managed to attract the four Chinese bank giants, ICBC, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of China. DIFC governor sees the center perfectly located to catalyze funds to finance projects along the road and belt region, he said. The DIFC is also home to the Dubai mercantile exchange, the only international exchange for crude oil derivatives. Its strong growth since inception in 2007 is mostly based on attracting oil-related firms from Asia which aim to hedge their assets against fluctuations on the oil market. The Dubai multi commodities center or DMCC is another free zone that helps serve Dubai's role as a regional hub. Ahmed Bin Sulayem, CEO of the DMCC, said that the number of registered firms reached almost 10,000, making it the biggest of the over 25 free zones in Dubai. According to Michel Convers, vice president Africa and Middle East at global logistics firm Brinks, Dubai had "the most advanced storage and logistics facilities in the region for any kind of goods, precious metals. "That is why we as logistics specialists are very positive about China's Silk road initiative, the AIIB and Dubai's future role" in the "Belt and Road" initiatives, he said. According to the Dubai customs, China surpassed India as Dubai's biggest trading partner in 2014, when bilateral trade amounted to 175 billion dirhams ( 48 billion U.S. dollars), an increase of 29 percent compared to that of the previous year. ^ top ^

Premier attends opening ceremony of Asian-African legal session (China Daily)
2015-04-13
Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the opening ceremony of the 54th annual session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization in Beijing on April 13. The organization is an international governmental organization founded in 1956 with an aim to advise member states on matters on international law. ^ top ^

China to assist Liberia's economic recovery program (Xinhua)
2915-04-14
Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Zhang Yue reiterated Chinese government's commitment to providing more support in Liberia's post-Ebola recovery programs. The ambassador made the remarks on Monday at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Stadium in Paynesville when he handed over to Liberia a huge consignment of donated items worth 5 million U.S. dollars on behalf of the Chinese Government. The items included 20 ambulances, 20 pickup trucks, 10 incinerators, 100 motorcycles, 150 hospital beds, 4,000 sets of health care product and 60,000 sets of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs). Ambassador Zhang said China was determined to share its experiences and skills in helping Liberia restore and improve its public health and disease prevention system. Other items in the latest donation by China to Liberia are 10 giant fork lifters, 20,000 bottles of hand-washing disinfectants and 215 sets of assorted medical instruments containing 645 sprayers, 215 infra-red thermometer amongst others. Ambassador Zhang said "Being free from Ebola is not the end of the journey, we believe that while it is important to give people the fish to eat it is more important to teach them how to fish." He lauded the efforts made by all Liberians in containing the Ebola Virus, adding that together "we have witnessed the miracle Liberia has made," referring to a country once known as the worst hit in the region. ^ top ^

Chinese Premier meets Japanese delegation on fence-mending mission (SCMP)
2015-04-15
Premier Li Keqiang met a Japanese delegation led by former chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono in Beijing on Tuesday, amid halting efforts to ease tensions between the countries before this year's 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of the second world war. Li's meeting with Kono was his first with a Japanese political figure and one of only a handful of high-profile encounters between the two countries since the November frosty meeting between President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. Li, No 2 in Chinese politics, told Kono that the last two years had been difficult, but “both sides have the wish to improve things”. That was a reference to a festering island territorial dispute and what Beijing sees as moves by some in Japan to shirk national responsibility for the war. Kono said the meeting between Abe and Xi was made possible by the “enormous efforts and wisdom of diplomats from both countries” and that members of his delegation from the Association for the Promotion of International Trade wished to “push forward the bilateral ties with the spirit of respecting history and facing the future”. In 1993, then-chief cabinet secretary Kono released statement conceding that the Japanese Imperial Army forced foreign women to work in military-run brothels during the war. Before then, the government had denied the women were coerced. Li said that at the time Japan showed a “correct” understanding of history, a comment clearly intended to draw a contrast with the position of Abe's administration, which China regularly criticises for what it sees as an unrepentant attitude toward the war. Da Zhigang, a specialist in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said Li's remarks signalled a positive direction in Sino-Japanese ties. “Li is sending a signal that if Japan can make some concessions about historical issues, then other bilateral issues, such as the negotiation of a free-trade agreement, will go smoothly,” he said. “He is calling on Japan not to make provocative moves.” Da said relations had improved in recent months, with more Chinese tourists visiting Japan and greater economic cooperation between the two sides. There have been modest improvements in bilateral ties since Xi's encounter with Abe, including the resumption of long-stalled parliamentary exchanges last week and a series of bilateral meetings to discuss confidence-building measures to prevent conflict from a territorial row in the East China Sea. Kono, who is a regular visitor to China, is heading the delegation, which also includes Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga. Onaga's presence has prompted speculation that the two sides might discuss issues surrounding the basing of US troops in the Japan's southernmost prefecture. Last time he visited China, in December last year, Kono, a former head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was received by high-ranking Communist Party No 4 leader Yu Zhengsheng. ^ top ^

World should fear Beijing's claims to South China Sea, says Philippine's Aquino (SCMP)
2015-04-14
China's efforts to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea should spark fear around the world, with military conflict possible, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said. In an interview with AFP, Aquino also warned that China's increasingly assertive actions raised the spectre of other nations having access cut to international shipping lanes and fishing grounds in the sea. ”Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world,” Aquino said when asked to assess Chinese government moves in recent years to assert its sovereign claims in the sea. Aquino said that, while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, that was a possibility. ”The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody's control should be at the top of the minds of all world leaders,” he said. China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas just off the coasts of other Asian nations, using an assertive demarcation line that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims. The contested claims have for decades made the sea one of Asia's key flashpoints, and tensions have risen in recent years as China has moved to assert its authority over the areas. Following a tense stand-off between Chinese maritime patrol vessels and the Filipino Navy in 2012, China took control of a rich fishing ground called Scarborough Shoal that is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. Satellite images have also shown China recently embarking on major construction activities to expand Chinese-controlled reefs and islets in the Spratly Islands, one of the biggest archipelagos in the sea. China last week defended its construction work in the Spratlys, while insisting it has sovereign rights to most of the sea. The images published this month on the website of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies showed a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto a feature known as Mischief Reef. Images of other outcrops in the Spratlys showed aircraft runways appearing from jungle, smooth-sided solid masses where there once was coral, and man-made harbours replacing natural reefs. Aquino said China was building two airstrips on the expanded land formations, which posed defence concerns for the Philippines. ”With these new features, the two airstrips that come to my mind, once operational, puts into effective range the entire country,” Aquino said. ”The [Chinese] turnaround time, the sustainability of operations... are enhanced by all of these airstrips, and potentially other naval ports.” US President Barack Obama has criticised China's use of “sheer size and muscle” to enforce its territorial claims. The Philippines is a military ally of the United States. During a visit to Manila last year, Obama said America had an “iron-clad” commitment to defend the Philippines. ^ top ^

China-S. Africa relations at their best in history (Xinhua)
2015-04-15
China-South Africa relations are at their best in history, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, after holding talks with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Speaking at a press briefing in Pretoria, Wang said the partnership between China and South Africa has reached a new height with exchange visits by presidents of the two countries in the past two years. Wang said China is willing to further boost the bilateral ties and strengthen their coordination in regional and international affairs. He said the two sides have agreed that bilateral ties are at their best in history and they will create more win-win fruits out of the high level of political trust. Mashabane said South Africa sees China as the most trustworthy and reliable partner and also one that can cooperate in achieving its national development strategy. She said South Africa expects continual support from China in its industrialization and economic transformation, especially the investment in its electrical energy and infrastructure. The two sides also agreed to make joint efforts in making the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to be held in South Africa a successful event. Wang arrived in South Africa on Tuesday for a two-day visit. ^ top ^

Chinese premier, Greek PM hold phone talks on cooperation in port project (Xinhua)
2015-04-14
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Tuesday discussed a joint project involving the Greek port of Piraeus over the phone with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. During the conversation, Tsipras briefed Li on Greece's consideration of the enhancement of its cooperation with China in various fields, especially the Piraeus port project. Li spoke highly of the development of China-Greece relations, and expressed appreciation for the importance attached by Tsipras to bilateral ties and his firm support for the joint port project since the Greek prime minister took office. The Chinese-run project embodies the traditional friendship between China and Greece and will help increase the two countries' pragmatic cooperation, he said. It is also conducive to boosting the Greek economy, which in turn will benefit Europe and the European Union, he said. In the meantime, Li said, the project can boost Chinese enterprises' confidence in investing and developing in Greece and push forward the construction of the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line. China is willing to work together with Greece to make Piraeus a first-class port in the Mediterranean and even Europe, as well as an important hub in the region, so that it could become a symbol of mutually beneficial, win-win cooperation between China and Greece, the premier said. Tsipras said the new Greek government has been committed to strengthening Greece-China pragmatic cooperation since it came into power, and is fully confident about the prospects of the two countries' relations. Greece's friendship with China goes back a long way, and Greece is willing to become a strategic partner of the Asian country in Europe, he said. Also, he said Greece firmly supports and will actively accelerate the Piraeus port project, expressing his hope that the Europe-China Land-Sea Express Line would be completed as soon as possible. ^ top ^

China ready for SCO cooperation on law enforcement security (Xinhua)
2015-04-15
China is willing to coordinate with all parties and strengthen the cooperation on law enforcement security under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), visiting Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun said here Tuesday. Content of the cooperation on law enforcement security should be enriched in order to safeguard every SCO member's national security, public safety and social stability, as well as the lasting peace and common prosperity in the whole Eurasian region, Guo said during the 10th meeting of the SCO security council secretaries. As leader of the Chinese delegation, Guo said the SCO plays an important role in maintaining regional security, improving peoples ' livelihood while creating the best conditions for the economic and social development of its members. Guo, who is also minister of public security, urged all SCO parties to continue to adhere to the "Shanghai Spirit" in the face of the complicated and profound changes in the international and regional sphere, consolidate unity and mutual trust, strengthen mutual support as well as closer coordination, in a bid to deal with all kinds of new threats and challenges. A summary was signed after the meeting, which discussed law enforcement security cooperation and preparations for the SCO summit scheduled at the beginning of July in Russia's Ufa city. Before the meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with heads of all the SCO member delegations. For the first time, representatives of SCO observer states, namely Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, were invited and participated in the expanded meeting. The Chinese State Councilor also held talks with representatives of Afghanistan, Mongolia and Iran respectively. ^ top ^

57 nations approved as founder members of China-led AIIB (SCMP)
2015-04-16
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has officially approved 57 nations as prospective founding members, with Sweden, Israel, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Portugal and Poland the latest to be included. The AIIB is the first Asian-based international bank to be independent from the Western-dominated Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Countries accepted as AIIB founding members include China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Myanmar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Britain, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain. However, long-time rival Taiwan was left off the list of founding members despite expressing a desire to join, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday. Founding members have priority over nations that sign up later because they will have the right to set the rules for the bank. Unconfirmed reports said North Korea's application was rejected. Taiwan said it would try to join the institution as a regular member. The United States and Japan, two of the world's biggest economies, did not apply to join. Chinese state media said the prospective founding nations had started talks on the AIIB's draft rules, which will be finalized and signed in meetings starting next month. The Ministry of Finance said last night that the bank's charter would be signed by the end of June and the bank's first president would be appointed on merit once the AIIB had been formally established. The AIIB would learn from the experience of other multilateral financial institutions to minimise operating costs and maximise efficiency, the ministry said. Since President Xi Jinping launched the bank initiative in late 2013, the administration of US President Barack Obama has voiced misgivings about the bank's transparency, governance and potential conflicts with existing institutions, particularly the Manila-based Asian Development Bank. The AIIB is seen as a potential competitor to global financial institutions such as the US-led IMF and World Bank. But IMF chief Christine Lagarde said last month that the IMF and the World Bank would be "delighted" to cooperate with the AIIB. Beijing has repeatedly said the AIIB would complement existing international institutions. In October, 21 countries signed an agreement to establish the AIIB, which will be based in Beijing with a mission to finance infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region. The bank plans to rapidly increase its initial subscribed capital of US$50 billion to US$100 billion. Member states' voting rights are likely to be based on gross domestic product. The bank is expected to be set up by the end of this year. ^ top ^

