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
  22-26.4.13, No. 472  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Bilateral Issues

Chinese, Swiss FMs hold talks on cooperation (Xinhua)
2013-04-25
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Swiss Vice President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter on Thursday, pledging to enhance cooperation. Wang thanked the Swiss side for extending sympathy after Lushan, a county in southwest China's Sichuan Province, that suffered a 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Saturday, which has left 196 dead, 21 missing and 13,484 injured. China highly values the bilateral ties, Wang said, noting that the country would like to work together with Switzerland to focus on tangible cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. The two nations could reinforce coordination on bilateral as well as multilateral affairs, and positively carry forward the China-Switzerland free trade negotiations, Wang added. Burkhalter expressed hope to maintain high-level exchanges with the Chinese side, deepen exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and complete free trade negotiations at an early date. The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern. ^ top ^

Chinese Vice Premier meets with Swiss VP (Xinhua)
2013-04-25
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang met with Swiss Vice President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter on Thursday, pledging closer ties between the two nations. Wang said during the meeting that China and Switzerland enjoy sound development of bilateral ties and their economies are highly complementary. The two sides need to uphold the principle of mutual benefit, seek common ground and handle problems with flexibility so as to create favorable conditions for the signing of a China-Switzerland free trade agreement, Wang said. Burkhalter voiced hope for advancing negotiation on a balanced and mutual beneficial free trade agreement between the two countries. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

US 'turns blind eye to human rights' (China Daily)
2013-04-22
China slammed the human rights record of the United States on Sunday in response to a Washington report, saying the US turned a blind eye to its own woeful situation while posing as "the world judge of human rights". In Human Rights Record of the United States in 2012, released by the Information Office of China's State Council, China argued that there are serious human rights problems in the US that are widely criticized throughout the world. Human rights have long been a source of tension between the world's two largest economies. China has been hitting back at US criticism by issuing reports on the US human rights record since 2000. The US State Department issued Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 on Friday. [...] Analysts said the reports issued by the US take a negative attitude toward other countries' human rights situation, which is far from objective. [...] Liu Huawen, secretary-general of the Center for Human Rights Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences, said it is necessary to make a timely and proper response to the US human rights reports and the country's hypocritical human rights diplomacy. These reports "write off other countries' efforts at improving human rights, hurt their national images and people's feelings," said Liu, adding that China has been calling for dialogue and cooperation to improve understanding in human rights issues in the world. Experts also said that Washington, before criticizing other countries, should have reflected on its own human rights status, which shows many worrying aspects. "For a long time, the US has favored civil and political rights, and overlooked social and economic rights," Liu said. "But human rights are an organic whole, including economic, social and cultural rights, based on the interpretation and advocacy of the United Nations. The Occupy Wall Street movement and the fact that the US has not yet ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights show Washington's obvious weakness in protecting the disadvantaged groups of its own nation.". ^ top ^

Japan nationalists sail close to islands disputed by China (SCMP)
2013-04-23
A flotilla of boats carrying more than 80 Japanese nationalists arrived on Tuesday in waters near disputed islands at the centre of tensions between China and Japan, risking further straining Tokyo's fraught relations with its Asian neighbours. The boats were shadowed by at least 10 Japanese Coast Guard vessels, while three Chinese government surveillance ships moved near the islands, according to the JCG. Last year members of the same group landed on one of the islets and triggered anti-Japanese protests in China, while lingering regional friction over Japan's wartime aggression also resurfaced in recent days. [...] The nationalist Ganbare Nippon (“Stand Firm, Japan”) group said the flotilla of 10 boats would sail around the rocky East China Sea islets to survey fishing grounds, and that it did not plan to land there. It gave the same assurances when it sponsored a similar trip last August, during which about 10 activists landed on one of the islets, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. “This is all about asserting our ownership of the islands, going there to conduct a fishing survey to prove that Japanese fishermen can indeed make a living there,” said group leader Satoru Mizushima. [...] Japanese ships are allowed to sail to waters around the islets, but the Japanese government generally prohibits landing. [...] Ganbare Nippon is not officially affiliated with any political party, but its members have organised rallies to support Abe, who swept to power last December promising economic revival and a more assertive stance towards Japan's neighbours. ^ top ^

China, NK to hold talks on nuclear crisis: media report (Global Times)
2013-04-23
Imminent dialogue reportedly planned to take place between China and North Korea, if confirmed, could help defuse soaring tensions in the Korean Peninsula, analysts said, noting that more work needs to be done to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and rejoin the stalled Six-Party Talks. Citing a source knowledgeable about North Korean affairs, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Saturday that North Korea indicated in mid-April that it is ready for talks with China regarding the nuclear crisis. It said China will also likely send a senior official, possibly Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs and chairman of the Six-party Talks, to Pyongyang for discussions. "The Chinese side is expected to call on North Korea to agree to either dialogue with the US or resumption of the Six-Party talks," the newspaper said. Zhang Liangui, a specialist in Korean issues at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times that even if North Korea agrees to first engage with China, there has been no indication so far it will make any concessions on the nuclear issue. And the most likely scenario is that it will again stress preconditions required for the resumption of dialogue with South Korea and the US. [...] Lü Chao, director of the Korean Research Center at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that North Korea has chosen to use a combination of both hard and soft means to serve its interests, according to changes in the situation. "In terms of 'hard' policies, it almost emptied its rhetoric by issuing the recent war threats and now that the US has proposed an offer of dialogue, maybe it will make a diplomatic gesture to explore the issue," Lü said. "This is a sign that the tension could be cooled down if all parties seize the opportunity." North Korea on Thursday demanded the UN sanctions that were imposed after its third nuclear test be dropped, and that the US remove its nuclear "war tools" on the Korean Peninsula before the resumption of any denuclearization talks. The proposal, though rejected by the US and South Korea, marked a relatively soft tone by North Korea. But meanwhile, South Korea's defense ministry said Monday an expected missile launch by North Korea may stretch to July after Pyongyang has been keeping the international community on edge for over two weeks due to its expected missile test. "These are three potential dates, but no one can predict exactly what direction the North will take," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters, according to AFP. He identified three possible dates, the April 25 founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army, April 30, the final day of ongoing South-US military exercises and the July 27 anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. An unidentified South Korean military source told South Korea's Yonhap news agency Sunday that North Korea has moved two more missile launchers for short-range Scud missiles to its northeast province of South Hamgyong. "The priority of all parties concerned should not be regarding its expected missile test, but on how to press Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear weapons and joining the Six-Party Talks," Zhang said. "The tension has already been taken to extremes, so the missile launch won't significantly change the status quo unless North Korea uses it to strikes military targets," he said. ^ top ^

Chinese fleet drives Japanese boats away from Diaoyu Islands (Xinhua)
2013-04-23
A fleet of Chinese marine surveillance vessels has driven Japanese fishing boats out of waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, the State Oceanic Administration said Tuesday. The Chinese fleet's enforcement of the law had forced the Japanese fishing boats out of waters surrounding the islands as of 10 a.m., thwarting the attempts of "Japanese right wingers," the administration said in a statement on its website. Three Chinese ships on regular patrol duty spotted several Japanese vessels in the waters on Tuesday morning. The administration immediately ordered another five ships in the East China Sea to meet the three ships. The eight Chinese ships organized in four formations monitored the Japanese boats from different angles, collected evidence of their infringement upon China's sovereignty and safeguarded national interests, the statement said. The fleet continued to patrol the waters after the incident, it said. [...]. ^ top ^

Chinese ambassador protests Japan's intrusion into waters surrounding Diaoyu Islets (Xinhua)
2013-04-23
Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua on Tuesday protested against that Japan's intrusion into surrounding waters of the Diaoyu Islets and demanded that all Japanese ships leave the waters immediately, according to the Chinese embassy in Japan. Cheng lodged the protest during his meeting with Japanese vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai and rejected Japan's protest over Chinese surveillance ships entering into the waters, said the embassy in its website. Cheng emphasized the Diaoyu Islets and its surrounding waters are Chinese inherent territories and the Chinese surveillance ships were on regular patrol duty. Earlier Tuesday, several Japanese boats were spotted in waters around the islands and about eight Chinese marine surveillance ships monitored the intruding Japanese ships from different angles, according to China's State Oceanic Administration. ^ top ^

