SCHWEIZER BOTSCHAFT IN BEIJING
EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND IN BEIJING
AMBASSADE DE SUISSE EN CHINE

Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  2-6.3.15, No. 562  
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Table of contents

DPRK and South Korea

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Foreign Policy

Chinese diplomat clarifies China's policy on N. Myanmar conflict (Xinhua)
2015-03-01
A senior Chinese diplomat on Sunday clarified China's policy toward its neighbor Myanmar since conflict in northern Myanmar has triggered rumors. In a written interview with Xinhua, Kong Xuanyou, director-general of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, denied any Chinese local authorities' involvement in the conflict. China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, Kong said. No organization or person using Chinese territory would be allowed to undermine the China-Myanmar relationship and stability in border areas, according to Kong. He stressed that China respects Myanmar's sovereignty, territorial integrity. The conflict near the border areas has had an impact on China's border control and social security, Kong said, noting that the two countries maintain close contacts in various levels in dealing with the issue. He called on relevant parties to achieve a nationwide ceasefire through peace talks to create favorable environment for national development. Mutual understanding and respect are significant in the China-Myanmar friendship, Kong said, affirming that China will stick to its current policy toward Myanmar and is willing to make joint efforts to implement consensus between the two countries' leaders on partnership. China is also willing to work with Myanmar to ensure the peace, friendship, development and cooperation of their border areas, to create better conditions for the two peoples' livelihood and economic, social development, according to Kong. ^ top ^

China reiterates support for Palestine (Xinhua)
2015-03-01
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on Saturday reiterated China's backing for the just cause of the Palestinian people, and called for peace talks between Palestine and Israel. Li made the remarks as he met with a delegation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) headed by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri. Li said China would continue to support the cause, and understand and support Palestine's aspiration to join the international community as a state. "[We] hope Palestine and Israel will continue working toward a resolution through peace talks," said the vice president. China will continue to enhance communication with the Middle East and work with the countries involved toward an inclusive and just resolution to the Palestine issue. Shukri said he appreciated China's long-standing and firm support and looked forward to China playing a bigger role in the issue. ^ top ^

Why world cares about China's two sessions (Xinhua)
2015-03-02
The annual two sessions of China's top legislative body and top national advisory body are slated for this month. […]Following are eight aspects of the upcoming two sessions that might have global implications. 1. China will announce its 2015 GDP growth target at the start of the sessions. When China posted 2014 its lowest growth rate in 24 years, 7.4 percent, speculation has been rife that the government will reduce its target for this year to around 7 percent from the 7.5 percent set for the past three years. What will this "new normal" growth rate of the Chinese economy mean to the world? How will it affect jobs worldwide? 2. China will unveil its defense budget for 2015. Last year, China's defense budget was over 130 billion U.S. dollars, second only to the United States. Where does the money go in a country that is building slim but strong military forces? How will other countries react? How will that budget affect regional and world stability? 3. The Chinese premier and scores of ministers are expected to hold press conferences during the sessions. These sessions, along with the government work report, will be crucial to deciphering China's national priorities. How will the ongoing reform, the rule of law, anti-corruption, anti-monopoly, anti-pollution and Internet administration develop? How will they affect global investors? 4. For the United States, there is something that deserves its particular attention. In the State of the Union address 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama referred to China three times, rendering it the most-mentioned foreign country with a likely "frenemy" face. What will China make of that? The government work report delivered at the opening day of the legislative session is similar to the State of the Union address. How will China cover issues that, at times, have disturbed Sino-U.S. relations, for instance, cyber security, human rights, Tibet and foreign trade policies? Also a quick reminder: China is the largest creditor to the United States, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit the United States in September. 5. The European Union is the largest trading partner of China, while China is the second largest trading partner of the EU. Coincidentally and interestingly, as China kicks off its annual two sessions, the historic QE program launched by the European Central Bank will start to take effect. What will China's policymakers do to ward off the possible spill-over of a depreciating euro? Will China fine tune its monetary and trade policies? It is expected that the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will be detailed during the two sessions. What opportunities will this gigantic pan-Eurasia commerce network create for European investors? 6. China's neighboring countries are a critical part of the "Belt and Road" initiatives. The joint construction of high speed rail, ports and pipelines will inject vigor into local economies, creating more jobs. The "Belt and Road" initiatives, synergistic with booming free trade zones, have the potential to rejuvenate the entire region. Uncertainties, however, still overshadow ties between China and its neighbors. Territorial disputes are far from being resolved, while tensions between China and Japan are showing no clear signs of easing in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The sessions may shed light on how Chinese lawmakers respond. 7. China's presence in Africa, its "brother, friend and partner," has been growing fast. As Africa's biggest trading partner, China is endeavoring to increase China-Africa trade volume to 400 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. In China's latest round of industrial upgrading, to achieve quality growth, there are opportunities for the labor-intensive parts of the "world factory" to be relocated to areas where labor is inexpensive. Africa could be one destination. 8. China's stance on hot global issues. At the two sessions, China would make clear its stance on hot global issues […]. ^ top ^

CPC delegation visits Romania to enhance inter-party exchanges (Global Times)
2015-03-03
A delegation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Monday wrapped up a three-day visit to Romania, after meeting with leaders of political parties in the Eastern European country. The delegation, led by Zhou Li, vice minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, met with leaders of the Romanian Social Democrat Party, the National Liberal Party, the National Union for Romania's Progress and the prefect of the Romanian Constanta county. In the Ovidiu Sincai Social Democrat Institute, Zhou also briefed the Romanian hosts on the concept of the "Four Comprehensives" strategy outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which includes comprehensive efforts to build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reforms, advance the rule of law, and strictly run the Party. Meanwhile, he also exchanged views with local political party leaders on strengthening inter-party practical cooperation, as well as international and regional situations. ^ top ^

China calls for better commercial services in overseas embassies (Xinhua)
2015-03-03
Senior Chinese leaders has urged diplomats in charge of commercial affairs to greatly contribute to economic ties between China and foreign countries they station. A four-day national conference on improving economic and commercial counseling services in foreign countries concluded on Monday, during which Vice Premier Wang Yang held discussions with participants. Diplomats in charge of commercial affairs in embassies and consulates should work hard to facilitate Chinese enterprises' "go abroad" drive, and safeguard the country's overseas investment, according to the meeting. They were also urged to better manage China's foreign aids and actively participate in the reshuffle of global governance and revision of commercial rules to protect China's interests while promoting common development. ^ top ^

Chinese political advisor warns of Japan's military expansion (Global Times)
2015-03-02
A senior Chinese military officer and national political advisor has urged Tokyo not to use the recent Islamic State hostage incident to justify its overseas military expansion. The comment, made by Yin Zhuo, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), came weeks after the beheading of two Japanese citizens by Islamic State militants. In the wake of the incident, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he plans to draft legislation to allow the nation's Self-Defense Forces to be deployed overseas to rescue Japanese nationals in danger. The move shows that the Abe government is encouraging public opinion in his country in favor of overseas military expansion, Yin, also director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People's Liberation Army Navy, told Xinhua. Obviously, the United States, whose military presence around the world is waning, wants help from Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, he said. "Counterterrorism may now also be used by the Japanese government to make its overseas military expansion seem legal and reasonable," Yin added. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. China is expected to unveil its military budget for this year at the upcoming "two sessions," the annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, and the CPPCC National Committee, the top political advisory body. Japan has been voicing worries over China's military budget growth, which it said has caused instability in the region. ^ top ^

Obama sharply criticises China's plans for new technology rules (SCMP)
2015-03-04
US President Barack Obama has criticised China's plans for new rules on American tech firms. He had raised the issue with President Xi Jinping and urged Beijing to change its policy if it wants to do business with the US, he said. Obama said he was concerned about Beijing's plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology companies to hand over encryption keys - the passcodes that help protect data - and install security "backdoors" in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access. "This is something I've raised directly with President Xi," Obama said. "We have made it very clear this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with [us]." Beijing sees the rules as crucial to protect state and business secrets. But Western companies say they reinforce increasingly onerous terms of doing business in the world's second-largest economy and add to mistrust over cybersecurity between Washington and Beijing.China's standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) read a second draft of its first anti-terrorism law last week; the legislation is to be adopted soon. Last year's initial draft requires firms to keep servers and user data in China, supply communications records to law enforcement officials and censor terrorism-related web content. The laws "would essentially force all foreign companies to turn over to the Chinese government mechanisms where they can snoop and keep track of all the users of those services", Obama said. "As you might imagine, tech companies are not going to be willing to do that." The scope of the rules goes far beyond recently adopted financial industry regulations that urged Chinese banks to buy from domestic technology vendors. Obama said the rules could backfire on China. "Those kinds of restrictive practices I think would ironically hurt the Chinese economy over the long term because I don't think there is any US or European firm - any international firm - that could credibly get away with that wholesale turning over of data, personal data, over to a government." Hua Chunying, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said its counterterrorism law was "a requirement for the government in combating terrorism; the relevant matter is completely China's internal affair." Beijing has argued about the need to quickly tighten its cybersecurity measures in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations of sophisticated US spying techniques. China's leaders say it faces a serious threat from religious extremists and separatists. Hundreds of people have died in the past two years in Xinjiang in unrest Beijing has blamed on Islamists, who want to establish a separate state called East Turkestan. ^ top ^

China responds to U.S. concern over counterterrorism law (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
China's drafting of its first counterterrorism law is a domestic issue, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in response to comments made by the United States. U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday said he was concerned that the law would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that protect data. The formulation of a counterterrorism law is an important step of rule of law and combating terrorism. The content of the draft law is based on real experiences in the fight against terrorism and has taken into account lessons learned by other countries, spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing. "The formulation of the counterterrorism law is China's internal affair. We hope the United States can calmly and objectively handle it," she said. "Every country is taking measures to ensure their information is secure," Hua said. She said China had always opposed network monitoring and supported the drawing up of cyber space rules within the United Nations framework. In September 2011, China, together with Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, submitted an "International Code of Conduct for Information Security" to the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, which promoted such norms and rules. An updated draft was proposed to the UN in January 2015, to promote peace and stability in cyber space and governance without interference in to the domestic affairs of other countries. ^ top ^

China urges parties in South Sudan to stop fighting, form transitional gov't (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
China urged parties in South Sudan to stop fighting and form a transitional government as soon as possible, said a Chinese envoy here on Tuesday. Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the UN, made the remarks at a Security Council meeting, in which the council members unanimously adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on those who would block peace process in South Sudan. Noting the two parties in South Sudan, the government and the opposition, are under the good offices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), holding political negotiations in Ethiopia, Liu said the resolution is to help IGAD in its push for an early breakthrough in the political negotiations. "China sincerely hopes that the two negotiating parties will as soon as possible reach a compromise on the pending issues in order to take a crucial step in restoring peace and stability to South Sudan, as it is in the fundamental and long-term interest of the country and people of South Sudan," he said. "We hope that the council's resolution 2206 will truly help achieve those goals," he added. Liu also called on the international community to continue to give its vigorous support to the good offices by IGAD and support the countries in the region in playing their important role in addressing the issue of South Sudan. "China is ready to join the interest parties of the international community in the unremitting effort for the promotion of peace, stability and development of South Sudan," he added. The final session of South Sudan peace process led by the IGAD kicked off last Monday in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa, which is expected to make progress and usher in a new era of peace in the country. The IGAD has been mediating the South Sudan negotiations to end the conflict which erupted in mid-December 2013 in the world's youngest nation. Though the warring parties signed agreements under the auspices of the East African bloc, conflict continued in South Sudan, claiming lives and displacing citizens of the country. ^ top ^