PwC among auditors enlisted by China to probe state firms' offshore assets (SCMP)
2015-04-16
Beijing has appointed seven audit companies, including international firm PwC, to look into the overseas assets of major state-owned enterprises as it tightens the reins on the business giants. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (Sasac) said yesterday that three of the audits would cover the offshore assets of various state firms, and four would be into key SOE projects, Xinhua reported, without giving further details. The seven audits would be carried out this year, Sasac said. It will be the first time that the state asset regulator has investigated offshore assets and follows state media calls in March for the authorities to assess the trillions of yuan in the firms' offshore holdings. "There are concerns about whether these investments are economically effective," Beijing Jiaotong University professor Zhao Jian said. "A thorough auditing is needed to evaluate their effectiveness." Zhao said the audits would also help the authorities uncover misconduct by government officials and corporate bosses. The audits come just under a decade after Beijing urged state-owned firms to pioneer the country's go-global campaign as part of its efforts to encourage capital outflow to ease soaring inflation. But worries soon surfaced as the firms scrambled for acquisition targets and splashed out billions of US dollars to set up production facilities overseas. That spending resulted in "white elephants" that were suspected hotbeds for corrupt activities. In March, Dong Dasheng, a former deputy auditor general of the National Audit Office, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the 4 trillion yuan (HK$5 trillion) in offshore assets held by the state-owned giants were virtually unaudited. He said all the state-owned assets, including those overseas, should be audited every one or two years. He said that corrupt company executives could take advantage of regulatory loopholes to embezzle or misuse funds to enrich themselves during reorganisations, acquisitions, disposals and signings of major offshore projects. The audits signal a deepening of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive, which has already netted a swathe of high-ranking officials. Last year, two executives involved in the Canadian operations of China National Petroleum Corp, Song Yiwu and Li Zhiming, were detained by Chinese authorities. Financial news outlet Caixin reported in July that Jia Xiaoxia, general manager of CNPC's subsidiary in Canada, could be tied to former security tsar Zhou Yongkang. It added that Jia's whereabouts were not known. "It won't be a surprise if serious corruption and decadent officials are spotted [through the audits]," said Frank Ye, chief executive of Canadian IT service provider Acentury. "In many cases, you won't be able to win outsourcing deals from China's SOEs unless you have connections with their relatives." ^ top ^

China, Russia vow to bring cooperation on law enforcement, security to new height (Xinhua)
2015-04-16
China is ready to work with Russia to bring cooperation on law enforcement and security to a new height, visiting Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun said Tuesday. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has been working on a high level and has entered a new phase as significant progress has been made in bilateral cooperation on law enforcement and security, which is consistently injecting fresh impetus into bilateral relations, Guo said during his meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev. Guo, who is also minister of public security, added that China is ready to work with Russia to bring their cooperation on law enforcement and security to a new height. Noting that Russia-China relations are progressing smoothly with frequent mutual visits by top officials of both sides, Patrushev said Guo's visit will surely help to promote bilateral cooperation on law enforcement and security, adding that Russia is willing to work for closer coordination with China and jointly deal with common threats and challenges. During his visit, Guo also met with heads of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, Federal Security Service, Federal Guard Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with several cooperation agreements signed between China and Russia. ^ top ^

No China-US "duel of the century": Chinese ambassador to Belgium (Global Times)
2015-04-15
There will be no "duel of the century" between the United States and China, Chinese Ambassador to Belgium Qu Xing has said. Qu on Tuesday told a seminar, organized by the European International Relations Institution, that he is optimistic about the future of China-US relations. "I do not believe there will be any duel of the century in Eurasia between the United States and China," he said. "As a result of technological development, emerging powers and established powers are perfectly capable of achieving a win-win scenario. After all, today's world marked by globalization, high technology and interdependence between different countries is quite different from that of the colonial era 100 years ago," said the ambassador. Qu noted bilateral differences indeed existed over international issues such as those relating to Iraq, Libya and Syria. "The United States believes that democracy can be introduced into countries by using military force. We Chinese believe that a reckless use of force against other countries will create more problems than solutions." Qu also said that a new type of relations between the United States and China requires the keeping of differences under control. Qu summarized his speech by urging the United States to see China "as a friend" and said only joint efforts could further the development of China-US relations. Addressing the seminar, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Mission to the Kingdom of Belgium, Mark C. Storella said that despite the differences, he looks forward to the development of Sino-US relations and considered "cooperation" as the key word in future bilateral relations. ^ top ^

PLA to buy advanced missiles from Russia (China Daily)
2015-04-16
The deployment of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system will substantially improve China's air defense capability, military experts said as Russian media reported that China has bought the cutting-edge weapon. "The S-400 is definitely one of the top anti-aircraft weapons in the world. It will greatly supplement the People's Liberation Army's air defense system, which now has some loopholes in long-range, high-altitude defense of airplanes or ballistic missiles," said Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine. "The system has multiple types of missiles with various ranges, enabling it to safeguard a very large area of airspace. Some of its missiles are even specifically designed to intercept ballistic missiles," Wang said. "Moreover, some of its launch tubes can store and launch several different missiles, which makes it very convenient and fast to use." Russia has a long history of developing anti-aircraft and missile defense weapons, so the S-400 is a concentration of some of the most advanced missile technologies Russia has, such as an active electronically scanned array radar, according to Wang. "China still lacks experience in the development of long-range air defense systems, especially those that can intercept ballistic missiles. There is no shortcut because the development of such sophisticated weapons requires a great number of experiments and tests. It is a matter of time and resource input," he added. According to Russian media reports, the S-400 is a new-generation, anti-aircraft weapon system capable of engaging any aerial target, including airplanes, helicopters and drones, as well as cruise and tactical ballistic missiles, with a maximum speed of 4.8 km per second. The system's 40N6 missile can destroy airborne targets at ranges up to 400 km. Anatoly Isaikin, chief executive of the Russian state-run arms trader Rosoboronexport, confirmed on Monday that China has a contract with his company for the purchase of the S-400 air defense systems. "I will not disclose the details of the contract, but yes, China has indeed become the first buyer of this sophisticated Russian air defense system. It underlines once again the strategic level of our relations," Isaikin told the Russian newspaper Kommersant. China clinched the deal in September at a cost of more than $3 billion for the delivery of at least six S-400 battalions, Moscow Times reported. Currently, China relies on its domestically developed HQ-9 and the Russian-made S-300 missile system, according to Western military observers. Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the operational ranges of modern military aircraft and missiles are much longer than their predecessors, so an effective defense system must have long-range missiles that can hit aircraft as well as cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles. "Our air force has deployed the Russian S-300 systems, which are good at dealing with aircraft, but their performance in intercepting cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles is not very satisfactory," he said. "After we commission the S-400, it can work with the HQ-9 and S-300 to form a fully covered air defense network." Zhao Zhihua, a senior missile researcher at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a major developer of China's missiles, said that through the introduction of the S-400, China can gain a lot of experience and expertise on how to operate a missile defense system. "Operating such a complex system will go beyond our current knowledge and experience, which in turn will teach us things that we don't know, so it is worthy spending big money buying it," he previously told the Ordnance Industry Science and Technology magazine.^ top ^

First lady plays key role in diplomacy (China Daily)
2015-04-16
The first lady's international image and activities are important to China's public diplomacy, according to China's first public diplomacy research report released on Wednesday. "China has conveyed kindness and goodwill to the world through the first lady's public diplomacy when the country has been challenged during the rapid economic development," said the report by Renmin University of China, which analyzes China's public diplomatic practices from various perspectives, including those of the government, enterprises and the media. "Since Peng Liyuan, China's first lady, paid a formal visit to Russia with President Xi Jinping in March 2013, her modesty, appearance and elegant manners, as well as her passion for charity and attention to vulnerable groups, have enchanted domestic and international media. Most foreign media believe that Peng Liyuan is a positive factor raising China's image and have called her China's new business card," wrote Zhou Jiali, researcher from the public diplomacy research center at China Foreign Affairs University. The public diplomacy report collected data from Peng's international visits and summarized that the first lady has charmed the world in four ways-her personal appearance to convey Chinese culture, charity actions to communicate love and care, music to open communication and a successful marriage to the leader. Peng is a popular folk song singer and well-known musician in China. People from other countries might not understand the Chinese language but, as Peng said, 'music hasno boundaries'.Music is an important way to communicate with foreign people, the report said. Peng sang a classic Chinese folk song Red Plum Blossoming with Russian artists during the international visit in March 2013. She visited the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin with Joachim Sauer, the husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in March 2014 and engaged in other similar activities during formal overseas visits. Peng has been telling of China's kindness through music and gaining resonance with the world, the report said. "China's actions draw the world's attention now. When China's policies adjust, it affects the global economy. Also, Chinese people have become more interested in international affairs. If a Chinese student studies in the United States, the parents care about the exchange rate of the renminbi and US dollar," said Zhao Qizheng, chief editor of the report and the former minister of China's State Council Information Office, adding that it is important that foreign people know China through public diplomacy. "International media usually diminish China in terms of the Chinese threat, and China's products being bad, etc. However, China is not bad," Zhao said, adding that it is necessary to demonstrate an authentic image of China to the world through public diplomacy. The report also analyzes the role of Chinese enterprises and nongovernment organizations in public diplomacy. ^ top ^

Infrastructure deals on Chinese president's agenda in Pakistan (SCMP)
2015-04-17
China's massive plans to boost regional infrastructure links will be on the agenda when President Xi Jinping makes his much-delayed first state visit to Pakistan next week. The trip could also yield a commitment from the two allies to step up co-ordination over security in Afghanistan. Xi was originally due to visit Pakistan in September, but political unrest, including protests led by Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan, kept the Chinese president away. Instead, Xi's trip took him to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. There had been speculation that Islamabad would invite Xi for its national military parade on March 23 – about two months after US President Barack Obama was the main guest at India's Republic Day parade, but Xi did not attend the event. Without giving further details, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam said on Thursday that Xi would visit on Monday and Tuesday. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he had no “information to provide” on Xi's trip. After Pakistan, Xi will head to Indonesia for the Asian African Conference Commemoration. Observers expect Pakistan and China to sign a series of major infrastructure deals during Xi's visit, given China's concerted push on the “One Belt One Road” initiative to bolster links with Asia and Europe. “The visit is significant and is intended to show that China has high regard for its neighbours,” said Wang Dehua, a professor of South Asian studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies. “Both nations have great expectations of each other in terms of the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative.” The two countries are also expected to discuss a US$46 billion series of road, rail and energy projects to link southern Pakistan's Gwadar Port with China's northwestern Xinjiang. “Pakistan is a key post for the connectivity plan,” Wang said, adding that China wants to find alternatives to the Strait of Malacca for energy imports from the Middle East and Africa. “China is poised to become the world's largest oil importer and many Chinese exports are also through the Strait of Malacca,” Wang said. “The Gwadar [Port], at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and outside the Strait of Hormuz, is strategically important for China.” Hu Shisheng, a South Asian affairs expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Beijing could use the trip to strengthen the perception of China and Pakistan as “all-weather friends”. “If the visit was part of a South Asian tour that included India, then people would compare India and Pakistan,” he said. “That distraction would not occur if Pakistan was Xi's only stop in the region.” Zahid Anwar, a political science professor at the University of Peshawar, said Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would also discuss security in Afghanistan. Beijing has expressed concerns about terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan entering Xinjiang, and has pledged to help broker talks between political factions in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is of converging interest between China and Pakistan. Both nations want to maintain peace and stability in the region,” he said. Pakistani media also reported that the two nations might seal a US$5 billion deal to sell Pakistan eight Chinese submarines. ^ top ^

China complains to S. Africa over xenophobic attacks (Xinhua)
2015-04-17
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that China has already made formal complaints to South Africa over xenophobic attacks against Chinese nationals. Scores of shops owned by Chinese nationals have been looted during the latest spate of violence, which was sparked by growing complaints by locals that foreigners have entered the country illegally, engaged in illegal trade and committed crimes. At least six people have reportedly been killed in the violence that erupted on March 25, most of them foreigners. More than 100 foreign-owned shops have been burned and thousands of foreigners displaced. The Chinese Embassy and Consulates in South Africa have expressed sympathy for Chinese nationals ransacked by disgruntled locals and filed complaints to local police, urging them to take immediate and effective measures to protect the personal safety and property of Chinese nationals, said spokesperson Hong Lei. The Chinese Embassy and Consulates in South Africa have also issued risk alerts through a variety of channels to remind Chinese citizens and enterprises to strengthen safety precautions, he said. Hong said the Chinese Foreign Ministry as well as the Chinese Embassy and Consulates in South Africa will continue to pay close attention to the situation and safeguard the security and lawful rights and interests of China's citizens. ^ top ^

Chinese president to visit Pakistan, attend meetings in Indonesia (Xinhua)
2015-04-17
Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan and attend meetings in Indonesia next week, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced on Friday morning. President Xi will pay a state visit to Pakistan from Monday to Tuesday at the invitation of Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Lu Kang said in a statement. Invited by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, President Xi will attend the Asian-African Summit and activities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference from Tuesday to Friday in Indonesia, Lu said. ^ top ^

