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
  11-17.4.14, No. 520  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Australian PM Abbott makes little progress on trade deal (SCMP)
2014-04-12
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday he hoped a free-trade agreement with China would be signed before November, offering little progress on a deal at the centre of his visit to his country's largest trade partner. Abbott, whose week-long trip to North Asia includes stops in Japan and South Korea, has put trade atop his agenda. On Monday, he clinched a basic trade deal to cut import tariffs during a visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. There were no apparent breakthroughs in China, where Abbott met Premier Li Keqiang at a business conference in Hainan earlier in the week. Both sides agreed to speed up talks. "I welcome Premier Li's commitment to accelerate these talks and hope that they might be concluded by the time President Xi [Jinping ] visits Australia in November," Abbott said in Shanghai. His calls to seal the trade deal before Xi's planned visit are consistent with his pledges in October to settle terms within 12 months. Abbott touted Australia's role as a leading exporter of coal, iron ore, beef and natural gas. "This means that Australia can offer China - and the other big economies of North Asia - the resource security, the energy security and the food security that they all seek," he said. Annual trade between Australia and China is worth about US$117.8 billion, and China's thirst for minerals has fuelled more than 20 years of unbroken economic growth in Australia. But some criticise Abbott for setting a timeline for clinching the deal, arguing that it gives China leverage in the negotiations, which began in 2005 and are soon to enter their 20th round. ^ top ^

China backs IMF help for Ukraine, and hopes US approves reforms to expand fund (SCMP)
2014-04-13
China said yesterday it backed IMF financial support for Ukraine, but expressed concern about the global lender's funding capacity given the failure of the US Congress to ratify a programme of reforms for the institution. China's deputy finance minister, Zhu Guangyao, said on the sidelines of the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in Washington it was a "worry" that more than 85 per cent of IMF lending was currently focused on Europe. Zhu highlighted the importance of reacting quickly to any problems that arise in regions outside Europe, adding: "That is why IMF financial capacity has become so important." Zhu said China was worried about the potential impact of the Ukraine crisis, especially on Europe, which was already facing risk from deflation. "This is a geopolitical issue too. We hope that event of geopolitical risk won't cause a big shock for the global economy, particularly for... Europe's economy. "That's why we support any action necessary to calm down the tension and to stabilise the economy, including Ukraine's economy," Zhu said. Zhu gave no details of how much China would contribute to the programme for Ukraine, but said: "Voting support for the programme means financial support because China is a key member of the IMF." The IMF has pledged to cover Ukraine's financing needs of US$27 billion over the next two years and the head of the IMF's European department, Reza Moghadam, said on Friday that the fund was able to lend to Ukraine because the country's debt was sustainable. Zhu said the crisis showed the need to strengthen the financial capacity of the IMF and that China hoped the US Congress could move quickly to break an impasse on the issue. IMF members agreed reforms in 2010 that would double the fund's resources and give more say to emerging markets, but the US Congress has failed to ratify the changes. Some US Republicans have complained the changes would cost too much at a time Washington is running big budget deficits. The reforms also ran afoul of a growing isolationist trend among the party's influential "tea party" wing. Zhu said there was "deep disappointment and frustration" expressed at the impasse by all participants in Friday's G20 meeting, which set a year-end deadline for US ratification. "During the period before the end of the year, we are certainly continuing very full co-operation with the IMF and we hope at this difficult time - particularly Ukraine - the IMF plays quick and strong action," Zhu said. "We support that." Some G20 officials suggest moving ahead on reforms without the United States, though its approval would be necessary for any major decision to go forward because of Washington's controlling share of IMF votes. ^ top ^

World powers discuss global nuclear governance in Beijing (China Daily)
2014-04-14
A meeting of five nuclear powers opened on Monday in Beijing to discuss ways of enhancing global nuclear governance. Li Baodong, China's Vice Foreign Minister, said nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy are three major pillars in the nuclear field. "Properly harmonizing relations among these pillars and enhancing global governance is in the common interests of the international community and, therefore, the shared objective of the P5 states," Li said in his opening remarks. The P5 states are China, the United States, Russia, Britain and France. Li stressed that universal security is the fundamental goal of global nuclear governance. He also emphasized that the leadership role of the P5 states is a major driving force for global nuclear governance. "Like five fingers of a hand, the P5 states can make a powerful fist only by deepening strategic mutual trust, unity and collaboration," Li said. "In this way, we will be able to effectively deal with problems in the nuclear field and guide global nuclear governance in the right direction," he added. The vice foreign minister said a multilateral mechanism, balanced progress and consensus are key to global nuclear governance. Broad participation is a "critical" guarantee, Li said. "Not only should governments actively participate in this process, but the initiative of international and regional organizations, NGOs and civil society should also be mobilized to maximize our synergy," he said. China is committed to complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons and has firmly pursued a nuclear strategy of self-defense, strictly honored its non-proliferation obligations, actively participated in international cooperation on peaceful use of nuclear energy, and worked to promote global nuclear governance, Li said. The five nuclear powers have taken turns to host five conferences since 2009. ^ top ^

China stresses partnership with Germany (Global Times)
2014-04-14
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and stressed the importance of bilateral relations. Li said during the meeting that he expected to co-chair the third round of the China-Germany inter-governmental consultation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this year. He called for the two sides to work out a long-term outline for bilateral cooperation, strengthen cooperation in manufacturing and emerging industries of strategic importance, and advance bilateral ties to a higher level. Germany is an important member of the European Union and a major power of global influence, Li said, noting that China is willing to intensify communication and coordination with Germany on international and regional issues. China will play a constructive role in resolving disputes through dialogue, support liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, make joint efforts with Germany to safeguard world peace and stability and promote sustainable development of the global economy. Steinmeier said the two countries share broad common interests, enjoy fruitful cooperation results and have a promising future. He said the German side is looking forward to Li's visit to Germany and his participation in the inter-governmental consultation. Germany hopes to further strengthen cooperation with China, improve the competitiveness of the two countries' economies and make progress in common development. They also exchanged views on the Ukrainian situation during the meeting. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi also met with Steinmeier on Monday. ^ top ^

Syrian opposition delegation to visit China (Xinhua)
2014-04-14
The head of the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, Ahmad Jarba, will visit China from April 15 to 18, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming will meet with him and his delegation. Both sides will discuss the Syria situation and promote a political solution, Hua said at a daily news briefing. Chinese analysts and scholars will also meet the delegation, Hua said. "Hosting the delegation's visit is part of China's effort to engage in positive and balanced mediation and facilitate a political solution," Hua said. The Syrian crisis, entering the fourth year, has brought suffering to the Syrian people and dealt a huge blow to regional peace and stability. "China is deeply worried about this," Hua said. The Syrian government and opposition have held two rounds of negotiations at the Geneva II conference and taken an important step for a political solution of the Syria issue, Hua said. She called for the early start of the third round of talks and finding a middle way that accommodates each other's concerns and acceptable to all. On a report that the Syrian government accused rebels of using toxic gas in Hama province while the opposition activists denied the accusation, Hua said China had taken note of the report. Hua said China "firmly opposes the use of chemical weapons, no matter who did it." She said it benefited regional peace and stability to ensure the safe and smooth removal and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria. At present, the removal and destruction of chemical weapons was carried out under the framework of related decisions and resolutions of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council and has entered into a crucial stage, said Hua. "We call on all parties to cherish the progress made so far on the removal and destruction of chemical weapons, keep restraint and expand consensus, complete the removal and destruction as soon as possible via practical cooperation to create favorable conditions for a political solution to the Syrian issue," she said. Syria's state television said on Saturday that the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front used toxic gas in Hama, killing at least two people and causing suffocation to up to one hundred people. Meanwhile, opposition activists turned the accusation against the Syrian government, saying that at least six people had been killed and 100 others affected by the government forces' use of poisonous gas in Kafr Zaita and the Harasta suburb, in the eastern countryside of the capital Damascus. ^ top ^

