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
  21-24.5.13, No. 476  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Bilateral Issues

China's Li starts Swiss visit as free trade deal looms (SCMP)
2013-05-24
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Switzerland on Thursday for talks set to focus on a landmark free trade deal with the Alpine country, which he has dubbed a touchstone for Beijing's growing ties with foreign nations. Li, who is on the first stop of his debut visit to Europe since taking over in a once-in-a-decade power transfer in Beijing, flew in to Zurich late on Thursday. He was to give a speech in Zurich on Friday to an invited audience from Switzerland's financial sector, with which he has said he wants to boost links, amid growing speculation that China could let its currency be traded in selected offshore centres. Li was to head to the Swiss capital Bern for talks later Friday with Swiss leaders including President Ueli Maurer and the foreign and economy ministers. In an opinion piece published on Thursday in the Zurich daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Li called his trip “symbolic of China's openness to the outside world”. Li, who took charge as premier in March, is on his maiden foreign tour and arrived in Switzerland fresh from talks with neighbours India and Pakistan, before visiting top European trade partner Germany at the weekend. Economic issues are set to be high on the agenda in his meeting with the Swiss -- who are not members of the European Union – as the two countries move to sign a free trade accord that has been under negotiation since 2011. “Switzerland will be the first continental European country, as well as the first in a list of the 20 largest global economies, to have concluded a key free trade deal with China,” Li wrote. “This will not only enhance our economic and trade cooperation, but also send the world a strong signal about the fight against trade and investment protectionism, as well as the liberalisation and facilitation of trade,” he underlined. In its first such accord with a European country, China last month inked a deal with Iceland, which like Switzerland is not an EU member. Efforts to strike one with EU countries would be more complicated, however, because Beijing would need to negotiate with the entire 27-nation bloc, not just individual member states. Li said the Swiss deal would have wide implications. “It will give a new impulse to the deepening of relations and trade ties between Europe and China, bring tangible benefits for consumers and business in both countries, and contribute to the growth of world trade and the economic recovery,” he explained. After wrangling notably over Chinese taxes on imported Swiss industrial goods and Switzerland's rules on China's agricultural exports, the two countries wrapped up their technical talks earlier this month. That opened the way for a signature, although the deal itself is not set to be inked during Li's visit, as the two sides' legal teams are still analysing it. It will also need to get a green light from the Swiss parliament. China is Switzerland's third major trading partner, after the European Union and the United States. Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter met Li and his delegation on their arrival. “This visit will help boost ties between the two countries,” the foreign minister said shortly afterwards. The Swiss foreign ministry said that, besides economic issues, the talks with the Chinese would cover the areas of “finance, the environment, human rights and international security”. The situation in the Middle East will also be on the agenda. Bilateral trade between Switzerland and China was worth US$26.3 billion last year, with a full US$22.8 billion of that figure represented by Swiss exports to China. That made it one of the rare Western countries to have a positive trade balance with the Asian giant. In contrast, German exports to China last year were worth the equivaliant of $86 billion, and imports from China, US$99.8 billion. Switzerland's top exports to China are watches, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and machinery, while textiles and machinery head the list of imported Chinese goods. ^ top ^

Chinese premier arrives in Switzerland for first trip to Europe (Xinhua)
2013-05-24
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived here Thursday evening for an official visit to Switzerland, his first trip to Europe since he took office in March. "The choice of Switzerland as the first destination for my first European trip since I became Chinese premier means that I hope to strengthen bilateral high-level exchanges, achieve new breakthroughs in mutually beneficial cooperation, enhance understanding and friendship between the two peoples and promote the long-term healthy and stable development of our friendly relations," Li said in a written statement upon his arrival. He noted that Switzerland is among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with China and an important European partner of China in economic, technological and financial cooperation. Li said he expected to meet with the Swiss leaders and friends from all walks of life during his visit, carry out deep exchanges on issues of common concern and listen to opinions on the development of bilateral ties. "I believe this visit will lift China-Switzerland relations to a new stage," said Li. Li is scheduled to meet with President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli Maurer, Vice President Didier Burkhalter and Head of Federal Department of Economic Affairs Johann Schneider-Ammann. The two countries are expected to sign a series of agreements to strengthen cooperation in various areas. On the eve of his visit, Li published a signed article in Neue Zuricher Zeitung, a German-language Swiss daily, highlighting the importance China attaches to its relations with Switzerland. "Switzerland is the first European destination on the list of countries I will visit after becoming China's premier. In Chinese culture, being 'first' always carries symbolic meaning," Li said in the article. He pointed out that a free trade agreement (FTA) to be reached between the two countries will bring about more opportunities for bilateral cooperation. "With the advent of FTA, Switzerland will become the first country in continental Europe and the first of the world's top 20 economies to reach an FTA with China, the implications of which will be significant," Li wrote. Switzerland is one of the first European countries to recognize China's market economy status and initiated FTA talks with Beijing. The negotiations have made substantial progress after nine rounds of talks. China is now Switzerland's largest trade partner in Asia, while Switzerland is China's seventh largest trade partner and the sixth largest source of foreign investment in Europe. Statistics showed that two-way trade exceeded 30 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, a record 50 percent increase compared to that of 2010. Despite the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and uncertainties in world economy, bilateral trade between China and Switzerland remained as high as 26.3 billion U.S. dollars last year. Switzerland is the third leg of Li's four-country tour, which has taken him to India and Pakistan. The last stop is Germany.. ^ top ^

 

Foreign Policy

China, India can build trust: Li (China Daily)
2013-05-21
Border disputes and trade friction cannot prevent China and India from building strategic mutual trust and cooperation, Premier Li Keqiang said during his visit to India on Monday. The two nations enjoy "far more common interests" than differences, he said after meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, adding that the countries will not harm one another, because neither will benefit from doing so. Both nations have enough will, wisdom and capability to jointly create "new bright spots" in cooperation among Asian countries to provide a driving force for the world economy, Li said. On the second day of his official visit to India — the first stop on Li's nine-day first foreign tour since taking office in March, China and India signed a joint statement and a series of agreements covering trade, culture and water resources. The two nations proposed building an economic corridor across Myanmar and Bangladesh to connect two major economies in Asia. They also said they want to seek further cooperation in the development of industrial zones and public infrastructure projects. […] [Singh] said economic cooperation constitutes a very important part of the Sino-Indian relationship. "I conveyed to Li our concerns about the trade deficit, and sought increased market access to China for our exports and investment. I also invited increased Chinese investment... in our infrastructure and manufacturing sectors." China is India's second- largest trading partner, while India is China's largest trading partner in South Asia. In 2012, the bilateral trade volume was about $70 billion, and the two countries have set a bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015. But India has frequently expressed concerns over the trade deficit with China and has been an aggressive initiator of trade-remedy cases targeting China in past years. In 2012, China's trade surplus with India was $28.87 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs. The two countries decided to set up three groups under their Joint Economic Group to advance the bilateral service trade, trade planning and trade statistical analysis. [...] Premier Li wrote in an article published by The Hindu newspaper on Monday, "China's development promises opportunities for India, and India's development promises opportunities for China. Our common development will benefit people of the two countries and offer the world more and better opportunities." [...]. ^ top ^

