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
  2-6.12.13, No. 504  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Gambia drops Taiwan for prize of 'bigger China' (Global Times)
2013-12-03
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's announcement of the end to his country's 18-year relationship with Taiwan last month shocked not only Taiwanese officials but local experts who were aghast and left striving to decipher the sudden move by the president. Gambia's move now leaves Taiwan with Swaziland, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Burkina Faso as the only three African countries diplomatically attached to the island. Just last year, the two sides' relationship had seen a mutual "state officials visit." Taiwan leader, Ma Ying-jeou in November last year visited Banjul and toured a number of projects and institutions Taiwan supported. The visit also saw the awarding of the visiting leader with the prestigious honorary Grand Commander of the Republic of The Gambia by his host. While announcing the cutting of ties, Jammeh also said that his country remains friends with Taiwan. Relations restored - Gambia restored both diplomatic and political relations with Taiwan in 1995, a year after the military coup that ended 30 years of the People's Progressive Party rule. Eighteen years on, the relationship has seen both sides bending over backwards to make sure that they met their part of the bargain. Taiwan has made great investments that seem to have left great impact on Gambia, especially in agriculture, trade, philanthropy, education, defense and health. Taiwan has also helped modernize the Yundum military barracks, installed city streetlights, and rehabilitated Banjul-Serrekunda highway, as well as constructing schools. The Asian island also helped build Gambia Radio and Television Services satellite, construct the Sankuleh Kunda bridge and procure engines for Gambian ferries. Data from the ministry of education in the African country shows that about 200 Gambian students have studied in Taiwan over the past 10 years, graduating in diverse disciplines. Recently, Taiwan also equipped Gambian hospitals with the latest medical equipment. While Taiwan has invested large sums of money into Gambia's development basket, Gambia has continued to advocate for the island of 23 million taking part in the UN and other international organizations. For example, at the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in September, President Jammeh called for Taiwan's full participation in the activities of the international community. Displeasing results - Experts say the answer to why Gambia cut its relationship with Taiwan so suddenly lies in an interview Jammeh granted a reporter with the UK-based New African Magazine following his surprise announcement that Gambia was pulling out of the Commonwealth in September. Jammeh told the reporter that his country would not bow to any institution, government or club that has vestiges of colonialism, reiterating that the warning was not limited to "just the Commonwealth." Although Gambian experts agree that there are no direct indications that the Chinese mainland had anything to do with the move taken by President Jammeh to cut ties with Taiwan, they posit that it is possible that Gambia didn't get what they might have wanted from Taiwan. Oumaru Sessay, a Gambian political analyst based in Nairobi, Kenya told The Global Times that although Taiwan came to Gambia to address poor market access, logistical and economic infrastructures, this might have been done in a way that could have displeased Jammeh. Zhang Zhenglin, a professor with National Taiwan University, told the Global Times in an earlier interview that there are some countries swinging between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan to achieve the best outcomes for their interests. According to Zhang, during the rule of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's dollar diplomacy gave these countries enough space to bargain with Taiwan in exchange for retaining "diplomatic relations." "However, since Ma Ying-jeou took office and adopted the policy of 'diplomatic truce' with the Chinese mainland, it became difficult for these swing countries to make profits from playing both sides," said Zhang. Understandable action What is not in doubt, however, is that a look over the African leader's shoulders at their neighbors will show the Chinese mainland's great development signatures thanks to $200 billion investments into Africa, according to 2012 estimates. Samate Sankareh, an economist, does not rule this out as being more of a reason for President Jammeh to take the action he did. He said Jammeh has simply realized that "he stood better chance with the bigger China." Speaking to the Gambian Press days after Jammeh announced the end of Gambia-Taiwan relations, Muhammed Jah, owner and CEO of QCell GSM Co, said with rising Chinese investments in the region, he supports Jammeh's move as Gambian businesses stand "better opportunities elsewhere and not Taiwan." He was non-committal in his answer on whether he wants the president to establish links with the Chinese mainland. Zhang said that the Chinese mainland seems to have no intention to compete with Taiwan for its diplomatic allies. Li He, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that it's natural for countries to pursue advantages and avoid disadvantages. "It is obvious that the Chinese mainland's economic strength and development trend is much stronger than Taiwan." "In recent years, the Chinese mainland has put large investment into Africa and Latin America, which has pushed the two regions' development," said Li, adding that the trend urged these countries to draw closer with the mainland. ^ top ^

China, UK to boost ties as Cameron voices stance on Tibet (Xinhua)
2013-12-03
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to enhance political and economic ties with the UK as the latter's Prime Minister, David Cameron, voiced opposition against "Tibet Independence." "We two countries must insist on mutual respect and equal treatment, understand and take care of each other's major concerns, properly handle sensitive issues and push for more vigor and results in the Chinese-British comprehensive strategic partnership," Li told Cameron during their Monday talks. Cameron, whose China tour was delayed since his last meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012, said Britain respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, recognizes Tibet as part of China and does not support "Tibet Independence." Li suggested the two countries bolster trade and investment, enhance fiscal and financial cooperation, deepen high-tech cooperation, strengthen people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and consolidate communication and cooperation on international and regional issues. He highlighted China's advantage in nuclear energy and high-speed railway, encouraging China and Britain to tap market potential in the third country. He urged Britain to stick to its anti-protectionism stance, insist on market transparency and openness, maintain the stability and constance of its investment policy, treat Chinese capital, technology and equipment equally and protect the interests of Chinese investors. "China supports the development of the RMB offshore market in London in accordance with the market-driven principle," Li said, urging Britain to support Chinese wholesale banks to open branches there and facilitate the listing and funding of Chinese companies. He suggested the two sides to expand high-tech trade, enhance research and development cooperation in spaceflight, offshore wind farm and new energy. He called on Britain to ease visa procedure for Chinese tourists and business visitors. Li also appealed the two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to enhance cooperation within the UN and the Group of 20 so as to preserve the multilateral trade system and cope with global challenges. "As a major country within the European Union, Britain plays a unique and important role in China-EU relations," Li said during their talks at the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing. He appealed to Britain to further its positive role and contribute to China-EU relations and cooperation. Cameron welcomed Chinese companies and financial institutes, pledged to enhance cooperation with China in trade, investment and science, as well as coordination on international and regional issues. He also vowed to promote EU-China relations, including talks for a EU-China free trade treaty. Cameron arrived in Beijing early Monday morning for a three-day visit to China. ^ top ^