Search area for missing Malaysian flight MH370 to be doubled if no wreckage found in current zone (Xinhua)
2015-04-17
Senior officials from Malaysia, Australia and China met here Thursday for the MH370 Third Tripartite Ministerial Meeting, agreeing that the search zone will be doubled if the missing Malaysian aircraft is not found in the current search area of 60,000 square kilometers. The officials were given a detailed briefing on the search efforts in the current priority area by the Australian side and reached a deal on the search work in the future. They agreed that if the wreckage is found in the current area, the recovery work will be organized. Should the aircraft not be found within the current area, the search will be extended by an additional 60,000 square kilometers in the north of the current area identified by the experts. The Chinese side said that it will make arrangements for the future search work along with Malaysia and Australia, try to locate the aircraft as soon as possible and give an explanation to the families of those aboard the flight. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai chaired the meeting with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Chinese Transport Minister Yang Chuantang. The three parties extended appreciation to the international community and related countries for their contribution to the search efforts for MH370 in the past year, saying that the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China have made effective cooperation in the areas of search, investigation and family support. Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.  ^ top ^

China-themed contest launched to mark 40 years of ties with EU (Global Times)
2015-04-17
The Mission of China to the EU here on Wednesday announced to launch a China-themed contest to mark the 40th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic relationship. The contest, with the theme of "China Unlimited", can be joined by participants in all of the four different categories - essay writing, photo, video and fine art. And the participation is open to people from across Europe, with no age limits and free interpretation of the topic. "It could mean anything for anyone with an interest in China. And it aims to open up a conversation with European citizens to see how they perceive China and view the future of China-EU relations," said Jiang Xiaoyan, spokesperson for the Mission of China to the EU. Through the "China Unlimited" contest, which will run until July 31, the Mission warmly encourages all EU citizens to engage in China-EU friendly exchanges, she said. All selected entries to the competition will be published on the China Unlimited website, where viewers will be able to vote for their favorite pieces and decide on the shortlist for the big prize. The final selection will be made by a panel of high-level judges, and the winners announced at a high-profile event in Brussels in September. The contest was held by the Mission of China to the EU, in collaboration with the College of Europe and Atlas International Culture. "The 40th anniversary of China-EU diplomatic ties celebrated this year is a valuable opportunity to look to the future and deepen our cooperation, which also means developing our cultural understanding", said head of the Mission of China to the EU Yang Yanyi. To celebrate the anniversary Brussels will be buzzing with China-related events in the coming months, including Qigong workshops, a Chinese film festival and a table tennis competition. ^ top ^

Belt and Road Initiative open to all (China Daily)
2015-04-16
Any country interested in the Belt and Road Initiative is welcome to participate, a China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) official said on Thursday. Ou Xiaoli, an inspector in the Department of Western Development of the NDRC, who is also in the State Council's working group on the initiative, made the remark at a briefing for foreign diplomats held by the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. More than 60 countries have so far shown interest and willingness to cooperate, but the initiative will not be limited to those countries, Ou said. The Eurasian continent has the developed European economic circle at one end and the vibrant East Asia economic circle at the other, but encompassing countries have huge potential for economic development, Ou said. China offers a vision to make the economy of Eurasia more vibrant and dynamic, which will further benefit the world, he said. "We welcome any country which has interest in it and hope there will be more and more participants," he said. The "Belt and Road Initiative" was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the purpose of rejuvenating the two ancient trading routes and further opening markets in a mutually beneficial manner. "Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road" was jointly released by the NDRC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce on March 28. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one direction, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. "Chinese authorities have had a great deal of talks on the initiative, and the most important thing I learned from the briefing is its openness," said John Kavanagh, Irish ambassador to China. "It's not restricted to a specific list of countries, either defined by geography or by economic situation". Concerning infrastructure construction, industrial development and resource cooperation, countries involved have different situations, so there are also many new challenges in the process, Ou said. Countries involved should enhance communication and establish systems to provide institutional guarantees and better serve the interests of the investors, he added. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

10,000 protest in Chinese city over planned coal-fired power plant (SCMP)
2015-04-13
Around 10,000 residents of Heyuan in northeastern Guangdong took to the streets on Sunday to protest against a new coal-fired power plant, according to demonstrators. Minor scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and members of the mainland's special police but there were no reports of injuries. The demonstration began with thousands of people staging a peaceful sit-in outside city government offices at about 8am. Many wore surgical masks and stickers denouncing the plant. Police dispersed the crowd at around 10am, sending the protesters into the streets, where the numbers quickly swelled to around 10,000 before noon. The crowd marched through the downtown area, chanting "Give me back my blue sky" and "Go away power plant". Some protesters held small signs that read: "Stop feeding people with smog". "This is not just a small fraction of people with an ulterior motive but a concrete outpouring of public opinion from the entire Heyuan public. From babies to the elderly, everyone is appealing to our government to stop polluting our sky," a woman protester said, refusing to be named. Xinhua carried a report on the demonstration and put the number of participants in the thousands. But photos of the gathering suggested the crowd could be much bigger. The city is home to the Xinfengjiang Reservoir, a major source of water for Hong Kong, and already has one coal-fired plant supplying electricity. Shenzhen Energy is spending 8 billion yuan (HK$10.12 billion) to build the new plant, which will generate 11 billion kWh annually. The Shenzhen government is the major shareholder in Shenzhen Energy. Construction was due to begin this year, according to local media. Protesters staged another sit-in about 200 metres from the administration office around lunchtime. Huang Jianzhong, the deputy party secretary of Heyuan, addressed the crowd in the afternoon, saying the project was only in the preliminary study stage. Another march began at 4pm that saw main roads blocked. The city government could not be reached for comment. Last month, residents collected more than 30,000 signatures against the project. ^ top ^

Cancer hotels on the rise in Beijing as patient numbers soar (SCMP)
2015-04-13
Li Xiaohe has set herself up for the long haul in a cramped but sunny room in western Beijing, a block from the mainland's most renowned cancer hospital. Her laundry dries on hangers and her husband cooks in a communal kitchen as she embarks on an 84-day programme of chemotherapy, after the removal of part of her right breast. The soft-spoken 43-year-old, who works as a neighbourhood watch leader back home in Henan province, is living in one of the many so-called cancer hotels that dot the area around the hospital, giving patients an affordable, cosy place to wait for appointments. Such hotels have sprouted up in big cities as part of an ad hoc response to surging rates of lung, bowel and breast cancer. These patients venture far for treatment believing they can't find adequate care in hometowns, instead preferring to camp out near reputable, big-city hospitals to await their turn for treatment. They do that even though government health insurance often covers less of the cost of care in Beijing and other big cities than it does back home. The hotels, which mostly operate informally, don't provide nursing but put patients closer to medical services and experts, and give them a place to cook and share tips with fellow patients. Despite their name, they are not traditional hotels, but furnished units in residential blocks near medical facilities, charging as little as 40 yuan (HK$50) a night per room. And while they occupy a legal grey zone, doctors often refer patients to them, and state-run media have published glowing articles about them. Lung cancer diagnoses nationwide have jumped by 16 per cent in two years, and the lung cancer rate in Beijing has soared by 60 per cent over a decade, according to the central government. Lung cancer mortality rates grew from 50 per 100,000 men in 2000 to 60 per 100,000 a dozen years later, World Health Organisation figures show. Breast cancer rates have also grown, killing almost as many women yearly as lung cancer. By comparison, male lung cancer mortality rates in the United States have dropped from 55 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 40 in 2012, and from almost 25 per 100,000 Brazilian men in 2000 to 20 in 2012, says the WHO. Persistently high rates of smoking as well as toxic air pollution explained much of the rise, said Angela Pratt, who leads the WHO's work in China on tobacco control and cancer. "The rates of cancer, both the number of cases and the rates at which people are dying of cancer, are increasing in China, and that's obviously a cause for very significant concern," Pratt said. "That's a huge increase in a relatively short amount of time. I would say it's a critical situation." Evidence of that surge fills the Beijing Cancer Hospital, where patients fill the corridors. The owner of the cancer hotel, Chen Shuhong, said she had seen the need for her rooms expand over the past decade. She started with a flat left to her by an uncle who died at age 59 of lung cancer. She now rents 10 flats to cancer patients. ^ top ^

Former head of China's regulator of state-owned companies goes on trial for corruption (SCMP)
2015-04-13
The former head of China's state asset regulator went on trial this morning accused of bribery, abuse of power and other corrupt practices, the state news agency Xinhua reports. Jiang Jiemin, 59, ran the Assets Supervision and Administration Commission for only five months before he was sacked after being accused of corruption in September 2013. He was formally charged last month. His trial began at 8.30am at the Hanjiang Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province, Xinhua said, without providing further details. Jiang is also a former head of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), parent company of PetroChina, and a close associate of Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security chief, who has also been charged with corruption. While filing Jiang's indictment last month, the prosecutors accused him of taking huge bribes, having assets that he could not account for and abusing his power while at CNPC. It is unclear how long the trial will last. Typically, cases can take only a day or two to be heard, with a verdict delivered a few weeks later. Jiang is a key member of the so-called “Petroleum Gang”, a Communist Party faction named by Xinhua in January. He first crossed paths with Zhou at the Shengli oilfield in eastern Shandong province in the late 1980s. Jiang was the party head of the Shengli oil plant, while Zhou was chief of the Shengli Petroleum Administrative Bureau from 1989 to 1990. He joined CNPC in 1999, one year after Zhou stepped down as its general manager to become the Minister for Land and Resources. Jiang was appointed the chairman of PetroChina in 1999, before leaving to become vice-governor of Qinghai province. He returned to CNPC five years later and was appointed its general manager in 2006. While at CNPC, Jiang was caught in the fallout of the scandal following a fatal Ferrari crash in Beijing in 2012. The only son of Ling Jihua, the one-time aide to former president Hu Jintao, died in the accident, which left two passengers seriously injured. The South China Morning Post reported that Jiang was questioned by graft-busters over the transfer of a large sum of money from CNPC to the families of the two injured victims of the crash. ^ top ^

Ministry orders to tackle pollution in wetland near Beijing (Xinhua)
2015-04-12
China's central environmental authority ordered local government to tackle pollution with Baiyangdian Wetland in north China's Hebei Province. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and the provincial government of Hebei jointly "invited" officals of the municipal government of Baoding for a talk on this issue, the ministry announced in a statement on Sunday. The Baoding government was ordered to practice its duty and strengthen management of construction projects around the wetland, which is north China's largest freshwater wetland about 150 km away from Beijing. The wetland is known for scenic views and ecological functions. It is also an important site for migratory birds on the East Asian- Australian flyway. Earlier reports revealed that some unauthorized development projects have polluted the environment and caused damages to the wetland's ecology. During the talk, Zou Shoumin, the ministry's environmental inspection department chief, told the local officials to conduct a thorough check and strictly punish environmental violations in this area. No industrial waste could be discharged into the wetland and domestic sewage runoff by nearby residents should also be properly handled, Zou said. The official told the local government to clean up illegal aquaculture and tourism projects in the wetland. All these measures should be put in place before the end of June, the official said. Officials from Baoding government promised to implement the requirements of the ministry and the provincial government before the deadline, according to the ministry's statement. ^ top ^

Chinese army applies stricter rules in recruiting CPC members (Xinhua)
2015-04-13
Chinese military forces will adopt a set of revised rules, including stricter standards and procedures, in recruiting Communist Party of China (CPC) members from soldiers and officers. "New CPC members recruited in violation of the rules will not be acknowledged," said the revised regulation published by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Political Department on Sunday. The regulation calls for prudent, balanced and well-organized work in recruitment to make sure that new CPC members meet the requirements of the CPC Constitution for qualified members. "The political standards should be given top priority," the regulation said. It also added that such recruitment should not be conducted in a haste. "Recruiting new CPC members in the military should follow the Party's fundamental theories, guidelines and basic requirements and serve to strengthen the armed forces," the document said, noting that the total number of CPC members in the military should be kept under control and their personal qualities should be improved. Those to be recruited should have faith in Marxism, communism and socialism with Chinese characteristics and they should be committed to the socialist core values, it said. The regulation also stipulated stricter review and approval procedures in the recruitment and pledged serious investigation and punishment for violations in the process. The revised regulation has been approved by Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission. ^ top ^