British award for Chen Guangcheng set to worsen UK-China relations (SCMP)
2013-05-21
Britain's relationship with Beijing was set to chill further last night when the British Parliament gave a human rights award to blind activist Chen Guangcheng. Chen - who escaped extra-legal house arrest in Shandong last year before seeking refuge at the US embassy in Beijing and finally making it to New York - was handed the Westminster Award for his contribution to "human rights, human life and human dignity". Today, Chen plans to deliver to Downing Street a list of 44 senior Chinese officials he accuses of human rights abuses against him, his family and fellow activists, or who forced women to have abortions under the one-child policy. "I will call on British Prime Minister David Cameron to slap these officials with a UK travel ban," he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. He added: "David Cameron has to remember the words of [US president Franklin Roosevelt] - that he has nothing to fear but fear itself. He should not be afraid of Beijing and any threats against trade." Those he alleges are guilty of human rights abuse, and who are on the list he intends to hand to Cameron include former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who oversaw China's security forces and law enforcement authorities, Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, and National People's Congress vice-chairman Li Jianguo, who was formerly the Communist Party chief in Shandong. The award was presented by MPs and peers from the governing Conservative Party to the self-taught lawyer. It comes amid diplomatic tensions between London and Beijing since Cameron met the Dalai Lama 12 months ago. Cameron was forced to abandon a trip to Beijing last month because he was refused top-level meetings with senior officials. Diplomatic snubs are regularly used by China to protest against countries whose leaders meet the Tibetan spiritual leader. The British government is worried about the possible impact on Sino-British trade, which it is hoping to boost to help end the country's economic slump. Cameron and his senior ministers - including foreign secretary William Hague - were last night accused of capitulating to China by refusing to meet Chen. Chris Whitehouse of the Right To Life Charitable Trust said: "So far all the government ministers invited to meet with Mr Chen have said they are too busy. This points to them caving in and sends out an appalling message to the brutal regime of Chinese government." Chen said Cameron should refuse to be cowed by a perceived economic threat and instead "represent the values and concerns of the people who voted for him. He should stop the fruitless human rights dialogue with Beijing and keep to the democratic and traditional British values which the world admires." Chen is also due to meet members of Britain's opposition Labour Party. ^ top ^

China calls for strict implementation of UN resolutions concerning DPRK (Xinhua)
2013-05-20
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Monday called for the full implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired missiles into the East Sea. The DPRK Monday fired two more short-range missiles into the East Sea, after launching one on Sunday and three on Saturday, according to Yonhap News Agency of the Republic of Korea (ROK). "China has noted related reports and the reactions that followed," Hong said at a daily press briefing. Maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula conforms with the aspirations of the people in the region and is in the common interest of all concerned parties, he said. He called on all sides to ease tensions, improve relations and solve problems through dialogue in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. A report by a U.N. panel of experts said increasingly tough financial sanctions have significantly delayed the expansion of Pyongyang's nuclear program, according to Reuters. Responding to a question regarding the report, Hong said China has always stood for dialogue and consultation in promoting denuclearization and maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula. Relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council should be implemented strictly, he said, adding that as a permanent member of the UNSC, China has performed its duties faithfully in this regard. ^ top ^

North Korea releases 16 detained Chinese fishermen after Beijing intervenes (SCMP)
2013-05-21
North Korea has released 16 Chinese fishermen and their boat, Chinese state-run media said on Tuesday, after reports that armed assailants had taken the sailors hostage and demanded a ransom. “All the fishermen with the boat are safe on their way back,” China's Xinhua news agency said, citing a Chinese embassy official in Pyongyang it said had heard the news from the shipowner. Chinese counsellor to North Korea Jiang Yaxian had told state media earlier that North Korea had “grabbed” the private vessel from off the northern city of Dalian in waters between China and the Korean peninsula. Other Chinese state media quoted the owner of the missing boat, Yu Xuejun, as saying North Korea was demanding 600,000 yuan (HK$750,000) for its safe return, along with its 16 crew. Yu told Chinese media the boat had been snatched on the evening of May 5 and he had approached Chinese authorities five days later to ask them to intervene. Tensions have been mounting between North Korea and China, Pyongyang's most important economic and political backer. Some Chinese banks have frozen out North Korea's main foreign exchange bank amid frustration in Beijing over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Boat owner Yu said by phone that his vessel was released early on Tuesday and they had not paid the North Koreans any money. “The Chinese foreign ministry coordinated with them, so we do not know any details so far,” he said in a brief interview. The case has been widely discussed on China's Twitter-like service Sina Weibo, with angry comments directed at North Korea. In an editorial on Tuesday published before news of the release, the influential Chinese tabloid the Global Times said China should reduce its aid to North Korea if it continued such behaviour. “If North Korea continues to go rogue, China should take actions to push it toward a more measured response,” the newspaper, published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily, said in an editorial. “If it is difficult to teach North Korea in words, we can make it understand in deeds.” This is not the first time Chinese vessels have been held by North Korea. A year ago, the impoverished North held a number of boats and fishermen for two weeks before releasing them. ^ top ^

Xi, Obama set date for two-day summit in California (SCMP)
2013-05-22
President Xi Jinping will hold two days of talks with US President Barack Obama in the resort city of Rancho Mirage, California, next month. It will be their first face-to-face encounter since Xi became president in March. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in New Delhi yesterday the leaders would discuss an "overall plan for the future of bilateral relations" on June 7 and 8. The White House said in a statement: "They will review progress and challenges in US-China relations over the past four years and discuss ways to enhance co-operation, while constructively managing our differences, in the years ahead." A diplomatic source told the South China Morning Post that representatives of both nations had been working on a possible meeting for months. Both sides believed a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Russia, in September was too long to wait. A Beijing diplomat said: "It has been a consensus…that the leaders should meet sooner rather than later after the reshuffles of the governments in both nations." [...] Xi will stop off in California after travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico. The leaders will meet at Sunnylands, an 80-hectare estate in Rancho Mirage. Analysts said the decision to hold a working visit instead of a pomp-filled state summit showed the two governments' desire to put protocol aside and focus on substance. Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre for American Studies at Renmin University, expected the North Korean nuclear threat, the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands and internet security to dominate the agenda. Xi met Obama in Washington in February last year when he was vice-president. ^ top ^

Li Keqiang allays India's containment fears, urges better co-operation (SCMP)
2013-05-22
Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday that China had no intention of containing India and called on both nations to step up co-operation in South Asian affairs and resolve border disputes. Wrapping up his maiden diplomatic trip to New Delhi, Li played down fears that China posed a threat to India, and said Beijing supported New Delhi playing a bigger role in the United Nations Security Council. Preparations for Li's trip were overshadowed by a three-week border stand-off after India alleged that Chinese troops had intruded into its territory in the Depsang Valley in Ladakh, triggering concerns that China was becoming more aggressive. Li told members of New Delhi's Chinese community that preparations for his trip had been affected by some "not so serious complications", and the Sino-Indian relationship had entered a "critical stage" where common interests overrode differences. In a later speech at an event organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs think tank, Li said "China and India should not be a threat and containment to each other". China would stick to a peaceful development path, Li said, adding China was mindful of the Confucian teaching "do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you". His trip coincided with growing resentment in India over perceptions that China is encircling India by building stronger ties with other South Asian nations, particularly through giving military support to Pakistan. But Li said China and India both wanted a peaceful and prosperous South Asia, which was crucial for China as it wanted to focus on internal issues and narrow the development gap between eastern and western China. India's "Look East" policy of strengthening ties with East Asian nations was complementary to China's aim to develop its western region, he said. Li added that China also supported and understood India's desire to play a bigger role in the UN Security Council. […] The two sides released a joint statement yesterday pledging co-operation and agreeing to hold a fresh round of border talks. Li called for the enhancement of mutual trust and the early resolution of border disputes. "China and India have the wisdom to tackle the differences among themselves," he said. ^ top ^