US calls for the scrapping of China's air defence zone (SCMP)
2013-12-03
The US called on China to scrap its newly declared air defence identification zone on Monday, warning that Beijing risked a potentially dangerous confrontation with Japan and its allies at the start of a trip to the region by Vice-President Joe Biden. The explicit request for China to “rescind” threats against unannounced aircraft passing over a chain of islands in the East China sea was made by the US just hours after Biden landed in Tokyo While the US and Japan have made a public show of unity following China's demand last week that all aircraft passing over a disputed island chain identify themselves to Beijing, American and Japanese aviation authorities are adopting divergent positions over whether civilian flights should comply with the Chinese demand. Biden, who arrived in Tokyo late on Monday night local time, now has the task of reassuring Japanese and South Korean allies over their fraught confrontation with China about its expansive so-called “air defence identification zone” (ADIZ). The issue is likely to overshadow a week-long trip to the three Asian countries that US officials had hoped would focus on economic affairs. “I believe this latest incident underscores the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis management and confidence-building measures to lower tensions,” Biden said in an interview with Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper on the eve of his arrival. The dispute over the Japanese-controlled islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, began nine days ago when Beijing unilaterally declared its enlarged ADIZ. The Chinese defence ministry ordered all aircraft flying through the zone to notify Chinese authorities, warning that it would it would “identify, monitor, control and react to” any air threats or unidentified flying objects coming from the sea. Washington has not taken a formal position on the sovereignty of the islands. However, it recognises Tokyo's administrative control, and said explicitly last week that its treaty to defend Japan militarily applies to the islands. The US, in its most direct challenge to Chinese military endeavours in two decades, flew two B-52 bombers through the zone without notifying the Chinese. The US navy has sent P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft to Japan, a long-planned move that gives the allies greater ability to track hostile submarines and other naval ships in Japanese waters. But Washington and Tokyo have appeared out of step on the appropriate response that civilian aircraft should take to the newly-declared Chinese zone. Japan's civilian and commercial aviation companies are defying the ADIZ, declining to give the Chinese prior notification of any passage through the disputed air space. Following Washington's lead, Tokyo has sent military aircraft, including F-15 fighter jets and Awacs surveillance planes, directly through the claimed Chinese zone. For Japan, which has recently reopened debate on its formal post-second world war pacifist defence policies, it has been a notably aggressive response. In contrast, the US Federal Aviation Administration instructed aircraft to comply with the Chinese identification demand in the interest of safety, even as US officials insist they do not recognise the legitimacy of China's air declaration. The discrepancy has upset Japan, despite Washington's repeated insistence last week that its commitment to Japanese security is beyond question. The Japanese TV station NHK quoted a former senior foreign ministry official, Yukia Okimoto, saying the US “hurt Japan's interests over an issue related directly to Japan's national security in a way visible to the whole world.” Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said he would “deal with the matter by co-ordinating closely” with Biden, who will visit Beijing on Wednesday and meet with China's President Xi Jinping. The US vice-president's trip enables him to have face-to-face contact with all the regional players with a stake in the controversy, including South Korea, where he will spend two days meeting senior government officials. South Korea, which has strained relations with Japan, is also being sucked into the dispute. Local reports indicate that Seoul is in the final stages of expanding its own six-decade old air defence identification zone southward, which would overlap with territory claimed by China. The move comes after a defence consultation last week between China and South Korea failed to reassure Seoul that China's expanded zone was aimed exclusively at Japan. China's military is immature by the standards of the US. But the pace of change and increase in military spending in China has been rapid, causing deep concern in the region and in Washington over Beijing's intentions, which Biden will seek to test during his talks in China's capital. The Chinese move, coupled with the evident disparity between American and Japanese responses, has prompted an escalation in a region home to three of the world's largest economies, further complicating the Obama administration's message that the US is itself a Pacific power, and one that has an unshakeable commitment to the security of its allies. It is unclear if Biden will attempt to mediate between China, Japan and South Korea. Aides to the vice-president told reporters last week that Biden would seek only “clarity” from China about its military intentions, but declined to say that he would call for China to reverse its declaration, which Japan is seeking. China has thus far shown no signs of retreating over the zone. It announced that it scrambled its own fighter jets in the air defence identification zone on Friday, an intended challenge to the US and Japan. But the Japanese defence ministry sharply questioned whether the Chinese jets ever actually passed through the zone, issuing a statement saying it spotted no additional air traffic in the area. ^ top ^

55 airlines report flight plans to China: FM (Xinhua)
2013-12-04
Fifty-five airlines in 19 countries and three regions have reported their flight plans to China over the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. "China has gained understanding from an increasing number of countries over the establishment of the zone. People have come to realize it is a safe and cooperative area, rather than risky and confrontational," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing. Hong's comment came after a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, who was in Tokyo for the start of a three-nation tour of Asia, told a news conference on Tuesday that concerns will be raised with leaders in China regarding the newly formed Air Defense Identification Zone in the interest of lowering tensions in the region. "We are willing to keep in touch with relevant parties over technical issues and maintain flight safety and order on the basis of equality and mutual respect," Hong said. He reiterated that China's ADIZ is aimed at defending its national sovereignty, territorial and airspace security, as well as safeguarding flight safety, and is in accord with international laws and practices. The normal flight of international flights in the zone will not be affected, he said. Hong criticized Japan for unilaterally escalating regional tension, and urged it to respect China's legitimate rights, stop provocation and make efforts to improve bilateral ties and regional peace and stability. Other countries should hold an objective and fair view of China's ADIZ, and understand, respect and cooperate with China, Hong said. Biden arrived in Beijing Wednesday morning for a two-day visit and will then fly to the Republic of Korea. hen asked to comment on the National Security Council launched by Japan on Wednesday, Hong said Japan should follow a path of peaceful development and promote regional peace and stability. Due to historical reasons, Asian neighbors and the international community have always watched closely Japan's military and security trends. A number of negative signals have emerged this year, Hong said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denies the history of Japanese aggression, and his deputy is striving to amend its constitution, according to Hong, who said, "How can such remarks assure its Asian neighbors?" The spokesman urged Japan to prioritize the concerns of its neighbors, and follow a peaceful development path in line with the times. ^ top ^

Japan launches security council (China Daily)
2013-12-05
With an eye on China, Japan established its US-style National Security Council on Wednesday, a move that analysts said will speed up Tokyo's policy decisions relating to diplomacy and defense. The launch marked a major step in efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to give the Cabinet greater power to strengthen the country's defense capabilities, said observers. At a news conference on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged Tokyo to respect the security concerns of neighboring countries in East Asia, stick to the path of peaceful development and contribute to peace and stability in the region. For historical reasons, all Asian countries pay great attention to Japan's military and security moves, Hong said. Japan's attempts to change its postwar Constitution does not make its neighbors feel at ease, he added. Analysts said such moves will increase tensions in East Asia and change the status quo in place since World War II ended. "The launch of the organization is one of the main pillars of the expansion of its armed forces and will give Japan more freedom to use its forces," said Zhou Qing'an, a professor of international affairs at Tsinghua University. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution bans the country from maintaining a military, but the interpretation of the article has already been stretched to allow the creation of a military as large as France's. Revising the Constitution is difficult because amendments must be approved by two-thirds of each house of parliament and a majority of voters in a referendum. "The condition is not at the moment ripe for Japan to change its Constitution. The launch of the agency is only a means to an end for Tokyo," Zhou said. "It also paves the way for Japan to send its military overseas," he added. Through diplomatic means, Japan has been overstating threats to its security for a long time, said Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies. "With the new NSC, it becomes easier for Japan to change the Constitution, because Tokyo will surely make its defense policies better fit the ‘security threats," Li said. The NSC will focus primarily on diplomacy and defense, likely discussing a set of defense agenda items that Japan is due to approve by year's end. "It will take leadership in crafting both guidelines and strategy," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference. Abe instructed his Cabinet ministers on Tuesday to take a united approach to security challenges, while Suga said the new NSC will cooperate closely with its foreign counterparts. In January, the NSC will set up a 60-strong secretariat whose offices will have dedicated lines to its counterparts in the United States and Britain, Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported. The newspaper said Japan also plans to ask other nations, including France, Germany, India and Australia, to lay direct hotlines as well to address threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and China, as well as cyberattacks and other security concerns. Meanwhile, as tensions mount in East Asia, the US navy deployed a next-generation P-8A surveillance aircraft to Okinawa, Japan, on Sunday, one day before US Vice-President Joe Biden landed in Tokyo. Four more planes were scheduled to be deployed this week. The planes are intended to boost the ability of the US to monitor submarines and other vessels in regional waters. "The upgrading of jets means an improvement of the surveillance capabilities of the US forces and is one part of its containment policy toward China," said Zhou, the professor from Tsinghua University. Tokyo and Washington will also step up joint warning and surveillance activities over the islands in Okinawa and other parts of the East China Sea. The US military's Global Hawk unmanned spy planes will be heavily involved in these activities around the Diaoyu Islands. Japan's E-2C early warning aircraft will be involved in the ramped-up joint activities. ^ top ^