Chinese tourists valued around the world (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
When the world's biggest travel trade fair ITB opens to the public in Berlin on Wednesday, a workshop on Chinese outbound tourism will be held in the German capital. The discussion will focus on China's "second wave" of outbound tourists and their new destinations and new consumption patterns. "How can established destinations react and what will the future of Chinese outbound tourism look like?" was the question left for panelists to discuss and answer. Why Chinese tourists matter? In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad increased by 19.5 percent year on year to 109 million, topping a threshold of 100 million for the first time in history, according to China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). "China is the world's largest outbound market since 2012," said Madrid-based United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). During the most recent Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, 5.18 million Chinese, 10 percent more than in the previous year, took trips to Thailand, Japan, the United States, and countries in Europe where they were not surprised to see Mandarin-speaking staff in shopping malls and Chinese TV programs in hotels. "Now the whole European industry pays great attention to Chinese tourists' shopping habits and consumption demands," said Yu Jin, the chief operations officer of Caissa Touristic (Group) AG in Hamburg. At 12 of its retail outlets across Europe, London-based McArthurGlen Group launched a series of promotions during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, advertising in Chinese social media and providing extra discounts in its stores. In New York, high-end department store Bloomingdale's put up decorations featuring a giant Chinese coin towering above a blanket of red flowers. In Berlin, Arkaden shopping mall in Potsdamer Platz cooperated with China Cultural Center in Berlin and hosted an exhibition of Chinese handicrafts and art performances. It was not always like this. Shi Xiang, director of CNTA in Frankfurt, could still remember when Western countries showed a lack of interest in Chinese tourism promotion in early 1980s. "It was a one way road back then," Shi said, "There was only inbound tourism in China. They (Western officials) thought we were appealing to them for customers and money." "Now it's the opposite," he added, "They welcome the 100 million Chinese tourists who contribute to their economy." Data from CNTA showed, the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad in 2014 was nearly 13 times the level in 1998. In 2013, Chinese tourists spent 129 billion U.S. dollars abroad, more than any other source market in the world, UNWTO said. "Chinese customers have a very strong purchasing power," said Sonja Roessler, the tourism marketing executive in McArthurGlen's Designer Outlet Berlin, adding that the shopping center would analyze how to improve the service for Chinese customers in the future. At all McArthurGlen's 20 designer outlets in Europe, sales to Chinese tourists soared by more than 35 percent in 2014 and have more than quadrupled over the past four years. "China is a huge market with great potential for Germany, and contributes the fastest growth of tourists from Asia," said Jia Xiaoli, media manager at German National Tourist Board. In the first quarter of 2014, the average single expenditure of Chinese tourists in Germany was 575 euros (about 642 U.S. dollars) per person, the highest in all the countries. Analysts believe the upward trend of Chinese outbound tourism will continue in 2015, thanks to a favorable visa environment and more supportive policies, and information technology will also boost growth of overseas traveling. "The prospect of China outbound tourism is bright," Shi said, adding that it would benefit not only economies in destination countries, but also mutual understanding, and cultural exchanges. ^ top ^

China's anti-terrorism law 'won't affect US tech firms' (SCMP)
2015-03-04
China moved to calm fears over its anti-terrorism law today by saying that it will not affect network operators. The news comes one day after US president Barack Obama expressed concerns that the mainland's new rules would affect American technology companies. “It [the anti-terrorism law] will be used only for anti-terrorism purposes and for investigations,” said Fu Ying, spokeswoman of the National People's Congress. “Only public security agencies will be involved and it will be subject to stringent approval procedures,” Fu told today's press conference before the opening of China's NPC. “It will not affect the interests of network operators … The US and Britain also have similar requirements.” Obama had previously expressed concerns about Beijing's plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology companies to hand over encryption keys – the passcodes that help protect data – and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access. “This is something I've raised directly with President Xi,” Obama said. “We have made it very clear this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with [us].” In response to the criticisms, Hua Chunying, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, had said on Tuesday that its counterterrorism law was “a requirement for the government in combating terrorism; the relevant matter is completely China's internal affair. Hua added that China hoped “the United States will regard this in a calm and objective way”. Fu also reiterated today that China fully supported the launch of cooperation involving cybersecurity, based on mutual respect, but not adopting double standards. “US has quite a lot of concerns and restrictions on Chinese firms, she said “A Chinese firm is subject to a security review in the US for buying US pork. We have no idea why that would be subject to security review,” she said. Beijing has argued about the need to quickly tighten its cybersecurity measures in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations of sophisticated US spying techniques. ^ top ^

China insists Nobel chairman's demotion won't warm Norway ties (SCMP)
2015-03-05
The demotion of the Nobel Peace Prize committee's chairman would not thaw Sino-Norway ties, Beijing said amid a diplomatic deep freeze imposed by China after a prominent dissident was given the 2010 award. Tuesday's removal of Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland from his post atop the high-profile panel spurred speculation of a potential rapprochement between Oslo and Beijing after more than four years of frosty ties. Dissident Liu Xiaobo. Jagland, who will remain a committee member, was at the helm of the organisation when it awarded the 2010 peace prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, a move that enraged Beijing. China later banned whole salmon imports from Norway, supposedly on safety grounds, and Norwegian citizens have been excluded from a 72-hour transit visa scheme. Oslo's ambassador - in his post since 2007 - has reportedly been unable to return home for fear that if he leaves, his successor will not be granted a visa. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing's position on the awarding of the prize and China-Norway relations was "subject to no change". "Our position on developing ties with Norway is clear, which is also I believe very clear to the Norwegian side," she told reporters at a regular briefing, without elaborating. Hua declined to say whether Jagland's departure had ever been a subject of discussion between Oslo and Beijing. The Nobel committee is independent of the government, although its members are chosen by the Norwegian parliament. Oslo's attempts to normalise political ties with the world's second largest economy have proved fruitless as, according to analysts, Beijing wants to set an example to deter other countries. In September, Norwegian media reported that in 2013 then-prime minister Jens Stoltenberg had considered - but ultimately decided against - secretly apologising to Beijing for Liu's Nobel award. China maintains that it is up to Norway to make a gesture to normalise ties. Thorbjoern Jagland (right) will be replaced by deputy head Kaci Kullmann Five (left). Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister of the Labour Party who has chaired the five-member panel since 2009, was critcised for honouring Barack Obama in 2009 - less than a year after the US president took office. He is also head of the 47-nation Council of Europe, which promotes democracy in Europe, and some right-wing parliamentarians say that amounts to a conflict of interest in deciding the US$1 million Nobel prize. Kaci Kullmann Five, a former leader of Norway's ruling Conservative Party, will take over after right-wing opponents won a majority on the prestigious panel, allowing them to make the unprecedented demotion at the first meeting of 2015. "The committee chooses a leader every year. This year is a new committee," Kullmann Five said, declining to give reasons for ousting Jagland. Right-wing parties, which won a parliamentary election in 2013 to oust a Labour-led government, have long disliked Jagland, who was prime minister from 1996-97. No serving chair has ever been ousted since the awards were first made in 1901, even with shifting political majorities. The committee is appointed in line with the strength of parties in Norway's parliament. "I don't like it," Asle Sveen, a historian and Nobel expert, said of Jagland's demotion, adding China might interpret Jagland's removal as a semi-apology for the prize to Liu. Kullmann Five, who has been on the committee since 2003, this week denied any concession to Beijing, saying: "I wholeheartedly supported the award to Liu Xiaobo." ^ top ^

China urges comprehensive deal on Iran nuclear issue (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
China on Wednesday urged parties to seek an opportunity to reach a fair, balanced and mutually beneficial deal on the Iran nuclear issue. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a press briefing in response to a question regarding the clash between Israel and the United States on the issue. "Currently negotiations on Iran's nuclear deal have entered a crucial stage. The six countries and Iran have all demonstrated strong political will to reach a deal as soon as possible," she said. Negotiators from Iran and six major countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany -- met again about the nuclear issue on Feb. 22 in Geneva, Switzerland. China has called for political resolve from all parties. "China will continue to play a constructive role to this end," Hua said. Properly settling Iran's nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation is important to maintaining the international non-proliferation mechanism and the peace and stability of the Middle East, she said. It is also in the interests of all parties concerned, she added. While visiting the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for rejection of a "bad" nuclear deal with Iran, insisting such an accord would allow the Islamic republic to develop nuclear bombs. As Netanyahu was speaking, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held another round of talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad-Javad Zarif in Switzerland, their second within days, as part of intensifying efforts by the six major countries to map the outlines of a comprehensive deal by the end of March and a final pact by the end of June. ^ top ^

Prince William urges China to enact permanent ban on ivory trade (SCMP)
2015-03-05
Britain's Prince William urged an end to the ivory trade yesterday, visiting a Chinese elephant sanctuary in the southwestern province of Yunnan at the close of a three-day trip to the country that focused partly on wildlife conservation. William has been critical of China over its consumption of ivory, while animal rights groups say the country's growing appetite for the contraband material has fuelled a surge in poaching in Africa. China announced last month a one-year ban on the import of African ivory carvings, just days ahead of William's visit. "A powerful blow we can strike against traffickers is to reduce the demand for their products. Demand provides traffickers with their incentive. It fuels their greed, and generates their vast profits," William said in a speech released by Britain's royal household. "Ultimately, ending demand for ivory is down to citizens across the world," William said, adding he welcomed "the steps that China has already taken" to counter the trade. The extinction of animals such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins would be an "immeasurable loss" to humanity, he said. William's trip to the mainland is the first high-level British royal visit since Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, came in 1986. It follows rancour between London and Beijing over pro-democracy demonstrations last year in the former British colony of Hong Kong. William, Queen Elizabeth's grandson and second-in-line to the throne, told President Xi Jinping on Monday that he hoped China could become a leader in protecting animals. The mainland crushed 6.2 tonnes of confiscated ivory early last year in its first such public destruction of any part of its stockpile. However, the country still ranks as the world's biggest end-market for poached ivory, according to the WWF. China signed a pact banning global trade in ivory in 1981, but it got an exemption in 2008 to buy 62 tonnes of ivory from several African nations. More than 20,000 African elephants were killed for ivory in 2013, a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species monitoring programme showed, leaving an estimated population of about 500,000. ^ top ^

Website spreads Diaoyu messages (China Daily)
2015-03-05
English-language and Japanese versions of a website were launched by China on Wednesday to demonstrate its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. Experts said the move, which was announced by the State Oceanic Administration, is aimed at boosting global publicity on the issue in a reasoned manner. Japan triggered a crisis over the islands in September 2012 when it unilaterally announced its decision to "nationalize" them, prompting a serious standoff with China and leading to Sino-Japanese relations plunging to a record low. In December, Beijing launched a Chinese-language website covering the Diaoyu Islands issue, a move interpreted widely as a measure to highlight its sovereignty over the islands. A banner at the top of the expanded site greets visitors with the words "Diaoyu Dao: The Inherent Territory of China" in English or Japanese, followed by the Chinese national flag. Run by the National Marine Data and Information Service, the site now features historical records, evidence, literature and legal documents. Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the site's expanded version "is of much greater significance" compared with the original, as it is far more accessible to foreigners. "What the international community really needs is the truth and facts regarding the islands. The versions in English and Japanese present critical historical details of the Diaoyu Islands in a reasoned and acceptable way," Yang said. The 11 maps on display date as far back as 1721. Deliberated on by ancient Chinese dynasties, Britain and even Japan, the maps show that the islands belong to China. Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the world should be told that it was Japan, not China, that had acted provocatively toward the islands. ^ top ^