Manila boosts military to resist ‘bullies' as ties with Beijing sour (SCMP)
2013-05-22
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has announced a US$1.8-billion military upgrade to help defend his country's maritime territory against "bullies", amid a worsening dispute with China. In thinly veiled comments referring to China, Aquino yesterday vowed in a speech marking the navy's 115th anniversary that the armed forces would be given the resources necessary to protect Philippine sovereignty. It came as Manila protested the presence of Chinese ships near Ayungin Shoal, which Manila describes as "an integral part of its national territory, in the disputed Spratly Islands. "We have a clear message to the world: the Philippines is for Filipinos, and we have the capability to resist bullies entering our backyard," Aquino told naval chiefs. "We will also improve our communications, intelligence and surveillance systems." Aquino detailed a 75-billion-peso (HK$14 billion) military modernisation programme that gives priority to upgrading the navy, one of the weakest in Southeast Asia. He said by 2017 Manila would acquire two new frigates, two helicopters capable of anti-submarine warfare, three fast vessels for coastal patrols and eight amphibious assault vehicles. Aquino said the government had spent 28 billion pesos upgrading its military over the past three years, including two refurbished Hamilton-class cutters bought from the US Coast Guard. The first, renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, entered service as the navy's new flagship in 2011. The second is due to be delivered in August. Manila also announced this year that it would acquire for its coastguard 10 new patrol boats from Japan. The increasingly bitter territorial dispute with China is over competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit above vast amounts of oil and gas. It is home to rich fishing grounds. Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Manila had filed a protest with Beijing over the "illegal" presence of a Chinese warship and two other vessels off Ayungin Shoal. The shoal, 200 kilometres from the southwestern Philippine province of Palawan, is guarded by a Filipino marine unit based in a rusty warship that ran aground on a coral outcrop several years ago. Hernandez said the protest was filed on May 10 and China had not responded. China claims sovereign rights to most of the South China Sea, including waters approaching the coast of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. ^ top ^

China-Japan trade will pick up: report (China Daily)
2013-05-22
Economic and trade cooperation between China and Japan will get back on track if there is no further deterioration of the countries' already strained ties, leading Chinese think tanks said in an annual report released on Tuesday. The row over China's Diaoyu Islands prompted a "sharp drop" in Japanese exports to China and derailed part of Japan's efforts to boost its sluggish economy, according to the Blue Book of the Japanese Economy (2013) by the National Japanese Economy Society and the Institute of Japan Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. China is Japan's largest trade partner and export market, and the Japanese economy's dependence on China "remains huge", the report said. Japan's relationship with China was strained after it "nationalized" part of China's Diaoyu Islands in September last year, affecting both diplomacy and trade. Bilateral trade ended at $329 billion in 2012, down 3.9 percent year-on-year. Japanese economy is expected to pick up under its economic stimulus plan, which includes massive quantitative easing measures, but the country is "still facing a series of variables", such as uncertain ties with China and its fluctuating currency, the report said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may not take major steps to repair the shaky relationship with China until his party secures a majority in the country's upper house elections in July, said Zhang Jifeng, a research fellow on Japanese economy studies at the CASS. [...] The territorial row about the islands in the East China Sea will see Sino-Japanese relationship running low for a while longer, Zhang Jifeng said. Zhang Yulai, an associate professor of Japanese studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, said the dispute "does not necessarily represent the entire relationship between China and Japan", but the diplomatic standoff has rattled most relevant sectors. [...] Although Japan's quantitative easing measures are conducive to recovery of its domestic market, the depreciation of Japanese yen has greatly affected China's exports to the country, China's Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. ^ top ^

Chinese premier raises five-point proposal for boosting cooperation with Pakistan (Xinhua)
2013-05-22
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang presented [in Islamabad] Wednesday a five-point proposal for further deepening friendship and cooperation with Pakistan. He made the suggestions during talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, during which the two sides reached important consensuses on boosting the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership. "China-Pakistan ties are time-tested. The two countries are all-weather friends and partners that can trust and rely on each other," said the Chinese premier. Despite the complex and volatile regional and global circumstances, the two countries have already maintained sound strategic communication and coordination, Li noted. China, he said, has always treated the relationship with Pakistan as a foreign policy priority, and is ready to work with Pakistan to maintain the traditional friendship, promote comprehensive cooperation and achieve common development. In order to deepen the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership, Li proposed, the two neighbors should firstly strengthen strategic communication and coordination, maintain high-level contact, and thus steer the bilateral relationship forward. Secondly, the two countries should reinforce strategic and long-term planning, and open up new cooperation areas such as connectivity and maritime sectors, the Chinese premier said. They should start formulating a long-term plan for the China-Pakistan economic corridor project and gradually push forward its construction, added the premier. Thirdly, Li suggested, China and Pakistan further raise the level of bilateral trade and realize a dynamic balance while expanding the scale of two-way trade. China, he said, encourages Chinese enterprises to participate in Pakistan's infrastructure construction. Fourthly, the two sides should boost people-to-people and cultural exchanges and media cooperation, said the Chinese premier, adding that they also need to expand exchanges between their young generations so as to carry forward their traditional friendship. Fifthly, he urged the two countries to promote cooperation in regional and global affairs and safeguard the common interests of developing countries. China respects the development path Pakistan has chosen based on its own realities, and will continue to support Pakistan in defending its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, Li said. China, he added, is willing to provide unconditional help within its capacity for Pakistan's economic development and seek common advancement in state governance through exchanges and mutual learning. For his part, Zardari said Li's visit, coming at a time when Pakistan is going through historic changes, sets another important milestone in bilateral ties and will further push forward the relationship between the two countries. [...] He added that his country is willing to grasp the opportunities brought about by China's rapid development and join hands with Beijing to deepen bilateral cooperation in various fields, so as to improve the well-being of the two peoples and promote regional and global peace, stability and development. [...]. ^ top ^

Kim Jong-un's envoy arrives in Beijing to mend strained ties (SCMP)
2013-05-23
A special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held talks with top officials in Beijing yesterday, in the first such encounter since China joined the United States and other nations in imposing sanctions on Pyongyang over its ambitious nuclear weapons programme. The visit by Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, a senior member of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, comes at a politically sensitive time, just weeks before Sino-US and Sino-South Korean summits. President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama will hold their summit in California on June 7 and 8. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to also make an official visit to Beijing next month. Xinhua reported that Choe met Wang Jiarui, head of the Communist Party's international liaison department. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said only that the talks were an "exchange of views on the situation on the Korean peninsula and other issues of common interest". Analysts said the trip was an effort by North Korea's young and inexperienced leader to repair badly damaged ties between the once close communist allies. China supported UN sanctions against North Korea in response to a nuclear test in February. Earlier this month, the state-run Bank of China closed accounts of the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank because of its involvement in the weapons programme. Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang were further strained earlier this month by the North Korean seizure of a Chinese fishing boat and its crew. Shi Yinhong, a security expert at Renmin University, said Choe's trip was "primarily aimed at repairing ties which are at their lowest ebb since the Korean war ended in 1953". Cai Jian, deputy director of Fudan University's Centre for Korean Studies, said Choe was expected to explain North Korea's thinking and "seek China's understanding before the two crucial summits, at which the North Korea issue will be dominant". But Shi said that Beijing had apparently downgraded the visit by sending Wang, a minister-level official, to meet Choe. Still, analysts expect Choe still meet top Chinese leaders, including Communist Party general secretary Xi during his three- to four-day visit. Choe is the third-highest-ranking official in the North Korean hierarchy and a member of the presidium of the Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea, the equivalent of membership of the Communist Party's innermost seven-man Politburo Standing Committee. Kim has yet to visit China since succeeding his late father in December 2011. The trip is believed to be the first top-level meeting between the two countries since Politburo member Li Jianguo went to Pyongyang in late November bearing a letter from Xi, who had just been installed as party chief. Acknowledging that North Korea had begun pushing back in recent days, Shi said that "the overall effect of Choe's trip on the upcoming summits and the present stand-off will be limited" unless Pyongyang changed its stance significantly. ^ top ^