China, Ukraine agree to strengthen strategic partnership (Xinhua)
2013-12-05
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Beijing on Thursday, vowing to further bilateral strategic partnership. "China-Ukraine relations have entered a fast track for long-term healthy and stable development since strategic partnership was established in 2011," Xi told Yanukovych. China and Ukraine should view bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, adhere to mutual respect, equality and win-win principles to strengthen cooperation and ensure their bilateral relationship moves in the right direction, Xi said. Xi put forward four proposals on furthering bilateral ties, including increasing high-level exchanges and strategic mutual trust, pragmatic cooperation, cultural exchanges and collaboration in international and regional affairs. Xi suggested more exchanges between governments, legislative institutions and parties as well as more channels for policy coordination so that both sides can exchange views on major issues of bilateral relations in a timely manner and seek common ground. China and Ukraine should firmly support each other on major issues concerning national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and the development path of their own choice, Xi said. He called on the two sides to give full play to the intergovernmental cooperation commission, strengthening cooperation in agriculture, energy, infrastructure, finance and high-tech and gradually promote large project partnership. He said he hoped Ukraine can offer a more favorable, convenient environment for Chinese businesses. China and Ukraine should enhance understanding of each other by increasing exchanges in science, education, culture, health, sport, tourism and youth, Xi said. Xi said the two countries should work to build a fair and just new international political order, tackle global challenges and protect mutual interests. Hailing Ukraine's important contribution to the communication between Eastern and Western civilizations, Xi said China welcomes Ukraine to participate in the building of the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and is willing to discuss cooperation. Yanukovych echoed Xi's proposals to deepen bilateral ties, saying it serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples. Ukraine firmly advocates the one-China policy and supports China's national unification, and is ready to enhance high-level and party exchanges, as well as pragmatic cooperation, cultural exchanges and coordination in international and regional affairs, Yanukovych said. Ukraine applauds China's "Silk Road Economic Belt" proposal and is willing to participate in the building of infrastructure. Ukraine welcomes more Chinese investment and is ready to facilitate the issuing of visas, Yanukovych said. China and Ukraine tabled a plan on Thursday to deepen their strategic partnership from 2014 to 2018, including key areas of cooperation in agriculture, energy, resources, infrastructure construction, finance, high-tech, aviation and aerospace. After their talks, the two heads of state signed a treaty of friendly cooperation and a joint statement. They also witnessed the signing of cooperative documents on economy and technology. Prior to their talks at the Great Hall of the People, Xi held a welcoming ceremony for Yanukovych. ^ top ^

'We've not tried this before': Biden calls for 'candid' relationship with China (SCMP)
2013-12-06
US Vice-President Joe Biden wrapped up his mission to China yesterday with a clear message to leaders in Beijing: Our future depends on us working together and managing differences effectively. After 5-1/2 hours of intensive discussion with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, Biden spent a leisurely day in Beijing, cracking jokes with his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao and Premier Li Keqiang. Despite the overwhelming media focus on China's newly created air defence identification zone, the topic did not appear to dominate Biden's discussions with Xi. However, Biden did raise the issue again in yesterday's talks with business leaders and the two top Chinese officials. Overall, he focused on the importance of the two countries building a new kind of relationship and learning how to work out their differences without compromising the greater strategic goals. "We have our differences and they are real. But there's nothing inevitable about a conflict with China. Nothing inevitable," Biden told the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. He said it was crucial for the two sides to establish a set of rules that provide for "mutual benefit and growth of both our countries and the region". "The only path to realising this vision for the future is through tangible, practical co-operation and managing our differences effectively. We've not tried this before," said the vice-president, who then repeated the message again for emphasis. "This is going to be difficult. But if we get it right, the outcome for our children and grandchildren can be profoundly positive," he said. Aside from the air defence zone, Biden also took up the cause of foreign journalists facing banishment from China for news coverage, publicly criticising Beijing's efforts to pressure reporters. But he stressed the importance of developing a "candid, personal and trustful" relationship with China's top leaders. Biden appeared at ease and was at his best in the meeting yesterday with the Chinese premier and vice-president. When introducing his entourage to Premier Li, Biden described assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel as "somebody who worked in Hollywood as he was wearing sunglasses indoors", and said National Security Council senior director Evan Medeiros was "with the NSA", bringing a smile to his host. When Li noted that the two countries will soon mark the 35th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, Biden replied that he remembered all those years. "I can only imagine the progress we can make in the next 35 years if we stay committed to a straightforward and candid relationship that we have developed … It is in our power to do that." Mainland media played up the "positive approach" of Biden's trip. "He fell short of publicly calling for China's immediate withdrawal of the air defence identification zone, which Japan had hoped [Biden] could mention. A discrepancy between Tokyo and Washington was spotted in their responses to the newly declared ADIZ over the East China Sea," Xinhua said in a news analysis. China News Services also pointed out how Biden did not let the issue spoil overall relations with China. "The two countries have more important issues at hand than the ADIZ," it quoted a mainland expert as saying. ^ top ^

French PM starts 5-day visit to China (Global Times)
2012-12-06
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault Thursday arrived in China for a five-day visit, which is expected to be dominated by trade issues. Ayrault is the third leader of a major power to visit China this week, coming on the heels of British Prime Minister David Cameron and US Vice President Joe Biden. The French prime minister headed a delegation that includes five cabinet members and several business leaders to Beijing on Thursday. He will hold a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday, and then travel to Wuhan and Guangzhou. According to a press release from the French Embassy in Beijing, the visit aims to prepare for next year's celebrations of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and France. Speaking to reporters at the Palace Museum in Beijing on Thursday, Ayrault said that "the future of employment in France also depends on this immense market in China." "We have to rebalance our trade flows. Today they work in China's favor, but in future years, they will become balanced if... France steps up to the plate," he said. One item expected to be at the top of the agenda is agribusiness, an area of increasing opportunity for France as Chinese consumers "are more and more demanding in terms of food safety," Ayrault noted. "The new Chinese leadership has a real strategy, and it would be a real mistake for France not to understand that she has a card to play with her big companies and her small and medium-size companies," he said. "That's the drive of my visit." According to the French Embassy, some 2,200 French enterprises have set up branches in China and provided more than 500,000 positions. Meanwhile, around 200 Chinese enterprises have investments in France. On people-to-people exchange, Ayrault estimated that in the future, as many as 300 million Chinese could be persuaded to visit France. France is the top European destination for Chinese tourists, with a record 1.4 million visitors from China last year. The two countries are also expected to mark the 30th anniversary of Sino-French cooperation on civil nuclear power during the French prime minister's visit. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

China launches probe and rover to moon (China Daily)
2013-12-02
China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with its first moon rover aboard early on Monday. The lunar probe, aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket, blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China at 1:30 a.m. Monday. It is the first time for China to send a spacecraft to soft land on the surface of an extraterrestrial body. Also, it is the first moon lander launched in the 21st century. So far, only the United States and the former Soviet Union have soft-landed on the moon. Chang'e-3 comprises a lander and a moon rover called "Yutu" (Jade Rabbit). The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything goes according to plan. Old Chinese myth has it that, after swallowing magic pills, Chang'e took her pet "Yutu" and flew toward the moon, where she became a goddess, and has lived there with the white rabbit ever since. Chang'e-3's mission presents a modern scientific version of the myth. The lunar probe comprises a lander and a moon rover. The lunar probe will land on the moon in mid-December if everything goes according to plan. Tasks for the moon rover include surveying the moon's geological structure and surface substances, while looking for natural resources. It will set up a telescope on the moon first time in human history, observe the plasmasphere over the Earth and survey the moon surface through radar. Chang'e-3 is part of the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to the Earth. It follows the success of the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010. After orbiting for 494 days and intentionally crashing onto the lunar surface, Chang'e-1 sent back 1.37 terabytes of data, producing China's first complete moon picture. Launched on October 1, 2010, Chang'e-2 verified some crucial technologies for Chang'e-3 and reconnoitered the landing area. It also made the world's first lunar holographic image with a resolution of 7 meters. Currently Chang'e-2 is more than 60 million kilometers away from Earth and has become China's first man-made asteroid. It is heading for deep space and is expected to travel as far as 300 million km from the Earth, the longest voyage of any Chinese spacecraft. China is likely to realize the third step of its lunar program in 2017, which is to land a lunar probe on moon, release a moon rover and return the probe to the Earth. Lunar probe mission is of great scientific and economic significance, said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the lunar probe. The mission has contributed to the development of a number of space technologies and some of them can be applied in civilian sector, he said. The moon is also considered the first step to explore a further extraterrestrial body, such as the Mars. If successful, the mission will mean China has the ability of in-situ exploration on an extraterrestrial body, said Sun Huixian, deputy engineer-in-chief in charge of the second phase of China's lunar program. "China's space exploration will not stop at the moon," he said. "Our target is deep space." China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third country after Russia and the United States to achieve independent manned space travel. Despite fast progress of the lunar mission, China is still a newcomer in this field. The former Soviet Union first landed its probe on the moon on January 31, 1966, while the United States first sent human beings to the moon in 1969. About a day before the launch of Chang'e-3, India's maiden Mars orbiter, named Mangalyaan, left the Earth early on Sunday for a 300-day journey to the Red Planet. Chinese space scientists are looking forward to cooperation with other countries, including the country's close neighbor India. Li Benzheng, deputy commander-in-chief of China's lunar program, told media earlier that China's space exploration does not aim at competition. "We are open in our lunar program, and cooperation from other countries is welcome," he said. "We hope to explore and use space for more resources to promote human development." ^ top ^