Changes afoot as more students arrive in China from abroad (Global Times)
2015-04-13
When the first foreign students arrived in Beijing at the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), they were gawked at by locals who hadn't seen Westerners before. Today, Beijing hosts tens of thousands of foreign students a year. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to recent statistics released by the Chinese Ministry of Education, China is now the third most popular destination for foreign students, surpassing France. Over 370,000 students from 203 countries enrolled in China's universities, research and education institutions in 2014, a 5.77 percent increase year on year. About 60 percent of the foreign students in China are from Asia, with the largest numbers of students coming from South Korea, the United States and Thailand, with Russia, Japan, Indonesia and India coming up behind. Re-positioning: Changes are afoot in the population of foreign students studying in China. According to a report released during the first international forum on foreign students studying in China, held on March 24, the number of foreign students from developed countries is decreasing, while the number of students from developing countries is increasing. Also, the report shows that growth in the number of foreign students slowed in 2013 and 2014, after a decade of rapid, continuous expansion. Despite an enormous number of foreign students in China hailing from Asia, 225,490 in 2014, the growth in the number of Asian students is actually decreasing, at just 2.58 percent in 2014, the smallest increase in the past 10 years. Besides, Southeast Asia is rising. Chen Zhiwen, the chief editor of eol.cn, one of the biggest educational websites in China, says there are a few trends worth paying attention to. "First, the growth of foreign students studying in China from traditional [feeder] regions is slowing, growth in Korean students is holding steady, and growth in the number of students from the United States is decreasing. Second, new sources are on the rise; Thailand [has outstripped Japan] to become the third largest source of foreign students in China, while more and more foreign students in China are from Africa and Europe," Chen told the new portal gmw.cn. "Many people think that China should focus on attracting students from developed countries. However, the statistics show that the focus should shift to Asia, because [students in] neighboring countries can be more easily influenced," he said, citing data from 2014 that showed more than 13,000 students in China arriving from Pakistan, a 7.1 times increase over 2005. "Countries involved with the 'One Belt, One Road Initiative' could contribute to the foreign students market," Chen noted. Stepping into their shoes: Early in 2011, the Chinese government announced plans to attract 500,000 foreign students by 2020, with 180,000 studying in Beijing and 80,000 in Shanghai. But how can educational institutions make themselves more attractive? Chen said stepping into the shoes of foreign students is a must. "Many colleges and universities only think from their own point of view, ignoring the needs of foreign students," he said, explaining that many institutions only have Chinese websites and Chinese enrollment forms. A survey conducted by China's University and College Admission System which interviewed 6,000 foreign students, found that 90 percent of the interviewees would choose to study a course that was taught in English. But the reality is that only 15 percent of colleges and universities had such courses in 2014. "Teaching in Putonghua is one of the main factors that limits the number of foreign students in China," Hong Chengwen, a professor at the Institute of Higher Education at Beijing Normal University said, adding that scholarships are typically available only for very dull courses, as state funds are often the only donor. Hong suggested policymakers consider whether universities' credits can be freely transferred to other universities before accepting transfer students, which is another major constraint on the number of foreign students at present. Chen argues that quality is a vital factor, pointing out that nearly 80 percent of the foreign students apply to institutions that ranked in top 50 nationally, resulting in inadequate enrollment in the rest of China's higher education institutions. He suggests increasing the teaching quality in both Chinese and English classes offered to foreigners, strengthening training of teachers nationwide, and improving the rigid management system in higher education to improve services. "The profit bought by an international student is two to three times that of a domestic student. With a decreasing number of students taking the national college entrance examinations, attracting more foreign students is vital to higher education's development," Chen said. Starting from September 1, 2014, China has increased the amount of subsidies in scholarships to foreign students in order to enhance its programs attractiveness. The subsidy for a bachelor degree ranges from a minimum of 59,200 yuan ($9,536) to the highest of 66,200 yuan per year. Subsidy for a master degree range from 70,200 to 79,200 yuan and for a doctoral degree from 89,800 to 99,800 yuan. At the moment, the tuition fee to international students in China is about 20,000 yuan [in average] a year for a bachelor degree, 25,000 yuan for a master degree and 32,000 yuan for a doctoral degree. According to San Jose Mercury News, foreign students studying in China mainly do so because of scholarships, cheap tuition fees compared to the US, and its language environment. But, foreign students in China do not tend to stay to work in the country because it still lacks employment and visa policies that benefit foreign graduates and attract them to stay. According to a report published in 2013, 55 out of 81 Korean students in China said they chose to go back to Korea to work and 14 stayed in China for employment after graduation. ^ top ^

Gender equality movement HeForShe lands in China (Global Times)
2015-04-12
Nearly 100 Tsinghua University students signed a pledge to advocate gender equality at an event held at the university on Sunday to launch UN-backed solidarity campaign HeForShe in China. "While the pledge is symbolic, we are asking for specific action that contributes to social change. We are asking those who sign up to define what they will do to make a difference," said Roberta Clarke, regional director of UN Women Asia Pacific, at the event. She pointed to distinctly Chinese issues of gender equality including a preference for sons which has led to a skewed sex ration. The campaign is aimed mainly at males, "engaging men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their full potential". Backed by actress Emma Watson, the organizers of HeForShe claim to have received gender equality commitments from hundreds of thousands of men around the world including Heads of State, CEOs and global luminaries since launching in September. "Girls and women are still disadvantaged in China," particularly in the job market, said Long Yifan, a 23-year-old graduate student at Tsinghua. Employers discriminate against women, assuming that they will marry, have children, and either drop out of the workforce or spend a lot of time caring for their children, Clarke said. But this assumption exists because, in China, typically, women carry out almost three times as much unpaid housework as men, taking care of the home and looking after ageing parents as well as children, she added. "Many of my female classmates have performed outstandingly in their studies, and if given the same chance, they could do much better than men," Long said. "When I become a husband, I will never let my wife give up her own career for housework. When I become a father, I will respect my daughter's personal choice," said 23-year-old economics major Yuan Bo. Many non-students also attended the launch event. According to one of them, Shi Zhongqin, manager of Proya Cosmetics Corporation, his company has committed to building toilets with a 3-to-1 ratio of women's to men's cubicles, to wipe out long lines at women's restrooms. Chinese film star Li Guangfu appealed for women-only compartments on the subway in order to protect women from sexual harassment. ^ top ^

Five detained Chinese women's rights activists released on bail (SCMP)
2015-04-14
China has unexpectedly released five women activists on bail, two lawyers said, after a vocal campaign against their detention by the West and Chinese rights campaigners. The women were taken into custody on the weekend of March 8, International Women's Day, and detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. They had planned to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport. Their case has outraged a swath of Chinese society. Dozens of students and workers have signed petitions calling for their release. US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry also called for their release, prompting China's Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal protest with Washington The European Union also expressed concern about the case. Wei Tingting, 26, Wang Man, 32, Zheng Churan, 25, Li Tingting, 25, and Wu Rongrong, 30, have been released on bail, Liang Xiaojun and Wang Qiushi, two lawyers involved in the case, said, citing accounts from family members. Police did not immediately respond to a written request for comment. “I'm not surprised at all because they've never committed any crimes,” said Liang. "They've taken people into custody without any evidence of wrongdoing, so they have to release them.” Liang said the women were still considered suspects, adding that “their freedoms will be restricted, so it's not something that we should be happy about”. Wang, one of the released women, told Feng Yuan, a veteran women rights activist, that she was heading to the northern city of Tianjin, where her parents live. “She said her mental state is quite good and she thanks everyone and her lawyers for their concern,” Feng said. Liang said he believed the international calls in support of the women played a part in their release. China's Foreign Ministry has repeatedly decried what it says are unwarranted attempts by foreigners to interfere in the country's internal affairs, adding the case will be handled in accordance with the law. The detained women took part in a 2012 campaign to press for more public toilets for women and a 2013-14 campaign against domestic violence. President Xi Jinping's administration has detained hundreds of activists in the past two years in what some rights groups say is the worst clampdown on dissent in two decades. ^ top ^

China's Jiang Jiemin raises no objections at his trial for corruption and bribery (SCMP)
2015-04-14
A top official who led China's biggest petroleum company and was later assigned to oversee state-owned companies admitted in court yesterday that he was guilty of corruption and abuse of power, the court said. "My family property went far beyond what my legal income could afford," said Jiang Jiemin, according to a statement posted on the microblog of the Hanjiang Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province. "I admit my crimes and express my regret." The hearing ended yesterday afternoon and a date for sentencing was not announced. Jiang is a former chairman of the state-run China National Petroleum Corporation, which has been the target of a graft investigation amid a larger anti-corruption campaign that has netted top officials and others. Jiang was charged with taking bribes, possessing a large number of assets from unidentified sources and abusing his position at a state-owned enterprise. Jiang, either directly or through his wife, received bribes worth about 14 million yuan (HK$17.7 million) from 14 sources between 2004 and 2013, state-run Xinhua reported, citing prosecution documents. The court said on its microblog that prosecutors had presented evidence including witness statements, confessions and confiscated items, and posted a photo of a pale-faced Jiang in the dock flanked by two police officers. It quoted Jiang as saying he had caused "undeniable damage" to the country and hurt the public's trust in the Communist Party. "I sabotaged the management and development of state oil and gas fields," he said, according to the court, while also asking for lenient treatment. "I felt remorse for what I have done". Prosecutors asked for leniency because he pleaded guilty. Jiang was chairman of CNPC, the parent company of PetroChina, Asia's biggest oil producer, before being appointed in 2013 to the Cabinet body that oversees China's biggest state-owned companies. Jiang was fired in September 2013 after he came under investigation for graft. A series of senior figures from the state-owned oil industry have been detained in the crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that appears to be aimed at tightening central control over PetroChina and other powerful state companies. The energy industry was a power base for Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief, who was arrested in December on charges including leaking state secrets. Control over state companies can provide political figures with jobs to reward supporters and money to promote their own careers. Jiang was believed to have links to Zhou, although prosecutors have not cited any link between the two cases. Xinhua said that Jiang, under Zhou's instruction, had abused his power in handling gas field exploration and equipment tendering. While at CNPC, Jiang was caught in the fallout of the scandal following a fatal Ferrari crash in Beijing in 2012. The only son of Ling Jihua, the one-time aide to former president Hu Jintao, died in the accident, which left two passengers seriously injured. The South China Morning Post reported that Jiang was questioned by graft-busters over the transfer of a large sum of money from CNPC to the families of the two injured victims, one of whom died. At a court in Zhuhai, Tao Yuchun, the former general manager of the CNPC-affiliated Kunlin Natural Gas Utilisation Company, stood trial for receiving bribes of about 52 million yuan, and creating a loss of 261 million yuan in national assets, Xinhua reported. ^ top ^

Four Chinese female passengers detained for fighting during a domestic flight (SCMP)
2015-04-15
Four Chinese air passengers have been detained by police after a fight allegedly broke out during a domestic flight yesterday afternoon, the Shanghai news website Thepaper.cn reports. This is only the latest in a series of cases of badly behaviour mainland travellers. Witnesses said an angry dispute between four women yesterday over the adjustment of seats on a Shenzhen-bound flight turned into a physical confrontation with the women standing up pulling one another's hair. The Shenzhen Airlines flight ZH9724, travelling from Dalian, with a stopover in Nantong, landed safely and the four women, aged between 30 and 50, from Liaoning province, were detained by police. They will be held in custody for five days for endangering the safety of an aircraft, Nantong police confirmed. Thepaper.cn reported that police were notified about the altercation by the aircraft's crew before the plane landed. In December state media branded a group of mainland airline passengers “barbarians” after they scalded a Thai stewardess with hot water and noodles and threatened to blow up the plane during a flight from Bangkok to Nanjing. Chinese authorities have said they will rank the different levels of bad behaviour of “uncivilised” mainland tourists so the travel industry can share data and choose whether or not to do business with them, state media said. ^ top ^

Son of late Communist Party chief warns China against slipping back to Mao era ideology (SCMP)
2015-04-15
Twenty-six years after the death of liberal Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, his son says he should be remembered for having tried to bring China onto the path of democracy and rule of law - and warns against slipping back to Mao-era ideology. Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of today's anniversary of the former leader's death, Hu Dehua said his father's legacies included freeing people from the torment of the Cultural Revolution and steering China into an era of reform. "He ended a disaster like the Cultural Revolution, put a stop to class struggles, focused on building the country and embarked on democracy and the rule of law so people would no longer be incriminated for what they said," Hu Dehua said. "So today, we shouldn't go backwards." Since taking power, President Xi Jinping has alarmed liberals by invoking many Mao-era slogans and practices, such as the "rectification" anti-graft campaign and a "mass line" ideology movement. He has also denounced Western democratic ideals and escalated a crackdown on government critics. Xi has also said "one should not use post-reform history to negate the pre-reform years" - which many see as an indication of his endorsement of Maoist ideology. Hu Yaobang is most remembered for his liberal thinking, which freed China from the strictures of Maoist dogma but led to his removal from the top post by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in January 1987. Hu Dehua said he was "grateful" that the party would commemorate the centenary of his father's birth this November, but said this did not amount to a reversal of the official verdict in 1987 that the liberal leader had made "grave mistakes". "The commemoration and the verdict on him are not the same thing," his son said. "He was a party chief who was toppled for having made grave mistakes … On this issue, they haven't said those party documents in 1987 [which condemned him] have been 8revoked." Hu Yaobang was purged for tolerating "bourgeois liberalisation" and was blamed for being too lenient with student protests in 1986 which called for democracy and freedoms. Hu Yaobang died on April 15, 1989, from a heart attack. Hundreds of thousands turned out on the streets and the mourning later transformed into the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. Hu's name, linked to the protests which ended in the June 4 crackdown, has scarcely been mentioned in state media for 26 years. The Communist Party marked the 90th anniversary of Hu's birth in 2005 with a low-key, closed-door ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. It was attended by then-premier Wen Jiabao and vice-president Zeng Qinghong, but then-president Hu Jintao was absent. Hu Dehua was unsure who would attend this year. Political commentator Ching Cheong said the party's commemoration of Hu Yaobang without a formal rehabilitation of his name showed it was trying to avoid the June 4 subject. He said the political significance of Hu lay in his efforts to eradicate Maoist dogma but Xi's revival of Maoism ran contrary to that spirit. "The thing to watch for is whether Xi Jinping will attend the ceremony," Ching said. ^ top ^