China protests Japanese lawmakers' shrine visit (Xinhua)
2013-04-23
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday urged Japan to adhere to its commitments after a group of 168 Japanese lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted war criminals are honored alongside the country's World War II casualties. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing that no matter in what form and identity, the intent of the Japanese leaders' visits to the Yasukuni Shrine is to deny the history of Japanese militarist aggression. Japan's neighbors in Asia and the international community should be highly alert to their behavior and intentions, according to Hua. She urged the Japanese side to take meaningful action to win the trust of the international community, in order to avoid harming itself and others or isolating itself. Only when Japan learns from history can it embrace the future, said the spokeswoman. ^ top ^

Xi meets U.S. top military officer (Xinhua)
2013-04-23
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday met with U.S. top military officer Martin Dempsey and called for deeper mutual trust between the two militaries as well as the two countries. China-U.S. relations are in an important historic period, Xi said during the meeting. Recalling a telephone discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama last month, Xi said he and Obama reaffirmed their commitment to developing China-U.S. cooperative partnership. Xi said both countries should take a strategic and long-term view of China-U.S. relations and enrich the framework of their cooperative partnership in quest of a new type of relations between major powers that features equality, mutual trust, tolerance, mutual learning and win-win cooperation. Xi, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the military ties constitute an important part of the cooperative partnership between the two countries. The healthy and stable development of China-U.S. military ties would help to enhance the strategic mutual trust, and prevent risks and manage crises, according to the Chinese leader. Hailing the progress achieved in China-U.S. military exchange, dialogue and joint training over the past year and more, Xi said China attaches great importance to military-to-military relations between the two countries. He added that China is willing to make joint efforts with the U.S. side to deepen military trust in each other and expand exchanges and cooperation to establish a new type of military relationship between the two countries. During the meeting, Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered condolences to victims of the recent earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province, adding that he appreciated the Chinese military's swift participation in disaster relief there. Xi thanked the U.S side for their condolences and support after the quake, adding that China is able to cope with the natural disaster. For his part, Dempsey said he was satisfied with the candid, in-depth and fruitful interactions with Chinese military officers during his China trip. The U.S. side is ready to work with the Chinese side to strengthen mutual trust and overcome obstacles to boost the military-to-military relations in the direction set by the two presidents. Later on Tuesday, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi also met with the U.S. general in Beijing. The two sides exchanged views on the military ties between the two countries and other issues of concern. Dempsey arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a five-day visit, the first since he took office as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011. ^ top ^

Japan PM issues warning to Beijing over Diaoyu Islands (SCMP)
2013-04-24
Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo flared again yesterday after 168 Japanese lawmakers visited a Tokyo war shrine and both countries sent ships to a disputed area of the East China Sea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Tokyo would "expel by force" any Chinese landing on the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, while Beijing accused Tokyo of showing no respect for history. Abe's warning came after China sent eight surveillance vessels within 12 nautical miles of the islands - the most in a single day since Japan bought three of the islands in September. Beijing said they were sent to monitor Japanese fishing boats. The State Oceanic Administration said the fleet "collected evidence of the Japanese vessels' infringement upon China's sovereignty". In response, Abe told lawmakers that Japan would take "decisive action" against any attempt to enter Japanese territorial waters. "It would be natural for us to expel by force if the Chinese were to make a landing," he said. Tokyo summoned Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua. Cheng, in return, demanded that all Japanese ships leave the waters near the islands. [...] Da Zhigang, an expert in Japanese affairs at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said: "The latest spat will trigger public sentiment in China, which will push the Chinese leadership to be tougher against Japan, making it difficult to lower tensions." A non-partisan group of 168 Japanese lawmakers yesterday visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan's wartime past, after three cabinet ministers paid homage there at the weekend. Liberal Democratic Party member Hidehisa Otsuji said the visit was a "natural act". But in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan was trying to deny its "history of aggression". South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young also condemned the visit, saying Tokyo should "think hard" about its impact on countries that suffered wartime occupation. [...]. ^ top ^

China's Himalayan 'advance' sparks Indian anger (SCMP)
2013-04-24
India's foreign ministry has asked China to withdraw troops who allegedly advanced into disputed territory claimed by New Delhi in a remote area of the Himalayas. Officials said Chinese troops entered 10 kilometres into Indian territory on April 15 and pitched tents in the Depsang valley in the Ladakh region of Kashmir. China has dismissed reports of an incursion as Indian media speculation and said the border region has been peaceful. "The two parties have maintained good communication and co-ordination on the border issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. India says Chinese troops have repeatedly crossed the boundary in recent years, leaving rubbish with Chinese markings as evidence of their presence. However, Indian officials said the new incursion was far deeper. India's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned Wei Wei, the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi, for talks last week. India also filed a protest to the Chinese side, an External Affairs Ministry official said. Meetings between local commanders are also under way to resolve the incident. "We have asked the Chinese side to maintain the status quo in this sector," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. "By this I mean the status quo prior to this incident." He stressed that there were differing perceptions of the undefined frontier. The nuclear-armed neighbours claim territory held by the other and clashed during a brief border conflict in 1962. India accuses China of occupying 38,000 square kilometres of territory in Jammu and Kashmir to the west, while Beijing lays claim to 90,000 square kilometres of land in Arunachal Pradesh, in India's east. More than a dozen rounds of talks since 2005 have failed to resolve the dispute. The Hindu newspaper has reported that Premier Li Keqiang was set to visit New Delhi next month. The apparent movement of Chinese troops is likely to add to concerns among China's neighbours about Beijing's respect for its current borders. ^ top ^

FM: China-India border troops strictly observe agreements (Xinhua)
2013-04-24
A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry reiterated here on Wednesday that China's border troops have strictly observed relevant agreements between China and India. Responding to a journalist's question on the issue, Hua Chunying told a daily press briefing, "The Chinese side has confined activities to within the Chinese border and never trespassed across the line." She said that China and India have already established a consultation and coordination mechanism on border issues, adding that "the communication channels are open." The maintenance of peace along the border is the consensus between China and India and complies with both their interests, according to Hua. ^ top ^

India, China hold talks on 'advance' into disputed territory (SCMP)
2013-04-25
India and China are holding more talks over an alleged advance by Chinese troops into disputed territory after senior army officers failed to reach a resolution, Indian reports say. Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony was quoted as telling reporters that "negotiations are going on at various levels to resolve the issue peacefully". "Our government will take every step to protect the national integrity and security," he said, while on a visit to Bangalore, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. India's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it had already asked China to withdraw troops who allegedly came across the border and set up camp in a remote area of the Himalayas on April 15. "We have asked the Chinese side to maintain the status quo in this sector [of the western border]," spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. "By this I mean the status quo prior to this incident." Akbaruddin stressed that there were differing perceptions of the undefined frontier in the Buddhist-majority Indian region of Ladakh, which is a source of friction between the neighbours. Beijing has denied that its soldiers had encroached on Indian territory or that they had contravened accords signed in 1993 and 1996 designed to maintain peace along the so-called Line of Actual Control (LAC). Local military commanders from both sides have already met this week in a failed attempt to resolve the issue, a reminder of the prickly relationship between the two countries. Tension at the border is a regular feature and the Indian press frequently reports on minor alleged violations by Chinese troops as well as the build-up of military forces and infrastructure in the frontier areas of Tibet. Relations between both sides are marked by mutual suspicion - a legacy of a brief border war in 1962 that was waged in Ladakh and in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. ^ top ^

Hollande urged to drop high-tech export ban on China visit (Global Times)
2013-4-25
French President Francois Hollande Thursday kicked off his first visit to China since coming into office last year, becoming the first major Western head of state to be received by China's new generation of leaders. Hollande is likely to use the trip, which comes amid economic woes at home and the lingering European debt crisis, to expand exports from Paris to Beijing and cement their economic links with the world's second largest economy. Analysts also called on France to end its high-tech exports ban to China, as this could both address France's concern over trade deficits and contribute to the healthy development of their strategic partnership in the long run. During his two-day state visit to China, Hollande will hold separate talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Dejiang for discussions of regional and international issues of joint concern before going to Shanghai, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Wednesday. Trade and the economy will still be high on the agenda during Hollande's trip as he is accompanied by a large delegation including his ministers of trade, finance, and agriculture as well as a number of French entrepreneurs. [...] But while bilateral trade has been growing, France has complained of its trade imbalance with China. Some have pointed fingers at the Chinese currency, claiming it is undervalued. "China has more or less got what it wants from the bilateral relationship, but France has so far struggled to reap the rewards of Chinese growth," Jonathan Holslag, an expert on Sino-European relations at the Free University of Brussels, told AFP. But Sheng [a researcher with the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences] said that a trade surplus is not what China desires in its trade with France. "France leads the world in many high-tech areas and if they could manage to end their ban on high-tech exports to China, the trade imbalance would definitely be reversed," he noted. "This would be a win-win situation as French companies could also boost their investment in China.". ^ top ^

