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

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

Press review, if not selected: all SinOptic
  13-17.3.17, No. 663  
    Archiv / Archives
Table of contents

DPRK

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Wang finds open door in Manila (China Daily)
2017-03-17
Vice-Premier Wang Yang arrived in Manila on Thursday to start a four-day official visit intended to improve pragmatic cooperation between China and the Philippines. Wang will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and also with the Philippine Cabinet's economic management team for talks, according to the Foreign Ministry. Wang attended the opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism, reading a congratulatory message from Premier Li Keqiang, and he is expected to speak at the opening ceremony of the China-Philippines Economic and Trade Forum. Wang's visit came a day after Chinese companies signed agreements with their Philippine counterparts to purchase $1.7 billion worth of fruit and other products. As many as 73 trade deals were signed in Manila on Wednesday, including for such Philippine goods as bananas, pineapples, coconut oil, fiber, lumber, copper cathode and nickel ore, China News Service reported. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said the agreements are "an effort to balance the trade" between the countries. They are the "advanced result" of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China in October. The agreements are expected to be the first of many as China seeks to import more nonfood goods such as chemicals and related products. China increased its imports of fruit such as mangoes and pineapples from the Philippines after Duterte's visit to Beijing. In the past five months, bilateral trade has reached $100 million. Duterte's visit to China last year, which included the signing of a number of cooperation deals, led to the thawing of both diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries, which had once been soured by the South China Sea arbitration case. Duterte, who has been taking a positive approach toward China since taking office in June, has said he plans to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May. Zhou Fangyin, a professor of China's foreign policy at the Guangdong Institute for International Strategies, said the proper management of the South China Sea issue has helped lay a solid foundation for the two countries to develop bilateral trade. Bilateral ties "encompass far more than the South China Sea issue", and trade cooperation between the two countries will in turn help solve that issue, Zhou said. ^ top ^

Xi talks with Merkel over phone about cooperation (Global Times)
2017-03-17
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday morning held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the topic of strengthening bilateral relations. During the conversation, Xi noted that 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Germany and that relations between the two countries have witnessed a comprehensive and in-depth development over recent years. "We're willing to work together with Germany to push the China-Germany comprehensive strategic partnership further forward. As both being two of the world's most important economies and firm advocates of globalization, China and Germany are obliged to push all parties to jointly build an open global economy, maintaining the effectiveness and authoritativeness of multilateral trade rules and systems," Xi said. Xi added that strengthening cooperation is in the fundamental interests of both countries and the European Union as a whole. During the call, Merkel expressed satisfaction with the development of Germany-China relations. She said Germany is willing to lift their comprehensive strategic partnership to a new level. ^ top ^

China, Pakistan to further boost military cooperation (Global Times)
2017-03-16
The military cooperation between China and Pakistan will be further enhanced especially in weapons and anti-terrorism sectors, experts noted after a meeting between two senior military officers of the two countries on Thursday. The "all-weather" strategic partnership has withstood changes in the international community, said Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department under the Central Military Commission of China, during a meeting with Qamar Javed Bajwa in Beijing, according to the website of the Ministry of National Defense. General Bajwa was appointed as Pakistani Army Chief in November 2016. The talks will consolidate and deepen military exchanges between China and Pakistan, while new cooperation on military techniques might also be discussed, Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Second Artillery Corps (now known as the PLA Rocket Force), told the Global Times. Weapon exchanges, including the mass production of FC-1 Xiaolong, a lightweight and multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the two countries, will be furthered after the meeting, said Song. China's authorization to Pakistan to produce ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-ship missiles and main battle tanks in Pakistan is also on the agenda, he added. The two sides also vowed on Thursday to ensure the safety of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important part of China's Belt and Road initiative. Masood Khalid, Pakistani Ambassador to China, said at a news conference on Tuesday that Pakistan has deployed more than 15,000 troops to protect the CPEC, and the country's navy has raised a contingent for the protection of Gwadar Port. Proposed in 2013 by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the 3,000-kilometer CPEC links Kashgar in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's Gwadar Port. As Pakistan faces frequent threats from terrorist forces such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, military support is necessary to ensure a safe environment for the regions where there is huge investment from China, said Song. The two countries agreed to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation at the meeting, vowing to resolutely strike against terrorist forces including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Pakistan's military is willing to deepen the cooperation with the Chinese army and fully support the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism by Afghanistan-China-Pakistan-Tajikistan Armed Forces, said Bajwa. ^ top ^

China, Saudi Arabia sign US$65 billion in deals as King Salman starts Beijing visit (SCMP)
2017-03-16
China and Saudi Arabia yesterday signed US$65 billion worth of deals during Saudi King Salman's visit to Beijing, at a time when China is expanding its influence in the Middle East and seeking Riyadh's support for its “One Belt, One Road” trade scheme. Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said the agreements involved investment, energy, space and other areas. A statement posted later on Saudi state news agency SPA said the documents included a plan for the kingdom to participate in China's Chang'e-4 moon mission and a partnership agreement for manufacturing drones. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements in energy, culture, education, and technology, according to a statement released by the foreign ministry. President Xi Jinping was quoted in the statement as saying that China welcomed Saudi Arabia as a “global partner” in its belt and road initiative, which aims to boost trade and connectivity among nations from Asia to Africa. China was a “stable export market” for Saudi Arabia's crude oil, Xi added. The visit to China came as the Saudi king wrapped up a month-long tour of Asia that took him to Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China. Chinese analysts said the king's Asia tour, topped by his China visit, showed that Riyadh was “looking east” in its diplomacy amid uncertainties under the Donald Trump administration in the US and China's more active approach in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia was China's biggest oil supplier until last year, when it was replaced by Russia. Despite its reliance on the region for oil, China has traditionally limited its participation in the Middle East. Beijing's recent decision to side with Russia in vetoing a UN resolution on Syria sanctions has put the spotlight on Beijing's role in trying to end Syria's six years of civil war, where Saudi Arabia has been supporting rebel groups that are fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “There is a need for Saudi Arabia to shift its focus to Asia, as Trump's Middle East policy has yet to take shape,” said Li Guofu, a Middle East specialist with the China Institute of International Studies. Li said Saudi Arabia would still rely on the US for security, but that Riyadh had realised that it could no longer “put all of its eggs in one basket”. ^ top ^

Seoul says Beijing is confused about THAAD system (SCMP)
2017-03-16
China is retaliating over Seoul's agreement to host the US Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile shield because it does not understand that the system is aimed only at defending against North Korea, South Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam said on Thursday. South Korean firms feel they are being retaliated against in China because of Beijing's objections to the deployment of the anti-missile system, which China sees as a threat to its security. Lim, answering questions from members of parliament, said South Korea had explained to China the system was to defend against North Korea's missile threat, but that China did not appear to fully understand that point. South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo told parliament that China's concern about the THAAD system's radar was unfounded. “The THAAD system is the most minimum defence mechanism against North Korea's nuclear missile threats. China has been overly assessing the radar and excessively protesting against its deployment,” Han said. Beijing has complained strongly against the THAAD deployment, but has not officially said the government was pressuring South Korean businesses in China in retaliation. Lim told lawmakers that Lotte Group had seen pressure from China, with several of its stores closed, while South Korea's flight and tourism operators had also experienced discriminatory tactics from China. “We have not made an official calculation on the financial damage that could potentially result from China's actions, but if this continues it could have a significant impact,” the vice-foreign minister said. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Tokyo on Thursday that China had a major role to play in reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, carried out in defiance of UN resolutions and sanctions. ^ top ^

The many things China doesn't want: highlights from Li Keqiang's press conference (SCMP)
2017-03-16
The Chinese premier took a wide range of questions during his media briefing at the end of the National People's Congress in Beijing, including on the economy and China-US relations. We give you the six key points from Li Keqiang's press conference on Wednesday.

1. China-US relations
Premier Li highlighted the damage that any trade war between the two countries would inflict, saying American companies would be the first to suffer. “We don't want to see any trade war breaking out between the two nations. That wouldn't make our trade fairer,” Li said. “Our hope on the Chinese side is that no matter what bumps this relationship hits, we hope it'll continue to move forward in a positive direction.” Li confirmed that Beijing and Washington were in talks to arrange a summit between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump. Media reports have suggested the meeting could be held at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Li said: “I believe whatever differences we may have we can all sit down and talk to each other and work together to find solutions.” Li added he felt optimistic about Sino-US relations, despite the two nations' differences over a slew of issues from trade, alleged currency manipulation and security concerns. He also reiterated the importance of the US recognising the one-China policy on Taiwan as it was the foundation of the two countries' ties. Trump's phone call with the independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after he was elected threw ties with China into disarray. The US president later told Xi Jinping that his administration would follow decades of protocol and adhere to the one-China policy. Li dismissed allegations by Trump and other senior US administration officials that China was stealing American manufacturing jobs. Li said trade with China created over 1 million jobs in the US last year alone. He urged both nations to shelve any immediate differences and instead focus on expanding common interests so that the percentage of points at issue will fall in time.

