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
  6-10.1.14, No. 507  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

Mongolia

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Foreign Policy

Chinese warship in Cyprus to aid Syrian chemical weapons removal (SCMP)
2014-01-04
A Chinese frigate which will help escort Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons out of the country docked in Cyprus on Saturday as part of a delayed international mission. The Yancheng, a missile frigate, will accompany a Norwegian-Danish convoy which is in international waters off Syria, waiting for the go-ahead from international watchdogs overseeing the removal of the chemical arsenal. The mission to ship chemicals from Syria has missed its December 31 target date and Chinese and Cypriot officials said it was unclear exactly when it would begin. “China supports the efforts of the international community to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons...we wish this operation a success,” said Liu Xinsheng, China's ambassador to Cyprus. Photis Photiou, the defence minister of Cyprus, said after meeting Chinese officials that he expected the operation would start “any day now”. Russia will also be providing an escort to the convoy carrying Syria's chemical weapons, which will be loaded onto two cargo ships and escorted to Italy, where a US ship equipped with toxin-neutralising equipment will take over. The US vessel, the Cape Ray, is due to leave the United States for the Mediterranean in about two weeks. Dozens of Chinese nationals in Cyprus converged on the quay of Limassol port, about 250 kilometres west of the Syrian port city of Latakia from where the chemicals will be shipped. Loudspeakers blared Chinese music as Chinese flags were waved by women in traditional yellow and red costumes. The December 31 deadline was missed because of poor weather, logistical delays and the conflict inside Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces have fought to clear rebels from roads along which the chemicals will be transported. Syria agreed to abandon its chemical weapons under a deal proposed by Russia and hashed out with the United States, after hundreds of people died in an August 21 sarin gas attack that Western nations blamed on Assad's government. Syrian authorities deny they used chemical weapons, and blame the rebels. China has repeatedly called for a political resolution. It has also called for a full and impartial investigation by UN chemical weapons inspectors. ^ top ^

Chinese army reins in expenditures (Xinhua)
2014-01-06
The Chinese army has vowed to strictly tighten its administrative expenses by regulating budget quotas in a bid to improve the efficiency of military spending. A regulation jointly released by four departments of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) offered detailed instructions on the army's expenses for daily office work, business trips, conferences and receptions, among other items. The announcement was made on Monday. The regulation, approved by the Central Military Commission, was issued by the Headquarters of General Staff, General Political Department, General Logistics Department and General Armament Department, echoing a sweeping campaign against waste and extravagance trumpeted by the central authority. According to the new rule, all departments in the army will be under a comprehensive expenditure control that covers all of their spending. The PLA's public consumption on overseas trips and receptions has also been included in the regulation. The regulation is an important move to improve the PLA's work style and practice frugality and is expected to curb waste and extravagance in the army. It stipulated that the army should cap its total expenses by setting up quota management in each department and limiting total spending on individual items. The army should cut down its budget for administrative expenses. Activities such as giving cash or gifts, organizing expensive entertainment or fitness activities, and paying for private banquets, must be banned completely, according to the rule. The army should strengthen supervision and establish a publicity system in order to make its expenditures more transparent, it said. ^ top ^

Chinese envoy calls for deepening of mutual trust between China, India (Xinhua)
2014-01-06
China and India should further deepen mutual trust and expand mutually beneficial and pragmatic partnership, said the Chinese envoy to India on Monday. In an article entitled "Deepening Mutual Trust" published in the local daily The Hindu, Chinese Ambassador to India Wei Wei said that the year 2014 is the "Year of Friendly Exchanges between China and India and also the 60th anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. "The international situation is undergoing profound changes while the global economy is facing a depth adjustment. Against this backdrop, China and India should deepen mutual trust in a spirit of treating each other with sincerity as well as expand our pragmatic cooperation in political, economic, military, cultural and other fields with a broader vision and increasing efforts," said the envoy. He said the prior task for both China and India is to develop the economy and improve people's living standard. "Both sides should explore complementary cooperation in the major fields of infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, services, IT, telecommunication, investment, pharmaceutical and industrial parks," said Wei while emphasizing the importance of economic and trade relations between the two countries. Both India and China need a favorable external environment especially in periphery and both sides should play a leading role in regional economic integration for the common development of neighboring countries and promote connectivity, mutual benefit and common prosperity in the region, he said. ^ top ^

China hails ROK president's call for closer bilateral ties (Xinhua)
2014-01-07
China on Tuesday spoke highly of statements made by President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Park Geun-hye on current bilateral ties at a press conference on Monday, expressing the hope to further promote their strategic cooperative partnership. Park said during her first news conference since inauguration on Monday that current China-ROK ties are closer than at any time in history, and called on both sides to make further contributions to enhancing both peoples' well-being and realizing peace and stability in northeast Asia. "China spoke highly of President Park's statements," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a daily press briefing. Park's state visit to China in June last year left Chinese with a deep and good impression, said Hua. The two countries reached an important consensus on enriching and deepening bilateral ties, pointing out the direction for the development of ties in the next five years and beyond, she said. Further development of the relationship between the two neighboring countries is not only in the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples, but is also conducive to regional peace and stability, said Hua. China is ready to work with the ROK to continue to push forward the healthy and steady development of the strategic cooperative partnership, said Hua. ^ top ^