Indian foreign minister heads to Beijing amid flare-up in border dispute (SCMP)
2013-04-26
India's foreign minister yesterday announced a plan to visit China as a border delineation disagreement continued, saying both countries had an interest in not allowing it to "destroy" long-term progress in ties. Amid growing calls in some quarters for a tougher stance over the alleged incursion of Chinese troops in a remote Himalayan region, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said he would head to Beijing on May 9. "I believe we have a mutual interest and we should not destroy years of contribution we have put together," Khurshid said in New Delhi, without directly linking his visit to the border dispute. "I think it is a good thing that we are having a dialogue." An Indian foreign ministry official, meanwhile, confirmed reports that Premier Li Keqiang would travel to New Delhi late next month without specifying an exact date. Lower-level talks have so far failed to break an impasse in the dispute over the border in the western part of the mountainous Ladakh region. The stand-off erupted on April 15, when, according to officials in New Delhi, a platoon of Chinese troops set up a camp inside Indian territory. India has since called on the Chinese soldiers to withdraw, but several meetings between local army commanders and diplomats from both sides have failed to resolve the situation. China has denied any wrongdoing, a stance reiterated yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Chinese troops have always acted in compliance with the relevant treaties and protocols between the two countries regarding the peace and security of the area around the line of actual control," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. "Chinese troops have never crossed the lines." The Chinese defence ministry said at a press conference on Thursday that the PLA was "dedicated to maintaining peace" in the border area, denying Indian media reports that Chinese troops had crossed the border. The Times of India suggested the alleged incursion could be in retaliation for efforts to strengthen Indian forces on the frontier. While the Indian foreign ministry has sought to downplay the incident, the army was pressing for "a show of force", the daily said on a page of reports entitled "Dragon At The Gate". A policy analyst in New Delhi said India had failed to resolve the border dispute because of an inherent "inferiority complex". "India must get its act together and the leaders must learn to demonstrate firmness in their dealings with China," Sujit Dutta, a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University, said. "India will make a big mistake if this time it chooses to underplay the border dispute.". ^ top ^

China, France stress a multipolar world as Hollande visits Beijing (SCMP)
2013-04-26
China and France pledged yesterday to promote a new international order that was not dominated by any single superpower. President Xi Jinping told his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, he was confident they could develop a new type of comprehensive strategic partnership. The two leaders vowed to deepen economic ties, and witnessed the signing of a number of deals and co-operation agreements, including China's purchase of 60 Airbus planes. The two also issued a joint declaration pledging co-operation. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding and Electricite de France signed a co-operation deal on research into nuclear reactors and nuclear power plant maintenance and upgrading. The last major nuclear co-operation agreement between the two nations, signed 30 years ago, was for the construction of the Daya Bay nuclear power station in Shenzhen, Xinhua reported. Both leaders stressed their desire for a multipolar world - which would dilute Washington's influence - without mentioning the United States. "China and France are both great countries with a strong sense of independence," Xi said, adding that both nations would "actively promote … the democratisation of international relations". He said the global order had undergone rapid changes with the rise of emerging markets, and China and France should deepen their strategic partnership, China Central Television reported. Xi told Hollande that while China and France had different political systems, France should respect China's core interests. Hollande said France also wanted a multipolar world order. "We want there to be a balance," he said. "We refuse a world of powers, and of superpowers. When China and France agree on a position, we can drive the world." The two sides also agreed to hold annual high-level talks, deepen their strategic dialogue, and establish an economic and financial dialogue. Hollande wants greater access to the Chinese market. France's US$34 billion trade deficit with China last year has caused unease in Paris. Following yesterday's talks, the two nations vowed to strengthen co-operation in the tourism and financial sectors. [...]. ^ top ^

Asean leaders reach out to China over territorial disputes (SCMP)
2013-04-26
Southeast Asian nations stepped up efforts yesterday to engage China in talks to resolve maritime tensions, with Thailand calling on foreign ministers to agree a common stance on the South China Sea ahead of discussions in Beijing later this year. The initiative by Thailand came as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) tried to patch up differences that shook the group last year, but struggled to make progress on long-held plans to agree on a mechanism for managing disputes. "Most especially there was a call to have continued engagement with China," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in the Brunei capital. Natalegawa said that Thailand, which has the role of Asean co-ordinator with China, had called for the talks ahead of an Asean-China meeting expected in August to commemorate 10 years since they formed a "strategic partnership". China has said it will only join talks when the time is "ripe" and insists on resolving sovereignty disputes on a bilateral basis. Meanwhile, it has flexed its growing "blue water" naval muscle by occupying some areas claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines. Efforts by Asean to craft a code of conduct to manage South China Sea tensions all but collapsed last year at a summit chaired by Cambodia, a close economic ally of China, which was accused of trying to keep the issue off the agenda. Philippine President Benigno Aquino drew a strong contrast with last year's discussions following a dinner on Wednesday with fellow leaders. He described as "beautiful" the fact that Brunei Prime Minister and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had brought up the South China Sea issue as the first subject. "We should really be thankful that the whole of Asean is willing to discuss this instead of putting it on the back burner," Aquino said. But prospects for quick progress on a legally binding code of conduct appear dim due to differences over how to frame the agreement. The summit-concluding communiqué yesterday said Asean ministers had been tasked to "work actively with China" for an "early conclusion" of the proposed agreement. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Chinese Premier visits patients injured in strong quake (Xinhua)
2013-04-21
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Sunday morning visited patients injured in the strong earthquake that hit southwest China's Sichuan Province on Saturday. Li visited the West China Hospital, a leading facility in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, which has taken in a number of seriously-injured patients who had been transferred from the quake-hit areas. Before heading to the hospital, Li had been in Lushan County, the epicenter of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, since Saturday afternoon, giving instructions of the rescue and relief work. At the hospital's intensive-care unit, the premier asked doctors about the conditions and treatment of several patients. [...] He stressed that those who were seriously injured in the quake should be given effective medical treatment, so as to minimize the number of casualties. [...] Li reassured him that the government would cover the medical fees for those who were seriously injured in the quake, so as to guarantee meticulous treatment for them. [...] On his way to the West China Hospital, Premier Li specially asked about the progress of quake-relief deployments made during a meeting held Saturday evening, and he was briefed that all deployments have been implemented. So far, an additional 200-member professional rescue team and their equipment have arrived at the epicenter and started searching and rescuing survivors. Several medical teams, by air and foot, have entered Baoxing County the area that had no communication with areas outside of it. Some injured survivors have been rescued and transported out of the county. The quake-relief headquarters has collected 800 portable dwellings, and experts responsible for evaluating the safety of constructions and the quake's damage have arrived in the area. As of 2 p.m. Sunday, more than 35,959 personnel had arrived in the quake-hit area to help in the rescue and relief work. Hospitals around Sichuan Province had received more than 8,174 patients wounded in the quake. [...]. ^ top ^

Quake-hit regions receive more relief supplies (Xinhua)
2013-04-22
More relief supplies were airlifted to areas hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, Xinhua learned from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Monday. A total of 5,000 raincoats, 10,000 flashlights and 30,000 batteries, prepared by the Economic Commission of Shanghai, were flown to the Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu on the early morning of Monday. The MOC launched an emergency response to ensure the supply of daily necessities soon after the earthquake. The ministry requires local authorities to keep up with the market supply situation in quake-hit regions of Ya'an City, according to a statement. Local authorities should monitor the supplies and prices of necessities and make a daily report to the MOC, the statement said. Provinces near Sichuan should mobilize major enterprises to provide necessary assistance in ensuring market supplies and disaster relief, the MOC said. The ministry also pledged to help business operations in quake-hit areas and in a timely manner release information concerning the supplies of daily necessities and disaster-relief materials. [...]. ^ top ^