Official details China's judicial reform plans (Xinhua)
2013-12-02
China's authority on judicial system reform has expatiated on plans to reform the country's petition system and abolish its controversial "reeducation through labor" program. Monday's edition of the People's Daily quoted an unidentified official with the central leading group for the reform as saying that the petition system will be overhauled to protect the public's fundamental interests. Petitioning, also known as "letters and calls," is the administrative system for hearing public complaints and grievances. China will reform its petition system and authorities must respond to petitions within the legal framework, according to a key policy document approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Nov. 12. Petitions regarding legal and judicial systems should be left for judicial remedies and handled by judiciary agencies in accordance with laws, the official said, adding bureaus for letters and calls will not accept such cases. Judiciary agencies should finish handling such petitions within legal time limits set by legal procedures, the official noted. The CPC Central Committee also pledged at the session to abolish the "reeducation through labor" system, commonly known as "Laojiao." The correction system was adopted in 1957 to take in minor offenders whose offence is not severe enough to warrant court proceedings. It allows for people to be detained for up to four years without an open trial. "With the improvement of China's legal system, those minor offenders can be punished in accordance with current laws through rigid legal procedures," the official said, adding that the number of people committed to Laojiao labor camps has gradually decreased in the past few years. According to the source, social stability has been maintained since the correction system was suspended nationwide in March and it is time to abolish the system, while proposals to do so are being drafted and will be submitted to the top legislature for an amendment to the laws. To fill in the blanks after the Laojiao program is abolished, China will promote community correction programs, the official said, with these believed to help offenders better return to society China introduced community correction schemes in 2003. About 1.7 million offenders have been through the program and the recidivism rate remains at 0.2 percent. ^ top ^

Property in legal limbo (Global Times)
2013-12-03
China has recently committed itself to reforming land usage policies, outlining mechanisms to be used in the future. However, recent policy announcements have further confused owners and potential buyers of so-called "limited rights" properties. The term limited rights property refers to commercial real estate developments constructed on collectively owned land - usually village land - unlike normal properties that are built on officially warranted land for which the developer has paid a transaction fee to the government. Due to the unpaid land transaction fees, which could be as much as billions of yuan according to the land's commercial value, limited rights properties usually cost thousands of yuan per square meter less than normal properties in similar locations. As property prices soar in Chinese cities, this form of affordable housing, though illegal and without ownership certificates, has secured a growing market share. Forceful demolitions of such houses have appeared around the country, when local governments were determined to clear the market. Buyers of these properties have long speculated that the government would some day recognize the legal status of this housing. The Communist Party of China plenum in early November stated that rural land, once allowed to enter the market, should be given equal treatment as urban land for commercial usage, but this was followed by a conflicting yet reiterated ban on limited rights properties jointly issued by two ministries in charge of land and construction. At the same time, the dismantling of limited rights properties has continued, leaving owners extremely anxious. ^ top ^

China puts anti-corruption activist Liu Ping on trial: lawyers (SCMP)
2013-12-03
Three Chinese anti-corruption activists who unfurled banners calling for government officials to declare their assets stood trial on Tuesday for “illegal assembly”, a lawyer said, despite an official campaign against graft. An anti-corruption drive championed by China's President Xi Jinping has been heavily publicised in state-run media, but the ruling Communist party keeps a tight grip on political dissent and the case is seen as part of a clampdown on citizens who publicly demand reforms. Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua – charged after taking photographs of themselves displaying the banners outside a housing complex in April – all pleaded not guilty, one of their lawyers said, adding that illegal assembly carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Asset disclosure is seen by some as a key change that could help China prevent graft after reports of enormous wealth amassed by officials and their families. Si Weijiang, an attorney for Liu, said that at the hearing “we discussed the facts of the charge of illegal assembly, which are somewhat ridiculous – they just took photos outside an apartment. “It has become a secret hearing, with only two family members let into the court to observe proceedings,” he said. “The court has violated regulations on holding open trials.” The court in Xinyu, in the central province of Jiangxi, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Liu, 48, an unemployed former steel worker, is associated with the “new citizens movement”, a loose grouping of activists calling for reforms to China's legal system, her daughter Liao Minyue said. Liu was arrested in May, she said, adding that police had been stationed at her house ahead of the trial and followed her when she ventured outside, with one officer threatening to beat her. “If the law was really respected, this case would never have gone to trial, so I don't have any hope for a just verdict,” she said. At least 15 others involved in the group have also been detained in recent months, according to US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW). The case is “a bellwether of the new Chinese leadership's attitude toward peaceful activism”, HRW said in a statement, adding: “Anything short of acquittal will seriously undermine the credibility of the government's claims to be cracking down on corruption.” The trio's trial was originally due to take place last month, but was suspended after they withdrew permission for their lawyers to represent them in protest at what they called the court's “illegal conduct”, including banning some witnesses from appearing. One of Li's replacement attorneys Pu Zhiqiang accused the court of again breaking regulations by not letting witnesses who were allowed at the earlier hearing testify in the new proceedings. “Everyone knows these people did not commit any crime,” he said. “We think this is a chance for the courts to improve their image.” Liu Ping faces further charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place”, and “using an evil cult to undermine the law”, Si said, adding that the hearing was likely to continue on Wednesday. ^ top ^

US-funded Lantern program allows mainland Chinese to view banned websites (SCMP)
2013-12-05
Lantern, a new software programme which allows internet users to circumvent government-imposed censorship, is seeing rapid growth in China as more people are using it to bypass the Great Firewall of China to access websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. “China just cleared 10,000 users,” Chris Holmes, a product manager behind the computer application, told the South China Morning Post in an email. “Two weeks ago, it was probably 200.” Holmes is one of five software developers at Brave New Software developing the application, which is currently available in a beta version. The software allows users in countries with free internet access to donate a share of their internet bandwidth to users in countries where some websites are blocked, such as China or Iran. Once they log in, a share of their traffic is channeled through the network. Lantern calls itself a trust network, because it sends this traffic only through users separated from him or her by four degrees, or, in other words, everyone a user could meet by four rounds of introductions. Snooping by government agencies could therefore not be ruled out, Holmes said. “Lantern is a tool to provide access – it is not designed to prevent monitoring,” he cautioned. Invites to download the software were originally shared exclusively via friends and like-minded contacts on Google Chat, a chat service provided by the world's most popular search engine provider. By the middle of November, however, explanations on how to access the software started to appear on Chinese online forums. Internet celebrities like Beijing-based artist Ai Weiwei have mentioned Lantern in tweets. (…) As of Wednesday, 77.9 per cent of the software's 13,000 users are in China. They have transferred some 3.9 terabytes of data across the firewall, or 92.9 per cent of Lantern's global traffic. The software is financed by US$2.2 million (HK$17.1 million) seed funding by the US State Department, said Holmes. This year, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development have awarded US$25 million to groups working to advance internet freedom, according to the State Department's Office of International Communications and Information Policy. Adam Fisk, president of Brave New Software, said he was optimistic about the future of an uncensored internet when he spoke at a TED-talk in Hoboken in September. “We are now shifting from building Lantern, the software, to building Lantern, the movement,” he said. Fisk was one of the geeks behind LimeWire, a free peer-to-peer file sharing platform which allowed the sharing of pirated music and films. In 2011, the Recording Industry Association of America famously sought a record US$72 trillion in damages from the LimeWire for the copyright violations it allegedly caused. Fisk said the Lantern software was first put to test in the Iranian presidential elections in June this year. In October, Google revealed it was working with Fisk's team and the University of Washington to develop uProxy, a browser extension which, just like Lantern, uses peer-to-peer technology to evade internet censorship. For one IT expert in Guangzhou, who requested anonymity, Lantern is the most intuitive tool to access the internet freely he has seen so far, he said. Yet, concerns persist that the Chinese government might find a way to stop it from spreading. Wen Yunchao, a New York-based internet activist who has spread the word about the software, said he was worried its increasing popularity could lead to Chinese authorities shutting down Google Chat. “They might even shut down Gmail, if they figure it out,” he wrote in an email. ^ top ^