Philippine activity on Ren'ai Reef draws Chinese caution (Global Times)
2013-05-23
Chinese navy and marine surveillance forces are closely monitoring activities conducted by the Philippines on a vessel stranded on the Ren'ai Reef in the South China Sea, a source close to the matter told the Global Times. The Philippines filed a protest with the Chinese embassy in Manila Tuesday that the recent presence of a Chinese warship and two marine surveillance vessels near the reef was "illegal and proactive." Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded Wednesday that the Ren'ai Reef is part of China's Nansha Islands, and that China has indisputable sovereignty over them and their adjacent waters, adding that Chinese ships are entitled to regularly patrol there. The Philippines sent three military vessels on May 9 after spotting the Chinese ships. The source also told the Global Times that the Philippine vessels carried a large amount of construction materials to repair a worn-out warship that has been stranded there since May 9, 1999 due to an alleged leak at the bottom, adding that the country has been sending garrison soldiers to gain de facto control to the reef and refused to withdraw the ship. "The ship has been sinking and deteriorating rapidly this year, the Philippines have been trying to fix it to reinforce their control," said the source, adding that the Chinese military is patrolling to prevent further moves. The Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that a sea-air patrol to the reef was conducted in March. Zhu Zhenming, a researcher with the Institute of South East Asian Studies at Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the Philippines' tougher attitude over the South China Sea dispute indicates that it felt it had the backing of big powers including the US and Japan. "Philippine President Benigno Aquino has formed a heroic image and won domestic support by acting tough against China. The economic growth in the past few years also earned him more confidence but the Philippines' military power is still small," said Zhu. Aquino announced Tuesday he would allocate $1.8 billion to upgrade the country's maritime defense, vowing to protect Philippine sovereignty and resist bullies. ^ top ^

China, ROK to hold 6th high-level strategic dialogue (Xinhua)
2013-05-24
China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will hold the sixth high-level strategic dialogue between their foreign ministries in Beijing next month, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman announced Thursday. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and ROK's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun will attend the dialogue scheduled for June 3. They will exchange views on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern, Hong Lei told a daily press briefing. ^ top ^

China to send more than 500 troops to Mali to contain Islamist militants (SCMP)
2013-05-24
China has offered to send more than 500 soldiers to the UN force seeking to contain Islamist militants in Mali in what would be its biggest contribution to UN peacekeeping, diplomats said in New York. The move could be a bid to overcome tensions with the West over the Syria conflict and to strengthen China's relations in Africa, where it is a major buyer of oil and other resources, diplomats and experts said. France, which intervened in the West African nation in January, hopes to hand over to UN peacekeepers in July. More than 6,500 African troops are in the country, but the UN is looking for at least 3,000 more. The final number of Chinese troops who will take part has not yet been decided, diplomats said. "China has offered between 500 and 600 soldiers," one senior diplomat said. "We don't have details yet on what kind of troops they would be providing." Another UN diplomat confirmed the numbers, saying: "It is a significant move by China." Both diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity as talks are continuing. At least 155 of the Chinese troops are expected to be engineers, a UN official said. Confirming Beijing was considering proposals by the UN and African nations to increase its role in African peacekeeping, a Chinese diplomat said yesterday a decision had not yet been made on whether China would send combat troops to the continent. "China is seriously considering a United Nations' proposal early this year to modernise its peacekeeping operations in Africa," the diplomat said, citing UN plans to deploy a fleet of its own surveillance drones in missions in Central and West Africa. Analysts said China had a stake in African security issues because Beijing needed to protect its investments in Africa and the growing Chinese community on the continent. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Heilongjiang governor Lu Hao heads 'next generation' of leadership (SCMP)
2013-05-21
The overseas edition of People's Daily ran a prominent profile of rising political star Lu Hao yesterday, with analysts saying it was part of a propaganda campaign ahead of his elevation to the next generation of party leadership. They said the article extolling the talents and capabilities of the 46-year-old Heilongjiang governor - the youngest provincial governor - signalled the beginning of the nurturing of a new generation of leaders. It comes just months after the installation of the fifth-generation leadership at the party's 18th congress in November. Lu was elected to the party's 205-member decision-making Central Committee at the congress and was appointed Heilongjiang's governor in March. He is one of the young leaders, born in the 1960s, who are seen as likely to make up the core of the party's sixth-generation leadership, which will succeed the fifth-generation led by President Xi Jinping in less than 10 years. Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political affairs analyst, said it was part of a propaganda campaign "designed to promote the young leader in preparation for elevating him to the core at the next party congress" in 2017. Professor Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University, agreed and said it was part of the ongoing, orderly and institutionalised power succession process. Chen and Zhang said Lu was likely to become a member of the party's Politburo at its 19th congress and then make it into the Politburo Standing Committee at the 20th party congress in 2022. The article said Lu had broken several records during his career, becoming the youngest person to hold various posts. He was made head of a state-owned factory in Beijing in 1995 at the age of 28, making him the youngest person to hold such a post in the capital, and turned it around into a profit-making concern. Eight years later he became Beijing's youngest deputy mayor. In June 2008 he became the youngest ministerial-level official when he was named first secretary of the secretariat of the Communist Youth League central committee. The article also said Lu had successfully managed the Zhongguangcun industrial park, known as China's Silicon Valley, between 1999 and 2003. Born in 1967, Lu rose through the party ranks while completing a bachelor's degree in economics and then a master's at Peking University under Professor Li Yining, one of the pioneers of market reform and also the teacher of Premier Li Keqiang and Vice-President Li Yuanchao. Lu is a member of the party's youth league faction, or tuanpai, the power base of former party chief Hu Jintao. ^ top ^

No new H7N9 cases in past week (Xinhua)
2013-05-20
No new cases of human infection with the H7N9 bird flu virus have been reported on the Chinese mainland over the last week, China's health authority said on Monday. Over the same period between May 13 and Monday afternoon, there was one report of an infection that ended in death, and 15 patients have recovered, according to a statement issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission. To date, the Chinese mainland has reported 130 confirmed H7N9 cases, of which 36 cases ended in death, and 72 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, the statement said. It added that there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission detected so far. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