Rescuers battle to help victims of Sichuan quake as death toll hits 186 (SCMP)
2013-04-22
Relief teams battled to gain access to isolated areas in quake-hit Sichuan province as the death toll rose to 186 yesterday, with more than 11,000 injured and 21 still missing. Rescue operations were hampered by a communications shutdown and traffic congestion partly caused by the influx of rescue squads and volunteers to the main scenes of devastation in Lushan and Baoxing counties, under Yaan city. The State Council banned unauthorised rescue efforts and individual vehicles from going to the quake zone for fear of making the traffic problems worse. The quake - said to be of 7.0 magnitude by mainland seismic authorities but 6.6 by the US Geological Survey - hit the Yaan area on Saturday. It came three weeks ahead of the anniversary of the 2008 quake in the province that killed more than 88,000 people. It has been turned into a huge refugee camp, with tents set up for survivors. Some of them complained about the lack of relief materials and said they were worried that conditions would get worse in the coming days. Some of them held banners reading "No electricity, no water and no attention" on the 22-kilometre road to Longmen township in Yaan, visited by Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday. Peng Shimei, a resident of Wangjia village, said houses had collapsed, but that they had received no outside help. The villagers built a hut to provide shelter for about 20 babies and children, while adults were sleeping in the open air. "We are not asking for a lot, just water for our babies," Peng said. Liao Lei, deputy mayor of Yaan, said nearly 28,000 houses in Lushan county had collapsed and there was a shortage of drinking water. The road to Baoxing county, another badly hit area where 22 people were killed and 15 are missing, opened briefly yesterday before being closed again last night. Telecommunications at five townships in the county were suspended, creating a problem for rescuers. County chief Ma Jun said nearly all the houses in the county, including some built after the 2008 earthquake, were damaged. Some townships had also lost electricity and water supplies. The county has only 10 days' stock of rice, he added. The central government yesterday earmarked 1 billion yuan (HK$1.2 billion) for relief efforts, including relocation fees, medical treatment, subsidies for victims' families and repairing damaged facilities, the Finance Ministry said. [...]. ^ top ^

China's bird flu death toll rises to 20 (SCMP)
2013-04-22
Two more people have died from a new strain of avian influenza, bringing to 20 the number of deaths from the H7N9 virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Sunday. Chinese authorities have notified the WHO of six new cases, bringing the total to 102. Of those, 70 are still in hospital and 12 have been discharged. Five of the new cases were in Zhejiang province and one was in Shanghai. “Until the source of infection has been identified, it is expected that there will be further cases of human infection with the virus in China,” the WHO said in a statement. The WHO's China representative, Michael O'Leary, issued data on Friday showing that half of the patients analysed had had no known contact with poultry, the most obvious potential source, but he said it appeared human-to-human transmission was rare. China announced the first case of human infection of the H7N9 in late March. ^ top ^

MOF launches surveys on tax reform pilots (Xinhua)
2013-04-22
China's Ministry of Finance (MOF) has launched surveys on reform pilots for replacing business tax with a value-added duty, the MOF said Monday. The ministry has set up 12 local monitoring offices in provinces and municipalities to follow the practice of the pilot scheme as well as the scheme's effects on local economies and enterprises. From early April to the end of 2013, the surveys will monitor at least 10 enterprises in each of the pilot industries, the ministry said. On April 10, the State Council, China's cabinet, decided to expand its value-added tax (VAT) reform to the entire country from August 1. It hopes to complete the reform by the end of 2015. China introduced the reform in Shanghai last year to avoid double taxation. It was later expanded to another 11 regions, including the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, and Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province. By February 1, the program had saved over 1 million taxpayers more than 40 billion yuan ($6.47 billion) in taxes, according to MOF data. Business tax refers to a levy on the gross revenue of a business, while VAT refers to a tax levied on the difference between a commodity's price before taxes and its cost of production. Business tax must be paid by nine industries in China — transport, construction, financial and insurance, postal and telecommunications, cultural and sports, entertainment, service, intangible asset transfer and real estate sales. ^ top ^

Xi orders generals and senior PLA officers to serve as privates (SCMP)
2013-04-23
Chinese generals and senior officers will have to serve as the lowest-ranking soldiers for at least two weeks under a measure by President Xi Jinping to shake up the military and boost morale. Xi, as the nation's commander-in-chief, issued the order over the weekend, which the Ministry of National Defence publicised on its website. It dictates that officers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel or above must serve as privates - the lowest-ranking soldier - for not less than 15 days. Generals and officers will have to live, eat and serve with junior soldiers during the period. They need to provide for themselves and pay for their own food. They must not accept any banquet invitation, join any sight-seeing tours, accept gifts or interfere with local affairs. [...] Leaders of regiment- and brigade-level units have to serve on the front line once every three years. Division- and army-level commanders must serve once every four years. Top leaders from army headquarters and military districts will do so once every five years. The measure recalls a similar shake-up launched by Mao Zedong in 1958. Mao at the time famously said all military leaders should serve as foot soldiers for a month every year. He used the chance to strengthen his control of the military and forced many powerful marshals and generals into retirement or exile. Antony Wong Dong, a Macau-based veteran military expert, said although Xi's new measure bore some resemblance to Mao's directive, Xi seemed to be genuine in his wish to revamp the military. "The lack of discipline, the rampant corruption and the gap between the officers and soldiers are so commonplace, it has compromised the battle-effectiveness of the PLA," Wong said. "Xi, like many other top leaders, is keenly aware of this and he is eager to address the problems." Wong said people should not compare Xi's order with Mao's as they were made under "very different circumstances". "During Mao's time, most of the PLA generals came from the front line and the grass roots. The commanders and common soldiers were very close and the generals knew what life on the front line was alike," he said. "Many generals and senior officers today have never experienced hardship. They are promoted to their position because of their connections or other reasons. Xi understands he needs to change the mentality. Getting these people back to the front line can boost army morale and close the gap [between commanders and soldiers]. ^ top ^

Tensions flare in remote Sichuan village waiting for earthquake relief (SCMP)
2013-04-24
As relief materials pile up at major rescue centres in quake-hit areas of Sichuan province, villagers from rural communities are complaining they have been forgotten by the government. "It's been four days, four days. I haven't seen any government official bother to ask us how we have been coping," said 66-year-old Chen Zhongfen, from Shengli village in Taiping township, in an outlying part of Lushan county. [...] "I haven't got anything yet, and we've heard that the aid has all gone to central areas." Chen was among more than 2,000 villagers in Shengli struggling to cope with post-quake life as rain began to fall. They desperately need more shelters and food. But four days into the disaster, villagers like Chen in rural communities say they have been left out of disaster relief efforts. Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping chaired a special meeting of the party's Politburo Standing Committee yesterday on relief work in the quake zone, at which he vowed to keep searching for those missing, even though the 72-hour window that represented their best chance of survival passed yesterday. The meeting promised to ensure everyone in the quake zone had "food to eat, clothes to wear, clean water to drink, temporary places to stay and medicines to use". However, in Shengli village, more than 350 villagers had to share nine tents and 100 bottles of water. They said the few tents they had were becoming useless because they had no floors and the rain had been quite heavy over the past two days. Many villagers said they were running out of food and only had corn soup every day. "I can endure all this, but what about the pregnant women and the elderly in the village?" said He Xiaobing. He, a 42-year-old farmer, had to move his family and all the belongings he could salvage from his house into a home-made tent crammed with about 20 people. A fight broke out among 50 villagers in Taiping township who scrambled for a few boxes of water and instant noodles from rescue workers. Police were called in to disperse them. Villagers asked the local authorities why some people in Lushan county had received more than enough relief supplies while many rural people like them remained starving and homeless. Wang Dong, Taiping's party chief, urged villagers to stay calm, saying "a lot of supplies will be coming soon, once the clogged roads are cleared". He said most of the resources were concentrated in Lushan, about 30 kilometres from Taiping. But rescue worker Zhang Xueming said the roads were not the major problem. "Most of the tents are provided by companies and they all want them to be sent to major areas to attract more public attention." Official media such as Xinhua have been giving relief efforts a positive spin, mainly focusing on heroic rescue operations in Lushan county and Longmen township, especially after Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the township on Sunday. Xinhua also reported yesterday that medical workers took care of a newborn boy in a tent serving as a temporary hospital in Taiping. Yang Hao, a farmer in Shengli village, said: "We are the forgotten ones; nobody cares about us. I wish Premier Li had come to our town, then we wouldn't have today's problems.". ^ top ^

Wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo shouts, 'I'm not free' (SCMP)
2013-04-24
The wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo appeared in public yesterday for the first time since she was put under house arrest more than two years ago, shouting, "I'm not free", after she attended her brother's trial. Liu Xia was driven yesterday morning from her Beijing home, where she has been confined since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize, to attend the trial of her brother, Liu Hui, who faces a maximum of 14 years in jail on fraud charges, lawyer Mo Shaoping said. After the morning-long trial at the Huairou District People's Court on the outskirts of Beijing, Liu Xia came out accompanied by Mo and shouted from an open car window at diplomats and reporters: "I'm not free. When they tell you I'm free, tell them I'm not," Associated Press reported. Liu Xia later told Hong Kong reporters that the prosecution of her brother was intended to target her. "I am mentally and physically exhausted - my brother is very important to me," she said. "They want to break one leg of mine and then the other, but I told myself to stand up." Liu Hui, 43, arrested by police on January 31 over a real estate dispute, is accused of defrauding a contractor of 3 million yuan (HK$3.76 million) with a business partner but has insisted he was a victim of official retaliation. Since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010, Liu Xia has been put under round-the-clock house arrest with no access to the internet or a telephone. Liu Hui told his lawyers his arrest was due to official anger over two visits to Liu Xia in recent months by reporters and activists who broke the security cordon around her. Liu Xia is allowed to visit her parents once a week and her husband in Jinzhou Prison, 450 kilometres east of Beijing, once a month. Asked by reporters yesterday how Liu Xiaobo was, she replied: "He is OK." She said her attendance at the court required special permission that was negotiated between her elder brother and the authorities, but declined to say if there were conditions attached. Mo said the court did not deliver a verdict yesterday but he believed it would be announced "very soon". Liu Hui's lawyers have said the case was a business dispute that should have been a civil lawsuit. They said Liu Hui was arrested and released on bail last year over the same dispute. Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic and former university lecturer involved in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement in 1989, was jailed for 11 years for co-drafting Charter 08, a manifesto that called for political reform and respect of citizens' rights. ^ top ^

Four more H7N9 cases are reported (Global Times)
2013-04-24
Four new cases of H7N9 were confirmed on Tuesday nationwide, bringing the total case number to 108 with the death toll standing at 22. Health authorities in Zhejiang Province reported that an 86-year-old man surnamed Zhao, who had previously tested positive for the H7N9 virus, died on Tuesday morning after emergency treatment failed. The province also reported that an 84-year-old retired man surnamed Hong and a 62-year-old farmer surnamed Song were infected with the new strain of bird flu. Both are in critical condition. A new case was confirmed by the health bureau in Anhui Province on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to four. A 91-year-old man surnamed Wang from the county-level city of Tianchang in the city of Chuzhou in Anhui tested positive for the virus on Monday. He is in a critical condition. East China's Shandong Province has confirmed its first case of H7N9, according to the provincial health department. The result was confirmed by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. People who had close contacts with all the new cases are under observation but none has exhibited symptoms of infection so far. ^ top ^

China allocates 300 mln yuan for H7N9 flu control (Xinhua)
2013-04-25
China's Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Wednesday it has allocated 303 million yuan (48.6 million U.S. dollars) from the central coffers to better prevent human infections of the H7N9 avian flu. The money will be used to subsidize projects aimed at monitoring cases of H7N9 infection, influenza-like illnesses, severe acute respiratory infection and unexplained pneumonia, the MOF said in a statement. In another move to help contain infections, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security on Wednesday ordered local authorities to allow medical insurance programs to cover more medicine and services for H7N9-infected patients to reduce the financial burden on them. As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the deadly bird flu had infected 109 people in Chinese mainland and Taiwan and killed 22 of them, official data showed. ^ top ^

Good news! China has a tourism law (Xinhua)
2013-04-26
The new tourism law, adopted by China's top legislature on Thursday, is good news for both tourists and businesses. The long-awaited law, which had been in embryo for about 30 years and undergone three readings by lawmakers in the past eight months, is designed to address industry woes, protect tourists' interests and foster the industry's sustainable growth. The national legislation is good news for tourists, who are usually at a disadvantaged position compared with travel agencies. Under the new law, measures are outlined to address key problems -- unfair competition, wanton price hikes, and forced goods purchases -- which have plagued the industry and aroused strong public discontent. The new law also lays down provisions to ensure tourists' rights to know, choose, get aid, and be respected. By making clear in law the legal consequences of violating the rights and interests of tourists, the cost for breaking the law will increase. For regular travel agencies, setting legal curbs on business operations is good instead of bad news as it should deter unfair competition, improve the quality of travel services, and smooth the industry's future development. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Beijing rents soar 82 percent in 5 years (Global Times)
2013-04-23
The average monthly rent of an apartment in Beijing has increased about 82 percent compared to prices five years ago, China Central Television (CCTV) reported recently, and experts say the key cause is the current serious imbalance between supply and demand in the housing market. The average monthly rent of an apartment in Beijing was 3,660 yuan ($591) in the first quarter, while the rent was 2,010 yuan in 2008, a CCTV report said on Friday. Hu Jinghui, vice-president of property brokerage 5i5j Real Estate, told the Securities Times that a lack of new properties entering the market, more people flowing into Beijing and the rising CPI are the three major causes of skyrocketing rents. According to the statistics from Centaline Property, the supply and demand ratio reached 1:7.6 in March. […]. ^ top ^

Beijing air laden with arsenic, other heavy metals: study (Global Times)
2013-04-24
Beijing's polluted air contains excessive amounts of heavy metals, which can damage the nervous system and cause cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a report released Tuesday that tested the capital's air over a 15-day period during December and January. The concentration of arsenic, one of the heavy metals in PM2.5 airborne pollutants, was almost four times greater than the recommended level for 12 of the 15 days that were studied, according to researchers from Greenpeace and scholars with Peking University. The average daily concentration of arsenic was 23.08 nanograms per cubic meter or 3.85 times greater than the limit set by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Cadmium concentrations were above the recommended level four of the 15 days, while lead was above standards on two days. The World Health Organization labels arsenic a carcinogenic and it is listed as the No.1 hazardous substance for human health by a US federal public health agency. "The concentration of arsenic dropped a little compared to previous studies, but it's still much higher than many foreign cities," said Pan Xiaochuan, a professor with Peking University's School of Public Health. Arsenic concentration increased during heavily polluted days, Pan said, adding that most arsenic in the atmosphere comes from coal burning and industrial metallurgy. He said children, seniors and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to arsenic poisoning. His nationwide research shows that a higher concentration of arsenic will negatively impact the human respiratory system. Researchers collected part of the data by having nine volunteers, between 5 and 40 years old, wear a device that measured PM2.5 for 20 hours while they worked and played both indoors and outdoors. One of the volunteers, Zhong Yu, wore a device while running a marathon in Beijing last year, and the PM2.5 she was exposed to reached 152.73 micrograms per cubic meter, twice the national limit. She told the Global Times she is always in a quandary over whether "to run, or not to run," in Beijing. "Many people hire a coach or buy expensive equipment for their workout, but they rarely consider if the air is good enough," Zhong said. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