Rights advocate Wang Gongquan latest to give video confession (SCMP)
2013-12-06
Wang Gongquan, an outspoken advocate for greater civic involvement on the mainland, has confessed to disturbing the public order less than three months after being detained by Beijing police, three people said. The former venture capitalist is a close friend and supporter of arrested anti-corruption and rights activist Xu Zhiyong. Wang made video statements to police and said he would "sever the relationship" with Xu, if "that is what the authorities want", the people said. One of the people said Wang's gaunt appearance in the video added to fears that he had been mistreated during his detention. Wang, 52, was taken from his Beijing home on September 13 and formally arrested in October on a charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb order in public places". Late on Wednesday, Wang's lawyer, Chen Youxi, said on his verified microblog account that Beijing police had told Wang's wife that her husband had volunteered to dismiss him as his defence counsel. "We cannot verify if the dismissal is based on Wang's own interests," Chen said, adding the detention facility where Wang was being held had rejected his most recent request for a meeting with Wang. However, Chen said in another microblog post yesterday that he might remain Wang's lawyer during trial. The people also said there was a possibility Wang's statements would be shown on China Central Television to demonstrate his willingness to co-operate with authorities to get a lighter punishment. In recent months, several suspects, including popular Weibo commentator Charles Xue Biqun, also known by his penname Xue Manzi, have appeared on national television to admit guilt even before authorities filed charges against them. Wang's arrest was widely seen as a result of his close links to Xu, one of the mainland's best-known civil rights campaigners. He joined a protest with Xu to win the release of detained petitioners from a "black jail" - unofficial detention centres for petitioners - in Beijing in 2011, and later helped Xu fund the New Citizen movement. After Xu was detained on the same charge in mid-July and formally arrested in late August, Wang helped to initiate a signature campaign for his release. At least 18 people involved in the New Citizen movement, which seeks for democracy, rule of law and civil rights, have been detained or arrested since April. One of the group's goals has also been the public disclosure of officials' assets. Some in the mainland activist community argue that the crackdown shows the Communist Party is not interested in long-term measures to address the country's corruption problem, even as it carries out a national campaign against graft. Wang's confession sparked heated debate on the internet after the South China Morning Post broke the news online. "We shall understand and support the decision Mr Wang made," one internet user wrote on Sina Weibo. "The democratic process of a nation cannot be accelerated by one's sacrifice." ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Proposals announced to boost Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SCMP)
2013-12-03
The mainland's central bank has announced detailed reform guidelines to support the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, but foreign investors are still questioning just how free the zone will be. In a six-page report that included 30 detailed instructions, the People's Bank of China said yesterday it would allow residents of the zone - seen as a test bed for liberalising the financial sector - to set up "resident free trade accounts" in both domestic and foreign currencies, and would allow yuan to be fully convertible under those accounts "when the time is ripe". The 29 sq km zone, the first of its kind on the mainland, was set up two months ago and the guidelines suggest it will offer benefits that Beijing has been reluctant to offer other pilot areas. For example, "qualified" individual investors will be able to make various foreign investments, including trading overseas securities, a landmark measure that the eastern city of Wenzhou has been lobbying over for years without gaining final approval from Beijing due to capital flight concerns. Firms within the zone will also be able to borrow money from overseas lenders and use the proceeds outside the zone, a big relaxation compared with Shenzhen's Qianhai, which says that non-financial firms that borrow offshore yuan must use the proceeds in that zone. However, the blueprint is still seen by economists as "conservative" because it does not give a clear time frame for the yuan's full convertibility and avoided mention of widely anticipated rules on deposit rate relaxation. "The guideline is milder than what the market has expected," said Liao Qun, chief economist and head of research at China CITIC Bank International. "It seems a conservative view is dominant in the decision-making body and they don't want to try bold financial reforms." The market had been expecting Beijing to try scrapping - or at least raising - the cap on bank deposit rates to allow banks to pay savers market rates on deposits in the zone. However, the central bank only said it would lift the cap on rates for some small foreign-currency deposits when "conditions are ready" and allow certain qualified institutions to issue certificates of deposit. "The overall liberalisation process will happen in a controlled and gradual manner, and will be closely monitored by the PBOC through the special account arrangement," said Barclays economist Chang Jian. Official data shows 38 foreign firms are among the roughly 1,400 to have registered in the zone, reflecting external investors' doubts over the level of Beijing's commitment to pushing ahead with reform. China Banking Regulatory Commission approval was still needed before any account could be set up in the zone, said Liu Ligang, chief China economist at ANZ Banking Group, who added that the key question now was how to control the flow of capital. "It seems everyone could shift their capital there as the guideline lacks a clear definition on who can open accounts in the zone and who cannot," Liu said. "This is very dangerous. Such loose rules could cause huge hot money inflows into mainland China and make the domestic asset bubble even bigger." ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

5.3-magnitude quake hits Xinjiang (China Daily)
2013-12-01
A 5.3-magnitude earthquake jolted Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region at 4:34 pm Sunday (Beijing Time), according to the China Earthquake Networks Center. The epicenter, with a depth of 9 km, was at 40.3 degrees north latitude and 79.0 degrees east longitude, the center said in a statement. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

17 people in isolation amid scare over Hong Kong's first H7N9 bird flu case (SCMP)
2013-12-04
Seventeen people are in isolation after coming into contact with an Indonesian domestic helper who is the first person in Hong Kong to be infected with the deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu. They are among more than 200 people who have been placed under observation as a precaution, the Centre for Health Protection said yesterday. Those in isolation either lived in the same Tuen Mun flat as the patient or were in the same cubicle as her when she was treated in Tuen Mun Hospital. The Indonesian consulate confirmed the patient was 36-year-old Tri Mawarti. The centre's controller, Dr Leung Ting-hung, said: "There is so far no evidence to show the virus has spread to another person. According to the assessments of the World Health Organisation and Centre for Health Protection, the risk of locals contracting H7N9 has not increased or changed." Tri was transferred to the intensive care unit at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam on Saturday, where she is in critical condition. Indonesia's vice-consul for public affairs Sam Aryadi said she would be offered as much help as possible. Of the 17 classified as high-risk, 11 had tested negative in preliminary examinations but would undergo more tests, Leung said. They are 10 members of the family the helper lived with and an Indonesian friend, aged 33, who accompanied her on November 17 to Shenzhen, where they killed and cooked a chicken. All 17 were isolated at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung. Five of them, who had shown no symptoms, would be transferred to the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung, a site the government had reserved for quarantine purposes, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said. Six of the 17 who had yet to be tested were patients at Tuen Mun Hospital while Tri was there for four days. Others under observation include staff from the clinics of Dr Simon Wong Siu-shan on Castle Peak Road - which Tri visited on November 25 - and Dr Wong Chun-yan in Tuen Mun, which she visited the next day. The rest are staff and patients of the two public hospitals and a member of ambulance staff who handled Tri's transfer. On Wednesday morning, two private clinics visited by the Indonesian domestic helper infected with the deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu remained open. A clinic nurse of Dr Simon Wong Siu-shan, who was among the 200 people placed under observation for having contact with the infected helper, said the doctor was seeing patients and declined an interview. A male patient who was seen by Dr Wong at the Castle Peak Road clinic said he was not worried that the doctor may have been exposed to H7N9. "It is not likely that there is any big risk," he said. A staff member working at a cake shop next to the clinic said the fact that the helper's live-in family had not been infected proved that there was nothing to worry about. Medical experts said that as Tri's infection was only confirmed after a third H7N9 test, this suggested a preliminary viral test might not be accurate enough. The University of Hong Kong's chair of virology, Professor Malik Peiris, said the virus might not be detectable when the strength was low. "The avian influenza virus is found deep in the lungs. The patient's first two samples were taken from the upper respiratory tract because she was not so sick at the time. The third time it was taken from her lungs." His university colleague, Ho Pak-leung, said evidence in four clusters of patients on the mainland suggested the virus could have developed a limited ability to pass from person to person. The H7N9 virus has killed 45 of the 138 people infected on the mainland since the first human case was reported in February. One person has also been infected in Taiwan. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