Japan spots Chinese sea research vessel (Global Times)
2014-04-15
A Chinese oceanic research vessel was spotted by the Japan Coast Guard in Japan's claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) while Chinese authorities confirmed Monday that they have not received any warning and research continues in the area. "The mission is for ordinary scientific purposes, nothing special. The institute has not received any response or protest from Japan and the vessel is still conducting its mission in the West Pacific Ocean according to its schedule," an official from the Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the Global Times on Monday. The official said that it was the first scientific research mission in the West Pacific Ocean carried out by the vessel Kexue, China's most sophisticated research vessel, since April 8. Its research will focus on Pacific currents, regional climate and deep-sea ecology in the Okinawa Trough area. The official's comments came after Japanese Kyodo News reported its coast guard headquarters in Okinawa said Kexue appeared in its EEZ off Kume Island on Saturday and Sunday. An officer from the 11th district of Japanese Coast Guard in Naha told the Global Times that a Japanese jet discovered the Chinese vessel at 4:21 pm Saturday afternoon. The Japanese side immediately sent out warning signals in three languages, Japanese, English and Chinese, to the Chinese vessel and demanded it stop all investigation activities. When the vessel failed to oblige, the Japanese side did not take further action, the Japanese official said. The Japanese Coast Guard said that Kexue dropped what appeared to be a wire into the sea and the Japanese authorities will not accept any research in its EEZ without approved notification, according to Japanese Jiji Press on Saturday. Japan's EEZ has caused tensions between Japan and China in the East China Sea, due to over 100,000 square kilometers of disputed waters, including the Diaoyu Islands. Hu Lingyuan, a Japanese Studies professor from Fudan University, told the Global Times on Monday that the Okinawa Trough lies in the heart of the demarcation of the continental shelf in the East China Sea. "China believes that the Okinawa Trough serves as the boundary between the continental shelves of China and Japan and the geophysical factors should be taken into consideration legally in the demarcation between the two countries," said Hu. In August 2013, China did a presentation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The presentation provided scientific evidence that China's continental shelf in the East China Sea naturally extends to the Okinawa Trough, which was over 200 nautical miles away from the mainland baseline. "As the coasts between the two countries are less than 400 nautical miles, Japan unilaterally uses the median line to divide the two states but according to UNCLOS, the waters near the Okinawa Trough do not belong to Japan as the trough constitutes a fundamental discontinuity between the natural prolongation of China and Japan," Hu said. ^ top ^

President Xi calls for enhanced relations with Russia (Xinhua)
2014-04-16
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Beijing on Tuesday, calling for enhanced political mutual support between the two countries. Bilateral relations are at their best and have not only benefited both countries and their people, but also have an irreplaceable role in maintaining world peace and stability, said Xi. He welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay a state visit to China and attend the Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in May in Shanghai. "I expect to exchange views with him on bilateral relations and major issues of common concern," Xi said. The summit is very important for regional peace and stability under the current circumstances, he said. Xi asked Lavrov to convey his greetings to Putin, noting that he attaches great importance to the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and cherishes the mutual trust and friendship shared with Putin. He said the two sides should transfer their high political mutual trust into extensive pragmatic cooperation, maintain high-level exchanges and strategic communication, accelerate cooperation in strategic projects, and strengthen coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs. Lavrov also extended Putin's greetings to Xi, noting that the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has global influence. Russia is ready to enhance communication, coordination and cooperation with China, he said, adding that Putin is looking forward to his China visit and the CICA summit. Lavrov said Russia will make joint efforts with China to ensure the success of the visit and promote the CICA summit to achieve positive results. During the meeting, Lavrov briefed with Xi about Russia's stance on the Ukraine issue. Xi also elaborated on China's position on the issue. ^ top ^

Chinese premier seeks stronger China-Hungary ties (Xinhua)
2014-04-16
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed hope Wednesday that China and Hungary could tap their 65-year diplomatic ties to further enhance bilateral relations. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During a telephone hook-up with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, Li said he hoped both sides took the opportunity to strengthen exchanges, and push ahead cooperation on key projects, such as the construction of the Hungary-Serbia railway and a loop railway in Budapest. Li also said he hoped both sides strengthen cooperation in such fields as agriculture, animal husbandry and tourism to further boost bilateral ties as well as cooperation between China and central and eastern European (CEE) countries. Li said Orban paid a successful visit to China early this year and both sides agreed to further consolidate their traditional friendship and deepen bilateral cooperation, adding that agencies in both countries currently were implementing the visit's achievements. Orban said Hungary's new government would be committed to furthering Hungary-China ties and would work with China to prepare celebration activities for the anniversary, implement cooperation on key projects, and deepen cooperation in such areas as agriculture. Hungary was willing to actively boost Central and Eastern Europe-China and Europe-China cooperation further, he said. ^ top ^

China calls for early launch of dialogue to resolve Ukraine crisis (Xinhua)
2014-04-16
China here on Wednesday called on all parties concerned in Ukraine to start dialogue and consultation as soon as possible in order to seek a political settlement of the ongoing crisis in the country. Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, made the remarks at a UN Security Council open meeting on the situation in Ukraine. "China is deeply concerned about the escalation of the situation in Ukraine," Liu told the 15-member Council. "We hope that all parties there can keep calm, exercise restraint and prevent the situation from further deterioration." He stressed that the priority now is to work within the framework of law and order, resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation, and fully accommodate the legitimate rights, interests and concerns of all regions and ethnic communities. "This is the only approach that can bring lasting peace and stability to Ukraine in keeping with the long-term and fundamental interests of the nation as a whole and all its communities," he said. The Chinese envoy noted that the Ukraine issue is highly complex and the only way out is to stay on the track of political settlement. While calling on the international community to make constructive efforts and perform good offices to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, China has put forward a three-point proposal on seeking a political solution to the issue, Liu said. "We have taken note of the ongoing discussion about the establishment of a multilateral mechanism for dialogue," he said. "We welcome these efforts which are largely in line with the Chinese proposal." "China supports the early launch of dialogues and consultations between relevant parties, on the basis of full consideration and accommodation of all legitimate interests and concerns, to seek an ultimate solution that is acceptable to all," Liu said. ^ top ^

Tokyo governor hopes China visit will boost ties (China Daily)
2014-04-17
China and Japan are scheduling more visits between officials from both nations, a sign of shared willingness to thaw the icy relationship. Beijing city officials are in close contact with their counterparts in Tokyo to prepare for the visit of Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. Each nation voiced their expectations for Masuzoe's upcoming visit. "China supports exchanges and communications between the two countries, which are conducive for boosting understanding between the two peoples," the spokeswomen said. Masuzoe held a news conference on Tuesday afternoon and confirmed he will visit Beijing from April 24 to 26. "I will be fortunate if (the visit) contributes to a better Japan-China relationship," he said. He added that he will meet Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun and that he hopes to learn from Beijing's experiences hosting the Olympic Games in 2008. Tokyo is slated to host the Summer Olympics in 2020. "This is the first time in 18 years that a Tokyo governor was invited by a Beijing mayor for a visit," said Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. "We expect that the governor will contribute to the friendly exchanges and cooperation between the two cities," Hua said. Last year, Masuzoe visited China and met with former state councilor Tang Jiaxuan, an influential figure on Japan-related affairs who now heads the China-Japan Friendship Association. Back in Tokyo, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated Tokyo expects the visit to improve the bilateral relationship. Suga said Masuzoe had already intended to visit China when he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 10, Japan's Tokyo Broadcasting System reported. "(Beijing and Tokyo) have a sister cities relationship and... the Abe administration hopes to proactively make progress with China," Suga told reporters on Tuesday. Masuzoe will also share Japan's experiences in handling pollution with Beijing, according to Japan's TV Asahi. Hu Deping, a former senior official of the Communist Party of China, reportedly visited Japan about creating more people-to-people exchanges. Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted unnamed sources saying on Tuesday that Hu, former deputy head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, went to Abe's official residence on April 8 for a meeting. Media reports said Suga and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met Hu in Tokyo and expressed Japan's willingness to improve relations with China. "Hu's visit has completely demonstrated Beijing's readiness for improving the relationship with Japan, and the Japanese side has also placed great priorities on the visit," said Zhou Yongsheng, professor of China Foreign Affairs University. But Zhou added that Hu's visit will not improve ties overnight and that Japan must make promises and take initiatives to turn the relationship around. Masahiro Koumura, the vice-president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is reportedly planning to visit China in May with a delegation of Japanese lawmakers. ^ top ^