3 Tibetans self-immolate to protest Beijing, say reports (SCMP)
2013-04-25
Three Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule in a western region where authorities have imposed a heavy security presence, exiled Buddhist monks and reports said on Thursday. More than 100 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2011 to protest Chinese policies in the region and call for the return of their beloved spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, from exile. Two of the three latest protesters were monks at a monastery in Ruoergai county of Aba prefecture, according to exiled monks and the Free Tibet group. The two monks, aged 20 and 23, set themselves on fire in a corner of an assembly hall of the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery, wrote Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering, monks living in exile in Dharmsala, India. US broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported that a Tibetan woman in Rangtang county in the same prefecture also died after self-immolating Wednesday. The broadcaster said the woman was 23 years old, but that other personal details were not known. Police and propaganda officials in both counties were either unreachable by phone or said they were unaware of the self-immolations.
(Editor's note: In the meantime the report about the women to have self-immolated proved to be inaccurate.). ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Clash with Uygurs leaves 21 dead in Xinjiang (SCMP)
2013-04-25
Twenty-one people were killed in a violent clash involving axes, knives and the burning down of a house in Xinjiang on Tuesday, the regional government said yesterday. Nine officials, six police and six ethnic Uygurs were killed in Tuesday's drama, said Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government. The authorities branded it a terrorist attack, saying the assailants were "jihadists" plotting violence in the region, even though there was no evidence suggesting they were linked to overseas terrorist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. "The assailants were influenced by radical thoughts and planning to stage a jihad, or holy war," Hou said. "There is no evidence that they have overseas connections, but the assailants we captured said they had watched violent videos and were making weapons." [...] The latest incident began when two officials and a police officer went to check a Uygur home in Selibuya township, in Bachu county, Kashgar, after receiving a tip-off of "suspicious activity" there, Hou said. [...] They found "suspicious men with knives and axes" inside the home and reported the case to their supervisors, who sent more officials and police to the scene. When they arrived they discovered that the two officials and the police officer had been killed by those inside. Only one officer was armed with a gun. A stand-off developed between police and those inside the house. The battle ended when the gang torched the house, killing those inside. Hou did not indentify those in the house, but said police shot dead six Uygur assailants and captured eight more. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Fraud trial of ex-minister and official begins (SCMP)
2013-04-23
Former development secretary Mak Chai-kwong and assistant highways director Tsang King-man appeared in the District Court yesterday on the first day of their fraud trial, with the prosecution detailing how they allegedly abused a civil service housing allowance scheme. Mak, 62, and Tsang, 57, are accused of conspiracy to defraud the government of HK$700,000 by "cross-leasing" their homes more than 20 years ago. Mak also faces two counts, and Tsang three counts, of using documents with intent to deceive the government. They pleaded not guilty to all charges before Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng. The offences allegedly took place between June 8, 1985, and December 31, 1990. The prosecution said that the fraud was a premeditated arrangement between the defendants. Mak said they met by chance in the queue to buy the flats. The prosecution's lawyer, Daniel Marash SC, said the men each bought a flat of the same size in the same building at City Garden in North Point in 1985. They then leased each other's flat at the same monthly rent of HK$8,000, and claimed a government housing allowance for the rent, a practice known as "cross-leasing", he said. When the properties were sold, each received the proceeds of sale of the property they had leased, Marash said. He said the registration of the flats was a sham, and that in reality the two couples were the owners of the flats in which they lived. [...] Marash said Mak and Tsang executed their respective lease agreements with the named landlord as each other's wife, to avoid detection by the administration and to conceal their financial interests in the flats. [...] The court heard that Mak, under caution, told ICAC officers that in November 1990 Tsang had intended to sell his flat, 22E, but that it was then leased to a third party because Mak had moved out two years earlier. Tsang, therefore, proposed to Mak that they swap flats so he could sell 21E instead. The pair instructed a law firm to prepare a power-of-attorney to effect the transfer of ownership. Tsang sold flat 21E in December 1990, and Mak sold flat 22E two years later, Marash said. Marash said there was no legal transfer of ownership, so 22E still belonged to Tsang, and if the pair were not the true owners of the flats in which they lived, Mak would not have kept the flat for two years. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan stages live-fire exercises in hotly contested Spratly Island chain (SCMP)
2013-04-23
Taiwan's coastguard said yesterday that Taipei had staged a live-fire drill within a hotly contested island chain in the South China Sea, in a move that risks stoking regional tensions. More than 2,000 rounds of ammunition were fired by garrison forces on Taiwan-administered Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, Wang Chin-wang, chief of the Coast Guard Administration, told parliament. It was Taipei's first live-fire drill in the Spratlys - claimed in whole or part by Taiwan, mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei - since long-range mortars and artillery were shifted to Taiping Island in August last year. The exercise took place in the middle of this month, Wang said. Taiwanese legislator Lin Yu-fang, who sits on the bench of parliament's defence and diplomacy committee, asked Wang to disregard possible reaction from other claimants. [...] Wang said the live rounds included 40mm artillery shells and 120mm mortars, which were transported to the island last year. Vietnam expressed its anger over the new weapons. All claimants to the Spratlys, apart from Brunei, have troops based in the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which cover a vast area but have a total land mass of less than five square kilometres. ^ top ^

Mainland, Taiwan cooperate in battling H7N9, crimes (Xinhua)
2013-04-24
The Chinese mainland has provided 21 reports updating Taiwan on H7N9 bird flu as of Monday, according to a spokeswoman with the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. Such information is provided under a cross-Strait agreement of cooperation in medical and health sectors, Fan Liqing said at a regular press conference on Wednesday. Samples of the human H7N9 avian influenza strain that the mainland has provided Taiwan for joint research efforts arrived on the island on April 20, and the mainland has arranged for experts from the island to visit Beijing for better understanding of the disease, Fan said. In reply to a question about cross-Strait judicial collaboration, Fan said the mainland has repatriated and transferred more than 280 fugitives and criminal suspects to Taiwan since the two sides signed a cross-Strait agreement on judical assistance and joint efforts in fighting crime in 2009. The spokeswoman also said an advanced professional maritime salvage ship from the mainland will visit Taiwan for exchange activities later this month, and the mainland is willing to deepen cross-Strait cooperations with Taiwan in maritime search and rescue. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Paris vies to be yuan hub (China Daily)
2013-04-19
Paris is vying to become a major offshore yuan trading hub in the eurozone with a view to setting up a currency swap agreement with China, says the French central bank governor Christian Noyer. "The Bank of France has been working on ways to develop a RMB liquidity safety net in the euro area with due consideration of a supporting currency swap agreement with the People's Bank of China," Noyer told China Daily in a written interview. Noyer says the launch of such a facility will encourage use of the yuan in the eurozone as a trade settlement currency as well as an investment currency. It will also boost market confidence in the Chinese currency by reassuring market participants that yuan liquidity will remain available, even in extreme situations, he says. Paris has been accelerating the race with London to become a leading yuan trading center for Europe after the Bank of England said in March it had signed a three-year currency swap agreement with China that will allow the British central bank to supply 400 billion yuan ($64.5 billion; 49 billion euros) to British banks. Yuan deposits in Paris amount to 10 billion yuan, making the French capital the second largest pool for the Chinese currency in Europe after London. Nearly 10 percent of Sino-French trade is settled in yuan, according to the French central bank. [...] Some analysts say the yuan's internationalization, and financial cooperation between China and France, could be among the main topics to be addressed during Hollande's visit. [...] Noyer says Paris has been committed to strengthening its position in corporate bonds and short-term negotiable debt securities markets as well as the associated trading infrastructure, to promote wider use of the yuan. French companies are among the most active European issuers of yuan-denominated bonds, which offers Paris an advantage to promote the yuan trading business, says Arnaud de Bresson, chief executive of Paris Europlace, a professional association that supports the French financial industry and promotes Paris as an international financial center. In 2011 and 2012, the total value of offshore yuan-denominated bonds issued by French corporates was nearly 7 billion yuan, twice the value of bonds issued by their British counterparts, according to a report by Paris Europlace. A survey by the association also showed that 50 percent of French companies have used yuan-denominated products and services. "France's historic relationship with Africa, and its favorable geographical location, also makes Paris a natural hub for RMB trading in the Sino-African business flows that are traded through Paris," De Bresson says. [...] The Paris branch of Bank of China has seen its cross-border yuan settlement reach 170 billion yuan, the largest amount of all BOC branches outside the Chinese mainland except Hong Kong. Yuan business now contributes almost half of the branch's total income, according to Phan Nhay, general manager of BOC's Paris branch. [...]. ^ top ^

Shipping industry benefits from China's trade deficit (China Daily)
2013-04-19
Shipping companies, struggling with a market downturn in recent years, will benefit from a strong increase in China's imports in March, which has led to a deficit in trade figures, companies and analysts said. Thanks to the ongoing debt crisis in Europe and fragile recovery in the United States, shipping companies covering the two destinations have been concerned over falling demand. Yet China's strong imports in March boosted their confidence, and may help them avoid losses this year, industry analysts said. China's imports jumped by 14 percent from a year earlier in March, leading to a $577 million trade deficit for the country. Analysts believe this deficit will signal a turning point for China's economic cycle, as the government intends to develop its economy through boosting domestic consumption. ^ top ^

Bird flu brings windfall for businesses (Xinhua)
2013-04-22
A new strain of bird flu that has been spotted across China has brought vegetable dealer Xu Jialiang mixed feelings. For Xu, who has been selling veggies for 20 years in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, the virus is a cause for concern, but also a commercial opportunity. "Cabbage that was once left to rot has become a hit," said Xu, adding that he recently sold more than 50 tonnes of cabbage in a single day, double the amount he was selling just two months ago. "People have become more reluctant to eat poultry, so vegetables have become much more popular," he said. The Wuhan municipal bureau of commodity pricing said vegetable prices have surged since the end of March. [...] The poultry-raising industry, restaurants that sell poultry and even producers of shuttlecocks, which are made using bird feathers, have been impacted by the virus. Figures from the China Animal Agriculture Association showed that direct economic losses for broiler chicken breeders have exceeded 3.7 billion (593 million U.S. dollars). However, other sectors have been boosted by the virus's arrival. In addition to vegetable vendors, sellers of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have also profited. At the Zhangshu TCM Wholesale Market, a major TCM market in east China's Jiangxi Province, the purchase price of processed isatis root surged from 13 yuan per kilo to 22 yuan after health experts claimed that the root can prevent infection. Lei Da, head of the purchase department at Zhangshu Tianqitang TCM Co., Ltd., said processed honeysuckle, which some have claimed can prevent bird flu, sold out after the infections were reported. [...] Insurance companies are also using the virus as an opportunity to boost income. Ping An Insurance, one of China's largest insurance companies, is selling bird flu insurance that offers 20,000 yuan in compensation if an insurant is confirmed to have become infected. Other companies, such as Taikang Life and Sinosafe Insurance, are also offering bird flu insurance. [...]. ^ top ^