Chinese research ship 'Snow Dragon' breaks free from ice zone (SCMP)
2014-01-08
China's Antarctic research ship the Xue Long broke free from the ice and entered a safe zone yesterday after a 14-hour struggle. The escape at around 6pm Beijing time was made possible by a westerly wind that loosened the dense ice. It brought a happy ending to a dramatic rescue mission in which its crew had earlier saved 52 scientists, journalists and tourists who were trapped on the Russian icebreaker Akademik Shokalskiy. Hours later the captain of the Russian vessel, Igor Kiselyov, said his ship had also managed to navigate slowly through the ice, Agence France-Presse reported. "Finally the wind changed to the west and as a result a crack appeared in the ice. We went into it and we are now slowly moving north," he said, acknowledging that sailing conditions were hard, with thick fog and visibility of "no more than 500 metres". Xinhua reported that the captain of the Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, Wang Jianzhong, ran between starboard and port, observing the ice from behind sunglasses. He was physically exhausted but in high spirits, the agency said. The icebreaker got trapped in thick Antarctic floes on Friday, a day after the Xue Long's helicopter ferried the passengers on the Russian ship, which had been trapped for 10 days, to the safety of an Australian vessel. Scientists on board the Xue Long helped the crew by measuring the distance between the vessel and the ice with high- precision laser beams. The breakout manoeuvre started at about 5am yesterday, according to the State Oceanic Administration. Yuan Shaohong, party secretary of the State Oceanic Administration's Polar Research Institute and former captain of the Xue Long, told the Beijing Evening News that, after three hours of ice-breaking, the ship had moved only about 200 metres to the northeast. "We were trapped because we came to save people," Wu Jiansheng, a sailor who has taken part in many polar expeditions, told China Oceanic News. "There is pride in our hearts." ^ top ^

China calls for worldwide 'warning' to Japan over war tribute visit (SCMP)
2014-01-09
China on Wednesday called for a worldwide “warning” to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his visit to a contested war shrine as it took the mounting feud between the two nations to the United Nations. China's UN envoy Liu Jieyi said Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last week risked taking Japan down “a very dangerous path”. The international community must make “a warning to the fact that Abe must correct his erroneous outlook of history,” Liu told reporters at the UN headquarters in the latest diplomatic salvo against Japan. “He must correct his mistakes and he must not slip further down the wrong path,” Liu told reporters. China has reacted with fury to Abe's visit last week to Yasukuni which honours 14 war criminals among the country's war dead. China and Japan also have a bitter dispute over contested islands in the East China Sea. Liu said Yasukuni “whitewashes and glorifies aggression and trumpets a militarist outlook of history. “It is the incarnation of militarism of Japan and also a spiritual tool to wage wars of aggression against other countries,” he added. Liu indicated that Abe's gesture could be a breach of the UN Charter. “It is the duty of the international community to safeguard, by working together, the principles and purposes of the charter and to avoid any recurrence or any erroneous attitude that might take a country down a very dangerous path,” China's envoy said. Abe said last week the goal of his visit was “to pledge and determine that never again will people suffer in war.” The shrine is widely seen, however, as a reminder of Japan's 20th-century aggression against China and other Asian nations. ^ top ^

China, Vietnam launch consultations on sea-related joint development (Xinhua)
2014-01-09
China and Vietnam have launched their first round of consultations on joint development of maritime resources, according to a news release issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday. The consultation was held on Wednesday between the teams on sea-related joint development, co-chaired by deputy chiefs from the Chinese foreign ministry's Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs and the Vietnamese foreign ministry's National Boundary Commission, according to the news release. The two sides exchanged views in depth on sea-related joint development, it said. The two sides are committed to working together for substantial progress toward the consensus reached between the two countries' leaders and the bilateral agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues signed in 2011, the release said. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Chinese disciplinary body's spending drops (Xinhua)
2014-01-05
Spending by China's disciplinary and supervisory organs significantly dropped in 2013 as the country's anti-extravagance drive continued. Money spent on receptions, meetings and printing decreased by 61 percent, 59 percent and 13 percent respectively last year compared with the figure in 2012, according to a Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) statement on Saturday. The drops are the result of an "eight-point" anti-bureaucracy and formalism rule that was introduced at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in late 2012. CPC officials were told to reduce pomp, ceremony, bureaucratic visits and meetings. The number of public duty outbound visits fell by 26 percent last year, according to the statement. Some 810,000 people working for disciplinary and supervisory organs have submitted reports to prove that they are no longer holders of VIP cards after the CCDI required its officials and employees to discard "all kinds of membership cards received in different names" in May. The membership card campaign, together with other bans on public funded gifts during holidays and luxurious funerals, targets the possibility of bribery. ^ top ^

Government orders TV anchors, guests to use Mandarin (China Daily)
2014-01-06
News anchors and TV guests must speak in Mandarin and should avoid dialects and foreign languages, according to a notice from the country's media regulator. The notice, issued on Friday by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said news anchors should avoid using Chinese dialects or expressions that are region-specific and Internet slang words and phrases, unless the programs have specific requirements. News anchors should avoid "unnecessary foreign languages" during programs, it said. The notice also applied to TV pundits and guests as television stations are required to guide them on the proper use of language during live shows. The notice does not apply to TV and radio programs that are broadcast in the languages of ethnic groups. The measure aims to further promote the use of Mandarin and regulate the use of languages during TV shows, the notice said. A spokesman for the media regulator, who was not identified in the notice, said on Friday that many entertainment programs, especially talent shows, use local dialects, and the authority ordered them to switch to Mandarin. The notice said television stations nationwide should include Mandarin as an important assessment criterion for TV anchors and reporters, and TV programs that do not follow the notice will be banned. The authority said it will revise the code of ethics for news anchors at TV and radio stations and add specific requirements for Mandarin standards. An official at the Hunan Satellite TV station said the broadcaster has informed all its anchors of the notice, Xinhua News Agency reported. Despite the government's effort to promote Mandarin nationwide, about 30 percent of the population, or 400 million people, cannot speak it, and a large number of people do not speak Mandarin well, according to the Ministry of Education. ^ top ^