Obama sought as guest for China's war parade, but China unsure about Abe (SCMP)
2015-03-06
China will invite US President Barack Obama to attend a military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, but it has not decided if Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should also be asked to attend, the nation's senior diplomats have said. On the sidelines of the National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday, Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said China would soon send invitations to leaders of foreign nations and international organisations for the parade to be held in September. "This is an important commemoration," Cheng said. "But whether Obama will attend depends on his schedule." In a government work report presented at the NPC opening session, Premier Li Keqiang said China would work with other nations to uphold "the victory of the second world war and international justice". "China is willing to work hand in hand with all other countries to sustain enduring peace and build a more prosperous world," he said. In addition to Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, are expected to be invited. But Cheng Yonghua, China's envoy to Tokyo, said on the sidelines of the session they were still "studying" whether Abe should be invited for the parade. "We are still looking into it," the envoy said. "We are concerned about Japan's attitude towards history, and whether Japan has reflected on its past aggression." Regarding the momentum of Sino-Japanese ties, Cheng Yonghua said ties had moved a step forward after ice-breaking talks between Xi and Abe last year. High-level dialogue between the two nations was put on hold after Japan's decision to nationalise the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as Senkakus in Japan, in the East China Sea in 2012. Beijing has also accused Tokyo of whitewashing history in relation to its actions during the war. Lian Degui, an analyst at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said Obama's attendance at the parade depended on the status of Sino-Japanese ties. Even though the US had fought against Japan during the war, Washington did not want to be seen as siding with Beijing against Tokyo - a key US ally - especially if Sino-Japanese ties were tense, Lian said. China would wait until August 15, when Abe will deliver remarks commemorating the war, to decide whether to invite him. "If Abe's stance on historical issues is still the same, then China may not send the invitation," he said. Wu Enyuan, an international affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it was up to Abe to "show sincerity" - reflect on Japan's atrocities - for China to give him a seat at the parade. "What's the point of inviting him if he stands in line with the right wing?" Wu asked. ^ top ^

China rejects Japanese request to shut down Diaoyu Islands website
2015-03-06
China rejected Japanese protest against a website for the Diaoyu Islands on Thursday, saying the Japanese demand to shut down the website is "unreasonable". Following China's launch of the English and Japanese versions of a website for the Diaoyu Islands to demonstrate sovereignty, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday the site "distorts facts and reiterates China's own claim," which Japan "can never accept." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islands have been an inherent part of Chinese territory and China has abundant historical and legal evidence for that. "Facts are facts. Whether Japan is willing to accept this or not, the fact cannot be changed," Hua told a daily news briefing. The website, operated by China's State Oceanic Administration, aims to help people better understand the history of Diaoyu Islands and China's stance on the issue. Its Chinese version was launched on Dec. 30, 2014. "China will not accept Japan's unreasonable request over the website," Hua said, urging the country to face up to history and respect facts in order to play a constructive role in properly resolving the Diaoyu Islands issue. Territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands have existed between China and Japan. As both countries were normalizing relations in the 1970s, they reached consensus on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao (Islands) to be resolved later." In 2012, Tokyo moved unilaterally to "purchase" and "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands, seriously straining China-Japan relations. In November 2014, China and Japan signed a four-point agreement to ease their tensions, including resuming political, diplomatic and security dialogue while acknowledging different positions on the Diaoyu Islands. ^ top ^

China to advance free trade talks with Arabs, Israel (Global Times)
2015-03-06
China vows to advance talks on free trade zones with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Israel, said the Chinese government work report distributed Thursday morning to the press. The GCC, a regional political and economic alliance, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. China started free trade negotiations with the bloc in 2004. China is endeavoring to complete the talks on upgrading the Free Trade Zone between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and on establishing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the report said. China is also working to build the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Zone and will continue negotiations on investment agreements with the United States and the European Union, the report said. At the same time, China will move faster to implement the strategy of developing free trade zones, ensuring that agreements on free trade zones with the Republic of Korea and Australia are signed as soon as possible, the report said. Negotiations on the China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Zone will also be stepped up, it said. As a responsible and enterprising nation, the report said, China champions the vision of promoting mutually beneficial development, boosting the global economy and encouraging economic globalization. ^ top ^

 

Domestic Policy

Minister expected to face questions in wake of smog documentary (China Daily)
2015-03-01
Former anchor Chai Jing became a household name through her in-depth investigative reporting for China Central Television of national news stories such as the SARS outbreak, Wenchuan earthquake and coal mine accidents. Having taken time off to have a daughter she has now ended her self-imposed exile with a self-funded documentary about smog called Under The Dome. Gruesome pictures of withered trees, murky skies and lifeless rivers appear but the film also shows a scientific perspective backed by data, field investigations at home and abroad and interviews with officials, scientists and the general public. Beijing had 175 polluted days in 2014, eclipsed by neighboring Tianjin with 197 and Shijiazhuang with 264 days. Satellite pictures from NASA demonstrate worsening air quality in northern China over the past 10 years. Chai, again exhibiting her skills as a story teller, illustrates these statistics by taking the examples of tearful babies battling pneumonia, caused, according to their mothers, by bad air and a woman in her 50s undergoing surgery at Beijing Cancer Hospital. The burning of coal and oil contributes to 60 percent of PM2.5 pollutants, or airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that penetrate the lungs, building the statistical background for her to question the country's energy consumption habits. China burnt 360 million tons of coal in 2013, more than the rest of the world combined, but much of the energy has been wasted in ill-performing steel factories which rely on government subsidy for survival, according to the film. Investigation into steel makers in Beijing's neighboring province of Hebei, exposed the conundrum between a GDP-driven economy and environmental protection. Chai and Zhang Dawei, an investigator with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, recorded a steel company's illegal emission in Tangshan, a heavy industry center in October, only to find the company escaped punishment. "It just doesn't work out to sacrifice employment for the environment," says Xiong Yuhui, an official with the environment authorities. The former journalist goes on to disclose loopholes in car emission regulations, signifying the importance of the matter by quoting another number – 100 million, referring to new cars added to the road in China in the past 10 years. Seeking a precedent, Chai traveled to London and Los Angeles, two cities considered role models in cleaning once hazardously polluted air. Chai sums up by calling for individual responsibility in reporting illegal emitters via a hotline. The documentary has provoked national discussion after going viral online, turning social media into a hot spot of conflicting views. "Chai Jing's investigation into smog" remained one of the hottest hashtags on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, while the documentary has been viewed more than 17 million times on Youku, a major Chinese video sharing website. Critics questioned the former anchor's motives, saying it remained uncertain whether a disease suffered by her young daughter was directly caused by smog in China with rumors circulating that she is a regular smoker, while praise also flooded into Weibo applauding Chai's efforts to inspire the public. The film became so ubiquitous that Chen Jining, newly appointed minister of environmental protection, said he had called Chai to express his appreciation after watching the whole video. With smog back in the spotlight, Chen is expected to deal with tons of inquisitive reporters in coming weeks when the nation's legislators hold annual meetings in Beijing. ^ top ^

16 PLA major generals, many of them newly promoted, under investigation for military corruption (SCMP)
2015-03-02
More than a dozen PLA major generals come under investigation after their high-ranking superiors fall under a corruption cloud: At least 16 People's Liberation Army major generals have been taken away for investigation in relation to graft cases involving their former superiors, according to sources close to the military. Two independent sources close to the PLA told the South China Morning Post that most of the officers were either secretaries or relatives of former military commanders or senior officers. One of those taken away was Major General Guo Zhenggang, son of Guo Boxiong, a former vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, a Shanghai-based retired senior colonel said. Another was Zhu Heping, a former secretary to late general Zhang Wannian, another former CMC vice-chairman who died in Beijing on January 15, the source said. Guo Zhenggang, 45, was promoted to deputy political commissar of the Zhejiang Military District with the rank of major general in January, Zhejiang Television reported at the time. Rumours that he was being investigated surfaced last month. The investigation of Guo has raised questions about whether his father will also come under the spotlight in the investigation of another former CMC vice-chairman, Xu Caihou. Xu, 71, has been investigated for bribery since last March and was expelled from the Communist Party in June. He is the most senior military figure to be implicated since President Xi Jinping launched his anti-graft drive after taking control of the Communist Party and the military in 2012. Military experts said Guo Boxiong would almost certainly be scrutinised because he was Xu's superior during his 10 years as CMC vice-chairman. Two former subordinates of Xu and Guo Boxiong were also investigated recently, the retired senior colonel said. They are Wang Aiguo, a former head of the joint logistics department at the Shenyang Military Command, which was Xu's powerbase, and Zhan Guoqiao, who held the same post at the Lanzhou Military Command, Guo's powerbase. Another source close to the Guangzhou Military Command confirmed the military region's joint logistics deputy head, Chen Jianfeng, and air force logistics chief Wang Sheng were detained early in January due to their involvement with Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, who was taken into custody in January 2013, and is accused of amassing a personal fortune while deputy logistics chief of the PLA. Gu, a top ally of Xu, was charged with bribery and embezzlement last year. Early reports said Gu was suspected of selling hundreds of senior military positions. It is believed he took bribes worth 600 million yuan (HK$754 million) as part of a greater 30 billion yuan scam. Some of the other major generals detained were only promoted late last year or earlier this year. Zhang Dongshui was taken away on January 7, just 13 days after he was promoted to deputy political commissar of the Second Artillery Corps - which is in charge of China's intercontinental ballistic missiles - the retired senior colonel said. Party leaders say nepotism and promotions secured through bribes have seriously undermined the military's efficiency and combat readiness. The massive crackdown indicated Xi was willing to step in to eradicate the legacy of disgraced top officials. ^ top ^

China Focus: A-Z of "two sessions" talking points (Xinhua)
2015-03-02
The plenary sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), popularly known as the "two sessions", will kick off this week. What will be the big talking points? Xinhua has compiled a list of 26 hot topics. A |Anti-corruption The Chinese government has adopted a zero-tolerance approach in fighting corruption since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November 2012. In 2015, China's top anti-graft watchdog said it will net more "tigers" and "flies" -- corrupt government officials at both higher and lower levels -- and combat graft in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). But how to build a long-term mechanism to supervise the exercise of official power requires suggestions from NPC deputies and CPPCC members [….]. D|Democracy In February, the CPC Central Committee published a document proposing to promote "consultative democracy". Consultative democracy -- defined as a democratic pattern in which, led by the CPC, all sections of society are consulted on major issues before and during policy-making processes -- helps Chinese people take part in the country's governance and makes sure that diverse voices can be heard and consensus can be reached. The two sessions are perfect examples of China exerting consultative democracy and offer a window for people to observe and understand China's democracy. E|Engines Last winter, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang put forward a fresh concept at Davos - "Two engines": "To transform the traditional engine of growth by focusing on increasing the supply of public goods and services" and "To foster a new engine of growth by encouraging mass entrepreneurship and innovation." In 2015, China is sure to take steps to fuel the "two engines" so that the economy can maintain a medium-to-high speed of growth and achieve a medium-to-high level of development […]. H|Hong Kong 2014 was an eventful year for Hong Kong. The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect program kicked off trading. Guangdong and Hong Kong liberalized their service trade, and the Guangdong free trade zone (FTZ) was approved. Meanwhile, the illegal "occupy" protest movement negatively impacted Hong Kong's development and reform to its political system, according to Chinese leaders. Differences of opinion between people from the mainland and Hong Kong have surged […]. K|Key Policies China's fiscal and monetary policies in 2015 under the circumstances of slowed economic growth are the key focus of the two sessions. L|Law 2015 has been defined by the Chinese leadership as "the first year of comprehensively promoting the rule of law". The two sessions are expected to address legal and judicial aspects in detail: for example, a bill to amend the Legislation Law […]. O|Opening up China became a net foreign investor for the first time in 2014. However, foreign capital still plays a vital role in the Chinese economy, especially in improving the quality and efficiency of growth and in driving innovation. In 2015, China will further open up its service sector, guided by experience distilled from the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. P|Pollution Premier Li Keqiang made powerful remarks at the parliamentary sessions last year, calling for a "decisive battle" against pollution. A poll has showed that pollution control and environmental protection remains one of the biggest areas of public concern ahead of the two sessions. Q|Quality China will not pursue statistical growth single-mindedly, but try to strike a balance where industrial transformation and upgrading and a rational growth rate can all be achieved. The country is embarking on a development path characterized by efficiency, quality, sustainability and steadiness […]. S|Silk Road It is widely expected that more tangible achievements will be made in the "Belt and Road" networks of Asian trade infrastructure proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013. At their local legislative sessions, Chinese provinces were very excited about the prospects for the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. T|Tibet 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Chinese central government's policies on governing Tibet will attract attention from reporters home and abroad. U|United States Xi Jinping is scheduled to pay a state visit to the United States in September. Last year, China and the United States reached consensus in aspects including visa arrangements, trade and military trust. The two sides also released the landmark China-U.S. Joint Announcement on Climate Change. Reporters will try to get some hints on how China and the United States will rise above their differences […]. W|World Given China's fast development and closer ties with other nations, the world cares ever more about Chinese views and attitudes. Attention will be given to a series of regional hot-spot issues and worldwide issues at the two sessions. X|Xi Jinping The schedule of the Chinese President Xi Jinping will be closely watched. International and domestic media are wondering what he will say when discussing state affairs with national lawmakers and political advisors. Y|Year 2015 marks the final year of China's 12th Five-Year Plan, and will also usher in the 13th Five-Year Plan towards the end of the year. The two sessions comes at a crucial period of time in between. […]. ^ top ^