China's manufacturing growth slows: HSBC (Xinhua)
2013-04-23
China's manufacturing activity lost some of its dynamism in April, a new survey from HSBC has indicated, adding to concerns about the recovery of the world's second-largest economy. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) slowed to a two-month low of 50.5 in April, according to figures released by HSBC on Tuesday. The bank's preliminary reading for April faltered from March's final index of 51.6. The manufacturing output index also weakened to a two-month low of 51.1, compared with 53.0 in March. A reading above 50 suggests expansion, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction. Sub-indexes on new export orders and employment dipped into the contraction field in April, while backlogs of work and stocks of finished goods both increased in the month, according to the HSBC survey. For the manufacturing sector, input and output prices both fell at faster rates in April, along with slower growth in new orders and quantity of purchase in the month. "New export orders contracted after a temporary rebound in March, suggesting external demand for China's exporters remains weak," said Hongbin Qu, chief economist for HSBC China. "Weaker overall demand has also started to weigh on employment in the manufacturing sector." The chief economist said he expected Chinese policymakers to "respond strongly" to sustain the economic recovery by increasing efforts to boost domestic investment and consumption in the coming months. HSBC's preliminary reading on manufacturing was based on data the bank collected from 85 to 90 percent of the 420 manufacturing companies it surveyed this month and it will publish its final April data on May 2. The National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing are due to release official PMI data for April on May 1. The official PMI data is based on a survey of purchasing managers in more than 820 companies and 20 industries. ^ top ^

Quake hardly jolts China's economy (Xinhua)
2013-04-24
A strong quake has again brought huge losses to southeast China's Sichuan Province, but the disaster is unlikely to undermine the economy in any great deal due to its scale, analysts said. The 7.0-magnitude quake that struck Sichuan's Ya'an City on Saturday morning has so far killed at least 193 people and injured more than 12,200 others, latest data from the provincial government showed. "From what we have learnt from the region's 2008 quake, economic impacts will be limited. Losses in local areas should not be blown up to a disaster for the whole economy," said Wang Xiaoguang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Governance. By Sunday afternoon, the quake had affected around 2 million local residents, destroyed more than 26,400 houses, and damaged a number of roads and reservoirs, according to local authorities. The capital market reacted with slight retreats on Monday. But investors grew more worried after HSBC's release of weak factory production data in China. The Key Shanghai index slumped 2.57 percent on Tuesday. More days will be needed to calculate detailed losses, but the figure will be significantly lower than the mightier quake that jolted Sichuan's Wenchuan City, which left about 87,000 people dead or missing, according to market estimates. A Barclays report on Monday projected direct economic losses at about 10 billion yuan (1.6 billion U.S. dollars), much lower than the 845 billion yuan resulted from the Wenchuan quake. The bank has maintained its China growth forecasts. Losses mainly occurred in Ya'an, a city with an economic weight of 1.67 percent in Sichuan and 0.07 percent of the national economy. The ecological sector, tourism and agricultural production are its major sources of incomes. The economic impact the quake may bring will be like a change from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent in the country's growth, said Fanwei, an analyst at the Beijing-based Hongyuan Securities. Inflation is another market concern. The Barclays report said the quake will cause local food shortages, especially vegetables, but the pressure on food prices will be short. The quake has has not impacted major producing areas for swine and grain in Sichuan. Supplies may be temporarily tight, but this can hardly reverse a recent downward trend for prices of pork, a staple meat in China, Fan said. Easing food prices have sent China's inflation rate to 2.1 percent in March, down from February's 3.2 percent. [...] The reconstruction of quake-hit areas will help boost local economies as consumption demand rises, and more importantly, offer a trial zone for the country's urbanization drive, a channel to tap domestic demand, analysts noted. Lian Ping, chief economist at the Bank of Communications, said the government shall seize the opportunity to build new counties that feature low-carbon, environmentally-friendly and green concepts, a target outlined in the country's development plan. [...]. ^ top ^

Q1 demand rises for China rare earths (China Daily)
2013-04-24
Global demand for rare earth metals from China climbed in the first quarter due to falling prices despite domestic producers and processors reporting losses. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs suggest that rare earth exports rose 55 percent in March from February to 1,718 metric tons. Export volume in the first three months grew 47.3 percent to 3,916 tons. But in the same period, export value dropped 71 percent to $91.9 million. Deputy Secretary-General of the China Rare Earths Industry Association Chen Zhanheng said the growth in exports volume stems from a price decline in 2011, stimulating overseas buyers who had used up their reserves. Chen said there are no signs of a quick rebound from falling demand at home and abroad, but he believes the market will grow as production is being regulated and prices continue to fall. Chen Jiazuo, an analyst from the China Nonferrous Metals Information Network, said it only took two years for the industry to deteriorate from its peak, yet current prices are still higher than the lowest point in the past 10 years. Only half of the export quota in 2012 was used due to the price surge in 2011, which deterred buyers. The value of exports in 2012 fell 66.1 percent year-on-year to $906 million. Rare earths, which comprise 17 metallic elements, are used in many technological products, including missile systems. China supplies more than 90 percent of the world's rare earths, and has nearly one-third of the known global reserves. […]. ^ top ^

Australia to invest foreign currency assets of A$1.9b in Chinese bonds (SCMP)
2013-04-25
Australia's central bank plans to invest about 5 per cent of its foreign currency assets, or A$1.9 billion, in Chinese government bonds due to the growing economic and financial ties between both nations. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has approved an initial quota for the investment, the first time that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would have invested directly in a sovereign bond market of an Asian country other than Japan, Philip Lowe, the RBA's deputy governor, said yesterday at the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. ^ top ^

China becomes New Zealand top export destination for first time (Xinhua)
2013-04-26
China overtook Australia to become New Zealand's biggest export destination for the first time in the quarter to the end of March, the New Zealand government statistics announced Friday. Overseas merchandise trade figures for the March quarter showed goods exported to China were valued at 2.3 billion NZ dollars (1. 95 billion U.S. dollars), while exports to Australia were valued at 2.2 billion NZ dollars, according to Statistics New Zealand. January was the first month in which exports to China had surpassed exports to Australia and that continued for every month of the quarter. "Twenty percent of goods exported from New Zealand went to China in the March 2013 quarter," industry and labor statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said in a statement. "This compares with 15 percent in the same quarter last year." The value of exports to China was up 32 percent from the previous quarter, while those to Australia were down 7.3 percent. China and Australia were also the top two countries of origin for New Zealand imports, with imports from China up 2.8 percent to 1.8 billion NZ dollars and those from Australia down 5.3 percent to 1.5 billion NZ dollars. The value of total exported goods rose 0.8 percent in the March quarter, following a fall of 2.9 percent in the December 2012 quarter. Milk powder, butter, and cheese led the increase in the March quarter, with values up 3.5 percent and quantities up 3.6 percent. The value of imported goods fell by 0.2 percent in the March 2013 quarter, following a 1.6 percent fall in the December 2012 quarter, resulting in a trade surplus of 52 million NZ dollars, equivalent to 0.4 percent of exports, following a deficit of 59 million NZ dollars in the December 2012 quarter. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

South Korea offers North talks over Kaesong, warns on refusal (SCMP)
2013-04-25
South Korea on Thursday offered North Korea formal talks to resolve the suspended operations at their joint Kaesong industrial zone, and warned of “grave action” if Pyongyang declines. “We officially propose talks between government authorities,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok said, adding that Pyongyang should reply to the offer by Friday. “If North Korea rejects these proposed official talks, we would have to take grave action,” Kim said, without elaborating. The warning appeared to hint that South Korea was considering a permanent withdrawal from the zone, which normally employs 53,000 workers at 123 South Korean companies. North Korea has blocked South Korean access to Kaesong since April 3, amid soaring military tensions on the Korean peninsula. On April 9, it pulled out its entire workforce and suspended operations in the zone, which lies 10 kilometres inside North Korea and was established in 2004 as a rare symbol of inter-Korean co-operation. There are currently 176 South Korean staff still in Kaesong, compared with the normal number of around 850. The North's decision to suspend operations was unexpected. Neither of the Koreas has allowed previous crises to significantly affect the complex, a valued source of hard currency for the impoverished North and seen as a bellwether of stability on the Korean peninsula. ^ top ^