China Focus: Mainland chief negotiator wraps up Taiwan tour (Global Times)
2013-12-03
The Chinese mainland's chief negotiator Chen Deming visited Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group's headquarters in New Taipei City on Tuesday, wrapping up his eight-day tour to Taiwan. Chen and his business delegation left Taiwan for the mainland after visiting the high-tech firm. At the invitation of Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), Chen, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), arrived in the island on Nov. 26, leading the delegation. It was his first visit to the island as ARATS president. The ARATS and the SEF are authorized by both sides to handle cross-Strait issues. The principal agenda of the trip was to "seek cooperation opportunities from the island's further economic liberation," according to Chen. Chen said Foxconn has upgraded from a pure contract manufacturer to an integral solution provider prioritizing research and development. The chief negotiator said he was pleased that Foxconn already partnered with mainland research institutes in pursuing technological innovations. "I was mostly impressed by the carbon nano-tube technology the company is working on together with mainland-based Tsinghua University," Chen said. Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, has plants across several mainland cities. During the visit, the delegation visited the ports of Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. Delegates studied Taiwan's free economic pilot zones, which play a big part in the island's export-oriented economy. They also visited agricultural, industrial and science parks, as well as fast-growing enterprises in several cities, including Taipei, Pingtung, Kaohsiung, Taichung and Hsinchu. Delegates discovered opportunities during the tour. Jian Danian, deputy director of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone Administration, said he hoped the Shanghai zone can work with the Port of Taichung to improve international transshipment volume. Zhao Guoqing, co-chairman of online retailer JD.com in the mainland, identified business opportunities after visiting Pingtung's agricultural high-tech park. "Taiwan has quality agricultural products, while the mainland has a vast market for them. We will explore ways to connect the two through B2B [business-to-business] channels," Zhao said. Li Lihui, president of Bank of China, expects closer cooperation between financial institutions across the Strait, arguing if mainland and Taiwan banks work together in offering loans to Taiwanese businesses going global, they can land bigger investment or merger projects. "Chen has first-hand knowledge about Taiwan's businesses, agricultural industry and labor conditions. He has made friends with people from all sectors in Taiwan, which will help him in promoting cross-Strait relationships as ARATS president," said Cheng You-ping, political science professor with the Taipei University. ^ top ^

 

Economy

IPO freeze to end early 2014 (Global Times)
2013-12-02
China's top securities market regulator said it will lift its freeze on initial public offerings (IPOs) early next year, signaling that a comprehensive reform of the financial market is underway, analysts said Sunday. China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said Saturday that about 50 companies, which have received IPO clearance from the regulator, will be able to go public by next January. China's top leaders vowed in the decisions on comprehensive reform released after the conclusion of the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee that it will carry out significant reform in the financial sector, and push for a market-oriented, registration-based stock issuance system. Zhao Xijun, deputy director of the Finance and Securities Institute at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times Sunday that ending the moratorium on IPOs is an important step for the CSRC to nurture a fairer securities market without the government's unnecessary intervention. China shut down its IPO window 13 months ago in order to investigate into fraudulent information disclosures of companies and intermediaries, and also boost share prices in the stock market. The CSRC said in the guideline that it will put proper information disclosure as a priority of its regulatory efforts, and it will increase the transparency of its review process for companies seeking IPOs. Zhu Lixu, a Shanghai-based analyst with Xiangcai Securities, told the Global Times on Sunday that the CSRC plans to resume IPO clearance in an effort to increase investors' confidence and enable companies to seek funding. "Since next year, companies will be able to obtain financing in the primary market, and investors will have more diversified investment options and will no longer to be stuck in the secondary market," Zhu said. "China's current securities market will become more transparent and healthier." The commission will likely finish reviewing documents of 760 companies that are queuing to get listed in China by the end of next year, it said Saturday in a press meeting. It will make a decision on whether to approve a company to go public within three months of receiving the application, the guideline said, instead of years under the current system. Chen Yaoxiang, chairman of Gansu Zhongtian Group, told the Global Times Sunday that he submitted an application for listing last June, but finally gave up on the plan this year and is preparing to get listed on an over-the-counter market next February. "My company and my stakeholders cannot wait that long to get financing. That would be detrimental to our business," Chen said. The CSRC said that it will put protecting small and medium investors' rights at the top of the agenda. Issuers, underwriters and other intermediaries will be responsible for compensating investors who make losses due to fraudulent statements or major omissions stated in IPO application documents, the commission said. ^ top ^

China seeks WTO dispute settlement with US (Global Times)
2013-12-03
China wants negotiations with the United States under the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute-settlement mechanism over anti-dumping measures by the US against Chinese products, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Tuesday. "In its anti-dumping investigations and reviews, the US has inappropriately applied targeted-dumping methodology, denied companies separate tax rates, and used unfavorable facts," the ministry's spokesman Shen Danyang said in a statement. "These practices not complying with WTO rules have resulted in the mistaken confirmation that Chinese products are dumped, and severely magnified the dumping margins," Shen said. The spokesman said anti-dumping measures launched by the US, totaling 13 and covering products such as oil well pipelines, involved a total export value of 8.4 billion US dollars. "The wrong practices by the US have seriously damaged the legitimate interests of Chinese companies, with which domestic industries are strongly dissatisfied," Shen said. He said that China is resolutely against misuse of trade remedy rules and protectionism. "China will also determinedly maintain its rights as a WTO member and safeguard the interests of domestic industries," he said. He added that China wishes to seek negotiations with the US under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, and hopes that the US can correct its wrong practices and properly address China's concerns. ^ top ^

Chinese yuan dominates global bitcoin trade (SCMP)
2013-12-04
The yuan accounts for most of the trade in bitcoins as trading of the unregulated digital currency soars in the world's second-largest economy. By noon yesterday, about 58 per cent of the global trade during the preceding 24 hours occurred on exchanges trading the mainland currency, according to open-source research project BitcoinAverage. According to the aggregator of market data, China's trading volume in the period reached 827 million yuan (HK$1 billion). Trades in US dollars account for roughly 37 per cent of global volume. Trades in euros account for slightly less than 2 per cent. No other currency accounts for more than one per cent of trade, according to BitcoinAverage. Fortunes have already been made in China via the virtual currency. The value of a bitcoin in China soared 861.02 per cent from 844.75 yuan on September 3, the earliest data available on BitcoinAverage, to its peak value last Friday of 7273.47 yuan. The virtual currency was trading at between 6,300 and 6,400 yuan on Tuesday morning on major Chinese exchanges. Unlike with previous virtual currencies, China's deputy central bank governor Yi Gang said last month that bitcoins could be freely traded, although the government would not accept them as currency. A provincial subsidiary of state-run China Telecom even said it would accept payment in the virtual currency. Jiangsu Telecom said last week it would accept the virtual currency for pre-orders of a new Samsung phone. “China is driving the volume predominantly for two reasons: speculation and mining,” said Zennon Kapron, managing director fo the Shanghai-based financial advisory firm Kapronasia. “Returns on Bitcoin this year have surpassed real estate which previously was the best performing mainstream asset class in China, which has naturally attracted more attention and further driven the price up.” Kapron said it was natural for China, the world's biggest manufacturer of bitcoin mining equipment, to play a large role in the trade. Li Lin, head of the Beijing-based Huobi trading platform, told the Beijing Morning Post last week that the majority of new bitcoin traders are women. Another trend is the popularisation of the currency beyond IT geeks and financial experts, she said, adding that a third of the trades on Huobi were made by large investors trading more than a million yuan. Li did not reply to requests for comment. Another trend seen is the popularisation of the currency beyond IT geeks and financial experts, she said, adding that a third of the trades on Huobi were made by large investors trading more than a million yuan. Li did not reply to requests for comment. Liu Jun, the Shenzhen-based CEO of the GoX trading platform told the Post he agreed that non-professionals were increasingly trading in bitcoins, but that men still dominated trades on GoX by about 80 per cent. The trading platform, which launched in June and is registered in Hong Kong, has had up to 20,000 users, who on average invest between 20,000 and 100,000 yuan in the virtual currency, he said. The youngest trader on his platform is 20 years old, while the oldest is in his forties. On Monday, the platform registered a turnover of 64 million yuan in 10,000 trades, he said. The 30-year old software engineer from Changsha, Hunan province, said bitcoins were bound to rise in popularity as they offered a democratic alternative to the stock exchange. “There are so many manoeuvres behind the scenes determining the trading of stocks in China, whereas bitcoins offer a fair trade,” he said. (...) GoX's Liu Jun estimated that between one and two million Chinese have so far traded in bitcoins. These numbers are bound to increase in smaller cities if the Chinese government did not intervene, he said. (...). ^ top ^