Gov't campaign to ensure migrant workers' wages (Xinhua)
2014-01-06
The Chinese government on Monday launched a wages overhaul to ensure that millions of migrant workers from the country's rural regions get properly paid before they return home for a major traditional Chinese holiday. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said in a statement that five working teams will be sent to eight provinces including Zhejiang and Hubei to inspect employers' salary payments to migrant workers as well as local governments' related supervisory work. The statement said that the campaign will urge local authorities to take effective measures to ensure migrant workers get paid in full before the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan. 31. According to the statement, 10 ministries are participating in this campaign. Violations by employers such as wage deductions and delays are an old problem in China that has pressed the government to conduct such a yearly overhaul in recent years to protect workers' rights. ^ top ^

Ex-health minister endorses finding China's smog kills 350,000 a year (SCMP)
2014-01-08
Air pollution causes 350,000 to 500,000 premature deaths on the mainland a year, according to an article co-written by a former health minister. Chen Zhu, now president of the Chinese Medical Association, and three other authors endorsed the estimate in a commentary published in The Lancet medical journal last month. The article, titled "China tackles the heath effects of air pollution", cited estimates from the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning and Fudan University. The authors said China spewed out more of the main pollutants than any other country, but that "prevention and control of environmental pollution in China is difficult because there are multiple pollution sources and pollutants across cities and regions". Beijing has committed US$277.5 billion over five years to preventing and controlling air pollution and if targets are met 200,000 fewer people would die prematurely each year, according to The Lancet article. It said the main polluters in the country were industry, coal and vehicles. However, the estimate the article endorsed - that air pollution causes 350,000 to 500,000 premature deaths each year - was far lower than another estimate in a study published in the same magazine the year before that air pollution was responsible for 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 alone and the loss of 25 million disability-adjusted life-years. Chen said the 2012 study was a worst-case scenario and might have overestimated the effects of pollution. The former health chief and his fellow authors said in their commentary the lower estimate used a revised measure of long-term air pollution and real-time air monitoring data in cities, which "better reflect the real situation in the country". However, Yang Gonghuan, a former deputy director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and an author of the 2012 study, said: "I don't think it's really appropriate to say we overestimated. "The Fudan University study only looked at 113 cities, while ours looked at the whole country. The population of the whole country is far greater than the population of 113 cities." Major Chinese cities have been severely affected by heavy smog in the past few months. Yesterday Guangzhou activated its orange alert and ordered 11 mandatory air pollution emergency measures for the first time, which included taking one-fifth of the 13,000 government vehicles off the roads. This came two months after the measures were announced. Local media reported that Guangzhou Mayor Chen Jianhua rode the subway to work to do his small part to combat pollution. Other measures put in place to limit the effects of the pollution included halting dusty construction projects such as mining and demolition. Schools, kindergartens and childcare facilities were ordered to cancel outdoor activities until the air quality improves. ^ top ^

Chinese health agency pledges smoking ban by year's end (SCMP)
2014-01-08
Mainland health authorities aim to roll out a nationwide smoking ban in public places by year's end, setting for the first time a target date to meet its commitment to cut down on indoor tobacco use. National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan said the agency was working on the regulation with the State Council. A ban has been on the agenda of China's cabinet since last year. Mao said the commission was also "actively trying to have the National People's Congress to pass a law to contain the harm of tobacco use". The announcement represents the closest that Beijing has come to a timetable for meeting its pledge to create a smoke-free indoor environment under the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. China ratified the convention in 2005, but missed the deadline to honour it by 2011. National legislation enacting a ban on smoking in public places has been seen as the most effective way for the government to fulfil its commitment, but so far action has been limited to several cities. In 2011, the National People's Congress approved a five-year plan that pledged to ban smoking in all indoor work places, indoor public spaces and public transport by 2015 - a huge move for the country with the world's largest population of smokers. The Health Ministry subsequently issued a regulation banning smoking in all indoor public areas, but failed to outline how it would be implemented or any repercussions for violating it. China is the world's largest cigarette manufacturer and consumer, with more than 300 million smokers, according to national statistics. Some 740 million people, including 180 million children, are affected by secondary smoke. Each year, more than one million people die of diseases related to smoking and there are another 100,000 deaths related to secondary smoke, according to the health commission. Mainland tobacco-control advocates were encouraged by the announcement of the nationwide plan after years of slow progress. Last month, a circular published by the State Council and the Communist Party's decision-making Central Committee banned officials from smoking in schools, hospitals, sport venues, public transport and other places deemed off limits to smokers. "There have been no concrete moves by the government since issuing the 12th five-year plan," said Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of Chinese Association on Tobacco Control and a professor with Peking Union Medical College. "But the circular showed the political commitment by the current administration and it is more than a restraint to party members and officials." ^ top ^

Over 30,000 punished for violating bureaucracy-busting rules (Xinhua)
2014-01-09
A total of 30,420 officials have been punished for violating the "eight-point" anti-bureaucracy rules rolled out in late 2012, the Communist Party of China's (CPC) anti-corruption agency revealed on Wednesday. The violators were found to have been involved in 24,521 cases as of the end of December, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). The "eight-point" rules were introduced at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Dec. 4, 2012 in a bid to ban officials' extravagance, bureaucracy and formalism. The violations include use of public cars for personal affairs, use of public funds for travel or entertainment, and holding of extravagant weddings or other ceremonies, according to the CCDI. ^ top ^