China hits back at US reports criticising Beijing over MH370 search (SCMP)
2014-04-17
China has angrily hit back at mainstream US media that accused Beijing of dragging its feet in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The Beijing-based Global Times defended the nation's stance yesterday, after foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday called a Monday report in The New York Times an irresponsible and pointless provocation. The report said: "The mission has clearly been a prime opportunity for the Chinese government to demonstrate its determination and technological abilities to its domestic audience and to improve on its response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year, which was widely criticised as late and tepid." Another report by The Wall Street Journal the following day also highlighted China's "reluctance" to partner with others, citing delays in sharing information about detecting suspected ping signals, as well as its absence at regional search and rescue co-operation forums before MH370 went missing. On April 5, Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 announced it had detected pulse signals, while Shanghai party mouthpiece Jiefang Daily posted photos of the Chinese search team using rather rudimentary equipment more suitable for shallow water search. Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield detected two further signals near the same area. They were later ruled out as relating to the plane. According to the Times, analysts believed the false alarm "served to distract and delay the search effort". More than a month after the plane disappeared on March 8, families of the 239 on board - 154 of whom were Chinese - remain in the dark as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. As military assets are at stake, some of the 26 countries working together have been reluctant to share all their data. A multitude of countries, including China, Malaysia and Australia, have reportedly seen satellite images and spotted debris possibly relating to the missing aircraft. Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said it was "common practice" for countries to withhold sensitive digital data they receive until the data is analysed and publicly announced. "It's a pity the countries have been unable to co-ordinate. Even the news reporting mechanism is a mess," Li said. "All of this has delayed the search." But he was hopeful all the countries involved would come up with a more efficient system of collaboration. Shanghai-based military expert Professor Ni Lexiong said no country was to blame for slowing down the investigation. "China has always stressed that its technology lags the US' by at least 30 years, especially those technologies used in the military sector," Ni said. "This incident has showed the world that there is a big gap between China and the West. China knew of its weakness before taking part in the investigation, but it went ahead because more than half of the missing passengers are Chinese." ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China to build national online petitioning system (Xinhua)
2014-04-11
China will establish a national online system for petitioning by the end of the year, authorities said at a meeting in Huai'an of east China's Jiangsu Province on Friday. The State Bureau for Letters and Calls (SBLC) said the new network will allow petitioners to submit various complaints via the Internet and government at all levels to share information. According to the SBLC, the national network will collect complaints delivered by letters, personal visits, hotlines, videos and online formats. Moreover, central government organizations will be able to share information with their provincial counterparts through the data exchange platform. Based on the timetable, the SBLC is expected to issue a unified data interface standard in May, then start a test run and connect with provincial online petitioning networks in December. Petitioning, also known as "letters and calls," is the administrative system for hearing public complaints and grievances. In China, petitioners generally see injustice in land acquisition, healthcare, education or environmental protection. Official statistics show that China accepted about 2.48 million online petition cases in 2013, up 10.9 percent year on year. In some places, the number of complaints filed via the Internet even surpassed that through traditional means like mail or personal visits. Pushed by such irresistible contemporary trends, online petitioning has gradually become the main channel for the public to file complaints. It could also ensure the transparency of government organs, said Shu Xiaoqin, head of the SBLC. "Through online petitioning, the public can better understand the procedures of dealing with a case and its results, improve their participation and oversight," she said at the meeting. ^ top ^

Beijing court upholds guilty verdict against rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong (SCMP)
2014-04-12
Legal experts said Beijing's top court acted unfairly but predictably when it rejected rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong's appeal against his conviction for disturbing public order. The Beijing Municipal High People's Court yesterday upheld Xu's four-year jail sentence. Xu, a leading figure of the New Citizen movement which calls for public disclosure of officials' assets, among other demands, was detained on July 16. Where he will serve his sentence or when he will be transferred to prison remained unknown. "For this entire trial, the prosecution has violated every boundary of the law," Xu's lawyer, Zhang Qingfang, said. "The decision was made long ago." According to Zhang, the prosecution claimed to have read all 129 case files against Xu in a single week, a feat he described as "nearly impossible". "The prosecutor's office said they stayed up every night to study them, but it would require a miracle to read all 129 files in just one week," Zhang said. The closed-door trial was brief, and the court refused to summon prosecution witnesses for cross-examination. It also rejected the defendant's request to admit his own witnesses. Xu asked to read a closing statement, during which the court cut him off, calling it irrelevant. "The court prevented Xu from exercising his lawful rights," Zhang said. Last July, Xu, 41, was accused of leading several small protests that called for the end of education inequality and for officials to begin disclosing their wealth. "This wakes the world up to the fact that 'hunting tigers' and 'swatting flies' are just facades," said Liu Weiguo, a human rights lawyer, referring to the slogan that President Xi Jinping used for his anti-graft campaign. "They aren't listening, nor are they giving people what they really want." Xu and his many supporters had expressed hope that Xi, who has made cracking down on corruption within the Communist Party a priority and is a driving figure behind reform, would be more sympathetic towards organised campaigns for change. The president's father, Xi Zhongxun, left a legacy of liberalism. "The party doesn't want to appear to be driven by civil society - they want to be seen to be taking control and making improvements on its own terms," said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. "It's very much a top-down process, not-bottom up." Despite the setbacks, Teng Biao, a fellow rights lawyer and editor of Xu's new book, To be a Citizen: A Free China, said the public's momentum for change would not stop completely. "The truth is, we cannot wait for the party, which doesn't have the ability nor the desire to give China an open society. "The hope lies with Xu, and others like him, who will fight for civil rights no matter what happens to them." Three other New Citizen activists went on trial this week - Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei on Tuesday and Zhao Changqing on Thursday - also for disturbing public order. The three activists face prison terms of up to five years if convicted. ^ top ^

Xi calls for joining space and air roles (China Daily)
2014-04-15
President Xi Jinping is asking the air force to speed up its transformation into a strong power with an integrated air and space capability. During an inspection visit to the People's Liberation Army air force headquarters in Beijing on Monday, Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the air force plays a decisive role in national security as well as military strategy, and he requested it to have balanced strength in defensive and offensive operations, PLA Daily reported on its website. He talked with commanders and officers on the PLA air force's development and preparations for military operations, saying they must focus on training that boosts combat capability. The air force must make sure it can "swiftly and effectively" deal with possible emergencies, Xi said. He also asked it to optimize its structure and allocate more resources in a "new-type combat force". Xi was shown a drill in handling air contingencies and praised the involved units for their "high vigilance, rapid response, outstanding skills and performance", the report said. Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, said Xi's call for integrated air and space capability is to answer the need of the times. "The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization," he said. "Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space." The US air force declared in 2000 that air and space form a single "seamless operational medium" for the exercise of military power, and it would refocus its training and operating concepts to reflect that view. The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space. Senior Colonel Wu Guohui, an associate professor at the PLA National Defense University, told People's Daily in an earlier report that the PLA air force had unfolded a series of research projects aimed at keeping pace with the latest space technologies. He said space-based information can reshape air combat and space vehicles would be the key to forming an air-and-space weaponry system. The construction of a modern air-defense and anti-missile apparatus could be achieved through the integration of air and space capabilities, according to Wu. Dong Wenxian, a retired researcher with the PLA air force headquarters, was quoted by PLA Daily as saying that NATO countries had actively adopted various space platforms to support reconnaissance, early warning, communication and positioning in every conflict since the first Gulf War, which indicates such platforms play a vital role in modern warfare. He said China began to realize the significance of integrated air and space capability in the early 1990s and has begun offering courses on this issue in air force academies. ^ top ^