2. Hong Kong
Li did not directly address the question of Hong Kong independence, which he touched upon in his annual government work report for the first time at the beginning of the National People's Congress earlier this month. “The notion of HK independence will lead nowhere,” he told delegates 10 days ago. Instead, Li highlighted more economic cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong and gave details of the new initiative to allow Hong Kong investors to invest in the Chinese bond market. The government plans to launch the bond market scheme this year, Li said. “It will allow overseas investors to buy mainland bonds via Hong Kong and Hong Kong is at an advantageous position,” he said. The scheme follows the stock connect system between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen and will help maintain Hong Kong's position as an “international financial centre” as well as opening more investment channels for Hong Kong residents, the premier said. He added that the principle of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong needs to be perceived and implemented in its entirety. “This principle needs to be applied without being distorted,” he said.

3. South China Sea and Asean
Li was asked by a Thai reporter about the dilemma faced by Southeast Asian countries caught between the power play between China and the US in the region amid fresh reports that the mainland has started fresh construction work on islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Li said China does not want to see Southeast Asian countries compelled to “pick a side” between Beijing and Washington and China would continue to support Asean's leadership role in regional affairs. “We don't want to see [Asean countries] have to take sides just like what happened during the cold war mentality,” Li said. Southeast Asian neighbours remain China's priority in its neighborhood diplomacy despite longstanding differences over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said. He reiterated that China remains committed to its position of resolving disputes between China and rival claimants in the South China Sea and will continue to push for the negotiations with Asean countries in the regional bloc over a code of conduct for countries in the ocean's waters. Beijing's talks with Asean over the code of conduct have made substantive progress, he added. Li also urged Washington to work with Beijing to ensure stability and create opportunities rather than troubles over the longstanding maritime disputes, amid simmering tensions. Li's comments come after China announced a lower-than-expected seven per cent defence budget increase this year. Trump has promised a “historic” increase in military spending of more than nine per cent, or US$54 billion. Li said the Washington and Beijing have a wide range of common interests in Southeast Asia as many American companies have set up their Asia-Pacific headquarters in China. Beijing hopes interactions between the two great powers will not be “a source of trouble”, said Li.

4. Economy
Li said his big achievement over the past four years since he took office as premier was that he has kept Chinese growth rate at a reasonable range. Fears last year about a hard landing appear to have transformed into sighs of relief as the Chinese economy stabilises, largely thanks to government-backed infrastructure spending. Li said he had heard too much talk of a “hard landing”. “The talk that there will be a hard landing in China should end now,” he said. ' Li added that China's steady economic growth over the past four years was not achieved by all-out stimulus, but by upgrading industry and increasing consumption. As for the economic growth target of “about 6.5 per cent” for 2017, Li said the growth rate was “not low, and not easy [to achieve].” As such, Li said China would remain as an important force empowering global economic growth. Li said the biggest challenge was to reduce administrative procedures and red tape. He gave the example of one local government where 108 different chops were needed to gain a local authority permit. This had been reduced to one, he said.

5. North Korea
Li warned “tensions on the Korean peninsula may lead to conflict” and bring harm to all parties. “It's common sense that no one wants to see chaos on their doorstep,” he said. Intriguingly, he made no mention of Beijing's row with Seoul and Washington over the deployment of a controversial anti-missile system in South Korea. Relations between China and South Korea have plunged to a new low over the deployment. South Korea says the system is needed amid growing concerns over North Korea's nuclear arsenal, but Beijing claims its poses a danger to its own security.

6. Parting shot? Li also touched on smog, relations with Taiwan, ties with the EU and Russia and the forthcoming “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative summit in May. He made no mention, however, of the Communist Party Congress to be held later this year which will see changes among the top leadership. He also did not touch on or corruption, human rights, Tibet or Xinjiang during his answers to journalists' questions. It remains unclear if this was Li Keqiang's last press conference as premier as there is speculation that he may only stay on in the role until he finishes his five-year term in 2018. One comment by Li at the end of the press conference left many reporters pondering: “It's time for lunch. We will see each other again when there's a chance,” he said. ^ top ^

China, SK cut flights to each other's country (Global Times)
2017-03-15
Several airline companies in China and South Korea have cut the number of flights to each other's country due to a sharp drop in passengers, amid a standoff over Seoul's decision to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Spring Airlines, China's leading budget carrier by revenue, will suspend flights from Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province to South Korea's Jeju Island for a month, starting from Wednesday, Zhang Wu'an, spokesman for the Shanghai-based airline, told the Global Times on Wednesday. The decision was made "in response to changes in the market," said Zhang, adding that the public outcry in China against the deployment of THAAD has obviously affected their bookings. Public relations staff from Air China told the Global Times on Wednesday that flights to South Korea have not been cancelled, but that the routes might be changed depending on the demand. Meanwhile, Seoul-based Korean Air will suspend eight routes to Chinese cities from Thursday to April 23, meaning 79 flights would be affected during the period, accounting for 6.5 percent of the company's total number of flights to China, Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday. South Korea's second largest full-service carrier, Asiana Airlines, also cancelled 90 flights to Chinese cities from Wednesday to April 30. The suspension of flights was caused by plunging demand amid the row over THAAD, according to Yonhap News Agency. South Korea was the second most favored overseas destination for tourists from the Chinese mainland based on bookings, and Chinese tourists accounted for nearly half of the total number of foreigners visiting South Korea. South Koreans have retaliated by boycotting popular Chinese products such as Xiaomi smartphones and Tsingtao Beer, South Korean media reported. Several major cruise lines operating in China, including Italian Costa Cruises, are removing calls to South Korean ports. Industries affected also include business and culture, such as the boycott of South Korea's Lotte Group and reported cancellation of non-governmental cultural exchanges, which were previously very popular among Chinese audiences. South Korean media attributed the changes to the "retaliation for the deployment of THAAD," while Chinese foreign ministry insisted exchanges and cooperation hinges on proper popular support and appropriate public opinion. South Korea is better to listen to public opinion and take effective measures to avoid hurting the exchanges rather than making speculations out of thin air, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing on March 3. ^ top ^

China, US work closely on a possible summit (China Daily)
2017-03-15
China and the United States are maintaining close communication on bringing about exchanges between their presidents and at other levels, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday. Media reports on Monday said the two presidents would hold their first summit next month. "Both sides highly value enhancing high-level and other levels of exchanges between the two countries," she said at a daily news conference in Beijing. "We will release further information in a timely manner," Hua said. The White House said on Monday that a meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping was in the works. "Planning is ongoing for a visit between President Trump and President Xi at a date to be determined," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a news briefing on Monday afternoon. "We're not ready to confirm that, and we will have more details," he added. "Any meeting between the presidents of the United States and the People's Republic of China would necessarily cover a broad range of topics of mutual concern." Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a news conference last week that the China-US relationship is transitioning steadily and developing in a positive direction, due to the intense communication and joint efforts of both sides. "There is no reason why China and the US could not become excellent partners, as long as we act on the consensus reached by our presidents, follow the principles of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation," he said. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Asia on Wednesday since becoming Trump's top diplomat about a month ago. The three-nation tour will bring him to China on March 18, after visiting Japan and South Korea. Also on Monday, Susan Thornton, acting US assistant secretary of state of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Tillerson's trip will, to some extent, be "paving the way" for high-level meetings between the two presidents. "As you've seen from the communications between the two presidents themselves, there has been talk about their early meeting," she said. Thornton said Tillerson will meet with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang. He will also hold talks with State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang. She said the discussion will likely cover the areas of cooperation that "we're looking to continue to pursue, to continue to discuss and make progress on". Tillerson will try to set out a work plan for the bilateral relationship in the new administration, she said. ^ top ^