Watchdog urges nuclear plant to address potential safety issues (Global Times)
2015-04-15
China's nuclear authorities pledged on Tuesday not to approve the initial loading of nuclear fuels into two reactors until possible safety issues are resolved, media outlets reported. The announcement came after media reports revealed that the Taishan 1 and 2 nuclear reactors in Guangdong Province may have safety issues. A reactors built by one of their suppliers, Creusot Forge, a subsidiary of French state-owned group Areva which supplied reactor parts to French energy group EDF, was found to have potential weak spots, said the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) on April 8. The Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd was instructed by the National Nuclear Safety Administration to look for and solve any safety problems and to cooperate with the ASN, Tang Bo, a nuclear safety administration official, told the Beijing-based newspaper China Environment News. "Only when problems in reactors … are identified and solved will we allow nuclear fuels to be loaded into the Taishan plant for the first time and for it to begin to operate," Tang said. Areva has found weak spots in the steel of the EPR nuclear reactor, which it is building for EDF in Flamanville, France, ASN was quoted as saying by Reuters on April 7. ASN said Areva had informed it that tests conducted at the end of 2014 had shown that in certain parts of the EPR reactor there were significant concentrations of carbon, which can weaken the mechanical resilience of the steel and its ability to resist the spread of cracks, Reuters reported. It is unknown if the Taishan reactors have the same problem. China's 23 operational nuclear power plants have had no major problems, while another 27 reactors that are under construction are being closely supervised by the authorities, according to Tang. China in March granted approval for the construction of the Hongyanhe nuclear power station in Liaoning Province, making it the first project to be given the go-ahead after a nearly four-year-long suspension of new projects due to safety concerns prompted by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power station accident in Japan, the Oriental Morning Post reported. ^ top ^

Major boost planned for national security network (China Daily)
2015-04-15
Work on setting up a "three-dimensional" security network is to be stepped up under a national policy package aimed at eradicating potential deadly attacks. This will include monitoring technologies, checking citizens' information, expanding security resources at community level and strengthening precautionary measures. Observers said the move to prevent such attacks mirrors the desire for a system that can adapt quickly and consistently to changing threats posed by terrorism. The decision was announced in a guideline issued jointly on Monday by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council. The network will include intensified counterterrorism operations on public transportation and a shared information database linked to identity card numbers. A nationwide population information database will be set up based on citizens' identity numbers, and unified credit record systems will also be established. According to the guideline, China is working hard to ensure there is "effective coercion against violent terrorist crimes and extremely violent private crimes". This is designed to make the "public feel safer and more satisfied". Action is expected soon on tackling preliminary problems "that may lead to deadly incidents or extreme accidents". The guideline adds that "major cases - especially those involving casualties - should be prevented and reduced". The guideline highlights the use of modern technology such as security video monitoring systems and information networks, stating that video monitoring systems will be increased in public areas. Tai Yunqi, a professor at People's Public Security University of China, said the new network has been proposed at a time when the anti-terrorism situation remains grim. The guideline aims to improve efficiency and have an influence on existing public security facilities, he said, adding that the distribution of resources will be more scientific. Authorities will reinforce police patrols, especially during morning and evening rush hours and in crowded places, according to the guideline. Security measures for public transportation, including buses, subways, railway stations, airports, ports and high-speed railway lines, will be stepped up to prevent violence, terrorist attacks or "extreme events", the document states. It also calls on police to intensify criminal investigations to solve deadly crimes or cases that may lead to "extreme situations". Administration in some key sectors will also be enforced and real-name registration required for hotels, the secondhand goods trade, motor refitting and recreational services, according to the guideline. A list of items banned from delivery will be extended to prevent crimes being committed through logistics services. Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said precautions should be prioritized and suspects should be monitored. The document states that all departments must work in a coordinated way to build the social security network in accordance with the rule of law. The government has vowed to recruit more community volunteers and to reward those reporting serious crimes. ^ top ^

Sky turns yellow as heavy sandstorm shrouds North China (Global Times)
2015-04-16
A strong sandstorm swept large swathes of north China on Wednesday, including Beijing, causing a yellow sky with gales. The storm hit Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Wednesday, reducing visibility to less than 300 meters in certain areas, said the regional meteorological station. The sandstorm, together with gales at maximum speeds of 75 km per hour, began to batter Beijing on Wednesday evening. Pedestrians in downtown Beijing wore masks or covered their mouths and noses with napkins, scarves and hands. The Beijing Meteorological Station upgraded its alert for the weather from blue to yellow, forecasting visibility of less than 1,000 meters for Wednesday night. The sandy weather also caused serious air pollution. A number of monitoring sites showed PM10 readings reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter on Wednesday evening, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. Parts of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Beijing, Tianjin, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei and Jilin will be affected by the dusty weather from Wednesday afternoon to evening, said the National Meteorological Center (NMC) on Tuesday. The NMC also forecast a strong cold front will sweep north China, including areas along the Yellow and Huaihe rivers, bringing temperature drops of up to 12 degrees Celsius with strong winds. ^ top ^

5.8-magnitude quake hits Inner Mongolia (Global Times)
2015-04-16
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake jolted Alashan Left Banner, Alashan League of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 3:39 pm Wednesday (Beijing Time), according to the China Earthquake Networks Center. The epicenter, with a depth of 10 kilometers, was monitored at 39.8 degrees north latitude and 106.3 degrees east longitude, the center said in a statement. ^ top ^

Winds delay Solar Impulse 2 round-the-world mission in western China (SCMP)
2015-04-17
Strong winds across much of China have resulted in Solar Impulse 2, the Swiss solar-powered plane on an around-the-world trip, being grounded in Chongqing for at least three weeks. The team had planned to fly from Chongqing to Nanjing yesterday but cancelled the flight at the last minute because of weather conditions. It had initially planned to leave Chongqing a few hours after the plane touched down on March 31. "Strong cross winds covering all China provided for a too narrow window for the landing in Nanjing and make the weather situation very unpredictable," the team said in an email. "The Solar Impulse team would like to apologise for the delays, we are working very hard to make it happen." The single-seater plane, made of solar panels and composite materials, is 72 metres wide but only weighs 2.3 tonnes, making it especially susceptible to wind and rain before it gains an altitude of up to 8,500 metres. The team said it was "especially grateful to the Chinese aviation authorities and air traffic control centres who gave us full flexibility for our planning". Nanjing will be the last stop before Andre Borschberg, one of the two pilots and founders of the project, will attempt the most challenging leg of the trip - a five-day, non-stop flight across the Pacific to Hawaii. The next possible weather window for departure from Chongqing to Nanjing was Tuesday, the team said. This means the plane is unlikely to return to Abu Dhabi, its departure point, by June as originally planned. It will visit four more locations in the United States and Europe after making it to Hawaii. The Solar Impulse project, initiated by Swiss explorer Bertrand Piccard, is on a mission to promote clean energy by attempting the round-the-world flight using no fuel. Piccard and Borschberg completed a tour across the US in 2013 using an earlier version. ^ top ^

Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu jailed for seven years for revealing state secrets (SCMP)
2015-04-17
Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu, known for her hard-hitting reports on elite politics, has been sentenced to seven years in jail for revealing state secrets, her family said. The Beijing No. 3 Intermediate Court handed down the judgment on Friday morning, according to her brother. Gao, 71, originally stood trial in Beijing in November and denied the charge, often used to jail journalists in China. Gao immediately said she wanted to appeal against the sentence. She remained calm and was smiling as she said she planned to appeal, her brother said. Gao has been detained since April 24 last year on suspicion of “leaking state secrets abroad”. State media alleged she had “illegally obtained a secret central [party] document and provided it to [an] overseas website”. The document is believed to be a party circular known as Document No 9 that ordered cadres to tackle seven subversive influences on society, including “Western constitutional democracy” and “universal values” such as human rights and free speech. She was forced to make a confession on state television last May, but later told prosecutors it was extracted under coercion when threats were made against her son. The charge of leaking state secrets abroad carries a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment. People familiar with Gao speculate that the authorities have long held a grudge against for her political writings and wanted to punish her. Gao had already spent a total of seven years in jail for her work. On the eve of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, she was locked up for 15 months. In 1993, she was jailed again for six years for leaking state secrets. In an interview before she was arrested last year, she said her experience only spurred her to probe more deeply into her country's affairs. “You can change mountains and rivers but not a person's nature – seven years in jail did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for news,” she said. ^ top ^

Chinese premier lashes out at foot-dragging officials over reform failures (SCMP)
2015-04-17
Premier Li Keqiang has lost patience with foot-dragging bureaucrats, lashing out at officials for holding up reforms amid an economic slowdown. In an outburst made public late on Wednesday, Li used a State Council meeting earlier in the day to complain that a few ministerial section chiefs were stalling key decisions despite a consensus among ministers. The comments underscored his frustration at the slow roll-out of his economic policies and came as the government decided to prioritise reforms to help revive the economy. They also came on the same day as the release of the mainland's worst quarterly gross domestic product figures in six years, which showed that the economy grew at 7 per cent in the first quarter. "If the central government takes more than a year of deliberation to come up with policies, and they then have to go through another year of red tape - is that some kind of joke?" Li was quoted as saying "sternly" in a statement posted on a government website. "Some policies that have been discussed and approved by ministers at State Council executive meetings are still stuck [in the system]. Are we letting a few section heads be the gatekeepers of [our decisions]? Isn't that turning the government work process upside down?" According to the statement, Li's outburst came after a departmental official said that some approved policies had still not been put into practice because they needed paperwork from various ministries. "Isn't it a waste of time?" Li reportedly said, interrupting the official. "When you ministers attended meetings, no different opinions were flagged. Now you need your section heads to vet [decisions]?" The bureaucracy is notorious for delays in implementing central government policy - so much so that there is a popular saying: "Policies and orders made in Zhongnanhai [the headquarters of the central government] do not go out of Zhongnanhai." Li has repeatedly criticised officials for such inaction. At a State Council meeting last May, he described the foot-dragging as a form of corruption that stopped good policies from getting expected results. He also raised the issue of "slackness" by officials for the first time in his annual work report this year. Zhu Lijia, a public policy professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the failures to implement policies showed that there was still a way for the central government to go in its efforts to streamline administration and delegate power. "It is common for lower levels of government to pass the buck on the State Council's policies, or block them with red tape … There is a funnel effect - the lower the level a policy goes, the weaker it becomes and the stronger the resistance it faces," Zhu said. "Resistance is common at the lower levels, which do not understand or are dissatisfied with the State Council's policies, because streamlining administration and delegating power to the lower levels clashes with their interests." He said the next step for administrative reform should be boosting efficiency at lower government levels, "because they are the most basic link to the development of the economy, people's livelihood and society". ^ top ^

China to ban water-contaminating industrial plants as it steps up 'war on pollution' (SCMP)
2015-04-17
China will ban water-polluting paper mills, oil refineries, pesticide producers and other industrial plants by the end of next year, as it moves to tackle severe contamination of the water supply. The long-awaited plan comes as the central government steps up its "war on pollution" after years of industrial development that have left one-third of the mainland's major river basins and 60 per cent of its underground water contaminated. In a separate development, the State Council called on Wednesday for changes to industry to promote sustainable development and energy efficiency. The changes were expected to deliver about 2 trillion yuan (HK$2.5 trillion) in economic benefits for the environmental industry, news portal Thepaper.cn reported, citing sources from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Growing public discontent over environmental degradation has led to increasing scrutiny of industrial polluters. China National Petroleum Corp last month agreed to pay 100 million yuan (HK$126.7 million) in compensation after it was accused of leaking benzene into the water system in of Lanzhou. But experts say much more needs to be done to protect scarce water resources. "Water is the bottleneck to China's industrial development," said Alex Zhang, president of US-based McWong Environmental Technology. The new water plan - published by the State Council - aims to raise the share of good quality water, ranked at national standard three or above, to more than 70 per cent in the seven major river basins, and to more than 93 per cent in the urban drinking water supply by 2020. Impact on water would become a key consideration in future industrial expansion, the council said, adding it would restrict building of petrochemical and metal smelting factories along major river basins. "We will fully consider the capacity of our water resources and environment, and determine city planning, project location, population and industrial output according to water reserves," it said. The government aims to cap overall water consumption at 670 billion cubic metres by 2020, and wants to cut agricultural water use by more than 3.7 billion cubic metres by improving irrigation efficiency by 2018. Tiered pricing for residential water users will be rolled out nationwide this year to encourage conservation. Non-residential users will be charged progressive fees for overshooting quotas under a plan to enter into force by 2020.^ top ^

