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
  9-13.12.13, No. 505  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

South Korea expands air defence zone to overlap China's (SCMP)
2013-12-09
South Korea yesterday declared an expansion of its air defence identification zone, partially overlapping a similar zone created by China two weeks ago, as regional tensions continue to rise over territorial disputes.Seoul's defence ministry said yesterday that its new zone, which will take effect on December 15, would cover Ieodo - a submerged rock in waters off its south coast, which China calls Suyan. It will also overlap Japan's air defence zone. The airspace above the Seoul-controlled rock is also covered by Beijing's zone. China last month unilaterally announced an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. The zone, which also covers islets at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan, has drawn protests from Tokyo, Seoul and their key ally, the United States. The US State Department said yesterday that South Korea "conferred with the US" ahead of the move. South Korea's defence ministry said its zone extension would not infringe on neighbouring countries' sovereignty. "We believe this will not significantly impact our relationships with China and with Japan as we try to work for peace and co-operation in Northeast Asia," defence ministry head of policy Jang Hyuk told a briefing. Seoul had notified its neighbours in advance about its extended air zone - the first revision in its air defence area in 62 years, Jang said. The extension would not apply any restrictions to the operation of commercial flights, the defence ministry said. Zhou Yongsheng, professor at the International Relations Research Institute of China Foreign Affairs University, said Seoul's move was "a direct response" to Beijing's zone declaration on November 23. "Now, all three major East Asian powers - China, Japan and South Korea - have an ADIZ overlapping each other's," Zhou said. "If they share common understanding, the zone is just a zone; but if they fail to understand each other's intention, it could become a trigger to conflict." Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at Peking University, said Seoul's announcement was an attempt to bolster its territorial claims over the disputed maritime rock. "It also signalled an escalation of territorial disputes in the Northeast Asian region," he said. There was no immediate reaction from Beijing, although China's response to news last week that South Korea was reviewing its options on the air defence zone was relatively low key. "Beijing won't make a big fuss out of it with Seoul," Zhou said. Beijing's zone announcement that kicked off the diplomatic spat was the subject of a tense disagreement as US Vice-President Joe Biden visited East Asia last week, stressing Washington's objections to the move that he said caused "significant apprehension" in the region. ^ top ^

Beijing urges Iran to bend and resolve nuclear row (SCMP)
2013-12-10
Top Chinese envoy Yang Jiechi has urged Iran's president to seize the opportunity created by last month's international deal over its nuclear programme and show flexibility in future talks and resolve the dispute. Yang, a State Councillor, also discussed the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan with President Hassan Rowhani as Beijing tries to play a greater political and economic role in the Middle East and South Asia. Iran agreed on November 24 to curb some of its nuclear programme in return for the easing of international economic sanctions. The deal will last for six months to allow time for talks towards a permanent settlement. Tehran has been accused by Western governments of using its nuclear energy programme to develop weapons, a charge it has denied. "We hope Iran will seize the opportunity and continue to participate in the talks with flexibility and pragmatism so as to seek a solution most acceptable to all," Yang said during his visit to Tehran, the first high-level talks between the two sides since the deal was reached in Geneva. "China also supports Iran's efforts to improve relations with the international community by showing more openness," Yang said, according to Xinhua. Yang said the Geneva deal represented an important step towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute and that all sides should work together to implement the agreement and keep the momentum going for further talks. Yang also said China supported Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology and reaffirmed China's commitment to playing a constructive role in finding a comprehensive final solution to the nuclear issue. Rowhani told Yang that his country's nuclear programme was entirely peaceful and that Iran was committed to finding a solution to the dispute through talks, Xinhua said. Analysts said Yang's visit was further evidence that Beijing was playing a bigger diplomatic role in the Middle East and the surrounding region. "China is increasingly positioning its role in the Middle East as neutral broker between parties, adopting pragmatism, placing economic interests first and putting ideology aside," said Laurence Brahm, an expert on Sino-Middle-Eastern relations. Brahm said China's diplomacy came against a backdrop of "America being perceived even under the Obama administration as having heavily biased interests in the Middle East, which have led to unbalanced approaches and a continuation of Bush's distorted view of the Islamic world in general''. "China has so far presented itself as playing a more even-handed, albeit cautious game among competing interests there, clearly to its own benefit," Brahm said. Xiao Xian, the director of Yunnan University's Institute of Southwest Asia Studies, said China's had its own reasons for the policy shift. "Ensuring energy supply, protecting China's growing trade with those countries and securing China's own national security from the threat of Islamic extremism are the three main issues that are related to China's Middle East policy," Xiao said. ^ top ^

Beijing withholds visas for New York Times, Bloomberg reporters (SCMP)
2013-12-10
Beijing has been withholding residence visas for reporters working for The New York Times and Bloomberg in apparent retaliation for the agencies' investigative stories on wealth accumulated by leaders' families. The move marks an intensifying of pressure on foreign journalists by the government, and if authorities do not soon start approving renewals for visas due to expire by the end of the year, it would effectively shut down the two organisations' newsgathering operations in the country. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said in an e-mailed statement to members yesterday that none of the China correspondents working for The Times and Bloomberg have been able to renew their residence visas for next year. "The authorities have given no public explanation for their actions, leading to the impression that they have been taken in reprisal for reporting that displeased the government," the club said in the statement. A Bloomberg spokeswoman declined to comment while The Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The foreign ministry, which issues press credentials, and Beijing's public security bureau, which grants residence permits, did not respond to faxed lists of questions. The foreign ministry has said in previous comments on this issue that Beijing's treatment of foreign journalists is in line with the law. Last week while on his visit to Beijing, US Vice-President Joe Biden publicly criticised how American journalists have been treated by the government. The Times reported late last week that it and Bloomberg have nearly two dozen journalists on the mainland whose visas are up for renewal by the end of the month and that Beijing has refused to act on them. In addition, The Times has been unable to obtain journalist visas for its China bureau chief Philip Pan and correspondent Chris Buckley. The two news organisations have had their websites blocked on the mainland since late last year after each published investigative reports exposing the wealth amassed by the relatives of leaders including President Xi Jinping and former premier Wen Jiabao. ^ top ^

China warns US against judicial interference (Global Times)
2013-12-11
China on Tuesday responded to a US call for the release of Liu Xiaobo by reiterating its firm opposition to external interference in its judicial sovereignty and internal affairs in any form. "China and the United States are working together to build a new type of major-country relationship. We hope the United States will bear in mind the overall interests of bilateral ties and contribute more to enhancing trust and cooperation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. In a statement released on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern over Liu Xiaobo and Xu Zhiyong, and urged Chinese authorities to release Liu. Hong said China is a country under the rule of law, all people are equal before the law and no one is above the law. "Liu Xiaobo and Xu Zhiyong are Chinese citizens. They violated Chinese laws and should be punished by law," Hong told a regular press briefing. "I want to reiterate that only the 1.3 billion Chinese people are qualified to speak on China's human rights situation," the spokesman added. ^ top ^