Saudi king's visit puts Beijing in Middle East spotlight (SCMP)
2017-02-14
Saudi Arabia's King Salman begins his first official visit to Beijing on Wednesday, placing China's increasingly active role in the Middle East in the spotlight once again. The visit by King Salman, arguably the most strategically significant leg of his month-long, six-nation tour of Asia, comes as Beijing has intensified its diplomatic efforts and become increasingly vocal on many of the region's hotspots, especially the Syria, in a bid to expand its influence in the Middle East. China sided with Russia last month to block a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have imposed new sanctions on the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own people. It was the sixth veto cast by Beijing during the six-year Syrian conflict to protect the Assad regime from tougher international punishment. Chinese diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China's firm stance on Syria, along with King Salman's visit, demonstrated the country's growing confidence in its ability to project power in a multipolar world. With a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Washington's Middle East commitments under US President Donald Trump, China sees an opportunity to bolster its presence in one of the world's most volatile areas and forge closer ties with major regional powers including Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to diplomats and observers. Although China increased its presence in the Middle East by naming a special envoy for regional affairs in 2002 and establishing the ministerial-level China-Arab States Cooperation Forum two years later, it was not until recent years that Beijing became active in regional political and economic affairs. Diplomats and observers say the 81-year-old king's four-day China trip further underscores China's steady rise as a counterbalance to US influence in a changing geopolitical landscape. But it did not mean China was ready or had the capability to fill the void if the US relinquished its leadership role in the region, said Li Guofu, director of Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, and Chinese diplomats. Li said energy cooperation would remain the foundation of relations between Saudi Arabia, the world's top exporter of crude oil, and China, the world's biggest importer. But King Salman's trip is about much more than the oil and other business deals he is expected to sign in China. The entourage accompanying the king on his Asian tour includes about a thousand Saudi business leaders. Like many regional powers, Li said, the Saudis perceived a weakening of US global leadership following Trump's election victory and were seeking to strengthen strategic and military relations with China to reduce an overdependence on the US. “King Salman's Asia trip occurs against the backdrop that US global dominance has shown signs of declining amid America's gradual withdrawal from the Middle East and China has become increasingly active in the region,” Li said. He said Saudi-US relations had been strained in the wake of the political tumult that had gripped the Middle East since 2011 and been further complicated by a dramatic decrease in US oil imports from Saudi Arabia as a result of America's shale gas boom. “Coinciding with China's rise on the international stage, Riyadh's relations with Washington have deteriorated over the years, while its relatively young relations with Beijing have developed steadily,” Li said. Riyadh, a close US ally since the second world war and a staunch anti-communist state, did not have formal diplomatic ties with Beijing until 1990, making it the last Arab country to officially recognise the People's Republic of China. Saudi-Chinese trade has exploded since then, from around US$1 billion in 1990 to more than US$42 billion last year. Saudi Arabia is China's top trade partner in the Middle East and China has become Saudi Arabia's largest oil customer, importing an estimated 51 million tonnes last year. King Salman's visit would mark the start of a new era of improved relations between the two nations, China's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Huaxin, said in an interview with Saudi Arabia's Arab News, adding that both nations “share a similar vision” in the face of mounting global challenges. He noted that bilateral ties had been elevated to the status of a comprehensive strategic partnership, including cooperation in economic, political, and military fields, following President Xi Jinping's trip to Riyadh in January last year and a trip to Beijing by the king's favourite son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed, seven months later. Apart from energy and economic cooperation under the framework of China's “One Belt, One Road” initiative, analysts said both nations would also seek to expand political and military cooperation. As part of Riyadh's efforts to reduce its dependence on Washington as its single security guarantor, it has increased arms purchases from China over the years. Beijing's efforts to contain the threat from radical Islamists among China's Uygur population are one potential source of tension in the bilateral relationship, with Muslims in Xinjiang disappointed with Riyadh's reticence on Beijing's repressive policies. The Saudis have, on the one hand, supported China's crackdown on separatists in Xinjiang, but on the other hand spent billions of dollars promoting and exporting radical Islam. The large Uygur diaspora in the kingdom and in Central Asia has also become a headache for Beijing. That is widely seen as one of the reasons Beijing chose to stand firm with Assad, and the prolonged conflict in Syria is expected to be high on the agenda for King Salman's China trip, according to analysts. Beijing and Riyadh did not see eye to eye on that issue, they said, but Riyadh had realised the value of courting influence in China due to Beijing's long-standing close relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia's “mortal enemy”. Like many other Middle East nations, Saudi Arabia has high hopes China will play a bigger role in the region, not just economically but also in helping resolve the myriad regional conflicts. However, Beijing is unlikely to play along willingly with Riyadh's geopolitical plans for the region. Despite its good relations with Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab states, Li Guofu said China had consistently sided with Russia and Iran to block tougher international sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria. Both Li and Yun Sun, senior associate with the East Asia programme at the Stimson Centre in Washington, said China's growing activism on Syria underscored Beijing's strategic interests in its balancing act in the Gulf region. Sun noted that six of the 11 vetoes cast by China at the UN Security Council since 1971 had been on resolutions concerning Syria. “On the strategic level, the Syrian civil war is believed to have brought key strategic benefits to China,” she said, adding that Beijing saw Syria as an opportunity for China in its strategic competition with the US. Apart from providing military training and a total of 900 million yuan (US$130 million) of humanitarian aid to Syria, Beijing also appointed its first special envoy on the Syrian issue last year, a move widely viewed as evidence of China's pivot to the Middle East. While China does not support Russia's assertive military intervention in Syria, it is nonetheless opposed to direct Western interference or indirect support of domestic oppositions to overthrow a sovereign government. Beijing viewed the Syrian crisis as a result of the Arab spring revolutions, Sun said. “Associated with Beijing's own vulnerability on legitimacy, the Western calls for democratisation and intervention have always been a sore spot for China,” she said. ^ top ^

China pushes for fair, inclusive global governance (Global Times)
2017-03-14
During China's annual parliamentary and political advisory sessions, discussions are not just confined to domestic issues, but also focus on China's active involvement in global governance. Consensus has been reached on China's growing role in reforming and enriching global governance, responding to the world's need for mechanism innovation and bringing mutually beneficial results to all participants. China played a constructive role in international and regional issues last year and contributed to world peace and development, said a government work report submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) annual session. "The country will become more involved in global governance and make economic globalization more inclusive, mutually beneficial and equitable," it said. China has been a beneficiary of and contributor to the traditional global governance system, including the U.N. and other international organizations. "As world dynamics change, global governance structure should change accordingly," said Chen Fengying, former head of world economics institute under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. Due attention should be given to emerging economies, she said. Current IMF quotas, for instance, fail to reflect economic realities. Although the quota reform effective from early 2016 saw growing shares of emerging markets, they are still under represented. China, the second largest economy, is now ranked third on the quota chart, trailing the United States and Japan. China has on several occasions urged the IMF to review the distribution of quotas and votes to ensure a fairer representation of emerging and developing economies. "The world is in dire need of new global governance frameworks, and China should not stand by with folded arms as it has the ability to contribute," Chen said. China in recent years has proposed to set up several new frameworks, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, attracting not only developing countries, but also developed economies. "Over the past four decades, China has grown from an outsider and learner to an insider and contributor of global governance as its overall strength has risen," said Wang Wen, executive dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China. Koh Chin Yee, CEO of Singapore-based think tank Longus Research Institute, said that China's international influence has expanded with its rising economic strength. "With great power comes great responsibility," Koh said. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference Wednesday on the sidelines of the parliamentary session that China will shoulder more responsibilities and contribute more to world peace and growth. China-proposed structures provide opportunities for many countries and bring mutual benefits to all participants. Under the Belt and Road Initiative alone, Chinese companies have invested 18.5 billion US dollars in 56 economic and trade zones in countries along the routes, generating 1.1 billion dollars of tax and 180,000 jobs in host countries, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said Saturday. NPC deputy Li Dongsheng, chairman of electronics company TCL Corp., said the initiative gives Chinese companies the opportunities for win-win cooperation with companies from other countries. "China pays more attention to inclusiveness, while some Western countries stress more on their own interests," Wang Wen said, adding that China's role in global governance is largely about sharing its experience with the world. "Today, mankind has become a close-knit community of shared future," President Xi Jinping said in a keynote speech delivered to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. "All countries enjoy the right to development. At the same time, they should view their own interests in a broader context and refrain from pursuing them at the expense of others," Xi said. As a clear sign of global recognition of Xi's concept, the UN Commission for Social Development in February approved by consensus a resolution calling for more support for Africa "to create a shared future, based upon our common humanity." The concept aims to realize shared prosperity, a goal that is desirable for all countries, Chen said. "China-proposed initiatives offer the limping world economy not only a new set of growth engines, but also a more positive perspective and attitude toward globalization," according to Koh. Koh added there will be increasing enthusiasm and support for China-proposed systems from a wider community of countries, especially developing ones. China is ready to work with the international community to build a new type of international relations based on cooperation and mutual benefit, and make new contribution to building a community of shared future for all mankind. "We will open our arms to the people of other countries and welcome them aboard the express train of China's development," Xi has said. ^ top ^

Trump to host Xi Jinping for two-day summit in Florida next month, report says (SCMP)
2017-03-14
US President Donald Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida next month for a summit weighted with immense economic and security implications, a US media portal reported on Monday. The report, citing US officials, said the summit would be held at Trump's lavish Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and was tentatively set for April 6 and 7. No golf was planned during the top-level meeting, which would mostly be a working session, the Axios report said. CNN, citing a senior US administration official, reported that the plan was only tentative. Trump bought the sprawling Mar-a-Lago estate in 1985 and refers to it as his “Southern White House”. The plans for the meeting are reminiscent of an informal summit between Xi and former US president Barack Obama at the Sunnylands retreat in Rancho Mirage, California in 2013. Observers said that setting had allowed the leaders to have more candid discussions. The White House and the Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment and Chinese diplomats declined to confirm the arrangements. “All I can say now is both sides are still exploring all possibilities to push for a leadership meeting as soon as possible, but it's too early to make a formal announcement,” a diplomat in Beijing said. Diplomats also said Beijing was unlikely to confirm the meeting before Washington did so, citing fears over Trump's unpredictability which threw Sino-US relations into disarray in the early days of his administration. “The biggest lesson we've learned so far from Trump is that everything is possible and we always have to be prepared for unforeseeable circumstances,” another diplomat said. Analysts have also expressed concerns that tensions in bilateral relations could disrupt such a high-stakes meeting and spill over into preparations for the Communist Party's five-yearly congress later this year. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's trip to Beijing this weekend, during which he is expected to meet Xi, would be crucial to building positive momentum for the summit, the observers said. Renmin University international relations professor Pang Zhongying said the summit was unusual for being planned in haste. “There must be pressing issues for the two leaders to settle. Otherwise, China would not be in a rush for a meeting,” he said. Bilateral ties have been tested since Trump won the US presidential election in November, with Trump vowing to label China a currency manipulator and questioning the validity of the one-China policy, which recognises Taiwan as part of China. But links between the two sides have been strengthened in recent weeks. In a phone call last month, Trump told Xi the US would honour its commitment to the one-China policy regarding Taiwan. Yuan Zheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, said a Xi-Trump summit would set the tone for Sino-US ties.“The Sino-US relationship will benefit even if the two leaders only establish a working relationship,” Yuan said. But Huang Jing, a researcher at the National University of Singapore, cautioned against high expectations that the meeting would settle all the uncertainties between the two countries. “I still think Trump is very likely to get tough about China,” Huang said. “While both sides may not want to see friction or conflict, it is necessary for Beijing to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, such as the much-speculated-on trade war. “It is wishful to think that high-level exchanges between the two sides, including a meeting of leaders, could somehow influence a US foreign policy that has yet to take shape.” ^ top ^