Bitcoin price dive after China warning (Xinhua)
2013-12-05
China's financial and payment institutions should not accept Bitcoin as legal tender, Chinese authorities said on Thursday, warning of the risks related to the digital currency. Within one hour following the warning, per Bitcoin price plunged by as much as 35 percent at BTC China, the main Bitcoin trading platform in the country. The warning was issued in a notice jointly released by the People's Bank of China (central bank) and four ministerial departments -- Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China Banking Regulatory Commission, China Securities Regulatory Commission and China Insurance Regulatory Commission. The warning is aimed at protecting the property rights of the public, safeguarding the Renminbi status as a fiat currency, preventing money laundering and maintaining financial stability in China, said the notice. The notice said Bitcoins are not issued by any monetary authorities and do not contain the currency function of being legal tender with a government decree. They do not have the same legal status as fiat currencies, and should not be circulated in the market. The notice, however, admitted Chinese people can make Bitcoin transactions at their own risk on the Internet. It demanded financial and payment institutions not to price their products or services with Bitcoins, or to engage in transactions involving Bitcoins, or to accept insurances related to Bitcoins. The notice also told Bitcoin-transaction online platforms to register at China's telecom industry regulator in accordance with laws, and to carry out anti-laundering obligations by identifying its consumers and reporting suspicious transactions. The Chinese central bank will continue monitoring activities involving Bitcoins and related risks, it added. After the release of the notice, the price of one Bitcoin at BTC China dived from 6,970 yuan (1,137 U.S. dollars) to as low as just over 4,500 yuan in about one hour, down by 35 percent. It rebounded to about 5,500 yuan per Bitcoin at around 7 p.m. Beijing Time. BTC China, on its website, warns investors that Bitcoin transactions contain extraordinarily high risks, as it does not have a daily 10-percent limit of rising or falling as the Chinese stock market. Also, it is open around the clock for transactions. An estimated 1.8 million Bitcoins were traded in November on BTC China. It is China's largest Bitcoin trading platform aimed at investors buying and selling with the Chinese currency Renminbi, or yuan. The central bank, in a separate statement, identified three major risks related to Bitcoins -- speculative, money laundering and being used by criminals. Police in east China's Zhejiang Province recently detained three people who allegedly operated an online Bitcoin trading platform, shut it down unexpectedly, and vanished with investors' assets. Police said the trading volume of the platform, which claimed to be based in Hong Kong, ranked fourth in the country. By the end of September, the platform had attracted 4,493 registered users. The platform closed unexpectedly on Oct. 26, with a hacker's message on its homepage and its management team out of reach, the police said. Bitcoins, which are stored in a virtual wallet, can pass from person to person around the world in secret, allowing users to remain anonymous. It bypasses both banks and banking regulators worldwide. The Chinese public became aware of the digital currency in April, when movie star Jet Li's One Foundation received a donation of several hundred Bitcoins to help quake-stricken Sichuan Province. ^ top ^

China aims to establish network of high-level FTAs (China Daily)
2013-12-05
China plans to build a high-level network of free trade agreements while pledging to act as a firm supporter of the multilateral trade system under the World Trade Organization, trade officials said on Wednesday. "China has basically established a platform of free trade agreements covering neighboring regions and FTA networks radiating the continents," Yao Jian, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters in Beijing. In the comprehensive reform plan released in November, China vowed to speed up its FTA strategy based on trade pacts with neighboring economies and to develop a global and high-standard FTA network. "High-standard means more facilitation of goods trade, trade in services as well as investment," said Li Guanghui, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank of the ministry. Sun Yuanjiang, deputy director general of the ministry's Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs, said that the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone will "break new ground and allow us to gain experience" to build future FTAs. "The pilot programs in the Shanghai zone, such as loosening restrictions on the services sector, simplifying business registration procedures and improving investment facilitation, are also new issues in future FTA negotiations. The pilot zone will create favorable conditions for our future FTAs," he said. Sun declined to disclose further plans for the free trade zone, as overall guidelines are being handled by the State Council, China's cabinet. China has signed FTAs with 12 countries and organizations, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Iceland and Switzerland, and is under negotiations with six economies, including South Korea, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Australia, according to the ministry. As East Asia becomes the new engine of global economic growth, China has boosted efforts for the China-South Korea FTA, the China-South Korea-Japan FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as well as to upgrade the FTA with the ASEAN, said Sun. However, at the end of November, South Korea expressed interest in joining the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, a high-level free trade pact for the Asia-Pacific region. Japan joined the 11-nation talks last summer. "At present, we don't notice any impact of South Korea's move on the China-South Korea FTA or on the China-Japan-South Korea FTA. Future impact will depend on South Korea's specific move to join the TPP and the progress of the two FTAs," said Sun. He added that China has an "open attitude" toward the TPP and welcomes any regional trade pacts as long as they can boost regional economic integration. "We've been studying the TPP from the very beginning. But joining the TPP is a big deal as it has unique rules, different from our current ones. We are following its progress, studying its standards and analyzing its advantages and disadvantages," he said. As the World Trade Organization made little progress on renewing the global free trade agreement in the past decade, regional FTAs are booming. A total of 221 FTAs were reported to the WTO by the end of October, and 80 percent of them were launched in the past 10 years amid the global financial crisis and the following recession, according to Sun. "However, in the long run, no regional free trade pact can replace the multilateral trade mechanism. Only the WTO can unify the different standards in the different FTAs and expand the scope of trade liberalization," said Sun. "We firmly believe that the multilateral trade mechanism is the mainstream and regional FTAs are supplements." On Wednesday, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said during the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference, which is being held in Bali, Indonesia, from Dec 3 to Dec 6, that participants should break the decadelong dilemma and reach a new global trade agreement. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle purged, two aides executed (SCMP)
2013-12-04
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, seen as the hardline regime's political regent, has apparently been purged and two associates executed, South Korea's spy agency said yesterday, nearly two years after the young supremo came to power. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a parliamentary committee that it believed Jang Song-thaek had been removed from all posts, including vice-chairman of the top military body, the National Defence Commission. If confirmed, Jang's ousting would mark the most significant purge at the top of the North Korean leadership since Kim Jong-un succeeded his late father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011. According to the NIS briefing, Jang was "recently ousted from his position and two of his close confidants - Ri Yong-ha and Jang Soo-kil - were publicly executed in mid-November", lawmaker Jung Cheong-rae said. North Korean military personnel had been notified of the executions, Jung said, adding that Jang, 67, had since "disappeared". The husband of Kim Jong-il's powerful sister, Kim Kyong-hui, Jang was seen as instrumental in cementing Kim Jong-un's hold on power in the tricky transition period after his father's death. He was often referred to as the unofficial No 2 in the hierarchy and the real power behind the throne of Kim, who is about 30. "I can only guess that the roles played by Jang have caused some tension in the process of consolidating Kim Jong-un's power," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University. "Jang once visited South Korea and witnessed many aspects of capitalist society, including the changes that have been happening in China. "So he was the figure who was most likely to aggressively push for some reforms and opening of the North's system," Kim said. Several analysts suggested Jang may have lost out in a power struggle with Choe Ryong-hae, a close Kim Jong-un confidant who holds the military rank of vice-marshal and is director of the Korean People's Army's General Political Department. In May, Kim sent Choe as his personal envoy to Beijing to hand-deliver a letter to President Xi Jinping. Jang Song-thaek has fallen out of favour before. In 2004 he was understood to have undergone "re-education" as a steel mill labourer because of suspected corruption, but he made a comeback the following year. He expanded his influence rapidly after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke in 2008 and he was appointed vice-chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission in 2010. His wife, Kim Kyong-hui, has also long been at the centre of power. She was promoted to four-star general at the same time as Kim Jong-un in 2010, a sign of her key role in the family's efforts to maintain its six-decade grip on power. In the past year, she has been far less visible, with reports she was seriously ill and had sought hospital treatment in Singapore on several occasions. "Jang's ouster and the public execution of his associates means they had probably formed a significant political clique of their own," said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute think tank in Seoul. "The purge suggests Kim Jong-un has a very strong grip on power and it will lead to more competition within the leadership to showcase loyalty towards the leader," Cheong said. Last month the North Korean defector-run news website, Daily NK, known for its sources inside North Korea, published a long article about Jang's diminishing political clout. The Seoul-based website quoted multiple sources suggesting Jang's influence had waned. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Mongolia President Tsakhia Elbegdorj wants to cut state firms by one-third (SCMP)
2013-11-29
The Mongolian government plans to slash the number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) by one third to encourage private investment and set up a sovereign wealth fund, said Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj yesterday in Hong Kong. Mongolia will also enact a law that will discourage companies owned by Mongolian ministers from competing with foreign and private firms, he said. Competition between Mongolian SOEs and private firms is "not good", Elbegdorj told a Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) luncheon audience that included Hong Kong businessmen. "The Mongolian government should serve your interests, not challenge your interests. We have to create that favourable environment in Mongolia. In two years, we will have in Mongolia full rule of law," Elbegdorj said. The Mongolian government plans more laws to foster privatisation and reduce state ownership, said Javkhlanbaatar Sereeter, acting director general of the Invest Mongolia Agency of Mongolia's Ministry of Economic Development. The elimination or privatisation of one-third of Mongolian SOEs will be "a long process", said Javhklanbaatar. Tsogsaikhan Chagnaadorj, an executive with Eagle Group, a private Mongolian construction firm, welcomed Elbegdorj's plan to privatise Mongolian SOEs. "It's hard to compete with government companies as they have government funding and monopoly power," he said. Eagle Group is considering listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange within three years, to raise funds to build residential property projects in Mongolia, Chagnaadorj added. Elbegdorj has held talks with executives of Singapore's Temasek Holdings, on the basis Mongolian plans to set up a sovereign wealth fund like Temasek. Elbegdorj expressed hope that his government's dispute with Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto over the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine will be resolved next month. Oyu Tolgoi is 66 per cent-owned by Rio Tinto's Turquoise Hill Resources unit, while 34 per cent is owned by Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi, a Mongolian SOE. The mine's shareholders are waiting for US$4 billion of project financing to be finalised before a December deadline. At the TDC luncheon yesterday, Elbegdorj witnessed the signing of two memorandums of understanding (MOU). One MOU was between the TDC and the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to strengthen economic and trade ties between Mongolia and Hong Kong. Another was between InvestHK and Invest Mongolia, to boost investment between Hong Kong and Mongolia. "This is the largest Mongolian delegation ever to Hong Kong," said TDC Council Member Benjamin Hung. ^ top ^