China watches for Japan's security, defense plans (China Daily)
2013-12-11
China is watching closely Japan's security strategy and latest defense plan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Japan released drafts of its first national security strategy and a long-term defense guideline, which promised to "respond calmly and resolutely to the rapid expansion and step-up of China's maritime and air activities." The drafts said the Japanese government should step up its maritime defense in the southwestern, following China's declaration of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). China's normal growth of national defense capacity does not pose a threat to any country, Hong said, reaffirming China's peaceful development path and defense policies in defensive nature. "China advocates resolving territorial and maritime disputes through dialogue and negotiation. Meanwhile, we will never allow any country to infringe upon China's territorial sovereignty," Hong said. Hong refuted Japan's groundless charge, saying "Japan has hidden political agendas in hyping up the so-called China threat." He urged Japan to prioritize its neighbors' concerns, follow the trend of the times and take a peaceful development road so as to improve China-Japan ties and maintain regional peace and stability. Asked to comment on Japan's claims that China changed the status quo by establishing the ADIZ, Hong denounced it was Japan itself that stirred up trouble over the Diaoyu Islands and East China Sea and Japan's accusation is "wrong and baseless." China's ADIZ is in line with international law and norms, Hong said. China is willing to keep in touch with relevant parties over technical issues and to maintain flight safety and order on the basis of equality and mutual respect, he said. He urged Japan to correct its attitude and stop provocation in order to create conditions for managing disputes through dialogue. ^ top ^

Japan and South Korea hold joint exercise in China's air defence zone (SCMP)
2013-12-12
Japan and South Korea have conducted a joint naval exercise in an area covered by China's air defence identification zone - a move that is seen as sending a firm message to Beijing. Both countries said that while they didn't inform the Chinese authorities, the joint maritime rescue drill was planned long before Beijing announced the controversial zone over the East China Sea. Under Chinese rules, all aircraft are required to report flight plans in advance. But yesterday's exercise added another complication to the issue, with the two countries divided over compliance by commercial flights. Korean Air and Asiana Airlines said they would start to notify the Chinese authorities from yesterday, while Japan has told its commercial operators not to comply. However, analysts said the Asian neighbours were sending a strong signal to China by choosing to carry out the exercise near Suyan Rock. The tiny, submerged rock has become the focus of renewed disputes between Beijing and Seoul since the air zone was declared on November 23. A South Korean military official was quoted by the Yonhap news agency as saying that two destroyers and two helicopters from each side took part. But neither side submitted flight plans to the Chinese authorities, the report said. [...] While UN maritime law says a state cannot claim territorial sovereignty over a submerged rock - Suyan lies 4.5 metres below the surface - both sides have sought administrative control over it. Seoul currently has administrative control over the rock. It also falls under Japan's air defence identification zone, though Tokyo doesn't make claims to it. Scott Harold, a political scientist with the Rand Corporation think tank, said Seoul intended to send a message to Beijing, through the joint exercise, that it would continue to be active around the disputed area. He said that while relations between Japan and South Korea had been strained over the past 15 months and disputes between the two persisted, China's air defence zone had inadvertently brought the two countries closer. "This drill is a very low-cost and politically safe way for Japan to signal to South Korea that, while they have disputes on other issues, on this one they could work together," Harold said. Beijing has so far not responded to the joint exercise. ^ top ^

Absent China to dominate the agenda at three-day Japan-Asean summit (SCMP)
2013-12-13
When leaders from Japan and Southeast Asia gather in Tokyo today, the elephant in the room will be a nation that is not invited: China. Its rise as a military power has long sparked concern in Asia, and tensions spiked last month when China announced a new air defence zone straddling islands also claimed by Japan in the East China Sea. China, despite being a major trade partner and investor in Southeast Asia, is also locked in territorial rows with several other Asian nations over wide stretches of the South China Sea and has said it might set up a similar air defence zone there. Japan, which has in recent years stepped up private sector investment in Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries as an alternative to an unpredictable and risky China, now wants to draw closer to the grouping on the security front as a counterbalance to Beijing. "It is very important to show our big neighbour in Asia the mainstream is free markets, democracy, human rights," said a Japanese government official familiar with diplomatic strategy. "This is the future. This is the message to be sent from the summit." The meeting with the 10-member Asean will include expanded currency-swap deals and fresh aid offers, such as a post-typhoon loan to the Philippines of US$97 million. Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, elected a year ago next week, has visited the leaders of all 10 Asean countries but has yet to arrange a summit with China or South Korea, two countries with whom Japan has rancorous territorial disputes. Japan typically meets Asean nations in conjunction with China and South Korea, but the Tokyo summit starting today is meant to commemorate Japan's 40-year ties with the group and does not include the usual "Asean+3" participants. The intent is not to exclude China, Japan insists. But maritime disputes and China's air zone "would definitely be discussed", as Japan has put them on the agenda, a senior Philippines diplomat said.[...] "Beijing has set the agenda for the Asean-Japan summit: it's going to be about the collective anxieties that China has stirred about its regional ambitions," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus. "[Abe's] regional diplomacy has focused on trying to forge solidarity with Southeast Asia vis-à-vis what is seen as a threatening China, and China has done him a great favour by playing the part of the plausible bogeyman."[...]. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

New "two-child" rules to start from early 2014 (Xinhua)
2013-12-09
Starting early next year, Chinese couples are expected to be allowed to have a second child if either the father or mother is themselves an only child, said a senior family planning official on Saturday. Yang Wenzhuang, director of the family planning instruction department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, made the remarks during an interview with China Central Television. "The latest relaxation of the family planning policy will probably be implemented early next year after local administrations finish preparations and local legislatures give the final pass by amending the regulation," he said. Under previous family planning rules, in urban areas, couples could only have two children if both the father and mother were only children. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, which ended on Nov 12, decided to relax the policy by allowing couples to have a second child if one of the parents is the only child in his or her family. Meanwhile, Yang urged education and healthcare institutions to prepare properly to meet the rising demand for services resulting from an increased birthrate after the policy is implemented. "Communication and coordination among related administrations needs to be further strengthened to ensure that expectant mothers and newborn babies will get the quality services and care they need," he said. According to Yang, it is up to local administrations to arrange the exact timescale for implementing the policy, according to specific circumstances. "But there shouldn't be a major time gap in introducing the new rule from region to region," he said. Moreover, Yang asked willing couples to carefully plan the timing of their second baby, stating that "there is no need to rush as the policy will be a long-standing one on the mainland". Previous assessment work conducted by the commission found that the new policy would see an estimated 15 million to 20 million couples eligible for a second child. About 50 to 60 percent of such couples are willing to have a second child, according to a recent poll by the commission. According to Yang, about 2 million more babies are expected to be born each year due to the policy relaxation, but he says the increase "will not cause major pressure on healthcare, education and other public resources". In the long run, the new policy is expected to help facilitate family development, promote happiness and increase the ability of families to care for the elderly, he said. Analysts said the reform comes at the right time to help China address the issue of an increasing population imbalance, whereby the proportion of elderly people is rising relative to younger generations. By the end of last year, China had about 194 million people aged 60 and older on the mainland, making it the country with the largest elderly population in the world, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. More importantly, "the new policy better meets and respects public expectations", Yang added. Zhai Zhenwu, director of the School of Sociology and Population Studies at Renmin University of China, said that China's family planning policy had always been dynamic and subject to adjustments according to new situations. "The latest change, the most substantial one in the past 30 years, will lay the foundations for future efforts to further fine-tune the country's birth rules," said Zhai. ^ top ^