Academy researchers call for Chinese to get more holidays (People's Daily)
2014-01-09
China should have longer holidays, according to a report issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It suggested adding two to six days of public holidays and its proposal, issued by the academy's tourism research center and the Social Sciences Academic Press, also urges extending the seven-day Spring Festival holiday and restoring the May Day holiday, reduced to three days in 2008, to a week. China should ensure holiday arrangements ease congestion and create longer holidays to help people unite or travel with their families, the report said. “Excessive crowds during travel rushes show the shortage of long vacations,” said academy researcher Liu Simin. It predicted that this year's National Day holiday could see congestion worse than before. In a poll on news portal sina.com which attracted more than 22,000 votes, 96.9 percent favored extending the Spring Festival holiday while 86.8 percent wanted the May Day holiday to be a weeklong break once again. Some 63 percent believed the authorities would increase the number of holidays in future. “Finally, someone stands out to speak for us,” was a comment on weibo.com.[...] In two earlier polls — in October and November — there were strong calls for more and longer holidays. But there are still only 11 official days counted as holidays this year. A major change was cutting the number of three-day holidays made up by “moving” weekends, with the plan resolving the problem of long periods of consecutive work days in the weeks before or after holidays, something considered unreasonable by the public for years. In addition to longer public holidays, the report also called for guaranteed paid leave. According to statistics from the national holiday office, people with 10 years' service in 62 countries and regions it surveyed are eligible to 19 days' paid leave on average. China offers just 10 days. Wang Qiyan, director of Renmin University of China's leisure travel research center, said: “One or even two weeklong holidays can no longer meet the demand that has been rising with higher family earnings.” The report, issued at a press conference in Beijing, also called for more investment in popular tourist sites and said local governments should also focus on developing less popular ones. These measures could go some way toward easing holiday congestion, the report said. ^ top ^

China slaps largest one-child policy fine, 7.5 million yuan, against director Zhang Yimou (SCMP)
2014-01-10
Embattled filmmaker Zhang Yimou is now facing a staggering fine of 7.49 million yuan (HK$ 9.59 million) for violating China's birth-control policies, local authorities said. Zhang, one of China's most prominent film directors, and his wife Chen Ting “have three children, which is a violation of family planning laws”, the Family Planning Bureau in Wuxi's Binhu District said on its official Weibo microblog on Thursday afternoon. The message said that the bureau had informed the couple that they needed to pay a cash fine, or what it calls "social maintenance fees", of almost 7.49 million yuan, for the violation. This would be the largest fine handed down against any Chinese family since the one-child policy was introduced in the 1970s. The bureau said it calculated the figure based on Zhang's and his wife's income in the three years prior to the birth of each of their children, in accordance with the law. The children are aged 12, 9 and 7 respectively. In total, Zhang made more than 3.58 million yuan in those three years while his wife had no income. The couple had 30 days to pay the full amount of the fine, or they could ask for an administrative review, or launch a lawsuit challenging the decision. In a previous interview with Xinhua News Agency, Zhang and his wife said that they gave birth to three children in the years of 2001, 2004 and 2006 respectively, but didn't register their marriage until 2011, when they wanted to file household registration for the children. Zhang described his "pains" of having to keep a distance from his family in public as the couple tried to hide their relationship and the children over the years, since they did not want the authorities to find out about the extra births. Zhang, 62, has been under fire since May when rumours circulated online that he had multiple children, in violation of the family planning law. These rumours gave rise to fierce criticism against official inaction and perceived "privilege" from prosecution that Zhang enjoyed as a celebrity. They eventually prompted the authorities in Wuxi, where his wife is registered as a resident, to investigate and fine the couple. Some commentators have also come to Zhang's defence, saying he had been made a scapegoat of the ridiculous one-child policy. The bureau said it had sent nine investigation teams to several provinces and cities for an extensive investigation, as Zhang and his wife had not lived in Wuxi for a long time. ^ top ^

 

Beijing

Trade soars on Xi's eatery visit (Global Times)
2014-01-06
The fast food eatery that President Xi Jinping spontaneously visited in Beijing has been gaining large popularity as a growing number of people are visiting the shop, showing enthusiastic feedback to Xi's effort to reach out to the people. Every day diners have been packing one of the downtown branches of Qing-Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop where Xi paid a surprise visit and had his lunch on December 28, 2013, with many of them coming from across the country to visit the restaurant and order the same dishes as Xi. More than 40 people were waiting in line to order when a Global Times reporter arrived at the shop at 5 pm Sunday. It took roughly 50 minutes for one customer to get what they ordered and there were passersby taking pictures of the restaurant like it was a scenic site. "It's a feeling of freshness to me as I experience the same things that President Xi went through," a customer surnamed Zhu from Chongqing, who was on a business trip to Beijing told the Global Times, noting that it was worth the wait. The ardent feedback from the public to Xi's mixing with ordinary people shows his success in reaching out to the people and promoting the "mass line" campaign, Huang Weiping, director of the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, told the Global Times. In June, the Communist Party of China launched a "mass line" campaign to strengthen Party-people ties, as being out of touch has been a major public complaint toward some officials. Xi ordered half a dozen steamed buns with a filling of pork and scallion, plus side dishes of vegetables and stewed pork liver and intestine, which cost him 21 yuan ($3.46). It was later named the "President set" by Net users. "Sales have increased by 30 percent since President Xi's visit, and most of the customers are ordering the same dishes as him, even though we do not combine the dishes Xi ordered as a package," said the branch manager. Besides customers, people are coming to the site to express their appeals, as dozens of visitors were found in front of the eatery holding banners calling on the authorities to pay attention to various causes. The shopkeeper of a nearby newsstand told the Global Times that the group of protesters from different regions across the country gathered at the door of the restaurant on Saturday morning and stayed until nearly 2 pm. "People expressing their appeals at the shop can put pressure on officials as they may pay attention to it," Chen Jiaxi, a professor with the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, said because Xi's visit had brought the site much public attention. ^ top ^