Top justice urges easier rules for filing lawsuits (Xinhua)
2015-04-17
China's top justice on Thursday urged implementation of new rules to make filing lawsuits easier for the public. Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), made the remarks at a national meeting on the issue. The SPC on Wednesday streamlined procedures for courts to accept and hear cases in a step toward an authoritative judicial system in China. To address difficulties the public has in filing cases, current accreditation by courts will be replaced by a case registration system. The new rules state that "people's courts must accept cases that should be handled according to the law, and no unit or individual may obstruct for any reason." At Thursday's meeting, Zhou told all courts nationwide to conduct a complete overhaul of their practices and abolish inconsistencies. With the launch of the new rules, the SPC also issued a circular enabling the litigants to complain in cases when the courts refuse, delay or intervene in case filing procedures. The litigants may file their complaints to the courts where they intended to bring the case, or complain to a superior court, according to the SPC circular, which was published on Thursday. The document also said the courts should provide proper guides to help applicants who want to file a suit. If the litigants have difficulty submitting a written complaint, verbal complaints will also be documented and considered. However, the document also stipulated punishments for abuse or malicious practice of the right of action. To explain the new SPC rules, an SPC justice on Wednesday stressed that going to court is the last resort and may not be the "best way to resolve disputes." ^ top ^

China announces water pollution controls (Global Times)
2015-04-17
A plan intensifying the government fight against water pollution in China was released Thursday. The Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control aims to reduce pollutants, improve drinking water and promote water saving, according to the State Council, China's cabinet. The aquatic ecosystem has been severely damaged in many parts of China, threatening public health and economic development. Targets for improvements by the end of 2020 include reducing the amount of severely polluted water and containing groundwater contamination. Specifically, the plan said more than 70 percent of the water in the seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should be in good condition by 2020. The same target is set for offshore areas. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China's Tibetan legislators wrap up visit to U.S. (Xinhua)
2015-04-12
A delegation of China's Tibetan legislators concluded its visit to the United States on Saturday after meeting with Congressional members and local dignitaries to boost ties between the two countries and remove misunderstandings about China's Tibet. Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak, deputy to the Chinese National People's Congress (NPC), headed the NPC delegation to San Francisco and Houston from April 7 to April 11, and met with U.S. Representatives David Valadao, Mike Honda and Sheila Jackson Lee. Tenzinchodrak, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Tibet Autonomous Region, updated his U.S. counterparts on the tremendous changes that have taken place in the past 50 years since the creation of Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965. Tibet has achieved economic prosperity and social progress thanks to the help from the central government and the Chinese people of other ethnic groups, Tenzinchodrak said. He later told a crowd of audience at a seminar in Houston his personal story to show how average Tibetans benefited from the country's healthcare, education and employment programs. The Tibetan delegation also dispelled fallacies of the Dalai Lama clique, reiterating that Tibet has been historically part of Chinese territory. During the meetings, U.S. Representatives and officials welcomed the delegation, and appreciated their efforts in presenting a real and comprehensive picture of Tibet. They voiced belief that the Tibetans' U.S. tour will deepen the U.S. mainstream society's understanding of Tibet and promote friendships between the two peoples. ^ top ^

Decades-long environmental drive yields results in Tibet (Xinhua)
2015-04-15
Karma Ngodrup's childhood memories are painted yellow. "When I was little, the grass fodder behind our house was always buried in yellow sand, and our firewood was often blown away by strong sandstorms," said Ngodrup, a resident of Chanang County in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. These days, however, what was once a blurred, sandy sight in the small county has become a clear and pleasant view, as lush green forests cover the mountains thanks to government efforts. Tibet's environment has seen significant improvement after a decades-long ecological protection drive emphasizing afforestation efforts and new energy promotion. For years, human activity has threatened the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau and accelerated desertification in the region, making environmental protection in Tibet an urgent task. Beginning in the 1960s, the Chinese government has taken a variety of measures to tackle environmental issues, including creating state-level nature reserves, launching key ecological projects as well as issuing relevant laws and regulations. Those measures have prevented or controlled desertification of at least 1.62 million mu (108,000 hectares) of land so far, effectively sheltering residents in the region and in neighboring countries from sandstorms. "It's hard for me to describe the huge comparison," Ngodrup said of the changes. But that is only part of the government's work. According to freshly published data, the regional government pumped a total of 18.52 billion yuan (2.98 billion U.S. dollars) in funds to help ramp up local ecological protection from 2004 to 2014. Water conservation in the forests, plains and wetlands of the Tibet Plateau stood at 91 billion cubic meters between 2008 and 2012, an increase of 1.01 percent compared to 1990 and 2008, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). "Better water conservation guarantees sufficient water flow for international waterways that run through Tibet while improving the ecosystem," said Dawa Tsering, an ecology expert with Tibet's regional CAS. The Tibet government also has promoted the use of electricity, methane and solar power among local villagers. With new energy sources taking the place of animal waste and firewood, the damage to the eco-system has been minimized. Additionally, 100 million yuan will be given out each year as part of a reward-and-punishment mechanism to encourage environmental protection, a regional guideline stipulated in 2014. "We are taking environmental protection seriously and will continue to do so by severely punishing anyone violating environmental laws and regulations," Jiang Bai from Tibet's regional department of environmental protection said on Tuesday. According to Jiang, in certain areas of Tibet, an ecological "red line" will be drawn within which development will be strictly controlled. He added that the local environmental regulation will be revised to adapt to new situations. "With the protection efforts, some 2 billion people in Asia will benefit in the long run," Jiang said. ^ top ^

China issues white paper on Tibet, denouncing Dalai Lama's 'middle way' (Global Times)
2015-04-15
The Chinese government on Wednesday issued a white paper on southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, applauding its development path and denouncing the "middle way" advocated by the Dalai Lama. The white paper, under the title "Tibet's Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide", holds that Tibet's current development path is correct. Tibet's continual progress on its present path of development is an objective requirement of modern civilization. It accords with the progressive trend of human society, the prevailing conditions and the current reality in China, and the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet, says the white paper, released by the Information Office of the State Council. However, the report points out that there is a party who cluster around the 14th Dalai Lama, representatives of the remnants of the feudal serf owners who have long lived in exile, driven by a political goal of "Tibetan independence" and a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic feudal serfdom. Having failed to instigate violence in support of their cause, they turned to the "middle way", which negates Tibet's sound development path and attempts to create a "state within a state" on Chinese territory as an interim step towards the ultimate goal of full independence. The report accuses the Dalai group of being opportunistic in the talks with the central government. "When they thought the situation was working to their disadvantage, they would call for contacts with the central government; when they thought the situation was in their favor, they would break off these contacts," it says. "None of the negotiations were conducted in good faith - it was always the intention of the Dalai Lama and his supporters to divide China and achieve independence for Tibet." The central government has followed a clear and consistent policy towards the Dalai Lama, the report stresses. "Only when he makes a public statement acknowledging that Tibet has been an integral part of China since antiquity, and abandons his stance on independence and his attempts to divide China, can he improve his relationship with the central government in any real sense," it says. The central government hopes that the Dalai Lama will put aside his illusions in his remaining years and face up to reality, adapt his position, choose the objective and rational path, and do something of benefit to overseas Tibetan compatriots in exile, it says. "The only sensible alternative is for the Dalai Lama and his supporters to accept that Tibet has been part of China since antiquity, to abandon their goals of dividing China and seeking independence for Tibet, and to begin to act in the interests of Tibet and the country at large," it says. Sound development path Reviewing Tibet's history, the report notes that the region first began to embrace modern civilization only after the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Having going through such important phases as peaceful liberation, democratic reform, establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and introduction of reform and opening up, Tibet has not only established a new social system, but also witnessed great historical leap forward in its economy and embarked on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. While following this path, people in Tibet have become masters of their country and their society, and critically, masters of their own destiny, the report says. The majority of Tibetans have shaken off poverty that had dogged them for centuries to enjoy a relatively comfortable life. In 2013, the gross regional product (GRP) of Tibet reached 80.77 billion yuan ($13.15 billion) while the per-capita net income of rural Tibetans was 6,578 yuan and the per-capita disposable income of urban ones was 20,023 yuan. Tibet's population rose to 3.12 million in 2013, tripling the figure in the early 1950s, and the average life expectancy doubled to 68.2 years. Veneer of peace and non-violence : The report presents a rich collection of evidence to prove that the Dalai Lama and his supporters have never abandoned the use of violence to promote their ultimate goal of "Tibetan independence". According to the report, during the armed rebellion in Tibet in the late 1950s, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) not only sent agents to help the 14th Dalai Lama flee Tibet but also trained militants to support his forces and airdropped a large quantity of weaponry. Since the 1980s, the Dalai Lama and his supporters have been behind a series of violent incidents in Tibet, including an incident on March 5, 1988, that led to 299 police and civilian casualties and the one on March 14, 2008, in which a total of 18 people were burnt or hacked to death, and 382 people were injured. Since 2011, they have incited Tibetan lamas and lay followers inside China to engage in acts of self-immolation. "For the Dalai party, 'peace' and 'non-violence' are no more than fig leaves," the report says. Central government's efforts for best solution : Since the Dalai Lama fled abroad in 1959, the central government has all along exercised great restraint and done its best for best solutions, the report says. "However, he (the Dalai Lama) has repeatedly made choices that run counter to the wishes of the central government and the people of Tibet," it says. The central government received 13 visits by private representatives of the 14th Dalai Lama between 1979 and 2002, and ten visits from 2002 to January 2010, according to the report. In 2011, the Dalai Lama announced his "political retirement" and his private representatives who had kept contact with the central government also "resigned". Since then, the Dalai group has declared that it would only talk with the central government in the name of the "government-in-exile" thereby destroying any basis for contacts and negotiation, which have now been halted, the report says. ^ top ^

China's Tibetan delegation in Brazil to promote understanding (Global Times)
2015-04-15
A Tibetan delegation from China attended a seminar here on Monday to popularize knowledge about this region in Brazil. Xinza Danzengquzha, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) who headed the delegation, said its members presented Tibet to Brazilians by sharing their own experiences. "We would like to present the real Tibet to Brazilians. We hope everyone can learn about Tibet in a comprehensive and objective manner," he said at the seminar hosted by the Chinese Consulate in Rio. "Tibet is an important theme in the strategic relationship between Brazil and China. I hope this consulate can contribute to bilateral ties," Consul Song Yang said. At the seminar, participants discussed the changes in Tibet since its liberation in 1951. Xinza compared Tibet's pre-1951 data with those post-1951, highlighting Tibet's GDP growth, population expansion and advances in infrastructure, such as many highways and airports. He also elaborated on the latest developments of the tourism and medical sectors in the region in recent years. Some Brazilian experts on China, including writers, lawyers and economists, also participated in the seminar. Carlos Tavares, author of ten books on China, stressed the importance of Brazilians knowing more about Tibet's history, to which he dedicated an entire chapter of one of his books. Danillo Santos praised the friendship between the two countries, and called on more Brazilians to visit Tibet, which is "a piece of heaven on earth" in his view. Severino Cabral, president of the Brazilian Institute for China and Asia-Pacific, said Brazil and China face similar tasks in the development of regions like Tibet and Brazil's Amazon Rainforest region, both of which are large spaces with extensive natural resources. In order to get Brazilians to know more about Tibet, Cabral called on the TAR to promote more cultural, academic and scientific exchanges with Brazil. ^ top ^