Xi demands implementation of "mass line" campaign (Xinhua)
2013-12-10
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday told local officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to seriously implement the "mass line" campaign and boost ties with the people. Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks at a meeting at Zhongnanhai, the central authority's seat, attended by senior party officials of north China's Hebei Province. Xi listened to a report by Zhou Benshun, party chief of Hebei, on the province's efforts in practicing the "mass line" campaign. He said measures should be tangible and be effective to better serve the people. The one-year "mass-line" campaign was launched in June by China's leaders to boost ties between CPC officials, members and the people, while cleaning up four undesirable work styles -- formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance. Being in charge of supervising campaign implementation in Hebei, Xi visited the province in July and September to inspect the local situation and give directions. He reminded Hebei officials that they face stern challenges in implementing measures that they have decided to take during the campaign, as many will hurt the interests of someone. Hebei will have to make tremendous efforts in fixing overcapacity in steel, iron and steel, coal, cement, glass and reducing air pollution, Xi noted. He called on relevant authorities to enhance supervision of the implementation of the campaign and live up to promises made to the public. Any attempt to soften efforts in handling problems should be criticized or punished, he said. According to the report by Zhou, 17,000 official cars and 237 government building projects have been canceled during the campaign. Official gazettes have been reduced by 42 percent, and public spending on official receptions by the provincial government departments has fallen by 24 percent. A total of 2,750 officials in the province have been punished for violations. Xi warned officials that the upcoming second phase of the "mass line" campaign will be greater in scale and the problems faced by the officials will be more specific and difficult. He urged the officials to have a systemic design on how they are going to conduct the campaign and make sure that the whole campaign will be subject to supervision by the people. ^ top ^

Battle against counterfeit goods enters a new phase (China Daily)
2013-12-10
China's crackdown on intellectural property infringement and counterfeiting is shifting its focus, officials said on Tuesday. "In the next step, we will intensify our crackdown campaigns in regions with frequent infringement and counterfeiting activities, while focusing on the online sales of counterfeits and spreading of pirated copies," said Chai Haitao, deputy director of the Office of the National Leading Group for Combating IPR Infringement and Counterfeiting. "We will especially root out the cross-border networks for making and selling counterfeits," he said. He added that infringement and counterfeiting of such goods as apparel, pharmaceuticals, food, software and entertainment is shifting away from the eastern region to the less-developed central and western regions, as well as the outskirts of cities. Meanwhile, online sales have become a key venue for infringements and counterfeits along with the boom in online shopping. "Online infringement and counterfeiting are clearly increasing. [The perpetrators] are more elusive and better organized, and thus more troublesome," Chai said. One new trend he noted is the surge of online sales of fake medicines. "In the coming year, we will launch a series of special campaigns and hope to collaborate with e-commerce platforms to reduce the criminal activities," Chai said. Taobao.com, China's largest consumer shopping platform, signed a memorandum of understanding in August with the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, to curb the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods. The collaboration covers using available technologies to improve the efficiency of the identification and reporting of fake goods sold online and developing educational materials aimed at online buyers and vendors. From January to September, China filed a total of 234,000 criminal cases involving infringement and counterfeiting, with a total value of 2.42 billion yuan ($398 million), according to the Ministry of Commerce. Chai said that the State Council, or China's cabinet, passed a notice to open the files of infringement and counterfeiting cases to the public. "We will then establish a black-list mechanism, joining forces with nine departments, for manufacturers and sellers involving infringement and counterfeiting. Consumers and enterprises can refuse to do business with those on the list," he added. Yao Jian, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said that punitive damages and inverted responsibility of providing evidence will be introduced in cases of trademark infringement, a breakthrough in IPR protection. The compensation cap also will be lifted to 3 million yuan. China boosted its emphasis on intellectual property rights protection and crackdown on counterfeits in recent years. In late 2011, the government set up the National Leading Group for Combating IPR Infringement and Counterfeits, which is headed by Vice-Premier Wang Yang. The government pledged to establish a unified and open, competitive and orderly market in November's comprehensive reform plan. ^ top ^

Smog crisis in China leads to increased research into effect of pollution on fertility (SCMP)
2013-12-11
As China's environmental woes grow, typified by recent toxic smog, Beijing has been increasing funding for research into how pollution affects fertility. The number of studies funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the leading research institute, has tripled in the last five years. It has supported 68 such research projects this year, compared to just 23 in 2008. Dr Liu Liangpo, a researcher with the Institute of Urban Environment at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said this showed the government's "deep concern" about the growing crisis. He said infertility was a global issue, but the situation in China was "particularly grim" due to the severe pollution. And he warned: "Polluted water, unsafe food, bad air... so many things are threatening the reproductive capacity of Chinese people. "If the situation gets worse, China's birth-control policy would become redundant." The infertility rate among all Chinese of childbearing age rose to 12.5 per cent in 2010 from just 3 per cent two decades earlier, Xinhua reported recently. More than 40 million people on the mainland have been diagnosed as infertile. While some experts believe unhealthy lifestyles are to blame for 70 per cent of infertility in women and 50 per cent of infertility in men, others say that environmental conditions may also play a role. The majority of government research grants are for studies about the impact of worsening pollution on the quality of sperm. Of studies the science foundation funded this year, 59 concerned sperm and just nine focused on women's eggs. Last year, it gave 60 grants for sperm studies and just six for research on eggs and most of those studies were focused on infertility. Of the 23 such studies it funded five years ago, all but two dealt with sperm. Liu and his team are studying how various pollutants such as arsenic, plasticisers and melamine affect the health of sperm. Arsenic, which can be found at high levels in many underground water sources across the North China plain, can damage sperm DNA, leaving men infertile. But its effect on eggs remains unknown. According to a report by the China Population Association last year, the average sperm count in Chinese men had dropped from 100 million per litre about 40 years ago to as low as 20 million last year. The "liveliness" of the sperm had dropped significantly as well, reducing their ability to find and enter an egg. Most of the patients with infertility were relatively young, aged between 25 and 30. The government hopes Liu's research can help determine the safe levels of waste from factories and other sources of pollution. "Sperm and eggs respond differently to environmental pollution. Sperm is generally much more vulnerable due to its molecular structure," Liu said. "The infertility problem in China is getting serious and most of the problems are coming from males. That's why the government has funded more research on sperm than on eggs." Dr Wang Qiang, a researcher with Nanjing Medical University, received funding to study women's eggs this year. He said clinical surveys had found eggs were also vulnerable to the effects of a worsening environment, and some of the issues could present problems for newborns later on. The rapid increase in the incidence of diabetes on the mainland, for instance, had increased the chance of a genetic defect in eggs that would lead to obesity. "An increasing amount of clinical evidence suggests that eggs contribute equally, if not more, to the infertility problems in China," Wang said. "Environmental pollutants such as BPA [Bisphenol A, a carbon-based synthetic compound commonly used to make plastic products clear and tough] can do serious damage to eggs. "It is scientifically erroneous to allege that eggs are less vulnerable to pollution than sperm." Wang added: "If the sperm has a defect, there are many methods to cure it. "But if the eggs have a problem, in most cases there is no cure. Our knowledge about treatment for eggs is very limited." ^ top ^