China readying countermeasures against missile defence shield in South Korea, retired PLA general says (SCMP)
2017-03-14
China knew it might not be able to stop Seoul deploying a US anti-missile system and was prepared to counter with its own anti-radar equipment, a retired PLA general said on Monday. The comments by Wang Hongguang came as a South Korean court's decision to uphold the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, the country's former president, fanned hopes Seoul might put plans for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system on hold. Park supported the installation of the system to help protect South Korea against threats from North Korea, which Beijing says can peer through China's defences. Wang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, said China could not take the chance the next South Korean president would change policy and roll back the deployment. The first THAAD components arrived at the Osan Air Base in South Korea last week. Wang said Beijing had measures in place to neutralise THAAD's radars. “We will complete our deployment before THAAD begins operations. There is no need to wait for two months [before the election of the next South Korean president],” he said on the sidelines of the political sessions in Beijing. “We already have such equipment in place. We just have to move it to the right spot.” Yue Gang, a military commentator and former People's Liberation Army colonel, said China could either destroy THAAD or neutralise it. “Destroying [THAAD] should only be an option during wartime,” Yue said. But China could interfere with the system's functions through electromagnetic technology, he said. Yue said an ideal place to install the Chinese equipment was on the Shandong peninsula on the country's east coast, opposite South Korea. Fu Qianshao, an aviation equipment expert with the PLA Air Force, said China could also send planes – manned or unmanned – to fly close to THAAD to interfere with its radar signals. All the country's armed forces had the capacity to interfere with radar signals, Fu said. Wang said China's chief concern was not just with South Korea's deployment of the American system but also the United States' broader potential to contain the region in a sophisticated web of missile defence systems in Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and even Taiwan. The THAAD system consists of a sophisticated radar and interceptor missiles designed to spot and knock out incoming ballistic missiles. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Civil code takes step forward as NPC approves first chapter (China Daily)
2017-03-16
China has made a concrete step forward in compiling a comprehensive civil code to better protect citizens' rights by introducing a fundamental civil law. The National People's Congress, the top legislature, adopted the General Provisions of the Civil Law at the closing of its annual plenary session on Wednesday. The General Provisions, which will take effect on Oct 1, will be the opening chapter of a civil code planned to be enacted in 2020. The civil code will include individual laws that deal with property, contracts, tort liability, marriage and inheritance, according to the legislative plan. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, called on Wednesday for stepping up work on the individual laws to ensure that a civil code that has Chinese characteristics and reflects the spirit of the time and the will of the people will be enacted in 2020. Sun Xianzhong, deputy head of the China Civil Law Society and a drafter of the civil code, said the General Provisions will help push forward the country's social and economic development, as well as the rule of law. "With the new law, 1.3 billion Chinese will feel more secure and enjoy more equal opportunities and dignity." The NPC Standing Committee had reviewed the draft law three times last year and decided to submit it to the NPC plenary session for final deliberation due to its significance. During the plenary session, national legislators had lively discussions about the law. The final version included more than 120 revisions to the draft submitted on March 8. For example, a new clause stipulates that people will bear civil liabilities if they damage the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs. The clause was added because some legislators said that a few people had maliciously defamed and insulted heroes and martyrs through slander, which has harmed the public interest and caused a negative social impact, said Qiao Xiaoyang, head of the NPC Law Committee. Another spotlight is that the adopted law provides full protection for good Samaritans by waiving people's liability if they accidentally cause harm while helping others. "The approval of the General Provisions is a milestone that will bring our system of laws into a new age," said Wang Junfeng, a national political adviser and head of the All China Lawyers Association. Huang Lianxi, another political adviser and lawyer from Zhejiang province, said the new law, which reflects Chinese traditional virtues like helping others and respecting the elderly, will play an active role in guiding and regulating people's daily activities. ^ top ^

What the big topics that went unmentioned at China's 'two sessions' reveal (SCMP)
2017-03-15
While much has been discussed by the about 5,000 officials, lawmakers and political advisers in the two-week annual plenary sessions in Beijing, what hasn't been mentioned can be equally revealing in gauging China's politics. Issues including the disappearance of a well-connected mainland businessman in Hong Kong, the ongoing hunt for “financial crocodiles”, a warming in Sino-Vatican ties and the creation of a super anti-graft agency were either left unspoken in the hallways of the Great Hall of the People or lacked any new details at the “two sessions” – The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress. An analyst said the absence of discussions on these matters could underscore how policymakers in Beijing are treading carefully amid uncertainties about the new Donald Trump administration in the United States and the looming reshuffle of the Communist Party leadership late this year. Less than two months ago, the disappearance of mainland tycoon Xiao Jianhua in Hong Kong and Beijing's high-profile talks of hunting down “financial crocodiles” put strengthened financial regulation in the spotlight. Around the time of Xiao's disappearance, Beijing's top securities regulator Liu Shiyu used strong-worded terms including “financial crocodiles” and “barbarians” to describe those who make fortunes by exploiting loopholes in regulations. However, except for a statement by central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan on financial regulation, there was no explicit mention of how China would continue its hunt for the “financial crocodiles”. In a press conference on Friday, Zhou said “initial agreements” had been reached to reform an interministerial regulatory body. Reporters at the meetings could get no information on the investigation of Xiao, or whether China was targeting other crocodiles. Another hot topic, an anti-corruption super body to be launched next March, was barely touched upon. The establishment of the super body, the National Supervisory Commission, was praised by the party as an important political reform that would involve amending the constitution. Yet, with the official launch only a year away, very limited details were made public. Among the most frequently asked question about the body, and the new supervision law, were whether the restriction of personal freedom of suspected corrupt officials could remain unscrutinized by the law, as has been the case when the party's internal anti-corruption watchdog investigates officials. When approached by a South China Morning Post reporter on such issues, Minister of Supervision Yang Xiaodu, a top anti-graft official, said he was only in the lobby to meet old colleagues. Beijing's silence over such matters signals that the leadership is facing increasing uncertainty and is making stability its priority for the power reshuffle this fall, said Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan. “The leaders are facing increasing uncertainties such as Trump's presidency, ties with North Korea and downward pressure on the economy, and there's not much they can do in a high-profile fashion,” Zhang said. “The reform in the supervisory commission could be meeting resistance from non-cooperative bureaucrats and the delegates are usually briefed on what can be said and what cannot.” Despite ties between Beijing and the Vatican warming, China's officially sanctioned Catholic community still finds the taboo too strong to break. Catholic priests at the meetings ignored reporters' questions about the Vatican. Ye Xiaowen, a former director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, who met delegates from the Vatican, politely rejected all questions to him about the church, saying only that he had retired. North Korea, the elephant in the room, is still treated as if no problems exist. When asked how the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half brother Kim Jong-nam could overshadow relations between Beijing and Pyongyang, Chen Deming, a former minister of commerce who was responsible for trade zone cooperation with North Korea, dismissed the question by saying the bilateral ties were perfectly normal and he did not know what uncertainties the question was referring to. ^ top ^

The lone voices of dissent in China's political wilderness (SCMP)
2017-03-14
Cui Yongyuan may be a former host on China's state-run national broadcaster but he is no fan of the country's news censors. On Friday, Cui lashed out regulators taking the razor to news coverage and movies. “[The censors] simply block everything they don't like in a way I would call rude and barbarian … I don't think they're helping the Communist Party or the government at all. They are only causing more trouble,” he said. On the sidelines of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which ended in Beijing on Monday, Cui, a delegate, also took aim at the push to stamp out Western values at the nation's universities, just three months after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger ideological controls at all tertiary institutions. “Political education is fine but it's important to ask what its content is … Is it social reality or a cooked history?” Cui said. Despite political sensitivities ahead of the party's key gathering later this year and tighter limits on overseas media access to the CPPCC, some of the body's 2,000 or so delegates, including Cui, are still willing to speak their minds on government policy. They're just not convinced they'll be heard. The CPPCC is nominally the country's top political advisory body and draws its membership from the ranks of the nation's writers, academics, scientists and entrepreneurs, among others. Unlike the lawmaking National People's Congress, the CPPCC only has power on paper to make suggestions. But like the NPC, it is largely a rubber-stamp body and subject to Beijing's ever-tighter restrictions on public debate. Nevertheless, some members of the group are still raising eyebrows with their outspokenness, even if it goes uncovered by domestic media. Businessman Yu Minhong was more veiled than fellow CPPCC member Cui in his questioning of the official line but his barb was just as pointed. Addressing a former minister of education's 2015 call to fence the country's universities off from “wrongful” Western values, Yu, founder of New York-listed New Oriental Education & Technology, said: “The statement about fencing off Western values might not be the [top] official line. I don't think any particular kind of values should be exclusive to others.” Censorship of the internet has also been under scrutiny this year, with CPPCC vice-chairman Luo Fuhe blaming the country's firewalls for hindering academic access to overseas websites. “It's common for graduate students and researchers to use [virtual private networks] to connect faster to overseas websites,” said Luo, who is also vice-chairman of the Chinese Association for Promoting Democracy, one of eight minority parties. Luo said that limits on access to sources such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation's website would have a grave impact on “our country's socio-economic development and scientific research”. Luo said he agreed with blocking politically sensitive sites, but there should be a list of those that were out of bounds, leaving the others available. But there are doubts that any such suggestions will be taken on board. In its annual work report, the government said it should accept the oversight of the NPC but that of the CPPCC on a voluntary basis. “It sounds like the government could pretend to hear nothing if it is not happy … It's like our supervision is dispensable,” aerospace scientist Bao Weimin said. ^ top ^