Seoul delivers ultimatum to DPRK (China Daily)
2013-04-26
After weeks of threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang, Seoul promised on Thursday it could take its own unspecified "grave measures" if Pyongyang rejects talks on a jointly run factory park that has been shuttered for nearly a month. The park in the border town of Kaesong, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is the most significant casualty yet of the recent deterioration of relations between the two neighbors. Pyongyang barred managers and cargo from the Republic of Korea from entering the DPRK earlier this month, then recalled the DPRK's 53,000 citizens who worked on the assembly lines. Seoul's Unification Ministry on Thursday proposed working-level talks on Kaesong and urged the DPRK to respond by Friday noon, warning that Seoul will take "grave measures" if Pyongyang rebuffs the call for dialogue. Spokesman Kim Hyung-suk refused to say what those measures might be. Some analysts said Seoul would likely pull out the roughly 175 ROK managers who remain at the complex. Kim said the ROK set a Friday deadline because the remaining workers at Kaesong are running short of food and medicine. To resolve the deadlock, he said, Pyongyang should first allow some ROK citizens to cross the border to hand over food and medicine to the managers. Pyongyang did not immediately respond on Thursday, according to the ROK Unification Ministry. The demand for talks follows a lull in what had been a period of rising hostility between the two countries. Pyongyang has recently eased its threats of nuclear war and expressed some tentative signs of interest in dialogue. Its demands, including dismantling all US nuclear weapons, go far beyond what Washington and Seoul will accept. The Kaesong complex is the last major symbol of cooperation remaining from an earlier era that saw the neighbors set up various projects to facilitate better ties. The factory park has operated with ROK know-how and technology and cheap labor from the DPRK since 2004. More than 120 ROK companies operated at Kaesong before the DPRK workers stopped showing up on April 9. Raw material came from the ROK, with finished goods sent back. Last year, the factories produced goods worth $470 million. The impoverished DPRK objects to views in the ROK that the park is a source of badly needed hard currency. The ROK companies paid salaries to DPRK workers averaging $127 a month, according to Seoul's government. That is less than one-sixteenth of the average salary of ROK manufacturing workers. The top US military officer said in Japan on Thursday that his troops were ready to act if Pyongyang turned its increasingly bellicose rhetoric into action, and "the best way to avoid war is to prepare for it". "We are seeking to deter North Korea from provocation," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told soldiers at the Yokota Air Base, about an hour's drive west of the Japanese capital. His remarks follow a visit to Seoul and Beijing, as regional tensions rise over fears about Pyongyang's recent threats to attack its southern neighbor and wage nuclear war on the US. ROK citizens remaining at Kaesong are free to leave, but they have been staying to protect their companies' equipment and products. Their food, which was brought in before Pyongyang closed the border, is dwindling. On Wednesday, ROK President Park Geun-hye said the country would not seek to resolve the Kaesong standoff by making concessions to Pyongyang. "How the Kaesong issue is handled will be a touchstone for whether south-north relations will be predictable and sustainable," Park said. "I want the issue to be resolved quickly, but I would say there should not be a solution like funneling aid, as has happened in the past.". ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Amendment made to Foreign Investment law (news.mn)
2013-04-22
The plenary session meeting of Parliament passed an amendment on the Foreign Investment in the Business Entities Operating in Sectors of Strategic Importance law with 74.5 percent approval on April 19th. The Standing Committee on Economy held the final discussion on foreign investment in firms with strategic assets before the plenary session meeting on Friday. Under Article 4.7 of the current Law of Foreign Investment in Business Entities Operating in Sectors of Strategic Importance, enacted by parliament on 17 May 2012, it states “Parliament must approve an acquisition submitted by the Government when a foreign investor acquires more than 49% of the equity of a business entity operating in sectors of strategic importance and the investment exceeds 100 billion MNT. All other acquisitions are subject to the approval of the Cabinet.” The Government submitted a draft to make some changes to the law amending Article 4.7 of the law by stipulating “Parliament as the approval authority only in those transactions where a non-Mongolian state-owned enterprise acquires more than 49% of the issued shares of a Mongolian company. The Draft Amendment removes investments by foreign private investors from the scope of Parliamentary approval and deletes the MNT 100 billion threshold in its entirety”. The changes to the foreign investment law are believed to improve the legal environment for foreign investment and it is hoped will bring possible improvements in the economic growth of the country. ^ top ^

Mongolian mountaineer hoists flag at North Pole (news.mn)
2013-04-22
Mongolian mountaineer Gotovdorj Usukhbayar who left for an Arctic voyage on April 6th has reached the North Pole at 90 degrees N latitude. He travelled over the Arctic Ocean and raised the Mongolian State flag at around 20.30pm Mongolian local time on Saturday April 20th. State Honored athlete, Gotovdorj Usukhbayar who climbed to the peak of Everest once now has sealed his footsteps on the North Pole. Mongolian mountaineer Gotovdorj Usukhbayar let the news know through President Tsakhia Elebgdorj who initiated the Arctic voyage via iridium satellite phone as soon as Usukhbayar reached the Arctic. Mountaineer Gotovdorj Usukhbayar said “We have reached our destination at the North pole at 90 degrees N latitude at 20.30 pm Mongolian local time. We reported the news to President Tsakhia Elbegdorj who initiated the Arctic voyage. Now we want the President to congratulate every Mongolian about the good news that Mongolians have sealed their footsteps on the North pole for the first time. We are very happy about this.” In return president Tsakhia Elbegdorj replied “Congratulations to you for reaching your goal, living up to the Mongolian people`s belief, and your country`s name and hoisting the Mongolian State flag on the North Pole. We hope every Mongolian's spirit will be inspired with this good news of this historical voyage. I am very happy that the Mongolian people now can be proud of Mongolians reaching the North Pole at 90 degrees N latitude for the first time.” The President also wanted them keep their voyage successfully and see them back in home country when they return. The team of mountaineers will stay for two days on the North Pole. Then they will take a plane to Norway and come back to Mongolia next week. ^ top ^

S.Bayartsogt dismissed as Deputy Speaker (news.mn)
2013-04-25
Parliament discussed MP and Deputy Speaker S.Bayartsogt`s failure of including a secret Swiss bank account and offshore company in his income declaration during Thursday`s meeting. MPs reached a decision to ask for the resignation of MP S.Bayartsogt who confirmed his failure as Deputy Speaker with 87.5 percent approval. Only right MPs hesitated to vote, but 56 of a total of 74 MPs who attended the meeting agreed to resign Deputy Speaker S.Bayartsogt. MP and Chairwoman of Ethic Sub-Committee, M.Batchimeg announced the Sub-Committee`s findings and summaries to Parliament at the beginning of the plenary session meeting. The Ethic Sub-Committee discussed the issue in a Committee meeting on April 23rd and reached a decision that S.Bayartsogt should take responsibility for failing to include his secret bank account and offshore company in his income declaration, violating article 4.1 of a law on parliamentarian etiquette, after discussing at plenary session meeting. After the dismissal S.Bayartsogt commented; “In a case of parliamentarian failure to declare some parts of their income, he or she will take responsibility by having legal notice or a wage cut according to current laws. But I think I should be an exemplar by taking more responsibility, so I submitted a resign request as Deputy Speaker. I accept all criticism and support. I want to say again that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) did not mention that I violated law, or laundered money. It asked me if I included the account and company in my income declaration. The bank account and offshore company was created by purely business income.”. ^ top ^

Is Ulaanbaatar ready to receive 1,215 delegations and guests from 104 countries of the world? (Info Mongolia)
2013-04-25
Mongolia, as the current Presidency of the Community of Democracies (CD), is to host the VII Ministerial Conference of the CD in Ulaanbaatar on April 27-29, 2013. The most important considered event for all countries whose governance is directed toward democracy is coming up in the next couple of days and due to the approaches, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia L.Bold made a statement regarding the preparations during the press conference held in the Government House on April 24, 2013. In his statement, Minister L.Bold informed that 1,215 delegations and guests from 104 countries have claimed to attend, besides journalists from over 50 states and 200 reporters from local mass media are registered to participate. During the VII CD Ministerial Conference, five Forums will be organized including Civil Society Forum, Corporate Democracy Forum, Parliamentary Forum, Women's Forum and Youth Forum. Also, the Conference was decided to be conducted in Mongolia two years ago and accordingly into the 2013 State Budget of Mongolia three billion MNT was set to organize the event, added the Minister. ^ top ^

 

Andrin Eichin
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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