China's pollution high on agenda for country's top political consultation body (SCMP)
2015-03-03
Members of the country's top political consultation body can breathe a sigh of relief - Beijing's air quality has been graded "good" for Tuesday's session of the annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. When members from the Henan provincial delegation arrived in Beijing on Sunday, the first thing they did was check the air quality index, state news agency Xinhua reported. Marring the good news was a sandstorm forecast to hit parts of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Ningxia. Smog is expected to once again come under scrutiny at the session, after former state television presenter Chai Jing's documentary about air pollution, titled Under the Dome, went viral online over the weekend. The documentary has been the focus of huge public attention, and attracted both supporters who cheered her courage, and critics, who blamed her for stopping short of what they see as the root cause of the problem - a government with unchecked power. Many people hope the documentary can help prompt greater efforts by government agencies and industry to tackle the problem. Ninety per cent of the 161 cities where air quality was monitored in 2014 failed to meet official standards, according to a National Bureau of Statistics report published last week. Chen Jining, the new environmental minister, vowed on the weekend to strengthen the implementation of environmental law. "In the past, environmental laws have been enforced leniently by some departments. Failing to abide by the law has become normal," Chen was quoted by China Radio International as saying. But this could no longer be the case, Chen said. "Both companies and governments need to observe the law, which shouldn't be viewed as a difficult requirement. If they can't abide by the law, then how can we count on them to protect the environment?" Chen's deputy Pan Yue, once known for his outspokenness, said yesterday that the ministry had fined 15 companies some 7.23 million yuan (HK$9 million) for violations since the revised environmental law came into force in January. The new law imposes much harsher fines for violators. He also pledged that environmental protection departments would implement the revised law with "iron fists". ^ top ^

China's top political advisory body starts annual session (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
The Third Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, opened Tuesday in Beijing, kicking off the most important two weeks on China's political calendar this year. A total of 2,153 members of the CPPCC National Committee will discuss major issues concerning the country's development during the annual session. At the opening meeting in the Great Hall of the People, CPPCC National Committee Chairman Yu Zhengsheng delivered a report on the work of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee in the past year. Top Communist Party of China and state leaders Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli attended the opening meeting. ^ top ^

China Focus: Top political advisory body to discuss reform (Xinhua)
2015-03-03
Unfazed by downward pressure on economy, China's top political advisor Yu Zhengsheng pledged Tuesday further efforts to help advance reforms at the start of the most important two weeks on China's political calendar this year. Presenting a work report of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee at the opening meeting of its annual session, Yu said the CPPCC should put the "Four Comprehensives" at the center of its work. He was referring to a political concept initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which comprises comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, advancing the rule of law and strictly governing the Communist Party of China. Reform is a recurring keyword throughout Yu's report, in which he looked back on the national political advisory body's work last year and set new goals for 2015. In the past year, national political advisors rallied support and energy for comprehensively deepening reform, Yu said. They should continue to stick to the reform agenda this year, he told fellow advisors who will spend the next few days reviewing a government work report, among others, that would comb through reform measures undertaken in 2014 and set the tone for this year's economic plan. The political advisors' gathering runs almost in parallel with the annual session of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, which runs from March 5 to March 15 this year. The two meetings, together dubbed the two sessions, make the most important annual political events in China, where political and economic developments are discussed and key policies adopted. Although there are no major government appointments on this year's agenda, the meetings are set to be closely watched, as decisive reforms launched last year gave them extra heavy footing. Defining the year 2015 as "a critical year for comprehensively deepening reforms, the opening year for advancing the rule of law in an all-round way and the final year for completing the 12th Five-year Plan," Yu said the CPPCC should focus their suggestions and proposals on reform and development. Facing looming downward pressure on the world's second largest economy, Chinese leadership has pinned much hope on decisive reforms in hope of more healthy and effective growth which has slowed down to a stage of "new normal" -- the economy grew at its lowest pace in 24 years, expanding by 7.4 percent. China saw a fiscal reform program designed to improve the taxation and local government financing systems within two years, the liberalization of the household registration system, and revisions to lending interest rates which gave commercial banks more freedom. The government also abolished registered capital and administrative registration requirements for new businesses, and slashed red tape blamed for stifling private investment. Yu noted that most of the CPPCC consultative activities and inspections, surveys and studies last year focused on deepening reform. In particular, political advisors offered suggestions on key issues such as judicial independence, government transparency, air pollution prevention and control as well as structural optimization of economy. In 2015, political advisors should deliberate and make suggestions on the formulation of China's 13th Five-year Plan, and strive to make farsighted, strategic and targeted suggestions and proposals, Yu said. He said that the CPPCC will also conduct thorough investigations and studies on key topics, such as the Belt and Road initiatives and air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, to provide reference materials for the Party and the government in their decision making. The 16-page report also drew multiple references to the rule of law. The CPPCC will seek to actively contribute ideas and energy to comprehensively advance the law-based governance, by exercising democratic oversight over unfair or lax law enforcement, Yu said. Seen as a major manifestation of socialist democracy, the CPPCC serves to conduct political consultation, exercise democratic supervision and participate in the discussion and the handling of state affairs. […]. ^ top ^

CPPCC work report stresses anti-graft (Global Times)
2015-03-04
The chairman of China's top political advisory body on Tuesday called for unwavering efforts to crack down on corruption, with analysts believing that the remarks send a positive signal of more active participation in the nation's sweeping anti-graft campaign. It is the first time in two decades that anti-corruption was mentioned in the annual work report of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), after some of its senior members have been investigated for corruption. "The CPPCC should work to improve the integrity of its members and continue fighting corruption," announced CPPCC Chairman Yu Zhengsheng at the third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee that opened on Tuesday. Presenting the work report of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the CPPCC, Yu pointed out that there were some deficiencies in last year's work of the political advisory body. In particular, he cited the expulsion of 14 national political advisors due to corruption, including former vice chairmen of the CPPCC National Committee Ling Jihua and Su Rong. "The CPPCC is often the last stop of many leaders from departments of real power before they retire. Therefore some corrupt members can hide themselves away in it. In this regard, the CPPCC can't distance itself from the anti-graft campaign," Cheng Wenhao, director of the Anti-Corruption Research Center at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. Another anti-graft expert, Deng Lianfan from the Law Society of Hunan Province, told the Global Times Tuesday that the CPPCC's participation in the anti-graft campaign would complement the ongoing campaign which has lacked an emphasis of the role of political advisors and lawmakers. "Unlike National People's Congress deputies, few CPPCC members take up key posts in government bodies, which can better guarantee their supervision of the authorities. They can also get a better picture of society, as they come from different occupations across the nation," Deng noted. CPPCC Standing Committee member Ge Jianxiong revealed that he, along with some 90 members of the CPPCC, had objected to Ling Jihua's nomination for CPPCC vice chairman in 2013 when Ling was head of the United Front Work Department. Ling was removed from the post and was stripped of his CPPCC membership in February after he was brought under investigation for "suspected serious disciplinary violation" in 2014. "There was talk that corrupt officials would be first removed from their key posts before they were brought under investigation … Judging from the facts we now know, we could have offered chances for people to discuss their different opinions [of Ling's nomination] in order to combat corruption," Ge told the Global Times. Ge also suggested changing the way the CPPCC votes so as to protect members' privacy over their choices, which will help guarantee participation and democracy. "The CPPCC is not a hideout for corrupt elements … China's anti-corruption efforts have no limit or ceiling and no one has immunity," Lü Xinhua, a CPPCC spokesperson told reporters at a Monday press conference in Beijing. China's anti-graft chief Wang Qishan made a rare appeal in August 2014 to urge political advisors to help promote the anti-corruption drive by offering suggestions and implementing democratic supervision, which Deng referred to as a "landmark" meeting indicating strengthened supervision role of the CPPCC. In a blueprint of political advisors' work in 2015, Yu also urged CPPCC members to offer advice and suggestions on reform and the rule of law. He said that the CPPCC will also conduct thorough investigations and studies on key topics, such as the Silk Road and Belt initiatives and air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, to provide reference materials for the Party and the government in their decision making. Yu also supported the appeal of CPPCC members from Hong Kong to promote the local government's rule of law and praised their active role in promoting legal political reforms. ^ top ^

China's parade announcement preludes WWII anniversary (Global Times)
2015-03-03
China has announced it would hold a military parade this year to mark its victory over Japan, and it will be part of the worldwide commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the victory of World War II. This will be the first time China has held a military parade in remembrance of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in the 1930s-40s. The People's Republic of China has held more than a dozen military parades since its founding on Oct. 1, 1949, all of them on the National Day. The parade this year will be the first since President Xi Jinping took office. Japan signed the formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, and China celebrated its victory the following day. Sept. 3 was declared victory day. The parade will remind Chinese people living around the world of the war tragedy and inspire them to strive for national rejuvenation, said Zhu Yilong, a CPPCC member who has been living abroad for a number of years. For Liu Li, a migrant worker and member of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, it was exciting to learn the news about the parade. "Many of my family members were killed by Japanese aggressors during the war. The bitter memory would never fade away," she said. "No one knows better than the Chines people that peace is the most important for human beings." "The parade will convey to the world that China is devoted to safeguarding international order after WWII, rather challenging it," Yin Zhuo, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People's Liberation Army Navy, told Xinhua. "We must learn from the experience of the war and not repeat the mistakes of the past, " said Yin, also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which opened its annual session today. China will invite leaders from major countries to the event. Guests will also include heads of the United Nations and other international organizations, and individuals who had helped China to win the war. Experts believe that with the presence of foreign guests, the parade could enjoy greater influence in the international arena. The leaders of China and Russia agreed that the two countries will hold joint activities to commemorate the anniversary. China's resistance against Japanese aggression was an important part of WWII. The parade could further underline the common memory of international cooperation, which led to peace and development, said Mao Xinyu, a military researcher and grandson of late founder of new China Mao Zedong. Fighting between China and Japan broke out when the latter invaded northeast China in 1931, the situation further with Japan's full-scale invasion in 1937. By the end of WWII, more than 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded as a result of Japanese aggression. Despite this China successfully blocked more than half a million Japanese troops that would otherwise have threatened India or even the United States. "If China had surrendered in 1938, the future of Asia might have been completely different," Rana Mitter from Britain's Oxford University told Xinhua in a recent interview […]. ^ top ^