China tells Dalai Lama that more autonomy for Tibet is not up for discussion (SCMP)
2015-04-16
Beijing threw cold water on the possibility of re-launching talks with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday, saying in a white paper that the issue of greater autonomy for Tibet was “not up for discussion”. The statement comes months after the exiled spiritual leader and Nobel prize winner expressed optimism that President Xi Jinping may be open to re-starting dialogue regarding the region. In a nearly 18,000-word white paper released by the State Council Information Office, the government declared that the Dalai Lama must focus on seeking “forgiveness” from the Chinese government. “Any negotiations will be limited to seeking solutions for the Dalai Lama to completely abandon separatist claims and activities and gain the forgiveness of the central government and the Chinese people, and to working out what he will do with the rest of his life,” the white paper said. “As the political status and system of Tibet is stipulated by the Chinese Constitution and laws, the 'Tibet issue' and 'a high degree of autonomy' are not up for discussion,” it added. The ruling Communist Party held nine rounds of dialogue with the Dalai Lama's envoys from 2002 to 2010 but the process produced no visible results. The Dalai Lama has previously expressed optimism about the current administration in Beijing, in what some have seen as a possible easing of tensions with the central government, which has accused him of seeking secession for Tibet. The 79-year-old Buddhist leader denies aspirations for independence and says he only wants the area to have more autonomy. In a December interview with France 24 television, he described Xi as a “realist” who was being held back by elements within the Communist Party. But the white paper is a signal that Beijing – which has called the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk's robes” – will continue to take a hard-line approach to the issue. It stated that Beijing would only hold talks with “private representatives” of the Dalai Lama, rather than members of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which it described as “essentially a separatist political group”. The white paper also called on the monk to “put aside his illusions in his remaining years” and “do something of benefit to overseas Tibetan compatriots in exile”. “The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible,” it stated. “Tibet's path of development is one imposed by history and chosen by the people.” The 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing's rule and has lived in exile in India ever since. He has suggested in recent months that he may not be reincarnated after he dies – a statement that infuriated Beijing, which maintains that the central government has the sole authority to decide reincarnation. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Shenzhen imposes once-a-week limit on cross-border visits to Hong Kong by permanent residents (SCMP)
2015-04-13
Shenzhen's permanent residents are to be limited to just one visit a week to Hong Kong using their multiple-entry permits, a move that will slash the number of these visitors by about 30 per cent, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. A Hong Kong government source said the restriction would cut the number of visitors to the city by 4.6 million a year. Shenzhen municipal government issued the ruling yesterday after a decision by the State Council to approve an "adjustment" in the number of trips that multiple-entry permit holders can make to Hong Kong, a notice circulating on the internet said. The notice set out details of the arrangement - restricting the number of trips by multiple-entry permit holders to one a week - although it did not say when the change would be implemented. The trips cannot be saved up; they must be used or they will be lost. Shenzhen police and Hong Kong government sources confirmed the new arrangement to the Sunday Morning Post. The Hong Kong government said last night that it had submitted a proposal to the central government to adjust the multiple-entry policy. "Any adjustment to the policy is pending the central government's announcement," it said in a statement. Only Shenzhen permanent residents can hold multiple-entry permits, which allow them to make as many trips as they want to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government source said the restriction on that category of visitors would cut the number of arrivals by 4.6 million a year, or 30 per cent, which would help crack down on parallel traders, who buy products in Hong Kong to resell at a profit across the border. About 14.9 million of the 60.8 million visitors to the city last year were from Shenzhen, and held multiple-entry permits. Brisk trading activities at border towns and the large number of mainland visitors flooding in have become a source of friction and triggered protests and clashes in the New Territories. Mainland visitors are blamed for buying up daily essentials such as infant formula and diapers, and putting pressure on public transport. But some Shenzhen residents said they did not believe restricting the number of visits would help resolve the problem of cross-border smugglers - 60 per cent of whom are believed to be Hongkongers. One white-collar worker in Shenzhen who refused to give her name said: "I am disappointed with Hong Kong. The shopping atmosphere is no longer friendly." She said she had not crossed the border since the Lunar New Year holiday in February. And the boss of a trading company said she hoped the restriction could be limited to twice a week, as she frequently travelled to Hong Kong for business and to stock up on baby formula. Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the fact that no start date had been mentioned implied the policy may be gradually introduced. Meanwhile, North District Parallel Imports Concern Group spokesman Leung Kam-shing doubted the move would be effective. "Parallel-trading syndicates would just employ different people to do the job," he said.^ top ^

Shenzhen cap of weekly cross-border trips greeted with caution in Hong Kong (SCMP)
2015-04-14
Shenzhen's permanent residents are now limited to one visit a week to Hong Kong in an attempt to deter parallel-goods traders, but Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not expect the situation to ease overnight. New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun also said it would take six to nine months to feel the effect of the policy change, as current holders of multiple-entry permits would still be able to travel freely while their one-year visas remained valid. Starting from yesterday, Shenzhen residents could apply for only one-visit-per-week permits instead of the visas that were launched in 2009 to allow unlimited trips. This will slash the number of Shenzhen visitors by about 30 per cent, or 4.5 million. Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office told Xinhua that the measure was adopted "at the request of the Hong Kong government". The office said: "It shows the central government's concern about Hong Kong people's lives." Shenzhen residents who must visit Hong Kong frequently for family, business or other "special" reasons still qualified for multi-entry permits, Xinhua said. New Territories residents have long complained of mainlanders "abusing" the old scheme to engage in parallel trading. Leung also vowed to get tough on Hongkongers who engaged in such trading. He said the change in policy had been planned since June, but had taken time to be realised because of counterproductive protests against the traders. Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok warned retailers and caterers might feel the impact in the next few months. He reiterated that the tourism sector hoped Beijing would add more mainland cities to an individual visit scheme that let residents of 49 cities cross the border independent of a tour group. Lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, representing the commercial sector, said he understood that among the local retailers that had been serving mainly parallel-goods traders, "up to 30 per cent of [their] shops could shut down … affecting [up to] 3,000 jobs". But a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report said while it was slashing its retail sales forecast for the city to minus 5.8 per cent year on year, "the actual hit may be less, since these visitors can raise their spending per visit". Hong Kong-listed retail stocks slid even as the market continued its rally, with the Hang Seng Index closing up 2.73 per cent. Cosmetics chain Bonjour fell 7.14 per cent to close at 65 HK cents and Sa Sa International was down 6.24 per cent to HK$4.06. Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, lawmaker for the financial services sector who is also a broker, said: "Retail stocks are likely to … be haunted by the new policy in the near term."^ top ^

Multiple-entry adjustment shows central govt's care for Hong Kong (Global Times)
2015-04-14
The move to adjust the multiple-entry endorsement for residents in Shenzhen reflects the central government's consideration for Hong Kong's livelihood, a spokesperson with Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said Monday. The remarks followed a Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announcement Monday that Shenzhen residents will no longer receive multiple entry permits to enter Hong Kong. A policy was enacted Monday to limit their travel to "one visit a week". The spokesperson said the adjustment demonstrated the central government's support for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's positive response to local residents' appeals. The adjustment is also conducive to the steady exchange of the personnel between the mainland and Hong Kong. According to a circular released by the MPS, Shenzhen citizens holding annual entry permits to Hong Hong can now enter the city once a week with a maximum seven day stay per visit. Previously, citizens of Shenzhen, Hong Kong's neighbouring city on the mainland, were allowed unlimited visits to Hong Kong with their entry permit.^ top ^

 

Macau

Macau hit by second blackout in three weeks (SCMP)
2015-04-16
Macau experienced its second power failure in less than three weeks on Wednesday morning, leaving around 100,000 customers without electricity. The blackout hit up to one third of the Macau peninsula, mostly in central and northern districts, and forced some shops, restaurants and banks to close. Police officers were deployed at a number of road crossings to direct traffic as some traffic lights were out of operation. The affected areas included Avenida de Horta e Costa, Areia Preta and Sidónio Pais. Customers in Taipa and Coloane and the University of Macau also experienced a drop in voltage. The Venetian casino on the Cotai Strip said its emergency generator kicked in and prevented major disruption. Power supplier Companhia de Electricidade de Macau (CEM) said the failure occurred at 10.56am after a malfunction at the Canal dos Patos substation which is near the border with the mainland. The facility transmits power imported from the mainland's China Southern Power Grid. Subsequently, the hitch affected four other primary substations. The company had to activate its own generation units at Coloane Power Plant A to provide an emergency supply. Power supplies began to resume in some areas from 11.55am, and electricity was fully restored at 12.20pm. CEM said the power cut affected about 100,000 residents and about one third of the Macau peninsula. Macau's fire service received 40 reports of people stranded in lifts during the power failure. Macau's government said the Office for the Development of the Energy Sector had asked the power company to look into the cause of the power cut, and submit a report within one week. CEM said it inspected and maintained all its substations every year. The Canal dos Patos substation was last inspected in March this year, it said. Macau has begun to use more imported power in recent years as its government intends to keep local power production at its present level. At present, CEM generates about 9 per cent of its electricity and acquires the remaining 91 per cent from the mainland. On March 31, a brief power cut hit Areia Preta and Iao Hon districts in the afternoon due to a failure in an underground cable. Some 35 buildings and 4,200 households were affected. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan's KMT chief Eric Chu to meet President Xi Jinping in Shanghai (SCMP)
2015-04-13
The head of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party said on Sunday he planned to meet President Xi Jinping next month, in what will be the first visit to the mainland by a KMT chief since 2008. Eric Chu, who succeeded President Ma Ying-jeou as the party's chairman in January, said a plan was being arranged "for a meeting of the two party leaders" at a May forum in Shanghai with the mainland's Communist Party. Details of the meeting had not been finalised, he said. Xi heads the party in addition to holding the presidency. Local media said Chu would fly to Shanghai on May 2 and address the forum's opening the next day, adding that he also planned to speak to university students there. In 2005 Lien Chan made the first trip to the mainland by a KMT chief since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949. The landmark visit and the ensuing annual forum paved the way for the fast improvements in relations that have taken place since Ma came to power in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012. Ma was also party chairman from 2009-2014, but despite the improved ties he never travelled to the mainland. Wu Po-hsiung was the last KMT chairman to visit the mainland, in 2008. In June 2010 the two sides signed a trade pact known as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, widely seen as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation. But public sentiment has turned against the Beijing-friendly approach as voters say trade deals have been agreed in secret and not benefited ordinary Taiwanese. In March last year around 200 students occupied parliament for more than three weeks in protest against a controversial services trade pact, while thousands rallied in support of what became known as the "Sunflower Movement". The KMT suffered its worst-ever showing in local polls in November - seen as a barometer for presidential elections in 2016 - with its Beijing-friendly policy blamed for alienating voters. Despite the setback, Ma said last week ties with the mainland were "back to normal". ^ top ^

Taiwan's opposition taps party chief Dr Tsai Ing-wen for presidential race (SCMP)
2015-04-16
Taiwan's main opposition presidential candidate Dr Tsai Ing-wen pledged yesterday to maintain "the status quo" with the mainland, but analysts said Beijing was unlikely to accept any ambiguity in her position. Tsai, 58, was officially nominated yesterday by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which she chairs, to run in the January election. She vowed to set up "normalised" cross-strait relations beyond the existing framework which focuses on ties between the ruling Kuomingtang and the mainland's Communist Party. "The basic principle of our party in cross-strait relations is to maintain the status quo," Tsai said. Tsai Wei, a professor of political science at Chinese Cultural University, said the principle was ambiguous as the DPP chief had so far refused to elaborate on the term "status quo". "I don't think she is willing to, or can, make it clear," Tsai said. "First, she can't make it clear, because once she does, she will go against the fundamental beliefs and stances of the DPP … that there should be two countries on the two sides of the strait. "Second, it is a matter of strategy. If she spoke clearly, it would result in tense cross-strait relations, and have a negative impact on swing voters. Therefore, she will purposefully create an ambiguous space for her to take care of the interests of all parties. But it seems to be difficult. It depends on whether the mainland can accept her ambiguous stance." Li Fei, deputy director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Centre, said the mainland would require the DPP candidate to make a clear statement on her position. "The mainland absolutely won't accept her vague sayings. Beijing's requirement is to make it clear, and to recognise the '1992 consensus', which is a political foundation for the development of cross-strait relations, like the Kuomingtang [has done]," Li said. The 1992 consensus was reached by quasi-government negotiators that year. It states that there is only "one China", with each side free to offer its own interpretation. The State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said the crux of maintaining stability across the strait was to insist on the 1992 consensus and oppose independence for the island. "If [the DPP] upholds the Taiwan independence splittist position of 'one country on either side of the strait', then it will be hard to find a way out for cross-strait relations," spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said, refusing to comment directly on the election. In her speech to the public yesterday, Tsai vowed to set up a "people-oriented" government and address the grievances of the island's younger generation. Tsai ran, and lost to Ma, in 2012. If elected, she would be the first woman president in Taiwan's history. The KMT have not yet nominated a candidate. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Stocks surge to 7-year high as investors see good in bad news over China exports slump (SCMP)
2015-04-14
China's exports and imports both fell sharply last month, sparking concern about the health of the world's second-largest economy, although the slip failed to prevent the stock markets from posting another day of frenzied rises. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland companies listed in Hong Kong increased 4.3 per cent, extending a rise for the eighth day. The Shanghai Composite Index touched a seven-year high with a gain of 2.2 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 2.73 per cent higher. "There's a decoupling of the performance of the micro-sectors from the macroeconomy. When the economy is in bad shape, it's like great waves lashing the beaches - the victor becomes a king, while the weak loses the game," said Wendy Liu, head of China equity research at Nomura. The stock market surge had been mainly driven by a flood of funds hunting for undervalued stocks, she said. Despite challenges for mainland companies in reaping profits, their operating efficiency might eventually improve as costs were slashed, she said. "Usually the stock market bottoms out when profits sink to the lowest," she said. Exports slumped 15 per cent in March from the same month a year earlier, falling to US$144.6 billion after jumping nearly 50 per cent in February, with the volatility partly amplified by seasonal factors. Imports dropped 12.7 per cent to US$141.5 billion. Such double-digit falls in both exports and imports in the same month last occurred in 2009, when slumping external demand dealt heavy blows to China's economy. Economists had forecast a 12 per cent rise in exports and an 11.7 per cent fall in imports for last month. The trade surplus in March was US$3.1 billion, a two-year low. The World Bank yesterday cut its forecast for China's economic growth to 7.1 per cent in 2015, from the 7.2 per cent expansion it predicted in October. "Given the uncertainties facing the global economy, the outlook for [the region] is subject to significant risks," the bank said. "A significant slowdown in China, though unlikely, would exert significant spillovers, particularly on commodity exporters." Customs bureau spokesman Huang Songping told a press conference in Beijing the global economy was still undergoing "deep corrections" in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. "The recovery has remained sluggish," Huang said. Forty-four per cent of 3,000 exporters in a bureau survey said new orders had fallen almost every month since October, Huang said. Weak imports suggested that first-quarter gross domestic product growth may have cooled to 6.9 per cent, one of the lowest in six years, according to ANZ Bank economist Liu Li-Gang. The economy expanded 7.3 per cent in the final quarter of last year. "While the sharp slowdown in export growth could be due to a front-loading effect before the Lunar New Year, the overall China trade growth has been sluggish", Liu said. But SWS Research senior analyst Meng Xiangjuan said she wouldn't be overly pessimistic about the trade decline given the holiday. "It would get more worrying if it continues," Meng said. The swing in the trade surplus may complicate the outlook for the yuan, analysts say, although People's Bank of China deputy governor Yi Gang told the Economy & Nation Weekly that he was confident the yuan would stay "basically stable". ^ top ^