13 arrested in Beijing for rumormongering, disrupting public disorder (Xinhua)
2013-05-21
Police in Beijing said Tuesday that 13 people have been arrested for allegedly spreading rumors and disrupting public order by inciting a protest after a young woman's death earlier this month. A statement from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said the woman surnamed Yuan, who fell to death from a clothing market building in Fengtai District on May 3, had committed a suicide. The statement said a police investigation had ruled out possibilities that Yuan had been assaulted or murdered. Yuan's death, however, spawned swirling rumors on the Internet claiming she had been raped and murdered by the building's security guards, which prompted a protest outside the building on May 8, the statement said. Police said Yuan's boyfriend surnamed Peng allegedly spread the rumors online to call for Yuan's fellow townsmen from east Anhui Province to "demand an answer" from the market, as he was unsatisfied by the market's handling of Yuan's death. Police have arrested Peng and 12 others, including one of Yuan's former classmates and 11 of her fellow townsmen, who allegedly helped spread the rumors and incited the rally. All the suspects have confessed to their deeds and may face charges of disrupting public order and creating disturbances, according to the statement. ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai to allow chicken again (China Daily)
2013-05-22
With no new confirmed cases of the H7N9 virus on the Chinese mainland for more than a week, Shanghai is planning to allow cold-processed poultry meat onto the market by the end of May, giving the heavily hit poultry industry a chance at recovery. In a meeting organized by the city's agriculture authority on Thursday, most participants suggested that live poultry markets would eventually be shut down. They said cold-processed poultry products would be promoted to gradually replace live poultry starting at the end of this month, according to the Shanghai Municipal Agriculture Commission. Cold-processed poultry refers to meat products cooled to between zero C and 4 C within an hour after slaughter and kept at the same temperature during processing, before being sold to the customer. [...] Most Chinese believe live poultry tastes better and is more nutritious. At the moment, most poultry product suppliers that used to receive regular orders for cold-processed poultry meat are waiting for the quick recovery of the market to see if poultry-related products will be widely sold again. [...] The outbreak of the H7N9 virus brought the industry to a standstill, turning most consumers away from poultry-related products. According to the China Animal Agriculture Association, the country's poultry industry has suffered more than 40 billion yuan ($6.52 billion) in losses since the virus appeared in March. Since late March, authorities have closed many poultry markets in eastern China to contain the spread of the H7N9 virus. [...] In fact, official statistics show that the poultry industry has been slowly recovering with the issuance of government subsidies in April. The per-kilo price of dressed chicken hit 13.51 yuan on May 15, up from an annual low of 12.97 yuan on May 12. But that figure was still 4.2 percent lower than the same time last year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. [...] But to small poultry breeders, the light of hope seems faint. “I've heard the price of chicken is increasing while we haven't benefited at all because our direct buyers, the live poultry trading markets, are still shut down,” Ye said. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

Guangdong activist raises questions over disabled boy's captivity (SCMP)
2013-05-21
Long-time petitioner Chen Fengqiang expected to be questioned or taken into custody when police entered his apartment in Zhuhai on the evening of April 28, but instead they brought him a disabled, mute boy. Chen had been fighting for custody of eight-year-old Chen Ya (not his real name) since he was released from prison last May, petitioning for the child's release with the help of well-known human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. Chen Fengqiang had previously lived with the boy and his mother, Wei Fen, his girlfriend. But after the boy's mother was detained by police in 2009, he cared for the boy. Then after Chen was sent to jail, Chen claims Zhuhai's Sanzao township authorities illegally detained the boy for four years at an unofficial auxiliary police force station. Chen's lawyer Liu said he had tried to secure the boy's release in February, but failed. Liu said the police shouldn't keep a child at the station. “They must hand him to a civil institution,” he said. While he couldn't vouch for all the information provided by Chen, Liu said he was convinced that the boy was kept at the station. Chen said that the boy, who is now mute, brain damaged and had difficulty walking properly, had been healthy before his captivity. On Sunday, Chen, the boy, and four sympathisers publicly demonstrated in Guangzhou for authorities to investigate the matter. They unfolded a banner, but were immediately detained by police for disturbing the public order, said Liu Sifang, one of the sympathisers. They did manage to post a message on Sina Weibo, the country's largest microblogging platform, which led about two dozen people to gather at the police station where the group was detained. The detained were released after spending the night in jail. On Monday, Chen petitioned the Guangdong Public Security Department, asking for clarification regarding the boy's case. He said he was listened to, but was told to leave when the office closed for the evening. Chen said he wanted to know what had happened to the boy during the last four years and where the boy's mother was. “Of course, I hope she is alive,” he said. “I want us to live together again.” A Sanzao policeman, who declined to be identified, said he had no knowledge of Chen's case and that it was unthinkable that township authorities would keep a child imprisoned for four years because it was illegal. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Large gold mine discovered in Xinjiang (Xinhua)
2013-05-21
Geological workers have discovered a large gold mine in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, officials said on Tuesday. With gold reserves of at least 53 tonnes, the mine in Xinyuan County in the Ili Valley is expected to have an economic value of 20 billion yuan (3.2 billion U.S. dollars), said Zeng Xiaogang, head of the region's geology and mineral resources bureau. Covering a length of 3 km and depths of 60 to 300 meters, the mine also holds 31,200 tonnes of copper, said Zeng. He said the bureau, in cooperation with the Meisheng Group based in Hainan Province, took five years to find the mine, finally confirming its location on May 13. The group has invested nearly 150 million yuan in the project, which will be put into operation by the end of 2015. Its annual gold production capacity is expected to reach three tonnes, or 1 billion yuan of production value every year, according to Zeng. It is the second large gold mine discovered in the Ili Valley following one with gold reserves of 50 tonnes found in 1988. According to the bureau, the mine is the largest such resource found in the area of Xinjiang's western Tianshan Mountains. The zone is within the Narat-Hongliu River metallogenic belt, together with gold mines in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, indicating further ores are likely to be found in the belt. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Heavens open in first 'black' storm since 2010 (SCMP)
2013-05-23
Torrential rain pounded the city [editor's note: Hong Kong] for more than five hours early yesterday, causing landslides, flooding, traffic chaos and business disruptions. No injuries were reported, but more than 300 flights were delayed. A plane was struck by lightning but landed safely at Chek Lap Kok airport carrying 100 passengers and crew members. The stock exchange cancelled the morning session and resumed trading at 1pm. Its turnover was HK$52.4 billion, down from an average of HK$58.5 billion per day this month. The courts were also closed in the morning while all schools remained closed for the day. Sau Mau Ping was one of the worst-hit areas as several landslides hit the neighbourhood. In one incident, concrete debris, rocks and mud were washed down a hillside at about 4.30am, about 20 minutes after the Observatory hoisted a black rainstorm warning, the highest of three storm signals and the first since July 2010. The signal was in place for five hours and 35 minutes. The longest black storm on record raged for five hours and 47 minutes in August 1999. The unexpected rubble built a metre-high blockade on the pavement and carriageway of Lee On Road outside Shun On Estate before dawn, upsetting residents and traffic. [...] A nearby section of Shun On Road was also buried - with more dislocated rubble lying dangerously atop the slope. [...] [Department engineer Michael Chang Mein-kai] said he hoped the affected roads in Sau Mau Ping would be re-opened tomorrow, though he expected workers to take one to two days to clear the mess on Shun On Road. Yesterday, the Observatory issued rainstorm warnings three times before daybreak - the amber signal at 1.30am, the red signal at 3.20am and the black at 4.10am. Between 3am and 6am, it recorded more than 15,000 lightning strikes. By 2pm, authorities had received 49 reports of flooding and 19 landslides. Senior scientific officer Chan Sai-tick said more than 100mm of rain drenched Sau Mau Ping, Kwun Tong, Tseung Kwan O and Sai Kung between 4am and 5am. One of the major flooding areas was Tin Sam Tsuen off Kam Po Road, Yuen Long, covering 500 square metres, said Shum Jin, acting technical secretary of the Drainage Services Department. He said more than 10 village houses were up to 50cm deep in water. In Kwun Tong, a sedan inside an underpass of Kwun Tong Road was nearly submerged. The Observatory withdrew all rainstorm signals at 10.30am. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan vows to protect Filipinos from attacks (SCMP)
2013-05-21
Taiwan yesterday ordered all law-enforcement personnel to step up the protection of Filipinos on the island, after a suggestion that Manila might evacuate its nationals from the island after hearing reports of attacks targeting them. "We have instructed all prosecutorial and law-enforcement agencies to step up protection and take preventive measures against any assaults and harassment of Philippine nationals in Taiwan," Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu told reporters. His comments came after reports of at least three assaults on Filipinos in Taiwan amid a continuing row between Taipei and Manila over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coastguard on May 9 in waters where 200 nautical miles of the two sides' "exclusive economic zones" overlap. "Those caught doing so will be arrested and face criminal charges," he said. Yesterday, Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency as saying that the Philippines might evacuate its 87,000 workers in Taiwan. […] Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday the two sides had tentatively agreed to a "parallel" probe into the incident, which the Philippines stressed was "unintended", but which Taipei insisted was "cold-blooded murder", judging by the more than 50 bullet holes found on the small fishing boat. [...] For the so-called parallel investigation, Taipei and Manila would send investigators to examine the findings, including evidence and testimonies given by all parties, Taiwanese Foreign Ministry officials said. Officials at Taiwan's Ministry of Justice said they hoped to send investigators to Manila today, and Filipino investigators would go to Taiwan. They said Manila agreed Taiwanese investigators can examine the patrol boat and coastguards' guns, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported. Philippine Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the Philippines would make "co-ordinated efforts" with Taiwan to look into the fatal shooting. Meanwhile, Taiwan's agriculture minister, Chen Pao-chi, proposed that the cabinet cancel a self-imposed restriction and allow the island's coastguard to patrol the disputed waters. ^ top ^