Smog issues spark debate (Global Times)
2015-03-04
Environmental protection has become a hot topic during this year's two sessions, which kicked off on Tuesday, with several legislators and political advisers raising their proposals on the issue. Zong Qinghou, founder and chairman of Chinese beverage giant Hangzhou Wahaha Group and a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), urged authorities to solve pollution problems instead of focusing on fees and penalties. Zhu Lieyu, a lawyer and NPC deputy, suggested that the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) should report their work to the NPC and the minister should resign if their work fails to pass the NPC's scrutiny. "Environment quality issues like smog, water and soil pollution will be heated topics in the two sessions," Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times, adding that air pollution remains a big problem in China and citizens expect the ongoing sessions to agree on practical solutions to the problem. China's Ministry of Science and Technology announced Tuesday that it has started planning a five-year air pollution prevention and control project and a draft blueprint has been published on the ministry's website, soliciting public feedback. According to the draft, the focus of controlling air pollution should shift from simply responding to heavy smog to a coordinated scheme to prevent heavy density of PM2.5 particles and ozone, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Air pollution monitoring and management will shift from the city to the regional level, the draft said, adding that the project will be carried out starting this year until 2020. Ma said that topics involving the revised Environmental Protection Law are also expected to be prominent at the two sessions. At a press conference on Monday, MEP vice-minister Pan Yue said that environmental authorities have imposed 7.23 million yuan ($1.44 million) in fines and referred 107 cases to police since the revised law took effect on January 1. Pan stressed that even though the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Supreme People's Court have released their judicial interpretations on environmental crimes, some provinces and regions, where pollution problems prevail, have failed to file environmental cases. ^ top ^

China unswervingly sticks to peaceful development under "new normal" (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
China's ongoing two annual political sessions have once again hit major headlines, as the world is anticipating the country's new measures to cope with its growth slowdown to a state of "new normal. "This year's sessions of lawmakers with the National People's Congress (NPC) and political advisors with the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are expected to unveil a grand reform agenda for the final year of China's twelfth five-year plan. No matter what specific steps to embrace, one thing is for sure: China will unswervingly and forever stick to the path of peaceful development. After many vicissitudes in modern history, China, with a civilization of over 5,000 years and a population of over 1.3 billion, has finally brought itself back to the center of the international arena, experiencing a vigorous two-digit growth in the past decades. However, it is still in the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for a long time, as its per capita GDP is still around the world's 100th, although its economy as a whole ranks the world's second. Development remains the key issue for China, the largest developing country in the world, and can not be achieved without a favorable external environment. To ensure such an environment, China has been actively participating in international and multilateral affairs, playing a constructive role in resolving global and hotspot issues, earnestly safeguarding international fairness and justice, and working hard to help achieve a more just and equitable world order. Last year, President Xi Jinping and other national leaders accomplished much through such major multilateral events as the G20 Leaders Summit, the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, the BRICS Leaders Meeting, and the East Asian leaders meetings. China always values its relations with neighboring countries and the rest of the world, and has kept close exchanges with them. Since they took office in March 2013, the new Chinese leaders have visited over 50 countries and organizations around the world. The president himself has paid state visits to 31 countries. By actively creating and at the same time enjoying a sound and peaceful international environment, China, along with the rest of the world, is able to dedicate their efforts to economic development and social improvement. In the past year, China undertook many endeavors to boost regional connectivity and cooperation at home and abroad, among which the initiatives to build a Silk Road economic belt and a 21st century maritime Silk Road are most striking. The "Belt and Road" initiatives, with a vision to boost transport infrastructure, investment and trade, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges, will create a community of common destiny with the collective efforts of countries along the routes. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. China will zealously join hands with other countries to safeguard the hard-won peace and seek common development and prosperity. ^ top ^

China promotes greener industry (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
China will promote clean industrial production in 2015 by encouraging green technology and more economic use of resources to protect the environment, authorities said on Wednesday. The central government will initiate a program that aims to reduce pollution, cleanse industries and prompt sustainable development this year, according to a statement published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Companies will consume four million fewer tonnes of coal by the end of 2015 after the ministry helps them with technological upgrades, it said. Coal supplies the majority of China's energy consumption, accounting for 66 percent in 2014. But its significance is falling as the country has started to encourage the use of clean energy. Emission cuts including 70,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide, 60,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides, 40,000 tonnes of industrial fumes and 20,000 volatile organic compounds will be realized in the year, according to the MIIT. The program is partly prompted by worsening smog in China in recent years, triggering appeals for stronger measures to clean the environment. The authority will prioritize aid to factories in Beijing and neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province, as well as those in the Yangtze River delta industrial zone. Those areas have been the worst effected by smog. A mechanism to coordinate industrial resource use in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei will be built, the statement said. In addition, the authority promised to set up a platform to track energy use by more than 2,000 major industrial consumers nationwide. ^ top ^

Clearing the air about pollution (China Daily)
2015-03-04
Under the Dome, a self-financed movie about China's environmental meltdown, is an Internet phenomenon that has prompted millions of calls to green hotlines and seen bitter accusations leveled at the filmmaker, as Raymond Zhou reports. It's noteworthy that the most-watched Chinese documentary did not debut in a cinema or on television. Under the Dome garnered more than 155 million hits in the first 24 hours after it premiered on half a dozen Chinese websites on Feb 28, an audience that movies and TV shows can only dream about. Numerous recommendations on social media turned Under the Dome into the talk of the nation. Just as it sets a milestone in public communications, the film transcends platforms and genres. It's a 103-minute documentary, which is sometimes broken down into smaller segments for easy digestion; it's one continuous speech and PowerPoint-enabled presentation; and it's billed in Chinese as an investigative report. Whatever it is called, it was obviously inspired by An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's 2006 Oscar-winning warning on the worldwide threat of global warming. Chai Jing's work lives up to that comparison or likely inspiration. Some prominent viewers, such as Liu Chun, former head of Phoenix TV, went one step further by saying that it's actually better than Gore's film. Chai, a celebrity television reporter and former anchor with China Central Television, is known for her Barbara Walters-style approach to journalism, which made her work more accessible to the public but was criticized by some as "too touchy-feely". In Under the Dome, she uses her newborn daughter as the raison d'etre for launching her crusade against smog. "I had never been afraid of air pollution or worn a surgical mask," she says in the documentary. "But now as I hold a new life in my arms and feed her, I begin to truly have fear." In a previous interview with Southern Weekly, Chai revealed that she hesitated for a long time about including her baby in the film, which was independently produced and self-financed. She probably foresaw the kind of criticism that would be hurled her way. It's not surprising that such a massive hit has elicited diverse responses. What's truly amazing is that the plaudits came from across the ideological spectrum as well. In the movie, Chai, with the help of scientists, defines smog and its composition and how to eliminate it. Most of us already have some of that information, but the movie puts all the individual pieces into perspective. According to Chai's investigation, fossil fuels account for 60 percent of China's airborne PM2.5 pollutants (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less). As shown in the movie, the environmental watchdog is often toothless and helpless when guarding our air. Some of the laws have been in place for years, but have never been applied. As a matter of fact, the movie explains that businesses are pressured not to abide by the laws because violating them carries little or no cost, while toeing the line invariably bumps up costs. China's petroleum and steel industries are exposed as the biggest sources of air pollution. The petroleum sector is a State monopoly, setting lower standards of cleanliness for its products even though customers are willing and able to pay for cleaner fuel, all in the name of energy security. The steel industry suffers from a glut of capacity and receives large doses of government subsidies - this in the name of maintaining the momentum of economic growth. Chai does not stop there. She goes on to list the things ordinary people can do to help restore clean air in the country. Half of Beijing's drivers, she says, only use their motor vehicles within a radius of 5 kilometers of their homes, while 12 percent travel within 2 km, and 7 percent within just 1 km. Chai encourages people to take public transport when covering such short distances, just as she and her family only use their car for trips to the airport, the hospital or when their child or an elderly relative is involved. Chai also reported dust from a construction site near her home - dust accounts for 15 percent of Beijing's PM2.5 - and, within minutes, the offending material had been covered up. The city's restaurants are also a major source, accounting for 6 percent of PM2.5 in the capital, and are supposed to install purifying devices in all kitchen ventilators. A week after Chai complained, the restaurant she patronizes installed such a device. This part, while raising public participation in the campaign for rigorous enforcement of environmental protection laws, has been criticized by some for "spreading the culpability to every citizen and diluting the focus on the government." Accusations come from both right and left, with some people accusing Chai, groundlessly, of taking money from foreign institutions, and also criticizing big businesses that represent government interests. Other critics have accused her of soft-pedaling on some crucial issues that may draw ire from the establishment. Chai financed the movie with royalties from her previous book, which was a best-seller. There is no disclosure about her financial arrangement with websites that stream the movie. The website I accessed, Youku, displays a minute of advertising before the movie, but, unlike most of Youku's programming, there were no additional ads embedded in the movie. Even though the movie has generally been accepted as a public service film, detractors claim Chai is a heavy smoker, which they say is irresponsible in view of her newborn child, or has secretly emigrated, which makes her an outsider in China. Both points have been refuted. Perhaps the overwhelming approval from the public has made the minority voices of dissension louder and more cantankerous than they actually are. However, it's a little pathetic that the focus has been shifted from the issue to the person. Chai is wisely lying low. Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are heeding her advice to take upon themselves the kind of things each individual is capable of doing to change the climate for the better. Wang Run, a Beijing-based theater critic, now takes her son around town by subway. Phones at the hotline listed in the movie, 12369, are reported to have been ringing off the hooks as citizens report what they see as environmental violations. And the public will inevitably keep a sharper eye on government regulations and implementation to solve the problem from the roots. A netizen with the handle Zhi Shousi, who works as a manager with Amazon China, uploaded a screen capture from his mother, who is uncomfortable using the Web: "I saw Chai's movie. It makes the point that everyone has a responsibility when a country faces a crisis. A mother's love is the same everywhere. Chai speaks for thousands of mothers who are unable to say or do what they want to protect their children. She could have escaped to a better place, but she chooses to challenge the smog. She is paying her price for it. I salute her, a true hero of our time." ^ top ^

China's parliament convenes, pooling strength to tackle "formidable difficulty" (Xinhua)
2015-03-05
Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday warned "formidable difficulty" in 2015, setting a slower growth target, but stressed his confidence in the ongoing reform to start new development engines. The annual government work report, delivered by Li at the opening meeting of the national legislature's annual session, set this year's economic growth target at 7 percent, lower than last year's target and the 7.4-percent actual growth in 2014. Other economic indices such as consumer price index (CPI), set at 3 percent, and unemployment rate at 4.5 percent are also slightly lower than last year. Predicting the situation in 2015, the Premier admitted that the difficulties China is to face may be "even more formidable" than last year. However, Li said he is "fully confident" as China's development has enormous potential and is hugely resilient, with ample room for growth. The Premier stressed that the growth rate is "both aligned with our goal of finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and is appropriate in terms of the need to grow and upgrade our economy." Considering the size of China's economy, gross domestic product (GDP) worth of 63.6 trillion yuan (10.39 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2014, even the growth of 7 percent will produce an annual increase of more than 800 billion U.S. dollars at current price, larger than the figure produced by a 10-percent growth five years ago, said Fan Jianping, chief economist for the government think-tank State Information Center of China. The report highlighted "dual objectives" of maintaining a medium-to-high level of growth rate and moving toward a medium-to-high level of development. As for how to realize the goals, the solution presented in Li's report is dubbed "twin engines", which refers to popular entrepreneurship and innovation and increased supply of public goods and services. "Let us rally closely around the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and work together to break new ground," the report wrote in the end. The year of 2015 is considered a key one to realize the overall reform blueprint set by the leadership in 2013 and the first year since the legal reform plan last October that aims to realize the rule of law in China. It is also the last year for the government to meet the targets set by the country's 12th five-year national development plan, which range from people's livelihood to pollution control. Nearly 3,000 NPC deputies from across the country attended the opening meeting along with top Party and state leaders Xi Jinping, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli. The meeting was presided over by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. ^ top ^