CPPCC "whole-heartedly" upholds CPC Central Committee with Xi as core: top political advisor (Xinhua)
2017-03-13
Political advisors nationwide whole-heartedly uphold the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core, Chinese top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng said Monday. Yu made the remarks at the closing meeting of the fifth session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. Yu, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, said that political advisors are inspired by the remarkable achievements of the Party and the nation since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012. "Political advisors are full of confidence in the bright prospect of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics," Yu said, hailing this year's session as a success in upholding democracy, gathering consensus and boosting solidarity. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Xi as the core has united and led Chinese people of all ethnic groups to promote the country's overall approach to building socialism with Chinese characteristics, pushing forward coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological progress. Yu said efforts have been made to promote the "four comprehensives" -- to comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance rule of law and govern the CPC strictly. Noting that the 19th CPC National Congress will be held in the second half of this year, Yu called on political advisors to raise their awareness of political integrity, overall situation, the core and conformity with the CPC Central Committee with Xi as the core. He urged them to stick to the CPC leadership more consciously, unite around the CPC Central Committee with Xi as the core more closely, and implement decisions and policies made by the CPC Central Committee more resolutely. Political advisors should offer more of their insights and contribute to China's economic and social development, and help improve the Chinese people's well-being, Yu said, adding they must also strengthen self-discipline. CPC and state leaders Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli attended the closing meeting at the Great Hall of the People. A political resolution adopted at the meeting underscored the basic tone of "seeking progress while maintaining stability," calling for efforts to push forward the work of the Party and the state in various sectors. Efforts will be made to implement new development concepts, promote supply-side structural reform, improve the people's livelihood and ensure all the people can share the fruits of reform equally, the political resolution read. The CPPCC is a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people, serving as a key mechanism for multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC. On Monday, the national political advisors also approved a report on the work of the Standing Committee of the 12th CPPCC National Committee over the past year, and a report on the proposals submitted by CPPCC National Committee members to the annual session this year. National political advisors submitted 5,769 proposals over the past year. Among them, 4,279 were formalized after being reviewed and 1,159 were listed as opinions and suggestions. Some proposals were combined with other proposals or withdrawn. Of the total, 1,718 centered on economic affairs and 322 on political issues. There are also 1,344 and 460 proposals on social affairs and cultural progress respectively. As of Feb. 20 this year, 99.84 percent of the proposals raised by the political advisors had been dealt with by relevant departments. ^ top ^

China's top court lists jailing rights activists as its biggest achievement (SCMP)
2017-03-12
The jailing of rights activists was considered the biggest achievement of China's supreme court and the top prosecutor's office last year, according to the two bodies' annual work reports released on Sunday. “[We] severely punished state security crimes, and sentenced subversion cases such as that of [rights lawyer] Zhou Shifeng,” the Supreme People's Court report read. The prosecutions of Zhou and Hu Shigen, another rights activist, were also among the Supreme People's Procuratorate's most prominent achievements last year, according to its report. The supreme court ranked “safeguarding state security” first among its list of achievements over the past year – even ahead of its fight against terrorism and religious cults. Zhou, a graduate from Peking University's law school, was the founder of the prominent Beijing-based Fengrui law firm. He was sentenced to seven years' jail on subversion charges last August after a Tianjin court found him guilty of organising protests and sending associates to attend human rights forums overseas. Earlier that month, the same court jailed Hu, a Christian pro-democracy activist and underground church leader, for 7½ years for subverting state power. Zhou and Hu were among 300 rights lawyers and activists arrested or interrogated in a sweeping crackdown that began on July 9, 2015. Only four of those detained have since been sentenced. Many are still awaiting prosecution. Li Chunfu, another Beijing rights lawyer, was released on bail in January after more than 500 days in detention. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. The supreme court also commended itself for hearing defamation cases involving Communist Party revolutionary heroes. In June, an academic was ordered to apologise for challenging the official version of history about five anti-Japanese fighters. Last June, a scholar was ordered to apologise for challenging China's official version of history about five anti-Japanese fighters. Hong Zhenkuai had cast doubt on the story of the Five Warriors of Mount Langyashan, who were said to have jumped off a cliff while fighting the Japanese during the second world war rather than surrender. In September, a popular blogger was also ordered to apologise after he poked fun at the story of Qiu Shaoyun, a young soldier celebrated in mainland Chinese textbooks for choosing to burn to death during the Korean war rather than to betray his comrades. “[We] pursued... defamation cases and firmly guarded the image of heroes,” the court's report said. The court also vowed to let more witnesses testify in court this year. Mainland courts rely heavily on written testimony and are often reluctant to let witnesses testify and be cross-examined. The legal community has criticised the reliance on written testimony because it can easily be extracted by force and distorted by prosecutors. The Supreme People's Procuratorate also pledged to go after finance-related risks on the internet, as well as money laundering and crimes in the securities market. Both the supreme court and the supreme prosecutors' offices credited themselves for the jailing of hedge fund guru Xu Xiang. Xu was jailed for 5½ years in January for stock market manipulation. ^ top ^

'Two sessions' proposal against China's Great Firewall censored online (SCMP)
2017-03-13
Calls by members of China's legislature and itstop advisory body for the mainland to allow more open access to the internet have increased this year, amid mounting frustration. During this month's meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – annual events more commonly referred to as the “two sessions” – deputies and delegates criticised the central government's tightening of internet restrictions, despite political sensitivities ahead of a key Communist Party meeting this autumn. Two proposals by CPPCC delegates at panel meetings – one which was subsequently censored and another which went unreported on the mainland – have urged the loosening of internet controls and many advisers and lawmakers have spoken out against the restrictions, which have been tightened under President Xi Jinping administration. They say broad-brush censorship is hobbling economic growth, breakthroughs in science, technology and innovation, the promotion of Chinese art and culture, and exchanges between young mainlanders and young Hongkongers. The first body to speak up was the China Association for Promoting Democracy, one of eight officially sanctioned non-communist political parties on the mainland. On the opening day of the two sessions, Luo Fuhe, the party's executive vice-chairman and a vice-chairman of the CPPCC, told mainland journalists his party would submit a proposal urging the government to allow easier access to overseas academic websites that were not politically sensitive. Luo complained to journalists that it took at least 10 to 20 seconds to open a page of some websites, including that of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, while visiting the websites of some overseas universities could take more than 30 minutes. “It is not normal when quite a number of researchers have to purchase software that helps them bypass the country's firewalls in order to complete their scientific research,” he was quoted as saying. Online reports about Luo's proposal did not survive the censorship it aimed to change and were quickly removed from major mainland news portals and social media platforms. Caroline Cheng Yi, a political adviser for 10 years and renowned sculptor, said a judge who was also a CPPCC delegate was about to show her a WeChat post about the proposal during a panel discussion but they discovered it had been deleted. Cheng, a Hongkonger who spent more than a decade on the mainland running a branch of the Pottery Workshop in Jiangxi province, also submitted a proposal calling for the “opening up” of the mainland's internet. She suggested overseas websites focused on foreign trade, business and academic research be spared censorship and that Google and Facebook be allowed back into mainland cyberspace. “I use Facebook to promote Chinese ceramics to the world,” she said. “But after it was banned, I could only use it when I returned to Hong Kong, or use a VPN (virtual private network), which is not that stable. China is losing many opportunities without social media like Facebook.” The ban on Facebook also shut down a channel that mainland and Hong Kong youth could use to understand and communicate with each other, she said, which only worsened a widening divide and growing animosity – a trend Beijing was eager to counter. In her proposal, Cheng pointed out that although Facebook and Twitter were blocked on the mainland, many state media outlets and local governments maintained their own accounts and used them to promote local developments, which could lead to public resentment in the longer term. “Xi Jinping has reiterated many times that China must insist on 'opening up' and welcome the internet age, but when he's talking about all this, the country's [censorship] is becoming more and more like that of North Korea,” she said. “It's way too strict.” Cheng said she had been dismayed to discover recently that even Pinterest, a photo sharing website particularly popular among designers and artists, was no longer accessible on the mainland. “All the young people who have been using Pinterest to share and gain inspiration for their art design are furious,” she said. “I must speak up. If I don't what am I doing here at the CPPCC? I'm not here for bootlicking.” Cheng's proposal and remarks met with strong support from her panel, whose members include representatives of sectors ranging from business to health care and education. It also received many “likes” in a WeChat group joined by about 50 CPPCC members. One of them was biologist Luo Yongzhang, a cancer expert at Tsinghua University. He said internet censorship made his work more difficult. Without Google, he could only use Baidu, the biggest search engine on the mainland, for academic research, but it was always a hassle. “It's all in Chinese and can't search for English entries,” he said. “And many [search results] aren't that accurate. “[The censorship] has indeed hindered the progress of scientific research. We can't get the latest information or the most accurate.” He said he agreed with the government that politically sensitive information should be blocked, because “the common folks do not have the ability to tell [right from wrong]”, but access to Google Scholar, a search engine for academic literature, should be allowed for the sake of academics, researchers and scientists. NPC Standing Committee member Liu Binjie, a former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication from 2007 to 2013, also supported Google Scholar's reintroduction to the mainland. Google withdrew its search engines from the mainland in 2010 after a bitter dispute with Beijing over strict censorship rules. Liu said new legislation was needed to protect people's freedom of speech and correspondence in accordance with China's constitution. “The current rules of internet censorship are only administrative regulations, which are written to satisfy the needs of a certain department's work,” he said. “A law obeyed by all bodies is needed to place the government's power within boundaries while defining the rights, responsibilities and duties of internet companies.” Liu said he had long advocated a more open approach to internet governance. “Open, interactive, democratic, free discussion – these are the fundamental traits of the internet defined by the technology itself and can't be changed,” he said. “We should build on this when thinking about how to manage [the internet], instead of going in the opposite direction, which will only be counterproductive.” ^ top ^