Son of reformer Hu Yaobang rues lost chance for change, 25 years after his father's death (SCMP)
2014-04-15
China missed a golden opportunity for political reform in the 1980s and it is doubtful when the next one will come, says a son of Hu Yaobang, the widely respected late liberal leader, whose death helped trigger one of the largest democratic movements in modern China. Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of the 25th anniversary today of his father's death, Hu Dehua lamented the lack of progress in political reform and the continued lack of protection for press freedom over the last quarter century. Hu Yaobang believed political reform had to go hand-in-hand with economic reform. In 1986, he was planning a draft law to safeguard press freedoms, but was purged in 1987 before it could be enacted.(…) "When you have no law to protect these rights, everything is in the hands of the officials. "Although we have a constitution which guarantees freedoms in speech and assembly… in fact, there are hardly any freedoms. We have no right to supervise [the government]." He added: "Today, corruption among officials is impossible to rein in and ethnic tension is intense. (…)”. Hu Yaobang's name has for years been taboo and mostly censored by official media. Over the weekend, former president Hu Jintao - not related - made a surprise visit to Hu Yaobang's formal residence to pay a tribute. President Xi Jinping's father, Xi Zhongxun, was known as a key ally of Hu Yaobang. Hu Dehua's comments carry weight because of the respect people still hold for his father - one of the most important leaders responsible for steering China out of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and into the era of "reform and opening up". Hu Yaobang died on April 15, 1989, from a heart attack, two years after being elbowed out of power by party conservatives for tolerating "bourgeois liberation". Hundreds of thousands turned out on the streets to pay their respects. The spontaneous public mourning later transformed into a mass movement for democracy and freedom in Tiananmen Square, but was ended by a brutal military crackdown on June 4. (…) Hu Yaobang had a liberal and pragmatic approach to politics and economics. As deputy head of the Central Party School and later the party's propaganda chief, he encouraged independent thinking, freeing China from ideological dogmatism and the worship of Mao when the country was still reeling from the Cultural Revolution. Among the many legacies of his father, Hu Dehua is most proud of his advocacy of democracy and the rule of law, his opposition to repressive rule, his campaign to rehabilitate political victims and the abolition of discrimination against "black five categories" of so-called political enemies. Hu Yaobang ended the requirement to declare one's class affiliation on official documents. "People enjoyed freedom from fear for the first time," said Hu Dehua. "I reckon this contribution was no less than [Abraham] Lincoln's liberation of black slaves - he turned the politically condemned class into citizens." ^ top ^

PLA to set up local 'watchdog' offices to monitor graft and protect troops' rights (SCMP)
2014-04-15
The Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army are setting up offices at the local government level to better monitor soldiers for illegal activities and to address any grievances. The move comes amid a drive by the leadership to clean up the military, improve morale and root out graft without shaking public confidence in soldiers. "All departments should attach importance to the work of protecting military rights, especially those that have a major influence on state security and social stability," read a document issued jointly by the Communist Party's Central Political and Law Commission and the PLA's General Political Department. Government authorities should also crack down on military-related crimes, such as stealing and selling PLA secrets, and theft or destruction of equipment or facilities, it read. The PLA has come under closer scrutiny by the administration of President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission. At the end of last month, former deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan was charged with embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power. His former boss and ally Xu Caihou, who previously served as CMC vice-chairman, has also been detained. The document asked all provinces and municipalities to establish leading groups and standing offices at the county, city and provincial levels. Heads of the local political and law commissions will lead the groups, while key juridical and government organisations will take part. The jointly produced document asked authorities to carefully handle disputes relating to military preparation, drills and training, construction of state-defence projects and related scientific research. It urged better assistance for military families who became involved in legal matters triggered by personal injuries or death, as well as land acquisitions or demolition work. "Some civilian disputes and mass incidents have had a direct influence on state defence and military preparation," said a director with the military court quoted by the PLA Daily. The central government will also establish a mechanism to co-ordinate national issues relating to protecting military rights. ^ top ^

China's National Security Commission holds its first meeting (SCMP)
2014-04-16
The newly established National Security Commission formally came into operation yesterday with Communist Party chief Xi Jinping presiding over its first meeting. Xi outlined the commission's policy programme, describing it as a "comprehensive approach to national security", according to Xinhua. Xi said the body would focus on both domestic and international security issues as the Communist Party faced unprecedented challenges from internal and external sources, Xinhua added. The body's composition is not known. A state television anchorman read a statement issued after the meeting during the evening newscast without showing footage of the meeting. The statement said both of the panel's vice-chairmen, Premier Li Keqiang and National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang, attended the meeting. Xi said national security was of paramount importance for consolidating the Communist Party's hold on power and the nation's development. The body should balance domestic and external security needs, as well as those of individual citizens and territories, he said. It should put equal emphasis on conventional and unconventional security issues, the latter a reference to terrorism. Xi said the country would attach great importance to international security to "form a community of common destiny and promote all parties involved to seek mutual benefit and common security interests". Jia Qingguo, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said internal security would be the main concern of the committee. "Similar committees of overseas nations focus more on external and diplomatic affairs, but for China, the internal situation will be given more weight," Jian said. Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general, said counter-terrorism would be a major issue for the committee to tackle, as domestic terrorist attacks posed a serious threat to the public. Chen Jiping of the China Law Society said during the National People's Congress that Li Zhanshu, head of the party's general office, would serve concurrently as the head of the commission's general office. The South China Morning Post reported previously that Cai Qi would likely become deputy head of the general office. ^ top ^

State Council appoints new officials (Xinhua)
2014-04-16
The State Council, China's Cabinet, on Wednesday announced the appointment of several officials. Chen Fei, former president of the state-owned China Three Gorges Corporation, was appointed vice director of the Executive Office of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee of the State Council. Chen replaced Lu Chun, who assumed the post of board chairman of the same corporation last month, according to the company's website. Lin Nianxiu was appointed vice head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Kuresh Mahsut vice head of the Ministry of Land and Resources and director of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG), while Sun Baohou became deputy auditor general of the National Audit Office. Meanwhile, Zhang Xiaoqiang and Du Ying were dismissed from the posts of vice heads of the NDRC, and Xu Deming was removed from the posts of vice minister of land and resources and director of the NASMG. Jiang Zengwei was also removed from the position of vice minister of commerce, among a number of other appointment and dismissal announcements. ^ top ^

Experts hail 'authoritative' NSC (Global Times)
2014-04-17
Experts have hailed the National Security Commission's (NSC) "comprehensive and authoritative" role in safeguarding China's internal and external security in the new era following its first meeting. President Xi Jinping, who heads the commission, vowed to implement an overall national security outlook and a "national security path with Chinese characteristics" on Tuesday while chairing the commission's first meeting. "Nowadays, national security involves more aspects beside traditional defense," Yang Weidong, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times. External security concerns have expanded from military threats to terrorism, cyber security, hacking and other fields that require coordinated efforts from multiple departments, Yang said, adding that only a top-level agency like the National Security Commission can ensure an effective mechanism for overall coordination. Meanwhile, internal security that concerns social stability also draws public attention after events such as the Kunming terror attack, Yang added. The national security system will cover 11 spheres of politics, territory, military, economy, culture, society, science and technology, information, ecology, nuclear and natural resources, according to the president. Experts stressed that comprehensive security threats require combined efforts from national defense, economy, public security and others, while the previous scattered structure proved to be insufficient without unified leadership. "The national security system will also contribute to more authoritative foreign policies for China since the decisions will be made based on all-sided consideration in the future," Yang said. The detailed categories of national security and emphasizing the priority of its people's security showed the national security path with Chinese characteristics, Li Wei, a senior safety research fellow from the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said. China also emphasized common security while safeguarding its own interests in the world, Li said, adding that it showed China's consistent effort to seek international security and it prefers dialogue for solving international conflicts. Experts also suggested that the leading figures of the commission, which also include Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang as deputy heads, showed Chinese characteristics through the combination of the Party, government and legislature. The decision to establish the commission was made at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November 2013. In an explanation of the proposed commission's main responsibilities made public after the session, Xi said, "Establishing a national security commission to strengthen the unified leadership of State security work is an urgent need." Xi was appointed as the head of the commission on January 24. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing says one-third of its pollution comes from outside the city (SCMP)
2014-04-16
About a third of the air pollution in China's smog-hit capital comes from outside the city, official media reported on Wednesday, citing a pollution watchdog. Chen Tian, chief of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said that about 28-36 per cent of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 came from surrounding provinces like Hebei, home to seven of China's 10 most polluted cities in 2013, according to official data. The central government has identified the heavily industrialised Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region as one of the main fronts in its war against pollution, and it is under pressure to cut coal consumption and industrial capacity. Decades of unrestrained growth have hit China's environment hard and Beijing's often choking air has become a symbol of the pollution crisis. Public anger over pollution in different places has sparked protests and while the government has announced plans to fight it, authorities often struggle to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local authorities to heel. Chen said that of the smog generated in Beijing, 31 per cent came from vehicles, 22.4 per cent from coal burning and 18.1 per cent from industry, according to China Environmental News, a publication of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.Wang Junling, the vice head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Research Institute, said that while pollution from outside Beijing was a main component of its smog, the rapid growth of the city's population, energy use and economic output were also to blame for worsening air quality. He told China Environmental News last month that from 1998 to 2012, Beijing's economic output rose 6.5 times and the number of vehicles rose 2.8 times. Over the same period, the city's population soared 66 per cent while energy consumption rose 90 per cent. The city plans to cut coal consumption by 13 million tonnes by 2017, down from about 23 million tonnes in 2013. Hebei province used about 280 million tonnes of coal last year and aims to cut the total by 40 million tonnes over the same period. Beijing also plans to limit the number of cars on its roads to 5.6 million this year, with the number allowed to rise to 6 million by 2017. It is also trying to enforce a ban on old vehicles with lower fuel standards. The city government said in a report last week it failed to meet national standards in four of the six major controlled pollutants in 2013. It said its PM2.5 concentrations stood at a daily average of 89.5 micrograms per cubic metre, 156 per cent higher than national standards. In 2013, PM2.5 concentrations in 74 cities monitored by authorities stood at an average of 72 micrograms per cubic metre (cu m), more than twice China's recommended national standard of 35 mg/cu m. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Huge leak of Shanghai police informants' personal data (SCMP)
2014-04-14
An apparent security flaw on the Shanghai police website has led to a huge leak of private information about informants and people making complaints to the department. The leaked files included their names, home addresses, phone numbers and the letters they sent to the police chief's e-mail address, according to a review by the South China Morning Post. The bulk of the files, dated from August to yesterday, were e-mails and photographic proof of alleged wrongdoing - some implicating police officers. The data could be publicly accessed on a server that hosts the Shanghai Public Security Bureau's website from Friday afternoon, and perhaps earlier, to yesterday afternoon. The server became unavailable after that. The bureau could not be reached for comment. The cause of the leak is unclear. Complainants contacted about the leak expressed shock. "How could they do this to us?" said a man from the Minhang district of the city who lodged a complaint earlier this year. He said the bureau did not respond to his letter. "I hope the authorities can treat our reports more seriously by ensuring the informants are protected from such exposure," he said. The e-mail complaint system, run by the police department handling petitions, allows citizens to air grievances and to report crimes, the website stated. The force has encouraged tipsters to provide their personal information so their cases can be handled in a "timely manner". It promised that all personal information would be protected. A woman who accused policemen of beating up her family members said she was disappointed by the breach of security. "To disclose our information is like telling those police officers that I'm the whistleblower," she said. "I did my job, but apparently the police didn't do theirs." Police said they received and responded to nearly 1,300 complaint e-mails in the first two months of the year. ^ top ^