China targets full electricity coverage in 2015 (People's Daily)
2013-12-12
One million more Chinese will have been connected to national grid this year and the entire population will have electricity in 2015, said the National Energy Administration on Thursday. China is a vast country with frequently inhospitable terrain and many remote villages. Connecting them all is a Herculean task and a hurdle that keeps people from escaping poverty. Now, everyone in Inner Mongolia has electricity and the basic power needs of all Tibetans are met, according to the administration. Official data showed that only two years ago, around 500,000 people, or one fifth of the total population of Tibet, were without access. China plans full electricity coverage by 2015. Grids will be connected to more destinations and more independent solar power supply systems will be constructed in remote areas. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Green buses to hit Beijing roads by 2017 (China Daily)
2013-12-13
Beijing will replace 80 percent of its buses with new-energy and clean-fuel vehicles by the end of 2017 in an attempt to reduce vehicle emissions and ease pollution. A total of 13,825 buses, including 4,058 electrically powered and 7,185 running on natural gas, will replace gas and diesel, the Beijing Commission of Transport said on Thursday. The commission has also pledged to further develop bus routes and sway more commuters using private cars to use public transportation. "The aim is to continuously reduce automobile emissions in downtown areas of the capital, while easing traffic congestion," said Wang Hao, an official with the commission's transport bureau. The commission estimates that by the end of 2017, the city will have 65 percent of its buses powered by clean energy, with 20 percent of them fueled by electricity and 50 percent by natural gas. The State-owned Beijing Public Transport Holdings will replace more than 10 routes operated by diesel-powered buses with more than 4,700 electric buses by 2017. "We will replace all buses running within the Fifth Ring Road with clean-energy buses within four years," Wang said. Nan Tao, head of the bus company's service bureau, said replacing traditional buses with clean-energy vehicles will reduce fuel consumption by 150,000 tons a year. Nitrogen dioxide emissions will fall by 50 percent and particulate matter by 60 percent, he said. According to Beijing's clean air action plan, the capital will upgrade more than 700 electric vehicles and 1,950 fueled by natural gas by 2014, while reducing the intensity of auto emissions by half by 2017. Wu Di, an official with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said the switch to clean energy in public transportation will bring a huge improvement to the city's air quality. [...] Wu Yongzhi, deputy head of the bus company's technology department, said the capital currently has about 590 trolley buses, with 15 routes covering more than 200 km. Xu Kangming, a transport expert and founder of 3E Transportation Systems, said that when it is widely introduced the trolley bus will be very effective in combating pollution and easing traffic congestion. "With little noise, zero emissions and a low cost to maintain and operate, the trolley bus has proved to be efficient worldwide in protecting the environment," he said.[...] ^ top ^

 

Shanghai

Shanghai overtakes HK to become China's most competitive city (Xinhua)
2013-12-11
Shanghai overtook Hong Kong for the first time to become China's most competitive city this year mainly due to the establishment of its pilot free trade zone, according to a ranking by the China Institute of City Competitiveness yesterday. With a score of 16,163.08, Shanghai topped the list which measures comprehensive competitiveness based on the cities' economic, social stability, environmental and cultural conditions. Shanghai was followed by Hong Kong, the champion in the past 11 years but scoring 16,099.80 this time. Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou took the next few spots. Gui Qiangfang, president of the institute, said it brings no surprise for Shanghai to surpass Hong Kong in the ranking. "The establishment of the first state-level free trade zone in Shanghai is a powerful driver to enhance the city's competitiveness," Gui said. "Considering Hong Kong's limited potential for further economic growth, more cities in the Chinese mainland will exceed Hong Kong in this list in the future." In terms of economic output, Shanghai outmatched Hong Kong in 2011, while Beijing managed to do so last year. But Hong Kong still led concerning regulatory system and the ownership of professionals, Gui said. ^ top ^

Shanghai government sued over private museum demolition (Xinhua)
2013-12-13
A Shanghai district government on Thursday denied charges of theft and illegal demolition of a private museum, whose owner demanded hefty compensation in a trial that opened on Wednesday. The trial continued on Thursday at Changning District People's Court, in which Liu Guangjia demanded the city's Minhang district government to pay a record 289 million yuan (47.3 mln U.S. dollars) in compensation. The compensation is the highest for a lawsuit a Chinese citizen has brought against a local government. Liu said the government, with a local property company, had forcefully and unlawfully demolished his house and a museum-style garden in Anle village on April 27, 2012. He also accused officials of taking away his collection, which consisted of bonsai trees and exotic rocks. The private museum was open to the public free of charge. At the trial, Liu played a video recording that he alleged as showing the demolition crew discussing the division of the collection. The government said workers in the video were only following a standard procedure of moving objects from the site. The lawyer representing the government said the theft could never have occurred as the demolition process was overseen by the district court and witnessed by workers from several participating companies and a crowd of local residents. The demolition had followed legal procedures, including issuing eviction notices, which the lawyer said had been repeatedly ignored by Liu. The court did not announce its verdict. ^ top ^

 

Tibet

Tibet's Three Gorges Dam" starts generating electricity (Xinhua)
2013-12-11
Pondo Water Control Project, the largest water control project in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, started generating electricity on Tuesday. Its first generating unit, with an annual electricity generation capacity of 150 million kilowatt hours, was put into operation at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, said Tang Quanyong, deputy head of the project administration bureau. The other three generating units are expected to start operations in June 2014, said Tang. The four generating units will be able to generate a total of 599 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually upon completion, which will relieve the tight power supply in the regional capital of Lhasa, he said. The project will also improve Lhasa's irrigation and flood prevention capabilities, he said. Dubbed "Tibet's Three Gorges Dam," the massive project's construction started in July 2009 with an investment of 4.57 billion yuan (748 million U.S. dollars). It is expected to be completed in 2016. The project is located in Pondo Township of Lhunzhub County and sits more than 4,000 meters above sea level. The project is about 63 kilometers away from Lhasa. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang expressway (Global Times)
2013-12-08
The first desert expressway in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region opened to traffic on Saturday. The 96.3-kilometer Wucaiwan-Dahuangshan expressway will play a major role in the region's highway network, according to the transport department of Xinjiang. The desert expressway is located in the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture. Designed for a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, it has four lanes running in each direction. Total investment stands at 2.76 billion yuan ($453.7 million). It is a part of a road that runs from northern to southern Xinjiang. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