Ulaanbaatar residents support continuation of license plate traffic restriction (Ub post)
2013-11-30
The Ulaanbaatar City Administrations have been following a policy to consider city residents' opinion before approving any decision. Therefore, a poll on whether to halt the traffic restrictions based on license plate numbers on weekdays was organized on Wednesday for the second time between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The Ulaanbaatar City Reference and Information Center (UCRIC) collected the votes through its hotline 1200, and text messages. Mobicom's 123,460 male users and 78,934 female users, between the ages of 20 and 60, totaling 202,394 were asked via text message, “Do you think the traffic restriction based on state license plate digits of vehicles should continue?” From 202,394 users, 46,967 or 23.3 percent responded to the text poll. In total, 33,228 or 70.7 percent voted for the restrictions to continue while 13,739 users or 29.9 percent did not. For ordinary text message poll, only six to eight percent of the users reply, but for this specific poll, 23.2 percent replied which shows the increased participation and interest in the outcome of the poll by Mobicome users. As for the UCRIC, 1,821 citizens called to the center and 991 or 54.4 percent supported the idea to continue the restriction, while 830 citizens or 45.6 percent voted against the restrictions. The Ulaanbaatar City Administrative Council discussed the results and agreed to continue the restriction on Thursday. ^ top ^

Fifth Report on Millennium Development Goals (Montsame)
2013-12-03
An event to introduce the fifth report on implementation of the Millennium development goals ran at the Foreign Ministry on Monday. Present were MPs, members of the government, chiefs of the public agencies, foreign ambassadors, UN permanent representatives, and development partners and the press. The report reveals that there are rooms for improving living standards of the entire population, creating more jobs, increasing productivity and subsequently delivering equal and accessible growth in wages and income that falls behind the rapid economic growth over the last couple of years. To address these concerns, the Government's policy priorities focus on the implementation of major mining projects and programs, infrastructure development and sound management of the mining proceeds, small and medium enterprises promotion, as well as on ensuring of macroeconomic stability. It is encouraging to note that this Report, aiming at combating poverty, reducing unemployment, achieving gender equality, fighting tuberculosis, and reducing pollution, should be included in the government policies to intensity realization of the national goals, within the remaining period until 2015 that is to be implemented in partnership with UN, foreign partner organizations, public sector and NGOs, the report notes. The report is of special importance because there is now less than thousand days remaining until final deadline for MDG progress and timely policy intervention can be very effective to reach the planned targets. There is a strong national ownership of MDG goals in Mongolia; while the original 2000 Millennium Declaration has 8 goals with 34 targets and 60 indicators, Mongolia has consistently broadened the scope for the MDG goals adding its own 9th goal for Governance as well as having wide number of targets and indicators. ^ top ^

The latest Survey on Perceptions and Knowledge of Corruption in Mongolia (Infomogolia)
2013-12-05
On December 04, 2013, the Independent Authority Against Corruption, the Asia Foundation, the Sant Maral Foundation, and the Mercy Corps Mongolia have released the Survey on Perceptions and Knowledge of Corruption (SPEAK) report as part of the Strengthening Transparency and Governance in Mongolia (STAGE) project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project aims to strengthen democratic governance by building a more transparent and accountable regulatory and legislative environment while promoting principles of checks and balances. Implemented in September 2013, the survey provides important nationwide data on perceptions of corruption at the household level. The report reflects the third round of the survey conducted under the STAGE project. A total of four SPEAK surveys are to be implemented through the end of the project in March 2014. During the public launch of the SPEAK survey, Richard Chen, acting USAID Representative to Mongolia noted, “USAID hopes the survey findings will provide important data and perspectives for policy deliberations in Mongolia related to transparency and good governance”. By providing information on long-term trends in every day corruption and new information on citizen views on grand corruption, the Asia Foundation believes that the surveys will trigger invigorated and critical dialogues on issues of transparency, accountability, and corruption in Mongolia. Designed to capture long-term, nationwide data on perceptions of corruption, the SPEAK survey builds on the semi-annual corruption benchmarking survey conducted under the USAID funded Mongolian Anti-corruption Support (MACS) project, implemented from 2006 to 2011 by the Foundation. The Foundation has been disseminating the survey findings in partnership with the IAAC and the MCM's USAID-funded Active Partnerships and Public Engagement for Accountable Localities (APPEAL) project. ^ top ^

Friedland says will participate in Turquoise Hill rights issue (news.mn)
2013-12-05
Mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland said on Wednesday he would "fully" participate in a rights offering next month by Turquoise Hill, owner of the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper gold mine, which aims to raise up to $2.4 billion. Turquoise Hill, majority owned by global miner Rio Tinto, said last month it planned a January rights issue, citing delays at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia that have stopped it from financing the mine"s next phase. "I have arranged my affairs to participate fully," Friedland said on the sidelines of a London mining conference. Friedland made his name in 1996 by selling a then-undeveloped Canadian nickel-copper project called Voisey"s Bay for C$4.3 billion ($4.2 billion). He solidified his status within the mining industry with Ivanhoe, a vehicle he used to promote and build the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, one of the world"s largest. Last year, mining giant Rio took majority control of Ivanhoe, and renamed it Turquoise Hill Resources. Friedland resigned as chief executive of Turquoise Hill last year and has since shifted his focus to a new, Africa-centred venture, also Ivanhoe Mines. He owns 9.8 percent of Turquoise Hill shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Nicola Yuste
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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