China makes no new promises in battle to clear the day as it fine-tunes pollution targets (SCMP)
2015-03-06
One year after Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution, the central government seems to be refraining from making any new promises on the matter this year, focusing instead on following through on all its previously set targets. The lacklustre report on pollution, delivered by Li at the opening of the National People's Congress' annual full session on Thursday came amid seething public grievances on the smog issue, made more pronounced in recent days by former state television presenter Chai Jing's viral documentary. Chai's 103-minute video blames China's powerful oil companies and weak enforcement for the country's continued pollution woes. In his speech, Li admitted that pollution was "a blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighed on their hearts". He set a wide range of pollution emission targets for the year, repeating a commitment to crack down "with iron fists" on illegal polluters as well as those who failed to properly carry out their supervisory duties. He also underscored the country's plan to grant greater support the development of new energies - solar, wind, biomass, hydro and nuclear sources - and to limit total energy consumption in what has been promoted as President Xi Jinping's energy-sector revolution. Guangdong-based lawyer Zhu Lieyu, who is also a national legislator, suggested that the environmental ministry's work should be subjected to the national legislature's annual review so that its officials would be required to produce real results in curbing pollution. Li Yan, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace East Asia, said that although nothing new was mentioned in the plans and pledges to fight pollution, the central government had in fact adjusted upwards the pollution and energy targets for this year. The central government was now also more proactive in promoting the use of cleaner energies, if one read the premier's speech closely, she added. "There has been enough talk from the top leadership. It's now time to convert the words into real actions," she said. According to an annual report from the National Development and Reform Commission that was published at the legislature session yesterday, China achieved all its targets to reduce four types of major air and water pollutants last year. The country's energy intensity - the amount of energy used in producing each unit of economic growth - fell 4.8 per cent last year. A plan to cut the rate by a further 3.1 per cent puts the mainland on track to meeting a 16 per cent decrease in energy intensity over the 2011-2015 period. ^ top ^

Li gets tough in pollution fight (China Daily)
2015-03-06
Premier tells NPC opening session China will build a better environmental mechanism The Great Hall of the People in Beijing used to hear loud applause for leaders announcing ambitious economic plans. This changed on Thursday, when Premier Li Keqiang earned the biggest applause from the National People's Congress for his pledge of tough environmental protection measures. In his annual Government Work Report to China's lawmakers at the opening of their 2015 plenary session, the premier called pollution a "blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts". He promised to build a more effective environmental regime in a country plagued by frequent smog and other types of pollution from industrial operations. The NPC's opening event was attended by nearly 3,000 lawmakers and more than 2,000 political advisers, who will discuss and finalize the overall program for the nation's 2015 social and economic development. After announcing China's major economic targets for this year — with the GDP growth rate adjusted to 7 percent from 7.5 percent last year — the premier said the nation will cut its use of energy, as measured by energy intensity, by 3.1 percent while reducing the discharge of all key pollutants. Carbon dioxide intensity will be cut by at least 3.1 percent, reducing both chemical oxygen demand and ammonia nitrogen emissions by about 2 percent, and reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide by around 3 percent and nitrogen oxides by about 5 percent. Li also pledged to enforce environmental laws and regulations, to crack down on illegal emissions, to ensure heavy penalties are handed out to offenders, and to hold officials who allow illegal emissions accountable for their irresponsible conduct. Chen Jining, the newly appointed minister of environmental protection, echoed the premier by telling reporters that his main duty is to reinforce the pollution control laws. Only eight of the 74 major Chinese cities subject to air quality monitoring of PM2.5 met the national standard for clear air last year, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Li also pledged that the government will promote the use of new-energy vehicles, reduce vehicle exhaust emissions, raise the national fuel quality standard and provide higher-quality gasoline and diesel. All highly polluting vehicles registered before 2005 will be banned from the roads. Xu Shaoshi, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning body, said energy consumption per unit of GDP value fell by 4.8 percent and carbon intensity by 6.2 percent last year, the best result in terms of energy saving since 2011. China has pledged previously that carbon emissions will peak "around 2030". Chen Guoying, an NPC deputy and environmental protection director from Hebei, said the province, notorious for its excessive steelmaking capacity and smog, is making its most serious effort to fight pollution. ^ top ^

Problem in Shanxi 'seems like cancer' (China Daily)
2015-03-06
The serious corruption seems like a cancer in Shanxi, Vice-Premier Ma Kai said at a meeting of Shanxi delegates during the two sessions. "If we don't clear it up, it will result in poor selection of officials and great harm," he said. "Shanxi is conducting a sweeping anti-corruption drive with historical significance, which is necessary and regarded as a matter of life and death for the Party and nation." After taking the helm of the Party at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, President Xi Jinping vowed to fight corruption, targeting both "tigers" of high rank and lowly "flies". Since November 2012, more than 30 Shanxi officials have been placed under investigation for alleged graft. Between February and August 2014 alone, seven provincial-level officials were probed for corruption. High-ranking officials investigated included Ren Runhou, former vice-governor in Shanxi; Jin Daoming, former vice-head of the Shanxi Provincial People's Congress; and Ling Zhengce, former vice-chairman of the Shanxi provincial political advisory body. Ling Zhengce is the brother of Ling Jihua, former vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, who was taken away by anti-graft officers in December for "serious discipline violations". The fall of many Shanxi officials in the latest crackdown on corruption has been likened to an "earthquake". "Shanxi has been a worst-hit area for corruption, and some corruption scandals have been shocking news," Ma said. "It's wise the central government has been determined to get rid of the cancer of corruption in Shanxi, which is in line with the long-term interests of the Shanxi people," he said. If Shanxi doesn't have a good political environment, the market order in the province will be disturbed, and this will have a bad impact on economic development. In recent years, the main driving force for economic development in Shanxi was coal, and during an intense anti-corruption crackdown, many bosses of mining enterprises were probed on suspicion of corruption, which was a heavy blow for the development of the Shanxi economy, he said. "Shanxi should grasp both combating graft and developing its economy," Ma said. Wang Rulin, Party chief in Shanxi, said apart from enhanced efforts to fight corruption, attention will be paid to making adjustments to Shanxi's economic structure and researching the use of clean energy over coal. ^ top ^

Silk Road tourism to produce 1+1>2 benefits (Xinhua)
2015-03-06
For UN tourism chief Taleb Rifai, China's Silk Road initiatives are promising to inject new life into Silk Road tourism for a win-win situation. For the past 20 years, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been promoting a long-term project to revitalize Silk Road tourism. So China's efforts to pursue the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives come as a welcome boost. "China is the birthplace of the Silk Road. As the concept of the Silk Road is gaining modern meaning today in the world of the 21st century, it's quite natural for China to provide a new leadership," said Rifai to Xinhua at this week's ITB tourism fair in Berlin. By launching Silk Road initiatives, Chinese President Xi Jinping is sending a very important message that countries along the network of ancient trade routes must cooperate, he added. Opening the 5th UNWTO Silk Road Ministers' Meeting at ITB on Wednesday, Rifai said: "It (the concept of silk Road tourism) brings our forces together. What's good for my neighbor is good for me. It's a win-win situation. It brings the countries, forces together where one and one become much more than two," he said. Visa facilitation, infrastructure development and marketing were the priorities identified by the UNWTO Silk Road meeting to advance transnational routes. While reporting on the measures taken to promote Silk Road tourism with a clear focus on visa facilitation, participants also called for a more collaborative approach to marketing, namely e-marketing and cooperation with tour operators. Rustem Khairov, an adviser to the Russian Tourism Minister, sees the idea of Silk Road tourism as "super important" for Russia. He hoped that Russia could attract more tourists from all around the world especially China. Muhammad Ajmal Gondal, a Pakistani official, said that the Silk Road Toursim is just a starting point and it's hopeful that people and business among the Silk Road countries can flow freely in the future. China has made Silk Road tourism the central theme for its programs presented at this year's ITB. For the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), this year is also the Silk Road Tourism Year to enhance themed tourism promotion. According to Shi Xiang, who heads CNTA office in Frankfurt, the Belt and Road Initiatives proposed by China cover 65 countries and 44 million people across the world's two major tourist markets and tourism destinations. The total international tourism in this region accounted for more than 70 percent of the world. Shi said the general goal of China promoting Silk Road Tour, led by national strategy of the Belt and Road Initiatives, is to create international boutique travel routes and tourism products characterized by Silk Road, to create the world's leading travel brands, and comprehensively promote the establishment of tourism cooperation mechanisms. ITB Berlin, the world's leading travel trade fair, anticipates approximately 50,000 private visitors and more than 110,000 trade visitors from March 4 to March 8 this year. ^ top ^

Knife attacker shot dead at China's Guangzhou railway station after nine people injured (SCMP)
2015-03-06
A suspect was shot dead by the police and another arrested after they attacked people with knives at Guangzhou's main railway station, injuring nine. The victims have all been sent to hospital, the Guangzhou police bureau said on its official social media account. The incident began at about 8.18 am this morning when the suspects attacked people in the public square in front of the station with knives. The authorities have not released more information about the suspects or the condition of the victims. The incident was still under investigation, the police said in their statement. Action taken by the police was “immediate” and “decisive”, the statement said. “Any behavior that threatened the life and safety of citizens would meet sever counter action by the police,” it said. The square had been shut down, according to the Information Daily, a local newspaper. One police officer was injured on the right hand while fighting one suspect, the newspaper said, quoting a witness. It was the second similar attack at Guangzhou's main railway station in less than a year. An ethnic-Uyghur suspect from Xinjiang was arrested on May 6 last year after six people were injured in a knife attack. Twenty-nine people were killed by knife-weilding assailants at Kunming railway station in March last year in an attack the authorities blamed on Muslim Uygur separatists from the Xinjiang region. ^ top ^

Government approves merger of China's top two train makers (Xinhua)
2015-03-06
China's state assets watchdog has approved a proposed merger of the country's top two bullet train makers, but obstacles remain to be cleared, both companies said on Thursday evening. China CNR Corp. Ltd and China CSR Corp. Ltd announced that the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission has approved in principle their merger into a new company named CRRC Corporation Ltd. But efforts still need to be made to meet the terms and conditions set in their merger deal, said the announcements, adding that both will publish any progress in the merger in a timely manner. Shares of CNR and CSR surged by 6.9 percent and 7 percent in Thursday's trading, respectively. Both are currently not available for comments. The two companies announced the merger plan in late December, aiming to build a new transnational and globally leading solution provider of high-end railway transport equipment. The new company will inherit all the assets, liabilities, businesses, staff, contracts, certificates as well as all other rights and obligations of CNR and CSR. The merger will take place in the form of CNR to be merged into CSR through a stock swap agreement between the two companies-- 1 CNR share for 1.1 CSR shares. The merger comes 15 years after the two were split in 2000. The then Ministry of Railways that became the China Railway Corporation in 2013, delineated the two companies' major sales domains with the Yellow River as the boundary. It also tried to set a boundary for the two in overseas markets to reduce competition. The upcoming merger is expected to avoid "in-fighting" during exploration of the global market. ^ top ^

 