 

Guangdong

S China's Guangdong reports 10th H7N9 case (People's Daily)
2014-01-08
The southern city of Foshan in Guangdong Province reported a new human H7N9 case on Wednesday, raising the total number of such cases in the province to 10 since August. The 51-year-old female patient, surnamed Cui, was sent to hospital on Jan. 1. She is now in a critical condition, said the provincial health and family planning commission. Cui bought a live chicken at a market and slaughtered it at home. No abnormal conditions have been found in the 21 people who were in close contact with the patient. Guangdong confirmed its first human case of H7N9 on Aug. 10. Two of its 10 cases were uncovered in Shenzhen, two in Foshan, one in Huizhou, two in Dongguan and three in Yangjiang. One patient in Dongguan City, surnamed He, died of multiple organ failure on Monday after being treated in a local hospital for about three weeks. ^ top ^

 

Xinjiang

Xinjiang to see 'major strategy shift' (Global Times)
2014-01-09
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will refocus its priority on maintaining social stability after a turbulent year riven by multiple terrorist attacks, a major altering of the region's strategy since 2010. On Tuesday and Wednesday, local media published a series of reports about President Xi Jinping's landmark speech guiding the region's work given at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on December 19, 2013. Citing the region's Party chief Zhang Chunxian, the Xinjiang Daily reported that Xi laid out the guiding concept, major targets and tasks in the speech, but did not reveal specific details. Several sources told the Global Times that the full text of Xi's speech was only available for officials at the regional level, while some major points were revealed by Zhang at a series of meetings held to implement the central authority's guidance. The Xinjiang Daily quoted Zhang as saying that the focus of work should be maintaining social stability and an enduring peace, which is the "prime task" in the region. An editorial of the paper also said the central authority has clarified that development should be promoted surrounding the task of sustaining an enduring peace in Xinjiang. The tone is different from that set at the central government's Xinjiang work conference in May 2010. Subsequently, the region had held onto the notion that "development is the key to all the problems in Xinjiang." A local official in Kashi, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times that repeated terrorist attacks have exacted a toll on the region's economy as investors were scared away. In 2013, there were at least seven terrorist attacks and two riots in Xinjiang, leading to dozens of deaths. After the violence reached a peak in the countdown to the fourth anniversary of deadly riots on July 5, the regional government staged mass rallies of armed police across the region to deter terrorists. China's top security official Meng Jianzhu attended the rally in Xinjiang capital Urumqi on June 29, 2013. The violence even spilled outside the region. On October 28, 2013, an SUV ploughed through bystanders near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five and in­juring 40 others. The Turkistan Islamic Party, who claimed responsibility for the attack, is believed to be another incarnation of the terrorist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement. "The shift in strategy was a wise move by the central authority, who clearly knows the complex situation in Xinjiang," the Kashi official said. "While other regions can concentrate on economic growth, development would be just empty talk in Xinjiang if the security problems remain unsolved." Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said that the central government has dispatched several inspection teams to Xinjiang since mid-2013 and the altering of the strategy comes as the central authority reached a common understanding over the situation. "However, the stress on stability doesn't mean the region will backtrack to the pre-2010 period when the emphasis was 'stability prevails over all,'" Tursun told the Global Times, adding that during that time the heavy-handed anti-terror campaign was carried out at the expense of growth. Zhang Chunxian, who assumed the top post in Xinjiang in 2010, was regarded by overseas media as governing the region with "moderate policy." However, Tursan disagreed with the claim of Zhang's "softness," noting the resources devoted to anti-terrorism had not declined over the past three years. "The new strategy is not a denial of the region's policy since 2010. It aims for a combination of maintaining stability and economic development, which will be realized in a groundbreaking manner," he said, noting that a series of adjustments are expected in Xinjiang's socio-economic policies. For instance, to help maintain stability in southern Xinjiang, which has witnessed the most terrorist attacks, labor-intensive industries are most likely to be developed to create enough jobs, said the expert. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong to consider destroying 33-tonne ivory stockpile after Beijing crushes illegal tusks (SCMP)
2014-01-08
Hong Kong is to reconsider proposals to destroy its 33-tonne ivory stockpile, following a symbolic decision by Beijing to crush its confiscated ivory for the first time. A spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it was “aware of steps in other places to destroy forfeited ivory” and was “reviewing the effectiveness of existing disposal measures”. She said a revised proposal to destroy Hong Kong's confiscated ivory would be discussed by the Endangered Species Advisory Committee (ESAC) on January 23. On Monday, in Dongguan, Guangdong, diplomats, media and international guests watched two giant grinders destroy 6.1 tonnes of ivory sculptures and raw tusks. The move signalled the willingness of the mainland – the world's largest ivory market – to play a greater role in wildlife protection. It followed a global conservation conference in March at which China and the United States co-sponsored measures to increase protection for more than 40 animal species, most of which are threatened by Chinese consumers' tastes and eating habits. Local activists welcomed Beijing's actions and called on Hong Kong to follow suit. “The time has come to destroy Hong Kong's stockpile. This will send a strong message to poachers and smugglers that Hong Kong is not a viable trade route, and is a city keen to demonstrate leadership on conservation,” said Gavin Edwards, director of conservation at WWF-Hong Kong. Hong Kong plays a role in the ivory trade both as a transit point for the mainland and as a consumer in its own right. Last month, 14 people were arrested at Chek Lap Kok airport after customs officers seized 160kg of raw tusks and ivory products in their checked baggage. As pressure builds on Hong Kong, conservationists worry that ESAC – a statutory advisory body made up of university researchers and members of the business community – will reject the proposal. “The committee has discussed this issue already, but members of the committee have objected in the past,” said Alex Hofford, a Hong Kong for Elephants campaigner. “However, I think there is still a good chance that the government will follow China on this as Hong Kong tends to follow China's lead on policy matters.” In June, the Philippines destroyed its five-tonne stockpile of confiscated ivory; and since 1992, three elephant range states in Africa – Zambia, Kenya and Gabon – have incinerated their stockpiles. James Compton, senior director at the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, said that while destroying stockpiles sent a strong message to poachers and consumers, governments could also choose to hold seized ivory in secure storage. He said governments choosing to do so should be careful to keep inventories to “provide assurances that ivory does not find its way back into illegal markets, further feeding illegal trade”. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Taiwan President Ma launches charm offensive to protect remaining diplomatic ties (SCMP)
2014-01-08
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is hoping to protect some of the few diplomatic relationships Taipei has left with a whirlwind trip to Africa and Central America later this month. Still reeling from the Gambia's decision to break off diplomatic ties in November, Ma has announced an eight-day swing through Burkina Faso, Sao Tome and Principe and Honduras beginning on January 23. The Gambia's unexpected departure left Taiwan with formal diplomatic ties with just 22 countries. Ma's upcoming trip was seen by analysts as an effort to make sure the tiny West African nation does not inspire other allies to shutter their missions. “Isn't it quite obvious?” said Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Soochow University in Taipei. The loss of the Gambia came as such a blow because Taipei had hoped its improved ties with Beijing had sheltered it from the possibility of more diplomatic exits. The long-time rivals are believed that have a tacit understanding not to woo each other's allies. Ma's government has said there was no evidence Beijing played a role in the Gambia's decision or that it intends to establish ties with the country. But the Taiwanese foreign ministry admitted that the island needs to “re-examine its relations with its 22 diplomatic allies and make necessary adjustments in the allocation of diplomatic resources”. On Tuesday, Taiwanese Deputy Foreign Minister Simon Ko said Ma's upcoming trip would allow the president to bolster existing relationships, especially with Sao Tome and Principe, which is the only ally Ma has not visited during his more than five years as president. “The trip is aimed at cementing ties with Sao Tome, as well as Honduras,” Ko said. Ma also decided to drop by Burkina Faso while in the region. Ma originally planned to visit Sao Tome in November 2012, but had to cancel because of President Manuel Pinto Da Costa's schedule. Ma was invited back late last year. Honduras has also invited Ma to attend the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez on January 27. Ma was expected to make a refuelling stop in Los Angeles, where the United States has previously allowed the Taiwanese president to pass through. But Ko would not say whether Ma had received additional German approval for a possible stop in Frankfurt. ^ top ^