 

Tibet

China's Panchen Lama calls for patriotism, says greed tainting Tibetan Buddhism (SCMP)
2017-03-14
Patriotism is the “mission” of religion in China, but greed is tainting Tibetan Buddhism, says the government-appointed second-highest spiritual leader of the faith, who was chosen by Beijing to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans. Although officially atheist, China in 1995 selected Gyaltsen Norbu as Tibet's 11th Panchen Lama, the number-two spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet's current spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing brands a dangerous separatist, had announced his own choice of a six-year-old boy to replace the previous Panchen Lama, but he was taken away by the authorities and has since vanished from public view. Speaking at the yearly meeting of the advisory Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Saturday, China's Panchen Lama said that “as the retail economy grows, Buddhism has come under attack from commercialisation”. “Some places use monasteries as money trees, turn them into family temples, turn them into shopping malls; while some fake living Buddhas and fake monks use dubious Buddhist teachings to swindle believers,” he said, according to state media. “The historic mission for religion at this time is: to love the nation and love faith... and to contribute to achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people,” he said, referring to a political goal of the ruling Communist Party. His remarks come amid China's controversial work to “reconstruct” southwest Sichuan province's Larung Gar monastery, one of China's largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Rights groups say the plans represent an assault on faith in China. A Sichuan official, Yeshe Dawa, told the state-run China Daily that the plan was not to “demolish” the monastery but to “improve the messy surroundings” so as to turn it into a “formal Buddhist academy”, the paper said on Tuesday. According to state media, the Panchen Lama made no mention of the monastery in his speech. China has gradually raised the public profile of its Panchen Lama, hoping Tibetans will come to respect him as they do the Dalai Lama. Chinese troops “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1950. China routinely rejects criticism of its rule there, saying it has brought much needed development to a remote region and that it respects Tibet's culture and religion. After the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the 10th Panchen Lama stayed on and was initially seen as a collaborator. It later emerged that his criticism of Beijing had earned him more than a decade spent either in prison or under house arrest. Freed in 1977, he was politically rehabilitated the following year, and died in 1989. ^ top ^

Panchen Lama slams fake monks at 1st CPPCC plenary speech (Global Times)
2017-03-14
The 11th Panchen Lama Gyaincain Norbu denounced fake monks and called for the stricter regulation of religious personnel in his first speech to a plenary meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). In Sunday's CPPCC plenary session, the Panchen Lama spoke of improving religious work, saying some regions have been using temples as "cash machines." "With the development of the market economy, Buddhism has suffered the effects of commercialization. Some monks were not following religious disciplines and have been seeking financial gain in the name of religion," the Panchen Lama said. "Although fake monks cannot represent mainstream Buddhists, they have had a very negative influence." He recommended stricter regulation of temples and monks, and a long-term supervision mechanism on fake monks and religious commercialization. It was the 11th Panchen Lama's first speech to the general assembly of the CPPCC, though he had attended the annual meeting for eight times. The Panchen Lama also called for the cultivation of religious personnel. He said many temples have focused on grand architecture and ignored the cultivation of knowledgeable monks. The ongoing two sessions have brought representatives from a dozen ethnic minority groups, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Yis, Jingpos, Lisus, Koreans, and Zhuangs to Beijing in the past week. Zhang Guizhong, from the Hani ethnic group in Southwest China's Yunnan Province as well as a National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, told the Global Times on Monday that his proposals to the two sessions involve poverty alleviation in ethnic minority regions. Zhang called for funds for social welfare programs and infrastructure development in ethnic minority regions. Halidan Abdudel, a NPC deputy from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, told the Global Times that her proposals focus on tax reform and the establishment of an information center in Karamay, northwestern Xinjiang. Pan Chengying, an ethnic Yi deputy from Sichuan, said she had proposed bilingual education in ethnic Yi villages to prepare children under seven years for primary schools, whose classes are usually conducted in Chinese. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

China's 'two sessions' delegates surprisingly outspoken on Hong Kong matters (SCMP)
2017-03-16
From the annual government work report to the musing of delegates on the sidelines, the topic of Hong Kong's future has been inescapable at the “two sessions” in Beijing - the annual meetings of the China People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC). But this year, in a break from past practice, delegates with no official ties to the city have pushed ideas on how Beijing should approach the special administrative region and respond to calls emanating from some quarters for its independence. These delegates' remarks are endorsed by Beijing, according to one expert, and using such proxies to put forward controversial ideas insulates the central government while still allowing it to convey its message. The “one country, two systems” concept, which ensures a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong and Macau, has seen very limited discussion, let alone challenges, from mainland officials, lawmakers and political advisors whose offices do not directly involve the city's affairs since the handover in 1997. ' When Hong Kong did become a talking point, it was mostly about business and trade cooperation. Anything related to the city as a political topic has been greatly confined to a handful of officials and scholars in relevant positions. Mainland media outlets have been allowed limited scope to directly comment on Hong Kong affairs since 2003, when hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the street to vent their anger over Article 23 of the Basic Law, which mandated legislation of national security laws. However, no comments anywhere near as eyebrow raising as this year's had made their way to the public sphere. The annual meetings this year saw Wang Hongguang, a retired general and a member of the CPPCC, suggest soldiers from the People's Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong should be sent into the streets to quell any unrest the local police could not handle. “The military presence in Hong Kong is more than a symbol. Their gear is for fighting wars and putting down riots,” Wang said. “If there's some riot the Hong Kong police is unable to handle, it would be a natural thing for the army to take control.” The Garrison Law passed by the NPC in 1996 sharply restricts the garrison's role to defence of the city and forbids it from interfering in local affairs. Peng Qinghua, the Communist Party boss for Guangxi province, said the NPC's interpretation last November of Article 104 of the Basic Law, which covers oath-taking by Hong Kong lawmakers, was “very encouraging” and “efficient”. Two newly elected lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, were disqualified for swearing allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and using an offensive mispronunciation of “China”. Neither Wang nor Peng currently have any official duties relating to Hong Kong affairs. Wang was deputy commander of the Nanjing military area command, now subsumed into the Eastern Theatre Command. Peng was director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong five years ago before being appointed to Guangxi. Having such delegates speak out on Hong Kong affairs was unusual, said Tian Feilong, an associate law professor at Beihang University in Beijing. “This is quite different from the tradition that only Hong Kong officials or those who oversee Hong Kong affairs make public comment on the city,” Tian said. “It seems to the Chinese that the problem of Hong Kong independence takes more than one department to solve.” It was also a sign of Beijing's “zero-tolerance” towards the independence movement, he said. The strength and size of the movement is open to debate. While some supporters within the localist camp have advocated separation from the mainland, a survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong last year found support for such a move was 17.4 per cent. The majority of the 1,010 Cantonese speakers polled – 57.6 per cent – were somewhat or strongly against the idea. For many Hongkongers, the independence movement sits is on the fringe of more pressing political concerns, such as Beijing upholding its promise to honour the “one country, two systems” that guarantees the city a high degree of autonomy. “If there's some riot the Hong Kong police is unable to handle, it would be a natural thing for the army to take control” says Retired general Wang Hongguang. But the threat of Hong Kong separatism is real enough in the eyes of the central government that is gave it a prominent place in the work report, which Premier Li Keqiang delivered on the opening day of the NPC session, saying such calls would “lead nowhere”. The report listed the interpretation of Article 104 as an achievement. The CPPCC, meanwhile, credited itself with encouraging members to voice support for the interpretation in its official working report. In another surprising move, Yu Hongjun, a CPPCC delegate and former top diplomat, said he would submit a proposal to amend the city's mini-constitution to allow mutual secondment of officials across the border. Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said such moves could indicate Beijing's growing impatience to assert its control over the city. “It looks like freedom of speech at first glance, but we all know such comments are endorsed by Beijing,” Lau said. “Beijing could use its surrogates to release signals it's not convenient to release. “Beijing has found the situation quite different from 20 years ago and I believe its attitude towards Hong Kong has changed,” Lau said. “It's less dependent on Hong Kong in terms of economy and, in Beijing's eyes, it has no hope of acting as a good paradigm for 'one country, two systems' to Taiwan.” ^ top ^