Philippine envoys face sack over 'rogue' offer to Taipei (SCMP)
2013-05-22
Two Philippine envoys face dismissal after going "rogue" and bungling Manila's response to this month's shooting of Taiwanese fishermen by Philippine coastguards, sources say. The pair tried to negotiate a deal with their Taiwanese counterparts in which the Philippine government would apologise for the May 9 incident in which one fisherman died. But the offer backfired and spiralled into a major diplomatic incident when Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou rejected it and imposed economic penalties. A source close to Manila's internal discussions on the issue said the envoys had exceeded their authority when they initially offered Taiwan's foreign minister, David Lin, talks on a fisheries agreement. Such an offer had never been approved by their bosses in Manila, the source said, and embarrassingly had to be withdrawn in the deal ultimately presented to Ma. The flip-flop, and the impression of reneging on the offer, outraged the Taiwanese. "What they [initially] delivered [to the Taiwanese authorities] was not the agreed response," said one of the Philippine sources. The source was referring to Amadeo Perez Jnr, chairman and chief executive of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), and Antonio Basilio, managing director and resident representative of MECO Taiwan. The source said both are about to lose their quasi-diplomatic jobs, although "they may not know it yet". "The first rule of proper relations is that officials can be relied on to uphold their principals' position and not go rogue," the source added. As proof of what Taiwan's foreign ministry called Manila's "dishonest" and "capricious" ways, it released four different versions of the offer all sent by MECO to Lin on May 14. The first letter offered to create a Filipino "inter-agency panel" to prevent future incidents, and to convene a meeting with a similar Taiwanese body to negotiate on fisheries. But by the fourth letter the offer had been watered down, omitting the inter-agency panel and simply suggesting that "relevant agencies" try to convene with their counterparts. That final offer was rejected by Ma. President Aquino's deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said on Monday that only the fourth letter - which also told Taipei that Manila had already started its own probe into the event - was authorised for release by Aquino. According to The Manila Times, David Chien of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) said the offer Basilio ultimately delivered to Lin was "completely different" from the what had been worked out between MECO and TECO. A senior diplomat said the first three letters seemed to be drafts. Basilio yesterday defended his actions and said the drafts reflected a "sincere effort" by himself and the Foreign Minister to reach an agreement under severe time constraints. He added: "Releasing these earlier versions is a breach of protocol and courtesy". ^ top ^

Taiwan to escort fishing vessels on regular basis (Xinhua)
2013-05-22
Taiwan's coast guard will escort fishing ships on regular basis to protect them from harassment by the Philippines, the island's leader Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday. Taiwan authorities will not allow the incident, which happened to the fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin 28, to occur again, said Ma at a meeting of the Kuomintang, the island's ruling party. Guang Ta Hsin 28 was fired at by Philippine Coast Guard officers on May 9 in a sea area located 160 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan. The attack resulted in the death of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman. The authorities will try their best to protect the rights and interests of local fishermen, Ma said. Taiwan is still discussing with the Philippines about a joint investigation into the shooting and expects it to be settled as soon as possible, he said. No matter what the result of the probe is, the Philippine government should appologize to and compensate the victim's family, he said, adding that the lack of an apology is "an attitude problem.". ^ top ^

 

Economy

UBS Securities fined in Hong Kong (Xinhua)
2013-05-21
Hong Kong's securities watchdog, Securities & Futures Commission, has reprimanded and fined UBS Securities Hong Kong 1.6 million HK dollars (205,655 U.S. dollars) for regulatory breaches and internal control failings relating to position limit failures, the Commission said Tuesday in a statement. The disciplinary action followed an investigation into UBS holding of 175,697 contracts in China Construction Bank stock options on behalf of its client UBS AG London, which is in breach of the prescribed position limit of 150,000 contracts on Oct. 18, 2011. The Commission also found UBS failed to implement adequate internal controls to ensure that the positions it held or controlled were in compliance with prescribed limits. ^ top ^

China's trade surplus figures 'over-inflated' (China Daily)
2013-05-22
China's trade surplus figures in the first four months of the year were over-inflated by hot money smuggled into the country to profit from interest rate differentials and investments in the real estate and financial sectors amid the yuan's appreciation, according to economists. If the fake transactions, which were disguised as trade payments, are not taken into account, the real surplus for January-April was about $6 billion, about one-tenth of the official $61 billion figure, said Lu Ting, an economist at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. That would be the smallest trade surplus figure in the January-April period after the country reported a $10.8 billion deficit in 2004, Lu added. In 2012, China's trade surplus was $18.8 billion for the first four months. Lu's estimates are based on the assumption that the country's actual exports in the first four months increased 5 percent year-on-year, compared with the official 17.4 percent figure, and that actual imports rose 7.6 percent year-on-year, also lower than the official 10.6 percent figure. China's trade data have been the target of skepticism in recent months from Hong Kong to Wall Street. Some analysts have said that they believe that Chinese exporters brought in speculative money by overstating export payments and arbitraged the differential between the yuan and the HK dollar by transporting goods in and out of Hong Kong. [...] A source with the General Administration of Customs, who declined to be named, told China Daily that "there was inflation in the export data in the first four months, which was basically caused by abnormal shipments to Hong Kong, with the surge in gold imports and exports also to blame". [...] Lian Ping, chief economist at Bank of Communications, said that the real trade surplus in the first four months was surely not as high as indicated by the official figures as the alleged fast export growth was not matched by other economic indicators, including power output, power consumption, factory production and employment levels in the manufacturing sector. "Arbitraging exchange rate differentials is not the most important way for speculative investors to chase returns. Instead, it's the investments into China's real estate sector and financing platforms, which demand a huge amount of capital, but are controlled by the government," Lian said. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange said on May 5 that it will boost its scrutiny of export invoices, and impose tougher penalties on companies that provide fake data to crack down on hot money inflows. ^ top ^