Shanghai arrests 160 gang suspects involved in citywide health care scam (SCMP)
2014-04-16
Authorities in China have detained 160 members of a criminal gang in the financial capital of Shanghai after the group lured patients to fake medical clinics and sold them overpriced drugs, Shanghai police said on Tuesday. The gang cheated more than 500 victims out of 1.7 million yuan (HK$2.1 million), using corrupt doctors to inflate drug prices and prescribe large amounts of medicines, the city's police department said on its official microblog. Corruption is rife in China's health care system, hit by a scarcity of doctors, while bribery pushes up the cost of care and creates tension between health care workers and patients. Providing affordable, accessible health care is one of the key platforms of President Xi Jinping's new government, with China's health care bill set to hit US$1 trillion by 2020, according to a report from McKinsey & Co. More than 600 Shanghai police officials launched a sting operation on April 2, after seven months of investigation, holding 160 suspects in raids on the homes of gang members around the city and seizing crates of medicine and fake firearms, the police said. The gang would lure patients into four fraudulent clinics, using people placed at hospitals and train stations to praise the quality of care. Unqualified doctors would then sell them drugs at prices often more than 10 times the real value. The scam, which often targeted migrants who had come to Shanghai for treatment, is the largest of its kind to hit the city, say official Chinese media, ranging from the Shanghai Daily paper and Xinhua news agency. They added that 114 of those detained had been arrested. Separately, Xinhua said authorities had seized more than 1.61 million fake Durex-brand condoms and arrested 20 people involved in their production in the eastern province of Zhejiang. Police in the central province of Henan also arrested 19 people for selling “bogus medical devices” made from “overseas waste”, Xinhua added, without giving details. China has long grappled to control the production and sale of fake and shoddy goods, in a country where everything from basic foods, such as rice and eggs, to iPhones and car parts, can become the target of counterfeiters. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

HK lawmakers discuss reforms with top officials (Global Times)
2014-04-14
Lawmakers from Hong Kong Legislative Council met with senior officials from the Chinese mainland in Shanghai Sunday to discuss political reforms in Hong Kong, including the general election in 2017. Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Office of the State Council, said Sunday that he hoped to strengthen communication with different parties to achieve political reforms in Hong Kong. Wang added that a consensus is needed to elect a patriotic chief executive with no intention to turn against the mainland, Radio Television of Hong Kong (RTHK) reported, citing a lawmaker at the meeting. Mainland officials also said they have never said that pan-democrats are not patriotic, Michael Tien Puk-sun was quoted by Hong Kong media as saying. Helena Wong Pik-wan from the Democratic Party said the officials were friendly but differences remained on how the chief executive should be nominated in 2017. As a five-month public consultation conducted by the regional government on the electoral system is drawing to an end in May, demonstrations have continued in Hong Kong. Protesters have demanded universal suffrage with civil nominations. Some pan-democratic members reiterated their appeals at the meeting, including presenting a calligraphic work which said "civil nomination" to Wang. In return, Wang gave each one a copy of the Basic Law, according to RTHK. "It is clearly stipulated in the Basic Law that nominations should be conducted via the nomination committee," said Zhu Shihai, a professor specializing in Hong Kong studies from the Central Institute of Socialism. "There are ways to increase the level of democracy under the present legal framework. For example, we can discuss the constitution of the nomination committee and the qualification of voters." The meeting marked the first time that all Legislative Council members had the chance to meet with senior central officials since 1997, but some members failed to attend. Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, dropped his visit after he refused to turn in items which expressed dissenting political opinions at Shanghai Customs. ^ top ^

Ignore our wishes for 2017 and we'll occupy, students warn government (SCMP)
2014-04-16
Student leaders warned yesterday that they would not rule out engaging in non-violent civil disobedience if the government rejects their proposal to allow the public to nominate candidates for the chief executive election. Student-led activist group Scholarism and the Federation of Students issued the warning as they tabled a joint reform proposal for the 2017 election. Both groups called for anyone who secures the written support of 1 per cent of Hong Kong voters - some 35,000 people - to be allowed to enter the race. The Alliance for True Democracy has proposed the same threshold. Beijing officials told pan-democrat lawmakers on Sunday that there was no chance public nomination would be accepted by the central government. Scholarism's convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung said he hoped the proposal would be backed in the citywide "referendum" to be organised by Occupy Central on June 22. "If the government rejects such a proposal, which could be endorsed by 100,000 residents, that would be [tantamount] to trampling on public opinion and insulting the public," Wong said. "[If that happens] Scholarism and the Federation of Students will consider all kinds of nonviolent action." The student groups also suggested a model for the nominating committee. It would consist of 35 directly elected lawmakers, and any hopeful would also be allowed to run if they could win the support of at least 8 per cent, or three out of the 35. If no candidate wins 50 per cent or more support in the election, the top two candidates would enter a second-round run-off. The federation's secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang said the proposal "will not just manifest the spirit of social equality, but also let Hongkongers regain control of their right to nominate, to elect and to be elected". Chow dismissed a proposal from academics that the public only be allowed to make non-binding recommendations of candidates to the nominating committee, saying it would "empower the privileged class in the nominating committee to veto the recommendations". The federation also rejected former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang's proposal for the public to elect 317 members of a 1,400-strong nominating committee. Meanwhile, two Beijing-loyalist bodies tabled their own reform proposals. The Chinese Manufacturers' Association, one of the city's four major chambers, said the nominating committee should have between 1,200 and 1,600 members. The 160,000-member Kowloon Federation of Associations proposed a 1,200-member committee that would put forward, at most, four candidates. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