 

Economy

Beijing warns of dangers in shadow banking (SCMP)
2014-01-06
The mainland's cabinet has warned of the dangers lurking in the unbridled growth of the shadow banking sector. The State Council's warning elevates the issue from a mere banking concern and shows the increasing seriousness with which Beijing views the problem. The cabinet recently issued a document defining shadow banking and ordering government departments, financial regulators and local governments to oversee the under-regulated firms involved in such lending, bankers and analysts say. It said shadow banking was a "beneficial" and "inevitable" consequence of financial development, but supervision should be intensified by sharing responsibilities and improving co-ordination to contain risks, according to sources. Local government debt has swollen to 17.9 trillion yuan (HK$22.7 trillion) by the middle of last year, nearly 70 per cent more than at the end of 2010, with the bulk of credit coming from the shadow banking system. Trust firms and other financial intermediaries have channelled a flood of funds to local government financing vehicles, property developers and firms that have had difficulty obtaining loans from banks since 2008, increasing the mainland's financial leverage and complicating regulatory supervision. Shadow banking entities include companies without financial licences, including internet finance firms, third-party wealth management firms, guarantee companies and micro-credit companies. Businesses in the sector also included money market funds, asset securitisation and wealth management services provided by financial institutions, the sources said, citing the document. Banking, securities and insurance regulators as well as the National Development and Reform Commission, the central bank, the related ministries and local governments should work out supervisory details to regulate the sector, the cabinet said. The document also warned of risks from banks' off-balance-sheet businesses and banned their wealth management products from being pooled into undefined trust firm projects. "The tightening of shadow banking will likely slow fixed-asset investment this year," said Yuan Gangming, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "We'll see more defaults." At its annual meeting yesterday, the banking regulator noted risks from loans to local government financing vehicles, the property sector and industries with overcapacity as well as wealth management services, trust businesses and those stemming from micro-credit and guarantee companies. The China Banking Regulatory Commission said it would also "keep a close eye" on liquidity risks and ward off information technology risks to prevent financial risks. ^ top ^