Pricing talks fail in China-EU solar trade spat (Xinhua)
2013-05-22
First-round negotiations designed to ease the current solar panel trade spat between China and the European Union (EU) by agreeing on the export price of the products have failed, Chinese trade body sources involved in the talks said on Wednesday. China and the EU had agreed that talks on such "price undertaking" would be held between representatives of the Chinese solar sector and the union, Wang Guiqing, deputy head of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, told a press conference here. At the EU's invitation, the chamber sent a negotiation team and put forward pragmatic price undertaking plans, but the EU side turned them down flat, refusing to answer questions from the Chinese side, he said. According to a statement on the chamber's website, the EU did not show any sincerity in tackling the problems, leading to the breakdown of the talks. It said that most Chinese and European solar energy enterprises are looking forward to settling the current problems through negotiations and the EU should act sincerely in further talks with Chinese representatives on price undertaking. Wang would not reveal when or where the talks took place or any specifics on what was discussed. Price undertaking basically means exporters raise the export price of a product to avoid the possibility of an anti-dumping duty. The EU backed a proposal in early May to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China in order to prevent what it called the "dumping" of Chinese panel products in the European market. The punitive measures still have to be reviewed by EU member states and be published in the EU's official journal before going into effect. ^ top ^

China flash HSBC PMI hits 7-month low, adding to recovery concerns (SCMP)
2013-05-23
China's factory activity shrank for the first time in seven months in May as new orders fell, a preliminary survey of purchasing managers showed, adding to concerns that a recovery in the world's second-largest economy is sputtering. The flash HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for May fell to 49.6, slipping under the 50-point level demarcating expansion from contraction for the first since October. The final HSBC PMI stood at 50.4 in April. A sub-index measuring overall new orders dropped to 49.5, the lowest reading since September, suggesting China's domestic economy is not strong enough to offset soft external demand. “The cooling manufacturing activities in May reflected slower domestic demand and ongoing external headwinds,” said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist at HSBC. Asian stock markets outside of Japan extended early losses after the report. Oil, copper and rubber prices also fell, while the Australian dollar skidded by a quarter of a US cent. Thursday's PMI revives investors' concerns about the strength of China's economic recovery this year, if one is seen at all. April economic data released earlier this month had already underwhelmed markets and dented confidence. It is also likely to fuel a debate over whether policymakers should take action to spur growth, though Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month that the nation has little room for fiscal stimulus. [...]. ^ top ^

Jobs scarce as record numbers graduate (China Daily)
2013-05-23
Competition in the job market is expected to intensify this year as the number of fresh college graduates in China hits a record high this summer. According to the Ministry of Education, the number of matriculating college students will reach nearly 7 million this year, 190,000 more than the total last year. At the same time, the ministry also found job vacancies are down 15 percent, according to a survey of 500 companies in February this year. [...]. ^ top ^

Beijing prepares rates reform to ease yuan curbs (SCMP)
2013-05-24
Beijing may be preparing a fresh push to deregulate interest rates, giving new impetus to plans to gradually unshackle the tightly controlled yuan. The government could scrap the floor for lending rates as early as the end of this year, according to Ba Shusong, a researcher at the Development Research Centre, a policy think tank of the State Council, in a move that would allow market forces to play a bigger role in setting interest rates. Mainland banks are allowed to offer loan rates as low as 0.7 times the benchmark lending rate stipulated by the People's Bank of China. Analysts say interest rate deregulation is one of the key steps necessary for full capital account liberalisation. "It is likely that China will remove the lending floor by the end of this year, a step towards interest rate deregulation," said Guo Tianyong, a professor at Central University of Finance and Economics. "It will also pave the way for capital account liberalisation and ultimately help in the internationalisation of the yuan." Ba's comments, in a video clip on state-controlled Chinanews. com, have added to the expectations Beijing is preparing for full convertibility by 2015. Those expectations had been stoked by an unsourced report earlier this week in the 21st Century Business Herald that People's Bank of China had backed a proposal for full convertibility by the end of 2015. They were further fuelled by an official announcement from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, declaring it would simplify the rules for foreign-currency transactions for firms operating in the special economic zones. SAFE said the changes, effective next month, would eliminate paperwork and reduce the frequency of regulatory checks. The two developments taken together suggest the yuan liberalisation programme could be gathering pace. [...] The State Council recently said it would unveil an operational plan this year to make the currency fully convertible. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korea fires fifth missile in three days (SCMP)
2013-05-20
North Korea fired another short-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Monday, the latest in a series of missile drills that have been condemned by South Korea and UN chief Ban Ki-moon. The latest firing – the fifth in three days – was confirmed by a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said it was unclear if the North was testing guided missiles or rockets from multiple launchers. “We are still checking on the precise nature of these tests,” the spokesman said. The North fired three short-range guided missiles off its east coast on Saturday and another on Sunday, apparently as part of a military drill. Such drills are not unusual but they come at a time of simmering military tensions on the Korean peninsula. South Korea labelled the weekend missile tests “deplorable” and “provocative”, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon had urged Pyongyang to refrain from any further launches. “It is time for them to resume dialogue and lower the tensions,” Ban said in Moscow. Following the North's nuclear test in February and subsequent UN sanctions, tensions escalated sharply with Pyongyang issuing near daily threats of retribution against the South and the United States. Although the situation has calmed somewhat in recent weeks, Pyongyang has continued to denounce a series of South Korea-US joint military exercises which it sees as dress rehearsals for invasion. At one point, North Korea had been primed to test a pair of medium-range missiles, but US intelligence said the weapons were removed from their launch pads in early May. ^ top ^

Top North Korean military leader visits China (SCMP)
2013-05-22
North Korea has sent a top military official to China as a special envoy of leader Kim Jong-un, at a time of strained relations between Pyongyang and its allies in Beijing, state media reported. Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the Korean People's Army politburo flew to China on Wednesday, the Korean Central News Agency said, without detailing the agenda or length of his visit. Choe is believed to be the highest ranking North Korean official to visit China since late leader Kim Jong-Il in August 2011. Kim Jong-Un has never visited China since he took over after his father's death in December 2011. The trip comes at a sensitive time for North Korea-China relations which have been sorely tested in recent months by Pyongyang's refusal to heed Beijing's warnings over its nuclear weapons programme. China has long been the impoverished, isolated North's sole major ally and chief economic benefactor, but Beijing sided with the rest of UN Security Council in imposing sanctions after the North's long-range rocket test in December last year, and its nuclear test in February. The sanctions triggered an escalating cycle of military tensions on the Korean peninsula, during which China came under enormous US-led pressure to rein in its wayward ally. In line with the UN sanctions, Beijing has moved to tighten Pyongyang's financial operations in China which the international community points to as the major conduit for funding its nuclear weapons programme. ^ top ^