US plans first cabinet visit to Taiwan in 14 years (SCMP)
2014-04-14
The United States' top environmental official will visit Taiwan in the first trip to the island by a US cabinet-level leader in 14 years, officials said yesterday. Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will travel to Taiwan and Vietnam from today to Wednesday to discuss co-operation, her agency said in a statement. The trip would be the first by a cabinet-level US official to Taiwan since 2000, when then US president Bill Clinton sent transportation secretary Rodney Slater. Beijing frequently protests against any hint of international recognition for Taiwan, which it considers a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. But tensions have abated markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou was elected in 2008 on a platform of improving relations with the mainland through economic and cultural co-operation. Beijing has appeared eager to support Ma and in February held its first formal meeting with a Taiwanese government official since their 1949 split. Still, McCarthy's visit, which had long been expected, was announced with a low-key statement over the weekend. The Environmental Protection Agency said McCarthy would meet environmental officials and "other leading Taiwan authorities" and deliver a speech at the National Taiwan University. (...) For McCarthy, the trip will probably be a rare action that has won approval from the rival Republican Party, which has strongly criticised her for spearheading regulations to fight climate change. Taiwan is a popular cause for US lawmakers of both parties, who regularly visit the island even though Washington officially recognises only Beijing. Tao Wenzhao, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the environmental protection chief's portfolio was not a politically sensitive area for Beijing. (...). ^ top ^

Mainland leader welcomes Taiwan trade unions in cross-Strait cooperation (Xinhua)
2014-04-16
Top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng Wednesday welcomed Taiwan trade unions to play a constructive role in cross-Strait exchanges and economic cooperation. Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), made the remarks at a meeting with visiting trade union leaders from the island. Yu expressed his appreciation for the efforts Taiwan trade unions have made to promote cross-Strait peace. Trade unions and their members from both sides of the Taiwan Strait are always an important force to promote peace and development, he said. "We welcome more and more trade union members to engage in cross-Strait exchanges and inject stronger motivation in peace and development across the Strait," he said. The mainland hopes Taiwan trade unions will continue playing a constructive role in cross-Strait economic cooperation and protection of the rights of workers, he said. Taiwan trade union leaders attended a cross-Strait trade union forum in Beijing Monday. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China yuan weakens to 6.1531 against USD (Xinhua)
2014-04-14
The Chinese currency renminbi, or yuan, weakened 36 basis points to 6.1531 against the U.S. dollar on Monday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System. In China's foreign exchange spot market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by 2 percent from the central parity rate each trading day. The central parity rate of the yuan against the U.S. dollar is based on a weighted average of prices offered by market makers before the opening of the interbank market each business day. ^ top ^

Reform is the best public diplomacy (China Daily)
2014-04-14
As Friday's curtain came down on this year's Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), a public diplomacy event, the lasting effect on China should be progress and reform. It is fair to say that the four days of the conference, covering sixty topics and attracting over 3,000 global figures from all walks of life, were a good example of public diplomacy itself. As we know, actions speak louder and better than words, and this is especially true when enhancing a country's influence in the diplomatic world. Enduring international appeal does not come from publicity campaigns, but from competitiveness fuelled by continuous reform. China is indeed attractive to the world with its history and culture, but more importantly, it is now a marketplace of middle class consumers for global investors. The rosy future is not without thorns, however. While barriers still exist in many sectors - intellectual property rights protection is weak and regional development, uneven - China is well aware of its problems, evident during the forum events attended by officials with a clear reform map in mind. From entrepreneurship to innovation, from microfinance to opening up capital markets, from the Shanghai FTZ to the maritime Silk Road, the range of reforms shows an eagerness for new growth, through both domestic reform and international cooperation. Cross-market trading by mainland and Hong Kong investors on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges was announced during the forum, and we can expect more reforms, as mentioned in Premier Li Keqiang's speech at the opening ceremony. China is committed to opening up markets, economic restructuring and improving the lives of its people. Credibility is the cornerstone of effective public diplomacy, and China now has to honor its promises to earn global trust and approval. Reform cannot be achieved overnight and it will be an uphill journey. A China story with twists and turns will be a more interesting - and convincing - form of public diplomacy. ^ top ^

Game of interests in China's regional integration (Xinhua)
2014-04-14
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping called for integration of regions around Beijing in February, the market response has been quick: property prices in neighboring cities have kept rising, as have related stocks. But concrete moves on the official level are still in slow motion. In a brief statement on its website, China's National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planner, announced on Wednesday that it is drawing up a plan for the coordinated development of a Beijing-centered "economic circle," but did not say when it will come out. The idea of integrated development among Beijing and Tianjin municipalities and Hebei Province is not new. The central government first proposed plans to coordinate development in the regions in 2004. Since then, however, there has been little solid progress except for the building of a few transport networks that connect the regions, spawning the creation of "sleeping city" commuter towns around Beijing. Beneath the unintended outcome is the uneven growth and resource distribution among the regions, with Beijing enjoying unmatchable blessings both in the political and economic sphere. Exactly how the renewed push will deliver will hinge on authorities' resolve and wisdom to balance the game of interests between the regions. Beggar thy neighbor. One of the apparent intentions of the integration design is to move some industries out of exploding Beijing, where pollution, traffic jams and population pressure are getting too serious to ignore. But at a time when the public is growing more sensitive to the environment, Beijing cannot simply seek to cure its own ills by beggaring its neighbors. Langfang, a nearby city in Hebei Province, has made it clear that those low-end polluting industries deserting Beijing will not be welcomed in Langfang either. Zhang Gui, deputy head of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei research center under the Hebei University of Technology, pointed out that instead of purely ridding itself of unwanted industries, Beijing should also consider passing some of its non-essential interests and resources to surrounding cities. To facilitate an orderly transfer, the first step is to clearly position the roles of different cities, and allow the market to assess the costs and make the decision, according to analysts. "The role of the government is to step up policy design, improve the fiscal system and adjust the evaluation criterion on officials," said Zhao Hong, vice president of the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences. ^ top ^

Money supply growth slows (Global Times)
2014-04-16
Broad money supply, also known as M2, is a measure of money supply that includes cash and checking deposits (M1) as well as assets that can be quickly converted into cash or checking deposits. The People's Bank of China (PBC), the central bank, said in a statement that M2 reached 116.07 trillion yuan ($18.8 trillion) by the end of March. The slower growth of M2 in the first quarter is greatly attributed to the high base effect - the high growth of the broad money supply in the first three months of 2013, Sheng Songcheng, financial survey and statistics chief at the PBC, told a media briefing. The M2 money supply growth will likely be low in the beginning but higher later this year, and the growth rate will rebound in the second quarter and possibly reach or even exceed 13 percent, Song said. Chinese banks issued 1.05 trillion yuan worth of new loans in March from 644.5 billion yuan a month earlier. Total social financing, a broad measure of liquidity in the economy, reached 2.07 trillion yuan from 939 billion yuan in February. Despite a rebound in number, the central bank's data indicated a slower trend in credit and deposit growth. New loan growth in March fell 0.94 percent year-on-year, while yuan deposit growth fell 1.1 percentage points from February and 2.4 percentage points from December 2013. In response to the less vigorous credit growth data, banking shares led the slump in China's A-share market on Tuesday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index and Shenzhen Component Index fell by 1.4 percent and 1.76 percent respectively at market close from the previous trading day. The slowdown of credit growth is mainly due to the central bank's tightening control of shadow banking activities, Liu Ligang, chief China economist at ANZ Banking Corporation, told the Global Times. Sliding deposit growth suggests that corporations may have difficulty in collecting payments from customers amid the cooling economy, Liu said. The central bank sustained a relatively tight monetary policy aimed to force corporations and local governments to deleverage and cut debt ratio out of fears for rising financial risks, he noted. China's broad money supply is about 200 percent of its GDP, one of the world's highest, mainly driven by the 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package launched in 2009-10. Excessive money stocks pushed up asset prices and led to swelling corporate and local government debts, leaving the country's monetary policymakers in a dilemma whether to trade off between a reined-in money supply and the ailing economy. Amid a slackening economy, there has been market speculation that the PBC may cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) of commercial banks to release additional money into the economy. Relatively tight money supply over the past two years has pushed up the financing cost of corporations. Cutting the RRR and increasing money supply will lower a corporation's financing cost and will make it easier to push forward the interest rate liberalization, Liu said. March's money and credit data is in line with other recent signs of slower growth momentum, Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura Securities, told the Global Times in a research note on Tuesday."We maintain our view that GDP slowed to 7.3 percent year-on-year in the first quarter and will slow further to 7.1 percent in the second quarter, partly due to weak momentum in the property sector, and continue to believe that the government will have to ease policy further, particularly on the monetary side," Zhang wrote. China is scheduled to unveil on Wednesday its official data on first quarter GDP growth. The World Bank trimmed recently its 2014 forecast for China's GDP growth to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent previously, citing a weak industrial production and exports data in the first two months of this year. "The central bank has been fine-tuning its monetary policy slightly since early this year. Market liquidity is relatively abundant compared with the same period last year," Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Lian projected that the central bank will continue its open market operations to maintain a steady and moderate level of liquidity, and the possibility of the central bank cutting RRR cannot be excluded. Premier Li Keqiang said at the Boao Forum for Asia on Thursday that China will not take forceful short-term stimulus measures in response to temporary economic fluctuations but will focus more on medium and long-term healthy development. Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan also said at the forum that a low inflation rate is key for PBC monetary control. If economic growth is too deviated from the target, the central bank will make slight changes to its monetary policy. ^ top ^