Hongkong

Hong Kong protest sees violence, pepper spray and arrests, but triads stay away (SCMP)
2015-03-01
Police use pepper spray amid chaotic scenes as protest against traders continues into the night: Chaotic scenes hit the narrow streets of Yuen Long yesterday as the clashes marred the latest protest against mainland traders - but police fears of a violent counter-protest involving triads proved unfounded. Police used pepper spray to break up clashes as the 200 or so protesters and opponents exchanged foul-mouthed insults as they marched from Long Ping MTR station to Sau Fu Street, where a cluster of shops serve mainland buyers. The march was the third in a month targeting so-called parallel traders, who buy goods in Hong Kong to sell across the border. Demonstrations in Tuen Mun and Sha Tin last month turned ugly, and police sources told the Post last week that they had warned rural strongmen against calling in triad henchmen to confront marchers. Disputes yesterday occasionally escalated, and police moved in with pepper spray. Several reporters were also sprayed, while one photographer received a wound to his chest. Police arrested 33 people, aged 13 to 74, for offences including possession of weapons, common assault and assaulting police. Further arrests could follow, the force said. Five officers received treatment in hospital for minor limb injuries. The protesters, most in their 20s and 30s, chanted, "Go home and buy mainland products!" while opponents cried, "No one welcomes you guys, go home!" Residents appeared divided. Some sympathised with the protesters, who say parallel traders overcrowd towns and edge out stores that serve locals. Others felt the traders brought economic benefits while the protesters were the ones causing disruption. "Many of those rural gentry are landlords of those shops [that target mainlanders]," said one woman, a law student, referring to rural leaders who led opposition to the protest. But the owner of a hair salon said he had to close his doors, adding: "Protests like this will only make things worse." About 30 protesters from Hong Kong Indigenous - formed by people involved in last year's Occupy pro-democracy movement and which joined last month's protests - wore armour under their jackets. "This [armour] is purely for self-defence. We'll separate the conflicting parties should anything happen," said spokesman Ray Wong Toi-Yeung, 22. Wong asked protesters to disperse at about 4pm and not crowd the town's main road. Some, however, took that as a signal to do the opposite. Traffic was briefly disrupted on Castle Peak Road, and groups of protesters were still in the town at 10pm. Security chief Lai Tung-kwok yesterday said police would act "resolutely" should anyone break the law during the march. Leung Che-cheung, a lawmaker and chairman of Yuen Long district council, said about 30 shops had been forced to close. Wong Tat-kwong, president of a local chamber of commerce, said its 1,000 members could sue over their losses. Meanwhile, state media was apparently trying to cool antagonism, while an article credited to Zhang Dinghuai, director of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, advised against hostile rhetoric on both sides "which would harm cross-border relations. ^ top ^

Hong Kong's Occupy protest 'was an attempt at colour revolution': PLA general (SCMP)
2015-03-03
The Occupy protests were "an orchestrated Hong Kong version of a colour revolution" and Beijing's response should serve as a warning to advocates for Taiwan's independence, according to a senior PLA general. General Sun Jianguo, a deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, made the comments as he discussed China's national security in an interview with Oriental Outlook, a magazine affiliated with Xinhua. The article was carried by major mainland news portals yesterday. While a former Beijing top official on Hong Kong affairs, Chen Zuoer, used similar terms to describe the "umbrella movement" at the height of the protests in October, it is rare, if not unprecedented, for such comments to come from military top brass. Sun had been discussing the important role of competition in Sino-US ties and maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, when he touched on the risk China faced in terms of subversion campaigns by foreign states. "Hostile forces have always attempted to make Hong Kong the bridgehead for subverting and infiltrating mainland China," Sun said. "The illegal Occupy Central activities in 2014 came as minority radical groups in Hong Kong, under the instigation and support of external forces … orchestrated a Hong Kong version of a colour revolution. "He said the central government had shown firm support for the Hong Kong government in dealing with the protests, and that Beijing's defence of "one country, two systems" should also serve as a warning to Taiwan's pro-independence forces. Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, chair professor of public policy at City University, said Sun's remarks "definitely reflect the central government's stance". "Occupy has been categorised as an act by the enemy, in the communists' way of thinking," Cheng said, adding that Beijing looked almost certain to have a harsher response to pro-democracy campaigns in Hong Kong. Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan described the comment as "ultra-leftist". "Occupy was never meant to overthrow any regime. And if [Sun] relates Occupy to Taiwan, it will only further alienate the Taiwanese." Sun's remarks came after a brief suggestion by National People's Congress deputy Stanley Ng Chau-pei to extend the mainland's national security laws to Hong Kong after the Occupy protests. Ng later denied having sought support from other deputies on this. In January, Sun named Hong Kong as one of China's "core interests and key concerns" when meeting US undersecretary of defence for intelligence Michael Vickers, in Beijing. ^ top ^

Fight cross-border tensions with 'positive energy,' Hong Kong delegates urged (SCMP)
2015-03-05
The top state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs yesterday urged the city's representatives in Beijing to "unleash positive energy" and foster cross-border harmony in the wake of anti-mainlander sentiments. During a two-hour closed-door meeting, National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang was said to have asked Hong Kong delegates to the nation's top advisory body to seek "specific solutions" to problems brought by parallel-goods traders and other visitors. The cross-border issue was among several matters that Zhang, who chairs the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, hoped delegates would act on, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate Eliza Chan Ching-har said. "He said we should actively unleash positive energy," she said. "These problems should receive attention, be analysed and solved … without becoming … politicised. We must also be cautious about those who sow discord … out of ulterior motives." Chan also cited Zhang as telling the 200 or so delegates that, while the Hong Kong government handled the 79-day Occupy protests properly, the "illegal acts" highlighted an urgent need to step up youth work, such as national education and promotion of the Basic Law. CPPCC Standing Committee member Lo Man-tuen said those words showed "the government should reflect on why so many youths are against the state". Zhang also urged delegates to "understand accurately the 'one country, two systems' principle" and safeguard the authority of China's constitution and the Basic Law, and to promote economic development and improve livelihoods. He identified November's district council polls and electoral reform as "mandatory missions". "Zhang stressed very much [the importance of] passing the political reform package this year. He thinks the key is in the legislature," said another delegate, Chan Yuen-han. Zhang was also said to have reiterated Beijing's stance that Hong Kong's 2017 chief executive election must be run in accordance with criteria set down in August, limiting the field to only two or three candidates with majority support from a 1,200-strong nominating body. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will hold talks with a state leader tomorrow, according to sources. ^ top ^

'One country, two systems' for Hong Kong must comply with China constitution, says Premier Li Keqiang (SCMP)
2015-03-06
Beijing will strictly comply with the Chinese constitution and the city's Basic Law in Hong Kong affairs, Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of annual meetings of the national legislature in Beijing yesterday. It is the first time in 25 years that a premier has highlighted the role of the constitution when discussing Hong Kong matters in his yearly work report, delivered at the start of National People's Congress sessions. The last premier to do so, Li Peng, said in 1990 that Hongkongers wishing to participate in China's affairs "must abide to the nation's constitution and law". His was the first work report after the bloody 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, which sparked mass protests in Hong Kong amid preparations for the 1997 handover. Li yesterday ended his speech by restating two pledges to the city - "the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong" and "a high degree of autonomy". Li restated the promise of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong”. Those promises - made under the "one country, two systems" principle under which the city is governed - were absent from Li's debut work report last year and from Tuesday's report by Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The omissions raised concerns about whether Beijing was taking a different tack on the city. But in his 1-1/2-hour speech yesterday, Li said: "We [the central government] will steadfastly carry out the principles of 'one country, two systems', the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong, the people of Macau governing Macau, and both regions enjoying a high degree of autonomy. We will strictly comply with the constitution and the Basic Laws of these two regions." Qi Pengfei, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the central government had reinstated the two key promises in an effort to reassure Hongkongers. "The two expressions were not included in last year's work report because the central government believed their meanings were already encompassed in the term 'one country, two systems'," he said. "But that sparked fears among some Hongkongers that Beijing had changed its policies. This year, the central government put back the two expressions to ease those fears." Qi linked Li's remarks on the constitution to calls for Hong Kong's independence and the rise of "nativist" sentiment - the ideology of focusing solely on the city's affairs to the exclusion of national matters. Rita Fan said Li's remarks were a reminder for Hongkongers. Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, Hong Kong's sole representative on the NPC Standing Committee, also believed the references to the constitution were meant to remind Hongkongers of China's sovereignty, especially in the light of the independence calls. "In the past year, we have seen people publicly advocating Hong Kong independence, or even raising weird flags at public rallies," she said, referring to colonial-era flags favoured by some activists. But former Hong Kong justice minister Elsie Leung Oi-sie, now deputy director of the NPC's Basic Law Committee in Hong Kong, said she did not think independence concerns - or the 79-day Occupy Central protests last year - were behind Li's remark. "I am not surprised at all, because the constitution applies to every inch of the territory … and Hong Kong is part of China," she said. NPC deputy Maria Tam Wai-chu believed the work report drew attention to the constitution mainly because Beijing wanted to stress its pledge to rule the nation according to the law. Professor Ye Haibo, of Shenzhen University's Centre for Hong Kong and Macau Basic Laws, saw Beijing as seeking to assert that disputes in interpreting the Basic Law must be resolved under the constitution. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who attended the opening plenary session with about 3,000 other officials and deputies, again received backing from the very top. Li said Beijing "will give full support to the chief executives and governments of Hong Kong and Macau". Leung and other Hong Kong officials later met Wang Guangya, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, behind closed doors for two hours. It is understood NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang, the top state leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs, could meet Leung today. ^ top ^

 

Taiwan

Alibaba announces US$316m Taiwan start-up fund amid regulatory problems (SCMP)
2015-03-04
A newly announced investment fund will leave Alibaba with a foothold in Taiwan even if it is forced to withdraw from the island following a government ruling. On Monday, the Chinese e-commerce giant announced a NT$10 billion (US$316 million) fund to provide capital to young entrepreneurs in Taiwan. Hours later, in an unrelated development, the Taiwanese government ordered Alibaba Singapore, through which the company does business on the island, to resubmit its application to operate there within six months or leave. The company has also been fined NT$120,000 (US$30,000) for violating Taiwan's investment laws for mainland firms, an economics ministry official said. "Alibaba applied as a non-mainland, Singaporean company to operate in Taiwan in 2008, but since [the parent company's] listing in the United States in September, we have a different view about the company's status," a spokesman for the ministry said. In the government's view, Alibaba Singapore is controlled from the company's Chinese headquarters, making it a mainland firm rather than an international one, according to Taiwan's investment laws. Despite considerable cross-straits economic links and rapprochement in recent years, Taiwan still regards China as a political enemy and mainland investment on the island is strictly regulated. According to an Alibaba spokeswoman, the company's wholesale trading platform, Alibaba.com, established its Taiwan branch in 2008, before the government permitted Chinese companies to invest directly in Taiwan. Alibaba Singapore is a subsidiary of its Alibaba.com Ltd arm, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands. "We legitimately set things up and complied with Taiwan law," a spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Alibaba would work with Taiwanese authorities to "clarify the issues and, if necessary, will take proper actions to protect the legitimate interests of Alibaba.com." Citing sources in the investment commission, Taiwan's United Daily News said the government had been unable to obtain evidence that the firm was linked to its Chinese parent company until after Alibaba Group issued filings which detailed its corporate structure prior to its IPO last year. The government's actions are not expected to have any effect on the launch of the investment fund. The company said that the program is expected to launch in the second half of this year, "subject to regulatory requirements and the authority's approval". "I have been impressed by the young people in Taiwan because they are well educated, innovative and hardworking," Alibaba Group chairman and company founder Jack Ma Yun said on Monday. "By encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit among Taiwan's young people, we hope to spur similar efforts by others to enable the younger generation to unleash their potential and realize their dreams."
Ma unveiled his intention to fund Taiwanese start-ups during a forum in Taipei in December. He said that young entrepreneurs on the island are hard working and creative, and he hoped such funds could help them launch their companies. The Taiwan fund comes after Alibaba announced a similar scheme for Hong Kong in February, pledging HK$1 billion (US$120 million) to fund start-ups in the city. Alibaba has been courting businesses in Taiwan and Hong Kong as it seeks to expand outside the mainland market. Taobao, the company's main e-commerce business, relies heavily on entrepreneurs who sell their products using its marketplace. ^ top ^