Japan ponders direct talks with Pyongyang (China Daily)
2013-05-23
Japan is considering direct talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the government said on Wednesday, adding momentum to the cause after a top level aide to the prime minister made a surprise trip to Pyongyang. Bilateral talks are on the table as Tokyo seeks to salve the running sore of abductions of its nationals by DPRK spies in the 1970s and 1980s, an issue that inflames public opinion at home. But any move to break with Washington and Seoul, who have both stressed the need for a united approach to Pyongyang, could rankle. "As we are seeking all possibilities, of course such a thing is an option," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters when asked about resuming talks suspended last year when the DPRK announced a rocket launch. The comment came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed on Sunday to seek talks with the DPRK on the issue and after adviser Isao Iijima returned from Pyongyang following a four-day visit. Iijima told the DPRK officials that Tokyo "would not make any move" unless they return all Japanese kidnap victims, hand over the kidnappers and resolve all abduction cases, according to Japanese media citing sources close to him. The trip fueled speculation that the DPRK was trying to cozy up to Tokyo at a time when ties with Washington and Seoul have gone into a deep freeze over its nuclear and missile ambitions. The Republic of Korea said the trip was "unhelpful" to international efforts to forge a united front against the DPRK. Glyn Davies, the US special representative for the DPRK policy, cautioned that Pyongyang was trying to "split the international community". Washington would like to see the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, which involve the DPRK, the ROK, the US, Japan, China and Russia, and are intended to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Abe attaches great importance to seeking a "comprehensive solution" to the abduction issue, along with the DPRK's nuclear and missile ambitions. Iijima was a senior aide to Junichiro Koizumi and accompanied his visits to the DPRK in 2002 and 2004 as Japan's prime minister for talks with then-DPRK leader Kim Jong-il. During Koizumi's 2002 trip, the DPRK admitted its agents kidnapped Japanese nationals during the Cold War to train spies in the Japanese language and customs. Several of those snatched were allowed to return to Japan along with children born in the DPRK, but Pyongyang said the rest of them had died. ^ top ^

North Korea ready to accept China's peace effort (SCMP)
2013-05-24
A special North Korean envoy said in Beijing yesterday that Pyongyang would accept China's suggestion that it restart talks with relevant parties to restore a peaceful environment on the Korean peninsula, China Central Television said last night. Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, a senior member of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and the Korean People's Army's top political officer, told Liu Yunshan, who ranks fifth in the Politburo Standing Committee, that he was visiting China to improve, consolidate and develop relations between the two countries, the state broadcaster reported. "North Korea appreciates China's enormous efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and push for a return to talks and consultations on the problems of the Korean peninsula, and is willing to accept China's suggestion to have talks with all parties," he said. Choe held talks with the head of the Communist Party's international liaison department, Wang Jiarui, on Wednesday. His trip to China is seen as a move by North Korea to mend fences with China after months of ignoring warnings from Beijing to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. [...] Liu told the close ally of North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, that Beijing hoped all sides would uphold the aim of making the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and of solving problems and maintaining stability through dialogue. He also said that China hoped all parties would take practical steps to ease tensions and "restart six-party talks as soon as possible and work hard for long-lasting peace and stability in northeast Asia and on the Korean peninsula". The relationship between the two Communist allies has been strained since North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in February. Analysts said Choe's remarks at his meeting with Liu showed Pyongyang was considering a return to the negotiating table after threatening the use of force, but was likely to proceed with its nuclear programme if future negotiations failed. [...]. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

The first ever flexible wireless charging system is introduced (Info Mongolia)
2013-05-23
On May 20, 2013, after spending almost two years on numerous trials and setbacks, two Mongolian guys residing in the United States have introduced the first ever flexible wireless charging system. Inventors are Nyamjav DORJDEREM, who is an assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and Dashdorj TULGABAATAR, co-founder at Ametros Solutions and COO at Onom Foundation. An official campaign on launching Ametros wireless charging system is started on Kickstarter.com that aims to fund most creative projects. The charging system is based on inductive charging principle. It is composed of two parts: power transmitter and power receiver. They utilized Qi compliant power managing chips. Average charging times, from 0%-100%, are 2-2.5 hours for iPhone 5, and 2.5-3.5 hours for Galaxy S3 phones. Moreover, the charging systems will not overcharge the phone since they stop charging when the battery is fully charged. After having discussions with several manufacturers in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, they have chosen three companies as potential manufacturers. One specializes in manufacturing of electronic components and circuits. The others specialize in aluminum, rubber, and stainless steel manufacturing and precision machining, including fabricating molds. ^ top ^

Candidates receive mandate to run in Presidential Election (UB Post)
2013-05-22
The General Election Commission (GEC) announced that it has registered Democratic Party's Ts.Elbegdorj, Mongolian People's Party's B.Bat-Erdene, and Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party's N.Udval, as the candidates for the upcoming Presidential Election n June 26. This was after verifying that the documents submitted by the respective political parties in relation with their nominees for the Presidential Election are truthful, complete, and completed in compliance with the law. The political parties delivered to the GEC the documents related to their particular presidential candidates, such as the official decision note of the party about nominating its standard bearer, the action policy of the candidate, party rules and internal regulations regarding the nomination, as well as the candidate's handwritten permission that he or she will run in the election, autobiography, declaration statement of assets and income, birth certificate, parents' ID cards. Other documents also include the statements about a candidate from relevant organizations such as the medical test result which shows his or her health condition, police statement which proves that the candidate did not commit any crimes, as well as relevant statements from banks, departments of taxation, and other legal entities as demanded by the GEC. The mandate to run in the Presidential Election will be handed to each of the candidates today which means that the election campaign will officially begin on May 22. Hence, according to the law, once the three candidates receive such a mandate, it is forbidden for a political party to withdraw its nominee and it is not allowed for a candidate to withdraw his or her name by his or her own free will. The GEC has also announced the total of 31 information and technology teams, composed of 146 specialists, will work at the electoral district committees during the Presidential Election. ^ top ^

Poverty Rate Came Down to 27.4 Percent in 2012 (news.mn)
2013-05-22
The National Statistical Office of Mongolia (NSO) has been conducting the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) since 1966. It merged the HIES and the Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) in July, 2007 under the title of Household Socio-Economic Survey (HSES), and has been conducting this HSES survey since then. The HSES selects a total of 11,232 households in Mongolia on a sampling basis annually, collects and studies indicators with respect to age, race, education, employment of household members as well as indicators related to household income and consumption expenditure. The NSO has been actively cooperating with the World Bank towards strengthening the capacity of the statistical staff, improving the methodology used to estimate living standards and poverty of the population, defining the methodology that can realistically demonstrate changes in the livelihood of the Mongolian population, and jointly estimating their outcomes. Currently, the NSO is estimating poverty indicators at the national, regional, and location level and is working towards the goal of estimating aimag level poverty indicators starting from 2014 by increasing the sample size of the HSES in order to create useful and accessible information and data for the statistical users. Estimation of poverty indicators in aimag, capital city, regional and national levels will be important information and a contribution to evaluate the country's development plan and the implications of the policy and programs implemented by the state. ^ top ^

Tyrannosaurus Bataar landed in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Info Mongolia)
2013-05-20
On May 17, 2013, following the signing ceremony on repatriation the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton held in New York on May 06, the year-round being in the center of attention the 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton has been finally arrived on its homeland. The delivery has been landed on “Chinggis Khaan” International Airport at 11:15 pm, where authorities from the Government including Head of the Office of the President P.Tsagaan, Minister of the Cabinet Office of the Government of Mongolia Ch.Saikhanbileg, Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism Ts.Oyungerel and other officials were present to receive the T-Bataar. The fossils were packaged in 7 boxes and delivered by “Korean Air” company as free of charges, moreover “Tuushin” company was responsible on transportation, “Bodi Daatgal” company covered the insurance policy and “Blue Star” construction company agreed to erect a temporary museum on the Sukhbaatar Square sponsored by “M Oil” company to be opened for public view from June 01, 2013. This is the first ever repatriated fossils and officials said another dozens of dinosaur findings will be returned by air and ship transportations soon. ^ 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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