Hard work to see through opaque job figures (SCMP)
2014-04-17
A senior official of the National Bureau of Statistics said the employment situation on the mainland remained sound after the economy lost more steam in the first quarter. "We feel that the job situation was stable and showed a positive trend," National Bureau of Statistics spokesman Sheng Laiyun told a press conference, suggesting no imminent worries about jobs even though gross domestic product growth eased to 7.4 per cent in the first quarter from 7.7 per cent in the previous three months. Interpreting the job situation has been challenging in China. Premier Li Keqiang has made it clear that the GDP growth rate is secondary to efforts to ensure stable job creation. He said last year the economy needed 10 million new jobs a year. A spike in unemployment would hurt Beijing's plans to reform the economic system to spur sustainable long-term development and even test the stability of the political regime. In developed nations, the jobless rate is a reliable gauge for the market. Understanding China's job situation requires a wider range of official data. "China has lacked sound job data, which has added difficulties for policy making," Capital Economics' Wang Qinwei said. The statistics bureau has been publishing an urban jobless rate based on voluntary registration. The indicator, however, has barely changed, staying between 4 and 5 per cent for many years. Economists seldom refer to this gauge partly because it fails to reflect a key variation that affects the resilience of the job market: the flow of cheap migrant workers which has underpinned the country's growth. Yesterday, Sheng had to offer several examples as proof to convey his confidence in the job market. They included creation of more than three million new urban positions in the first quarter and a 1.7 per cent rise of the migrant population living in urban areas from a year earlier. He also referenced a new indicator. "The statistics bureau has come up with survey-based unemployment data. The result, although not made public yet, showed a generally stable market, based on our internal information," Sheng said. Before the opaqueness is improved, Wang said he would monitor the new job numbers published quarterly by local governments, as well as wage changes. "The wage increase has stayed at double digits, which is healthy and indicates the labour market wasn't in trouble," he said. Nomura economist Zhang Zhiwei cited a different indicator: the proportion of demand against supply. The latest gauge stood at 1.1, indicating there were 110 positions open for every 100 job seekers, he said. ^ top ^

China unveils new economic package (China Daily)
2014-04-17
China on Wednesday announced a string of financial and tax moves including cutting the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for some rural financial institutions to provide more support for the rural economy and bolster job creation. China will cut the RRR for county-level rural commercial banks and rural credit cooperative unions that meet certain standards, according to a statement that followed a cabinet meeting of the State Council. It did not specify the standards. The RRR sets the minimum fraction of customer deposits that each bank must hold as reserves rather than lending, and is an important monetary tool used by central banks. Lowering the RRR is often aimed at boosting bank lending and economic growth. This is another "loosening signal" from the government, which suggests it is probably more concerned about the economic outlook as the property sector slowed sharply in the first quarter, said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist with Japan's Nomura Securities.h China's gross domestic product (GDP) rose 7.4 percent year on year in the first quarter, slightly outpacing market estimates but marking the lowest quarterly growth rate since the third quarter of 2012, official data revealed on Wednesday. Zhang predicts the government will cut the RRR for the whole banking sector in May or June. The step to cut the RRR for rural financial institutions is a "targeted move" which can help reduce financing costs for the rural economy and boost market confidence, said Guan Youqing, an analyst with Minsheng Securities. China will push forward reforms of rural financial institutions and increase the shares of private capital in those agencies. More efforts will be taken to enhance basic financial service coverage in remote rural areas and increase financing support for key sectors to modernize agriculture, noted the statement. Officials attending Wednesday's cabinet meeting also decided to extend a preferential tax policy for the unemployed, new college graduates, the disabled and others to start their own businesses. The policy was effective from Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2013. In addition, the meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided to provide tax incentives to companies employing those who have been out of work for more than one year. This expanded the scope for business owners who can enjoy tax breaks, as the previous policy stipulated that those eligible for favorable tax treatment cannot be engaged in some industries including construction, entertainment, advertisement, realtor among others, said Bai Jingming, a researcher with China's Ministry of Finance. The new announcement means that all business owners employing those who have been out of work for more than one year can enjoy favorable tax treatment, which is good news for both the unemployed and business owners, said Zhang Bin, a tax expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The latest tax incentives came about two weeks after the State Council announced that tax breaks for small and micro firms will be extended till the end of 2016. The cabinet decided in 2011 that any company with annual taxable income under 60,000 yuan (9,741 U.S. dollars) will have its business income tax halved during 2012-2015. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

South Korea, US launch largest-ever air drill amid border tensions with the North (SCMP)
2014-04-11
Enlarged airborne military exercises between South Korea and the United States involving hundreds of aircraft and thousands of troops commence amid heightened border tensions. South Korea and the United States kicked off their largest-ever joint air drill on Friday at a time of elevated military tensions with North Korea. The so-called “Max Thunder” exercise, which is held twice a year, will last until April 25 and involve 103 aircraft and 1,400 service personnel, a South Korean air force spokesman said. “In numerical terms, it's the largest exercise of its kind that we've done,” the spokesman told reporters. The last Max Thunder drill held in October-November last year involved 97 aircraft and some 1,000 troops. Seoul's F-15K jet fighters will take part along with US Air Force F-15 and F-16s and US Marines' FA-18 and EA-18 aircraft. “The combined air forces will strengthen their battle readiness under the current situation when tension rises over the Korean peninsula,” a South Korean air force statement said. The exercise will focus on “practical scenarios” involving precision attacks on enemy positions and supply-drop missions for troops infiltrating enemy territory. It comes as the allies are winding up separate annual military drills which began in late February, and have been denounced by North Korean authorities as rehearsals for invasion. In a pointed protest at the exercises, Pyongyang carried out a series of rocket and missile launches, capped by its first mid-range missile test since 2009 on March 26. The two Koreas also traded artillery fire across the tense Yellow Sea border on March 31, after the North dropped around 100 shells across the maritime boundary during a live-fire drill. The exchange followed a North Korean warning that it might carry out a “new” form of nuclear test – a possible reference to a uranium-based device or a miniaturised warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile. The United States, South Korea and Japan, meeting in Washington on Monday, condemned the ballistic missile tests and urged the North “to refrain from further threatening actions”. ^ top ^

S. Korea's 2015 budget plan to focus on reunification with DPRK (Xinhua)
2014-04-15
South Korea's 2015 budget plan will focus on laying groundwork for reunification with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), reflecting President Park Geun- hye's unwavering commitment to seeking the so-called " reunification bonanza" despite rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea picked the groundwork-laying as one of the five major investment focuses for the 2015 budget plan, according to the Finance Ministry. The guideline on the 2015 fiscal spending, which was approved at the cabinet meeting and ratified by President Park, will act as a principle under which ministries apply for next year's budgets. Under the guideline, government funds will be spent next year on establishing foundations for the reunited-Korea, including a humanitarian aid, an expansion of exchanges and long-term fiscal preparations for the reunification. "The groundwork-laying for reunification was included in the 2014 budget plan for the first time. There will be no cut in next year's fiscal spending in the unification area," a Finance Ministry official said over phone. Such budget plan came amid mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK threatened a "new form" of nuclear test in late March, after firing a volley of missiles and artillery shells, including the medium-range Rodong missiles which were seen by some as a signal for the fourth nuclear test following those in 2006, 2009 and 2013. The DPRK's show of force came as South Korea and the United States launched their annual war games at a time when separated families of the divided Korea held the reunion event. Pyongyang repeatedly denounced the joint military exercises as a rehearsal for the northward invasion. Despite the tension escalation, the South Korean government was expected to continue its preparations for future reunification, which was described by President Park as bonanza in her first New Year's speech in early January. Park made a three-point proposal to the DPRK in Dresden, Germany in late March, including a support for babies and pregnant women through the United Nations, infrastructure development, natural resources exploration and broader inter-Korean exchanges in history, culture and sports. It was in line with South Korea's DPRK policy that Seoul will seek the peaceful reunification with Pyongyang based on firm security. In the defense area, South Korea will lend a fiscal support to strengthen its military capability in response to the DPRK's possible missile and nuclear threats. Government money will continue to be spent next year on establishing the "kill chain" system and adopting the Korea-type anti-missile defense system. The kill chain system refers to a strategy which preemptively detects and intercepts missile and nuclear threats from the DPRK. Fiscal funds will also be allocated to building up infrastructure of defense research and development, developing core defense technology and enhancing competitiveness of the defense industry. ^ top ^