China to set up fully private banks in 2014: CBRC (Xinhua)
2014-01-06
China will set up three to five fully private banks on a trial basis this year in a bid to further open up the banking sector to domestic and foreign capital, China's banking regulator said Monday. Private capital will be introduced to restructure current banking institutions or set up new ones bearing their own risks, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said in a work meeting. Strict procedures and standards will be set for the pilots, with demanding set-up criteria, limited licenses, enhanced supervision and a risk handling system, according to the CBRC. The CBRC will try to relax the threshold for foreign capital to enter China's banking sector and ease Renminbi operation requirements, while more policies will be issued to support banking reform in the Shanghai free trade zone and financial reform pilot zone. ^ top ^

Chinese govt debt still manageable: Moody's (China Daily)
2014-01-07
China's government debt level is manageable but local authority arrears and contingent liabilities are much higher than those at end of 2010, which is credit negative, rating agency Moody's Investors Services has said. In a report released on Monday covering the auditing results on government debt by China's National Audit Office (NAO), Moody's claimed that a large accumulation in local authority arrears will be a burden on and carry risks to central government finances. The NAO said last week that liabilities directly carried by governments at various levels stood at 20.7 trillion yuan (US$3.4 trillion) at the end of June, up 8.6 percent - or 1.63 trillion yuan - from the end of 2012. Debt guaranteed by governments at various levels amounted to 2.93 trillion yuan at the end of June. Contingent liabilities stood at 6.65 trillion yuan. In breakdown, direct central government debt stood at 9.81 trillion yuan at the end of June. The remaining 10.89 trillion yuan was borrowed by local governments, an increase of 13 percent (1.25 trillion yuan) from the end of 2012. The Moody's report claimed that direct debt has grown beyond the capacity of many local governments to service it, and the central administration may need to provide additional fiscal resources to local authorities to bolster their finances and debt-repayment capacity. Over the past year, the market has been worried by China's rising debt burden and leverage, and there has been no official update since 2011 when the NAO put local government debt at around 10.7 trillion yuan at end of 2010. The NAO's report also shows that the maturity structure of local authority debt is relatively short term, thereby suggesting that general government gross financing needs will further increase, Moody's said. However, the accumulation of combined local and central government direct debt has been offset to a considerable degree by the rapid rise in nominal GDP (gross domestic product) growth, it said. Moody's estimates that the large accumulation of local government contingent debt pushed the total direct and indirect arrears level to a much higher around 50 percent of GDP in June 2013. But such a level is still manageable and future payment capabilities will be enhanced if China's GDP growth remains relatively strong at around 7 percent per year over the next five years, said the US rating agency. Ultimately, the sustainability of the debt build-up will also depend largely on progress in implementing "growth-enhancing supply-side reforms" to offset the downside pressures on economic growth, it said. Another important aspect of the new audit is that its greater transparency reduces uncertainty over the actual level of indebtedness for local governments, Moody's added. ^ top ^

CASS forecasts China's GDP growth at 7.5% in 2014 (People's Daily)
2014-01-08
According to a think tank report, 60 percent of economists interviewed forecast that China's 2014 gross domestic product (GDP) growth will stay at about 7.5 percent. The report was publicized by the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on Wednesday. In December 2013, 111 Chinese economists were surveyed for the report, including 16 percent from the CASS and 65 percent from universities. About 48 percent of the economists believed local governments have difficulties in paying off their debts, while the rest said they are capable of paying off debt. China will publicize its economic performance on Jan. 20. The country set its 2013 growth rate target at 7.5 percent. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

North Korea to hold parliamentary elections in March (SCMP)
2014-01-08
North Korea said yesterday it would elect members of its rubber-stamp parliament in March, which could provide a glimpse into any changes in the country's power elite after the execution of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle. North Korea usually holds parliamentary elections every five years and the polls are largely a formality because candidates are believed to be handpicked by the ruling Workers' Party. But since members of the Supreme People's Assembly typically hold other top posts, the elections are closely watched by analysts for any hints of a shift in power. This year's election will be the first since Kim took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011. Kim had his uncle Jang Song-thaek executed on treason charges last month. Kim is expected to use the elections to replace ageing legislators with younger ones loyal to him, said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea. The official Korean Central News Agency said the elections would be held on March 9. In 2009, 687 new assembly members were elected, with turnout of nearly 100 per cent and all voters backing the sole candidate running in each constituency. North Korea's parliament typically meets once or twice a year to approve personnel changes and fiscal plans. ^ top ^

DPRK rejects S. Korea's call for talks on family reunions: KCNA (Xinhua)
2014-01-09
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has rejected a South Korean proposal for talks on resuming reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the official KCNA news agency reported Thursday. A notification sent to South Korea by DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) queried if the reunions could be held in peace due to South Korea's "war drills" and planned joint military exercises. The notification also said, "If there is no other thing happening in the south side and if the south side has intent to discuss the proposals of our side, both sides can sit together in a good season" and discuss the matter. It gave no specific time frame. The response came three days after South Korean President Park Geun-hye called for a resumption of the reunions around Lunar New Year's Day. South Korea's unification ministry on Monday formally offered to hold a working-level meeting over the issue. The ministry said it had sent a message to the DPRK, suggesting talks be held Thursday at the truce village of Panmunjeom. In its notice, the CPRK said it was "a good offer" if it was prompted by South Korea's "sincere goodwill." It also expressed willingness to make efforts for the improvement of north-south relations in the future. DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un called for "a favorable climate" in his New Year's address to improve inter-Korean ties. ^ top ^