H7N9 virus detected at two Shenzhen wet markets after Hong Kong cases (SCMP)
2013-12-11
Samples from two Shenzhen wet markets have tested positive for the H7N9 bird flu virus that has infected two people in Hong Kong. Confirmation of the test findings came two days after the municipal government said the border city could not be confirmed as the source of the outbreak. The Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong said yesterday that H7N9 had been detected in three samples taken from poultry stalls at two wet markets in Shenzhen's Longgang district. The infected samples were among 70 collected on Tuesday from 13 wet markets across the city. An infected blood sample came from a chopping board at a stall selling live poultry at the Henggang market. The other two were found in chicken excrement and a plucking machine from a stall at the Kangqiao market in the Nanwan neighbourhood. The commission said the risk of bird flu spreading in the province was high and warned the public to stay alert. But last night traders at the Kangqiao market said sales were continuing. "They came to collect samples but we heard nothing about the test results and trade continued all day long today," one trader said. University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said he believed the deadly virus was already spreading in Guangdong and the surrounding areas. He urged Hong Kong to halt live poultry imports from the mainland. At present, only imports from three Shenzhen farms are suspended. Ho said the Longgang markets may have been responsible for the infection of 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper Tri Mawarti, who may have handled a live chicken at a flat in Nanwan Street, near one of the infected markets. The second Hong Kong patient is an 80-year-old who was recently in Shenzhen. The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said he had not handled live chickens. His family bought a slaughtered chicken near Fuyong in Baoan district, far from where the positive samples were found. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Success of Beijing envoy's visit to Taiwan shows 'attitudes warming' (SCMP)
2013-12-09
The visit to Taiwan by top envoy Chen Deming has shown Beijing's policy in dealing with the island has largely been successful, with a marked reduction in deep-seated hostility towards the mainland. Leading a 70-member strong delegation of mainland officials and business leaders, Chen arrived in Taiwan on November 26 for an eight-day visit. It was his first as the head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, which handles contacts with the island in the absence of formal diplomatic ties. "To see and learn is the major purpose of my visit, which will be limited to the private sector and the development of Taiwan's free-economic pilot zones," Chen told journalists on the eve of his departure for Taiwan. He steered clear of speculation he would pressure the government of the island's president, Ma Ying-jeou, to ensure the legislature pass a cross-strait service trade agreement during his trip. Chen also said he was ready to face protests throughout his visit and was "psychologically prepared to hear different voices". Several civic and pro-independence groups had announced plans to stage a handful of protests to voice opposition to the trade service pact signed by Taipei and Beijing in June, which has yet to be approved by the legislature. They called it a malicious agreement that would be harmful to Taiwan's interests. Chen's arrival came three days after the mainland ratcheted up regional tensions by announcing the creation of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. The zone not only overlaps the airspace monitored by Taiwan and South Korea, but also includes the disputed Diaoyu Islands, which are claimed by Taiwan and Japan, which calls them the Senkakus. Pro-independence supporters in Taiwan were enraged, viewing the zone as a violation of the island's sovereignty. As expected, Chen did encounter protests staged by opponents who had vowed to "shadow" him everywhere he visited on the island. But compared to those encountered by his predecessor Chen Yunlin, who first visited the island as the association's chief in November 2008, the scale of protests was much smaller. The number of protesters slid to less than 200 and sometimes even fewer than a dozen, a sharp contrast to the demonstrations in 2008 attended by tens of thousands, some of which ended in violence, if not bloodshed. Even the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party - which backs independence for Taiwan - did not organise any protests against Chen's visit. In 2008, it mobilised tens of thousands of protesters to demonstrate day and night outside the hotel of Chen Yunlin. Wu Poh-hsiung, honorary chairman of the Kuomintang, jokingly told Chen Deming at a banquet he hosted for the envoy on the final night of his visit: "The dinner this time will take only two hours, unlike the one which took eight hours to finish in 2008." Chen responded: "This is the biggest progress" in terms of cross-strait relations. Wu was referring to an incident in November 2008, when Chen Yunlin was trapped in a Taipei hotel where a dinner was held in his honour, as thousands of pro-independence activists surrounded the building. At the time, he was the most senior mainland official to visit the island. Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, said the contrast between the two visits showed how successfully Beijing's policy of favouring economic benefits - such as trade and travel - and generally adopting a warmer stance had changed the mindset of Taiwanese people. "Cross-strait relations have become so close that the so-called 'united front' ploy in wooing Taiwanese is no longer the right term to explain why most people in Taiwan have become less hostile towards the mainland," Wang said. Taiwan and the mainland became bitter rivals after the end of a civil war in 1949, but their relations began to improve dramatically when Ma became president in 2008 and adopted a policy of engagement with Beijing. Analysts said that in addition to expanded cross-strait exchanges, including frequent visits by tourists and senior officials, the rise of the mainland as a global economic power had prompted more Taiwanese to appreciate the market opportunities the growth has brought. Wang said Chen, a former commerce minister, was expected to find ways to further economic co-operation with Taiwan to pave the way for unification - Beijing's eventual aim. "Co-operation on the free trade or economic pilot zones between the two sides and their development as special cross-strait zones would be the mainland's next target to help speed up economic integration," Wang said. Liu Meng-chun, a researcher with the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, said the mainland has been keen to work closely with Taiwan beyond the co-operation that has arisen from the trade pact they signed in 2010. "Using free trade or economic pilot zones in Taiwan and Shanghai as a kind of special zone-to-special-zone collaboration would be an innovative way to increase future cross-strait co-operation," he said. ^ top ^