North Korea demands Japan allow international ferry services to resume (SCMP)
2014-04-16
North Korea is demanding that Japan permit a ferry to restart journeys between the two nations in return for the reopening of an investigation into the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang's agents. The demand is the just latest from Pyongyang. North Korea has already requested that Japan allow direct charter flights between the two nations. It has also asked Tokyo to cancel the sanctions it imposed after Pyongyang conducted nuclear and missile tests. And it has asked that a court decision to sell the Tokyo headquarters of the North Korean residents' association in Japan be rescinded. The two nations have had at least two rounds of talks in recent months. A third meeting is expected to take place before the end of the month. Japan has been encouraged by the new-found flexibility displayed by the North Korean regime. There are genuine hopes in Tokyo that there may be progress in recovering the 17 Japanese nationals who are officially listed as having been abducted. While there are suggestions that Japan is edging towards permitting charter flights to restart, Tokyo is not willing to give in to all of Pyongyang's demands. North Korea wants the Manyongbong-92 ferry to begin regular journeys between its east coast port of Wonsan and Niigata, on the west coast of Japan. Niigata was, ironically, the hometown of Megumi Yokota, who is the most famous of all the Japanese abductees. She was kidnapped and forced aboard a dinghy in November 1977, at the age of 13, and taken to Pyongyang. North Korea insists she committed suicide in 1994, although her parents still hold out hope that she is alive. Tokyo banned the ferry from Japanese ports in 2006, after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Previously, it had taken North Korean residents of Japan and consignments of Japanese goods back to the North. Rumours abounded that it was also used to import narcotics and North Korean agents into Japan. “It is very important that all the Japanese nationals who were taken are permitted to come back,” said Ken Kato, a Tokyo-based human rights activist. “North Korea says it will carry out another search, but that's nonsense, as they already know what happened to each of them and where the survivors are, so it should be quite easy for them,” Kato told the South China Morning Post. “But as there are no guarantees that they will actually do what they promise to do, I think Japan needs to have safeguards included in any agreement,” he said. “Japan should make it clear that sanctions will be lifted for a month or two and if there is no genuine progress in that time, then even more restrictive sanctions should be put back in place.” ^ top ^

US, China in 'productive' talks on North Korea after nuclear test threat (SCMP)
2014-04-16
The United States and China have held “productive” talks on North Korea, the US State Department said on Tuesday, part of stepped-up international diplomacy after Pyongyang warned of plans to conduct a new type of nuclear test. US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in New York on Monday and Tuesday. Wu would continue discussions with Davies and other US officials in Washington on Friday, a State Department statement said. “The United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearised North Korea,” it said, adding that the meetings were part of a series of high-level US-China discussions on how to achieve that in a peaceful manner. The talks follow meetings last week between the United States, Japan and South Korea, the countries that along with China and Russia were trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea until Pyongyang declared the so-called six-party talks dead in 2008. North Korea said on Friday that the world would have to “wait and see” when asked for details of the “new form” of nuclear test it has threatened to carry out. Pyongyang made the test threat after the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea's firing of two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles into the sea on March 26. It was North Korea's first firing in four years of mid-range missiles that can hit Japan and followed a series of short-range rocket launches over the past two months. Members of the Security Council condemned the move on March 27 as a violation of UN resolutions and agreed to continue discussions on an “appropriate response”. Diplomats said then that it was possible the Security Council would expand a current UN blacklist to include additional North Korean entities involved in Pyongyang's missile programme. But they said it could take weeks to reach agreement. The council expanded its sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang's February 2013 atomic test, its third nuclear detonation since 2006. Current UN sanctions target North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes and attempt to punish its reclusive leadership through a ban on the export of luxury goods to the country. Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the United States, said last week that North Korea's reference to a new form of test could mean simultaneous detonation of two or more devices as part of a programme of more intense nuclear testing expected over the next few years. While North Korea has detonated several nuclear devices, analysts have expressed doubt it currently has the technical capability to reliably mount a nuclear warhead on a missile. US President Barack Obama is to visit South Korea and Japan as part of a tour of Asia next week, and the North Korea issue will be high on the agenda. Earlier on Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any action that could lead to the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and said China would continue to play a positive role in promoting a “soft landing” there, China's state news agency Xinhua reported. She termed the situation on the peninsula fairly “sensitive” and “fragile,” it said. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

U.S. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel seeks increased ties with Mongolia (UB Post)
2014-04-11
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Ulaanbaatar yesterday on an official visit conducted within a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region. Within the official visit Hagel is seeking to increase ties with Mongolia in the defense and military fields. Upon his arrival, Hagel was welcomed by Mongolian Defense Minister D.Bat-Erdene. The two sides held official talks and exchanged views on Mongolia-U.S. relations, in particular, the relationship and cooperation between defense ministries and future outlooks. Mongolia and the United States of America should have friendly cooperation in order to maintain the policy on a rebalance in the Asia-Pacific region, stated Chuck Hagel during the meeting. Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the development of the relationship between the two country's Defense Ministries, which is being enriched in new concepts based on basic principles to maintain peace and sustainability, strengthening military trust on a global and regional level, deepening friendly relations between the two nations, and meeting the common interests of both sides. Following the official talks, Defense Minister D.Bat-Erdene and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel signed a joint statement on the directions and goals of the bilateral security cooperation between the two countries and held a press conference. Concluding the meeting, Defense Minister D.Bat-Erdene presented Chuck Hagel with a buckskin racehorse in a ceremony. Hagel named the horse Shamrock. Shamrock will stay in Mongolia, where he has been serving in the cavalry's honor guard battalion. No one will ever ride the horse but Hagel, officials said, according to the Associated Press. Hagel is the second defense secretary in recent years to receive a Mongolian horse. Then-Pentagon Chief Donald Rumsfeld also got one when he visited Mongolia in October 2005. He named it Montana, because the arid, mountainous landscape around the Mongolian capital reminded him of that state. Later on, Hagel met Prime Minister of Mongolia N.Altankhuyag. During the meeting with the Prime Minister, Hagel presented greetings from U.S. President Barack Obama to Mongolia's President Ts.Elbegdorj. He also expressed satisfaction with the present situation of bilateral cooperation in the defense sector, including peacekeeping operations. The visit to Mongolia by Hagel was brief and friendly as the two defense chiefs talked about how they want to improve Mongolia's peacekeeping efforts and its military's medical services. Hagel's meetings in China, however, were often sharper and controversy-tinged. The U.S. has criticized Beijing's recent declaration of an air defense zone over a large swath of the East China Sea, including disputed remote islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China. Hagel and the Chinese leaders have delivered sharp exchanges on those issues, as well as Washington's continued close ties with Taiwan, at meetings and public events. ^ top ^

Ambassador of China to Mongolia believes the “Justice” Coalition would support to accelerate mining and railway projects (Info Mongolia)
2014-04-15
Upon the request of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the PR of China to Mongolia, Wang Xiaolong, the Chairman of "Justice" Coalition (MPRP - MNDP) in the Parliament N.Battsereg received in his office the Ambassador on April 14, 2014. During the meeting, parties exchanged views on bilateral trade and economic development, and the world economic crisis, its impact to the two countries' economic and trade relations, besides how to quickly exit the crisis. Also, Ambassador Wang Xiaolong expressed his hope that the Coalition would support to accelerate and realize mining & railway projects being implemented and being discussed. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Lauranne Peman
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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