Beijing vote gives Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dual leadership role (SCMP)
2017-03-13
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying won overwhelming support as he was elected a vice-chairman of Beijing's top political advisory body on Monday, giving him the dual role of state leader and the city's top official. On the last day of the annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference plenary meeting, 2066 delegates voted in favour of a motion to appoint Leung as vice-chairman, with 13 against and 16 abstaining. Six delegates did not vote. Following the CPPCC closing ceremony, President Xi Jinping shook hands with Leung and chatted for about one minute. Leung's elevation to the vice-chairmanship has raised questions over whether his dual role contravenes the “one country, two systems” principle. Article 22 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, states that no mainland Chinese authority shall meddle in the city's internal affairs. Complicating the situation is the Hong Kong graft-buster's investigation into a HK$50 million payment that Leung received from Australian engineering firm UGL. Some CPPCC delegates expressed concern regarding the probe when Leung was voted in as a CPPCC delegate earlier this month. The head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Simon Peh Yun-lu, said last week that “regardless of the social status of the target, we will still investigate as long as the incident took place in Hong Kong and is related to bribery, corruption and misconduct in public office”. But a combative Leung insisted that before he left Hong Kong for Beijing on Sunday there was no need for him to declare the deal under the Executive Council's declaration rules. He insisted there was no conflict of interest involved. UGL paid Leung after he signed a “non-compete” deal with the firm in 2011, when it bought insolvent firm DTZ, of which Leung was a director before running for chief executive. Beijing officials said Leung was nominated as CPPCC vice-chairman because of his firm stance against the Occupy Central pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014 and pro-independence advocacy. Former lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC regarded as a critic of Leung, hoped the chief executive makes good use of his new role and accurately reflects Hongkongers' views to the central government. “Leung understands mainland and Hong Kong very well, but the crux is whether he can bridge the central government and Hong Kong citizens,” he said. “So I really hope he can make use of this title and be that bridge to facilitate the implementation of 'one country, two systems' principle, and relay Hongkongers' voices to Beijing.” Another delegate, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, the former head of the city's graft-buster, said it was a good thing for the city to have two people as vice-chairmen of the CPPCC. He said there was no issue with Leung taking on the dual leadership roles, as the CPPCC was just an advisory body that not only covers Hong Kong but the whole China, not an authority. The CPPCC currently has 21 vice-chairmen, including Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's first chief executive, and Edmund Ho Hau-wah, the former leader of Macau. Both Tung and Ho were appointed after leaving office. Leung, who cited family reasons for not seeking a second term as the city's leader, is the first chief executive to hold the two roles simultaneously – at least until July 1 when he will no longer be Hong Kong's leader. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan plans defence spending increase to counter rising China (SCMP)
2017-03-16
Taiwan plans to raise its defence spending next year in an attempt to offset China's growing military might. Defence spending is targeted to rise to 3 per cent of gross domestic product in 2018, up from about 2 per cent this year, Minister of National Defence Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers in Taipei on Thursday. Taiwan plans to develop indigenous ships, aircraft, weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles capable of defence or offence, he said. Taiwan's defence expenditures have declined since the 1980s, when Taiwan spent more than 5 per cent of GDP on its military, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Taiwan hasn't spent 3 per cent of GDP on the military since 1999, according to Sipri. Defence Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said defence expenditures last exceeded 3 per cent in 2008. “We hope for an increase to 3 per cent next year, but the government also needs to consider revenue and balance it among other ministries,” Chen said. The push comes amid growing tensions with Taiwan's one-time civil war rivals on the mainland over the pro-independence leanings of President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party. Since taking power last year, Tsai has refused to endorse the one-China framework for continued talks, under which both sides agree they belong to the same country even if they have different interpretations of what that is. China has poured money into a sweeping military modernization effort in recent decades, giving it the ability to project force further from its coasts. Taiwan remains a top focus of the People's Liberation Army, which continues to have some 1,200 missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait. China considers the island a breakaway province that will eventually be united with the mainland, by force if necessary. The United States continues to sell weapons to Taiwan and is obligated to defend the island under a 1979 law. Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday reiterated China's stance of opposing Taiwanese independence and seeking peaceful reunification. “We are one family,” Li said. ^ top ^

Mainland denies setting stricter standards for Taiwan imports (Global Times)
2017-03-14
China's chief quality supervision official denied reports that the Chinese mainland had adopted a stricter supervision standard for imported Taiwan products while acknowledging that the Taiwan leader's failure to recognize the one-China policy had hindered the flow of information between the two sides. Zhi Shuping, head of China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said on Tuesday at a press conference on the sidelines of the two sessions in Beijing that 43 percent of the imported Taiwan products, a majority of which are food and cosmetics, were found to have poor quality and were denied entry into the Chinese mainland in January. In comparison, an average of 23.7 percent of Taiwan products shipped to the mainland were denied entry in 2016. "Because the current Taiwan leader refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, our cooperation has been hindered. Some information did not flow smoothly as it did before, such as the changes in policies or standards from our side," Zhi said. "However, there are also loopholes in Taiwan government's quality control, especially in terms of food. We have earnestly communicated the problem we identified in each batch of goods barred. But our advice was not heeded in time and changes were not properly implemented by the Taiwan side," Zhi noted. Zhi denied claims that the mainland had set a stricter supervision standard on Taiwan products and said the safety standard was universal. "Frankly speaking, our customs department has provided a lot of convenience for Taiwan exporters, especially along the coastal areas. Despite being brothers, we also have principles to stick to," Zhi said. He urged the Taiwan leader to return to the track of one-China principle, saying that "people from both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China and our emotions for our Taiwan brothers would not change." The chief quarantine and quality supervision official also spoke candidly about the quality issues of some Chinese products exported to Africa. China exports machinery and electronics, textile and apparel, as well as hi-tech products to Africa. Chinese products are popular in Africa due to their low prices. However there have been controversies over the quality of these goods. According to Zhi, in 2016 alone, China stopped more than 660,000 products from leaving the country to head to Africa due to quality reasons. "The quality of Chinese products exported to Africa is slowly improving. The failure rate at our inspection points decreased from 7.6 percent in the past to 3.2 percent in 2016," he said. Zhi told the Global Times that his administration has also cooperated with 14 African countries to crack down on counterfeit products. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Economic Watch: China stands firm on monetary policy after Fed rate hike (Xinhua)
2017-03-17
The latest Federal Reserve interest rate hike may complicate matters for China's central bank but will not affect its monetary policy, which will remain prudent and neutral. With the job market strengthening and inflation approaching its target, the Fed raised interest rates overnight by 25 basis points to a range of 0.75 percent -- 1.0 percent, only the third increase since the 2008 global financial crisis,. Two more adjustments are expected this year, making life difficult for the People's Bank of China (PBOC) as it strives to keep the yuan stable and maintain the pace of economic recovery -- no easy task while constantly working to defuse financial risks. Tom Orlik, chief Asia Economist at Bloomberg, believes the Fed has put the PBOC in a tricky position. He makes the point that the bank could easily have followed the Fed's lead and raised its own benchmark rates, supporting the yuan and reducing capital outflow, but at the risk of stymieing economic recovery. Standing too firm, on the other hand, would bring the twin risks of a depreciating yuan and renewed capital flight. Instead, the PBOC chose a solution that "makes a lot of sense," leaving benchmark rates on hold and making use of targeted instruments. Interest rates for both medium-term lending facility loans and reverse repos, the central bank's tools of choice for open market operations, rose 10 basis points. These higher rates reflect changes in the market without constituting a benchmark interest rate hike and do not signal any shift in monetary policy. What these higher rates do indicate, however, is improving economies both at home and abroad and rising consumer prices, while constituting a prudent response to the Fed. The PBOC is intent on keeping the China-U.S. interest rate gap moderate to avoid heaping pressure on the yuan and running the risk of a capital flight, according to China Merchants Bank analyst Liu Dongliang. Ren Zeping, chief economist at Founder Securities, sees no need for a benchmark rate hike as long as inflation remains mild and the nascent economic recovery fragile. Instead of raising benchmark rates, Ren suggests the central bank opt for a structural interest rate hike while stabilizing the yuan. The latest economic indicators have been as good as, or better than, expected: strong imports, producer inflation rising at its fastest in nearly nine years, industrial output on the up and fixed-asset investment growing steadily. Taken together, these factors suggest that the Chinese economy is moving in the right direction. With the 2017 growth target set at around 6.5 percent, the lowest in a quarter of a century, and monetary policy rebranded as "prudent and neutral," China is aiming to increase M2 by around 12 percent this year, one percentage point lower last year's target. New loans hit a record high last year, the third year in a row in excess of the 2009 level, when the country spent its way out of the global financial meltdown. While these loans provide the fuel for China's economic rebound, they come encumbered with the risk of asset bubbles. Left unchecked, these bubbles will threaten financial stability and darken the prospects for the broader economy. According to the government work report released Thursday, China will build a "firewall" against financial risk, and keep careful watch on non-performing assets, bond defaults, shadow banking and Internet finance. China's economy is likely to remain strong this year, which may allow the PBOC to continue to taper monetary easing, but any raise in benchmark rates this year would be a surprise. Economic recovery remains at a delicate stage, beset by uncertainties, and with investment sensitive to interest rate changes, CICC analyst Chang Huili said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK

Way to peace in Korean Peninsula clear, Beijing says (China Daily)
2017-03-17
China's latest proposal to solve the Korean Peninsula crisis aims at "getting rid of the peninsula's existing security dilemma" and eyes long-lasting stability, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday. Hua made the comment ahead of the upcoming China visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday and Sunday. Tillerson, who has been visiting Japan, will travel to Seoul before landing in Beijing. The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is expected to be high on the agenda during Tillerson's talks in Beijing, observers said. "China has consistently maintained close contact on the current peninsula situation with parties including the US," Hua said at a daily news conference in Beijing. Hua referred to Foreign Minister Wang Yi's proposal on March 8 to suspend Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests and to suspend large-scale joint military drills by Seoul and Washington. The parties could then follow the dual-track approach of denuclearizing the peninsula while also establishing a path to ensure peace, Wang said. Washington, however, has given China's proposal the cold shoulder. In Tokyo on Thursday, Tillerson said "a different approach is required" to tackle the situation. Hua said, "It is to be hoped that all parties will seriously consider (the proposal) and provide constructive responses." She added that Beijing is open to any other proposal that is better or idea that is helpful. Also on Thursday, Xiao Qian, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, told CNN that Pyongyang hopes to see the US take the first step to demonstrate sincerity, and Washington is expecting the same of Pyongyang. "So China's proposal is: Why not do these at the same time? No sequence, no 'first' and 'second'. There is a parallel. We do these at the same time," Xiao said. Wang Junsheng, a researcher in Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that Beijing expects that the other parties involved, particularly Washington and Pyongyang, will "face the issues and get them resolved". ^ top ^

N.Korea vows to continue with nuke tests if US threat persists (Global Times)
2017-03-16
The Korean Peninsula is at the edge of nuclear war, warned Pak Myong-ho, minister at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, on Thursday, stressing that North Korea will continue developing nuclear force if the threat "at the gate of North Korea" persists. At an invitation-only news conference held at the North Korean Embassy on Thursday afternoon, Pak slammed the joint military drills by the US and South Korea as the root cause which has pushed the Korean Peninsula into the touch-and-go situation, and thus made North Korea respond strongly. "The peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is under grave threat. The current situation has come to the brink of nuclear war," said Pak. The US and South Korea kicked off their joint military drill codenamed Key Resolve on Monday, following the joint field training drill codenamed Foal Eagle on March 1. In retaliation, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest coast on March 6. "Our stance and determination is that so long as the US and its follower persistently hold war games at the gate of North Korea, we will persistently enhance our defense capability with nuclear force as the core and pre-emptive strike capability," said Pak. When asked about the double suspension resolution proposed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during the two sessions, Pak said this is not the first time the US has immediately rejected such a proposal. "The US abandoning the hostile policy against North Korea is the precondition of resolving the Korean issues," said Pak. Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, told a press conference on Thursday that the double suspension resolution grasps the crux of the Korean Peninsula issue and accommodates concerns of all parties. Meanwhile, China has maintained close communication with related parties including the US, and is open to any suggestion that can lead to peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis. The US has kept pushing China to play a more satisfying role in the Korean issues and thinks China should put more pressure on North Korea. According to a CNN report on Thursday, the US is going to increase financial penalties against Chinese companies and banks that have business ties with North Korea. China hopes the US would not move forward with the new penalties, said Xiao Qian, director general of the Asian Affairs Department of Chinese foreign ministry. "We hope they will not," said Xiao in an interview with CNN Thursday. "Because then it is not fair and that's not right. That's not the correct way of dealing with things." ^ top ^

DPRK envoy at UN blames US, South Korea for VX assassination in Malaysia (Global Times)
2017-03-14
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) ambassador to the United Nations on Monday denied the man assassinated in Malaysia was half-brother of the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, saying the United States and South Korea should be blamed. Ambassador Kim In Ryong told reporters here that the case of the assassination "is the product of reckless moves of the United States and South Korean authorities aimed to... tarnish the image of the dignified DPRK and to bring down the Socialist system." Kim spoke in response to a question on the assassination during a news conference he had called to condemn a recent UN Security Council statement denouncing recent DPRK ballistic missile launches as a threat to international peace and security. But he acknowledged that the victim, who was poisoned to death in Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13 by two assailants, is a citizen from the DPRK with a diplomatic passport. "The United States and the South Korean authority are groundlessly blaming the DPRK, asserting that he was intoxicated by a highly poisonous VX nerve substance," Kim said, referring to the victim who has been identified by Malaysian authorities as the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un. The ambassador said Washington wanted to "store up international repugnancy towards the DPRK... to provoke nuclear war against the DPRK at any cost." He also raised the question as to where the assailants were able to obtain such a banned chemical weapon as VX, pointing out the United States has "a stockpile" of such outlawed weapons. Kim also said US and South Korean assertions the assailants were unaffected while applying VX to a victim was an "absurdity." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Foreign Minister meets ODIHR Director (Montsame)
2017-03-16
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil met with Michael Georg Link, Director of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), who paid a working visit to Mongolia between March 14 and 15. At the meeting, the ODIHR Director highlighted Mongolia's successful organization of the parliamentary elections of 2016 and mentioned that experience gained by Mongolia sets an example for other regional countries. He further informed that the OSCE will be giving support to corresponding Mongolian government organizations to implement recommendations and reports developed by their observers. In turn, Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil expressed his willingness to cooperate on establishing a regional center to prepare election observors and training and employing Mongolian officers in the OSCE. The sides then exchanged views regarding the productive partnership of Mongolia and OSCE. ^ top ^

IMF says they will remain patient with Mongolia despite setbacks (UB Post)
2017-03-16
Through their Resident Representative Office in Ulaanbaatar, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that they will remain patient despite the postponement of Parliament's discussion of the budget amendments required for enrollment in its extended fund facility (EFF) program. The foreign financiers of Mongolia'soverall relief package have not yet verifiedtheir commitments. Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, and the governments of Japan and South Korea have committed to providing budget and project support as part of the IMF's staff-level EFF agreement. This package, coupled with a currency swap agreement between the central banks of Mongolia and China, make up a 5.5 billion USD financial package. Mongolia needs to have a minimum financial commitment of three billion USD in order to enroll in the EFF. Reports indicate that the ADB is already in the process of discussing the financial commitment at their headquarters in Manila. Even though World Bank has committed to contributing to the financial package, it is not clear how much will be offered and under what terms it will be provided. ^ top ^

OSCE to deploy election observers to Mongolia (Montsame)
2017-03-15
Delegates led by Michael Georg Link, Director of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) are working in Mongolia. On March 15, the OSCE delegation was received by Ch.Sodnomtseren, Director of the General Election Commission of Mongolia. During the meeting, the ODIHR Director said “The OSCE observers are interested in working in Mongolia for election observation as elections in Mongolia are conducted in a competitive manner. Furthermore, other member states of OSCE learn a lot of things from the experiences gained by Mongolia and from how Mongolian electoral organizations implement the recommendations and reports developed by our observers”. He further informed that a research team of the OSCE will arrive in Mongolia to observe the preliminary situation of the election in Mongolia and will publish a report on this for the public soon. "The OSCE will be giving support to Mongolia by sending specialists and observers from OSCE and giving out publications for Mongolian voters". Ch.Sodnomtseren, Director of the General Election Commission emphasized that the OSCE observers and their recommendations and reports make a great contribution to the organization of the elections and improving the electoral activities in the country and expressed his willingness to implement the carry-out the recommendations in the near future. ^ top ^

Ulaanbaatar to expand its tax base (Montsame)
2017-03-15
“We will work towards expansion of tax base and increase of revenue”, remarked Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold during the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Mongolian Taxation Authority on March 14. On behalf of the Mongolian Taxation Authority, Director S.Zorig signed the memorandum formalizing the two side's cooperation this year. “Mayor's Office is responsible for strengthening the material base of taxation entities and enabling working conditions for the staff which we will ensure. Today, we are establishing a memorandum to cooperate on assistance to taxpayers with the Taxation Authority ”, the Mayor said. For his part, the Taxation Authority Director said, “This memorandum is important for laying the foundations for further cooperation between the Taxation Authority and Governors' Offices of districts”. In the frameworks of the memorandum, implementation of taxation laws will be ensured in the capital and district levels and realization of VAT law will be intensified. ^ top ^

Four projects under implementation within Women's Leadership Program (Montsame)
2017-03-15
The Women's Leadership Program (WLP) is an extensive of the Australia Awards program, which has been running in Mongolia since 1994. Since the beginning of the Australia Awards program, 60 women have participated in the WLP, with 18 in the course currently and they are working on four projects. The projects include, Improvement of safety of children traveling to school by enhancing awareness and safety planning; Wheelchairs for Kids – 60 children with mobility impairment are to receive wheelchairs specially made for kids with disabilities; Reducing risks in childbirth by improving mothers' awareness of prenatal care during pregnancy and Improving pre-school education of herders' children in Uvs Province by providing mobile libraries. Australian Ambassador to Mongolia John Langtry made remarks on WLP during a meeting of the Business Council of Mongolia held on March 13. “There are 440 Australia Awards alumnae already working to contribute to the development of Mongolia, all the way up to members of parliament and also in areas of business and civil society. I've got no doubt that these WLP projects will be successfully implemented and will make a significant contribution to the targeted communities,” noted the Ambassador. Seventy percent of Australia Awards graduates are women, and the WLP aims to improve their leadership skills and enable them to compete successfully for senior leadership and decision-making positions. ^ top ^

 

Ms. Corinne Estermann
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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