Taiwan ex-captain gets life term for spying for China (SCMP)
2013-12-12
A former Taiwanese air force captain was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for leaking military secrets to China, in the latest spying scandal to hit the island. Chiang Fu-chung was convicted of leaking large amounts of confidential documents to China through his uncle, a Taiwanese businessman based on the mainland, the high court said. No other details were released but he can appeal the ruling. Chiang, who worked for the air force radar command and control centre, has been detained since his arrest last year. Taiwanese media have reported that the Chinese military has long sought access to the centre, which houses highly sensitive information including details on the air force's “Strong Net” radar programme and the US-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system. The centre is responsible for surveillance of the skies stretching from the island's north to southeastern Chinese coastal provinces like Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi. Taiwan has been hit by a string of spying scandals in recent years. In September a retired vice admiral was jailed for 14 months for collecting confidential military information for China. An ex-air force lieutenant colonel in February received 12 life sentences for passing military secrets to China during a period of six years for a reported payment of US$269,000. In 2011 an army general and chief of an intelligence unit was sentenced to life for spying for China in one of the island's worst espionage scandals. The espionage has continued despite Taiwan's improving ties with China under current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Baidu stops accepting bitcoin payment after government ban (SCMP)
2013-12-08
Baidu, China's biggest internet search engine, has stopped accepting bitcoins after the central bank barred financial institutions from handling transactions, triggering a drop in the virtual currency. Bitcoin fell more than 20 per cent and was quoted at 4,250 yuan (HK$5,383) yesterday afternoon on BTC China, the most active online exchange where the digital money is traded. A Baidu website-hosting venture started accepting the currency on October 14 as bitcoins gained popularity in China, fuelling a global rally. Prices topped US$1,000 last week, compared with about US$138 two months ago on Bitstamp, another web platform where bitcoin is exchanged for other currencies. But the People's Bank of China said bitcoin was not a currency with "real meaning" and could not be accorded the same legal status. "Baidu's website-acceleration platform decided to suspend bitcoin payment acceptance from Friday as recent large fluctuations in bitcoin's value makes it unable to safeguard users' interests," Baidu said. The decision followed the government's announcement, the Beijing-based company said. The central bank barred financial institutions and payment companies from giving pricing in bitcoin, buying and selling the currency, or insuring bitcoin-linked products. It said the public was free to participate in internet transactions provided they took on the risk themselves. The ban signals concerns that the digital currency may threaten capital controls and financial stability. China became the world's biggest bitcoin trader this year. Bitcoins, which exist as software and are not regulated by any country or banking authority, have surged in value amid increased investor interest. ^ top ^

GDP growth could hit 7.8% next year (China Daily)
2013-12-10
The best scenario for the Chinese economy in 2014 would be to achieve 7.8 percent GDP growth, a major think tank said on Monday. That could be obtained if all the recently proposed reform initiatives are carried out and the global market shows a more robust recovery, said the National Academy of Economic Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. But the central government must be watchful of a number of uncertainties, especially some problems on the domestic front, the academy said in a report. If only the same strategies are pursued, there could be more complications to even sustain the 2013 growth rate, which is expected to come in at about 7.5 percent. The CASS economists warned that there is danger that there would be even greater downward pressure on domestic growth in 2014, as new investment in public infrastructure is becoming less effective, overcapacity remains serious in a number of major industries, growth in consumer spending remains feeble and local government debt financing is approaching an alarming level. Economists attending the forum where the CASS report was released said China is most likely to see 7.5 percent GDP growth and a 3.5 percent rise in the consumer price index in 2014, maintaining its performance this year. But they said they have long-term concerns for the economy's investment-dominated growth model, while a consumption-driven new model may still take some time to develop. They aired their concerns ahead of the upcoming annual Central Economic Work Conference, which is to discuss development targets for next year and further clarify reform measures. The CASS report said that the government's efforts to stabilize economic growth are still focused on supporting fixed-asset investment, which was the key force driving the third quarter's GDP growth rate up to 7.8 percent from 7.5 percent in the second. "But the marginal effects of the policy are diminishing, and that will be the main factor hindering future development," it said. The report suggested a balance between controlling government-led investment and stabilizing growth in the near term, and continually implementing prudent monetary policy. Meanwhile, improving tax reform, promoting the development of small and medium-sized towns, and strengthening support for exports will be important for economic restructuring. The report predicted that the growth rate of China's total social fixed-asset investment may slow to 20.1 percent in 2014, down from an expected 20.3 percent this year. The annual fixed-asset growth from 2003 to 2011 averaged 25.6 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center, said that the investment growth rate may slow to 17 percent next year, as the financing cost may continue to rise under the high borrowing interest rate. Consumption growth is also likely to be slower in 2014 amid the weak market demand, and that may contribute less to the GDP, Fan said. Liu Yingqiu, chief editor of the report and director of the Center for Private Economic Studies under the CASS, said that a continual slowdown of China's economic growth may be still unchanged, as the world's second-largest economy is facing "double restraints" from weak demand and limited environmental resources. He said that the overall 2013 GDP growth rate is likely to drop to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in 2012, because of a possible moderate growth momentum in the fourth quarter. It may be the fourth consecutive year of GDP decrease, down from 10.4 percent in 2010. If the economic restructuring enables a breakthrough and the change in the pattern of growth goes smoothly, slightly higher growth of 7.8 percent for 2014 is likely, the CASS report forecast. Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre Of International Political Economy, said economic growth can accelerate a bit next year if China's pledge to fast-pedal economic reforms is implemented. "International demand is likely to improve and Chinese exports already show it is picking up again," Erixon said. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korea issues photo of Kim Jong-un's uncle being detained as execution rumours abound (SCMP)
2013-12-09
North Korea confirmed yesterday that the powerful uncle of young leader Kim Jong-un has been purged. State television broadcast humiliating pictures of Jang Song-thaek being dragged from his chair by uniformed officers during a meeting in Pyongyang. The official Korean Central News Agency accused Jang of taking drugs and squandering money at casinos while having medical treatment abroad. The agency also said he had "improper relations with several women and was wined and dined in the back parlours of deluxe restaurants". The agency said the decision to purge him was taken on Sunday at a high-level meeting of the ruling Workers' Party attended by Kim. It said the purge would extend to supporters of Jang, but did not provide details. Jang is married to Kim's aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, the younger sister of former leader Kim Jong-il. Jang rose in the party and military ranks alongside his baby-faced nephew. He was often seen in a white general's uniform and standing within arm's length of Kim on field visits and at state events. South Korean media with access to North Korean television reported that footage of Jang has also been edited out of propaganda documentaries. Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the move could spark a sweeping purge targeting those loyal to Jang. "There will be a storm of purge across the country... so Kim Jong-un becomes the one and only centre of power, challenged by no one," he said. Kim has reportedly overseen other purges of senior officials, though none as high profile as this one. One of the most notable was last year's firing of military chief Ri Yong-ho. He was dismissed in July due to an unspecified illness, but analysts speculated that Ri was purged because Kim wanted to reshape the power structure. Jang had close ties to China and visited Beijing last year on Kim's behalf. He was also head of the North Korean side of a joint project managing a special economic zone with Beijing. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the events as the "internal affair" of its neighbour. Cui Zhiying, director of Tongji University's Korean Peninsular Research Centre, said Jang's purge indicated that Kim had consolidated his power. "This kind of high-profile purge is quite unusual. It would only happen in China during the Cultural Revolution, but not now," Cui said. Last week, South Korea's spy agency gave the first public word that Jang may have been dismissed. It also said his two closest confidants were executed, but that has not been confirmed. ^ top ^