 

Mongolia

National anti-corruption forum discussion (news.mn)
2014-01-03
Preparations to formulate a National Anti-Corruption Program, which is to be discussed nationwide for the strength of the national justice system, are entering the final stage. The national anti-corruption discussion that was launched last November involves civilians, representatives of state and non-state organizations. During the discussion opinions were shared and discussed on how to combat corruption. The national Anti-Corruption Forum will release all the opinions and discussions in Ulaanbaatar on January 10th, 2014. Most of the suggestions by civilians at the national discussion focused on reducing, for the most part, high level professional cases when formulating the national anti-corruption program. In 2006, Mongolia adopted a new Anti-Corruption Law. The new Anti-Corruption law provides for establishing an independent Anti-Corruption Agency with its own structure, special power and functions. Mongolia was ranked 83 out of 177 countries on Transparency International"s 2013 corruption perceptions index. It is believed corruption in the public sector is a very serious problem in Mongolia today. ^ top ^

Prosecutors and journalists partner up for transparency (Ub-post)
2014-01-09
On Wednesday, Ulaanbaatar City General Prosecutor B.Bat-Orshikh and President of Federal Union of Mongolian Journalists B.Galaarid signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on improving transparency and distribution of news reports about cases under investigation. During the signing ceremony, B.Bat-Orshikh said, “Today's signing is a very important step for us. I don't fully agree that the UCPO's transparency is poor. We reported everything we could. The reason that we report limited information is that criminal cases under investigation need to stay classified for accurate results. We signed a memorandum to distribute all available information to the public without a delay through the press. First of all, we are planning to improve journalists' knowledge of the law, so that they can deliver accurate reports based on our information.” The Ulaanbaatar City Prosecutor's Office (UCPO) agreed to partner up with journalists to deliver reliable and up-to-date reports about criminal cases due to increasing public demand and criticisms related to its transparency. The cooperation will not only focus on transparency, but also inform and educate journalists and the public about Mongolia's laws and policies on criminal cases, and also develop ethical journalism by organizing regular workshops, according to officials. “Prior to the cooperation agreement, it was quite hard for journalists to obtain information about cases from prosecutors for many reasons. But now, they will not have to beg for information as the UCPO officially agreed to cooperate and provide solid information. All we need to focus on now is to make sure journalists are distributing the information provided by UCPO prosecutors in the appropriate ethical manner and prevent distribution of misinformation for personal gain,” B.Galaarid said, during the signing ceremony. ^ top ^

President will attend Davos Forum (news.mn)
2014-01-09
President Ts.Elbegdorj is to make his first visit in the New Year to Switzerland. The Annual World Economic Forum where political and business leaders, heads of governments, intellectuals and other leaders of civil organizations are present will be held on January 22nd and 25th in Davos, Switzerland. The globally focused World Economic Forum Annual Meeting provides an unparalleled platform for leaders to map the complexity and interconnectivity of our changing world at the beginning of the year. President Ts.Elbegdorj is expected to visit France after attending the Davos World Economic Forum. The Foreign Minister of the French Republic, Laurent Fabius, invited President Ts.Elbegdorj to France when he visited Mongolia last year. ^ top ^

Moody's Warns on Mongolia's Banks (news.mn)
2014-01-09
Moody's Investors Service has placed negative outlooks on three Mongolian banks, citing risks from rising bad loans, slower economic growth and a deteriorating operating environment. Moody's changed its outlook to negative from stable on Khan Bank LLC, Trade, Development Bank of Mongolia LLC and XacBank LLC while reaffirming the three lenders' B1 ratings. The warning on Mongolia's banking sector follows similar views from other ratings firms, who have noted that lenders in the resource-rich country are vulnerable to an economic slowdown after a period of rapid loan growth. Because around 90% of Mongolia's revenues come from mining-product exports, falling commodity prices have hurt growth and the nation's balance of payments. “Given the resource-based nature of the economy and a large lending concentration in mining, there is the risk of boom-bust cycles, resulting in a volatile operating environment,” Moody's said in its assessment. The credit firm noted that loan growth from January to November 2013 was 55%, much higher than the 23% growth of a year earlier. The nonperforming-loan ratio rose to 5.3% from 4.2%, still not as high as it might be given the pace of lending. But Moody's noted that the bulk of loan growth was concentrated in the construction sector. If those loans sour, capital raisings by the banks may be needed. “The effects of the strong loan growth for 2013 are likely to offset the strong internal capital generated by reported earnings,” Moody's said. “Therefore, despite an annualized average 26% return on equity before tax over the first nine months of 2013, the banks will need additional capital from external sources to support growth and maintain capital ratios.” The downbeat assessment comes despite Mongolia's authorities having projected a bumper year for the economy, led by foreign investment and an expected agreement with the country's international partner to launch phase II development at the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, a $6.5 billion project that is projected to eventually account for a large chunk of the country's gross domestic product. Central bank head Naidansuren Zoljargal said in November that GDP could expand as much as 17% next year from around 11% this year. Meantime, Mongolia is drawing criticism for its treatment of foreign business executives in the country. In December, authorities moved to block a consultant to Standard Bank Group Ltd. from leaving in a dispute over loan repayment. They eventually allowed him to depart shortly before Christmas. Around 20 foreign executives are estimated to have been barred from leaving Mongolia over the past two years. ^ top ^

 

Mrs. Alexandra Hirsiger
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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