China seeks role for yuan in AIIB to extend currency's global reach (SCMP)
2015-04-15
Beijing will push for the yuan to be included in a basket of currencies used to denominate and settle loans from the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), according to think tank sources. Beijing will also encourage the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund to set up special currency funds and issue yuan-denominated loans through both institutions, the sources said. The efforts are part of a drive to internationalise the Chinese currency and come as the International Monetary Fund prepares to discuss the possible inclusion of the yuan as its fifth reserve currency and as part of the basket that forms the IMF's Special Drawing Rights. The sources' claims appeared to be confirmed by a state media report, which said that a basket of currencies called the "AIIB currency" would most likely be adopted as the bank's currency of settlement. In an article headlined "The five key questions facing the AIIB", the state-run Outlook magazine said yesterday that the biggest unanswered question about the bank was what currency - or currencies - would be used for settlement. The article said there were three options: the yuan, the US dollar or an AIIB currency basket. It said that of the three the US dollar would be the most cost-efficient and convenient, and the yuan the most expensive and least convenient. A currency basket was the most attractive option, it said, because it would be more resilient to market shocks. Hao Hong, chief economist and managing director of research at Bocom International, said the AIIB's grand vision for infrastructure investment came with challenges but China should do its best to establish the yuan as a currency for settlement and denomination. "If the US dollar is used instead, it weakens China's bid for the yuan to become a truly global currency and to challenge the hegemony of the US dollar," Hong said. Yifan Hu, chief economist with Haitong Securities International, said it would be too hard to reach a consensus on an AIIB currency basket. Hu said the Asian Development Bank had failed to set up its own currency basket despite years of negotiations. "In my view, the US dollar will be used in the early stages of the AIIB, and then [the bank] will gradually move to a mix of the yuan and US dollar," Hu said. The sources said China would push for broader use of the yuan at the AIIB and the Silk Road Fund, as part of efforts to promote the yuan as an international currency. The US$40 billion Silk Road Fund is designed to invest in projects to boost infrastructure and businesses in countries from Asia to Europe. The sources said that if founding members could not reach an initial consensus on a basket of currencies, Beijing would allow the AIIB and Silk Road Fund to use the US dollar as the currency of settlement. But it would encourage the use of the yuan down the track as the organisation matured. The sources said that there was still a long way to go in the internationalisation of the yuan and the greenback would continue to dominate the global financial system for the next few years. ^ top ^

Downward pressure on China's economy 'increasing', admits premier (SCMP)
2015-04-15
The mainland will step up targeted measures to cope with downward pressure on the economy, Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday. Li's remarks, to a group of leading economists and executives, came as the central bank said the broadest gauge of money supply had declined as demand from the real economy shrunk, and regulators tightened curbs on shadow banking due to risk concerns. Today the mainland will announce the results of its first-quarter economic growth and other major data. "We must keep a sober mind and realise that the downward pressure is increasing … and be prepared to deal with challenges from the bigger difficulty," Li told a state broadcaster. Economists expect the National Bureau of Statistics to announce that first-quarter economic growth cooled to about 7 per cent, year on year, down from 7.3 per cent in the final quarter of last year. Li said the Chinese economy had "great potential, resilience" and that there was "room for improvement". He called for greater investment overseas to push growth amid weak domestic demand. "[We should] explore new space [for development] in the participation of international cooperation and competition," Li said. The central bank data suggests Beijing may need to ease policy further to revive growth. Aggregate social financing, the broadest gauge of money supply, fell to 1.18 trillion yuan (HK$1.5 trillion) in March, or about 56 per cent of the 2.1 trillion yuan recorded a year earlier, the People's Bank of China said. The M2 measure of money supply - which includes cash, checking deposits and savings deposits - grew 11.6 per cent at the end of March, down from 12.2 per cent growth a year earlier. "As China's economy still faces downward pressures and the risk of deflation is rising, the easing bias of China's monetary policy will likely be maintained," said Liu Li-gang, ANZ Bank's chief economist for Greater China. He expected the central bank to lower policy rates and cut banks' reserve requirement ratio. Sheng Songcheng, head of the central bank's statistics and analysis, said part of the slowdown in M2 was due to the central bank's reduced forex market intervention and falling off-balance-sheet financing. He said the M2 growth rate was close to the annual 12 per cent target and was "basically in line" with government goals. New yuan loans picked up to 1.2 trillion yuan in March from 1.02 trillion yuan in February. ^ top ^

China's growth slows to 7 pct in Q1 (Global Times)
2015-04-15
China's economic growth slowed to 7 percent in the first quarter this year, down from 7.3 percent in the last quarter of 2014, official data showed on Wednesday. China's fixed asset investment rose 13.5 percent from a year earlier to 7.75 trillion yuan ($1.26 trillion) in the first quarter of 2015, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The pace of increase slowed further from the 13.9-percent growth registered in the January-February period this year and 17.6-percent growth in the first quarter last year. Industrial output in China grew 6.4 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2015, down from the 8.7-percent growth a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics announced. The average per capita disposable income of Chinese households rose 9.4 percent year on year to 6,087 yuan ($992.3) in the first quarter of the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Defense Minister of Mongolia attends the IV Moscow Conference on International Security (Infomongolia)
2015-04-16
The Minister for Defense of Mongolia, Tserendash TSOLMON is participating in the IV Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) taking place in Moscow, Russia on April 16-17, 2015. This is an annual high-level meeting being hosted by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation since 2012, where representatives of Military departments, experts and academicians from 72 countries as well as delegates from 6 international organizations are claimed to participate in the 2015 MCIS. In the course of the Conference questions of global security will be discussed. The Russian Minister of Defense, General of the Army, Sergei Shoigu; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, First Deputy Defence Minister of Russia, Valery Gerasimov will give speeches at the plenary session of the Conference concerning key threats to the global security and possible ways of international cooperation in this field. The plenary session will also include speeches of the Minister of Defence of the People's Republic of China, Colonel-General Chang Wanquan; Minister of National Defence of Greece, Panos Kammenos, Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus, Major-General Andrei Ravkov; Minister of Defense of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Khawaja Muhammad Asif; Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan; Minister of Defense and Military Veterans of the South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; Minister of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia, Ryamizard Ryacudu; Minister of Defense of the Republic of Serbia, Bratislav Gasic; Minister of the People's Armed Forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Hyon Yong-chol; Minister of Defense of Mongolia, Tserendash Tsolmon; and Minister of State for Defense of India, Rao Inderjit Singh. Within the discussion panels prospects of the international cooperation in the counterterrorism will be discussed. Particular attention will be attached to the issues concerning the situation in Afghanistan taking into consideration the withdrawal of International Security Assistance Forces as well as countermeasures against the terrorist organization “Islamic State”. The second discussion will include issues concerning the role of political and military instruments in maintaining global and regional stability. The participants will consider which of the treaties and agreements have lost their effectiveness and need modernization. On April 16, 2015, the Russian Minister of Defense, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu will hold over 10 bilateral meetings with his colleagues from other countries, where burning issues of military and technical cooperation will be alos discussed. On April 17, 2015, participants will visit the Yuri Gagarin State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City of Moscow Region. ^ top ^

President of Hungary meets the Head of State, Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister of Mongolia (Infomongolia)
2015-04-16
On April 15, 2015, following the welcoming ceremony held at Chinggis Square, President of Hungary Mr. Janos Ader and the invitee, President of Mongolia Mr. Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ held a one-to-one meeting at the State Affairs Ger Palace. After, an intergovernmental talks led by two heads of state was continued, where from Mongolians side, Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren, Minister of Industry D.Erdenebat, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Hungary T.Gandi, and the other side were represented by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Mongolia Andrea Cecilia Szilas and authorities from Hungarian President's Office as well as other officials were also present. The parties discussed and exchanged views on the new opportunities to enhance mutual ties and cooperation touching upon issues of boosting in trade, economic, investment, education, environment, agriculture, and other sectors, which are the important factors for bringing the mutual traditional relations into a newer stage of collaboration. During the talks, both sides agreed to establish a Program on Cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of Mongolia and Ministry of Human Capacities of Hungary in educational, cultural and scientific sectors in 2015-2017. According to negotiations, it will allow up to 100 Mongolian students to study in Hungary every year through the Hungarian Government's scholarship. Moreover, it was announced to re-open the Embassy of Hungary in Ulaanbaatar in May 2015, to stimulate projects for modernization of Bio Combinat, state-owned leather and skin factory with soft loan to be provided by the Government of Hungary. On the same day, Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold and Prime Minister of Mongolia Ch.Saikhanbileg have paid courtesy calls on the President of Hungary Janos Ader. During the meeting with President J.Ader, Premier Ch.Saikhanbileg noted Mongolia has potentiality to supply European Union member-states with over 7,000 items under favorable terms. In this regard, Premier added that Mongolia is interested to enter Hungarian market by exporting leather, hide, wool and cashmere products that will allow balancing mutual trade flows. In his conversation, Speaker Z.Enkhbold affirmed that in the frameworks to broaden the cooperation between the two top legislative organs, Parliament of Mongolia is ready to greet the delegates headed by Chairman Mr. Laszlo Horvath of Hungary-Mongolia Inter-Parliamentary Group on upcoming June 02nd and welcomed Hungarian high level delegation to participate in the Autumn Session of Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to take place in Ulaanbaatar on September 15-19, 2015. ^ top ^

Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Mongolia, Oh Song is accredited by President Ts.Elbegdorj (Infomongolia)
2015-04-17
On April 16, 2015, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to Mongolia, Mr. Oh Song presented a Letter of Credence to the President of Mongolia, Mr. Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ. Following the credential handing ceremony, President Ts.Elbegdorj held a meeting with newly accredited envoy. At the beginning of meeting, President Ts.Elbegdorj wished Ambassador a successful discharge of noble and responsible diplomatic duties. Ambassador Oh Song conveyed President of the ROK, Mrs. Park Geun-hye's sincere greetings to the Head of State Ts.Elbegdorj.Ambassador Oh Song congratulated Mongolia on strengthening its reputation and position in the international arena and noted that South Korea is committed to supporting the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security initiated by President Ts.Elbegdorj and expressed his belief that this initiative would further succeed. Ambassador said that the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on North East Asia Security Initiative, for establishing and maintaining peace and security in the region will be successful in the region if Mongolia to implement this initiative in coordination with South Korean President's North East Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative. Ambassador also congratulated Mongolia for being appointed the host of the ASEM Summit in 2016 and noted that the third ASEM was successfully held in Seoul in 2000. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. Ambassador noted that he was glad to be appointed to Mongolia during this commemorative anniversary and said that he will strive to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries recalling his commitment to this responsible mission. President Ts.Elbegdorj highlighted the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Republic of Korea, which marks in the year of 2015 and expressed his appreciation for supporting his initiative Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on North East Asia Security. The sides expressed their hope that the mutual relations in the economic, infrastructural and investment spheres will further deepen. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Lauranne Macherel
Embassy of Switzerland
 

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
 
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