Pyongyang sees major power change (China Daily)
2013-12-10
Relations with neighbors will be unaffected despite removal of leader's uncle - The purge of the powerful uncle of Pyongyang's top leader will not shake up the regional situation nor immediately affect the country's ties with Beijing, analysts said on Monday. Jang Song-thaek, widely reported as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's second in command, was removed from all of his posts and from the ruling Workers' Party of Korea for his "anti-Party and counterrevolutionary crime", the country's official news agency KCNA said. "The purge shows a rearrangement of power is happening and there will be more personnel changes in the country's top power structure," said Wang Junsheng, a researcher in East Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "But the move isn't likely to change the situation in the region, because Pyongyang's foreign policies represent a continuity since the young leader Kim Jong-un took office two years ago," Wang said. As Kim appears to have consolidated his power, there is no reason for him to increase the tension on the Korean Peninsula at the moment, he said. "Pyongyang's foreign policy shows a stable trend this year. It is not so likely that Kim Jong-un will change its main China policy in the near future," Wang said. But Zhu Feng, a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said Pyongyang's future moves should be closely tracked to assess the power struggle's impact on the region. Zhu also said the possibility cannot be ruled out that the personnel change will influence cooperation between China and the DPRK. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the fall of Jang as an "internal affair", saying China hopes to see national stability, economic development and the happiness of the people in the DPRK. "As a friendly neighbor... China will stay committed to promoting the traditionally friendly relationship of cooperation with the DPRK," Hong said. The Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea said on Monday that Seoul, with several possibilities in mind, was more closely monitoring the situation in its neighbor's inner circle and external relations. The 67-year-old Jang, who was married to Kim's aunt, was vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and secretary of the WPK administration department, a position considered second only to that of the supreme leader. He used to be in charge of economic affairs of the country and led two cooperation projects between China and the DPRK. Jang used to play an important role in the DPRK's political circles. Zhu Feng from Peking University said Jang's fall sends a signal that the DPRK might adjust its China policy. But Chen Qi, a professor of international affairs at Tsinghua University, called the case an "internal political struggle", saying that China-DPRK ties will likely remain stable because the DPRK needs China to support its economic development. Instead of only implementing "military-first politics", Pyongyang is now carrying out parallel strategies of "military-first politics" and economic development, Chen said. KCNA said in a report following the ruling party's enlarged meeting on Sunday that Jang and his followers committed criminal acts and did tremendous harm to the party and revolution. According to the report, Jang abused his power and challenged the "sole leadership system", and had gravely hindered the role of the Cabinet by taking control of major economic development sectors. Jang and his followers are also accused of violating the party's guiding principles, and disobeying "the order issued by the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army", according to the KCNA report said. The report also said Jang "had improper relations with several women and was wined and dined at back parlors of deluxe restaurants", becoming "affected by the capitalist way of living". ^ top ^

Arrest of North Korea's No 2 figure is cause for concern in Beijing (SCMP)
2013-12-11
North Koreans had long known Jang Song-thaek as the No 2 figure in their country, the revered uncle and mentor of Kim Jong-un, the paramount leader. Then on Monday state-run television showed two green-uniformed guards pulling a glum-faced Jang by the armpits from a meeting of the ruling party after he was denounced for faction-building, womanising, gambling and other acts, as dozens of former comrades watched. The spectacle of Jang's humiliating dismissal and arrest was a highly unusual glimpse of a power struggle unfolding inside the nuclear-armed country. But the major impact may be outside. The video of Jang's arrest on Sunday at a Politburo meeting was released to the North Korean public, replete with tearful underlings shown denouncing him, was particularly unsettling for China. North Korea's long-time protector and economic lifeline, China has considered strategically close relations with North Korea to be a pillar of foreign policy and a bulwark against the USmilitary presence in South Korea. Despite Chinese irritation with North Korea's nuclear tests and other bellicose behaviour, China had built a good relationship with Jang as the trusted adult who would monitor Kim, who is less than half his uncle's age. Any shift by China concerning North Korea has the potential to significantly alter the political equilibrium in Asia, where the divided Korean peninsula has existed for more than 60 years. While there is no indication that the Chinese intend to change their view, Beijing's top leaders were surprised by Jang's abrupt downfall. "Jang was an iconic figure in North Korea, particularly with economic reform and innovation," says Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at Peking University. "He is the man China counted on to move the economy in North Korea. This is a very ominous signal." Jang's dismissal was a shock not only because he had long been considered a core member of the country's ruling elite and a regent and confidant of Kim, who assumed power two years ago upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. The way Jang was dismissed was also extraordinary, as the North Korea government has almost always maintained secrecy over its inner workings, power struggles and skulduggery during the more than six decades of rule by the Kim family. "Kim Jong-un was declaring at home and abroad that he is now the truly one and only leader in the North, that he will not tolerate a No 2," says Yang Moo-jin, an analyst at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. Jang had visited China on a number of occasions and had been considered the most important advocate of the Chinese style of economic overhaul that the government in Beijing has been urging North Korea to embrace. At 67, Jang is part of the same generation as China's leaders. Unlike the 30-year-old Kim - who has not been to China and who remains a mystery despite the lineage to his grandfather, North Korea's revolutionary founder, Kim Il-sung - Jang was seen by Beijing as a steady hand and a trusted conduit into North Korea's top leadership. He was one of China's few high-level North Korean interlocutors. On a six-day visit to Beijing last year, Jang met President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Special economic zones, where Chinese and other foreign investors would get preferential treatment in North Korea, were high on the agenda. Just last month North Korea's official media announced that 14 new special economic zones would be opened and, although relatively small, they were seen as a sign of fruition of some of the reforms China has advocated. "Those zones were a consequence of Jang's efforts," Zhu says. "It's possible Jang went too far on decentralising and that threatened Kim's position." China's Foreign Ministry offered restrained comments regarding Jang's dismissal, calling it an internal affair of North Korea. "We will stay committed to promoting the traditional friendly, co-operative relationship" between China and North Korea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. Still, China's official media gave prominent attention to the accusations against Jang, copying some of the florid language used in North Korea's own state news media that recited the litany of his transgressions at party expense: womanising, gambling, drug abuse, "wining and dining at back parlours of deluxe restaurants", and showing a politically motivated ambition to challenge Kim as the "unitary centre". Also among the crimes for which Jang stood accused was selling resources cheaply, an accusation that appears to have been aimed directly at China, the biggest buyer of North Korea's iron ore and minerals. Soon after assuming power, Kim complained that North Korea's resources, one of its few sources of outside income, were being sold too cheaply. He demanded higher prices for minerals, rare earths and coal, exported by the growing number of joint ventures between China and North Korea. Kim's complaints angered bargain-conscious Chinese mine operators, several of whom abandoned their North Korean operations. Now the climate for Chinese investment in North Korea, which was not particularly good, would be likely to worsen, says Andrei Lankov, a professor of history at Kookmin University in Seoul. Jang's demotion raised the possibility of further instability in North Korea at a time when China is already confronting increased tensions with Japan and South Korea. In China there is an overriding fear that the North Korean government - an ally dating to the Korean war - could collapse. That, some fear, could lead to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula under a government in South Korea allied with the United States. "China worries about instability which might be provoked by such acts" as Jang's dismissal, Lankov says. Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at Sejong Institute in South Korea, says the dismissal could signal more internal strife. "Given the extremely harsh stance against Jang and his followers," he says, "a round of bloody purges will be inevitable as the regime roots out poisonous weeds from its ranks." Another concern for China was the question of whether Kim would conduct a new nuclear test, says Roger Cavazos, a US expert on North Korea, who is visiting Shanghai. In February, in an act of open defiance to Beijing, Kim authorised the country's third nuclear test. China had urged him not to risk open confrontation with the US by detonating the weapon. Shortly afterwards, in a rare public criticism, President Xi Jinping accused North Korea of creating regional instability for "selfish gains". The closer North Korea gets to demonstrating that it can miniaturise a nuclear weapon to fit atop a missile, the more the US will increase its missile defences in the region. As Kim rearranges the top echelons of the government, the military could emerge the winner, says Cai Jian, deputy director of the Centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. It was likely "the military forces will become stronger" and that the "hardliners will become more hardline". Cavazos agreed: "The military was demonstrating its loyalty to Kim Jong-un, and Kim Jong-un was demonstrating his loyalty to the military." ^ top ^