Xi Jinping sounds alert on Taiwan independence (SCMP)
2015-03-05
President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday that Beijing was willing to heed the voice of the Taiwanese people on cross-strait ties but called for high vigilance against advocates of independence for the island. Xi made the remarks during his first reported attendance at panel meetings of this year's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The comments come after the mainland-friendly Kuomintang suffered a landslide defeat in last year's local government elections - a development that some observers say could herald a win by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan's presidential election next year. Speaking to political advisers from the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League and the All-China Confederation of Taiwan Compatriots, Xi said the "1992 consensus" was the political foundation for Beijing and Taipei to build trust and hold talks to continue peaceful development of cross-strait relations. "Peace is valuable and should be safeguarded," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying. "[Taiwan independence forces] are the biggest hindrance to the peaceful development of cross-strait ties, the biggest threat to cross-strait peace and stability and therefore should be resolutely opposed." Xi said that as long as this common political basis was respected, there would be no obstacles to political exchanges with the mainland. Under a verbal understanding reached in Hong Kong in 1992, Taipei and Beijing agreed to recognise that there is only one China, but each side could have its interpretation of what that "China" stood for. For Taipei, it stands for the Republic of China and for Beijing it is the People's Republic of China. Xi also said it was important for the mainland to maintain its economic progress in order to pave the way for future cross-strait reunification. He also said the mainland was willing to provide a "stage for Taiwanese youth to demonstrate their talents and realise their dreams". DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng said late last night that "cross-strait exchanges must never be carried out at the expense of Taiwan's sovereignty and security, and must be done in a way that guarantees freedom, democracy and an open society in Taiwan". Cheng said the DPP hoped to develop cross-strait ties in a positive and active manner, and so it felt that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had the responsibility to maintain amicable relations and should continue to interact and communicate to increase their understanding of each other in a mutually respectful manner. Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei, said Xi's comments reflected that there was no change in the basic tone of the mainland's policy towards Taiwan, and that Beijing continued to use the "1992 consensus" as the underlying principle for cross-strait ties. ^ top ^

 

Economy

China's central bank announces long-awaited rate cut to boost economy (SCMP)
2015-03-01
Mainland central bank lowers one-year lending and deposit rates, easing liquidity days before the National People's Congress is due to meet: The People's Bank of China has cut benchmark interest rates for the second time in three months, adding to a raft of recent attempts taken to counter an increasing deflation risk and a slowdown in growth. Effective today, one-year lending and deposit rates would be lowered 25 basis points to 5.35 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively, the central bank said yesterday. It also lifted the ceiling on the deposit rate to 1.3 times the benchmark, up from 1.2 times. "The consumer price level is at a historic low, leaving room for further interest rates adjustment," PBOC said. "The rate adjustment is to reinforce the positive results of falling financing costs [from recent action]." In a surprise move in November, PBOC cut interest rates by 40 basis points for the first time since 2012. Yesterday's decision followed a 0.5 percentage point cut early last month in the bank's reserve requirement ratio (RRR) - the share of deposits it is required to park at the central bank as reserves. "The rates cut and its timing are within our expectation," ANZ senior economist Raymond Yeung said. "PBOC is feeling the pressure for more monetary easing as deflation risk is rising." January's consumer price index rose only 0.8 per cent year-on-year, the first time the inflation gauge fell below 1 per cent since late 2009. Producer price index - which reflects selling price changes by producers of goods and services - has recorded negative growth for 34 months. Yeung expects two more cuts in the reserve ratio, each by 50 basis points, later this year. He said the PBOC's action pattern would be an interest rates cut followed by a reserve ratio cut. "So the next easing will tackle the reserve ratio, which may be held off until after [this week's National People's Congress] gathering," Yeung said. Goldman Sachs economist Song Yu said: "Further benchmark interest rate cuts are also possible. The government is also loosening other policies such as allowing the exchange rate to depreciate modestly against the US dollar and stepping up infrastructure investments." Most analysts expect February's CPI to be below or around 1 per cent. The economy expanded by 7.4 per cent last year, the slowest pace since 1990, and the first time the government target was missed since 1998. But some experts believe the effect of further interest rates cuts is limited. Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at Shanghai-based Industrial Bank, said the key was to break from the "rigid repayment" tradition that had kept financing costs artificially high. "The central bank's action is no longer ahead of the market, and rates cuts don't address the real problem. There's no cheap money available no matter how much you cut the lending rates," he said. ^ top ^

China's manufacturing PMI rebounds in February (Global Times)
2015-03-01
Chinese manufacturing business activity rebounded slightly in February but still stayed in contraction territory after falling to a 28-month low in January, official data showed on Sunday. The manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI), a key measure of factory activity in China, posted at 49.9 in February, up from 49.8 in the previous month, according to the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below 50 represents contraction. The index of last month ended a losing streak lasting for four consecutive months since last October and showed China's manufacturing contraction has narrowed. The marginal improvement was attributable to recent pro-growth policies, such as a reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cut and tax breaks, and steady global commodity prices, said Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician of the NBS. The sub-index of new order rose to 50.4 in February from 50.2 in a month earlier, while the sub-index for raw material inventories climbed from 47.3 to 48.2. The PMI dropped below the 50-point mark in January, the first time since October 2012, marking looming downward pressure on the economy. ^ top ^

Private firms urged to invest in bank sector (Global Times)
2015-03-01
Chinese regulator 'speeding up guidelines on development': China is working to simplify approval procedures to open its banking industry wider to private firms, the country's top banking regulator told a Chinese newspaper. The official Study Times on Sunday quoted Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), as saying private firms will be encouraged to join the restructuring of "high-risk" city commercial banks, rural credit cooperatives and non-banking financial institutions. The CBRC "is speeding up the issuance of guidelines on the development of private banks," Shang said. The newspaper, published by the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, quoted Shang as saying, without elaboration, that private firms also will be encouraged to set up banks in small towns and villages and hold a bigger share in such financial institutions. Existing shareholders in these small banks are encouraged to cut their stake to allow more participation by private firms, Shang said. Economists have long criticized China's State-dominated banking system for giving a disproportionate amount of lending to large State-owned firms, even as small and medium-sized enterprises account for about 60 percent of GDP and 75 percent of new jobs. Shang also urged Chinese banks to adapt to the "new normal" of the economy and focus on quality growth, rather than expanding assets. Chinese banks should "explore new markets" and speed innovation, rather than fight for a bigger share of existing business, he said. He pledged to simplify CBRC's approval procedures and let the regulator's local offices take more responsibility. In 2014, the CBRC approved a pilot program that would allow an assortment of technology, manufacturing and services companies to start five new privately owned banks in Tianjin, Shanghai and in Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. In December 2014, the regulator approved the start of trial operations at Shenzhen Qianhai Weizhong Bank, a private lender backed by internet firm Tencent Holdings Ltd. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd financing affiliate Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group and Shanghai Juneyao Group Co Ltd, the parent of Juneyao Airlines, also have received approval to lead efforts to set up banks in Hangzhou and Shanghai, respectively. ^ top ^

China targets 7pc economic growth this year; military spending to rise 10.1 pc (SCMP)
2015-03-05
China has set an official economic growth target of 7 per cent this year, according to a work report due to be delivered this morning by Premier Li Keqiang. It also expects a rise in fiscal deficit from last year's 2.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent this year, in a sign that the government wants to further stimulate domestic demand. It expects the urban unemployment rate to be at 4.5 per cent, slightly lower than last year's target of 4.6 per cent. On defence, Li said that China's national defence budget will grow 10.1 percent in 2015, the lowest increase in five years. Beijing plans to raise its military spending to 886.9 billion yuan (US$141.4 billion), according to the work report. It is the lowest increase since 2010, when according to reports the rise was 7.5 percent. China's defence budget saw stated increases of 10.7 percent in 2013, 11.2 percent in 2012 and 12.7 percent in 2011. The report by Li said that the 7 per cent economic target, the lowest since 1990, would ensure “ample employment” this year. It is in line with the government's plans to guide the world's second-largest economy to more sustainable and quality growth. Last year's target was 7.5 per cent, but actual growth came in at 7.4 per cent. The 7.4 per cent is the lowest since 1990 when the mainland was hit by sanctions after the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The significance of the growth target is about maintaining social stability and creating enough jobs to keep at bay urban unemployment. At a Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping to prepare Li's report earlier this month, leaders in Beijing said they would rebalance the economy to rely more on innovation and entrepreneurship. In his work report, Li said of the 7 per cent goal: “This target is both aligned with our goal of finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and is appropriate in terms of the need to grow and upgrade our economy.” The inflation target for the year will be kept at about 3 percent, said the report, to be delivered at the start of the annual National People's Congress. ^ top ^

Chinese economy faces tough year ahead, Li Keqiang tells assembly (SCMP)
2015-03-06
China's economy will face "even more formidable" difficulties this year than in 2014 as Beijing sets its lowest growth target in over 15 years to accommodate reforms. Speaking at the opening of the nation's annual parliamentary meeting, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to implement the "Made in China 2025" strategy for innovation-driven development as well as tackle pollution, corruption and indolence among officials, and the "self-willed use of government power" - all of which hamper sustainable economic growth. "With downward pressure building and deep-seated problems in development surfacing, the difficulties we are to encounter in the year ahead may be even more formidable," Li told about 5,000 members of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. He unveiled this year's gross domestic product target at about 7 per cent, lower than 2014's 7.5 per cent target, after the economy expanded just 7.4 per cent, the slowest in 24 years. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.95 per cent yesterday to 3,248.48 points and the Hang Seng Index shed 1.11 per cent to 24,193.04 points, as economists said the government report did not offer solutions to counter the economic slowdown. "The report failed to address crucial problems hampering China's sustainable growth," independent economist Andy Xie said. "In the short term, China should reduce taxes substantially to increase household income and boost consumption. In the longer run, it should restrict the spending of governments and state-owned enterprises." Tsinghua University professor and former central bank monetary policy adviser Li Daokui said: "China's economy is expected to keep 7 per cent annual growth for the next seven to eight years." As China's economy flags amid a cooling property market, sluggish car sales and severe industrial overcapacity, Beijing said it would increase reliance on the services sector. It vowed to create 10 million new jobs this year and ensure that the registered jobless rate did not exceed 4.5 per cent. Last year's rate was 4.6 per cent. Fiscal policy would remain proactive and monetary policy prudent. The renminbi exchange rate would be kept at a balanced, reasonable level, it said. Beijing plans to increase government spending this year to 17.15 trillion yuan (HK$21.6 trillion), a 10.6 per cent increase from 2014. That would mean raising its budget deficit to 1.62 trillion yuan, about 2.3 per cent of GDP, compared with 2.1 per cent last year. It also vowed to keep up the fight against graft. Last year's crusade felled thousands of officials, including former Politburo Standing Committee member and security tsar Zhou Yongkang. "Our tough stance on corruption is here to stay," Li said. "Our tolerance for corruption is zero." The report also suggested raising the military budget by 10.1 per cent to about US$145 billion. ^ top ^

 

DPRK and South Korea

Pyongyang blasts U.S.-S Korean war games (Xinhua)
2015-03-04
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday blasted the large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises, saying the "golden opportunity" for improvement in inter-Korean relations has gone. The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said South Korean authorities, in collision with the United States, are "pushing the situation on the peninsula to the brink of a war." As Seoul blatantly challenges Pyongyang by kicking off the drills with the United States, the opportunity of North-South dialogue and improvement of relations has already passed and "there will only be a final standoff by force," the official KCNA news agency quoted the committee as saying in a statement. As long as the U.S. and South Korean forces "are allowed to continue anti-DPRK war drills, the Korean nation can neither lead a peaceful life nor evade the nuclear holocaust," warned the statement. The committee also said the international community should oppose anti-DPRK drills as they jeopardize regional peace and stability and spur tensions in Northeast Asia. The DPRK fired two short-range missiles into its eastern waters Monday when South Korea and the United States kicked off their joint annual war games "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle." On the same day, an unnamed spokesman for the DPRK General Staff of the Korean People's Army issued a statement, warning of "toughest measures" to retaliate against the military exercises. The retaliatory measures will include "all the ground, sea, underwater, air and cyber striking means" and the country's armed forces "are fully ready" to strike their designated targets, according to the statement. South Korea and the United States claim the drills are routine ones of defensive nature to ensure defense readiness of the combined forces. But the DPRK said they are simply "crafty sophism to conceal their reckless preemptive nuclear attack on the DPRK." ^ top ^

 

 

Mrs. Lauranne Macherel
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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