N.Korea's Jang Song-thaek executed: KCNA (Global Times)
2013-12-13
Jang Song-thaek, deposed senior official of North Korea, has been sentenced to death and executed after the Special Military Tribunal found him guilty of treason, the official news agency KCNA reported early Friday. Jang, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) administration department, was executed on Thursday immediately after the Special Military Tribunal convicted him of committing unforgivable crime as traitor, the report said. The 67-year-old senior general, who was labeled as so-called reformer by outside forces, has been day-dreaming about being recognized as a "new regime," it said. Jang, who was married to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's biological aunt, committed such a "hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state," the report said. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK stripped Jang of all posts and titles for "anti-party and counter- revolutionary crime" after an enlarged meeting on Sunday. "Our party will never pardon anyone challenging its leadership and infringing upon the interests of the state and people in violation of the principle of the revolution, regardless of his or her position and merits," the WPK said in a resolution, calling on all party members and the Korean People's Army to be united under Kim's leadership for a "final victory." ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

Secret to smart government (Ub Post)
2013-12-08
President Ts.Elbegdorj convened a national consultative meeting titled “From a Big Government to a Smart Government” two weeks ago. The meeting, which was nationally broadcasted live on television, was an important, thought-provoking occasion that audaciously raised the deep-seated, serious issues that has grown inside the government for many years. The discussions during the meeting gave us more hope that our country would have a better, healthy tomorrow. The President clearly summed it up the successes and failures of the government of Mongolia. He also gave a unique, explicit outlook on what has to be done in order to fix the government and bring economic growth. If Mongolians manage to implement the resolution to issues discussed during the event, development of the country will undoubtedly move up a rank. However, the biggest challenge the government faces today is whether it is actually capable of bringing about such change and who would solve the existing problems in what manner and sequence. Smart government - President Elbegdorj outlined what he felt was an incorrect manner of thinking in Mongolia. “The government is everywhere, the government decides everything. […] According to the Constitutional Law, the state is formed by the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. These three branches are supposed to be independent from each other and mutually complementary. In order to have a good, smart government, there must be good, smart people in the higher level governance. Regardless of a good constitutional law, a country can enter into havoc if their government is not capable, or fails to demonstrate its leadership and duties. When this happens, the people might go on a public protest opposing the government and, in some cases, it could result in a revolution that replaces the government. A good government starts from a good person. It is hard to imagine a smart government without smart people in it. Are the most skilled Mongolians currently working for the government? If not, why? What criteria are used to appoint a minister in the government? What leadership qualities are considered by political parties when they prepare their candidates for elections? What qualities, skills and knowledge do the people in our government have today? Our country needs to strengthen its government structure. However, even if we come up with the best system possible, we will need leaders who can conduct good management of the system. This is where the “helicopter view” comes in. The term was first used by Royal Dutch Shell Company to describe a leader who can rise above others to see the bigger picture while being able to distinguish between the smallest parts. In order to identify leaders with the helicopter view, we must carefully determine their ability to assess the reality, their vision, imagination, leadership qualities, and energy. A good leader should not only possess required knowledge but also be able to match his actions and words and be fully dedicated to what he is supposed to do. We have to know exactly what characteristics a leader has and what his motivation is, because the smarter a person is, the greater harm he is capable of inflicting on society. Skills and salary of ministers - Highly developed countries such as Japan have developed a system that is aimed at identifying leaders with the helicopter view and prepare them for higher positions by assigning small to big responsibilities from the early stages of their development. Even Mongolia had a similar system in the socialist era. A leader must be highly disciplined, mentally and physically, and be able to make the best decisions without panicking in the toughest of situations. Keeping that in mind, if you look at how the Mongolian government is managed today, you will be able to see with great ease that our government actually is huge, but not smart. It has been many years since our government started appointing inexperienced people as public servants after making the decision based on where they come from rather than what professional abilities they possess. Relevant ministers must be responsible for their actions. The initiative to have our public service recruit their employees based on skills and merit has not progressed. Four out of 21 governors of all Mongolia provinces are currently under investigation by the Independent Authority Against Corruption. Weren't the best of Mongolia supposed to be working for the government? After identifying, preparing and appointing a skilled leader, it has to be made sure that they are retained. One of the important conditions that make an employee stay at his job is his salary. […] The secret to a smart government is smart leaders. It is time to start checking whether the current leaders who are managing the main organizations and units of the government are doing their job smartly, and bring about change. When appointing someone to a higher position, there should be a much bigger, more significant criteria than the type of political party affiliations the chosen candidate might have. As long as a minister is a smart leader, it is irrelevant which political party they are a member to. Senior positions inside the government (including a minister's position) should have revised responsibilities and requirements. Also, there ought to be a system that selects and prepares the required personnel and provide them with a salary rate that is based on their performance. This is where we should begin transforming a big government into a smart government. Otherwise, the job cannot be done by establishing one or two working groups that just write up an action plan and some reports. In any case, the reputation of the President of Mongolia will now depend on the results of reforms to be carried out to shift from a big government to a smart government. The clock of historic expectations has started ticking… ^ top ^

Managing Board of Oyu Tolgoi to Convene (Montsame)
2013-12-10
Members of the managing board of the Oyu tolgoi project are planning to hold a meeting this Wednesday. They aim to reach a consensus on accumulated issues waiting a solution, within the project. At the previous meetings of the board, the directors found a solution to license issues regarding Oyu tolgoi deposit's smaller parts and agreed to secure some licenses within a related law. The investors are paying attention to a need of increasing a copper production and export in 2017. However, the Mongolian side is more interested in setting up an independent laboratory that is able to control a volume of the gold and copper exported. The directors of the Oyu Tolgoi board have already arrived in Ulaanbaatar. ^ top ^

 

Mme 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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